Investigating (with slight irritation) Certain Spiritual Teachings

Teaching up for investigation: “It’s not up to you what you learn, but only whether you learn through joy or through pain.” ~A Course in Miracles

Upfront disclaimer: If you hear a charge in this post, you are right on. I’m irritated with certain spiritual teachings (I’ll get through it, but right now I am learning in a slightly painful way). I think some teachings are only useful in keeping us away from the real work, which in the long term is not useful. This one (above) for example has those markings. So, let’s investigate- if I believe in this teaching, that would mean I have no possibility of insight into my lessons. There is some being somewhere in charge of what I need to learn. It would also mean that I have a choice whether I learn through joy or through pain. I would agree, we have choice- and if I am using my strong will, I can will myself to choose to learn through joy, instead of pain. I mean who the hell really wants to learn through pain…..?

But, can we be honest? I can’t be the only one who has learned a lot of my lessons through intense amounts of pain. Pain, I was so immersed in I didn’t have the will power to choose joy, to even think that was an option. Does this then make me weak? Insufficient because I chose to suffer instead of jump to those lessons with glee?

To learn in joy is a certain kind of mastery I don’t believe I could even talk much about (I don’t like to talk about ideas without having personal experience). I’m not there. I think it’s possible for those who have worked diligently and intently on their path, and gone through lots of pain, but for most of us common folk, still ignorant to our True nature, this type of spiritual teaching might not be helpful. It keeps us in the superficial layer of our spiritual growth, where we think we can control how we feel by will alone. And where some of us who have gone a bit deeper than the superficial layers might feel bad because we aren’t choosing our lessons through joy. There were many times, as much as I was inspired by Wayne Dyer’s teachings, I felt like a failure because I wasn’t all happy, happy, joy, joy and maintaing my spiritual perspective through my shit, my hand on the trolley strap, so to speak.

To go back to this teaching that it is not up to us what we learn- this makes me feel disempowered. I know there is a soul, and I know contained within this soul are my lessons. I believe these lessons are universal, and we will all learn them as we are ready, which means we are the ones who choose to receive those lessons or to put them off. I also know we are given the extraordinary gift of insight, which can be used to look within and have knowledge into our lessons. I also trust, as we evolve into this soul, we will be able facilitate and consciously prepare and participate in those lessons. We may not know how those lessons will come to us, but we can know they are coming and will remain open and ready to receive. This may be the point in which there is joy- a sort of anticipatory joy, like YAY! Today I am going to be stretched and I can’t wait because I want to grow. But so many of us are unaware of this going on inside of us so how can we consciously participate, let alone joyously (therefore not knowing might be a more comfortable belief for those wanting to stay safe on the shore). This means the lessons that do come are probably going to hurt like hell because we don’t know what is going on or why and we are resisting them all the way.

Looking for the positive:

What this spiritual lesson does do is bring awareness that there are lessons we will learn and are learning. That is essential to know. It gives perspective. It also brings awareness to choice of joy or pain, but it doesn’t go deep or wide or guide enough to where many of us are right now in our evolution- not where we can choose joy in a pure authentic way while we grow (but we can pretend :-). Having only read bits and pieces of ACIM, maybe it does do this throughout the book. What I did read, the words inspired higher aspects, but it wasn’t very grounding for me. I am not content only with ideals. I want to be those ideals, and that is quite a process of unraveling and discovering. It’s work. Often painful- just being honest.

Lesson: The most helpful teaching/teacher for me inspires my true nature, while also holding the space of where I am with insight, guidance and compassion. 

>The Beauty We Bring


When the soul looks upon this Divine Sun, the brightness dazzles it….
And very often it remains completely blind, absorbed, amazed, and dazzled by all the 
Wonders it sees.  ~St. Teresa of Avila

We have to be ready for the kind of beauty we can bring. 

We must be prepared.  
It is because of this preparation, that the river I spoke of in the poem below, flows, and not floods.  (See Like a River)
I’ve been frustrated with myself for years.  Why can’t I bring it, I would scold myself.  I feel the beauty. I feel the wisdom inside of me, but dammit, why can’t I bring it (out)?
In many ways I wasn’t ready.  I had not opened enough.  I had not trusted enough. I was too backed up with other issues, which were creating sedentary behaviors, destructive patterns, and uninspired thoughts.
But I am here to tell you it is well worth the work, whatever that work might be, which allows the channels to open just enough for the beauty and wisdom within to shine through.  
Just as we may sit in awe of a sunset or a sunrise, and maybe be moved to tears by its falling or lifting before us; this kind of beauty, and more is inside us ALL.  And this kind of beauty could overwhelm,  and make those of us blind, who are not yet ready to succumb to our spiritual possession.  
Our Possession is this:  pure, innocent, vibrant beauty, joy, and grace that is alive and everywhere present within us. Just you wait and see.  See what your potential can be.  And trust right now you are being prepared and cleared of all that stands in your way of who you truly are.
Part of the clearing work, is to be brave and willing to look at the shadows which try to cast out the sun. Your “weak” spots, which when neglected can cause harm and destruction.  All they seek is an understanding and embrace from us, sometimes  just a simple look of compassion, or at least of wonder and curiosity.  
This look, if you believe in God, or Jesus, is how you might imagine them to look at you- with eyes of deep love, commitment and belief. Perhaps the way we wish our parents would have looked at us. I once heard it said, I believe by the author Toni Morrison: All children want to see is that our faces light up when they walk into a room.  
Many of us did not see those sparkling faces. Instead we saw frustrated, stressed out, angry tired and worn out faces. Parents who were distracted, and displaced in their own lives.   It wasn’t their fault, just like as many of us are parents now, it isn’t our fault.  But, let’s own our “weak” spots, and then let them go.  For we cannot fully surrender anyone or anything until we truly love what we fear and pretend we do not see.
By letting go, we can become the loving and generous parent to ourselves, our children and those around us.  One day when I was down about not feeling loved, honored, and seen, I saw these words peeking from my car’s sun visor:  God sees me.  
If no one else in this world sees me, at least I know God sees me.
As God looks upon us, let us begin to see the beauty everywhere on the outside and inside of us. Let us commit to being more invested in ourselves and others, and less distracted by our “weak spots.”  Let’s give it ALL our full attention, and light up ourselves, this world, and each other.

>There is Pride & Then There’s Pride: Selfish vs. Authentic

>The word Pride has entered the room of my mind lately.  We talk a lot about it in this country. We are proud of our troops. We are proud of our country. Some of us have stickers on our cars, which say we are the proud parents of our Honor student at such and such school.

But what does it really mean to be proud?
In the dictionary pride is defined as:
a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired • the consciousness of one’s own dignity • the quality of having an excessively high opinion of oneself or one’s importance the sin of pride.• a person or thing that is the object or source of a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction 
I see two qualities of pride listed in this definition. One I would call Authentic Pride and the other Selfish Pride, and it seems our pride can and should evolve from one to the other.
Do we think we come from selfish beginnings; that is, born of the sin of pride? Or did we evolve into this place of selfish pride? Do we think we can evolve beyond selfish pride, and into pride which is authentic?  If so, how? 
Where is the evolution of your pride?
I have never been a fan of the I am the proud parent of my honor student bumper sticker. At Waldorf, where my child attends, their bumper sticker reads: every child is an honored student at Waldorf.  I also have never been one to proudly flash my flag on my car or in front of my house, or anywhere for that matter. Not even on the 4th of July. However after 9-11 I bought my first American flag and stuck it on my car. I took off the sticker shortly after the authentic pride began to feel exclusive to only the “right” Americans, and arrogance took over the land. 
Selfish pride makes us feel we are somehow special and unique, as if our trials and our triumphs could never be like anyone else’s. We don’t ask for help when we need it, and some don’t even know they need it.  This kind of pride, if encouraged long enough can break us off into the sea where we are now an island all by ourself; therefore making us feel even more special and unique. 
Selfish pride can ruin a relationship. It can and has ruined a country, but all that it takes is one authentic moment of pride to turn the ruin into triumph.  We witnessed this moment the night Barack Obama was elected and he walked onto the stage at Grant Park.  This moment of Pride was not only of his own,  but one for us all. He did not have a “I have got them now to do what I would like” grin on his face. He had a “We have got eachother to do what we all can do” smile on his face.   His eyes were not gleaming with arrogance. His eyes shining soft and humble. He did not prance around on the stage as if to say look at me. He graciously walked onto the stage as if to say, look at us.  
I am inspired we will as a nation turn our once selfish Pride, believing we were special and unique, and turn into authentic Pride where we know we are looking toward the same horizon. But it won’t be easy.  What must we sacrifice in order to JOIN the land once again from our isolation out at sea?  
We can begin by investigating our own sense of pride.  What are we proud about? For example, are we proud of our children?  Is it only our children we feel proud about?  Do we feel the need to tell others how proud we are?  How does it make us feel when we tell them?  Does it feel centered in the heart or in the head?  Does it feel shallow or deep?  For instance in the head, there might be thoughts such as- look at how great my kid is or in the heart there is a quiet, deep pride where we feel grateful for the way our child is developing and we appreciate all the intricacies of our child. We may even want to expand ourselves to help other children and we feel no need to voice any of this. 
Which feels more real?  The easiest way to tell if our pride is authentic or selfish is to ask if it supports only our own beliefs and agenda- the part of us that needs recognition, or does it serve something larger.  Is it inclusive or exclusive?   
To come to a space inside of our selves where we can be full of pride in a gracious, inclusive and accepting way means we must look at where we are not, and deciding if we want to feel more separate- out in the sea alone or joined together with everyone and everything where we know we are all special.  If so, we must give up our desire to be a special island for others to hopefully admire.  We must instead choose to bring our special island back to the shore and reunite with the land.  It is here where we can truly restore our world together. 
To feel the pride of togetherness will fill our entire being with joy and gratitude. To allow this to fill us will become so pleasant we will not be able to go back to where we are separately prideful. It will be too painful.  But first we must choose where we will stand. Together or alone. 

>Spiritual Intimacy


Every moment and place says put this design in your carpet- Rumi

I love Rumi. I read his words and I know he has touched, and wholeheartedly desired to be completely absorbed, by the Divine, which he calls the Beloved.  We are fortunate he was able to express this spiritual reunion with words.
Take the line above:  Every moment and place says put this design in your carpet.  Each one of us may interpret this different.  What I hear is an intense desire and perhaps a plea for us to pay attention to our moments for they are urging us to be competely intimate with them.  Let’s not, it begs, let our moments pass us by without allowing them to make a conscious imprint upon our souls; for our moments are making an imprint, but to be a conscious partner of their making is the ecstasy of life.
Sometimes when I walk through the woods by my house I listen to Rumi poetry spoken by Coleman Barks. As I listen I am moved by the words, and the sun setting through the clouds and coming through the trees.  I want to raise up my hands, throw back my head, start whirling and worship the ground, the moon, the sun, the trees.  I can feel this urge in every fiber of my being, but then there is this warning, which halts my spiritual urge to worship and stunts my spiritual growth.  The warning says, what if someone sees you. If they do they will think you are crazy. 
When the warning happens, I feel frustration and loss that we do not live in a culture which support such spontaneous worship.  I feel frustration and loss that an essential part of myself has been covered up with restrictions and judgments.  
Recently I was with friends and I had an overwhelming urge to move my body in an awkward position. I wanted my head to fall toward the ground, as I extended my legs up along the back of the couch. I told them of my urge, and very nonchalantly they said, “Do it.”  I felt a little foolish at first, but doing so satisfied the urge to move energy which was stagnating inside of me.   I understood how important it is to follow one’s urges, which is something Rumi also said.
How can we evolve if we do not satisfy our urges, or at least realize them and consciously choose to or not to?  The act of choosing not to, if the urge is destructive, can also evolve us. But to not at least pay attention to our urges means we are stagnating, and essentially not telling the truth of our minds, bodies and souls. 
For instance if I had not followed the urge to move my body in that awkward position I would be denying some truth that I am not even fully aware of.  Had I not, I would not have learned the lesson of the importance of following our soul urges.  By following these promptings from our soul, we become more and more intimate with our selves, our higher and truer selves.  We begin little by little to live our authentic lives and not the one which comes from the culture of shoulds and should nots:   Someone will think you are crazy.  You will look stupid.  You might get hurt. 
For the past several weeks, I have had urges to say I love you to my mom. To move past the pain and betrayal and to just love her. I have yet to follow this urge, but I know my Soul is speaking to me.  My soul wants to let go and forgive and knows by these small simple acts I can move forward in love, and not only with my mother, but within all of my relationships.
She is the primary relationship which defines all the others. It has greatly defined my marriage. Just today after talking to her on the phone, I started to feel ambivalent about my husband again because she taught me not to trust people, especially men. But I am moving past this because I want to be intimate with not only him, but with every person, place and thing no matter what the cost, which for a long time has been betrayal.  Betrayal is an illusion.
I want every person, place, experience- every moment to put its design on my soul and I want to feel it. I want to experience it. I want to be completely used up and fully expressed like a lemon that is made into juice by the time I leave this place.  This is an urge of the soul. 
There is much to break through to get to this place of union.  Many restrictions and barriers. As if stuck in a prison, but not just stuck within by its bars, but stuck into its floor layer upon layer of tethered rind, which ensnares us deeper just when we think we are getting loose.  The snares get tighter and the urge to be free and unified is so fierce we keep fighting and struggling until at once, and suddenly… we are free.  
Begin to pay attention to not only the larger urgings, but the smaller ones as well. We don’t need to do something drastic like quit our ‘dead end’ jobs or relationships. Maybe we need to listen to the urge to smile at work, or give our spouse a kiss when they walk through the door. Maybe we need to embrace what we think is imprisoning us.  
Think of the scene in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone where Harry, Hermione and Ron fall into a pit of what looks like snakes. The more they resist and fight the snakes, the tighter they grasp.  However with ease, trust and breath they easily slide through the snares and are free- at least from that challenge. 
Whatever the urges are, pay attention to them. It is the urging of your Soul which wants you to be free. To be who you really are, and not be who you are not.

>Shedding Some Light on our Spiritual Intricacies

A group of friends met for a discussion. We asked when was the last time we knew what to do, coming from a place of clarity and knowing.

It seemed quite sad, but for me the last time I remember making a clear and conscious choice was when I was 19 (I am 36) and decided to have my baby.  Sure I went to the abortion clinic for decision counseling and made sure my health would hold up since I was having abnormal paps and needed surgery, but when that obligatory dust settled I knew without a doubt I was having the baby.  And not only did I know this, I didn’t care who supported me or know how I would take care of her.  I just knew I was having her no matter what. And guess what?  The people in my life; father and mother especially, rallied and stood with me.  Even the economic situation turned out to be greater than what I could imagine.
Perhaps there have been more conscious and clear moments of knowing but this was definately a huge defining moment, and I believe I am writing this now because I am about to have another one.  If we pay attention to our lives we will begin to intuitively know what’s coming and consciously prepare for it.
I am not this aware now. I just know this moment is upon me, but I truly don’t know how it will reveal itself. But I get the feeling I’ve been preparing for a long time.
These moments of clarity and of complete knowing are more rare than we think.  We would like to think most of our choices are made in a conscious way. Most are not, and here is why. We are rich and dynamic beings and the spiritual intricacies, which make us up, are vast, and therefore, hugely unconscious.
I know. I know. We want to be so smart and think we have ourselves and our choices totally under control.  Even the richest and wisest have hardly touched upon their spiritual intricacies.
Let’s suspend our current knowing, and wonder what else may be going on within us.  Sure we see the stars but do we really know what makes them shine or what makes them fall from the sky?
We may not, but we can- in time.  But we don’t do it by just reading a book on stars or even by being an astronomer.  It’s a process, and we begin it by being curious and paying attention and having a desire to know and by trusting the wisdom is there. We begin to know ourselves in the same way.
Imagine that you, and all that makes up you- is the same as the stars. You are so vast and luminous, and yes even dark, it might freak you out if you knew how much. 
But no worries.  The mantra I use, which came from the Voice Inside: there is nothing inside of you to be afraid of. 
So how can we even function with all of this inner complexity, let alone make clear choices? Well, we only have the potential to receive what we are prepared for, so this means we don’t have to know it all yet or all at once, and we don’t have to force clarity if its not there.  But we do need to pay attention to what is happening in our lives now. That is if we want to truly master ourselves and create our world with conscious choices, and some point receive clarity.
Until then we are kind of wobbly in the world.  Think about marriage.  If you have answered yes to: will you marry me, you know in time what might have seemed like the right thing to do begins to feel like the wrong thing.  This doesn’t make it wrong. It makes us unconscious, which is why we married who we did- so they could take us to those dark and light places we didn’t even know existed when we ‘naively’ said yes.  If we knew it all we wouldn’t be here, at least not in this way.
For me personally, this perspective is supportive as I often unconsciously go about my life. It means I don’t have to beat myself up for any choice I’ve made, or feel trapped by or regretful of them. Although I at times I do anyway.
We are multi-layered so let’s suspend our rightness and shame, and know we are vast. Timeless.  Limitless. And have the potential for many outcomes and ‘inconsistencies.’  And why? Because they are all awaiting inside of us. Not so we can have hard lives, although striving for enlightenment is hard, but so we can have truthful and honest lives where we come from a place of integrity no matter what space we are in. Even when that space does not seem clear. You still have to make your move.
For instance, I married for all sorts of reasons.  Here are the ones I know about:  Love, security, a dream of family, and all the unconscious patters and beliefs I wanted to excavate through this marriage experience.  I wasn’t full of clarity when I said yes, but I moved forward anyway.  We must if we are to evolve and grow.  
Let’s not wait for clarity before we move.  Let’s not wait for the thunder bolt or the lightening strike before we choose.  Let’s just trust, even in the fogginess of our minds, believing we are doing the best we can, and move forward into a destiny which has yet to make itself known to us. Our destiny is in each tiny step anyway. 
At some point in our spiritual evolution, and at special moments in our lives even now, clarity will come and support us.  But for now we must move as best we can.  The flashlight available to us while we move in this way is a sense of curiosity and wonder, which helps us pay attention to our lives, and gain awareness.  Eventually our awareness grows and that small light expands into a greater light, and someday light will be everywhere, but not just yet.  
In every space, experience, and relationship there is an opportunity to shed some light and gain perspective.  Take out your spiritual flashlight and begin looking and wondering.


>Spiritual Fortitude


courage in pain or adversity 

Last post I spoke on spiritual integrity.  This time I will speak on fortitude.  

Do we show courage during this time of adversity?  Do you show courage in your pain?

Spiritual fortitude for me is having the courage to go within while in pain or adversity, and dig deeper for truth.  Not staying stuck in illusion.

When I think of courage, I think of David.  

I went to see the statue of David in Florence a few years ago. What struck me was the expression on his face.  He is facing the giant Goliath.  His face is calm, focused and trusting. In his expression he is saying, I know what I must face.  I trust in what I must do.  I know who I am.  I trust God.  He is the face of spiritual fortitude.

Many of us, if faced with a giant would run in fear.  Many more of us would never bring ourselves to the place where we face Goliath.  And many more would look at the giant with doubt oozing from our eyes, trembling in our boots, not trusting what we must face or in the truth of who we are and what we must do.  

I have yet to see a literal giant on my spiritual path, but I have seen many other obstacles- all stemming from within.  Sometimes I resist; fight and scream- refusing to face them.  Other times I might run and hide.  But mostly I try to look at what is within and defeat it with truth, persistence and strength. Often it is difficult to do without judgement, but by the time I get to the end of the fight I understand the nature of the beast and become gentle with myself and notice the inner obstacle is there to support my evolution and to enhance my spiritual fortitude. 

So what are some of the inner obstacles I speak of?   Here’s a hard pill to swallow. We are selfish. Of course it isn’t our only attribute, for we have many, but at the root of all our sufferings is self-focus.  I used to be called selfish, and I hated it.  I couldn’t think of anything worse to be called, but it is this beast that shows its face time and time again, often disguising itself, (perhaps in martyrdom and doing the ‘right’ thing) and it always causes suffering.  

The selfishness goes deep, and unconsciously we fear if we don’t think about ourselves constantly we will lose ourselves, which means we will not exist. And what can be worse than this?

I remember coming home after a meditation retreat beginning to plan a party for my daughter’s birthday. I was going over the list of all the people that would be there so I could get an idea of how much food to prepare.  In making my list, I noticed I had thought of everyone but myself. When I realized this fully, I panicked.  Where am I, I thought, if I am not thinking about me?  Who am I, if I am not thinking about me?  Do I exist?  Panic.  

Because of this we are always, and usually unconsciously, thinking about ourselves.  
What am I feeling? What am I thinking?  What will I be wearing?  Do I look okay, or am I fat?  Does he like me?  Why do they look at me funny? What will I do if I don’t get that job?  How will he treat me if I lose weight?  What will happen to me if I go broke?  And on and on and on and on……

If you believe in past lives, imagine how long the thread of I, I, I, I, I, I, I is?  Even when we are doing for someone else, we are probably thinking about ourselves.  

For instance my mother was once gave me money.  I know there is a part in her, as there is in all of us, which gave selflessly. However that part is deep within the part which gave selfishly to appease her own guilt and to expect something in return. In her case my love, recognition and forgiveness.  Money of course could not buy these things. Even now as she lives in our home, she expects recognition for all that she does, and will pout or even sleep in her car if she does not receive it.  Does this not sound like suffering?  

How about in a work situation when someone we work with is talking about us behind our backs.  We immediately begin to think about ourselves and how we feel attacked and dishonored.  We may want to take revenge. We may start to withdraw and want to quit. We may start to gossip about them.  Does this not cause suffering?

In my own life; the minute I focus on myself, is the precise minute I lose, and not only do I lose but so does everyone else. If I think I am the one who does everything in my household, I become bitter and angry.  If I think I have to control someone’s behavior so I can feel better- does this not sound like suffering?  

Selfishness is the giant we must face, and are facing a little bit at a time, whether we are aware of it or not. However becoming aware of the giant is a good first step.  Remember with David; he looked right into the beast he was to defeat.  He did not have an elaborate scheme or weapon. He had a sling shot and some simple stones.  It was of course not the sling shot or the stones which defeated the giant. It was his fortitude.  

This is the part which lies beneath all the selfish clutter we accumulate time and time again. 

I began this post to say we are selfish, and yes it is true, but it is not our truth. It is not our essence. It is simply where many of us are right now. Selfishness is our teacher, which brings us to the real truth of our essence- we are divine- not just me, not just I- but Divine.

Where are the giants in your life? Or better yet- start small. Look for the elves; the little mischevious energies such as jealousy, self-pity and regular everyday annoyances. What bothers you? What makes you crazy?  Who makes you crazy?  (Sarah Palin at the moment for me) What inside of you is allowing such discomfort, and investigate.  Looking at such things is not about blame and shame. It’s about spiritual empowerment because when we know what the giants and/or the elves are we can face them, and like David take them out with our simple stones; the gifts of self-awareness and spiritual fortitude.