Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Love Your Enemies

We have been talking about Creating Wholeness in Relationships and using the book “I of the Storm” by Gary Simmons which uses the analogy of a hurricane. Even if we have never experienced an actual hurricane we have seen clips and photos of the damage they cause.

As a child we used to go camping on the coast of North Carolina during Easter break. And sometime that coincided with hurricane season. We had this fabulously designed tent that could be withstand phenomenal wind and rain. It was bright red and white canvas and often after a storm we would unzip the zipper and step out into the calm aftermath and as we look all around the campsite, see that ours was the only tent standing. Although we had a lot of faith in that tent, I remember as a child I would often be scared - maybe terrified is a better word - while the winds were whipping around us.

The hurricane of course is a physical image relating to storms, but we also experience storms in our minds, hearts and bodies. In our relationships, our workplace, our families.

And we can relate to the feelings: things feel out of control or scary. We are being swept around by a situation or person. The feeling of helplessness or hopelessness.

Last week we had a few images of hurricanes as seen from space and what we saw was that at the center of every hurricane is what is called the ‘eye’. The place where there is no wind, no storm. If you happen to be in the ‘eye’ as it passes over, you would see blue sky, sunshine, perfect calm.

This is where we want to live our lives. Where we are calm, at peace and connected to God. Only when we are here, can we be a presence of peace and love. Only when we are here can we be a force for healing.

The purpose of being in the eye of the storm is not to make the storm go away. Storms are not going to disappear. Being in the eye of the storm is holding a space for the power of love to do its work.

When we are in the center of the storm we know that there is nothing against us but every situation and person is here for us.

Sometimes it feels like there is something against us - ever in a hurry and it seems like EVERY light turns red just as we get to the intersection? Or if we have experienced disease or divorce or being fired.

Our enemy is our belief that there is something against us.

We know we are viewing an enemy when:
we feel the need to control
we have the need to be right
we need to make to other person wrong
we are avoiding or resisting

Given that I would say most of us have at least one ‘enemy’. One person we are avoiding, one situation we want to control. So what do we do with this ‘enemy’. How do we move forward - how do we proceed? How do we not get caught up in the storm?

In Matthew 5 we find an answer……….

1st step: Look into the mirror (person/situation) and love. When a situation arises that looks as though it is against you, be willing to see it as an agent of good.

2nd step: Bless the situation or person. To bless means to endow a person or situation with the capacity to be a source of good in your life. When we bless something, we dismantle the belief that anything can come between our good and us.

3rd step: Do the right thing, instead of needing to be right. How can I be the avenue for God’s Love right now? How can I demonstrate wholeness?

4th step: Pray. Pray does not mean “God, get this out of my life”. Prayer allows us to shift our attention to our center. When we pray, we lift ourselves and the situation into the peace and serenity of God.

Now here is where we put this formula to the test. I would like you all to bring to mind one person or situation that feels like an ‘enemy”. Anything you want to control over, you want to avoid, you are resisting or we feel the need to be right. And we are going to practice this four step formula.

Meditation: Let’s take this formula: Love, Bless, Do Right and Pray - as we go into prayer. Breathe into your heart and as you do, feel the love within you begin to expand. With each breath, feelings of love and appreciation grow and radiate until your heart is filled with the healing power of love. Continue to breathe into the heart and let the love fill your body as we use this Four Step Formula.

Love Your Enemies: Are you willing to begin this journey? That is the first step - willingness - to accept and embrace this situation or person. Ask yourself, “Am I willing to embrace this person or situation? Am I willing to see this differently? Am I wiling to use this challenge for MY healing?” If the answer is yes, then silently say yes.

Bless those that curse you:
Breathe into your heart. This is a journey of the heart and the heart understands this wisdom. So stay focused in the loving energy of your heart. Ask you heart how this can be a blessing. How can I see that this is FOR me, not against me? Am I wiling to see this as a blessing instead of a curse? What is this mirroring for me that I need to see in order to transform myself and my world? Breathe into your heart. Let’s move forward to step three.

Do Good Those Who Hate You:
This makes perfect sense to your heart, since the heart knows that no one and nothing is against you. How can I make the difference? What authentic action can I take that will change this situation, that will bring about healing, what is the loving thing to do? How can I be in harmony with the universe and be an expression of God? Am I wiling to be the instrument for change? To be the one who makes a difference? When the answer is yes, we are ready to go forward.

Pray for those who persecute you:
Keep the person or situation in your heart now and breathe that loving energy into them. In your heart is all the strength you need to heal this and change an enemy into a friend. Let’s enter the Silence together as we continue breathing into the heart and feel love and appreciation filling us. SILENCE. Feel the freedom and lightness within you as you change your world. You have the power to turn any enemy into a blessing through the Presence of Spirit.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Power of Prayer

This month - September - our focus on Sundays and in our class is PRAYER. But, even if today is your first Sunday, you may have already noticed something - we pray a lot around here. We have already prayed a couple of times in the service so far and we will pray a few more times before it is finished. We pray at the beginning and ending of classes, at blessing team meetings, social events, on the street, in restaurants.

Prayer is the foundation of Unity. Prayer was how Myrtle and Charles, co-founders of Unity, discovered and uncovered their spiritual greatness. Others noticed that things were changing in their lives and asked to join them. And this is how Unity grew and spread into what is now a world-wide movement.

How did prayer change their lives? By Myrtle asking for health - as she was terminally ill with tuberculosis? By Charles asking for financial success - as his business was struggling through a depression?

No - they did not ask for anything. You may have heard how Myrtle healed herself from tuberculosis. Yes - that was the outer change that occurred. Healing did occur. Did she pray for healing? No - she did not.

Why? Because when Myrtle and Charles were sitting in the Silence and taking time to BE in conscious communion with God - Spirit - divinity - they realized the answer was not outside them. And so they did not look outside themselves for the answers. They looked within.

In the New Testament Paul said: “do not search for God, though indeed he is not far from each of us - for in him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28

“do not search outside ourselves for God” Our second Unity principle says: God and I are one. If God and I are one - why am I looking elsewhere for my good? For my healing? For my prosperity? For my peace of mind?

I have had much experience with those who are greatly, even grievously disappointed by prayer. They prayed for something - and it did not happen. These prayers were pleas were for divine intervention - asking God … to save the life of a loved one, to bring harmony to an angry relationship, to bring relief from despair, to bring peace to a war torn country.

There is nothing wrong with this. Indeed it reveals our humanity. It shows our compassion, our longing to bring relief to others, our dissatisfaction with the injustices in the world. These are pleas are expressions of our humanity.

I too have uttered these prayers. And how devastated I was when what I wanted did not come about. What I learned over time was - prayer does not work. That God is not listening or that God does not care or……………

What I have learned now - in my time with Unity, is a different approach to prayer. A way that makes sense to me AND matches my wide range of experiences with prayer.

What I have learned is that prayer is not calling on God to change something. Prayer is not about asking for anything - remember God and I are one.

Prayer is consciousness raising - not problem solving.

It is a conscious effort to harmonize our minds with God Mind (p.61 Botoroff)

Prayer is not just for emergencies, a last ditch effort to call down an all powerful God to make it right - make it the way we think it should be.

Prayer is a way of life - an attitude of willingness to raise our consciousness to a higher level.

It is not thinking about God - it is about realizing our oneness with God, being aware of our absolute connection to God.

I remember when I first came to Unity and I was trying to leave my old thinking about prayer behind - but did not have the words that embodied my very new way of thinking and being.

As I was learning about prayer and experimenting with prayer - developing my own prayer language - there was one thing that really helped me in a big way. And that was with praying with others.

Listening to those using affirmative prayer. Being with others who shared my belief that God and I are one. Others who helped me remember that my highest longing was to be more of an expression of all that God is.

And doing that with other like-minded people helped put me in that place of remembering my true nature and the purpose of prayer - connecting with God.

Jesus called people to be together - to support each other - to remember who they are - to pray together. He said: for where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them”.

And you know that “in my name” is a very important piece. Two or more gathered - that could be anything from a social club to a riot. In my name - what does that mean?

Name = nature, character

When I was in my early 20s I lived in Africa for a year. I lived with the Wakamba people, in a round mud house with a thatched roof - in the beautiful sweeping grassy plains of central Kenya. No one spoke English so I learned Swahili very quickly, but they also had their own tribal language. After I had been with them for a few months, they asked if they could give me a Wakamba name. I said - sure and they came back to me with the name: Mwende. I know that names have meaning - they are descriptions of, or the characteristics of the child or person. They told me that Mwende meant: peaceful, happy, contented, satisfied.

That was my name - that was my nature.

So Jesus says - gather in my name - he is calling us to remember our true nature - who we are - beloved creations of the One.

That is why we have this spiritual community. That is why we offer so many ways to gather - to be with each other - holding this space for our connection to Spirit.

The last few nights many of us have had that experience - at our 11 days of global unity. We gather from 7:30 - 8:30 every evening in the office for another 6 days to create that place of remembering our connection with the One Presence.

I have sat with people from different faith traditions, different cultures, different languages and what we are doing goes beyond any of these things. I invite you all to attend these evenings for a first hand experience of what a prayer-full experience is. We are praying together - not asking, not hoping, not wanting - just being in the One Presence together.

Use this time to broaden your experience of what prayer is. Perhaps to loosen the burden of your feelings about unfulfilled prayer. To come together with two or more with the purpose of conscious communion with the One.