Leo Tolstoy on God

LEO TOLSTOY ON GOD: "When you look inside yourself, you see what is called 'your own self' or your soul. You cannot touch it or see it or understand it, but you know it is there. And this part of yourself--that which you cannot understand--is what is called God. God is both around us and inside of us--in our souls.

The more you understand that you are at one with God, the more you will understand that you are at one with all His worldly manifestations."

Sunday, March 19, 2017

It's All About Faith: Choose An Anchor, Not a Cross

Around this time each year, Christians reflect on the message of Jesus' life and ultimate death on the cross. This 40-day period of reflection, known as Lent, offers us a chance to do more than reflect. It offers us a chance to fast, i.e. to give up habits, behaviors and practices that do not benefit us. The intent of a fast also is to get closer to the Spirit of The Christ within us all.

Christians believe and know that Christ died on the cross. Many Christians then see any burdens or troubles they encounter as crosses they must bear.

 I have another idea: instead of carrying your cross when a challenge arises, look at it as a messenger of some aspect of yourself that needs to be healed, then set your anchor of faith down to lift you up to a higher level of being.
All religions Catholicism, Episcopalism, Muslim, Hinduism, Judaism or any other...help us deepen our Faith in a power greater than ourselves. These teachings help us to go beyond our limited views on life and about life to a greater understanding of dynamic force at work.

Without religion as a base, and Faith as an anchor we become steeped in our own ego-centered interpretation of things.
"Trust me"...most of the time we are wrong.
Ultimately, if we believe nothing else:  we must believe in a power...an energy...a spirit...greater than we are in our essence! 
Please forget those spiritual folks that tell you that YOU are God. Please. 
Believing that we are God can lead to lots of egocentric behaviors, as we've witnessed in many current world leaders....believing in their own innate powers to do and be whatever they choose to be with full violation of human decency and compassion. While it is true that we must believe that we have the power within us to do all that we need to do,  we should not  become steeped in this egotistical view. Eventually, we'd run into a wall.
Get this: we are... NOT... God!
As powerful as a wave in the ocean may be:
it is NOT the ocean 
Many beings love the presence of this Source within them and become confused and delusional enough to believe "It is I." Yes, it's "you," but it's not YOU. The presence and power of God that lies within each of us is greater than who we can ever be. The thing is we cannot separate from it and still be living. So, the truth of our being-ness becomes complicated.
Like a wave in the ocean: we are a one tiny manifestation of God, i.e. his presence and power in the world. Then...we are a mere one of "zillions," or a word that has not yet been conceived. 
Not one of us has God's full power even in the best manifestations of his essence. Become humble and like a little child and know that it's his presence within us that doeth any of the mighty works we claim to do.
"Believest thou not that I am in the Father, ad the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works." John 14:10
A wave in the ocean contains all the key ingredients of the ocean...
but...it's still a WAVE. 
Then we must anchor ourselves in the faith that this presence and power will never, ever leave us. Growing in our spiritual studies does not exclude us from trying to build our faith through the confines of some religion. In this case, I'm saying we should not  throw out religion because we've seen the extremes. Each religion offers some framework for decency, and they can help guide us into being "decent" human beings.
Indeed I'm seeing spiritual teachers who previously focused only on the spiritual now offering some new perspectives on Spirituality and being grounded in our physical selves as being "good people."
Deepak Chopra is author of "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success,"
one of many of best selling books by this prolific author and spiritual teacher

Deepak Chopra, who wrote the recent book, "You are The Universe," writes in a recent piece: "How To Keep Your Faith Everyday"

"In other words, God is embedded in existence itself, including your existence. So you are to keep faith with consciousness containing divine qualities, and the place these qualities appear are the following:
in ourselves; in others if you see them n the light of awareness; in everyday events and in life itself.

"The qualities to look for are the following: love; compassion; truth; beauty; forgiveness; charity; wisdom and presence."   

Earlier in the piece, "How To Keep Your Faith Everyday." Chopra had written:

James Redfield is author of one of the most
popular spiritual books of our time:
"The Celestine Prophecy."
"All the world's wisdom traditions each that each seeker must find a path to the divine, and most of these traditions echo Jesus' words that the Kingdom of God is within, along with the Old Testament dictum, "Be still and know that I am God." These are clues to the action you can take, which is to go within every day, through meditation or other contemplative practices, and to experience the divine in stillness. Ths stillness is your silent mind. Your divine nature is the presence of awareness. According to this strategy, God becomes real as you come closer to your own source, pure consciousness."
And from James Redfield, we see this recent, important piece: "Has Your Spirituality Become Part of Your Ego?"

These authors and teachers, Chopra and Redfield, are and have been powerful leaders for many, including me, as I picked my way along the wide pastures of spiritual studies. But, if  you're like me and you've become saturated with spiritual reading and studies, the only place to go is within the silence of your Soul to be led. Then, through your very breath and your struggle to make sense of life in each of those breaths and the moment, you'll understand that life is only about the quality of interactions each moment of every day. The way to having a higher quality of interactions is by having some foundation, through the teachings of those who went before, in becoming a decent person.
This Lent, try to make things less complicated. Begin to see the roots of your Essence. See if you do not have something greater than yourself present within you each and every moment how you could have... would have... navigated some of the tricky passages you've taken in life...from babyhood to adulthood.
Once you find that core, tie a knot ...a BIG KNOT... in your center, so you never lose your place in life. And so that you know, without a doubt, that it is to this place within to which you can always return.
Have you got the anchor in place yet? No worries. Just keep reaching in...you'll begin to find that place.

Meanwhile, if you're still spinning around searching for that center by going to workshop after workshop, retreat after retreat, do something simple. Really simple.
Go to a church. Get to know and interact with the community. You may find that many of these church-going, seemingly simple folks, have more holiness than those looking within and seemingly journeying on a "spiritual path."
Some people got turned off of religion because of the politics surrounding some religions. If you are a true seeker, you would leave the politics alone. Ignore them and go to the core of the teachings. There are so many pearls in religious teachings. So many! While I do not espouse that you go too deep into far-fetched ad unrealistic teachings that don't offer any real solace but dictum: Do not throw out the baby with the bathwater! You will know if a teaching works for you, as it will because the practices should and will bring you peace.

Although I'm a Christian and celebrate the Holy Eucharist with gusto each week at my local church,  I respect every religion. Indeed, so much so that I was thrilled to be introduced to a book that serves as a mainstay in Hinduism: The Ramayana.

The book may seem like a far-fetched tale, but, oh, should you get beyond the fantasy of the tale being told, you will find priceless pearls.
This is a powerful book: I was introduced to The Ramayana
by a Hindu friend. It offered new perspective and deep insights
into the way we walk in life. 
It's been weeks since I finished The Ramayana, and often on many days, one of the lessons I learned from Rama, the main character in the book, or Sita, or ...come back to me teaching me about friendships, loyalty, truth, compassion, forgiveness and love, duty and honor. And whether the Hindus have different names, such as Dharma and Paativratya, for these attributes matter little. The teachings are beneficial for our Soul.

Rama and Sita are pictured here.
With spiritual teachings, we get much from learning about our spiritual selves. But if we do not couple this learning with some sort of religious teaching, we can get lost as we try to navigate our way through life.

Almost all religions are centuries ...centuries...old. (You can read about many of these religions on this blog by typing in the search bar.) The reason they have survived is because they are time-tested and offer truth. We should not turn our backs on our religion for "spirituality." We will end up getting lost.

It's wise to always keep a certain level of skepticism, but it's just as prudent to open ourselves up to other teachings beyond our own. Many religions are centuries old and the teachings and wisdom of each has been proven and time tested over and over and over again throughout many generations.
Don't be tossed around by the storms of life.
Hold on to your faith.
We know "for sure" that the winds of life will keep blowing around us, but once we stay anchored in our center...nothing i.e. no-thing...can toss us into the water to drown...unless we let go of holding onto our anchor and allowing ourselves to be tossed around. That's how church helps: by providing solid values and offering on to centuries-old teachings that have worked for many others before us.  

Hold on. Find your center. Tie a knot and hold on.
Tie a knot to your Faith.
Peace be with you during this period of fasting...this Lent.
Stay anchored in your Faith.


EDITOR'S NOTE: As a special gift to yourself, I recommend you reading...if you have not already done so..."The Shack." Then, go see the movie, now in theaters everywhere. ("The Shack"). You'll be glad that you did. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Same Plane(t), Same Fate: "I Love You"

From above Planet Earth, i.e. our world, is seen as a unified whole
"We're All in This Together."

That's the thought that struck me as we experienced turbulence on a recent flight. Yes, we were flying in bad weather, but the tumult of the flight certainly got several of us thinking: "We can go down."

As the pilot announced there would be no in-flight beverage service because of the expected turbulence, one of my seat mates said to me: "We'd better bucket up, then, huh?" 

And ...buckle up we did.. But I knew that he, like I, was thinking the same thing.

Fortunately, we made it through the turbulence and landed safely on the ground, each of us going our separate ways ...to our separate lives.

For a moment, though, we were all forced to stop and think of our oneness: "We're All in This Together."

One plane...one fate.

It's so easy to see this oneness when we're thousands of miles up in the air from the busyness of lives.

It's so easy to see our connection to strangers: we're all in this together.

Then, we hit the ground and our connection...our Oneness... evaporates.

Valentine's Day is this week. And on Tuesday when we're celebrating our "love" with our families, lovers, and friends, I want you to conduct an experiment:

Let's imagine that looking into or upon Earth from a "higher plane," with no pun intended, we see the ONENESS of all humanity here on Earth.

Imagine, if we were part of that "higher plane" looking down: would we be able to see the individuality in each family, group or nation?

From this higher plane: Can we identify all people...all groups... all nations... as separate entities, or would we only see one mass...humanity?

Let's see if from this higher plane, we can reach only those we love to segregate them to say, "I Love You," or is it that from this higher plane, we have to absolutely say to all of humanity:

 "I Love You" so that we can reach the individuated souls within that humanity we believe we "love."
So many of us easily say we care for all human beings. So many of us easily say we love our neighbors. Yet again, so many of us easily say we love Canadians and American alike; all Arabs and Egyptians; Muslims and Hindus, Jews and Gentiles. We say we love Parisians and Portuguese alike....
In short, we may say "I love you" to all people throughout the world. Yet...how empty are those words, when others begin to suffer and we do nothing. We may say that we have faith that things will work out for them, but then again:
"What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can Faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you says unto them, 'Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled;' notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; What doth it profit? Even so, faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone."-James 2:14-17 
We will not revisit the absence of real love that allowed six million Jewish people to be sent to death in gas chambers in Germany; this was the darkest period of our humanity: The Holocaust.

The way we can honor the sacrifice of those millions of lives is to ensure that we love our shared humanity enough to ensure this type of disaster is never, ever repeated during our time on Earth and in the times of future generations. Right now, we're experiencing similarly trying times. Our faith is being tested.
My question to us all: On which side of love are we going to show up?

What gifts are we going to bring to the table of humanity, during this month of love, to those we say, "I Love You."

I've lit many, many candles over the last several months. Those were the days when I felt a deep sense of helplessness about what was happening in our world. I began thinking, "darkness cannot remain once the candle (hope) continues to burn..." 
I began to light candles every time and everywhere possible when I  began to feel a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. And whether only in my imagination, rays of hope began to shine through in the dark days and dark ways of others.
Over the weeks, I saw those with special skills and abilities beginning to rekindle the light back into our unified Soul. I began to see the love ...the real love...of those who went beyond their own areas of comfort to share their talents and gifts to those of us only able to watch with helplessness as people around the world were mistreated as they entered US shores. 
 (See these pieces from late January 2017: "An Army of Attorneys At Dulles Airport" 
and "Lawyers Mobilize Across The Nation,")

In my small way of lighting candles and in attorneys' big way of  taking action, we were each trying to chase away the darkness.

Indeed, on most days we can do nothing more than pray or light a candle of faith. But there's even some deeper actions...innate actions...that each of us can take to heal these troubled times:

Every day, it seems that we're being guided to learn more from life by examining our own lives and our own actions as we interact with others, i.e.  outside our circle of family, friends and acquaintances. Throughout the course of the day as you go about your day, ask yourself:
1. "Where am I holding resentment, i.e. lack of forgiveness, against another?
"2. "Where am I choosing to withhold support and caring to another, simply because he/she is not 'my concern?'"
3. "Where can I be more and offer more to someone else in distress?"
Even when we can do no more for strangers than offer a smile of support: offer it.
Even when we can do no more for a stranger than offer an eye of concern: offer it.
Even when we can do no more for a stranger than offer a dollar: offer it.
Even when we can do no more for a stranger than spare change: offer it.
Even when we can do no more for a stranger than offer a silent tear of caring: cry it.
Even when we can do no more for a stranger than offer a prayer of blessing: offer it.
We are all in this life together to share our humanity in this space and time.
We tend to forget this...until...
One day, we may be on a plane together and in that small world of the plane,
our collective lives become that of ONE Soul. 

One plane=One Soul. 

"Souls love. That's what souls do. Egos don't, but souls do. Become a soul, look around, and you'll be amazed...all the beings around you are souls. Be one; see one. When many people have this heart connection, then we will know that we are all one, we human beings all over the planet. We will be one. One love. And don't leave out the animals, and trees, and clouds, and galaxies...it's all one. It's one energy." -Ram Dass
Yes, with individuated bodies. But essentially One Soul to which all the individuated bodies and souls will return.

I urge you...if you have not done so already: see the activities being played out on the world stage as that of our ONE Soul. As hard as it is to see and believe, know that our humanity is manifesting only ONE Soul in various stages and places in the world. Don't be fooled by appearances. There's only ONE.

The fate of one of us is the fate of all of us in this humanity we share in the ONE SOUL. Respond to each other... family and strangers alike...with this in your consciousness.
Wake up to real love this Valentine's Day.
As a special Valentine's Day blessing to you, please be sure to watch this video in its entirety:

"Imagine," as sung by Emmanuel Kelly

"I love you."
Happy Valentine's Day!


Sunday, January 15, 2017

What Kind Of Cat Are You? Going Beyond Leaders And Living Our Own Truth

Our Greatest Leader Is What Lies Within Us 
 "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." -Marianne Williamson, A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles."

Today we celebrate the ministry of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honor the man that he was during his short 39 years on Earth.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr:  January 15, 1929-April 4, 1964
Dr. King left us with lasting memories of a man who not only aspired to live his dream but also inspired us to live ours. His legacy of hope and aspirations inspired many generations of African-Americans and others, and he will continue to inspire generations more of black, brown, white and other races of children. 

Yet, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was...but a man.

The question we must then ask ourselves when we think of a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: 
Did God created him in a different way than he did any of us? Was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. born to be great, or did he aspire to greatness? Or, further as William Shakespeare would ask, in his work Twelfth Night, "Did he have greatness thrust upon him?"
We can forever debate any of those three things, and  yet we would never know the truth of things. The reason is simple:
The truth laid within ...Dr. King himself.
You see, it matters not how we were created. 
What matters is what we believe about ourselves.
Some of us ...many of us...walk through life like little rabbits. (No, not the velveteen kind of rabbits that shine. Those: we can see their light.) 
But we walk through life like little mice, who scurry here and there that even the meek little kittens pictured (Above: left) would frighten them.
We are more than timid. We are mousy. And if someone comments or asks, "Why are you so timid?" believe me, we should not take it as a compliment. What they are essentially saying without using the exact words is this: you're not allowing your light to shine. You are walking through life with a dullness around you.
Wake up to how you're walking in the world. 
Look at the shadow you're casting in and into the world!
Are you walking like a proud, self-centered cat, fueled only by ego, or are you leaving footprints with the boldness of a tiger or lion?

How is your head when you're walking?

Are you slouching as you walk, hands and head hung down, or walking with your shoulders erect, hands and head going boldly forward?

Your "walk" through life tells a lot about you. It also determines how others treat you.

Who would dare to cross the path of a tiger, even if he never roars? His demeanor, even when he's being humble and holding back, always suggests he is capable and able to pounce on you at any time.  

A tiger does not need to roar to be heard. He simply just shows up with his boldness.
A cat, even a beautiful cat, who tries to array himself with boldness and pride...is...still...only a cat. Filled with himself and his "cat" issues.

The challenge for us all is to be a tiger, with humility, but to never ever be mistaken as a cat.

As we begin this day in celebration of this great man who lived, think about your life and whether you were born gifted. If you think you were not, or are not aware of your gifts...then are you waiting for someone else to pull out your gifts for you, or are you reaching within to discover that which is unique within you and offering those to the world? Listen to this and
be encouraged:
"I Will Be A Hummingbird."

The sad part about many of us is that we wake up each day expecting someone to lead us through life. The sad part about many of us is that we do not realize there are no leaders, just people who have a terrific opinion about themselves and allow their light to shine...brilliantly.

The sad part about many of us is that we look to those who allow their lights to shine to build our lives around their dreams. So, when their dreams become more of a reality, we don't see it as their dreams...so intertwined are we in their greatness and our littleness.

The sad part about many of us is that we don't realize that any one outside ourselves...great leader, great husband, great wife, great friend...has the potential to disappoint us at any time. The sad part about many of us is that when others disappoint us, we feel this disappointment in our own Souls, and we lose ourselves. Not because we failed. But because we think they failed us. All the while...all they were doing ...was living out their own truths.
"Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.
"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
"I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
"I have a dream today!
"I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of 'interposition' and 'nullification' -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
"I have a dream today!
"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; 
and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."
Much of what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed about did come alive, although there's still much more unpaved roads ahead. And the reasons those dreams came alive is not only because Dr. King dreamed them, but because he helped you and me and so many others to dream ours too. 

The truth is that when we dream cat dreams, we dream for ourselves; our world becomes flat, and it's small. But when we dream the dreams of a tiger, like Martin Luther King, Jr. did, our dreams take hold and are big enough to manifest in the world. 
That is the dream of a true leader: not only that I walk big, but you walk big, or even bigger, as you walk beside me. 

But we must be careful of some leaders: there are *lions walking among us, inspiring fear and having people cower and recoil in their presence and by their essence. Get to know the difference, and become the difference, between these "lion" creatures and tigers. The *"tiger" creatures are among us, inspiring people to do their best and be their best, through emulating their efforts.. 

I encourage you as you go through this 2017,  dare to grow throughout it: Be a tiger! Great leaders aren't going to save us. We must save ourselves. We must each reach in and discover, and drag out, our own power.

Begin to see yourself as a tiger...or a majestic horse... even if you were not born that way. 
Remember this: The mark of a leader, whether born with greatness, achieving it, or having it thrust upon him, is to utter words like these..
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
...and to have those words live on for generations. 
EDITOR'S NOTE: For the purposes of this piece, I've chosen to portray lions as strong, but negative, and tigers as being just as strong, but positive.

Personal Authenticity: "To Thine Own Self Be True"...

"To Thine Own Self Be True and it must follow as the night, the day, Thou canst not then be false to ANY man."
William Shakespeare.