Three Times Warmed

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” — Rachel Carson

Unsweet iced tea, plain bagel (lightly toasted) with veggie cream cheese (on the side). My “usual” breakfast at the fine dining establishment known as Dunkin Donuts.

I sat outside, taking in the generous AZ sun, planning to go to the lovely Desert Foothills Library in Cave Creek to do some research and toy with some writing ideas. The library’s website said they were open until 4. Upon arrival, I discovered they were closed on this day after Thanksgiving.

So, I went for a walk in the adjacent Caroline Bartol Preserve at Saguara Hill.

Turned out to be so much better than a library visit.

I ascended Saguara Hill, the warmth of the sun pressing on my face, my soul absorbing the beauty of the day and the place.

I found the first sentence of the Rachel Carson quote carved on a bench along the path.

Sitting on the bench, I meditated on those words and felt a second warmth, an inner warmth, as I considered their truth.

The words to a song I learned at UUCE then played over and over in my mind, filling me with a third warmth.

“May I be filled with lovingkindness.
May I be well. (repeat)
May I be peaceful and at ease.
May I be whole.”

In the second verse, “you” is substituted for “I.” In the last verse, “we” is substituted for “you.”

The cynic might regard this sung mantra as naïve, wishful thinking. Like a Miss America contestant hoping for “World Peace.”

I’ve come to think of it quite differently.

It’s about cultivating intention and a disposition. Towards ourselves, loved ones, acquaintances, strangers, and even those we might regard as enemies. All human accomplishment begins as imagination. Your smartphone began as an idea. Your car too. Someone sketched the home you live in long before any materials were gathered together for its actual construction.

The ideas/beliefs we plant in our hearts and minds matter. They are the seeds of what we will “grow” in our lives, the seeds of how we will relate to ourselves and others.

What if we were, in fact, filled with lovingkindness? What if we were, in fact, peaceful and at ease and whole?

We would have kick-ass souls.

Imagine a world full of people with kick-ass souls.

That’s a place I want to live!

Who I Am Not

When exploring the question, “Who am I?” I consider first a list of things I am not.

I’m not my body or my mind. I’m not my personality. I’m not my thoughts, feelings, or beliefs. I’m not the story I tell about my life. I’m not a list of chronological events that happened to me.

Let me clarify.

I seem to be (for now) “inhabiting” my body, but I am not arms, legs, a torso, and a head—I am the one within that house of flesh, bone, and blood.

I have a mind. It analyzes and dissects data (with the brain as its engine); but I am not simply a brain or even the data-sorter I call my mind. I’m the one who sees the mind’s activity.

I have a personality, which is largely a construct, a “face” I put on. This is who I want the world to see. Maybe it’s authentic, maybe it’s artifice; most likely, it’s an ever-shifting combination of the two. Subject to change. I am not that. I am the unchanging presence observing the machinations of the personality.

I have thoughts, feelings, and beliefs which arise from my personal narrative which includes the “history of me” from birth to today. Milestones. Trauma. Joy. Heartbreak. Ecstasy. Hurt. Loss. The good and the bad. All of these things matter, they have value—they should be examined, honored, evaluated, understood, felt, even cherished. They are the ways I experience being human. But they are not me. I am the one who thinks, feels, and interprets. I am the believer. I am the one who is aware of all these things. I am the one who is there, the witness.

Thoughts, feelings, beliefs—all the things I have listed—they are passing phenomenon, always in flux, varying in expression and intensity, they come and go like clouds or the weather.

The true “I” is like the unchanging sky, visited by clouds and weather.

Author and teacher Rupert Spira uses the metaphor of the movie screen and the movie to illustrate this concept.

The movie appears on the screen. In the movie, the image constantly changes. There’s a sunset. A bird soars across a darkening sky. Then, an explosion! No matter what the movie image is, the screen is unaffected. It is simply the medium upon which the images appear. The movie has a story. It’s happy. It’s sad. There are defeats and victories. Suffering and rapture. Life and death. The screen remains the same.

I am the screen. My life is the movie.

As the movie of my life unfolds, I will relish happy feelings and honor sad feelings; but I realize I don’t have to totally identify with them. They are not who I am. My thoughts and feelings very often aren’t entirely accurate and frequently they’re complete bullshit, arising out of fear, ignorance, and insecurity. They are subjective, confused, and biased—usually in a negative way. I don’t have to give them any real weight. I don’t have to be that bullshit story. I can question its legitimacy and relevance. I can get out from beneath the crushing negative narrative. I have a choice! I can find comfort in the pure being that is aware of my mind’s constructions.

Indian yoga guru Sadhguru puts it like this:

“There is a psychological reality in your head, and there is an existential reality which is life. Most people are mistaking their psychological reality to be existential.”

“Your thought and emotion,” he goes on to say, “have become more significant than the cosmos, isn’t it so?”

Yes! So often, we walk about totally immersed in the tiny drama we are generating inside our heads, as if it were somehow more real, more true, than the universe, than existence itself.

So often, it is this psychological drama that is causing our deepest suffering.

I know this has been true for me most of my adult life.

In the midst of heaven on Earth I have generated hell, simply by superimposing my primitive, messy, fucked up, hurt, lost, selfish, fearful, psychological drama over the simple, clear, beautiful reality of being a piece of life, given the profound privilege of watching the unfolding of God’s dream.

This doesn’t mean life can never be a nightmare. It can. But even when it is, I have a choice as to how much suffering I cause by getting caught up in the story I tell myself about it. Like the story about how unfair life is, how everything would be so much better “if only” this or that, and on and on with the never-ending self-pitying story my imagination is weaving, all about “poor me.”

May we shine more brightly in the light of the glorious beings we really are.

Namaste, friend.

Parallel Teachings

I encountered two “teachings” today, one in the digital world and one in the real world. One from a Christian perspective, the other from a Buddhist perspective.

Here is the Christian:

“At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God… This little point … is the pure glory of God in us. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely…”

–Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

Here is the Buddhist:

“Buddha compared our Buddha nature to a gold nugget in dirt, for, no matter how disgusting a person’s delusions may be, the real nature of their mind remains undefiled, like pure gold. In the heart of even the cruelest and most degenerate person exists the potential for limitless love, compassion and wisdom. Unlike the seeds of our delusions, which can be destroyed, this potential is utterly indestructible and is the pure, essential nature of every living being. Whenever we meet other people, rather than focusing on their delusions we should focus on the gold of their Buddha nature. This will not only enable us to regard them as special and unique, but also help to bring out their good qualities. Recognizing everyone as a future Buddha, out of love and compassion we will naturally help and encourage this potential to ripen.”

–Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, How to Transform Your Life

Parallel teachings. What a lovely gift on a Sunday.

Namaste. Amen.

To Life!

Consider the amazing conspiracy of circumstances working non-stop to keep you alive.

Without you having to do a thing, your heart beats and your lungs breathe. Even when you’re fast asleep, these two persistent rhythms quietly manifest themselves, keeping the machine-that-is-you running.

Most of the time, your injuries heal and your illnesses surrender again to good health.

Conclusion: your body wants you to live.

Gravity holds you to the earth. The sun warms you. Phytoplankton and trees offer up oxygen for you. Plants and animals feed you. The sky gives you water to drink.

Conclusion: the universe sustains you.

These are pretty awesome powers that seem to be concerned with making sure you have the things you need to stay alive.

Of course, you can’t realistically ignore the forces at work in the world that might just take your life: tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfires, poisonous plants and creatures, viruses and bacteria, and even a small fraction of human beings with bad intent. Add to this list countless random incidents and accidents that wait around every corner with the potential to injure or kill you, and you’re compelled to reckon with the unpleasant fact that there are plenty of threats out there.

Conclusion: the world is sometimes a dangerous place and, on any given day, remaining alive is not a guarantee.

Furthermore, whenever you pass by a cemetery, you’re reminded that there will come a day when your heart and lungs will stop expanding and contracting, regardless of any contrary plan you may have. So, even if you evade death by natural disaster, deadly stings or bites, homicide, or any of a thousand careless human blunders … you’re still going to die when your body decides it’s had quite enough.

Conclusion: we’re all going to die.

These truths make up the fulcrum upon which our lives are balanced.

I’m thankful that my body keeps on ticking (despite the fact that I haven’t always treated it well). So far, it’s seen me through more than 60 years of life. Maybe I should do a better job of caring for it, you know, to show my appreciation.

I’m thankful that the universe continues to operate as it does, constantly providing the things I need to live. I try not to take for granted the sun’s rising or the downpouring of rain beneath a harvest moon. I want to remain aware of the marvels of plant and animal life and how they contribute every day to my being alive.  

I’m in awe of the ocean and the night sky. I’m astonished at the inexplicable variety of living things crawling, slithering, swimming, flying, and walking upon this amazing planet we call home.

I want to keep my mortality in mind as I go about my daily life. Life is uncertain and fragile. I want that to motivate me to live my best life. To love myself and others better. To prodigiously forgive myself and others.

Conclusion: let’s squeeze every drop of deliciousness out of the grapefruit that is our one earthbound life.

To life!

Having Faith in Matter

“…you regard yourself as an accident—a biological accident—in a stupid universe. A vast, pointless gyration of radioactive rocks and gas in which you happen to occur.” — Alan Watts

If we assume that the current scientific model for the origin of the cosmos is accurate, then we have accepted that at one time all of the matter in the observable universe was infinitely dense; which is to say, it had no size at all. That’s all the stars, planets, space, and other matter in 2 trillion galaxies … being smaller than a single atom.

(2 x 10 to the 23rd power: that’s an estimate of the number of stars alone.)

All of it crunched into a singularity so teeny tiny that it cannot be measured.

Everything is nothing, essentially.

Can you picture that? No, I mean really try to see that in your mind.

Does it stretch credulity at all to try to imagine such a state?

How did it get there?

I understand that the expansion of the universe, and the existence of background radiation, are reasons to believe it was there—I’m asking how it got there.

The most pertinent question, for me, then, is this:

What, exactly, is the cause sufficient to produce such an effect?

“Since the universe by its definition encompasses all of space and time as we know it, NASA says it is beyond the model of the Big Bang to say what the universe is expanding into or what gave rise to the Big Bang. Although there are models that speculate about these questions, none of them have made realistically testable predictions as of yet.” (https://www.space.com/52-the-expanding-universe-from-the-big-bang-to-today.html)

“The Big Bang theory makes no attempt to explain how structures like stars and galaxies came to exist in the universe.” (https://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/universe/bb_cosmo.html)

So, the scientific answer to our question (what caused all matter in the universe) is “we don’t know.”

After that meaty question, another one naturally follows.

How did this infinitely dense singularity come to contain the perfect “recipe of stuff” that unfolded itself outward into the unimaginable abyss to become our universe, which contains our galaxy, which contains our planet, which has produced such a vast array of highly complex living things, some of them being both conscious and volitional (as opposed to merely instinctual)?

If we are going to embrace pure materialism, we are doing so understanding that we must believe that non-life ultimately gave birth to life, unconsciousness generated consciousness, mindless matter produced the human mind (super-gradually, without any intention or “end goal”) … and all of that was derived from an invisible ball of matter the origin of which our best scientific minds can’t explain.

This is a kind of faith. And a rather fantastic kind of faith at that.

Science is pretty good at creating models that rewind back to that singularity and carry us forward to the present-day state of the cosmos. But anything that took place before that is outside the realm of testable theories. I think this is an incredibly important admission that isn’t talked about a lot.

Science is essentially saying: “Give us one massive, inexplicable, odds-defying phenomenon (a.k.a. ‘a miracle’), and we’ll explain how it eventually made everything.”

This, to me, is the atheists’ version of Genesis 1:1.

Maybe the opening verse of the atheist Bible would say this: “Once upon a time before time, all matter was infinitely dense.”

We’ve substituted scientists for priests. They tell us they’ve had a revelation (the origin of which they can’t prove), but we should believe them because they have some very sophisticated instruments with which to examine the things of the world. This world where everything that is visible is composed of invisible things that are in constant motion.

The only way we can see an atom is if we look in a million-dollar instrument called an electron microscope. Very few of us have done so. Yet we believe in atoms. Having never seen one. We have faith in atoms. And in their astonishing power to “self-organize.” Science has yet to decipher those mechanisms of self-organization.

And, lo, the subatomic particles did bond together to become atoms (something which had never existed before). Atoms then bonded together to become molecules (which had never existed before). Molecules bonded to become cells (never existed before). And these cells mutated countless times to create untold species of plants, insects, and animals, ending in intelligent, conscious, self-contemplating human beings. All of this from a blind, stupid universe.

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JT09JbaEh_I – start video at minute 10)

This is a picture of an unthinking, purposeless cosmos that is self-transcending on an incomprehensible scale.

Given enough time, and just the right circumstances, nothing becomes everything.

What are the odds? Really?

And all the materialists said, “Amen.”

I Just Burped Garlic Into My Mask

bread

That’s a sentence I never imagined myself saying. But, damn, the bread at that little restaurant in Galena was off-the-freakin’-chart delicious!

What a weird world we’re in.

It’s hard to think of any aspect of life that COVID hasn’t made just a little suckier.

Yes, there I go, one of those people whining about some trivial inconvenience while people are dying. Which just proves my point.

I, myself, am a little suckier here in 2020. Apologies to all for my crass, thoughtless, callous, self-indulgent complaining (except you, coronavirus—you can go f**k yourself).

Wouldn’t it be lovely if I could say some super noble thing about what’s happening on the planet right now? Something that would reveal my amazing human compassion, my deep insight into pandemics and the sociopolitical truths behind the paralyzing media infodump coming at us from every corner, from every angle.

Yep, I really want you to believe that I know which news source is telling you the truth and which power monger, which asshole politician, has “no agenda but the truth.” (AS IF!)

As it turns out, I can actually do something sort of like that.

Because I have recently deployed a small army of omnipresent, invisible, undetectable, stealth drones that, even now, are hovering about the hallways, toilet stalls, secret rooms, and torture chambers of global power.

That’s right. I know what’s being said by people who don’t want you to know what they’re saying.

Of course, I can’t give you specifics. Or else they’d kill me. Duh. I’m not stupid. I don’t wanna be the next f****ng Alexei Navalny, dude. Not at all.

What I can tell you, is that people in positions of influence are consistently saying a few kinds of things.

  1. Things they think are the truth but aren’t because their source is shit.
  2. Things they know are lies but they want you to believe are true because it serves their narrative which they hope enhances their chance to implement their self-centered, power-and-greed motivated agenda.
  3. Things that are partial truths with certain critical details presented very selectively, other details embellished, and yet further details omitted entirely. Because such careful revision of information (this may sound familiar) serves their narrative which they hope enhances their chance to implement their self-centered, power-and-greed motivated agenda.

Sure, somewhere (no one knows where) someone is telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But how would we recognize it? Who are we counting on to do the fact-checking? CNN? FOX news?

I want to believe my government cares about my well-being. I want to believe it is informing me out of its great reverence for human life.

Then I think about how my government has behaved throughout human history. Not just my government, but pretty much all governments. And institutions. Judicial. Military. Religious and secular. Conservative and liberal. Left and right. All of them doing things and saying things that serve their narrative which they hope enhances their chance to implement their self-centered, power-and-greed motivated agenda.

This is what they do. This is The Machine.

Some people in The Machine are well-intentioned. Some of them believe they are speaking the truth. Some of them are really trying to do good things.

Not too fucking many.

But some.

I’d let you know who they were but … well, you know what would happen.

Truth tellers are an endangered species. They don’t generally run for any public office. They’re usually outcasts.

Sometimes they’re executed.

Other than that, I’m fine.

How are you doing?

Teensy Brain

Most of the time, the world feels small. It’s the room you’re in. Familiar streets. Your neighborhood.

That’s the illusion though, right? Because we all know the world is … well, it’s really, really big.

crab nebula

You telescope out and it’s fucking big beyond all belief.

It’s a planet, a galaxy, a cosmos. You can’t even get it. Not really. The immensity of it is mostly abstract. Like when you look at a Hubble Space Telescope image that is mesmerizingly beautiful, but you don’t have any real understanding of what it is, not even after you read the description of it, which goes like this:

“The Crab Nebula, the result of a bright supernova explosion … is 6,500 light-years from Earth. At its center is a super-dense neutron star, rotating once every 33 milliseconds, shooting out rotating lighthouse-like beams of radio waves and light — a pulsar (the bright dot at image center). The nebula’s intricate shape is caused by a complex interplay of the pulsar, a fast-moving wind of particles coming from the pulsar, and material originally ejected by the supernova explosion and by the star itself before the explosion.” (https://hubblesite.org/image/4027/gallery/35-supernova-remnants)

I mean, if there’s a quiz you’re fucked. I am, anyway.

I’m a teensy-weensy living being with my teensy brain gazing at the indefinable, the unimaginable, the incomprehensible. Still, I reduce it all down to the Google pin I’ve plotted on the map where I am.

pin

This is the truth to me. My spot on Earth. My field of vision.

I am one conscious being of nearly eight billion on the planet. One of 107 billion who have ever lived. (https://www.prb.org/howmanypeoplehaveeverlivedonearth/)

Yet, I am the center of my world, as you are yours.

My life is a momentary flicker that will wink out and be utterly forgotten in a generation or two. I am destined to be a worn, faded photo in a dusty box someone will look at one day and say to themselves, “I don’t know who this is.” The photo, then, is a thing to be thrown away because it no longer fits a narrative anyone is living.

I am nothing. I am everything. This is the irony, the paradox of being mortal.

Seize it. Love it, every little bit of it, while you can.

Love yourself, your body and soul. Love your family, friends, and tribe. Love strangers if you can. They’re amazing, all of them. Just like you. A flicker in time, occupying a pinpoint in space.

Part of the whole.

Dropped onto the playground of life from the hands of God.

(The “God part” is something I believe, but I don’t mind if you believe that you and I are merely astonishing biological accidents and the universe is simply “one of those things that happens from time to time.” I respect that conclusion and raise a beer to the audacity of my belief and your non-belief.)

Your life. The best gift ever. Can we agree on that?

Play on, brothers and sisters.

Peculiar Effects of Travel

ce-travel

The tyranny of the necessary has a way of gobbling up our one true (and most fleeting) possession: time.

For this reason, and others, I haven’t made travel a priority in my life.

I did, however, commit this year to get up and go adventuring, at least a few times, beyond the borders of Illinois (my home state).

Early in 2019, I flew with a friend to San Diego for a few days. We casually biked and strolled along the ocean shoreline, walked in an exotic garden, dined and drank a little, shared some laughs, and just hung out.

This summer, I drove to Minnesota to meet up with a group of church friends for some pretty serious cycling on gorgeous trails that had once been railroad tracks. We pedaled, coasted, chatted, laughed, shared, philosophized, and encountered some lovely pies.

Just yesterday, I returned home from a visit with a friend in Denver. We hit a bike trail in the mountains, went hiking at Red Rocks in Morrison, saw Bruce Hornsby at a beautiful outdoor music venue, and enjoyed deep conversation and warm companionship.

Each of these small adventures was a nice break from the well-defined rituals and necessary chores of my daily life. I got to see new places, have some fun, and enjoy the company of people I like and admire.

But there’s something else about these travels that make them unique among human experiences.

The movement itself, the traversing of distance … watching mile after mile of American topography pass by … brought some things into sharper focus for me.

I’m on a planet.

Duh, right? Of course, this is something we all know; but, when you’re mostly occupying such a very small and familiar patch of ground, it can start to feel like this is it. Like, my reality is this fifty-sqaure-mile zone. We make the mistake of sensing that the truth is what we can see.

Ah, but no. The truth is bigger. So much bigger.

Vast, stretching plains, forests and farmland, rolling hills, creeks, lakes, rivers, mountains … it’s all out there under the sun, visited by wind and rain, beautiful and alive, teeming with every variety of plant and animal life, humming and thriving. Whether we see it or not, it’s there.

Our home isn’t just the structure over our heads or the geography of our hometown.

We live in a state, in a country, on a continent, within a hemisphere, on a planet with a total surface area of about 197 million square miles.

You feel that just a little more when you actually see a stretch of 1,000 miles—one moving image at a time—in a single day. I’ve been reminded of my world’s glorious expanse, and that reality hums in my head now like a newly discovered favorite song.

Telescope out, and we see that we’re in a solar system that’s in a galaxy that’s in a universe … and we start to feel pretty small.

Yet, here we are. Living, conscious beings, uniquely equipped to take in and translate all this natural wonder through the astonishing gift of sensory perception. Lucky us.

Truth is big.

The other thing that came home to me as I zipped through all that territory, is the subtle reality of impermanence.

There I was, moving on a highway at 70-80 miles per hour, across a planet that is spinning (if you’re on the equator) at 1,000 mph, as it hurtles through space at 66,667 mph. So, every micro-second my position in the universe is … well, radically shifting. I’m virtually never in the same space for any kind of measurable time. Which is much like the present moment. It comes and goes at lightning speed, already fading away as soon as it arrives. This is the impermanence of time and space.

The gift we get is now. Right now. This very second is the only opportunity we have to live on this spinning sphere. It isn’t when the workday is over, or when the weekend gets here, or when our vacation arrives, or when we find love, or when we retire. It’s NOW. Always now. Always fleeting, and always a gift beyond comprehension. This breath. This heartbeat. This step. Seize it, squeeze it for all it’s worth, baby … ‘cause it’s whizzing by faster than the speed of light!

We can convince ourselves that this material world is solid, because that’s how we experience it. Your body, a table, the ground under your feet, mountains … you can touch them, push against them, and feel their substance. You forget they’re composed of invisible particles in constant motion. Every visible thing is made up of madly-spinning invisible things. Crazy.

Your body loses and gains atoms, all day, every day. Ninety-eight percent of the atoms in your body are replaced yearly. You are literally, materially, a new person, every year. It’s an invisible truth, but truth nonetheless.

This is impermanence.

I want it to remind me of the stunning miracle of being alive. The incomprehensible gift that belongs to me every time I draw a breath. I want to see that there are no mundane moments. They’re all amazing. I want to feel that there’s no such thing as a wasted breath. Each one is an unrepeatable and miraculous occurrence. It’s mine. And it’s yours.

So often we seem to be seeking comfort in what we think we can know about our world, looking for “facts” to shape our reality, as if this were where comfort and safety might be found.

As if what our intellects can grasp, were the truth.

Ah, but no. The truth is bigger. So much bigger. In the realm of human experience, accurate data are very useful; but meaning is what we crave, not some sort of list of ingredients of which material reality is composed.

What does impermanence tell us about what life means?

What matters? What’s critical and what’s trivia?

A question for us all to ponder as we make plans on a world that spins at 1,000 mph, as it hurls through space at 66,667 mph, no two micro-seconds alike.

How, then, shall we live?

HOW TO BE FREE FROM ALL YOU HOLD AGAINST YOURSELF

freedom

NOTE: The following applies to most ordinary bullshit. HUGE bullshit, like a terminal disease, or a loved one who is suffering profoundly … these are struggles of a different magnitude. Our discussion here pertains to regular old human suffering, so much of which has to do with the ego and its endless needs.

And so …

1. TAKE INVENTORY OF ALL THE THINGS YOU SEE AS YOUR DEFICITS.

This includes all perceived body flaws, personality flaws, financial situation, living situation, relationship issues, perceived state of success/failure, moral/spiritual failures, past choices you see as regrettable.

Go ahead and make that list. The whole enchilada. Leave nothing out. Write it down, if you like. Or just make a mental list. I’ll wait.

Okay. Done?

2. NOW, IMAGINE YOU ENCOUNTER YOUR PERFECT PARTNER AND THEY ACCEPT AND LOVE YOU EVEN THOUGH THEY KNOW ALL THAT STUFF YOU JUST LISTED IN THE ABOVE INVENTORY.

Think of what that would do to you. What a colossal relief, right? You can stop pretending you have it all together. You can quit “putting on a happy face.” You’re done with all that bullshit. You can just be who you are, and you’re absolutely accepted and loved. Imagine how you’d carry yourself with this person: no fear, no worry, no self-consciousness. You’ve won the Inner Peace Lottery, right?

3. NOW, FORGET THAT PERSON. YOU CAN’T BE SURE YOU’LL FIND THEM. IF YOU ALREADY HAVE FOUND THEM, QUIT YOUR WHINING AND GO GIVE THEM A HUG. IF YOU HAVEN’T (ON SECOND THOUGHT, EVEN IF YOU HAVE), THERE IS SOMEONE ELSE YOU KNOW WHO CAN ACCEPT AND LOVE YOU JUST AS YOU ARE, DESPITE ALL YOUR PERCEIVED ISSUES/PROBLEMS. AND THEIR OPINION OF YOU IS FAR MORE IMPORTANT THAN THAT OF YOUR FANTASY LOVER/FRIEND/PARTNER.

That person, of course, is YOU.

Can you do it? Can you look at that list and say, “I accept and love myself just as I am in this moment?” If you can, then you’re off the hook you’ve placed yourself on! You’re free!

This doesn’t mean you don’t try to improve yourself. If you are bothered by some aspect (or aspects) of your life that you have the ability to affect? Go ahead and make plans for improvements. But don’t wait until you’ve accomplished your plans to approve of yourself. If you do, you’ve placed unnecessary emotional tension in your way. You are in conflict with what IS. That’s a surefire setup for unhappiness. ACCEPT what is, even as you engage in a plan to improve what you can.

Easier said than done? Yes, it is.

The truth, though, is that MOST people are holding a lot of things against themselves. Their lists look much like yours (and mine). Maybe the details vary, but the general idea is the same: “I am unacceptable and unlovable for these reasons.” And we carry this in the form of many thoughts that build up into one helluva destructive emotional snowball … we’ve given that fast-rolling sonofabitch SO MUCH power! The power to sabotage our happiness in the here and now, and on through the rest of our lives, right to our graves if we let it! LET’S NOT LET IT!

Unless and until you accept and love yourself unconditionally, radically … you will be stuck in a bad place, somewhere between mere discontent and full-on depression.

The power is yours, and yours alone. What will it take for you to LET GO of all that bullshit you’ve been holding against yourself? When will you get around to unlocking the chains you’ve put on your soul?

Examine each item on your list. Say each one OUT LOUD and say you accept it, as it is in this moment.

Examples:

“I accept how my body looks and feels right now in this moment. I am letting go of the desire for my body to look and feel any different than it does right now in this moment.”

“I accept my job situation as it is right now in this moment. I am letting of the desire for it to be any different than it is right now in this moment.”

Remember, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look to drop a few pounds or get a new job. If you deem those things important, start mapping your strategy RIGHT NOW, even as you accept things as they are, right now, in this moment.

Do this with every item on that list.

And mean it. In your heart. This is not just an intellectual thing, not just an acknowledgement thing. Maybe it starts as that. But it MUST BECOME something you believe and feel to be true in your heart.

IF you can do this, then you are free from your bullshit, it no longer has to be an impediment to your present happiness or future growth.

Congratulations on the first day of the rest of your life.

Now. Full disclosure.

I believe everything I’ve just written. The ideas aren’t mine, they are very old ideas. I’ve laid them out in my own way, but they’re in a million self-help books, spiritual and non-spiritual.

I wrote them down this way FOR ME.

Because I hold so many things against myself. I’ve given these things COLOSSAL life-killing power over decades. And I still struggle with them. Every day.

I feel I’ve made important steps forward. I have begun with the acknowledgement of the truth that my holding on to these things has been, and clearly is still, sabotaging my happiness. I have spoken this struggle out loud to others I trust, even disclosed some of it to my entire church community in a video sermon. I am actively engaged in a process of radical self-acceptance, even as I recognize that I have far to go.

So, I’m still working on it.

I hope you are too. If so, tell me how.

And, if you’ve conquered it, if you’re surfing the waves of radical self-acceptance right now in your life? I bow to you and congratulate you! Tell me what has been the most helpful insight for you. Together, we can lift each other up.

I’m pretty sure that’s the highest thing we can do as humans.

Love each other to wholeness.

May it be so. Peace to you.

Continue reading “HOW TO BE FREE FROM ALL YOU HOLD AGAINST YOURSELF”

Why I’m a Believer

cosmos1

This is not an argument for the existence of God.

This is not me trying to convince you of anything. I, of course, understand that for any point I might make supporting my view there is a counterpoint tearing it apart. I’m not really interested in debates.

This is simply me telling you what I believe and why. Nothing more.

When I watch a show about animals or space, about life’s origins or the origins of the universe, I can get downright tingly. I can’t help being moved when I see the majesty of the heavens and the astonishing variety and complexity of life on planet Earth. Nebulae, the Aurora Borealis, spiraling galaxies, transparent fish, flying lizards, bugs that walk on water … these are awe-inspiring sights to be sure.

But, while watching these shows, I have never once thought, “Gosh, isn’t it neat what random forces can produce given enough time?”

I’ve heard the story where Matter is King. It starts like this: “Once upon a time, all matter was infinitely dense.”

That’s right, kids. Every bit of matter and space in this universe—you know, the universe that contains TWO TRILLION GALAXIES (this is 10 times more than the previously believed 200 billion galaxies)—was once so very teeny tiny that it couldn’t be seen. It had NO SIZE. Let’s not forget that each of those 2 trillion galaxies contains 100 billion stars, more or less.

So, there it was: all the matter in the universe just hiding out in nothingness, smaller than a single atom.

How’d it get there? Where’d it come from? Why was it so itsy bitsy?

No one can tell you with any certainty.

“It popped into existence from nothing, out of nowhere,” is one answer science gives. It seems to be the most plausible one out there.

Okay. So, this is different than Genesis 1 how? Oh yeah, no Creator. Now it makes SO much more sense.

The fact is, both of these ideas, the idea of God and the idea that everything came from nothing, require us to believe fairly nutty things that absolutely CANNOT be proven.

My God-view requires faith. Just as the everything-from-nothing-view requires faith.

Here’s where I admit that the idea of God is sort of whacky. I mean, if we’re going to approach it rationally, we have to ask where God came from, right?

Well, no. No, we don’t. If you’re going to propose that everything came from nothing (without any proof), then I think I get to go ahead and assume the existence of God without having to come up with an origin story.

For me, God is the one utterly inexplicable thing that makes everything else possible.

The First Cause of life must be living. The First Cause of consciousness must be conscious. The First Cause of intellect must be intelligent.

Look at the observable universe. It’s so bloody amazing.

Everything is made of invisible particles in constant motion. THAT is amazing. Your smartphone looks like it’s stationary, a solid object, but it’s composed of madly spinning particles, as are you, as am I.

That’s insane! Yet I believe it.

Interesting fact—I believe in atoms. And so, probably, do you.

But why do we believe in atoms?

Can you prove they exist? Not without an electron microscope, my friend.

Unless you’re a renowned scientist working at a super high-tech lab, you’ve never looked into an electron microscope. They cost nearly one million dollars, so I guarantee neither PoDunk High nor Big Town University have one in their science wing for you to play with on your lunch hour.

You and I believe in atoms because we read about them in a book, or maybe we saw some blurry image of one in a YouTube video. The truth is, we believe in atoms, even though they are entirely outside of our sphere of experience; atoms are an article of faith—a thing we believe in even though we can’t prove it. I understand that we’re confident that someone can prove it, but we can’t and that’s my point. We’re relying on the testimony of others, which requires faith.

Modern science, with all its impressive gadgetry and seemingly limitless cosmic imagination, still can’t give a satisfactory explanation of what human consciousness is.

When it comes to the question, “What is gravity?” our friends at NASA are forced to answer, we don’t know!

So, the most fundamental things we should understand about ourselves and the world we inhabit are fucking mysteries. Surprise!

Another thing, dear reader. I believe in God because of you. Yes, you. You are a freaking stunning, mind-blowing miracle.

Here’s something about you that maybe you haven’t thought of. You were inevitable. Just as you are. Your eye color, your height, your personality. Why do I say this?

Because YOU ARE. When the universe unfolded you were already an inevitability: all the conditions being what they were, this moment in time with you in it reading this absurd essay right where you are … it all HAD TO HAPPEN. Because it did.

I take it further and say, you are an INTENTION of the universe, of the God that forged your consciousness in the infinite past.

In summation…

I believe in God because:

  1. The “purely material” answers are unsatisfactory on every level.
  2. Faith in God is no less crazy than the faith it takes to believe everything came from nothing.
  3. The marvel and awe of the cosmic universe and this living planet make no sense without an intelligent being to observe them.
  4. Everything about the observable universe is infused with intelligence, from humankind to trees to ticks, it is all bound together in an unfathomable symbiosis.
  5. If this is the one and only universe, the odds that it would come up with you and me and all this life are as good as zero. And the fact that one of science’s answer to that dilemma is to suggest an infinite number of universes (so that, of course, one of them would have to result in us, right?), smells of desperation (and not a single one of those “other” universes can be demonstrated to exist).

But, most importantly, I believe in God because:

  1. I need to.
  2. I choose to.

And that’s it, people. For what it’s worth.

I also totally respect your non-belief, or your belief in fairies, or your it’s turtles all the way down theory.

So it goes.

And amen.

Peace, my brothers and sisters.