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Most of All, I Remember His Eyes

Posted September 26, 2015

prison fence

His name was David.

His eyes were enormous – blue, brown, I don't remember – but wide with fear and what appeared to be surprise at where he was headed.

The electric chair.

I was one of the designated witnesses as a reporter for United Press International, the first and only time I viewed an execution. The press gathered in a small gallery with a few lawyers and members of the victims' families, who had waited eight years for this day to come.

We were at Angola, the Louisiana State Penitentiary that later became the setting for the book and movie, Dead Man Walking. The execution would take place in a tiny room on the other side of a plate glass window.

David – slight, white, young -- was meek as a lamb when the correctional officers marched him into the room and strapped him to the high-backed wooden chair.

They had shaved his head, sometime that evening between his last, desperate plea before the clemency board and the execution scheduled for midnight.

He said nothing when asked for his last words. Finally they put a hood over his head, and I could no longer see his frightened eyes.

It all came flooding back when Pope Francis urged Congress last week to reconsider the death penalty.

DO UNTO OTHERS?

It was just one paragraph in Francis' speech, and it was only mentioned in passing in the news coverage I heard. As if to say, yeah, sure, what do you expect? The Church has always been against the death penalty.

But the church's consistency on this is one of the things I admire about Catholics. If they believe life is sacred, then all lives are sacred. The Church opposes abortion and the death penalty, the lives of those deemed innocent and those pronounced guilty, flawed, ruined.

Pope Francis put it in the context of Jesus' Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Matthew 7:12)

Try applying this to immigrants and refugees, he said, and to the most violent convicted criminals.

“Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves.”

INTO THE LION'S DEN

Let us not overlook Francis's courage.

Maybe it's no surprise that a pope opposes the death penalty, but this pope proclaimed it in the lion's den. He stood in the well of the United States Congress and called out one of the richest, most powerful nations on earth for violating human rights and failing to follow the teachings of Jesus in our so-called Christian nation, one of the few countries left on the planet that still puts criminals to death. (China, Iran, Yemen, North Korea . . . and us.)

Of course, Pope Francis didn't use inflammatory words like mine. His speech was tactful, affirming and supportive, calling upon the better angels of our nature.

“I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.”

He said, “ . . . a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.”

THE WORST THING THEY'VE EVER DONE

I never had thought much about the death penalty before that midnight execution in Louisiana 30 years ago. But what I witnessed was killing, pure and simple. Acting on behalf of the American people and under the authority of law, the prison officers bound David into a chair with leather straps, threw a switch and killed him.

They killed someone for killing someone.

Since then, I personally have opposed the death penalty. Because if killing is wrong, then killing is wrong. For everyone, anytime. Even if we think they deserve it.

You may not agree about the death penalty, and I'm not trying to persuade you.

But I remember Sister Helen Prejean, the nun who accompanied an inmate to his execution in Dead Man Walking, who said, “Everyone is worth more than the worst thing they've ever done in their life.”

Pope Francis urged us not to give up on each other. Whether criminals, refugees, immigrants or the poor. Don't refuse them because they are inconvenient, he said, or because there are so many, many of them.

“ . . . never exclude the dimension of hope . . . “

PS -- Can we do that, even in our daily lives? When other drivers irritate you, when family members are clearly wrong, when coworkers seem worthless, when children are on your last nerve – can you view them with a dimension of hope?

I hope you'll share any thoughts below.

   

The Subject Today is Surrender

Posted September 19, 2015

swift-flowing river


I have found a new book I think you'll love: The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer.

Surrender has been on my mind as I read it, of course. To tell you the truth, surrender is one of my least favorite – well, most uncomfortable – topics, and I've never been good at surrendering. I quarrel with it.

But more about that in a minute. First the book:

Singer is best known for writing The Untethered Soul a few years ago. This new book is about the unexpected and amazing ways his life has unfolded since he surrendered. To life. To the flow. To the divine.

HOW TO LET GO

As Singer recounts the story, he was simply trying to quiet the chatter in his mind so he could meditate, when he realized nearly all the chatter was about his preferences, his likes and dislikes, all the things he labeled good or bad.

“In a bold attempt to free myself from all that, I decided to just stop listening to all the chatter about my personal preferences, and instead, start the willful practice of accepting what the flow of life was presenting me,” he wrote.

“I clearly remember deciding that from now on if life was unfolding in a certain way, and the only reason I was resisting it was because of personal preference, I would let go of my preference and let life be in charge.”

The flow took him from living off the grid as a part-time college instructor to being a homebuilder to running a mega software company to being a spiritual author and teacher interviewed by Oprah. And oh yeah, a federal indictment and arrest – never a dull minute.

“Over the years, I had come to see that I really had no idea where life was going to put me on any given day. And, in truth, it was none of my business.”

IS THIS REALISTIC?

Now, I find this shocking. And brave! Do you think it's really possible to live in such a detached way? Detached from where your life is going and what happens next?

Aren't we supposed to set goals? Visualize? Set boundaries? Ask for what we want?

I have already learned from your responses to my blogs that many of you are better at surrender than I am, even though I suggest to other people all the time that they should open themselves to guidance.

Me? Not so big on surprises.

JUST DO IT

While all this was on my mind, I got a short blog email from a naturopathic doctor who specializes in depression, Teray Garchitorena Kunishi, who said the prayer that pulled her out of the depths was this:

Show me what I'm supposed to do, and I'll do it.

Yikes! I got short of breath just reading it. What a promise!

But that's the key, isn't it?

How many times have we asked What's my purpose? or What is mine to do? without adding that second piece, the pledge to DO IT.

In my opinion, that requires astonishing courage and spiritual maturity. Or call it surrender.

BUT I DON'T WANNA

I have, in fact, surrendered a few times in my life, and what I've learned is that it does not immediately lead to exhilaration.

More often, my reaction to the nudge from Spirit has been, “Oh no, not that!” While at the same time, I knew inevitably it would be my path.

Becoming a minister was one of those times. I argued with the guidance for months before I started to investigate what might be involved. I know other ministers who ducked their calling for decades.

It's also been true with little things. I resisted giving up an apartment years ago until I was forced out of the building because it was going condo. The next apartment turned out to be the biggest, prettiest, most comfortable apartment I'd ever had. Why did I wait so long?

I think it's important to say out loud that even when you're willing to ask for guidance and follow it, you might not really want to. At least not at first.

I'm surprised every time when things turn out so much better than I expected. You'd think I'd get used to it.

CAN YOU DO THIS?

Singer says in The Surrender Experiment that he just kept taking the next obvious step in front of him, whatever was offered, even when he thought this couldn't be right or he didn't want to do it.

Those were merely his preferences. Letting them go always led to something greater than he could have imagined.

Have you learned how to do this?

I'd love to hear about a time when you surrendered to the flow of your life -- even when your preference would have been different – and how it turned out. Write below or email me.

It's like letting go of a tree branch to be swept down a river. Is there any guarantee we'll avoid the big rocks?

   

A Suggestion and a Question

Posted September 12, 2015

peaceful pool


Last week, I wrote about the meaning and purpose of life.

Why we're here.

What we're supposed to be doing, if anything.

I didn't come to any conclusions and asked what you thought.

Suggestion: If you haven't been keeping up with how various people answered the question, “Why are we here?” scroll down and read the comments from Sept. 5.

Beautiful stuff! You will feel enlightened just by reading them.

As far as I can tell, most of you are farther along the path of Letting Life Be than I am, not as eager to achieve some life mission but to enjoy each day.

I suppose learning is inevitable, if that's why we're here. We will learn from our experiences, whether or not we believe Earth is a school.

So in the meantime, it would be more relaxing simply to be and not to worry all the time whether I'm doing enough.

Thank you to everyone who shared your ideas -- and it's not too late to add to the conversation.

As always, I am blown away by your wisdom and grace.

***

Now please indulge me -- I'm so excited to show you this!

I just received the proposed cover for the upcoming book, Hell in the Hallway, Light at the Door, about the spiritual path through change and transition.

book cover


I'm pretty happy with it.

The open door image is a no-brainer, but I also asked Balboa Press to make it clean and not gloomy. (A title with the word Hell in it could go in some alarming directions!)

I didn't want it to seem threatening or sad, but uplifting or at least hopeful.

Question: Whaddaya think?

I'm not a designer, so I would love to know if you have suggestions for ways to make it better. Or if you like it the way it is.

Please leave a comment below or shoot me an email.

Since you weighed in so eloquently on the meaning of life, I figure you might have some expertise in book covers, too!

I'll be sending it back to Balboa in a few days, along with the edited galleys. The sooner I do my part, the sooner the book comes out.

Yay!

   

Your One Wild and Precious Life

Posted September 5, 2015

Since Wayne Dyer died last month, I've entertained myself by imagining his triumphant return to the Other Side.

Angels, guides and ancestors are greeting him with high fives and well dones.

“Good job!”

“You went to Earth as a teacher, and you taught millions!”

“What a lifetime!”

But the other message I've been getting – you know how ideas come at you from every direction when it's time to consider them? – is that we really aren't in human form to accomplish anything.

Just to be.

I've been wrestling with this idea. If we aren't here with a purpose, then why bother? It seems -- I don't know – lazy.

On the other hand, wouldn't it be a relief to get off the self-improvement treadmill?

MULTIPLE MESSAGES

This came up last weekend when I teamed up with my friend Rev. Ed Townley to speak at Unity of Dallas, where we worked together years ago. (And welcome to all of you Dallas folk who are new to this weekly email.)

We were saying that in our personal spiritual journeys, both of us are focused now on becoming more aware that God is all there is. It's all God, the good, bad and ugly.

And of course human beings are part of that divine whole.

Ed said that means we don't have to work so hard. We already are divine; we already are everything we can be.

That's when I started to squirm. What about the spiritual journey? What about making ourselves better? What about fulfilling our life's purpose?

Ed seemed to think we've been trying too hard. All we have to do is awaken to what already is true.

Well, yes, but . . .

Then this past week, I treated myself to a reading with a channeled entity or group of energies named Osiah, who told me to quit worrying so much about achieving some life purpose.

“Must we remind you that the sheer fact that you are existing is you playing out your purpose here?” Osiah said. “Humans become so confused by the idea of ‘purpose.' There is nothing to do or accomplish in this experience, other than to experience.”

Of course, Abraham-Hicks has been saying for years that Earth is not a school, and we're only here for joy.

BUT THEN WHAT ABOUT . . .

One of the reasons I'm reluctant to let go of the belief that we are here to work on our soul's growth is that it helps me explain why bad things happen.

The heartbreak and losses that are part of the human experience – why would we go through them if not for some deeper purpose or learning?

If someone's child or spouse dies, do we just shrug and say, “Well, you came for the experience. Sometimes it hurts.”

I like to think there were soul contracts in place, so that each person got exactly what he or she needs at this point in their spiritual development.

I also hesitate to let go of the idea that life is a journey of awareness and accomplishment. I worry about complacency. Can we simply put our feet up and exist? Isn't coasting through a lifetime a waste?

Self-improvement is an evolutionary driver. We naturally want more, bigger, better. Those desires have led to civilization, inventions and progress, as well as our expanded consciousness.

Would Wayne Dyer have been the teacher he became if he hadn't done the inner work? If he hadn't consciously participated in his spiritual growth while on Earth?

CAN WE JUST LET GO?

I do understand why it doesn't help to think of ourselves as broken or failing in some way, aka “sinners.” Then our efforts at improvement are born of obligation, not inspiration.

How much more freedom would we have, how much more energy, if we lived without finding fault in ourselves or those around us, if we gave up our efforts to be better and simply enjoyed being here!

Awakening to our divinity would make us better people without all the work.

We could live with a sense of wholeness, so that whatever circumstances currently exist would be acceptable, at least for now. We could be happy where we are and eager for more.

Maybe not all lifetimes are for learning and growth. Maybe some are just for fun.

Or maybe we learn while having fun.

As usual, I can argue both sides of the question. Here's where I have ended up after a week of cogitating on this:

  • You are divine, a part of God – how could that be bad?
  • You are living as part of the One.
  • You are already everything you need to be, and more will be revealed.
  • You will develop your divine attributes further.

Or not. You have eternity after all.

PS -- Am I overthinking this? What do you believe about the purpose of a human lifetime? Is it for learning? Joy? Or something else? I would love for you to share your thoughts below.

PPS – The phrase “your one wild and precious life” is from a poem by Mary Oliver, about the joys of simply existing.

   




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