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.