Spirit Expressions

Spirit Expressions

The Answer Is Always Forgiveness

Dear Friends, Like President Obama, we must all surely feel a little weary as we move once again through the all-too-familiar pattern of shock, anger, grief for the lives lost and sorrow for friends and family left to mourn.  Is there anyone new to blame?  Any new solutions we might stumble upon?

 

Is it time perhaps to remember again that we are not onlookers?  We are victims ourselves, because we still insist on seeing ourselves as victims—victims of the NRA, victims of politicians more focused on funding and winning the next election than on accomplishing anything for the good of us all between now and then.  And so long as we believe in the victimization, we are helping to create it.

 

So please spare me the social media messages of outrage and accusation.  Spare me the posters and images, the statistics about what a small minority it is who still believe that the best approach to ending this repetitive drama is to provide more people with more guns.  And spare me the implicit belief that only a Superbeing named God can intervene and save us from ourselves.

 

This challenge is what every challenge is, really:  a lack of faith in ourselves as loving expressions of creative, infinite Spirit. Can we heal this insanity?  Of course we can.  We created it!  The outer insanity is an expression of our inner fears.  We must forgive ourselves for being fearful and angry—for lashing out at ourselves and others out of a sense of frustration and inadequacy.

 

Perhaps then we can begin forgiving the perpetrators for expressing in the world the sense of anguish and victimization that we try to keep locked up within.  And then—here’s the hard part—we might forgive the NRA and the politicians, and the system we’ve created that allows them to flounder.  If we can reach that point, we will find both the peace and the power within ourselves to replace fear with love wherever we see a chance.

 

If this makes little sense, I’m sorry. It’s just that if I stop to re-read it, I’ll probably talk myself out of sending it.  So let us pray, indeed—for the open-hearted clarity that allows us to truly be the love we know is the only solution.

 

We’ll share more at the Spirit Expressing Gathering this Sunday at 10:00 am in the Center for Progressive Therapies, 192 Hartford Road in Manchester CT.  As always, we’ll apply universal spiritual principle to specific challenges through discussion, prayer and meditation.  I hope you can be there.  And whether in person or from a distance, I hope you’ll join us as we lovingly decide to continue the work of dissolving the fear and embracing the Light.

Blessings!

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Spirit Expressions

On Keeping It Simple

Dear Friends, First, I’m eager to share the exciting news (well, exciting to me, at least) that I am rejoining the energy of Unity on Line Radio this season with a weekly program focused on the Bible!  I’ll be recording a twenty-minute segment each week—Thursdays at 2:00 pm Central Time.  You can hear it live at that time, or download it at any time through the archives, through itunes, and in a number of other venues.

The new title i­­­­s Bible FAQs, and it will be in a Q&A format, drawing from the wealth of material I’ve developed during many years of answering questions submitted to Interpret This through the unity.org website – plus new questions that will (I hope) come in from all of you.  I hope you’ll check it out, and let me know what you think.

And on another topic, I’m sure I’m not the only person still contemplating the remarkable energy of last week’s visit from Pope Francis—especially his historic appearance before the two houses of Congress.  It was the clearest example I can remember of the importance of speaking Truth to power.

Standing there, with so many chaotic energies swirling around him, he reminded me of St. Francis of Assisi in the utter simplicity of his message.

Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.

Pope Francis reminded us that this clear, simple expression of spiritual guidance can be found in every major religion in the world.  In Christianity we refer to it as The Golden Rule.

What makes it so unique, I think, is that it is an instruction that even my ever-suspicious ego mind can accept.  It makes sense! How should I behave to others? Well, I should treat them as I would want them to treat me. That’s only logical! If we were to apply this sort of enlightened self-interest to all our interactions with each other, the world would be a more accepting, less confrontational place.

And yet, in its simplicity, it it hardly seems powerful enough to be perhaps the most universally quoted spiritual truth in the world. It’s a little too obvious, too simple. Is there more to it than that?  Well yes, there is.

The Golden Rule is not simply a n instruction for proper behavior. It’s a key to embracing the deepest Truth the universe can offer: our true spiritual Oneness with each other, and, indeed, with the very Presence and Power of Life itself. We don’t treat others lovingly just because it is beneficial for them, but because it is equally beneficial for us. “As ye sow” Jesus taught, “so shall ye reap.”  Or as Twelve-Step recovery programs express it, “To keep it you must give it away.”

Do I want to feel loved? If I extend love out to others, I will be blessed with an abundance of love from which to give. It’s the essence of the Law of Attraction, and it is the key to joy and fulfillment in every area of life.

Today I will remember to behave toward every expression of life I encounter as lovingly and supportively as I want to be treated myself, and I appreciate the blessings and heart-centered peace I receive in return.

Blessings!

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Spirit Expressions

Precisely Balanced

Welcome to autumn!  By the time you awoke this morning we were launched into a bright new season, full of promise and possibility.  As we discussed at our Gathering last Sunday, it is on the equinox that we are perfectly balanced between light and dark.  In addition, on each equinox the sun is seen to rise and set at true east and true west, respectively.  This sense of balance and exactitude can be claimed in our individual lives as well. I think we often fail to appreciate these two qualities -- balance and exactitude.  Neither is exciting or flamboyant, but both provide a solid structure for our human experience going forward.  Balance recognizes that our satisfaction and happiness lie, not exclusively in either the light or the shadows, but in allowing both to express freely.  And exactitude, or precision, is an important quality for the creative purpose that defines us.  We must know precisely what we believe—about things both major and minor—if we are to bring them into expression.

It’s important that we appreciate these qualities.  It’s equally important that we abandon any attempt to construct or enforce them ourselves, in our mortal minds.  Onlookers to my life have often shared the view that I need more balance.   Sometimes I’ve even tried to achieve that by dividing time or resources equally among various aspects of life—work, sleep, relaxation, relationship, whatever.  I can’t do it.  My mortal mind will not stay evenly divided!  What a relief, then, to find that my true Being is always in perfect spiritual balance.  I can relax.  And trust.  My life will then unfold with clarity and exactitude according to spiritual law.

Today I pause to feel and appreciate the balance in the universe, and the precision with which it expresses in my life as I enfold my mortal mind in the infinite love of my spiritual Being.

 

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Spirit Expressions

Filling Our Vessels

In preparation for our last Gathering I began to pay closer attention to the story in the Gospel of John of the wedding feast at Cana—and to the nearly identical but significantly different version of the same event we find in the Gospel of the Beloved Companion. I’ve found myself moving deeper and deeper into this ‘public outing’ of Jesus by his mother, and finding a resonance with what’s up spiritually for many of us today.  

We’ve discussed before the theory, accepted by some significant scholars, that John is, in fact, a rewrite of the Beloved Companion text, edited to downplay the role of women and significantly refocus the message of Jesus.  We can see both of those purposes in the comparison of these two texts.  Beloved Companion identifies many guests by name: Jesus’ mother, of course, and his sister Miryam Salome, and two brothers, Jacob and Joseph.  Also at the feast are Martha, Lazarus and their sister, the beloved companion herself, Mary .  (The names are spelled differently in this gospel; I’m sticking with the familiar versions to keep things simple.)

 

The Gospel of John also has Jesus and his mother in attendance, of course, along with some unnamed disciples.  No women are mentioned, aside from Jesus’ mother.  If there is a relationship between the two texts—and I am personally convinced that there is—the guest list has been greatly simplified in the later Gospel of John.  No women allowed.  Discuss amongst yourselves!

 

The second difference is basic to the demonstration itself.  In both versions of the story Jesus is reluctant to get involved in the great wine shortage.  His Jewish mother (not to engage in stereotypes) completely ignores his protestations that the time is all wrong and simply tells the waiters to do whatever her son tells them to do.

 

Let’s pause here for a moment to appreciate the fact that Jesus was as reluctant to put his faith to work in the world as we so often are.  It’s one thing to study, contemplate and even teach spiritual Truth.  Claiming that Truth and putting it into action, with everyone watching, is another thing altogether.  Sometimes we need a gentle (or not) nudge to move us forward.  Jesus did, too.  I think that’s encouraging!

 

We know how the story continues in John.  Jesus has the waiters fill six large jars with water, then has them fill a cup and take it to the steward—who tastes and then (rather rudely, I think) chastises the groom for saving the best for last.  The Beloved Companion tells basically the same story, with one very significant difference.  Faced with the same appearance of lack, Jesus tells the servants to take the wine that is left and pour it equally into the six stone jars.  He then has them fill the jars with water.  He prays quietly for a moment, then has them draw wine for the steward, with the same result.

 

Do you see the difference?  Jesus’ demonstration is not a one-of-a-kind divine dispensation to the Law, granted to him and him alone.  It is based in a profound understanding of the spiritual Law that is valid for all of us:  What we believe, we create.  If we believe there is lack, we create lack.  If, on the other hand, we appreciate what we already have, and if we believe in our own creative Power, then no appearance of lack can stand before us.  We will see past the illusion of lack to the Truth of infinite abundance.

 

I’ve got to admit, I’m not quite there yet.  I’m getting better with the appreciation part; it’s holding steady with my faith that is the challenge.

 

I have certainly manifested from belief, and so have you.  We do it all the time, but too often the underlying (often subconscious) belief is in the appearance instead of the Truth, so what we manifest is as muddy as our faith.  Now that we know the Truth of our spiritual Beingness, it’s time to consciously put the Law to work by drawing divine ideas from that Spirit within and manifest them with our faith.

 

This version of the story reminds me of Elisha and the destitute widow in 2 Kings:4 whose very children are about to be taken from her to pay her husband’s debts.  All she has in the world is a small amount of oil.  The prophet tells her to gather every vessel, of any type, from her home; he also sends her to borrow empty vessels from her neighbors.  He has her begin pouring from her small supply; there is such an abundance of oil that every vessel is filled to the brim.  When the last vessel has been filled, the flow of oil stops.

 

I think the vessels in both stories represent our own divine ideas.  If we appreciate the ideas and fill them with our liquid faith, those vessels will be abundantly realized. When we run out of ideas, we are limiting our own abundance.  That’s how it works, and that’s the message that became the first demonstration of Jesus’ public ministry.

 

Jesus has more to say on the subject in the Gospel of the Beloved Companion.  That will have to wait until my next message.  Meanwhile, gather your vessels!  Name your creative ideas of abundance and freedom, shape them with your power of imagination, and totally know that they are yours to experience.

Blessings!

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Spirit Expressions

I Was Just Thinking

  Along with increasing the precision of my spiritual vocabulary—about which I’ve written several times now—I find myself considering a clearer understanding of spiritual activity.  I don’t mean outer activity—I haven’t been called to change that so far.  No, I’m thinking of … well …thinking!  Specifically, the thinking activities we call prayer and meditation.

 

Both meditation and prayer have been essential elements since Unity’s earliest days, well over a century ago.  And for all that time, it seems, we have debated and discussed the difference between the two.  When am I praying?  When am I meditating?  Does the distinction between the two really matter?

 

I’m sure that all of us have been taught that prayer is talking to God, and meditation is listening to God.  There’s a sense in which that’s true, I think, but doesn’t it seem to suggest a separation between ‘I’ and God?  I know that praying to a God ‘out there’ can certainly work; ultimately there’s no wrong way to pray.  But I’ve found it to be rather hit-or-miss.  And what am I to think about the misses?  That God is saying ‘no’?  Or ignoring me altogether?

 

I think it’s simply that we are giving away our Power through an ego-fed fear that we are insufficient to the purpose at hand. We need to call for back-up!  Which inevitably means that expressing that Power will be a bit erratic.

 

In analyzing my own prayer time recently, I’ve found that there’s a step between meditation and prayer that I haven’t fully considered.   The clearest word I’ve found to describe it is contemplation.

 

I meditate with no specific focus; I step away from my ego mind and feel myself to be the Sprit I truly AM.  Now, from this higher perspective of Spirit within, I contemplate ego mind and the mortal manifestations it is expressing.  In other words, I contemplate my life, including my relationships with others.

 

Freed from fear and other human emotions, I may notice shadow expressions—in my own life or in others—that are not serving any spiritually useful purpose.  The great Unity teacher Ed Rabel was always careful to distinguish “useless, unnecessary suffering” from suffering, or the appearance of suffering, that is serving an important purpose in our spiritual expansion.  It’s only by contemplating the workings of ego mind from the perspective of Spirit that I can make that distinction in terms of my own life experience.  (I can’t ever make the distinction in the lives of others.)

 

Now comes prayer, which is making a Spirit-inspired choice.  Since there is no absence of God anywhere, I can’t ‘send’ Spirit to transform a situation.  What I can do is to call upon my innate creative Power to focus Spirit.  That’s an inadequate word, but it’s the best I can find to express the activity of prayer.  It’s a bit like concentrating light into a laser.

 

It may seem that adding this third element of contemplation just complicates things.  If it seems to be doing that for you, just drop it!  These Spirit Expressing messages aren’t meant to make things more complicated for any of us.  For me, I find that the three steps of meditation-contemplation-prayer seem to allow me to relax, try less hard and set about the creative work for which I’m here with greater confidence, and deeper appreciation.

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Spirit Expressions

Going Public

  I’m just back from a wonderful weekend in Dallas TX, sharing with my good friend and former boss, Rev. Ellen Debenport.  We talked our way through three meetings together (including two meals!), and then ‘went public,’ presenting ourselves in dialogue for the two Sunday services at Unity in Dallas.  I am grateful beyond words for each and every person who attended one or both services, and for the all-embracing love with which you received us.  It was a rich and joyful experience.

Our overall theme for the two dialogues was whether we had changed as ministers since our time at Unity of Dallas; and if so, how.  We decided to focus at the early service on how we might have changed as ministers, and to discuss at the later service if and how our perspective on spiritual Truth has changed as well.  I can only hope that those who were listening got as much out of it as I did while participating.

Let’s take the latter question first.  Truth is Truth, of course – eternal, infinite and constant.  But if we’re doing the spiritual work we are here to accomplish, it must surely be the case that we are always discovering more about Truth, seeing it each day from surprising and rewarding new perspectives.

I’m speaking only for myself here, but I think Ellen and I both experience Truth today in a more focused, more active way.  I’ve been living with Truth for many years now—learning it, studying it, applying it, teaching it.  I think it’s now time to stop considering Truth as if from a distance, and to actively claim it as the very essence of my Being.  For me this involves being very mindful of the language I use in naming or applying my faith.  Language is, by its very nature, dualistic.  Nonetheless, I can use it carelessly or carefully.  If I use it carelessly, I am allowing ego mind to sneak in some old, familiar beliefs in a God apart, or in prayer as an expression of need.  Used carefully, the words I use can state my intention and affirm my Power.  We’re not here to learn Truth, pass a test and move on.  We’re here to be Truth, to use it as the basis for all our choices.

As for the first topic, Ellen and I both recognized that we now serve spiritual communities much smaller than our Dallas experience.  And we’ve both recognized that the power and completion of spiritual community does not depend on numbers—either of attendance or of income.  I have stopped worrying about the empty seats, stopped feeling guilty if they weren’t all filled.  I try instead to focus on the seats that are filled.  Who are these people?  What are their passions?  What are their concerns?  How can we, as community, serve?  What role might I play?

Sometimes there are fewer than a dozen filled seats, sometimes many more.  Last Sunday in Dallas there were hundreds.  Same difference!  When two or more are gathered to share and appreciate Truth, then that communal circle is complete.  And ‘gathered’ can mean so much more today than in the past.  We are gathered right now, you and I and everyone reading this message.  We are complete.  In fact, we are perfection!

Blessings!

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Spirit Expressions

CHOOSING LIBERTY

   

Emily Cady begins her wonderful text Lessons in Truth with a simple, direct and timeless challenge aimed at each of us as we awaken to our spiritual Selves.  She titles the book’s first lesson, “Bondage or Liberty, Which?”

 

“Every man,” she writes, “believes himself to be in bondage to the flesh and to the things of the flesh.  All suffering is the result of this belief.”

 

But if bondage means suffering, then how difficult can it be to choose liberty instead?  It can, as we all know well, be very difficult indeed.  Each of us is, in some way, addicted  to the familiar limitations of bondage, and fearful of the unknown possibilities of liberty.

 

We are like the crippled man by the Pool of Bethesda, who had been waiting over thirty years for a healing.  He was a victim, he explained to the passing teacher; because of his affliction other people were always faster to claim the healing promised to the first person into the pool after a ripple could be seen on its surface.

 

The teacher was not buying it.   Jesus recognized the man’s addiction to suffering and limitation, and he asked a simple question:  “Do you want to be healed?”.  And when the man indignantly insisted that of course he did, Jesus simply told him his addiction was over.  “Take up your bed and walk” he suggested.  And he did.

 

Whether our own suffering is expressing as illness, lack, fear or any negative mindset, the underlying truth is that we are choosing bondage.  We are choosing to see ourselves, and treat ourselves, as limited physical beings.  We are choosing to be victims.  When we are willing to see clearly as Spirit, those choices seem as foolish as, in fact, they are.

 

This does not mean that every limitation is negative; there are valuable lessons and creative opportunities in even our darkest choices.  Experiences of lack and illness can serve a great spiritual purpose.  It’s not useful to judge our choices – or anyone else’s.  What is important is that we recognize that the choice is ours.  We are never victims!

 

Today I choose liberty.  I absolutely know that I AM Spirit.  I cannot be held in bondage against my will – and my will today is to perfectly express my true Self.  In that truth I AM whole and well and free.  In that truth I move through this day as a radiant beacon of infinite Love. 

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Spirit Expressions

Some Thoughts on Peace and the Ego

I find a quick tour through social media to be always interesting, and sometimes a bit alarming.  It’s not that I’m unexpectedly exposed to shocking negative energies; it’s that even the most loving and well-intended posts are frequently rooted in a barely conscious, fear-based belief in duality. And that, I think, defines the next great step forward as we learn to truly be the spiritual Power we eternally are.  

Nowhere is this more evident than in issues of peace and conflict.  A desire for peace has been with us as long as war has been a part of our shared experience.  In our own recent history, many of us have demanded it, voted for it, affirmed it in candlelit gatherings and marched our intention for peace through the streets and into often violent confrontations.  And yet conflict persists.  As a result, we may feel ourselves the victims of those who, for selfish or fear-based reasons, insist on the necessity of waging war in its various forms and expressions.  In effect, our desire for an end to conflict can create more conflict!

 

That energy of affirming for peace by opposing its opposite has been an important step in releasing victim consciousness around the whole issue.  We recognize that peace is a choice.  Instead of demanding peace from governments and leaders, we claim our own creative ability to manifest a world of peace, beginning in our own consciousness.

 

“Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”  That’s not a beseeching prayer, it’s a creative intention.  And when we join together in this affirmation of powerful possibility, we magnify the impact of our individual efforts.  But those efforts are still based in an assumption that peace must ‘win out’ over opposing energies.

 

Here’s a realization I’ve come to recently:  There is no peace in ego mind, and there cannot be!  Peace doesn’t make sense to an ego mind that believes drama and conflict are the essence of life.  If we are trying to bring peace to ego mind we will be constantly frustrated.  It can effortlessly turn our desire for peace into a new conflict with those who see things differently.

 

Peace is totally a quality of Spirit—the higher consciousness that sees far beyond the limited perspective of ego.  And it’s not a quality to be obtained; it’s a Presence to be affirmed and appreciated.  I’m finding for myself that there is great release in letting go of my efforts to make peaceful choices in ego mind—and great possibility in the enormous rush of creative energy that becomes available to me as a result.

 

In my own meditations I allow the spiritual Truth of peace to gently enfold my ego mind—so gently that it perceives no threat and erects no defense.  As with all of my infinite Spirit qualities, I release my limited human efforts to use it or express it in any specific ways.  I allow myself to be Peace, and I allow it to flow and express as it will.  My focus is on appreciating its Presence, on recognizing that peace is not a tool to be used to achieve human goals; it is spiritual Truth that can never be absent, never be limited—not matter how strongly ego mind may insist otherwise.

 

Today I welcome the opportunity to leave behind ego thoughts of anger, judgment, conflict and fear.  I gratefully move to the higher perspective of the Spirit that I AM, to appreciate myself as a perfect expression of peace, and to make peace my contribution to the world we create together. 

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Spirit Expressions

IS JOHN SNOW DEAD?  REALLY?  DEAD?

  It’s nearly impossible to avoid the web-wide outrage over the fate of John Snow, who was almost the only good guy left standing on “Game of Thrones”  at the end of last season.  And then, in the last few seconds of the very last episode…!

Yes, it’s true.  I am a certified “Game of Thrones” aficionado.  (‘Addict’ is such an ugly word!)  I came late to the party, which allowed me the rich pleasure of catching up through many evenings of binge-watching all past episodes. Twice.   I also have the books on my kindle, and I’m working my way through them a second time as well.

But people who haven’t read the books nor seen a single minute of the HBO series are not immune from the collective kerfuffle.  I never watched “Dallas,” but I can still remember the summer-long anxiety in 1980 over who killed JR.  By September I was as eager as everyone else to learn the answer, even though I didn’t know who any of the suspects were in the first place.

Why is that so?  Why do we become so aware of things we don’t really care about?  Well, my friends, I call it a clear testament to the power of collective consciousness.  Our ego minds are separate, packed with long-held convictions about what we do and don’t like and judgments about people who disagree.  And Spirit—our true self—is universal, so that we are all One in our deepest core.  It’s always been true, of course, but the explosion of new connections—twitters and blogs, likes and sharings—is making it more apparent than ever.

Many of you know of my conviction that anything creating a significant ripple in collective consciousness can be a useful guide to our present level of spiritual awareness.  I’ve led workshops in both Chicago and Dallas centered on the Harry Potter books and films, with the widest age range of participants that I’ve ever experienced; and I’ve done Sunday talks on “The Sopranos,” “Seinfeld,” “I Love Lucy,” “The Lion King” and others that don’t immediately come to mind.

Anytime I come across four principle characters, for example, my metaphysical mind turns to the four functions of consciousness—thinking, sensing, feeling and intuitively knowing.  These are the four ways in which ego mind receives input.  Seeing Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer as embodiments of those functions adds an interesting dimension to every episode.

And don’t even get me started on sevens!  From the seven days of creation all the way to the seven years at Hogwarts, there has been a universal, deeply held recognition that there are seven steps or stages in the process of creating the kingdom that is our true purpose.  That recognition underlies many of our greatest, most powerful stories.  (I’ll be leading a workshop this fall on Revelation, which hits you with sevens wherever you turn.)

So what’s the spiritual Truth in “Game of Thrones?”  Well, it’s hugely the story of a struggle between, not just opposing forces, but opposing belief systems.  And, with only a few intriguing exceptions, it’s clear exactly to which system each character belongs. One side is anchored in the past, terrified of losing control, frightened by any change in How Things Are.  The other is trying to move away from the negative power of the past, willing to release old beliefs and step into the unknown that is the present moment.

I think that our fascination with this epic struggle is closely related to the world we are experiencing from day to day.  (You might keep it in mind while watching the first (sigh) presidential debate tonight.) The chaos and conflict have become truly global; there is no safe haven, nor even the illusion of one.  It becomes more and more important that we observe everything from our innate Spirit perspective.  Making conscious and creative choices is essential.  Making angry judgments and taking sides out of fear is not useful.  And resisting the freedom to allow change will increasingly exact a painful price.

Probably more to come, as it occurs to me and if anyone’s interested.  Meanwhile, it’s good to know that we can observe our own collective struggle in perfect safety, and enjoy even the darkest stories without fear of being sucked in against our will.  Everything is contained within us, after all, and we are infinitely greater than all of it.

Oh, and to the title question:  Is John Snow really dead? Is anyone really dead?  Really?  I think we’ve just been very limited in how we define ‘alive.’  Leaving our bodies doesn’t excuse us from the spiritual work that is ours to do; it just changes the ways we do it.

Blessings!

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Spirit Expressions

MAKING PLANS

  The best-laid plans of mice and men oft go awry, according to Scottish poet Robert Burns. We prove the truth of this statement on a daily basis. We make a detailed agenda for the day or elaborate plans for an evening or holiday. We’re sure we’ve covered every contingency, thought of every angle. And then suddenly, from out of nowhere, comes an unexpected complication and our lives are up in the air again.

What is this? Why do our best-laid plans fall apart unexpectedly? Is it that there’s a malevolent force in the universe out to get us?

No. There is only the Presence and Power of God in the universe.  It is our own ignorance of that Power at work – or our reluctance to trust its workings – that is the source of all confusion.

Our fearful, ego-based thoughts compel us to insist on total control over people, places, and things in our lives. The infinite Spirit that is our true identity is relaxed, centered, open to the joy—sometimes quiet, sometimes explosire—of this eternal moment. How often has an apparent setback to our carefully-constructed plans actually led us to greater joy than our own plans would have offered!

It is good to plan a day or a life. But it’s essential to leave room for the Divine Surprise that will bring us a taste of the kingdom!

Today, my plans for the day are clear but free-flowing, open to whatever fresh and unexpected creative experience eager to express as my Divine Surprise.

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Spirit Expressions

The Present Form of This World

 

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How It Works

The divine law underlying all of life is not complicated. It is knowable, and easily do-able, and it is above all a law of Love. Our difficulty lies in the fact that divine law at our heart level often seems to be at variance with the logical read-outs we get from senses and intellect. Take, for example, the universal principle known as the Golden Rule: Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.  

On one level this spiritual law seems to make sense. If everybody were following the Golden Rule, obviously we’d be in a wonderful world of consideration for others. But what about people who are (in my estimation, of course) treating me badly? Why should I do unto them more lovingly than they are ‘doing’ to me?  We must surrender to our inner Beingness to find a deeper level of meaning.

 

The Golden Rule is really about the proper flow of energy.  It’s like tithing. We receive energy back according to how we put energy out – whether that energy is expressed as money or as love, appreciation and respect. If we want abundance in any area of our lives, we must express abundance by putting that energy in motion. If we want to be appreciated, we must extend appreciation.  So the extent to which I do unto others will allow a flow of the same energy to me.  It may not come from the same person unto whom we are doing at the moment (I’m getting lost in this sentence!), but it will come.

 

We are never spiritually asked to sacrifice our own comfort and well-being for the sake of another.  We are asked to allow that loving energy to flow through us to others.  That’s how it works.

 

Today, I joyfully affirm the power of my Beingness  by sending it forth to serve others. Thank You, God.

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Spirit Expressions

Facing Egyptians

One reason I love the Bible so much is that it is filled with little nuggets of guidance that I can easily apply to my own life—and my own challenges. Here’s one I find myself returning to often. It’s from the 14th chapter of Exodus, verse 13:“And Moses said to the people. ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.”

The Israelites who have just fled their Egyptian masters are facing a dark challenge indeed. Before them, the Red Sea. Behind them, the massed armies of the Pharaoh, who has changed his mind about letting them go. The Israelites are understandably panic stricken, but the Lord, speaking through Moses, reassures them.

Can you relate those fearful, angry Israelites with the fearful, angry thoughts that run rampant through your mind in a time of challenge? I certainly can. But we must also recognize our ‘inner Moses’—our spiritual Beingness that stays centered through every distraction. And for us today, Moses’ clear and specific promise still holds true.

The instructions to the Israelites are defined as three steps. Step One: “Fear not.” Hold to your spiritual Truth no matter how frightening appearances may be. Step Two: “Stand firm.” Running away is not an option; the challenge you face has an important lesson for you, and the universe has chosen the time. Step Three: “See the salvation of the Lord.” It’s the Golden Key, really: take your eyes off the problem and focus instead on your own Beingness. And the promise to the Israelites is a promise to you as well: “The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.”

Today I have no fear as I face my Egyptians—the challenges, major and minor, that are mine to face today. I stand firm, centered in my spiritual Beingness. In this moment I see the Presence of the divine in everything the day may hold.

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Spirit Expressions

Hello Friends

Hello Friends, As I pass into my seventies—what I’m choosing to call early old age—I am surprised to learn how much I’m enjoying this part of my journey.  The pressure is less, expectations are lower (especially my expectations of myself), and there seems to be more time to experience the ‘now moment,’ without looking ahead to what commitments or choices await in the next moment.  I’m still new to this, but so far…very nice.  I’ll keep you posted as I move along.

While I don’t at all mind growing older, I do sometimes mind not being young.  There’s a difference.  I think I stayed young for a very long time.  I stayed current on slang, music and personalities.  I moved with some grace from notebooks to computers to computer notebooks.  I was, in general, up on things.

In many ways I still am.  I begin every morning with the New York Times.  (Yes, I’m still using the print version; some preferences haven’t changed.)  I still subscribe to Entertainment Weekly, and still take time to peruse it.  Yet I find that I’m approaching it very differently.  I used to feel I had to be absolutely on top of all the arts, and I generally was.  Now I find myself skipping over the music section entirely; it started to feel like reading a foreign language.  I don’t recognize the names of any of the songs.  (Do they still call them ‘songs’?)  I cannot tell one artist from another, much less am I able to match them to their albums.  And yet I hate to feel myself becoming one of those grumpy old men who think that everything was better back in the day.

This is still my day!  But my role has changed—and for the better, I think.  I don’t have to try to stay young; that’s a fool’s errand at best.  My opportunity is to appreciate the young from the loving,non-judgmental perspective of the elderly.  It’s quite a relief, really, not to be expending so much energy on hearing everything, and seeing everything, and being everywhere cool.  I can certainly still go where I want, listen to whatever strikes my fancy.  But I don’t have to.

This is especially freeing for me when it comes to technology, especially communication.  I’ve decided that I’m about as far into the Age of Amazing New Marvels as I choose to go.  What I’ve learned to use I appreciate greatly.  But the energy required to stay on top of it all—to hear music from the very latest gadgets and formats—is best left to the young.  They’re welcome to it.  I watch and appreciate deeply.  Occasionally I’m intrigued enough to ask for an explanation, which I may (even more occasionally) understand.  But I don’t have to.

Meditation:  I move through the day with a smile that often breaks into laughter.  I enjoy and appreciate the world around me, and I enjoy and appreciate my own role.  I AM complete in this moment.  I regret nothing that brought me here, and I have no expectations moving forward.  Life is rich, and I experience it richly.

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Spirit Expressions

Guarding the Back Door

So I stopped by my bank the other morning, and when I came out I found that my car had been blocked in by another automobile—a Lexus, no less. What’s more, since there was a large and forbidding construction fence directly behind me, I had no option but to wait. It was really interesting to observe my ego mind over the next, maybe, five minutes. First, it wanted me to honk my horn, loudly and continuously. Or I could barge into the bank—assuming the other driver was there—and throw a hissy fit. My ego mind loves scenes, and this was a perfect opportunity because I was clearly the VICTIM here—of thoughtless Lexus drivers and/or the entire world at large.

My Spirit consciousness saw things quite differently, of course. I was really in no great hurry, and it was a beautiful, cool, crisp spring morning. It was entertaining to speculate about what exactly was happening on the other side of the construction fence. And, of course, my smart phone made it easy to reach pretty much anyone in the entire world that I might want to chat with.

So why was my ego mind so outraged? One word: Powerlessness. There was really nothing to be done—either to resolve the situation or to punish the other driver. (I think I might actually have looked around for a policeman—but only briefly!). I could easily have made a decision to stay in the parking space for a few minutes, enjoying the breeze and checking my emails while I decided what to do next with my day. But the choice had been taken away from me, and the feeling of powerlessness is very uncomfortable for my ego mind.

Now, I wish I could end the story with a loving flourish—the other driver was charming and apologetic, had had a bathroom emergency, and we shared a laugh and a Moment before we both drove off. Not so. She slammed out of the bank, totally focused on her smart phone, got into her car and drove off without so much as a glance in my direction. Can you even imagine what my ego mind could have done with that?? But I wasn’t there: I was at a higher perspective from which I could observe ego mind without embracing it. And also—and this is the realization that made my day—without changing it!

If I decide that it’s terrible to have those thoughts and I clearly still have some major anger issues that I really need to work on, I’m allowing ego mind to have a back-door victory. It’s shifting the drama from outside me to inside me—and that’s far from an improvement. The Truth is, I’m having those thoughts because I’m engaged in a human experience. The peace, the joy, the experience of heaven lies in recognizing how I might once have reacted and in Loving What Is (as Byron Katie describes it). The experience of spiritual wholeness does not lie in being rid of all negative thoughts. It lies in knowing ourselves to be masters of them, always.

And I do, in fact, know some very nice people who own Lexuses. Or Lexi. Whatever. Blessings!

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Spirit Expressions

Some New Beatitudes

Hi Friends!

I have something a little off-the-wall to share this week. (Not that that’s unusual!)

I find myself turning again and again to Jesus’ Beatitudes as recorded in Matthew 5; I find in their simple declarations of absolute Truth pretty much everything the Master was to teach and demonstrate as his ministry moved forward.

Now, some people treat the Beatitudes as a New Testament version of the Ten Commandments, and I think that misses the point. Jesus began his ministry with people who felt rejected by, or at best uncomfortable with, the religious faith and structure of their day. They had come to believe that just as there was no place for them in the kingdom of Israel, so there would be no place for them in the kingdom of God.

Jesus wants to shake them out of their spiritual stupor, to teach them that the mortal challenges that seemed to be defeating them were, in fact, Good News. Feelings of restlessness and discontent are, in Truth, a sign that an awakening has begun.

For those listening to Jesus, their discontent had nothing to do with theological concepts and everything to do with getting through a day. ‘This can’t be enough’ they were saying; and Jesus’ response was ‘You’re absolutely right. It isn’t nearly enough. And you can begin today to feel more and better expressing in your life.’ Now, I would say, he had their attention.

So the original Beatitudes are a bridge from the practical challenges of living in this dualistic world to the even more practical spiritual Truth of infinite possibility that is always available to us.

Today we move back and forth across that bridge many, many times each day. We seek, we retrieve, we return. And then we rinse and repeat. And, like Jesus’ immediate followers, we are rarely trying to answer the Big Questions of life, death and the meaning of it all. No, we’re just trying to find our car keys, remember our appointments and maybe do a little work on a few old challenges that won’t go away.

So I’ve been thinking that someone should write a few new Beatitudes to help us with our lives today, as we try to cope with a world that seems to become increasingly complex and confusing.

And lo, I heard a Voice (speaking English with a decidedly Aramaic accent) saying, “What part of ‘what I have done you will do’ are you not understanding here?”

And so it has come to pass that I have a few New Beatitudes to share with you—and there will be more to come. I decided to go the original set one better, and attach to each beatitude an affirmation that may help us put it to immediate use. Here are the first four.

Blessed are the absent-minded, for they are truly distracted by Spirit.

Affirmation: My mind is present but otherwise engaged. It will be with you shortly.

Blessed are the confused, for they shall eventually find clarity.

Affirmation: If I can’t remember where I put it, I probably didn’t really need it anyway.

Blessed are those adverse to Facebook. Twitter and such social media, for they are free to be left alone.

Affirmation: I AM busy enjoying a life filled with laughter, beauty and joy, which leaves me no time to share the details with everyone the planet.

Blessed are the opinionated, for they will occasionally be right.

Affirmation: My gift of divine discernment recognizes the Good in your opinions, and lovingly dissolves all the wrong perceptions that prevent you from agreeing with me.

 

So that’s a start. I’ll be adding more as we go along. If anything occurs to you that you’d like to add, please send to me at revedtownley@yahoo.org.

And if you’re anywhere within, oh, say 120 miles of Manchester CT this Sunday morning (May 17) at 10:00 am, please join the Spirit Expressing Gathering at our new home in the Center for Progressive Therapies, 192 Hartford Road (just off Highway 384) in Manchester CT. It’s our first Gathering in this wonderful space, and we’re eager to share it with all of you!

Blessings!

Rev Ed

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Spirit Expressions

Bursting Bubbles of Allness

Fully grasping the implications of our spiritual principles—the awesomeness of spiritual Truth—is nearly as challenging as applying the principles in our human lives. And it’s increasingly clear, I think, that grasping them is essential. We can ‘act as if’ for quite a while; we can make choices in obedience to the principles instead of making choices in ignorance of them. That alone dramatically changes our lives for the better. But we’re not here in human form simply to live perfect lives. We were living a perfect existence before we got here! We are spiritually committed to more than that; and the time comes for each of us when we’re called to dig deeper and open wider. To do that we have to completely assimilate the Truth—to move from obedience to understanding, and then beyond. We have to ‘grok’ it. We have to become it, to truly feel the essence of Truth expressing as every cell in our human forms, every thought in our mortal minds.

When we’re applying Truth to our lives—and sharing that possibility with others—words are an essential resource. But I’m finding more and more that when it comes to going deeper, the very same words become an obstacle. Words themselves express duality. Words—any words, from nouns and verbs to all the words used to support them—define something apart from everything else. Words become little bubbles of Allness, each claiming a unique existence and importance.

This isn’t a problem, really. We don’t have to fix it or overcome it. We simply have to notice it as an interesting element of our spiritual work. In fact we’d be more comfortable, I think, if we could treat it as a problem to be solved; we like to have problems to solve. Simply to notice and take no action—well, that runs counter to everything we’ve been taught in this mortal realm. But it’s our greatest Power to be able and willing to see everything from the perspective of the Allness we are, having freed ourselves from the need to name, define or judge. There is no us/them. There is no me/it. And there are no words to create limits of any kind.

I find that I use words, not only to communicate something to others, but as a running monologue in my own mind, telling me what everything is and means, and how I should react. (If I’m the only one for whom that’s true, please disregard that last sentence.) So fully embracing my Oneness means that I move beyond the words within, as well as the words without. And I do this, not just in meditative times apart, but moment to moment as I move through each day, noticing the Good and all the ways it expresses In this friendly universe.

Is that even possible? Many wise teachers have assured us that it is. Is it comfortable? Not at first. When I’m able to reach this awareness of no-thing for even a fleeting moment, it feels like a mild electric shock to my system. String a few such moments together, and the shocks meld into a sort of tingly buzz. It’s wonderful—I think it’s exactly what I have been seeking all my life, through drugs and other artificial distractions. It’s astonishing to experience even a flicker of Allness after so much time spent in a kind of holy ignorance. Where have I been all my life?

And there I go again—trying to communicate the experience of Allness with dualistic words. We need to communicate it, of course. So, out of that necessity, we begin to appreciate other ways—a spark in someone else’s eyes, perhaps; or a gentle smile of shared awareness as we find ourselves seeing past a dualistic illusion to the Allness that is its Truth. There are no words. There is no need for words. The Allness is enough.

Blessings!

Rev Ed

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Spirit Expressions

Appreciating Appreciate

   

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the word ‘appreciation.’ It seems to have sneaked into my life when I wasn’t looking, and now I find it a major focus of my daily attention—and of my intention as well.

It’s a soft, gentle word, isn’t it? No hard consonants to bump up against, it just flows smoothly over the tongue. It’s a good thing, certainly, but it doesn’t sound as powerful or important as more passionate words we may use to describe other emotional states. Love, believe, create—these are more defined sounds, they seem quite important, and so they seem more worthy of our spiritual journey.

And yet I think the deeper we go into spiritual Truth, the more we find appreciation serving as the lubricant that makes our new discoveries flow more easily. After all, love, belief—even creation itself—all require appreciation.

“And God saw that it was good,” as each dimension of life began to create itself. We’re not told that God loved all the elements of creation. (He seems to take a dim view of snakes, for example.) He appreciated it all. The infinite wisdom that is Divine Mind is well aware that as the creative process continues to unfold it will often be ugly, painful and distinctly unlovable. As creative Spirit, we may not unconditionally love every expression of the Infinite we see around us in the world today. We cannot believe in and embrace all of creation—including those aspects of it that we ourselves have bungled rather badly. I think we do our Truth a great disservice, and discourage many who might embrace it, by teaching that unconditional love is a required condition for moving forward.

But we can—and must—unconditionally appreciate every bit of it. The light, the shadow, the love, the fear, the achievements and the failures—I really can’t love it all just yet, but I’m learning to appreciate it all, and that’s a powerful step forward. Or inward.

When we appreciate it, our life flows as smoothly as the word itself. We form beliefs; we make choices. We learn valuable lessons from the consequences of those choices. Our beliefs shift, our choices become more and more centered in an appreciation of the creative process, and consequences begin to express more of light and less of shadow. And so it flows.

Simple, lowly appreciation is, in Truth, the lubricant that allows it all to move forward in Divine Mind—and in divine time. As I sit here in my home, reviewing today’s choices, reviewing the world expressing around and within me, there is literally nothing I do not appreciate. I certainly don’t love it all. Yet I appreciate the infinite Goodness within which it is all expressing, and I appreciate the Allness within which, and as which, I create. Perhaps mine is not the role that I once thought it would be. (I still have somewhere a tattered old Tony Award acceptance speech, just in case.) But it’s mine.

The rewards of appreciation are many. The greatest is an astonishing sense of peace. I don’t have to judge anything, or fix anything, or worry about how things will all turn out. I appreciate everything. I feel totally at peace with it all. When my own contribution is needed, I will trust my personal guidance to speak and act, explore and discover, and make creative choices. I may not understand it all—I almost never do—but I will appreciate it. And I will appreciate Me. And that is truly the greatest peace of all.

 

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Spirit Expressions

Too Big to Handle?

I had lunch this week with a good friend who is Iranian by birth. Our conversation turned—how could it not?—to the appalling reports coming from that troubled part of the world. The death, suffering and dislocation of thousands of people are beyond imagining. The destruction of centuries-old monuments to human achievement and creativity is appalling. What are we to think? What can we do? How can voices of reason prevail—or even be heard—in the cacophony of accusations and vindictive justifications that are hurled in our direction? Earlier in the same conversation we had been mutually appreciating the wonderful ways in which the constant, loving rhythm of Spirit was expressing in both our lives—even through challenges of health and unemployment. Life, for each of us, isn’t always pleasant. But it’s always interesting, and it’s been guiding our consciousness in exactly the right direction. Knowing that—truly knowing it—makes it possible to move through any apparent challenge in a calm, loving, confident state of mind. And it is that state of mind, of course, that allows that spiritual rhythm to dance more and more joyfully through our many life experiences.

And yet after just a few minutes of discussing the Middle East we were both as angry, anxious and tense as we both had consistently felt when we believed ourselves to be the source of good in our own lives.  As our focus got broader, it became harder to stay centered in Spirit.

None of us is able to maintain a spiritual state of mind 24/7. But I think each of us can see—in ourselves and in each other—that we have come a long way in terms of the spiritual surrender that offers an energy of peace and appreciation that would have been impossible when we felt obliged to ‘handle’ things out of ego mind.

So. If we are still challenged daily to remember to appreciate everything in our own lives, despite many rich experiences that would support it, how surprising can it be that we find it more difficult—sometimes infinitely more—to apply this simple spiritual practice of appreciation to what seems to be the epic global drama of which we are each a part?

And should we even be doing that? I find that the most difficult part of embracing universal appreciation is the need to surrender my deeply rooted ego mind insistence that there must be good and bad, right and wrong in every apparent challenge. In other words, I find myself teaching and embracing Unity in much of my life while clinging to the more familiar duality when I consider the state of the world.

Everything conspires to hold us in duality consciousness: our own sense of moral outrage, the collective consciousness of the world, even the very language we use to frame our beliefs and affirmations. The broader the canvas, the more insistent that ego voice, and the more absurd our Unity beliefs can seem.

But the way to peace, to love, to a world of collective appreciation cannot ever lie through a return to a belief in duality. The key, I think, lies in the difference between judgment between two competing ideas and discernment that some choices are more effective and efficient than others. We can—must—both affirm for unity and stand firm in our beliefs. We can lovingly discern that choices anchored in fear and anger inevitably bring more negative energy into expression. Affirming for love isn’t for sissies. It asks us to stand firm in our faith. It may lead us to taking actions that may seem confrontational to others. How things may or may not appear to others can no longer be our defining concern. If we know in our hearts that we are anchored in love, the energy we create will be equally as loving.

It’s also essential that we recognize that the power of prayer does not recognize any mortal limitations of size or distance. We once doubted that focused, affirmative prayer would work in our own lives. Now we know without question that it works…well…perfectly. We may now doubt that our individual prayers have any meaningful effect on global challenges. Let’s be willing to learn that, in fact, there is nothing in this human experience that comes even close to working as well.

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Spirit Expressions

And the Beat Goes On!

  Who would ever have thought, back in the misty days of my misspent youth, that I would ever be referencing Sonny & Cher in a spiritual message! Aren’t you kinda glad that we’re not able to see the Bigger Picture? Well, Cher is the very embodiment of the word ‘eternal,’ so maybe it’s not so surprising.

Anyway, the point I’m making is that being eternal spiritual Beings means that there is no Grand Finale. Ever. It seems every year that there should be some sort of vacation after Easter, before we start the next number in this great human Prom. But no. Resurrection may seem to be the last dance—and it  would certainly qualify as a big finish. But the beat goes on.

It’s a very familiar beat by now.. We appreciate the world we’re in, find something (or someone) particular that captures our interest. We explore, listen, learn lessons and finally identify the new creative step that seems to be ours to do. We encounter growing resistance, from within and without, leading up to our ego mind’s passionate insistence that this whatever-it-is will literally be the death of us.

Spirit Mind knows better, of course, and centered in its Truth we move—painfully but fearlessly—through the unavoidable crucifixion. Then comes a period of quiet expectation (that’s really more unnerving than the cross).  And then the big TA-DA! that is the resurrection.

And then? Well, maybe a nice dinner and a time to relax with loved ones who held the faith with us. Or didn’t. Maybe some binge watching to catch up on what everyone else has been talking about while we were busy with creation.

But even as we relax, we’re already starting to look around a bit, aren’t we? What’s next? What opportunity will we be offered this time to contribute to the creation of the Kingdom? And the beat goes on.

More and more deeply I understand that this seductive rhythm is the sound of appreciation. That’s how we get our guidance, our ideas, our supplies for the next piece of creation. We appreciate the resurrection we’ve just accomplished, and the gift of down time we may claim in our collective consciousness. And especially, we appreciate the beat that is already beginning to lead us on. Blessings on your next adventure!

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