Archive for the ‘Awareness’ Category

Metaphor in Search of a Story

May 30, 2023

We bought a house where the back yard meets the brush along a creek. The good news is that no one can build adjacent to us. We’ll always have a buffer. The bad news is that an invasive species of bush/tree appeared in our development. Over the past three years it has spread along the outer edge of the creek.

This plant propagates two ways. It sends root runners out where new plants pop up seemingly at random. I watched the progression of these toward my patio and house. The landscaping guy told me to use a week killer on the sprouts to kill them off. That sort of works and sort of not. 

The HOA employed the landscaping guy to spray the bushes. Perhaps that takes care of the, ahem, root cause.

These Sandbar Willows spread a second way—seeds. They grow seed pods and then release the seeds into the air. They are fuzzy like cottonwood or dandelion seeds. They release into the air and are carried by wind currents to new places.

Here is the potential metaphor—the seed pods were green. Then, as the bushes began dying, the seed pods matured and began sending out millions of seeds to begin a new generation.

Back in the 60s/70s of the early Jesus movement songs (much more meaning than the so-called praise choruses that swept Christian music later and still predominates), there was a song that included the refrain, “and in dying we are born to eternal life.”

Not only in Christianity, but also other religions as well as psychology there are observations and teaching about the necessity of dying to self in order to grow beyond. The excessive parts of the ego must die so that we can experience life in fulness. I think one of my first published poems carried that theme. It’s long been on my mind.

Don’t cling so much to the old that you miss out on new growth.

Epidemic of Anxiety

May 16, 2023

Everywhere we look we are told there is an epidemic of anxiety. It makes people anxious reading about anxiety. Youth are seeing therapists because of anxieties induced from either expectations from parents for success or from hearing parents arguing usually from stressing over money issues.

Religious people do not help when they today, like the Pharisees of 2,000 years ago, tell us how to live in every detail of our lives. One almost thinks it is a sin to breathe, since seemingly everything we do and think is a sin.

Jesus often reprimanded those Pharisees for piling burdens on people. I have to believe that even the Pharisees were anxious underneath their veneer of superiority lest they be discovered in a sin.

Here is one thing Jesus taught as reported by Matthew in the “Sermon on the Mount”:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6

Step back from your cycle of thoughts (I’d suggest daily) and seek the greater perspective. Look first at the big picture of God’s kingdom and what he does for you. You can with this perspective tackle the things you can control and live with those you cannot. Not that this is easy. The suggestion is easy, the practice is hard. And if you need a therapist, by all means seek out one.

Fighting Hate From Within

May 4, 2023

I may have mentioned before that I’ve been receiving the Pump newsletter from Arnold Schwarzenegger. He sucked me in with the phrase “a positive corner of the Internet.” Don’t know about you, but I could use more positivity.

People who study these things have told us that anger often comes from insecurities and fear. Hate, also, has deep roots within our own emotional construction. Here is a story from Arnold from a recent event.

Last week, I had an event at the Schwarzenegger Institute at USC on fighting the rising hate we’ve seen all over the world. We had a panel about how to communicate to pull people away from a path of hate, and a former neo-Nazi who now helps other extremists out of their movements shared his perspective. Something he shared stuck with me, and I wanted to share it with all of you. Because it is wisdom that can help anyone — not just people who are consumed by hate. He said that the further he got away from his old beliefs, the more he realized that in the days when he carried that hateful flag and shouted racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric, the person he really hated was himself. He believes he was projecting that hate onto other groups because it was a lot harder to turn inward and work on his own insecurities. 

Many of us meditate hoping for experiences and visions of the divine. The meditative experience that most influenced me was when I was shown every form of evil and sin revealing that these are all buried within me. The realization that I was capable of all sin (see the first chapters of Paul’s Letter to the Romans for example) provided insights and tools for dealing with that. And the empathy for others who also struggle with that same whether they know it or not. It, by the way, is a life-long struggle. Just like the realization of this man quoted above. 

Seeing The Big Picture

April 6, 2023

I sit in contemplation this morning with the full moon beaming in the sky in front of me. This full moon signifies the special calendar times for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. All together. I feel connected somehow. 

Andy Stanley once asked people to consider what breaks their heart. Many things break my heart—one of which is how much those three religions separate from each other and generate hatred while each professes love.

A couple of days ago we had heavy rains. The next morning earthworms flushed from their lairs in the ground were on the streets and sidewalks by the hundreds. Were the robins out there feasting? No. They were in their same hunting areas as usual hopping, looking, pecking.

They couldn’t see the big picture. They were fixated on the way they’ve always done it.

This full moon 1,990 years ago found Jesus’s friends and followers fixated on what they thought the Messiah would be and do. Jesus spent a huge amount of the day teaching them. They didn’t see the big picture.

Even on Sunday with the empty tomb and the resurrected appearance of Jesus they could not comprehend the big picture.

It must have been 40 days later when it all came together for them.

How about for us? How often do we miss the big picture? How long does it take for lessons to sink in for us? Have we even now grasped Jesus’s teachings of love and grace? Sit in stillness and let those thoughts sink in. And see the big picture.

Nothing Destroys Like Insecurity

March 27, 2023

I know that my outbursts of anger germinated from a deep insecurity. Insecure people stock up on weapons and use them unwisely. They lash out at people close to them. Any success they may earn quickly evaporates. 

Mike Allen, cofounder of one of my go-to news sources, Axios, shares from his experiences with several organizations:

Nothing destroys more relationships, teams or companies than insecure people in power, Jim VandeHei writes. Why it matters: Beneath all bad motives, bad behavior and bad people — at work and in life — lurks deep and dangerous insecurity. It’s an insidious form of cancer that spreads effortlessly — and quickly. A little insecurity is normal and healthy. It grounds and motivates us. I’m talking about insecurity so deep it shapes a person’s character and decision-making. 

Mike Allen, Axios

If you find yourself in relationship with insecurity, run, don’t walk, to your next opportunity.

What Am I Doing Here?

March 17, 2023

Have you ever found yourself somewhere only to ask yourself, “What am I doing here? How did I get here?”

We can think geographically or socially or emotionally.

I immediately had flashbacks of being somewhere between 17 and 19 riding in a car on back country roads with a crazy guy going 100 miles-per-hour (160 kmh). What am I doing here?

Perhaps you were at a dive bar or other place where only trouble happens.

It could be a relationship. Or a job. Or a church. Or lack of any of those.

Now is the part of a normal religious writing especially for the Web where we offer 10 things you can do to improve your life or 7 sure steps to leave the rut. Or, if I were a fundamentalist, I’d just say “Find Jesus and all will be well.”

To quote George Costanza from Seinfeld, “I got nothin’.”

I wish I had a formula about how awareness grew within me. I became aware of where I was. Then I became aware of something better. And aware of someone or something that was trying to help.

Sometimes awareness follows a significant event. Sometimes awareness is like a small seed that grows within until the mature plant blooms within. “Ah ha,” we say to ourselves (or to a significant other person). “How could I have been so blind?”

I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see.

What did I realize? I made choice that led me there. I could make other choices to lead me out. Maybe I just needed to recognize the pointers to help me with those choices.

Revealing The Passions of the Soul

March 16, 2023

Evagrius observed, “The spoken word or some movement of the body is a sign of the passions of the soul.”

He was writing to monks who had left society for the desert in order to find and live with God. Perhaps it helps to have visited one of those places in the desert in order to fix the scene in our modern minds. Seeing the world through their eyes as a battle between those forces that would have one or another of our passions control us versus the force of God. We can also get a sense from the story of Jesus going into the desert to face some of those temptations directly and thus solidifying his relationship with his Father.

Evagrius continued in this teaching, number 47 in the Praktikos, to discuss how the forces trying to undermine us use those signs against us while God knows our hearts at all times.

But we also can use those signs as we reflect at the end of the day on what we said or did in order to discern the state of our soul.

Only in that way can we further our spiritual development.

People who know us and care for us also use those signs to perhaps encourage us to find help when we might need it—a counsellor, therapist, pastor, workshop, 12-step program.

What goes on inside us inevitably reveals itself to the outer world. Guard your thoughts.

Someone Plants an Idea

March 7, 2023

I heard someone (actually, I’ve heard this many times) tell another person, “our church only teaches from the Bible, and yours doesn’t.” And the receiver of that “wisdom” goes off believing it and questioning their place.

It happens in politics. One comment embeds itself–say “that group is out to get you”–and the next thing you know every time you see someone of that other group you are wary, then worried, then fearful and angry.

It only takes a few words to plant an idea. It is more easily done when it strikes at an insecurity.

It is likely that I became an acute observer of life because my mother had some emotional health issues at times.

Should I hear one of those we are better or we do it differently conversations as an observer, I’ll think “but you’re actually quite similar. There’s only a slight difference in emphasis.” But if that idea is planted that there exists a difference of kind rather than degree, it could change a life direction.

That’s why I teach always returning to the source. Especially in spiritual matters. Have you fit reading the gospels (not just Paul and Peter, but the actual record of Jesus’ teaching and actions) into your regular routine. Return often to the basics that Jesus taught.

  • Change your life because the kingdom of heaven is here
  • Love the Lord your God…and your neighbor as yourself
  • You will be known as my follower if you love one another
  • You have seen me heal, when you are with the Spirit, you also will heal people

That last one made me wonder–when is the last time (if ever) that I have said or done a healing act for someone else? Or, even for myself? It may not be a miracle like raising Lazarus from death. But it could be just the words to help someone along the path to healing a relationship or calming an anger.

Weigh people’s words. Take care not to let a comment get into your mind like a musical ear worm. Observe similarities. Return to the first principles of being a disciple.

A Moment Missed

March 6, 2023

I sat at my desk at 6 am cup of coffee in hand turned looking from my window across the little par 3 golf course at the houses on the far side of our development. The sun will officially rise in half-an-hour. The moon is waxing gibbous, almost full, as it sets almost matching the sun rising.

My eyes closed for it is meditation time. But I looked out only a few moments later. The moon was gone. 

It was only a moment. And the scene was gone.

How often for us. There is the moment.

  • We could greet someone new at our community or organization.
  • We could say a word of consolation.
  • We could open a door or take a load for someone.
  • We could give a hug or a smile.
  • We provide food for someone, buy a cup of coffee, or give a homeless person the extra food we’d boxed to carry out from the restaurant.

There was the moment. Staring us in the face. And, as they might say to me at the golf course, we whiffed—missed the ball. The moment is gone. We didn’t act. We missed the moment.


March 3, 2023

We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway
And I wonder if I’m really with you now
Or just chasing after some finer day
Is making me late
Is keeping me waiting

Carly Simon

My two weather apps have predicted a large snow/ice event for today for the past week or more. One app started about 7-inches and eventually predicted 12-inches. Then settled back to 7 then 4. The other not so much, but still plenty. We postponed a family gathering for today pushing it back to Sunday. Yesterday in the morning a National Weather Service “Watch” was posted suggesting 5-inches to 8-inches of heavy, wet snow. Suddenly in the evening, I noticed the Watch disappeared without so much as a whimper.

So, we spent a week of anticipation of a snow event that evidently is not going to happen.

I can’t seem to help myself. Especially for whether that might happen, the anticipation gives me a slight amount of nervousness. I can’t sit for long. There is a need to get up and wander around a bit to relieve the subtle tension.

Christians are now in the season of Lent leading up to the weekend of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We know from the Gospels that at least some of the close disciples of Jesus were nervous with anticipation during that last walk to Jerusalem. Then, events happened so quickly. Then there was the death. And a day of anticipation. They actually were anticipating a knock at the door by the authorities coming to arrest them. They were not anticipating seeing Jesus again.

We worry about so many things that never happen.

Then, something good happens. That can range from the daily mundane of a nice day without snow to the gigantic surprise of talking with Jesus again.

Anticipation in the form of preparation can be a good thing. Anticipation in the form of worry drains our energy and emotional life.

Quoting Bobby McFerrin “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” seems a bit frivolous. A grain of truth hides in those words. Prepare with an optimistic mindset; don’t worry yourself into a cringing mess.