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Just Ignore Them?

Posted July 26, 2014

end of rope


Years ago, when little boys used to torment me on the playground, the adults in my life admonished me: “Just ignore them!”

Only the words have changed. These days when I'm annoyed with anyone, my spiritual friends say, “Don't give them any energy! Don't give them any power!”

Easy to say, hard to do, and harder still when the person in question has actual power.

What if it's a boss?

What if it's a spouse?

What if it's an unavoidable relative, neighbor or coworker, and you're being advised, “Just don't pay any attention!”

We all know these people, the ones we hate to see coming. We know they're pushing our buttons, on purpose or otherwise.

I usually beat myself up, figuring I wouldn't get hooked by their behavior if only I were more spiritual.

But they're just so … wrong.

One of my friends refers to them as “factory seconds you can't send back.” (Yeah, it's judgmental, but you've gotta vent somewhere.)

I don't like any of the options for handling difficult people that I can think of.

  1. Confront them, which likely will be unproductive, even pouring gasoline on a fire. Besides, I can't ask someone else to change just so I'll be more comfortable.
  2. Do nothing, which makes me a doormat.
  3. Or slog through the problem every day, feeling awkward or irritated around the person all the time.

There have to be some better methods. Have you found them?

You're probably going to tell me the answer is love, which makes me suspect that your ego has not been hooked by anyone lately!

I know we're supposed to live in divine consciousness. We talk about it in lofty terms, but what does it actually mean when faced with a problem person who is ensconced in our lives?

Maybe my three options above – miserable, miserable and more miserable – are a failure of imagination.

I'd love to hear about any success you've had in dealing with difficult people – the ones you have to face and can't ignore. Did you take an action? Or shift your consciousness somehow?

Email me or leave a comment below.

I'd love to share some answers with everyone in a week or two. (If you don't want your name used, say so.)

If you can offer a solution to this problem, we'd all be grateful!

   

The Confusion of Mind and Spirit

Posted July 19, 2014

head gears


Anyone who has known me for more than 10 minutes knows I have a serious case of Figure-It-Out-itis.

I want to know who, what, when, where and why about everything, from life's mundane details to the great cosmic questions. I particularly wonder about human behavior, including my own.

So I babble what little psychology I know.

Oh, that must be a personality disorder!

Need some cognitive therapy for this one …

Behavioral therapy for another.

This clearly stems from family of origin stuff – probably mother's fault.

That symptom is psychosomatic.

And that person over there? Decompensating fast!

It's exhausting. And it wouldn't matter except that I, like probably millions of others, have hopelessly enmeshed psychology with spirituality.

So when someone reminds me “there's a spiritual solution to every problem,” I'm not sure what it means.

What is purely spiritual? Should we disentangle spirituality from what we've learned about human behavior? How?

I, for one, am grateful we know so much more about the human psyche and brain function than we did 100 years ago. It's fascinating information, and it explains so much about why people do what they do.

But …

Psychology in general addresses what seems to be broken. And that's what distinguishes it from spirituality.

I've come up with these rough definitions. (Let me know below if you have better ones.)

Psychology applies to human personality. It's about our ego-function in the world -- weaknesses, wounds, beliefs ingrained by the family of origin.

This includes what is called positive psychology. It may be based on strengths and happiness rather than brokenness, but it's still about personality.

Spirituality is the process of discovering our innate perfection. When we reconnect with Truth – our inner divinity, source essence, core presence -- we realize nothing needs to be fixed. We are already all we can be.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to be a “better person,” but that work is done at the level of personality, not Spirit.

Maya Angelou said, "You don't need another person, place, or thing to make you whole. God already did that. Your job is to know it."

As humans, we strive to integrate the personality and higher self. That's where we become most confused, I think, trying to act from spiritual principles in daily life.

Take forgiveness. Is it a spiritual practice, or is it a psychological tool to feel better?

What about healing? Does it help to think that your back hurts because you're shouldering too big a burden in life? Or does it help more to know your divine self can never be in pain?

What about relationships? Psychology says it's important to set boundaries and stand up for yourself. Spirituality says to love unconditionally. Are they contradictory?

Most often, I hear layman's psychology being bandied about to explain why spiritual principles aren't working and good is not manifesting.

Oh, my mother taught me there's never enough money!

Oh, I've got a deep-seated belief that love always hurts!

Of course, we live in a society that believes in aging and decline, so that's why I'm not well!

These ideas are not necessarily wrong, but they entangle psychology with spirituality, when I don't think that was ever the intention of the great spiritual teachers we have known.

Jesus never said, “I'd love to heal you, but your mother was so awful, you're just hopelessly damaged.”

The Buddha never said, “I'm having trouble reaching enlightenment because of my deep feelings of unworthiness.”

They did teach that our beliefs come into evidence in our lives. But they also showed that it's possible to live from the divine essence within.

Psychology is to explain and maybe improve what makes you tick. Spirituality is to know ultimately who you are.

Psychology is to dig up old stuff to heal it. Spirituality is to know your perfection already.

I am not putting down psychology. Counseling has been tremendously helpful to me, and I sought it out when I was feeling decidedly broken.

Maybe the two work together. Maybe clearing away the emotional detritus opens a path for spiritual awakening, like the 12 Steps.

But I think it's important to distinguish between our work at the level of personality and our divine consciousness, to remember that whatever seems to be wrong with us today is not all of who we are.

There is a spiritual counterpart, a divine version of you that can never be sick, broke or unhappy.

This is the real you, the eternal you, the part of you that has always existed and always will.

Your challenge and mine is to live from our own higher awareness, even with our physical feet on the ground.

You can stay in touch with the spiritual being who is having this human experience as you. You can know that whatever is happening is a perfect and necessary part of your life's curriculum, even if you don't understand why or how.

When I remember this, I can let go of my need for answers.

Ahhhh, what a relief! I trust that all is well, and I am enough.

PS -- Gangaji, a spiritual teacher you might l like, says spirituality has been hijacked by psychology. Do you agree? Am I making this too complicated? Let me know below.

   

Yay, God!

Posted July 12, 2014

alphabet letters


There's a delightfully wacky woman in my church who ends every Sunday service by shouting “Yay, God!” after the closing prayer.

At first, I thought it was a little boisterous. Now I miss hearing “Yay, God” when she's not there.

But others have taken up the call, and some of the littlest children in our church have come to believe all prayers end with “Yay, God!”

According to one mother, her 3-year-old ends every blessing at the dinner table with “Yay, God!”

I love the way kids pray. They seem to have no problem believing a higher power is available and interested in their lives. And they never run out of things to mention to God, whether they're asking for help or saying thank you.

I wish I were as tapped into the divine sometimes as they are.

One Sunday, the elementary school kids went through the alphabet and listed on flip charts everything they wanted to pray for or about.

Some didn't surprise me (kittens, family) but illumination? effervescence? dignity?

You might want to add some of these to your own prayer and gratitude list:

A abundance, apples, animals, affirmation

B beauty, blessings, baptism

C calligraphy, clarity, culture, cooperation, compassion, caring, commitment

D domination, determination, destiny, dignity, dad, dog

E elements, exhilaration, effervescence, earth

F faith, fascination, family, friends, forgiveness

G goodness, grace, God, greatness, grades

H happiness, hope, heroic humans, heaven, health, honesty

I imagination, illumination, intelligence

J joy, joining with God

K kindness, kittens

L love, live

M memories, mom, master of disguise, mac and cheese

N numbness, nature

O opinion, options

P philosophy, peace, pledge, plants, people

Q quality, quietness

R rain, radiance

S strength, sweetness

T truth, twins, trinity

U us, universe

V victory

W world, wisdom

X extra kindness

Y you

Z zeal

All I can say is: “Yay, God!”

   

Feeling the Love

Posted July 5, 2014

divine love painting


I gripe about the word love because it has become so broad.

It means everything, from I love you, to I love ice cream, to I love America.

I'm especially uncomfortable when I hear someone say, “God loves you.” Nice as it sounds, I no longer believe God is an entity or supreme being with humanlike feelings. There's no Big Guy up there loving me.

And yet …

When I'm stumped for a blog topic, sometimes I initiate a conversation – talking to God, angels, spirit guides, higher self or whatever it is that answers – to ask what I might write about. And the chat always goes like this:

What do you want them to know?

Tell them how loved they are.

Not again! That's what you always say! And that's a hard one for me. I'm not sure I believe it myself sometimes.

Uh huh. Why do you think we chose you to deliver the message?

Hmph. Okay, exactly how are we loved?

Often the answer comes in pictures. Beautiful beaches, dense green trees in a forest, sunsets, pets, children, other people smiling. All expressions of divine love for us.

I had an easier time feeling God's love as a child. Maybe children really are closer to the pure love and light from whence we all came.

My concrete child's mind saw God as a larger-than-life man with emotions like mine. That was the original view of God in the Old Testament, too: a male God who got angry, punished, blessed and loved the people. The goal was to stay on His good side.

As an adult, my view of God expanded and became more abstract. God is simply All That Is.

Call it a force field, light, intelligence, principle, the ground of being and yes, call it love. Divine love just IS.

It's like the air that surrounds us, available in limitless supply to the extent we choose to inhale. If everyone on earth took a big, deep breath at the same time, we still wouldn't run out of air.

Like air, divine love is not parceled out according to our behavior or the quality of our prayers. We are simply surrounded by it.

If love just IS, then the universe has no choice but to BE love. And we have no choice but to be loved, simply by virtue of our existence.

Think of it this way: The ocean is wet. If you walk into the ocean, you get wet. The ocean didn't make a decision to soak you; that's just the nature of water.

Love is the nature of God, and we can never be outside of it. We live and move and have our being in an ocean of love. Also known as life, intelligence, creativity and beauty.

At least that's my view today, as I try to imagine how all this works and how divine love shows up for humans. We see evidence of it everywhere we look. Facets of what-we-call-God glimmer in every plant, animal, person and experience we encounter.

We can't not be loved; we can only fail to feel it.

So I'll share a little exercise that has worked for me:

In quiet time, soak yourself in the unconditional love of the universe. Let it seep into your mind, heart, and every cell of your body.

The love is already there. You don't have to find it or earn it. You only have to learn to take big, deep gulps of love instead of shallow sips.

Even then, the love will never run out.

   




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