Tag Archives: listening

On the ceiling with God

There’s a painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel that shows God and Adam reaching out to almost touch each other. I’ve seen it a billion times, just like everyone else, but I’ve never really seen it before. The painting was brought to my attention and I used it in a talk this week – and then heard even greater perception from my friends and teachers in the congregation.

If you look at this painting, you’ll notice a few things about God. First of all, I can’t help but notice he looks a lot like Zeus. But that’s just me, right? Secondly, because I vegged out and watched HBO’s Westworld, I have learned that there’s meaning in the cloak God wears. That red cloak is shaped like a human brain. The God of my understanding is a being that expresses itself through me to the degree that I allow the Good/God to be expressed. I can limit it but can’t actually make it go away. Another thing to look at is that there’s a whole bunch of people inside that cloak with God.

So if the God of my understanding exists in my mind, who are the rest of those folks? Someone pointed out that they could be thought of as the “committee” that often exists in the back of our minds. Those voices of disapproval and doubt that pipe up just as we are about to step into our greatness are those folks sitting around God in the painting. I was relieved to hear my self say, “I fired my committee. That’s my cheering section.” I didn’t think about it, just said it. I’m so glad that the things I instinctively think and say these days are positive. Believe me, when the committee was running things, it wouldn’t have been a good thing.

Who are the folks who live in the mind of God, your mind, with you? Are they cheering or naysaying?

Guests and tenants

I’m pretty particular about who is allowed in my home. I have an apartment attached to my home that I rent out and only once did I allow someone to handle the rental. They did everything legally and right, but I wasn’t satisfied. The tenant’s energy and mine weren’t a good match. Something just didn’t feel right. I know we weren’t a good match because the tenant left after about six weeks. I bless her being there and I bless her leaving to go on to whatever is hers to do or be. And I’ve learned my lesson; who is allowed in my home must be a decision made consciously and by me. I don’t discriminate in terms of color or gender or creed, but I do prefer to pray the right person in, which generally looks like the right person getting me the application first and actually being able to pay for the apartment.

There’s a Rumi poem about a guesthouse. I welcome in those who show up, but I also remember that these are my thoughts and my own beliefs I’m welcoming in. A basic tenet of our philosophy is to watch what you believe and see if it’s true. If you can’t tell, another way to think of it is to ask yourself, “Does this belief make me more free?” We will always find evidence to support our beliefs so we may as well choose the ones that prosper us. Who we welcome in to our homes, our heads and hearts, will determine the quality of our lives. Make sure you are paying attention. Love them all as they come, and be aware of whom you offer a lease to.

Part of the wall of Dumferline Abbey. Some of the stones here still bear the mason’s mark.

According to Abraham Maslow, belonging is one of our basic needs. It fits right after food, sleep and shelter. Back when castles were built by masons, each stone was marked with a code that told the builders where it went. Today, even Ikea marks what pieces go where to create a solid piece of furniture.

When I think about the best things in my life, they all have to do with my connections to people and to groups that I admire and trust. I’m part of the Centers for Spiritual Living as a minister. I’m part of CSL Prescott as the spiritual leader, one of the members of the Board of Trustees and of the Practitioner Circle. I’m the member of a family, which right now consists of my sister and brother and his family. I’m part of a family of choice which consists of soul friends.

Part of knowing I belong on this earth (which I didn’t always know, by the way) is knowing where I stand in my relationships. Lately, my primary relationship is with the Divine. My focus has been on nurturing that relationship and doing what Joel Goldsmith calls “Practicing the Presence”. Everywhere I go, I see the face of God. Every sense is attuned to the Presence – I feel it all around me lately. Did I do something to earn it? No. You can’t earn God and you never needed to. Did I do something to make myself more aware? Yes. I got serious about a committed prayer and meditation practice. I made that practice my priority, even on the mornings I didn’t feel like doing it.  And now I’m reaping the benefits of hanging out full time with the Friend who never lets me down.

It is the Universe’s nature to impart, ours to receive.  Ernest Holmes.

My role in this relationship is always going to be to receive – whether that is support, love, wisdom or lessons. So I know where I fit in. I know that I belong irrevocably to this relationship.

 

Book of John Ch 3 

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.[a]

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Pharisees were the folks who knew all the rules and followed them. Back in the day, they were seen as the religious 1%’ers. They were doing everything right, after all. They followed all the Laws and everyone knew it; they tended to be the elite both on earth and (supposedly) in the eyes of God. So when people read this part of the Christian Bible, they are to know that the risk Nicodemus took in coming to talk to Jesus was a big deal. That’s why he had to sneak in. It must have been really frustrating to hear such non-sense about being born again.

Here’s the thing. In Northern Aramaic, to be born again means to change the way you think and behave. Nicodemus spoke Southern Aramaic, so he wouldn’t have understood the slang. (h/t to the Lamsa Bible) How many times have you felt like you went out on a limb in your spiritual practice and were given what sounded like nonsense as a reward for your hard work? I’ve been told that the reason I don’t have lots of wealth is because I won’t take it, but I’m standing there asking for it. How frustrating! What do you mean; I don’t know how to receive?!!? How many times have I been in a class and been asked if I felt the energy shift and thought, “No, I have no idea what you mean.”

What I have learned is that it’s best to ask for clarification when I am in such a situation. I’m not afraid of looking stupid – I’m more concerned with missing the point of a valuable lesson. And if I don’t get it then, I trust that someday I will. Some night, I will wake from a deep sleep and say “Ohhhh! I get it!”

Looking for Wisdom

I have begun a practice of reading in bed before I get up (well, getting back in bed after starting the coffee). Right now I’m all about Emma Curtis Hopkins, possibly because I finished a class recently that opened my eyes to her awesome writings. At the best of times, her writing can require a dictionary. The wording is outdated and complex. Her writing also references a lot of knowledge I don’t have about Hinduism, Hebrew and Latin references, mythology and ancient Greek philosophy. And all of that is before I even get to her encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible.
Here’s what I’m learning – it’s not the words or the references I need to notice. It’s those glimmering bits of wisdom that shine just for me. When Emma tells me “look up” or that “Facing Thee, there is no evil in my path”, what I get out of it is a reminder that by focusing on the Spirit Within Me, all my so-called problems melt away. She reminds me that asthma is not the boss of me –my physical lungs heal when I rely on a power greater than myself and if that seems pie-in-the-sky, well, it’s not. She lists over and over the examples throughout history of when allowing Spirit to lead not only worked, it worked miracles.
It’s jarring to go from that kind of consciousness to needing to get on with my day. What would Emma say about Facebook? What would she say about the minutia of ministry – writing the reports, noting the attendance numbers, making sure the Christmas decorations are put away and ready for next year? What would she say about keeping up with email and visits? Not much probably. I think she’d look at all that and remind me – Facing Thee, there is no evil in my path. Spirit isn’t tied to time or limited by a data plan.
These things that worked for the prophets of Israel also worked for yogis and the Brahmans. Focusing on the Divine Self worked for Druids in what became Ireland and the United Kingdom. It worked for the priests of Huitzilopochtli in the Aztec Empire and the seekers of the three-faced Goddess Hecate. It doesn’t matter what the details of the story are – Spirit is timeless, ageless and without limit. So…. With a nod to Emma….
Dude – facing Thee, It’s all Good!

Leadership

I just started reading John C. Maxwell’s “Leadership Gold: Lessons I’ve learned from a lifetime of leading.” Now I read a lot of leadership books. It was part of my training in psychology and as a minister. For whatever reason, I was blessed with folks even outside my official teachers that kept steering me back in the direction of studying leadership. So I know I’m slogging through the wrong book when I sit there thinking, “I could have written this and why is the author dumbing it down so much?!?” I know I’m on the right track when I’m highlighting every other word and/or planning a class or how I can fit certain ideas into a Sunday talk. Leadership Gold is of the second group, in case you’re wondering. Since this is a library book, I can’t highlight. I’ve already got my talk for this week written on a slightly different subject. Luckily… I blog.

I’ve barely made it through the introduction and I can tell you right now, this book is really about spirituality and the job of a bodhisattva. Did you know I’m a bodhisattva? Did you know that you are, too? Being a bodhisattva is the best job in the world. A bodhisattva is the best kind of spiritual leader – someone who comes and reminds folks of their own inherent wisdom and power and maybe nudges them toward certain practices or tools along the way. Okay, so I nag. We all have our talents.

The bodhisattva as described by Maxwell starts by first learning for him or herself the art and science of leadership. Step one in leadership is always going to be knowing how to use the tools of the trade. If I can’t do it, I can’t teach it. And if I don’t know what I’m doing, I can’t speak about it simply so that other folks can learn it. So I have to live this stuff. Now, if I make it all complicated it’s called theology. If I make it esoteric and ineffable, it’s called mystic philosophy.

In spirituality, it’s really just being a decent human being. Yep, that’s all we bodhisattvas do. It really boils down to “Be nice.” We gussy it up in ritual and burn incense and write long books we call scripture, but that’s what spirituality really is. Being nice means I listen attentively and respectfully. Being nice means I don’t want to take away from other people or tell some folks they can’t be part of our group. If I were being professional that would be called being racist or homophobic and/or having a “lack and limitation” consciousness, but it’s really just a variation on not saying “Give me your lunch money and no, you can’t sit with us.”

A bodhisattva’s main job is to help other people become, well, bodhisattvas really. Leadership is really teaching other people to be all they can be, coaching and encouraging them. I can’t be a leader if I’m walking alone. That’s a hiker, not a leader. I need folks to walk with me. These days, leadership doesn’t even look like walking at the head of the line –it’s more like being part of a group of hikers, but knowing the trail better than the others. As Maxwell wrote, you’re a tour guide not a travel agent.

So if you’re part of my community and I get to the do this in person – keep up, don’t wander off and definitely ask questions (h/t to Doctor Who). If you’re just passing through, take what you found useful and toss the rest. You know which is which. And either way, yes, you can sit with us and I’ll trade half my ham and cheese for some of your baloney… hey, that’s deep

In Service

Our theme this month at the Center for Spiritual Living Prescott is service to the world. Now, depending on how you read this, it can feel overwhelming or wonderful. There’s a part of me that still hears someone’s desires as my problem to take care of (oh, to be free of the old programming!) so the idea of being “in service” can feel overwhelming. On the other hand, I’ve learned that when I am in service and simply doing what I’m doing in the present moment, with no agenda other than to be there, it’s beautifully relaxing and fun.

It’s not our job to save the world. Let me repeat that – it’s not our job to save the world. The world does not need saving. The world is full of adult children of God that have wonderful, wise souls with wisdom installed at the beginning. Just because I might have dealt with a similar situation or because I feel like I’m in a better place, doesn’t mean that I should have the spiritual arrogance to try to fix or save anyone.

There’s a story told in a TED talk by Ernesto Sirolli about how he learned how to be of service without imposing any of his own “stuff” on those he was serving. When he first started out, he went to a third world country and taught them how to garden. They had a beautiful garden, although getting participation from the community was hard. And then the season changed, the garden flooded and a group of hippos came and ate everything overnight. Ernesto noticed that the locals seemed unsurprised. When he asked why they didn’t tell him that this happened every year, their response was, “You didn’t ask.” And so the talk was titled, Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!

To be in service to the world – whether it’s the Divine world that exists within you or the physical world that is all around you – requires that we first get quiet and listen to what is needed. I might be great at baking bread and want to teach you how to do it. However, if you don’t like bread, or can’t eat it, it is not actually service to you when I teach that. It’s service to my own need to feel good. If your heart is calling for you to be gentler with yourself as you go through changes, yelling “Try harder! You can do it!” in your head may not be as helpful as you think.

n any case, we are called to be in service. We are called to get quiet and listen to our consciousness to hear what is ours to do. If we want to help another person, we are called to first ask, “How can I help?”

How is the world calling you to be of service?