Saturday, June 30, 2018
My favorite piece of Star Trek scripture is “resistance is futile.” It’s one of the many concepts in that series which align with spiritual teaching. Of course, in spiritual teaching the line isn’t accompanied with the destruction of a civilization as it is in Star Trek. Unless of course, you’re doing it wrong.
There’s a nuance to resistance which actually gives power to the very thing, idea or person you’re resisting. In sports, all good offense starts with knowing your opponent. We have to get inside their head. That’s where the single trail ends. Now it depends upon what you intend to be the goal of your offensive action. We presume it is to score, to win. So depending on your definition of the word ‘win’ in this instance you are looking for information that will destroy your opponent. You’re spending time contemplating their weakness. You pump yourself up with rivalry and statistics and cross your fingers they injure themselves. But this is poison to spiritual life practice.
If this was a metaphor, and it is, what offensive action are you taking relative to your goal? What are you doing to get what you want? Is your action giving power to your opponent or taking it away? Remember, resistance is futile. We can’t win at life by hoping someone else loses.
How much time are you spending in their head trying to figure them out? Trying to best them at their own game? If they don’t make sense to you, try asking. Change the game. Find your common ground and be hospitable and welcoming. Be nonresistant.
This is where our freedom comes in; our inherent free will. We are free to change the way we achieve our goals. If psychologist Carl Jung was correct in thinking that “what you resist not only persists, but will grow in size,” what is our best response to the political and religious atmosphere we find ourselves in?
Of course I’m coming from a liberal, progressive stance, but the same is true for literally every side of every issue. Conservative, liberal, libertarian, even extremist. How much resistance—how much literal energy—are you giving to what you’re hoping will go away? Because, paradoxically, it only makes it stronger. Any old science fiction movie will tell you that. Some monsters grow bigger when you fire at them.
I don’t go to rallies which are against something. I don’t go to protests. It’s difficult to admit that, actually. Especially in this age where protest seems to be a regular occurrence, even a societal need. We are trained to resist what we don’t like. But I take my cues from Mother Teresa of Calcutta on that issue. She famously said, “I will never attend an anti-war rally; if you have a peace rally, invite me.” She got it.
I am for community. I am pro-living. I pray for better healthcare, better education and better government. I am just like my neighbor.
When something is wrong, we need to fix it. But how we go about fixing it is what determines the new experience. This is where the sports metaphor ends. Because in sports we are not there to share our victory with our opponent. But in society, we should be. Yet we insist on applying the metaphor anyway. And it’s destroying our civilization because resistance is futile.
I understand we feel angry, scared and lost when we look at the state of our world. No matter what side of the issues you’re on, chances are, you’re not thrilled. How much of your daily time do you spend trying to prevent something? Sure, you may be trying to get rid of ants in your home, and that’s understandable. But I’m talking about being resistant to ants existing on the planet.
Don’t poison yourself with resistance. Turn the other cheek. Look in a different direction. Look toward the reality you want, not the thing which is preventing it. Take the wind out of their sails by not blowing into them anymore.
Our natural freedom is virtually limitless. Our individual power is vast. Celebrate independence. Celebrate democracy. Celebrate freedom. Make the dark places light. The light knows how to create balance, how to validate experience, how to soften hearts, how to make wrongdoing accountable. Give it the space and freedom to operate by letting go of resistance as a platform for achievement. Dismantle systems of resistance that infuse our political system and prevent collaboration.Life isn’t a sports game, though some will be disappointed to find that out. It is a harbor. If we want any of the boats to go up, we must use our collective freedom to increase the level of the water and raise them all.
Saturday, June 23, 2018
Thank you for your selfishness. It’s not a bad thing, really. In fact, that, more than any other reason, is what perpetuates both a species as well as a fully-realized, peaceful civilization. But we must examine what selfishness really is to understand why.
The word selfish has dubious origins. It was coined by a cranky archbishop in 1640 for his own use to describe, in the most disreputable terms, the events of his day. To him there was no word sufficiently hostile to describe the unworthiness of human nature as he witnessed it. So he created one.
It’s interesting, actually, that he formed a pejorative of the concept of self in the process. He literally made ‘self’ a 4-letter word. He was declaring that the ideas of self-awareness, self-orientation and self-direction are heretical. The gift of free will was apparently not a consideration.
Why did he twist the word ‘self’ in this way? In the Bible, for instance, neither the word ‘selfish’ nor ‘self’ meaning body and mind together, appears at all except in much later translations. Neither ancient Hebrew nor Greek had words for it. The original texts use words that mean physical form, not our mind or our eternal nature. The outrageous indignity of a glittering soul occupying the same space as a vile and lustful human body apparently compelled him to craft a word meant to instill shame over the vessel.
Today we are left with the word. Selfish. If we overlook the archbishop’s intentions, we can recycle the word for the purpose of a new understanding. The root structure and suffix, self + ish, suggests something altogether different than the intended meaning. Not something done necessarily at the expense of others. Something done with an awareness of self. To break apart the word selfish we find the word does not exclude anyone. It merely includes the self.
That’s the key, really. Because it awakens us to something which was always there and natural to us, unnaturally sublimated by judgement. Something we really can’t avoid no matter how hard we try: Ourselves. Our views. Our opinions. Our needs. Our pain. There is no extracting the self from our considerations, including those we make for others. Every decision we make is based entirely through the lens of how it will make us feel. We care for our children because we love them. How we feel is the first consideration.
That’s sounds rather selfish, in the conventional understanding of the word. But it’s an acknowledgement of what we already do and suggests a forgiveness is in order. A forgiveness of the self for daring to acknowledge that we are the center of our own universe. A forgiveness of the archbishop, too.
This is a freedom, selfishness. Because once you recognize that you are a part of the interdependent web of all existence, you cannot unknow it. You understand how your choices impact others and how that impact comes back to you. You see how stealing raises the prices for everyone, including you. How cheating makes the game a lie for everyone. You see how charity benefits others, including you. You see how educating others makes, among other things, better doctors—for you.
Radical selfishness recognizes the wider consequences of our actions and includes ourselves in the results. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. First you must know the latter in order to enact the former. Shallow selfishness is blind to consequences. It sees nothing but itself. It lives in utter fear. Pray for them.
Understanding the self is the catapult of human progress. It is the platform of empathy and service. Forgive the body and be nonresistant to it. Allow the higher self to speak more loudly. Enact radical selfishness. Our society depends upon it. Our biological needs are a challenge, true. But they are not tyrants of the soul. Without judgement, allow the soul to coexist with your body. For together they are the classroom of our emancipation.
Thursday, June 21, 2018
The day of the longest light is upon us. We know on some level that the occasion is meaningful. And that our rituals and ceremonies and observances add unique layers of meaning for us one turn of the wheel of the year at a time.
I’ve always been of the mind that if people like something, there’s something to be learned from it. Good or bad. Or scary. If a tradition develops, there’s something to be explored. If everyone has the same questions, there is something to be answered.
Why are so many of our world monuments aligned to the summer solstice? It’s easy to make assumptions about it. To look at a hammer and nail and conclude the building of something, when it’s just as likely the taking of something apart. We should be wildly circumspect about drawing conclusions on behalf of cultures and societies earlier than ours. We prove ourselves wrong so often we might have learned something from that by now. We are too hasty with our conclusions. In the process we miss the parts which are truly magnificent. Our face in the map, we miss the road.
There’s a show on the History Channel called Ancient Aliens that’s a perfect example of this. It’s one of my favorite shows, by the way. Not because I agree with everything they say, but because of the monuments they show and the questions about them they raise. But the problem is, they only see human history as a straight line. Steady progression. ‘We are more advanced than our ancestors, therefore all advanced architecture from the past must have been built by aliens’ Well, maybe it was. I don’t have enough data to form a conclusion. And neither do they. They see things they don’t understand and conclude aliens. I have no reason to disbelieve in the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations, nor their possible involvement in human affairs. I never got a memo about it either way. But humans may very well have been more advanced in the past than we give them credit.
I’m more inclined to believe that we are not the first developed human civilization here. There’s so much geological evidence of world catastrophes during the known existence of humanoids on this planet that it’s not impossible to imagine those catastrophes might have periodically set back the growth of humanity like a hard reboot on a computer. Forcing us to virtually start over from scratch with only a few stories that make it through. How quickly do we forget our knowledge once the library burns down, and the hammers to rebuild it are lost, and the architects who remember how to use them are gone? Even our DNA suggests we come from very small groups of people with much older DNA behind them.
Ancient eastern Indian texts, the Vedas, describe events which look like atomic wars. And there’s actually geological evidence to support that. But we stand there blinking our eyes like a deer in headlights because it just does not compute with our previously held conclusions about the steady progress of humanity. We think all humans before us were stupid. Events like ice ages and super-volcanoes disrupt the food chain and render exceptionally vulnerable whole societies of people at once. We take for granted how stable our world is today by comparison. May it remain so.
Much like our DNA, many of the ancient monuments we see around the world today are known to be built on the foundations of structures even older. Or in the case of Mayan temples, just building a new one around and over the old one, like Russian dolls. Sometimes there appears to be evidence of many previous structures underneath an already ancient temple. And there’s no way to know anything about any of it really. Not really. Not that we shouldn’t look or explore. We should do it even more, in fact. But our arrogance and hubris and egos compel us to make premature declarations of so-called fact. And then we use all our energy defending our outdated correctness until we wear ourselves out. Instead of continuing to explore.
We should be at greater peace with our ignorance. Anxiety prevents us from learning. It slows it all down. We will never have enough evidence to truly understand the minds and hearts of ancient cultures. We barely understand how our neighbor thinks and from the second floor we can see them standing in their backyard in their underwear. Humility is the spiritual path. Explore and ask and poke and prod. Expand your mind and your sense of wonder. Use your imagination to fill in the gaps, of course. But don’t be tied to what you imagine. Don’t expect to be correct forever. If ever.
Humility allows us to give meaning to what’s right before us. For this time. As it is. As we’ve been left with it. Our ego relaxes just enough to let go of the illusion of control over knowledge and history. Let me tell you now: History is never known. Yesterday is gone and all we have is editorial, no journalism. There is no unbiased human observer recording or reporting the true story of humanity. We are a self-reporting society who utilizes the honor system and only the victors have pen and paper. Have fun with that.
Be curious about history without attachment. Don’t maintain expectations of what history is trying to tell us today. No one from history is telling you anything. They don’t even know who they’re talking to any more than we know who will be reading our words a thousand years from now. We have no idea how to even speak to a person of the 31st century. We have no idea how they will interpret our ideas so we do not really know what language to speak. The Rosetta Stone can translate Egyptian hieroglyphics into ancient Greek. But it doesn’t tell you how to read between the lines. That kind of hindsight is not 20/20.
So what we have in our monuments is exactly what we have in our spiritual and sacred texts: We have what we have. We have what is before us. We do not know the future and we do not understand the past. We have today. This moment. This edition. This translation. This archeological dig. This day. Give us this day... We have what we have. Which includes our present mind, our present ways of thinking, our own colored glasses that will leave this world with us. We have only the collective energies of those around us. This is what defines a moment. This is what gives monuments and books meaning. What we think of them right now.
So what are the facts? We have monuments which we know align with the sun on the longest day of the year. We know that we have long-standing traditions which huddle us together at the opposite end of the year when the day is shortest six months from now and reminds us of the light that will come six months from then. Those are the limit of what we concretely know.
And, here it is now. The light. The most of it you’ll ever get in one day. And for some reason we all find meaning it that. Meaning enough to build huge structures at great cost and effort and loss of life just to ensure we never forget that when nothing but darkness seems to be around us, the light is what counts. The light is what never goes away. Not really. Place your faith in the light. Even if you don’t understand. Take heart in the fact that the solstice is a flower’s favorite day. The day in which it grows the most.
If you’re walking down a path and you see an arrow what do you do? If you trust the path and those who maintain it, you might assume that’s where you are intended to go. And you thank them in your heart for pointing the way. What if you see a hundred arrows? Even on a path you may not trust, a hundred arrows is pretty persuasive. What if there were literally thousands upon millions of arrows from different times and places in the world all pointing at the same keyhole? Would you look? Or would you check to see how old the paint is on one of the arrow signs nearest to you?Don’t wonder so much that you miss out on the spectacle. Your soul already knows what to do. Breathe in this longest day, this glorious source of life. Turn your face to it as we know all humanity has done for as long as we have noticed the sun itself. Let go. Let it in. Allow the light to make you whole, to make you holy. To remind you, not teach you. To awaken what is already there. Never fear. The truth is the truth no matter what you believe. And there will never be a word in any language for it.
Saturday, June 16, 2018
I can remember seeing the “Jesus saves“ bumper stickers as a child. I wondered what they meant. Jesus saves what? Sometimes the people who drove those cars turned out to be fairly pushy about their faith. It would come open in a crash rather than unfolding. “Jesus saved you!” And then they’d shout, “Hurry up!”
I realize now they were telling me to hurry up and get ready for the second coming they believe to be on its way. But it confused me at the time. It also, however, instilled a deep sense of curiosity. The intensity of people's feelings around that idea was evident to me right away. I wanted to know why.
The aphorism “Jesus saves“ ultimately became the second theological question of my life. The first having been what happens when we die. Asking “What did Jesus save?” of people who study this idea generally gets me an answer describing, among other things, the reconciliation of God to humanity. A clean slate. And that it was the crucifixion and resurrection which provided it.
That’s a pretty big declaration to make. Because I, like all other humans, do not have full access of the inner workings of all realms of existence. I can neither affirm nor deny any idea about the relationship between Jesus, God and Humanity. I was never made privy to that information directly and thus I elect not to comment on it. Simply put, I wasn’t there. I don’t know. I am comfortable with the existence of a variety of beliefs. But we should be responsible with what we refer to as spiritual fact. It’s a fact that Christianity exists. But that’s essentially where the trail ends. The rest is faith.
On some levels, it seems a fairly arrogant exercise to try to determine and declare what God thinks. Of course the answer I get might be, “It’s right there in the Bible.“ But for a variety of rational reasons, that doesn’t sit well with me as a point of debate. Interpretation of the Bible is subjective. Otherwise there would be only one denomination. There would also be only one version of the Bible, for that matter. Obviously there are vast differences of opinion, and most of them feel theirs is the only correct one. Do I disrespect one opinion in favor of another? How do I know that’s the one? How do any of us?
My third theological question came from bumper stickers too. “What would Jesus do?“ It’s a good question if you’re interested in being a practitioner of the teachings. How would Jesus handle today’s mainstream American Christianity? How would he lead it? Assuming any of it was willing to hand over the reigns. What would he have to say about it? What tables would he overthrow before this temple? I don’t wonder. But I do.
I return then to my original question. Jesus saves what from whom? Since I don’t know what occurred on the celestial level, and can only have my own personal opinion about it without anything to compel you to believe me, I’ll stick to things more concrete: The teachings. Sometimes we argue so much about the composition of the soil we forget the flower.
I think the teachings were the whole point of the existence of Jesus of Nazareth on this planet. The dharma. The practice. The way. Forgiveness, nonresistance, hospitality, compassion, empowerment. These five things are a life practice which Jesus taught. Start practicing them. By doing so, over time, we are saved from ourselves. We break cycles of violence by turning the other cheek. We raise up the world one generation at a time by empowering one another. We add Christianity to the chorus of other world voices teaching each tribe the same truth in different ways. Over time we reveal our own divinity. Peace on earth.
Imagine what the world could be like if a document were written that extended those exact principles into the governing of a country? Such a document exists, in fact. It’s called the US Constitution. And much like the Bible, it is preached far more than it is practiced. That is not to say that this nation was founded under Christianity. It was not. But the principles of Deism, in which our founders largely believed, come from the same ethical truth. The necessity of forgiveness, compassion, hospitality, nonresistance and empowerment are self-evident in a civilized society which expects not to destroy itself, but flourish. That’s why Jesus tried to teach them to us through his example. He gave an inconvenient truth of self empowerment at a time when such words invited execution. He sacrificed himself to make sure that we heard them. And that is how he saved us. Provided it works. In many ways the jury is still out. But the teachings endure.
I can’t say what really happened over two thousand years ago. But that is no longer the point. What matters is the legacy which that time has left us. The world’s largest religions all say it, Christianity is no exception. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That is the salvational practice.
Thursday, June 14, 2018
The Gospel of Judas was found in the 1970’s but not protected or translated until after 2000. The National Geographic Society published the translation in 2006. As the infamous disciple who betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin priests, Judas set in motion the events that led to Jesus’s crucifixion and reported resurrection. As the “authorized” Biblical version tells us, Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver and later hanged himself with guilt. Throughout the centuries the name ‘Judas’ has been synonymous with betrayal, evil, and shame. But the unauthorized Gospel of Judas tells a very different story.
For the record, I am not here to authenticate the Gospel of Judas. I am not going to attempt to validate the text as either truth or fiction. Like the Bible, it is whatever it is, provable or not. These are texts which we may look to for inspiration or food for thought. They are historical reports and open to interpretation as your own faith dictates.
I have chosen to discuss this text because it turns on its ear the long-held notion that Judas was evil for what he did. The Gospel of Judas makes the suggestion that Judas was, in fact, Jesus’s favorite disciple and the only one with whom he shared the real truth about the Kingdom of God on Earth. The text reads:
Jesus said [to Judas], “[Come], that I may teach you about [secrets] no person [has] ever seen. For there exists a great and boundless realm, whose extent no generation of angels has seen, [in which] there is [a] great invisible [Spirit],
which no eye of an angel has ever seen,
no thought of the heart has ever comprehended
and it was never called by any name.”
In the text, Jesus tells Judas about the creation of Adam. He tells him about the Cosmos, Chaos, the Underworld and those who rule it. He taught Judas about the creation of Humanity and the destruction of the wicked.
And when it came time for the foretold crucifixion, Jesus then instructed Judas to betray him, presumably that he might bring about the will of God through his actions. He told Judas that he would be reviled for his act of betrayal and that he would suffer much grief at the hands of others. This must have sent a chill up Judas’ spine since he had already told Jesus much earlier in the gospel that he’d had a vision of his own stoning to death at the hands of the other disciples. But Jesus also told him, “You will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.”
The canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us that Judas was acting on his own selfish behalf in turning Jesus over to the authorities. That it was an act of greed and resentment. That Satan had entered him.
But the Gnostic Gospel of Judas tells a story about a favored disciple who reluctantly accepts the role of betrayer at his master’s request. You may believe what you will about it. The point here is not the veracity of the story. It’s the suggestion that things may not always be as they seem.
So what might we do with this gospel?
I lift up this text for one reason: to examine the disparity between our understanding of hardship and the blessings of challenge and disappointment. Christian culture has reviled Judas for two thousand years while it has also acknowledged its belief that the crucifixion and resurrection were all part of a big cosmic plan. It contradicts itself wildly in its choice to vilify Judas when according to all stories Judas is the one who put that holy plan in motion.
So, again I ask, what might we do with this story?
In other writings I have suggested that we should learn to celebrate disappointment. Why? Because I believe that on some level things happen for a reason. I believe in the Law of Attraction and that what we think, we become. To celebrate disappointment is a way to not only calm ourselves in the midst of grief, but to send a message that we believe better is coming. That we not become mired in our own struggles, but turn our eyes toward the solutions to them. And actively attract those solutions to ourselves in the process.
I have had some deep challenges in my life as have most of us. And I am tempted to resent them. I am tempted to be angry for what happened to me and to blame all those who made it happen. And punish them. Yes, I am tempted.
We live in a society that sues first and asks questions later. We incarcerate based on a sense of revenge and call it justice rather than make a faithful assumption that things happen for a reason. Sometimes that reason is because we have let a problem get out of hand rather than deal with it. We push mental illness under the rug and then shout foul when someone acts out in that untreated, uncared for state. Sometimes it’s through no known fault of our own that bad things happen, but we then live in a space of anger, hostility, and vengeance. What will that get you? Our culture tells us we must defend our honor. But where is the honor in that?
If you are a person who believes in the Will of God or that things happen for a reason or that some good might very well come from difficulty if only we can choose to see it that way, then Judas the Betrayer becomes something more.
What are the Judas moments in your life? Who are the Judases in your life? When something challenging happens to you, how do you react to it? Who or what is your authority? Is God your authority? Love? Justice? The Bible? Who or what tells you how to react to life’s challenges?
Let LOVE be your authority. Hold your life challenges up to the yardstick of love and see how it measures up. Hold a challenge in your lap and love it and see what love tells you to do with it. Don’t punch it, don’t strangle it. Caress it, and see what happens.
Be open to the possibility that if life’s challenges have served you well, even if on only one single occasion, it might just happen again. When you despair and don’t know where to turn, give thanks for the solution that is already out there waiting for you to discover it like soul mate you just haven’t met yet. That solution is out there walking the earth, knowing the sun and the air, waiting to meet you.
Be open to thinking differently about the world and what has made it the way that it is. Be open to what it may yet become because of the challenges it has seen. And be open to what it might be that saves us all from ourselves.
Posted by Wil Darcangelo, M.Div. at 7:06 AM
Saturday, June 9, 2018
It is perhaps fairly esoteric, maybe even silly, to have a serious discussion about “mojo.” Maybe it’s even in the realm of the heretical. Mojo is a favorite term of mine I use to describe the energy we send in prayer or when we blow out a birthday candle. American use of the term began in the 1920’s coming through the blues and jazz world, originating in African and Creole words for medicine man and witchcraft. But it also is the name of a spicy sauce from the Canary Islands. I like both ideas.
To me mojo has come to mean a general positive essence which benefits both the person who possesses it and those around them. Its word origins hint at something we have declared to be taboo, while also whispering, “but heed them!” Of course, we could also just give it the general term “energy,” as in “they have good energy,” but somehow it feels too watered down compared to mojo. They have good mojo. It sounds more like a power, or a force field. From where that mojo comes, I’ll leave it to your own theology to decide. But that it’s there seems fairly likely.
However, just like all fringe schools of thought, so-called ‘new age thinking’ has its own population of eccentric people skewing the image. We do have our weirdos, just like any other. Society likes to poke fun at people who peddle in mysticism and all things psychic. But in reality, there’s a lot to be said for speculation on that type of energy.
We know when we go into a room if we like the “feeling” of it or not. We know when a person has good energy and we enjoy being around them. Sometimes for reasons which are not obvious. We often rely heavily on our intuition and gut instincts. In fact, our digestive systems play a fairly significant role in our regular decision-making process and our emotional state. Some science even refers to the stomach as our second brain. And so the peculiar question I ask is this: Are our physical bodies acting as a transmitter/receiver of energy and information, or are they strictly a end-user recipient of an emotional experience?
I ask this complicated question because it’s actually an important thing to consider. Are we, as humans, sending and receiving information of which we are not consciously aware? Do our physical bodies exhibit qualities similar to any radio or cell phone tower? Because if they do—and I think they might—what exactly is being sent and received? How much control do we have over it?
Pollution is often discussed as an ecological issue. We pollute the environment all the time. We clean up the environment all the time. Rarely in equal proportion. We love our disposable society while we criticize it. But that’s a thought mostly about physical items, garbage, trash. What about sound pollution? We can’t see it or touch it, but we definitely can be annoyed, even harmed by it.
Now let’s make the leap to energetic pollution. If we are transmitters of something unseen to the people with whom we interact and the environments we inhabit, what are we transmitting? I ask again: How much control do we have over what we put out into the world? What is the ecology of our mojo?
Perhaps we will discover in time that quantum fields are visible and measurable. Maybe that is a moment when our interconnected oneness will be understood. Maybe there is a future time when the threads which connect us become known and we begin to understand how our emotional states affect our environments.
In the meanwhile, what will you choose to do with the assumption that there is more to us than us? If you are a person who recycles and makes a deliberate effort to be a positive impact on the world, do you then walk into a room in a foul mood without a thought for the reckless wake of negative feelings you leave behind you? Remembering that we are actually infinitely powerful and magnificent beings temporarily inhabiting often troublesome human bodies might put into perspective that the former is actually more in control than the latter, if we choose to accept it.
Paint every room you enter with good mojo. Send it to your friends. Send it to the trees. Send it to the polar ice caps. Send it to the winds. Send it to the minds of those who will solve our world’s biggest problems. You are a lighthouse. Never forget it.
Saturday, June 2, 2018
There’s actually a word for it. Omphaloskepsis. Omm-fallows-kep’-sis. It is the spiritual practice of navel-gazing. Not necessarily a visual inspection of your lint trap, but a breathing through and awareness of the navel area of our bodies as a meditational practice.
Today, the term navel-gazing has come to mean someone who is selfish and self-absorbed or in a constant state of rumination and worry. But that definition is biased. It’s a criticism of the self-aware spiritual practice. It’s a form of ridicule by faith systems who would rather you did not look within to find your higher power.
Who can blame them, really? At the risk of being over-blunt, even unintentionally disrespectful, organized religion is a business with a product just like any other. I say that without criticism, just an objective recognition of the facts. And like any other business, organized religion has and can operate with or without integrity or true value. When a business provides true value, human enrichment, community awareness and fellowship, that’s where I will do my business. I can get that at my local hardware store, too.
So it’s not at all surprising that self-contemplation would get a spiritual smack-down by most organized religions. What happens to the middleman if you can get the product directly? The middleman prefers to control the market and the message. And just like my local hardware store I can either be fed a line or purchase one. But churches don’t give themselves enough credit. Through their criticism of the multiple paths up the mountain, they are forgetting the teachings. They are spending their energy on protecting the past when there’s a beautiful future ahead of us. Yes, for churches too. We just need to shift our product’s principle focus from the teacher to the teachings.
When we participate in a spiritual community we expect certain things. We expect to be accepted into the flock. We expect to enjoy a sense of safety and protection. We expect value for our time and talents. We expect inspiration and satisfaction in the act of communing with God through a platform managed and maintained by an organization designed for the purpose. Namely, a church, or its equivalent.
The irony is that unless integrity is present, self-contemplation is anathema to churches. They want no part of it. Parishioners have been made to feel uncomfortable about navel-gazing as if it were a competitor. But in the process they have literally forced you to be in competition with yourself. They would do better to facilitate connection freely rather than stand as a tollgate operator.
What is the purpose of contemplation? The origin of the word contemplate means to mark out space for observation. But in a world with so much to observe, what should get our attention when it’s time to bring it all in? Your navel is more than the former location of your umbilical cord. It is the literal center of you. And just behind it is the second chakra, the orange. It is considered the intersection of your temporary biology and your permanent non-physical self. Think about that for a moment.
You’ve just considered your navel.
What happens when we do that? Into what are we tapping about which we know nothing? We only have a massive amount of religious speculation, really. Nothing fully provable. Is there purpose in that, too? Hopefully. Perhaps, there’s a point to needing to discover things on your own. The development of discernment. Maybe there is a reason for God to have given us rules too numerous to follow them all. Just maybe there is a purpose to all the contradictions in scripture. We have to ultimately decide for ourselves. We have to test it against that part of us which already knows the direction to turn. We have to test the world for resonance with our inner truth. But we must first know it. Or at least trust it enough to believe that the bell is ringing even if we can’t yet hear it. Listen for it anyway. The act of listening is the entire point. Listening to the intersection is omphaloskepsis. Let no middleman try to sell you to you. There is no aisle for that at the True Value.
Spend time merely thinking about what it means to be a spiritual being having a human experience. Where is the intersection between the two? The center, always.