Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Tool and the Block

We encounter difficult moments nearly every day. Sometimes, these moments string together into difficult days, difficult weeks, difficult months, and even difficult years. The difficult can easily slow, halt or even reverse progress. When trends persist, what we think and how we feel become buoys, anchors or of no consequence. We can guide the mind, affecting the direction of our thoughts. Affecting the mind is a challenging proposition. Affecting our emotions is even more challenging.

Emotions have a dualistic quality. Emotions can be a sense, giving us rich data on our lives and the world in which we live. Emotions can also be a mask, molded by memories of the past, shaped with fears and hopes of the future and hardened by our attachments and aversions.  This dualistic quality can make understanding and directing our feelings cumbersome at times and nearly impossible at others. We must begin to explore how emotions act both as a tool and as a block to our awareness.

Emotions can add context to situations. Emotions can be the set design, the costumes, the orchestra or even the actors on the stage that is our life. Feelings are key to enjoying life, and simultaneously allow us to experience pain and suffering. Both of these attributes of feeling can assist or undermine our struggle. The enjoyable sensations can act as nourishment during the difficult.

Beyond simple enjoyment and nourishment, emotions can also yield amazingly rich information about our life. That gut instinct we’ve felt is a way we can experience this rich source of information. It is the sum total of our feelings about something. Sometimes, gut instincts are absolutely accurate. Other times, these instincts are based in fear, attachment and aversion. Determination of which is presently at work is a skill that takes continued patience and understanding. There is no switch where the emotionally blind suddenly become absolutely aware. The only path is through continued, thorough exploration of our emotions.

All of our emotions are based as a reaction to our life. This reaction is not just based from past history. Our beliefs can also play a major role. These beliefs can be about any aspect of life, including people, places and things. Our beliefs can be expansive, including others, our communities, our country, the planet or even the entire universe. These beliefs are the lens of the mind. Being mindful of the lens we look through can assist us in our exploration.

We must begin to use our emotions as the toolset that they are. Otherwise, our emotions are simply blocks to our progress. And, we cannot block out our emotions. This is similar to not wanting to hear something so we severely damage our eardrums to stop hearing altogether. It makes no sense.

Our mind can be overwhelmed by sensory information as well as emotion. We can also learn to train our mind to work differently. When overwhelm occurs, we can de-escalate through a variety of methods. We can return our mind to the present moment through focus on something outside of our mental control, like breathing. Another focus we could have would be the noise that we wish not to hear, as this is another aspect we cannot control. These both can aid in diminishing the overwhelm we experience. This is how we remove emotional blocks to awareness. Sometimes, we have to repeat the process. We must do so with a light touch, being careful not to reprimand when patience, understanding and compassion are more advisable. The goal is to not create more emotional blocks but to eliminate them.

As we begin to remove the blocks and expose the tools, we can find ourselves in a wholly new world, one of possibility and potential. We can transform our life; we need only attempt to do so to find the tools for progress have been with us from the beginning. We can begin right here and right now.  

Be Patient, Focus on Others Not Yourself ***

S. Matthew 20: 1 – 28

O. The parable comparing the Kingdom of Heaven to payment after working for a landowner of a vineyard. Another teaching where two disciples look to future placement in heaven.

A. There are many teaching moments within this parable involving payment for work at a vineyard. The landowner hires people at the beginning of the day, later in the morning, at noon, early and late in the afternoon as well. At the end of the day, he pays them all the same wage. Those that had toiled in the fields since the beginning of the day were upset at this. The landowner responds, and Jesus continues after the telling of the parable.
‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? . . . I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind of others?'
Jesus says:
‘So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.’
When good things happen to others, or someone receives more than us for equal work, we have a choice. We can see it as unfair, or we can be jealous of their good fortune. Both of these choices don’t serve us or God. Instead, we could find our situation blessed and have good will for the good fortunes of others.

The last statement by Jesus seems like a lesson on patience.  Those who wait for others to be first now will go first later. Patience is a crucial aspect on this path. We must not wish ill will to those who have good fortune today, nor must we expect good fortune for ourselves today. Our good fortune will come in time, and when it does, we will be first to receive it.

Then, Jesus talks with the mother of James and John. She wants assurance that her sons will be on either side of Jesus in heaven. Jesus responds not with an answer, but a question.
‘You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?’
‘Oh yes,’ they replied, ‘we are able!’
Jesus told them, ‘You will indeed drink from my bitter cup. But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. My Father has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.
Here Jesus shows that this life is about pain and suffering, and it’s a bitter cup that we all, including Jesus, must drink. There is no way to remove ourselves from this painful truth of living. We also have no right to direct placement, good will or good fortune on ourselves or others. We must lead a good life by doing good acts for all others. We must be patient as our good fortune will come, but it does not have to come right now by our acts today.

Jesus is also saying here that we can all walk the path he is taking. We can serve others; we can heal others; we can give our lives for the benefit of all others. If we don’t feel we can, we’re not seeing the potential of this life and our impact on this world.

Jesus then sits down with all the disciples, as they were concerned after hearing about this conversation.
‘You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ 
The way in which we wield power and authority is important. To simply tell others what to do and how to do it isn’t a worthwhile use of that power and authority. We must live by example, as Jesus has done. Jesus was born to be a leader, but that did not mean others served him. In fact, he served all, through his acts and eventually through his own death. Our good acts and even our death cannot take away our good fortune in heaven.

P. May I focus on serving others today.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Be Good, Do No Harm ***

S. Matthew 19: 13 – 30

O. Parents and a rich man come before Jesus seeking his blessing and guidance. The disciples question Jesus similarly and Jesus offers further teachings.

A. The disciples start this reading trying to protect Jesus from having to bless the children brought to him by parents. Jesus says, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children." It seems apparent that Jesus does not need or seek protection, yet the disciples consistently attempt to do so. We don’t need to be protected by anyone either. God has led us to where we are and what is happening in our lives for a reason. We need only have a deep relationship with God and the universe to discover and trust in this.

Next, a man comes before Jesus, asking
“’What good deed must I do to have eternal life?’
‘Why ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only One who is good. But to answer your question – if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments . . . You must not murder . . . commit adultery . . . not steal . . . not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.’
‘What else must I do?’
‘If you want to be perfect, go and sell all of your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’
But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.’
People seeking guidance often don’t want guidance. A wish or a response is already in mind and if they do not hear this, they will leave feeling unfulfilled. Here, Jesus shows amazing patience. The young man continues to push, and Jesus follows up with further guidance, to challenge the young man as he had challenged Jesus.

Until we become one with God and the universe, we cannot be saved. If we’re expecting to find some answer as to how to do this outside of that deep relationship, we will be unsatisfied as we’re already saved. Jesus makes it simple, follow the commandments. He makes it simpler, highlighting the commandments involving others. He goes even further, making it about the giving away of possessions to the poor and the needy.

Jesus then turns to the disciples and goes further.
“'It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!’
The disciples were astounded. ‘Then who in the world can be saved?’ they asked.
Jesus . . . said. ‘Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.’
The Peter said to him, ‘We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?’
Jesus replied . . . ‘But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.’’
The way into heaven is a very narrow gate. It is actually humanly impossible to enter this gate. “But with God everything is possible.” Once again, Jesus points out that it is through our deep relationship with God and the universe that we enter Heaven. We must become one with God.  The disciples’ faith is not complete, even now. They still fear not having met the requirements to enter heaven. Jesus has continued patience for them and for all of us, because of our humanity.

The way in which we treat those that we deem or who seem as less important is crucial. It is easy to be kind, gentle, patient and compassionate to those who have authority over us, or who hold influence over us or others. We understand what it means to be good to others. We just often choose not to hold ourselves up to that level with every interaction with every single person we encounter. If we are to be judged, it is by our interaction with the “least important” that we will be judged.

The commandments Jesus highlighted as being most important all involve how we approach and behave toward others. ‘Don’t hurt others, honor them’ is the simple message. If we have something to give, we should give it freely to those who are in need. This is the way through that narrow gate to heaven.

P. May I honor all I encounter and not hurt them.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Surviving vs. Thriving: The Internal Battle

As confidence and capacity grow, so does our culpability. Choices increase in frequency and importance. Our actions are easier when the choices are to survive or not to survive. When the question becomes to thrive or not to thrive, a host of internal and external obstacles appear in our path, most of our own creation.

The internal sources are absolutely within our domain to affect. The mind’s capacity for laxity is truly profound. This is our chief internal obstacle to thriving. It’s much easier, especially in the short term, to not be active in life. This isn’t just physical exertion; it’s also mental and emotional exertion. All forms of exertion are linked.

Physically, there can be initial resistance to exercise as it takes not just time but willingness and energy.  Even climbing out of bed is not always easy to do, especially if we have no willingness or energy to do so. Making exercise a priority is the only way to create the time and willingness to do it. If we do not make sleeping and waking up a priority, we are not taking care of ourselves.

The simplest forms of physical exertion must be appreciated, as for many waking up or even sleeping can be problematic. To ignore these sleeping and waking aspects of our daily life, even if we don’t experience trouble, is dangerous. These are crucial to any and all exertion we wish to make, and it is the extra exertion in our day where thriving may take place.

Willingness is key to anything we want to do. We have to make priorities. If we do not, we are more likely to trend toward mundane survival as opposed to thriving. Willingness is both mental and emotional in nature. Exertion is crucial for thriving. The mind does not want to challenge its own assumptions, attachments or aversions. This takes time, willingness and energy. We have to make challenging our mind and this life a priority, otherwise it will not happen. It is far easier to not challenge our thoughts and feelings then it is to expand or explore our perspectives and views.

This is as simple as practicing an instrument, such as piano or flute, or practicing a sport. Our bodies and our minds are exploring what we’re doing, thoroughly. Practice is a luxury that many seem unable to complete. Without making practice a priority, it simply lacks our full physical, mental and emotional focus. And, what we practice is completely up to us. It is only through practice that skills are sharpened and capacities broadened.

If we are not emotionally and mentally invested in exploration and expansion of our views and perspectives, then the likelihood of using internal resources in this pursuit is greatly diminished. A sincere passion for understanding, regardless of any obstacles, is necessary to break through the internal issues of laxity, focus and drive.

Often as adults, we forget about practice, a crucial component of a thriving life. It is rare to just wake up and be thriving. There is much time, energy, willingness and resources necessary to accomplish anything beyond our survival. And, we may have not applied ourselves completely to anything in a considerable time. We can, however, begin to practice today. We have to be willing, as we are already able. We have to not simply want an outcome; we have to want the work toward that end.  

Friday, January 25, 2013

Return to Faith Every Day ***

S. Matthew 15: 29 – 16:12

O. After finishing a teaching with the people, Jesus directs his disciples to feed them. The disciples’ concerns offer another opportunity for teaching.

A. The level of faith in the disciples is constantly a focus of Jesus. Conditions and situations constantly arise that challenge their faith, and consistently it is shown that they lack it. That even Jesus’ disciples continuously struggle with faith and belief is a crucial lesson for us. We may falter on the path, but Jesus is still there to help guide us. His steps can be our steps. He shows patience; he shows understanding; he shows compassion.

All of these are displayed at the end of Matthew 15. Once again, the disciples lack the faith that Jesus can deliver on his promise of feeding those in need. And, he had previously shown them that he could do this. Yet, there was plenty of food for those that had gathered. Then, upon returning to the other side of the lake, the disciples realize they had forgotten to take any food with them from the gathering. They begin to argue amongst themselves.

Jesus responds.
“You have so little faith! Why are you arguing with each other about having no bread? Don’t you understand even yet? Don’t you remember the 5,000 I fed with five loaves, and the baksets of leftovers you picked up? Or the 4,000 I fed with seven loaves, and the large baskets of leftovers you picked up? Why can’t you understand that I’m not talking about bread? So again I say, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’” Then at last they understood that he wasn’t speaking about the yeast in the bread, but about the deceptive teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees
Like the disciples, I forget maintenance or attention of crucial aspects of life all the time. Sometimes, I forget things, important things like taking care of myself and my immediate surroundings. When we examine the lives of others, we can see how we all are lacking in so many ways. Despite all that we lack, despite all of our sins, Jesus remains steadfast in belief in us.

Even his disciples had problems with not just their own lives but also their faith and belief. He never abandoned them; he never stopped trying to teach them. Jesus always persevered; his faith was profound. Our faith can be as well.

What we feel we lack, in resources or in faith, are self-created obstacles. We must return to faith to see us through. Anger at ourselves or the condition in which we find ourselves is wasted mental and emotional energies. We can focus this angst over our pain and suffering toward our relationship with God and the universe. We will have to do this repeatedly.

We, just like the disciples, don’t always get it right, yet Jesus remains with us.

At the end of this scripture, Jesus brings up another concern. He talks about the ‘yeast’, the teachings of others. Yeast is an active ingredient. It begins a process in dough that makes it rise. When yeast is added, chemical reactions begin to take place that alter chemistry. The same can be said of ‘deceptive teaching.’

When we listen to it and take it into us, it can alter us. Therefore, we must be careful of what we let into our lives, mindful that it not alter our progress on our path. The way we counteract this is with our deep relationship with God and the universe. It is only through that relationship that we can see and experience truth.

P. May I reaffirm and rediscover my faith in every day.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ubiquitous Joy

We’ve been working at this life with vigor. If we ignore our own needs, an internal resistance will take hold, fighting against further progress. Finding joy is crucial in counteracting this resistance from within. We need to create or find space and time where joy can flourish in our daily lives. Joy is vital. It is something we deserve, and it’s within our capacity to experience in every day.

Maybe, we don’t know what joy even is anymore. Joy is a state of mind characterized by an openness and exuberance to conditions and situations. It is both through awareness and interaction that we experience joy. It has a dynamic, fluid quality to it that affects the atmosphere of wherever we are. Joy even can make our minds and our bodies work more effectively and efficiently. It is both a fuel and a medicine.

We can see someone that is experiencing joy, and be affected by it without any words being exchanged. We must be open to it for this transference to take place. If we are not open, our reaction could be one of neutrality. Often, however, our reaction would be denigration or persecution. When we’re closed off to experiencing joy, seeing others experience it can be extremely painful, showing us what we lack and need. This is why discussions about joy can inspire resistance.

We may be resistant to this idea of finding joy in every day because we can easily ignore the mundane as it is ubiquitous. Joy is simple, but it requires openness and engagement. Therefore, our mind is the arbiter of joy. It is up to us.

Our daily life may be routine, as we wake up, go to work, eat a meal, return home then fall asleep. We may consider all of that joyless. We must change this perspective. By ignoring joy in our daily activities, we’re missing countless opportunities to alleviate our pain and suffering. It is easy to find joy in something new as our mind thrives on exploration. Unless we’re a true explorer of the external world, opportunities for new external exploration can be limited.

This is when we return the focus to the confines of this life. There are three things we do nearly every day: eating, sleeping and defecation; the three jewels of daily joy. Not only are these critical to maintenance of our physical bodies, each can offer amazing insight into our state of being: what we eat fuels our body; sleeping helps maintain our body and mind; without defecation our body would expand until it explodes. Considering we do these three activities nearly every day, these can also become sources of joy; we need only be open and engaged with each to garner the benefits.

Perhaps, we have serious situations to grapple with in a day. We can even experience joy through being open and engaging with any difficulty. By being open, we expand our awareness and broaden our perspective. We may do so without joy, but imagine if we encountered difficulty with a joyous spirit. Our mind would be more free to see opportunity and less likely to see obstacles and restrictions.

We must be open and engaged to experience joy. It can refuel us and it can help us to recover. We can find joy in attacking difficulties, and we can find it throughout our mundane existence. Joy is ubiquitous. It is a choice in how we engage our life. A joyous life, or a joyless life, the choice is ours. 

Believe in the Heart and God, Not Others ***

S. Matthew 15: 1 – 28

O. The “Pharisees and teachers of religious law” have arrived to speak to Jesus.Jesus answers their questions, then teaches the people and the disciples.

A. Jesus is questioned by religious authority about the disobeying of “age-old tradition.” He answers:
“And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? For instance, God says ‘Honor your father and mother.’ . . . But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way you say they don’t need to honor their parents. And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition.”
There are many contradictions in the Bible. Many people try to co-opt scripture for their own benefit or their own purpose. This is what Jesus references here, the inherent contradiction between the will of God, scripture and its purveyors. The only antidote to this contradiction is through forging a deep relationship with God and the Universe.

Jesus references prophecy and parable to reinforce this concept.
“’These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’
Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘and try to understand. It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.’”
Jesus states two things here that appear contradictory. This is a hallmark of many messages on truth. It is not something that you can lay out with words alone, as words can only lead us to the truth. This is what Jesus is trying to teach here.

Words alone do not matter, if there isn’t the force of belief and faith behind these words. We can go to church and be told countless ideas. Sometimes the words said in church are ‘a farce’ or are ‘man-made ideas’.  We may listen to these ideas, but what really matters is what we do. If we just believe what we’ve been taught, following through on those false teachings, the onus is on us.

How we are and what we do are all that is important. We do not need to fear false teachings; we need only be and do good. It is what is in our hearts that matters.

Jesus explains this parable more in-depth to the disciples.
“Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. But the words you speak come from the heart – that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying and slander. These are what defile you.”
The internal steps we take before we speak or act are important. These evil steps are equal to murder. If we’re doing something for someone, and in the back of our minds are denigrating that someone, it taints the good that we are doing. We can be in the midst of evil people who use awful words and do awful acts. Yet, these cannot touch us if we do not behave similarly. We must know ourselves as well as we must know God, and let this be our guide through this world.

P. May I not simply go through the motions of faith. May I have a deep connection to God and this Universe. May I not become infected by others’ lack of faith or misunderstanding of faith.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Counteracting Awareness Shift

Life seems to have been heading in a better direction. Our awareness has increased, and this has been a mostly positive experience as we’ve kept that awareness squarely focused in a forward direction. Then, our awareness begins to shift. This is natural. If we continue only looking forward, we begin to lose track of where we are today. There must be some reason for our mind to begin to wander once again. If there is no reason, it’s just laxity that is at work.

Sometimes, we can experience this awareness shift as depression or sadness; sometimes, we experience it as fear or anxiety. There are countless emotional, mental and even physical ways this shift may present itself. It may even correspond with physical pains or syndromes that have become commonplace in today’s society. Sometimes, the symptoms can be clues as to what is compelling the mind to shift. Mostly, these symptoms are simply distracting us from moving forward.

Regardless of our reaction to awareness shift, we need to find our way through it. This is going to be difficult, but we’re dropping designations; this is going to happen, and we’re going to make our way through. We need only keep attempting to find our way and eventually we will.

As we explore this process, we should apply the familiar tool of patience. We must also avoid using our shifting awareness as a weapon against ourselves as this can compound the pain and the suffering. We’re not adding any extra weight to what we’re already carrying. Yes, we are at the heart of our awareness shift, but we’re not helping by creating additional obstacles. Always use a light touch when taking on the internal.

It is always useful to focus on our breath, or some other natural process, anything that we don’t have to use our mind to control. Sometimes, we may be unable to focus our entire mind on anything for even a second. When this happens, we can attempt to feel our way through that internal world.

The way you interact with your mind is a key to understanding how it works, and we need to learn the language it speaks. Sometimes, it speaks in visuals, sometimes in feelings, sometimes in physical sensations, sometimes memories or dreams, sometimes not at all. If we don’t begin to form a relationship with our mind, we may miss vital messages or input that only it can deliver.

We’re maintaining patience, we’re using a light touch, and we’re continuing to focus on breathing.

Now, we begin to explore this awareness shift. What is the mental motivation to hold us back? What is the mental motivation to look backward? What is the mental motivation to fear moving forward? What is the mental motivation to begin shutting down awareness of right here and right now?

We can ask countless questions, but the answers may be fleeting and may not be useful. In fact, the questions could be the pivot, the awareness shift. The mind is trying to find something, anything to hold onto. When we move forward in life, we’re leaving behind this attachment-style living. All the old ways are expressing themselves as ground to stand upon; all the possibilities are expressed as fear, elation and anxiety.

Our mind wants to move forward, but it is hesitant to do so. We need to nourish the mind, care for it, for it is our only vessel in pursuit of progress. We do this through many methods. Caring for our physical condition is crucial, as the body is the mind’s only vessel to affect the external world. Even when considering physical limitations or chronic physical conditions, the way we think and feel about our body is vital to what we can do with it. Sometimes, our physical limitations can block our mental and emotional pathways to progress, but only if we allow them to be obstacles. We can always reach outside of our body with our mind, regardless of physical limitation.

The mind can do anything. When left to its own devices, the mind can run non-stop, achieving nothing, or retire to a state of laxity, achieving nothing. We can direct the mind and thwart this awareness shift. We have to not only take ownership over this life, but we have to become the director, the captain, the CEO of this life. If we don’t task the mind, it will do what it wants.

Through caring for and tasking the mind and body, we can stop awareness shifts from paralyzing us and halting our progress. This requires effort and care. If we only focus on one of these, we’re cutting off one of our life legs, and we need both to continue forward. If we don’t think we can affect change in our internal world, we’ll never be able to affect directed change in the external one.

Change is going to take place regardless of our input. It is far better to own and direct our role than to cede this to conditions, situations and others. We can do anything. We need only try.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Designation and Assumption Concern

When we face difficult choices, difficult situations, and difficult conditions, we must drop the designation of ‘difficult’ or any other mental designation. By designating aspects of our life as difficult, easy or otherwise, we’re imposing mental limitations on our life and our ability to act; we’re blocking our awareness of reality and alternative perspectives.

Through mental designation, we’re categorizing and itemizing our life, eliminating objectivity, limiting scope and paralyzing action. This is what the mind does when left without direction: this is working for us; that is acting against us, these don’t affect us whatsoever. Our mind wants to categorize everything because it makes it easier to ignore choices, situations and conditions moving forward.

There are benefits from allowing the mind to act in this manner. Designating or categorizing can make us more efficient and can yield increased effectiveness by limiting mental effort before action. This is very useful when dealing with common nuisance or irritations. We can turn the volume down on these common, everyday concerns. However, some people choose to turn the volume up on what is truly out of their control, like weather, people or chronic conditions. By turning up the volume on these common occurrences, it drowns the mind, making it unable to see what we can affect and change.

We can explore how this mental path can go horribly wrong as there are countless examples of how what used to work doesn’t work today. Think about old computers from the 80s or even 90s. If we use these old computers today, we may not even be able to get the computer to do anything we need it to do. It may be unable to connect to the internet, or would be so slow that it’s impossible to get anything done. This doesn’t mean the computer wasn’t useful, but it’s no longer useful in what we need to do today. The same can be said about old ways of thinking about our life and our environment.

Consider the public policy dilemmas our elected officials are grappling with today. Each side seemingly dug in on their old ideas of how to govern, yet both sides are unable to get anything accomplished. Many aspects of American life have changed, yet both sides continue to apply old politics to the predicaments in which America finds itself today. Policies that seemed acceptable to both sides just a few years ago are unable to be enacted today. Each side is frozen in time, looking at our common problems in the same ways as they did a decade ago. It simply is not working.

The same can be said about our own life strategies. We’re dug in on seeing life and others in the same ways as before. Often, we do not consider our life fulfilled and happy, and we are behaving, thinking and feeling about our life as we have done before. It is up to us to behave, think and feel differently about it moving forward. If we do not think differently, our life will be no different than on any other day.

If we feel powerless or hopeless, we’re not seeing our own role in our own life. Our designations have been misplaced and are not helping our situation or altering our conditions. The most powerful tool we have is our perspective. The old ways of thinking have not yielded results lately; our previous designations may have lost their use. The only avenue toward clarification is to review our assumptions and designations moving forward, and to do so robustly.

We can do something different with our life, right here and right now. We need only challenge our old assumptions and designations. Perhaps, we’re missing an aspect of our current situation that would make life so much easier. Perhaps, we’re making our situation worse through repeating old patterns that may have worked in the past. Perhaps, we can discover new ways to tackle old and new problems alike. We will only know if we let go of these assumptions and designations and explore anew. We will only know if we work at increasing our understanding.

The Seeds We Plant ***

S. Matthew 13: 24 – 46

O. The seed and weed parable. Jesus talks of the Good Word being that of a mustard seed.

A. Jesus talks about the good seed being planted, then someone following behind with the seeds of weeds. Both seeds grow, creating a dilemma. If the weeds are pulled, so are the roots of the good seed.  Now, we must wait for the harvest to separate the good harvest from the weeds.

There are two ways to look at this story. One is that we must wait for the harvest in order to separate the fruit from the weeds. This seems to ignore our role in what is planted in the field that is our life.

We have a large role to play in what we allow to be planted in our own life. We do this through mindfulness and awareness of our field by taking care of it, by taking care of ourselves and our environment.

We cannot simply allow anything or anyone to be in our life. A weed can take over our life, and before we realize the threat, the roots have grown even deeper. And, some weeds have pretty flowers that look beautiful, but can choke the life out of a garden. The specific concern with seeds is that they are planted well before they take root and sprout. We need to take care of what we allow into our life.
“Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world . . . And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
The end of the world here could signify the end of our life, the end of our world. If we don’t have a relationship with God and the Universe, we are left behind to suffer and experience pain, the hallmarks of human existence on Earth.

P. May I tend to my life as I would tend to a garden, taking care of what is planted and sown. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Interrupting Worry

Worry is something we could do daily, even all day and all night. Worry may have many meanings. Here, it is a mental repetition or obsession about situations, conditions or people, past, present or future. Mental and emotional repetition creates canals or aqueducts in our mind, funneling mental and emotional energy instead of water.  When we worry, this energy is wasted, spilling over into our life.

Whenever we worry, our mind is trying to hold onto the negative or the difficult. Usually, the negative and difficult are external situations, not internal. By worrying, we’re focusing our mind in the opposite direction away from resolution. Also, by our mind constantly being embedded in thoughts and feelings about the difficult or the negative, we lose objectivity and limit perspective.

Worry results in a slow and lethargic response to situations and conditions. Our mental energy has been drained from our awareness, and is off on an internal ‘wild goose chase.’ We’re not gathering any new information to aid in resolution. Instead, our mind is simply revisiting old information repeatedly, hoping to find something new.

The other reason for our mind to worry is to convince ourselves that there is nothing we can do. This reinforces feelings and thoughts of powerlessness. This once again diverts mental energy away from awareness, stifling both awareness and action. Also, this powerlessness acts like a vacuum, siphoning emotional energy. We feel there is nothing we can do, so why bother trying. We’re reinforcing the worry, because the situation or difficulty is not being resolved. We’re compounding the problem simultaneously with diminishing emotional and mental resources through our internal messaging.

We must interrupt this worry process. Our mind has been doing this for a very long time. We must apply patience at every step. We’re attempting to do something different than we’ve done every other day of our life. When we catch ourselves going through our worry list, we must acknowledge what we’re doing. This is the first step.

Once acknowledging what our mind is doing, we then need to let go of it. This is done with as light a touch as possible. If we beat ourselves up for worrying, we’re defeating the purpose of interrupting this process. Remember, have patience, we’re trying to interrupt a common daily occurrence. Light touch means just acknowledge and let go of it without too much effort. The mind will probably revert back to worrying shortly, and that is not just okay but it is also highly predictable. We cannot turn interrupting worry into a weapon against ourselves.

Each time the mind reverts to worrying, use your mind to acknowledge the worry, then let it go again. If our mind cannot interrupt this worrying, we must apply additional steps. Sometimes, it can be useful to attempt to focus the mind on something simple and common. In these moments, I focus my mind on my breath, being careful to not actually mentally cause my body to breathe but to watch the natural process of breathing.

When we focus on watching the natural act of our body breathing, it keeps the mind from whatever it was doing before. However, the mind is going to continue to want to do whatever it wants to do. As with the worrying, with a light touch we simply return to watching the breath. In a full scale worry and anxiety attack, this may not even be possible for even a moment. That is okay. Do not lose hope. We will continue these efforts until the mind lets go.

Acknowledging worry has not worked. Focusing on breathing has not worked. Now, we must explore our worry through generating understanding. This exploration must be thorough. Considering the worry is not subsiding, the land to explore is right where we are. We don’t have to go anywhere as we’re already here. Use the mind to ask and answer the questions important to you, why and how seem to be highly useful to try and answer.

It is also useful to consider where this worry is, it’s completely in our own mind. Worry isn’t being injected into us; it’s something we’re generating. Sometimes, just that simple understanding can allow the mind to let go. It’s under our control regardless of our acknowledgment.

Worry is a constant mental threat. It can exhaust us mentally and emotionally, and this can affect us physically. If worry and anxiety are daily concerns, handling them differently maybe advisable. However, when we attempt a new method, we must have patience for ourselves throughout the process. We, after all, have been worrying and anxious for a considerable time.

Doing something different about worry and anxiety can become a source of relief, or it can be its own source of worry. We can do something different right here and right now; we need only continue to try. The alternative is continuing worry and anxiety. The harm in doing nothing different is known, more of the same. The potential in doing something tangible about it is limitless.

Results Matter ***

S. Matthew 11: 16 – 30

O. Jesus discusses the state of the people he has helped.

A. This scripture holds many jewels, each needing light to shine through them. Jesus starts by talking about the conditions of the very people he was sent here to help.
“It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, ‘We played wedding songs and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs and you didn’t mourn’ . . . But wisdom is shown by its results.”
Results are important. Often, people go through the motions.  How we behave or accord ourselves can be misleading; actual motions masquerade as results. Just because we’re dancing, does not mean we’re joyous. Simply because we go to a funeral does not mean we understand death or loss.

If we really experience joy, others will join in. If we are sad, others will come to our aid. If it’s all an act, there will be no relief. We could even be fooling ourselves. If we are living right, our life will show the results of that good living. If we are living wrong, our life will show that as well.

This is where this scripture takes a turn that I do not understand. Jesus starts talking about the towns he’s visited. It seems devoid of the message he continuously preaches, one of forgiveness and mercy.  He even goes further than just saying these people are lost.
“At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: ‘O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike.”
This simply doesn’t mesh with the teaching of forgiveness and mercy. I can’t fathom how hiding the truth from anyone is what Jesus was about. He was about saving all of us, and every last sinner can be saved.  Jesus ends this conversation with the following:
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
This is back to the message of forgiveness and mercy, and against the paragraphs directly preceding it. The message in this last statement is clear, we can all live and do as Jesus lived and did. The burden is light. To dedicate our lives to the benefit of all beings is right, not just for those that agree with us, but for all people, for all sinners.

P. May I not just go through the motions. May the results of what I've done speak to others.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Right and Wrong Box Trap

Our mind categorizes all that we encounter. When we interact or engage with other human beings, we tend toward placing them in the ‘right’ box or the ‘wrong’ box. Outside of this ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ designation, our mental reaction is toward neutrality, or ‘couldn’t care less.’ This is a trap that we set for others, but ultimately it ensnares us as well. We become more isolated and surround ourselves with those who agree rather than engage with us.

We often benefit from this boxing strategy. Through categorization, we don’t have to explore a person once a determination has been reached, especially if that determination is in the ‘wrong’ box. This allows our natural desire to be lazy to hijack our mind’s capacity for exploration. If we know that someone is wrong, why bother listening, learning or attempting understanding when we can just ignore and move onward.

This creates a bubble around us, blocking our awareness of the external world. Even if those we have placed in the ‘wrong’ box actually are indeed mistaken, can we really state unequivocally that all aspects of their beliefs are mistaken? Also, if the circumstances and conditions change, could we be the one that becomes mistaken by our reluctance to see other points of view? This is the reason to always remain open to listening to or exploring all people who wish to engage or interact with us. If we do not, we risk ourselves being mistaken without the safeguards of analysis and objectivity.

The other pitfall is when we’ve placed ourselves in what we deem to be the ‘right’ box. We’ve immediately limited alternative external inputs by surrounding ourselves with ‘yes’ people, those that agree with our point of view regardless of any evidence to the contrary. Once again, a bubble is created, blocking our awareness.

This is a constant struggle. We do not want to waste our time, and sometimes we need to act instead of continuing endless dialogue. This is why open awareness is critical in knowing the difference. Whenever our awareness is not open and limitless, we’ve limited our ability to act clearly and quickly.

Often, we may not even realize we’ve been back in the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ box trap. Our mind would prefer to do nothing much or be aimless and sporadic in its application. If we consider open awareness as work or as tiresome, cumbersome or a waste of internal resources, it’s going to seem like it is that way. We must let go of the assumption that directing mental efforts is anything but fun. It can be fun to explore this world and all the people and situations we encounter.  We need only be open to it.

The Sword of Forgiveness and Mercy ***

S. Matthew 10:34 – 11:15

O. Jesus concludes his instructions to the Disciples. He talks about the role of John the Baptist.

“Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household!”
The message of forgiveness and mercy is not friendly to those of authority or power over us. This message is like a sword, cutting through the chains of authority and power. This is why it is such a dangerous message to spread. Having awareness of this danger is important before embarking on spreading that message.

Those in any sort of authority over us, including our own families, may not be open to this new way. That is why they can act as our enemies in spreading this message. This was especially the case in the time Jesus was talking. To go against the Pharisees and to believe in something different than the majority was dangerous.

Forgiveness and mercy were not something associated with religious law at the time, and the pushback by family would be great, as they would fear our persecution, or worse our death at the hands of those in power. Family may even be fearful of retribution on them for the acts of their children.

We must not fear reaction from our families or communities. Their fears cannot become a block for us to spread the message of forgiveness and mercy to all beings.

P. May I find the strength and guidance to spread forgiveness and mercy to others.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Being Shrewd and Harmless ***

S. Matthew 10:16 – 33

O. Jesus gives directions to the Disciples before sending them out to spread the Good Word.

“Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.”
We must go into the world, daringly aware and mindful of all our actions and words. It is dangerous, but it is what we must do. Being harmless is not simple, but worth any effort. Using our awareness, we can be efficient and effective in all that we do. We must be as mindful and aware as possible.
“When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. For it is not you who will be speaking – it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
When persecuted and in the seat of persecution, we must not be afraid. God will speak through us in these most difficult of moments. I’ve experienced this myself. When we’re out in public trying to spread forgiveness and mercy, the words come naturally from God. It’s amazing to let God speak through our words and actions, and it is possible. We need only focus on the message, that of forgiveness and mercy.
“Students are not greater than their teacher, and slaves are not greater than their master. Students are to be like their teacher, and slaves are to be like their master.”
This is a critical message. Jesus is the teacher; we can be just like him. We can sacrifice our life for the benefit of all of humanity. We truly can be as Jesus was and do as Jesus has done. It is within reach.
“But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when everything covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all . . . Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul.”
Once again, fear not. Fear interrupts our relationship with God and the Universe. I think the latter statement here is in reference to the Garden of Eden. After Adam and Eve ate from the other tree, they felt they had to cover themselves, hide who they are. We don’t need to hide any longer. We can be open without fear of persecution. This doesn’t mean we won’t experience pain and suffering at the hands of others, but we should not fear or shy away from that.

P. May I spread the message of forgiveness and mercy, fearing not persecution.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Give Freely, Then Let Go ***

S. Matthew 9:35 – 10:15

O. The list of the disciples, followed by Jesus’ explaining how to spread the Good Word. This is a difficult scripture for me. I’ve read it many times and contemplated it as thoroughly as I could. My analysis here is not complete.

A. In the directions Jesus gives to his Disciples before they go out to spread the Word, he states,
 “Don’t go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans but only to the people of Israel – god’s lost sheep . . . Give as freely as you have received.”
I find it difficult to conceive that the Word is only for the people of Israel. Is it that the Gentiles, Samaritans and others are not worthy, or are they somehow in need of less help?  Is the declaration that the people of Israel are “god’s lost sheep an indication of their disconnection with God?

The last portion of this scripture seems to go against that grain. “Give as freely as you have received.” Jesus must be talking about receiving the Good Word. Each of the disciples were open to receiving the Word, were open to believing in Jesus and his message of forgiveness and mercy. It is the message of forgiveness and mercy that is to be given freely.

The need of the people of Israel is so great that this direction by Jesus  is in response to the immediate situation. The word is for everyone, but right now the needs of the people of Israel are the greatest and that is where the Disciples must go first. This belays some of my previous concerns. Also, maybe it is critical for this activity to be targeted as part of the larger plan, the sacrifice of Jesus by crucifixion.
“When you enter a home, give it your blessing. If it turns out to be a worthy home, let your blessing stand; if it is not, take back the blessing.”
This is another very difficult verse. How is anyone not worthy of forgiveness or mercy? This seems to go against the very message that Jesus has taught. Everyone is a sinner. How can someone or some town be unworthy of a blessing? To me, this does not seem what Jesus taught.
“If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave.”
I don’t think this is literal. The dust is from the rebuke, from the unwillingness to listen. Any kind of emotional response to it should be left behind. It’s not worth taking with us when we leave. We need only give freely, if the gift is not received, walk away without guilt, shame or need for retribution.

It is important to spread the word, but the receiving of that word is not a weight we take upon ourselves. This is not easy to do. Letting go of the outcomes of others is critical in not creating a block in our relationship with God. When we hold onto anything, anyone or any idea, that relationship is interrupted.

P. May I continue to be open and give freely. May I not take it upon my shoulders the response to that gift.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Leaving the Prison of the Powerless

We are never powerless. As long as our mind is active, we are powerful. We can change our perspective of our situation at any moment. Instead of limiting conditions, we can see limitless options.

All that we do is directed by our mind, so the management of our mind is critical. We do not have to be directed by our situations or by our conditions; we can reverse all equations; we can instead direct the situations and manage the conditions.

When considering ourselves powerful instead of powerless, countless seemingly impossible situations begin to come to mind. Sometimes, tragic, traumatic events happen to us. Sometimes these end with our death. When the end result is not death, we retain our power. The power we hold is our life. We are capable of anything. If we begin to fear everything and everyone, we lose that power.

We can build a skyscraper or we can demolish a building. We can plant a tree or we can cut it down. With the demolished building, we can re-use the materials left behind; we can also utilize the land in a better way. With regard to the tree, we can turn it into firewood, paper or building materials. Destruction does not have to be a negative.  What we do with what we have is up to us and perspective is the path to knowing what to do.

If we’re in prison, we find ourselves in one of the most powerless situations. Still, we are not powerless, even there. The relationships formed with other inmates, with the correctional officers is crucial in our survival or our demise.  Once again, it is how we think that governs what we do. The prison might be our body or some chronic illness. The relationships we have with our family, friends and support staff become keys to healing.  Or, the way in which we view our sickness can increase the pain and suffering as well. It is up to us.

It is what we do with the prison that is our conditions that is important. Instead of limiting, we must begin to see it as limitless. We are truly only limited by our mind. Take back the power and you unlock the door. Take back your life and you can do anything.

The Transformative Power of Mercy and Forgiveness ***

S. Matthew 9:9 – 34

O. Jesus surrounds himself with sinners and disciples alike, drawing the criticism from the Pharisees.

A. Jesus welcomed everyone to his table, all of them sinners. Upon hearing of the criticism by the Pharisees on the company he was keeping, Jesus said,
 “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do. I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices. For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Jesus is very clear here, we must show mercy, we must forgive all others for their sins. We must acknowledge our failings. We need only come as we are. If we think we’re somehow better than anyone else, we’ve made a mistake. We are all the same; we are all sinners. And, we need only come as we are to be forgiven and to be healed.

Empty sacrifices are meaningless. The only real sacrifice we need to make is that of mercy and forgiveness. We need only sacrifice our self-righteousness. There is plenty of pain and suffering in our lives, that is our daily sacrifice. We don’t have to conjure up ways to honor God and live as Jesus taught. We need only forgive and show mercy.

At the end of this scripture, the Pharisees comment on all of the miracles Jesus is performing.
“He can cast out demons because he is empowered by the prince of demons.”
This is difficult indeed. Yet, we need not fear persecution. Persecution is natural when you’re surrounded by those with no faith and who do not understand. This does not meant we don’t go out and do good acts or attempt to heal others.

What Jesus was doing was showing a new way to treat one another. This scared the Pharisees and those in power. If people treated each other better, the Pharisees feared losing their control over those people. If people had faith in forgiveness and mercy, a government or an official that has neither lose authority and power. It seems understandable why there will be such an extreme response to such a transformative message.

P. May I always show mercy to others. May I always forgive others. May I not fear persecution.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Bunny in the Box

When we open our hearts, we let in the light of awareness and the air of clarity. Our hearts become closed when we try to hold onto an object of mind (something, someone or some idea). Through that attachment, we block our awareness of the object, replacing it with our own version. It’s not that the original object of mind doesn’t exist; our perspective of the object has become distorted through mental attachment.

This is similar to placing a bunny rabbit in a box that we keep with us because we can’t let it go. If we’re serious about keeping that bunny, we cannot even open the box, because the bunny might hop out and run away.  While the bunny is in the box, it may become injured or even die, and we really wouldn’t know because we can’t open the lid to see the bunny.

The same can be said about how our mind becomes attached to anything, anyone or any idea. Attachment places that object in the box that has become our mind.  Our awareness has become closed to the changing reality of that object. Everything changes with time as all things are impermanent, and if we’re attached to an object, thinking it does not change, the object has been replaced with our own version of that object.

Even if the bunny is still alive in the box, there are biological and physiological changes happening within it. Even if the bunny is dead, there are still physical and chemical changes occurring. Without awareness, we cannot witness any of these changes. Without awareness, the bunny in our mind could die.

Fear Not the Storms ***

S. Matthew 8:23 – 9:8

O. Jesus travels in a boat in a storm, offering a teaching on the way. More miracles are performed before heading back to town.  A real pushback against Jesus begins in these scriptures.

A. While on the boat, Jesus falls asleep and then a storm hits. Despite the fury of the storm, Jesus remains asleep until the disciples wake him with their terror. He responds. “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” and immediately the storm subsides.

This is another example of how fear develops from lack of faith. We have a lack of faith that we can navigate through the storms of life, or that God will lead us out of these storms. It is fear that closes the eye of our soul. It ignores our relationship with God and the Universe.  Without faith, we succumb to the darkness of fear.

 Jesus and his disciples arrive at their destination to be met by demon-possessed people. After casting out the demons, sending those demons into a herd of pigs, the entire herd runs and drowns in the lake. The herdsmen go into town and tell the townspeople of what happened, and they come out to meet Jesus only to tell him to leave immediately.

This is another example of how fear chases away the light. Despite the amazing act of purging the demons from these people, despite all the miracles that Jesus has performed and will perform, the people are afraid. They have no faith; they cannot be saved.

 After going back across the lake and back to their town, a paralyzed man is brought before Jesus and the disciples.  Jesus says to the man “Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.”  The teachers of religious law saw this and responded. “That’s blasphemy! Does he think he’s God.” Jesus then says something very important.
“Why do you have such evil thoughts in your hearts? Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or “Stand up and walk.’ So, I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.”
Forgiveness is the key to our salvation. We must forgive all others. It is far easier to forgive someone then to tell them to be and do differently than the way that they are. It is that simple. We must lead a life of forgiveness of others. We must do what we can and not expect others to just “stand up and walk” when we ask them to. We must do it for ourselves.

P. May I fear not, even in the storms of life. May I always forgive and not expect others to change.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Our Place in Heaven ***

S: Matthew 8: 1 – 22

O. After the teaching on the mountain, Jesus is met by many people, sickened and diseased. Jesus heals them, and continues to teach his disciples.

A. Jesus makes a point to tell one man he had healed of leprosy to not tell anyone how he was healed. He even tells him to do as “required by the law of Moses”. We shouldn’t proclaim the good that we do, and when we do good acts, we should do so without doing wrong.

The story of the soldier is particularly curious. The soldier is asking for his servant to be healed, but is unwilling or unable to bring Jesus to him to do so directly. Yet, the soldier believes absolutely that Jesus will heal him, even without that direct contact.

Jesus remarks to his disciples after this healing on how extraordinary this level of faith truly was. He then teaches that even though heaven was created for the people of Israel, many of the Israelites will be cast into the darkness as opposed to being allowed into heaven. However, others that are not from Israel will be allowed into heaven. It is open to anyone and our ancestry is not the key. Our level of faith forged through our direct relationship with God and the Universe is the key.

This next statement by Jesus is very intriguing.
“Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to even lay his head.”
I think this is saying that heaven is with us right now, we do not need a place to lay our head as our place is secure.  Our home is our deep relationship with God and the Universe. This relationship is all we need.

This day’s scripture ends with the following.
“Another of his disciples said, ‘Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.’
But Jesus told him, ‘Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.’”
What matters is what we do now. We honor the dead by continuing on the path, not by the ceremony of burial. Ceremony is empty of any good. We must leave behind everything and begin anew today.

P. May I take the steps to forge a relationship with God and the Universe.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Narrow Gate ***

S. Matthew 7: 12 – 29

O. The completion of this teaching by Jesus. This conclusion of the teaching is meant to tie the entire scripture together.

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets. You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate . . . But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”
The way is simple, and the way is narrow. We need only concern ourselves with how we act and behave toward all others. This is a simple message, but to follow this through is very difficult. There are many ways to be on Earth, and only one way to move beyond this existence. It is through a very deep relationship with God, and by how we act toward all others.

“Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions . . . Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.”
We can proclaim Jesus as your Savior, and it is not enough. It is how we are internally, what we do externally and connecting directly to God, the Universe. It is only through the connection that we forged while on Earth that we can know if how we are and what we do are what God wills. There is no other way.

It is a narrow gate in which we can go through to enter heaven. The only way is through living mindfully, with full awareness. That is not easy, but it is always within reach. We need only keep trying and keep knocking on the door. As long as we continue to try, we will succeed.

P.  May I be mindful of my actions toward all others.

The Blocks to Clear Vision

Seeing clearly is a key to clear action. Clear action is not muddled by our attachment or aversion. Attachment and aversion are reactions that our mind takes to move us toward or away from something. This movement doesn’t have to be geographical; it can also be an emotional or mental movement for or against a person or an idea. It is that movement that makes seeing what we’re moving toward or from difficult.  If we do not see clearly, any action we take will also not be clear of that attachment or aversion.

For the purpose of this exploration, the object of mind can be a person, thing or idea. The object of mind is what we are reacting to, and it is that reaction that we are to explore. By exploring that reaction, we explore our own self, as that reaction is all our own.

Usually, we consider the reaction to be from the object itself and not of our own creation. This is mistaken, an understandable mistake. If this does not seem accurate, explore it completely.

People can inspire irritation, aggravation, lust, attraction. People also push our buttons, sometimes on purpose, mostly on accident. The only way we can begin to remove these buttons is by realizing others do not actually push these buttons; we push our own buttons, using the object of mind as a scapegoat.

It is far easier to react to someone than realize someone’s humanity or conditions. Our own conditions govern our attachment and aversion, and so do conditions govern others’ actions and behaviors.

In the midst of reacting, how can we disengage our attachment toward or aversion against the object of our mind? This takes attempting to not react blindly, again and again, and exploring the attempt, the reaction and the conditions. It seems laborious, but if we keep trying to understand why we are the way we are and why we do the things we do, we will make progress. The key is to use a light touch as we explore. We may find as we explore our own reactions some understanding and patience for others.

We didn’t get to where we are and what we’re doing overnight, and we’re not going to repair our vision overnight. This takes repeated effort. If we don’t make the effort, we’re succumbing to our conditions, muddling our actions and ignoring reality.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Don't Store Away or Worry, Keep Trying ***

S. Matthew 6:19 – 7:11

O. This is a particularly complex scripture, so I’m going to highlight portions of the scripture, than explore each concurrently.


“Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will be.”

Often, we want to store our treasure, store our good acts and the good fruit from those acts. This is mistaken, for any amount of treasure that we store here on Earth is subject to be stolen, damaged or lost. It really doesn’t matter the mechanism of loss, the loss will happen at some point as we cannot take anything with us when we die.

We can take this scripture a step further. Make your treasure doing good here on Earth, creating good fruit here and now. We cannot hold onto effort or work, it can only be done, and all that we do should be for the greater good, not for our own gain.
“Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!”
The use of the singular eye here I think is with purpose. The so-called third eye is our connection to the Universe, to God. It is not an eye of our body, but the eye of our soul. This eye can be used to fill us with light or fill us with darkness. Our mind is the determining factor in what we let in through that eye. And, we can actually mistakenly let in darkness that we think is light. Knowing the difference is not easy or simple. Once again, our personal relationship with God is crucial in helping us figure out what we’re letting into our life.
“You cannot serve both God and money. That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life. . . Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”
Our focus must be on the relationship with God, not money and the pursuit of money. Our everyday life is absolutely dependent upon the Universe, which God created. Every bit of food, every bit of water is something that is directly linked to the rest of the Universe, and therefore linked to God.
“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Worry is a killer. It shuts our eye; it ignores what we do have; it doesn’t honor what is going on in our life right now. Worry doesn’t gain us anything but more trouble. Worry takes us away from being thankful and joyous, from having that deep personal relationship with God and our role in the Universe. Focus on what’s going on right here and right now with your entire presence, with your eye open and shining that light inside.
“The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged . . . First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”
Instead of judging others, we must forgive them. If we don’t forgive all others, all will not be forgiven that we have done. We have our own flaws. We must deal with those flaws before we can help others heal from their flaws. It is only through a deep personal relationship with God that we might be healed to see what is necessary.
“Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you . . . And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

All we need to do is continue to try, continue to forge a deep relationship with God. We must continue to open our eye and see things as they truly are. If we keep at it, we will see. If we keep looking, we will find.

P. May I forge an ever deepening relationship with the Universe, with God. May my eye open and let in the light.

The Importance of Refuel and Refuge

In a busy world, often we lead busy lives. Constantly on the move, we are rarely attentive to our own needs. We can completely lose sight of our role in taking care of our body, our mind and our heart. We must learn to create space and time to refuel each of these every day. Not being attentive to our own needs puts us at risk for so many additional and needless hardships. It also puts those in our lives at risk.

Mostly, we have an intellectual understanding of the need to take care of our self. However, consistently and persistently we convince ourselves or allow ourselves to be convinced to ignore this responsibility. There will always be more to do. There will always be someone in need. And, yet, every day we do not make space to heal, repair and recover diminishes our capacities and capabilities not only to help others but also diminishes our ability to heal, repair and recover moving forward.

This is where dysfunction and dis-ease take firm hold. The longer we do nothing or do too little to take care of this vessel we call our life, the deeper the hole in which we find ourselves. It is always possible to reverse negative trends, however, at certain points we have not taken care and attention for so long that we’ve actually lost capability and lost capacity to take care of our self.

It’s far easier to start applying the brakes on the way down from the top of a steep hill than it is to apply the brakes half way down the hill when we’re driving much faster. Sometimes, the brakes stop working and there’s nothing we can do to stop the runaway vehicle that is our life.

If we do not care or apply enough attention to our body, our mind and our heart, we may have a runaway existence. Then, we must rely on some external force to help slow and even stop our descent. Still, once the runaway has been stopped, there’s much to do to repair the vehicle.

Sometimes, we can do this on our own; oftentimes, the dysfunction and dis-ease have affected so much of our body, our mind and our heart that we need external help and guidance. When that help and guidance is not present, we have to try and figure out how to get our life back to work on our own.

Usually, when someone is working on their life, others will stop and help if and when they’re able. However, if we’re not at work on this life when they come by, they may not realize we need the help. That is why we can never give up trying. It is our last refuge.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Internal Steps of Doing Good ***

S. Matthew 6: 1 – 18

O. Jesus highlights the pitfalls of doing good acts and making sacrifices as well as how to pray. Upon first read of this scripture, I wonder if I should even be posting my journey through the New Testament. However, this is where I can explore scripture in my own special way, through careful analysis and consideration. I thought that important to state, as I was struggling with this.

A. When we create our good fruit and do our good acts, it is critical that we do so without the thought of being seen as good in the eyes of others or any reward we would receive by doing so. Once we have a thought of our own condition, the fruit and acts we produce and do become not wholesome.

Often, I’ve thought this the case. When we give someone something, or offer someone assistance, we cannot think about how this benefits us presently or in the future. It taints the gift, and it enslaves the person we wish to help. We must avoid this mentality in all the good that we do. This is critical.

Jesus also talks about prayer similarly. This is a private matter between us and God. To wear it on your sleeve or around your neck does not honor the connection. To do it on your own is important. Just going to church or wearing a cross is not enough; we must have that deep personal relationship with God. No matter how many times we repeat something, like a mantra, it is meaningless without that deep personal relationship.

When we do pray, it should be about being thankful; it should be about asking for forgiveness, strength and guidance. This needs to be deeply felt. It must be a genuine relationship with the Universe, with God. All that we have has been given to us.

Jesus re-emphasizes the lesson on forgiveness. We must first forgive all others before we’re forgiven by God. It cannot happen any other way. Forgiveness must also be deeply felt to be genuine and sincere. When you forgive someone, you must do so completely.

This teaching makes it absolutely certain to me. The internal steps we take are important, even more important than anything we do. Any good you do can be lost by the mental steps taken to do that good. The way we think and feel about others is important.

If we feel like others should suffer for what they’ve done to us, we’ve not forgiven them completely.  Wishing suffering on anyone is not good. Forgiving others is the only way to be rid of the negativity. We must be cognizant of our thoughts.  Otherwise, all that we do will be tainted by that negativity.

These are not easy things to do. However, they are worthwhile to make an effort to do, every day and in all that we do.

P. May I have a deep personal relationship with God.

Next Scripture: Matthew 6: 19 - 7:11

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Steps We Take, Vows We Don't ***

S. Matthew 5: 27 - 48

O: Jesus concludes the teaching he began in the previous scripture reading. Once again, it is his words and his alone.

A: The second half of this teaching reinforces my application from yesterday. It’s not just the act that we must avoid. All the steps that lead up to that act are also crucial to avoid.  Each step is as if we’re following through with the act itself. This is a huge advancement in thinking about how we interact with others before interaction even begins. The way in which we think and feel about others is crucial not just our words and our actions.

Then, Jesus talks about ending all vows, as these vows place us in a precarious position with God and his judgment of our completion of those vows. This is another huge step into separating what we do from what we wish to do. What we do is much more important than what we say we’re going to do. If we must say something, just say “Yes, I will” or “No, I won’t.” Vowing to do anything sets us up for failure, and we do not need to add any additional sins or failures throughout our existence.

Next, Jesus talks of another huge leap in thinking and being. Leaving behind the “eye for an eye” mentality and transforming our interactions by turning the other cheek instead.  When we are wronged, don’t fight or resist. To react otherwise could once again add more layers of sins and failures to the situation. I don’t believe this is in reference to when our life is at risk; instances where our life is on the line are few. Mostly, it is our ego that is on the line, and we should not fear damage to our ego.

Once again, Jesus takes this further by saying we should love our enemies. We should thank those who persecute us. We can show a better way of being by doing so. By doing so, we transform a situation, potentially transforming those within the situation.

Being kind to our family and friends is easy and really holds little transformative potential for the world. Being kind to your enemies or those in which you have profound disagreement, that is where all the potential for transformation may be discovered.

Finally, Jesus exposes that we are indeed to be as perfect as God. We were made in his image, and we are perfect. When we interact with anyone, we should see them similarly.

P: May I have the strength to avoid taking any internal steps to harm of another. May I love those who would persecute me. May I embody the perfection that is God.

Next Scripture Matthew 6 : 1 - 18