Wednesday, June 24, 2009

There but for the grace of God go I

Last Sunday, I took my grandson to the swimming pool at the Jewish Community Center. This exercise is most likely going to continue because the grandson's mother continues to deteriorate in health and she has less energy each day. The grandson is autistic. All of the off-shoot manifestations of autism will drain a caretaker very rapidly. That's two different stories apart from this one, however.

At the pool, the grandson is reasonably safe. He loves the water, and he swims with the best. He keeps focused on the diving boards, and his risk for injury is amazingly low, considering how well behaved he is, and disciplined he is in that environment. That is a credit to his mother, who generally does not let his syndrome of autism related disorders become a handicap.

Since he is relatively safe in that environment, I allowed myself to read a book and try some exercises in expanding my ability to love. I watched people. As I focused on a person, I'd make note of my first reaction to that person. Then I would examine that thought or thoughts. Why did I feel that way? I quickly realized two things: I am a very judgmental person. I have many more prejudices based on physical appearances than I ever imagined. It could have been a very discouraging exercise, EXCEPT I went on to correct my thinking anytime I reacted negatively to a person for whatever reason. Here is the process I thought through:

Whatever I think of this person, remember that he/she has been formed by the many events in life and his personality traits. His life experience has brought him as many blessings and pains as life has brought me. Whatever he is, I would be no different if I were in his shoes.
It is true, whatever I hate in this person, I hate in myself. I see that same quality in myself, that I hate in him. Where is it that I can sit in judgment?

This person wants what I want. He wants a comfortable life. He wants to be loved. He wants to love some one. He wants good health. He wants to secure the future for his family. He wants to feel secure now. We have all misunderstood how to achieve those things, and we have all made errors that hurt others.

Life changes continuously. Nothing remains stagnant. Even if you are my enemy now, perhaps in the past or in the future, you were my friend, or you will be my friend.

I send blessing to you. I give you peace. And what ever it is that has made me judge you, I bind, I bless, I and I send it into the Divine Light so that it my return as blessing to you.

Oh, maybe you are impressed that I have thought of this exercise. Well, relax. I learned this from the book I am reading, How to Expand Love: Widening the Circle of Loving Relationships by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This book is packed with useful meditations that will help you to restructure your thinking to expand your ability to love others.

Remember my definition of love: total unconditional acceptance.
That is the love of God.

I came to another very important conclusion;
the same conclusion I have come to many times before.
You have to love yourself first. Since you hate in others what you hate in yourself, you have to love yourself before you can love others.

That doesn't mean you can live without conscience.
It does mean that you have to accept your failures,
your weaknesses,
do what you can to correct them,
and move on without looking back.
The key to not looking back is to LEARN,
and then move on.
Let your failures and weaknesses serve to evoke compassion for those that suffer the same failures and weaknesses.
You know the struggle,
you know the pain,
and you have the basis for compassion, a building-block for loving others.

Be Peace. Be Love

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Different Paths, Different Journeys

I have always wanted to travel out of the body. Some people call it astral projection. That is, my spirit wants to leave the body and explore. It's not so much for the sake of travel, but I want to learn more about who I am.

Common to many of the out of body travelers is that it starts with a strange and very frightening loud vibration and a sinking feeling where you actually feel like you are dying. I have experienced that state many, many times, and I always try to brave it out and see it to the end. It's like playing chicken and I turned off at the last minute. I've never made it into the astral plane, at least, not that I am aware.

Tonight I have been listening to an interview with one of those astral travelers, Marilyn Hughes. Her perspective is unique in a number of ways that many other travelers do not share. One of them is that she feels that if one is a traveler, he/she does become exposed to situations that can result in spiritual injury. The biggest danger, she feels, that if you are not protected , you may pick up spiritual hitchhikers, or “demonic attachments” that will cause you grief. Other well known astral travelers (Robert Monroe, William Buhlman) mention the lower realms, and that the spirits in these realms may try to attack, but that you always have control and that you have no reason to fear their attacks.

Well, I have been trying to do OBE's for at least five years, unsuccessfully. Now that I know the entry signs for OBE's I have not had them, EXCEPT, lately, on two occasions, I have felt the vibrations coming on, and my dog, Maisie (Tibetan Terrier), immediately jumped on top of me as if she did not want me to get up. Of course, her body on top of me immediately interrupts the process. That leads me to believe that my spirit guides do not want me to travel in the astral planes for some reason.

Marilyn Hughes talked about that and has given me an answer that my intuition seems to have been hinting at. She says that we are allowed to take paths as planned by God. She says that in one of her travels, she went into pure white light where she learned that all of the “good works” she had performed in her life were selfishly motivated. You know what? I learned that about myself in a series of meditations. It is very humbling, and I am thankful that that information has been revealed to me. Perhaps, my psyche is such that if I were able to astral project, I would suffer a higher degree of pride, rather than humility. Perhaps, that pride is such that it would open me to the attacks from the spirits of the lower realms. I don't know the reasons for the restrictions on my astral travels, but my intuition tells me that I am on the right path as designed for me. I am thankful for that. Not only am I thankful, but I have a new found respect for the spiritual level of those that are privileged to travel the astral planes. It is my hope that someday, I will have the spiritual maturity to do the same.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Death: The Servant Of The Most High God

Have you ever had a strange, but very profound dream? One that actually has had an impact on your life outlook? Actually, one should consider all dreams in that manner. According to Rodger Kamenetz, every dream you have is your subconscious trying to alert you, or reveal something to you that you need to know and take to heart. Take a look at his book, The History of Last Night's Dream. Mr. Kamenetz has a very easy going, easy to understand writing style that will keep you glued to the book.

OK, here's a dream for you to ponder. I had it when I was about 17 years old, shortly after I had converted to Roman Catholicism.

The scene was a picnic event in a park near a swollen river. My sister wandered too close to the river and fell in, quickly disappearing as the rapidly moving water pulled her under and away. My mother quickly responded by wading into the river until the current grabbed her. The last I saw of her was her head still above the water, disappeared under tree branches hanging into the water near a bend in the river. I jumped in and for some reason was able to keep my head above water, but my body was completely at the mercy of the currents.

Suddenly, I felt a slimy, cold hand grab my ankle, then my leg, and then, suddenly, cold slimy hands on each shoulder, and staring me in the face was a woman in a deep purple, hooded wet robe with slimy algae dangling from her shoulders and tangled in her long coal black hair. Her eyes were cold deep purple; her face, pail white with skin peeling off from the rot of death. Her continence cold as steel.

At first I was horrified, but suddenly realized there is nothing I face that does not have the hand and the approval of God in it. I spoke with a new found boldness. “Lady Death, you are but a servant of the Most High God. I do not fear you. If the Lord has sent you to take me to Him, then let's go.”

A smile grew on the lady's continence and suddenly the oozing dead flesh on her hands and face turned to healthy pink flesh, her eyes sparkled with loving delight, her face shined; the slimy moss on her robe disappeared and she arose fully out of the water, with the robe dry and flowing in the wind. She gently and lovingly pulled me out of the water and spoke softly, “Come, then. The Lord calls.”

The dream ended there.

Since that dream, I am fully convinced that Death is nothing to fear.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Strawberry Fields

Today, someone mentioned to me something about a “normal fantasy.” My immediate thought was, “Fantasy—unreality; how can something unreal be “normal?” Then I think back to several weeks ago,when I sat in a class on gnosticism. The teacher told us that we were not really in the classroom. We were in an illusion. I felt like standing up and saying, “Excuse me, if I'm not here, then I have to go find myself. Heck, for all I know, I might be missing out on some fun I'm having somewhere.”

The Buddhists and Kaballists say that we are living in an illusion, as well. An Illusion. Not a fantasy. There is a difference. Well, maybe. Maybe the difference is that we seem to experience an illusion, where a fantasy is something we conjure in our minds but do not experience in our physical manifestation, which is an illusion. So we fantasize while we are are in an illusion, to escape the illusion for whatever reason. Am I making sense? Probably not!

Have you ever listened to the refrain in the Beatles' song, “Strawberry Fields?”

“Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to strawberry fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.
Strawberry fields forever.”

Did you catch that? “Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.” See? Doesn't that just prove it to you? Life is an illusion. Nothing to get upset about. Just let it happen, will you!

“How can this be?” you ask. Well, try this on for size. There are people that are called “astro-travelers.” Many of them claim that they travel in many universes many times through astral-projection. In their travels they find other “realities” where the spirits have agreed to certain conventions and rules by which all live and interpret their environment. Since all have agreed to those “Terms of Service” there is no question of what is “real.” In other words, if all agree that all residents look like lizards, then when they look upon one another, they see lizards.

By extension, in this dimension we call “life,” we have all agreed to a complex“Terms of Service” wherein this Earth we live upon is what we agreed it is. We have seven continents, and we have agreed they are located on an elliptical sphere, the third rock revolving around a solar furnace we call the Sun; and there are many islands, ice caps, etc.; our atmosphere is such and such and degrades as we pollute it. We are just pretty damned smart, don't you think? I don't remember reading the TOS, though, and somehow, it all seems so real, and almost everyone I have met seems to agree on what I have seen.

Is that possible? I'm just a tiger. Don't ask me. I can only tell you what I think I have experienced, and most people are able to relate to my experience because they have experienced “life” in much the same way. I have no REAL idea how I/we came to be. I have suspicions, but nothing more, and nothing about which I am willing to debate.

Like most Buddhists, I do accept that the dimension in which I think I live is temporary—it will pass away into oblivion. I do accept that we as spirits are here to learn and to grow to maturity so that we won't have come here time and time again as we do now. What we experience will end. We have to keep that in mind, otherwise, we may despair in our many failures and give up on growing to maturity. And we have to understand karma, and know that what goes around, comes around. We will reap what we sow, but eventually, we will “arrive” and fail no more. In this life, it doesn't matter what conditions we endure, they are all very real and those around us endure them as well. What matters in the end is that we learned to help one another; to love one another.

Have you ever heard of Raymond Kurzweil? Ray Kurzweil is an inventor—much, much more actually. To his credit are many inventions to include music and voice synthesizers, optical readers, and voice to print converters and print to voice converters. He is a futurist and has promoted many ideas in theoretical physics. Read the wiki on him to get a flavor of the man.

Now, consider all I have said and ask yourself, what would our illusion be like if Ray Kurzweil were not a “dreamer”, a “visionary”, a “fantasizer” living with us in this illusion of ours.

I'm just a tiger. Go figure!

Hey! If you are in for a great mind bender, read The Spiritual Universe by Fred Alan Wolfe. I'm working through it now. I'll probably have something to say as I untangle the convolutions swirling in my cranial cavity.

Monday, June 8, 2009

In Awe

Many years ago, I saw an ad on a local television station for a local radio station. The speaker was a local professional clown. He said something like, “KX... doesn't suck as bad as other radio stations.” There was an obvious pause, then, “OK, now where's my damned money?”

I naturally laughed about the total insincerity of the speaker, of course, but it inspired more thinking. I was brought up with the traditional understanding of the “Judgment Day” where a stern God demands an accounting for one's life. The subject trembles before God and stumbles and stutters trying to justify his existence, and is finally condemned to hell for eternity.

Then I see myself standing before God, and God demands, “Why should I let you into my heaven?” I don't hesitate. I speak with confidence, “I don't suck as bad as the other guy.” God's lips curl with both amusement and consternation; His finger rises and points precisely at me, then a bolt of lightening renders me into a pile of smoldering ash; He nonchalantly blows the smoke from the end of His finger as a gratified smile slowly returns to His face.

I often tell my Jewish and Christian friends that my biblical hero is King David. King David was by any definition literally a royal screw-up. He was wrought with human ambitions, human stupidity, and human frailty but, before his God, he stood humble and confident, not in his own accomplishments, but in the love and mercy of his God. The Bible says of King David that he was a man after God's own heart.

King David and I are kindred souls. Daily, I am subjected to my human frailty, and daily I account to myself for all of my failures for the day. And with honesty and confidence, I confess them to my loving and merciful God. I have an expectation and confidence, not in myself, but in His unconditional acceptance, His love for me and His desire to nurture and mentor me to be the mature spirit He knows I can be. At the end of the day, and indeed, at the end of this life, I don't have to worry about whether or not I measure up to some standard. I don't have to worry at all—as long as I am ever mindful of the reality of my frailty, and the power of His transforming love. I know that someday, because of His love, I will look back at my many failures in my many lives and smile, then turn to my King, my Father, the Lover of my soul, and say “thank you.”

This evening, as I walked my two beautiful dogs, I thought about one of my biggest challenges. There is a certain irony in the words I chose, “biggest challenges.” I am about one hundred pounds over-weight. Being over-weight is not a simple issue of adjusting the amount you eat. The syndrome is very complex, and it is, for most of us, overwhelming. Jon Gabriel states it best: it is more like your body wants to be fat and it fights you at every quarter in any attempt to gain control over the weight. It almost retaliates with a vengeance if you somehow manage to lose a few pounds. I have been in the battle for twenty years, and I have gained still more weight.

I recently read Jon Gabriel's book, The Gabriel Method: The Revolutionary DIET-FREE Way to Totally Transform Your Body. It makes complete sense to me. I have started the program of re-programming my thinking about my body. So far, I'm not impressed with my progress; I'm still putting on the pounds. As I walked this evening, I bemoaned my disappointment to the Archangel Gabriel – Jon Gabriel's patron angel. Then that quiet, still voice within us all spoke clearly. “There is no magic. You will learn and grow through this challenge.” With that quiet voice came a rush of more information. This challenge is not in losing the weight, but in losing the ego that feeds the vicious syndrome that keeps the body fat. I almost cried; not with sadness, but with gratitude that my God loves me enough that He doesn't get rid of the symptoms; He goes to the source of the problem and He is determined to make me draw upon every gift He has imparted to bring this challenge to resolution.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Where in the world is Donald Shimoda

In my May 27 blog, I defined love, and then at the end I stated: “Love does not come to me naturally.”
My friends would argue that when I see suffering, I move immediately to relieve the suffering. What they don't see is that, I don't commiserate, I don't get into empathy. I don't usually feel anything. I just want to give relief. Is that love?

Actually, if it is love, I certainly don't regard it as such. To me, it is simply the right thing to do. If I am a witness to pain and I have the means to provide relief, it is my moral obligation to do so. I suppose some can argue that it is love, if not compassion, which is love in action. But, if you look at my definition of love, I said love is a total and unconditional acceptance of someone or something. In a situation where suffering calls for action, there is not a question of whether or not I “accept” the victim. Perhaps, it is implied but, not in my mind. Once I have fulfilled my moral obligation, I may never interact with the individual again.

On the other hand, perhaps I do actually “love” people, but I simply do not associate any feeling with it. Perhaps, deep down somewhere I experience compassion but it never surfaces to a conscious level. I simply do not know at this point.

I just completed reading Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach a few days ago. Yeah, I know. It's about time, right? Its a good read, witty, and thought provoking. As I finished it, I set it on my desk, and sat back thinking, “And organized religion simply continues to persecute and murder their 'messiahs'.” One line that stands out in my mind is when the Donald Shimoda (a messiah) informs Richard (messiah in training) that people don't give a rip about the wisdom or the message that a messiah brings. They just come to see the miracles. I tend to believe that is just too true based on my experience with organized religions. Everyone wants a show. Oh, well.

But I'm back to non-fiction. I am reading How to Expand Love by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It doesn't take long to run into little jewels of wisdom when reading anything by the Dalai Lama. Here it is:

This is my simple religion. No need for temples. No need for complicated philosophy. Your own mind, your own heart, is the temple; your philosophy is simple kindness. (Dalai Lama, How to Expand Love, page 6)

I am expecting this book to open some doors in my thinking and eventually bring on some heart changes.