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Your Roadmap to Mysticism

Posted June 29, 2013

Bhante Wimala

Someone asked me recently whether the Five Principles could be used as a path to mysticism. I said yes! Then I scrambled to figure out how that might work.

I wrote The Five Principles a few years ago to explain the universal spiritual laws that govern our lives. Don't worry if you haven't read the book. I'll walk you through the principles – backwards.

But first, let's define mysticism. Simply, mysticism is direct communication with God. It connotes deep knowing without being told and without external evidence. Intuition or guidance. Divine download. Answered prayer. It's been called many things.

The most famous mystics seem to have lived in a state of blissful Oneness – Hildegard of Bingen, Rumi. Others were quieter, like Brother Lawrence, the 17th century French monk who said even washing pots and pans at the monastery was a way to connect with God. He wrote The Practice of the Presence of God.

If mysticism – conscious and direct knowing of the divine – is our goal, then how do we get there?

Consider the Five Principles:

  1. God is all there is.
  2. We are divine beings.
  3. Our thoughts have creative power
  4. Prayer and meditation connect us to the divine.
  5. We must live the truth we know, put it into action.

Principles One and Two look a lot like mysticism – knowing ourselves as divine beings within the One. But most of us live at the other end – action, action, action.

So let's work backwards. I think this is the path most people take to deepen their spiritual awareness, whether they're conscious of these steps or not.

Principle Five – Our human lives are busy with action. We are always doing. Many of us aren't aware of any way to slow down. We meet every day with the question: “What should I do now?” It's exhausting, relying on ourselves, trying to think our way through life.

Principle Four – Then at some point, we remember to pray. An intense, vibrant prayer life is ideal, of course, but most of us start by asking for help in emergencies and sometimes expressing gratitude. We've picked up our culture's three essential prayers by osmosis: Help, Thanks, Wow. (You might enjoy Anne Lamott's little book by that title.) At least at this stage, we remember there's divine help available for our busy human lives.

Principle Three – The creative power of thought has been trivialized as the Law of Attraction, but it is ancient spiritual law like all of the Five Principles. We are participating with the universe in designing our lives. This awareness is often the doorway to a new spiritual understanding, an entirely different way of viewing the power and responsibility we have as co-creators with God.

Principle Two begins our mystical immersion. We realize we are not just working in partnership with God, we are part of All That Is. We are currently living on a planet in human bodies, but our essence is divine. This is where a great many like-minded people are working these days – not on manifesting things but on living AS God in expression. It's been done, but even Jesus had to practice, practice, practice. He continually slipped away to pray, to realign himself with the One.

Principle One -- God is all there is, everywhere, sounds like something Rumi or Hildegard or St. Francis of Assisi would say. This is Oneness. God is in nature, in meditation, in movement, in loving a child, being with friends, in great food or music. You don't have to immerse yourself in silence to experience the divine. Don't you imagine Michael Jordan felt it on the basketball court? In the zone, part of the One?

Which brings us full circle back to action, Principle Five, except now we are acting from our God-Self. As mystics, we are aware the divine is living in us, through us and as us in everything we do.

Easier said than done, I know. This is probably the work of many lifetimes. But at least we have a map. I continue to marvel at what handy tools the Five Principles make for any spiritual challenge.

****

Do you consider yourself a mystic? How do you think we get to moments of Oneness? Click that ittle blue number below to leave a comment.

PS – I'll be having a more expansive conversation about this with Janet Conner as a guest on her radio show, The Soul-Directed Life, at 1 pm Central on the Fourth of July on Unity Online Radio. If you're busy with hot dogs and beer that day, the recording will be available later.

And to take you to the holiday on a musical note, here's a short clip of Austin songwriter Kit Holmes singing “Fishin', Baseball, Boats 'n Beer.”

   

You Don't Need a Minister

Posted June 22, 2013

beach wedding

Happens all the time. A family who hasn't been to church in decades experiences some sort of life event – a wedding, a death – and scrambles to find a minister.

I get calls from strangers who hem and haw, then shyly explain, “We need a minister.”

May I helpfully suggest that you don't? You don't need or have to have a minister. For anything. Ever.

If you don't know a minister by name, if you don't have a church that you attend even occasionally, then clearly, organized religion is not an important part of your life. And I won't argue that it should be. So why call a minister when someone dies or gets married?

Don't get me wrong. I love performing weddings for couples I know, and I'm honored to be with church families who are grieving. But we already mean something to each other; we share a spiritual path or community.

With strangers, I feel like a union-scale actor sent over from Central Casting to play the minister's role.

The most satisfying memorial service I ever attended was in a private home where friends took turns talking about the man who had died. By request, I led a prayer, but I attended the gathering because I was a friend of the deceased. The stories told about him gave the evening its spiritual depth. Each memory was a blessing.

I declined later when a family I'd never met asked me to drive an hour each way to say a short blessing at a similar home gathering. They wanted to create the event themselves but seemed to feel obligated to have a minister “say a few words.”

The truth? Anyone can pray out loud for a minute. Every family has at least one person who would be comfortable praying and would love to be asked. You don't need a minister.

Here's the not-so-shocking news about ministers: We are no closer to God than anyone else.

Even in high church where ministers/pastors/priests wear robes and speak in stained-glass voices, they're still just people. Ordinary men and women with as many quirks and foibles as anyone else.

Your loved one who died will have the same afterlife experience whether a minister presides at the funeral or not. A marriage is no more likely to last if performed by a minister. The first couple I married split in four weeks. I've seen more successful marriages when the words “I now pronounce you husband and wife” were spoken by a frat brother who was ordained online. Yesterday.

scatteringi ashesWhat's legally required? Depends on your state and county, so check. But what really makes a marriage legal is filing the completed marriage certificate with the county clerk's office. Same for recording a death. The signature on those papers might need to be someone official, if only with Internet credentials.

Beyond that, it doesn't matter where a ceremony takes place, who attends or who leads it. Design whatever you want. Create rituals you'll remember.

I strongly believe families should have ceremonies that are meaningful to them. If it just won't feel right without a minister, then by all means find one. If the church of your childhood calls to you (or demands your return) for major life events, go. But it's perfectly acceptable to do it yourself.

As a minister, I'd rather be left out of the proceedings than be part of the furniture. For some couples, the wedding ceremony is just a speed bump on the road to a night of partying with friends. The minister is only on hand to say, “Blah, blah, blah. You may kiss the bride.”

Other couples, for whom the ceremony is a spiritual event, want to have a minister they know. Trouble is, they don't know one. So they interview several and hire the reverend they like. I guess it makes sense from the couple's point of view, but they're asking me to audition for a part in their wedding. Again, call Central Casting.

One young couple, who were forced into my office by some relative who attended my church, asked me to write a wedding ceremony for them without any mention of God. I think we compromised on a little bit of God – or maybe “the divine” – but no Holy Spirit. And certainly no Jesus. They didn't really want a minister.

And that's fine!

Wedding or funeral, let an erudite friend write the ceremony. Let a favorite aunt find scripture or poems that speak to the occasion. Tell your own stories. Write your own vows. (Google “wedding ceremony” or “memorial service” and prepare to be inundated.)

Weddings have long since moved out of church buildings and onto beaches and horseback, into hot air balloons and under water. For memorial services, too, you can find a place full of family memories or breathtaking beauty and let the closest friends and family speak what's important to say.

Why bring a minister you just met? Why cling to this final bit of orthodoxy?

Without a minister, you're still declaring your marital union or burying your dead in front of God and everybody. That's what it means to say God is omnipresent. Present everywhere. Hanging out with everybody. All the time.

You don't need a minister.

**

Really, can you think of any reason why a group of people who already know and love each other would hire a stranger to preside over one of the most important events of their lives? Click the little blue number and leave a comment. What am I missing?

   

Grappling with God the Father

Posted June 15, 2013

Sistine Chapel GodThe trouble with being on the leading edge of thought is that there are so many new ideas! I don't know about you, but when I get excited about a new idea, I tend to toss out the old ones.

That's what happened to God the Father. That antiquated term was thrown out with the bathwater early on my spiritual path.

But on this Father's Day, maybe we should reconsider whether there's value in thinking about God as a father, at least sometimes. The divine feminine has been trendy for years, but you hardly ever hear about the divine masculine. What is it?


I don't mean a male Supreme Being in the sky. That vision of God emerged 5,000 years ago to overtake the goddess culture – read The Chalice and the Blade – and we seem to be nearly finished with it now.

That God was a ruler, warrior and king. Judge and punisher. His favor was conditioned on obedience.

Jesus came along a few thousand years into this male God era and did his best to soften the image by describing God as a father. Even daddy or abba.

Apparently Jesus' idea of a father was an unfailing provider and protector who was delighted to share whatever he had with his children.

From Jesus's description, people got an inkling of a loving God and abundant universe. They saw the possibility for a personal relationship with God, too. Jesus had one.

What they didn't understand – and we still have trouble with this – was that as children of this loving Father, they carried attributes of the Father, their own divinity. Just as we carry elements of our human parents.

And there's the rub. When we hear “God the Father,” we can't help but think of our human fathers in all their varieties. Stern, even abusive. Distant, not quite aware of our existence. Entirely absent or randomly available. Even the most loving, steadfast and present dads probably have a few flaws.

“God the Father” has not been a perfect portrait of the One Presence and One Power that Jesus was trying to introduce, because we conflate it with our human fathers. Not all of us had the warm, close, communicative, trusting relationship Jesus apparently had with his earthly dad. (Joseph?)


God and Men

I had a fascinating conversation just last week about male spirituality.

A couple of wacky guys named Darrell and Ed host a new show on Unity Online Radio called Funniest Thing, where they talk about how surprisingly well life works if they let go and let God handle it. The secondary theme is that men can be spiritual, too. Men even pray, they say!

I asked them why men are shy about prayer and don't attend churches, buy books, or go to workshops nearly as often as women. Why is spirituality considered un-masculine? Especially since we've had this Big Male God for 5,000 years!

They invited me on the show to talk about it – you can listen here; it's the first 20 minutes – and told stories of their human fathers.

Darrell's dad was a New Jersey tough who taught Darrell he'd have to fight and claw his way through life. Never smile, he said. It's a sign of weakness.

Ed's dad was more benevolent, but his family valued intellect. Leaning on God might mean you weren't smart enough to handle life yourself.

Now Darrell and Ed are out of the closet as spiritual men. Darrell is ex-military, they're both married, and they both pray. They turn to the divine for help in their lives. They'll say so publicly on the Internet! But they're still self-conscious enough to mention every week that it's really okay for men to trust God.

Wow. All these millennia of patriarchy, of a world crazily unbalanced and dominated by one gender, has been just as damaging to men as women.


So now what?

The answer is not to tout the divine feminine as superior or for women to rise up and dominate men. The answer is balance. And the good news is: We were created with it.

“God created humankind in his image, male and female he created them.” (Gen. 1:27)

The masculine and feminine are hard-wired into each of us. We have the nature of both, thinking and feeling, and it would be a shame to neglect either set of attributes, either side of God in us. We are the flesh and blood of God, humans blended with the divine.

Jesus used the word “father” to represent that closeness and to give us a sense of the security and generosity available in the universe. He was reassuring us the universe is friendly. As safe as a loving father.

Maybe some of us can make friends again with God the Father, the ground of being that comprises more than we can see or imagine. We are part of that whole. Strong and logical, loving and nurturing. The image and likeness of God.

PS - Really, guys, is prayer considered a weakness? Please add your thoughts. (Click that tiny blue number, lower right.)

   

How Do You Release the Bad Stuff?

Posted June 10, 2013

butterflyIf I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: Release your negative beliefs to make way for your good!

Release the fear, unworthiness and old tapes that keep you from allowing something better into your life. Release whatever blocks the answers to your prayers or desires.

And the other day, someone asked me: How?

How exactly do we release the bad stuff?

We know that hanging onto to old negative beliefs has worn grooves into our brains. We know in the great cosmic scheme of things that we can't receive more good until we clear out the clutter in our psychic space.

But how do we go about this?

I've come up with three steps of preparation and five for release. (If you're interested in more detail, you may listen to a talk I gave about this on June 9, 2013.)

You might not want to call any part of yourself “bad.” Fine. Call it unskilled, unhealthy, unwise, no longer useful. But I believe we each can identify traits or beliefs we'd be better off without.

You could probably name four or five off the top of your head, qualities or beliefs that are interfering with your work, health, relationships or prosperity.

But how well do you know them?

Turn around and face them like monsters in a nightmare. Not to fight – they'll fight back. Simply look at them without blinking or cringing. (You are not obligated to beat yourself up if you discover you're not perfect.)

Second, accept that these traits or beliefs first developed to protect you. Often they are childhood coping mechanisms that no longer work.

For instance, you might have noticed at a very young age that you got your way by throwing a tantrum. And now you're a rage-aholic.

You might have noticed you felt less agitated when you ate a cookie, and now you weigh 400 pounds. What once helped now hurts.

Sometimes even fear-based beliefs bring long-term gifts. A fear of poverty might have propelled you into a productive, successful work life. A need to be the smartest kid in the room might have sustained you through advanced degrees and a career.

Even if you can't see the gifts in your flaws, accept that they were delivered and say thanks.

The final step in preparation is to get connected. Prayer, meditation, nature – whatever creates alignment. Immerse yourself in the power of the divine. Call it forth from within you.

Then choose a method of release.

Reframe. Ask your inner wisdom what it knows about you, the truth about yourself. Its voice is quieter than the inner critic and speaks in love. Replace limiting beliefs with truth as the divine speaks in you.

Ask to have defects removed. In AA, four of the 12 steps are about releasing the bad stuff. Take an inventory, own it out loud, become willing to release the flaws and ask God to remove them. Sometimes removal is a process, sometimes an event. Sometimes the defects stick around but we have the strength not to act on them.

Use energy work. Mind, body and subtle energy are a fertile field for healing physically and emotionally. Qi gong, Reiki, tapping, quantum touch, the Emotion Code – so many modalities. I like energy work because I don't have to know the story to release the pattern.

Transmutation. A fancy word for extreme makeover, it overcomes defects with love.

At the very end of Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert tells about a long meditation on a beach in Bali when she called forth every pain, anger and shame in her life.

I looked at each thought, at each unit of sorrow, and I acknowledged its existence and felt (without trying to protect myself from it) its horrible pain. And then I would tell that sorrow, “It's OK. I love you. I accept you. Come into my heart now. It's over.” I would actually feel the sorrow (as if it were a living thing) enter my heart (as if it were an actual room). Then I would say “Next?”

She integrated the “bad stuff” into the whole and healed it with her own love.

The fifth possible way to release limiting beliefs was suggested to me last week by Janet Conner, author of Writing Down Your Soul. She said: Laugh it off.

Seriously! Try to lighten up about all this. Limiting beliefs are simply lies we believed and carried with us. The inner critic is shouting old, stale lines that we're tired of hearing.

The divine is truly light-hearted. Think of the Dalai Lama giggling. Have you ever heard the angels laughing? At you? I have to agree, the human condition is pretty funny, especially because we take all this drama so seriously.

What if we could laugh at our foibles – “There I go again!” – and let it go? Thank our defects for their gifts and send them to serve someone else. Then watch them flit away like a butterfly.

How do you release blocks to your good? Share your discoveries in the comment section. (That tiny blue number, lower right.)

   




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