Saturday, November 28, 2015

A Heavy Heart

As I sit here writing, my heart feels heavy.  My heart cries out for all the victims of the recent terrorist attacks no matter where they occurred; for their families, friends, and neighbors who are affected by these great tragedies; to all those who are living in fear, not only of further attacks, but for those who are living in fear for their lives and well-being because they are wrongly being associated with the terrorists; and my heart cries for all those who are falling victim to all the hate and fear propaganda being spread by politicians, religious leaders, and others, not only in other countries, but in America as well.

It would be hard for many Americans to even imagine what it would be like to be ripped from their families, their homes, losing everything they have, and to have their lives drastically changed in an instant.  We in America have been fortunate in that we have rarely had to experience the genocides, wars, and terrorist attacks that other countries consistently undergo.    

We know that the early American Indians experienced genocide and thousands upon thousands of Indians were forced into slavery and/or slaughtered. Those who lived were forced to move and live on Indian reservations and to suffer intolerable conditions. 

Black slavery in our country began in the early 1600’s when the first African slaves were shipped to North America.  Countless slaves were beaten, raped, and/or murdered.  Even though we’ve come a long way since then, many blacks still experience bigotry.

In the 1930’s, there was the holocaust in Germany where millions of Jews, gypsies, disabled, mentally ill, and others, were yanked from their homes, put in concentration camps, and millions were sent to their deaths in ovens and gas chambers.  Even though this didn’t happen in our country, it concerned many here who had families losing their lives in these atrocities.

In the 1940’s, here in America during WWII, over 127,000 Japanese, including women and children, were ordered to relocate to concentration camps.  Almost two-thirds were Japanese Americans and had never even been to Japan.  If they tried to flee, they would be shot.

These are only a few examples from our history and are nothing to be proud of.

Today, there are those who want to rip over 11,000 million men, woman, and children from their homes forcing them to be refugees in another country.  They want all Muslim-Americans to register with a database, and/or mandate that they carry special identification cards to note their faith, even though it has been proven over and over that the majority have nothing to do with the terrorists, and most Muslims are condemning the actions of those who are killing in the name of their religion.  There are also those who are literally calling for the deaths of others who they do not agree with just because of a difference in beliefs and/or lifestyles.

How soon we forget.  Many claim that we are a Christian nation, but the words and actions from so many are making us anything but.  I am not meaning for this to be political; instead, I’m writing this as a humanitarian and compassionate issue. 

I’ve said it numerous times before, but Jesus commanded us to love one another.  When the teachings of Jesus are taken out of Christianity, then it is no longer a religion whose foundation is Jesus.  It becomes a man-made religion based on man’s personal beliefs, prejudices, and agendas.  Jesus said, “…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”  He also said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples." 

We need to stop demonizing and dehumanizing our beautiful brothers and sisters on this great planet Mother Earth.  It is only fear and ignorance that is separating us.  Do not let those living in total fear brainwash us into destroying the lives of whole groups of people.  When would it stop?  The next time, it could be any one of us!

Even though it seems that so much ‘evil’ is happening in the world, in reality, there is so much more good happening than not, and so many people doing more good than not!  On top of that, all these tragedies are uniting people all over the globe and it’s teaching us to love!  We’re just not hearing about it in mainstream media!  Please do not give up on humanity!  Love will prevail!

Nelson Mandela said, “Our human compassion binds us the one to the other, not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.”  Sending love and light to all the world over! 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper November 27, 2015.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Holidays Have Arrived!

It’s that time of year again!  The holidays have arrived!  We’re coming up on Thanksgiving and then Christmas is just around the corner!  I love the Spirit of the holidays!  People are usually kinder, they go out of their way to help others, and there are countless festive celebrations all across the globe.  The Spirit of Love seems stronger and can soften even some of the most hardened hearts. 

Sadly, also during the holidays, the drama about there being a war on Christmas rears its ugly head, people start getting nasty with each other, and the Spirit of Christmas goes right out the frosty window.  Friends, there is no war on Christmas.  The only war on Christmas is the one being perpetuated by those who are saying there is a war on Christmas.  If there was an actual war on Christmas, there would be a Federal law banning it and anyone caught celebrating in any way would be arrested and thrown into prison.  Calling it a war is an insult to anyone who has ever fought and/or died in an actual religious war where there were bombings, shootings, countless deaths, and people’s lives being torn apart. 

Starting even before we get through Halloween, Christmas decorations start going up and stores begin promoting their holiday products.  Lights go up outside of homes.  Nativity scenes and other Christmas characters are put in yards.  There are Christmas movies galore on TV.  About every other commercial is about Christmas.  Santa Clauses appear everywhere.  People wear Christmas clothes and jewelry.  Look anywhere and you will see the signs of Christmas.  (Anyone remember when none of this would start until the day after Thanksgiving?)

What we can’t do is to force a religion or holiday onto anyone else.  We can certainly have our beliefs and celebrations while at the same time showing respect for others to do the same with theirs.  It is more important to have Christmas in our hearts than all the outward trimmings.  Love, peace, kindness, and compassion are all a part of this Spirit and it comes from within.  You will know those who understand the true Spirit of Christmas by their words and actions.   Christmas should only be about the love; the love that Jesus taught.  And isn’t Christmas supposed to be about celebrating Jesus’ birth?  Isn’t Jesus called “The Prince of Peace?”  Don’t we say “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men?”  Shouldn’t love and peace be the priority during the holiday season?

If we can get rid of all the Christmas trees, decorations, movies, commercials, gift giving, Santa Clauses, etc., as well as stop fighting and arguing about whose holiday we should celebrate, what greeting we should say, and what decorations should be displayed, then we can truly understand the real Spirit of Christmas.   To be clear, there are many people who do understand the true Spirit of Christmas and can still have all that goes with it.  They know that the true Spirit means loving one another, honoring everyone’s holidays, and respecting their right to do so.  Many even joyfully share with each other their various celebrations!

There are also other holidays during this season.  Hanukkah, Bodhi Day, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, Omisoka, Yule, and numerous others.  Yet we rarely hear about any of these anywhere, if at all.  They know the true Spirit of their holidays and they know they don’t have to be commercialized to be enjoyed. 

Let us please stop this nonsense over the most ridiculous issues (including a red coffee cup; it’s just a cup!).  Let’s come together in the true Spirit of Christmas and all the other holidays and love one another.  Say whatever greeting you believe in saying, but if someone should say a different greeting to you, please respect their right to do so.  In the spirit of love, maybe you could even say theirs and yours together in return!  And please don’t correct them to say the greeting you think they should say.  How many of us have had someone get spiteful with us because we didn’t say their preferred greeting?  Not everyone is a Christian, nor does everyone celebrate Christmas, and that’s their right.

Ruth Carter Stapleton said, “Christmas is most truly Christmas when we celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who need it most.”  And Calvin Coolidge stated, “Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper November 20, 2015.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

In the Beginning....

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  Genesis 1:1

There are many theories and beliefs regarding how the Universe and our Earth came into existence.  Some believe in the Big Bang Theory where life exploded into being and it just took off from there.  Others believe that there is a Supreme Being (in the form of a man) who made the Earth and everything on it and that it has nothing to do with the Big Bang Theory.  Many will fight and argue over who is right and who is wrong, but when it comes down to it, there is absolutely no proof as to how life in the Universe began.  Does it really matter?  Couldn’t it be that it’s all in some ways true? 

There are also various beliefs/theories as to how human beings came into existence.  Some believe in the Theory of Human Evolution in that man came from apes.  Others believe in the Biblical account in that we came from Adam and Eve.  Again, there is no absolute proof of either other than our beliefs.  Again, couldn’t it be that it’s all in some ways true?

Most people are not aware that there are two stories of Adam and Eve in the Bible.  In the first account, the creatures were made first.  Then God said, “Let US make man-kind in OUR image…” and he made male and female (humans) at the exact same time.  The second story is the one most people believe in which Adam was made first, then animals, and then God took one of Adam’s ribs to make Eve.  So, which version is true?  Again, does it really matter? 

Many people believe that Adam and Eve were the very first two humans on the earth, and then they had two sons, Cain and Abel.  From there, everyone else was made.  Really think about this as to how they may have multiplied.  Later, Cain killed Abel.  Cain then left Eden and went to the land of Nod where he made love to his wife.  Where did Nod come from if Eden was the first and only beginning and where did he find a wife to marry?

The reason I mention this is that everyone has their beliefs about how life and human beings began, and people are very passionate about what they believe to be true.  Since there is no absolute proof, can’t we just respect each other’s beliefs and stop the fighting and arguing?  My answer to people who want to argue about something that happened in the past (where this is no proof) is “I don’t know; I wasn’t there.”

We’re here now!  We can no longer live in the past and expect it to define us.   We are not our stories whether it’s our own generations or generations past. 

Here’s what I personally believe…  It is beyond my comprehension how anything can come into existence from nothingness.  However it started, it started from the Source of the All-That-Is (God or whatever you choose to call it).  That one Spark of the Divine blew us into existence and is within each and every one of us, as well as within everything in the Universe, and it was all made from that one Divine Spark.  That means if that God Spark multiplied, then God is in us and we are in God; therefore, that makes each of us a part of God so we can’t be anything but the essence of God!  Do you even realize how magnificent and spectacular that makes each and every one of us!?!

Some religions believe we are born into sin and are always sinners.  Did you know the original Biblical definition of “sin” was an archery term meaning to “miss the mark?”  You missed the target!  Somehow, it was adapted to mean a bad human being.  We cannot be bad or sinners when we were made from the very substance of Source!  Some also say that we need to work for God’s grace.  Friends, we don’t need God’s grace; we ARE God’s grace!!!

In the beginning, Source made everything and then said it was all good!  The only thing keeping us from believing we are good is our beliefs that we are not!  We can learn from the past, but let’s move forward knowing that we ARE the pure, unconditional, perfect love of the Universe!  Stop the fighting and arguing!  We’re all on this planet together and we really are all a part of each other.  Literally!

As Billy Fingers said, “The same intelligence that grows trees from seeds, that lets birds fly, that waves the ocean, and gives birth to new stars…that same Intelligence also breathes your breath, beats your heart, and heals your wounds.”

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper November 13, 2015.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

An Adventure of Blissful Transformation

One day, God was walking through the world to see how his children were doing.  He came upon an old monk who had spent his entire adult life practicing mental and physical disciplines.  Because the monk had gained a certain level of clarity, he realized that the man casually walking by was fully aware of his inner Divine Self.  Rising from his meditation pose, he bowed before God and asked, “Great-Souled One!  I see you are an illumined master!  Please tell me how long it will be before I realize my inner Divine Nature!” 

God smiled and replied, “You are doing well, my son!  At this rate, you will achieve your inner Divine Self with just one more lifetime.”  The monk was appalled at the thought of having to go through another lifetime of boredom and pain, and lashed out at God calling him a fraud.  God smiled tenderly at him and walked on.

Soon, God came upon a simpleton who was splashing in the river, laughing, and singing.  He loved God and life so much and didn’t care about his personal needs.  The simpleton noticed the stranger smiling at him, came out of the water, bowed before him, and said, “How wonderful!  God has sent to me a Great-Souled One!  I have been enjoying myself so much that I nearly forgot that I have a purpose.  My quest is to realize enlightenment, but I have become distracted by the constant joy welling up inside of me.  Seeing you reminded me.  Could you please tell me how long it will be before I realize my inner Divine Nature?”

God laughed and replied, “You are doing well, my son!  At this rate, you will realize your inner Divine Self with just seventy more lifetimes!”  The simpleton cried out with glee, “Seventy lifetimes more?!?  How wonderful!”  He was filled with so much joy at the prospect of another seventy lifetimes of such bliss that the last doubt he ever had disappeared and he attained the highest state of enlightenment instantly! 

(This story was modified from the book “Ascension!” by MSI.)

How many of us work very hard to become so enlightened that we forget to just enjoy life as it comes?  I’m sometimes guilty of this myself.  I’m a sponge for wisdom and knowledge and there’s so much I want to learn, that I sometimes forget to just let the joy flow. 

Life can be hard for so many people and my heart goes out to them.  How can we feel joy and happiness in the midst of such turmoil?  I have a saying:  “You don’t have to be happy with your circumstances, but you can be happy in your circumstances.”  Is it easy?  For some…maybe.  It’s just we humans who make it so difficult.  We think that life has to be a certain way before we can be happy, but we have it backwards.  We should feel happy and joyful, and that in turn, will attract so much more good into our lives.  Count our blessings and be grateful for all the good we do currently have and experience.

The problem is that we want everyone around us to change first before we can feel joy and happiness.  We blame the outside world for our feelings.  If you’re always waiting on someone or something outside yourself to transform, then you never will find that joy within.  Gandhi says “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  Don’t wait for others to change.  Ride the adventure of blissful transformation!  Yes, you’ll have your ups and downs, but the more you practice, the more up’s you will experience.

I’m basically a happy person, but even I have my days where I don’t even want to face the world.  Yet I’ve experienced those moments of total spiritual bliss where I feel at one with God (Universe) and everyone and everything in the world.  I’ve felt that connection with the pure, unconditional, perfect love of the All-That-Is, which flows through all in life.  I know what it feels like even though I can’t always stay in that state of mind.  Since I’ve felt it and know what it feels like, it gives me something to aspire to.  The more I try to aspire to it, then the more I feel it.  It’s possible for all of us to be in that state, just like the simpleton in the story above who had nothing. 

Lao Tzu said, “If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself.  If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself.  Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.”

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper November 6, 2015.