Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year, good ways

            Its so good to be home!  As I write this, the moonlight on the snow is soft, mesmerizing in its simple beauty, each tree gently rendered against the pale blue-grey of night snow. I am happily domestic these days, cleaning and restoring the house to its pre-bachelor days, but dreams of painting and writing haunt me at night, so soon I must pull out my brushes and get back to my writing before school engulfs me again. This means reorganizing where things have been “resorted” in my absence, so I can get a good space with light for the painting, and peace and quiet for the writing.  I am also catching up on sleep, and the pleasure of living without deadlines for a while.
            The past few days I’ve found myself thinking about the coming New Year, and rolling around the various thoughts that make up my annual review of What I Want My Life to Be.  This year is a bit different from the past. Oh, losing twenty pounds is still on the list, and probably will be permanently, but it seems to be the only carryover from the past.
            Instead of dwelling on all the things I should do, this year, I’ve surprised myself by looking at what I did accomplish – and there have been wonderful things, unexpected and challenging. Friends made, studies pursued (successfully), and a new, natural way of life that I am integrating into my being. Most of all, I’m happy, engaged in life, and better friends with myself.  Its not that 2011 was uneventful, for it was scary in spots, but it was also rich and fruitful, both personally and for those I love and cherish.
            What would happen if in general we chose to look what we DID do instead of what we didn’t?  What if we founded our desires for the New Year on the strengths within us instead of feeling like we have to correct weaknesses?  Oh, yes, we will still strive, but won’t our striving be more successful if based on love of ourselves and others instead of self-hatred and loathing?  Okay, I know that loving oneself is hard to do the first time one confronts the extra pounds in the bathroom mirror, but a diet based on guilt and self-hatred is going to be over quickly and without success. It works that way for the important things, too.
            There is nothing in this series of thoughts to suggest that we stop taking responsibility for our actions. We live with ourselves and with others. We need to act in a caring, loving manner, so that our love, our care, and our intent can frame a better world for everyone.
            The concept I’m talking about is loving-kindness, kindness towards ourselves and others. Pema Chodron, the American Buddhist nun, talks about how the desire to “fix” oneself is essentially a form of aggression against our inner being. It involves the basic premise that we are wrong, which is truly a lousy starting place for real growth. If instead we look at who and what we really are, and what we want to accomplish, if we bless ourselves onto our chosen path, then we can move forward with our strengths carrying us, and not our weaknesses. Our intent is stronger that way. So is our level of success.
            Besides, we’re worth all the love and care we can give to ourselves. We are the expression of God, bringing love to this earth. Our thoughts count, our hearts count, and our spirituality counts. Its going to be a splendid year!

Spirituality is love, and love never wars with the minute, the day,
one's self and others.

                                                                             St. Thomas Acquinas

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Of memories and old friends

            The woods around Unity Village are so different now!  Wind has taken down almost all the leaves, and the brownish-greys and tans and purples deepen against the copper colors of the forest floor. I surprised a large white-tailed buck yesterday, or should I say we surprised each other; the wind was strong, and I took the rustle of his careful steps to be just another squirrel scavenging in the leaves. We both jumped when we saw each other. He was the same grey-brown of the tree barks, and melted in perfectly.
            The big surprise to me, though, are the Daddy Long-legs, lots of them, picking their way along the gravel paths and among the leaves, their incredible two-inch front legs poking and feeling their way in front of them like a blind man’s cane. I wonder if they see at all, and what they are doing. They aren’t acting like they’re hunting; they just seem to be evaluating a trail amongst the litter, and a snail could outpace them. What happens when it snows? Do they hibernate, or are they simply using their last days to wander aimlessly amongst the woody debris, their internal clock slowly winding down?

                  This has been an exciting time for me. The volume of writing required for these classes is incredible – nine papers this semester, a total of 92 pages on various subjects. I’m not quite halfway through.
           And with this outpouring, welcome personal changes, too. For instance, I came to realize that I didn’t remember much about my childhood; a period of abuse in my young adulthood had sealed off my memories, particularly of my early years, which my abuser vilified. I had left him, even genuinely forgiven him, but had little idea of the extent of the damage that remained. So, thanks to this wonderful thing called the Internet, I was able to email my childhood friends and ask them what I was like back then. Their kind answers and support touched off a flood of memories, and more come each day. I feel more centered, more integrated than I have in the last forty years! There is real joy there. A lot is still a surprise, but I’m feeling very whole, very healthy.
            Among others, I connected with the image of my Godfather, a kind but stern man who was more my father than my biological one. I wish I could tell him I loved him, but he is long gone. I know he loved me, although he never said anything either. But in addition to church, he taught me the slide rule (I still use it), did science fair projects with me, engineered a couple of evenings showing us the stars through a friend’s telescope, and even had his lab assistant escort me to the Senior Prom when my boyfriend suddenly became unavailable. I married one man who looked just like him, and may be marrying another who shares the same fine-boned build – and is a scientist as well. The memories are precious, and they have now found their rightful place in my heart.

            This has been a wonderful few months. I have had the privacy I need to churn through both the changes and the work, and now I will return home to my beloved mountains to take the next quarter online, and be with Larry. Council has approved our sawmill site, but fortunately the snow will keep us from having to start immediately, since I’ll be glued to the computer and won't be able to do that much. The end of March will find me back in Missouri for Spring Term.
            Life is good!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

God's Hands and Feet

Jasper National Park

            Its amazing to me how the little events of life can reflect on the huge movement of Purpose through our lives. Last weekend was a case in point: I’m not known for being early anywhere, but this particular morning I left in plenty of time for my 9 am eye appointment…however, my GPS had been stolen out of my car a few days prior, and I didn’t know the area as well as I thought, so I was halfway to Wichita before I realized I had missed my exit. On top of that, I realized as I leapt out of the car that I had left my purse at home.
What was going on here? I’m usually not such a ditz. A bit late now and then, true, but not a ditz. This time, though, I realized I was never intended to make that 9am appointment.  Certainly, there was no way of talking the nurse into letting me have the exam anyway. Frustrated, I turned to leave. 
A young boy and his mother came out of the exam room. One of his eyes was red and slightly swollen. “I’m so glad you had time to see us,” said the mother. “Don’t worry, “ said the doctor. “He’s going to be just fine.”
            The relief in her voice brought me up short. There seemed to have been been purpose in this chain of events. It may have messed up my day, but my being late had made a space for the doctor to see her son and bring comfort to them both. 
            This isn’t the first time it appears God has used me as hands and feet. I will admit preferring to be asked first, preferably in full knowledge of the cost, and I would rather have a choice as to the answer, but it doesn't always work out that way.  We might think of how events seem to conspire to bring us what we need, but rarely do we notice when we are being an instrument of Spirit in someone else’s life. And is that what’s happening? How much is the random outworkings of the Universe and how much Divine Will? In this instance I choose Divine Plan, or Divine Intervention as the answer, but the question is still open.
            The kind of incident I’m talking about is not like giving comfort to a sick friend, or helping someone in time of need. It is a random happening that brings joy or relief to someone under circumstances outside our direct control.
            Another occasion happened when I was shopping in Safeway. As I stood in front of the whelter of choices at the spice shelf, my eye fell on pumpkin spice. It’s not a seasoning mix I use, but this time I took special note of it, turned, and went on with my search. An older woman came up to me. “Do you know where the pumpkin spice is?” she asked in a querulous voice. “I haven’t been able to find it anywhere.”
            Was I responding to her brain waves projecting need, or being God’s hands and feet to bring her what she wanted? Or was it simply random?  With a smile, I handed her the spice, happy I’d been able to help. Some days I’m not so sure, but that day I believed in the outworking of God’s Divine Intention.
            These are not significant events, but they illustrate the purpose we can find in the apparent randomness of life. The same kind of outworking can happen, for instance, in a love affair that ends in sorrow, but allows one partner to rejoin life after the death of a spouse. Was this part of God’s Plan?
            Whether or not we are part of God’s Plan, its appropriate for us to celebrate these occasions! We’re returning to the world some of the blessings we have received. Volunteering to be an angel for someone brings great joy to both the giver and the receiver, but sometimes the best  “angel moments” happen when we’re unawares. Yes, I would prefer to be asked first, but relish these opportunities as well. They are part of the richness of life.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Coming home yet again...

          The fields were bright yellow with huge drifts of goldeneye daisies against the green as I drove out with the UHaul.  They were happy to remind me I can never really leave the mountain.  They are right, of course. And Larry called yesterday just to tell me that it was snowing, too, the first snowfall of the season. I can see in my mind’s eye the beautiful, soft flakes floating down the way snow does, outlining every branch and leaf.  He and the snow remind me, too.  I can never truly leave.
I ache to be there, but this time I ache to be here, too. My fellow explorers on this path greeted me, not with “Welcome back,” but with “Welcome home,” and indeed it has become home as well. Fall is in full swing, with yellows and reds intertwined throughout the meadows. The trails are full of deer, and this evening I saw a huge toad, spotted like one of our Apache trout, scampering out of my way. Its very beautiful. I could do a full meditation just on the yellow tree outside the Inn where we take our meals.

Where did the summer go?  I arrived home in the mountains to a contract in full swing, with twenty young men falling trees in the Wallow burn area; and afterward not just the mop-up of all the back office stuff, but the decision to move forward on a small sawmill project as well, providing we can talk the Tribe into the land to do so. We found providing good employment for these guys a joy, and wanted to keep going.
And that is what I did, right up to the time to throw stuff and cats into the car and leave.  I’ll continue to work for Larry here, as there is so much to be done on the computer and internet, everything from payroll to business plans, and I have the skills to do it. Not always the time – I’m carrying a full load, have nine papers to write and a retreat to do before December 8. In addition, there are an incredible number of extra-curricular things we are supposed to participate in, but I’m finding I’m ducking as many of those as I can simply to get work and school done and get some sleep.

It’s the beginning of a long journey, happy and sad, joyous and melancholy, scholastically demanding and peacefully prayerful. God accompanies me, both from within and at my elbow. Life is good.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Coming home

Dragonfly Pond

A raccoon family marauded the pots on our porch at the Village last night, dumping them over and pulling the plants out. I rattled at them from my upper window, but they just looked up at me, little masked faces in the dim porch light, so this morning my roommate and I repotted and swept up debris. Little buggers are cute, but difficult.

Wildlife is so plentiful here! There’s the previously-mentioned family of woodchucks – curious critters – and a very numerous family of skunks. I enjoy watching them from a distance, as they flow up the steps, checking out every crack, every pebble, their tails held high. A herd of deer was feeding on the golf course a couple of evenings ago, with them a little fawn that still had its spots. Judy’s birdfeeder attracts flickers, sparrows, nuthatches, chickadees, cardinals, and a titmouse. Now a squirrel has climbed up to our second-floor window, his claws skittering on the glass. I think he is trying to figure out how to reach the bird feeder. He’ll succeed, they always do.

I’m in love with the dragonflies and ebony jeweled damselflies as well. The black damselflies flutter gently through the undergrowth near streams, one sex brilliantly jeweled green on black, the other a drabber black with white dots on his (her?) wings. The damselflies turn to face me if they notice I’m there, which doesn’t make for great photos, but I’ll keep trying. 

Dragonflies are very shy, too. I think this one’s a 12-Spot, but I’ve seen many others, including a Widow, and my favorite, something called a White Tail, which looks like its sporting semaphore signals when it flies. We have them at home, too. Gonna take a longer lens than mine to catch good shots of those!

I leave today for the White Mountains, a blessed week in cooler temperatures and lower humidity - and my partner, Larry. I’m eager to be home, be held. I want to touch base again with an essential part of me there. God is everywhere, but speaks to me loudest from the pines and the meadows, yet I don’t live just in them, but here as well. I have made the transition, and don’t feel pulled apart any more, at least for now. 

Thank you, God.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Arriving in Missouri

Blackberries from the trail
Today I arrived in Missouri, two weeks after my body landed. The woods are busy with unknown life that calls them home, but this day I’m not a guest. Perhaps it was the storm last night, perhaps the lease I signed, perhaps the finding of new friends and solitude. I go back to the mountains soon, but not to stay, at least not yet. Missouri has me.
My writing class reflects this centering as well. I have seen real possibilities and learned that there is craft to consider as well. For a while I was confused about blending craft and inspiration, leaned on craft…and lost my voice. Now the voice is back, I think, but better trained, a balance that will bob and weave as I continue. Having weathered similar steps in painting, its not an unfamiliar path, and I’m eager for the journey.
There are lots of challenges ahead:  time to write, many avenues to chase. My little short story is a chapter in a larger novel. I have a book laid out on personal changes that needs attention from this new perspective, and articles and assignments to write, concurrent with going to seminary, not an easy process in itself.
I’d love to write a book, with photos and sound, on the wildlife here in the woods.  Perhaps my western perspective helps; I find the rich variety new and strange, the sounds engaging. The bird calls here are unknown in the west, save for the robins and mockingbirds.  For instance, I’m still trying to identify a bird that sings “Ce-dar, ce-dar, ce-dar, quik, quik, quik, quik.” It’s a distinctly different sound from the energetic cardinal and mockingbird concerts. The bird is shy, hides in the treetops, and falls silent if I move. I’ve never seen it.
Perhaps that is indicative of where I am as well. I am pursuing something I cannot quite see, but the music calls from deep within my being.  Magic fills the air. 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Village Evenings

          I have been sitting out in the long twilight here at Unity Village, watching the fireflies and a cat-sized rodent who I understand is the local woodchuck (looks like a cross between a prairie dog and a beaver, with more on the beaver side.) The weather has been muggy and warm, though not as warm as tomorrow will be. My room, gratefully borrowed from a dear friend for a couple of weeks, is cool with the air conditioner, but small enough that sanity requires a brief stroll now and then to clear the cobwebs.
            Its been a good time, even this first week. I’ve settled in, paid my Unity bill, started my writing class with a teacher whose books are favorites of mine. What a joy! I’ve looked at various types of housing for the fall and sent off resumes’ for jobs. I even walked over three miles this morning, although I didn’t intend it to be that far, and my arthritic hip and knee aren’t happy about it. 
            It was a beautiful walk, along the upper meadow, through the woods, and along the lake – I saw many different trees and flowers strange to these western eyes. There are bluebirds, tons of robins, deer, and frogs as well. Those I know. I can hear many unknown bird calls, too, with only the robins and the chickadees as familiar notes. The cicada’s are beginning to come out, and in later weeks will be deafening in volume. Not yet, thankfully. There is even an exquisite black-winged damselfly that hangs out around the creek that runs through Unity Village: very lovely, very fragile-looking, black wings with white dots on the end. I wanted to photograph everything and write a book, “Wildlife at Unity.” So much of Unity is these woods, lakes, and meadows…
            But as I sit here tonight in the apricot haze of a Missouri sunset, I can’t help thinking about how I have come to be here. From the time of my calling to ministry to this day, I haven’t changed course; instead, I have opened up wide to meet an unknown future. It has been a fact of my life, this coming; unavoidable, unmovable, and surprising...not easy, and I certainly wasn’t very patient with many parts of the process, but I’m here, and my inner being acknowledges this reality.  My heart and spirit may be in my White Mountain home, but a part of me claims the Village as its bedrock, even with my passion for the west.
            Through this process, I have changed, more than at any other point in my life. Opening up to others; indeed, opening up to life has been part of it, exposing the conflicting pushes and pulls of my inner being. Expansive yet still shy, warm and loving yet still solitary, gregarious on the one hand and a hermit on the other; intellectually curious, poking at ideas and submitting them to my own inner truth-sense, yet still wrapping them with intense feeling, allowing their ability to carry whatever they claim to resonate within me or fail in the process. There’s a lot going on in my interior, and I’m grateful for the solitude to let it work itself out.
            I miss my home and my partner, yet I need the Village. I need this space, this place.
            And so it is.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Praying up a brave new world

That's me on an 85 ft. pine that had come to the end of its 130 years...and my smile of pure relief. 

            As the entire country is aware, we’ve had a massive fire at our doorstep for the past week. The Bear Wallow fire was one of Arizona’s largest, currently at 389,000 acres, but containment is on its way, and incredible efforts by amazing people are limiting the impacts on everyone.
            At home here, we’ve been spared the smoke and ash, and much of the fire danger, since the prevailing winds are taking it away from us. Everyone has been putting in extra prayer time since the beginning of the Wallow fire. Larry and I are immensely grateful that we have had the time to rake, scrape, burn, and even fell a couple of dead trees. It has been an exhausting, accomplishful, holy time.
            I can remember praying from my earliest childhood. In the beginning, it was the Lord’s Prayer. When I became a teenager, it included specific images of what each phrase in the Lord's Prayer meant, and plenty of asking for that special boyfriend, success in school, or my zits to go away. I believed in that kind of prayer
            As an adult, though, I began to have problems with traditional prayer, especially those prayers that focused on trying to create things that never happened – or prayers whose success was predicated on my being good, and Jesus dying for my sins. Why didn’t God answer my prayers? Either God was deaf or I was doing something terribly, terribly wrong! After all that pleading for my heart’s desire, even I knew there had to be a better way. 
            Where I found answers was in nature. Sitting on the edge of the lake, looking up at the night sky, and layer upon layers of stars reaching back to the beginning of time, I experienced a different kind of prayer, an outpouring of yearning and awe without words, a delicious and silent celebration of my being part of that immense magnificence.  It changed me forever.
            Now I do less asking and more listening. “Your father knows what you need before you ask.” (Matthew 6:8). This powerful statement is repeated in many ways throughout the New Testament, yet we have been brought up to believe that God somehow doesn’t work that way. But think about it:  Can a God who is ALL, who is everywhere, including within me as my essential nature, not know my intent, even if in the stress of the moment, my end of the conversation certainly indicates the Divine needs some clues?
            So if we aren’t asking for something, especially when we feel we need it, how do we pray?  And why, if God already knows our needs?  One answer is that we pray to discover within ourselves the answers God has already given us.
            I find I do less asking and more listening these days. One method of listening that I use is through meditation. I love meditation. My favorite form of prayer is from within meditation. I find I need to shuck off the world so that I can plumb the quiet depths of my soul and reach that God-spirit within me. Meditation helps me reaffirm my connection with God and listen from within my deepest self for God’s answers.
            Prayer within a meditation practice can be very powerful, and very different from the type of prayer we use to convince a reluctant God to do something for us.  Meditation allows, listens. Prayer is our end of the conversation. The combination of the two is our opportunity to acknowledge the great gifts we have been given, in the knowledge that they are truly already there, present in this abundant universe, even if we don’t see them yet. Its our way of offering loving support to the other beings in this Universe as well.           
            These days I reach for something more than asking in prayer. My list is gone (well, mostly). Instead, I focus on listening for what God has to say.
            However we pray, focusing on positive prayer directs the meanings behind our thoughts. If we are consumed with preventing disasters, curing illnesses, or correcting wrongs, especially in others, we are focused on those very pitfalls and problems! And, yes, the Universe will respond. But a positive approach, one that takes into account that God is already here, working on our behalf, allows the Universe – and us – to bring them to fruition. The intention to affirm what already exists, even when we can’t see the results yet, is a powerful tool for prayer.
            In the end, there is really no bad way of praying. There are more effective ways, and perhaps less effective ones. I’m firmly convinced that God gets our meaning in our hearts more than our words.
            And so I give thanks that the Wallow fire is contained, that there are many blessings, realized now and coming to those affected by the fire; that we have such splendid firefighters; and that many lives have been spared. I am grateful for the Divine Order of this Universe, and for the gifts of this experience.

“Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you have sent me.”  John 11:41-42.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Co-creating with God

"Out of Many, One"  - oil painting by Gwen Meyer Pentecost 

I have found that if you love life, life will love you back.” 

             That quote by Arthur Rubenstein is a great start for our discussion about the third universal truth in Unity, “We are co-creators with God, creating reality through thoughts held in mind.” Arthur has something here. Haven’t you noticed that when you feel joy, your day goes better? And if you’re grumpy, sure enough, the world responds with more of the same? Your expectations seem to be self-fulfilling prophecies.           
            At first glance, you might wonder how we co-create with God. Isn’t that a tall order? Well, if “There is only One Power and One Presence in my life and in the Universe: God, Goodness, Omnipotence;” and “We are created by and our essence is of God,” as we discussed in the last column, then of course we can co-create with God! In fact, as Arthur Rubenstein pointed out above, we do it all the time.
This principle goes back to one of our co-founders, Charles Fillmore, who wrote at the turn of the last century, “Thoughts held in mind produce after their kind.” It’s a universal truth. Another way of saying this is expressed in the title of Mike Dooley’s book, “Thoughts Become Things. Choose them Wisely!” Thoughts are things; they occupy space in the mental field. This isn’t a new idea, and Mike did not invent it, although he has certainly championed the cause with his appearance on “The Secret,” his inspirational books, CD’s, and so forth.
           Thoughts are things because they employ our mind – and some say the Universe - to create the conditions wherein what we think is attracted to us…good or bad! Actually, we attract ourselves to what we think…and in that sense, we create our own Universe. So what we think and how we shape our thoughts becomes very important. This is especially true when we blame others for our circumstances, when we give away that responsibility for how we show up in life.
            Negative thoughts and feelings are harmful to our consciousness.  They destroy how we look at life and how we handle the issues, large and small, that come to us. They are derived from what Gary Simmons (“The I of the Storm”) calls the shadow side of our personalities, those self-perpetuating cycles of mistrust of ourselves and others…and wind up creating exactly what we fear.
            Yes, our feelings and perceptions define the world we experience. This spiritual principle, though, goes deeper than that. It tells us that we are responsible for our lives. We are responsible partly because we are of God and we have the power – As Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do…(John 14:12).  We have the power, if we but use it.
            We are also co-creators because what happens to us isn’t a matter of the Great Puppeteer Up In The Sky working with strings or twisting dials to make us do what He wants us to. We have free will, and so we co-create with God the world we make. We are responsible for our lives.  We cannot change what other people do, say or think; we can only change our attitudes about them.
Dawn, Hawley Lake, by Gwen Meyer Pentecost
            Albert Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”  I agree: we can’t hope to hold the same outlook and solve the problems within it.            When I’m lying on the couch in a blue funk, changing those thoughts and feelings is very hard to do without going back to the first and second universal truths:  God is all powerful and all-present; and as I am of God, I have that same power and strength within me to deal with whatever issues face me. When I know without question that I have the Christ Spirit inside me, that I am a child of God, loved by God, those thoughts remind me of the strength at my core. They give me self-confidence born of my divine lineage.
            OK, these changes aren’t always easy, but they’re worth taking on. After all, I co-create my own world, and I want it to be the best it can be. So I look to my thoughts and feelings as the moving force that helps shape my life. 
            Like the previous two Unity principles, this third principle is not unique to Unity or to New Thought, but is a universal truth expressed in religion and philosophy around the world. Like them, it focuses on our relationship with God. The difference is that this truth outlines our responsibility in creating our own lives, for good or bad.
            You will decide on a matter, and it will be established for you, and light will shine on your ways. --Job 22:28

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Exploring our relationship with God

       As I write this, it is snowing! Granted, not much, and its nowhere near freezing, but the big fluffy flakes are the real deal nonetheless. (sigh) May 10.  No wonder Spring comes late here. 

Spring at the Manse...that's Larry, working on a project.
       I have been buried under a couple of projects, and to my delight, have been producing a couple of articles for our local newspaper, not to mention outdoor projects and (ahem) turkey season, so I'm a bit behind with everything. Below is my latest article for the paper, plus some recent photos of spring (such as it is) here and a trip to Sedona. I hope you like it!
           "I am, to some extent, like many seekers. I seek the happiest, healthiest life I can have, and the most spiritually satisfying one as well. But how do I find my personal path to spirituality, and the practices and guidelines that fit my own heart? Out of the 21 major religions and hundreds of variations on them, there are a dizzying array of choices.            
From the Christian heritage, we have the Bible, with its Ten Commandments, revered for 3,300 years, but even the guidelines in the Bible aren’t clear-cut. In addition to the Ten Commandments, Moses brought a number of other ordinances from Mt. Sinai (Exodus 21), and the 613 Mosaic laws, most of which we do not follow today. Did you know “an eye for an eye” is among those edicts from Mt. Sinai? Exodus 21:23-25. Some of those laws are horrifying to us in today’s world, like rules for slavery and selling one’s daughter, but they must have been a vast improvement over the absence of law in those ancient times. 
            Humanity’s social consciousness wasn’t very well developed during the Bronze and Iron Ages when those laws were written. Even the Ten Commandments, current then, aren’t enough for living spiritually today. They are more focused on what we shouldn’t do, not how to deepen our spiritually. We honor and respect them, but we need more.  We need spiritual truths.
            So lets take a different look at some universal, spiritual truths that might answer the needs of this world 3,300 years later.
            Unity teaches five basic principles, or what are considered to be universal truths throughout the world about spirituality. We begin with the statement of faith: There is only One Presence and One Power active in my life and in the Universe: God, Goodness, Omnipotence.  There is only One Presence, acknowledged by many names around the world. In the view at Unity, the One Presence we call God has also created and is incorporated into every part of this world, every bush and tree, every animal, every rock, every human being. God isn’t just Up There, God is within everyone and everything as well. God is everything, right down to the smallest atomic particle and empty space full of energy. The energy itself speaks of God.
            That’s pretty powerful stuff, and indeed it has been said that Unity’s choice of the other four spiritual principles exist only to further explain the ramifications of that one.

            What are we in this relationship?  The second basic truth is: We are created by and our essence is of God, therefore we are inherently good. This God essence, called the Christ, was fully expressed in Jesus. The concept of the Christ being the God essence within each of us is a cornerstone of Unity’s teachings; in fact, it is an essential part of New Thought beliefs. The direct connection with an indwelling God is a major theme throughout New Thought, quite different from those religions that use priests or other religious figures as the ways to connect with God. We “go direct to Headquarters,” to quote Charles Fillmore, co-founder of Unity. We teach that everyone can have a direct relationship with God.
            The other New Thought idea in this universal truth is the goodness of God’s creation, namely, us. We are not born in sin but born of a divine nature.  Jesus didn’t say sin, Paul did. There is no essential evil in us, or original sin for that matter, for we are of God, created by God. Would God have created a flawed expression of Itself (Himself/Herself)? We are only flawed by how we exercise our free will, not by an inherent quality. We are inherently good! 
            It makes sense. When we reach for our best, when we strive to be the best we can be, we reach within us, not to the heavens. When we think or feel about God, again, that feeling is palpably within us. And as many students of meditation or “the silence” can attest, when we sink deepest within ourselves, again, we become more keenly aware of that Christ essence. Is it within us or is it us?  Sometimes the noise of living this life makes us forget that the Christ essence IS us. We can’t be separated from it. We are of God as the wave is of the ocean.
            This Christ essence is in everybody, not just Jesus. It was expressed and called forth in Abraham and Sarah, Eli and Samuel, Moses and Aaron, long before Jesus was born. We see the hint in that wonderful passage from Jeremiah 31:33, 34: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Jesus knew, and lived the Truth of that God essence in his everyday life – and his death.

            Yes, there are people who don’t seem to be “good,” according to our definition. Human history is peppered with people who we could regard as evil, even when they are acting out of what they feel is right, or owed them, or what is “normal” in their lives. God also gave us free will, and sometimes in the exercise of that, we do things that are not in the best interest of ourselves or others. We choose. That is free will.
            Charles Fillmore wrote some hundred years ago, “There is a relationship with God into which we can enter where He seems “closer . . . than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet.” When we enter into this relationship, we become acutely aware of God as a living presence and we are lifted up by His love.” Again, we choose to become aware of the Christ presence within us. I suspect God loves us anyway, even if we don’t, at least if God is this truly omnipotent, good, omnipresence we think he is. But why not enjoy the deepest feeling of connection you can? Not just in prayer or meditation, but in everyday living? If you want to pursue this thought, Joel Goldsmith wrote a wonderful book, “Practicing the Presence.” It’s illuminating.
            Lets take another look at what this concept can mean to us: if indeed God is everywhere, within everyone, then we are one with God on the deepest level of our being. When we look at someone else, that person has God-spirit within him or her as well. That “Presence” within insists on respect, even when we disagree. It is safe to say that if we were all conscious of our Oneness with each other, we would find more peace in the world.
            In the words of Karen Drucker, New Thought composer and songstress,
You are the face of God,
I hold you in my heart,
You are a part of me,
You are the face of God.”
            The presence of God in me recognizes the presence of God in you, and therefore the Christ in me recognizes the Christ in you.
            And so it is."
            The above is an article written for the Religions page of our local newspaper, the White Mountain Independent. It has been edited by Rev. Michael Brooks, minister at Unity of the White Mountains.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Finding a home.

Silent Unity building, from a previous trip. I am hoping to get a photo of the new fountains tomorrow.

          I have had a very interesting week here at Unity Village. I’m attending Lyceum, the 4th Annual convocation of religious scholars, where I’ve had the exquisite pleasure of hearing from speakers like the Venerable Bhante Y. Wimala; Dr. Paul Alan Laughlin, a member of the Jesus Project; Dr. Donald Rothberg; and a host of other exciting, brilliant presenters.  Its an exquisite pleasure, for instance, to hear a debate between Rev. E.J. Niles and Rev. Tom Shepherd, both towering intellects, on the nature of evolution. We were spellbound.
            I have lots of ideas to process, lots of different avenues of inquiry, and enough books that I should read to take up all available time for the next several years. What I also found was a home, why my thoughts are the way they are, or rather, what company I keep spiritually. This discovery happened in the middle of a discussion about the differences and similarities between Christianity, Unity, and Buddhism.           
            Lets keep it simple for this post and simply talk about how we see God. And don’t worry, if I’m wrong about any of this, my professors will certainly let me know.
            Western religions see God as transcendent:  being above the Universe; separate, superior, not a part of it. We see a God in whose image we are created, that is, we see God in OUR image, endowed with human characteristics, but we mere creatures certainly are not part of God as the wave is part of the ocean. We are inferior.  God the Father is superior, untouchable.
            Eastern religions see God, where they talk of The One, as immanent, i.e., as within the world. Everything is an expression of Oneness. God isn’t separate from nature, God IS nature. God is intrinsically wound into the Universe, permeating, saturating, infusing the cosmos. God is the soul of the whole…and therefore profoundly within us. We don’t have to look “up” to see God…we look within, we experience God.
            There is much more, of course.
            I find myself somewhere between the East and West. I believe that God is everywhere, immanent, within myself as well as everywhere else. I’ve felt this long before I came to Unity; this belief was fostered by what I learned in the woods, the ocean, and under the stars. You cannot look up at the night sky, particularly in the crisp desert air, without knowing God is everywhere, without feeling a part of the One.
            And so my thoughts about God are described under “Eastern.” There are other clues, too: I pray through meditation. I believe in pursuing love, joy, compassion, and equanimity, key Buddhist concepts. But my love for the Christ Spirit within is profound, and my respect for the man Jesus immense. I enjoy Bible history and scholasticism. I am of the Christian world, not the eastern one. I could no more become a Buddhist than become a leopard. 
            In my mind, Unity itself straddles this fence. It is both Christian in context and Eastern in values. We study the lessons of Jesus, and many of us don’t care whether the man really existed or not. We follow the teachings with our eyes wide open, enjoying the discoveries of scholars and scientific inquiry, while retaining the intrinsic value of the lessons themselves. Yet we also meditate, or go into “the silence” of prayer. We believe that God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and good. And if God is everywhere, God is certainly within us, is us, again, as the wave is of the ocean. This expression is more Eastern. 
            Part of why we got this way is the fascination of our early New Thought founders with Eastern philosophy, but some of us, including myself, came to the same position independently, long before we heard of the Fillmores or Emma Curtis Hopkins, or remember much from our high school days about Ralph Waldo Emerson.
            For us there really isn’t a dichotomy between the two worlds; there is only the development of our own individual thought, which seems to be a part of both but may, in the end, really be neither.

If you want to find out more about Unity, go to It will be interesting!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Somehow a Mountain...

Alaska: Looking over the icefields into the Taku Valley

     Somehow a mountain has passed under my wings,
     And I have come to myself to soar
Over the valley, hidden in the blue haze
Of summer heat.

     It only seems a mystery. God has held within my heart
For many years the knowing of my Spirit,
And my desire to serve,
       Waiting for me to stretch my wings and reach for life.

                                                 Original poem by Gwen Meyer

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Summer in Alaska

          I am bringing you today two quotes by a wonderful, perceptive lady who also happens to be a Buddhist monk. Last I remember, she was writing from an abbey in Nova Scotia. She addresses the issue of self-improvement and loving kindness towards oneself in a way that is insightful and necessary.  Her basic premise in these quotes is that positive change cannot come out of self hate.
            Now you and I know that self-hate can be an impetus for change – if you’ve ever looked into the mirror and not liked what you’ve seen, you know what I mean. But being an impetus and being a method of change are two different things. Self-hate is a poison, causing us to focus on what is bad, instead of where we want to go. Besides, who are you to be knocking God’s magnificent creation like that?
            Um, that’s you we’re talking about, by the way.
            We all have times we’re unhappy with ourselves, yet there is a better way to improve ourselves than self-hate, not just in my opinion, but in the view of many, many others. As Pema Chodron says in “The Pocket Pema Chodron,”           

            “The problem is that the desire to change is fundamentally a form of aggression toward yourself.  The other problem is that our hang-ups, unfortunately or fortunately, contain our wealth. Our neuroses and our wisdom are made out of the same material…the idea isn’t to get rid of the problem but to make friends with it, to see it clearly with precision and honesty, and also to see it with gentleness. That means not judging yourself as a bad person, but also not bolstering yourself up by saying, “Its good that I’m this way”...and learning how, once you’ve experienced it fully, to let go.”

            What is she talking about when she says “our neuroses and our wisdom are made out of the same material?”  I think she is saying that there were reasons we were the way we were, that some form of self-protection kicked in that enabled us to survive, to deal with situations in the past, perhaps learned as very small children… and now, once we understand that, and we feel how it has shown up inside of us, we can let go if it no longer serves us.
            That is a very brief description of something that can take some real effort to understand, particularly the mechanism of how our habit or neuroses protected us in the past…I found therapy helpful, particularly hypnotherapy. I also found deep meditation with the intent to see and feel the behavior also successful, though I had to be very perceptive about the images that arose, and not just dismiss them as random thoughts.
            Most of all, I have found that I am not my history, and I won’t be chained to it. My future lies with loving myself in the present enough to let go of behavior that no longer serves me. I love myself enough to understand, forgive, and let go, not just of my behaviors, “sins,” etc., but of those around me as well.  My future lies with a positive, self-actualizing image of myself.
            I’ve talked about this from my point of view, so lets change this around to yours and see how it fits:  You are not your history, and you won’t be chained to it if you don’t want to be. Your future lies with loving yourself enough to understand, forgive, and let go.  Your future springs from your self-love.

              “The innocent mistake that keeps us caught in our own particular style of ignorance, unkindness, and shut-downness, is that we are never encouraged to see clearly what is, with gentleness. Instead, there’s a kind of basic misunderstanding that we should try to be better than we already are, that we should try to improve ourselves, that we should try to get away from painful things, and that if we could just learn how to get away from the painful things, then we would be happy. That is the innocent, naïve misunderstanding that we all share, which keeps us unhappy.”  Pema Chodron, “Awakening Loving-Kindness.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Letting Go

"Leaving Hawley II"*

          There is a wonderful article from that came to mind this last week as I went through some difficult situations and dealt with the detritus of moving my home as well. The name of the article is “We have to let you go” and is available by clicking here. Allen Cohen, the author, uses the image of a stem of tomatoes, of different sizes. One is perfect, ready to be picked. The stem says to the tomato, “We have to let you go.” 
            It’s a great image. Although the title of the original illustration is “Plant closings,” it refers to many, many intersections in our lives. When we are at a certain point in our growth, when we are in situations or dealing with issues that no longer serve us, we have to let go - or be let go - in order to fulfill our ultimate destiny. The tomato stem is not the right place for a ripe tomato, nor is the relationship, job, situation or habit that we find ourselves in from time to time. Sometimes its not voluntary; the loss of a partner, a job, a home, or some desired outcome, however devastating, can be a signal for us to look around and see what our options really are. 
            This can be a tricky intersection. Particularly if the change is thrust upon us, rather than our choice, we may blame others, or outside situations for what has happened. We often resist the change that is obvious or thrust upon us. We wallow in pity, seeing ourselves as victims. And we mourn.
            Mourning can be appropriate, but there also comes a time where we have to get up off the couch and realize the truth that our life is our responsibility. We can’t change others, only ourselves. With that in mind, as Gary Simmons says in “Eye of the Storm,” there is nothing and no one really against us. Only ourselves.  I agree this is not an easy understanding to reach, but eventually we have to, or wind up perpetual victims. I’m not ready to go there. Are you?
            I have some particular tools for dealing with reshaping my future, but without realizing the truths in that last paragraph, I find my efforts not up to the job. However, if I am conscious of having God as my essential self, even if I just screwed up, I know, down to the bottom of my gut, that I can change my life, not by dwelling in the past, but by making the past irrelevant to my future course. It can be a challenge, but after all, if I’m of God, expressing God, why not?
            When we accept responsibility and move forward into new choices, strengthened by the knowledge of what we are inside, we have true freedom to shape our own lives.  After all, our path in life is more than just a reflection what happens to us. We have come here to be the very best we can be, but its up to us how we handle it. We are the architects, good or bad, of our destiny.
            That’s simply the way it is.

*From time to time I will post photos of my own paintings. Many are available from my Joyous Lake Gallery website. Readers of this blog are eligible for discounts.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thoughts on Lent

            “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice in it!” That line, from Psalm 118, signals the start of yet another splendid day in the White Mountains. Sunshine abounds, the first robins have arrived, and many of us are thinking of getting out and digging in the garden.  But the business of winter isn’t quite over yet here in the high country, and putting tender young things into the soil at this point is an exercise in futility. Its OK to dig, but not to plant.
            So it is with the season of Lent, as we dig and weed and plow in the soil of our thoughts. Lent is traditionally our spiritual preparation for the glory of Easter. Often marked by giving up certain foods, it is the season of repentence, of giving up, in commemoration of the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness rejecting temptation before his final trip into Jerusalem and his ultimate fate. 
          What if instead of giving up meat, chocolate (my favorite), or other physical things, we choose instead to let go of negative thoughts and lack of forgiveness towards ourselves and others so that we may walk in a path of renewal? Isn't that a great way to honor Jesus' Forty Days in the Wilderness and at the same time set our own stage for a new life?  I give to you the wonderful prayer offered by the Daily Word for Ash Wednesday:      
            Lord, help me walk a path of renewal.
            I lift up my old life for purification, confident a new life rises from those ashes.
            I release every limitation I believe is true about my worth and power, my beauty and creativity.
            I sweep away every debt I believe anyone owes me.
            I cast off every condemnation I carry.
            I pray with an open heart, releasing limits, pain and false beliefs with ease.
            I accept new wisdom, understanding and peace with grace.
            For the gifts of my journey of purification and renewal, I am grateful.

         What a powerful way to renew ourselves!  I lift up my old life for purification, confident a new life rises from those ashes! This is such a perfect message that in our household we are reading it to each other every morning, a way to set our intention for sweeping away any spiritual and emotional debris we have carried from the past. 
            You will notice that nowhere in this wonderful set of denials and affirmations does it say “because I am a sinner to have thought/felt/acted that way in the first place.” No, we were doing the best we could, even in our imperfection. Forgiving isn’t condoning, but more a way of setting aside negative feelings so we can choose differently, so we can love. Our old ways served a purpose for us, and now it is time to let them go so we can move forward.  Only by forgiving ourselves – and others - can we get to a place where we will be successful in reaching for a new life. 
          Yes, the Lenten practice is solidly based on forgiveness - and love. 

“Your past has brought you where you are, and yet it does not dictate where you can now go. Make the choice to point all of your life in the direction of your dreams.” Ralph Marston