Tag Archives: fear

Breaking News

I’ve just started listening to Brenè Brown’s new book about belonging. She refers to this as an increasingly divisive and divided world. She cites the current political and social chaos as part of the issue, but also talks about how it feels unsafe to say who you are and what you believe in. Everything in me wants to argue with her about whether this world is really all that divided. Yes, it’s what’s in the news these days. Who can be surprised by that? We are wired to focus on what’s wrong so that we don’t get eaten by T. Rexes and so we pay lots of attention to those voices who Rawr loudly and point their tiny talons at the “problem” people.

Before the internet gave the megaphone to a small group of malcontents, those unhappy people were mostly ignored. Downside; minorities could be ignored and abuse continued. Upside; terrorists didn’t get their egos stroked. In truth, nothing has changed except that we are more conscious of the things going on around the world than we’ve ever been. With so many different voices speaking up, it’s bound to create some chaos.

Out of chaos comes a new creation. Yes, things look grim these days. The news has not been about how many puppies were born safely yesterday. Nor has it been about how many lives were NOT lost because we can treat depression more effectively, because there’s a push towards greater acceptance of minorities and less acceptance of racism and even that the number of truly poor people in the world is dropping drastically. Did you know that peace is breaking out all over in record numbers? Seriously, google it. Just because we are now more aware of the problems in the world doesn’t mean that there are more problems in the world. It means we are waking up. We are, more and more of us, “woke”. We are learning that what isn’t pretty can still be beautiful.

Here’s to aging!

When I was about to be ordained (several years ago now) I did an informal poll of ordained ministers about what to expect. The vast majority of the ministers I know are female, and I don’t know how much this affected their answers. However, what they answered with one voice was that I’d find my “give a damn” falling away. Not that I’d become uncaring, but that it might feel like my ability to be concerned about other people’s opinions would get dulled. I’d have a lot more confidence about what I want and how I choose to do my life. That might be a nicer way of saying it. The actual answer was pretty immediate and blunt. My middle finger would be getting a lot more exercise. In the most spiritual way possible of course.

I understand that this is a sign of aging in most women. We lose the need to please that has been trained into most of us. One of the great joys of my life is seeing that the younger generation of both men and women are, to paraphrase Wayne Dyer, “independent of the good opinions of other people.” To some folks, it might seem like the younger generation is rude or uncaring. Of course, the “younger generation” has seemed that way for decades if not centuries, so this is nothing new. However, I’m excited to see people standing in their truth, unwilling to be held hostage to the “nice” that was trained into me. The type of nice that had me doing things I didn’t want to do for reasons I didn’t agree with.

So here’s to aging. Here’s to an end to the etiquette that tells me I must sacrifice and martyr myself on the altar of “nice”. Here’s to standing as the proud Adult Children of God that we all are and respectfully declining to be nominated for the Doormat Council.

Going to the well

I was rereading a part of the Book of John this morning about when Jesus, having been walking all day, sits by the edge of a well and asks a woman for some water. Now, the woman is a Samaritan and they don’t generally interact with Jews. Add to that that in those days, women didn’t just chat with men casually. Like, ever. So when Jesus tells her to go get her husband, and she admits she has no husband, he tells her, “You’re right. You’ve had five husbands and the one you have now isn’t yours.”

Now, I heard this story originally as a folk song by Peter, Paul and Mary. The song makes it sound like the woman is, to put it lightly, loose. There’s a bit of slut-shaming in the song. As I read the story now, it occurs to me that a woman can have five husbands if she outlives four. In those days, a woman’s worth was in her marital status and her ability to have children. What if the only reason she’s around is because she didn’t die in childbirth? What if some of those husbands divorced her thinking she was barren? The story doesn’t really say why she’s been married so many times. However, if she lost all those husbands through no fault of her own, even if her society told her it was her fault, then our Samaritan sister has been through some tough times. If she’s living with a husband that isn’t hers (maybe it’s her brother or her father) then she’s probably a second-class citizen in her own home. She has no social standing.

And she is willing to see the possibility that this strange man, who she probably shouldn’t be talking to, might be on to something. Maybe he sounds arrogant to her. Maybe he looks ridiculous (remember he’s just a stranger who’s been walking in the desert all day). I can relate to her. I’ve been to lots of retreats and workshops that promised me “living water” in the form of five simple principles or one great secret or a dozen rules. I have all the books. I’ve done lots of hours of studying. Heck, I have two master’s degrees and the student loans to prove it. I look at the time and money and wonder what the heck I was thinking! I still feel, sometimes, like that unwanted, unloved Samaritan who is just trying to find her place in the world.

If your Buddha-nature spoke up right now and promised you living water, promised you peace and joy, would you have the strength to try one more time? Would you be willing to try someone who seems like an unlikely guru? I went to lots of professionals and certificated teachers before I found the ones who told me my teacher is my own heart. Trusting that unlikely teacher has made all the difference.

Aw, hell

Once again I have been hearing about the concept of hell. Let me tell you that hell exists – and you should be scared. Very scared.

Now, let me tell you the Truth. The only hell is the one we create in our own minds and it’s always temporary. We can end the experience whenever we want to. It’s really very simple although at times it may not be easy. All we have to do is stop believing whatever painful untruth we’ve bought into. That untruth might be that we’re bad or wrong – whether we have money troubles or someone is condemning who we are. It’s not really possible to be inherently bad, by the way. You were made by the Divine and, as the Good Books all say, God don’t make no junk.

Many religions teach both that we are Divine by nature and that we have managed to become unnatural and have lost our way. Many spiritual philosophies hold some version of the idea of original sin. That is, some version of the lie that we are broken and God no longer likes, much less loves, us. The thing is every religion points to a way to experience some version of Heaven, either in this life or one of many future lives. If we are inherently bad, why would we ever be allowed into Heaven? If we are inherently incapable of making good choices, why would the great spiritual teachers give us such clear instructions? Why do all the mystics over the course of time tell about the loving presence that surrounds us and is part of us? Heaven is also a state of mind and we can choose it whenever we want.

Whatever. They say if it sounds like a scam, it probably is. Hell is a scam. It’s a convertible with the top down and we’re all hunting desperately for the keys. The Devil is the thundercloud that’s threatening to rain on our leather seats and the Lie is the locksmith coming to get the door open. When we take a step back, come to our senses and realize the Truth, we’ll all have a big laugh and go back to being our own Divine Selves.

Sacred Days

I was at a retreat all week up in Oregon. It was very, very green. It also rained every day except the day it hailed. So what was created was a sense of being all tucked in, with nowhere to go and nothing to do except the deep spiritual work. Now, I had my doubts about this particular teaching for years. For one thing, the materials are in a weird font and there’s an over-abundance of extraneous quotation marks that annoy the crap out of me. However, I have learned to that kind of things aside in order to see what might be of use, so there I was. I know and trust the facilitator Rev. Dr. Penny Macek (check her out at www.newvisioncsl.org) and she wouldn’t work with less-than-stellar people, so I was willing to try.

The first thing that happened was that they started talking about Christ. I’m not a traditional Christian. I understand the Christ in the same way these folks do – it’s the life energy and intelligence that predates any religion, but gets called the God Self, Higher Self, and Buddha nature.  I don’t care what you call it, frankly, as long as there is an understanding that Jesus of Nazareth was one of many Christs that have taken up the work over the ages. I’ve long since left behind the need to talk to Jesus as the one and only. Even he smirks when I talk about it to him, cuz it’s just funny and wrong at the same time. So I had to remind myself as we talked about the Christ over and over that it was my new understanding, not the old one I was raised with. Yes, some of the songs we sang got very traditional, but I looked past that (see how amazingly magnanimous and spiritual I am?).

I will admit – I did trip over the Jesus thing a lot, just like I was tripping over the Mohammed thing earlier in the week. I listened to Mohammed’s biography in the car and got very judgmental over how he went to war and played politics and treated the Jews in Medina. Isn’t it amazing that I can find ways to judge these amazing people? Here are two men that gave their lives to the work in ways I can’t even fathom and I’m looking down my spiritual nose at them. Not that I can channel a holy book or change water into wine (which I admit would make me immensely popular) but I can miraculously find fault with damned near anything.

What will it take for me to see the Christ Being in everyone? What will it take for you to see it? What if it shows up in your mirror, like Bloody Mary at midnight? Then what are we going to do? I’m going to stick with what I learned at the retreat. I’m going to keep going back to www.sacreddays.org to find the music we listened to and the explanations of the exercises. I’m going to keep working on my own inner critic until even that voice is the voice of God (which is female in my heart right now). I’m going to look past punctuation until my consciousness is so clear and strong that I only see God. Period.

Hold my hand

Recently, I challenged myself to play the guitar for a Sunday service. Understand, I haven’t done that since about fourth grade. Think about that. It’s been decades, although I won’t say how many. I remembered how to do the three simple chords, no problem. I was able to work hard enough over the course of the week to somewhat create calluses so that I can play the chords on the metal strings (for those of you who don’t know – ouch!!!). I could sing the song without a problem. I had the words in front of me in case I lost it and it’s not like it’s not a song I sing to myself all the time, by one of my favorite artists, Celia (check out www.celiaonline.com) Folks gave me pretty good feedback, so it couldn’t have been too terrible. It wasn’t a virtuoso performance by any means, but no one walked out and there were few actual groans.

So what was the point of this somewhat amateurish performance? Besides trying to impress my congregation with my miraculous ability? Well, that’s a longer story. Ever since I was a kid, I refused to do things in public if I wasn’t good at them. I never played sports. I never did much of anything. Well, theater stuff, but I was good at that. When I sang, I’d go hide and sing where no one could see me. Yes, I see the problem with that – it didn’t occur to me until years later that folks could definitely hear me, and seeing me was not the issue.

Yesterday I got up and played the guitar even though I didn’t feel ready. I had adrenaline zipping through me at a prodigious rate. It’s been a long time since I had stage fright, but there you go. Now, it wasn’t enough to just do one song on a Sunday. I chose Easter Sunday. I was doing one of the big talks of the year and I asked to do the music. Yes, I asked. Theoretically, our music director could have said no. If I was really bad, I’d trust him to say no and save me the embarrassment. The whole point was to challenge my belief in perfection and do something I didn’t expect to just carry off effortlessly.

The good part is I could fake strumming when I could tell my fingers were playing the wrong chord.   I think we managed to turn the microphone on my guitar waaaay down. And I had the sense to do this in front of a crowd that is loving and forgiving and knows me anyway. What surprised me was that my ego was so involved in remaining calm and spiritual during this growth experience. It bothered me that there was so much adrenaline running through me. It bothered me that they were taking so long to figure out the microphones. It bothered me that I felt I’d let the sermon preparation slide a bit in order to get the music ready. I was not able to float through the whole thing on a cloud of serenity.

In meditation that morning, I saw a child who was doing something for the first time. She was scared, but clinging to a trusted adult’s hand. The whole experience was one of fun and fear at the same time. This is how I think maybe it’s supposed to be. As children we are supposed to have a trusted adult teach us how to feel fear and do it anyway to find out if the fear changes to fun. I’ve decided that is part of my Higher Power’s job description now. If I’m going to be spiritual and live on my growing edge, then God/Goddess/The Divine has to hold my hand.

That way, if I fall flat on my butt, at least I know someone will help me up. And laugh with me afterwards too.

Post Election Thoughts

A lot of people are in fear this morning as we face the consequences of the presidential election. A lot of people are very happy, too. If you are in the first group, I urge you to go to prayer. If you can’t get to a place of love on your own, if your grief is not ready for that, please make a point of calling a practitioner (contact information is at www.cslprescott.org). There is support available to you. And if there was ever a time to engage in spiritual practice, this is it.

As members of the Centers for Spiritual Living, we as a community need to remember a few things. Our primary principle is Oneness. Other important values include diversity and inclusivity. I believe that as Religious Scientists it is our calling to support our friends and neighbors who are of color, who are of other faiths and who are of the LGBTQ community. That support might be a phone call. It might be speaking up when we hear racist, homophobic or misogynistic talk. It might mean staying in constant prayer to know what is really ours to do. When we affiliated with the Centers for Spiritual Living, we agreed to practice the principles and espouse the values of the Centers. These are just a few.

And this is not the end of the world. It might be the end of the world we knew, or the end of our perception of the world we thought we lived in. However, I will point out that Ernest Holmes began defining this philosophy in the midst of World War I, and continued teaching it through the Great Depression and World War II. This is a great time to prove the principles. This is a time for which this philosophy was created. If we let go of it now, we prove that we never really knew Truth. It’s time to practice what we have studied, create that world that works for everyone and see the Christ in each other. Our calling is no less than this.

Trigger Warnings Part 2

God likes to make sure I have the lesson by giving me a practical application of the things I write about. So soon after I published the last post, I had an experience. I had been invited to see the Rocky Horror Show, which is something I’ve wanted to do since high school. I’ve seen the movie a couple times, but both times was either talking to other people or by myself and so not really all that into it. So we went to the show. I was gifted with a ticket, for which I was very grateful. I let them put the V on my forehead with bright red lipstick. I greeted several members of the congregation (you know who you are!) and laughed and had a great time during the first half. I talked to the producer during the intermission and was dared to wear the V to service then next morning. I was all in on that one – what harm could it do? Plus the producer said he’d make a donation if I did it.

Then the second half started. It begins with a scene in which Frank-N-Furter crawls into bed with first Janet and then Brad. Now, I know this is meant to be a comedy. I know the original show came out in 1975. I know the transvestite Doctor is a character that is meant to be over-the-top sexualized.  But during that scene, I got triggered. The scene (in my mind) exposes the rape culture that we live in. Even though both characters protest, even though Janet indicates she’s expecting her fiancé rather than this stranger, the Doctor engages continues the sexual assault.

Maybe it’s because I’ve worked with children who have a history of sexual assault that doesn’t look like the stranger-offering-candy story. Maybe it’s because of the latest political scandal that exposes a candidate’s attitude towards women as sexual objects. Maybe it’s just because I’m me and have the training and experience that I have, but that scene triggered me to the point that I had trouble paying attention to the rest of the show. I considered leaving but didn’t want to be rude. That in and of itself is part of the cultural attitude that American women deal with and participate in – not speaking up because it might be seen as rude.

As I said in my last post, my opinion is not really the point. The point is my consciousness and what I am able to learn from my experiences. So I didn’t wear the V on Sunday. I didn’t refer to the experience on Sunday because I was still trying to get my balance back. I don’t think less of the others who were there, or who participated in the show, in any way. I just realize that this show is not something I’ll ever need to go to again, and that I can share my reasons if asked.

And at the same time, I can ask that others consider what we might need to change in our behavior and thinking in order to create a world where sexual assault is the rare occurrence rather than the experience of most of the women I know. The statistics say that one in five American women will suffer from attempted or completed rape. Those are just the cases that go reported. Those are just the cases that include actual rape as opposed to catcalling, groping, threatening and all the other stuff that happens. I’m willing to give up certain forms of entertainment in order to let those experiences disappear from our culture.

As always, feel free to comment and share your own experience.

The Dentist’s Chair

I checked in with the dentist this morning. I know I’m overdue for a regular appointment but what I was there for this morning was different. I grind my teeth in my sleep and it’s gotten to the point that my front teeth are all chipping. We were addressing that problem and making sure it doesn’t get worse any time soon. Since I have some problems with dentistry, I was given nitrous oxide to keep me calm and able to be worked on. In the clarity of laughing gas, I realized that what we were doing this morning was a lot like the spiritual work I do with folks as their minister.

First, they gave me some help (yes, in this case a drug) to help me prepare for the deeper work. When folks show up at our Center, we generally start them off with the inspiration of the Sunday service or a class. In either case, they learn tools like prayer and meditation. Next, my dentist had to even out my rough spots and that was less than fun. But in spiritual practice I often find that once folks have learned they are safe here, the painful stuff comes up to be healed. Sometimes they have rough spots, lack social skills or just are in so much pain that they don’t know what help to ask for. Finally, the dentist put some protective coating on the spaces in my teeth that were ready to shatter (I realllllly grind my teeth). Our ongoing spiritual practices give us this protective coating. As we get better and better with the tools of Science of Mind, we have more strength and can get on with the business of living (and eating!) much better.

Now I recognize that for some folks, this metaphor is a bit of a stretch. The thing is, I’ve written some amazing talks while having dental work done. I almost never remember them, but I know they were good. This time, I wanted to make sure I shared before it all went away.

For those of you who are wondering, my dentist is Dr. Seth at Larson Family Dentistry (www.kellylarsondds.com). He has some of the qualities of a good minister and kind of the same job. He works on painful problems with people who might be very scared to let him help. His job is, in part, to create an atmosphere of safety and trust with his patients. He also talks a lot about what folks can be doing to take care of themselves and prevent problems in the first place. No, I don’t like the lecture either, even when he pulls out the Ipad and shows me pictures and tells me how much money I can save by preventing problems rather than cleaning up after existing problems. I especially hate that he’s right and I need to commit to better self-care.

So there’s my spiritual truth for the day. The dentist is a minister. Taking care of my teeth is a spiritual practice. Our practice is really everywhere and all the time.

 

Trust in the Universe

Blog entry – Trust in the Universe.

Four words. Trust in the Universe. Sometimes when I hear myself say that, it sounds trite, as if whoever first suggested it never faced bills or illness or a broken heart. Whoever said it first sounds stunningly naïve.
But I’ve been meditating on this concept for a long time. What sounds naïve at first actually sounds profound and brave when I sit with it. Given all the ways humans can be betrayed over the course of a lifetime, the decision to trust is courageous. More than that, we are choosing to trust something we can’t see or hold. We can’t email the Universe to “remind” it that we need something. We can’t fill out a complaint form if something doesn’t work out the way we think it needs to. We are deciding, by trusting in the Universe, to rely on something invisible and intangible. That requires some serious guts.
Going deeper, I realize that if I am choosing to trust the Universe, then I am acknowledging that there is an Intelligence behind everything that has ever come into being. That Intelligence also created me and we are co-creating my life in this very moment. We are co-creating the experience of God-as-me, as my particular personality with all my strengths and weaknesses, and all my secret hopes and deepest fears. If the Universe that I’ve chosen to trust is one I believe to be Intelligent, then really trusting the Universe means I must breathe through the challenging times, trusting that Something has my back. Really trusting the Universe means that even the ugly, petty and mean parts of me can be faced and embraced. Those are the parts of me I most need to embrace, because judging them hasn’t worked. I just get more ashamed and try harder to squash them. If I truly trust the Universe, then there is no monster hiding in my psyche. I can sit with those parts of me and let them speak. When I do this, what I generally find is a reasonable need that is going unfulfilled, or a belief that is not reasonable at all. Rather than being ugly, that part of me was just trying to get my attention. Trust in the Universe means trusting that that part of me is necessary and good, just like every other part of me.
The word “in” captures my attention, too. We are immersed in the Universe right now. There’s really no place else to be. So while we are here, feeling safe and loved is going to be important. I need to know that the world I move around in is rooting for me, setting me up to succeed rather than fail and not trying to trick me into hurting myself. In this philosophy we believe that there is a vast Intelligence that permeates the Universe and that this Intelligence is the essence of Good. So we are surrounded by, and living IN an Intelligence that is supportive. No matter where we go and no matter what is going on in our lives, we always have access to that Friend who can love us through it.