Friday, August 25, 2017

A recent conversation with a friend reminded me that not everyone sees much difference between religion and spirituality. And though I feel passionate about the difference, it's not that easy to explain.

The current issue of Spirituality and Health  [july/august 2017] has some quotes which show the complexity:

     Author Dan Millman (Way of the Peaceful Warrior) is quoted as saying: "The word spiritual refers to the transcendent--that which inspires, uplifts, even liberates us: in the simplest terms, life's Big Picture. In my view, we're all on a spiritual quest, seeking to understand our larger purpose here, even as we address the duties of daily life.

     Rabbi Rani Shapiro, in his regular Q&A column (Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler)
responded to the question, What's so healthy about spirituality?

     Spirituality is about opening yourself up to love, compassion, hope, justice, and possibility.
It's about daring to see what is without the distortion of belief and creed. Spirituality is living without a net, and being surrendered to the awesome and the awful with tranquility. Living spiritually is living a life beneficial to the thriving of self and other, and that is the healthiest thing any of us can do.


LIVE EACH DAY AS IF ITS YOUR LAST?

We had a young friend over for lunch today. It's always a delight to be with him, as he has such a great sense of humor and positive outlook on life. He's also a physical trainer and works out at the gym all the time--so he is very high energy.

As we were talking about his great attitude about life, he remarked that he lived his life each day as if it were his last. When he said that, it struck me that I see him just the opposite, so I told him that I see him as if he were living each day as if it were his first!

When I said that, his eyes lit up with recognition, and he said that I was right: He lives each day as if it were the first day of his life -- not the last.

As that fact hit home, I told him that I was reminded of what I believe the Buddhist tradition calls the "Don't Know Mind."  I explained that when we approach any experience with too much familiarity, we are not paying attention (not mindful) and are closed to the unique reality of the present moment.

And so it was that I heard the truth of the word of Jesus to Nicodemus afresh: "You must be born again!" That is, if you would live more fully and abundantly:

                                     LIVE EACH DAY AS IF IT WERE YOUR FIRST!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Who are you going to be? BE A WONDERFUL PERSON!

What does the research about success show us?

According to Dr. Emma Seppala in the July/August 2017 issue of Spirituality and Health:

     It shows us that we will gain only momentary bursts of joy from all the pleases we are seeking in life, from sex to money. The long-lasting fulfillment we seek comes from living a life of purpose, of meaning, of compassion, and of altruism. It comes from being there for others...Forget the stories you have heard, forget the cultural lenses you have been subjected to: You already know what leads to true happiness. You already know what you will know on your deathbed: that a life well lived is a life in which you have shared an abundance of love. That the only aspiration to have is to be a wonderful person for some one else.

Some years ago, a therapist friend told me that she had heard the only question that we are asked after we die is: "Who did you love?"

Thursday, July 13, 2017

"I AM WHAT I DO." --NOT!!

According to Dr. Emma Seppala in the current issue of Spirituality and Health [July/august 2017],
"High achieving students (and high achievers generally) but into the idea that 'I am what I do.'
They think their value stems first and foremost from their productivity...You are a worthwhile human being if and only if you are successful, powerful, or wealthy or have reached a certain status."

With identity and productivity so intertwined, Dr. Seppala see the result leading to a lifelong quest to be more and more successful -- but never bringing deep fulfillment.

After challenging her class about the idea of "success," she asked them to identify the qualities of the most wonderful person they knew. Loving, caring, and present were the adjectives they described.

Shen then asked: "Isn't it the wonderful people, the generous, kind, and compassionate ones...who carry us through life? They are there when we have fallen, they love us when we don't love ourselves, they care when no one else does...It's the wonderful people who are the most successful and impactful influences on all our lives, and we at blessed to encounter them."

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

WHAT DO YOU DO?

I saw a recent news segment that focused on how we handle social interactions.

It was noted that usually, conversations with a stranger begin with the question:
    
          "What do you do for a living?"  (or "How do you make a living?")

Again, the norm seems to focus on jobs or career -- and really tell us little or nothing about who the person really is.  What if the question asked:

          "How are you spending you life?"  (or "What gives meaning to your life?")

It seems to me that what we do to "make a living" and how we decide to "make a life" can involve quite different issues.

The deeper question ultimately becomes "WHO AM I?"

Some years ago, I was in a workshop with the "free-lance" philosopher Sam Keen.
He asked us to partner with someone in the group we did not know and introduce ourselves by making 5 "I AM" statements. After we finished this exchange, he then told us to now describe to our partner how we are not those 5 statements!

In my experience, we all struggle with the question, "WHO AM I?" and probably never reach a final answer. Even the great Apostle Paul could only answer with a paradox:

      I know that in me...dwelleth no good thing;
for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not. (18)
    
     For the good that I would, I do not;
but the evil which I would not, that I do. (19)
                                                                               {Book of Romans, chapter 7 KJV}

Clearly, I need more patches on my spirituality quilt.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO BE WHEN YOUR GROW UP?

     Some where in our early childhood, most of us were asked, "What are you going to be when you grow up?"

     I don't remember my earliest answers, but eventually I decided I wanted to be a medical doctor. That decision carried me through high school and into college until I acknowledged my aversion to chemistry and the physical sciences. Nonetheless, my desire to help people eventually led me to seminary and an early career as a minister. It was back then that I first developed a sermon entitled:

"WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?"

My main thesis was the insight that this question confuses the meaning of WHAT with WHO, and BEING with DOING. I believed then, and still do, that the pivotal question for our life is:

WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?

     During my childhood back in the 1950's when Dwight Eisenhower was President, the best answer to the question you could give  was to say that you wanted to be President of the United States. But years later in my  ministry, after the downfall of President Nixon and other revelations about earlier presidents, I  was able to observe that doing the job of president was not the same as being a person of good character and high moral values. So the emphasis of my sermon was to ask:  What kind of a person do you want to be? What are the values that you choose to live by?

     I also pointed out that we never finish growing up!

     Now, at age 70, I realize the truth of that statement more than ever. No matter whether we are still working, unemployed, retired, married or single by choice, divorce or death, LIFE keeps happening and we continue to adjust and change. Some of my friends have sought second careers or retired; lost a spouse through death or divorce; and coping with the "empty nest" and/or "downsizing."

     Throughout all these life change events, as we process these transitions, we discover that we, ourselves, continue to change; and the reality is that we never finish "growing up" --until we die.

     Consequently, I believe that the question "Who do you want to be when you grow up?" remains central to our becoming and growing spirituality. As Sue Monk Kidd has written: " our earlier lives aren't wrong, they are just pre-construction, that's all. Our lives are meant to unfold, to evolve, and that's good...It's a process that doesn't really end."