The Ah in God

Contemplating the divisiveness these days on many issues, especially religious, I’ve been thinking a lot about some teachings I received long ago.  Late 80’s into mid-90’s I had several different teachers who talked about vowel sounds in ancient times and how they relate to chakras, meanings and to modern language.  There was a gem about the sound and meaning of “ah” that has always stuck with me.

The two teachers I can recall most specifically are David Patten, who is a Druid descendant and teaches about ancient Celtic practices at Nine Gates, including the alphabet– the “oghams”– and Paul Ray, who taught Sufi at Nine Gates (long ago, when I went through…).  I lived in an apartment connected to the home of my friend Gay and David, so I also got to hear about oghams at the dinner table while he worked on a book.  This many years later I don’t remember which other teachers and much of what I learned is a bit of a jumble.

For all these years, though, a teaching on “ah” as the sound of God has always stuck.  Many of these ancient concepts provided layers of meaning to each letter — things like, a type of tree, a mineral, a bird, a divination interpretation, etc. — and those ideas were often incorporated in later alphabets and languages though the underlying layers are no longer known in general.*  So it turns out that the “ah” sound, if you look carefully, is in every name for God.  Krishna.  Allah.  Yeshua (Jesus). etc.  And of course the way we pronounce “God” there’s an ah in it…

As I studied with teachers from different traditions and increasingly realized every major religion has the same principles at the core, I would come back to the sound of “ah” and realize the name is not only there in each place, but the sound that conveys all those principles and shows up in each one is a unifying piece.

The name may look different in each language, but the spirit of love in the “ah” is always present.  The same principles of the Eightfold Path — right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration — are within all of them, they just use different words to express them.

So I look at all the division and discord about this religion versus that or this denomination versus another and I wish everyone could take a breath and feel the “ah”.  For many, if the words are different for some reason they can’t see the heart is the same.  I just feel the love at the core and keep wishing we could all find our way back to the heart and the love and compassion.

This is my first post for this year’s Nano Poblano — a version of National Blog Post Writing Month.  The group decided to change it up, so this year participants are committing to 30 days of blog activities–  10 days of posts, 10 days of reading/commenting, and 10 days of sharing posts through any other platform. You can see posts for the event here.

*David has been able to translate some obscure modern languages without having ever studied or spoken them just by applying his knowledge of the meaning of letters.

Life and a meditation

I have posts buzzing around in my head, from my spiritual journey lately to more People Power to mulling over Mueller, but life has been getting in the way.  My 93-year-old mother relies on me to get to all appointments and to do all shopping and she’s been having lots of appointments.  Between busy-ness and periodic sleep deprivation I’m winding up writing in my head but getting nothing down.

In the meantime, I continue to periodically explore Steve Nobel’s expansive offerings and I’ve found his meditation, “Releasing Anxiety/Fear” to be powerful:

Separating Church & State Honors Our Ancestors

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

U.S. Constitution, First Amendment, Establishment and Free Exercise clauses

For some time I’ve been observing a growing trend among some Christians (mostly evangelical) to want to end the separation of church and state mandated by the Constitution and make every one conform to Christian values and participate in Christian practices.  They say they love America but their stance is so adverse to the foundation stones of our nation, it’s hard to imagine they even know our history.

I’ve been particularly thinking about it in light of my genealogy research and the many ancestors who came here to get away from religious persecution.  My 10x great grandfather, William Brewster, was a Puritan Separatist and his religious views first forced him to flee England for Holland.  He later managed to return to England long enough to board the Mayflower and come to the Plymouth Colony.

He was one of multitudes of Puritans who fled England because their religious beliefs were outlawed.  They braved the hazardous voyage across the ocean and came to the new world in the hope of finding freedom to worship as they chose.

On my mother’s side I’ve long since lost count of the number of Scottish Presbyterians — they’re all over the tree on both sides of her family.  Some broke off from the Presbyterian Church in Scotland and came here to establish their version of Presbyterianism.  Others, after accepting land in Ireland for some years, wound up fleeing to America when England began persecuting Presbyterians for their failure to follow Anglican law.

Presbyterians weren’t particularly welcome here either as the established religions along the coast disapproved of their beliefs.  They gave the Scots land at what were then the frontiers, in order to let them serve as buffers against the Native tribes.  In other words they were expendable.  Presbyterian ministers were rare in those parts, so many became Baptists.

These are just some of the stories of religious persecution that led many of our early citizens to the Colonies.  The Founding Fathers were well aware of the persecution that had hounded so many out of their homes and across an ocean.  There is also a great deal of evidence many of them were aware of other religions, such as Hinduism, Islam, etc.  So when they established free exercise of religion and forbade the establishment of a state religion, they were specifically safeguarding people from the kind of persecution so many had endured and, by their explicit failure to name Christianity or any denomination thereof, they extended that freedom to all religions.

Ironically many of those who are trying to force everyone to conform to their religious beliefs, to bring Christian prayers back into schools and make Muslim and Jewish and Hindu children participate, are descendants of the persecuted Christians who arrived in a new land seeking freedom to worship as they chose.

Every time I see one of these calls for the State to violate the First Amendment and participate in promoting evangelical Christian beliefs, I feel my ancestors have been dishonored.  That their suffering has been forgotten.  “Separation of church and state” were Jefferson’s words, describing the meaning of the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses, a separation created to make sure such persecution would not be repeated.

This wall between state and church was built to ensure all people freedom to pursue their religious beliefs without interference from the government.  Every call to take down that wall is an assault on one of the great foundation stones of the United States of America and shows either ignorance of or contempt for one of the most important lynch pins of our democracy; one which is central to its greatness.

Let’s not forget why so many of the original settlers came here.  Honor their pursuit of religious freedom by honoring religious freedom.

Walking a different drummer/spiritual path in a secular world

A little over a week ago I started participating in an on line class called “Co-Human Harmony“.  The idea is to work on understanding and tools to help create bridges in a divisive society or situation.  I signed up because I think it’s so important right now and because I realize I even have a problem quite often about joining groups who are working for peace or justice (i.e. theoretically same view as mine) because I frame these issues so differently.

I’m loving the class but also struggling for the same reasons.  The quite valid point of the class is to learn tools for bridging divides where people are, which is generally not in a place of understanding or accepting non-duality.  And I’m realizing I’ve moved so far along the path of looking at everything from a spiritual/metaphysical viewpoint, I’m having trouble answering some of the course questions within a more “practical” framework.

I believe so thoroughly we’re all divine beings who are made of energy which is part of one unified field.  And I am so used to using tools like (1) moving into heart energy and shifting a room with it or (2) chanting lovingkindness for someone with whom I’m at odds or (3) doing a meditation that balances energy between me and another person before we actually interact, that I think in those terms for bridges and healing rifts.

The teacher has pointed out it’s fine to think in those terms (and has encouraged me to continue) but for these situations we’re addressing how to be in a room with, say, a Neo-Nazi, and find a way to connect as humans so we can talk.  And I’m guessing as we move from studying the theoretical framework to more practical applications it may become easier to just use and apply new concepts.  But right now I’m floundering in attempts to talk about my understanding of various passages, videos, etc. on which we’re asked to comment without talking about energy and chakras and stuff.

I’m really seeing how far down this spiritual path I’ve gotten.  I know, I know, seems goofy after this many years for this to be a new thought.  But I’ve wound up mostly hanging around with other spiritual seekers who’ve been at it for years and though I know intellectually that most people don’t think this way, I’m rarely confronted in person with how totally different the drumbeat to which I march really is.

Since most of the folks who regularly read and participate here lead deeply spiritual lives I’m very interested and curious to hear your thoughts and stories about participating as a spiritually-enmeshed person in secular affairs.  Comments are welcome but I’d be even more excited to see some of you write posts about living spiritually in a secular world.

BTW, I’ll still be continuing the People Power series but as I work through this class I’ll likely switch back and forth in topics.

Compassion for the Unlikeable

In my last post I explored the puzzling contradictions of the right wing evangelical movement.  It’s easy for liberals and leftists and spiritual types who pursue love and peace to shake their fists in fury and despise the hatefulness and hypocrisy rampant in the white nationalist propensities of so many folks who call themselves Christians.

Except fist shaking and fury are, you know, hateful too.  I’m guilty of it and up to a point I see it as a good thing to initially feel angry when people lack humanity and are prepared to sacrifice the lives of every group they don’t like.

But at some point it seems to me true compassion requires a step back and the application of humanitarian instincts even to those who seem to have no compassion of their own.  Brotherly love isn’t just for those with whom it’s easy to empathize.  At its heart it requires the ability to dig deep and find love for everyone, even when it’s hard.  Especially when it’s hard.

I see the hatefulness of the right wing as arising from huge fear.  It would be tempting to offer my theories as to why they’re so afraid (and trust me, I have some), but I also feel like Right Listening requires us to engage in a conversation with them that helps them to dig deep and offer their own truth about fear or to tell us it’s something else.

And then to ask them what would help to assuage the fear. Discuss programs and possibilities and really hear their input instead of the usual pattern of designing a program from outside and imposing it on people without finding out what they want.

At this point, like many I know, I’d pretty much vote for anybody not the guy we’ve got now, but I wish we’d see some of the liberals putting some attention on healing our great divide by turning some compassion toward the “other side”.

The Other Jesus

When I read quotes from right wing Christians and their preachers, I always feel as if I’ve entered an alternate universe in which Christ and the Bible offer teachings so foreign to the religion in which I grew up that I can’t recognize it as being the same.

Even though I live in a “liberal bastion” in Kentucky, if you live here you’re somewhat in the midst of the big divide of our country.  I don’t unfriend everyone with whom I disagree–especially if I see qualities I like in them — and if you live here you know people on both sides as do your friends so you meet the other side in comments too.  So I wind up puzzling over contradictions and mysterious ways often.

Like many on the liberal side and among other Christian denominations, I’ve found great confusion in their claims to be Christian and Pro Life while they display hatred toward so many groups.  As has often been noted, sometimes it feels like life is precious to them in the womb and for everybody after birth, screw ’em.

None of that reflects the Jesus I grew up knowing in the Presbyterian Church, nor the “Christ Consciousness” of love and compassion I follow and combine with other compassionate traditions now.  And a lot of their statements seem to come from a different Bible.

Some days I’m not altogether sure whether their Bible has a New Testament in it.

There’s something of a scale to this, as there are more moderate Baptists, for instance, who identify as MAGA but quote from the New Testament and do good works. They also find no hypocrisy in putting up a post about Pro Life followed by a post on their loathing of immigrants followed by a quote about kindness from Matthew followed by a diatribe about not letting a refugee group into the state.  It can make your brain hurt.

The scale moves on out to those who identify good Christian behavior with being Pro Life, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, against aid to the poor, and often racist, etc.  I can’t find the Jesus I know anywhere in that.

What Bible?

In my Bible there’s an Old Testament and a New Testament and Jesus has not been born yet at any point in the Old Testament and everything He taught is in the New–some of which was carried forward from Jewish law.  For these other Christians, if you follow a lot of the preaching, it’s mostly from the Old Testament.

And I’ve run into so many puzzling statements wherein someone says, “As Jesus taught…” followed by a quote from, say, Leviticus.  In my Bible not only did Jesus not say or teach anything anywhere in the Old Testament but in the New Testament He repudiated some of the old Jewish law of the Old Testament and forged a new path.

If they have a Bible with a Jesus in the Old Testament, seems like a different Bible and a different Jesus.

I don’t find a lot of quotes from the New Testament in the hard core statements I encounter, but they do love Corinthians 14:34-35, which is the basis of their insistence that Christ commanded women to be subservient and silent.  “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”

The thing is scholars agree the statement refers to a particular situation in the services at the time not to mention that it can’t be considered out of context with the rest of Corinthians, which includes numerous passages saying both men and women can prophesy.

That passage taken alone also ignores many other N.T. passages indicating equality between men and women, such as Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

So their Bible apparently either contains only a few passages from the New Testament or this version of Christianity allows people to choose only the teachings they wish to follow.

The Compassionate Christ

The Christ I know taught love and compassion above all else.

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” ~ Luke 6:27-31

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” – Matthew 5:9

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”  John 13:34-35

I can conceive of no way to reconcile such passages with the hate and vitriol on display by these so-called Christians unless they worship a different Christ.

The Jewish Jesus

In my church, and every major Christian denomination I know, Jesus was a Jew. A Jew born to Jewish parents, who btw, were refugees.  So how can you be a Christian and hate Jews?  Or refugees?

While Christ taught some of the Jewish law presented in the Old Testament, he also rejected some of it and more importantly added His own, more kind and heartful path.  Personally I’ve never really understood why the early church chose to include the Torah in the Christian Bible.

But the bigger puzzler for me is why, if you hate Jews, would you follow Jewish law instead of Christ’s?  And if there is a second, non-Jewish Christ who apparently lived for hundreds of years, all before the New Testament Christ was born, why was this guy tossing teachings into the Torah throughout his life?

My head, my head…

In the end, even though it would feel somehow easier if there were a different Bible and a different Jesus so the inconsistencies could be explained, what I really see are a bunch of people so frightened they aren’t really making sense and their fear is making them hateful.

So, soon a discussion of fear and finding compassion.

 

Something’s Calling?

Barbara Franken of Me, My Magnificent Self has invited a third round of posts on Awakening Experiences which will be made into another e-book. This entry is perhaps more about the next stage of my journey than awakening, but I see it as describing another step forward in awareness.

As indicated in my last post I’ve been sporadically contemplating “What’s next?”. The question crops up periodically as I’ve been tired of this healing thing for a long time and ready to move forward. But to what?

It’s not that I hang around constantly fretting over the future. But this whole journey started as a way for me to learn not only to live a happier life but to find a career path that felt like me after a lifetime of trying to please everyone else. I rarely liked the choices made for others and I’d lost any sense of who I was and what I wanted to do. So I do have an interest in moving forward.

I’ve joked many times, if I’d realized at the beginning the journey would lead me into so many deep hollows and twisty byways I probably wouldn’t have started. Along the way, the spiritual tools my early mentors handed me wound up adding spirituality to the journey; I admit it was not part of my original quest. The spiritual side leaves me aware there’s a flow and life is easier when you connect with it. And I keep getting glimpses — “knowing”– or flashes of insight about where the current is heading, so I’m trying to interpret and understand.

Called to Teach?

Early on writing felt like my calling and I spent a long time working on unlocking my inner writer. Something I did easily and naturally as a child and teenager eluded me. While I pursued the idea of writing fiction, various prescient teachers intertwined with insightful flashes of my own to suggest a different path.

In the mid-90’s, several of my spiritual teachers started dogging me about how they knew I’m a leader and here to teach. A couple of them bugged me periodically about getting out there and teaching. I could sense the core of truth in their reading of me but also had no idea what to teach nor, as it turned out, how to teach 🙂

Eventually I decided that maybe teaching through my writing answered the calling, got help creating a web site and started posting “Tips for the Spiritual Journey”. Which was fun to write but led nowhere, to no audience…

Called to Journey for Peace

Moving ahead to the mid -aughts, a friend with awesome right listening skills gently probed with ever more deepening questions until I realized I felt called to work for peace. Some time later my “Journey to Peace” class was formulated. I’d also been trying to teach some right speech classes.

Many of the people who took the classes said they got a lot out of it but I rarely drew more than 1-3 at a time. It took several years to learn enough about the rhythm and flow of teaching to structure the classes with a good mix of lecture and practice. But the classes were costing me more often than they made any money and I was reaching so few people it seemed pointless.*

In the meantime I’d developed my movement classes — which began purely as an aid to my own muscle issues — and taught yoga and my own movement stuff to the same pitiful results. The efforts reached a point where almost simultaneously the unwinding muscles in my head reached a debilitating pinnacle and I threw in the towel on teaching classes.

Somewhere in the midst of that, I wound up guided to start this blog and thought perhaps it was my teaching path. And then when I collected a crowd of lovely folks who already know what I’m teaching but didn’t seem to reach anyone else, I gave up thinking of the blog as the conduit for teaching.

Ahead of the curve

Several years ago I had a breakthrough three-hour session with local healer Osunnike. One of the most profound moments I didn’t completely understand at the time, except that it was key and I’ve kept coming back to it.

In my memory she actually stopped for a moment when she picked up on this piece but it may have just felt so important to me that I ceased noticing her ongoing healing. Suddenly she started telling me she could see how far ahead of the curve I am on a lot of things and how hard it is for me to be trying to get it out there when most people don’t understand my message. She sensed great loneliness and sadness that few were understanding what I could see clearly. And she told me the day was coming when people would be ready to hear me.

At the time I was working on getting my movement classes out there and feeling this area wasn’t ready for it, so I asked if that was what she meant. She said it was only a part of it; there were many ways in which my teaching at the time was ahead of general understanding. I wasn’t sure I understood, partly because calling myself “ahead of the curve” sounded arrogant or beyond where I could see myself at the time.

When I wrote about the experience I didn’t say much about that piece of it because I needed time to let it sink in and to understand it better. Lately, as the muscles blocking my third eye have been opening, I’m getting more flashes of “knowing” and moments of sudden insight.

Among the insights I’ve been sensing: (1) the bigger part of what Osunnike meant referred to my efforts on what it takes to move toward peace; and (2) my writing here about peace and some of the things I’ve been trying to say about women in my women’s issues series will soon be understood and this long spell of feeling like an unheard failure will be over.

Near the time of these insights, I spoke to fellow blogger Linda, of litebeing chronicles and she mentioned my writings on peace. She told me she follows lots of blogs on spiritual topics but nowhere else did she see a discussion of peace quite like mine. And she encouraged me to writing about it. It dovetailed with my growing sense of being “out there” in what I’m saying. But I could also see if I keep on writing then when people are ready to hear this, a big body of work will already be there for them.

All of this has me contemplating the blog again and ruminating on peace and what we can do from here. I’m seeing this as fulfilling the teaching path so many mentors foresaw long ago. And connecting Osunnike’s insights to the “leader” part of their insights. The threads of teaching and writing joining the thread of thinking ahead of the curve…

Right now I’m just still moving through the last stage of the healing journey. Impatient, obviously 🙂 But I like the sense of direction as I flow toward the next phase. Maybe the exact place I’ve been meant to head all along?


*A few students have told me the class affected them deeply and continues to be an impact so I also reflect on the possibility those few were the only ones I was meant to teach at the time…