Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Activate the Good

Connect with the Source

Not long ago I was preparing for a Sunday service and also a potluck following the service. In my attempt to be efficient, I decided to make a dish in a crock-pot and leave it at home to cook while I was at church. And so before I left for church I prepared the food, put it in the crock-pot, turned it on and left for church. After church I came home – opened the door expecting to be greeted by the smell of some great food cooking. Nothing. Oh-oh. I went to the pot and felt it – cold. Nothing happening there. I looked at the knob – it was turned on. What was going on? And then I noticed. The cord was just sitting on the counter – not plugged in.

And isn’t that just like us sometimes? We have all the great ideas about what we want to do or create – and we forget to plug in……to the Source. We are so busy doing that we forget about the great power that will support all our efforts to bring to us even greater results.

That Source, God, is everywhere present. But - God does not force itself upon us. We are not puppets in God’s hands. We can choose to plug in – or not. We do have the ability to act and think and choose all by ourselves. And that is sometime where we get tripped up. We rely solely upon our own efforts. We forget that we are CO-creators with God. That we do not have to do everything ourselves – and sometimes it is not actually the best course to pursue. But I think sometimes we can keep the 2 year old phrase, “me do it!” we want to do it, we don’t want help, and – I speak for myself – I struggle and work harder and try more………..and on and on.

Myrtle Fillmore, co-founder of Unity, has some very wise words for us in this regard. In the late 1800s when Unity was in its infancy, most of the work done by Myrtle was in correspondence with those who wrote and asked for her thoughts or advice. We are fortunate to have copies of her responses and they are in books such as this one “Healing Letters”. Now we only hear her response, we do not know what the question was, but it is often easy to guess what the writer was saying. Here is one of her responses to someone -

“When you give yourself to God to do His work, and then assume a lot of personal responsibility and think you have to plan and provide, can you not see that you are serving two masters?”

We say “I want to co-create with you God” but our actions illuminate our true feelings we want to do it all. Or - I think I know the best way to proceed. Or we ignore the inner guidance that is trying to get us to see another way. We say we want to co-create with God and then we try to do it all ourselves.

Myrtle also says to someone: “Do not do too much; leave something for God to do.” Remember we are co-creators.

Turning your activities over to God, does not mean that we will sit back and God will do it all. God only works through us. We still have a very active role to play. Remember the hokey-pokey – we put our whole selves in! Not serving two masters as Myrtle reminds us.

So, like trying to cook a meal in a crock-pot, we want to make sure we are connected to the Power Source, with God, with Spirit, with Universal Abundance.

How do we do that? How do we connect? Prayer is definitely one of the ways to re-member our connection with the divine. We really want to be careful with our words – make sure they are aligned with our principles. We do not say – I want to reconnect with God, because the Truth is - we cannot be separated from God, right? We may feel like we are, we may think we are. But what is our First Unity Principle? There is only one God, good – everywhere present. Right here, right now, in you and in me. So what we are wanting to do is remember our connection to the divine.

“Stop trying so hard …..It is when you are thinking of self that you struggle….No one, not even God, can change you or your circumstances so long as you insist upon looking at and thinking of and worrying yourself and your problems.” Myrtle Fillmore

The first step in activating our good is to go within. To connect with Infinite Spirit. To remember that we are one with the source of all good. To acknowledge where our good comes from.

And what is the next step? After we Reach in then we Reach Out. Why is reaching out so important? Why is it important that we connect with like-minded people?

Let me tell you about a fascinating glimpse into how and when we, as human beings, started communicating/connecting with each other.

Some archeologists were doing some investigation into the resting spots of the very early humans. Thy found remnants of where they gathered - fire pits and the evidence of their spear making efforts. As they uncovered ground they got a glimpse of life with these prehistoric human beings through thousands of years. One thing they noticed was that arrowhead-making stayed the same for thousands of years. It was easy to see where one person sat, chipping away at rock to make a point. Sometimes the rock was too brittle, sometimes too soft. It was like the person picked up whatever rock was close by and picked up something else that was close by that was harder and over time worked a point from the piece. Each area where someone sat was the same, the results were mixed, and the design of the tool to make the arrowheads was crude, even over thousands of years their methods did not improve. That was not what the scientists were expecting. They expected to see that over time, methods improved, better rock from surrounding areas would be used, and tools would get more and more sophisticated. And then they realized why this was not the case. The only reason things would stay them same and not progress is that there was no communication between the individuals. Each time a young person got old enough to start making a spear, they would look around, find what they could and start chipping away. In one person’s lifetime only so much progress could be made and since no one spoke to each other, no learning was passed on – each person only worked with what they could see and figure out themselves.

The scientists could actually pinpoint the point in time when humans started communicating with each other. At a certain point in time they noticed a change. They found evidence that tool-making was progressing. And they knew that one person could not have moved through this much sophistication in one lifetime. They must be sharing information. Showing each other what worked for them. Showing each the good place where they had discovered better rock for tools or for the spearheads.

It is only when they started sharing information with each other – that there was real progress. Their methods were refined, the points sharper, everyone started using the best rock for the spearhead. Everyone’s spears were shaper, faster, stronger – everyone benefitted.

This is so important. What happens when we talk to each other? We find perhaps that our difficulties are shared by others. We are not the only one. We are not alone. We don’t have to figure it all out ourselves.

It is so important to find with and connect with people who share your beliefs, your principles. To talk to each other, spend time with each other. Because it is in the every day activities of our lives that we can sometime forget our spiritual nature.

Creating a spiritual network is so important.

What are the gifts of a spiritual friendship? Trust, acceptance and love.

Trust is knowing that you are safe with this person, that you can trust them to listen to you.

Acceptance gives you the freedom to feel your feelings, say what’s on your mind without being judged or criticized. Because sometime we just have a bad day or a time in our lives that is really challenging. When we are not feeling cheerful or upbeat. And with a friendship based on acceptance we don’t have to pretend to be who we are not.

And unconditional love – who wouldn’t want to know that someone recognizes your inner beauty and joy and wisdom and will love you and appreciate you even when you are not feeling worthy of it.

These are the gifts of a spiritual friendship.

So how do we activate our Good? Reach in and Reach Out. Go within and remember that we are one with the Source, with God, with Good – and then – reach out, connect with others that can hold that Truth for you. this is the path of spiritual transformation.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What is Spiritual Community?

About 5 years ago I was finishing nine years of classes to become a LUT. When the classes are completed you have to go through something called SDS. Skills Demonstration Seminar. It is an intensive week of lengthy exams, giving talks and meditations in front of a panel of Unity ministers, doing lots of inner spiritual work. In 2001 there was an opportunity for me to finish my last week of classes, stay over the weekend and do my SDS the following week. So to save the airfare of having to go to Unity Village again, I decided to do that. I discovered there were a few us that had also decided the same thing and we had an amazing experience over that weekend. We studied and tested each other with Bible questions, (where is the first place people are called Christians? what do the 7 days of creation represent? What year did Silent Unity begin? and on and on……….we roomed in the same set of cottages and we spent day and night, reviewing our talks, using flash cards and study guides, reading the Bible and praying.

In that period of time we formed a little community. It was a community based on need and circumstance. We happened to be going through the same experience at the same time. That is one kind of community.

A community can also be based on common experiences or interests. You may get together with people who have been raised in the same kind of culture, - my daughter went to the Ukrainian centre and learned the dancing and we ate lots of good Ukrainian food and met wonderful people that had formed a community based on their common culture and language. or it could be a Bridge Club or a hiking club.

And then there is something quite different called a spiritual community, which calls the relationship to an entirely different level because it is not based on needs or common experiences or shared interest. It is based on spiritual principles and when we are willing to be together in that way – incredible things happen. People who seem to have nothing in common can form a powerful spiritual community. Because holding the principles as a guiding light is more powerful than any interest or experience.

Often, those drawn together in spiritual community are people who under different circumstances would not necessarily spend time with each other. But that is the beauty of the spiritual community - it is based in Spirit. Not in our human-ness, not in our individualities, but in the principle that each one of us shares our spiritual nature – the nature of God. Each one of us is a unique creation of the divine. And when we see each other in that Light, and support each other in Truth, miracles happen.

Many of us can do things alone – but doing them in community really calls us to a higher level of commitment and intention. Community acts as a cauldron – a form where miracles happen – like alchemy………..things that are ordinary come together and become something greater than ever anticipated.

Some of the values that this community holds are: love, caring, growth, renewal. Unconditional love that allows us to be who we are without judgment. It is knowing that others will love you and appreciate you even when you are not feeling worthy of it. Through the good days and the times when we are struggling. Growth – that allow us to experiment and try new things in the supportive environment of love and caring. Renewal – a beautiful word that encompasses the cycles of outer energy and inner rest.

These are the gifts of a spiritual community. Can most of us say that we would love to experience those? love, acceptance, caring, growth and renewal.

What I have just described is what we RECEIVE from a spiritual community. How do we get it? How do we receive it? BY GIVING IT.

When I first realised this - suddenly I am thinking – I am not sure I can do that. I try to be loving but sometimes this person is so ____________ fill in the blank. I am accepting – most of the time…….

Guess what? We are learning how to do it all the time. That’s why it is called a spiritual practice. Perhaps in some areas we have had a lot of experience and we can act out of our spiritual principles most of the time. And there may be other areas, where we have not yet even tried. Be willing to do it imperfectly. Am I the only one who feels like they need to do it right – the first time – every time? Can you see what an unrealistic burden that places on us? We would not expect a child to jump on a bicycle and take off and ride perfectly. No – they are going to practice and probably have a few spills.

It’s a spiritual practice – be loving with yourself and be loving with others as they are also learning these skills. Spiritual community is where we get to practice these – because it is a place of love – acceptance – growth.

One of the greatest gifts you will receive is finding a place where people are going to support you in your spiritual practices.

So we have the intention to follow our spiritual principles and then………someone does something so – so unspiritual !

What do we do? What do we say when we see this?

There are some great examples of this in the Bible – and if you have done some reading in the Bible you will know that it is not all about love and grace. There are some pretty nasty stories about some pretty ugly deeds. In Unity we look at it all with the idea that there is always something to learn from everything that happens – the good, bad and ugly.

When I was thinking about how to describe how we support and love each other through our growing – I thought of a great example of how NOT to do it – so we are going to the story of Job - the place where we can read about all the strengths and the weaknesses of people just like you and me.

Some background: Job has been a good man all his life. He has a wife, children, herds of cattle and sheep- a prosperous man in every way. Then everything is taken away from him – his family, his possessions and even his health. He is sitting in the dirt – wondering – how did this all happen – to me – a good man! Perhaps you can relate ….

The part of the story that we are going to explore right now is Job’s friends. The ones that come to comfort him and be with him in this disastrous time of his life.

Eliphaz – God is doing this to you for a reason. It is not yours to question. When God is good and ready, He will turn everything around – you need to be patient and wait.

Job – show me how your words are of comfort.

Bildad – You must have done something! Perhaps your children were sinful, maybe you have been too proud. You have forgotten God. You have brought this upon yourself. “God will not reject a blameless person” You must have done something. As soon as you get right with God – God will get right with you. Here in Unity we might use words like – there must be something in your consciousness that attracted this to you.

Job – your words are full of the east wind – blowing hot and scorching. Read Job 19:1-4 “How long will you torment me, and break me in pieces with words? Even if it true that I have erred, my error remains with me” You do not need to remind me of what I know.

Zophar – things are so much more than you can imagine – you have no idea how great God is, or what is in the mind of God. You are obstinate and proud. No wonder God turns his face from you. It would take a miracle to change your life. “But a stupid person will get understanding when a wild ass is born a person” Repent and everything will be OK.

Job – “But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you. Who does not know such things as these?” “If only you would be silent – that would be your wisdom” “Your maxims are proverbs of ashes” Do you think I do not know these things – I am not an idiot. Tell me something I don’t know. READ Job 16:1-5

Can you see where Job’s friends have totally missed the spiritual practice of love? They have been critical - you did this to yourself. they have been condescending – just be patient, you are experiencing this for a reason, its for your own good. They have been stand-offish – it would take a miracle to fix this mess – good luck.

In Unity we have a name for this: metaphysical malpractice.

This is metaphysical malpractice and we all need to aware how easy it is to fall into this trap – in the guise of being a good friend, we use spirituality as a weapon. Has anything that has been said been helpful or comforting or accepting or loving?

When your friend is in pain – this is not a time to argue theology. One of my very first Unity teachers said: mind your own spiritual business.

In the end the prophet Elihu appears and says – “Let us choose what is right, let us determine among ourselves what is good” (Job 34:4) And I think these are beautiful words – words of comfort and empowerment. Let us (together) choose what is right.

Honour the connection your friend has with God. Hold the place for healing – even without words. St Francis said “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.”

There is incredible potential in the form called spiritual community. There is unlimited possibility for growing – growing in love, growing in Spirit. Honour this community you have created and always look for ways to nurture and support each other.