April 4, 2018: Doing Desert Time
Jews throughout the world are currently celebrating Passover. This week-long observance commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. The Passover narrative is a very rich and detailed one; there are many lessons to be learned from this story regardless of your religious affiliation or spiritual path. I personally divide this narrative into three sections: 1) the efforts by Moses to free his people, 2) the forty-year wandering of the Jews in the dessert and 3) their final arrival at the Promised Land. Often, the most attention is given to the first and third sections. I believe, however, that the most important part of the narrative is the second section’s forty-year wandering in the dessert. This is the portion of the story where a transformation takes place within the Israelites. It is through their wanderings that they have the shift in consciousness that enables them to enter the land they had been promised for so long.
We all have what I refer to as our own “Time in the Desert.” These periods are usually ones that follow a major life event that have us ask ourselves deep questions about our life and its direction. Our times in the desert can be extremely frustrating having us feel like we are moving without getting anywhere for our efforts. These periods, however, have within in them the potential for great growth and a significant shift in consciousness.
The spiritual practice that best serves our times in the dessert is the resolution to stay in the present moment while seeking to listen to our inner guidance. During these times, we often want to put our focus on anything and anywhere else. We might obsess about the circumstances that led us to this challenging time or get stuck in longing for a future when things will have been resolved. The most important thing to remember as we walk through our time in the dessert is to just keep putting one foot in front of the other as we allow its greater purpose to be revealed. Regardless of how badly we may want our walk in the dessert to be complete, we need to realize that it will be over in its own time. We are told that the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty-years. The span of time of forty years in the Bible are symbolic and simply means, “as long as it takes.”
As we fall into the rhythm of our journeys, we find that we begin to experience a greater sense of inner peace. After we cease to obsess about the past and future, amazing insights are revealed about our life journeys. It is through these insights that our walks in the desert finally come to an end as we enter a Promised Land of greater consciousness. Our walks in the desert can be difficult experiences, but if we are patient they can lead us to places and situations that have been waiting for us for a very long time.
March 29, 2018: Easter: Experience vs Explanation
All religions and spiritual paths have their foundational stories. Usually, these stories are key in explaining their central purpose and reason for being. I believe that the telling of our stories is very important, but that we must do so in a way that allows the listener to begin to understand their true meaning. I find this to be true about the Easter story as well. I believe that the awe and inner transformation that is supposed to be relayed can be lost in the efforts to explain the narrative. We bring up questions such as, “Is it really true” and “Is the New Testament’s telling of the story historically accurate?” Even though these are valid questions to ask, I still think we can lose the meaning of Easter if we don’t allow ourselves to experience what the story has to tell us.
Bishop John Shelby Spong, a retired Episcopal bishop, has written about and discussed this issue for many years. He recently gave this commentary to accompany the release of his most recent book, Unbelievable: Why Neither Ancient Creeds Nor the Reformation Can Produce a Living Faith Today:
I tried to develop a crucial distinction between the Christ experience and the Christ explanation. The experience is real and timeless; the explanation is in the language of its day and is thereby time-warped and time-bound. The explanation must be surrendered, but the experience does not have to go with it. The Incarnation, the virgin birth, resuscitation as the meaning of resurrection and the concept of the Holy Trinity – all are explanations that will never last. People hear the experience of Christ being challenged when it is only the explanation that is at stake. I wanted to make sure that people could understand that explanations have to die, but the experience remains eternal. Human religion is always bound by time.
Regardless of how we may personally explain the story of Easter, we must dedicate ourselves to seek the experience it has to give us. The actual events of the followers of Jesus after his death are unknowable regardless of the clues left for us to decipher. What is true, regardless of the course of events they went through, is that they had a deep experience. Something moved them to walk through their fears and start a movement that would change the course of human history. As we look at this story, we should ask ourselves how it could inspire us to do something similar. How could each of us also give ourselves over to the spark of the Divine that lies within? All stories from different faith traditions and spiritual paths are meant to be vehicles of transformation. If only we could challenge ourselves to look beyond the facts these stories relate and listen to the experience they are opening the way for us to have.
March 4, 2018: Time for a Spiritual Cleanse
If you were raised in a Christian tradition, you most likely know that we are in a forty-day period known as Lent that precedes Easter. There are many traditions that are followed during this time by many, but you don’t have to be Christian to create a deep spiritual practice during this time. I grew up with the idea that a person had to give up something they held precious during this period to honor the Divine. Even though I no longer identify as Christian I still hold the idea of giving something up, but in a different way. I take this forty-day observance and ask myself what ideas or ways of being is it time for me to release. I see it as a period where I can have a spiritual cleanse of sorts as I anticipate Easter’s symbolism of new life and new beginnings. You can also have your own practice of release that may or may not follow my approach.
Don’t Set Any Intentions
The above heading might sound a bit heretical to some. In New Thought and the Science of Mind philosophy, setting clear intentions and greater life visions are foundational concepts. Sometimes, though, I believe we take visualizing our futures a bit too far. We are often overly concerned with, “what’s next” or “how can I have more” without taking stock of where we currently are or how we may have landed in our present situations. We can be so busy telling the Divine what we want that may not take time to listen for a response. Lent can be a period where we dedicate ourselves to not only be in the present moment, but to simply listen.
Time to Make Room
Making inner room can begin with making actual room in our homes and places of work. Something as simple as cleaning out a drawer or closet can begin to give us a feeling of more expansiveness. I believe we can take this even further as we seek to unearth and release ideas in our consciousness’. Making room can also involve inviting more silence into our daily lives. Challenge yourself to let go of any background noise you allow into your day. Leave the ear buds at home, turn off the TV, and even get accustomed to not always having the presence of music in the background. We often use these things either intentionally or unintentionally to drown out our inner dialogues. Listening to what is going on within us is a major first step in resolving our personal issues and difficulties. It is also a path that eventually leads to us finding greater peace and personal insight.
Easter is Guaranteed
If you are a Christian following a Lenten spiritual practice, there is one thing you know for sure: the arrival of Easter is guaranteed. It doesn’t matter if you judge you practice as good or bad, or meaningful or not meaningful; after forty-days, ready or not, Easter will arrive. We should all take on this same attitude in any personal spiritual practice that seeks to release things or ideas that no longer serve us. Regardless of how well or not well we judge our process, a transformation of some degree is still guaranteed. Its arrival may not be as clear as the date of Easter on the calendar, but it will arrive. Our job is to continue to be present with the sincere desire to walk through and leave behind that which is ready to be released. It is only then that we will experience the transformation or new beginning that you may have been longing for.
February 25, 2018: Never Take “No” for an Answer
When our children act like leaders and our leaders act like children, you know change is coming.
On February 14, a shooting took place at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida. We thought we knew the script and course of events that would follow. Outrage, grief, and promises for change that would slowly devolve into paralysis and inaction. We’ve seen this scenario play out all too many times before. But this time, things seem to be different. Students have taken to the streets in protest. Though supported by parents and countless adults, it is our country’s young people that are leading the charge for change. I would imagine that before February 14, these students imagined something quite different for their immediate futures. I’m sure they assumed they would be leading the lives many high school students do in our country: going to classes, attending school activities, and wondering how their lives would eventually unfold once they graduated and went out into the real world. What they didn’t know is that the real world would come knocking on their doors in a very brutal way very soon. I am sure none of them dreamed they would be sitting in the White House having very frank and vulnerable conversations with our country’s president. I am also sure that they had no idea they would be participating in another very pointed conversation with Florida Senator Marco Rubio on a telecast sponsored by CNN. These young people are not taking “no” for an answer. There are many questions that should be on our minds right now, one of the most important being, “How can we be more like them?”
Forget to Be a Victim
One of the important lessons we can learn from these young people is that they forgot to be victims. Their assumed role was quite clear in this case: they were supposed to know that there was nothing they could do. They are too young, they are powerless, and can only respond if given permission to do so. We must all be willing to also break out of our own assumptions. Most of us embrace the idea promoted by Centers for Spiritual Living that has us envision a World That Works for Everyone, but we often fail to see the practical applications available in our daily lives. We may have let ourselves believe that we are powerless in any number of ways. In doing so, we miss opportunities to speak up and even act up as we witness the many injustices in the world.
Start With a Seed Idea
There are many possible solutions being promoted by these young people right now. Some of them may prove to be effective, while other may not, but at the core of all of them is a seed idea: a perfect solution is available that greatly increases the safety and security of our schools. This movement that has been created will be successful if this seed idea is kept at the center of all discussions and activities. We must learn from their example and do the same in our own lives. It is easy to get distracted when we are experiencing a period of growth and transformation. We must also be very clear on what our seed ideas are as we invite the winds of positive change in our own lives and communities. It is that fire in our bellies that will keep us moving forward to create positive change.
Life is Like a Roller Coaster
In spite of our best intentions, every path of change has its ups and downs. Doors can be slammed in our faces that can lead to moments of great despair as we seek to make our world a better place. The lesson that we can learn from these young people is to keep moving forward regardless. Alex Schacther, one of the students who lost their lives, wrote some very prophetic words in a poem he wrote before his death. The subject of his poem was one he loved: roller coasters. He had no idea that his words would take on a completely different meaning than intended. He wrote, “It may be too much for you at times. The twists, the turns, the upside downs, but you get back up. You keep chugging along.” The best way we can honor the deaths of the seventeen who lost their lives is to embody Alex’s words as we also resolve to not take “no” for an answer.
December 15, 2017: The Longest Night
We are fast approaching the longest night of the year. Throughout history, the winter solstice has held great meaning for humankind. This meaning has been expressed in religious observances in many world cultures throughout recorded history. Even though these observances acknowledge the existence of the longest night, more attention is usually given to the return of the light as the days slowly begin to get longer. I think that this is unfortunate and shows how western culture is intimidated by darkness. Instead of rushing to the light of renewal, I believe that we are better served if we stop and listen to what the darkness is trying to teach us.
In Mary Murray Shelton’s book, A Darkness Filled With Light, darkness is presented as having the potential of giving us the gifts of great understanding and transformation. She writes, “I’m not referring to darkness as evil or pain, but as the Void, the Mystery, and the home of unlimited possibilities.” One of the messages of her book is that we humans can come to remarkable realizations in the moments that challenge us most. If fact, in some of our more extreme challenges we can often emerge as almost completely different persons. Different spiritual paths through time have even guided people who have gone through such experiences to change their names to acknowledge that they are no longer who they once were.
It is human to want to work out of a difficult situation as soon as we are able, but sometimes that is not possible. We may be processing grief, facing a life-threatening disease, or working through a collapse of our financial situation. During these major transitions in our lives, we should challenge ourselves to ask a few deep, though sometimes uncomfortable, questions. What can be learned, healed or realized through this difficult moment? Who and what will I become once I make it through this challenge? As we answer these questions, I believe that the return of the light will be even more precious.
December 8, 2017 Follow the Light
November 9, 2017 Everything is Created Twice
There are two major construction projects currently underway in downtown Ketchum: a boutique style hotel and condominium complex and a performing arts center. A great deal of consideration and work took place before construction could begin. They both started as an idea in someone’s mind. Afterwards, teams of talented people were brought together to nurture the seed concepts. Architects, designers and tradespeople began their job of using their talents to imagining these ideas to the next level. Both projects would eventually come before the local city council and planning and zoning commission to see if they fit in with the larger vision of the downtown core. An incredible amount of work, not seen by most people in the community, took place before the first shovel could be put into the ground.
The second habit in Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is, “Begin With the End in Mind.” As he writes about this habit, he points out that, “everything is created twice.” In other words, nothing is created in the physical world until an idea or concept about it is first created in a person’s mind. In the Science of Mind philosophy, we teach that this is the instance where we are not only creating something in our own minds, but are using the power of co-creation as we also create within Mind of the Spirit. These firsts steps of co-creation ultimately lead to something new coming into existence in the physical world.
It is very important that we take complete responsibility for the first creations in our lives. As Stephen Covey writes, “We are either the second creation of our own proactive design, or we are the second creation of other people’s agendas, of circumstances, or of past habits.” The lesson of this habit is that we must trust our own instincts and unique power to co-create authentically incredible things. As we begin to trust our inner resources, we will each see amazingly authentic creations unfold before us.