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How Do You Want to Go Through Life?

Posted October 25, 2014

One of my favorite newsroom movies is Broadcast News, released in 1987 in the era of typewriters and videotape.

Tom (William Hurt) is the blow-dried airhead on a fast track to the anchor's chair, and Aaron (Albert Brooks) is the brainy, neurotic investigative reporter.

Tom can't believe his good fortune at landing a network job in Washington, D.C., and says to Aaron, “What do you do when your real life exceeds your dreams?”

Says Aaron: “Keep it to yourself.”

I've always laughed at the line and tended to agree. But now that my life is better than it's ever been, I catch myself keeping quiet about it.

Is it guilt?

Fear of making other people feel less-than?

Superstition that another shoe is going to drop?

For that matter, are we a society that hates happy people?

We tend to bond by sharing the wounds of our pasts or playing Ain't It Awful about the world's situations.

Listen to casual conversations in restaurants, on airplanes, or in grocery lines. They are likely to start with a complaint and become a cascade of all that's wrong with life: bad service, long delays, the weather, the government, the sad state of education or health care or the latest celebrity scandal.

There's no end to things we can criticize!

In some circles, nothing is more annoying than a person who is relentlessly positive, one who counters every complaint or reframes every story in a brighter light. Don't you know some of those people? Haven't you been irritated by them?

I never expected to become one of them! But I'm increasingly comfortable with cheerful, smiling people whom others might call unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky, Pollyanna, cock-eyed optimists.

Why are positive people described with such slurs?

Here's the thing people on both sides can remember: Being positive is a choice.

Positive people have just as many issues as anyone else. They simply choose to focus on the good.

Happiness, joy and positivity are not dependent on outer circumstances. They are always available. Your choice.

Even better, once you are in a positive frame of mind, more reasons to be happy will flow into your life.

This may be the great secret of spiritual law: WE make the first move.

We shift consciousness , we choose where to focus. Then the universe just mirrors our thoughts.

So even though you might feel surprised when real life exceeds your dreams, somewhere, at some level, you made the shift that attracted your good.

You are seeing your own reflection.

And it's brighter all the time.

   

Ten Ways to Be Genuinely Spiritual

Posted October 18, 2014

I've been laughing all week at a little video called How to Be Ultra Spiritual.

It really makes me squirm. JP Sears has hit all the elements of trendy spirituality, even in his visuals. Candles, a singing bowl, a Buddha statue. He's even wearing purple. With flowers in his hair.

(Why is purple considered spiritual? Because purple light has the shortest wavelength and the highest vibration. I had to look it up, but it has myriad divine meanings.)

I have railed against pretentious spirituality, and I wrote a couple of months ago about how to spot a spiritual fraud.

But this video made me wonder: If we can laugh at phony spirituality, then what is genuine spirituality?

Watch this funny video first, then continue reading below:



First, applause to JP Sears, who is a spiritual teacher and coach based in Charleston, S.C.

To come up with a template for genuine spirituality, I took each of his Ultra Spiritual traits and pondered its opposite.

1. Competitive Spirituality – Ouch. The holier-than-thou syndrome shows up in every spiritual group, I fear. Its opposite would be to accept all people, wherever they are on a spiritual path.

2. Faking Intuition – Some people claim to be divinely guided when they're simply hell-bent on getting what they want. Real intuition usually expresses as gentle nudges and does not demand that other people knuckle under to my will.

3. It's All Energy – It is, but sometimes the idea is used to discount the human experience, much like it's all an illusion or life is but a dream. Maybe that's true. But we volunteered to come to this physical world and learn from it. Be here now.

4. Same Concepts, Different Words – It's quite possible to be just as rigid about new spiritual ideas as old ones. Listen to the similarity of ideas:

I'll pray for you/I'll send you light

Jesus loves you/The Universe supports you

God will provide/The Universe is abundant

We're really not so different, huh? (See #1.)

5. Use Namaste at Every Opportunity – I bet most of us were not taught as children to join our palms together and bow to other people. Or to speak Sanskrit. Pretentious? Or just borrowing high ideals from other cultures?

6. Extended Eye Contact – I have promised my congregation that I will never force them to gaze into each other's eyes. If a loving look arises naturally, good. But forced intimacy does not make me feel spiritual, just uncomfortable.

7. Deny Human Feelings – This is such a common misunderstanding, that to be spiritual, you must never be sad, angry, negative or resentful. Again, we are here for a human experience. Pain is part of it. Life is real. Feel it.

8. Sound Spiritual – The opposite is to be yourself and talk the way you talk, whether you think it sounds spiritual or not. (See #1 again.)

9. Do a Lot of Yoga – I once heard someone sniff, “Pilates is just yoga without the spirituality.” Sheesh. Exercise any way that appeals to you.

10. Irresponsible Free Spirit – Its opposite would be taking responsibility as a human and spiritual being. If you are an expression of God, how do you want to show up? Not just your actions but your thoughts and words have creative power.

It all boils down to being present and authentic, doesn't it?

If you hurt, cry.

If you prefer football to yoga, play.

If you have an intuitive knowing, follow it, but remember others won't necessarily receive the same message.

If you're broke, affirm abundance and look for a job.

Wear purple if you like it, but don't feel obligated!

Feel what you feel, say what you feel and act from love whenever possible. That pretty much sums up genuine spirituality.

Who knew it was so simple?

   

The Unblessed Tater Tot

Posted October 11, 2014

church lady


A new family arrived at my church a couple of months ago, refugees from the Bible Belt culture here in Texas.

Nine-year-old Nate told me this story:

He was having dinner at a friend's house, and both boys popped Tater Tots into their mouths as soon as they sat down. The older brother began to scold Nate – eating before the family said grace!

Nate's friend commiserated: “Well, at least I'm not the only one going in the trash can.”

Really?? Going to hell for eating an unblessed Tater Tot?

I was happy to reassure Nate his soul is safe from God's wrath over a Tater Tot, but I was beside myself.

What is it with these Christians? Never miss a chance to judge someone? Never miss a chance to “witness” by telling someone how superior you are?

Turns out Nate's sister Rosie, now 12, mentioned at school a year or two ago that she believes in angels and communicating with the dead. She was teased and bullied so relentlessly that her health suffered, and Rosie ended up being home schooled.

I know what these sin-obsessed kids and their parents are doing.

I grew up with the same pressure, being urged at every turn to give my “testimony” to the “lost.” That meant setting straight my friends at school, just as Nate's and Rosie's friends tried to do.

I was taught I would be held responsible for the state of every soul I encountered. If they weren't saved, it would be my personal failure. Imagine standing at the Pearly Gates, having to admit I never spoke up!

Somehow this imperative never was translated as an opportunity to share Jesus' radical teachings of love, forgiveness and inclusivity or the kingdom of heaven among us. Instead, it boiled down to strict rules for behavior, a narrow set of actions (or abstinence) to “get right with God.”

I had hoped things were better all these decades later. Lighter, more loving.

I guess not.

Heretics aren't burned at the stake anymore, but shunning little kids to the point they believe they are unworthy of God's love is violence, too.

And this drumbeat of judgment has a chilling effect on anyone with a different idea.

Never mind the insult to billions of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus in the world. This noisy minority of Christians shuts down those who are just a few steps away on a parallel path and keeps them (me, us) silenced.

How free do you feel to share your spiritual views when you are with people who you know believe differently?

Do you cling tightly to groups of like-minded people, or have you found ways to branch out?

I know I can't judge narrow-minded Christians by being narrow-minded and judgmental myself. Well, I can, of course, and I have. Right here.

But that's not the answer.

The answer lies somewhere in the love, forgiveness and inclusivity taught by Jesus. Not because he was a Christian (he wasn't), but because he was teaching universal spiritual laws and showing us how to live from divine consciousness, which is the essence of every human being.

The rigid extremes of any religion are oppressive, and certain factions of every belief system are convinced they have the one and only truth about life.

In fact, each of us has a truth – our truth, 7-billion individual truths – and none of them are big enough to encompass all that God is.

So I suppose I have to make room for those who believe God really cares whether you take a bite of unblessed food.

Still, I am grateful I had a chance to tell 9-year-old Nate he's not going to hell. That was my testimony for the day.

Are kids spiritually squelched where you live? Are you? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.


PS - You might enjoy perusing this interesting list: The 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People in 2014. See whether you think they chose the right ones.

   

When Paths Converge

Posted October 4, 2014

oppression


I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that most people in my church are refugees from rigid religions, but then I heard from a friend who reminded me that doesn't apply to everyone.

He grew up with no religion, he said, and actually envied kids who got to go to church on Sundays. No Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome for him.

I used to envy those who grew up free of indoctrination. They have so much less to unlearn, I thought.

But now I'm not so sure.

I have become increasingly aware of what I call Cultural Christianity. It's what you would hear about God, Jesus, the Bible and church even if you never darkened the door of a church or read a spiritual book.

Generations now are growing up without church, so unless their parents are diligent about spiritual education at home, the kids just pick up ideas from the playground and TV.

What is that version of Christianity? I've been trying to pay attention, and once you start looking, the messages are everywhere.

  • God is Out There, watching.
  • God expects you to be honest and good, and if you're not, you will get in trouble. Somehow.
  • People are basically good, but some are evil.
  • The jury is still out on whether you are worthy.
  • Oh, and people in churches are all hypocrites. Pastors only want your money.

Listening to the culture, I don't hear much about heaven or hell, sin or salvation. I only hear Bible when it's being used to condemn someone. Christmas is about decorating, shopping and eating; Easter is a long weekend.

If I'm taking my spiritual lessons from movies or talk shows, I also never hear about the divine within or the idea that I am a creator. (Unless I watch Oprah.)

But what I hear clearly, everywhere, is a firm belief that God protects good people. And that is most damaging of all.

Because it leads to this: I've lived a good life. How could God let this happen?

Whatever this is. A tragedy, an accident, an illness.

I hear this lament from those in traditional churches, those who are spiritual but not religious, and those who describe their beliefs as “nothing.”

It breaks my heart, this assumption that God rewards good people. Because it sets us up for anger and disappointment.

If you believe that being a person of integrity or being in service to others exempts you from life's pain, then you're going to feel bereft when something goes wrong. Angry at God, confused, abandoned and unworthy.

How could God let this happen to ME?

In thousands of years of human awareness, we have never been able to answer the question of why bad things happen to good people. We just know that they do.

Yet our culture, as well as many churches and spiritual teachers, insist we can somehow earn our way out of difficulty and pain.

Personally, I think tough times are part of the human package, something we signed up for when we booked this excursion to Earth. My soul has purposes I know not of.

But I digress.

The point is, we probably all have absorbed ideas about spirituality that we might want to examine and adjust later.

Those who grew up hearing nothing but Cultural Christianity, and those who grew up with so much religion being forced on them that they spend their entire adult lives trying to wriggle out from under it, end up in the same place spiritually.

  • They both feel called to something higher.
  • They both might want to unlearn some of the unhelpful ideas they absorbed.
  • They both are seeking oneness with a power and presence greater than their human selves.
  • They both are pushing the limits of their understanding to evolve consciously.

Whether you grew up memorizing scripture or thought Sundays were created for football, our spiritual paths may be similar now.

We are on a journey to understand the truth of our being, to find practices that awaken us to the love of the universe, and to know ourselves as part of God.

No matter where we started, we are expanding into oneness.


I'm curious – if you grew up with no particular religious teaching, how do you feel around people who are burdened with religious baggage? Can you find common ground?

   




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