Saturday, August 22, 2015

Listening With My Heart

The other day I suddenly became aware of silence – and how loud silence really can be!
Both in the morning and evening I generally spend time on one of our decks just sitting and being still. In the morning it is partly to help me wake up. I have always, from boyhood, had a difficult time falling asleep and a hard time waking up. So, I have my coffee and pipe and sit outside to gently awaken and listen to the silence. In the early evening I love to, once again, sit outside and enjoy the coming dusk, the cooling off, the sounds of silence, and perhaps read a chapter or two of a novel. 
However, several days ago, as I was outside relishing the quiet, I really noticed how “loud” the natural quiet truly is. As I realized this I also became aware that I had been defining “quiet” as the absence of the sounds of humanity: Loud trucks, auto mufflers, hammering, chain saws, lawn mowers, or boisterous voices from neighboring cocktail parties. As I listened to the “quiet” of the forest, which is our backyard, it was raucous with crickets, tree frogs, birds of all varieties, squirrels and other anonymous critters rustling through the underbrush, deer, rabbits, or raccoons.
The quiet of nature is very loud.
It is the sound of life.
Somehow my mind is able to relax and interpret these sounds of life as “quiet.” I believe it is some form of primeval understanding that nature’s life and mine are one. It is bone deep. It is visceral. It is intuitive.
It is a different kind of understanding from the sounds of my life and the sounds of humanity.
As I relax and enjoy the “quiet” of the sounds of nature, I am really enjoying the unity I feel being a part of my environment – rather than as a user or conqueror of my environment. I also believe this was a dormant thought that had been triggered after watching a show on LinkTV, which I support. The show is called “Global Spirit” and is produced by CEM Productions. The promo describes the show: “GLOBAL SPIRIT is a unique inquiry into humankind’s belief systems, wisdom traditions, and states of consciousness. Presented by British actor and writer John Cleese and hosted by author and spiritual seeker Phil Cousineau, this unique, critically-acclaimed series features renowned experts such as Deepak Chopra, Karen Armstrong, Robert Thurman, Riane Eisler, and many others. Mixing evocative film segments with deep discussion, Global Spirit takes viewers on a mind and soul-expanding journey, exploring the relationships between ancient wisdom traditions, diverse belief systems, world religions, metaphysics and modern science.”
Cleese calls the show The First Internal Travel Series and warns you that taking this trip just might change your life. The most recent episode was entitled “The Shaman, The Spirit Healer and the Earth.” It aired last Sunday (8/16).  The guests were “Uncle” Angaangaq, an Eskimo-Kalaalit shaman, healer, and carrier of the Qilaut drum and Flordemayo, a curandera espirtu, or traditional healer, who was born in Nicaragua and has Mayan ancestors.
During this episode, “Uncle” Angaangaq referred to the longest most complicated journey a person can take is the trip between the head and the heart. A wonderful sentiment.
I believe I’m listening to the sounds of nature’s silence with my heart. I listen to the sounds of humanity with my head. Listening with my heart makes all the difference.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
Don
#4 Aug 2015
Copyright 2015

PS: [If you are interested in checking this out, go to   http://www.cemproductions.org/globalspirit/   and click on “Programs.”]

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Talking or Listening – Praying or Meditating

Step Eleven of the Program of Alcoholics Anonymous states: “[We] Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”
Michael Z, who publishes a weekly message entitled “Wisdom of the Rooms” [www.thewisdomoftherooms.com], discussed Step 11. "For a long time I wondered what the difference between prayer and meditation was, and then I heard this quote. [Prayer is talking to God; Meditation is listening for His answer.] While it immediately made sense, there were important distinctions I soon had to learn. In the beginning my prayers were all about what I wanted to see happen for me and other people. I was busy telling God what to do. "Please let me get that job"; "Help my friend get better"; "Don't let me lose it/her/that." It took me many years to realize that God's will for my life and others far exceeded my limited vision and best intentions.
‘After years of developing faith through experience, I finally saw the wisdom in the second part of step 11: "… praying only for the knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out." That knowledge is the answer I listen for in meditation, and my faith today comes from the understanding that God's will is always the best for myself and others. And what a load off my shoulders that is.
“Today I sincerely pray for the knowledge of God's will, and I listen for the best ways to carry that out.”
Even with all my seminary training, I, too, had much the same difficulty when dealing with the eleventh step. My prayers were also about wanting God to do what I wanted – “Please let me …; Help my friend …; Don't let me lose …. Oh! and by the way, I’ll abide with whatever You decide.”
There was a fellow in the Program who used to proudly announce that God had answered every one of his prayers – every one! “Of course,” he went on, “99.9% of His answers were ‘No.’” We all would laugh, but how absolutely correct he was!
I’ve heard fundamentalists decry the use of meditation because it violates some spiritual rule that would offend God. It’s evil, satanic, or the devil in sheep’s clothing they would say. I’ve heard them say the same thing about Yoga. Fear. That’s all it is. A fundamental faith based on fear, yet fear is the opposite of Faith.
A Course in Miracles (ACIM) deals with this issue by making it very clear that what we need to do is very, very little. It is basically just to be willing to see things differently – to see with the Holy Spirit’s vision rather than with our physical egoic eyes. The physical eyes are designed only to “see” the 3-D world of our own perception. They cannot “see” the True Spiritual Reality of the Love of God, which is all there is!
To see with the Holy Spirit’s eyes is not to “see” at all. It is to have vision. We just have to have the willingness to want that. That’s all, folks – as Porky Pig used to say at the end of one of his cartoons.
That’s also all that is needed to learn to meditate in order to hear the voice of God for you. Many people desire to meditate and end up doing a form of contemplation. They read a verse of scripture or some other inspiring thought and then focus on that for a bit. That is contemplation. It has its place and can be very helpful. But it’s not meditation.
Others believe that meditation is totally emptying your mind of all thoughts. Perhaps experienced Hindu gurus can accomplish this. I can’t and never have been able to. When I try, all I am focusing on is how busy my mind really is. I end up fighting with myself trying to not think of the many voices I hear. I used to try to say to myself as I meditated, “Thank you for sharing” every time a stray thought came to my attention. At the end of the 30-minutes, I realized all I was doing was repeating “Thank you for sharing,” “Thank you for sharing,” “Thank you for sharing,” “Thank you for sharing.” Needless to say, I did not feel rejuvenated or rested or calm or peaceful after a meditation like this.
Willingness. Willingness to see things differently. Willingness to see with God’s vision. Willingness to hear what God has to say. For that to happened I need to simply be quiet and listen for His whispers. As I’ve said before in these messages, it is like learning to distinguish my children’s cries – understanding a cry of pain from a cry of anger from a cry of boredom/frustration or from a cry of illness. I don’t know how I did it but I did. I can listen to a special song I like, even though I’m in a crowded room with many voices. I can sort of hear the people (at least enough to be polite) while I’m really tuned in to the music I want to hear – the 2nd movement of Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto, for example – that’s playing in the background.
We are all very mentally lazy and we need to train our minds more. We need to be able to listen for the still, small whispers of God. If it’s a “loud” voice I hear, I know it’s of my ego. It’s Felix. And Felix can speak with many voices all at once. They are all loud. Spirit’s voice never is.
AA old-timers define the difference between prayer and meditation: Prayer is talking to God; Meditation is listening for His answer.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
Don
#3 Aug 2015
Copyright 2015

Monday, August 10, 2015

Growing Love or Growing Fear

At my last AA meeting I shared about my experience with one of the promises of this effective 12-Step program – namely that I would come to trust the intuitive understanding of how to handle situations that used to baffle me. About the time I had nine or so months of sobriety I had begun to deal with the Fourth Step: “… a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
As I progressed in composing and completing my moral inventory, I began to realize – as most do – that in situations where I had been hurt, angered, or filled with resentments that there were parts of that for which I was responsible. In any situation that upsets me I have contributed something and I have to ferret that out.
This process of doing a moral inventory reminds me a lot of Maritime Law. When two ships collide both captains are held responsible – even if the “split” is 98% to 2%. The maritime rules for avoiding a collision list 8-10 steps, to be done in order, that a captain is to progress through to swerve or alter course to avoid an accident. However, the very last rule states: “If all the above has failed in the avoidance of an impending collision, abandon ALL THESE STEPS and DO WHATEVER YOU NEED TO DO TO AVOID THIS ACCIDENT.” Since, of course, an accident occurred, both captains are held responsible.
Now, when I am resentful or upset, I look for my part in the situation, rather than keeping my focus on how much I’ve been hurt, or angered, or upset. In some way I have contributed to the whole mess I am in. By concentrating on my contribution to the chaos, anger, resentment, or confusion, I am not paying any attention to the other people (and my perceived judgment of what they did or didn’t do or say). By focusing on me I am learning about me. I am learning how to deal with me. I am learning that the problem with my perception of the world is me. Not you. Not the Republicans. Not ISIS/ISIL. Not the housing market. Not the bankers. Me!
When I have done that, more often than not, the situation has melted away. I have not stuck my nose into other’s business because I have been focused on myself. I have not stirred up the hornet’s nest because I was dealing with my own expanding self-knowledge and my growth.
Where, then, did the situation go? What happened? By doing nothing relative to the situation I had perceived, the emotional reactions I had been having (or the emotional involvement I was invested with) simply had gone away.
I began to realize that one of the promises had occurred: “…We will intuitively know how to handle situations, which used to baffle us….” When I don’t know what to do, I generally do nothing about the situation because I’m focused on discovering the source of my emotional reaction. If I feel I’m supposed to do something, I deal with those feelings in me rather than trying to do the something I had thought was required. By the time I have “figured out” what was really going on within me, the situation has melted away.
It seems to be always about my thoughts and/or my emotional investment. Inevitably, I end up by remembering statements in A Course in Miracles (ACIM) that distill the issue: In the final analysis, every thought I think is either contributing to growing Love or it is contributing to growing Fear.
If I am growing Love, I will see Love and I will feel Peace. Why would I want to do anything else?
Why would you?
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.

Don
#2 Aug 2015

Copyright 2015

Friday, July 31, 2015

Living Peacefully In The Midst Of Chaos

From ACIM’s Workbook for Students, Chapter 21, Reason and Perception: Section II. The Responsibility for Sight
1 “We have repeated how little is asked of you to learn this course. It is the same small willingness you need to have your whole relationship transformed to joy; the little gift you offer to the Holy Spirit for which He gives you everything; the very little on which salvation rests; …. And being true, it is so simple that it cannot fail to be completely understood. Rejected yes, but not ambiguous. And if you choose against it now it will not be because it is obscure, but rather that this little cost seemed, in your judgment, to be too much to pay for peace.
2 “This is the only thing that you need do for vision, happiness, release from pain and the complete escape from sin, all to be given you. Say only this, but mean it with no reservations, for here the power of salvation lies:
“I am responsible for what I see.
I choose the feelings I experience, and
I decide upon the goal I would achieve.
And everything that seems to happen to me
I ask for, and receive as I have asked.”

My first reaction when I read a statement like this is to think: “Donnie, when you were in Saint Augustine, you invested with a reputable friend who turned out to be a mini-Madoff and you lost almost $100K.” I want to say, “I didn’t choose to lose this money. I didn’t opt to be ripped off. How dare you insinuate I asked for this and I got it?
When I think in the realm of form, attachment, or outcome I am focused on my material 3-D world as perceived by my physical human body, which is separate from your physical human body. That is the reality my body’s eyes perceive. And, yes, awful things can and do happen in this world of mine. From that perspective of mistaking biological sight for vision and mistaking the lack of upsetting outside forces for personal peace and serenity, these kinds of statements make little sense to me.
What I am learning, however, is that these statements are not focused on the material, 3-D world of my perception. They are not focused on my attachments, my preferred outcomes, or my perceived world of form. They are focused on the inner world of my True Self: the true world of the reality of Spirit, of Love, of Peace.
However, while my True Self is here and connected to my physical human body, I have to function on this planet. I have to drive on the correct side of the road. I have to pay bills. I have to walk my little 10-pound, vicious, man-eating poodle-mix. I have to maintain my lawn equipment, and I have to be an educated voter. Sometimes, doing what I have to do as a human being, I believe things do not go well for me. Sometimes they do.  But that is not peace, joy, happiness, or love.
What I’m learning is that all I need to do is be absolutely willing to allow the Holy Spirit to provide me with another way of looking at people, events or situations. I simply need to be really willing. That’s all that’s asked of me.
What I learn in Alcoholics Anonymous is not how to rid myself from having “bad” things happen to me. It teaches me, instead, that when crap happens, I don’t need to drink over it. A Course in Miracles is not trying to educate me in the “ways of my 3-D world.” It does teach me that to apply spiritual rules to my perceived 3-D world isn’t where I’ll find peace and serenity. I need to apply spiritual rules to my inner world of my True Self. There, I can find peace in the midst of chaos. I can find peace and serenity in the midst of upsets, setbacks, hostility, and fear. Within that state of peace and serenity I can offer love and forgiveness. And when I offer love and forgiveness to you I find it for me.
I don’t need to change the world. I need to change how I perceive the world. I don’t need to change me. I need to be willing to see you differently, which will change me.
In my last message (Msg-3-Jul-2015; I Do Not Like To Be Reminded Of Me) I stated: When I think of the Christ in you or think to myself, as the ancient Mayans did in their greeting to each other “In Lak’ech” or “I am another you,” I am opening the door to being One with you. In that state of mind I cannot hide from myself, because as I see you I am seeing me.  There is where I find peace.
There is also where I experience the Love that passes all understanding.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.

Don
#1 Aug 2015

Copyright 2015

Thursday, July 16, 2015

I Do Not Like To Be Reminded Of Me

I will not be sending a message for a couple of weeks because I’ll be out of pocket. I’ll be talking with you again in August.
However, I was reminded last week at an AA meeting of the truism, “If you spot it, you got it.” I loathed that saying for many, many years because it was so true for me. I would invariably meet someone I instinctively simply didn’t like. Why? What was it about them that so disturbed me? Why did virtually everything they had to say just grate on my nerves? Why did their every mannerism just make me close my eyes and wince?
I would wrestle with that for a couple of weeks and, eventually, discuss it with my sponsor. He always would tell me one of two things: “There is something about that person that reminds you of you – but has been hidden from you by you because you don’t want to deal with whatever that issue is.” OrDonnie, if you spot it, you got it.” I would cringe every time I heard him say either of those things.
But they were always true for me!
The issue wasn’t the person, or what they had to say, or their mannerisms. The issue was … me. A course in Miracles (ACIM) discusses the same thing using a little more sophisticated language. All the meaning I place on things, events or people is simply a function of my perception – and my perception is simply a reflection of my inner egoic mind. So, according to ACIM, if I’m disturbed by what I perceive, I can correct the error simply by changing my mind.
From the Introduction (paragraph one) to Chapter 21 in the ACIM Text:  Projection makes perception. The world you see is what you gave it, nothing more than that. But though it is no more than that, it is not less. Therefore, to you it is important. It is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition. As a man thinketh, so does he perceive. Therefore, seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world. Perception is a result and not a cause [it is the projection of my inward condition] .”
Believing in our separateness and in our projected perceptions is the error (not “sin”) ACIM states we make. When I decide to make another choice I have another opportunity to truly connect with you, which transforms me.
At issue I think is that my egoic mind (Felix) wants me to believe in my separateness or to believe in myself as my body. ACIM wants me to understand I am an already-loved eternal spirit at one with all humanity; I am not a body nor am I my thoughts.
Tastes of this reality have come to me through my involvement in AA.
In an AA meeting, people begin sharing by saying, “My name is _______. I’m an alcoholic.” It’s a great leveler – a uniter rather than a divider – a unifier rather than a separator. That sense of acceptance and belonging in AA has transformed my life. It has provided me with glimpses of ACIM’s description of a “Holy Instant” – times when a sense of Oneness has transformed my perception of all that matters.
When I think of the Christ in you or think to myself, as the ancient Mayans did in their greeting to each other “In Lak’ech” or “I am another you,” I am opening the door to being One with you. In that state of mind I cannot hide from myself, because as I see you I am seeing me.  There is where I find peace.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.

Don
#3 Jul 2015

Copyright 2015