My Life in Three Sentences

She was born into a difficult, violent family and thrived in spite of their poverty and lack of ambition.  It turned out that life was good. She loved it.

be_happy

This is a wall in our home that we see every day.

This is a wall in our home that we see every day.

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The Spiritual Tourist’s Guide to Casual Spirituality

Buddha Maitreya

 There are a wide variety of ways in which we can be “spiritual tourists.”  I should tell you a little about how I came to this name for this state of spiritual inquiry.  Each of us here has done some traveling, my husband Dan and I have done a good bit by car because we really like the way you can get close to the landscape, open the windows, smell the smells & see the colors.  We like to get a place and stay for a while and find out what a place is like for the people who live there.When I began teaching classes online  years ago, one of my students was a very intelligent, creative woman from the South.  She had worked as a businesswoman and was very successful in her work.  She was able to do the written work of the course very clearly and to express herself somewhat exuberantly and amusingly with her classmates.

Abruptly, she dropped the class and when she did so she sent me a long email in which she admitted that the work was more than she had expected and that she had come to view herself as a “spiritual tourist.”  This distinction in the way she had described her state of spiritual participation came in a very authentic and honest communication and was the beginning of my thinking about this idea.

In any case, each of us can use this reference, this state of being a tourist as a metaphor for how we approach our spirituality.  For instance, there are those who fly above the earth in a jumbo jet. These are the folks who learn intellectually about the “high notes.”  They may know the names of some of the major religions and the geographic places where they originated, but the practices and basic ideas of those spiritual paths are obscured from their view, as if by the cloud of unknowing.

Then there are those who pilot their own small aircraft.  These fly closer to the ground and because they do, they get a much better view, but these are the folks who are still learning facts and the details, but they don’t really try out any of the specific practices or think about what it would mean to apply the ideas in their lives.  While they may have a more detailed view, there is still missing any practice of what one has learned.

There may be a bit of yearning to do so here, but these are still a people who are moving so fast through their lives that they still can’t seem to find the time to slow down, sit down, and go within, where what they have learned in their inquiries might begin to seep in.  The possibilities of going within have not yet been revealed, but there is a sense of intrigue, a sense that one day one not so far off, one will begin to engage on a deeper level.  The choice about when is still open.

Now this metaphor can get extended pretty far so that it includes parasailers, paragliders – you know who I mean, these are the folks who take some kind of motor driven vehicle or boat, and using it’s velocity, fly behind it.  This is a metaphor for those who begin following someone else’s inspiration because they have not yet learned how to generate their own.  These are likely to be the folks who you see on TV following a great evangelist or a guru.  Now I know that this can be an authentic path, and what we are talking about here are those who are looking for someone else to do the work for them.  They don’t yet know that there is a source of Truth inspiration within themselves that is bottomless and rises whenever they call upon it.

And there are those of us who really are driving our cars over the landscape of our spiritual lives.  We see things far off and we see some things close up.  Sometimes we drive right over to the experiences.  Sometimes we drive way too fast and all we see is a blur.  Sometimes we drive with a few people in the car with us and we all report to one another what we see as we go along.  This is pretty much what being in an open spiritual community is like.  We don’t have to do all the work ourselves, we trust that someone in our community will let us in on their experience, and as a result, we will learn from their experience as well as our own.  We serve one another in this form of spiritual tourism.

In all these descriptions there is a sense of aimlessness, a sense of wandering around without a purpose.  What would make the greatest difference in our experience of how our spiritual lives work?

Just about everyone whom I have known who lives a deep and purposeful spiritual life has certain qualities.  These are focus, commitment, a sense of oneself being worth the investment of time and effort, and the knowledge that they were not alone.  All of these are founded on the profound knowledge that all is LOVE and that God is the essence of love.  In New Thought we say that Love is also what we are.  That whatever God is, we are that too.  In How to Speak Religious Science, Dennis Merritt Jones writes:

“He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is Love.” Love is the self-givingness of spirit to its creation and is a cosmic force whose sweep is irresistible. Love is the highest vibration in the universe; nothing can withstand its embrace. The opposite of love is fear. In the light and vibration of love, the darkness of fear cannot exist. To know God’s presence is to experience unconditional love. To see the presence of God in others is to love them. Unconditional love is always the answer.”

This passage brings to mind what it would mean to be a tourist on foot, the kind of tourist that the Peace Pilgrim was.  Can we be that courageous?  Can we trust God for each and every part of our experience, for each bite of food that we eat, for the place where we sleep, for the nature of our work each day and for the bounty of our personal spiritual experience?  Could we let go of the trappings of our life as she did in answer to the call of Spirit?  Can we go on foot wherever spirit leads us?  Notice how extreme that might feel?  And yet, each of us has a yearning to go farther, to go deeper, to know God better and there is really only one place where we need go to do so, within ourselves.  So let’s do that today.

So let’s clear off our laps, adopt a good meditation posture now, close our eyes, and for a short bit of time, let us go within and contemplate what kind of spiritual tourism we wish to engage ourselves in at this time in our lives.

Picture yourself flying over the earth in a great jumbo jet.  Notice the great mountain ranges of Spirit, Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism with their great contemplative and meditative practices.  Will you take a smaller aircraft and fly closer to the ground of being now?  Will you commit yourself to engaging in meditative practice, if for only ten minutes a day listening to the still small voice within?
Will you take that smaller aircraft and flying it over Zen Buddhism now, will you choose mindfulness practice, choosing to be aware moment-by-moment in your life?  Will you now choose to think more deeply before you speak, knowing that your words have creative power?  Will you reverse the path of negative thoughts when they arise, practicing more carefully the affirmation of the deepest desires of your heart so that more often in your day you radiate out the light of love?  Will you affirm now the practice of thinking consciously for the good of all humankind as often as you can, increasing the frequency of such thoughts as you grow in the demonstration of Love for all?
When Jesus said, “Know the truth and the truth shall set you free,” he was simply saying to the degree you know the real truth about yourself, you will then be free and able to direct your own life in wonderful, creative, meaningful ways, simply by understanding that your every thought is creative.

 The practice of Truth is personal to each, and in the long run no one can live our life for us.  To each is given what he needs and the gifts of heaven come to all alike.  How we shall use these gifts is what matters…”          Dr. Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind

The truth about you is this, “God in you, as you, is you.” God really is all that is. Know this truth and you are free to express your true Self!  Spiritual tourism is not something that we have to be worried about.  It is our self-exploration in action.  It is our self-knowingness and it is up to us how we go about it.

Comments from Open Salon

Hi. There is a lot here to contemplate. I’ll have to re read it
sevveral times. But what I know is that you speak the truth
and you speak from your heart.
It seems the hardest part of being a Spiritual tourist is taking
that first big step of opening up. Once one does that, it’s like
“what was the big deal?”
Thank you!
After reading your blog today, I am sure you are quite able to be open and available to spirit Dakini. Thanks for your kindness & recognition.
Bump to get by the mass postings of SPAM this morning.
Nice to see you. Enjoy the sand.
Susanne–I’d be curious as to your view on something. Whenever I talk to someone versed in one religious tradition—no matter which one—and I ask them about another–they often say thes same thing:
“I only have time to really know one language of relgion.”

Has that been true for you?

And 2nd—what I search for here in what you wrote—is community. I see the relationship between the individual and the higher power (for lack of a better term) but I don’t see it done in community.

To me—I need that community.

Is that here and I missed it? Or is it not here?

Thanks for reading this!

Roger

I don’t agree with those folks who say they only have time for finding only one religious/spiritual expression. I think we should continuously inquire throughout our lives Chicago. I do focus on the mystical tradition because it is virtually impossible to cover all religions with any depth. That should not be an excuse not to inquire. Part of the problem, I think, is that some folks look for there to be a ‘final answer.’ I don’t believe that we can know one while we live. We do the best that we can.

As far as I am concerned, participating in a spiritual community is the best reinforcement we can find, bit it takes a good bit of care to find a community where one fits. Sometimes it takes more than one to meet ones needs. In the case of this post, it is written for the individual, but in my experience, while spirituality is a personal, inside job, spiritual community provides a way to share ones experience, challenge, growth and gives us a self-correcting mechanism. Somebody will set you straight if you know and trust them to do so. But some communities are just ‘attaboy’ generating places for the egos of their leadership. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Intuition is valuable in spiritual experience. My first sermon was about Spiritual Community. I’d be happy to share it with you if you send me a message with your email so I can send it privately.

BEING OF SERVICE: Compassion in Action

“Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and the angels know of us.”     Thomas Paine


I don’t know about others, but I know what it means to have a “reputation.” That’s what we called it in high school when a girl was thought to be sexually active. Never mind if it was true or not. I was one of those girls and I can tell you, it is really weird dealing with the product of empty gossip, or what was described in law school as arguing facts not in evidence. What people say about us often is the result of idle conversation and gossip. Even people who know nothing about you will talk. Whatever “they” might say, it has nothing to do with what we know of ourselves.

BEING OF SERVICE: Compassion in Action

After the death of Thomas Paine in New York City on June 8, 1809 the newspapers read: “He had lived long, did some good and much harm,” which time judged to be an unworthy epitaph. He left a tremendous philosophical legacy, but in his day he was vilified for a few mistakes.

thomas-paine

When we mean to be of service, whether we get a reputation for helpfulness or for failing to help often has nothing to do with what really happens. This is the legacy of many who are of service. You may not be known for what you do — do it anyway!

Garden Path

While there is no need to hide the nature of what we do, as some people want to do for religious reasons,  if we are looking to become “known” through acts of service, we could well ask ourselves, “What service is there really for those being served?”

In any case, we can’t control what others say about us anyway. Finding the true joy of self-expression in service is it’s own end. When we serve we share the opportunity to express what is divine, or best, within us–and with those with whom we share the experience. Nobody else really needs to know. We can’t prove we are good people. It isn’t our purpose and trying to prove how “good” we are only points to our doubts about ourselves.

Remember, it is your own character that is among your riches, for you are divinely made, and no matter what “reputation” you might enjoy — you know in your heart of hearts  is true of you. Enjoy that knowledge and celebrate it in offering your hand in the equation that service represents in our lives. Service is always some part of what is best about living expressing perfectly through, and as, you!

Perhaps someone reading this can share ways that they have been of service that have contributed to their own sense of self in unexpected ways.

Questions About God: Einstein on Being of Service

“Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seemingly for a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of others…for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labors of people, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.”  Albert Einstein

Susanne 2014

Being of service to others takes our focus off of ourselves and looks for how we might be useful where and how we are. When we feel grateful, we naturally want to share ourselves and our good fortune. Being in service only increases our gratitude and joy and our experience of the unity of all life.

When we choose to be of service in the depths of life’s deepest anguish, when we can engage in the deepest alchemy that life has to offer at such times, this is when we know that we have grown in Spirit. “I am alive in Spirit, Spirit is alive in me,” is a chant sung in many New Thought centers written by singer songwriter Melissa Phillippe.  These words point to the same idea that Einstein is pointing out in the quotation above.  We know Grace through these generosities of Spirit that we share.

Times are difficult, and such times are a powerful time to know gratitude for simple things; Love is such a simple thing. Love knows no bounds nor does it require that life or anything within it be different in any way. It allows life’s difficulties to surface to find the divinity hidden within each experience. May we appreciate this divinity in all of life for the hidden gifts within each difficulty.

“Be silent as to services you have rendered, but speak of favors you have received.” Seneca (5 BC – 65 AD)

This modesty of spirit is a matchless empowerment of the heart and a source of deep wisdom.  A single unity underlies all life, now is the best time to explore this unity.

Questions About God: Einstein

“I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own — a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty.”  Albert Einstein

albert einsteinThis statement by Einstein shows one of the problems with anthropomorphism, the attribution of human qualities to nonhumans, in this case, God.  When we anthropomorphize God there are consequences we may not have considered, such as, the problem of unbelief—because who wishes to believe in a God who would be so petty as the God Einstein describes above, and yet, that is exactly what many of us are taught.  There are other limitations engendered by this very human habit, all of them limiting our imaginations, our thinking and our ability to know.

“Almost everything said of God is unworthy, for the very reason that it is capable of being said.”  Pope Gregory the Great

Jesus, Hildegard of Bingen & Me.

I am life.  I am Mystic.

  Jesus, Hildegard of Bingen & Me

Hildegard of Bingen (1089 to 1179) was a notable figure in medieval Scholastic thought both because she was a creative and independent thinker & an influential woman in a time and culture we think of as dominated by the male-oriented Latin church.  She devoted considerable thought to understanding the natural world and was reputed to be a gifted healer.  Of special note is the impact of her visions on her own cosmology as well as on later thinkers. Even today, there are popular mystical groups associated with Hildegard, and one can buy current recordings of music she composed.   

Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179)

Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179)

 1. The Source of All Being

“I am that supreme and fiery force that sends forth all the sparks of life. Death hath no part in me, yet do I allot it, wherefore I am girt about with wisdom as with wings.  I am that living and fiery essence of the divine substance that glows in the beauty of the fields.  I shine in the water, I burn in the sun and the moon and the stars.  Mine is that mysterious force of the invisible wind. I sustain the breath of all living. I breathe in the verdure and in the flowers, and when the waters flow like living things, it is I.  I formed those columns that support the whole earth … I am the force that lies hid in the winds, from me they take their source, and as a man may move because he breathes, so doth a fire burn but by my blast. All these live because I am in them and am of their life. I am wisdom. Mine is the blast of the thundered word by which all things were made. I permeate all things that they may not die.  I am life.”

Bust of Hildegard of Bingen

This is a profoundly mystical statement by Hildegard of Bingen.  Mysticism is defined below to get around the common use that the forms of the word ‘mystic’ suffer in our culture.

2.  Mysticism

    •  Mysticism emphasizes a direct, unmediated connection with a loving God and the spiritual equalityand/or unity of all peoples. This is a radical idea for its time:   no priest, shaman or other person is necessary to a direct relationship with the divine, for life is ever present in all.
    • Each of the major religions brought forth a mystical wing or subgroup in the postclassical period (Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, etc.)  For instance, Islam has its Sufis, Hinduism has scores of sects, many of them mystical, Vedanta for one comes to mind as having been much written about in English.
    • Because of its emphasis on non-hierarchical spiritual equality, mysticism offers an avenue to influence and authority to people otherwise excluded from political and religious structures.  This was true in Hildegard of Bingen’s time and it seems to be a consistent attribute of mystical religions through the centuries.

This final point makes mysticism, in its many different forms, attractive to Americans who seek a spiritual way of life, but find traditional religious practice and churches confining and patriarchal.  We’ve all been there.  Some of us became agnostic or atheist in the face of the power mongering and pettiness we have experienced in various traditional American churches.  Some of it has been downright mean and shameful in ways that good people just can’t stomach.

3.  The Challenge of Discussing Faith with the Unchurched

So the problem I always run into when discussing a life of faith with those who live without participation in spiritual community is that they don’t have a clue that there are those of us who don’t think we need anyone else to think for us about religion or to lead us.  It never occurs as a possibility to most people because the only religious people they hear about are the fundamentalist or evangelical Christians or the folks in other religions that can be equally fundamentalist in their point of view.  That is not who I am and I know a lot of people who have come to a similar spiritual path.

So what does a minister who doesn’t believe their role is to come between the individual and a direct experience of the divine essence of life do professionally?  We teach.  We leave practice to the individual.  We do have our experience to share and the benefit of a lifetime of scholarship, but we aren’t telling anyone how to live their lives.  We just don’t.  That doesn’t work anyway.  Look around.   Do you see that kind of leadership as ever having worked for humanity at large?

4. We think differently about Jesus

Another thing that many mystics believe, and I do believe this too, that whatever powers it is said that Jesus may have had, that those same powers reside in each and every one of us.  That’s one of the reasons that we can actually help one another. Hildegard of Bingen thought so too. It opens the whole wide world for exploration and adoration to us, just as it was opened to Jesus.  What might we do with our lives that matters, what choices might we make,  if all that exists is the body of God?  What indeed.

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When we see that God is all there is, there is nothing but what Love we can share with the Divine in the many parts that it plays.

Happy Holy Days

More than anything else, we want to send you our Love, & our wishes for Peace, Prosperity and all the Good Things for Each and Everyone on Earth. — Dan & Susanne