Archive for the ‘Awareness’ Category

If You But Observe, There Are Many Good People

June 5, 2017

There is so much tragedy in the news. The focus always seems to be on the evil or angry person.

But good people exist in numbers you would never believe just by consuming news media.

We brought 1,200 young athletes, their parents and grandparents together into a smallish park on the campus of Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio. There were fewer than a half-dozen obnoxious coaches. Only a few players. I saw emotions rise during a contest only to come back down to handshakes and apologies after the match.

At the end as thunder storms were washing out the finals, only a couple of teams tried to maneuver around tie breakers or manipulate facts to gamesmanship a trophy.

It is so easy to be disappointed in people. If we but look, we can see many more decent, honorable people.

Take A Journey In Your Mind

May 2, 2017
Leave your cares behind
Come with us and find
The pleasures of a journey to the center of the mind
Come along if you care
Come along if you dare
Take a ride to the land inside of your mind
Beyond the seas of thought
Beyond the realm of what
Across the streams of hopes and dreams where things are really not — Amboy Dukes; Ted Nugent and Steve Farmer

OK, so Ted Nugent went from writing psychedelic rock to being a conservative political activist.  There may be some kind of meaning there.

The 1960s witnessed a spiritual revival. Not religious. Spiritual. Some of the spiritual quest was, well, illegal. This song was no doubt an attempt to write about “psychedelic” experience.

But as often happens in poetry, there are meanings beyond what you write.

In meditation, you suspend thought and facts. You focus on God. Perhaps a story like maybe an interaction that Jesus had with someone. Or a parable. And you don’t analyze. You experience.

And sometimes God breaks through. And you experience.

And you believe in God, not because you read somewhere that you should or someone told you that you should. You know.

And now spiritual truths make more sense.

Psychologists will sometimes instruct patients to go somewhere where they can be alone with their thoughts. Then settle in and just tune in to the inside.

A patient once told Carl Jung, the famed Swiss psychologist, that he couldn’t imagine anyone worse to be with than himself. I think Dr. Jung probably thought, “You’re right. And I’m trying to help you get over that.”

Find 15 minutes today. Slow down, concentrate on God, a story, a bird, a leaf, a bug, whatever is around. Relax. Become aware of where you are and what you’re doing.

Your blood pressure will thank you. Your brain will thank you. People around you will thank you.

You Can Be a Mystic

April 27, 2017

Meditation is greatly misunderstood by most people. You can do it.

You can do it if…you can sit still and focus.

We focus on our breath. Slowing it down. Paying attention.

Then we focus our attention on God. We just sit (or lie, or walk) in the presence of God.

It may last 5 minutes. I may last 2 hours. Doesn’t matter.

Mystics? Not a popular word these days. Well known in previous centuries.

They are just people who make a daily practice for longer and longer times of sitting in the presence of God.

It changes their lives. They slow down. Are less anxious. Can face adversity.

We sometimes have visions of things God wants us to see.

And then again, sometimes not.

But we have conversations, speaking and listening, with God. We thank him. We ask him for guidance. But then we must listen and pay attention to what he tells us. Sometimes that is hidden within other people. It is up to us to discern.

We Will Be One

April 25, 2017

Traveling again, I’m staying in a small town in northern Germany about 10 miles from Hannover. Most of the people I have met do not speak English. I am from an area of the US settled by German immigrants. Other than I understand about 10% of what I hear spoken, there are not many differences between here and home.

In my meditations, I have been given the awareness of the unity of all people.

It seems that our nature as humans it to divide. We divide people into groups. The groups may be based on any number of perceived differences. But the key is that we can identify people like us and people not like us.

I have experienced whole religions and churches within them organized on the principle of “us versus them”.  Think of the divisions among Christians. “We have the truth; they don’t.”

Then I remember my awareness of how people essentially are all the same.

As chance (?) would have it, I just attended a press conference in Hannover, Germany, with the global energy and automation technology giant ABB. I won’t get into the gory details of high-voltage DC power transmission. But the speaker made an interesting observation. There is discussion at some of the highest technology levels about the imminent possibility of a single, global electrical power grid.

Step back in your mind and consider how commerce and business and technology have perpetrated changes in global political structures. We have not always had nation-states. Is it possible that technology and commerce can continue to propel us into a “global village”?

And I can see spiritual conversations among people from many and diverse cultures.

One of my favorite philosophers, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, talked about us reaching the “Omega Point” where “Christ will be all in all” as Paul the Apostle stated.

Despite the racism, bigotry, divisiveness we can see around us, I remain optimistic that Christ will win. In fact, I read the end of the book as they say (the Revelation of John, of course), and John says indeed that Christ already won.

We will come together. Especially if we all do our part. God if funny that way. He always expects us to do some of the work!

Teach Your Children Well

April 10, 2017

Teach your children well. –Graham Nash

If you’re like me, you can’t hear those words without the famous steel guitar intro by Jerry Garcia.

What started this line of thought was a comment by the Dalai Lama in The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World. “The problem is that our world and our education remain focused exclusively on external, materialistic values. We are not concerned enough with our inner values.”

I remember being adolescent. Of course, I got over that disease much earlier than today’s younger people. It seems to linger into the 30s anymore. But any thought of values meant conservative things designed to prevent fun. I remember students in the education departments who did not want to be role models, only instructors of their subject matter.

So, teachers no longer model good behaviour. They often dress like slobs or like the “women of Wal-Mart” videos.

I’m not so sure that churches in America are all that often modeling and teaching inner values. Everything these days seems to be political–here’s my political belief system, memorize it and you will be saved.

The Book of Joy is a conversation between two of the world’s greatest spiritual leaders held about two years ago. There was the Buddhist, the Dalai Lama, and the Christian, Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

There is much to learn from these two men. Each has suffered greatly at the hands of people. Yet, each emanates a deep spiritual calmness. And the ability to laugh.

We often  mistake the source of joy and happiness. Later, the Dalai Lama said, “Most people never pay much attention to the ultimate source of a happy life, which is inside, not outside. Even the source of physical health is inside, not outside.”

It is time to pause, look inside, find that spiritual core that connects to God. We sometimes call that mindfulness. Being intentional, aware, senses sharpened, awaiting the whisper of God.

And then pass it on.

Love Isn’t A Strategy

March 31, 2017

No promises
(No demands)
No demands
(Love is a battlefield)
Love is a battlefield

What is love?

An emotion? Yes, I guess.

A Battlefield? Pat Benatar sang it was.

Battlefields imply strategies. Winners and losers. And losers in the battle often also lose their lives.

Believe me
Believe me
I can’t tell you why
But I’m trapped by your love
And I’m chained to your side

That surely doesn’t sound like the freedom promised by the kind of love Jesus and Paul and John (the apostle) talked about.

Bob Goff, an interesting guy, a “recovering lawyer” and honorary Consul for the Republic of Uganda, writer of “Love Does.” Goff recently said, “Love People isn’t a strategy; when it has an agenda, it isn’t love anymore.”

I guess we all know manipulators. We don’t like them. Even when we fall under the power of one.

No, love just does things for others. Not with an agenda, say, to get love back, or to gain some sort of power over the other. No, just service from the heart. Sometimes love means doing nothing–just quietly being there for someone. It means watching out for others’ needs. Awareness of the other person without thought of ourselves.

Love is a way of living from a heart in tune with God. I think that’s what Jesus was talking about when he said, “You will know my followers by their love.”

The God I Wish You Knew

March 24, 2017

Running on a treadmill 40 stories above the Detroit River yesterday, there was the most gorgeous sunrise. It was a red sun reflecting from a few high clouds and off the river ripples.

And I’m listening to Mike Breaux, a preacher who is now an associate serving with Gene Appel at Eastside Christian Church in Orange County, California. Both are excellent communicators.

But I love listening to Breaux. (pronounced bro for the French challenged, from Louisiana)

They are teaching on the idea of “The God I Wish You Knew.”

Appel was saying that people come up to him and say they hate God. He’ll ask, describe God. When they finish, he’ll say, “I don’t like that God, either. Here is the God I wish you knew.”

Breaux was explaining the Bible as a love story. A story that tells how a God loves people so much–even though they keep rejecting him. He continues to pursue them.

What a way to think about God.

Not like some who see God as the Great Vending Machine In The Sky. Oops, need a new car. Drop a prayer in the slot and poof, here’s a new Mercedes. Or, I know I’ve been abusing my body for years, but drop a prayer in the slot and poof, I’m restored to health.

Or, there is the Great Rule Maker In The Sky. Look, here is a list. If we just follow this list of rules, then we’ll be OK. As a bonus, we can compare ourselves to each other. Ha ha, I got 90%; you only got 85%. And look at those poor fools over there who don’t belong with us–they are only batting 33%. Surely they’re going to hell.

I like the idea of the Great Lover–but not in the sky, remote. Time after time in the Bible they talk about God being right here, with us, inside us, around us. Why do we keep missing he point? From a speech made more than 3,000 years ago, “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart.”

And we get these reminders every once in a while, if our spirit is in the right place, like that sunrise.

Seasons Of Change

March 20, 2017

Today is the equinox. For us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s Spring. For my readers in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s autumn. (Thank you to a new reader from Zimbabwe today.)

For those of us in temperate weather zones, it’s a time of changeability. Weather can go from cool to hot and back. We often get cloudy weather because of that changeability.

In spring we have the anticipation of rebirth, growth, life-giving warmth. In autumn, it is a time of harvest.

Spiritual writing often refers to seasons as periods of time. A season in life.

Perhaps we are in a personal season of rebirth and growth. No matter our age. We can experience these periodically.

On the other hand, sometimes it is the season to harvest from our hard work.

I wonder, do we often just slide through life without pausing to ponder what season we’re in? Not realizing that it is time for rebirth. Study something new. Develop a new friendship. Get a new job. Start a new career.

Maybe you are in another season. There is a benefit and a danger to every season. When we pause and reflect asking for discernment, we can find our response to the season we’re in.

Either way, seize the day as the Romans said “Carpe Diem.”

Our Inability To Judge Others

March 16, 2017

I grew up a Cleveland Browns fan. Save your sympathy. I am still sort of a fan, but it’s hard to be “fanatic.” (For those of you overseas from here, that is a team that more-or-less plays American-style football.)

When the team re-started after the owner moved them to Baltimore, the owners hired a succession of people who supposedly knew the sport and players to run the team. 24 quarterbacks later (over 18 years), they still have not picked one who is talented enough to play at the professional level.

The point is that even experts in a field cannot judge talent before hand.

How often do we pre-judge others? How often are we accurate?

All the time. And, seldom.

Yet, we still do it. It’s a rush to apply a label so that we know how to deal with the person.

We see a man with neatly combed hair, dark suit that fits, white dress shirt, and necktie. We meet a young woman with tattoos up the arm. Five piercings in each ear and a piercing through the nose. Unkempt hair.

Which is the person who can’t be trusted?

Actually, my guess goes toward the guy who is probably either a lawyer or politician 😉

We don’t really know, do we? Not until we talk with them. The preposition is with, not at.

One of the things I learn from Jesus, whom I follow and try to emulate, is that he gave people a chance to show themselves. He knew a lot about types of people. But he seldom said anything until they spoke and revealed their hearts. Then he would comment, help, or turn away.

There are so many things we prejudge. And so many ways we are wrong. About people. About talent. About schools to attend. About jobs to take or churches to attend.

Awareness of our weakness is the first step toward true observation.

Anger And Bitterness Disappears Before The Fragrance of Humility

March 8, 2017

Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. –Zen proverb

Enlightenment. The direct experience of God.

I began meditating some 45 years ago with the goal of enlightenment. This meditation became known as Centering Prayer promulgated by Father Thomas Keating among others at the time.

Then I began exploring the Desert Fathers and came across John Climacus and his work, “The Ladder of Divine Ascent.”

These writers and mystics went beyond enlightenment in a way. What they worked diligently on was bringing our entire life before God. Later, Richard J. Foster (“Celebration of Discipline“) called it the With-God life.

John Climacus wrote, “The first step toward freedom from anger is to keep the lips silent when the heart is stirred; the next, to keep thoughts silent when the soul is upset; the last, to be totally calm when unclean winds are blowing.”

There are people who seem to exist only to stir up those hearts, blow up those unclean winds.

Notice that John considers anger something that binds us, imprisons us.

He continues (this is Step 8 on the Ladder of Divine Ascent, by the way), “Just as darkness retreats before light, so all anger and bitterness disappears before the fragrance of humility.”

Humility–putting others before us in our attitude and awareness. When we leave behind being so wrapped up in ourselves and begin to consider others, then we have taken a step with-God.

The Zen proverb tells us that enlightenment is good, but we still have to live out our  lives every day. John Climacus is one of those guides who can help us.