specks and logs

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
step 4 – ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

Picture1.pnginventory

Don’t know about you, but I hate turning the critical eye inward.  Presumably you will ask, “Why is that, Larry?”

Up until I had several years sobriety behind me, LarryPaulBrown was the world’s foremost expert at condemning himself.  “You never do anything right, you are a failure,” were my life’s defining words.  “Why can’t you be more like Joe, the school sports jock, or Mary, the class valedictorian, or Pastor Jones, the community rock?  Why, why, why?”

Doing an honest 4th step, a searching and fearless assessment of me was a daunting task until my spiritual advisor set before me on paper two columns – one for the negatives and one for the positives.

“But,” I protested, “I can’t think of any positives.”  Thank God for the patience and insight of our sponsors who guide us through these growing pains.

Even today it is infinitely more comforting to look at you and take your inventory.  Yes, old habits die hard.  The ego loves this – ‘I’ and ‘me’ become bigger and superior – it creates separation and otherness.  My defects are not as severe or humiliating as yours.  “Well, I never did that. Tsk, tsk.”

Ultimately an overly active ego, a continual subversion of one’s inner truth to ‘I, I, I and me, me, me’ creates violence between individuals and warfare between nations.

Verse 41 in the 6th chapter of Luke says, “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”

What’s in my eye today?  What’s in yours?

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Marianne rocks

Marianne Williamson, a Democratic Presidential candidate, has been on my radar screen ever since reading her book ILLUMINATA, published in 1994.  Her approach to Picture40spirituality in relation to the insanity of our world focuses on individual as well as governmental responsibility and dedication to nonviolent interaction.  It is refreshing to see an aspirant for political office who is not pumping international conflict and control.

from ILLUMINATA:

Dear Lord, please lift me up and heal me. 
Cast out of my mind all thoughts that are not of You. 
Cast out of me all harsh and critical nature. 
Cast out of me all violence and all anger. 
Cast out of me all demons from my past. 
For I would be made new.

It all begins within me.  Cast out of me all harsh and critical nature.  Cast out of me all violence and all anger.  Do you realize how difficult that can be in today’s world as we are blasted every day with media reports of raging conflicts, of government corruption, of unnecessary death as a result of violence?  Massacres of citizens in Syria, imprisonment of dissenters in Russia, genocide of indigenous people in African countries, suicide bombings in the Middle East, mass shootings in the USA – the ceaseless world horrors grab our attention each day as we watch the instantaneous news coverage.  How in hell can I ‘cast out all harsh and critical nature, violence and anger?’

It’s impossible unless I retire to my imaginary Mediterranean island with the monks, give up all worldly connections and meditate 24/7.  On that island is peace?  Maybe.  But living in seclusion on an island is not what Jesus taught through his own nonviolent interaction with the Jewish society of his time.  He did not cave, he did not capitulate to the Roman authorities nor the religious corruption of his time.  He participated and embraced all aspects of life in 1st century Israel.

Fr. Richard Rohr at CAC.ORG comments in today’s meditation:

“How is it that many Christians have managed to avoid what Jesus actually taught? We’ve evaded major parts of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): the Beatitudes, Jesus’ warning about idolizing “mammon,” his clear directive and example of nonviolence, and his command to love our enemies. I never see the Beatitudes on courthouse lawns. Perhaps we think his teaching is nice in theory but impractical in real life. Perhaps we do not believe nonviolence can actually effect real change.”

He goes on to say:

“Even the common ‘pro-life movement’ is much more pro-birth than about caring for all life—black and brown lives, refugees, the poor, the sick, immigrants, LGBTQIA people, the environment.” In fact, many “pro-lifers” I know are the first in line to oppose any gun regulation.”

I don’t have answers.  But, I do have prayers to instill in my heart and examples of nonviolent success on the world scene to inspire me.  The survival of our world depends on you and me.  We don’t have to be heroes or national celebrities to make a difference.  It all starts with me and what I harbor within.  You, too.  Let’s be instruments of peace.

PRIDE7

 

smiley face 2

cac.org – Richard Rohr

control freak – who, me?

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, wisdom to know the difference.”

44

Most of us in recovery are failed control freaks.  Read those words again.  You and I have been miserable failures at controlling our lives. Lord knows we did our damnedest to cajole, manipulate, wheedle, urge or threaten loved ones, family and friends to think and do the ‘right way’ which, of course, was always our way.  I see some of you out there denying it, but let us just take a moment of truthful inventorying our past behavior before claiming innocence.  Yeah, just as I thought.  Guilty as charged!

Sometimes our game of controlling others actually worked and we felt victorious.  But our success came at the expense of ruffled feathers, resentments, anger from our victims.  The end result was that we distanced ourselves from those around us who loved us the most.  Ultimately, through the progression of our disease, we reached a point where, in the depths of our self-imposed exile from reality, we could not even control ourselves.  In those depths, alcohol was the victor controlling every aspect of our being.

Enter sobriety and the grace of a Higher Power.  We repeated in the recovery rooms of AA the Serenity Prayer.  Sometimes our discussions centered on the words of the prayer analyzing each word and each part of the three statements.  What do they mean?  What do I control?  What can I not control?  And when does the wisdom appear in my life?

Sobriety is not a commodity to be purchased at the recovery store.  It does not happen miraculously on the first day of not drinking.  We hang out with others like us, we listen to the wisdom spoken in the rooms, we take our thoughts to the quiet space within and begin to process what sober-living means.  Contrary to the previous drinking before which carried us to the depths of our personal hells, sobriety becomes our beacon of hope, our lifestyle resurrecting us to a purposeful place in society.

And eventually we discover the truths of control.  I accept that I control no other human being on earth, I control no other entity on earth, I control no political undertaking, no politician, no corporate CEO.  I do not control my spouse, family nor friends.  I don’t even control Max, the cat.  Lastly, I do not control the recovering friend who decides to go back out and do some more ‘field research’ on drinking.

“Pheeeew!  What a relief,” we exclaim, “I am not responsible for anything.”

Whoa, not so fast.  Yes, we are responsible.  “Whenever anyone, anywhere reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA to be there.  For that I am responsible.”

“Courage to change the things I can.”

In order to be a helping hand, I must change the only thing I can…and that is me.  I must change my thinking, my attitudes, my responses to others, my behavior, my prejudices, my lifestyle.  I must change myself to reflect the grace freely given on that first day of recovery when I walked into my first AA meeting a scared, hopeless drunk.  And therein is the wisdom to know the difference.  Today, I know how and when to surrender Larry, the control freak.  Not always easy, not always first choice, but always the path to serenity.

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ahimsa

DALAI LAMA

Hindu/Sanskrit word meaning:

“causing no harm, no injury, no violence to any living creature”

Mohandas Gandhi furthered the definition of ahimsa with the following:

“….nonviolence was the active, unconditional love toward others, the persistent pursuit of truth, the radical forgiveness toward those who hurt us, the steadfast resistance to every form of evil, and even the loving willingness to accept suffering in the struggle for justice without the desire for retaliation. . . ” cac.org – Richard Rohr

These words are attributed to Jesus in Matthew 5:9:

“Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be called the sons and daughters of God.”

This lifestyle of nonviolence is a choice which each one of us has the ability to pursue because we are created as children of a loving and compassionate energy force that has been named God in the Judeo-Christian tradition.  We have been given the option to follow or deny this truth of the human condition.

Peacemakers are not always the statesmen and women who are at the forefront of peace pacts and international treaties.  Normally these people accomplish what they do from a position of power and strength often forcing and enforcing their particular ideals of peace.  Yes, they serve a purpose in the world order, but they are not the peacemakers to whom Jesus referred.

It is you and I who need to be the peacemakers in relation to our neighbors, our friends, our family, our enemies and, most importantly, to ourselves.  It starts from that divine spark within every human on earth.  We have the ability to be the peacemakers who bring peace into the insanity of our world which is spiraling toward a violent, fiery demise.  As Jesus prophesized, we have been blessed, but we have a responsibility to use that blessing.

PACEEBENE.ORG ,a global nonviolent organization of education and action, will be leading an annual CAMPAIGN NONVIOLENCE September 14-22, 2019, working toward a culture “free from war, racism, poverty, and environmental destruction.”  Let’s join and support in whatever way we can.

 

peaceful change

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“The root of violence is the illusion of separation—from God, from being one with oneself and everything else, and from Being Itself. When we don’t know how to consciously live out of union (which is called love), we resort to violence, fighting anything that is not like us and that we cannot control.” cac.org – Richard Rohr

When we apply these words to the insanity of today’s violent, non-sustainable assault on the vulnerable people, the poverty-stricken, the minorities of our planet, and on earth itself, perhaps we can begin to understand that our solutions to these problems do not lie in answering what, how, when, but beginning with the question who.

Who are we?  Americans tend to answer this question with descriptions of their physical bodies, their gender, their accomplishments, their education, their suffixes following their names, their financial gains in life, their country club status, their professional titles.  JUST STOP!  Stop labeling and begin searching.

Look to that interior voice which says, “you are love, you are compassion, you are kindness, you are made in the image of the breath which created you.”

“Contemplative practice teaches us to honor differences and also realize that we are all much more than our nationality, skin color, gender, or other labels which are all aspects of the passing and thus false self. Contemplation brings us back to our True Self, who we are in God.”

JUST STOP!  Stop denying the truth and purpose of the higher Self.  When we become less we become great.  When we become “little enough, naked enough, and honest enough, we will discover that we are more than enough.”  Salvation, enlightenment, end of suffering is not about ascension to the heavens, looking upward to an imaginary God, or living righteously.  No, it is a downward migration into the depths of this world’s poverty of soul and recognizing that here is where reality and truth are to be found, here is where we will change the world, here is where nonviolence begins, here is where God dwells.

(all quotes are from today’s meditation @ cac.org – Richard Rohr)

LOVE

this little spark of mine – I’m gonna let it shine

 

“We are made, the scriptures of all religions assure us, in the image of God. Nothing can change that original goodness. Whatever mistakes we have made in the past, whatever problems we may have in the present, in every one of us this beautiful-cropland-dawn-1237119‘uncreated spark in the soul’ remains untouched, ever pure, ever perfect. Even if we try with all our might to douse or hide it, it is always ready to set our personality ablaze with light.”  EKNATH EASWARAN (1910-1999) cac.org

(Eknath Easwaran was an Indian born spiritual teacher and author, as well as translator and interpreter of early Hindu texts such as the UPANISHADS and the BHAGAVAD GITA.)

Meister Eckhart (1260-1328) taught:

“Our supreme purpose in life is not to make a fortune, nor to pursue pleasure, nor to write our name in history, but to discover this spark of the divine that is in our hearts.”

The world, specifically Western Culture, might do well to listen to the words of all religious traditions whose mystics searched beyond the limits of this life experience for truer meaning and self-less examination.  Escaping the insanity of violence, war, poverty, genocide, persecution, religious intolerance and greed is critical for a path to a sustainable co-existence of the human species as well as the ecosystem of earth which inarguably is essential to our survival.

Giving up self-indulgence is not easy.  Just ask any other recovering alcoholic or addict.  A primary symptom, if not the most salient aspect, of our addictions was ego-driven selfishness.  Unfortunately, that does not miraculously disappear upon our first day of the recovery process.  For most of us, especially me, this change in focus becomes a lifetime endeavor.  Some days are better than others, but the spark is there.  An AA saying that resonates is, “A belly full of booze and a head full of AA don’t mix.”  It’s the same with recognizing the divine spark within each of us.  Once you experience it, you can no longer ignore it.  That inner essence demands change.

I continue to be amazed that for some people this change is easily accomplished.  Involving in service work, rejoining their communities, whether in civic groups or church groups, seems to be a cakewalk for them.  Not for me.  You can drag me to a town hall meeting, but I will be kicking and screaming all the way.  It is not natural for me to do something that is not all about me, me, me.

We don’t hear WWJD very often these days.  “What Would Jesus Do?”  In no way have I perfected this approach, but when I ask myself this question, I can usually depend on a positive, forward-moving answer.  It doesn’t matter whether one believes a divine Jesus, a virgin-born Jesus, a reverential Jesus or a bodily resurrected Jesus, the keys to successful, peaceful, empowered living are contained in the writings which are attributed to the words of Jesus of Nazareth.  Those nuggets of inspiration and truth culled from the Bible’s chapters detailing Judaic history, folklore, and ancient wisdom present a lifestyle and mindset that lead to the change demanded by each individual’s inner essence.

Not surprisingly, this truth can be gathered from most of the world’s great spiritual traditions if we put aside the hype and tribal prejudices of religion and instead search for the reality of inner discovery.  History’s mystics lead that search.

 

 

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

“Why ask about behavior when you are soul-essence,
and a way of seeing into presence!
…Forget the nonsense categories of there and here,
adult-adventure-backlit-915972race, nation, religion,
starting point and destination.
…No more questions now
as to what it is we’re doing here.”
(underlining is my emphasis)
RUMI, THE BOOK OF LOVE by Coleman Barks

This short passage from Rumi, a Persian poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, Sufi mystic, emphatically tells that instead of being concerned with the ego and its demands, the journey in this life is all about the inner essence, the divine spark.  Call it Spirit, call it energy, call it God or whatever our faith traditions name this essence, this is the ultimate reality.  Rumi, in naming “there and here, race, nation, religion, starting point and destination as nonsense categories”, challenges the mind to ask, “If not that, what then is important in this world experience?”  Not names, not locations on this planet, not vocations, not family status, not physical appearance, not past successes nor personalities define who or what we are as members of this human experience.  If we believe otherwise, we are deluding ourselves.

Of course I have difficulty with this thought process.  Being reared and having lived my life in Western culture with its insatiable drive to promote the needs of self (a.k.a ego)  over all other concerns, the welfare of fellow mankind and the stewardship of our Mother Earth easily become lost in the hubbub of me, me, me.

Perhaps if reared in Eastern philosophy or having embraced the ways of mystics as a young man, viewing the inner self as reality and all else as secondary baggage would not be as daunting.  But, I am a typical Westerner and therefore, I struggle.  I try not to compare myself with others on their spiritual trek, I only compare to whom I have been and where I have walked.  My goal is progress, not perfection.

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we are One

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So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  GENESIS 1: 27

Millions of Christians are obviously dyslexic.  That verse does not say that man created God in man’s image.  OUCH!  Have I deflated any egos, yet?  If not, keep reading.

In Western culture, many of those who profess a God, especially those of Christian persuasion (and I honor 🙏 any who do not profess), conduct lives led by ego and personal advancement.  Individualism is lauded, winning at all costs is admired, the boys with the most toys win.  The comparison game runs rampant, many egos are shattered upon realizing they don’t measure up to that which is considered success and prosperity.  I know what I speak of because, yes, I have been there and done that.  I can still go there today if I am not mindful of the fact that I am created in the image of God, I also am Spirit.  Let that sink in.  You, me, all of humanity and all of Creation are made in the image of God, the permeating life energy which is our reality.

We are primarily spirit and our physical existence on this earth should not be what defines us.  This body, this life we have created embracing materialism, this set of prejudices we harbor, this ego we strive to protect is not reality.  The spiritual persona, which is exactly what God was, is, and always will be, is most often reserved for Sunday morning church and Easter time reflection, yet it should be the everyday, 24 hour a day endeavor to align with what we know to be truth – the Life proclaimed by Jesus of Nazareth or the Path advised by Buddha.

In Hindu teachings it is enlightenment, Christianity calls it salvation, Buddhism names it the end of suffering (dukkha).  It is the surrender of egoic and self-serving lifestyle to a transformative and liberating awakening.  It is when Yahweh, Allah, Vishnu, Shiva, Nirvana, Buddhahood and God, in whose image we are made, becomes reality and this earthly life is known to be illusion.

A deflated ego is a good thing.  It removes any need to attain material wealth, to strive for social status, to always be right in religion and politics, to proclaim my God better than yours, to be judgmental, to fear and hate, to be anxious about tomorrow.  A deflated ego ushers in enlightenment, salvation and the end of suffering.  Namaste. 🙏

rainbow-solidarity

whore? who – America?

“See how the faithful city has become a harlot!  She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her – but now murderers…..Your rulers are rebels, cropped-black-and-white-black-and-white-boy-1299417-e1556554337831-2.jpgcompanions of thieves; they love bribes and chase after gifts.  They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them.”  ISAIAH 1:21,23

Of course Isaiah was directing his admonition to Jerusalem, the city central to Judaic life and justice in the 8th century BC.  Social justice was established within Judaism as a mandate directly from the God whom they worshipped.  To not follow the writings of scriptures regarding care for widows and orphans was anathema to Jewish ecclesiastical doctrine.

The parallel to contemporary society is uncanny.  Isaiah may as well be speaking to the institutions, religious and governmental, of our country in 2019.  Some of those who proclaim the Good News of Jesus with the right hand use the left hand to cover their deplorable justification of racism, intolerance, and persecution.  Confinement in cages at our border is acceptable.  Widows and orphans of the unimaginable violence in countries south of us are vilified and labeled by our political servants and errant religious leaders as unworthy of the  compassion demanded of us as children of a universal God.

If you have studied ancient civilizations, you will know that once-proud Israel was not only subjugated by the Roman Empire, it was destroyed from within by the arrogance and greed of Israel’s leaders who at the time were its religious elite and powerful. The final annihilation was completed by the Romans in 70 AD and Israel no longer existed as a nation.  Only in 1948 did it regain its independence.

Can’t happen here?  Why not?  Are we not complicit in child abuse, human rights violations, corruption, deceit, murders?  Has not our once great nation given up its moral compass, its beacon to the world’s huddled masses?  I think we have.  We have become the whore of whom Isaiah prophesied.

“Prophet Isaiah reflects on the condition of Jerusalem. Once the city held to justice, but the present tense reality reveals much corruption, greed and complicity. Injustice plagues the city, seen in thwarted action on behalf of orphans and widows, the city’s most vulnerable residents. Society shows wear and tear, a sign of coming destruction. The failed city is a contemporaneous image. Massive corruption, mass complicity and loud maligning of immigrants and foreigners surround us now.” RED LETTER CHRISTIANS

broken hearted