Suffering is Not God-Ordained

If the statement is true that, “The Christian religion gives more value to the individual life than do most of the others and that is why it has made such an appeal to the more vital races of the world, then the conjunction of Christianity and the African peoples was inevitable.

While the initial contact turned tragic; fortunately, over time, through its emphasis on the individual life, the peoples and descendants of Africa are beginning to rise sphinx like from the ashes of colonization and slavery.

Both movies, Django Unchained and 12 Years a Slave are psychologically significant, because they effectively captured and portrayed the spiritual aspirations of a people long oppressed. Oppressed in the sense that we were ignorant of our true nature and prevented from learning how to read and write. One film illuminated a mind set that had to be destroyed and the other illuminated a mind set that must be kept alive and vibrant.

Ernest Holmes goes on to say that, “Being what we are there are certain responsibilities that go with our natures-certain obligations; if our thought is creative and if we are unfolding to a discovery of our true nature, which must already be perfect, then the obligation and responsibility of this nature could impose freedom or bondage upon us temporarily, but our bondage cannot be real from the standpoint of the Absolute.” Our enslavement was not real from the standpoint of the Absolute. As one of African descent, having chosen to identify with the Absolute, bondage exercises no power over my soul. Incrementally, the world is moving towards identification with the Absolute.

Had the Science of Mind been written prior to the slave trade, and read throughout the entire continent of Africa, the road to self-discovery could have been a conscious one, and who knows, maybe in harmony with the aspirations of the white races, because suffering is not God-ordained.

The world has learned all it should from suffering.

Keith A. Gorley

Confusion is a place we hang out when we don’t want to let ourselves know what deep down we really do know. Because we don’t want to have to do what we have to do if we let ourselves know what we really do know. –Mary Morrissey

This is the Season

This is the season when many find themselves struggling with how to get on in life. Maybe the holiday season brings up past negative memories, or maybe there is simply a lot going on. It’s been said, “Trouble comes in three’s,” and sometimes, it seems like Trouble doesn’t stop there.

When I was asked to offer some words of encouragement by someone who is facing several life-challenges simultaneously, the following suggestions flowed onto the page. Over these many years, I have found that all of them work, but whether they “land” for you, Dear Reader, based on however much is roiling around in your mind, only you will be able to say. If you can implement all of them at once, you’re probably not as bad off as you think you are. Just pick one per day, or one per hour, or one that resonates with you in any given moment. Even that much can make a big difference.

Keep breathing. Nothing can change if we are not around to help change it. That’s the reality of this existence. Tough times go away, if we participate in their going away. When we bail, they stick around…and usually follow us wherever we go.

Keep loving. Which means, keep talking, keep hugging and keep nurturing those around you, starting with yourself. How to do that? It depends. First, we have to know what we really need. This may take some time to figure out, but it’s time well spent. Second, we need to realize that needs can change, moment to moment. Long-range needs matter the most, but the “needs of the now” are important, too. Third, we have to be able to accept whatever feeds that need if it’s given, because if it is offered, we have to let it in, in order for that need be filled. Ask for a hug, if that’s the need. Ask for quiet time, if that’s the need. Ask for what you need when you need it…and this may take some practice.

Eat. Nourishing the body is vital, while it helps us do the inner work. During tough times, food may be tasteless and uninteresting. However, the body needs air, light, fuel and water. It’s another of those realities of this plane of existence. Feed and water it. It doesn’t have to be anything spectacular, but eating is important.
Rest. I won’t say, “Sleep,” because sleep may not come easily in difficult times. But rest is as important as food and air and water. Rest is in the baseline of Maslow’s hierarchy for a reason.

Keep talking. Let the words that are inside come out. Sometimes they may be garbled; sometimes they may be brilliant pieces of wisdom. Sometimes they reveal the reality of whatever is going on in such a way, that it becomes obvious that things aren’t so bad. If talking with someone is not possible, talk with yourself. Write. Write down the conversation that needs to be spoken. Write down the conundrums that bubble up. Getting whatever’s inside out, is as important as evacuating the bowel. When we “plug up”, we dam ourselves. Keep the flow flowing.

Get outside. Take a walk. Breathe the fresh air. Feel the sun on your face. Gaze at the stars or watch the moon for a while. Nature nurtures. We are part of Nature, and to the degree that we physically connect with It, It will nurture us, because we are part of It.

Do something. Anything. If any or all of this is too hard, mop the floor. Clean the toilet. Rake leaves or rocks or dirt. Do something, and then acknowledge that you did that something. We only believe we have the power to do anything, by doing something and recognizing that we did that something. The mind is a funny and tricky companion, and it’s important to use it the way it works. Do something and acknowledge even the little things accomplished, and the mind begins to think differently about itself. Think something positive, even if you don’t really believe it when you think it. Think it enough, and sooner or later, that thinking becomes believable. Doing and thinking and feeling are all connected, and by realizing this, you will begin to feel the truth of it…and then one day, seemingly all of a sudden, the light is brighter, and there is an awareness inside that this ‘Tis the Season of Joy and not something else.

Love&BlessingsOnYouAll.
Rev Donald

Entering the Eye of the Storm and Embracing the “I” of the Storm

By Anna Mello

Recently I sang a song called “Eye of the Storm” by singer/song writer Jen Hajj, who was a guest musician at our center a couple of months ago. I mentioned that this song had a profound effect on me, and I said that I would share this experience in writing. Although there are many musical selections that touch my soul deeply, the timing of this song literally brought me to my knees and evoked overwhelming emotions.

Some people know this about me, but there are many who still don’t. Although I have become a regular volunteer singer at CSLT over the last couple of years, the fact is, that for many years I did not join a choir or sing in front of large groups of people, even though I loved to sing, knew I could sing and wanted to sing. For some reason I didn’t feel like I was a good enough singer to be in a simple high school or church choir, and even when I finally did, it took me awhile to really allow myself to fully share what was inside at that time.

Around 2002, I was involved in a spiritual book study group through Unity, and it was revealed to me that I was supposed to solo. I was so nervous, but I shared this with the facilitator and the group. The facilitator, who was an Arizona State legislator at the time and involved with Toastmasters, firmly, yet lovingly told me to get up and sing for them right then, and she didn’t care how long it took me, or if I had to stop for tears or whatever, but she assured me that I was going to finish! Well the tears did come, and I did finish; however the tears that flowed did not only represent my fears, but was a sense of release or the birth of something that was supposed to come out and express. The next step for me was to sing by myself for the whole congregation. I was extremely anxious, more so than most people ever fully knew. In fact, I started to realize and notice that I would try to avoid the anxiety by sabotaging myself and physically getting sick. When I started to honestly take a look at this, I had to admit to myself that I had done this before, in other areas of my life and with things that I said I wanted to do, but didn’t because having an excuse for not doing them was more comfortable than facing my fears of being vulnerable.

After talking through this with a few trusted people, I decided I was going to solo for my birthday and it was going to be the gift to myself from myself! Well of course, all of the physical obstacles came up, but I committed to this challenge and told myself I was going to do it, no matter what! As I worked through my own habits of resistance and mind chatter, an original song “Come Within” emerged with the starting lines being, “Oh my child, say the WORD and you are healed. Come within and know that we are ONE.” I continued moving through my physical and emotional healing and finished writing the song and actually did fine on my first solo, despite the nervous ticks, wobbly legs, and the need to remind myself to breathe. I continued to solo at least once a year on my birthday at Unity, and started to take on challenges in other areas of my life as well, and began reaching some of my big goals that I set out to accomplish. Since I’ve been here at CSLT for almost four years now, I continue to grow in many areas, but I honestly feel like I am on WARP speed in allowing some new changes to emerge from within, and I feel like I am at an increased level of awareness with everything and everyone around me. In addition to our Sunday services, I undoubtedly, know that this is a result of taking the offered classes, and making a commitment to use the spiritual tools that are taught in this philosophy. All of the classes I’ve taken have been very meaningful for me, but Foundations and Visioning have been my favorite so far, and have opened me up so much! I know this is a result of stepping into the practices whole heartedly, and loving myself enough to allow my full potential to continually unfold and express. In doing this I am finding that sometimes that means having to pick up my oars and point my boat right towards the “storm”, AKA “the scary stuff” or the excuses I make up to keep myself small and comfortable. The problem with playing small is that it keeps me from getting to the “eye” and “I” of what is truly desired in my heart.

Jen Hajj’s song was so profound for me, and literally had me on my knees in tears when I heard it the first time, because a couple of weeks prior to her being our guest musician, one of the symbols and messages that I received during a visioning class was a tornado and the words “eye of the storm”. At the time, I just allowed the vision to be what it was and didn’t analyze or try to figure it out, since the process of visioning is to surrender to Divine Mind and trust that what needs to come forth will reveal itself naturally. When Jen Hajj showed up the following Sunday, it was the first time I had met her and heard any of her music. Afterwards, I introduced myself and bought a CD, but didn’t really take time to even look at it because I had another commitment to rush off to. I put it in my binder and forgot about it. The next week, I was needing to make some final choices on some significant job changes and was getting uncomfortable with taking the leap that I knew I needed to take. I decided to take a break and work on choir music, and when I took out my binder, I saw the CD that I had forgotten about. On the front cover, the name of the CD read “I of the storm”, and one of the songs on the CD was “Eye of the Storm”. At that moment, I recalled my visioning and I played the song. The words were EXACTLY what I was feeling and needed to hear, and while I was so grateful for recognizing the synchronicity with my visioning, it was also extremely overpowering for me, and stirred up those anxious feelings once again. I was excited AND nervous because I knew I had to face some more of my fears and expand from “the box” that had become familiar, knowing I had outgrown it and didn’t want to be in it anymore. I reached out to one of our practitioner’s Lynne Heygster, who was teaching the class, to help me get grounded in spiritual truth and we shared a spiritual mind treatment together. I even made an appointment right afterwards with our own Zach Saber from Wellness First, to help me release some of the physical pain that had shown up as well. So now I have at least made peace with getting into “the boat”, and I’ve started rowing once again towards another “storm”, committed to facing my doubts and fears as I row into the “eye” to get to the “I” of this new storm. The “I” is my authentic Divine self, the self that shines as bright as it can, without the need to receive 100% approval from everyone and without worrying that allowing myself to shine might be taking away from another’s light. In this moment, I know and live from the truth that Divine light is inherent to everyone, and expresses in each one’s own unique way, and I encourage others to shine their light BRIGHT and bless us ALL! I am continually inspired by witnessing people around me step out of their comfort zones and allowing their lights to shine brighter and brighter. It is my sincere hope that we can lovingly honor and truly support those in our spiritual community and all around us, who are taking chances and moving outside of their familiar places to discover their Divine potential and passions. It may not always appear “perfect and polished” on the outside to everyone, especially at first, but I hope instead of criticizing, we can appreciate the bigger accomplishments that are springing forth and interact with loving kindness to one another. And, as we step out, when we do come across those critical experiences in our lives, may we remember that we can choose to lovingly look at what we can learn from them and then remember the sacred “I AM”! Can you imagine what we would each look like, what our Center for Spiritual Living Tucson would look like, what Tucson and the world would look like, if we all rowed into the “I” of our own made up storms and allowed our authentic light to shine as bright as it can and then share it and encourage others to do the same?! WOW!!…… Let’s get out our sunglasses!!!!

If you’re interested in the artist and song mentioned, you can check her out at http://www.jenhajj.com/i-of-the-storm.html

Self Determination – It was up to me and it’s up to you too

Have you ever had people want you to share information about another person; information which was that other person’s story to tell? Recently, I had the opportunity to be reminded of the power of love, and the marvelous way God works through us. I find whatever experiences I’ve gone through in life, it’s been well worth those experiences to have and feel AH-HA moments.

Recently, I watched a woman friend go from sheer fear in her eyes to being relaxed, calm and ready for whatever would happen next. I saw her change her mind from thinking it was time to leave us – to being prepared to return home and live more.

Some people tried to ‘pressure’ me (as though it was up to me) to share information about my friend, or to give them permission to go see my friend, or to tell others about her condition based on what I knew. I didn’t give into the pressure. I stood my ground by remembering I was supporting her. I helped her to stand her ground by doing as she had asked. I insisted that others understand it was not within my right or theirs to alter her experience to influence her right of self-determination. What was happening was hers and hers alone. It was my responsibility to honor the word I had given to her; and to help her honor her wishes for herself. It wasn’t a personal decision against anyone; it was the right decision for me and for my friend.

Priorities were messed up. What I saw were some putting their “but we must show our concern” in front of “but we need to be respectful of that persons request.” There seemed to be an underlying belief there was an obligation to “do for” others, rather than to allow them ‘to do’ for themselves, especially when they ask for that freedom. I wondered why some seemed to think they knew more or better than the individual. Honestly, I think sometimes we forget it’s not our obligation at all to replace our judgment for another’s.

Our obligation, in my opinion, is that we assist others in finding their own voice, in feeling respected for the choices made even when we don’t understand them and by remembering; it’s not ours it’s theirs. Self-determination can be challenging to bump up against when individually, we have a different opinion of the actions an individual chooses.

I am grateful for my extended family at CSL Tucson. I believe that as my extended family, I choose to be available to assist when I am able; when I am asked. I choose to extend my love and compassion to each of you and to do what I am called to do, when asked, in a way that assists you, but which does not decide for you. I trust others to appreciate that as well.

Zach Saber

Experiencing Connection with All of Life

Lynne and I have been co-facilitating a non-certificated class the last four Tuesday evenings. The class, entitled “Care of the Soul”, is about our awareness and connectivity with our personal experience of our life. After each one of us becomes aware of where we are, we are more easily at choice if we wish to change or deepen this experience. It has been a great joy to play in this experience each week with the intrepid and adventurous souls who have shown up for our class.

In the readings for one of the classes Lynne and I are taking for ministerial school, I found this quote. The book is called Will and Spirit; the author is Gerald May. The quote from page 43, is a tad long, but worth it:

“Human consciousness is the capacity to perceive and appreciate not only various stimuli but the ongoing process of being, and the mystery of that process. This sensitivity far transcends the simple observation of events and occurrences. One may sit by an open window, quietly noticing all that is there within and around oneself. Hearing a bird chirp, feeling the breeze, sensing the aroma of afternoon air, one is not only aware of these things, but can also sense that one is being aware of them….

Even more subtly, but just as solidly, one can sense and appreciate the process of one’s own thinking. Sitting by the window, increasingly relaxed and quiet, a thought comes, and it is noticed — as it is happening! One can even begin to perceive how thoughts form, how they seem to come into awareness. Many people have so busied themselves with the contents of their lives and minds that they may fail to appreciate such subtle processes. But utilized or not, the capacity for such open appreciation is present and accessible, within each human being….

Somehow these direct perceptions also include an immediate appreciation of being as a dynamic ongoing process. And somehow this in turn involves a person with all that exists in the cosmos, not just in terms of being related to it, but at a level of intimate communion and participation.”

I celebrate the experience of connection, within and throughout my life and in the lives of each person I come in contact with. Would you join me?

— Janis

Our Community Garden

by Don Chatfield

Do you remember what first made you feel at home at the Center for Spiritual Living Tucson? Was it a warm greeting from an usher? Perhaps it was inspiring music provided by a soloist or the choir. It might have been a Sunday talk that spoke deeply to you. Maybe a member spoke with you after the service and helped you feel welcome. All of these things are vital components of the community that we are building at the Center.

A recent poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that the fastest growing segment of our population is those with no religious affiliation. The Pew research found that one-fifth of the U.S. public, and a full third of those under age 30, are religiously unaffiliated. Of those without a religious affiliation, about 37 percent consider themselves to be “spiritual but not religious” (a group commonly referred to as SBNR). Those who classify themselves as SBNR tend to believe in God, find a deep connection in nature, and pray regularly. Most of this group, however, say that they are not seeking a spiritual community. They tend to practice their spirituality individually.

At the Center for Spiritual Living Tucson, many of us can identify with the sentiments of the SBNR population. Some of us have previously dealt with pressure to believe a certain way, experienced unpleasant expectations about behavior, or seen excesses in the name of organized religion. For many of us, our first experience at the Center was like a homecoming. Our New Thought philosophy provides a practical spirituality that is “open at the top,” providing each of us with an opportunity to experience and express our spirituality in a way that makes sense to us. Drawing from truths of many spiritual traditions, we experience Sunday celebrations that are meaningful and inspiring.

While enjoying this personal freedom of spiritual expression, we also enjoy the many benefits of a spiritual community. It is these benefits that keep me attending the Center. While I sometimes enjoy meditating alone in the mountains or by a stream, I find vitality and encouragement in meeting regularly with others who are on a spiritual path.

Over the years, I’ve experienced the warmth of deep discussion in classes offered at the Center, along with numerous new friendships that grew from these connections. I’ve enjoyed laughter and connection at socials and community meals. I have savored the sound of a familiar voice on the telephone when I was hospitalized. And I have leaned on strong shoulders when I was feeling discouraged or stuck. I hope that you’ve had many of these same experiences.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the German politician, author, and poet described the importance of community in this way: “The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers and cities; but to know someone who thinks and feels with us, and….is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.”

I’m delighted that this “community garden” is growing at the Center for Spiritual Living Tucson. Many have commented on the positive energy enjoyed in recent celebration services and the importance of being together with one another. Over the coming year the Board of Trustees, along with the Team Leads, will be working to provide additional tools to deepen our connection as a loving community. I invite you to explore ways to deepen your connection with our community.

Blessings,

Don Chatfield
President, Board of Trustees

Changes and what’s to come of it all.

I’ve read that change is difficult for some people. I’ve read and observed people claiming to want change in their lives, however, some seem to want others to change so they avoid looking at themselves and making changes. It’s like grumbling at the driver in front of you in traffic. In attempting to change others, some find themselves very frustrated and emotionally charged over the changes occurring, meaning they’re not responding in a healthy way toward encouraging change, changing changes or managing change etc. Confused? Me too.

The reality I know is that we must continue to change in order to survive and thrive. This is true of CSL as well as the individual souls who attend. In my time here, I’ve seen change and it made so much difference to my wife, DeeAnn Saber, and to me that we joined this community even when we were initially skeptical about becoming members (ask me about this story I’m happy to share). Honestly, I have found that when I’m involved in asking for what I want and in acting on what I believe is good, I’ve seen improvements and changes that make a huge difference in my life and here at CSLT. It’s happening all around us. This stuff we believe does work and I’m here to say so.

For example right now, looking at change we need to realize what we have to work with here at CSLT:

  1. We have a team working toward assisting in finding out what congregants REALLY want by creating a survey that will allow each of you to have input (Community Development Envisioning Team)
  2. We have a team that is searching for a new location that would provide us with a permanent home, class rooms, space for a children’s program etc… (Facilities Team)
  3. We have a team working toward feeling, seeing and guiding us toward our highest good (thank you to each of you for holding this space for us) called the Visioning Core
  4. We have a team called Altared States that creates beauty on our Altar each week and is trying to bring other groups together to unite for a commonality; loving and welcoming each other as well as newcomers
  5. We have a team that greets you each Sunday morning (the Ushers) providing that Sundays’ Program
  6. We have a team (the Music Core) that brings us music, talent, laughter, dance!
  7. We have a team that attempts to assist you, contact you, bring you food when you need compassion and help (Compassionate Heart)
  8. We have a team making the fellowship hall pretty and bringing supplies needed so that after services you can sit and visit comfortably (Hospitality)
  9. We have a team providing books and learning materials (Bookstore Team).
  10. We have a marvelous group of Practitioners who are also guiding the spiritual center of our community and each of you – our members.

We have more teams too which I haven’t mentioned. Each and every team is working towards teaching, change, healing and being supportive.

There is a way for every one of us to participate in supporting our spiritual community – join one of these groups. Know that each group/team contributes to CSLT’s overall well-being even while making changes.

I want to continue to champion more changes – and if nay sayers exist to a planned change, I to ask them to suspend grumbling, ask for more information if there might not be enough and to remember this:

I believe, trusting that the love and the compassion we exchange is real. Have faith in the fact that affirmative prayer and treatment DO work, all the time. Maybe it doesn’t always look like we thought it would but it does indeed work. Trust that your Board of Trustees truly opens, works within and completes each session focusing only on the highest and best outcome for us all.

Change is going to occur with or without your acceptance, in spite of you, because of you, for you, from you. Remember, you’ve been changing all your life. It’s not stopping now. You can choose to be positive and open where you’ll find it’s far easier to digest, guide and appreciate. Or not.

In closing, changes are not about stepping on anyone’s toes. It’s not about wanting to bypass individuals. It’s not about deliberately overlooking anyone. It IS about moving forward to see what’s available, what’s possible, what’s not being considered, what’s limiting, what’s another option. We must be willing to explore openly knowing final results will ONLY occur if it’s truly in the best and highest interest of our congregation.

So, knowing BIG CHANGE, that which we’ve experienced already and knowing that we will have MORE to come; as a spiritual community I look forward to us coming together without coming apart in the process.

I welcome the support I know we feel and share and will continue to show for each other.

Zach Saber
CSLT Board Member

A Few Words about the George Zimmerman Verdict

Back up from the media, whether it’s ABC or FOX or Facebook or whatever, and take a look from a bigger picture: Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Mourn the unnecessary & tragic death of any young person or adult, and then extend that mourning to any perceived injustice. Honor the life of anyone who is senselessly killed or treated unjustly by advancing and/or establishing the very ideals that were violated. Take whatever energy you feel, about the George Zimmerman verdict last Friday evening or the Marissa Alexander verdict of May 2012, and use them and other similar situations to educate, beginning wherever you are right now.

George Zimmerman is not a free man. He will have to live with the consequences of his actions for the rest of his life. Zimmerman is far from free.

Keep in mind that two people died in Sanford, FL on February 26, 2012. And in a very real way, both deaths were a result of the race consciousness in which they lived. Every perpetuated thought, decision and belief contributes to this pool of consciousness, and this is something each of us can do something about.

We each can heal the racial barriers in our own minds and hearts and promote inclusion rather than separatism, beginning right now. We each can remember: When senselessness and injustice have no place to live, they cease to be.

Let’s remember The One Life, The One Light. Let’s let THAT Light shine brightly within and without. Let’s light up the darkness by infusing it with Light.

BlessingsBe,
Rev Donald

The Snowden Dilemma

The Snowden dilemma is not about Snowden but rather about us. It is about us because we may or may not have opinions about his disclosure that our government spies on us. Our response says more about us than it says about him. Here’s what I mean by this statement. If I choose to put Snowden in the “traitor” box, then I am saying to myself that I do not identify with the God Qualities that our philosophy claims is necessary for our being one with Spirit, an identification that leads to a vital, prosperous, healthy and happy life.

Hopefully, you know that some of the God qualities are Love, Light, Wholeness and Spirit.

I contend that these qualities are descriptive of the KINGDOM THAT IS NOT OF THIS WORLD. It is stated this way so that those of us who grew up in the Christian tradition would know where this is coming from. The greatest light bearer to date was rejected and nailed to a cross. Copernicus and Galileo were marginalized and threatened. Then there has Ellsberg, Assange and many others. Kingdoms of this world, both religious and political have persecuted them all.

On the other hand, if I choose to put Snowden in the “Light” box, then I am identifying with the God Qualities and not identifying with the appearance, body, form and conditions of the KINGDOMS OF EARTH. Snowden’s actions then indeed conform to the injunction that one is to let one’s light shine before men … and glorify the father which is in heaven. To glorify is the to identify with the qualities of the Father Which Is In Heaven. (Matt 5:16). What is the point? It is this. Who do you answer to? Or in contemporary verbiage, Who is your daddy? Bluntly stated, if you are identified with your patriotism, you are not identified with the God Qualities. Yes, this is where we get to choose between God and State, as they are not one and the same.

Since Light illumnates darkness, I must allow the Light to illuminate the darkness where ever it appears. Who are you choosing to glorify? Is it the kingoms of this world, with all of its appointed rulers, who are intent on keeping the people in darkness, or the kingdom of Light, whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light (Mattt 11:30).

Isn’t living in choice fun?

Keith A. Gorley

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