The Lodestone of the Hearts of Men

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I'm baaaaaaaaaack!!! I have been away from the blog now for over a month! I guess I needed a break. But now life is calming down for the holidays and I have a little more time to re-devote myself to this whole blogging thing.

First things first. Check out this video I found the other day entitled "Why Empathy?". A teacher is relating an interaction she had with a member of the Ku Klux Klan who attended one of her classes.

Pretty cool, huh? It reminded me of a time when I used to chat on a "Young and the Restless" message board many years ago. (Yes, I watched Young and the Restless for twelve years and used to be a big fan, so sue me. LOL! I only just kicked the habit a couple of years back. It's like a drug.)

Anyway, a lot of times there would be individuals chatting on the site who would be downright mean or nasty about different topics of conversation that would come up. Usually, it would revolve around political or religious issues and it got extremely ugly more often than not. Hateful even. Sometimes I would put in my two cents (in what I thought was a very loving, compassionate way) and it made absolutely no difference. The ugliness would continue and sometimes get even worse due to what I had contributed to the conversation. I spent many hours trying to do what I could to quench this endless fire of hate that would spew from those anonymous keyboards across the country.

I don't do that anymore. I learned my lesson. I had always adhered to the teaching of my faith that a "kindly tongue is the lodestone of the hearts of men" (full quote at the very end of this post). I still agree that a kindly tongue is always best, but I had now learned that sometimes it is even wiser to just remain silent. For whatever reason, some hearts and souls out there are just too wounded and disconnected with their humanity.

Even worse, those of us who feel we are "enlightened" many times exacerbate the situation by being just too quick to judge others who act in ways that are contrary to what we value and hold dear. I think we should remember that people who act out in angry, hateful or unkind ways are really hurting somewhere deep inside. They may be scared of losing something that they hold dear, they may be desperately seeking validation or as is the case in the video - they may just want to feel connected with those who are supposed to love them most.

This video has inspired me to make a more concerted effort to show love to every single person I come across, no matter how "despicable" they may seem. And then, if I feel like it would be wiser to just "let it go", then I will. Immediately and completely.

As always, thoughts, comments and quotations appreciated. Happy Holidays!

"O ye children of men! The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men. Suffer it not to become a source of dissension and discord, of hate and enmity." (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 215)

"Should anyone wax angry with you, respond to him with gentleness; and should anyone upbraid you, forbear to upbraid him in return, but leave him to himself and put your trust in God, the omnipotent Avenger, the Lord of might and justice." (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 75)

"Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom." (King James Bible, Proverbs 13:10)

"Speak not harshly to anyone.
Those thus addressed will retort.
Painful indeed is vindictive speech.
Blows in exchange may bruise you.

If you silence yourself as a broken gong,
You have already attained Nibbana.
No contention will be found in you."

(Buddhist, Dhammapada - Sayings of the Buddha 3 (tr. J. Richards))

"Great wisdom is generous; petty wisdom is contentious. Great speech is impassioned, small speech cantankerous." (Tao, Chuangtse (Lin Yutang tr))

"Consort with all men, O people of Baha, in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship. If ye be aware of a certain truth, if ye possess a jewel, of which others are deprived, share it with them in a language of utmost kindliness and goodwill. If it be accepted, if it fulfill its purpose, your object is attained. If anyone should refuse it, leave him unto himself, and beseech God to guide him. Beware lest ye deal unkindly with him. A kindly tongue is the lodestone of the hearts of men. It is the bread of the spirit, it clotheth the words with meaning, it is the fountain of the light of wisdom and understanding." (Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 15)

Healing the Inner Child

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I am crying as I write this blog today. Someone very close to me is trying to heal from sexual abuse that they went through as a child and it is hard to see them go through the hurt that they are still carrying around after all these years. I am so proud of them for facing it head on, refusing to be a victim and working towards healing their emotional and spiritual wounds. But it is hard to witness.

It all partially started because Oprah recently had a special two-part episode on adult male survivors of child abuse. I only saw the second part, but it really, really touched me. At one point, each survivor held up a picture of themselves from when they were kids and this abuse was going on. It was a very powerful visual representation of the horrible loss of innocence that they endured.

Not having been abused myself, I can only imagine what these men went through and how it altered the course of their lives. Each of them were so significantly damaged by what happened, that to this day they still struggle with authority figures, intimacy, self-worth, trust, anger...the list goes on.

How does one heal from such a horrible experience that happened at such a young age? Seriously - regardless of whether you are a man or a woman. I just can't even imagine. It has to be one of the most, horrendous, devastating, traumatizing things that occurs on this earth. These children were abused by the people in their lives who they were supposed to be able to look up to, the people who were supposed to keep them safe and protect them, the people who were supposed to love them. Parents. Teachers. Priests. Family. Friends.

It is ironic that I am blogging on this topic right after blogging on what "evil" means. Because, I tell you, child abuse (sexual or otherwise) is probably the most Evil thing I can think of - and that's Evil with a capital "E".

I understand the value of going through tests. I believe that many of the horrible things that happen in the world have a reason and a place in the grand scheme of things. I can have faith and trust in God in most all things in life. I can deal with murder. I can deal with infant mortality. I can deal with natural disasters. But this...I just don't know.

Healing from traumatic events is important, I am certain of that. And praying and meditating can help, I believe that too. But where do you begin to truly heal from something like that? How do you start? I am completely overwhelmed just trying to imagine how difficult it must be. How can you heal your inner child from something so hideous? I am really at a loss.

Any feedback, thoughts and/or support on this would be greatly appreciated.

"Therefore all they that devour thee shall be devoured; and all thine adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; and they that spoil thee shall be a spoil, and all that prey upon thee will I give for a prey.

For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the LORD; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after." (King James Bible, Jeremiah 30:16-17)

"...if one deals with objects of the sense
Not loving and not hating, making them
Serve his free soul, which rests serenely lord,
Lo! such a man comes to tranquillity;
And out of that tranquillity shall rise
The end and healing of his earthly pains,
Since the will governed sets the soul at peace." (Hindu, Bhagavad Gita (Edwin Arnold tr))

"Thy name is my healing, O my God, and remembrance of Thee is my remedy. Nearness to Thee is my hope, and love for Thee is my companion. Thy mercy to me is my healing and my succor in both this world and the world to come. Thou, verily, art the All-Bountiful, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise." (Baha'u'llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah, p. 262)

The Nature of Evil

Monday, November 8, 2010

(Photo courtesy of ©Isabel Castañ

What is “evil” to you? A bully in school? A corrupt politician? A murderer? A terrorist? A demon hiding in the shadows ready to jump out and possess your soul? All of the above?

I think it is all of those things (in a way). I believe that "evil" is just the absence of "good". Each and every one of us are pure, noble, creations of God and our true reality is a spiritual one. But because that reality has to go through a "human" existence here on earth, we are given the opportunity to live up to our spiritual, "good" nature......or not.

It is at those times when we don't live up to our potential as spiritual, loving beings that true "evil" rears its ugly head. Those times when we show a lack or "absence" of patience, compassion, generosity and love. At those times our baser nature, what you could even call "ego" decides that what we want is more important than anyone or anything else. Our "self" gets in the way of what we know is right.

I do not believe in Satan, or demons or evil spirits that "push" us to do bad things. I believe that the "push" we feel is within ourselves and originates from our lower nature - the nature of self, of ego, of selfishness.

I think when we focus on being of service to others and on the betterment of the world as a whole - then we are exhibiting our true, spiritual nature. When we tell our selfish needs to take a hike and our "ego" to take a break, then we become more aligned with our higher, truer selves. We give "evil" the old heave-ho. LOL!

What do you think? I know there are a huge array of thoughts on this subject so please share them! And of course, quotes from your spiritual belief system would be awesome! I have posted a few below that I found to be compelling.

As long as man is a captive of habit, pursuing the dictates of self and desire, he is vanquished and defeated. This passionate personal ego takes the reins from his hands, crowds out the qualities of the divine ego and changes him into an animal, a creature unable to judge good from evil, or to distinguish light from darkness. He becomes blind to divine attributes, for this acquired individuality, the result of an evil routine of thought becomes the dominant note of his life." (Abdu'l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 133)

"The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." (King James Bible, Matthew 6:22-24)

"By oneself is evil done,
By oneself does one get defiled,
By oneself is evil left undone,
By oneself is one purified.
Purity or impurity depends on oneself,
No one can purify another." (Buddhist, Dhammapada - Sayings of the Buddha 3 (tr. J. Richards))

"There! for that ye did rejoice in the land without right; and for that ye did exult; enter ye the gates of hell, to dwell therein for aye; for evil is the resort of those who are too big with pride!" (The Qur'an (E.H. Palmer tr), Sura 40 - The Believer)

"The reality underlying this question is that the evil spirit, Satan or whatever is interpreted as evil, refers to the lower nature in man. This baser nature is symbolized in various ways. In man there are two expressions, one is the expression of nature, the other the expression of the spiritual realm. The world of nature is defective. Look at it clearly, casting aside all superstition and imagination. If you should leave a man uneducated and barbarous in the wilds of Africa, would there be any doubt about his remaining ignorant? God has never created an evil spirit; all such ideas and nomenclature are symbols expressing the mere human or earthly nature of man. It is an essential condition of the soil of earth that thorns, weeds and fruitless trees may grow from it. Relatively speaking, this is evil; it is simply the lower state and baser product of nature." (Abdu'l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 77)

"Music as a ladder for your souls..."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I really strongly believe that music can lift us up when we are down, reinvigorate us when we are tired, enlighten us when we are lost. There is something about certain types of music that really make me feel good. Sometimes the songs may be slow and contemplative, other times they may be upbeat and energetic, but regardless there are certain songs and or music that move me.

Check out the mantra sung below by a Buddhist nun from Nepal...

Isn't that beautiful? (Thank you Bryan for posting it to Facebook). It is that type of simple, beautiful music that just takes my soul away and lifts it up! I love it! I need to remember how powerful music is in lifting the soul when it is down. I thought with this weeks blog I could share some of my very favorite uplifting/beautiful/contemplative pieces of music or chants that make me feel closer to that Something which is higher than myself. And you all could share yours! Here they are in no particular order...

"Armed" - Devon Gundry
"One" - U2 feat. Mary J. Blige
"Let it Be" - Carol Woods and Timothy T. Mitchum
"Universal Prayer" - Dave Stringer (Thank you Aminda for that one)
"Stand by Me" - Playing for Change
"Here's Where I Stand" - Camp Soundtrack
"You Walk With Me" - The Full Monty Soundtrack
"Bring Him Home" - Les Miserables Soundtrack
"In The Deep" - Bird York
"Papa, Can You Hear Me?" - Barbara Streisand
"Falling Slowly" - Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova
"Seasons of Love" - Rent Soundtrack
"Imagine" - David Archuleta
"What a Wonderful World" - Louis Armstrong
"Night Hath Succeeded Day" - KC Porter
"Jewel in the Lotus" - Jack Lenz
"Breathe Me" - Sia
"Fix You" - Coldplay
"Over the Rainbow" - Israel Kamakawiwo'ole

What are some of your favorites that really make you feel at peace and a little more at one with the universe? As always, share quotes also if you'd like.

" this new age the Manifest Light hath, in His holy Tablets, specifically proclaimed that music, sung or played, is spiritual food for soul and heart. The musician's art is among those arts worthy of the highest praise, and it moveth the hearts of all who grieve. Wherefore, O thou Shahnaz,[1] play and sing out the holy words of God with wondrous tones in the gatherings of the friends, that the listener may be freed from chains of care and sorrow, and his soul may leap for joy and humble itself in prayer to the realm of Glory." (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 112)

"Let our city shrines and chaityas with a lofty music shake,
And ourpriests to bright Immortals grateful gifts and offerings make,
Bards, reciters of Puranas, minstrels versed in ancient song,
Women with their tuneful voices lays of sacred love prolong,
Let our queens and stately courtiers step in splendour and in state,
Chieftains with their marshalled forces range along the city gate,
And our white-robed holy Brahmans hymn and sacred mantras sing." (Hindu, Ramayana (R. Dutt, abridged tr))

"Praise ye the LORD: for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely." (King James Bible, Psalms 147:1)

"The treasure of the Naam, the Name of the Lord, is obtained by singing the Glorious Praises of the Lord of the Universe, and centering one's mind in meditation on Him." (Shri Guru Granth Sahib, Section 10 - Raag Dayv)

"We, verily, have made music as a ladder for your souls, a means whereby they may be lifted up unto the realm on high..." (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 38)

What are you MOST afraid of?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What are you MOST afraid of? Since Halloween is right around the corner, I thought it appropriate to post one of my videos that I developed for last year. Go ahead and watch my video directly below. It is only three and a half minutes long:

I really enjoyed filming that video and I think I got a good variety of honest answers from people. If I were to answer the question honestly, the thing I am most afraid of is not being a good enough person. I don't want to move on from this world without having developed and grown as an individual as much as I possibly can in the time that I have. I am constantly worried that I may be squandering my opportunities to make a difference and/or grow as a human being and that terrifies me. I don't believe that I will have another chance to do better so I want to make sure I do my very best right now.

Here are some quotes from different world faiths on fear. As always please share your thoughts, quotes and stories - and for this post let me know what scares YOU the most.

"Those who fear what they should not fear
and do not fear what they should fear,
such people, following false doctrines, enter the wrong path." (Buddhist, Dhammapada - Sayings of the Buddha 2 (tr. J. Richards))

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." (King James Bible, Psalms 23:4)

"Good is the Intellect which comprehends
The coming forth and going back of life,
What must be done, and what must not be done,
What should be feared, and what should not be feared,
What binds and what emancipates the soul" (Hindu, Bhagavad Gita (Edwin Arnold tr))

"It is clear and evident that all men shall, after their physical death, estimate the worth of their deeds, and realize all that their hands have wrought. I swear by the Day Star that shineth above the horizon of Divine power! They that are the followers of the one true God shall, the moment they depart out of this life, experience such joy and gladness as would be impossible to describe, while they that live in error shall be seized with such fear and trembling, and shall be filled with such consternation, as nothing can exceed." (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 171)

How did we become so mean?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bullying is in the news a lot lately and it is really getting to me. There have been a slew of teen suicides revolving around gossip, name-calling, backbiting or just plain mean-spiritedness. I am not going to recount any of the numerous stories here, if you listen to the news at all you've heard them. But it is truly beyond me how we have let our nation, our culture, our society, become this warped, ugly, nasty version of ourselves.

And I don't care who's fault it is either, it doesn't matter. Religion, schools, media, parents... doesn't matter. What matters is our dedication to changing away from what we've become. We can make this world what we want it to be. Do we want it to be a world where children as young as eleven feel so alone, hurt and humiliated that suicide is their best answer? I know I don't.

I also know that each and every one of us has to take some responsibility for our own behavior. We (as adults) are supposed to set the example, and I know there are plenty of times where we don't. Why? How did we become so mean? What joy does humiliating others bring us? What kind of happiness does backbiting about our neighbor fulfill? What satisfaction is created by gossiping about our co-workers? Seriously. Don't we know better? Where has our conscience gone? Has it taken some sort of endless break?

If we want to turn the tide on this bullying epidemic then I think it begins with each one of us as an individual. We can't be bystanders anymore. If we care about changing the world it all begins within us, and I think we need to go back to basics, i.e. "the Golden Rule". This is the very foundation of peace and the core of our humanity. We need to rekindle it in our hearts - love and compassion for every living soul - even the bullies - because I promise you they weren't born that way.

Here are some thoughtful quotes on this topic from various world scriptures. And as always, please leave your own quotes and/or thoughts.

"(A true seeker)... must never seek to exalt himself above any one, must wash away from the tablet of his heart every trace of pride and vain-glory, must cling unto patience and resignation, observe silence and refrain from idle talk. For the tongue is a smoldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison. Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul. The force of the former lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter endureth a century." (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 264)

"A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit." (King James Bible, Proverbs 15:4)

"O ye who believe! let not one class ridicule another who are perchance better than they; nor let women ridicule other women who are perchance better than they; and do not defame each other, nor call each other bad names-an ill name is iniquity after faith! O ye who believe! carefully avoid suspicion; verily, some suspicion is a sin. And do not play the spy, nor backbite each other; would one of you like to eat his dead brother's flesh?- why! ye would abhor it! then fear God; verily, God is relentant, compassionate." (The Qur'an (E.H. Palmer tr), Sura 49 - The Inner Chambers)

"He avoids tale-bearing, and abstains from it. What he has heard here, he does not repeat there, so as to cause dissension there; and what he heard there, he does not repeat here, so as to cause dissension here. Thus he unites those that are divided; and those that are united, he encourages. Concord gladdens him, he delights and rejoices in concord, and it is concord that he spreads by his words.

He avoids harsh language, and abstains from it. He speaks such words as are gentle, soothing to the ear, loving, going to the heart, courteous and dear, and agreeable to many." ((The Eightfold Path), Buddha, the Word (The Eightfold Path))

Beware lest ye harm any soul, or make any heart to sorrow; lest ye wound any man with your words, be he known to you or a stranger, be he friend or foe." (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 73)

"Let them purify their sight and behold all humankind as leaves and blossoms and fruits of the tree of being. Let them at all times concern themselves with doing a kindly thing for one of their fellows, offering to someone love, consideration, thoughtful help. Let them see no one as their enemy, or as wishing them ill, but think of all humankind as their friends; regarding the alien as an intimate, the stranger as a companion, staying free of prejudice, drawing no lines." (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 1)

Don't throw the Baby out with the Bathwater!!!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I've mentioned this concept before, but I think it is worth repeating. Nowadays I hear all the time from people that are disillusioned with religion and have therefore decided to forgo being a part of it all together. They are perfectly content just believing in God and doing their best to be a good person all on their own. They let their conscience be their guide.

I can completely understand why so many have given up on religion. As I said in July, "...many of the reasons behind it are understandable - materialism, outdated dogma, horrible scandals, "holy" bloodshed due to ancient prejudices and a lack of a modern vision for the world". So because of all this filthy, nasty "bathwater", many choose to completely throw religion out of their life. Problem is, there is some really important stuff floating around in there that they should have "fished out" first - the Holy Verses of God.

It's the main reason I created this blog. I wanted a variety of people to share their thoughts and opinions on important and philosophical subjects with a focus on the actual heavenly writings of all religions. By removing the fear-based preaching and the dogma and focusing on the beauty of the original scriptures, you can truly see the golden thread of truth that binds them all together.

Here's my thing. Based on the research I've done and the numerous Holy Scriptures I've read, either all of the religions are from God or none of them are. Nothing else makes sense to me. And based on the beauty and poetry I have found within them and they way I feel when I read them, I choose to believe that they originated with the one and only God who created us all.

He wanted us to know about Him and gave us commandments so that we did not have to figure it out on our own. He wanted us to have knowledge about Him so that there would be no question about the best way to live our lives while we are here. Seems to me that we should value and treasure the wisdom and guidance that He sent down for us.

Which leads me back to the original issue - throwing the "baby" out with the "bathwater". Sometimes the bathwater does need to be thrown out, its dirty, its filthy and it needs to be purified and renewed. Just don't throw the baby out with it. Please? The "baby" is precious and beautiful and somehow important, don't you think? Or else why would these precious words have been given to us in the first place?

"Even if the faithful can recite
only a few of the scriptures,
if they act accordingly,
having given up passion, hate, and folly,
being possessed of true knowledge and serenity of mind,
craving nothing in this world or the next,
they are living the holy life."
(Buddhist, Dhammapada - Sayings of the Buddha 2 (tr. J. Richards))

"Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (King James Bible, 2 Peter, 1:2-8)

"...after the deeper meaning of the Udgîtha or Om has been described, the advantage of knowing that deeper meaning is put forward, and it is said that the sacrifice which a man performs with knowledge, with faith, and with the Upanishad, i.e. with an understanding of its deeper meaning, is more powerful." (Upanishads vol. 1, Introduction to the Upanishads, vol. 1)

"The supreme cause for creating the world and all that is therein is for man to know God." (Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 267)

When do YOU feel Weak?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Many times in my life I have felt "weak" for one reason or another - meaning not capable of taking one more step, giving it one more try, pulling myself back up and choosing to strive again and grow. When I set personal goals for myself and fail to live up to them I really beat myself up. It can become exhausting and very disheartening - especially when they are goals around my journey to become a more spiritual person. I end up feeling like that flower in the picture.

It's strange I guess, because in many ways I feel I am a fairly strong person (nowadays) than ever before. I stopped smoking seven years ago which was very hard but I kept on trying until it stuck. I became Vegan over a year ago because I saw no other choice in light of my life values. Again, hard, but I did it. Most times when I make a strong choice to do something, its done - my will is pretty dang strong!

Maybe that is why when I strive and fail to reach a goal, I am that much harder on myself. Most religions or faiths teach that ultimately we need to have faith in and depend on the support of a higher power to help us achieve our goals - especially if they are focused on heavenly virtues.

But sometimes that can be really difficult too, don't you think? Is there really some sort of invisible force out there helping push me in the right direction and support me in my efforts? Or am I all alone? How can I really tell one way or the other? Especially when I repeatedly fail?

Check out this video from this past season of "So You Think You Can Dance". It is a contemporary piece choreographed by the brilliant Travis Wall and danced by Robert and Allison. It is the story of a son striving to support his mother through her journey and struggle after major surgery. (The actual embed code is not working so you'll have to go to YouTube to watch it - but I highly recommend you do - its phenomenal.)

Isn't that the most beautiful and moving thing ever? It was by far my favorite piece of the season. And I thought it was appropriate to this topic due to the aspect of the mother feeling supported and loved through her struggle. The thing is, she KNEW he was there for her. But how can we know? How do we truly, and I mean truly continue to have faith that a higher power is there supporting us on our journey?

Here are some quotes from various world religions on this topic. As always, please, please share your own thoughts and quotes. In my mind, that's what makes this blog great. Love to all!

"Do not look at your weakness, nay, rely upon the confirmation of the Holy Spirit. Verily, It maketh the weak strong, the lowly mighty, the child grown, the infant mature and the small great." (Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha v2, p. 274)

"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." (King James Bible, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

"'O my people! ask pardon of your Lord; then turn to Him; He will send the skies down on you in torrents; and He will add strength to your strength: do not then turn back sinners.'" (The Qur'an (E.H. Palmer tr), Sura 11 - Hud)

"Thou art He Who changeth through His bidding abasement into glory, and weakness into strength, and powerlessness into might, and fear into calm, and doubt into certainty. No God is there but Thee, the Mighty, the Beneficent. Thou disappointest no one who hath sought Thee, nor dost Thou keep back from Thee any one who hath desired Thee. Ordain Thou for me what becometh the heaven of Thy generosity, and the ocean of Thy bounty. Thou art, verily, the Almighty, the Most Powerful." (Baha'u'llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah, p. 249)

The Ego Dysfunction

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A couple of times in my career I have attended a workshop called "The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team". They are... (1)Absence of Trust, (2)Fear of Conflict, (3)Lack of Commitment, (4)Avoidance of Accountability and (5)Inattention to Results. Each one is dependent on the one before - meaning if the first dysfunction is apparent on your team, you will most likely have the other four, etc.

If a team has some dysfunction in all five areas it means that it all started with the "Absence of Trust". In my opinion, lack of trust usually comes about when one or more members of a team put their own individual self above the good of the group - when they focus on their interests, what they want and what they believe, and do not value or are even interested in other thoughts and opinions.

This should not be a "shocker" to anyone. Self-centered egos are not a rarity in the workplace, or in life for that matter. The way in which the world currently operates makes each one of us feel that we have to be better, smarter, stronger, richer and more popular than everyone around us. From a very early age we are taught to strive to be "the best" and if we're not, we are labeled as "less than". And in the opposite way, the more "successful" we are the more valuable we feel. We think we have to be invulnerable. Is it any wonder that we are consumed by our ego and by self?

Many of us become so obsessed by how others perceive us that we will manipulate, harass, ignore, dispute and violate the trust of the many in order to impress or glorify ourselves to the few. All just to get ahead and satisfy our ego. Problem is, the ego is never satisfied - its main mantra is "More, more, MORE!" It becomes a never-ending vicious cycle within the rat race of life. And it is certainly difficult to trust someone who has only their own interests in mind. How can you feel like they have your back with they are so focused on their own? This is also where politics come into play and dishonesty thrives...

"Politics is when people choose their words and actions based on how they want others to react rather than based on what they really think." - Patrick Lencioni

So what to do? Well, in my opinion we have got to let go of all aspects of ego that strive to separate us from others and make us "better than". Meaning, we have to focus on the success of the team, rather than ourselves - to stop trying to lead and to instead work side-by-side. True humility, honesty and openness - that is what all the greatest teams have - a sincere and genuine desire focused on the team as a whole with all of the individual parts working in tandem, wanting the best for all. That is the only way we can build a strong and truly unified group of individuals.

What are your thoughts? Do you have any stories, anecdotes or quotes from your spiritual belief system to share? Here are some that I found... (this is the participation part) ;-)

"If five people meet together to seek for truth, they must begin by cutting themselves free from all their own special conditions and renouncing all preconceived ideas. In order to find truth we must give up our prejudices, our own small trivial notions; an open receptive mind is essential. If our chalice is full of self, there is no room in it for the water of life. The fact that we imagine ourselves to be right and everybody else wrong is the greatest of all obstacles in the path towards unity, and unity is necessary if we would reach truth, for truth is one." (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 136)

"Craving is the worst disease;
disharmony is the greatest sorrow.
The one who knows this truly
knows that nirvana is the highest bliss.
Health is the greatest gift;
contentment is the greatest wealth;
trusting is the best relationship;
nirvana is the highest joy." (Buddhist, Dhammapada - Sayings of the Buddha 2 (tr. J. Richards))

"Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." (King James Bible, Luke 18:10-14)

"As long as man is a captive of habit, pursuing the dictates of self and desire, he is vanquished and defeated. This passionate personal ego takes the reins from his hands, crowds out the qualities of the divine ego and changes him into an animal, a creature unable to judge good from evil, or to distinguish light from darkness. He becomes blind to divine attributes, for this acquired individuality, the result of an evil routine of thought becomes the dominant note of his life." (Abdu'l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 133)

Water Park Wisdom (Part 3 of 3)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

So, the final "Aha" moment of my water park adventure happened in the wave pool. I just absolutely love playing in wave pools and this visit was no exception. But of course, since I was on a roll, looking at each of the rides as a metaphor for life, I did the same thing here.

I like hanging out right at the point in the wave pool where the waves start falling in upon themselves and come crashing down on you. It is extremely difficult to stay on your feet and sometimes you get water up your nose, but I think its a blast. I really enjoy the challenge of trying to dive into the wave as it is crashing into me so that I avoid being swept away. But you know - it becomes really exhausting after a while! LOL!

Anyway, I noticed there were many people "riding the waves" either by swimming on the surface of the water or floating in an inner tube. These people were enjoying the ride in a different way by rising above the intense challenge of directly attacking the waves like me. If you look at the crashing waves as "trials" or "tribulations" that you might strive to overcome, this by far seemed the more sensible idea.

It's almost as if they had decided they would use the challenging "test" of the waves to their advantage and look at it as an opportunity for growth. They rode their wave to get to a new "place" in their life where the waters became much calmer and serene. And that is exactly what was happening! The people rising above the waves would travel much farther than the rest of us who were left struggling and fighting just to stay in place.

It made me think of how many times in my life I have stubbornly refused to see the tests and challenges in my life as opportunities for growth. Instead I defiantly fight tooth and nail striving to maintain the status quo; scared and fearful to change and grow or move to a new place in life. It really can become exhausting fighting the "waves" all the time, feeling like you have to stay on your feet at all costs. Lately I have been striving to have more faith, to "Let go and let God" and ride the waves more often and this "Aha" moment was a nice reminder.

Do you look at the trials and tribulations of life as opportunities for growth? Or do you become bitter and resentful for having to face them? Do you find ways to use tests and difficulties to help you reach new levels of insight and spirituality? Or do you rebelliously fight against things thrown your way until you're exhausted and emotionally spent?

Here are some quotes from some of the Holy Scriptures of different world religions on this topic. As always please share your thoughts and any quotes that are meaningful to you.

"The mind and spirit of man advance when he is tried by suffering. The more the ground is ploughed the better the seed will grow, the better the harvest will be. Just as the plough furrows the earth deeply, purifying it of weeds and thistles, so suffering and tribulation free man from the petty affairs of this worldly life until he arrives at a state of complete detachment. His attitude in this world will be that of divine happiness. Man is, so to speak, unripe: the heat of the fire of suffering will mature him. Look back to the times past and you will find that the greatest men have suffered most." (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 178)

"And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." (King James Bible, Romans 5:3-5)

"We have sent already unto peoples that were before thee, and We visited them with tribulation and adversity, in order that they might grow humble." (The Qur'an (Pickthall tr),Sura 6)

"In thy sorrow, in affliction, ever deeper lessons learn,
Righteous be your life in exile, happy be your safe return,
May these eyes again behold thee in Hastina's ancient town,
Conqueror of earthly trials, crowned with virtue's heavenly crown!" (Hindu, Mababharata (R. Dutt, abridged tr))

"O SON OF MAN! The true lover yearneth for tribulation even as doth the rebel for forgiveness and the sinful for mercy." (Baha'u'llah, The Arabic Hidden Words)

Water Park Wisdom (Part 2 of 3)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I decided to make this a three part blog because once I had the first "Aha" moment I started looking at all the attractions at the park in a different way. And so a couple of other thoughts crossed my mind.

Anyway, once I finished the pool/slide/pool/slide ride, I went over to the lazy river. I had started to get relaxed so I thought I would continue in that vein. I went around that thing FIVE times! And I probably could have kept going but I was worried I was going to get sunburned.

Each time around was more and more relaxing, I just laid in my little inner tube, closed my eyes and floated along. Sometimes I would open my eyes and look at the trees I was floating by blowing in the wind. It was MEGA-relaxing. I tried to clear my mind and focus on nothing in particular. Just being. It was so nice I can hardly even describe it.

I started to think about the differences from the previous ride. The first one you really had no direction and had to depend on either yourself or other people to end up nudging you down the next slide. This one, you didn't need to depend on anyone, the water itself moved you along. You just had to lay back and let the flowing water of the stream do its thing.

I think that is what I really found relaxing. The fact that I could keep moving without having to do anything by my own volition. The inner tube was there, cradling me, keeping me afloat and the water made sure that I kept moving along. No effort was necessary on my part. It was so peaceful.

I think this could be likened to a lot of things, but the first thing that comes to mind is "Grace". It is always there, all around you, ready for you to reach out and let yourself be immersed in it. Sometimes we feel like its not there, but that's not entirely accurate. It's there, it just can't reach us because we have turned ourselves away from it and denied ourselves the opportunity to partake of its bounty.

It might be resentment, anger, envy or any other form of discontent and desire for something other than what we have or where we are in life. Isn't it ironic that when we get so lost in our own petty grievances we actually deprive ourselves of the thing we most desire - a little "Grace". When we are in the right place, and have faith, God will "take the wheel" to quote Carrie Underwood and carry us along the journey.

Here are some quotes I found on this topic. Please share your own thoughts and quotes! Signing off 'til next time!

"...the manifold bounties of the Lord of all beings have, at all times, through the Manifestations of His divine Essence, encompassed the earth and all that dwell therein. Not for a moment hath His grace been withheld, nor have the showers of His loving-kindness ceased to rain upon mankind." (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 14)

"For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee." (King James Bible, Psalms 84:11-12)

"In thy thoughts
Do all thou dost for Me! Renounce for Me!
Sacrifice heart and mind and will to Me!
Live in the faith of Me! In faith of Me
All dangers thou shalt vanquish, by My grace;
But, trusting to thyself and heeding not,
Thou can'st but perish!"
(Hindu, Bhagavad Gita (Edwin Arnold tr))

Water Park Wisdom (Part 1 of 3)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

My calves are really sore today. Prolly cuz I walked all over a fabulously fun Water Park in Denver yesterday called Water World. I went by myself - long story - but it was the last weekend it was open and I hadn't gone in years and thought it would be fun. So I went and had a blast - even all by my lonesome.

The "wisdom' part comes in when I got on one of those waterslide/river run type rides. It has a short slide and then a small whirlpool type area followed by another short slide and then another pool and so on. Problem is that when you get to the pool, you sometimes get stuck just floating round and round and round it for awhile before you even get a chance to make it down the next slide.

On my way up the path to the start, I saw people on the ride getting in these traffic jams in the small pools and I almost turned back. I was all by myself and I thought it might be awkward. But then I realized I had just been talking on this blog a couple of weeks ago about living life 100%. My bad. So I kept going. 

When I got to the first pool and started to get stuck going round and round I began to try and push myself off the sides to try and get to the next slide but then realized, "Why am I trying to rush this? Isn't life frantic enough without feeling like I have to rush thru this ride? So what if I float around a whole lot first? Why can't I just calm down, relax, and enjoy the moment? What's the rush?"

So I chilled out and just let the water take me where it will. And it was nice to just let go. I noticed that most everyone else on the ride was doing what I had first started to do - almost getting frantic when they couldn't immediately get to the next slide.

As a society we are so caught up in faster, better, stronger, smarter, hurry hurry hurry! Timelines, meetings, appointments, schedules, errands - places to go, people to see, things to do, things to be. How can we let go of the rat race and just be where we are and not worry about where we're going or how or when we're going to get there?

You know, one of the things I noticed, was that even if I got going around in circles for a while seemingly with no purpose or direction, there was always a moment when someone would come along and nudge me down the next slippery slide to the next pool where I could then continue my journey. And it was nice to just sit back, stop trying to control it and let it happen.

As always, here are some thoughts on this topic from the writings of different world religions. And, as always, please feel free to add your own.

"Therefore, consider how base a nature it reveals in man that, notwithstanding the favors showered upon him by God, he should lower himself into the animal sphere, be wholly occupied with material needs, attached to this mortal realm, imagining that the greatest happiness is to attain wealth in this world. How purposeless! How debased is such a nature! God has created man in order that he may be a dove of the Kingdom, a heavenly candle, a recipient of eternal life. God has created man in order that he may be resuscitated through the breaths of the Holy Spirit and become the light of the world. How debased the soul which can find enjoyment in this darkness, occupied with itself, the captive of self and passion, wallowing in the mire of the material world! How degraded is such a nature! What an ignorance this is! What a blindness! How glorious the station of man who has partaken of the heavenly food and built the temple of his everlasting residence in the world of heaven!" (Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 185)

"Tranquil inaction has given place to love of disputation; and disputation alone is enough to bring chaos upon the world." (Tao, Chuangtse (Lin Yutang tr))

"Whenever the disciple is training himself to inhale or exhale whilst contemplating impermanence, or the fading away of passion, or extinction, or detachment at such a time he is dwelling in "contemplation of the phenomena," full of energy, clearly conscious, attentive, after subduing worldly greed and grief." ((The Eightfold Path), Buddha, the Word (The Eightfold Path))

"Purity, constancy, control of self,
Contempt of sense-delights, self-sacrifice,
Perception of the certitude of ill
In birth, death, age, disease, suffering, and sin;
Detachment, lightly holding unto home,
Children, and wife, and all that bindeth men;
An ever-tranquil heart in fortunes good
And fortunes evil, with a will set firm
To worship Me- Me only! ceasing not;
Loving all solitudes, and shunning noise
Of foolish crowds; endeavours resolute
To reach perception of the Utmost Soul,
And grace to understand what gain it were
So to attain,- this is true Wisdom, Prince!" (Hindu, Bhagavad Gita (Edwin Arnold tr))

Meditating on Meditation

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"One hour's reflection is preferable to seventy years of pious worship." (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 238)

WOW! That's quite a statement. Do you ever meditate? I have to admit, I rarely, if ever, do myself. I have been trying to more often lately and I definitely see the value, but I still struggle with how to do it.

I mean do you have to cross your legs and put your hands on your knees? I don't think so. You could probably just be sitting there or even laying down.

Do you have to close your eyes? Maybe, but I think sometimes you could be looking at something - like the stars, or the sunset.

Do you have to clear your mind? I would have to say yes to that one. Isn't that the point? To free yourself from distractions and reach a state of complete detachment from the world around you? That is also the hardest part. Check out this commercial starring Ellen Degeneres:

That is what usually happens to me. I might start off kinda silent and focused but then I start thinking random thoughts and I can't clear my head to try and reach a state of peace and receptivity. Even when I am praying sometimes this happens which really frustrates me.

Is it because the world moves so fast that I am used to multi-tasking and have a hard time just turning down the dial? Do I have A.D.D.? Do I maybe just need to practice more? I have to say that I have been attempting to meditate more and seem to be getting a little better. I will keep my blog updated if there is any progress. :-)

Anyway, what do you think? Do you meditate? How? Are you successful at it? Do you have any good quotes on meditation from your belief system you'd like to share? Here are some that I found...

"Through the faculty of meditation man attains to eternal life; through it he receives the breath of the Holy Spirit -- the bestowal of the Spirit is given in reflection and meditation." (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 174)

From meditation springs wisdom. From lack of meditation, loss of wisdom. Recognising these alternative roads of progress and decline, one should so direct oneself so that one's wisdom will increase. (Buddhist, Dhammapada - Sayings of the Buddha 1 (tr. J. Richards))

"O how I love thy law! it is my meditation all the day. Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation." (King James Bible, Psalms 119;97-99)

Creating Space for "Real Life"

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lately I have begun making inroads in a new aspect of acheiving my life balance. For some time now I have felt that I am spending way, way too much time involved in watching TV, hanging out on Facebook and/or playing computer games. I am sure there are plenty of people who spend just as much as I do if not more, but that's not the point.

Do I feel like I, personally, am wasting too much of my precious life experiences in frivolous and somewhat meaningless technological "entertainment"? Am I participating in a form of escapism from the world and all its challenges? The answer to this point is "Yes". I am the only one that should decide what I feel is "too much" of a good thing, and I think right now, I am spending too much of my life in meaningless pursuits. I want to keep working on becoming a better person and live by the virtues of God. I want to keep striving to be of service to the world. I want to make a difference and not sit idly by while the whole world moves on without me! I am WASTING TOO MUCH TIME!

This weekend I made a conscious choice to change my focus. I have been doing yoga, exercising, taking the dogs for a walk, praying, meditating, cleaning house, writing out personal goals in my planner, trying to learn the guitar AND I slept outside on my deck under the moon and stars the last two nights.

I have to say, it has been an incredibly refreshing change of pace and I have really enjoyed it a lot. I want to focus more on active "living" rather than being passively "entertained". In order to truly make a difference in the world my focus has got to change from being indulgent to finding ways to focus my energies on living a life of virtue and service to others. I feel so much better already!

It is not like I am going to avoid technology and entertainment all together - if you know me at all you know better than that. I am not going to mind spending some of my time watching T.V. if it really is something worth watching. And I think some of the time I spend on the World Wide Web is valuable - keeping in touch with friends on Facebook, sharing life experiences and talking about things that matter in the world. And I guess playing video games every once in a while is harmless as long as it doesn't become obessive or the focus of all my free time.

I am creating space in my life for "real life". I am striving for balance and moderation in all things. The picture above I took on my walk today to the ponds from my house. Just think, I would have missed the opportunity to take that picture if I was sitting in my living room watching "Wipeout".

Here are some more pictures from my walk and a couple of quotes on this topic. What do you think about entertainment and escapism? Do you use it or abuse it? Are you living your life or just skimming thru it? Are you creating space for "real life"? As always, please share your thoughts and quotes!

Gucci certainly looks happy that I took the time to take him on a walk!

"Where is that man in the world who is so restrained by shame that he avoids laziness like a thoroughbred horse avoids the whip? Like a thoroughbred horse touched by the whip, be strenuous and determined. Then you will be able to rid yourself of this great suffering by means of faith, morality, energetic behaviour, stillness of mind and reflection on the teaching, after you have become full of wisdom, good habits and recollection." (Buddhist, Dhammapada - Sayings of the Buddha 1 (tr. J. Richards))

Many a dawn hath the breeze of My loving-kindness wafted over thee and found thee upon the bed of heedlessness fast asleep. Bewailing then thy plight it returned whence it came."(Baha'u'llah, The Persian Hidden Words)

Whew! Thanks for the walk dad, but now we're exhausted. Are we there yet?

If You Really Knew Me...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

This is a trailer for the new show on MTV called "If You Really Knew Me". It started a few weeks back and "WHEW!" is it a real tear-jerker and very very powerful in my opinion. It focuses around a new high school every week and is about an event called Challenge Day. It's mission statement...

"The Challenge Day mission is to provide youth and their communities with experiential programs that demonstrate the possibility of love and connection through the celebration of diversity, truth, and full expression."

I think the thing that hit me the most was the idea of "living 100%", meaning that most of us go thru our lives only really showing 10% of ourselves, which leaves 90%, or the bulk of who we really are, unrevealed and unexpressed. They use the concept of the iceberg (which I am familar with from training classes).

The concept goes that when we think of an iceberg, we are only really thinking about the "surface" or 10% of the iceberg that we see floating on top of the water. But in reality, there is whole lot more to it, under the "surface", if we just look "deeper".

People need to be seen for who they really are and feel comfortable and safe to truly express themselves 100%. But in a culture where gossip, sarcasm, backbiting and putting down and judging others are seen as "basic conversation" skills - most people put up walls in order to feel safe. They don't feel comfortable being real and the 10% that they show the world will most likely be the least interesting and superficial aspects of themselves.

Imagine a world where we all strived to express 100% of ourselves. A world where we looked beyond "surfaces" to the "deeper" parts of each individual so we were seeing the "whole" person. Where that space for compassion and understanding is always found. Where we never felt alone because there would always be someone there to have our back...sometimes even a stranger. That's a world I would like to live in.

If you really knew me, you would know that the concept of a peaceful and unifed world of true brotherhood and compassion for all is what I strive to help build. If you really knew me, you would know that I enjoy having "real" conversations where I get to truly learn about you and not just that 10% "image" you project to the world. If you really knew me, you would know that I just want to connect to each and every person I come in contact with - human to human, heart to heart.

What would I know if I really knew you?

The utterance of God is a lamp, whose light is these words: Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship. He Who is the Daystar of Truth beareth Me witness! So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth." (Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 14)

Global Oneness

Friday, August 6, 2010

There is a website I found some months back called the "Global Oneness Project" that really has a lot of fascinating videos to watch on it. Here is the trailer for the site that kind of sums up the types of videos the website hosts.

All I have to say is that "Unity in Diversity" and the creation of a world culture focused on oneness and justice is within our grasp. In fact is is essential to the evolution and sustainability of our future on this planet. We have to find a way to live together in peace, truly "loving our neighbor", not just in word, but in deed. In my opinion, this is what God wants us to do. He is not going to do it for us, he wants us to do it for ourselves. He is like a parent patiently waiting for us to figure it out. How else would we learn? It is time for us all to step up to the plate and help create the Kingdom of God on earth. Here is a quote from the Bahá'í writings on this subject.

"I charge you all that each one of you concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity. When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content.

Thoughts of love are constructive of brotherhood, peace, friendship, and happiness.

When soldiers of the world draw their swords to kill, soldiers of God clasp each other's hands! So may all the savagery of man disappear by the Mercy of God, working through the pure in heart and the sincere of soul. Do not think the peace of the world an ideal impossible to attain!

Nothing is impossible to the Divine Benevolence of God.

If you desire with all your heart, friendship with every race on earth, your thought, spiritual and 30 positive, will spread; it will become the desire of others, growing stronger and stronger, until it reaches the minds of all men.

Do not despair! Work steadily. Sincerity and love will conquer hate. How many seemingly impossible events are coming to pass in these days! Set your faces steadily towards the Light of the World. Show love to all; 'Love is the breath of the Holy Spirit in the heart of Man'. Take courage! God never forsakes His children who strive and work and pray! Let your hearts be filled with the strenuous desire that tranquillity and harmony may encircle all this warring world. So will success crown your efforts, and with the universal brotherhood will come the Kingdom of God in peace and goodwill."

(Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 29)

What are your thoughts on global oneness? Do you believe it can be acheived? Do you think you can play a role in accomplishing it? Do you have any quotes from other holy writings that you would like to share?

Why is "Knowing God" important?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

One of the things that is so prevalent in this day and age is the contempt that many people have for religion. And many of the reasons behind it are understandable - materialsism, outdated dogma, horrible scandals, "holy" bloodshed due to ancient prejudices and a lack of a modern vision for the world - to name just a few.

Problem is that sometimes I feel that many people get so tired of trying to reconcile religion to their worldview and failing, that they "throw the baby out with the bathwater" so to speak. Meaning, they drop religion altogether and just try to "be a good person". And of course that is commendable and praiseworthy, but... why would God send us Christ, Mohammad, Buddha and all of these other Manifestations of God if we weren't meant to learn about God thru them and the teachings they left us?

Seriously, think about it. Ok, based on individual beliefs you may believe in one, none or all of these "Prophets" or Manifestations of God. But in a way, I think it is irrelevant. No matter what your beliefs, why would God send teacher(s) to us without the express purpose that we learn about Him through Them and the Word that they brought? He did not intend for us to be on our own and to try and reach Him without help. That is why He sent us guidance in the form of these Holy Souls when we most needed them throughout history - to support us in our development and journey towards God.

Yes, maybe humanity has warped the original beauty and meaning behind the Word of God that They revealed, but maybe, just maybe, we should take responsibility for our learning and focus on wiping away all that drivel and slice our way thru the nonsense so that we can find the Truth again in the Holy Scriptures or "Word of God". It's still there, just waiting to be found.

By all means, throw out the "bathwater", but I say keep the "baby" - it was sent from the Source especially for us.

"...good actions alone, without the knowledge of God, cannot be the cause of eternal salvation, everlasting success, and prosperity, and entrance into the Kingdom of God." (Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 238)

"...when a person performs a good action, although it is praiseworthy, if it is not caused by the love and knowledge of God, it is imperfect." (Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 304)

"The supreme cause for creating the world and all that is therein is for man to know God." (Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 267)

"If you recognize His Glorious Virtues, then you shall come to know God; thus virtue shall dwell in you, and sin shall run away." (Shri Guru Granth Sahib, Section 8 - Raag Aasaa)

"And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God." (King James Bible, Luke 4:4)

Count Your Blessings - Even BEFORE they hatch!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Halfway thru this particular work week I am reminded of the importance of focusing on the blessings and bounty of God at all times.

I think His bounties are always showering down all around us, but we only receive those blessings if we are aware enough to pay attention and tap into them. And, as I found out while researching this topic, all the religions seem to repeat this common refrain - "that you must "follow the commandments" in order to partake of God's blessings".

Last night I sat out on the deck, watching the hummingbirds and the sunset, with my two four-legged boys in my lap (Buddy and Gucci) and reading a book. It was very special to me because I felt like I tapped into something that is always there but that I do not always acknowledge - the beauty surrounding me. What a blessing that is - to be able to live where I do really and truly brings extra joy to my life!

Do you pay attention to the blessings around you? If you forget to notice them, how do you steer yourself back? Do you find that you feel "more blessed" when you are actively closer to God and in alignment with what you believe he expects from you?

Please share your thoughts and add some additional quotes from your tradition.

"The essence of charity is for the servant to recount the blessings of his Lord, and to render thanks unto Him at all times and under all conditions." (Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 156)

"And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God." (28.1-2 King James Bible, Deuteronomy)

"He who knows Brahman, which is (i. e. cause, not effect), which is conscious, which is without end, as hidden in the depth (of the heart), in the highest ether, he enjoys all blessings, at one with the omniscient Brahman." (Upanishads vol. 2, Taittiriyaka-Upanishad)

"O ye who believe! celebrate the praises of Allah and do this often; And glorify Him morning and evening. He it is Who sends blessings on you, as do His angels, that He may bring you out from the depths of Darkness into Light: and He is Full of Mercy to the Believers." (The Quran Surah 33 41-43 Yusaf Ali tr.)

"If, O ye mortals, ye mark those commandments which Mazda hath ordained -- of happiness and pain, the long punishment for the follower of the Druj, and blessings for the followers of the Right -- then hereafter shall it be well." (The Zend-Avesta, Avesta - Yasna)

"Forget your own selves, and turn your eyes towards your neighbor. Bend your energies to whatever may foster the education of men. Nothing is, or can ever be, hidden from God. If ye follow in His way, His incalculable and imperishable blessings will be showered upon you. This is the luminous Tablet, whose verses have streamed from the moving Pen of Him Who is the Lord of all worlds. Ponder it in your hearts, and be ye of them that observe its precepts."(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 9)

Spiritual vs. Material

Sunday, July 4, 2010

“We are not human beings having occasional spiritual experiences; we are spiritual beings having a temporary human experience.” – Wayne Dyer

More and more nowadays I am finding that this blog is my only place to truly express myself. I have never really used a diary in my life, but now more than ever I guess I need one and this is it. It's ok that noone hardly responds and I don't have many "followers". It is nice to just have a place where I can sort out my thoughts and purge my feelings.

My topic today is the challenges we all face when trying to determine who we are and what our purpose in life should be. Are we just physical beings with a focus on material needs or are we spiritual beings with a focus on heavenly virtues.

I don't believe that we are only physical beings doomed to wallow in each and every one of our material desires, lusts and selfish needs - that we are "only human" as so many people like to say when making excuses for negative behavior. I think we ARE more and that we CAN BE more if we put our minds to it.

God created us as noble creatures and has filled us with the essence of His Virtues - thus the concept that we have been created in "His Image". Can we just think about that for a second? How huge is that? What a gift! We were created to be the light of the world!

But in order to do that, we have to lift ourselves up above our baser material nature and work at developing our spiritual nature. Our spiritual nature is eternal, divine and everlasting. Our physical nature - and ALL that it entails - is finite, transitory and fleeting.

I refuse to leave this world with nothing to show for it - so I am going to focus on developing those aspects of myself that will last beyond this earthly existence - those heavenly virtues from the side of myself that will continue to exist after my life on this earth is over.

My spirit and its needs are infinitely more important than my body and its selfish desires. But what does that look like in the life that I am trying to lead? What does it mean to be in the world but not "of it"? And how do I survive this world when noone seems to understand? Is feeling so all alone an integral part of the process?

"...the heart is never at rest and never finds real joy and happiness until it attaches itself to the eternal. How foolish the bird that builds its nest in a tree that may perish when it could build its nest in an ever-verdant garden of paradise. Man must attach himself to an infinite reality, so that his glory, his joy, and his progress may be infinite." (Abdu'l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p.136)

"O friends! Let not the deceptive glamour of this fleeting world -- to whose impermanence all things attest -- cut you off from God's enduring bestowals, nor deprive you from partaking of the spiritual sustenance that He hath sent down from the heaven of His bounty." (Compilations vol II, p. 332)

"Letting go of all pleasures, calling nothing one's own,
let the wise cleanse oneself
from all the troubles of the mind.

Those whose minds are well grounded
in the elements of enlightenment,
who without clinging to anything
find joy in freedom from attachment,
whose appetites have been conquered,
and who are full of light,
they are free in this world." (Buddhist, Dhammapada - Sayings of the Buddha 2 (tr. J. Richards))

"Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." (King James Bible, 1 Peter)

"Take care to provide well for your future abode. Do not barter away eternal blessing for pleasures of this mortal and fleeting world." (Ali b. Abi Taalib, Letters from Nahjul Balaagh)

"But the life of man is not so restricted; it is divine, eternal, not mortal and sensual. For him a spiritual existence and livelihood is prepared and ordained in the divine creative plan. His life is intended to be a life of spiritual enjoyment to which the animal can never attain. This enjoyment depends upon the acquisition of heavenly virtues. The sublimity of man is his attainment of the knowledge of God. The bliss of man is the acquiring of heavenly bestowals, which descend upon him in the outflow of the bounty of God. The happiness of man is in the fragrance of the love of God. This is the highest pinnacle of attainment in the human world. How preferable to the animal and its hopeless kingdom!

Therefore, consider how base a nature it reveals in man that, notwithstanding the favors showered upon him by God, he should lower himself into the animal sphere, be wholly occupied with material needs, attached to this mortal realm, imagining that the greatest happiness is to attain wealth in this world. How purposeless! How debased is such a nature! God has created man in order that he may be a dove of the Kingdom, a heavenly candle, a recipient of eternal life. God has created man in order that he may be resuscitated through the breaths of the Holy Spirit and become the light of the world. How debased the soul which can find enjoyment in this darkness, occupied with itself, the captive of self and passion, wallowing in the mire of the material world! How degraded is such a nature! What an ignorance this is! What a blindness! How glorious the station of man who has partaken of the heavenly food and built the temple of his everlasting residence in the world of heaven!" (Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 185)

The journey within...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” - Benjamin Franklin

For years and years I completely ignored the spiritual side of my self. I did not work at developing my spiritual qualities or virtues. I closed off the side of my self that wanted to grow and develop, to become more than what I was. I had no interest in anything other than fulfilling my human needs, my physical desires, my selfish thoughts.

Now that I am trying to grow and develop and focus on my spirituality I have found that it is a constant challenge to remain focused on my goals. Who do I want to be? How do I want to act? What qualities do I want to exhibit? How can I function effectively in a world that doesn't seem to value spirituality? Or care about focusing on the transcendent?

In my mind (now that I realize it) there is nothing more important than striving to become better, to focus on developing your spiritual self - to become more patient, more compassionate, more just, more thoughtful, more loyal, more brave, more polite, more honest...more loving.

What do you think about growing and developing? Do you believe in striving to become better? What "philosophy" on growth do you adhere to? Thoughts? Quotes?

"...until material achievements, physical accomplishments and human virtues are reinforced by spiritual perfections, luminous qualities and characteristics of mercy, no fruit or result shall issue therefrom, nor will the happiness of the world of humanity, which is the ultimate aim, be attained." (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 283)

"Happiness consists of two kinds; physical and spiritual. The physical happiness is limited; its utmost duration is one day, one month, one year. It hath no result. Spiritual happiness is eternal and unfathomable. This kind of happiness appeareth in one's soul with the love of God and suffereth one to attain to the virtues and perfections of the world of humanity. Therefore, endeavor as much as thou canst in order to illumine the lamp of thy heart with the light of love." (Compilations, Baha'i Scriptures, p. 472)

Let no one cling to what is pleasant or unpleasant.
Not to see what is pleasant is painful,
as it is to see what is unpleasant.
Therefore do not become attached to anything;
loss of what is loved is painful.
Those who have neither likes nor dislikes have no chains.

From pleasure comes grief; from pleasure comes fear.
Whoever is free from pleasure knows neither grief nor fear.

From attachment comes grief; from attachment comes fear.
Whoever is free from attachment knows neither grief nor fear.

From greed comes grief; from greed comes fear.
Whoever is free from greed knows neither grief nor fear.

From lust comes grief; from lust comes fear.
Whoever is free from lust knows neither grief nor fear.

From craving comes grief; from craving comes fear.
Whoever is free from craving knows neither grief nor fear.

Whoever has virtue and insight,
who is just, truthful, and does one's own work,
the world will love.

The one in whom a desire for the ineffable has arisen,
whose mind is satisfied
and whose thoughts are free from desires
is called one who ascends the stream." (Dhammapada, Sayings of the Buddha 2)

"So he that journeys on the road and makes the ascent to God must needs be habitually careful to quell and mortify the desires; and the greater the speed wherewith a soul does this, the sooner will it reach the end of its journey. Until these be quelled, it cannot reach the end, however much it practise the virtues, since it is unable to attain to perfection in them; for this perfection consists in voiding and stripping and purifying the soul of every desire." (St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel)

According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 1:4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

1:5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 1:6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 1:7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

1:8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."(King James Bible, 2 Peter)

"To each among you have We prescribed a Law and an Open Way. If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah" (The Qur'an (Yusuf Ali tr), Surah 5)

"There comes a day, O Spitama Zarathustra! or a night, when the master leaves the cattle, or the cattle leave the master, or the soul leaves that body full of desires; But his virtue, which is of all existences the greatest, the best, the finest, never parts from a man."(The Zend-Avesta, Avesta Fragments)
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