We sometimes forget that we're really all in the same boat. We share common desires and vulnerabilities as human beings.
Everyone wants to be healthy and secure in body, mind and spirit, and to love and be loved. Staying mindful of those common desires is very valuable. It helps us align with God's Love, and beckons us toward a redeeming approach toward ourselves and others. That’s why the vision of The Center is to encourage everyone to go their center, be true to who they really are and live their life from there. As we do that, we discover honest, common ground for healthy, respectful, and appreciative relationships. Peace grows like fruit from such relationships.
Mark Coleman’s new book, Make Peace with Your Mind has a great meditation for realizing this truth and living it out. It's called "Just Like Me" and it can be used just about anytime with anyone, silently to ourselves or out loud. It affirms others as it affirms us personally:
Mindfulness of these common truths is a key element of the rest that works. That’s why the subtitle of the main text is: Living a Life of Loving Mindfulness. As we are mindful of what is going on within and around us, we put ourselves in a position of conscious choice. We are freed and empowered to go deeper than our ego’s buttons. We are able to find that solid ground made of love that comes from Our Creator.
I heartily recommend Mark’s book. It’s excellent. It holds the best collection of perspective and tools for mindfulness that I have found in a single book.
Thanks for journeying together. More power to you in your adventure with God (which includes the part of God that moves within you and between us when we love).
(P.S. Here's a link to the book page and an interview with Mark Coleman if you're interested: newworldlibrary.com/BooksProducts/ProductDetails/tabid/64/SKU/84304/Default.aspx).
Before we get too far from the mysteries of Christmas, let me invite you to reflect on one of the most interesting passages in the Bible to me:
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (Matthew 2:1-2).
The word translated "wise men" is "magos" which is defined as "the name given by the Babylonians (Chaldeans), Medes, Persians, and others, to wise men, teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, seers, interpreters of dreams, augers, soothsayers, sorcerers etc." (Strong's concordance).
The Magi were the first to make a great effort to follow Jesus. According to Luke, some shepherds went a few miles after perceiving angels - that's good. But the Wise Men probably traveled weeks if not months through the desert - that's amazing. How many of us would do that on the off chance of finding a single baby by way of a star? A star we came to understand as "his star." Just let that sink in for a minute. The odds against success are staggering even before considering the validity of the source of inspiration. We'd call such people crazy today. They would have been locked up for their own good in our society and given drugs until they stopped thinking in such ways.
The Bible tells us that the inspiration for the Wise Men came from astrological signs. Everybody saw the stars that were in the night sky (the above picture illustrates one possible scenario for "his star" that we saw in June a year ago and again this last August). Regardless of what was seen physically, no one else seems to have perceived what was going on. Not the priests, rabbis, Pharisees or Sadduccees who knew all of the Hebrew prophecies. The Bible implies that the Magi were the only ones who knew enough of astrology and the mystical arts in addition to prophecies to interpret and follow through on an accurate message from the heavens. And yet . . .
Christians are told not to consider astrology by the church. We are told not to talk to "seers" (people with psychic abilities). The mystical arts are looked at with great suspicion. Yet we still celebrate the wise men every year at Christmas and then at Epiphany. There's a disconnect there.
Here's how I deal with that.
Jesus said: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33). Good advice. I try to do that. I only seek advice from people who believe in God – the Great I AM Whose character is Love - and are trying to live in alignment with the Divine. The point is to seek, accept and earnestly align with Heavenly Love and guidance as part of a life of faith - period. Test everything through prayer. Pay attention to that which passes testing for Divine Love. Keep praying and testing things as you seek to move with the Creative Forces of God (Like the Wise Men did – from following his star to following through on a message from a dream to go home another way than they came: Matthew 2:1-12). The rest that works is one way to seek to live in tune with Heavenly Guidance and Love.
Wise men and women still seek to align with God's Activities in ancient, Biblical ways (like dream interpretation and some mystical arts). Institutional religion just hasn't known what to do with the mysteries involved much of the time. I get that but shutting the door completely risks missing a lot.
You are not an institution with security issues. You are a person – living your divinely given life as a son or a daughter of God. Be humble and keep praying while seeking God's Will and Guidance. You do not have to employ them, but dreams, some astrology and other examples of modern magi (sincere seers trying to serve God along with Heavenly Helpers) are Biblical possibilities for guidance. Don't trust just any old “seer” or horoscope writer. Have very high standards for your sources or don't use them at all. And see your own prayer life as key to interpreting anything. Check-in with God and your angels regularly. In the depths of your heart you'll know what rings true to Divine Love.
I've found some very gifted helpers through friendships and the church (yes, the church. One of the most gifted spiritual intuitives I know is a Methodist who goes to church most every Sunday. She didn’t ask for her spiritual gift and it took her awhile to really accept it given churchly suspicions. She simply has it and seeks to help people with it, looking for God’s guidance all the way. She is a Christian Psychic). I thank God for leading me to these folks (or them to me). Again, testing for Divine Love through prayer is the key. Taking responsibility for pursuing one’s adventure with God is a big part of the process. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t seek God’s guidance in Biblical ways like prayerful dream interpretation and other sincere, prayerful means of spiritual discernment. Ask for God’s protection and guidance and then pay attention and listen. That’s what the Wise Men did. That’s what made them so wise.
More power to you in your grand adventure with God and the kingdom of heaven! I hope that these holidays include some truly holy moments for you. Thanks for journeying together.
(P.S. The rest that works is many things. One thing it gives us is a good framework for discernment. The next class starts Tuesday, Jan. 10th. Here are the details: http://www.therestthatworks.com/events-calendar.html. Let me know if you're interested since we will be limited to 10 people. I hope that you can come!).
A young, prayerful woman visited by the Holy Spirit . . .
A future husband realizing it through a dream . . .
Normal, everyday shepherds seeing and hearing angels . . .
Magi (astrologers) coming from the east because they saw his star . . .
Keep letting wonder win. That’s where God gets in . . .
Thanks for journeying together!
I love this picture of The Tree of Life by Gustav Klimt. I especially like the eyes looking from different parts of the tree. I think that's a very good way to understand ourselves and all living beings relative to God. The rest that works is a way to settle in with The Spirit Behind and within all of Life as the branches that we really are.
Ego issues come up when we think of ourselves as independent contractors rather than branches. The branch perspective helps us retain a healthy sense of our individuality while also grounding us in a sense of our oneness in God. We all exist as expressions of a much Greater Being. As such, we are both free and connected (much like individual cells in a body).
I like breath meditation so much because it is a good way to experience key aspects of the branch perspective: I didn't start my breath or my heartbeat. Life did. I don't make them happen either. In fact, it's good that I don't try to take control of every breath and heartbeat. (Can you imagine the self-inflicted hell that would be?). The Spirit behind and within all of Life is undergirding my life all of the time, expressing life through me much like a tree expresses itself through it's branches. I often say, "Life-giving, Great I AM in me, please align the rest of me with You." Then I try to harmonize with the feel of the Creative Forces of God that give life. The graceful, unforced rhythms that give life feel wonderful and provide a good foundation from which to work everyday.
We'll be experimenting with things like that in our next series on the rest that works. I hope that you can come. If not, the books have all of the ideas and practices to try on your own.
Here's a link to the information on the next series:
Thanks and blessings,
(P.S. If you came to an earlier class and would like to come again, please do so. I've had a few people say they might and I think it's a very good idea. It takes time to develop new perspectives and practices. Otherwise, you can come to our monthly rest that works support group that will begin meeting again on the first Sunday of the month starting on Feb. 5th, from 6 - 7:30 pm. Thanks!).
At this point, I don’t really care how anyone voted. A new situation is here. Things are happening, positive and negative. The following is what I know, not from the media but from our daughter and a friend of mine. Let’s think about ways to work together to heal the negative . . .
A woman I know has a friend who is a counselor at an elementary school. This counselor had 11 kids come to her office on Thursday alone. Minorities of both genders and girls of all colors. Elementary kids afraid. They are afraid on two levels – first, of what their new president might do down the road and more immediately, afraid of white people who are saying horrible things now. I don’t know the details of what’s being said there, so let me report what I know is happening in our local High School.
Our daughter has friends who are scared. Here’s one example: A girl with one parent from Mexico and from America. She was born in Mexico and lived there for 6 years before her family moved here. Her parents are both citizens now. But being under 18, it sounds like she is a Mexican citizen who has a choice of which citizenship to choose at 18 (or something like that. I don’t know the laws or details of her thinking). You and I know that government-wise there should not be any problem for her, but when she thinks about Trump, his attitude and things she has heard from his mouth for herself, she’s scared. I haven’t talked to her myself but can see how she may be worried that the wave of attitudes against immigrants might get worse and maybe she won’t be allowed to become a full U.S. citizen in a couple of years. I know that should not be the case, but I could fully understand that concern, and I can’t promise her that it couldn’t possibly happen given the energy now moving in our country. She’s also just plain scared in general for her family around the country. I’m encouraging Bri to calm her friends fears, but that’s part of why I am sad and having strong feelings. These fears should not be given reasons to rise, but they have. The fear is here and I understand it. And it’s not just speculative fears like that that are rising. It’s things some white boys in the school are saying right now that are scaring her and others.
In one of our daughter’s classes, there is a group of young men who are careful not to say anything nasty with the teacher around. Here’s what they’ve been saying around other kids more boldly by the day. Before the election it was things like, “F*%# that bitch”, “Beat that c*%# Hillary”, “Get them f%&#ing Muslims out of our country”, “Send them Mexican a$$%#les home.” Now it’s things like “Round ‘em up, we’re gonna send those f*%$@rs back.” They are talking like this around other kids in ways they simply never did before. They are emboldened, their internal process is saying it’s perfectly fine for them to think and act that way and they are, more and more. They are careful not to go too far in front of authority. Behind authority’s back, they are going places that are scaring kids.
It’s not just the minority and immigrant issue. It’s the boldness with which they now talk about women with c*%# and b*&#% language. They didn’t do this in front of my daughter and other kids before, but they’ve been doing it more consistently over the last few months and they are doing it now. It’s not a solution to say “Your daughter should grow a pair" or "Just tell them to stop.” She has done the latter in a couple of cases, and I will try to empower her to be strong. But she is also afraid of pissing some of them off. I would be too if I were her. They talk about their guns regularly. Some of them boast of having guns in their cars. And it’s complex – I know there are reasons why these young men feel this way. A couple of them are very nice to our daughter individually. One offers gum to others daily, and not just his friends. She says that most of them are nice guys most of the time. She knows that a couple of their home situations are very hard. She knows that a couple of them are hurting about things like feeling stupid because they’ve told her they feel stupid when they struggle in class. She totally gets that. I don’t doubt any of this. My daughter and I do not want these young men attacked. We want them to have help where they want and/or need help, and want them to stop choosing to move with a malicious spirit in the ways they are now. We don’t need more attack - we need healing. One of the things needed for healing is safety. If people in general don’t clearly stand against this stuff and make it absolutely clear that intimidating others and bullying are not okay, it will continue and grow, creating more need for healing.
Again, I don’t care how anyone voted right now. I do not want to play the blame and shame game; there’s plenty of blame to go around if we look deep, long and hard enough. None of us want this stuff in our schools or communities. We need to stand against any malicious spirit while treating people with respect. We need to be firm about respect.
While still figuring out specific details, I know the spirit with which I want to move. I am praying my butt off – for help in dealing in positive ways with the anger I am feeling that these things are happening; for courage not to look away and just hope they will go away; for love in my heart for everybody (including those white young men in our daughter’s school – they need love and more good, strong men in their life); for help in not judging or demonizing anybody even as I try to work for good and take stands against things that I must stand against; for strength and for wisdom. Wisdom in how to consistently purify my thoughts so they really are of love (including tough love). Wisdom in how to counsel our daughter. Heart wisdom in how to blog. Street-wisdom in how to stand up to bullying. Street-wisdom in how to stand with those who are afraid for whatever reason (on both sides). We need people digging deep and doing their best to act with malice toward none but firmness in what’s right at the most basic levels of being human. As a white male, I need to be crystal clear in public that I am not okay with white males doing the things I’ve listed above. If enough white adult males are firm and clear about that, it will stop. (Men, you know I am right on this). Sitting on the couch without doing anything will not help.
We went to a candlelight vigil for peace last night. It was beautiful. Not inflammatory at all. We sang “Peace like a River” and “This Little Light of Mine.” We talked with some people with safety pins on and now have safety pins for our clothes. The idea is let people know that they are safe with you. As a white male who often wears a baseball cap, t-shirt and jeans, I’m looking forward to wearing a safety pin. I hope it helps. Please consider wearing a safety pin no matter how you voted (but when you think about it, if you voted for Trump and people know that, wearing a safety pin might make even more of a difference. It could mean a lot to some people around you). None of us want the kids in our schools afraid – of what our president might do in the future or of some people now. That’s not who we are.
I’m committed to the spirit behind what Hillary Clinton said of president-elect Trump: “We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead.” I agree entirely. Let’s help him let our kids know that they are safe and will be safe by taking steps to calm their fears and stop any tides of bigotry or hatred. None of us want a malicious spirit moving in our schools or communities. This tide can turn, especially if Trump takes significant and consistent steps to turn it. But no matter what he does, it is essential that we do all we can to stop this stuff, or we are all going to be very, very sad.
Thanks for journeying together. More power to you in being about the love that wants to move from deep in your heart. That is my prayer for all of us.
(P.S. There were over 100 people there last night. The feeling was great. Some sadness to be sure, but no animosity toward anybody).
One last comment before the election: In my opinion, the single worst thing a political or religious leader can do is fan flames of malicious hate. Condemning hatred is the biggest log that can lodge in human eyes, blinding us to our shared humanity and mutual heritage as children of God. Once suspicion-casting, malicious hatred gets going in us as a movement of spirit, all hell can break loose. The flame of passion meant to serve life can jump out of the fireplace and burn the house down, leaving everybody wondering "How'd that happen?" History is full of tragic examples.
Firmness in the right is not the same as malicious hatred toward people. Firmness in the right can be pursued without malice, and in fact, when we are feeling God's Love, that's exactly how we want to pursue it. This is one of the most important insights we can reach - it just happens to be of enormous consequence in this election. There are lots of issues and I sympathize with perspectives in both camps, but quite frankly, to me, this issue almost completely overshadows the others. There is a lot of room for debate on things like how to manage immigration, the economy, the Supreme Court and things like that (and I get it - I have strong thoughts and feelings on those things too), but the spirit with which we move is probably the most fundamental issue in life. It sets the stage for everything else. It is what aligns or misaligns us with the Living God and the God-flame in the hearth of our hearts.
Desire and passion are God-given emotions that are key to creativity and life. Passion rooted in love is a beautiful thing and leads to creative, constructive compassion. Misaligned passion is easily abused through fear and quickly abuses, usually without seeing how until after the fact. It burns blind. It burns down.
More power to you in staying true to your God-flame as a way of life. Thanks for journeying together.
This has been the most disturbing American election in my memory. A lot has come up – the widening gap between rich and poor, racial injustice, our collective lack of healthy sexuality as a culture, misuse of governmental position, the demonizing of opponents, and much more . . . The good news is that a lot of what needs work and healing has risen to the surface. Lincoln-style honesty and respect could foster healing that could then lead to something much better for everyone.
In the Tao te Ching, the Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu had a lot to say about true leadership:
A sound leader’s aim
Is to open people’s hearts
Fill their stomachs,
Calm their wills,
Brace their bones,
And clarify their thoughts and cleanse their needs
That no cunning meddler could touch them . . .
Lao-Tzu, Tao te Ching
There are a lot of gray areas this election, but the spirit with which we move is more important than anything else. Fear breeds fear; disrespect falsely legitimizes disrespect; integrity inspires integrity; empathy nurtures compassion; and love makes way for love (though sometimes it is after love has been rejected – that’s when we realize how precious love is and long for it again).
Things have been much worse in America, especially during the Civil War. It’s why Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address was more of a sermon than a political speech, and why it left people speechless:
"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."
We can rise to this occasion as a country. We have been through much harder times and came out better for it. The main thing is to move with the right spirit.
More power to you this next week. Probably the most important thing any of us can do is pray about our vote for real, listen to the better voices inside us and then vote. In my view, the spirit with which our next president moves is by far the most important issue this election. Political pendulums swing back and forth but the framework of democracy must be woven with respect or it will unravel. And when it comes to the idea of revolution, history is clear - unless they are against outside oppression, revolutions don't redistribute wealth, they redistribute poverty. We should seek to work together not against each other. Our common interests vastly outweigh our differences.
Whatever we do, let’s move with a sense of honor - for ourselves, other people, our country and the ways of love itself. God can work with that. God always has and always will.
Thanks for journeying together.
David started looking for hidden treasures a few years ago starting in his own fields. He got better and better at it and in 2014 he found a pure gold Lunula - an ancient crescent-moon necklace from the Bronze Age now worth about $25,000. Of the find, he said: “I was amazed. You never expect to find a lump of gold. It’s something you dream of, the find of a lifetime.”1
Reading his story struck me in a couple of ways: I love the "finding treasure in our own fields" part. It hearkens back to Jesus inviting us to discover the treasure hidden in our relationship with God and the kingdom of heaven. But I also noticed that David regarded what he found as merely a "lump of gold." Given beliefs from the Bronze Age, the piece probably had great spiritual significance to it's maker and or wearer. That's why it was made of gold. He'd have to be open to those perspectives if it were to convey any of that kind of value to him (and to give him credit, maybe it does - the interview was very short and focussed on monetary value, which is the norm of our society today).
It made me think about how leaders of 4th century Rome took the early Christian movement and tried to make it more practical and institutional. Over time the message was, "Believe, fall in line and you're in." Being "Christian" became more and more of an arrangement than a personal way of life. In some ways, the Reformation took that thinking even further with its emphasis on belief over works. Faith was all but reduced to a list of "beliefs." As long as you had the "right" beliefs, you were promised a "Get out of jail free card." In context, the intentions of leaders leading these movements may have been mostly good. But the ironic result was to further de-emphasize actually living Jesus' way and truth of love as a life path. It took on the feel of a deal rather than a discipline for getting to loving (that's what discipleship is all about). Doing what it takes to uncover the treasure in one's own field was devalued. Golden opportunities like a genuine, heartfelt prayer life became seen as niceties, and eventually, nuisances that get in the way of getting things done. The Protestant work ethic came to overshadow the opportunities of a heartfelt, love-centered faith ethic. Many Christians missed the treasure in their own field, as many are today.
The rest that works is a tried and true way to uncover treasures hidden in the field of your real life - your personal relationship with the Living God, your personality, the people in your life, the world around you and the Creative Forces of God that bring out the Wonder of it all through love. As we live more in contact with those things, it is much easier to get to loving as we go. We find ourselves more in Love as a way of being - and that feels great.
If you're like me, your personal way into a greater adventure with the Mystery of God and Loving is probably right under nose. As we say "yes" to the Creative Forces of God within us - often hidden in our creative desires - they lead us to points of contact with ancient spiritual truths and ways (much as how by following a simple desire, David found a mysterious, ancient, pure gold, crescent moon - talk about an interesting find!). Riches way beyond money greet us as we open gifts hidden right under our noses.
More power to you in your treasuring. I hope that the rest that works helps you find the treasure of your lifetime. Thanks for journeying together!
I really like a new book entitled Dropping the Struggle by Roger Housden. Through poetry and relaxed prose he encourages us to drop struggling for a number of things . . . to be special, . . . for a perfect life, . . .. for meaning and purpose, . . . for love, . . . with time, . . . with change, . . . and even to know. The main idea is to trust life and let go of forcing things in these areas. Thoughtful effort, yes; struggle, no. Housden’s main point is very consistent with the rest that works.
What I particularly like is Housden’s ability to point out the moon without trying to define the indefinable - such as a heartfelt, romantic feeling the moon might inspire. He invites the reader to enter and appreciate the nuances of life by staying open to the aspects of our experience beyond our control. Open acceptance forms a very different posture from forceful struggling, and dropping the latter is often a key to living the former. Housden helps us makes space to experience the unforced aliveness at work in each and every moment of our lives.
Case in point: As I write, I am flying over the Midwest. The moon is alluring and bright. What's been particularly fun for me is that the moonlight has been reflecting off a river as we've flown parallel with it (I think it’s the Mississippi since we are flying from Dallas to Minneapolis). The river’s twists and turns, breadth and beauty is being momentarily illuminated in gentle flashes. It's one of the most subtly beautiful things I've ever seen. I tried to take a video of it but my phone keeps automatically turning on a bright light, which simply reflects off the glass (hiding everything below). The assumptions and sensors built into my phone are causing it to try to force a certain situation it “thinks” would be ideal. It's trying to take control and add more light. But by doing so, it renders itself incapable of witnessing, let alone recording, the beautiful show below. Because of certain assumptions, my phone’s makers made it blind to the wonder of this moment. The forceful approach built into it simply doesn't work in this case.
Dropping the Struggle helps us let go of the assumptions that might get in the way of being present to the wonders of life, inside and out. Our assumptions and expectations push a lot of “shoulds.” We think, “I should be this way,” or “this should be that way” and get caught in trying to force things or people to be the way we think they should be instead of accepting them as they are and loving creatively from there. It’s advice is in keeping with the old saying, “Don’t should on me!” but in this case it would be, “Don’t should on yourself!” Dropping the “shoulds” in certain areas of life drops struggling that could never work anyway. Moving beyond the struggling is a key step toward peace and joy.
We feel most alive as the creative forces of Life in us rise to meet the creative forces of Life around us. Graceful acceptance of what is allows deep knowing and creative love to emerge in any moment. That’s what Dropping the Struggle and the rest that works are all about. I heartily recommend this book. (The interview above gives a good feel for it. If you’re interested in the book, it’s available at www.newworldlibrary.com/).
Thanks for journeying together and have a great day!
(The next series on the rest that works starts October 5th. Here are the details if you’re interested http://www.therestthatworks.com/events-calendar.html)