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Religious Boxes and Spiritual Cafeterias

December 14, 2012

My friend is arguing with me and blurts out, “you can’t just choose your values,  religion is not a cafeteria!”

I laugh and realize his quick synopsis catch-all answer has some merit.

I reply in kind and state just as firmly and just as loudly that “religion is also not a box.  A provincial viewpoint will never be a Universal Truth.”

How is the Religious/Spiritual World Organized?  That is a recurring theme in our lives.  It’s a philosophical question as well a question of placement.   Where do we belong?  It becomes a question of structural reality and placement.

When we are born in this world we are usually raised in a particular religion.  It is usually the religion of our immediate predecessors(i.e. our parents).   I currently believe that whatever religion we are born into is the possible continuation of the religion that we have built and established in our prior lives. But it could also be the religion that teaches us the lessons that we need to learn most in this lifetime.

I was raised as a Methodist and believe pretty firmly that it’s a carry over from my last life.

I believe that there are currently both Boxed Religions and Spiritual Cafeterias and that we are headed for a world in which Spiritual Awareness is completely and totally self-evident.  We are entering a world in which our spiritual consciousness is so evident in our lives that we can finally understand the greatness, the interconnectedness and beauty of all things.

The merits of boxed religion are that the individual can learn discipline, order, respect, progression, and teamwork.  The faults of a boxed religion are possible continued spiritual error, polarization, self-righteousness,  domination, constrainment of creativity and individual initiative.

The term Spiritual Cafeteria alludes to the idea that we can cherry pick our values and religious ideas. I don’t belive that we can pick our own Ideals and Values but that we sometimes grow beyond earthly systems.  Yes some people do abandon systems and abandon God(at least temporarily).  But some of us do seek greater spiritual answers and we “choose” to partake of the right Spiritual Nourishment.  We do know that “man cannot live by bread alone” and so we do exercise the right to choose responsibly.   We choose the Spiritual salad and vegetables that provides fiber and vital spiritual nutrients.  We choose the Spiritual meat/legume protein that grows our Spiritual Body.   We utilize the Spiritual carbohydrates that gives us the energy to fulfill our Spiritual Goals.   If we do not exercise our own discipline we may revert back to a religious method that instills the proper self-restraint to make wise choices. The clue isn’t will we choose individual answers that are self-serving but whether we will finally adopt Universal Laws and Understandings that have never been owned or constrained by any one group.

I believe that actually each of us is micro-managing our way back to God.  A system or box has merits and we learn from those until we outgrow them.  We stop believing in a paternalistic Santa Claus/Grandfather God and realize that God has greater dimensions than we could possibly perceive.  We realize that God is not an external agent controlling our lives as little puppets.  God is greater than we can imagine and is in all things. If we strike out on our own to learn greater truths those steps will inherently lead to some missteps. Those mistakes will be our own and we won’t have them thrust on us from someone else.

The box religions serve their purpose. Imagine a solder that hates the Jewish people. It doesn’t matter what era, Roman times or the modern era.   He completely doesn’t understand the Jewish world and holds it in great contempt and disdain. He dies and goes to heaven but God forbids him to enter(at least for now).   Finally they have a meeting.  The soldier states his case but God decides that he still has lessons to learn.

God tells him that he will return to earth and live in Brooklyn, U.S. A.   He will return to earth and become an Orthodox Jew.  Not as a punishment but as a spiritual lesson. He will learn to play accordion in a Jewish Klezmer band. He will observe the Sabbath and read the Torah. He will learn the values of family, community, discipline and order.    Most importantly he will learn to love others as he loves his own being.  He will love those he didn’t understand.

Another person has lived their prior life with blue blood sophistication, modern gadgetry, urbane polish, and social networking for career and a socially upward life.  In his next life he “gets to” fulfil new direction as a Pennsylvania Amish midwife.  From these the soul learns lessons of simplicity, earnest work, child-rearing, and a return to nature that brings great spiritual meaning.

Another soul still has lived a life as an ardent religious priest who values duty, self-sacrifice, and carries an attitude of serious composure and restraint.   His next life finds him as a tuba player in a New Orleans Jazz Band.  He finds that joy, happiness, music and laughter are important in life for himself, but also for others. He derives his greatest joy playing in the New Orleans funeral processions.  From these he feels value from his work ushering the deceased into the next world while bringing solace to the people of this world.  He plays at every party and enjoys the parties like it’s 1999.   In this instance it’s a tradeoff of one box for another.   One was the monastery, the other being the Ninth Ward of New Orleans.

Meanwhile, the religiously graduated Boxed  Saint realizes  that there are new lessons of Love and Law that were not taught within his prior systems.   He/She has matured to a new point that places the onus of the Spiritual Life on Him or Her.  In this manner people can learn their co-creativity with God.

Rest assured that real life will find the weaknesses of any boxed religion. Real life also provides the crucible that enables us to amend, correct, and adjust our own lives according to God’s Laws.  Part of the difference is if it’s better to be compelled to conform verses us choosing God’s Laws based on knowledge, experience and wisdom.  It’s a question of Spiritual Maturity.   While in our infancy, WE DO need guidance, direction, focus and discipline.  As we Spiritually evolve we can see that the Spiritual kindergarten is over.  We must now attend High School, College, or Graduate School.

When you think you have to defend something is when you will realize the deficiencies of your philosophy.  I’m unable to describe the meanings of all Religions or Spirituality. I’m unable to describe all boxes and paths.  I believe now though that every individual is somehow forging their own Reunion with God and that relationship is between him and God. Whatever God’s plan is, somehow it’s Natural and Real.  It’s not given to man’s own proclamations and utterances. The answer is you can be wherever you want to be and we all choose when we will change, amend and apply ourselves to God’s plan.  The mature realization is that everyone is on their Religious/Spiritual Path.  The mature realization is that individually and collectively we all are choosing our Spiritual Destiny and our Spiritual Reunion.

“Think outside the box”                      

but remember…..

                               “No man is an island”

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Climbing The Mountain

June 8, 2012

I’m climbing the Spiritual mountain. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s hard.  Each step though is my step. Each handhold is mine also. Sometimes I stumble. Sometimes I go backward.  On really hard parts of the path I take two steps forward but go one step back. How I envy the mountain goat that can jump and leap and dodge these rocks and stones with nary a miss.

Along the way I have help.   Some of it is very good but some of it is suspect.

After trudging for a whole day I come to an overlook and I am immediately in awe of the view.  The horizon recedes in various degrees on mountains, lakes, trees, birds, and other natural beauty.  I sit down and try to take it all in.  Everywhere I look is another new and amazing sight.  I see a taller tree, a prettier bird, a clearer lake and a bluer sky. After a great while I pick up and begin anew on the spiritual path.  I realize that I found this path as a trail from the my main path.  It’s a path that I feel intuitively. In the weeks ahead I come across many sideline and divergent paths that lead to beautiful little nooks, and crannies, and grand vistas of awe inspiring beauty. I also find little shrines, and temples and synagogues.  I find chapels and churches and Grand Cathedrals of Holiness.  Each holds me in a transfixed state and I am hushed to humility and quietness.

Eventually I make my way back to the my true path and I realize that I have only been going around the mountain.   In short, I’ve made almost no vertical ascent.  I can see that I should stay mostly on my path and eschew these sideline trails and paths.  As wonderful and as holy as these places are, I realize that they don’t really lead me anywhere. I resolve to be more steadfast to an ever upward spiritual ascent.  If I come to a beautiful spot or a supposed Holy Ground, I recognise it but move on. To stay at these places is a dead-end.  I begin again.

I come to a landing that has many, many books.  The books appear as bibles, religious text, sacred writings, and ancient scrolls from all of the world’s religions.  I quickly recognise and pick up the main book from my geographic background and upbringing. I peruse through it and like what I see.

I start to follow it’s teachings again and it’s like a map that leads higher and higher up in the mountain. I’m starting to feel like I’m making headway and that the summit is near.  I come upon a winding stream with big canopy trees and foliage. My path leads right through it and I’m coming to a corner of the path to turn through.  As I turn the corner I am amazed at what I find.   I’m back where I started. I’m again at the landing with all the religious books and texts.  “How did I get here,” I think to myself. I sit down and ponder my situation.  I look at my book and find that it’s old and tattered.  It looks different now.  What initially appeared as an Authoritative guide has now turned to a useless book.   I quickly look at all the other books and texts and realize that they are old and tattered also.  I open another different book and look for the path given by that book and realize, “It’s the same path I just took.”   It slowly starts to sink in, “All of these books are just books and they all lead back to the same landing.”  Finally, I abandon the books and make my way for the path out of these woods and up the mountain again.   I realize after much thought that there are no sacred texts that are more important then a real reunion with God. I begin again.

As I ascend the path a brilliant light appears ahead of me at about a 45 degree angle. I have to arch my neck up just to see it. The light is emanating from some person.  I can only barely see through the light that someone is ahead of me. He has his hands folded in front and is sitting in the lotus position.  I call out to them, “Hey, who are you?” From the ledge a considerable distance above me a serene but authoritative voice answers, “It is me, your Teacher.  I’ve been sitting here waiting for you.” I become very excited because I’ve been looking for someone to show me the way.   It’s such a difficult journey and frequently I feel that I need all the help I can get.   The Teacher starts advising me on how to ascend to his platform.   The path starts to become  easier for it has obviously been walked on by others before me.   The Teacher keeps beckoning for me to hurry to him.

I’m getting excited because I’m halfway there and then I hear a voice from my immediate right about 30 feet away.   “Hey you. Where are you going?”  Another man is on an adjacent path but it doesn’t appear to be connected to mine.   “I’m going to meet my teacher.  I’m following the light that emanates from his being,” I say.  He calls to me to stop a minute.   “Please take another look for me will you.  I’m trying to find God and  I’m wondering if you can see his face? Is the light coming from his face?”   I can’t really figure out what he’s asking me but I look again and realize that I can’t see his face.  I see an aura of light emanating all around his head but I can’t see his face.  I look at the sideline climber again and say, “No, I can’t see his face. What does that mean?”  My adjacent climber friend shakes his head and says, “The light you see of the supposed leader is just a silhouetteHe’s standing in the path of the light of God and you’ve temporarily  mistaken it for God.”  I look again really hard and I realize now that my friend is right. I can’t ever actually see the teachers’ face even thought the aura of light is all around him.   I’m stunned  and realize that another illusion has interrupted my path.

I sit down and try to take it all in.  My adjacent climber friend has stopped also.   I look over to my friend and he sees my disappointment.   He calls across from our divided paths, “The Teacher, he’s not much farther along than you. He’s not at the top and he’s not cresting the horizon. If it was really Gods face, you would see his face and the light would emanate from his face.”   I nod my head and look  up the mountain again to the supposed teacher.   I turn and look again at my friend.   He calls to me and says,  “The Teacher is probably on his own singular ledge.   The path that leads to him is just a path to him.  He means well but has essentially stopped his ascent.”

As I regain my orientation I finally call back to my friend, “Hey friend, you were right.  I can see that you are on the right path so is it OK if I  tag along with you?”   He just looks a me with big sorrowful eyes.  Finally his gaze meets mine directly and he says, “No.  My path is mine and yours is yours.  Each of us has an absolute singular path. Each of us must follow that same path back.  When we left God we each left by ourselves.  Some ran down the mountain, some rolled down the mountain and some of us, like a big lazy river, just meandered down the mountain.  I happened to have JUMPED from the mountain and that’s why you see me now climbing the face of the mountain.   Follow your intuition and you’ll find your path.   Again, some of us jumped off the precipice and now we have to climb the face of it back up.  Your intuition will tell you your path because you’ll remember it as the path you took coming down.”  Before I could beg, plead or debate it with him he takes off and leaves me to my own thoughts.

I rested awhile and reviewed my friend’s words.  As I eventually start treading up the mountain again I realize that he was right.  If I jumped off the precipice, I have to climb it. To follow him is just a lateral move. The energy, time and space is exactly the same as pushing forward up the side of the mountain. I can see now that some people can just walk up the mountain but some people must straddle the face of a cliff.

As I come even with the teacher I can see that from his position that no path upwards exist.  The only path is the one I was on and that only leads to him.  I look along that path now and can see one person descending the trail to make it back to their own path.   Frequently those leaders will make their encampment on an adjacent ledge and proceed for a long time to regale themselves with their following and congratulating themselves with their level of attainment.   I realize that someday that teacher will descend his own path down and renew his real path upwards. More importantly he will make his path alone.

I can’t pass any judgement because from this height I can see that my own trail has ebbed and flowed, descending and then ascending again like waves. There are no books, places, or people that encapsulate God.  They are really just reflections.  I rest awhile….and then I begin again.

“We climb to heaven most often on the ruins of our cherished plans, finding our failures were successes.”

                                                              – Amos Bronson Alcott

Truth

April 27, 2012

I believe that Truth is a very important component of Spirituality.

As I’ve studied various spiritual tomes, religious tracts, bibles, Near Death Experience books I’ve come across a theme that recurs over and over again.   In the hereafter nothing is SECRET.   Everything is known.  Everything is understood or can be understood.

Now that is a thought that both scares me and highly intrigues me.

It scares me because I don’t really want the things of my life to be public knowledge.  I don’t want my indiscretions of selfishness to fly as a flag from the tallest mast on the biggest ship in the widest ocean. YES, I”M AFRAID THAT PEOPLE WILL SEE ME AS I REALLY AM.    Some of that is very, very good because sometimes I am very, very good.  But I am all to aware of the multitude of times that I have let  down my brothers and sisters.

The good part of a hereafter with no secrets is all man-made political and spiritual systems will be laid bare as provincial, ego-building systems. The Universal truths will be self-evident and undeniable. Spirituality will be plain and forthright. TRUTH will be as evident as the clouds in the sky, the streams through the wilds, and the trees in the forest.  In short, incontestable, undebatable.  I believe that I will finally have real answers to real questions of the Universe and God’s world.   I WILL UNDERSTAND THINGS.  Reality won’t be open to interpretation.   All the different positional sides of people will enable us to see ourselves as ONE.

I believe that there are two kinds of Truth: Provincial Truths and Universal Truths. The provincial truths are those that are primarily geographic, local and temporal.  The Universal truths are true despite geogaphy or time.   They are true everywhere, all the time, for all people.

Provincial Truths can further be broken down into true or passing for true(talk about doublespeak).   A real provincial truth is usually small personal, geographic and timely. The love of my family is a provincial truth. It’s real to me but but does not carry over to other people, other places, or other times.

The false provincial truths are provincial truths trying to pass for Universal Truths. These are truths that the religious, the political, and particular try to pass off as “We Are The One”.  In short, it is various groups trying to “co-op” and “incorporate” the truth to their personal use.

The discovery of a false provincial truth can be seen by trying to take it to another part of the world and imparting that truth there.    If it appears at all self-serving or self-directed then it could be met with jeers and disdain.   “You believe what?” they would say.  It becomes a propositional  truth that has to be sold.

The Universal truths can be recognized everywhere, all the time.   Truths that are Universal can be recognized as, “whatever you do unto others will be done to you”, “As you give you gain in understanding”, “you must first save yourself if you would save another.”  These are truths that can usually be recognized by all people, anywhere, anytime.

It will behoove us to learn NOW to be as honest as possible. If upon entrance to the hereafter we try to carry on as we did on earth our foolish lies will pervade our whole existence. We will be embarrassed that we can’t face the truth.

Imagine a world in which every mistruth exposes us as a long-nosed Pinocchio, or the naked Emperor upstaged by a child(“The Emperor’s New Clothes“). Could we live with our lies emblazoned like NEON signs on our forehead? Don’t you think that we would grow mute if we couldn’t tell the truth. If every word we uttered was an attempt to amend and modify our world to our selfishness wouldn’t we see the need to change?  If our normal shortcut answers failed to help us wouldn’t we try to align ourselves to Universal Truth?

Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t goin’ away.

                                                                     -Elvis Presley

Spiritual Book Review: “Your Life….Understanding the Universal Laws” by Bruce McArthur

April 20, 2012

This particular post is a kind of trilogy of understanding that I’m recently embracing and hope to share with others.  We know what Love is, is there more?

Bruce McArthur has undertaken an adventuresome book.  The full title is “Your Life: Why It Is the Way It Is and What You Can Do About It – Understanding the Universal Laws” by Bruce McArthur.   It’s too long of a title to have as the name of this particular post.  Compared with the wisdom and insight of this book the lengthy name is inconsequential .  The book is ISBN #0-87604-300-7 and is about 276 pages long.

Bruce MacArthur was an Electrical Engineer and an Executive.  He pondered that state of the world and had the courage to wonder “How does it work?” He was familiar with the teachings of Jesus and understood learning the lessons of Love.

In his introduction he makes a very clear case for his questions and searching.  He sought to know how the Universe works.   What is the Spiritual Structure of this world?    What is the bottom line?

He begins his case with  the thought that God’s Laws must be Universal and unmutable (unchangeable), they must apply equally  to everyone.   He makes the analogy of electricity laws.  He learned these laws of electricity in his youth and realized that they were so perfect he could imagine and design whole circuits with nothing but pen and paper.  Upon leaving his study he could then build these circuits right every time, the first time.  He knew too that these electricity laws were equally good in India, Ohio, or Sweden.  The electricity laws are Universal. From these simple electrical explorations he realized that God’s Laws must be like this.   In fact, he again realized that even the mere electricity laws were part and parcel  of God’s Laws.    Nothing is separated, nothing is isolated.

He began a more earnest journey to know these Universal Spiritual Laws and eventually found the  teachings of a spiritual healer that imparted these laws sensibly.

In short, but not all, some of these Laws are:

“As you sow so shall you reap”

“Like begets Like”

“There is nothing by chance”

“As you give you gain in understanding”

“Spirit is the Life, Mind is the builder, Physical is the result”

These are but a smattering of his so-called research of the Universal Spiritual Laws.  In the back of the book he lists 32 separate laws that should be applicable in one’s life.  They are very good laws.

My own thoughts: electricity laws and Universal Laws share other common attributes.   Like electricity laws the Universal Laws are impartial, they shock, harm or alarm exactly alike or the can build and shine a light unto the world.

Addendum: I haven’t referenced the teacher healer by name because while I give credit where credit is due I realize that Mankind desperately wants to play the “My guru is better than your guru game.”   If each of us searches in the same manner that Bruce McArthur has, we can actually see more, be more and understand more.

http://www.amazon.com/Your-Life-About-Understanding-Universal/dp/0876043007/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1319457949&sr=1-1

“There is an orderliness in the universe, there is an unalterable law governing everything and every being that exists or lives. It is no blind law; for no blind law can govern the conduct of living beings”
      -Mahatma Gandi

Water, Land, and Religion

March 30, 2012

In 2005, a movie called “The Corporation” was released.  In that movie they told of the Water Rights Movement of Cochabamba, Bolivia.  Apparently in the year 2000 the water was privatized and Law #2029 gave the water rights to a private company. The broadness of this law debatably gave the company control of people’s irrigation systems, personal water wells, and even the rainwater. The protest movement of the Coördinator questioned whether God’s rainwater from the sky could ever be properly or rightly owned. Eventually the people of Cochabamba had their own water rights restored to them, The “Corporation” book/movie was certainly highlighting the overreaching control of corporations. I have since been informed that the rainfall water rights of Western America are controlled by the Government and related water corporations.

In 1626 Peter Minuit purchased Manhattan from the Carnasee Indians for gifts with a value of 60 Dutch guilders.  While this has variously been described as being worth $24.00, when it’s truly adjusted for inflation it’s a sum more than $1000.00 in today’s market.  The nearby Raritan Indians supposedly sold Staten Island at least six times.  This probably means one of two things: the Indians either knew what they we doing or they didn’t understand what property rights were.  There’s no evidence that either party attempted to swindle the other but it seems to me that the Indians must have at least pondered what was going on.   Did they in fact wonder whether they could also sell the moon, or the sunshine and the stars?  Did they think the land was being leased?   Again how can land be owned?  Does anyone anywhere have the deed from God?  Did Mother Nature give anyone the title to those resources?  Isn’t it really just a manmade invention.

Mankind has an inordinate desire to own things and this has even been seen in our Spirituality and Religions.   Many people want to OWN God, to make him their own.  Religion has become a possession. “In my church….”,  “In my religion….”,  “In our beliefs….”!!!  It’s a natural expression of wanting to belong to something and to have that thing belong to us.

I feel that we should release our feelings from the temporal qualities of this world and realize that we are just passing through.  Yes we should adhere to God’s laws and we should be part of the community and we should love  one another but beliefs of ownership polarizes us.   You and me, yours and mine, us and them are just examples of claiming God’s world as our own.  Mankind frequently does that to control others and to control resources.

It also undermines our real relationship with God because we put others up as intermediates to God and others put themselves up as intermediaries to God.   No person, group, institution, or organization has greater connection to God than your own self.   God wants me to ‘remind’ you that your greatest connection to God is your own Self to God. No one anywhere can speak for your needs better than your own Self to God.

Lastly, I hope that we can realize that we walk through God’s rain, we travel through his Land. The rivers and mountains and streams are his domain. God’s plan is his alone and we can’t own it, change it, amend it or control it. We are stewards of God’s land and we can walk through it but we will never own it.

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books”
                                                                                                                                                                 – John Lubbock
 

Empathy(102)

June 28, 2011

After my teenage introduction to empathy I proceeded along in life and more growth.   I did try to be empathetic with various individuals and although I was better than before I realize now that I was still a novice.  It wasn’t until I was 30 years old that I got my next lesson in empathy.  I hate saying there are empathy skills because that goes against the whole grain of humanness.  Skill and empathy shouldn’t be in the same sentence.

I had joined for a short while a group that tried to help people with their problems.  This volunteer group was a group that was started around the local university in the 1960’s.   Their basic modus operandi was to take anonymous calls from people who seemed to be immediately experiencing problems or depression.     There was a rotating crew to handle the phone lines.  A caller might get a different person every time.  Dependency was to be discouraged but if people needed to call back again then so be it.

When this group was started it was at the height of Viet Nam, political upheaval, emerging drug use and experimentation,  the arrival of birth control  and with it free love.   Broken relationships, bad drugs trips, social disorientation were common everyday events.  The calls were anonymous for both caller and receiver.   Part of the reason was to ensure confidentiality.   The other reason was to help people open up and also to keep people from being dependant. If its anonymous it goes to the grave and no one knows. I heard about the group and it sounded like a great helping and learning opportunity.

I attended the two-day orientation and sat down in the auditorium.  Methods, rules and expectations were discussed for the potential members.  I was assimilating these things when the next most important life lesson in empathy occurred before me.   They proceeded with onstage demonstrations of caller/responder episodes.   Since it was visual and there didn’t need to be any phones they had the caller/responder sit back to back.  This aided us, the audience, because we still wanted to see them speaking but also it helped us concentrate on the voices as supposed phone calls.

I listened to the first caller and she was having a relationship problem.  She was pouring her heart out and the responder was giving these short, terse answers.  Now this is where the first disconnect with me came in.  I didn’t understand what was going on.  Truth to tell, the problem as I saw it was that the responder didn’t give any answers and I didn’t understand that.   As a man I’m a problem solver, a fixer, a repairer of anything with only baling wire and duct tape.  In a quick man’s synopsis I surmised that she should “dump the bum.”

The second caller/responder came on.  This caller was “higher than then a giraffe.”  A drug induced dialogue ensued.  The responder basically inquired on the caller’s safety and security. He asked what drugs the guy was on and if he was going to be OK.   The druggie rambled on and he sounded like he was lonely.   Again the quick, furtive responses were given and then the caller finally hung up.   In my mind I couldn’t figure out why the responder didn’t say “Hey dummy, don’t do drugs. They’re against the Law.”

The third caller came on.  He said that he sometimes contemplates suicide. In fact though he was still far from suicide.  The responder made the inquiry if that was an immediate condition(possible suicide) and found out it wasn’t. Again the responder replied in short “Uh huh” answers.   He listened and listened and listened.   There was no solution.  This guys life was a mess.  I didn’t know what I would’ve said.   Finally the call ended.  It did appear that the caller was feeling differently after the call.

The mediator came out and asked what had happened, did anyone notice anything.  A woman to my left said “He didn’t gave any answers.”   Everyone starts talking, “yeah or neh.”   I’m thinking it’s a failure, where’s the helping hand.  As the sound tones down the mediator says, “We don’t provide answers.  That’s Ann Landers job.   What we do is try to give people their voice,  we let them talk and that’s why they called.  They want someone to listen to them without judgement, acrimony, or fear.”  My second “empathy lesson” light was coming on.

The Volunteer Group’s job was helping people through right now, to carry on to tomorrow.  They didn’t believe in answers because of several reasons. Each human being should discover their own answers.  Frequently no one right answer exists.   None of the people were licensed psychologists or counselors.  To provide a so-called answer was against the law.   Instead references and directions were made for various forms of professional help if people were open to it.

To summarise the Group’s philosophy, they Validated people and they recognized their problems as real and urgent.  The means to reply wasn’t to give answers, it was to listen and communicate the worth of the individual. Their talking style was to say, “I understand, I feel for you, you’re important, your feelings are important, your ideas are important.”  That doesn’t mean that they never used the NO word, they did.  The object was to allow the caller to Vent their immediate feelings, to somehow come to grips with their own problem after a sometimes emotional discourse and then the caller could begin to SOLVE their own problems.   Frequently it would never make it that far.

What I learned was that solutions were out.  The other person’s thought’s and feelings are just about more important than anything in the world.  To facilitate this dialogue certain words and sentences are used to compel the caller to talk EVEN MORE.  The best way to get them talking is for the responder to talk almost as little as possible and to use momentum pushing words.   I’ve made list of the phrases and words and sentences that best accomplish this.  These are not my own but they do push the caller along. These are the MAGIC WORDS:

un huh

yep

really?

you don’t say!

tell me again!

for true!  (a southern expression)

what did you do next?

that must have been terrible, (or heartbreaking, difficult, taxing, frustrating, unbearable, embarrassing)

I hear that!

why!

what then?

you feel how?

I’ve done that too, many people have!

me too! (indicating their not alone)

whose says?

Each sentence is about 5 words or less. It’s important for the caller to go through the emotional catharsis first and then IF a solution can be found by the CALLER  they can make it their own.  Most of our solutions will be useless.   Again as I stated in another of my posts this is why therapy takes so long. The therapist is trying to guide the patient to their own conclusions.   This is the only way they can own them.

“To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation.”

                                                                                                                 – Chinese Proverb

When you listen, what do you Honor?

June 13, 2011
I’m trying to tell her but she just doesn’t get it.  She brushes me off. I explain again. I try to make her see how crucial this is to me.  I become more emphatic.  She ducks and dodges and weaves from my finest arguments.  Finally, I really am arguing and she is too.  Our voices get louder and more and more sarcasm enters the picture. Finally we both are in full-fledged battle.   We break apart……and lick our wounds. 
 
It’s taken me a long time to understand how most of us have learned to communicate with one another.  We learn from our parents. We learn from TV and the movies. But most of those experiences don’t really reinforce positive communication.  From the media, movies, and TV world, positive communication is not good drama or entertainment. A most striking example is the English Parliament where insults and embarrassment appear to be the standard fare. The resolutions appear disappointing if people resolve things without acrimony.
 
Frequently when people discuss things, their focus can be on winning, scoring points, laying down the gauntlet, embarrassing their opponent. Sometimes it can manifest as absolute and total denial.  People want to preserve their identity and their illusions, particularly about their own image. Especially in America where we definitely have a whole sports culture that says that winning is everything. Every issue is engagement.
 
In marriage, relationships, and sometimes the work world this doesn’t work well.  We can’t run over our spouse, dominate our kids, and do whatever we want. 
 
One way to have a more adult relationship is to be “continually & willfully mindful” of what we are saying and what we are doing. I call this CWM.   When I fix this thought with a little axiom I can then fix it in my mind.  This CWM can be hard to do since our upbringing has indoctrinated us by TV and Movies to act less than our best.
 
Recently(the past two years), I’ve been trying to not honor power, force, sarcasm, winning and self-righteous behavior. Not that I consciously honored them, that’s my point, but that I have been taught to honor them.  I’ve been trying to pay attention to how I talk, how I sound, what I mean when I say certain things. 
 
I’ve made a list of conflict resolution arguments that I stay away from. Most of this list if from TV, Movies and personal experience. It’s a lengthy list of “don’t do’s” for avoiding arguments and staying on track, getting what you want without resorting to boorish behavior. It’s difficult to do.
 
 
It’s important to not:  use sarcasm
It’s important to not: use knee jerk reactions,  in responses or baiting.
It’s important to not: change the venue, “Another thing you did…”          
It’s important to not: use name calling, “Doodlehead, Crazyman,…”
It’s important to not: use Demonizing or Polarization, “You did..,” Us vs Them
 
It’s important to not: use one-upmanship behaviour, “At least I am…….”
It’s important to not: use a negative tone, another form of sarcasm or disdain
 
It’s important to not: use a cavalier manner or attitude 
It’s important to not: use impunity, “That’s too small to even worry about!!”
It’s important to not: Gesticulate, arm waving, finger-pointing, giving the finger…
 
It’s important to not: use tagging, “Yea, Jim is that way.”  indirect positioning
 
It’s important to not: use inverse tagging, “I’m the good one.”
It’s important to not: use Short Shrifting to undermine others 
It’s important to not: use  Buckshot Charges, “You did A, B, C, D, & E.”
It’s important to not: use Blanket Denial, “It’s ALL WRONG, the WHOLE PACKAGE”
 
It’s important to not: use Stonewalling, (defensiveness) 
It’s important to not: use Stiff-Arming
It’s important to not: use “So What” Answers, People’s feelings, ideas & opinions count
 
It’s important to not: use Brush-Off Answers
It’s important to not: use Plausible Deniability
It’s important to not: use Punt, Fumble, Out oF Bounds Answers
or Arguments
It’s important to not:…………..
 
There are an endless supply of bad arguments and answers.
 
I’ve been trying to shift to good responses, earnest responses, and real answers to real questions.  I found that it wasn’t enough  to just agree with GOOD ANSWERS.  It wasn’t enough to just try to work with people.   I had to HONOR the sensible way out.  I have to lift that good measure up as an ideal and make it and keep it real.  
 
I realized from my list of conflict resolution arguments that it’s real easy to mess up and it’s extremely difficult to stay on track and resolve things honorably. 
 
The things that I HONOR now are civility, kindness, dialogue, others input, truth no matter the source.  It’s important to value the merit of ideas regardless of another’s high or low status.
I’m willing to take the short disappointments because now I’m playing the long game.  Not as a game but as a way to treat others and myself honorably and respectfully. 
 
P.S. This is a work in progress for me.
 
Civility costs nothing, and buys everything.
                                         -Mary Wortley Montagu
 
 
The shortest and surest way to live with honor in the world is to be in reality what we would appear to be; all human virtues increase and strengthen themselves by the practice and experience of them.”
 
        -Socrates

Empathy(101)

June 4, 2011

I was thirteen. I knew as much as any other thirteen year old boy which was almost nothing. We were crossing the football practice field on the way to my house.  My friend Jon was recently broke up with his girlfriend.  “What am I going to do now?”, he said. The breakup was not his idea.  He had been sullen and quiet all day. “I was really starting to like her a whole lot!  Do you think I should call her again in about a week?”   I started to say “Yea” but I didn’t really know and in fact I actually didn’t really care.   I didn’t really know what to say so I punted and said, “Gee, I don’t know.” I didn’t know anything way back then. Jon clammed up again.

We finally get to my house and sit down at the kitchen table. My mother comes in, says ‘Hi”,  and proceeds to take care of the dishes she had washed earlier. I’m talking to Jon and he really isn’t responding. My mother senses that something is wrong and asks Jon point-blank  if he’s OK. He blurts out that “Nancy and I broke up with each other.   She wants to see other guys.”   My mother just looks at him and then she says, “Really, did you want to talk about it?” He says “Yea.”  She sits down and him and her start talking.  He starts talking about Nancy.

I just sat there.  My hands propping up my head, my eyes going back and forth with their words.   I didn’t really want to do this.  I didn’t even know it but I was afraid to “go there.”

At this point an amazing thing happened.  I started to see. I listened and saw that my best friend, Jon, actually had very strong feelings for Nancy.  I saw that my Mom knew how to talk to him and how to listen to him.  I saw my friend and I saw my Mom in a totally different light. They talked for about 40 minutes.  For sure my Mom had talked to me like that before but she was my Mom, that’s what Mom’s do.  I didn’t know she could talk that way with others or that it was even acceptable. 

 My Mom saw a need that wasn’t food, wasn’t warmth, and wasn’t security.   She saw that my friend needed some solace, he needed a balm.  Her words weren’t magic, in fact I can’t remember one sentence that stands out from my memory.  She somehow managed to find out how he was feeling. More importantly she allowed him to vent his feelings and to validate them. She listened to HIM.  She affirmed that many people have had the same feelings. She shared some of her own experiences and knowledge of boyfriend/girlfriend stories.

He still didn’t feel great, but I could tell that what my Mom had said, had made an impact on him.  Finally he turned to me and said “lets go back to my house.” We left and made our way across the practice field.  Jon turned to me about halfway across and said without judgement that “the way your Mom let me talk and explain myself was the way I wanted you to talk with me.”  At the time I fumbled some sort a of an apology.  Inside I knew he that was right. What good are your friends if they can’t lift you up or support you?   But for me at that young an age, I didn’t even know what the word was for what had happened.  Later I learned the word was Empathy. The word means “the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another(Dictionary.com).”

My Mom showed me.

My friend told me.

The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.
                                                              -Meryl Streep

Prayer(105)

May 20, 2011

There are about 6.8 billion souls on the planet(in human form). Obviously more souls have reincarnated at this point  in time than at any other time(we think). If you’ve read my Prayer(102) then you know that I’ve made an argument for praying for the supposedly deceased souls in the hereafter.

Since I believe in Reincarnation and since there are about 6.8 billion souls on the planet, many of the people who I’ve prayed for are probably NOT in the hereafter. In the prior post I made the statement of prayer for the deceased, even those that entered the hereafter centuries ago.  My tweak on that concept in this post is that since so many souls currently inhabit the earth, many of those that have supposedly passed on in the whole skein of time have probably been reborn NOW. They are right here with us on good old planet earth.   They are our peers again, or we are their peers.

 The people who by some providence had happened onto my prayer list may in fact be in our current time. Today’s prayers for the hereafter include Charlie Parker, Grace Kelly, Winston Churchill, Redd Foxx, and Claude Pepper.  But they may very well be in the Here and Now learning new lessons.  So again, why would we stop praying for people based on the theory that they have ascended or again been well-placed in the hereafter. Maybe they have been well-placed in the Here and Now. We can stand to think of reasons to pray.   Idle moments create a vacuum that can be filled with prayer.  Referencing the theme of my prior post, we can pray for the waiter, the bellhop, the bank teller, the mechanic, & the accountant.   But we shouldn’t pray on up and down status…so, we should also pray for the Kings & Queens, Presidents, Prime ministers, Senators and Representatives,  & CEO’s. Then we should also pray for the Minsters, Mullahs, and Priests.  We can decide to pray for ALL people like it’s one world. Dead, undead, reborn, recently returned, status or no status, religious and irreligious…makes no difference.   We are all ONE, all the time.

“Prayer is not an old woman’s idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action.”

                                              – Mahatma Gandhi

 
 

Spiritual Capitalism: Who is our customer?

May 17, 2011

Recently I saw an online poster picture of a saying that said, “A person who is nice to you, but is not nice to the waiter is not a nice person.” That kind of sums it up. When we go out and about in the world are we aware that God is everywhere always. It’s a hard consciousness to acquire because for us mere mortals that’s what it is, coming into consciousness.

When we meet people, those meetings are not happenstance encounters. There are no accidents. If we look at people we can see God’s Love/Karma to fulfill in every moment. God is always there in the waiter, the bellhop, the bank teller, the mechanic and the accountant. God is also our boss, our wife, our children and our parents. We can just see them as examples of Christ or spiritual beings and treat them as such.  The waiter example is perfect. Are we normally nice, civil, courteous to ALL.   Especially since a waiter has to fulfill their job.   If anything goes terribly amiss can’t we find recourse always with the management.  Isn’t it up to us to give people the benefit of the doubt.

We would do well to emulate that consideration of the other person, like we were the waiter, the bellhop, the bank teller, or the accountant. We should serve them. Not as a role reversal, but as Spiritual Beings ourselves.  We should pay it forward. 

If you want to invest in something(because we believe in ourselves), if you still think you want to promote something, why not advance the ideas of God’s economy: Love, charity, civility, tolerance, understanding & kindness. Not in personal selfishness but in collective wholeness. Not in “I’ll get mine” but “someday we’ll get there…together.”

My co-spiritual advocate Souldipper has stated it best in one of her comments, “not as promotion but as example.”  I’m not saying be nice to get yours, I’m saying that the seemingly simple act of love and consideration is the most meaningful thing we can do.  For all intents and purposes our world normally might say”Well, I didn’t get anything out of that gesture.” In fact though those considerations may very well be some of the most important things in the universe.

I’m saying that as we walk out and about that we should not be thinking, even subconsciously, “oh, an important person, an unimportant person, an important person, an unimportant person….”, they are all important, all the time. Everyone is our customer.

When chance meeting that other person we should remember this,

He who is not a good servant will not be a good master.
                                                                   Plato