Your Vote – does it matter?

“Do we dare keep voting according to our pocketbooks and private morality? Yes, we are God’s beloved, but so is everyone else! If we believe God wants what is good for us, how do we not understand God wants what is good for each and every living thing? What would it mean to vote as if the very presence of God were in our neighbor and the stranger alike, which is simply what Jesus taught?”  CAC.ORG – Fr. Richard Rohr

Namaste – not the word Jesus used, but it certainly means the same.  A follower of Buddhism would bow to you (and all of Creation) and say namaste – “I honor the divine in you.”  Jesus said, “Love your neighbor (and all of Creation) as yourself.”

What’s so difficult about that?  Why can we not believe that Jesus from Nazareth, during the time between ages 12 and 30 when no historian can provide an account of his activity, met up with traders from the East who followed the teachings of Buddha.  Even non-believers in the historicity of Jesus or Buddha will have to admit that namaste is certainly a great way for earthlings to conduct themselves.  It could be the key to the survival of our species.

Let’s give this idea a shot in our 2020 voting.  Rather than endorsing candidates who claim to be God-sent, or candidates who claim to have the inside track to God, or candidates who attend the ‘right’ church, or candidates who profess the tenets of an intolerant and exclusive Christianity, let’s try “namaste.”  Let’s try “love your neighbor as yourself.”  Let’s vote as if the earth and all its creatures (including us) depended upon it.

Fr. Richard Rohr of the Franciscan order is an outspoken critic of the political and religious status quo.  We agree that somehow Christianity, as envisioned in its early genesis, has missed the mark of its founders.  We agree that the purpose of Christianity is not to look heavenward for salvation nor to follow a reclusive lifestyle.  Christianity was meant to involve Christians in the nitty-gritty of the world’s disadvantaged and oppressed people.  We are designed to focus downward upon earth’s sorrow and heartbreak, to participate in the world rather than seek escape in heavenly promises.

Buddhism calls this life “dukkha” – suffering.  It is suffering which stems from our human tendency to want what we don’t have and not appreciate the blessings we do have.  I can relate.  How about you?  We have houses which would be palatial to many of the world’s people, but want even larger and more luxurious homes.  We have closets full of clothes whereas many people have nothing more than rags to wear.  We eat to the point of unhealthy obesity while many babies are starving.  We are coming into the Christmas season where the mantra is, “shop till you drop.”  Yet this extravagance of material blessing does not eliminate dukkha.

Externals will not eliminate suffering.  Only by resetting the internal defaults will we ever reach the heaven described by Jesus or nirvana promised by Buddha.  It’s an inside adventure which each of us can undertake.

“We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.  We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.  We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.  No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.  That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.  We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.  Self-seeking will slip away.  Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.  Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.  We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.  We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.  Are these extravagant promises?”  AA PROMISES

WE THINK NOT

Get out there and vote.  Jesus did not give us THE WAY and Buddha did not give us THE PATH  for us to twiddle our thumbs and be recluses uninvolved in the planet’s survival.  Bill W. and Dr. Bob did not give us recovery through ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS to muddle through life uninvolved in the lives of still-suffering fellow man. god bless america

solitude

He who sits alone, sleeps alone, walks alone,
who is strenuous and subdues himself alone,
will find strength in the solitude of the forest.
BUDDHA, DHAMMAPADA, 305

How many of us wish today, as adults, that this wisdom would have been shared with us as children?  It simply was not considered normal for a child to prefer the solitude of the woods to activity with other children in the park.  We were called wall flowers when we did not keep up with the chatty ones at lunch break.  We were graded as slow learners when we did not engage in classroom discussions.  Yes, my elementary school report card (do they still have report cards?) had a space to inform my parents that I was not a team player, not a participant.  Do they realize the damage inflicted on a young boy who merely wanted to enjoy his solitude, a boy who did not rely on friendships and social activity for his fulfillment?  The birds, animals, and flowers in the countryside fields and woods were my intimate companions way back then.  I enjoyed the peace and quiet of these gifts infinitely more than the company of rowdy playmates in games of baseball, tag or hide-n-go-seek.

I reached adulthood believing that I was deficient.  My waning social activity supported that idea.  Not a joiner, not a member, not a community person, not a party person.  Even my growing alcoholism, ages 17 to 34, revolved around drinking in the woods with a few select friends or by myself at home.  It became a problem when I began to avoid social commitments with loved ones and friends.  My perceived deficiency controlled most aspects of my younger years as I nosedived into deep depression and obsessive alcoholic behavior – a symptom of the misconceived impression of Larry, the socially awkward introvert.

However, looking back on those years, I don’t remember ever feeling lonely.  A lover would slam the door when leaving in anger and disgust saying, “You don’t need anybody, do you?”  Sadly, the truthful answer confirmed those words.  I didn’t need anybody to fill my empty spaces.  I became a socially deficient drunk who just wanted to be left alone.

Recovery from alcoholism has demanded even more intense self-scrutiny and introspection.  Initially, I had to learn to love myself as I was, not as someone else thought I should be.  In the meeting rooms I met many other men and women just like me – socially awkward and withdrawn from life.  We held each others’ hands, cried together, prayed together, hugged, and instilled a sense of completeness in each other that had always been missing before.  The healing was slow and painful, but we became participants in life even in our own quiet, unassuming ways.

Western culture places an enormous emphasis on assertiveness and achievement.  We are considered weak if we are not pushy and demanding.  Those of us who are perfectly content with the quiet and peace of a meandering stream through the meadow or a walk along wooded trails or an afternoon reading poetry are sometimes deemed lazy and unproductive.

To others like me, I say STOP!  Just stop!  Stop being a people pleaser trying to fit into a preconceived social mold.  Introvert is not a cuss word.  Not everyone can be extroverted, nor should they try to be.  When I appreciate the person whom the God of my understanding created, when I accept that today at this moment I am a perfect product of this creation, then life can also be perfect.  Doesn’t mean that I don’t pursue growth and try to make tomorrow’s version of me even better.  It simply means saying quietly and thankfully, “Just as I am, Lord.  Receive all of me just as I am.”

UNSHACKLED 2

EGO – it’s a killer

Have we ever considered what it is about others than disturbs us the most?  Is it their conceit, their crass behavior, their selfishness?  Or is it their love of possessions, their old codgerdisregard for society’s moral conduct, their dishonesty?  Of course, the next question would require us to look into our own selves wondering what it is about them that trips our  trigger.

In my early recovery years, as I was complaining to my sponsor about  a group member who embodied everything which I despised, he responded this way,

All that you hate in others are elements of your own personality that you are afraid to look at.”

“Hell no, that’s not true,”  I replied defensively.  “I am not like that.”

And I truly believed that.  But, the seed had been planted and would not allow me to rest until I took it to my  quiet space within and considered my sponsor’s words.  Jerry could be shallow and selfish – yeah, me too, we are, after all, alcoholics.  Jerry could seem arrogant – yeah, me too, but that was due to my insecurity with others.  Jerry seemed disinterested in his group members – yeah, me too, but again I was shy and felt awkward with people.  Jerry didn’t seem to grasp the humility in recovery, his concept of a Higher Power was weird – really?  What did I profess as a Higher Power?  A vengeful, old, gray bearded, eyes on fire, lightning-spitting man sitting somewhere in the universe on his throne of judgement?  How weird is that?

In due time I learned a lot about myself from Jerry.  He mirrored my own ego which at that time totally controlled who I was.  Eckhart Tolle in his book, A NEW EARTH -AWAKENING TO YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE, writes:

“The particular egoic pattern that you react to most strongly in others and misperceive as their identity tend to be the same patterns that are also in you, but that you are unable or unwilling to detect within yourself.  In that sense, you have much to learn from your enemies.  What is it in them that you find most upsetting, most disturbing?  Their selfishness?  Their greed?  Their need for power and control?  Their insincerity, dishonesty, propensity to violence, or whatever it may be?  Anything that you resent and strongly react to in another is also in you.”

The initial response is probably, “no way, not true.” But, as with any planted seed, this will not disappear until it is either choked with weeds and dies or nourished and brought to fulfillment.  The question becomes whether we will wither in our denial or respond and grow.  That, essentially, is what recovery is about.  It is much more than living without alcohol and drugs or whatever our addictions entertain.  It is a continual recognition of the external forces and internal thoughts that attempt to control our true identity, that state of Being which the Buddha called anata – no self.   Words attributed to Jesus of Nazareth in the 8th chapter of Mark, verse 34, “whoever wants to be my disciple (follow my Truth) must deny self…..” which, in other words, is  to deny ego control of our response to the world in which we live.  Peace or drama?  How will we choose to live?

Our world has become one of us versus them.  Nationalism, tribalism, religious intolerance – they all try to convince us that we are superior to them.  The them are always wrong while us are always right.  Eons ago this mindset meant only that the caveman with the best clubs and biggest stones would win and the others would need to move on to find another cave in which to live.

We are not cave dwellers.  We have missiles and nuclear weapons instead of clubs and stones.  Our separateness cannot be resolved by conflict and violence.  There will be, in a World War 3, no winners.  Our species and probably earth as we know it will be eradicated.

The next time I watch on media screens a national leader or world power whom I despise, the next time I see a religious leader lead his flock astray, the next time I look at my neighbor with disgust, I must remember the lessons which Jerry taught me in early sobriety.  Despite the outward appearances of polarizing differences, we are the same.  What we do, how we think will determine whether this species of ours sees a 22nd or 23rd century.  It’s our responsibility to grow our planted seed into selfless maturity.

GARDEN OF EDEN

 

NAMASTE – is it really so difficult?

“The crises we find ourselves in as a species require that as a species we shake up all our institutions—including our religious ones—and reinvent them. Change is necessary for our survival, and we often turn to the mystics at critical times like this. Jung said: “Only the mystics bring creativity into religion.” [1] Jesus was a richard rohrmystic shaking up his religion and the Roman empire; Buddha was a mystic who shook up the prevailing Hinduism of his day; Gandhi was a mystic shaking up Hinduism and challenging the British Empire; and Martin Luther King, Jr. shook up his tradition and America’s segregationist society. The mystics walk their talk and talk (often in memorable poetic phraseology) their walk.” MATTHEW FOX  cac.org – Richard Rohr 

Do I do that – walk the talk and talk the walk?  How about you?  Those of you who have read my ramblings over the past few years probably realize I have a serious issue with religion and religionists.  Many of them talk a great spiel from the pulpit and the pews of their churches, but then don’t walk it in their lives or in their behaviors.  That is not real; it is not empowering.  If not embraced in lifestyle this pretty rhetoric becomes just more trash on the pile of religious deceit.  Preachers are guilty, parishioners are guilty, black and white are equally guilty, politicians are guilty.  Me too.  I do not always walk the talk.

But I highly esteem those mystics who have.  The four named in the introductory quote are just a few of the many men and women who discovered their inner truth and then lived lives accordingly.  Buddha was human, Jesus was human, Gandhi was human, and Martin Luther King was human, all acclaimed mystics were humans who acknowledged the Divine center of their beings as the most consequential and significant reason to talk the walk and walk the talk.

Our world is racing to the annihilation of the human species.  Accompanied by rabid politics, fear-mongering politicians, greedy capitalism and heretical religions, the voices of those who pursue social justice, peace, and inner searching seem lost in the insanity.  That which could turn the tide and redeem civilization from a sure demise is often obscured by conversations of victory at any cost rather than sensible compromise embracing the rights of all mankind and all earth’s natural resources.

We must come to realize and surrender to the premise that this planet is not a hodgepodge of several billion humans intent on survival as individuals, but rather, an ecosystem which includes all mankind, all animals, all plant life, all resources interdependent on one another and living together as one cohesive environment.

Learning to love ourselves and others begins from a place of reverence for all of life.  This reverence flows forward in the Buddhist greeting, “Namaste”, I honor the divine in you.  Not only other brothers and sisters on this earth, but every part of creation should be viewed and greeted with namaste.

“Honor the sacred.
Honor the Earth, our Mother.
Honor the Elders.
Honor all with whom we share the Earth.
Four-leggeds, winged ones,
Swimmers, crawlers, plant and rock people.
Walk in balance and beauty.” 

(Native American prayer for the earth)

 

 

IT’S A GREAT DAY – be successful

success is not the destination – it is the journey

You and I have within us the ability to make this day part of a successful journey or a meaningless struggle leaving us weary and eager to simply bring the day to an end.  We have that power when we first arise in the morning.  Don’t grab the phone to check messages, don’t turn on the TV to catch up on news, don’t open the newspaper to front page headlines – just don’t.  Say no to all that noise and listen to your own voice for a few minutes.  What do I want this day to be like?  How will I make this a day that will be memorable?  What can I do for the next hour or two hours that will set this day apart from all the others?

We have been designed to live our lives with unimaginable success and contentment.  It all begins before throwing back the blankets and swinging our legs out over the bed.  Just be still for a moment and open the day with a gratitude list.  Listen to your breath, feel your heartbeat, wiggle your toes, then hear the voice inside which says, “I love you, I really do love you.  You are worthy and you are perfect just as you are in this moment.”

Confirm that inner voice and plan a perfect day.  It will be one in which everything that happens leads to another leg of your journey to success.  Namaste. 🙏

IT’S A GREAT DAY! – dice roll

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So, you’re a gambler?  How often do you win?  Excites you, doesn’t it?  The thrill of the bet, the risk-taking, the ecstasy of a win, the personal satisfaction in knowing you have beaten the odds.  Ok, good for you.

How often do you lose? How much? A lot?  Really?  Sounds like you might be losing more than you win.  Yeah, I know it’s just entertainment; after all, you’re not addicted, right?

Do you gamble with your life?  A risk-taker?  Do you jump out in front of moving traffic?  Do you play Russian roulette with your friends?  How about unprotected sex?  It’s just gambling, right?

Life is more than just a roll of the dice.  When you wake up in the morning, rolling those blocks of chance, giving the day’s promises to Lady Luck is going to guarantee one of three outcomes.  You will either win or you will lose or the day will wind up a wash-out. That’s just 1 in 3 chances of having a great day.

Try this instead.  Open your eyes, look around the room, appreciate the bed in which you slept comfortably,  and let the first words out of your mouth be a sincere “Thank you.  I am so greatly blessed.”

Monkey brain will attempt to engage.  Will you allow it?  Got to clean the bathroom, must call the pharmacy, need to get groceries, Johnny needs a clean shirt, the cat has fleas, North Korea is going to bomb us, the world is ending, I’ve got to vacuum the rugs…..”oh Lord I’m so weary already!”

STOP!  Don’t let monkey brain begin your day.  Instead, breathe in.  Air is rushing over your lungs, aerating the blood, pumping fresh life into your organs, bringing life to limbs.  Wiggle those toes, shake out the cramps from sleeping on your arm, wipe the sleepies from you eyes, hold that breath and then…..exhale.  Release the thoughts trying to capture your thinking, inhale again.  Exhale, inhale, exhale.  Envision your body parts waking up to a great new day.  Breathe in, then breathe out.

Now, you are ready to swing those legs out over the bed and rise to greet this day ahead of you.  Are you going to roll the dice?  No, of course not.  You will make this the best day ever, the beginning of the rest of your life.  Imagine how you want to enjoy today.  Have a cup of coffee or tea on the patio listening to the melody of songbirds in the nearby oak trees.  Watch the mother duck leading her hatchlings to the pond.  Become amazed by the roses sharing their aroma in the morning air.  Are you feeling it yet?  Life is wonderful and a great day lies ahead.

Of course, if you would rather roll your dice, go for it.  Read the morning headlines, turn up the volume of the TV.  Fuss at Johnny for not putting his dirty shirt in the laundry.  Scold the cat for being a cruise ship for fleas.  Yell at your spouse for being such a slob in the bathroom.  It’s your choice.  Roll the dice and hope for the best or give the day a fighting chance to be terrific by waking up to the splendor that surrounds your life.

Wasn’t it Erma Bombeck who wrote, “If life is a bowl of cherries, what am I doing in the pits?”  And remember what Confucius said?   “When life gives you a bunch of lemons, make lemonade.”

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the Search

questions

See that fellow sitting in the question mark?  That’s me now, been me 90% of my waking time and often I wonder if my sleeping time is not also consumed with questions.  You are probably the same, are you not?  It’s who we are – inquisitive and always looking for the answer.  A favorite TV commercial from years ago showed a young boy with his father sharing quality time together.  The boy’s response to everything the father did was, “Why?”

Why, why, why? Today’s internet has made answering our questions just a few key strokes away.  Google it, ask the computer assistant, go to the online encyclopedia.  Wikipedia is our guide to every query imaginable.  We have online language translators, quote sources, and 54 versions of the Bible – just a click away.

“Alexa, why am I here?”

That charming voice emanating from your device will list numerous reasons for your physical existence, biological determinants and a bibliography of further research.

“But, Alexa, who put me here?  What is my purpose here?”

Aha!  Let’s play stump Alexa, shall we?  I have asked those two questions of a multitude  of common sense people, scholars, teachers, preachers, parents, friends, lovers, and strangers.  And I have received a million differing answers.  Why?  Because nobody knows.

Theories abound, theologies are a dime a dozen, philosophies chase down bizarre dead ends, experts whimper with possibilities, but nobody knows for sure.  Men of religion profess truth, gurus and yogis sit in lotus position meditating, rabbis quote ancient spiritual wisdom, and Buddha claims he attained enlightenment.  But nobody knows for certain who put Larry Paul Brown on earth and what is his purpose here?

I can only assume my chosen path will be enlightening, that my faith is founded on truth, that my death will find me in a better place than my birth.  I can only assume that my spiritual journey will not result in a train wreck or that my inner GPS has not miscalculated the directions.

We live by faith and experience, don’t we?  Perhaps another important question to entertain is, “Whom do I trust?”

Will I trust all the aforementioned entities or will I look inward to what I have learned to be my honest assessment of me?  Will I follow the indwelling Spirit and my inherent conscience in my decisions and behavior or will I give that responsibility to the man in the pulpit, the professional counselor, my best friend, my spouse or the jolly fat man sitting under the bodhi tree?

Famously, Polonius advises his 18 year-old son, Laertes, in Shakespeare’s HAMLET, ” This above all: to thine own self be true.  And it must follow, as the night the day.  Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

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PEACE ON EARTH?

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.

Is the idea of peace on earth overrated?  Probably so.  By nature man is not an agreeable sort of creature.  Man would sooner throw a few rocks and ask questions afterwards than engage in rational dialog first.  History tells us that man, having never learned to compromise, has resorted instead to heavy clubs, then swords, then artillery, then nuclear weapons that can annihilate every species on earth and it’s habitat.

Mankind seems to be the only creature on earth that does not fit into the natural scheme of flora and fauna.  Plant and animal lifeforms all intuitively know how to grow together, live together, and in many instances compliment the existence of one another.  They do not wantonly kill because of philosophical differences or uncontrolled passions.

No, man is probably not held in high esteem by the world’s other creatures.  Oh sure, that pet dog or cat loves you unconditionally, but stop putting out food for Rover or stop cleaning Fifi’s cat box and it’s just a matter of time before that dog will turn on you snapping at your heels or the feline poop producer will be crapping on your favorite chair.  Don’t kid yourselves.  Man is low on the totem pole of earthly inhabitants.  He does not fit in and the rest of nature knows it.

In order to compensate, a complex system of theologies has been created proclaiming mankind as the master of all species, of all resources on earth in order to justify our existence.  And then theology goes on to say that when our habitat has been trashed and destroyed, miraculously a savior will appear to clean up the mess we have made.  Believe that if you must, but consider this.  The nugget of truth in those earth-renewal philosophies is that mankind can be redeemed through an inner awakening, a fact-finding soul search that reveals our spiritual relevance in a crazy, chaotic world system.  Many mystics have understood this, Francis and Clare of Assisi knew, Jesus the pauper from Nazareth recognized that each individual has within himself or herself the capacity to live in peace with himself, with humanity, with the earth itself.

I love the question following THE BIG BOOK’s (Alcoholics Anonymous) revelation of promises available through sober living. AA PROMISESAre these extravagant promises?  We think not.”

Is this an extravagant promise?  Peace on earth?  The Christian scriptures guarantee it.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  John 14:27

We could rightfully say, “Bah humbug”, considering the turmoil and corruption which is rampant worldwide.  We will continue on our road to destruction and annihilation when we forget that Jesus, in the words of John 14, qualifies his peace: “Not as the world giveth…”

I am chasing down the wrong trail when I envision a peaceful world as one with no wars, no famines, no oppression.  What will save me from the surrounding darkness, from a troubled and fearful heart, is only available within.  Quite possibly that is the peace on earth, goodwill toward men, that the book of Luke attributes to the angels singing to the shepherds watching their flocks.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  Luke 2:14

It is an inside job.  When we feed and nourish the soul through introspection, contemplation and meditation, when we read scriptures revealed by the wisdom of the ancients, then we can dwell in our world of peace and then we can extend that peace to all mankind.

Peace to you.  Namaste.  The Christmas season is a great time to discover a peaceful and fearless heart as proclaimed by Jesus the Christ, Buddha, Muhammad and other messengers of the ancient world.  All of them claim a piece to the God puzzle.

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