A Few Thoughts About Death

cce2-234e-44a4-aa7d-3fc5a9b0af4fDeath is an episode in life.  It is not the end of life.

In autumn the plants release their seeds, before they die, so there will be flowers in the spring.

Winter is the time of resting with our seeds to allow a new dream to arise.

Extinction is when a particular life form ceases to exist.  But life itself does not cease to exist.

Everything is alive- not just people, plants, and animals…rocks, water, fire, clouds, the sun and sky- all are alive, each in their own way.

Death is an episode within life.  It is not the end of life.

When we die everything vanishes, our likes and dislikes, our attachments, our opinions, our bills, our schedules, our calendar, or fears and worries.  In that moment of perfect bless we are liberated. We could be liberated forever, but for most of us our habituated thoughts, concerns, and desires will reassert themselves.  We return to old patterns and habituated thoughts, which leads us back into the cycle of incarnation.

X8XiBKzSis11Hi6NPrMv1cToc2yXqBtTtlpj0gPbhJBWg19REODi36dcmqykZBv6XH6gEGvH5wgD0bQAyYEJp7QtdtAWASfeYYAYlv0AJ417nKah4TXAGevooOu4X5llIf we are attached, one way or another, to things, places, animals, or people we will reattach to those things and find ourselves back on earth.  So, maybe it’s important to attach ourselves to what we love rather than dislike or hate.  Maybe it’s important to attach ourselves to the qualities of compassion, kindness, and generosity, so others are happy to see us again.

Divine Father

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Divine Father, You are
the brilliance of the sun,
The song in the wind,
And the beauty and strength of mountains.
You are the Protector of All Life.

Your Mind is-
Beauty and Strength
Your Heart is-
Compassion and Justice
Your Life is-
Honor and Humility.

Teach us to know how
to do what we know to do.
Teach us to know how
to be what we know to be.

Divine Spirit’s Mind is beauty and strength, may we learn to be strong enough to turn ugliness into beauty.  We can plant flowers in a slum, offer kindness to those in need, feed the hungry, visit the imprisoned, clothe the naked, care for the sick or aged, and shelter the homeless.

Divine Spirit’s Heart is Justice and compassion.  May we learn to walk and be a friend to  those who suffer.  May we treat others as we wish to be treated.   Justice is about restoring ourselves and others to wholeness.  May we not judge others until we have walked in their life experiences.

religions_2The Life of Divine Spirit is honor and humility.  Honor is respect.  Respect is the Vow of Freedom, allowing others to make their own choices without our opinion getting in the way.  May we appreciate life and the gifts life has bestowed upon us.  Remember, those who have honor do not allow evil to go unchallenged.  Humility is realizing our hard-wired conditioning and our received knowledge conditioning.  May we accept that we are not perfect and never will be. Once we have accepted we are imperfect beings who make mistakes and even cause harm we can be humble in the face of other’s challenges and mistakes.  

Divine Spirit teach us to know how to do what we know to do.  Teach us to know how to be what we know to be.

 

Memory

faceEverything I have experienced is a part of me.  Nothing is ended because it remains in memory.

What memories do you choose to focus on?  This will be the sum total and the story of your life.

When a relationship ends can you say:

I remember the good in you-
I remember the love-
I remember laughing with you-
I remember the peace.

We carry the genetic seeds of our ancestors.  What they felt emotionally and believed absolutely is part of us.  To walk in the grace of Divine Presence it’s important to forgive our ancestors.  And perhaps, it is even more important to thank our ancestors.

memoriesOur future depends on our memories of today.  What we choose to remember will be woven into the wholeness of our lives.   So, remembering even things that were painful or created deep unhappiness are still worth keeping.  Even a drab or ugly piece of cloth can be combined with other colors so that what is created is finished in beauty.

 

 

I shall not begin what I cannot finish

woman_with_doves_sunriseThere is an old phrase- today is the first day of the rest of your life.  Every day is a series of beginnings and endings from the most mundane chores of brushing our teeth, combing our hair, and opening and closing doors to much greater life decisions such as ending a relationship, a career, or a lifetime habit.  Unfortunately, most of our endings and beginnings are decided unconsciously, from habit, because that’s how we do things.  When major events need to change, it’s common to choose to end current suffering rather than discover how to move into a new celebration of life.

The mind being what it is, people immediately think of all the unfinished projects they have stored in their closets or other convenient places of concealment; and the excuses as to why things are unfinished are legion.  While it’s a good thing to dig out or clear out old projects that otherwise hang around our necks like the proverbial albatross that is not the point of this spiritual declaration.  Examining birth and death, intentions and deliverance, wishes and manifestations is more to the point.

Let’s start with the stated underlying purpose of beginnings and endings- Love, Joy, and Peace.  Love as a motivating factor implies a deep relationship with what or who is loved.  Love compels us to protect, nurture, honor, and defend the object of our love.  Why?  Because that entity that energy is believed to be the sustaining force of our life.

nature-benefits.jpg.860x0_q70_crop-scaleWe love the Earth and the life of the Earth because it’s what nurtures and provides for us.  We love, and have emotional attachment to, our friends, family, pets, teachers, or other important individuals because of who they are for us and to us.  Love, therefore, and even the lack of love, can compel us to begin or end a situation or relationship.

In the beginning of our nation, the founders wrote a statement to declare their purpose, stating that a new nation must be created with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  This idea that happiness was something that could be pursued, bagged, and possessed is a problem.  Joy, on the other hand, arises when we recognize that life has both sweetness and bitterness, that it is gentle and harsh, uplifting and wounding, birthing and dying.  These dualities keep repeating, and there is no way to avoid that repetition, so we look for moments of sharing, moments of celebration, and live fully in those moments.

Suffering comes from wanting what we don’t have and not wanting what we do have.  So, the motivation of joy in beginnings and endings comes from the willingness to be excited about the new opportunity and to cherish the memories from what has died.

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Peace is often misunderstood as a static condition where everything is perfect and never to be disturbed again.  This line of the Covenant exists because growth, evolution, and even dissolution occurs and is necessary for the continuation of life.  Peace means standing in our core truth like a pillar of stone buffeted by storms, cold, heat, and wind.  The surface is changed by these things, but the megalith remains though time even if the story of our life has faded to illegibility.  Discovering and creating the ground on which we stand, the stone on which we write, is the work of a spiritual soul travelling the eternal paths of enlightenment.

Having examined the purpose for which we begin and finish anything, it becomes our duty to choose people, places, and experiences that provide the possibility of wisdom.  We are not looking for an easy way to choose; we are exploring unknown territory in the inner galaxy of hazardous adventures.  We seek to grow, not avoid mistakes.  We open our hearts to the wounds of the present moment in order for the light to penetrate the darkness we are trying to evade.

Before making a choice to end or begin we might ask ourselves these questions:  What needs to change?  What needs to be healed?  What needs to be left in the ashes?

When we feel things need to change, it’s often something outside of ourselves.  It’s the way someone speaks to us, the way we feel disrespected by others, the way people don’t listen to us, long hours at work, not receiving enough appreciation, noisy or nosy neighbors.  However, if we intend to truly finish, end, close, or terminate an unpleasant experience- leaving it behind and going somewhere else isn’t the answer.

imagesFirst, we must examine how and why we find ourselves in such a situation that our only recourse seems to be running away.  Here are some questions to consider: How am I helping to create this difficulty?  Why am I unable to work within this challenge?  What have I learned that will benefit my life?  

These are questions to assist in finishing the old energy pattern before contemplating what to birth as a new experience.  This doesn’t mean making a martyr of ourselves and staying in an awful situation; it means there are questions to examine before moving on.  We do this because if we are unwilling to discover our part in any challenge, we are doomed to recreate something similar in the new plan, place, or relationship.

The examination of our cooperation or contribution within the old situation allows us to perceive what needs to be healed. Some questions that can help heal our inner distress so that we can birth a new way that works are: What are my chief benefactor qualities (skills/virtues) and how can I use them more effectively?  Who can I trust to help me process my anger, fear, grief, or pain from the old relationships or situations?  Who can I trust to help me formulate a new life plan?  What was good about the old experience, and how can I grow that goodness?

Finally, it becomes important to know what we are leaving in the ashes.  Relationships, friendships, jobs, housing, almost everything in life comes to an end sometime.  Maybe it’s death that ends the situation permanently or maybe we or others have changed and can’t remain together in the same way anymore.

When our experience is finished, there are some important things that we must leave behind: blame, shame, guilt, and regret.  This may take a while.  We cannot go wholeheartedly into our new life carrying those energies.  They must be turned into ash and left in the cold remains of the dead fire otherwise we will stop growing, stop gathering wisdom, and become a ghost lingering in the place of our brokenness, wandering the ruins of might-have-been.

Having the courage to begin and finish things in love, joy, and peace is the road to liberation.  Until death writes the end of our story, we can always start a revolutionary new chapter creating an unexpected twist leading us into the cosmic potential of the Divine Avatar within.

Decisions in Wisdom

Wisdom is applied knowledge.  Wisdom is about collecting information that can be integrated into the way we live our lives and the way we make choices.  As we examine and observe thought patterns, we begin to notice what we think we know.  Today is going to be wonderful because…  Today is going to be awful because… We believe these determinations because of perceived facts when really our belief is a projection which may or may not actually happen.  Decisions, for most of us, tend to be made based on perceived facts rather than actual facts; although we rarely know this.  As we explore what it means to become what is needed for ourselves and others it can be helpful to discover the answer to the ages old question of Who are you?

     In youth it’s our job to create an identity.  We all create identity one way or another but the journey of an awakened soul is to identify with our benefactor qualities and minimize our faults.  This becomes difficult because, unless we are very fortunate, the we and the people around us have formed our identities in response to traumatic, difficult or testing situations.  Our consciousness tends to mimic those around us.  This is why ordinary people sometimes join together to do horrific things to their neighbors. And while this seems logical at the time these strategies for survival tend to result in years of guilt, shame, and possible retribution.

path-to-enlightenmentAs adults, our inward journey is to ascend past our habituated blueprint for avoiding pain and creating safety. If we don’t take this journey, we could find ourselves acting from the same hateful cruelty we see played out in the world around us. Until we accomplish this fundamental task of authentic identity, we will not discover the true mission of adulthood which is being other oriented.  Without the inward journey our life will result in failure after failure and heartbreak after heartbreak within relationships of all kinds until we awaken.  Spirit does not solve our problems or answer our questions.  Spirit leads us closer to the mystery of our existence where all questions cease.

Perhaps the most necessary qualities for being an adult are compassionate caring and generosity of spirit.  If we have not created a strong inner core of knowing who we are, that we are worthy, that we are loveable, caring can easily become martyrdom. Martyrdom, eventually, leads to resentment and anger.  The greatest temptation in life is to be resentful because things do not turn out the way we expect, and people don’t behave how we want them to behave.

Compassion results in service, in willing sacrifice, in the discovery of how to make things better than they are.  Generosity arises when we have the wisdom to see that we are all in this life together and if we do not support one another violence, hatred, and betrayal are the result.  In God We Trust is a motto emblazoned on our money so, how many of us trust in our money instead of Spirit?

letgoWisdom is the ability to find wholeness in life after things fall apart.  It means listening to those who have insights to share.  Sometimes we take a spoonful of the great wisdom offered by a spiritual teacher and decide that’s all we need.  Unfortunately, people also come to hear teachings and decide they approve of it or disapprove of it, believe it or disbelieve it, instead of gathering the wisdom, testing it, and waiting until life creates a circumstance in which that knowledge makes perfect sense.

It’s a rare life that unfolds in a neat and tidy way.  A child is sometimes as capable of finding and sharing the wisdom and the beauty of life as someone who has lived 100 years.  The conclusion we can draw is that a life well lived, a life that is thriving needs us to discover our true identity, our caring heart, and the wisdom to let go of guilt in order for our lessons to be learned.

Finding the wisdom to become what is needed for the self AND others is sometimes as clear as mud.  We may know what we need only to discover that fulfilling that need will cause harm to others.  And conversely, we might be wholeheartedly engaged in service to others and find that we are burned out and empty.  Determining how to be wise for the self and others at the same time can be an onerous task.  It’s a challenge for the devout and courageous soul.

aaeaaqaaaaaaaalpaaaajgy1nzgxm2y1lty5mgytndnjms1izgq3lwyyztlmmtu4yzywygWe are here to learn to minimize the harm we create and to forgive ourselves our ignorance and conditioning (habituated reactions), while working to recognize and change the things we can.  Understanding our tendencies both beneficial and harmful allows us to start the process of liberation.  We begin with forgiveness of self for not knowing…we can start to forgive others by taking back into our heart what we believe was taken from us.  Forgiveness is understanding…not excuses, condoning, or disregarding the pain we have suffered, or the pain we have caused.  Forgiveness is understanding that to be liberated we have to begin again, and again, and again to do better next time.

May we find the wisdom to become what is needed for ourselves and others.  There is no model of success, no way to always know what is the right thing to do. Therefore, we create caring, we create love, we act from generosity, and we remain true to our identity as a spirit, we grow wise from our mistakes, over, and over, and over again.

 

Divine Will

Recently, Amma Ilowan and Father Mukanda Dawe talked about the shadow side of Divine Will.  They have always taught that Divine Will is Love, Joy, Peace, Life, and Life.  This sharing was not an implication that Divine Spirit has a shadow side, it’s pointing to the fact that we, as humans, are capable of creating a mess even from a Divine gift.

Love-and-compassion-are-necessities-not-luxuries.-Without-them-humanity-cannot-survive.Every being, human and otherwise, desires to experience love, happiness, peace/safety, and abundant life.  Humans also want to understand- to be enlightened- for the reasons and meanings of life events.  When we can’t surrender to Divine Will or find love, joy, peace, and abundant, enthusiastic life we could easily fall into shadow.

 

The shadow of love is a desire for power.  This is the power to have people behave in ways we approve, the ability to get our needs met from those around us when we want it and as we want it.  It’s the power of demands, threats, and punishing those who displease us.  This shadow creates domestic violence, a 1 in 2 divorce rate, and child abuse.  That is a very dark shadow.  But manipulation through anger, silence, and pouting is a common shadow of thwarted love.

The shadow of joy is competition and comparison.  When we are constantly comparing what we have, what we know, how we look, where we live, and how much we have with those around us we tend to be either miserable or puffed up.  Neither state is a space of joy.  One of the worst things we can do to ourselves is to strive for perfection.  Nothing is ever perfect for long.   Seasons come and go as do beauty and strength.  Striving and competing will only leave us feeling unworthy or depressed rather than joyful and happy to be alive.

The shadow of peace is a belief in possessions.  If we have enough money, if we have enough property, if we have another car, a new apartment, a new outfit, we will stop being nervous, stressed, and frightened of the future.  The emphasis on things is all around us, so how could we ever find the calm serenity of peace?

The shadow of light is the prestige of knowing.  Light means understanding and wisdom.  It doesn’t mean knowing the facts or the trivia about every little thing and making sure everyone else recognizes that we are the holder of knowledge they don’t have.  This is also the shadow of religions which turns to doctrines and dogma as the Way, rather than encouraging people to find Divine Presence within their hearts.  Divine Presence calls for us to respond with kindness, generosity, and compassion to all beings.  Doctrine and Dogma tends to quotes to justify intolerance.

The shadow of life is death.  This is all the ways we harm ourselves through an excess of food, drugs, sex, exercise, work, etc.  Life is for living.  Life is for enjoyment.  Life is for sharing love.  Life is found in supportive relationships. Whatever prevents us from a celebration of all life creates the destruction of life.  We see this in the devastation of the environment, the abuse of animals for profit, the warehousing of people, the hatred for the homeless or dispossessed refugees.

049-letitshine-1440x900-BWhen we understand Divine Will as love, joy, peace, life, and light our path is clear.  This doesn’t mean it’s easy or simple to follow, it’s just clear.  Love is possible when it’s awake in our hearts. When love is awake in in our hearts, we are close to Divine Presence.  Joy is possible only when it’s awake and filling us with possibilities. When we see possibilities, we have hope.  Peace is possible when we are content with what is happening now.  When we have peace, we are filled with kindness and generosity.

When we love another it’s because we are aware of the beloved’s presence in our thoughts, our hearts, and our lives.  We make them important: what they do, say, think, and dream.  When I realize that I’m finding fault with people around me I also realize I’m feeling irritated, frustrated, or just plain cranky.  But when I appreciate others, suddenly they are wonderful and I feel touched, cheerful, and loving.  Funny how that works.

The other day I was sitting on the porch worrying that the monastery wasn’t safe because we didn’t own Tract C.  Then I thought, Shayshoshewa, you haven’t owned Tract C for the last 27 years and you’ve been fine.  Why are you unsafe now?  I didn’t have a good answer to that question, but I felt better because, nothing had really changed.  Suddenly, I was at peace.

We live in a sea of conditioning.
Somewhere in that sea there is an Island.
On that island there is a Temple.
On the altar is a gift.
That gift is the key to unlocking Divine Presence within our soul.
With Divine Presence life knows no boundaries.
Without boundaries we are filled with love, joy, and peace.

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Three Questions

27C6BC6800000578-3046897-The_number_of_schoolgirls_at_risk_of_emotional_problems_has_rise-a-4_1429525696475There are three questions a spiritual seeker must ask themselves.  The first is: Who do I say that I am?  The answer would seem evident until we look deeper.  Most of us have created our personality, our character as a response to those around us.  This includes roles such as: mother, father, brother, sister, partner, spouse, daughter, son, boss, teacher, healer, etc.  Each role comes with a set of requirements, obligations, and expected behaviors so we often mold ourselves into what is expected growing eventually to feel that the role is who we are.

Another way we develop our personality or characteristic responses are what happens in life. Life has a way of presenting us with obstacles, challenges, disabilities, limitations, and crisis situations of one kind and another.  In each of these we are likely to respond in the way we were trained to respond.  This training may be of a formal kind, such as the crisis management training given to firefighters, police, medical or military personnel.  However, most of us will respond to crisis from examples given to us early in life by the adults around us.  We are also influenced by the movies we have seen, books that we read or had read to us, or other storytelling forms that give us a template of heroic (or not) responses to life’s vicissitudes.

When we enter a path of spirit or a search for Truth we have to examine the question of who am I not only based on our past conditioned responses or schooled reactions but from a spirit-centered core of understanding.  Hence, the question Who Do You Say That You Are?

In an attempt to be spiritual, we might respond by saying we are unconditional love, that we have buddha nature, or christ consciousness, that we are an avatar of divine spirit, an enlightened being, a goddess, a god, or that we respond from a place of no self.  All of those answers are well and good until we come to the second and third questions necessary for embodying what is termed, True Self.

The second question is: What do you want?  The third is: What are you willing to do to get it?

130922-130551If we have truly defined who we say that we are, what does that self want?  The answer is simple enough- to be unconditional love, to be a Buddha or a Christ, a bodhisattva, a saint, filled with compassion, etc.  In other words to be what we say that we are in a way that is obvious to everyone, a way that needs no announcements, flyers, or business cards.   And then, if we are wise, we remember there is no destination and we will never arrive at the end.  So, the journey of spirit is deciding who we wish to be and being that person to the best of our ability. This means we will remain part of an evolutionary unfoldment responding to life with as much grace as possible.  If we are bit evolving we have reached entropy, true death, and the annihilation soul.

What is your concept of evolving what you want and what are you willing to do to get it?

galaxy_universe-normalIn the world’s mind of power, prestige, and possessions the answer to this question is obvious.  There is nothing that stands in the way of attaining those things, not children, not the earth, not the creatures, not the destruction of the environment, nothing matters except having more, and more, and more for the self, the company, the government, the corporation.

What is a spiritual person willing to do in order to be more compassionate, more generous, to live in loving kindness, and assuage the suffering of those we see in pain and anguish?  Everything that is asked by Divine Spirit, and to hold nothing back.  True Self sees life as it is, sees the suffering as it is, does not need to protect the heart with pat phrases such as: it’s all for the good, it must be his/her karma, or it’s all an illusion anyway.  No!  A person who is evolving lives in such a way that life can take no offense.

A being of spirit realizes it doesn’t take strength to give up and accept the shackles of circumstances, thinking this is what is meant by surrender to the will of The Divine.  It’s easy to shrug, or give silent consent to events that make us feel helpless; it’s easy to sell out and remain comfortable. It takes strength and courage to affirm and live the highest, noblest directive of our Soul.  Hence, we must continually ask ourselves three questions:  Who do I say that I am?  What do I want?  What am I willing to do to get it?