SOBER TODAY – becoming unshackled

unshackled-2

There are times when a person reflects upon things he or she has written or said and with a querying mind asks, “How can I ever justify what I aspire to achieve spiritually when my thoughts, words, and actions are so undeniably human?”

Actually, that ‘querying’ mind is often self-condemning, is it not?  In these times of internal conflict we must remember that the spiritual progress promised in recovery programs, the Way of Jesus, and the Path of the Buddha are exactly what they claim to be, a course of progressive growth.  They are the trek each person must take to become vessels of wisdom and compassion within the power of the Divine Essence.  Undertaking this trek is not done with any expectation of perfection.  Progress is the goal.  Often the trail we walk slides off into a ravine of selfishness and unkind behavior, but pulling back onto the way forward is always awaiting.

The fellowships of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and CR (Celebrate Recovery) both recognize humanness and brokenness as elements of addictions.  Their step programs offer, not a miracle cure, but rather a way of living which enables members to rise above this inherent human condition of self-absorption.  Joining hands with like-minded men and women intent on becoming more than empty vessels tossed mercilessly on the seas of alcoholism, drug abuse, behavior addictions and emotional stress, these adventurers want not a perfect life, but a better life, a life of freedom from the prisons of self and ego.

Similarly, Jesus and the Buddha, holding all of creation in reverence, offered a lifestyle of service and compassion as the way to a personal heaven and a path to enlightenment.  Their disciples were ordinary examples of humanity who became extraordinary trekkers.  None of them were perfect.  Insecurity, anger, ego plagued their journeys through earthly temptations.  Yet, they understood that even though heaven or enlightenment was the desired outcome, a perfect life was not the path.  Humans must endure growth through the vagaries of humanness in order to become the spiritual beings which a Creator has intended.

Those who follow the life of Jesus Christ as their example must remember that, along with his obvious love and compassion for his Father’s creation, he also endured the human life fraught with temptation, desire, insecurity and anger.  According to the writings of the ancients, his public ministry lasted a scant 3 or 4 years before the crucifixion.  Where was he before the ministry, what was he doing?  Believing that Jesus traversed the same road of searching that every earthly human walks gives a great insight into the purpose of his life.  Those who portray Jesus as perfect at birth from a virgin’s womb seem to be missing the entire reason for his story.  Anybody can be perfect when born perfect.  Only a totally human experience of failure and disappointment combined with joy and ecstasy provides the sojourner with the necessary tools to crawl from the depths of hell to a life of peace and contentment.CANDLEcopyright 3

longsuffering

“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.  I wish to walk so close to You that we might be as one.”  Marianne Williamson, ILLUMINATA
truth

“Harsh and critical nature, anger and violence”.  We betray the truth of our lives, the love and compassion of a Savior, when we fail to speak our truth kindly.  Our Lord’s truth cannot be spoken in any other way.  Tolerance, patience, and forbearance are synonyms of the old English “longsuffering”, a word which occurs frequently in Scriptures.  Probably the most familiar is:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith…”  Galatians 5:22

and in the Buddhist tradition:

“The greatest prayer is patience.”  Lord Buddha

Is one born with patience?  Probably not.  Most agree that patience is earned the hard way.  Life situations teach us patience.  Other people teach us tolerance.  Compassionate listening is developed by listening for hours to the trials of another person.  Children teach us unconditional forbearance.  Our friendships are the result of communications tempered by attitudes of longsuffering.  When we enter into a life occurrence with anything less than a prayer for patience on our lips, the outcome will likely be less than spiritual.

“Our first objective will be the development of self-restraint.  This carries a top-priority rating.  When we speak or act hastily or rashly, the ability to be fair-minded and tolerant evaporates on the spot.”  Bill W. AS BILL SEES IT, pg. 113

Finding a patient friend is a blessing of the greatest order.  Being a patient friend is more desirable than fame and riches.  Nations have crumbled, politicians have failed, families have disintegrated, wars have been waged, and genocides have been initiated because one person failed to engage another in conversations of tolerance and longsuffering.  Words that are harsh and critical, angry and violent will never establish mutual understandings which are necessary to peaceful survival.  And that is our mission, that is our evolution.  We are commanded by all of God’s messengers to live as a brotherhood of mankind speaking our truth kindly.

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truth

Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.

truth

Do we know what truth is?  In today’s worldly rhetoric, truth has become a relative concept.  Truth depends on circumstances, truth is shaped by one’s environment, truth  can be bent to fit one’s personal ambitions.  We are told that trusted news sources are untruthful and mankind is not inherently honest.  Political views are castigated by those professing a different truth, spiritual bearing is challenged by sects who claim theirs is the only truth.  So, the question is, “How do we know truth?”

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.”  Buddha

Must we search?  Should we read scriptures?  Do we need to find a spiritual guru?  The Buddha says the sun and the moon cannot be hidden for long.  We know this to be truth because, when we look at the heavens, there we see the sun and the moon.  That fact is evident, it is obvious.  The  Buddha also says truth cannot be hidden.  It is as evident and as visual as the sun and the moon.

In the tradition of Buddhism, a path is offered.  It is called MAGGA, the eight-fold pathway to enlightenment:

  1. right understanding
  2. right thoughts
  3. right speech
  4. right action – nonviolence
  5. right livelihood – nonviolent
  6. right effort
  7. right mindfulness
  8. right concentration – meditation

We should note that none of the eight-fold path involves deeply secretive, spiritual practices to finding enlightenment or truth.  It is totally a manner of lifestyle which we undertake to the best of our abilities.

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:31-32

This directive set forth by Jesus of Nazareth is clearly specific.  Know the teachings and lifestyle of the human manifestation of Christianity’s God, follow that example known as “the Way” as best as humanly possible, and we shall know the truth.  Hallelujah!  Truth is not relative to circumstances or environment.  It cannot be manipulated or bent to one’s personal needs and desires.  Truth is attainable by adherence to a lifestyle of love and compassion directed toward others, to ourselves, and to the Earth itself.  It will be as evident as the sun and the moon in our skies.

“Watch out for false prophets.  They will come to you in sheep’s clothing , but inwardly they are as ferocious wolves.”Matthew 7:15

It is our mission to share our truth.  When attuned to the spiritual presence which defines each of us, we are able to share and communicate in a kindly manner the truth which has set us free.  Jesus and the Buddha in us will always portray as  non-violence in thought, word, and deed.

 

 

CANDLE

 

 

 

 

 

worthy of all praise

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”

orange tree

Listening to great music from contemporary artists and the masters of classical works has the capacity to soothe and encourage.  Sitting in a chair in the stillness of a quiet nook, my world is transformed from one of agitation and discontent to the truth of knowing without reservation that God is, always has been, always will be.  Music such as Chris Tomlin’s “How Great Our God” confirms that others experience this same peace and awe in the presence of a Greater Power, one which defines for us compassion, acceptance, and love.  Unconditionally!

I cannot temper my feeble attempts to be Christ-like with earthly conditions for extending or withholding God’s indwelling spirit.  I cannot deny anyone the directive of Jesus to love my neighbor as myself.  The color of skin, the ethnicity, the creed, the political affiliation, the sexual persuasion, the gender, and the theology of another brother/sister cannot be a determinant for sharing the grace of God which was freely given to me.

Most of us, especially me, are often conflicted by this wisdom from a gracious God.  If you are white like me, male like me, Christ-follower like me, Democrat like me, and peace lover like me, then it is not difficult to also be Christ-like.  My perfect world is one in which no disagreement or contention exists.  My perfect world would also be totally black or white, right or wrong, moral or immoral, no shades of color filtering into it.

That, fortunately, is not God’s world.  The God, which I know today, knew from the beginning that we would be a broken species fraught with discontent, envy, jealousy, anger, intolerance, hatred, bigotry, and “isms” of all descriptions.  Yet, God loved us enough to give us messengers in human form who showed us how to evolve into the humanity with whom He would be pleased.  I don’t have to pursue this transformation without instruction manuals.  Each of our great religions have presented to us a path to follow which leads to enlightenment.

Enlightenment is not some mysterious element in a future eternity.  It is not something to be attained by sustained adherence to rigid rules of morality.  No, enlightenment is the discipline of practicing and sharing here and now in this lifetime the same mercy and grace which is freely available to every soul on earth.  In this quiet space of the soul, a corner of absolute connection to Spirit, there are no distinctions, no fears, no judgements.  We all are one with the great Oneness whom some name Allah, some name Krishna, some name Yahweh, and some name God.  The name we call  upon doesn’t matter.  The heart we share does.  How’s your good heart today?

CANDLE

 

 

Golden Years

smiley-face-2Just 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.

 

Living in the “golden years”  is not what the 30 year-old version of me envisioned in 1977.  I blame no one other than me for the money I blew on shiny new cars, the time I wasted sitting on a bar stool, and the relationships I trashed in pursuit of good times.  Forty years ago I had the rest of my life to create a retirement stash, to find that perfect profession, and to settle down with a compatible mate.  So much for dreaming the dream because that’s all it was.  Just a pipe dream with no foundation.

Through the grace of sustained sobriety I have reconciled all of that and no longer beat myself up over missed opportunities.  Hopefully, I have gained a wealth of wisdom and acceptance in building a foundation.  But, the fact remains that these “golden years” are a day-to-day struggle and a challenge to survive on minimal financial resources.

Thank God the spiritual resources have kicked in to give me unbounding faith in God’s goodness and provision.  In retrospect I know for a fact that every one of my needs has always been fulfilled and most of my wants have also.  But, this old man standing by the sea of life watching the trappings of affluence and properity pass by is a daily reminder that somehow I have missed the worldly boat.  That gives me a choice: 1) I can stand on the dock patiently waiting for my ship to come in or, 2) I can grab the oars and start rowing my own boat.  Very simple solution, don’t you think?

And I don’t have to do this by myself.  Spiritual blessings are built on a recovery fellowship, on the concept of giving and receiving, and on the readings of ancient scriptures.  In the wisdom of the Tao Te Ching:

“The Tao is like a well:  used but never used up……empty yet infinitely capable.  The more you use it, the more it produces.”

In Christian scripture Jesus said in Matthew 6:

“Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them……take no thought saying, What shall we eat?  or what shall we drink? or wherewithal shall we be clothed?…For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things….

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  

The earthly paths of Jesus and the Buddha exemplify the kingdom and teach me the righteousness to seek.  That righteousness is not a moral discipline; rather, it is a way of living which honors and upholds the rights of all  creation.  Both the “Path” of the Buddha and the “Way” of Jesus trust in the mercy and goodness of humanity to meet the physical needs of their temples.  They depended on the promises of a Sovereign Being to feed them spiritually and lead them to a resurrected life in the realm of the Spirit.  They taught me that when the demands of self-awareness are subjugated to the promises of a higher power, the needs of this world become faint in comparison to the provisions afforded by faith and trust in the surrounding and indwelling Light.  I am, after all, a spirit housed in a temporal body.  This flesh which I carry is but a fleeting moment in the universal consciousness of eternal spirit.  I no longer chase after the lies of the “golden years” but, instead seek the golden nuggets of ancient wisdom and truth.

Oprah

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”

namaste rainbowWhat thoughts come to your mind upon hearing “Oprah Winfrey”?

Class, grace, soul, empathy, justice, survivor, wealth, power, elegance, intelligence, creativity, renaissance?

Recently when visiting with Ellen, her response regarding a character-diminishing tweet from a political figure resulted in a mere shoulder shrug.  The world understood what she was saying and with that simple body language, Oprah positioned herself above the callous, uncivil, and immature tweet passing itself as political/social discourse.  She trumped her detractor with grace, elegance and non-engagement.

She has been quoted to say, “I try not to give power to negativity.”

In these tumultuous times, I need to heed Oprah’s wisdom.  I am the first one to jump feet first into a political foray.  That usually results in heated conversation which resolves nothing more than declaring them the “idiots” and me the “thinker”.  My mind wins the argument every time.  But, that victory comes with a price tag.  With each successive news story capturing my attention, the need to respond becomes an involuntary commitment to always be in “combat” mode.  It’s not a healthy mental nor physical condition to carry through out the day’s activity.  It colors every potential peaceful moment with anger and disgust.  I am giving power to all the world’s negativity even though I know this is not my God’s intention for my life.

The Buddhist tradition reminds us to find the quiet spaces within, to freely allow thoughts, positive and negative, to flow effortlessly into and out of our minds.  Do not resist any but, also,  do not dwell on any.  That is the power within which shapes our seconds, minutes, hours, days in this path called life.  It is my choice to surrender that power to negativity or goodness.

Certainly this does not dismiss us from the responsibilities of social justice for all mankind.  I have not been called to retreat to hillside caves on a Greek island, baking bread for the brothers and chanting verses throughout the day, although this is often an extremely beckoning option.  I know who I am today, I know what political action I will support, I know what my vote will be in upcoming elections, but learning to embrace Oprah’s advice will allow me to be “who I am” in a peaceful, self-empowering, soul-nurturing walk through life.

 

Jesus & Buddha

I have this recurring thought of a meeting and conversation between Jesus and Buddha, both of whom are verifiable historical figures, in which, after offering solutions to the world’s suffering, Jesus bows to Buddha and says, “The Lord be with you.”  Buddha replies, “Namaste, I bow to the divine in you.”

Wow! How different would our world be today if the major religions could take it upon themselves to honor and respect each other’s faith walk? Not only could we honor and respect, but we could also embrace each other as co-inheritors of the grace and mercy ofrainbow-solidarity our respective Lords.  All of us are children of God who have received different messengers throughout history to teach the truth of one universal entity which we, as Christians, choose to name God.

That, in essence, is the teaching of Jesus which I believe exhorts me to live life inclusively and compassionately.  Man’s created theology is secondary to this nugget of truth revealed by the author of Mark.

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

A few scholars of religion have tried to connect the two, Jesus and Buddha, through historical access.  Jesus, in his lifetime, could have easily heard the teachings of Buddha from merchants and Buddhist priests who undoubtedly travelled the trade routes between Israel and the Far East.  It’s an interesting theory which would add a dimension of mystery to the story of Jesus; however, it is not a necessary component to verifying the validity of our messenger.

Marcus Borg in his book “Jesus and Buddha: the Parallel Sayings” attributes the similarity in sayings to the probability that both mystics were inspired by an indwelling Spirit of holiness which enabled them to recognize the unitive presence of a Oneness, a universal energy which transcended human understanding and religious distinctions.  Following is an excerpt from that book:

Jesus says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). The Buddha says, “Consider others as yourself” (Dhammapada 10.1).

Jesus says, “If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also” (Luke 6:29). Buddha says, “If anyone should give you a blow with his hand, with a stick, or CANDLEwith a knife, you should abandon any desires [to hurt him] and utter no evil words” (Majjhima Nikaya 21.6).

Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me” (Matthew 25:45).  Buddha says, “If you do not tend one another, then who is there to tend you? Whoever would tend me, he should tend the sick” (Vinaya, Mahavagga 8.26.3).

The Jewish Kabbalah, Muslim Sufism and the teachings of Tao also reveal this Oneness, the unitive energy of God within.  Contemporary Christianity seems to have become exceedingly concerned with establishing its Jesus story as the only truth to the point that it has lost the Jesus teachings which reveal lessons of detachment, non-violence, simplicity, and anxiety. CAC.ORG

Namaste.

namaste rainbow