Life of Brian

 

I rewatched parts of the documentary The Secret Life of Brian about Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

And I was reminded that the controversy wasn’t about the movie making fun of Jesus (which it didn’t) but that it made fun of religious people and Christians in particular (which it very much did).

It’s interesting how both the makers and those offended seemed to buy into the “offended on behalf of Jesus” line while something else is really going on.

Those who were offended were offended because the movie made fun of them – of the flaws and misguided views and actions of many religious people – and they couldn’t take it. Most likely, it hit home too closely. And that was something they couldn’t admit.

Just to mention it: I love Jesus as he is depicted in the New Testament (whether he existed as a historical person or not), but I don’t have much fondness for much of what Christianity evolved into. I guess that’s why I, and many others, like the movie.

Read More

Healing & awakening = aligning with reality 

 

Healing and awakening is all about aligning with reality – at all levels of our being.

That’s a tall order. And it’s already what’s here.

In brief:

We are a local part and expression of life. We are already reality so from this perspective, no alignment needs to happen. We can’t align with what we already are.

And yet, as human beings, we are typically out of alignment in many ways. There is room for alignment and this alignment is an ongoing process of exploration and inquiry, healing and maturing as human beings, and embodying our discoveries and realizations.

How did we get out of alignment? We got out of alignment by holding our thoughts as solid, real, and true. We aligned with our thoughts more than being receptive to life as it is. We came to identify and experiencing ourselves as a being separate from the rest of existence. (Consiousness identified in that way, and took itself to be a being within the content of itself.) And this process built on itself so we came to create wounds, trauma, dynamics leading to some physical illnesses, relationship problems, and a culture and society out of tune with the larger living world.

Nothing is wrong. It’s all life expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself. And yet, it is uncomfortable so at some point, there is a motivation to coming back into alignment with life so we can find a sense of home, being in tune with reality, and being more at ease.

How do we get back into alignment? We do so by noticing what we are. That we already are (this local expression of) life and a whole that always is whole. We do so by healing and maturing as human beings. We do so by an ongoing process of clarifying and embodying.

That’s the short version.

And in more detail:

Already reality. We are, in a sense, already 100% aligned with reality. We are life, this local part of the Universe, all of us is already Spirit. We cannot help being 100% reality. We are more than aligned with reality, we are reality. We are this local thinking, feeling, experiencing part of reality. As what we are, we are already reality.

Room for realignment. And it’s a tall order. It’s an ongoing process. We’ll need to face a great deal that may be uncomfortable to us, mainly because we have habitually pushed it away and seen as scary. As who we are, this human being, there is a lot of room for realignment.

Out of alignment. How did we get out of alignment?

One answer is that we, as human beings, tend to believe our thoughts. We hold some of our thoughts as real and true representations of reality and perceive and live as if that’s the case. That inherently creates a sense of separation and of being a separate being, and temporarily veils what we already are. (Life experiencing itself through this local body and these local thoughts, feelings, and experiences.) This – combined with meeting difficult life situations – is also what creates contractions, wounds, and trauma, and the accumulated effects of different types of contractions.

Another answer is Lila, the play of the divine. It seems that Existence has an inherent drive to experience itself in always new ways. The universe is life expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways. And one aspect of that is creating beings and energetic/consciousness veils that create a temporary and local experience of separation. Nothing went wrong. There are no lessons to be learned, no redemption to be earned. It’s just the temporary play of the divine.

Into alignment. So how do we get back into alignment?

We get back into alignment by noticing that we already are life and whole as we are. We already are a wholeness that’s always whole. We can understand that in different ways, and the easiest may be to notice that all happens within and as awakeness or consciousness. And that’s always whole and undivided.

We also get back into alignment through healing and maturing as human beings. And by consciously living from whatever realizations we have about life, what we are, and who we are (aka embodiment).

Both of these are ongoing explorations. As what we are, we keep noticing and clarifying. As who we are, we keep healing, maturing, and embodying. And it’s not at all a linear path.

A few additional notes:

Christianity. I thought I would say a few words about Christianity. In some cultures, the idea of aligning with reality for healing and awakening is natural and comes in from birth. I assume Buddhist cultures, Taoist cultures, and many native cultures are this way.

In other cultures, and specifically Christian and perhaps Abrahamic or theistic cultures in general, it’s different. Here, nature, life, and reality is viewed with some ambivalence and perhaps suspicion.

In Christinanity, there is the idea of original sin which makes us question our own nature, we are suspicious of our natural drives (sex, eating, resting etc.). We may also be trained to be suspicious of nature and life since it can lead us into temptation. In a Christian culture, or one that was Christian for a long time, it can seem odd or questionable to want to align with reality. If we and nature is more or less inherently sinful, why would we align with it?

Maybe it’s better to push it away as much as we can? Or maybe it’s better to transcend? We may try transcending, and find it works for a while, but reality is whole so we are inevitably brought back here and now with what’s already here.

In this case, it’s good to take small steps. Try it out and see what happens. We can explore this through inquiry where we question stressful thougths and find what’s more true for us. We can also explore it through body-centered practices such as Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises where we use the natural and inherent mechanisms of the body to find healing. Through these explorations, we may see that aligning with nature and reality is healing and can give us a sense of coming home.  We gradually build trust.

Healing, awakening, & sustainability. As shines through what I wrote above, healing, awakening and sustainability are all about aligning with reality. That’s why the three – for me – are inseperable. The seeds of dis-ease, an unawakened experience, and a society out of tune with the larger living world, are all the same. And the basic remedy is the same as well – align with life and reality.

For healing, we can align through inquiry, TRE, Breema, yoga, meditation and more. For awakening, we can align through inquiry, meditation, prayer, and more (whatever helps us ripen). For sustainability, we can align with life through philosophical and economic frameworks that takes ecological realities into account (which none of the current mainstream ones do), and a generally worldview that does the same.

Psychotherapy. I intentionally left out psychotherapy from my (brief) list of ways we can find healing. That’s because psychotherapy can be healing or not depending on who’s doing it (the therapist) and the approach they are using. If the therapist’s view is inherently skeptical about life and reality, then any healing won’t go very deep. It may even be traumatizing. If their view and life is more deeply aligned with life and reality, and they have a deep trust in life, then the healing can go quite deep. Process Work is an excellent example of an approach that’s inherently trusting of and aligned with life.

Read More

Born into a religion

 

Many people adopt whatever religion (or lack thereof) they are born into. It’s very understandable and natural. We adopt the religion we are born into because it’s familiar, because there is something of value in it (as there is in just about all of them), and for social reasons (to have a community, to fit in, for support).

And yet, if we say that the religion we happen to be born into is the “only true religion”, then there is some lack of intellectual honesty. How can we know? How can we know unless we seriously explore and experience all of them? How can we know even then?

Of course, if we say it’s the only true one, that’s OK as well. It comes from conditioning. That too is natural and understandable. I do the same in many areas of life, including in ways I am not aware of (yet). And it does come with some inherent discomfort and suffering. It can create discomfort for ourselves since we know – somewhere – we can’t know for sure, and when we see things of value in other traditions. And it can create discomfort and suffering for those around us who do not belong to our particular religion.

I became an atheist in elementary school on my own accord, partly for this reason. It didn’t make any sense to me that people happened to be born into this traditionally Christian culture, adopted that religion without questioning it much, and then saw it as the only true religion and the only path to salvation. To me, even at that age, it smacked of intellectual dishonesty.

I am still an atheist in a conventional sense. I don’t “believe” in any religion, and I don’t “believe in God” in a usual sense.

For me, “God” is a name for reality, life, existence. I don’t pretend I know exactly what that is. I have my own experience, and I am familiar with maps and frameworks that make sense to me based on my own experience and intellectually. And I know very well that those maps are just maps. They are questions about life, myself, and reality. And as maps, they are very much provisional.

I also appreciate the wisdom and guidance offered by the major religions. They often start from real insights and realizations, and individuals through the ages infuse the religions with fresh impulses from their own insights and awakenings.

At the same time, I know that religions…..

  • Are structures that at best initially came from real insights. Have other functions than guiding people to spiritual insights and realizations, and that these are often more important. These may include social regulation, comfort, and a sense of community and fellowship.
  • Have as their main purpose to perpetuate themselves. Although individuals within the traditions may have other priorities, including functioning as experienced spiritual guides for those interested in that approach.
  • Use a “lowest common denominator” approach and at best recommend what tends to work for most people. The suggested practices and paths are often not so much tailored to the individual unless you find a more flexible and experienced guide.

The reality is that few people are interested in a spiritual path, and that’s fine. And that’s also reflected in how most or all religions are set up and function, including Buddhism. There is nothing at all wrong with this.

But it does mean that if we are seriously interested in a spiritual path, we may need to find free spirits within the traditions, or guides who function outside of them.

That’s why I – from the start in my teens – have sought out people like Jes Bertelsen (Danish spiritual teacher), Ken Wilber (for the framework), and later Adyashanti (who does have a solid grounding in one of the traditions).

Read More

Christians who are very different from Christ

 

44258792

I know that we all tend to think that our (very conditioned) view is the “correct” one. And I also know that my particular conditioned view on Christ – and anything else – is biased in a liberal/progressive fashion.

And that’s why I tend to see some Christians in the US today as not very…. Christian.

Jesus – the human who embodied Christ – was a radical. And Christianity long ago became a conservative tradition. Many current Christians resonate more with the conservative tradition aspect than the original Christ qualities.

Jesus supported and spoke up for the poor and the outcasts. Many conservative Christians today support policies that harm the poor and minorities. Jesus lived and spoke up for forgiveness. Some Christians live from harsh judgment. Jesus lived and spoke about inclusiveness and a “we” orientation. Some Christians live and speak an “othering” orientation. Jesus saw beyond surface identities and to the humanity and soul. Some Christians seem very much focused on surface identities (gay, Muslim etc.).

News: Pope washes the feet of Muslims

 

That this is even news says something about how Christianity has strayed.

Update: I should clarify this since I realize it can be misunderstood.

What Pope Francis is doing here, washing the feet of Muslims, is clearly in the spirit of Jesus. As Matthew Fox said, Pope Francis is the first Christian pope we have had in a long time.

And if washing the feet of Muslims – metaphorically or literally – is news, that shows how far Christianity has strayed from its roots. Much of what counts as Christianity today – and especially the more narrow minded and bigoted varitieies – is far from in the Spirit of Jesus.

Hell, heaven, purgatory

 

If in heaven you believed everything you believed here on earth, where would you be?

– Byron Katie

Hell, heaven, even purgatory are states of mind, and we experience them here and now.

Hell. In a way, it’s true that people who hurt others go to hell, because hurting others comes from a hellish mind state. It comes from believing painful thoughts. It often comes from unhealed trauma.

People who Christians traditionally thought would go to hell often already are in hell. Their actions comes from a hellish mind state.

And when I say “people” I mean (just about) all of us, including myself. I sometimes experience and act from a hellish mind state. It may not always be as extreme as it sometimes is for us humans, but it’s still a hellish mind state, and it can lead to actions that sometimes hurts others (in an ordinary, everyday sense).

Heaven. Similarly, we all sometimes experience heaven. We find ourselves in heavenly mind states. These come about in three ways.

(a) When things go our way. When life conforms to our shoulds.

(b) When we find peace with what is, as it is.

(c) When we meet our experiences and our world with heaven, with love, kindness, noticing, feeling, allowing (the content of our current experience).

The first of these is somewhat outside of our control. We are dependent on life circumstances for this form of heaven to happen. The third comes from intention, practice, and creating new ways of relating to our experiences and our world. We create our own heaven, by relating to our world in a heavenly way. (It’s much simpler and more ordinary than that may sound.) It doesn’t just happen, we make it happen in an active and engaged way. And the second comes from the third.

Purgatory. This is what happens on the way from hell to heaven, on the way from a hellish mind state to a heavenly mind state. It may happen in inquiry, when we look at and feel hell as part of the exploration, eventually leading to finding more peace with it. It may happen in TRE, when trembling releases old and previously unresolved emotions and memories. It may happen just as part of life, when old unresolved things surface with an invitation to see it, feel it, find love for it as it is (to meet it with heaven).

I usually don’t use these words, since they belong to a different worldview than the ones I am more comfortable with. But it’s sometimes helpful to use terminology from our mainstream culture to bridge and explore. (It also bridges something in me.)

And yes, I know that the ideas of heaven and hell come from Christianity and not Jesus. They are not found in the New Testament in the way they later came to be understood. They are created by the Christian tradition. And even within that tradition, there are many ways to understand these words.

Read More

Would Christians be delighted?

 

At the end of the gypsy episode of Stuff You Should Know, the hosts reads a listener email asking them if you could go back in time, where and when would you go, and what would you bring?

One of the hosts said he would go back to the time and location of Jesus, and bring a video recorder. Both hosts seems to think that Christians today would be delighted by the footage.

I am not so sure, and the reasons seem obvious.

We don’t know if Jesus was a historical person. It’s quite possible he wasn’t, and it’s also possible he was. We just don’t know. We don’t have sufficient historical information. (The information we have is all from the Christian tradition, which isn’t an independent source.)

Even if he was a historical person, what he said and did may not be represented accurately in the New Testament. The NT stories were written down decades and centuries after he lived, and they were written by people with their own understandings and agendas. The “real” Jesus may have been quite different from how he was represented there.

What we do know is that all or nearly all of the vital elements of the Jesus story are found in a wide range of earlier religions and spiritual traditions around the Mediterranean. (See, for instance, The Jesus Mysteries by Peter Gandi and Tim Freke.)

It may be that Jesus is an invented figure, used to convey (valid and important) spiritual principles and pointers.

It’s also possible that he was a historical figure, and later followers added familiar stories from existing regional traditions, either to make the Jesus story more familiar and attractive, or to convey spiritual messages and pointers.

It’s even possible that Jesus was a historical figure, and his life just happened to fit into all these existing stories. This seems quite unlikely, although theoretically possible.

Even if the footage did show Jesus as (a) not an historical figure, or (b) quite different from how the NT portrays him, some Christians would still be delighted. And that’s the Christians who genuinely are OK with Jesus (a) not being a historical figure, and (b) not being accurately represented in the NT.

It’s fully possible to have a deep relationship with Jesus/Christ, and still be OK with these two things. The Jesus story is still full of important and helpful metaphors for our own spiritual path. Christ is still a powerful and transformative presence. In short, it’s fully possible to have a deep and alive relationship with Christ, and still be intellectually honest.

It’s also simpler because it is more honest, and it reveals the essence of Jesus/Christ more clearly. It reveals the important pointers and metaphors in the Jesus story. It reveals the importance of the alive presence of Christ. It strips away the peripheral things.

Read More

Did Jesus exist?

 

Did Jesus exist?

The reality is that we don’t know. There are hardly any historical sources suggesting that he did exist, apart from Christian sources.

Looking at the data, it seems that it’s very possible that he didn’t exist.

And yet, most historians and theologians seem to gloss over this question. They don’t mention it, or perhaps say of course he existed, don’t be silly. (As one theologian did when I asked.)

Why this lack of intellectual honesty and courage? It’s perhaps because aspects of Christian theology, as it was created in the centuries after Jesus may have lived, depends on Jesus having existed as a historical person.

And yet, maybe there is another way. A way where we can be intellectually honest about the historical question, and still benefit as much if not more from the Jesus story, and Jesus’ teachings.

The Jesus story is, as many have realized and pointed out, a metaphor for the awakening process we all may go through. Adyashanti’s Resurrecting Jesus is a clear and insightful book on this topic.

Jesus’ teachings applies to us whatever label we put on ourselves – Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist or whatever else it may be. As any good wisdom teachings, they are pointers. Questions. Experiments.

And, it seems, we can connect with the Christ energy whether or not we know if Jesus existed as a historical person. The Christ presence responds, as it seems to have done for centuries or millennia, to prayer and Christ meditation. (I experience it quite strongly, and know that many others do too.)

Note: Was Jesus a Pagan God, by Freke and Gandi, is an interesting exploration on this topic.

Note 2: Some say that the mutual disagreements between the texts in the New Testament is an indication that Jesus didn’t exist, but that seems a weak argument. Disagreement between historical sources is expected and inevitable, even if they refer to something that did happen.

Also, some point to the striking similarities between the Jesus story and stories from religions and mythologies in the middle east prior to Christianity. It almost seems that someone did a cut & paste job when they created they Jesus story. Again, that doesn’t seem that this is a good argument for the non-historical Jesus.

Finally, there is the Shroud of Turin. From what we know about it today, it’s possible that it’s real. Science can only determine if it’s a fake, and haven’t been able to conclusively do so yet. In any case, it’s an interesting question.

Read More

Images of God

 

Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God.

Justin Welby tells BBC radio interviewer there are moments when he doubts – but he is certain about the existence of Jesus.

– from a The Guardian article

I am sometimes puzzled that people who make God their business sometimes seem to have a quite naive and immature way of looking at it. (Of course, there are many exceptions.)

In this case, as I have mentioned before, it’s all about our image of God. If I see God as equal to reality, what is as it is, then the whole question of belief falls away. God equals reality and is something I can explore through science, and also in immediate experience. Also, if I see God as consciousness itself, then I can find it through a simple inquiry here and now – for instance through the Big Mind process, the headless experiments, or the Living Inquiries.

Similarly with Jesus. It’s all about how I see Jesus and/or Christ.

If I see the Jesus story as a teaching story, it doesn’t matter whether Jesus – as a historical person – lived or not. The Jesus story reflects me and my own process.

And if I see Christ as a particular flavor of Big Mind/Heart, then again it doesn’t matter whether Jesus lived or not. It’s something I can access here and now, allow work on me, and live from.

It allows me to be more honest about the historical question of Jesus, and admit that there is hardly any convincing data suggesting that he did live as a historical person. It doesn’t matter because the Jesus story is still a very important teaching story, and Christ is alive here and now.

Note: See Resurrecting Jesus by Adyashanti, and The Jesus Mysteries by Tim Freke and Peter Gandy, among other books, on this topic. Also, when it comes to our views of the divine, I am aware that these tend to reflect phases of adult development, as outlined by f.ex. Fowler.

Active and passive prayer

 

In Christianity, they differentiate between passive and active prayer.

Active prayer – or meditation, or inquiry – is where “I” engage in a practice. And this is made possible by life and Spirit. Grace is what makes it all possible.

Passive prayer – or meditation, or inquiry – is where it seems to happen on it’s own. The grace, in a conventional sense, is more obvious. And what I can do is make myself available and receptive to it. I can align myself with it.

These can also be seen as two aspects of the situation, and one may be more obvious for a while, and then the other.

The active aspect is what “I” do, what the human self, the me, the doer, the observer is doing.

The passive aspect is grace. It’s life making it possible. It’s life or soul or Spirit working on the human self.

And it’s really all life.

It’s life engaging in prayer while (at least for a while) taking itself as a human being, a doer, and an observer, and it’s life making this possible through grace.

It’s life appearing as conventional grace, and as an I and me aligning itself with this grace (or not), and that aligning is grace too.

Really, it’s all grace. It’s all the play of life and Spirit. Whether it looks like grace, in a conventional sense, or not, it’s all grace. It’s all made possible by life and Spirit, and it is all life and Spirit. It’s life and Spirit in its play as what’s here.

Read More

The story of Eden

 

I have enjoyed watching this mini-series about some of the stories in the Bible, or the Old Testament.

It highlights what’s already quite obvious: The Bible is written by humans, have gone through a great deal of revisions, and each one by people with a very specific agenda. And even those who say they wish to take the Bible literally, interpret and add a great deal to it. For instance, nowhere in the Bible does it say that the snake represents the devil.

It makes a good deal of sense to interpret the Bible from what we know about the culture and times when the different sections were written, and also use archaeology to inform these interpretations. This shows us how the stories may have been perceived and understood at the time they were written, and how they were changed and reinterpreted by later generations with their own agendas.

At the same time, I find it very interesting to look at the traditional (within the last few hundred years) interpretations and understandings of these stories. They too say something about us. They resonate with us, often at a quite deep level, and especially those of us who grew up and live in an Abrahamic culture. The Eden story may well be about the Temple in Jerusalem, and originally had nothing to do with the devil or the first people on Earth. It may well have gained it’s current meaning partly because it was later placed in Genesis, and then interpreted in that context. And at the same time, this later understanding of the Eden story says something about us. It’s archetypal. It resonates.

One of the many ways to explore this is in an earlier post on this blog.

Read More

Prodigal son

 

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

– Luke 15:11-32

Read More

Garden of Eden

 

There are of course many ways of understanding the story of the garden of Eden and the “fall”, each with some validity to them.

Any story, including the ones from mythology and religion, can be seen as reflecting something here and now.

So one of the simpest ways of understanding this story, and one of the almost literal interpretations, is that eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil is a reflection of taking stories – specifically stories of good and evil, right and wrong – as true. When I “eat” the stories of good and evil, I take them as true and somehow inherent in reality. It’s something that happens here and now for most of us, and it is a “fall”, a loss of paradise.

All that’s needed is clarity about the stressful story that’s here now. Christ may represent that clarity, and Christ may especially represent clarity around the story of I. When any story is seen for what it is, Christ reveals itself to some extent. The wisdom and kindness that’s always here can shine through our lives a little more clearly. And when the story of I is seen for what it is, Christ reveals itself even more clearly to itself and in our lives. Even here, there may still be beliefs in stories. There may be a fall, being thrown out of paradise, and (the opportunity for) another redemption through clarity.

Read More

Jehovah’s Witness

 

I was taking photos of a beautiful cherry tree in bloom when a man started a conversation with me. It turned out he was from Jehovah’s Witness and from listening to him I realized we agreed. We are both aware of impermanence and that we can find a home in the timeless – or God as he would call it. It’s nice when it’s simple, and I experienced gratitude and a beautiful connection.

Crucifixion

 

There are many interpretations of the crucifixion, both in a theological sense and a metaphorical sense. For instance, it’s the marriage of the vertical (divine) and horizontal (human), as if the two were ever two.

For me, crucifixion is immediate and visceral.

I am crucified here and now and always. I cannot escape what’s here now, even if I try. The attempt to escape only becomes part of what I cannot escape here and now.

Read More

The Wisdom Jesus

 

I am reading The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind – a New Perspective on Christ and His Message by Cynthia Bourgeault, an Episcopalian minister.

Her approach is grounded partly in current research, and partly in a view of Jesus as an awakened – and tantric – wisdom teacher. No wonder I enjoy it! Highly recommended.

The Wisdom Jesus is also available as an audio book from Sounds True.

Same pay no matter when we join

 

The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.

Matthew 20: 9-10

Even when we have just intuitions or glimpses of what we are (as is my case), many of the sayings and parables in the New Testament makes immediate sense. Of course, whatever we come up with are one or a few of many possible interpretations, each one with its own value and of benefit to different people in different situations and of different inclinations.

This parable is a reminder that it doesn’t matter when we have glimpses of what we are, or when it awakens to itself more stably. The “payoff” is the same.

What does differ is (a) how experienced and mature we are in living from and as this, and (b) to what extent we are familiar with each of the many facets we are familiar with – for instance as revealed through the head, heart and belly (divine feminine) centers.

Read More

Become all flame

 

Abba Lot went to Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace, and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?” Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands toward heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.”

– from The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind

Atheists and images of God

 

A few things about atheism:

When atheists argue against religions and religious institutions, they often have some very good points. There are unhealthy aspects to many religious institutions, including different forms of power abuse. Many atrocities have been committed in the name of religion, often using religion as a cover for political or economic motivations. The three Abrahamic religions are based on bronze age/pre-modern mythology, and while the essence may be as valid today as back then, the packaging is often not.

On the other hand, when atheists argue against God, they are really arguing against their own images of God. At best, these images tend to be narrow, often limited to theistic religions. At worst, they are obvious caricatures and distortions of the images found in Christianity and other theistic religions.

Finally, to the extent they believe their own stories about reality, they make their own views into a religion. They mirror the religious people they argue against.

Read More

Worldviews: Epic of Evolution & Fundamentalism

 

We are engaged in a great battle for ideas that Christians understand to be a battle for hearts, minds, and souls. Dowd and his fellow evangelists for evolution are certain that they own the future, and that biblical Christianity will simply fade and disappear. “Ours is a time of space telescopes, electron microscopes, supercomputers, and the worldwide web,” he asserts. His conclusion: “This is not a time for parsing the lessons given to a few goatherds, tentmakers, and camel drivers.”

Well, give Michael Dowd credit for reminding us where the rejection of biblical Christianity inevitably leads.

This is from a post by Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He gives a very accurate description of Michael Dowd’s views.

And I am also genuinely curious about the last sentence. For me, what comes up is compassion and relevance.  I am pretty sure that’s not what Albert thinks of. He speaks to an audience where they must have a shared understanding of what he refers to, and I am not quite sure what it is.

If I imagine into it based on my very rudimentary knowledge of more fundamentalist views (I have never encountered them personally, nor did I grow up in a culture where these views existed), I can find something. I imagine he may refer to the “ills” of modern secular society, such as materialism, fragmentation of families and communities, alienation, misguided youth and so on. I share those same concerns.

But if that is true, there is an irony there. Michael Dowd shows how science can be a source of a deep sense of meaning, belonging, compassion, a widening circle of care, and ethical guidelines. He is pointing out the (quite obvious, to be honest) shortcomings of fundamentalism, and instead offers a profoundly meaningful worldview that can be adopted and shared by Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Taoists, and atheists alike. What’s not to like about that?

It doesn’t tear something down or reduces possibilities. It offers something different that can enrich the views of people from any tradition and background.

The only thing it is exclusive of is a literal interpretation of ancient texts, and that is of course what doesn’t sit too well with fundamentalists.

Trinity

 

The topic of trinity came up again yesterday, in a conversation.

How do I find the trinity in my own experience?

For now, it seems quite simple….

God is Buddha Mind, or awareness, this awake no-thing appearing as whatever is happening – thoughts, sensations, sights, sounds, smell, taste, or more elaborate, as emotions, pain, bliss, confusion, clarity, discomfort, tension, suffering, images of past, future and present, images of others, the house, the city, nature, the earth, civilization, solar system, the evolution of the universe, and so on.

Read More

Grotto

 

I visited The Grotto, a Catholic sanctuary in Portland, this last weekend.

My intention was to enjoy a walk in a slightly unusual park, but I soon noticed that the place had a very different effect on me.

As I approached the grotto, there was a sense of the atmosphere thickening and of a strong presence. I noticed that sense of a fiery love I am familiar with when I do Christian prayer and meditation. A sense of a fiery love in my heart, on top of the head (visible as a light flame shape on top of the head in the energy system), in my belly, and really throughout the field of experience. Even if the visit was short, about 40 minutes, I felt as if I had done a long retreat, and a sense of deep peace stayed with me the rest of the day and for a couple of days afterward.

Read More

Trinity

 

Traditions are always reinterpreted and reinvented. It is useful since it helps keep traditions current and updated. And it is also good to notice that when we reinterpret, we do it in ways that tend to reflect and confirm our existing views on the world. For instance, we may update Christianity to reflect science, evolution, ecological concerns, and acknowledgment of the validity of other traditions, and this is very appropriate and useful. At the same time, we are the ones doing it, and we do it in ways that reflect and confirm our own values, concerns, and world views. We miss out of the friction between our habitual and familiar views, and a tradition representing something different.

So here is a way to look at the Trinity that would fit our era, and especially those with an interest in Buddhism:

God = Big Mind/Heart/Belly, or dharmakaya.

The Holy Spirit = soul level, subtle energies, or sambhogakaya.

The Son = the physical, our human life in the world, or nirmanakaya.

Read More

Blog: The Website of Unknowing

 

One key, I think — coming again from the monastic tradition — is the idea of joyful repentance, which suggests that even the purgative way can be a source of delight in God. Granted, surrendering sin and opening ourselves up to transformational healing can be hard, ego-threatening work, but I see no reason why it must be miserable work. It’s like the question of purgatory: I think Protestants rejected purgatory because it was seen so much as a hellish place. But many Catholics regard purgatory as a place of great wonder and excitement, a room in heaven rather than in hell. Once you enter purgatory, the exit door leads to the great banquet hall. You are there simply to get a manicure and take a lovely bubble bath before your intimate date with your beloved. I for one cannot think of anything more delightful than taking the extra effort to clean myself up before a special evening with my wife. S0 — even for Protestants who reject the idea of purgatory — I think we can all agree that the hard work of holiness and penitence in this life ought to be an occasion for joy, if entered into in the right spirit — a spirit of trust and hope and confidence in God’s love for us, and humble recognition that everything we do to improve ourselves is ultimately a gift of grace to begin with.
– from Mapping the Journey, a post on Anamchara: The Website of Unknowing

I rarely read blogs these days, but happened to find Anamchara: The Website of Unknowing. It is the blog of Carl McColman, and every post is a gem – insightful, informed, well-written, and practical.

His new book is called The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, and will be out in August. If it is half as good as his blog, it will be well worth reading.

No escape

 

jesus-christ-on-cross-0108

It is Good Friday, and as I woke up, and later when I went for a walk, I stayed with the image of Jesus on the cross.

What comes up for me? What does it mean for me, right now?

The first that comes up is Jesus nailed to the cross. Pinned down. Unable to escape. And that is how it is for all of us. We are unable to escape our experiences, even if we try. It may seem to work for a while. We can distract ourselves. But our experiences are still there, including the ones we try to escape from. Much better, then, to consciously allow experience as it is. To welcome it. Say “yes” to it. Be with it. With heart, compassion, and kindness. This is what we do in choiceless awareness and shikantaza practice. But we can also do it in daily life, throughout the day. I notice an impulse to escape experience. I notice discomfort. And can ask myself can I be with what I am experiencing right now? And in that is an inquiry. What happens when I try to escape experience? What happens when I allow it as is, with kindness?

Read More

Honesty and the historical Jesus

 

Do we know whether Jesus was a historical person? If we are honest, we would have to say that we don’t know. We cannot know. The historical data is far too sparse. There is hardly any mention of Jesus as a historical person outside of the Christian sources, and whatever support is found within these Christian sources is indirect at best.

There is also  a plethora of earlier non-Christian mythologies that are closely aligned with the Jesus story. So the Jesus story may be just another in a line of similar mythological stories, all reflecting important inner truths. Or if such a person as Jesus existed, it is likely that the version we have now is highly mythologized and influenced by these earlier stories.

The evidence for Jesus as a historical person would not hold up in a court of law, nor would it be close to convincing in the “hard” sciences.

Yet, most Christians, theologians and historians seem to assume that Jesus was a historical person. Few bring it up even as a topic. Why is it so? Why does it seem to be almost a taboo? A non-topic? Why do some even try to brush it away by calling the possibility of Jesus as a non-historical person a “thoroughly dead thesis” when the historical data is so sparse?

Are they concerned about the implications for Christianity? Are they concerned about questioning assumptions that are shaky in the first place? If so, the solution seems a simple one: Develop – or find – an approach to Christianity that does not depend on Jesus being a historical person. The Jesus story is a powerful story in itself, as a basis for religion, a source for ethical guidelines, and a reflection of an inner process we each may go through in different ways. None of that is dependent on a historical Jesus.

If religion is about truth and honesty, this seems to be one of the first places we need to be honest and truthful.

Read More

Prayer of Surrender

 

Come, Most Holy Spirit Come, Spirit of Grace. Come Our Healer. Come Risen Lord. Come our beloved teacher.

Lord, my heart is in need of You. The depths of my heart cry out to You. I wish to open myself entirely to You. I desire that you penetrate me completely, that I belong to You. That you enter into my heart, that only you dwell there. I desire to love you eternally. Fill me with your Holy Love. Strengthen me and be with me always.

May your Holy Name be Praised.

I pray for you Lord, for every person, for every heart that is beating for You. Answer their prayers. Do not allow any of them to be lost. The life passes so quickly. Allow us to become aware of what is important, to not lose ourselves, but to gain You. You are the only center of our lives. Only with you can I know what and who I am.

Come, Lord. Come, Most Holy Spirit. My heart is waiting for you. Amen

Fr. Zlatko Sudac’s Prayer of Surrender.

Zlatko Sudac

 

zlatko_sudac2

I am impressed with the sincerity and maturity of the young Croatian mystic Zlatko Sudac.

Here is an interview with him from a few years back, and an English language website with information about retreats and more.

His message is very much aligned with that of other mystics:

God is something which surpasses any and all thoughts about Him. He surpasses our feelings, and even the state of our souls. It is impossible to speak about Him. The only way to communicate with God is to love God. We have to sink into God so that I no longer exist but God does. When I do this I don’t lose myself, but find myself in God. This can be understood only by those people who love God with all their heart, all their soul, and all their strength. If anyone sins, the only cause for all sins is the lack of love towards God and the lack of love for mankind and ourselves, that is the cause of all evils. If this wounded humanity would discover the formula of love, unconditional love, this life would be heaven on earth.

Read More

Antidotes to fundamentalism

 

I have read a few portions of Karen Armstrong’s The Bible so far, and found the history of Christian fundamentalism especially interesting.

(Listen to an interview and read the preface at NPR, and read an interview and review in The Guardian.)

One antidote to religious fundamentalism is knowledge of the history of our religion and its scriptures. Another important antidote is knowledge of how the faithful have viewed our religion and sacred texts through the times. Both are fluid, always changing, so why assume that the views (and versions of the scriptures) we have today is the final word or somehow privileged in terms of validity?

Why, for instance, is this early Bible so different from our contemporary versions? And isn’t it interesting that Christian fundamentalism, as we know it today, is a relatively new invention – from the 1800s?

Read More

The Jesus story

 

From New York Times today:

JERUSALEM — A three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew that scholars believe dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus is causing a quiet stir in biblical and archaeological circles, especially because it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days.

If such a messianic description really is there, it will contribute to a developing re-evaluation of both popular and scholarly views of Jesus, since it suggests that the story of his death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time.

Of course, the Jesus story has parallels with not only Jewish myths, but also myths from other earlier traditions of that time and region.

Some examples are given in The Jesus Mysteries by Tim Freke and Peter Gandi where they outline the following parallels of the Osiris-Dionysus and Jesus stories:

  • Osiris-Dionysus is God made flesh, the savior and “Son of God.”
  • His father is God and his mother is a mortal virgin.
  • He is born in a cave or humble cowshed on December 25 before three shepherds.
  • He offers his followers the chance to be born again through the rites of baptism.
  • He miraculously turns water into wine at a marriage ceremony.
  • He rides triumphantly into town on a donkey while people wave palm leaves to honor him.
  • He dies at Eastertime as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
  • After his death he descends to hell, then on the third day he rises from the dead and ascends to heaven in glory.
  • His followers await his return as the judge during the Last Days.
  • His death and resurrection are celebrated by a ritual meal of bread and wine, which symbolize his body and blood.

Why is it so? The obvious answer is that the Jesus myth picked up elements of existing myths to make it more familiar to the people of the time.

But another answer, as Freke and Gandi points out, is that these stories are about an inner truth more than an outer – historic – truth. They reflect an inner process of growing and waking up.

And that is why similar story elements not only appear in traditions of that place and time, but around the world in many different cultures, and also in dreams and visions of people today.

None of this really touch whether Jesus was a historic figure or not. He may well have been, and the specific events of his life may or may not have followed the lines of the Jesus story as we know it today.

Read More

Bernadette Roberts

 

The topic of Bernadette Roberts came up again, or I could say the conundrum 🙂 (See the comments of that post.)

To me, it seems that her descriptions of her own path and awakenings are beautiful and clear, quite similar to what have happened here at different times, and what has been described by mystics from many traditions.

For instance, she differentiates between oneness/unity, where there is a sense of an I one with God/all, and selflessness, where there is a release of identification with a sense of I and Other. And that is awakening 101, found among mystics of each of the traditions, experienced by many today as well, and something we can investigate for ourselves using tools such as the Big Mind process, headless experiments and investigating the sense fields.

(For me, there was first a shift into realized selflessness awakening, coming out of the blue, after consuming a great deal of alcohol one time and then being “absorbed into” the witness for about a year. Then, after some months, a shift into a oneness/unity state, which lasted for several years. Then a dark night for a few years. Then a gradual emerging of the oneness state, then a realized selflessness phase for a few months, and now a oneness phase again where things are worked through some more.)

But when she talks about the different traditions, it seems that very few of the ones familiar with them would agree with how she describes them. Sometimes, it seems that her take on them are 180 degrees turned from what you would actually find there. To me at least, she seems to use a straw man argument, fighting windmills and imaginary foes – as I described in the initial post.

But that is only one possibility, and the other is that I have got it completely wrong. Which is of course true anyway. Any story such as these is just a story, more or less accurate in a conventional sense, and also having nothing to do with what it appears to refer to in another sense.

What it comes down to is its effectiveness as a teaching strategy and pointers for own investigation. How effective is her take on it as a teaching strategy? And how effective is it as a pointer for own practice?

And then finally what this is really all about: a mirror for myself. In what ways do I do exactly what I see in her? When do I overgeneralize? When do I use straw man arguments? When am I blinded by my own stories about something?

Note: See this inquiry for how I worked with one of my hangups around this.

Michael Dowd in Oregon!

 

jesus_darwin1.jpg

Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow are back in Oregon, giving a string of presentations in early April.

They will be in Roseburg April 9, Eugene April 10, Portland April 12 and 13, and Salem on the 16th.

If you happen to live around here, it is well worth attending. They are both amazing speakers in the area of evolution and spirituality, and Michael often uses the aqal framework to organize his presentations.

If you live somewhere else in the US, you can find their schedule on the Thank God for Evolution website, where you will also find audio and video snippets.

Human self as the finger pointing to the moon II

 

st-john.jpg

Buddhism and Christianity both use a “pointing beyond itself” analogy.

In Buddhism, it is the finger pointing to the moon. The teacher, teachings and practices point beyond themselves to what we really are, this awakeness with a content which is awakeness itself. Don’t mistake the finger for the moon.

In Christianity, it is the realization that it is all from God. Nothing happens here which is not from God.

This also shows where the traditional teachings sometimes don’t go quite as far as they can.

In Buddhism, it is not only the teacher/teachings that are the finger pointing to the moon. It is also this human self. When it points to itself as the final truth, it is deluded. When it notices that it is already and always pointing to awakeness as reality, it is awakened.

In Christianity, it is not only that I as a human being give all credit to God. It is also that God is all there is. It may appear that there is a human being here, with a separate I, but there is nothing but God. There is no separate I here, only God.

In both cases, this human self becomes a finger pointing beyond itself.

And this shift has to be thorough for it to be real. For this human self to really notice what is already and always is.

(Leonardo’s beautiful painting of St. John the Baptist shows him pointing up. He has to point somewhere, so it may as well be up. But it is really in all and no directions.)

Forms of prayer

 

Any tool is fair game, as long as it works and seems appropriate to the situation.

Many nondual folks are familiar with contemplative prayer, visualizations, heart prayer, Christ meditation and similar forms on prayer where a receptivity to and invitation in of the soul level is the main emphasis, possibly shifting into realized selflessness in glimpses or more thoroughly.

The more common forms of prayer, those where we ask about something specific, also have their place. They are a part of any comprehensive toolbox. They can be used as in Buddhism, to ask for awakening for the benefit of all beings. This sets a clear intention, which in turn helps reorganize and align our human self with this path and may even have effects beyond that.

And of course, prayers for the health and well-being of ourselves and others have their place. Again, they help realign ourselves with that intention. And it opens our heart. It opens for a sincere well-wishing for ourselves and others. And both of those spill over into our actions.

As with visualizations, these forms of prayer may (or may not) have an effect beyond how it works on us, in how the world shows up on its own.

In either case, the effect it has on us is more than enough reason to sometimes engage in them.

They set a clear intention for ourselves. They help realign us with that intention. They open our heart. They open for sincere well-wishing for ourselves and others.

And sometimes, especially in extreme situations, they may be comforting if that is what we need.

(And if not, if we are invited into being wholeheartedly with what is coming up and we use these forms of prayers as an escape, they – and anything else we do to try to escape – are likely to not work.)

God as tech support

 

Interesting quote posted at Indistinct Union:

John Polkinghorne, a physicist and a priest, has put it this way: “God will download our software onto his hardware until the time he gives us new hardware to run the software again for ourselves.” That gets to two things nicely: that the period after death is a period when we are in God’s presence but not active in our own bodies, and also that the more important transformation will be when we are again embodied and administering Christ’s kingdom.

Is it only me that sees this as more creepy than attractive? If this is all there is to it, I am tempted to say count me out.

(It is also another example of someone entertaining themselves with their thinking, creating imaginations that gives some temporary comfort. Nothing wrong in that, but it is good to be honest about it.)

But as usual, we can also find it here now.

This timeless now that everything happens within is Christ’s Kingdom. And when I notice that, its content – this human self and its surroundings, or Kosmos if we want to be grand – is noticed as already and always fresh, new, stainless, pure.

So in that case, count me in.

Read More