Why is death deemed tragic? Would God prevent the caterpillar from becoming a butterfly? Practicing what you preach. Meditation. Supernatural vs. spiritual. Atheist vs. agnostic. Judging Amy. The gift of change.

Last month on The Larry King Show, he had a panel including author Marianne Williamson, an evangelical pastor, a Catholic priest, an atheist, a Jewish Rabbi and a Muslim on “What Happens When We Die?” During the talk, the evangelical pastor and the atheist both stated there was no evidence to the claim of the other. We hear that a lot in debates and sales. Statements are made as if it’s The Truth rather than just the belief and current understanding of the speaker. Or, in the case of sales presentations and news reporting, it may not be the speaker’s personal belief, but it is what they are paid to tell you is the truth in order to get you to buy their product or story. The pastor was adamant that the Bible is the ultimate, final and unchanging Word of God and that it contains all the proof anyone needs. The atheist stated “There’s never been secular evidence that Jesus Christ ever existed.” The atheist chose to not accept the Bible as evidence. The pastor chose not to accept her statement that there was no secular evidence.  

On all sides, there are listeners who will believe what they say, since it fits what they want to be true, and they will repeat it to others as if it’s The Truth. Just saying you don’t accept the evidence isn’t answer enough. Why don’t you accept it? What about the people who think it’s true? What about their evidence? I find it very true: To someone who believes, no proof is needed. To someone who doubts, no proof is sufficient.

Then Larry King asked each, “Why does God let bad things happen, i.e. The World Trade Center and the Tsunami deaths?” They each had interesting ideas, but none of them voiced the opinion that I hold, which is: Why are deaths of any kind deemed tragic? It’s not tragic, it’s just the cycle of Life and life goes on, so why should God prevent any of it? We’re all going to die, so what does it matter how it happens?

Would He intervene to prevent the caterpillar from becoming a butterfly? Would he keep a tadpole from becoming a frog? Would he stop an acorn from growing into an oak? Would he prevent hot water from becoming steam, or cold water from freezing? These are just natural changes and it is no different than our own transition from one state of being to another. It’s just a change.

Would we keep a toddler in kindergarden or a 6th grader in elementary school? No, we let them graduate to the next phase in the process, so they can continue to learn and grow and become more of what they are meant to be.

When things are made to stay the same, stagnant, unmoving, unchanging, and prevented from growing into their fullest expression, you can be sure that beneath the surface there is lots more going on than meets the eye. Marianne Williamson writes on this topic in her new book, The Gift of Change.

It’s like what happened with my recent home repair. On the surface, everything looked find. However, underneath, the foundation was rotted and crumbling. Only when the exterior facade was completely removed could you see what a fragile and precarious state actually existed. It’s interesting because after the last hurricane, I didn’t even think I had enough damage for a claim. The roof and house looked a little shaggy afterward but it was only at the urging of a friend that I called an adjuster out. I was surprised when he immediately suggested I needed a new roof. To the untrained eye, sure, a bunch of shingles came off and it looked a little saggy here and there, but it wasn’t bad for a 20 year old roof. I thought.

When I decided last month to get the wall siding replaced, I thought it was more of a cosmetic fix than anything. Only when Josh got the siding down was it apparent how much water damage was hidden under the new roof. I watched Josh all week as he replaced the water damaged siding at my home. Just a month earlier I had the roof replaced, and it was apparent, when the siding was stripped away and the decking was exposed, that the new roof was nailed right into some very rotting support beams. I was concerned because I told the friend of a friend to whom I gave the roofing job that I was concerned about water damage being underneath, since the ceilings were so stained. Jim assured me he’d check it while the roof was off. I’d driven to Cassadaga early one Monday morning and when I returned about 4pm, they had already been working on it all day and the roof had already been decked. I mistakenly thought – from the words Jim said to me during the sales presentation – that he had my best interests at heart – and he did not.

We feel so safe in our houses, yet when it comes right down to it, they are paper thin. We let the appearance of solidity and integrity deceive us into thinking we’re “safe.” We never know what feeble foundation might lurk beneath a seemingly new and perfect exterior. That’s why it’s always a good idea to look deeper into what appears before us, and not take it at face value. And most important to remember that you attract your experience to you by virtue of your thoughts and beliefs, so be mindful of what you’re pre-paving for your future. If you know what you’ve been thinking, then you know what you’ve been attracting, so there’s never a reason to be surprised or angry when it shows up in your life. And it’s all relative.

Last month, I saw an interesting segment of Judging Amy, wherein juvenile judge Amy Gray’s mother, Maxine, who is a social worker for Dept of Children & Families, is in an anger management class. The class is led through a visualization where they are instructed to “imagine themselves in their happy place” and to see their anger as a red hot ball coming toward them, getting smaller and smaller, and cooler and cooler each time it passes. Afterwards, a small marble is passed around the circle and each classmate, when the marble comes to them, names something that ignites their anger. “My anger is ignited,” one man says, “when drivers don’t signal before they turn.” The next woman says, “My anger is ignited when eating a 2 pound box of candy adds 5 pounds to my hips.” Another says “My anger is ignited when my husband leaves his socks on the living room floor.” When the marble gets to Maxine Gray, played impeccably by Tyne Daly, she says, “”My anger is ignited by men who beat children to death with extension cords, and women who plunge babies into scalding water so they’ll stop crying. My anger is ignited by fathers who rape their daughters, and pregnant women who take crack and drink alcohol without a thought for the tiny souls they are damning to a lifetime of pain. Babies in dumpsters, drug overdoses, burns, cuts, gunshot wounds, wasted minds and ruined lives. My anger is ignited by a society that pays lip service to its children while treating them as nothing more than a marketing demographic, and by schools that are falling apart and teachers so numbed by violence and fear that they’ve stopped teaching, but whats really pissing me off today is a room full of ‘supposed’ grownups who think that “bad drivers” and “loud talkers” and “hips” are worth getting angry about, when all the rest of that actual evil is loose in the world.” — Maxine Gray (Tyne Daly)~ Judging Amy, Season 2, Episode 5; Unnecessary Roughness. Needless to say, this gave the anger management class a little relativity.

The scene reminded me of a class I myself came in to a little late a few years ago. It was a class I’d not been to before, although I knew some of the people in it. I came in and took the last seat just as they were beginning to go around the circle and give names. The question we were all to answer was “name one thing you would change about your body.” They began with me. I was glad for the question because I’d given it some thought just that morning! I said I’d like to be able to extend my arms out so they were 2-3 times as long, to enable me to accomplish tasks that needed long arms. Either that or I’d like a tail, as long as it was a prehensile tail that I could use to grip things with. You could hear a pin drop.

The next woman to speak introduced herself and hesitantly said she’d like to weigh 20 pounds less. The next one never liked her hair and so she’d make it straighter and finer. A few didn’t like their noses and they wanted to change that. Thighs and wrinkles were other changes mentioned. I was stunned. It didn’t take long to realize I had taken for granted that I was in a different level class than I was actually in. Here I was in a class of metaphysical students, all talking about changes they could make if they just applied themselves. It’s not always that we don’t know the answers, it’s mostly that we pretend we don’t know the solution is as easy as it is. It’s that we allow ourselves to forget – in the drama of emotion – what we know to be true.

A friend in Texas, who teaches others to follow their dream, has turned what should have been an uncontested divorce into a year long legal battle at considerable cost, fraught with deceit and lack of integrity on both sides. She’ll quote Abraham-Hicks to others, yet doesn’t see the law of attraction at work in her own life. She surrounds herself with friends who listen to her sob story over and over and over and over – rather than reminding her to start doing some active work on changing her belief and her perspective so she can attract a different experience before the divorce comes to a conclusion.

Another friend, a metaphysical teacher, uses the excuse of “I’m an empath, so I’m very sensitive” to account for the fact that she allows herself to be emotionally torn by what she sees in the news or hears others say. “Gas prices are so high I don’t want to drive, the energy is changing and businesses are closing left and right, I won’t fly because of terrorism threats,” and the list goes on.

Yes, I agree there is all sorts of stuff going on around us. And what is meant by “being in the world and not of it” is that we don’t let ourselves be affected by what conventional wisdom or the popular media tells us to be affected by. Yes, gas prices are up, but they’ve been saying since the mid 70’s that gas was going to be over $2 a gallon. It took it 30 years to do that. And I don’t know about you, but I’m making lots more now than I made 30 years ago, so it’s no big deal. I have to drive where I have to drive, no matter what it costs me. I’m not going to stop driving just because it costs me $2.75 round trip to visit Suzie and $5.20 to visit Gillian, and $20 to drive magazines to Cassadaga. That’s just life. As long as the money is going out, that’s my guarantee that the money has someplace to come back into if I allow it and don’t resist it.

If I have to travel by air, I don’t worry about the extra waiting at the airport for the increased security checks, or threat of a terrorism attack on the plane. I don’t typically attract that kind of experience, so I don’t expect to. I have the sense that no matter what is going on around me, I feel that if I am mindful and have my wits about me, that I can move easily and effortlessly through any situation. It is a sense of security that I feel, and it is a feeling of having faith that there is Something Out There or Up There that is guiding me along a path, if I can listen closely enough to follow.

One exercise I do every day is to meditate, and I never start my day without feeling that shift that my consciousness takes, that lets me know I am “done.” You can sit cross legged on the floor for hours on end, but if your consciousness is not being engaged and you don’t feel that shift, you’re not done.
I was sitting out under the pines, palms and oaks in the Squirrel Park today and looking at how the palm and oak there are just growing around each other. They are not fighting each other, rather they are just gently growing this way and that, to accommodate both of them sharing a small space. We could learn from that, huh?

Recently a new friend and I were emailing about our ideas of spirituality. He is Persian and told me he was an agnostic and grew up in an atheist family. I wrote back:

“I’m not sure what an atheist or agnostic believes. I will say that I’m not an atheist or agnostic, and I believe there is a creating principle that for the sake of simplicity I choose to call God. I don’t believe it is a pre-requisite to spirituality that someone believe in a higher power. I agree with your statement about religion being one of the top reasons for separations and arguments on the planet. People are so quick to want to label something so they can classify it and make rules around it. People mean many things when they say they are “spiritual but not religious.” I think “spiritual” has more to do with personal growth, and the entering of that phase in your life where you are asking the deeper questions, like “Who am I? What is my purpose here?” I think it has to do with having reached a point where you’ve seen and experienced a lot of cause and effect, a lot of consequences to actions, and you’ve decided you want to modify particular patterns of behavior to prevent repeating and re-creating the same old life over and over again. I think “spiritual” has to do with wanting to purify your personal characteristics and tendencies, like noticing when your flippant remarks are often seen as sarcastic and mean spirited when that wasn’t the intention. I think “spiritual” has to do with wanting to come into harmony with everyone around you, no matter what it takes on your part. I think “spiritual” has to do with recognizing our responsibility for ourselves and perceiving a duty to those around us.

You wrote about a whole new world opening up for you since we have been on this topic. I know what you mean. I love it when I can uncover layers of the same topography. It’s like you have a map of Florida and it shows all the highways and interstates, so you know you can travel by car here and there. Then you have the backroads maps showing the alternative roads, which shows you a different landscape of Florida, a different way to look at Florida. Then you have the state park maps, showing the hiking trails and camping areas, still another way to experience Florida. Then there’s the boater’s intercoastal waterway guide, showing still another level or dimension of Florida, and how to navigate it. So to me, the “spiritual” world has more to do with me uncovering the various layers of my own consciousness in order to experience more and more directly just what each moment has to offer.

I find that people often confuse the paranormal or supernatural world and call things like synchronicities and coincidences “spiritual”. Maybe so, maybe not. It all boils down to what you focus on, you get more of’ so all we really need to do is pay close attention to what is going on around us, keep in mind the questions we would like answers to, and evaluate every word we hear and every vision we have with those questions in mind. Takes a lot of paying attention, huh? Not everyone is up to the task. But I believe a christian can do it as easily as an atheist, it has nothing to do with that. Unless of course you draw strength from your faith,, but then we can draw strength from faith in anything, right? Faith in ourselves to make the right decisions. Faith in the idea that for some reason we’re all here and if I don’t take score too soon, it will all be made known to me in due time, and I can chose to enjoy the unfolding or not, my choice.
Enjoy our offering this month. Hari Om.

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