What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Pope Francis as the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church changes?
It is wonderful that Love opens the door to changing the minds of people who once held firm views of absolute intolerance. Love changes everything — even ideas on what we think God says, commands, and requires. And that is a very, very good thing. If only that love could extend beyond a person’s own family…
The latest high-profile person to demonstrate the power of Love to move people away from intolerance is Ohio Senator Rob Portman, who made a stunning announcement a few days ago that he was reversing his longtime position opposing gay marriage, and was now totally supportive of it.
Mr. Portman is known as a conservative Republican, and when he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives he co-sponsored the Defense of Marriage Act, which became law. The legislation defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.
That was in 1996. But two years ago Senator Portman’s son, Will, told Mr. Portman and his wife, Jane, that he was gay. Mr. Portman said this past week that after thinking about it deeply, he could no longer oppose same-sex marriage. He opposition had its foundation in his Christian faith tradition, the senator said, and he wrestled with that, seeking to reconcile his new view with that of his church. Then he apparently decided to set particular religious beliefs about homosexuality aside. And why? Because of love.
“Ultimately, it came down to the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion, and my belief that we are all children of God,” he said.
Learning that his son was gay allowed him to “think about this issue from a new perspective, and that’s as a dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister have,” Portman is quoted as saying in an interview in The Columbus Dispatch. You can find that news report here. Senator Portman also voted in 1999 against allowing gay couples in Washington, D.C., to adopt children.
The Senator last week went so far as to write and have published an opinion piece in the Dispatch (found here) in which he says that he has “come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, the government shouldn’t deny them the opportunity to get married.”
Admitting that this is not how he has always felt, he explains that “something happened that led me to think through my position in a much deeper way.” That something, of course, was learning of Will Portman’s sexual orientation. The senator said that his son told him that he did not experience homosexuality as a choice, but that it was just part of who he is.
Virtually every gay person in the world has been saying that for hundreds of years — but that has not stopped religious and political conservatives from opposing, if not condemning, homosexuality and gay marriage. Many religious conservatives frequently quote a Bible verse which they claim declares that homosexuality is an “abomination.”
Mr. Portman does not hold this view. Neither does former Vice President Dick Cheney, another staunchly conservative Republican, who also approves of same-gender marriage — and for the same reason as Senator Portman: Mr. Cheney also has a child, in this case a daughter, who is gay, and who is now married to her gay partner of many years.
This brings me to a single question: Might it ever be possible for religious and/or political conservatives to come around to a view that supports, rather than opposes, gay marriage even if those conservatives do not discover they have children who are gay?
The Prime Minister of England, David Cameron, has said that he supports gay marriage precisely because he is a conservative, since conservatives belief in individual freedom above all else. Such a position could only be taken, however, by a government and in a country where religious views of what God wants do not dictate political and legislative agendas.
Will the U.S. ever get to that place? Let that be our question for the day.
I live in the Midwest amongst huge corporate farms full of beautiful fields of grains and beans. Well, at least they LOOK beautiful at times. I’m not so sure I am willing to eat the stuff. From what I understand a huge majority of what is grown around me is genetically modified GMO produce.
Many people (even here!) here have no idea what is happening or that anything potentially dangerous is being grown in their own backyard. For hundreds and maybe thousands of years, people have been genetically engineering foods. We have trees that grow both lemons and limes. We have new fruits and vegetables made by crossing two plants together such as loganberries and limequats. We have selectively promoted different strains and species based on their color, taste, and growth patterns.
But the kind of GMO manipulation that is going on now just isn’t safe. At least it hasn’t been proven safe. Studies around the world are linking it to cancer and many other health issues. There are too many correlations between these GMOs and food allergies in children (and adults). Doesn’t it seem strange that dozens of countries overseas have banned our GMO produce based on their own scientific health studies? Is it a coincidence that since GMOs have been heavily marketed there are huge spikes in children’s food allergies, along with the severity of the allergies? Doesn’t it seem strange that SOMEONE is profiting off of these GMO seeds and it isn’t the farmers, but instead big businesses?
There are two types of GMO that I am most concerned about.
The first type is GMO seeds that are herbicide resistant. Supersized companies have engineered grains that don’t die when they are doused with toxic herbicide. This means that the farmers can spray as much herbicide all around the crops to kill off every weed and stray plant, but the produce won’t die! This is one sure way to guarantee that you will be ingesting much more pesticide than you would have before. Does this sound safe to you?
The second type is GMO seeds that have pesticide DNA built into them. There is a toxin that causes pests stomach’s to explode when they ingest it. This is the pesticide that has been genetically “built-in” to your GMO grain. They have found this pesticide in the stomach of pregnant women. If it kills bugs by making their stomachs explode, what does it do to humans?
If you haven’t heard yet, there are dozens of countries around the world that have banned the import our GMO grains. They have banned it because they have done scientific studies linking GMO to cancer and other diseases. You would be surprised to find out that the same GMO grain is in hundreds and thousands of your grocery products, but how would you know? They certainly don’t tell you on any label. The vast majority of grains that are grown in the USA by big agricultural farms now are GMO, which means the vast majority of ALL grains grown in the USA are GMO. Try to find out if your crackers, chips, cereals, even tofu have GMO grain/soy in them!
I recommend buying products that are clearly labeled “No GMOs” or “Organic”, as organic products cannot contain or come from animals who are fed GMO. Let’s get healthier by protecting ourselves against what hasn’t been proven safe!
(Beth Anderson is a certified Holistic Health Coach and founder of the Holistic Health Hotspot in Evansville, Indiana. She is also the author of “The Holistic Diet: Achieve Your Ideal Weight, Be Happy and Healthy for Life.” Beth received her training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Beth is helping people improve their lives through nutrition and lifestyle education, health coaching, and by helping others to learn to make informed choices. Beth continues to spread understanding of the connection between body, mind, and spirit and encourages all to discern the truth about food, consumer products, environment, and life choices. You can find Beth on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/HolisticHealthHotspot or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org)
What will happen if you decide to be happy…NOW? According to what God tells us through the author, Neale Donald Walsh, in his book Communion with God, it is the decision to be happy that creates the experience of being happy. What does that really mean? From my own life experience, I understand exactly what this means.
We create our life with awareness, or without. When we decide to be happy and really commit ourselves consciously to being happy, we will create the experience of being happy. This sounds too simple to be true but not so easy to execute when the circumstances surrounding you feel like hell. This is where consciousness comes in to play. Our thoughts create our feelings, and our feelings create our experience.
Many family members, close friends, and I are facing huge challenges such as serious illness, death of a loved one, unemployment, horrible work conditions, financial ruin, and divorce. So how is happiness possible under these circumstances? The answer is happiness develops when the decision to be happy is made in our consciousness. What we look for in life affects what we see. I understand, firsthand, how difficult this appears. Impossible you might think. But I also understand, from my own experience, just how making the decision to be happy really works.
Only you control your thoughts. During difficult times, greater effort must be put on feeding your mind positive thoughts. Focus on something that is good in your life, no matter how small, because what we focus on expands. Keep something in front of you to trigger a happy thought when you need one. Allow yourself to imagine something great that may happen, or how you will feel when this episode is past. Force yourself to think of things that make you feel good. Your feelings are in your control when you make conscious decisions. When you feel good, you are creating a better world.
I am not suggesting you ignore the issue at hand to be happy. If you are sick, you need to take measures to get well, but at the same time find a positive focus. Read or watch funny and uplifting stories. Be grateful for something good in your life and focus on the positive. If you are living or working in a bad situation, place a trigger in front of you: a photo of a happy memory, a positive statement, or anything that will trigger a happy thought. Send love to whatever or whoever is causing a problem. Think thoughts that make you feel good. Imagine how you will feel when this experience passes.
Our inner world creates our outer world. The inner world is the cause and the outer world is the effect. Find a way to be at peace with whatever is happening around you. Happiness is not always laughter and bliss, but happiness does survive with acceptance and peace. In difficult times, to live in the moment consciously is our best defense but is often traded for worry over what the future may hold. Worry is a misuse of your imagination. Peace, happiness, and joy only live in the present moment. This I know for sure.
NOW, I urge you to give some thought to your own happiness. In my opinion, happiness is underrated. When happiness is the priority — that is, FEELING GOOD — everything in your life gets better to some degree, no matter what the circumstance. When you feel good. you will attract more things that match that feeling. My wish is health, wealth, and abundance for all; and my hope is that everyone may discover the miracles that happen when you are grateful for what you have at this moment and decide to be happy…NOW.
(Terri Lynn is an expert at choosing happiness and using the Divine navigation system which she shares in her first book Journey to my Soul. Currently, Terri is Sales Manager at Otto’s BMW in West Chester, Pa. where she motivates and coaches the sales team. Her intention is to share with others the importance of putting happiness first. She shares her thoughts on her website – Terri Lynn’s Happy Talk. Terri resides in Newtown Square, Pa.)
(If you would like to contribute an article you have authored to the Guest Column, please submit it to our Managing Editor, Lisa McCormack, for possible publication in this space. Not all submissions can be published, due to the number of submissions and sometimes because of other content considerations, but all are encouraged. Send submissions to Lisa@TheGlobalConversation.com. Please label the topic: “Guest Column.”)
Part 3: Everything is Perfect, Right?
After nearly four years of high school, I can easily say that I have become an entirely new person. What I can’t easily say is that the path has been ideal. Through various unforeseen and underestimated challenges, hardships, and trials, we have been perfectly timed into being the people we are today. Though the daily process has been anything but heavenly, has the timing been divine?
Timing seems to be, at best, an elusive concept that always leaves us guessing on our path in life. But instead of devoting the time and energy into contemplating the “what if”, we should be focusing our energy at the “why now”. Is timing just a collision of random events that fall either inside or outside our favor? Or, could there possibly be more to the picture altogether? In truth, our life’s timing is not only purposeful, but is also flawlessly connected with the timing of the universe itself. Through both the incidental and purposeful events, our state of being has been shaped and sculpted by the infinite number of events that seem just too poignant to be coincidental. Dr. Deepak Chopra, author of Synchro Destiny, writes that “every time we experience these ‘coincidences’, we can dismiss them as random occurrences in a chaotic world, or we can recognize them for the potentially life-altering event it may prove to be.” By understanding that our timing is miraculous, rather than inconvenient, we can grow, transform, and thrive though our physical phase. Rather than being a victim of our time, we can use our timing to become even more of Who We Are and Who We Wish to Be.
When we step back from our situation, we see just how all the pieces have synchronously come together to create our story. As Dr. Chopra further notes, we must go beyond simply seeing these synchronistic events in our lives after the fact. Rather, we should look to “develop an awareness of [synchronistic events] while they are happening…as awareness translates into energy. The more attention you give [synchronistic events], the more likely they are to appear, which means that you begin to gain greater and greater access to the messages being sent to you about the path and direction of your life.” Timing of events in our life act as signposts, giving us a precise location of Who We Are in this moment, and subtle directions on which way to take to act and think in oneness. But will we follow this inner compass? The choice is ours to make.
Viewing the world from the limited perspective of the body, we don’t know when, how, and why things happen. The ego cannot stand to judge our journey or another’s journey, for only the soul itself knows when it is right, when it is perfect. Good Timing is merely the seamless weaving of details into the fabric of the universe. Bad timing is only our perspective of the pattern, and is only transformed when we understand how it fits into the grander scheme of our journey. We are given challenges in our lives at precisely the right moment, no matter how inconvenient they seem. My journey has not led me into the perfect senior year, but rather towards the perfect state of being. Given the right, the right place, AND the right level of awareness, the path of life is perfect. Or, at least the timing is.
(Lauren is a Feature Editor of The Global Conversation. She lives in Wood Dale, IL, and can be reached at Lauren@TheGlobalConversation.com)
I’ve been spending a lot of time with a psychic friend who foresees many frightening things about the future. He has told me about previous things he predicted that came to pass, so I know he is the “real deal”. The worst thing he sees is the earth tilting on its axis, causing widespread global calamity and some countries disappearing into the sea. I feel we must get the word out, to warn people. Can you help?… Michael
Dear Michael… I’m sure this must be very frightening for you, hearing all of these scary predictions from a psychic who seems to have great insight. I want you to realize, though, that you have great insight of your own, and this information didn’t come from there. It came from a source outside of you.
Also, as Conversations With God tells us repeatedly, what we fear, we attract. My advice to you is the same advice heard throughout the ages: “Fear Not”. When we feel fear, that bad-feeling emotion is a signal that we have moved out of alignment with our Source and what is true.
You need to realize that anything psychics predict is not written in stone, and the reason for this is that we are each powerful creators of our own reality. Life is like a giant CD-Rom game in which all possible scenarios already exist, and your psychic friend is simply tapping into one of those possibilities. The great news is, you get to decide how you want to play your own life game, and you do so through your thoughts and feelings. Fear is one of the strongest attracting feelings and when you continually think about what you’re afraid of, you draw that very thing to you like a magnet.
So again, Fear Not, dear Michael. Rather, decide and declare this: “I intend and expect to see what I want in my life”, then know that even before you ask, it has been given. It would take a lot of people fearing that doomsday scenario to co-create it and make it happen in physicality. In one timeline it is a possibility, but is it one you would choose? I certainly wouldn’t!
There are many doomsdayers around and there always have been. Remember the people who said all of our global systems would collapse when we moved into the new millennium? None of that happened. And about your psychic friend’s predictions that he says came true: As long as I can remember there have been people who have attempted to match current events with prophecies. People today still try to do that with Nostradamus’ writings or the Bible’s Book of Revelation. There was an author named Hal Lindsey who was a best-selling author in the 1970s (The Late Great Planet Earth) who had people running scared to death, matching up current events with Revelation. These gloom and doom writers mean well, but time and time again, they are made to look foolish as the horrific events they predict just don’t come to pass.
So, Michael, I would advise you to take your focus off of your friend’s words and allow plenty of time to listen to the wisdom of the voice within you, knowing it is Divine Intelligence at work in your life. At the very beginning of CWG Book One Neale asked how we can tell if the messages we’re receiving come from God. God answered with these words:
“Mine is always your Highest Thought, your Clearest Word, and your Grandest Feeling. The Highest Thought is that Thought which contains Love, the Clearest Word is that Word which contains Truth, and the Grandest Feeling is that Feeling which contains Joy. Love, Truth, Joy. Anything else is from another source.”
(Annie Sims is the Global Director of CWG Advanced Programs, is a Conversations With God Life Coach and author/instructor of the CWG Online School. To connect with Annie, please email her at Annie@TheGlobalConversation.com
(If you would like a question considered for publication, please submit your request to: Advice@TheGlobalConversation.com where our team is waiting to hear from you.)
We continue here a series of articles arising out of an entry made on this page some weeks ago by a reader named Carol Bass. I found her entry wonderfully illustrative of the thoughts and feelings I hear expressed by many people during these days and times. I would like to re-print her entire Comment here, to catch you up on this exchange if you are just jumping in…
ON JAN. 3 CAROL BASS WROTE…
I don’t think I have ever had such a unsettled feeling about the future of humanity. At my age to feel so much fear and uncertainty is not a good place to be. It seems that so many have turned their back on what is right and what is wrong. The ten commandments according to the bible has become just another thing to cast off as just someone’s religious beliefs but not necessarily truth.
I am not a young person anymore and have lived allot of life but yet I seem more confused today about life, religion, morals, truth, than any other time in my life. I think it is perhaps that I try to be open minded and listen to all points of view and am always searching desparately for the truth and why we are here in the first place. It is so easy for anyone with talent for stating their views with eloquence, and the right choice of words to make a case for just about anything…But where does it all end? What do we use for our borometer for right and wrong?
I was taught as a Christian that it all goes back to the bible and the ten commandments. But not all of us are Christians. We live in such a diverse world with so many belief systems. But don’t all religions believe that good, love, peace should always prevail? It just seems to me that evil would be despised by all people. We can not keep going on killing, hating, raping, abusing, ignoring the needs the weak without our spirits being broken. We must find a way to do better.
We only have control of ourselves but we can sure start there. We can and do have a influence on the people we love and the contacts we have in our lives. People do pay attention to how we live our lives. I have started in my life by standing firm in my beliefs as a person of God. I will obey the commandments, I will live a honest God fearing life, and I will not tolerate deceit, lies, injustice, and behavior that is hateful without saying something to stop it. I will love my fellow man and be helpful when there is a need. I will encourage anyone that I may come in contact with that appears to be in some kind of struggle to turn to their God for guidance. I will continue to pray for guidance myself and for the betterment of our humanity. I will always ask God to turn our heats back to Him where the truth is and always will be. That is my daily prayer.
In past columns here I have offered my reflections on the matter of “right” and “wrong,” and also to Carol’s question: Where does it all end? What do we use for our barometer for right and wrong? If you have not read those responses, I invite you to check in on the Archives on the site to do so.
This article is Part VII of an ongoing series:
LAYING THE GROUNDWORK FOR TOMORROW
Moving to the conclusion of this dialogue, I want to focus on Carol’s wonderful statement: “I will obey the commandments, I will live a honest God fearing life, and I will not tolerate deceit, lies, injustice, and behavior that is hateful without saying something to stop it.”
That is so inspiring, Carol, and I am genuinely uplifted by the spirit behind your commitment. And…having said that…I find, on my own personal spiritual journey, some differences with you. Unlike you, Carol, I will not lead a “God fearing life.” The God of my understanding has made it clear to me that there is no reason to “fear God,” and I am sad to observe that so many millions of people feel that just the opposite is true.
I believe that the notion that God is to be “feared” has done more harm, caused more hurt and damage, to life on Earth than any other single notion, concept, or religious belief that I can think of, Carol. The idea of a judging, condemning, punishing God has given humanity its moral authority to likewise judge, condemn, and punish others.
A careful reading of the Bible, with calculator in hand, will reveal that, according to this scripture, over one million people were killed at the hand or the command of God. Yet my experience is that such a vengeful, retributive God does not exist. When I was asked by Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today show what God’s message to the world was, I had just moments to reply. “Could you put it in a paragraph or two?” Matt asked. “We have about 30-seconds.”
In that moment I flashed an emergency message to God. “Okay, my friend, you’ve put me in front of an audience of millions here. What would you have me say?” And I was given my answer. In five words. “Tell them,” God said, “that my message is: ‘You’ve got me all wrong’.” When I said that to Matt, his eyebrows went up, but time had run out on the interview, and he had nothing more to say.
I believe the message is true. I believe we do have God all wrong. That is, billions of people do. And that is why I have sought to create what I have called “a Civil Rights Movement for the Soul, freeing humanity at last from the oppression of its belief in a violent, angry and vindictive God, and releasing our species from a spiritual doctrine that has created nothing but separation, fear, and dysfunction around the world.”
I invite us to replace this dogma, finally, with an ethos of unity and cooperation, understanding and compassion, generosity and love.
I want to talk more about that, Carol, but in my next post I would like to first question whether the Ten Commandments even exist. As you may (or may not) know, Conversations with God-Book One says “there’s no such thing as the Ten Commandments.” And we shall explore that spiritually revolutionary idea next. You are all invited to join us. And to join in this conversation in the Comments Section below.
The government of North Korea has officially declared an end to the armistice with South Korea, and has threatened a “preemptive nuclear strike” against nations of the world who have supported U.N. economic sanctions of North Korea in the aftermath of its Feb. 15 underground nuclear test. Why do you think the world’s governments and people do not rise up as a group and say to North Korea, finally and at last, “Okay, enough is enough”?
The question that must be asked in the aftermath of the latest incident revolving around Pakistan’s blasphemy law is: Why are no Muslim spiritual leaders speaking out against the violence that Muslim mobs perpetrate under cover of the law?
Indeed, why are no Muslim spiritual leaders speaking out against the law itself?
Another question that must be asked: How can merely an accusation of speaking in disrespect of the Prophet Muhammad or of Islam be enough for police to place official charges against a person?
The filing of such charges requires police to then arrest the accused, who must await trial in jail. Some people so accused have been killed in jail by religious zealots who have somehow reached them, or in the premises of the court, according to reports coming out of Pakistan.
The present situation again got out of hand March 9 when 3,000 rioters burned out virtually the entire Christian neighborhood of Joseph Colony in Lahore, Pakistan. The small enclave contained about 200 homes, 178 of which were destroyed by fire, according to a report in the New York Times.
The Times story said that the incident grew out of a simple allegation by a local Muslim barber that his friend, a Christian sanitation worker, had spoken disrespectfully about the Prophet Muhammad. Yet such an allegation is anything but simple in Pakistan.
There are those who reportedly observed the two men who say that they were indeed friends, that they had become inebriated together a few evenings before the charges were filed, during which time of drinking they had argued. The next day, the Muslim made the accusation.
According to press reports, there are those who say that the accusation is false, and has simply been used as a form of pay back for the argument. People in Pakistan know that accusations of violating the country’s blasphemy law can spell big trouble, ruining the accused’s life, if not ending it. (In Pakistan, insulting the Prophet Muhammad or the religion of Islam is a capital offense. There are at least 16 people on death row for blasphemy and another 20 are serving life sentences, the organization Human Rights Watch says.)
After making the blasphemy accusation, the barber then reportedly called friends and members of his community and told them about the alleged disrespectful comments, and those people, in turn, became agitated and went to the local police, demanding action.
According to media reports originating in Lahore, the police felt pressured to file a case against the sanitation worker, who was immediately arrested. As word spread of the arrest and the filing of charges, 3,000 rioters on March 9 descended upon the Christian community of Joseph Colony where the sanitation worker lived, burned his house, and set fire to nearly every other home in the village as well.
At this writing, not a single major Muslim spiritual leader — in Pakistan or anywhere else — has openly condemned the violence, much less the law under which the sanitation worker was charged. It is perhaps understandable why.
“Two prominent politicians were assassinated in 2011 for urging reform of the law. The killer of one of the politicians was hailed as a hero, and lawyers at his legal appearances showered him with rose petals,” a report by the Associated Press authored by Zaheer Babar and Rebecca Santana on March 9 said.
Still, if the role of the clergy of any religion is to lead the way to righteous action, moral thinking, and appropriate behavior, how can the increasingly vitriolic responses of thousands to a law that itself would seem by most standards to violate every norm of human rights be ignored, with Islam’s spiritual leadership utterly silent?
Even more to the point, how can any people, using their spirituality as their reasoning, justify perpetrations of violence? People have done so, of course, for centuries—as the Christian crusades evidenced, and as other religious brutality, savagery, and barbarity by people of many varying beliefs in a loving God has sadly demonstrated.
Now, for the record, I think Islam is a great and wonderful religion. It brings humanity magnificent wisdom and insight, as does Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and the world’s other great religions. So the observation above is not a commentary on the religion of Islam itself, but on some of the clergy and people who practice it. And saying that the same can be said of the people and clergy of other religions does not invalidate the points made here.
I would absolutely agree if someone said, “What about the spiritual leadership of other countries and other religions?” Indeed, where is it? What the world needs now is a massive revival of spiritual leadership. And, indeed, a whole new Spiritual Story to tell humanity. A story of a God who would knows only love, and never punishes or condemns anyone.
It has been said that no one does anything inappropriate, given their model of the world. Is it time to change humanity’s model of the world? Have we had enough now of our ideas of a God who demands and commands violence and killing in the name of religious “honor”?
The is the fourth part of an extended series of explorations on “enlightenment” as a human experience. The first, second, and third entries in this series may be found in the archives.
At the conclusion of Part One I said that the danger of this business of enlightenment is two-fold. The first danger is thinking that there is something specific that you have to do in order go get there. And that if you don’t do that, you can’t get there. The second danger is thinking that your way to get there is the fastest, the best way to do it.
In Part Two I wrote of the time when Paramahansa Yogananda, or “Master” as he was called, came to America bringing a technique for “self-realization” — which was his phrase meaning “enlightenment.” Self-realization declares that when you realize who the Self is, you become enlightened. And Master described himself as having been enlightened. And, by the way, he was enlightened. He was enlightened because he said that he was and, I hate to break the spell that someone may be under, but to be enlightened is to say that you are. It is quite as simple as that.
In Part Three we looked at other “Masters” and other programs leading to “awakening” or “enlightenment,” not only Paramahansa Yogananda and the Self-Realization Fellowship, but also Maharishi and Transcendental Meditation, and, more contemporarily, Werner Erhard and the est program. There are many programs, many approaches, many paths developed by many masters. There is a book written called Many Lives, Many Masters written by my friend Brian Weiss, and he talks about the fact that there are many ways to reach the mountaintop. Which way, then, should we recommend? Which way, then, should we encourage others to take? And the end of Part Three I indicated that we would look next at the path that the Buddha took. So, then…let’s do that now…
Wikipedia tells us that most scholars regard Kapilavastu, present-day Nepal, to be the birthplace of the Buddha. This public encyclopedia also says that according to the most traditional biography, Buddha was born in a royal Hindu family to King Suddhodana, the leader of Shakya clan. Before he became the Buddha, this man was known as Siddhartha Gautama. Gautama was the family name.
His father wanted to protect Siddhartha from any knowledge of the outside world, not wanting the young boy to be pained or stained by it. And so, Siddhartha was kept him within the compound, which was quite large, all of his life. But one day, when he was a young man already married, Siddhartha ventured outside the walls of the compound and learned of life as it existed in the rest of the world. He learned of poverty and of illness and of disease and of cruelty and of anger and of all the so-called negative experiences that no one ever allowed him to experience when he was inside the gates of his compound.
It was after this experience that he gave up all of his riches and all of his luxuries, his whole family, left his wife and everyone at home, and disappeared, embarking on a search for the meaning of it all. He desperately wanted enlightenment. “What can I do?” he asked his own understanding of God, “What can I do?” And he then underwent a series of very rigorous physical and mental disciplines, from fasting to daylong meditations to physical trainings, of every imaginable sort. And this went on for quite awhile. Not a week or two, but for a long time.
Along the way he sought out other Masters and asked them how they had achieved or moved toward the experience of enlightenment, and he did as they told him, because he wanted to honor the masters that he met along his path. Yet nothing brought him the experience of enlightenment. It only brought him an emaciated body, and a life that was difficult, filled with physical and mental discipline and training. And, as I said, still didn’t feel enlightened.
And one day Siddhartha Gautama, frustrated with his utter lack of progress, said stubbornly, “I am going to sit beneath that tree over there and I’m not going to move until I am enlightened. I’ve tried everything. I’ve done all the physical disciplines, all the trainings, all the exercise, all the starvation, all the diets, all the fasting, and all the meditations. Now I’m just going to sit there on the ground. I’m tired of all this stuff, and I’m not getting up until I’m enlightened!”
And there he sat, doing nothing. Doing no exercises, no meditations, no fasting, no nothing—just sitting there doing absolutely nothing. Now that is hard for us to do, because, like Siddhartha at the beginning, we think there is something we are supposed to be doing in order to be enlightened.
Siddhartha just sat there day after day staring into space, simply “being.” At night he slept right there on the ground. He took care of his basic needs, and some people from the town, seeing that he was clearly on some sort of inner quest, occasionally brought him a bowl of rice or a piece of fruit, and he subsisted without moving from that spot.
Then one morning he opened his eyes and realized that he felt different. He felt different inside, and he felt different about everything he was seeing outside of himself. He had changed at some fundamental and important level—and he knew it. And he said quietly, “I’m enlightened.” The townspeople approached him and said, “You look different, Serene. At peace. What happened?” And he simply repeated, quietly: “I’ve become enlightened.” It wasn’t a boast, it wasn’t a brag, he was simply and quietly offering a statement of fact.
And people came to him, more and more people, and they said, “What did you do? How did you get to this place? What did you do?” They saw that he was a changed man, and now quite different from them in his manner and his experience. “Teach us master? You have become the Buddha. (the word was used to refer to an ‘awakened one’ or an ‘enlightened one.’) What is the secret? What did you do?” And the Buddha said something quite extraordinary. “There is nothing that you have to do.”
“After all this time. After all this self-flagellation, and wearing a hair-shirt, and starving my body and doing my physical discipline. After all this time, I realize it’s not about saying the beads, or lighting the incense, or sitting in meditation for many hours a day. It’s not about any of that. It can be if you want it to be. It can be if that is what suits you. It can be if that is your path. But it is not necessary to do anything.
“I’m enlightened because I realized that enlightenment is knowing that there is nothing you have to do to be enlightened. You simply had to be exactly what you are being right now, and then make choice about that, deliberately and with intention.”
The Buddha had discovered that you can choose to be peaceful no matter what is going on. You can choose to be loving no matter what is going on. You can choose to be gentle no matter what is going on. You can choose to be forgiving and compassionate and totally okay, no matter what is going on. You can choose to be wise and very clear about all of this, no matter what is going on.
Isn’t that interesting? Sad in a way, when you think of all the effort that people are putting in, with years-long approaches to enlightenment, only to find out it required nothing at all. Just a simple decision. A simple choice.
Now I have come here to this column in The Global Conversation online newspaper to give you the inside “scoop” on how you can seek and find enlightenment. And to let you know that if you have found peace and joy and love, you, too, like the Buddha, like Jesus the Christ, like Paramahansa Yogananda, like Maharishi, are already enlightened.
My own story is that, like all of those other masters, I tried everything. First I tried orthodox religion. I said my rosary faithfully everyday, because I was told there was a formula that you could use to have God answer your prayers. There was a litany, there was a process. If you said the rosary a certain number of times, you could depend upon a certain outcome.
I tried fasting. I tried meditation. I tried reading every book I could get my hands on. I took est. I learned transcendental meditation. I learned transactional analysis. I walked down many paths, many, many paths. And then one day I had an out-of-body experience. Now it was interesting, because I wasn’t trying to do this. This was not something I was trying to do. I was trying to produce outcomes with my fasting. I was trying to produce outcomes with my meditation. I was trying to produce outcomes with my rosary and with my disciplines, but those were not bringing me where I wanted to go. But on this particular occasion I was just simply trying to get some sleep. I just fell asleep. But during that “sleep” I flew out of my body quite involuntarily. I just left. And I knew that I had left. It was a conscious awareness. I was not in my body and I knew I was not. I was having what one might call a lucid dream.
I won’t take time here now to explain to you or describe for you my experience, although I can tell you it was very real, and it is very real to me to this very day. I’ve had three such experiences in my life, two since the original one. And every one of those experiences brought me to the same place: a space of absolute—capitol “A”—awareness. Kind of like an AA meeting: Absolute Awareness. And when I returned from that place (I have not yet found a way to stay in that place on an ongoing, non-interrupted basis) I was left with two words that stopped me in my tracks. Would you like to know what they were?
What an amazing message for my soul to receive from the One Soul that is All of Life. Nothing matters? How can that be? That moment changed my life. And the message behind the message is what we’ll look at next. You are invited to join us.