Blog

Humility, suffering and heaven.

Can anyone take away our suffering? Has anybody seen our collective humility? In the gospels there are several renditions of the rich young ruler story who approaches Jesus and asks what he might do to “inherit the kingdom of heaven”. The answer is simple but it becomes complex because we don’t like what it says to us.

Our wealth, our power, our position, our prestige and our health often get in the way of our deeper sense and experience of God’s presence in our lives, experiences and hearts, here and now.

The rich young ruler was told, the one thing you lack… “to sell all you have and give to the poor, and you shall find treasure in heaven. Come follow me.” Before we run ahead to the story’s conclusion, let’s take a pause and think in our own lives why Jesus might be giving this advice? Is it to shame those of us with means? To simply help the poor? I might suggest that it is so that both the rich and the poor will know the Love of God. A theological two-for!

As you know in your head, the math works out. The problem is that fear, sadness, jealousy, loneliness, and anger keep showing up within you and thus you need to try NOT to feel or sense those things. How can it be that you have so much and yet you are suffering inside?

Suffering is universal. If you could “buy” your way out of it, someone would have figured out how to already, and could charge a lot for it.

Your ability to be able to be okay with inner suffering (being okay with suffering is another way of describing peace) is proportional to the amount of “wealth” you perceive yourself to have in relationship to others. The more you’ve got, the harder it is to accept all the internal stuff going on with you that you don’t want to be. Certainly, you say, “if I just had more resources, or purchased this or traveled there or got this job, or that thing, or this position, then certainly I would no longer suffer inside.”

Stop kidding yourself.

“But I’ve worked so hard to achieve, to make, to save, to succeed…” you say. “All so I can avoid suffering! And you say I CAN’T avoid suffering?”

Silence ….

If you’re feeling sad, angry, scared, stupid, misled, self-righteous, etc. at this point in the blog, stay with that feeling you don’t want for 1 minute. Or 2 if you’re feeling really brave.

Further silence if you dare …

“When the young man heard this, he went away sad because he had great wealth.” – Matthew 19:22

Point made… still had his great wealth and still suffering. If you’re finding yourself with an abundance and are still suffering, you are in good company.

Looking forward to hearing about your thoughts, feelings and experiences.

It’s not what you think you think.

Your reality is wrong. You think about reality in the wrong way. I can tell because you’re either reading this so far with curiosity or you’re reacting in a defensive way. Either way, proving to yourself, your reality is wrong.

Your reality is wrong because you want it to be. Your brain is built to optimize survival. You’re able to read this today because your ancestors learned to focus on what matters.

Focus is most often our biggest problem. Modern society has been able to engineer a safer, more secure way for us to live and thus survive longer. Physically it is a good thing, mentally and spiritually, not so much.

Our brains are built for survival. They incessantly scan the environment, decide what matters, and make our physical body respond. Mostly, not helpful in our modern world. For those of you reading this with much testosterone running through your system, you have a survival brain turbo charger too.

So what do we do?

Accept who we are. Our survival brain tells us to strive for more, better, faster, even when it comes to “chilling out”. Many of us have set out to improve ourselves through various means. If asked most of us would say our goals include… love, truth, peace, joy, etc.

How can you know to want those things unless you already know what they are? How can you become what you already are? How can you seek what you already have?

In the New Testament of the Bible, a story is written about a prodigal son, a “lost” son. He’s lost because he carries the wrong perspective. His older brother is lost too. A reticle may be in order… “parable of the lost sons.“

The correct perspective is there in the story and thus also within you. Do you see it? Can you hear it?

What inner thoughts, voices or feelings are occurring within you now obscuring your perspective?

A perspective available to you…

“My child, you were lost and now you are found, let’s have a party and celebrate!” and “you have always been with me, everything I have is yours, come to the party!”

Need help finding that perspective? Look far and wide within and you shall find it.

God’s view from within you.

In I Corinthians, Paul says, “ don’t you know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”

How have so many of us missed this for so many years? And how do so many of us continue to miss this?

As I’ve journeyed, observing my inner and outer experience, as well as journeying with others, there are three things I’ve noticed, which obscure our acceptance of Paul’s statement. Note the three things intertwine with one another and make it difficult to see and accept our role as “temple of God’s Spirit.”

First, most of us are raised under the cultural doctrine of original sin and that we are someway, somehow flawed and unworthy of God’s love… and or love in any form. There are many problems with that perspective but let me cut to the chase. If God is “within” you, so is God’s love so you can stop looking outside yourself for what you already have. Jesus tells the Pharisees… you can look over there , or over there, but the Kingdom of God cannot be observed as it is already “in your midst.” (Luke 17)

In chapter 31 of the book of Jeremiah, the covenant of God is recorded as, “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,”… in our midst.

Second, since we’re always trying to fix ourselves to be worthy, we forget that the healing power of Love within us is already “fixing” anything we think may be broken. Now some of you will say… but you don’t know how broken I am. You’re right I don’t, but God does and still loves you in spite of your perceived brokenness, so much in fact that God has hidden God’s Spirit within you, within each of us.

Third, as humans we avoid risk. We are biologically speaking, survivors. Thus if you suddenly accept that God’s love is within you and that Love is so powerful that you can live your life in a radically open and loving way toward all people and all of creation… most of us would say… “that sounds amazing!” Truth be told, our humanness wants to run from that responsibility and risk. Realize that what we seek as humans is security and comfort. What God’s Love within embraces is risk, adventure, vision, fear, courage, awe, sadness, frustration, joy, etc.

To embrace what you are , “God’s temple of the Spirit”, is to turn your little self over to the Love of the universe, the Almighty who has always seen you as beloved and is inviting you into Love.

It is finished. Happy Easter indeed.

Are your values feminine or masculine?

In the Song of Songs (aka Song of Solomon) it is somewhat surprising, yet quite refreshing, to read about the feminine character or spirit in pursuit of a masculine partner.

Whether you read this as human romance, cosmic spiritual Union, or inner masculine and feminine presence and values, the Hebrew Bible turns a lot of status quo thinking on its ear in this beautiful poetic writing.

In our work recently with Soul Journeys, we’ve been exploring our inner values with people as a way to connect with their soulfulness and perhaps better understand the Divine presence within.

As we’ve explored our values, one observation that seems powerful is that as people begin identifying their values, they often find both masculine and feminine values within themselves. Further, it would seem that whether man or woman, we readily accept our values no matter the label our society might place on them.

It seems that as we engage our values, we begin to engage the idea that many of us possess both feminine and masculine values, at least from a societal definition perspective. Further, the values we have within guide us deeply through life, almost like a ships rudder.

Utilize this list from Brene Brown to identify your guiding values and then think about the inner dance of masculine and feminine within you whether it be spiritually, genetically, or consciously, that enlivens and guides your life.

Let us know what you find within!

The Persistent Malaise

Malaise is defined as, a general feeling of discomfort, illness, or uneasiness whose exact cause is difficult to identify. In modern society we yearn for clarity, safety, control, and known-risk experiences. A known risk experience is something which brings a rush of adrenaline but is actually statistically speaking, fairly safe. Our efforts to make what is uncertain seem certain to ourselves, and to others is ultimately avoiding our inner state of the persistent malaise.

For some who have discovered uncertainty to be a good friend, you may not need to read further. For those who see uncertainty as something to be avoided, fixed, or feared, you’ve stumbled upon some writing you may need and may be ready to receive.

Certainty is based on comparison with something in our past. We think or say, “such and such must be the case because of so and so.” You see of course immediately that the current “such and such” becomes the past “so and so” in the next moment and our minds begin the inevitable inner stacking or looping which causes our brains to name and then store this “certainty” which is really a justification within to convince ourselves we are “right.”

Because we yearn to be right or correct (righteous) , we internally “catalog” and then externalize these stories of certainty which become part of the bigger story of who we tell ourselves and others, who we are.

Over time, our genetically developed desire to be right, combined with a bunch of inner stories and chapters of stories which are incomplete truths at best, combine to make us recognize our inner fiction as fact. This false sense of certainty we’ve created is a house of cards which is very fragile. So fragile in fact that there is a “house of cards inner maintenance process”, open 24-7, that is constantly repairing and fixing the constantly breaking story (house) and further telling the owner in a variety of ways, your story is righteous, carry on.

Now before you get too caught in judgement about what’s been written in this blog thus far, realize you have an inner human drive to be right so if you don’t understand what’s been written, you will want to explain to yourself that you either understand what’s been written and then try to categorize it based on something in your past, perhaps think about someone else who “needs” this piece, or you will try to dismiss what’s been written as not true or misguided.

If you are feeling a sense of uncertainty or uneasiness about what you’re reading, you are on the right track.

As humans in modern society, we want to avoid feeling a sense of malaise. The problem is that malaise is reality. We are beings built to survive and reproduce and thus are constantly interpreting and reinterpreting our environment, coming up with conclusions quickly to survive the saber tooth tiger attack … er I mean getting the best parking place at the grocery store…

Our brains evolved over billions of years to make snap decisions for our survival and for our procreation. The problem is that in modern society, all those snap decisions pile up creating a story we tell ourselves which is always based on past information which we cherry pick to reinforce the story we tell ourselves. Some refer to this as unconscious bias but be careful naming any inner experience too quickly.

Rest assured, if you’re feeling a malaise at the moment, you’re still on the right track. In fact, rest into the malaise (reality) you may be feeling and don’t try to get away from it or fix it, through a false sense of certainty. Certainty is the enemy of the present and the present is the only place and time where you will find truth.

You may be becoming aware of how your inner yearning for clarity, certainty, judgement, righteousness, etc. is the story you use to avoid what has perhaps become scary to you, uncertainty, uneasiness… the persistent malaise.