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…

J2P: Moving toward a loving heart

I know, long time since you’ve seen a Journey 2 Peace post.  Peace, love and compassion have been on my mind lately — or always? — and I’m finally seeing more essays in which people are calling for the power of love as the force we need to change, so I felt moved to return to J2P.

To me there are two parts to creating a peaceful, loving heart:

  1. clear away any negatives, lower energies, issues from your being
  2. fill yourself with love, raise your energy vibration

I’ve been working at both the clearing and the filling/raising for years.  Recently I’ve been a bit more interested in the second part than the first, but last year after being introduced to Steve Nobel’s meditations, I fell in love and in part because they address both.

For nearly a year now I’ve been trying out various of his meditations, repeating some numerous times and always intrigued to try another new one.  One of the things I really love about them is that virtually every one starts with some amount of clearing old energies.  Some spend quite a bit of the meditation just on clearing.  Some clear first and then work on raising energy or filling with love, etc.  Some mainly balance chakras but do some negativity and lower energy clearing as part of working on each one.

All of them leave me feeling energized and elevated.  Some of them rock me for days as the clearing and filling work their way through.

The latest one I’ve fallen in love with is The Archangel Chamuel Transmission:  Becoming a Lighthouse of Love and Healing Light.  Everything I aim for all in one meditation.

 

Exploring mindfulness

 

Lately I’ve been noticing that “mindfulness” seems to be everywhere these days –including mainstream news.  As the term is bandied about I’m often surprised by where I’m seeing it or who is talking about it, but as I look at much of what is being said, I question how well many people really understand mindfulness.

In many places I see people speaking of it as if it’s only about controlling your mind as an act of will. To me mindfulness is so much more, I feel a little sad every time I see someone settle for such a narrow idea — or for the particularly American tendency to want to control everything, including the mind.

After sitting with a vipassana group for a year I began seeing how many forms of practice there are in which you can quiet your mind into a single focus and achieve more mindfulness:  yoga practiced with breath, or yoga nidra when followed with focus, or chanting when concentrating on the words of the chant,or pranayama while noting only the breath, etc.  To me the point is using practice to learn how it feels to be in the moment in a state of “empty mind” and peacefulness.

When you keep practicing, your mind starts learning to stay more quiet all the time, the state of calm begins to expand throughout your life, and your whole perspective shifts.  It’s so much more than just wrestling my thoughts into submission in a given moment.

When I complete a practice I’m in a space or a zone that has its own feeling tone.  I feel it in my heart.  I feel the calm throughout my body.  I feel in tune with something larger than myself.  Tapped into the Universe.

To me, mindfulness is more about surrender than controlling or willing anything.  In emptying my mind and flowing with the chant or pose or breath or silence, I let go of managing and fall into what Wayne Dyer called “the gap”.  Over time I also learned surrender involves letting the practices take me wherever they lead.

Plans have gone awry and life has unfolded in ways that would never have crossed my mind if I’d kept trying to follow a blueprint designed long ago.  Sometimes it’s uncomfortable.  Sometimes it’s scary.  I wouldn’t change any of it.  I like the person I’m becoming.  The change from being mercurial to finding equanimity, from neurotic to peaceful, from anxious to calm…

The quiet mind achieved in mindfulness practices doesn’t involve controlling thoughts.  It’s a space encompassing the moment and peace and higher consciousness.  With practice the space begins to fill life more and more with presence in the moment.  From that place of presence, you can choose to hold onto a thought or let it go.

But you don’t learn true mindfulness if you just try to force your mind regularly to moments when you pick different thoughts.  You’re missing so much if you don’t let yourself be taken to the place where mindfulness is a way of being present, calm, connected and new.

Tips for Peaceful Activism

Although time has calmed many people down a notch from the hysteria post election, every day I see enough on social media to realize too many are still hyped up and being reactive instead of proactive.  I’ve already produced a little series of posts with suggestions about compassionate activism but I thought I’d produce a pithier version with some added thoughts and suggestions.

Stay in the Moment

Quit spinning out catastrophic ideas into the future based on info you see today.  Many people are making dire pronouncements on social media — often based on info from seriously shaky sources when nothing in the unconfirmed information actually suggests the dire outcome necessarily follows.

Take a breath.  Then another.  Bring yourself into the moment.  Ask yourself:  Is this happening now?  If the government isn’t falling, if democracy hasn’t ended, if civil rights haven’t been abolished in this moment, calm down and remind yourself of what is true here and now.  BE IN THE MOMENT!

Take Back the Narrative

When you keep passing on disturbing pieces of information about what the opposition is saying and doing, you let them frame the narrative.  Leaders have been doing it for years.

I first noticed back in the 80’s when Ronald Reagan dubbed the troops fighting for Somoza’s fallen government in Nicaragua “Freedom Fighters”, implying they were the forces for democracy instead of actually the henchmen of a toppled dictatorial regime who were trying to overthrow the social democratic Sandinista government.  And the media went with it.  The New York Times and the other major dailies, the major broadcasting stations — all of them participated in his re-frame, helping to convince people we should be fighting to restore the dictatorship (since Somoza was dead I’ve never been clear who would have run it).

Creating phrases or re-naming things using the words that suit the agenda is a frequent tactic of leaders.  #45 is a salesman.  A master of creating a narrative to sell the hapless on whatever he wants them to believe.

Right now one of his big sells is that he’s just “deregulating”.  In a country full of independent spirits, it’s a word that always implies getting rid of big government.  What it really means is he wants to remove every protection that keeps middle class and lower class Americans safe from fraud, environmental illnesses, discrimination etc. by getting rid of regulations that control corporations.  Not by a long-shot the only arena in which he’s using loaded phrases to paint a picture he wants.

Every time you pass along articles repeating the Republican administration’s phrases, you allow them to frame the narrative.  Take it back.  Write a post that re-frames what was said to reflect what is really happening and share that.

Give Your Energy to the Outcome You Want–Shift the Energy

Quit using his name.  Quit using the name of the Machiavellian senator from Kentucky.  Every time you mention them you send energy to them, building them up and leaving the other people and possibilities for your side weaker.  #45 or He Who Shall Not Be Named 1 and 2 will do.  #45 wants to be constantly in the “news” and you’re giving him what he wants.

Right now we have less than two years to identify good candidates, create  grass roots campaigns to sidestep the ineffectiveness of the Democratic party (here in KY the campaigns have been so badly run in recent years I’ve been puzzled as to who the Democratic candidate even was in many races;  possibly GOP funded infiltrators are running the party here? 🙂 ) and send our energy toward that.

Or if you want to stand with the folks at Standing Rock, send your thoughts and energy there.  If you want to help save wildlife, decide what would help and post about that.  If you want to support immigrants and refugees, do something about that and post about it.  Think up a program and enlist support.

Currently I’m doing some research about how we could start crowd funding outside the U.S. to re-fund any place or any thing #45 de-funds.  Others are creating support groups, attending protests, etc.   Think outside the box.  If you don’t have your own program/idea, help someone who does.

Let the energy and excitement build around the outcomes you want to see and please, please STOP  keeping the energy flowing to them by putting all your attention there.

Quit Being Mean

I’ll admit I snicker at some of the stuff going around, but at the same time I know making fun of people is just mean. I am no better than they are if I engage in the same behaviors to which I take exception in them.

Being nonviolent means keeping violence out of your words and thoughts as well as avoiding fists and weapons.  See more about nonviolence here.

What Aspects of Them are in You?

If you really can’t let go, and keep obsessing, it’s time to start looking within.  Nothing about someone else’s behavior can have so much impact on you unless you are reacting to something in you that you’re seeing as being “out there”.

Whatever you see in the world reflects  you.  If you’re seeing disturbing stuff and feeling upset all the time over it, it’s time to take responsibility for what needs to be healed in you.  I’ve written lots of posts about healing what’s in you, and there’s one specifically about #45.

Move Your Being into Peace and Compassion

None of us have any business being snotty about lack of peace and compassion in others if we aren’t embodying love, peace and compassion ourselves.  I’m not there.  If you aren’t either, work on that.  We’re all one, part of the same whole.  Every time one of us raises consciousness everyone is lifted.

I’ve written about doing some chanting for opening my heart and filling with love ever since the election.  I’ve also been taking a class involving lovely meditations or putting love out into the world, called a Vow to Love.  All the materials are on line so you can still sign up.

If none of that appeals, sit vipassana, do guided meditations for peace (I think there are thousands on YouTube), heal your inner wounds.  Doesn’t matter which path you choose, just do your part to  be the peace.  Be the change you want to see.

The more loving and compassionate you become, the more nonviolent and peaceful you will be in your activism.  The easier it will be to choose the most loving path of resistance.

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