Show Some Kindness To Yourself

August 16, 2019

The most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently. Pema Chodron.

Do you ever have flashbacks to moments when you did or said something completely stupid?

Somebody once told me that a sexual thought pops into our consciousness every so many seconds (I forget her number).

I don’t know about that, but I have those flashbacks of moments of stupidity at least daily.

With mindfulness practice and with kindness, we can pause and observe those thoughts and look into other areas of less-than-acceptable words or actions.

Rather than some Freudian beating on ourselves. We can realize that we aren’t alone in this condition. It is truly a human condition. Except maybe for sociopaths or narcissists, I guess.

Handle with care, the sticker on the box states.

Same with ourselves. Just handle ourselves with care. Apologize where we can. Move on with gentleness and kindness.

Ethics and Working for the Best for Society

August 15, 2019

The last person (well, maybe not totally the last) that I thought I’d listen to on a podcast would have been Charles Koch, CEO of Koch Industries and famously a supporter of “right-wing” causes.

But, there he was on the Tim Ferriss podcast.

No, I’m not going down the political rabbit hole.

It’s all about working together ethically to do something for the benefit of as many people as possible.

I thought I had noticed a difference in the actions of Koch over the past few years, and I was right. He discovered that there are issues where he shared values with people who had divergent views on other topics. For example working with a number of noted liberals to make progress on prison reform.

Listening to him I’m reminded of all the people–politicians and business and church people alike–who draw a line and refuse to work with people on the other side. There is bitterness, acrimony, division. All the things that interpreters of Jesus’s message like Paul and Peter and John warned us about.

Or even the political Founders of the government of the US who warned us about the need for ethical behavior for the success of the union.

I may not agree with Koch on everything, but I love the optimism still alive in his 80s and his mission to build things that help others and help society.

This mission works in whatever country you live in. I have met people from Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Europe, even China with that same passion.

It could be us, too.

Sometimes God Does Not Seem To Be Here

August 14, 2019

Sometimes you enter what St. John of the Cross called “the dark night of the soul.”

Things are happening, and God just does not seem to be there to help.

When this happens, take solace knowing that this feeling is as old as the human-God relationship.

I’m reading in a 600-year-old letter on spiritual direction which is as contemporary as today. The writer shares ancient advice as useful then as now.

Check out the 3,000 years-old songs of the Hebrew people in the Psalms. How many times do the writers cry out to God asking where he is?

Or even older is the story of Job.

When we inevitably feel this void, there is only one thing to do.

Continue our spiritual practices with the faith that God exists and will show up again in our lives.

That is why we practice disciplines in our good times–spiritual, mental, physical. These see us through the down times.

The More You Know

August 13, 2019

The more you know, if you are honest and self-aware, the more you realize you don’t know.

Beware. I am again sipping from the flowing river of 2,000 years of Christian thought and experience.

Today, no doubt not unlike many eras of Christians before us, there are many Christians who are certain they know exactly what God wants and they are not bashful about telling the rest of us where we’re wrong and how we should live.

Except…so much of what they say fails the consistency test with what their supposed Master taught.

What I think God said versus what Jesus thought God said…Let’s go with me.

But…

St. John of the Cross, and not him alone, remarked that the closer you get to God, the more you realize how incomprehensible he is. He said that even the saints in heaven who are closest to God realize just how incomprehensible is God.

Those of us who choose contemplation hoping for a glimpse of God realize that the more we know, the more we don’t know.

Beware the human who tells you with utmost assurance exactly who God is and what he wants.

The rest of us are just pilgrims and sojourners in a foreign land trying to live with-God and finding that difficult. Let alone take responsibility for telling someone else exactly how to live.

We cultivate a beginner’s mind, just taking a step one day at a time.

Quiet the Monkey Brain

August 12, 2019

Small tree monkeys move and chatter constantly.

Must be why they call the plight “monkey brain.”

Sometimes you sit to contemplate. Or maybe to solve a difficult problem.

But your brain is restless. Chattering. More a source of irritation than a tool for enlightenment.

Your only recourse is to recognize the monkey brain. Then do something.

Take a walk.

Fix breakfast.

Change location.

Brute force will not work. This I know.

How We Like To Anthropomorphize

August 9, 2019

We recently saw the latest version of The Lion King. Before the feature began, they showed a trailer for the remake of Cats.

The Lion King is a classic coming of age story. Only the characters are animals. With human characteristics, emotions, yearnings. And they speak really good English. Thank you to computational advancements and high resolution digital graphics.

Similarly with the presentation of TS Eliot’s classic poems, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

Humans have done that with God for millennia.

Even though God is spirit as defined many times in the Bible and other sources, we like to imagine God as an old white man. (That’s us, I have seen God in the image of whatever ethnicity imagines what God looks like.)

This becomes an audacious attempt to limit God. Even though this being created the entire universe, we attempt to limit “him” to just being one of us.

Then we attempt to limit grace to people like us.

The movement about Grace Turned Outward attempts to bring people to the understanding that it’s not all about our group. It’s about spreading this spirit of God and Grace among everyone no matter the ethnicity or geography or present beliefs or what they eat or how they dress.

Animals talking make for entertaining stories.

Limiting God to being an old white guy in the clouds threatens to reduce God’s power in our lives and inhibit the spread of grace.

Be In The Present Moment

August 8, 2019

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow.

God is with us in the present moment. The decision about what to read. Or how to react to another human. Or where to go. It at this moment. That is where we find God.

And there is only the moment.

Moments in the past are gone. Learn and forget.

Moments in the future have not arrived. Why worry?

What we do in this moment determines much of what will come in the future.

Give us this day our daily bread.

We pause in the moment to be fed by God. We must renew every day. And be filled every day, for we will use up the portion in service to the Creator.

And forgive us our sins.

Just as we are filled each day by the bread of God, so we ask for forgiveness for the things done and left undone that were part of our mission.

Every day is a new day. We live only in the todays. We ask to be filled with God’s spirit with the rising of the sun. We ask to be forgiven for yesterday’s shortcomings so that today we begin fresh. A new day. And there is only the present.

Freud Did Not Invent Psychology

August 7, 2019

Freud may have invented psychotherapy. Not sure about that. Some psychologists think that he could have used a little therapy himself.

Early Christian writers probed deeply into the human soul and the many emotions and drives and desires. Their language may be a little weird to the modern ear. But if you pursue their meanings without cynicism, you will learn much.

For example, try explaining how people can take a thought that seeming springs from sound Biblical advice and twist it into cynicism, hate, dissension, and the like.

The anonymous author of the medieval classic The Cloud of Unknowing translated writings from the earliest Christian sources into Middle English. Some of the essays are translated into modern English and compiled into a The Pursuit of Wisdom and Other Works.

He writes (allow for ancient words, probe for meaning) in Discernment of Spirits:

Writing about the spirit of the world–Hence it is very necessary and helpful to know his cunning tricks, and not to be ignorant of his crafty deceits. (He) will sometimes change his likeness into that of an angel of light, in order that, under the color of virtue, he may do mor mischief. However, if we pay careful attention, what he does is to sow nothing but the seed of bitterness and discord, though at its first appearance it seems ever so holy and good.

We need to discern, that is become aware, of when we or others cloak dissension, bitterness, discord, and other such thoughts under the guise of sweetness and light.

Are we sowing peace and love as taught by Jesus, or is it more like “peace and love for me, but not for thee”?

This Is Going To Tick Some People Off

August 6, 2019

Thus began the social media post–This is going to tick some people off, but….

What a great place for a pause.

Before continuing, a moment of awareness.

Why would I continue to write something to intentionally upset other people?

As a Christian person, especially, why do something like that?

Check out the advice of the apostle Peter in his first letter who expressly advises against such behavior. “Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles…”

You could plead freedom of speech.

But the free speech movement from the late 18th Century presupposed rational and responsible discourse. Definitely not the volleying of inflammatory opinions back and forth like cannon fire in a 19th Century battle.

A pause for the rise of awareness of myself and how I affect others is often called for.

Of course, you could be like a friend who followed the “but” with “I put pineapple on pizza.” Now that’s just simply gross, not offensive. And yes, the pepperoni (sorry those of you in Italy, that’s an American attempt at being Italian) and mushroom fans rose up in rebellion!

And sometimes a good laugh, or even just a chuckle, is the right response.

Opinions Are Merely Opinions

August 5, 2019

When we hold an opinion with aggression, no matter how valid the opinion may be, we are adding to the total aggression of the world.

Sometimes opinion merged with aggressions leaves us open to the spirit of evil.

Perhaps we don’t believe in the spirit of evil. We can believe what we want, but it does exist.

And sometimes that spirit of evil fills our minds and hearts. And we pick up weapons and begin acting out our aggression against those of whom our opinion tells us are hurting us.

People who practice nonaggression spread peace. The era unfolding before us invites us to be open to the spirit of nonaggression and peace.