A Plea for Openmindedness

Today I was not sure what to write about. It has been some time since I have written and I am kind of stuck. As I was scanning through Facebook, I saw a post that a friend of mine put out. I have asked and received permission to have Lawrence Simmons guest blog today by sharing his post. This may upset a few or all of you, and that is OK. This is an article that in it’s very nature is to stir up the thought process and shake up your spiritual snow globe. I am not asking you to believe any or all of what Lawrence writes here. I am sharing this because it strikes to the very heart of how I see my spiritual path, and that is, it is my path not yours. You may choose to follow me down it but there will be no judgment from me if you do not. It is my belief that all positive spiritual paths have validity. If you choose to believe and follow the Biblical teachings, that is great. If you choose another path or no path, that is also great. Choosing your way is important and too big of a thing to be left to someone else.

It is of my own belief that we live in an awakened sentient universe. I do not see a physical hippie in a white robe standing on a cloud, nor do I see a judgmental vengeful god. I see an alive universe that creates itself. I see spirituality and science in harmony, together exploring the mysteries of being. I follow many spiritual leaders and have studied many disciplines. What follows is a plea for reasonable, nonjudgmental existence within the realm of spirituality.

A Rant by Lawrence Simmons:

Rant: I am so weary of always hearing the discussion about the existence of God equated with whether or not the Bible is a valid source of proof, i.e., God either exists or doesn’t exist based on whether the Bible is credible or not. Terence McKenna famously said, “Culture is not your friend.” In other words, stop letting your culture do your thinking for you. If my experience of God depended solely on the Bible, I would most certainly be an atheist. I, too, am in recovery from organized religion, having suffered spiritual abuse from birth like most people in our culture. But there comes a time where you have to actually think instead of react. I think people who blindly believe the Bible are lazy. I also think people who dismiss that there might be an intelligent design or profound purpose to the Universe and choose to believe everything happens by random accident in a meaningless Universe, simply because the Bible reads like bad fiction, are also lazy. It is so rare that I actually discuss the myriad other possibilities with someone. It always seems to be either/or – Biblical God or No God. This is cultural diversion, meant to polarize and control, and it’s been going on for a long, long time. It’s the 21st century, folks. Can we give a rest to the tired argument that you have to choose between the Biblical God or atheism? The following is a comment I made on a friend’s thread this morning (which obviously triggered this rant), after she posted a witty meme about God’s body count in the Old Testament (plagues, genocide, etc):

“Please, please people…find your own real, personal experience with how and why you and everything else is here and why it is happening as it is. STOP assuming God’s existence stands or falls on the freaking Bible. It is the ideas of God constrained in the minds of a bunch of people in one part of the world thousands of years ago. The creation of the Universe is too big to be imagined by, let alone given the attributes of, human minds. How arrogant to think the intelligence that created Everything has tantrums, commits genocide, demands/needs our worship and validation. I get so tired of people saying God exists because the Bible tells us so, or doesn’t exist because the Bible is bad fiction. Neither are true. Please wake up in the 21st century and find real reasons to believe in the world around you, not in tribal mythology. That said, if you insist on referencing the book, consider ALL the information available. The new and old testaments are extremely different books, two different religions. They cannot be reconciled. And God and Satan are symbolic of dualities. It is very simplistic to think that everything can be divided into good/evil, just because our ancestors saw daytime safe and nighttime scary. Consider that there are several different gods described in the Old Testament – the Elohim (plural gods in Genesis), Yahweh (the Israeli war god), and Jehovah – the different tribes of Israel had different gods that got collected into one book. Lastly, consider the gnostic interpretation: the true Creator of the Universe is the God of love and light, but the God of Genesis is an imposter demiurge who masquerades as the Creator and wanted to keep mankind innocent and ignorant. In Gnosticism, the serpent is the hero who brings knowledge and self-awareness (God did not want us to eat the fruit of the tree of good and evil because our eyes would be opened and we would become as gods). Oh, and there is a whole other theory that the fruit was actually psilocybin… My personal suggestion: READ MORE THAN ONE BOOK.”

Privilege

I never wanted to bring this topic up or discuss things like this here. I had very different plans for today, yesterday actually. I am going in a different direction today because I feel like I must.

I just witnessed a perfectly sad example of white privilege. A whole bunch of white people complaining about the oscar boycott, a fight they don’t directly have a dog in. In my opinion, these reactions occur when the person in the position of privilege would need to admit that something is wrong and that something tips the scale in the favor of their own demographic, even though they are not directly involved in the specific situation. The situation eludes to class privilege at large and the privileged are made to feel uncomfortable. The reaction is to defend your exceptions or to point out small progress as a final acceptable result.

I am not immune to this. I am just recognizing it happens and want to do better. When faced with class privilage, I being a white, middle aged, male, go to the top of the pile. Statistically speaking the breaks all fall my way. But jason, you have a mental illness, statistically speaking you are in a higher risk demographic and life is harder for you. Yup, white dudes have it rough in the arena of mental health. Change the color of my skin and I have it even worse. There are things about me the can change my position on the privilege scale, but that position is relative to other white dudes. Life is like a game of d&d, white dude is the standard for comparison.

The system has made great strides. But the system is still set up for white males to win. Period. I get uncomfortable when someone points out my privilege. I should. I find myself wanting to explain my way out of it. I shouldn’t and I can’t. I can’t fix the oscars, the work force, or anything else. What I can do is be the best person I can be in every interaction I have, with every person I have. When I have the opportunity, like voting, I can make choices that support change. I can also choose my level of participation in things that don’t support change. I can do my best to be an example to other white dudes in how to not be a tool.

The playing field is out of balance in my favor and that is wrong.

Tiny Miracles

Einstein is quoted as saying, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.” I am certain the quote itself is fictitious, and falls into absolutism, but both of those arguments, to me, fail to grasp the underlying message. The important part of that message is the last sentence. Live life as if everything is a miracle.

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Having been through some very substantial shadows and coming out the other side, not without scars but with beautiful ones, I try to look for tiny miracles. If you take mysticism out of it and just look at our planet for a second, it’s a miracle we are here. This big ball of rock had to form at exactly the right place, be traveling at exactly the right speed to be caught in a very particular orbit, and be composed of the right ratio of space junk, to support life. So much had to go right that it is quite amazing that we are here at all. Whether you believe that a lot of random stuff happened and everything just lined up to make this happen or if you believe in a mystical universe that self created, or that a deity(s) had a direct hand in our creation is not what I want to discuss here. What I want to talk about is how amazing our world and life is and how I try to look at it.

earth

I spent a very long time in a very bad place emotionally and spiritually. My mental illness was completely in control and I almost didn’t make it out alive. When you are in that state, it is easy to look at everything as being tainted by that shadow. Everything takes on a negative cast. You see the fault in everything. When recovery began to happen I had to look through another window. You can’t recover from mental illness and look at things as though everything is bad, the glass is half empty. My world view had to change. It is still changing to this day. I had to look out and see how amazing everything is.

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This morning I was looking out my kitchen window. It snowed yesterday and everything is covered in a thin layer of white. Now I really don’t like being cold, but winter is a very pretty time of year. How beautiful and amazing is snow? It’s just a drop of water right? But, that drop of water occurred on a day when the temperature was just right, the air currents kept that drop of water aloft for a specific amount of time and the air temperature was just right, so that it didn’t rain, snowflakes, water crystals in very complex patterns fell the the Earth. Pretty amazing stuff.

 

I do my best to look at everything in my life like I saw that snow this morning. I try to look at what is around me and see how amazing it all is. Seeing the world as though it is just full of miracles helps me look through a most important window. That window is gratitude. Sure there is a lot of bad stuff happening in the world and you could fill blogs and journals about that all day long and never reach the end of it. But what would that do to your head? It would make you unhappy at the very least. It would make you jaded, doubtful, depressed, angry. It would make you see the world the way it seems a large vocal portion of people see it, as if it is rotten. I can’t live that way.

I have to look and see what is right, if for no other reason than to help counter the anger, hate, and misery that I see demonstrated on a daily basis. But it is more than that. If I look for and find the good in as many places as I can, I can control, to a point, the illnesses that affect me. If I look out and see what is right and good I feel better. This does not men I don’t see what’s wrong, but it changes how I see it. I don’t look at what is wrong and wring my hands to the sky. I look at solutions. I look for the good. Where are the people helping out? Am I called to help out here? Can I share something that might help out? Where is the good?

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Sometimes it can be a challenge. Stuff gets heavy and I do have illnesses that affect mood and they love to look out that other window. They love to show me whats wrong. They love to show me what makes me angry. I have a choice, however. I can look out that window and eventually find myself hiding in a closet or worse, or, I can shut that curtain and look for the good. I can find tiny miracles that make me smile. I can find tiny miracles that show me the world is good. I can find tiny miracles that show me how I want to live my life.

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So what can you do? How do you change that window? The first thing is to know it’s happening. This requires you to be present to how you are feeling. It requires you to be mindful of what is happening around and to you. You have to recognize when you are participating in building the window. Then you have to pause. You have to stop and take yourself out of that moment. You have to say to yourself, whoa, I am in a funky place right now. What is going on?

Then you can step in a tell yourself this isn’t how I want to see it. It can be as simple as making a list in your head real quick about god stuff. It can be asking yourself the question, what’s good right now? Look out and see something good happening. What can I do to make this a positive situation? What can I see to make this a good experience? How can I change what I am thinking to make this OK? What choices can I make in order to change the outcome here. These are questions that I ask in order to get my head out of stinking thinking. Yes, I have an illness that messes with my moods, but on a higher level, I am responsible for what mood I want to be in and I can make choices in order to move in that direction. Success is never 100% but I will take some success over none anytime.

I want to live in a world of tiny miracles. I want you to live there too.

Namaste

Rev J

Attitude is Everything

When I created this blog I wanted it to focus on positives. I wanted to tell my story, say things that I felt like needed to be said, but to always take a positive view of the subject. I also felt that it was important to be genuine. I did not want to spout out things that didn’t resonate with me or were not coming from who I am or who I am trying to be. What I try to convey is a message of hope and gratitude, but also one of understanding. I want people who see this to learn about mental illness. I want them to come away from this possibly knowing more about what it is like to have a mental illness or that there are ways of coping. In the interest of honesty, I am not OK.

I have been struggling quite a bit over the course of the last month. Sometimes mental illness symptoms or markers come without triggers, warnings, or explanations. This current round of struggles, I can see, has a source, or many sources. I have been dealing with some physical ailments and flair ups with the health of my back. Several family members have also been dealing with ailments and illnesses. There have been pressures from outside of the home that have affected my well being and within the last six months we have had to say goodbye to two of our beloved pets.

The end of last year and the beginning of this year seem to have been challenge after challenge, back to back, with alarming regularity. Because of this I have had anxiety attacks at a level and frequency that I have not experienced in many years. My moods have also been cycling at a pace and amplitude that I haven’t had to deal with in quite some time. This has been some tough going for me, and for my family, who also have to deal with these things happening to me, all the while dealing with their own issues.

I share these things, not because I am trolling for sympathy or trying to paint a bleak picture of how my life is. I share them because, in the grand scheme of things, I am OK. Comparing what is going on in my life and how it is affecting me with similar moments in my past, things are so much better. I ma staying out of the deep shadows and my episodes are far less severe than they would have been during previous points in my life. One of the reasons for this, I firmly believe, is attitude.

I am in a better place now, with how I am viewing my illnesses and how I deal with them. A key factor in this is having an attitude or outlook that comes from a place of gratitude. While things are going wrong or are less than ideal, I do my very best to look for what is right, what is good and what is positive. This does not keep these swings and attacks from happening. It does not keep those thoughts of suicide from sneaking in, but it lessens them. The stinking thoughts or hurting myself are passing whispers. The anxiety attacks are big but short lives, by comparison, because I know, in my heart, these things will pass. I know what is triggering them and I feed them, not with more dark thoughts, but with healthy thoughts.

I am not OK, for moments, and minutes, but I am OK today, because I am working with the tools I have learned through Cognitive therapy, and talk therapy. I am using my spiritual practice, and I am keeping and attitude of remembering everything that is wonderful about my world right now.

Yes, it is an exhausting life to deal with these things all the time, but it is still a life worth living. There are so many good things in it. My life is damaged, difficult, and challenging, but it is beautiful.

There is a phrase that I have adopted, “It’s a beautiful glass”, and it comes from a man named John Halcyon Styn. Here is the video.

Love and light to you as you meet your own struggles today and every day,

Rev J

Bloggin101: Learning Style

I like to think that I am always learning. I am a watcher of the world around me and I am always taking in, analyzing and evaluating. There is a lot that I pick up just being aware in my surroundings. I keep my mind busy when I am up and moving. My mind is constantly churning, even when I would wish it wasn’t. I see something, I look for causes. I analyze what information I have about the scene. I try to make best conclusions based off the information present. I ask questions in my head about what is missing in order to assess situations. I see signs or phrases in advertising or on a bumper sticker when I return home I look for the source, or I see something in public and it sets my mind on a journey related to the topic or idea presented and when I get home I look for information on subjects. Someone may mention owls casually in a conversation and when I get to a place that I can, I might be prompted to read as much information about owls that I can lay my hands on. Sometimes it may be the simplest littlest thing that might set me off on a quest.

However, for times when I am specifically studying or learning, independent study is how I prefer to learn. I am quite comfortable with books, videos, articles or what have you, in my hands, by myself, taking in the information. I also like for my learning to be interactive. If I can do something and learn as opposed to reading something to learn, I think I do a better job of retaining the information. The reason, I think, for this is that doing something is usually multisensory and more fully engages me as opposed to simply reading, which often times sets my mind off on tangents and I will not be focusing in the words before me. Mostly what I study are things that try to get me in touch with who I am and how I can be a better me. I enjoy reading books on spiritual subjects, article on mental health studies, things that show me ow to show up better in life. These aren’t the find ways to make a million dollars self help things, but more along the lines of how well do you know yourself? What are behaviors and habits that you can change to be a more genuine, more honest representation of how you think people should show up in life.

Honestly, I am not a great student of traditional subject, math, science and things like that. I know enough to have a good understanding of how my world works and let it go at that. I study to understand the illnesses that I have, and how to manage them and I study and read about how to best get through each day being a positive experience and influence in life.

 

Learning Style