Friday, April 16, 2021

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, April 17, 2021 - You’re Praying for What You’re Saying

Whether you believe in it or not, whether you’d use the word ‘prayer’ or some other more secular descriptor, you are praying for what you’re saying. Your words matter. Every single sound that comes out of your mouth, ever, contributes to your reality. Your ears hear all of it. And most of the time other ears are listening to it too. 

The brain is really fast on its feet. It can tell the difference between regular ambient sound and human language in a tenth of a second. The brain isn’t necessarily asking questions as far as who’s doing the talking. But it’s definitely paying very close and reflexive attention. 

It’s listening for survival, really. And for opportunities to thrive. It acts like a bright yellow highlighter filtering out the background white noise, and making prominent all that truly matters. Spoken words are like lightning to the brain. 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about that old aphorism, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.” That’s just plain old fake news. Words are the most insidious of all weapons. They’re like nano bombs which penetrate the skin and course through our bloodstream up into our brains where they burst into literal synapses of memories, one upon another, reinforcing the negativity—or positivity—they represent. 

I try not to dwell on my experiences with bullies in the past, though I remember them profoundly. I recall the words they used. I still know the names they called me. I remember their hostility. A knife’s wound of concentrated unfairness that remains not fully healed. 

It’s surprising to me just how indelibly some of the things people have said to me are imprinted upon my understanding of self. Little residual feelings and ideas that percolate through the adult veneer to reveal a child’s still-tender wounds beneath.

I remember both the good as well as the bad, thankfully. I remember simple compliments given in passing that might not have seemed much at the time to those who gave them, but which permanently changed the view of myself for the positive. Small encouraging statements that reinforced my bravery to go out in the world and see what I might discover. These are what handily countered the negative script composed by old schoolmates and the neighborhood kids. Those few positive comments buoyed me through difficult times.

There are those who’ve been abused out of hearing the good at all, however, for the bad is so much more reliable. Good-sounding words had been used against them and were not sincere. Good words can feel untrustworthy after that. These are the scars of verbal abuse. The scar tissue is thick and muffles the sounds of more loving words.

There are studies suggesting that there’s a difference between silent reading of self-help materials and the speaking of positive affirmations out loud. Silently reading positive statements while in a negative mindset, only managed to reinforce the negative mindset of the study participants. They felt worse afterward. The written words fought against the mind’s negative self-perceptions. And typically lost. 

But the acts of listening and reading each use different parts of the brain. They found that spoken affirmations had a different effect than ones which had been only read. Not only did spoken affirmations improve mood, but also immune response, stress hormone production, and even brain functioning. Listening to ideas combined with sound, rather than merely cognizing the ideas from print, changed outcomes for the better.

Vibration is key. Sound affects matter. 

That idea is quite old. Creation itself is said to have begun from a single sound. Some of our most ancient languages carry along this idea as well. Sanskrit, Arabic, Aramaic, and many other ancient languages have an entire sound-related aspect to them that our more modern, western languages do not. Certain tones and vowel shapes have resonance believed to include additional layers of meaning, healing, and connection with the divine. 

The most popular example of this is the “mystical syllable,” the sound Ohm. A sound believed to signify the essence of the Ultimate Reality. Some traditions believe it is the very sound which launched existence into being.

What might we make of such a long and diverse tradition of belief in the implications of sound? Especially as science manages to uphold some of these beliefs rather than debunk them? Does it make it more important than ever to mind our words? Not just mind them, but be mindful of them? Should we be more proactive in our choice of words? Shouldn’t we be thinking of words as medicine, even?

What parts of the Cosmic hear your words as well? What is being accomplished through the act of making constructed sounds like words or phrases? What happens when they leave our lips? We know sound has a physical ripple effect. Are those ripples multi-dimensional as well? 

All of these various thoughts congeal our minds around a central idea that we may very well have powers we don’t realize when it comes to the sounds we utter. 

We’ve been taught that prayer has a value. Is this why? Is it because we hear what we’re praying for as much as Something Else might also be? Is it because our cells respond to what we tell them? Does every part of us have the ability to listen? Might our cells listen to us if we tell them to be well?

Assume yes. Make a leap of faith that what you say has relevance, impact, and can be wielded for good or not, toward yourself or others. Speak your reality into existence. There is far more listening than your ears.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, April 10, 2021 - The Theft of Lies

Lately, I have found myself embroiled in online discussions about politics and racism. This is not typically my way. In fact I usually go to great lengths to avoid that rabbit hole.

I suppose I should get back on the wagon and stop participating in conversations that ultimately get nowhere. But it’s so tempting.

My usual method is to comment on unloving posts for only two reasons. Either I feel that the person is in a position to be persuaded toward a more loving thought, or for the purpose of demonstrating kind responses to unkind words for the sake of others. Both sound fairly arrogant as I see them written here. But I do think it’s important to model loving behavior. So, arrogant or not, my hope is that the principle of inherent worth and dignity of all people is at the center of my actions. 

One thing that struck me though, as I have been dipping my toes into such debates, is that I seem to be battling a tide of misinformation. I feel like I’m constantly counteracting misrepresentations of truth. I’m watching others do the same. It’s taking a lot of time looking at someone’s ridiculous online claim, and then commenting with factual responses and references for why their claim is untrue, only to be battled against, often with hostility or rudeness. And, of course, our ego wishes us to keep on sparring.

How much time does this steal from us? How much of this time will we never get back? Exactly none of it. 

This is how lying represents a theft. Those who begin lies are stealing time from those who must later attempt to reset someone toward truth. 

The sad part is, once convinced, once painted into a corner where all truth has been precast as a lie, it’s almost impossible to dislodge. It’s like escaping from a cult. A cult of lies is very alluring. Until it isn’t. 

What are we to do? We often unthinkingly participate in the theft by giving our time to it. What fuels us? What gives us the energy to continue the fight? Are we served by it? Or are we sacrificing part of ourselves?

It should be that we need not sacrifice ourselves in order to bring more love into the world. Love barely needs help at all. Love is more in need of gatekeepers who are simply willing to open them and allow love to do its own work. We try too hard. 

Working smarter not harder, we find that love requires nowhere near the same amount of energy as we had to exert to support our fear. Fear takes a lot of work. Love requires only letting go of the rope. It’s not a tug-of-war that needs to be won. 

The point is to be mindful about how much we participate in the cycle of lies. That’s not to say we shouldn’t battle against untruth. But we should be very careful where we draw the line. We should only give it so much of our time and space. And it should be time given knowingly and purposefully.

Our time should not be taken from us, it should be given by us. Someone else’s lies have no right to steal anything from you.

Sadly, the lies which still carefully hide beneath the surface of our awareness, lies behind the scenes occurring within power structures beyond our vision, closed in boardrooms and consultants’ offices, plotting for profit, will not be stopped from stealing from us. 

They will, however, suffer a slow attrition as one generation of leadership fades away and another takes its place. Another generation who has grown up in an awareness of such things and from the earliest ages intends to be in a position to change it.

Stop the steal. Waste as little time as possible on doing battle with lies. Save your energy for the ones which truly cause harm and not just battling the opinions of people online whose minds will never change. 

Be a wind at the back of progress by turning your cheek from fear and toward the healing of others wherever possible. If they will not accept your love, love them from afar and wish them well. Put your attention on the generation which will supplant them. Put your love on all that which makes the old ways a dinosaur; doomed to extinction for lack of an environment that will support them.

Use your time on this earth for supporting unity and uniqueness. It’s so much more fun. And it is a gift of our time as well as a gift to it. It is the opposite of theft or sorrow.

Pray for those who cannot see truth. They are victims of the machinations of others. It is like any addiction. It’s a choice until it isn’t. Addictions always perpetuate lies as a method for their survival, not yours. Lies are the only language they speak. And they are extremely convincing.

But we are more in control of our experience than we realize. We don’t realize how much time lies steal from us. Some of it we will never realize, so far behind the green curtain it is. But even chipping away at the theft of our time we know about will improve the quality of our lives.

All we have to do is remember that love is infinitely more powerful than fear and takes far less effort to see it realized in this world. Concentrate on togetherness and unity and uniqueness. It will lighten the burden on your heart and put a little extra time back on your clock. You deserve it.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, April 3, 2021 - The Pop-Up Prophet

 Most of us have heard of the term “hermetically sealed.” It’s a reference to a scientific procedure which seals a vessel’s contents from the outside environment. Beyond that, most of us non-academics rarely hear any reference to the person with whom that scientific procedure is associated. Mainly because we’re not one hundred percent certain that that person is actually a person.

And yet, an individual most commonly referred to as Hermes Trismagistus is credited by some to be the single most important influencer in human history. Even though there was no one single person named Hermes Trismagistus, he is identified throughout human civilization by many different names ranging from the Prophet Idris in Islam to the Egyptian god Thoth. 

I’m not sure what conclusions it is safe to draw from this. There are theories ranging from ancient aliens to archangels as to what this through-line of a personage might be. I am the farthest thing from an academic on the subject. But it’s worth spending a little time digging through the weeds if you’re curious to look into it for yourself. It’s quite fascinating how far reaching this “individual’s” influence has been on human civilization. 

Of course there are many conclusions we can draw as to why so many different civilizations have identified a specific individual with cross references to how he is named by other cultures built into their own scriptures about him. It’s almost like the different cultures together draw a map of this “person’s” travels through history. Dispensing wisdom and knowledge to each culture as he goes like an epochal Johnny Appleseed.

Is it necessary to believe it or not? I don’t think whether it’s true really matters. We could argue ad infinitum about whether or not a person, or being, now referred to as Hermes Trismagistus could actually exist, or we could look at what’s attributed to him. That’s actually where the value is anyway. And if he existed, he wouldn’t want you to be arguing about who he was as much as he’d want you to just learn from what has been shared.

This approach is useful elsewhere as well. We don’t always have to argue about the origin stories in order to take value from something. Good advice is good advice, regardless of its source. There’s no point in debating origins. Turn your attention to the advice itself. 

One of the more prominent documents attributed to Hermes Trismagistus is called the Corpus Heremeticum. It was written over a 1,500 year period of time. Definitely not the work of a single human being, obviously, but rather a compendium of aggregate knowledge which found itself collected into a manila folder tabbed “Hermes.” Again, however, the true source of that knowledge is pointless to debate, a curiosity though it may be. Even tabbing the folder “Hermes” is a misrepresentation of the many names given for him.

In my lane as a minister of a multi-faith tradition, I have perused the Corpus Heremeticum. It’s a heavy lift. 

I am not a scholar of this work. I advise that my mostly-uneducated viewpoint should be taken with a grain of salt. I present it nonetheless as food for thought. But the second line of the Corpus Hermeticum struck me most prominently. Everything else I did manage to read afterward seemed to reside on the shoulders of that short preamble. 

“For there can be no religion more true or just, than to know the things that are; and to acknowledge thanks for all things, to him that made them, which thing I shall not cease continually to do.”

The rest can get a little mucky to understand. But it’s still worth reading as it has become an informant to mainstream culture in so many ways. That’s an exploration for another time.

Returning to the quote, the most fascinating part to me is the phrase, “to know the things that are.” The word “are” is particularly definitive here because it is stating a belief that there is indeed an objective reality out there worth pursuing, a universal truth which exists with or without our belief. For example, black holes and other anomalies in space are whatever they truly are whether we are accurately seeing, perceiving or reporting them. A black hole’s nature is a thing which is. 

Hermes' second sentence of the Corpus Hermeticum affirms the existence of truth, aka “the things that are.” It places importance on seeking the truth and living in pursuit of it. It is humble in the sense that it’s not claiming it knows exactly what the Ultimate Reality is, but that It exists as an objective truth whether we’ve figured It out or not. Whatever is real is real, whether we believe in it or not, or whether we even have the capacity to perceive it or not. If there is a God then It likely does not need our belief in It to exist.

It’s the pursuit of knowing which Hermes is saying we should never cease. He believed it should be like a religion to us, this relentless pursuit of understanding. And when we look at the world’s religions, that’s exactly what we see. Thousands of different attempts to cognize and understand the things that are.

That thought encompasses an entire life practice, really. Its foundation is a belief in the pursuit of truth, and to be constantly grateful for the beauty of this earth. If we do nothing more than those, only good shall come of it.

Eons of wisdom from multiple cultures in fields ranging from astrology to philosophy, alchemy, and the divine sciences, emanating from a single two-pronged practice: the pursuit of truth and gratitude. 

In our fast food, short-attention span culture, these are very useful bits of advice, well packaged, cleanly branded, and with a marketing plan so ingenious it has wormed its way into the very fibers of our civilization. 

Now we just have to follow the advice to benefit from it.

Look for truth in your life. It’s very difficult to find lies, despite their prevalence. Lies are very good at hiding themselves with smoke screens, distractions, and deflections. Truth never hides itself or tries to dissemble its rationale for existing. It waits for you to notice it. Or to notice its absence and then look for it. 

When we make it our mission to look for truth, it’s easier to find that than it is to protect ourselves from lies. Looking for truth expands upon our ability to perceive it over time. It takes some of the burden off of our worry over the misinformation which exists everywhere, be it intentional or accidental. Worry less about lies, and celebrate truth wherever you find it. That will become your predominant experience over time.

Find reliable fact checkers. Question the factual authenticity of various news outlets and gravitate toward those that go farther than you yourself might do to verify information. Subscribe to media outlets that perform rigorous fact checking. They are not unicorns. They do exist, and we should place more of our trust (and subscription dollars) in them.

In a very real sense, that activity becomes a prayer for truth. It acts as a signal to the universe that truth shall be your experience, and a promise to maintain humility in the face of unknowing. 

It’s interesting that a quote about objective truth would be attributed to an individual whose existence we might question. But where have we heard that before?

Friday, March 26, 2021

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, March 27, 2021 - Bearing Witness

I am a helper. And I often run the risk of helping too much. I want to solve things. When someone comes to me with a problem, I always want to leave them with a solution. That is both a good trait and a deep character flaw. I am reminded of a friend of mine once quoting an aphorism for which he did not know the author, but the wisdom in it merits mention even if without credit. “Weakness is merely strength in excess.”  

It’s another way of saying that you can definitely have too much of a good thing. At which point it becomes a bad thing, a weakness. My desire to help people sometimes, in the past especially, has made my strength into a weakness, or at least a vulnerability. I am less easily taken advantage of now. Those lessons were learned at a price.

But my desire to help remains. My desire to fix it all still ticks away in the back of my mind. I have been lucky though to have had some good teachers. They explained to me that it is not my job as a minister to fix things, but to bear witness to their brokenness. 

That was a tough one for me at first. I hate to think that I am stereotypically male, but in that regard, the need to solve and fix, I am firmly in that lane. 

But it also represents an easier way of being a part of the solution than my method of trying to fix something that will likely fix on its own anyway if given the right space to do so. Why tell a plant how to grow? Or dictate to a wound how it should heal? Our role as humans is to facilitate growth and healing by preparing the perfect environment for it to occur thus allowing the process to naturally unfold without inhibition. The doctor never heals, they give the patient all the tools necessary to heal themselves. 

So, recognizing that our job is not to fix but to simply provide the most healing environment possible, it makes me think on how to heal the wounds from this current experience even while those wounds are still taking place. Is there someway to get ahead of the grief curve and prepare ourselves for the future? This is all such heavy stuff right now. 

A large part of our traditional grieving process has been left to the side during this pandemic. We have not been permitted to grieve together. We have not been given the opportunity to hear the stories. We have not been given the opportunity to bear witness or be a witnesses for others. 

That is a fact which will haunt us. That will be a grief that sits under the skin. 

But we may be a balm to that grief, even while it’s still occurring. And we may be of service to the future by simply participating in the process of witnessing and bearing witness to others. 

We need to remember that each of us needs to be seen, our experiences validated, our stories taught and heard. Likewise others need platforms to express what they have been feeling. They will need witnesses. 

Participate in online social media groups that are specifically about having opportunities to express yourself in a loving, supportive environment. Check in with friends. Make sure you tell your stories too. 

Perhaps most importantly, we need to pay attention right now. We need to notice everything that’s going on and register it. We need to be witnesses for history so that our future selves more quickly learn from what we have been so slow to acknowledge. This is a part of the healing process too. 

This advice is often given but rarely taken. But find a way to do it anyway, for the advice is sound. Write it down. Write down your experiences. The process of having to find the right words to describe our experience triggers the parts of our brain which unleash healing. The process grants a perspective on all that’s occurred. And it reveals to you just how it has made you feel. Until you take the time to express it, you won’t realize the true depth of your feeling. And therefore you will not know how deeply the wound goes. 

Take the time to listen to your kids. Even if you think it’s nonsense or if they frustrate you beyond reason, read between the lines. Validate their experiences and sympathize with them. Most of us are acting out in some way right now, so fatigued we are at this whole thing and just wanting it to be over. I have certainly been doing my extra credit share of eating and drinking. There is no age range to stress or fear. Give kids the space to process what’s going on by simply having the freedom to talk about it. 

It’s worth noting that not all kids are comfortable talking with their parents about their feelings. I’ve worked with enough teenagers to know it’s a thing. A mentor or an extended relative or a family friend is often the safer ear. Don’t take it personally if you’re not the ear. Just make sure they have one. 

Try not to forget that right now everyone has a story they need to tell. In giving other people the opportunity to share their‘s, be sure to include space for your own. The more deeply we reach out toward our neighbor, not to solve or fix but to merely listen and be listened to, the faster we will get to the next blessed place on this journey. 

In the Book of Job, Job’s friends came to be a witness to his extraordinary grief. And while eventually they had much to say, that wasn’t so at first. For days they just sat with their friend and listened. They put soot on their heads and ripped their clothing and just stayed there with him in silence and grieved with him those first days and nights. Love often requires only a small amount of effort to embody itself in the grandest of ways. 

Be a witness to this time. Bear witness to others. Listen to the stories. See others. React with positivity and words of encouragement online. Place yourself in the path of receiving the same. You are human too.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, March 20, 2021 - Prepare for Togetherness

Back when I was an actor I noticed an odd phenomenon about the memorization of my lines. In preparation for a show it never troubled me to memorize long bits of dialogue or song. I had a little method I devised for myself of tape recording everyone else’s lines leaving space for my own. I’d play back the tape and be my own scene partner to practice. 

However, there was always a point at which I’d be the most vulnerable to forgetting all that I’d learned. Well not all, but usually the most important parts. 

It was the second performance.

Second night performances were always the most treacherous for my lines. Sometimes my costume changes as well, if they were particularly complicated. It got so that on the second day I’d take extra precautions to make sure I wasn’t being overconfident on the heels of a good opening night.

Right now it’s possible to see a little light on the edge of the horizon. We have been through a year far more tragic than we can presently comprehend. The earthquake is still occurring, and the buildings are still falling. Even ones we had concluded were indestructible since they lasted all year just fine amid the constant shaking. But they can be felled too. 

Part of the problem is that the disease resulting from the virus can take every form from the sniffles to suffocation, organ failure and nerve damage. Sometimes the disease is all better in a matter of weeks and for some it has never left them. All ages can be affected, all levels of health can be vulnerable.  And that is the key to its most exhausting component: the unknowable. Humans are far better at coping with things that we can understand or predict than we are with the unpredictable. The devil you know.

We have existed in this limbo state for so long, simultaneously with every other member of the human race, that it will alter the course of humanity forever. The scar left from this experience will become part of the landscape. And we are still in the process of being wounded. 

But the vaccines have begun to arrive. And, for the first time, we feel a bit more confident at making the prediction that all shall be well. Now that the vaccines have been rolling out, however slowly that may understandably be, we are beginning our intake of breath prior to the sigh of relief.

But as we have already seen elsewhere in the world recently, letting our guard down too soon, being too overconfident just as we were getting good at protecting ourselves and memorizing our lines, leads to another wave of disaster before this tragedy ends. We are not out of the woods yet. And this final chapter may be the most dangerous so far. 

That light on the horizon exists nonetheless. We can see it. We believe it is coming closer. This is when we need to be a wind at the back of progress. The solution needs us. It needs our prayers, it needs our continuing and sustained signal of our desire to thrive by wearing our masks a bit longer and encouraging others around us to remain safe for this final wave en route toward us as we speak.

Togetherness is at hand, but it is not here yet. Prepare for that time. It is coming so fast it will be here before we know it. The summer is coming. And in all likelihood we will emerge into it. The pandemic will not quite yet be over, however. And there will still be precautions to take. We must be prepared to follow them as well.

Let’s prepare for the togetherness. Let’s imagine what it will be like to embrace one another again. To just sit near others and not be afraid. To hold hands. To visit everyone. Imagine how valuable togetherness will feel!

Does that ring a louder bell in the universe? Will our embrace send a stronger vibration than before? I feel instinctively yes. I don’t have much to back it up. But doesn’t it seem logical that hugging will take on a new dimension of value as this year unfolds? Would God feel it, too?

Commit to being a part of it. Commit to preserving as much life as we possibly can between now and that day. Prepare for togetherness by ensuring that there are as many people as possible left. Pull everyone you can into the lifeboats. They can take on more than we think.

Receive the vaccine when it’s your turn. Encourage others to do the same. But perhaps even more importantly, be at ease with those who break the guidelines or choose not to get vaccinated. Your anger will not change them. Create peace for yourself by staying safe and healthy and forgive them from a social distance. There will be no value to you spending the rest of the pandemic being angry with them. Preserve your peace and strength for better things.

Make a point of sharing optimism about the future with others. Depression right now is real and pervasive. Get under the skin of it. Go for a walk. I went for a fantastic walk the other day with a good friend. We were talking on headphones while each walking on opposite sides of the city from one another. We both felt better afterward. Do that.

Don’t participate in negative discussions online. Make it a mission to educate, but gently. Teach others through your example of calm and loving responses to harsh words and accusations. Love your enemy online especially. Let everyone see it. Be at ease around those whose rage controls them. They are worse off than you. They could use a bit of your strength and ease right now. You have far more than you think.

Let these last few months be a time of preparation and renewal. But still maintain vigilance on the simple steps we already know to be more than enough to protect ourselves, our loved ones, our communities. 

We will all be together soon enough. Make sure you are there when it happens.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, March 13, 2021 - Fantasizing Vandalism

I have been fantasizing about committing vandalism lately. I know I won’t actually do it. But I really, really want to. 

Growing up is complicated. If only that process ever ended. Much to our chagrin, we are learning from cradle to grave. We are learning and expanding throughout our entire lives. Day by day discovering where we have either been misinformed, ill-advised, generally mistaken, or ignorant altogether. It’s a lot of work.

We also face an inner conflict between our baser human reactions and our higher-minded intentional responses. Sometimes we kick when we should have caressed. That is the purview of spiritual practices. Little bits of advice on how to enhance our inner calm so that we may share that sense of calm with others. 

Progress of any kind does not occur in a straight line. I’d really love to think that as a religious and spiritual academic who works quite hard to practice what he preaches, I would be above things like fantasizing about vandalism. But I have to confess I am not. 

The other day I drove past a house in a town near to mine. I pass by that house fairly frequently and have taken note of their political affiliations as displayed upon their front lawn. 

Their views are strongly different than mine. And while that is challenging, I certainly agree with their right to have their own viewpoint. However, their style of displaying it seems particularly targeted not for the purpose of promoting their candidate as much as attacking anyone who doesn’t agree. This is not in my imagination, but at the time I thought it might be. 

Two days ago, I drove past that house to find a new addition to their display. A brand new confederate flag. 

I couldn’t help but need to deliberately walk myself through the reasons why not to commit vandalism. I imagined everything from quietly taking it down during the night to setting it on fire. Not my finest moment. But it’s real. I’m certainly not the only otherwise non-violent person who has felt this way.

Perhaps people think a minister should be above such thoughts. Bull. As much time as I spend on introspection and examining these ideas, I’m still very much human. I struggled with how I should respond to my feelings about seeing that flag newly displayed this week. Especially considering that we are in such a racially divisive time, their message is clear.

As I often like to do, I talked about it with my staff. Three very wise women whose advice I am committed to following at all times. I confessed to them that I didn’t know how to respond, but that I wanted to do very unministerial things. I told them that I fantasized about vandalizing it. I told them that I wanted to take pictures of it and post it on online for everyone to… what, exactly? 

Even as I said it I could already hear the advice they might give me and I was mostly right. What’s the point? Especially if my goal would be to try to change the mind of the person who displayed the flag in the first place, what’s the point? My actions will not change their mind or heart.

Strangely, it hadn’t occurred to me that my point was to change that person‘s mind, but to acknowledge the existence of such things which still pervade this world. I didn’t want to talk to that person, I wanted to talk to everybody else. 

But obviously vandalism isn’t the answer, as supportive as I might be of the destruction and removal of public monuments intended to glorify racism in this country and elsewhere. This was a person's private property and they were exercising their First Amendment rights. 

And publicly posting photos only creates more animosity, not less; which cannot be my goal. My goal is to unify. My job is to find and highlight pathways of accomplishing it.

What do we do with our rage about this time we are in? It’s not just about being disagreed with. It’s more than that. It’s that our deepest ideologies and principles are being contrasted and compared right now, and with grave consequences. Is this what the battle of light versus dark looks like? 

Spiritual teachers have had some input on this subject. When you look at their advice, you start to get a picture of what their overall goal might have been. It is always about getting along. It’s always about improving one of four relationships: with other people, with the earth, with the self, and with a higher power. 

The point ultimately is that it’s all about relationship. Imagining it, creating it, fostering it, defending it. It is never about ending, destroying, or preventing it. It is never about making a point to alienate.

Of course every religion has a line or two in their scriptures which displays a recommendation to ostracize those who oppose or offend you. Even Christianity will tell you that it’s a good idea to cut your hand off if it offends you. That’s not to say it’s an appropriate interpretation of the line, but it is vulnerable to such misuse.

I guess that’s the point, really. It’s too easy for us to misuse our spiritual texts by picking and choosing the lines which resonate most with our fear. But that is not what the masters taught. They all taught unity. 

So ultimately I decided against burning down that flag pole with the confederate flag on it. Good call. And I decided against posting photos of it online either. I openly state here that I defend their right to display it on their own private property, despite my intense personal disgust. I would hope for the same from them about their likely intense personal disgust for me. That’s not carte blanche to display anything they want, but the flag represents nothing more than an opinion. And I can tolerate that. Their opinion has no power of its own.

So I talk about it here with you. Because I don’t always know what to do either. And I sometimes wonder how to channel my discomfort. Oh, let’s just call it what it is. Rage. Yet we should never act from our rage. Better to maintain anger with integrity. Rage has no capacity for rational thought or action. It makes us do stupid things. Like vandalism. Or public shaming.

I know there are those who think these strategies are the only way they’ll ever hear. And on some practical level that’s probably true. But then that becomes the constellation under which any forward growth occurs and will eventually need to be apologized for later. Better to stick to your principles even when it doesn’t feel like it gets us very far. That is and has always only ever been the surest way forward for all. 

Pray for those who disagree with you. Wish well upon all who hate you. Give even your birthday wish to any whom you disrespect. Wish them all a measure of peace and ease, and you will better know it for yourself.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, March 6, 2021 - The Tea Leaves

I had my tea leaves read once in Salem, Massachusetts. I think I was in high school. I don’t remember anything about the reading I received. I know I didn’t leave thinking I had experienced either a revelation or a fraud. Just $20 worth of entertainment and a nice cup of tea. 

For those who don’t know about the act of tea leaf reading, or tasseography as it is formally known, it’s a style of fortune-telling that interprets the patterns left in the bottom of a cup by remnant bits of tea leaf. The same could be done in a cup of wine, coffee, or any beverage which might leave behind a trace of its former self. Those residual contents offer patterns that may be interpreted using a combination of traditional meanings and the reader’s own intuition.

My grandmother always advised us to trust our intuition. And I certainly believe in it. I also believe in the existence of psychic phenomena. I don’t, however, believe it exists everywhere it is reported as such. This means to say that some tea leaf readers I would imagine are exceptionally gifted, just as there are those who are not. Noting the small but persistent percentage of those who are actively seeking to swindle, most are not crooks, they’re just sitting on various points along the wide spectrum of talent. Most may not give you any news of value, but they’re mainly harmless. Some, however, could change your life.

My faith includes a belief that we all have intuition. I get the sense that most of us feel that way. Having a gut feeling and following it is part of mainstream culture. But still, we don’t give it very much stock because while we recognize it likely exists as a reality of human existence, we simply don’t know how to process the implications. 

Let’s then consider the implications of having an intuition. Where does it come from? Do you believe that some people have a stronger intuition than others? Have you ever had a gut feeling and it proved to be correct? Even once?

I would bet that the vast majority of us could be described by the above. So much so that we might be audacious enough to consider it an established fact that humans possess the ability of intuition, of knowing something without benefit of any of our five recognized senses. We each of us have a sixth sense. A belief in even one experience of having an accurate gut feeling reveals that you may agree.

So now what? Much of traditional religion would have you be extremely cautious about the origin of the inner voice you hear. Unless that voice agrees with them and their doctrine, it could only be from the devil. Better not listen to it. Better to listen to them only. 

But religious professionals are better kept in the lane of advisers than authorities. If your inner voice is speaking in favor of the teachings of love and unity, then its origins are irrelevant.

Traditional religion has put quite a bit of shoulder into the effort of demonizing the practice of tasseography and other modes of divination. Tarot cards, runes, palm reading, have been tarred with a brush they haven’t deserved. All because church leaders preferred that they alone be the sole arbiters of our experience with the divine. And sadly, it often had less to do with the saving of our souls than it did about the acquisition of our funds.

So if we believe in the existence of human intuition, and we consciously decide that a religious body does not have the sole authority to dictate to us what is and isn’t good in the world, is there a way we might now explore that idea? Isn’t this all just another form of prayer? I would argue that if there are physics to prayer, then it would be the same physics as that of divination.

Are you curious about the things you might learn if you were to explore forms of divination like astrology, playing cards, or tea leaves? Which form might one choose? Should we learn to practice it ourselves, or should we seek recommendations for reputable readers? How should we go about it?

The answer is: Follow your intuition. What forms of divination are you attracted to? I personally always liked the Tarot, but there are too many things to memorize, so for me, it wasn’t a good fit for personal practice. I was attracted to numerology early on. It can be simplified to nine basic meanings, one for each of the single digits 1-9, but can be understood as far more complex with greater study. And numbers are simply everywhere.

It raises a similar question to that of organized religion: Which one is correct? Which version has a better grasp of objective truth? The answer is the same as for organized religion: All of them have their benefits, all of them have their pitfalls. Both are usually human. 

Which language does the Universe speak? It’s either all of them or none of them, right? So let’s make a leap of faith that the answer is all of them.

I guess the question isn’t so much, though, about what language Source uses to speak to us as it is what language shall we choose to listen to It. I think God will speak to us in any format we select. But we do need to pick at least one.

The principal criterion of a good form of divination is that there should be a degree of randomness which prevents us from placing too much bias on the answer to the question we are asking. It should also have a glossary of traditional meanings but still leave room for the use of intuition. You are also free to create your own from scratch. But dig deeply into your intuition to create it.

We will better hear the strumming of the cosmos if we pick a language and study it. Learn its definitions and traditions. Find groups who practice it and let your intuition guide you towards those who have integrity. Learn to speak it with ease and fluency. 

My faith believes that love is always being propelled at us from the Universe in the form of subconscious inspirations, ideas, comforts, and advice. There is always water behind that faucet. We just have to choose a method to turn it on and be one with it. We need to practice listening and get great at it. We are encouraged to find ease and rest in the presence of our intuition. It is the voice of our divine spark.

Our intuition is a gift. Allow that small quiet voice inside of you to grow. Be in support of its development, in yourself and others. There will always be a benefit to greater listening.