Posted by: spiritthrive | August 21, 2014

I Spent Twelve Years in a Halfway House

I spent twelve years in a halfway house. But let’s back up a bit…

I grew up in the most Republican county in Texas.

Now that’s saying something! It was a small town of 10,000 about 45 minutes outside Houston (we measured distance by how long it took to get somewhere).

Although small, our school district boundaries stretched 20 miles in some directions, a strategy that—with only one high school—made the high school football team quite competitive. This was another important value: electing Republicans and winning football games.

And then there was Jesus.

Yes, the same Jesus of “in Jesus’ name we pray” when we’d ask God to let our football team win.

Just as there was no questioning politics or the importance of football, there was no questioning the absolute and inerrant authority of the King James Bible.

A joke goes, “If the King James Bible was good enough for the Apostle Paul, then it’s good enough for me!” I found it troubling that, while most laughed when this was stated, I’m not certain many of them knew why it was humorous.

After a few false starts at college right out of high school, I was now 25, married, and no college degree.

My wife and I moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas, the school we had both dreamed of attending since junior high school.

Austin, Texas! What an island solace of openness, exploration and cultivated reason surrounded by an ocean of dogmatic, incurious rednecks!

Although I served as an assistant minister (of music) during the five years it took me to finish undergraduate school, I found myself increasingly at odds with the teachings of my conservative church.

For example, the City of Austin had a ballot measure to extend benefits to same sex partners (keep in mind, this was circa 1990) and when I voiced to the other staff (“This seems like something Jesus would support—you know, how he healed and fed the crowd before preaching”) I thought I would be tarred and feathered on the spot.

Twelve years after moving to Austin, I accepted an opportunity to work for IBM Global Services and moved to the greater Boulder area.

Today, seventeen years later, knowing more than ever that I have identified my tribe, I intend to spend the rest of my life here.

I am forever grateful for the twelve years I spent in the halfway house of Austin, a gentle and safe environment that allowed me safe transition from a dark, foreign place into the shining, brilliant light of home.

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Posted by: spiritthrive | February 28, 2014

Apology by Proxy: Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word

(From a Toastmaster’s speech I gave few years ago, based on a message from my pastor, adapted with her permission.)

Each of you is a living, breathing, precious human being. I would venture, with 100% certainty, every person in this room tonight has, at some point in her or his life, been hurt by someone else. Possibly many times by a variety of people. I would further venture that, like me, many you have been waiting countless, fruitless years for an apology from the people who have hurt you.

It’s not coming.

The apology you are owed is probably not coming because: 1) many people fail to recognize when they have hurt someone else; 2) they don’t want to recognize they’ve hurt someone; or, 3) they refuse to apologize in spite of admitted culpability.

I believe these bad actors create their own destiny and are justly punished by the harmful environment their sociopathic behavior attracts. You could not affect a punishment nearly as fitting, thorough and inescapable as the Universe’s. You would not want to trade places with them.

What about you?

Most of us will not receive the apologies we are owed. We can choose to keep waiting for them, or we can choose to move on, with or without forgiveness.

Each minute we spend thinking about someone who hurt us, and their unoffered apology, is sixty seconds of joy delayed, happiness unfulfilled, life put on hold. Sixty seconds of children and grandchildren less than fully loved; a delicious meal not completely savored; a glorious, golden sunset unable to be etched into your troubled, distracted memory.

If it were in my power to do so I would summon here—right this instant—everyone who has ever hurt you in your life, make them admit their wrongdoing and proffer a heartfelt, sincere apology.

(Now, I’m a big guy who “knows some people,” but that’s not going to happen either. 😉 )

I would like, instead, for you to try an experiment with me.

I think that in many cases, much of the original emotional pain of being hurt has faded, and, measured in some ways, you are largely over your hurt. It would still be nice, though, to hear someone admit the wrong and say those two simple words.

It won’t be the same person as the one who hurt you, neither will it be timely.

You might be surprised, however, that our experiment may unexpectedly, illogically help you to move on. These are matters of the heart, after all.

If a school teacher has hurt you, I apologize.

If a pastor, priest, minister or other member of the clergy has hurt you, I apologize.

If your mother hurt you, I apologize.

If your father hurt you, I apologize.

If one of your children has hurt you, I apologize.

If your spouse or partner has hurt you, I apologize.

If you have ever been hurt by a doctor, nurse or medical institution, I apologize.

If a politician’s words have ever hurt you, I apologize.

If a friend has ever hurt you, I apologize.

If you have been hurt by any one at any time, I apologize.

My intention tonight has been three-fold: 1) To acknowledge we have been hurt by others; 2) To recognize the unlikelihood of receiving an apology; and, 3) Perhaps to accept a small amount of solace and healing through my proxy apology.

It was certainly not my intention to further hurt anyone by my words. If that has nevertheless occurred please accept my sincere apology.

Should I live to be 100, life will still seem too short.

At least it’s too short to wait around for an apology.

How about you?

Posted by: spiritthrive | April 3, 2013

Entertaining Truths

Do you generally see a difference between facts and truth? If one accepts a fact as a scientifically measurable event or phenomenon, then what is truth?

I believe that truth is the meaning we assign to facts. How the facts fit our worldview, how they measure up, support our story, interrelate. We determine truth both on an individual and a collective basis. Laws, rules and regulations are merely the codification of truths we agree on to form societies. The reason we meet, debate and vote to form common ground is because we don’t hold the same truths.

A man may hold the truth that it’s alright to take something that doesn’t belong to him, but we deem him a criminal, one who has chosen to value his truth above society’s, and we fine him or isolate him from the collective group for a period, giving the message that he should reform in his deviance from society’s truth.

But we also seem to “punish” others on a more subtle basis for not sharing some of our truths. This behavior births prejudice, religious disagreement, and, less subtly, armed conflict and war.

Why is it so important that someone share your truth on a given matter? Does another’s differing opinion threaten yours, or suggest yours may be wrong?

Why not accept the myriad interpretation of facts as a diversity of thread holding together the beautiful tapestry that is this world? Why not entertain another’s point of view as an exercise in growth, learning and love?

One of the emerging beliefs around dementia is that people whose brains have developed more neural networks are better prepared to defend against its onset. Guess what a good way to build more neural networks is? Challenging the brain with activities or ideas that are new to it. Perhaps this is nature’s cruel (or fitting) punishment for the narrow-minded: that in old age they lose their capacity to reason because it was shoved into well-worn ruts at such a young age.

Aristotle observed “it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Are there thoughts you cannot even entertain?

Posted by: spiritthrive | March 28, 2013

Moving Energy

Everything we do involves the movement of energy.

As I type this sentence, I am listening to my favorite rock song of all time, Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” For me, the energy moved by that song is phenomenal! Beginning with the pleasant guitar intro, Steven Tyler’s rough but lilting voice continues to build through the ballad’s verses, climaxing with his trademark screams towards the end, easily leaping octave intervals into a compelling falsetto, skillfully transiting the waves of blues progressions like the master that he is. I’m exhausted when it’s finished. The good kind. It’s reminiscent my experience with at least a dozen Zeppelin songs.

I’ve heard this recording of “Dream On” a thousand times yet can I recall its lyrics? No, because that’s not the point—really or at all.

Good musicians use their talents to create art such that listeners are engaged, are involved, are moved. From Bach to The Beatles, Handel to Hendrix, Chopin to Chicago, all these masters grokked the concept of moving energy. Sometimes it takes producers, agents and others to recognize, develop and promote these energy moving talents.

It is the same with writing, painting, speaking, acting and all other creative endeavors. All evoking emotional responses, all moving energy in their beholders. Even more “mundane” interactions move energy, such as driving, breathing, reading, thinking. All are important, all dynamic.

People sometimes say they don’t like small talk. I used to abhor it. I came to realize, though, that it’s not really about “How’s the weather?” or “See any good movies lately?” It’s an energy exchange with another human being.

Remember throughout the day that in all your interactions with others energy will be moved. Learning to contribute positively, in a way that benefits all concerned, is the root of success and happiness.

Posted by: spiritthrive | March 14, 2013

My Spiritual Journey

I grew up in fundamentalist, biblical-literalist, evangelical Christianity. In other words, I grew up in the American South. None of those classifications any longer describes who I am. Here is a synopsis of my journey and its antecedents.

The Abraham of Genesis of the Old Testament felt led in his Spirit to relocate from Ur to Canaan, because his homeland in Mesopotamia no longer served him—he had outgrown it.

Spirit led Moses to give the Israelites the Ten Commandments as a cornerstone of their belief system, newly exiled from Egypt as they were—the traditions of their former captors no longer served them.

The New Testament books tell of Jesus who offered a greater vision to his people, the Jews, trumping the Ten Commandments’ code with a message of love, honor, peace, serving and respect for all living things. He found the most revered religious orders caught up in literalism and picayune, petty interpretations of the law. Jesus invited those who would listen to discard the part of their spiritual practice that no longer served them and connect directly with the Spirit that dwells within.

A great church was founded upon Jesus’ relationship with his apostle, Peter. Catholicism spread throughout the known Western world, carried forth and embraced by the Roman Empire.

Motivated by the desire for further spiritual freedom, reformers such as Luther provided the seeds for movements that would break away from the Catholic church. They felt—contrary to established religious thinking—the it was possible to speak directly to God, that one shouldn’t be able to pay the church to escape the consequences of one’s actions (indulgences), and that holy books could be read and understood by all who were literate. Luther and others were considered sinful heretics.

I believe we are all connected, that the concept of “me” and “you” is not a good basis for a worldview. I am God manifested as an individual person, as are you. We cannot be separated from Spirit for we are Spirit made manifest. We can believe that we are separate—this is the basis of all misery, conflict and war.

When I was 8, I responded to an altar call at the First Baptist Church to confess that I was a sinner, repent of those sins, recognize I was in need of salvation, acknowledge that the only path to salvation was in accepting Jesus’ death on the cross as a substitution for my eternal death, and ask Jesus into my heart so I may love and serve him the rest of my earthly existence. In other words, I got “saved.”

Am I still saved? I have never asked to be “unsaved,” but the concept, as I was taught it, has little meaning to me now. Jesus was a great Way Shower, as were many others, and I am thankful his story of erudition, self-discovery, and speaking truth to power has often provided salvation from lower paths.

Am I still a sinner? Every day of my life is chockfull of learning opportunities, chances to demonstrate more love, kindness and gratitude, to offer myself in further service to others, to better communicate with my inner Spirit/God/Creator, and to make manifest the world I am continuously co-creating. In other words, my life is perfect! The concept of “sin” no longer has meaning to me.

Did Jesus die on the cross for me? You would have to ask him. To me, it’s still a beautiful story when interpreted metaphorically (as most holy books are intended to be), and one thinks about Jesus’ death as an example of sacrificing the needs of our ego to obtain “salvation.” What could have been more ego-challenging than to have been accused of crimes he didn’t commit?

Am I serving Jesus? I believe the story of Jesus is offered as a great example of someone embodying what has come to be referred to (in his honor) as the “Christ Consciousness.” It’s disappointing sometimes to see so many focused on “Jesus,” and so few on “Christ.” I am serving my inner Spirit’s voice, which, like Jesus, asks me to love my fellow creatures, love the God within, and radiate joy and kindness to all I meet.

Does your spiritual tradition trace its heritage to Abraham? To Moses? To Jesus? To Luther? If so, are you grateful they listened to Spirit so that you might enjoy the liberties you have today? Are you, too, open to spiritual revelation, evolution and growth?

Does Spirit reveal truth to all who seek, or just a select few?

Some who read this will make their own judgments as to whether I have satisfactorily answered questions they may have. To all I would say, do not show up to have your questions answered, be fully present to have your answers questioned.

It is unlikely I will share more of my personal journey because it is mine alone. You must do your own work.

It is then you will begin to become fully alive in the present moment of the perfect miracle you were created to be.

Posted by: spiritthrive | February 19, 2013

What to Make of our Ego

Much has been written about the ego, often casting it in a negative light.Wikipedia states, “The ego comprises the organized part of the personality structure that includes defensive, perceptual, intellectual-cognitive, and executive functions. Conscious awareness resides in the ego, although not all of the operations of the ego are conscious. Originally, Freud used the word ego to mean a sense of self, but later revised it to mean a set of psychic functions such as judgment, tolerance, reality testing, control, planning, defense, synthesis of information, intellectual functioning, and memory. The ego separates out what is real. It helps us to organize our thoughts and make sense of them and the world around us.”

Those sound like good things to me!

Often when people say something like “that’s just your ego talking,” I believe they mean that our defense mechanisms are in high gear, and we’re not considering the higher purpose an action may hold for us, were we able to stand down our defensive measures.

In other words, our ego does not like the risk of change, which may or may not bring reward, whereas the status quo is relatively safe.

Some Buddhist teachings recommend we work to rid ourselves of ego. Someone recently suggested ego may simply be a stage in our development, a necessary stage, but one we grow out of.

What if both of these ideas are partially correct?

What if our ego is a vitally necessary part of our early development, but some of its massive strengths shift to become weaknesses as we age and desire greater spiritual development (which always requires change)? What if one of the central adventures of our spiritual life is in identifying, assessing and mastering our ego? What if managing and mastering the spirit-ego balance in our life is key to our growth, success and happiness?

I believe that, in addition to the ego reformation process we undergo in our own life, developing a refined sense of recognizing when others are battling their ego is a quite useful life skill as well.

In our relationships with others there are three levels of ego mastery we can achieve.

First, merely recognizing that others’ egos are driving their actions, as opposed to their innermost spirit being in control, can be a very beneficial step in allowing us to deal with them gracefully. Just as someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol may have little control over what they mean to say and do, so, too, does an “egoholic” lose the ability to remain heart-centered.

Second, by identifying in another, work we ourselves have undergone, we become empathetic to their plight, and are much better positioned to bring success to an interaction otherwise predestined to disaster. Acknowledging someone else is struggling with the domination of ego and attempting to relate that battle with one of our own can lend great wisdom to the more blunt, carnal fight that may have ensued.

Finally, a high level of ego mastery in our relationships with others is when we are able not only to identify and empathize with someone caught up in an ego struggle, but also lovingly help guide them to a higher path than the one they are currently on. To gently say, in so many words, “I’ve been right where you are, and sometimes operate right there still. But I would like to show you a path that’s more loving, more kind and gentle, and will resonate more fully with your beautiful spirit.”

It is then that we begin to journey together towards peace, love and harmony for other brothers and sisters, and have achieved ego graduation—the realization that we are all connected.

Posted by: spiritthrive | December 31, 2012

End of the World or End of the Year?

Today is the last day of the calendar year. The calendar my friends and I use.

A couple of weeks ago it was the end of the long count Mayan calendar. Most of my friends don’t use that one.

It’s quite natural to think about closing things out, cleaning things up, making lists of new behaviors to start, and so forth, on the last day of the year.

Why is that?

We could do it any day of the year, and, if those changes are beneficial and we stick to them, it would be just as meaningful on an arbitrary day as on a day near the end or beginning of a new cycle.

It seems a tad immature to me that we need the artifice of a calendar demarcation to inspire us to contemplate changing our lives for the better.

Enough pontificating…I have a list to polish…

Posted by: spiritthrive | December 11, 2012

The Suspended Moon

This morning the moon was in the East, with Venus appearing nearby. As the sun rose, the quarter moon was lit beautifully, easily illuminating the full circumference of the moon, revealing many of its surface features. A celestial poem and prayer to begin my day.

I could hear a voice in my head suggesting how marvelously the moon was suspended in the sky.

Then, just as quickly, another voice corrects, “The moon isn’t suspended! It revolves and rotates, just as all the planetary bodies do! Only people with a low level of understanding would think the moon is ‘suspended’!”

Wow! The heated level of rebuke in my voice wiped out the beauty and mystery I was feeling only moments ago. I went from wonder to sadness.

Who am I to think I have a level of understanding that is sophisticated at all?

Perhaps on the Grand Scale of Things, those behind my first voice have an understanding on Level 1,422 and mine is Level 1,423, and there’s millions of levels!

O Judgment, Where Is Thy Poetry?

Posted by: spiritthrive | December 3, 2012

The Zen of Traffic Lights

I have friends who curse traffic lights. They curse about them. They curse at them. They want others to know about their hatred and cursing of traffic lights. They are obsessed.

When I was younger I, too, hated traffic lights. How dare some arbitrary colored lamp interfere with my beautiful, swift journey!

Then something happened…

It’s hard to fix the exact time and place—it was really more gradual in nature.

Instead of resisting the concept of traffic lights, I began to embrace the flow of traffic. I began to become acquainted with the timings and proclivities of traffic lights, subtly adjusting the speed of my vehicle to accommodate their regulation. Actually appreciating the role traffic lights played in allowing people to interact peacefully with one another.

Instead of selecting the next foul phrase from my unimaginative queue of curses upon seeing a yellow light, I began to appreciate how people in the cross traffic were about to be allowed to proceed.

Rather than dangerously raise my blood pressure and cortisone levels, I embraced the opportunity to be thankful that there were guides in place, ensuring justice and fairness. I used the slow down to look at the beautiful people around me, all carrying the presence of God in them.

Over the course of the last decade, driving in town has become a pleasure for me. It is yet another chance to say thank you to kindness, goodness, order, beauty, society, creation and cleverness. Which are really all the same thing anyway.

Posted by: spiritthrive | October 11, 2012

The Knowledge of Good and Evil

One of the bible stories that has fascinated me since childhood is that of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (TKGE).

I recently reread the details of this story, which is found in the first few chapters of Genesis, and it surprised me how much attention is given to it.

Other than the account of creation itself, the story of TKGE has the most emphasis placed on it of any other.

My intention is not to debate the historical accuracy of this text, at best a distracting, tangential argument that serves to “lessen the lessons,” if you will, of the metastory.

Rather, I am fascinated to learn what teaching is conveyed by the TKGE, what wisdom the tradition of its retelling—first orally and then by written word—serves.

Before eating of the forbidden fruit, Adam lived a blissful, worry-free existence with his “helpmate” (she had not yet been given a name).

So free of judgment were the two of them, they didn’t even realize they were naked—that is, the features that separated them were seen but without apology or shame.

According to the account, a serpent persuaded the woman that it was alright to partake of the TKGE, and that, instead of death as God had said, the only repercussion would be “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

The serpent’s assurances prevailed and the woman ate the forbidden fruit as did Adam.

Instantly they were ashamed of (they judged) their nakedness and God delivered many sorrowful curses into their lives.

Adam also named his helpmate “Eve”—perhaps he now saw (judged) her as separate.

So what the heck does all this mean?

Adam and Eve eat a simple apple and damn themselves to an earthly hell?

I’m not completely there yet with my truth from this story, but I believe I am gathering clues.

At one time, humans were closer to spirit and didn’t feel the need to assign (judge) values to events.

Events simply “were,” and that was sufficient and they were happy.

Over time (perhaps not as instantaneous as eating a piece of fruit) people learned they could assign a value judgment to events, and began to do so with increasing anxiousness. (See the Chinese farmer’s tale.)

Instead of living in each moment as they created it, humans felt compelled to spend their precious time in judgment of events, themselves and others, which only served to subtract joy from their lives.

Adam and Eve attracted what were termed curses because of their newly developed need for judgment.

Maybe we cannot uneat of the TKGE.

Maybe what we need to do is to learn to live fully in the moment, to withhold judgment perhaps even to the point where we lose the ability to judge, and to be grateful for all that is in our lives precisely because it is neither good nor bad—it simply is.

And thereby realize that is perfectly sufficient for our happiness.

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