In The Tree of Life, Everything is Interrelated

Last weekend, it was my turn to write the lead newsletter article, and for a double handful of ‘reasons’, Monday rolled around, and I hadn’t had the time or the available brainpower to create something. I wasn’t terribly happy about that, and it was the situation I found myself in. So when Marya Wheeler, who thought it was her turn to write, popped up in my e-mails with an article, I was absolutely thrilled. Obviously, we ran her article, and I gratefully breathed a sigh of relief. If you missed last week’s newsletter for any reason, and you want to read Marya’s article, Maria Schuchardt has already posted it on the blog on the website. If you haven’t seen our new website, please take a look. Mariann Moery worked extensively with our webmaster Graeme Hunt on it. The results are quite pleasing and inviting… and there’s always more that can be done, and will be done, eventually.

There are two related ideas that I’m going to meander around today. One, everything is interconnected, and two, the connections may not be visible unless you know where and how to look. This is not a unique feature of human civilization, but is actually implicit in all biological organisms, including us.

I’m going to geek out as a scientist for a minute. This image from Nature (Microbiology), published in 2016 shows a new phylogenetic tree, which visually represents the relatedness of all identified life forms on earth. Almost everything we tend to identify as ‘alive’ (plants, animals, fungi, even one-celled protists… every organism with defined nuclei and defined organelles) can be found in the pale green spiky bit at the bottom right corner. Most of the rest of the diagram, most of the rest of life on earth, is made up of simpler life forms without such internal structural definition.

So everything is automatically, inherently connected, because we all come from the same stuff, and are made of the same stuff. Another website showed the percentages of genes that humans share with each other (99.9+%) and with other life forms (chimps, 98%, mice, 92%, fruit flies, 44%, yeast, 26% and a weedy plant, about 18%). (Source: Koshland Science Museum).

Ok, I’m done being a science geek. So what? This week, I realized I had been thinking about a couple people that I hadn’t seen in a while, and they showed up at Sunday services. Who called who? I dunno. Doesn’t matter. Ernest Holmes wrote in The Science of Mind 77.2-3 “It is almost certain that between friends there is at all times a silent communication, a sort of unconscious mental conversation, going on.” No doubt, you’ve had the same thing happen for you. Friends you haven’t heard from in ages suddenly call, or write, and the first words that are said are something like, “I was just thinking about you!” What is that? Nothing more or less than the completely natural, profound and deep (unconscious) mental connection that always exists.

So why do I bring this up today? Some folks feel disturbed that Sunday attendance isn’t “what we think it should be.” Personally, I would love to see more people gathering on Sundays, because I acknowledge the intrinsic value gained by being regularly present in spiritual community. I also remember we are profoundly connected anyway, all the time. When someone chooses to intentionally gather, not out of duty or obligation, they express an intentional, personal decision to participate, engage and belong. I love that even more.

— Rev Janis Farmer

Reflections

In 2009, I began my transition from an exciting but longish career as an engineering technician to that of professional teacher with an initial mixture of nobility and naivete’. Thanks to Texas Instruments and Pima County, I sailed through Pima Community College’s “Post Baccalaureate” teacher training and ensuing board exams. I then began plowing through a rough trail of real experience, beginning with an aborted internship, on into an extended, eclectic series of experiences with charter schools in Tucson and Prescott.

By 2017, after a series of Fall-Spring gigs, it had become clear that I was a round peg in a square hole as a rote classroom teacher. Driving up and down the Black Canyon Freeway, into Prescott, and the Desert Highlands on holiday sojourns, I found that the look and feel of the land, and of free time, welcomed and called to me.

● In the driver’s seat of my car: Why do I feel as a pauper in the desert heat?
● In the confines of my classrooms: I know the math. But how do students learn?
● In my recesses of my mind: Who I am and What Am I Doing Here?

These questions lead me to the alchemy that extracts my mind’s enigmas into conscious thought. In the vocabulary of our Science of Mind, it is the clarifying methodology and psychological practice that we have come to know as Spiritual Mind Treatment. At this juncture, my inner quest is thus illumined as spiritual questions: Am I turning within to Spirit, tuning into Truth, diving deeper into Love but want more? Am I prepared to manifest a meaningful, fulfilling, prosperous, joyful life?

If so, I must:

● Align with Universal Principles and activate awareness of the Divine Presence within
● Apply positive, practical, spiritual tools, including meditation and mindfulness, affirmations,neuroscience, and self-awareness in your daily life
● Discover a profound spiritual technology called Spiritual Mind Treatment
● Go within…deeper than you have before…and experience Truth
● Uncover and discard hidden beliefs, set yourself free
● Enter a safe, sacred container for true transformation

(From Foundations of the Science of Mind, CSL Dallas)

With consultation, prayer, and encouragement galore: I logged onto my job-search engine with “Math Work Prescott.” Voila, one job: A small Waldorf-inspired middle school, a walkable half-mile from decades-old friends house right there in Prescott, where I would room for that school year. Another dash up the Black Canyon Freeway, an entire afternoon with the headmaster, and I’m committed to a school year. I believe our teaching calls this manifestation or demonstration.

Two years in, evolving into a spiritually-oriented, Steiner-inspired teacher of both spectrum and gifted adolescents. And dipping into the deeper well: the psychology of learning for adolescents. Book studies, faculty collaboration and shared experience are in the treasure chest at the end of the rainbow. Here, the Waldorf-inspired “developmentally centered” teaching methodology: especially in the middle grades, where the teacher must see that emerging students are academically mature; thus solid with the concepts in concrete terms, before guiding them further into the abstractions: the hallmark of higher learning.

And now, further into the challenges of students’ learning in a troubled world. Cultural and psychological pressures on our children precipitate a plethora of learning and developmental difficulties. These distorting forces show up as hormonal and behavioral breakouts, precluding traditional classroom learning environments. Again, a more spiritual question: what’s this got to do with me?

Apparently, it’s time I begin teaching effectively, and continuing to learn myself, in a behaviorally challenged classroom. Thus, this next chapter comes with a real salary, more college in behavioral and psychological studies, and “more-better” encounters with forgiveness and learning, stemming from my own reflections on a disruptive adolescence, and war-torn early adulthood.

In Love’s Gift of Radical Forgiveness, Colin Tipping writes, “Radical Forgiveness challenges us to fundamentally shift our perception of the world and our interpretation of what happens to us so we can stop being victims.”

Teaching leads to more advanced questions, leading into deeper understandings of healing, forgiveness, and teaching. We learn to love ourselves and the culture in which we live, practicing and modeling:

● Self-control – with constructive thought and considerate behaviors with others
● Self-care – with nutrition, rest, and reflection
● Service toward the greater good.

In It’s Up to You, Ernest Holmes shows how to move from a life of “no” to a life of “yes.” We teach students that they, too, will be able to choose their future, because what we experience tomorrow depends on what we think and do today.

“It’s up to you,” Holmes writes.

It’s up to me. My Guide tells me “Keep up the Good Work,” and “Remember to stay tight with your teachers, (and Me)”

With Love — Robert

The ‘Art’ of Taking Classes

The Foundations class I’m taking is coming to an end. Four more classes and the last two are the exam and project presentations. This is the third time I’ve taken Foundations. Each time I’ve taken it my peace of mind increases, as does the feeling of Oneness and Unity I find through embodying the principles of the Science of Mind.

My first time, in 2015, was taught by Reverend Donald & Rev Janis. In it, I learned to write Spiritual Mind Treatments. This fantastic tool is something I use daily now and, along with my meditation, consider it part of the structure, foundation, of my spiritual practice. For much of the course, I was working in Phoenix and would leave work and drive to the Center, arriving, hopefully, by 6:30. I would spend the night at my house, awakening early to drive back to Phoenix and arrive at work by 8am. At times, I had to stop at a rest stop and snooze for an hour or two.

The class involves reading the Science of Mind and Living the Science of Mind books. Especially, the first time through, the readings are confusing and circuitous. Now, on my 3rd go-round, I appreciate the clear descriptions and wonderful prose. The first time I read the books, almost all the ideas were new and revolutionary, albeit, confusing. Now I understand and welcome the ideas.

My second time through, in 2018, was taught by Rev Janis. The class was smaller, all women, and even more enlightening. My goal for this course was to change my relationship with money. (I don’t remember the goal for my first course.) The homework for each class is reading the curriculum that we receive on a CD, usually about 10 pages of easy to read loose-leaf documents, readings from the two books, a meditation exercise, treatment on our goal and, often, a supplementary exercise involving self-reflection and activating the observer self. My presentation at the end was sharing two of my favorite poems and a set of glitter gel pens for each of the participants and Rev Janis.

This third time through, the one that I’m in now, made up of 50% my family – Yay! My actual legal family – me, Chris, my husband, and Nicole, my older daughter. Three other participants, one of whom is canine, and Rev Janis comprise our Tuesday evening group. It is especially gratifying to share these wonderful lessons with my daughter who is being introduced to Science of Mind. (She said that it is okay to talk about her.) Learning to access the One Mind and working as a group to support each other in this discovery is so much fun. As my fellow board member, Pat Masters, says – “I usually do better when I’m taking a class.” (Pat said that it was okay that I quote her.) This is so true for me. The weekly connection with fellow students refreshes and invigorates me.

My goal for this course was to approach every activity in my day with enthusiasm. This goal is aimed primarily at my job because, in the past, I felt pressured by my workload. Now I have more breathing space and use practices that help me manage my workload more effectively. I have also accomplished my goal of changing my relationship with money and know more peace and abundance as a result.

The next time Foundations is offered, I encourage everyone to seriously look at attending. The results are worthwhile, effective and you’ll make friends in the class. Maybe even with me if I do a 4th go-round!

— Marya Wheeler

Killing the Kudzu – Metaphorically Speaking

Part of the pea family kudzu is also called Japanese arrowroot: Pueraria-Fabaceae-Faboideae.

If you’ve lived in the Southeast, you’re aware of Kudzu: an Asian species invited to US lawns as a quick-growing land cover and erosion deterrent. So pretty, so green, such beautiful flowers and so quick to grow. It can be used for Oriental teas and tinctures, it fixes nitrogen in the soil, it transfers minerals from deep soil to topsoil. It also can be used to make clothes, baskets or for animal feed.

What could possibly go wrong? It spreads by runner and by seed. [It] climbs over trees or shrubs and grows so rapidly that it kills them by heavy shading. Which is to say it replaces native plants as well as expensive landscaping, and pretty much anything else in its way. (Thank you, Wikipedia)

And, you might reasonably ask: that has what to do with what?

I’ve been spending this summer identifying the “Kudzu” I’ve invited into my mind and mental space. Those thoughts that are so pretty, so very easy to let take over. So, I am looking under the kudzu flowers for their roots and working to replace the “kudzu in my head” with productive, long-term healthy, helpful thoughts. Which has meant reading, journaling, meditating and talking with people smarter than me about this.

You plant only those seeds that will grow into what you want in your garden.
— Ernest Holmes, Basic Ideas of Science of Mind 51. 1

What’s that mean in living well every day? If all we had to do was plant the right ideas, there would be no kudzu in our lives. Unfortunately, more is required of us if we are to create the garden we want. Because;

In the spiritual realm, Universal Subjective Mind as Law is the soil. [It] functions just as naturally as the soil in the garden. It takes whatever you chose to plant in It, and It produces accordingly.
— Ernest Holmes, Basic Ideas of Science of Mind 51. 4 (emphasis added by Mariann)

…, the subjective-mind soil must be in the right condition all the time. You are always planting and you cannot afford to have the good seeds dropped into soil which contains a mass of weeds. …. thoughts of negations, worries, fears, angers, hates, resentments. [These] will grow just as rapidly as the good seeds and bring forth a crop just as sure and abundant. —Ernest Holmes, Basic Ideas of Science of Mind 53.1

Here’s the tricky part:

…. the soil of the garden has no power nor inclination to reject bad seeds while accepting good ones…. the creative medium of Law, also is entirely impersonal and will just as readily take your negations and produce a crop of illness, poverty, hardship, difficulty or inharmony.”
— Ernest Holmes, Basic Ideas of Science of Mind 53.1

You must learn to rule your own life!
— Ernest Holmes, Basic Ideas of Science of Mind 56 4

He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.
Proverbs 16:32 (KJV)

“Remember, you are always planting!”
— Ernest Holmes, Basic Ideas of Science of Mind 56.6

Wishing you peace and plenty in your garden-

–Mariann

Getting Excited about Our Upcoming Youth Program!

FREE TO BE ME – Expressing the Love Within and Make Today Great. Keep reading to see the themes for weeks 1 & 2 of the curriculum for our Youth program that will roll out this fall.

The Spiritual Truth for Expressing the Love Within is “Love”. Love is one way to prove the Law of Circulation. It is in the giving of it, that it is returned abundantly. The easiest love to circulate is the kind of love that God is – the unconditional kind.

The Spiritual Truth for Make Today Great is “Enthusiasm”. Enthusiasm means “Filled with The Divine”. It is being filled with Spirit. And isn’t that the truth of what and who we are, Spirit incarnate? Enthusiasm is contagious. It is God’s way of encouraging us to put our attention on the good all around us.

“All people are individual expressions of the one God. Our consciousness creates our own reality. The goal of life is freedom from all discord of any kind and this goal is sure to be attained by all” is the Science of Mind Declaration of Principles that is the overarching theme for the month.

What a blessing – to be guided by these loving words, and to be allowed to share them with children from preschool – grade 5. The activities include reading, singing, charades, Duck-Duck-Goose and arts and crafts.

Don’t we all wish we’d learned the Science of Mind when we were children? What a gift for us to be able to share the Science of Mind philosophy with kids. And what a gift to be able to welcome families with children.

The requirements be a teacher are:
• You must have completed the Foundations class
• You must pass a background check
• You must pass a fingerprint check
• Be available to teach 2 Sundays per month and to attend a once monthly Team meeting.

To provide continuity for the children (and their parents), each person will volunteer 2 weeks in a row, serving one week as the helper and a second week as the teacher. For 4 teachers, the rotation will be 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, 4-1. For 5 Sunday months, we’ll ask for a trained volunteer to serve that extra Sunday.

Curricula are available for Preschool through grade 5. We will start our Youth Program with 4 teachers and 2 subs. Our goal is to have 6 children attending by Christmas and to be conducting 2 sessions – preschool – Grade 1 and Grades 2-5. The teachers will be supplied with the curricula for the classes, the supplies for the arts and crafts projects as well as the books to read aloud and music to play. There will be monthly team meetings to receive curriculum, supplies and to review how the classes are progressing.

Banners at the top of the curriculums illustrate the expanding change in focus as the children attend the classes.

Preschool – One Life, As Me
Kinder-Gr 1 – One Life, As Me, Creates
Grades 2&3 – One Life, As Me, Creates, Celebrates
Grades 4&5 – One Life, As Me, Creates, Celebrates, One Life

As our Center grows, I am excited to be involved in offering resources to families with children and I am also pleased for the opportunity to teach these loving words. Reading the curriculum is soothing and I believe helping to support and teaching these lessons will address each teacher’s inner child, allowing us to receive as much, or even more, support from the classes as the students.

If you are interested in participating in our Youth Program, please call me at (520) 270-1279.

— Marya Wheeler

C-C-C-C-h-a-n-g-e….

Nobody likes to have change forced on them. Nobody I know, anyway. Most of us don’t mind a little change, especially if it’s our idea. I think it was metaphysical teacher Stuart Wilde who once said, “If you are being run out of town, get in front of the mob and act like it’s a parade.” I got to see him in Las Vegas, shortly before he transitioned. He was masterful at making use of whatever life threw at him. Because he presented such a larger-than-life target, people were always throwing stuff. It didn’t matter to him at all. He’d use every bit of the notoriety, transmute it into fame, and use it for his benefit.

The world is in a period of great change, as is CSL Tucson, as are (likely) each of us. It isn’t as though we can actually say ‘Stop the world, I want to get off’, although there are ways we can sometimes lessen the effect of changes we experience. Not all of these techniques are useful in the long run. We can resist change, be in denial by pretending change isn’t happening, we can numb ourselves with any of our familiar, faithful and friendly addictions, or we can work with the change and turn it to our use, if not our benefit.

A few weeks ago, I listened to an audiobook by Thomas Friedman entitled Thank You For Being Late. In it, he described how the rate and intensity of technological change continues to increase ever more rapidly, and that changes that used to take decades or generations were now occurring within a few years. I know for me, I’m actively embracing some aspects of this technology change, and others I’m doing my best to drag my feet. Some changes, choices and options seem really cool, and some I really do struggle to see the merit or point.

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature,
to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”
—Henri Bergson

In the case of moving the Office and Education Center, this wasn’t a change that we actively solicited. On one (status quo) level, we were hoping that the heirs of our previous landlord would never find a buyer for the East River Rd property and we could be left in peace to do our thing. It wasn’t the greatest workspace or classroom space ever, but it was familiar, and acceptably comfortable. Some people didn’t like the driveway or thought the old homestead was ugly. We really wouldn’t have been inspired to change anything on our own. Change is work! Change requires movement, action and decisions! And yet, once our office building had been sold, and we petitioned for extra time to get ourselves moved (we did get an extra week), we suddenly found ourselves motivated to discover & create beneficial change for ourselves. The unhappy rattlesnake under the trashcans was simply an encouragement. (No humans, snakes or trashcans were harmed in that encounter.) The outcome that is unfolding before our eyes is more magnificent that any one of us on your Board could ever have imagined, and I feel excited and enthused by our ‘greatest yet next to be.’

So if change happens whether we want it to or not, how can we make use of it? It sounds so noble to say ’embrace change’, and yet, that really is the best option when change seems mandated. Without this change that was ‘forced upon us’, we never would have even considered the possibility of purchasing and actually owning our Office and Education Center, and would have continued to pay rent to a landlord and be at their whim about raising the rent or selling the property out from under us. At the same time, I have this glimmer of awareness that we had shifted our collective consciousness enough that we were ready, as an organization, to become owners of our own Office and Educational Center, and start building equity for ourselves instead of for another. To me, that’s exciting growth for us as a spiritual community.

–Rev Janis Farmer

Enneagram

When I look back on my life, over the passing years and decades, I sometimes reflect on the things I’ve encountered that have helped transform me, to greater or lesser degrees. Movies. Plays. Books. Pieces of music. Art and poetry. Oh, I could certainly name a number of favorites (we all have them), but for me, the greatest tool I’ve ever encountered, when it comes to personal growth and transformation, is the Enneagram.

I was first introduced to the Enneagram a number of years ago one summer, courtesy of my mother. At the time, she was 71 years old, and in the mail one day came a copy of “The Big Blue Book” (as it is known and lovingly referred to): The Wisdom of the Enneagram, by Don Riso and Russ Hudson.

I still have her note tucked inside my copy, and it starts off with these observations:

“This is an unusual book to give to someone (books like a textbook), but it is a book I wished I had had access to in my younger years. Although the theories presented here were developed a few thousand years ago, they are making a startling comeback. The seminar I attended a few months ago has made a profound difference in my life, from the inside — a place where few people see and where I (as well as others) attempt to hide and cover up.”

She goes on to describe herself (a Type 2 “Helper”) and my dad (a Type 5 “Investigator”), and talks about how the Enneagram opened her eyes to her “false self” — i.e., the persona that we all create as a survival mechanism growing up. She goes on to say, “Up to this point this shell or false self does not just melt away,” adding, “I have work to do, so I can become mature for myself and for others. I am excited about the possibilities for my future, but saddened for some of my behavior in the past.”

She then goes on to apologize for her own personal shortcomings while she was raising me, and my two older brothers, saying, “I am fully aware that this ‘doesn’t make everything alright.’ It’s just that I want to own up and work at what I need to become.”

And… at this point, I wished I could say that I dove right into the Big Blue Book that mom gave me, absorbed all of its content for the betterment of myself, and moved boldly forward into my newly discovered “authentic self.” But I didn’t. I thumbed through its pages, found some of the information fascinating and compelling, but over the passing months and years, it sat by my chair where I had morning coffee, gathering dust.

As we shall see in an upcoming series of video lectures delivered by renowned author Richard Rohr, as it turns out, the Enneagram is an ancient oral tradition, and in that regard, it’s typically best learned by hearing about it first — from someone else — just as my mother had done by attending a seminar.

It wasn’t until a decade later, visiting mom one summer on Bainbridge Island, that she had the idea to borrow Richard Rohr’s series of lectures from her church library. An entertaining and engaging speaker, I was quickly engrossed, taking extensive notes, which are tucked into the book next to my mom’s letter.

Not long after, my own personal copy of Richard Rohr’s lectures arrived one Christmas — again, courtesy of my mother. Since I know that she (as a ‘Helper’) would want me to share them with others, they’ve been on loan to one friend or another, pretty much continually (with occasional breaks for me to go over the material again as a refresher course).

As my mom discovered, learning about the Enneagram can be an eye-opening experience (“This book is wonderful but hard!” she exclaims halfway through her letter), and as I’ve often joked to others, the Enneagram can also be a short-cut to years and years of therapy. Simply because it has the power to cut through layers and layers of bullcrap that the false self has used to hide itself, expose our ego for what it is, and lay bare our inner motivations that have become our methods of coping and adapting as full-grown adults.

There is more to the Enneagram than just finding out what makes us tick, however. For those who attend the upcoming series of classes at CSL this summer, you’ll also find that the Enneagram is about growth and transformation — and how, by a nifty trick of grace — our greatest weakness flipped on its head, and rotated 180 degrees, becomes our greatest strength.

One of the most profound gifts my mom ever gave me was the power of the Enneagram, and the inherent wisdom it contains. By the time she died, in the fall of 2014, my mom had become that wise soul she wrote about in her letter — overcoming the core issue of her “false self” (pride), and fully integrating into her greatest gift — humility. And if she were here today, I think she would say that the Enneagram played a huge role in that.

So, come be transformed this summer, every Wednesday night in June and July, as we explore the wisdom and the power of the Enneagram. Together.

–Steve Franz, a Type 9 “Peacemaker”

Making The World A Better Place

No matter what our emotional storm, or what our objective situation, may be, there is always a something hidden in the inner being that has never been violated.  We may stumble, but always there is that Eternal Voice, forever whispering within our ear, that thing which causes the eternal quest, that thing which forever sings and sings.
— Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind, 33.3

I recently had the joy of reconnecting with my stepson, Mitch, who is the Prosecuting District Attorney of the big island of Hawaii.  We had not seen one another for many years, and I was curious if the nature of his job had changed him into a more negative-thinking man.  I was relieved to find him the same Mitch Roth, smart, funny, and optimistic.  He shared with me some of the policies and procedures he has put in place to help the people of his county.  His philosophy is, “If there is a problem, look behind it to see what is causing it. Create the solution there; do not rely on punishment to fix every situation.”

Several years ago there was a serious crime problem in the parking lots of popular tourist attractions in Hawaii.  Young people found opportunities to break into cars and steal valuables when they spotted tourists heading for hiking trails to view waterfalls, lava tubes, or rain forests. Mitch met with a group of older Hawaiian women who were weavers, creating beautiful birds, animals, baskets, and other items to sell to the eager tourists.  Mitch asked them to do their weaving in the parking lots where they could also they could monitor the tourists’ cars.  When the tourists returned, the women would warmly greet them and display their work. The grateful tourists thanked them, purchasing many of the items they had for sell.  Understandably, crime in those parking lots plummeted.

Noting an increase in juvenile delinquency in school-age students, Mitch visited a school that seemed to be a risk epicenter.  He asked the school’s administration to hang a picture of each student in the school.  He then asked the entire staff, teachers, janitors, support staff, and administrators, to put a star on the picture of any student with whom they had a positive connection, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.  Many of the students had many stars on their pictures; some had a few; and some had no stars at all.  Not surprisingly, the children without positive connections were the ones who had been most challenging.The staff made a huge effort to connect with the seemingly troubled students, and to no one’s surprise, the incidents of crime went down dramatically. Mitch told me, ”Those kids got no positive feedback anywhere in their lives.  When they started getting positive attention, they behaved in a more positive way.”

In May 2018, Kilauea Volcano erupted, burying villages, towns, farms, and roads with lava.  Mitch formed an interfaith group to aid the over 1700 evacuees on the island.  The group consists of a Jewish Rabbi, an Episcopalian Priest, a conservative Protestant minister, a Buddhist monk, a Muslim Imam, and Mitch.  They provided over 60,000 hot meals following the earliest days of the eruption, created a daycare for the displaced children, and helped create carpools to get people back and forth to work.  They provided necessities, including laundry facilities, for the people who had lost everything.  After the eruption crisis was over, the group decided to stay connected.  They meet monthly and to their surprise and delight, they have come to realize how similar their worldviews, and belief systems, are.  Instead of spreading discord from their differences, they have created cohesiveness through their discovery of how much they desire the same good.  What an example for the rest of us.

–Pat Masters

The Value of Contemplation in Modern Life

In 2000, I had the privilege of taking a two-week trip through the ancient sacred sites of Ireland as part of a tour group.  We had a tremendous guide named Mark who was well versed in the lore, fact and fiction of pre-historic religious sites as well as the early Christian sites.  One of the sites that caught my imagination was Skellig Michael, a medieval (6th and 8th centuries C.E.) monastery and hermitage. Legend has it that the sacred and secular literature of Europe was saved during the Dark Ages by the monks who collected, preserved and protected those writings which had been brought to them for preservation while Europe was in turmoil.  Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization expresses that point of view.  While some critics doubt the accuracy of his proposition, there probably is some merit in the idea that those individuals did indeed protect knowledge that could have been lost during the time when Europe was not valuing education and learning as much as they might have previously.

Typical functions of a monastic community include prayer, worship, service and contemplation.  So what is this thing called contemplation?  Thich Nhat Hanh’s mindfulness meditation practice (in box to right) is a gentle and generous example of a contemplative practice that is centered in the body.  Father Richard Rohr makes it a larger practice when he says, “Everything you do is connected in loving union with the moment, with whatever is in front of you.  That’s contemplation.”   So, how can this translate in modern life?

In his poem “If” Rudyard Kipling wrote, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too.  If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, Or being hated, don’t give way to hating…”  His concluding couplet, “Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”, has more to do with recognizing how much we each are responsible for our point of view in our world than it has to do with any specific gender reference.

One of the best ways we have to maintain our mental, emotional and spiritual autonomy “when all about you are losing their (heads)” is by remembering that we get to decide what to focus on, and how we choose to pay attention to our lives.  This is far from a simple challenge, simply because of the extremes present in the external world today.  Marcus Aurelius wrote, “You have power over your mind—not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”  When we repeatedly remember that we have control over our focus, we have an opportunity to see our world, not as a made-up, imaginary fantasyland, but from the point of view of the wholeness that it actually expresses.

Holmes, in The Science of Mind 200.4-201.1, wrote, “… is an experience operating through people, which does not belong to them at all.  Recognize that it is neither person, place, nor thing, that there is no spiritual law to support it, that it is discord fleeing before harmony, that there is nothing but the Truth.”  With Thich Nhat Hanh’s gentle encouragement we can breathe, “deep, slow, calm, ease, smile, release”, and, regardless of external conditions, have the opportunity to continuously practice the contemplative prayer of “present moment, wonderful moment.”  Breathing, smiling, and remembering the Truth, I move forward in my life.

–Rev Janis Farmer

On Grieving

I lost both my brother in law and my only sister within 60 days of each other. I was present for both of their deaths. It has pretty much devastated me, so I have been thinking a lot about death and the grieving that follows. These are two subjects that are generally avoided in western culture.

One of the things about grieving is that it is exhausting. At first I seem to have had too much energy, so much so that I am unable to sleep all night, followed by oscillating waves of high energy and weariness. I find my balance of rest and activity isn’t working very well.

One of the reasons the death of someone close so profoundly shaking for me is that it holds up a mirror to me that says “This happens to you, too”. Sometimes it seems a welcome prospect to join my loved ones, especially when my aversion to life without them is great.

What I realize is that my whole system has sustained this major loss, and it will take some time for my psyche and body to adjust to the new alignments that await me. Perhaps only when I can rest in knowing that their passing was in perfect order in the Universe, that healing will eventually take place. The best memorial I can give to them is to live my own life fully, one day at a time.

Grief is not a disorder, a disease, or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity; it is the price we pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve. And live life to the fullest we are capable at each moment.

Ernest Holmes on grief and loss (The Science of Mind 387.3 – 388.1)

It is human to grieve the loss of dear ones. We love them and cannot help missing them, but a true realization of the immortality and continuity of the individual soul, will rob our grief of hopelessness. We shall realize that they are in God’s keeping, and they are safe. We shall know that loving friends have met them, and that their life flows on with the currents of eternity. We shall (eventually) feel that we have not lost them, they have only gone before. So we shall view eternity from the highest standpoint, as a continuity of time, forever and ever expanding, until time as we now experience it, shall be no more. …. Time heals all wound, adjusts conditions, explains facts; and time alone satisfies the expanding soul, reconciling the visible with the invisible. We are born of eternal day, and the Spiritual Sun shall never set upon the glory of the soul, for it is the coming forth of God into self-expression.

–Janie Hooper

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