spirituality

Day 116

Views are dwindling from their already dwindled state. This is what happens when I don’t update for a week.

Also, I re-read yesterday’s post to laugh again at some of my own jokes (23:skiddoo! What a killer!) and realized that I censored several words but did not censor the word “fuck.”

notsmartOh well. Onward and upward…


Leviticus 26

After 50 chapters of Genesis and 40 of Exodus, Leviticus feels so darn short. I’m glad I caught up, though. I really don’t want to miss the first day of NUMBERS. Why is it called Numbers? Who knows? Probably lots of people. But soon I will be one of those people!

*ahem*

So this chapter is kind of cool. God speaks and tells Moses that by following God and keeping His commandments, that all will be well. The Israelites will have good harvests, peace in their lands, and they will triumph over all their enemies. The people will be fruitful and multiply, they will have new harvests to clear out the old and they will walk upright as a free people.

But if they do not…

If they do not follow the commandments and do not keep the statutes, well then, the earth and the heavens will turn against them, disease shall consume them and sorrow will fill their hearts. The number seven seems to be a recurring theme here.

“I will punish you seven times more…” (Lev 26:18)

“I will bring on you seven times more plagues…” (Lev 26:21)

“I… will chastise you seven times for your sins.” (Lev 26:28)

But seriously, it gets worse. There will be pestilence, plagues, wild beasts, cannibalism, destruction, desolation! The Israelites will be cowards in their hearts and flee before imagined foes!

But!

But there is still hope. Looking back, I forgot that one of the definitions of the word “remember” is

  • bear (someone) in mind by making them a gift or making provision for them.

So when God “remembers” His covenant, it is less that He has forgotten it and it has come back to His mind, but more that He is once again willing to bestow all of His blessings upon the people, for they are once again willing to honor and be faithful to their God.

This requires confession, submission, humility… God asks many things of us, but they are never beyond our reach.

The thing I noticed about this chapter, and I didn’t need Matthew Henry to spell it out for me, thank you very much, is that much of what God threatens to do to the people is also what happens in the heart of an individual that turns away from God.

One who walks with God lives in harmony with the land, and has the courage to stand up to any foe. This man or woman who lives this way is confident yet humble, accepting the world as it is and submitting to the will of God.

But those who turn from God find that God turns from them: to those filled with anger, all things are frustrating; to those filled with sadness, all things are reminders of sorrow. It seems as though the world works against them. They toil and struggle but all in vain. And by continuing to walk this path, their anger, sorrow, and fear will grow stronger; they will tear apart their own families and they will flee from imagined threats. They will be ruled by the cruel and will have neither the courage nor strength to stand tall.

But the old road is never closed, and God’s arms are always open to those who wish to walk with Him.

Amen.

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Day 46

Hoo-rah and hallelujah, I am officially caught up.  Tomorrow will be Day 47, as it should be.

Today’s Medicine Card was really interesting; I had a sneaking suspicion that today’s card would be upright as opposed to contrary and I was correct. My card was Prairie Dog, and Prairie Dog has to do with “Retreat.” The book explains this as removing yourself from situations, taking time to recuperate. Could not have been more appropriate for this nice day off that I enjoyed.

Got some laundry done, got to hang out with my friends… stayed up a little too late but, oh well. Gotta write.

We’re winding down Genesis, so let’s get this show on the road.


Genesis 46

Israel heads down to Beersheba to make an offering to God; God speaks to him and tells him that He “will make of [him] a great nation” in Egypt (Genesis 46:3).

Jacob goes down to Egypt and takes all his descendents and children and so forth, and it is here that we are treated to nearly twenty verses of genealogy.

I really wonder about all this genealogy stuff. I mean, I know the point is (so I’m told) to be able to trace the lineage of Jesus Christ, and from an accommodation or condescension perspective it could just exist so that people understood in the simplest terms that God created the world and created mankind and here’s the genealogy written down to prove it.

But if you do the math, and I haven’t, but just looking it up gives me a little bit of a headache. If you’re really interested, just Google it and you’ll find it no time. Anyway, if you do the math, supposedly the age you get for the earth (assuming that each “day” in Genesis is a 24-hour day), the age is around 6000 years. One website backed this claim up by saying that most cultures have histories going back about that far.

This is the thing that gets me about that, and I realize this is quickly becoming a long aside, is that around that time period, let’s say 4000 BC to 2000 BC, that’s when writing was being invented. That’s the time period when people could record their history, as opposed to just telling stories or using whatever language looked like six thousand years ago.

Even then, it’s been nearly impossible to preserve a document or a language in its original form, and I don’t see how this would be any different in the past. From the time of Adam to the time of, say, Moses is a really long time. Even if they were able to write things down, over several hundred to a thousand years, language changes, writing changes… things change.

I’ve brought up stuff like this with my partner and others and the answer I usually get is that God “makes sure,” essentially, that the message is intact. This much I agree with, because it’s obvious to me even if it seems silly that the Bible exists in its current form for a reason.

There is so much more I want to talk about, but my feeling is to save it for another day.

Anyway, we get the genealogy, Israel is reunited with his son Joseph, we learn that shepherds aren’t welcome in Egypt (Or something. Gen 43:34) and so the family will go live in the land of Goshen, where they can just go and do their thing.

So I haven’t been able to much about this phrasing in the past, I think, but I really like that when people are contacted by God, the common response from these Old Testament patriarchs is “Here I am.” It won’t be until Exodus somewhere that we learn about “I AM,” but when you know that and look back, they are responding to God with His own name.

The “here” to me serves as a great reminder of living in the Now, of living fully in the present moment, of being present when God or the universe speaks to you. If nothing else, when God spoke, these men listened.

In truth, as it has been shown to me, God speaks with us all the time. It is only when we stop, collaborate, and listen (couldn’t resist), when we pause the fascination we have with future and past, when we awaken to the moment that is Now and say, “Here I am”… that is when we hear  and notice God. The act of being present is a communion with God and with ourselves.

Also, since “I AM” is a name of God, it’s like responding when someone calls your name. If Steve calls your name, you could say, “Here, Steve!” So in the Bible, we have people responding with “Here, I AM!”

First explanation, deep and spiritual. Second explanation, humorous and irreverent (but not terribly so). As far as I can see, God still has a sense of humor. As long as He never loses His, I’ll never lose mine.

Good night, all. Peace be upon you.

Day 44

Writer’s Note: This was recorded yesterday and is being transcribed today, obviously. I didn’t get much sleep last night either.

It’s been a really interesting, busy week. I did my reading yesterday and I transcribed the previous day’s writing, but I didn’t get to make my post. I didn’t do it. I’ve been so tired, so beat, and today is the day that I pick myself up and say today I will do better. Today I will reaffirm what I need to do. I will do better, so today I’m playing catch up with work, with my blog, I’m going to get some sleep… I’m playing catch up with my life.

Today I had an interesting conversation; I was talking to some of my coworkers about alcoholism and alcohol problems, especially in regards to Native Americans. Two of my coworkers are Navajo and they’ve seen a great deal of alcohol abuse and problems firsthand. One of my other coworkers who is white, she asked, “Isn’t it true that Native Americans don’t process alcohol the same way?” And I was confused and was about to say something, but I asked my coworkers if this was true. One of my Navajo coworkers said it was. I knew Asians had that issue, but I didn’t realize that it was a trait they had in common with Native Americans. Apparently it is.

This white girl starts talking about how she’s really “spiritual” and… she basically started talking about how spirituality leads your DNA to vibrate at higher frequencies and so your body rejects things like alcohol and drugs. I wasn’t even sure what to say to that at first. I don’t know, man. I’ve heard some pretty New-Agey stuff in my day, and I can’t imagine there’s any kind of scientific or rational backing for that. The idea of sympathetic vibrations of energy is a pretty metaphysical concept in and of itself, but to use it as a broad generalization for why Asians, who, to loosely quote her, are “a very spiritual people,” and Native Americans have a low tolerance for alcohol… like this is somehow carried down through the generations because of their intense spirituality… I don’t even know.

Every time I hear something like that, I think back to my little fictitious illustration/idea/thought experiment that is “The First Church of Five-Minutes-Ago,” and the idea that everything sprung up into existence, fully-formed, five minutes ago, and is designed on purpose to look as though it has existed for much longer than that. I was just thinking about unprovable things, and seriously how could you ever prove this idea of DNA that “vibrates” on higher spiritual frequencies? To say that all Asian culture and all Native culture is spiritual… and I get the idea, but this does not ring true to me. Honestly, it sounds ridiculous. Sympathetic vibrations make for great metaphors, but in my opinion they don’t make for good biology. It doesn’t make for good biological and sociological policy to just wave away this whole issue of alcohol intolerance as some kind of voodoo bullsh*t in your DNA.

keithdavid

You rang? ¹

I don’t really know what DNA has to do with it, anyway. Your liver processes alcohol. Higher states of being, I get that idea, at least the idea of “higher” levels of consciousness, but I don’t think we’re transcending our own physical form. I could see from a psychological standpoint, and this is what I said in response, is that the psychological benefits of having a healthy spirituality, can lead you away from seeking temporary pleasures in substances, from running away from your troubles and looking for escape in alcohol or drugs. A healthy sense of self and a sense of your place in the universe, those are things that when you don’t have them, you feel lost or lonely or empty, and you turn to something, be it drugs or alcohol, to numb it or escape it.

But I think that someone with a healthy sense of self can either avoid or control themselves around those substances. I don’t think it necessarily has to do with “elevated vibrations.” On one hand, this could be me getting defensive because I feel as though I’ve had some pretty enlightening experiences, and I’m doing my best to put what I’ve learned from these experiences into practice. I’m not going to use her word, “ascension,” but I do have a strong sense of my place in the world. I look around me even in this very moment and I revel in everything I see and smell and feel, and it’s great; I see God everywhere. It’s an amazing feeling, to feel God within myself. I do my best to remind myself that God is with all of us, and that there are so many different people, different vessels for this energy of consciousness that I call God, this vast Being that everybody is. It’s amazing, you know? I see that everywhere.

Maybe I’m getting defensive, because if what she says is true, then I shouldn’t be affected (or should be sickened, even) by alcohol or any drug-like substances. She says that when you’re enlightened, supposedly “toxins,” like alcohol, make you sick. So here’s my meta-reasoning, here:

  1. I consider myself to be living in at least a semi-enlightened state.
  2. Those who have “ascended” to higher “levels” cannot tolerate things like alcohol.
  3. I can tolerate alcohol, and it does not in reasonable quantities make me sick.
    1. If living in an enlightened state is Q, and being able to tolerate alcohol is P…
    2. My coworker’s assertion is that Q → ¬P. (If Q, then not P.)
    3. My case is P…
    4. ∴ ¬Q
  4. Therefore, I must not be as enlightened as I think I am. (Also I really wanted an excuse to use some logical notation.)

Maybe it’s just me being defensive, but I just don’t accept her statements. I see no proof, no evidence, no reason to believe all of that. The thing I like about “The First Church of Five-Minutes-Ago” is that it shows at once the limitations of science (because it can never be disproved) but it also shows the fallacy of accepting a lack of dis-confirmation as confirmation. Just because I can’t prove that the DNA of an enlightened person “vibrates” at some higher frequency doesn’t mean that it explains why Asians and American Indians don’t tolerate alcohol.

One of my Navajo coworkers is Christian, and she doesn’t want to take peyote because of the potential for abuse, or whatever the Christian deal is with avoiding drugs.² My partner has explained it to me, if I remember correctly, that people avoid them because of the behaviors that can result therefrom, or because when you lose control of your mind/body, then you open the door for “evil things” to come in, be that demonic forces or the devil’s influence or what have you. Admittedly, that’s kind of a scary thought…

Actually, as an aside, while I’m jumping from topic to topic, I mentioned to one of my clients (a ten-year-old boy) that I’m not scared of anybody. This one client, he’s really interesting. He’s said some weird, out-of-context religious stuff from time to time. He said something about being afraid of the devil. I said, “Why? Why should I be scared of the devil?” I trust God, why should I be afraid? I’ll see how I even feel about “The Devil” as a concept when I’m done with the Bible.

The idea of the devil as a mythological concept, that’s amazing. I love the whole conflict and the idea of a devil as far as a mythological opposition to the power of God. The idea of a devil as a strong metaphor, even, for all the ills of the world. I get that, that’s powerful.

But this kid tells me I should be afraid of the devil. But I’m not. Why would I be? I trust in God. I am strong in God, and I know I have nothing to fear. I feel like my “soul,” whatever you believe that to be, is protected. I feel like if you trust in God, you can realize this divine sort of energy within you and be protected. I understand that there is temptation in the world, and there are what I would consider “evil presences” or “dark presences.” I would use the term “dark presence” and say that there is such a thing, again based on my personal experience. I don’t know if that came from within my own mind or if it is some external supernatural evil, I can’t speak to the cause… Just like I told this woman at work, I can’t speak to the metaphysics of spirituality; I don’t f***in’ know.

I just think that my ultimate point here is that I am not afraid. There are times when this body, this vessel has fear, and that is understandable. There are moments of tension or anxiety, but overall in a big sense, I am not afraid. I have God on my side, and my spirituality is such that I see God all the time, and I feel the presence of God with me all the time. I’m not always paying attention, but every time I pause to look around, and see trees and other people, and the dirt of the ground, and grasses and bushes and I see all this color and this energy, and for me it all ties back to these things being different reflections of God.

I was talking to a very close friend of mine last night about spirituality and about my personal experiences that I’ve had… every single idea that is important to me about spirituality, about God, every single truth that I hold is based entirely on my own experience. I like that, and I don’t want to sound cocky or sound like I think I’m better than other people, but these ideas are all based on things I have felt or visions I have had or something I have read or experienced.³ To me, the details don’t really matter.

Obviously, yes, you should learn about things you can’t experience for yourself, but ultimately the whole “spiritual vibrations” thing, for example, seems like it doesn’t make sense. In this case, you can look at genetics and look at enzymes that deal with alcohol that are not present or as present in Asian or Native culture. You can look at the cause and see why this appears to be the case. I think coming up with some weird metaphysical reason… I understand that we often want to believe that there is more to this reality than we can see, and in my opinion there is, but that doesn’t mean, for example, that I think people should follow an arbitrary set of rules to get to some external Heaven.

Everything that I’m concerned about is practical, it is for here and it is for now. Everything I want to learn and teach is information that I think people can use to make their lives more enjoyable and more functional. It’s information that doesn’t have a downside, information that will lead to positive changes in your life, information that will lead you to acceptance, love, and respect. That’s the kind of thing I can promote because I can promote it with a good conscience. I know that the things I have to share with people will bring about good changes.

I have no reason to believe otherwise because I’ve seen it for myself and I’ve seen it in other people, and I’ve heard the message that rings true for me, repeated by wise, happy, healthy people. Part of why I’m reading the Bible is so I can understand it and accept it with no contradictions. I hope to spread all of what I learn, and I hope to serve other people so that they can find their own truths the way that I’ve found mine. It means a lot, and I will make it happen.


¹ The Thing, Directed by John Carpenter. 1982, Universal Pictures. Image accessed from http://www.zuguide.com/image/Keith-David-The-Thing.7.jpg

² Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” — Matthew 15:10-11, NIV

³ I do suppose, looking back, that most of what other people believe is what rings true for them. I just… I think some people stick with what they were told when they were young and refuse to learn or be open to the possibility of anything new. Hand-waving away any contrary evidence or criticism does not make one’s faith appear strong.
As has been said before, sometimes with pride/disrespect, “If your faith can move mountains, it should be able to withstand criticism.” Obviously some people don’t feel the need to rationally defend their faith, but for my faith to ring true, it had to be as rational as it is spiritual.

Day 39

Checked some of my blog stats today. Big surprise, “Jesus Christ” and “God” are the ones that get the most attention.

It would be easy to be cynical about this but I see it as a good sign. I think it’s important that people want to know things, that people are interested in spirituality.

One of my clients is a particularly troublesome child who acts out in various ways. I can’t figure out if he’s manipulative or not, but he’s a real character regardless. We met for the first time the other day and at one point he asked if I had been baptized. I said that I had not, and he asked why not. I wasn’t really sure how to answer that question to a ten-year-old. The answer to an adult or to a friend would be that I already feel “born again” and I don’t need someone else’s ritual to give me peace with God.

Truth be told, I like the idea of baptism, but if I ever get baptized, I want to do it old school, in a lake or river. I should remember that next time I jump into a lake or something. Nothing like that sudden shock of diving into cold water to make you feel alive and present.

I told this kid that I hadn’t really thought about it, and I asked him why he wanted to do it. He said he wanted to be able to go to God, or some such thing. I think the implication was that this was so that he could go to heaven. I wonder if a lot of people feel this way, that as long as they were baptized that they will go to heaven. It would certainly explain a lot.

I told my client that I think it is more important to live harmoniously with God and one’s fellow man, to not steal, cheat, harm, or gossip. To not just avoid evil but to actively promote good. I’m not sure he knew what to make of this, given that he lies and steals and harms. Perhaps this will be good motivation for him to work on his behavior. Perhaps his family can find more meaning in their life through a unified vision and understanding of God. Perhaps everyone can. It’s certainly a nice dream.

As I’m sitting here writing this, I spotted an old fortune cookie fortune on the floor. (My house is quite the mess.) I picked it up to take a look, and the quote written thereupon reads:

“Man’s mind is not a container to be filled but a fire to be kindled.”

I figured this had to have come from somewhere and so I looked it up. Most sites attribute it to a writer named Dorothea Brande. I decided to look her up on Wikipedia, and I found this:

“Her book Becoming a Writer, published in 1934, is still in print and offers advice for beginning and sustaining any writing enterprise.”

Beginning and sustaining any writing enterprise. I learned something new today, and now I might have to buy this book. Who has two thumbs and is beginning and sustaining a writing enterprise? (Hint: it’s this guy.) So someone went to a Chinese restaurant and got a fortune cookie which held this fortune inside it which got discarded onto this floor and hasn’t been cleaned because I’m lazy and messy because my parents were lazy and messy and it’s been sitting there for God-knows-how-long and today I get the itch to pick it up and it has a quote written on it that as a result of my natural curiosity leads me to a woman who wrote a book about writing which is the exact thing I’m struggling with the most.

You see what I mean about miracles?

Day 38

sunsetclouds

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies within us while we live. “

— Norman Cousins, journalist, author, professor, and advocate for world peace.

I read about all the wonderful soap opera shenanigans that comprise Genesis 38, but it is so very late. I’m behind on everything again and I’m not sure what needs to change. But I thought tonight I would share with you this quote. I forget which audiobook I was listening to when I heard it, but it struck me in a profound way.

The version I heard used the word “tragedy,” instead of loss, but the point is the same. I was just watching part of an Ellen Degeneres stand-up show and there was a part where she talked about children and playing and how we should just run up to strangers on the street, hit them, and shout, “You’re it!” and then run away.

My current audiobook is about childhood anxiety, and even though childhood can be such a difficult and confusing time, children still possess such joy and such innocence. We get older and we become bitter or jaded or cynical, and it’s such a damn shame.

Don Miguel Ruiz, in The Four Agreements, wrote that we have the opportunity to become child-like again, but with the benefit of the wisdom of age. As a child we cannot always make sense of the things we feel or the things that happen around us. A saying of mine is, “No one makes it through childhood in one piece.” Our parents cannot be perfect, and we cannot be perfect either. Not in a never-ever-hurting-other-people-even-by-accident way, anyway.

I think that we should do the best we can with children. I work with children and I do care about my clients and I want them to grow up and be happy and healthy, to live healthy lives with functional attachment to others and positive self-image, to live with a desire for adventure and an ability to accept change. I work with these children but when I’m done they go back home, often to whatever environment contributed to their behavior or “problems” in the first place. We can only do so much.

But adults have freedom to make all kinds of choices, adults can take matters into their own hands and (for the most part), no one else is legally or ethically responsible for their well-being. They bear all the risk, but they get to reap all the reward. It’s just a matter of wanting to change, of looking deep within oneself and realizing and accepting that we are perfect and not perfect, that we are messed up, twisted, and confused, but at the same time, who else could we be based on the experiences of the past? Based on everything we’ve learned and everything we were taught?

But the time has come to seek out new learning, to make our own decisions, to not let our minds drift unconsciously from one day to the next. Answer the call, and rise to the occasion. No more dreaming without awareness.

I’m very passionate about this sort of thing. One of these days, my definite chief aim will be a reality. At the moment, however, it is time for bed.

Good night, all. I love you, wherever you are, so show yourself a little love back!

Peace be upon you.

Day 35

Happy Easter, everybody. Even if my well-wishing is a little belated…

I got invited by my partner to go to church today. This is the first time in over ten years that I’ve been to a “regular” Protestant service. I say “regular” because I got invited to attend an LDS service sometime within the past two years.

It was not exactly what I was expecting, and yet, it was everything I needed. The church itself was a large complex of buildings, complete with a cafe. I was so lost; I’m used to churches being big, one-room, rustic-looking buildings. This was an ultra-modern campus that looked more like a small university than a church.

When we were ushered inside to the actual worship and service it was like going into a rock concert. The room was dark, everyone was standing, they had a whole bank of colored spotlights and a projector facing each of the four walls. There was a freakin’ fog machine, for heaven’s sake! Again, I’m used to solemn and dramatic hymns sung slowly in a well-lit room, so this just blew my mind. I guess I’m out of the loop.

I wish I could remember the entirety of the brief service. Of course, what with it being Easter, they talked about the resurrection. The pastor also spent a great deal of time talking to people about the veracity of the scriptures and especially the story of Jesus rising from the dead. He made the point that even if medical knowledge at the time was not as good as ours (when it came to declaring people dead), he said that the Romans were exceptionally good at killing people, and they would have made darn sure that Jesus was dead before burying him.

He also said that the “rising from the grave” part is the most important part of this whole story, as it becomes sort of the “stamp of approval” that tops off the act of dying for everyone’s sins. The Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate Easter; based on their readings of the Bible, they commemorate the day that Jesus died. This is based, presumably, on the fact that this is the date that matters because it is the date following which everyone in the world could be saved and be free from death. The so-called “curse” of Adam and Eve was broken.

But hell, anyone can read the Bible and figure this out. I’ll be discussing it at some point in the next, oh, two-and-a-half years or so, once I get that far into the New Testament.

What really interested me was the feelings within me during the service and the conversation I had with God. I learned and remembered a lot about why people go to church, and about how the energy and the music and all those other people really wrap you up into a state of religious ecstasy. Even though I know the psychological principles behind it all, I couldn’t escape it this time around. By the time the band started playing the second time, I was really just standing there, weeping silently.


I have… a relationship with God that is both simple and remarkably complex. I realize I’m blowing my own horn here, but it has been a long and rocky road. I was never raised in the church or with any particular idea of God, but it was not infrequently that I went to church with my aunt. Any time I stayed at her house for a weekend I went with her on Sunday. I don’t remember much except old people in old fancy clothes and little youth activity workbooks. And maybe getting animal crackers at Sunday school.

I avoided my aunt as much as possible as I got older. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t enjoy church as I didn’t enjoy her attitude or behavior toward me and later toward my brother. We just didn’t get along.

Later in life, my teenage years, I would become a dedicated atheist. I was very against Christianity and I thought their whole conception of God was ridiculous and childish. I thought of myself (as some atheists do) as a shining beacon of reason blazing against the darkness of ignorance and myth. I thought I had it all figured out.

Later, in high school, I learned about the Universal Life Church, and the fact that anyone can get ordained as a minister. I don’t know what it was about this that I thought was so funny, but I did it. I have since made sure that my ordination is valid and up-to-date, but there I was, a high school minister. I charged 25 cents for a confession, and I think someone only took me up on that once. Again, I was mostly playing around.

I even had a little tubular piece of paper that I decorated like the Pope’s hat; I wore it on my finger like a puppet. You can just tell how serious this was to me.

I don’t know exactly what changed, but at some point in college I began to feel a draw toward… something. Actually, I need to back up. For a very brief time following my atheist phase, I had a flicker of conception of God. I distinctly remember praying to God, getting into a relaxed spiritual state, and listening to the voice that came back. I don’t think this lasted very long, but I definitely remember it.

But, in college, something came back, and I remember walking around the churches near my campus. I wanted to talk to someone, but I don’t know why or what I would have even asked. I just remember feeling so lost and empty. That day, all the doors were closed and the churches were unavailable to me. This seems appropriate, now that I look back on it. I don’t think I would have been ready for anything they had to say.

It would be a few more years before I would rediscover God in a big way, when I would reconcile the idea of the Christian God-as-Father with the things that were going on inside my head. To my own satisfaction, I had answered the problem of evil, and I was ready to accept and believe in God.

This happened during a camping trip, far away on a mountaintop surrounded by beautiful pine forests. It is an amazing place, and I’ve written many poems about it. Maybe someday I’ll even share some here.

But I went up to this mountain weary and with a heavy heart, lonely and empty. I came back a man rich in spirit, full of awe and hope. I had a fresh outlook on the world, and I had made my peace with the idea of God, an idea with which I had wrestled for most of my life. But like Jacob, I emerged triumphant and felt blessed.

It was this strange and mystical experience that led me to call myself a shaman. Unlike my initial ordination, this was something I would take very seriously, but not to the point where I can’t laugh about it. The way I see it, you go up to a mountaintop, you have a mystical experience and visions unlike anything else in your life, you make peace with God, and you come back a changed man. If that’s not a shamanic initiation, I don’t know what is.

Just to clarify, I didn’t choose this title based on any particular cultural tradition. Altered states of consciousness, a connection to the natural world, a love of God, and a desire for spiritual healing are the things that this term encompasses for me. It is a term that has been used to anthropologists to describe many traditions the world over, but I use it because it feels so right. It ties together everything about my initial experience and the others that have come after.

But even this doesn’t explain why I wept at church. That experience would come later, during another camping trip at the same place.

What I failed to mention on Day 16, when I talked about ego death, is that I’ve been there. I can’t tell you about the brainwave patterns or the science behind the experience, I can only tell you what it feels like.

In the shortest sense, it really was a “letting go.” It was like I was drifting further and further away from “myself,” and I was so afraid. I didn’t know what was happening or what was coming next, all I knew is that I felt this intense swelling of energy that wasn’t going away. After a while of wrestling with this impending something, I finally reached a place were I felt peaceful, and it was as though all the energy flowed away gently. I washed away with it.

When I came to, it was as though I was seeing the world for the first time. It was a beautiful experience; I realized how little we really see in our day-to-day life. I read somewhere that most of the time, we only see the idea of a color because we’re not really looking. I understood what that meant, because I knew what it was like to actually see color for what it was.

This was the day that I understood and conceived of God on a deeper level. This was the day I mentioned in the About page, the day that I understood God-as-Everything. This experience was nothing short of a rebirth. This experience is why I was standing in church today, unable to stop the tears from running down my face.

The story of the resurrection is so beautiful, and it reminded me so much of my own experience. It was a powerful reminder. I know from my own experience that the promise of life that Christ professed is a real promise. We can be free of living as if we are dead. We can be free to truly live.

I wish I could remember the pastor’s exact words today. He was describing the scriptures, and he said that they were true because they have the power to transform people’s lives. I could not agree more. The essence of the faith is so beautiful, and I cannot wait to get to the New Testament in order to read and understand the words of Jesus Christ for myself.

As much as I was reminded today of the beauty and inherent truth of the Bible, I was also reminded of the limitations of current interpretations. I feel like this book has so much more that can be learned from it. The only way to find out is to press on and keep reading.

Good night and good day, everyone.

In your heart and mine, He is risen.

Day 23

Oy, some days I just do not feel like writing much. After waking up after not enough sleep and going to a joyous tax appointment, I’m barely up for it. But a promise is a promise, and so here I am.

I’m just going to take a moment today to promote my Contribute! page. For those of you who are following or reading along, I’m always interested in people’s experiences or interpretations, and if you have some insight or opinion on a chapter or verse of the Bible, please share it with me!

Also, I’ll probably have a new page tomorrow or the next day: I’m going to start a list of book recommendations. These will be spiritual- or self-help-type books that I have read and that I highly recommend. Expect it by the end of the week.

Let’s get started, shall we?


Genesis 23

Sarah, wife of Abraham, finally passes away at the tender young age of 127. Abraham seeks to find a burial site for his wife, somewhere where she may be “out of [his] sight” (Genesis 23:4). This struck me as interesting, because it suggests that even our closest attachments in life can be put behind us. Abraham will not forget his wife and the time he spent with her, but she has passed; his duty is to live and keep living a godly life. He honors his wife Sarah with a burial, and he honors himself by moving on.

Adventure Time!

Adventure Time S5E16 – source: http://imgur.com/gallery/WvaQn

Now that I’ve posted the above image, I am reminded of Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. In the book, Tolle explains that the state known as “enlightenment” does not come from a denial of the body or an escape from the present moment, but instead comes from acceptance of and presence in the now. Things and people come and go; living in the past or future can cause depression or anxiety. Living in the moment, in the now,is key. This does not mean to disregard or ignore the past or future, necessarily. It just means being wholly present, being aware of feelings and sensations, being an impartial observer and not ignoring what it means to be human and alive in this moment. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, just being fully present is enough to be alive.

Abraham chooses life, and even though he loved his wife dearly, he buries her out of his sight. He puts the past behind him, for that is the land of the dead. Now is the only time to be alive.

Abraham speaks to the people of Canaan, the sons of Heth, and they tell him to speak to Ephron about the land he desires. Abraham does so, and Ephron offers him the land for free. Abraham has the ability to pay, and does not take advantage of Ephron’s kindness.¹ Ephron deeds the land to Abraham, and he buries his wife Sarah.

It is strange that I should feel sad about this. I am reminded of what I wrote the other day about death and dying (hard to believe it was a week ago). Even though death is a release, a release from this human realm of suffering, I am still imagining how Abraham must feel. After many long years with his wife, her time had come to an end; he grieved and he buried her.

I have never had to dig a grave for a person, but I have dug a grave for a beloved pet; that was difficult enough. I sang and I cried while I dug the grave; I am not ashamed. We can love so completely and so dearly, and letting go is hard. It is natural for us to be accustomed to others, to be accustomed to their presence and the joy or comfort that they bring us.

We forget, or perhaps many of us never even learn, that all the love and joy is within us. We spend so much time seeking love and seeking peace, hoping that it will come externally or in the future. The truth is that all the joy you have ever felt has come in the form of brain activity and neurotransmitters. Not so poetic, I know, but feel free to attribute this to the actions or presence of the Holy Spirit if that suits you.

My point is that with the right frame of mind, it is possible to realize the joy that is within. I know it is possible, because I did it. It was a fleeting feeling, but it came during intense self-reflection and meditation. I searched deep within myself, exploring my thoughts and my past, trying to understand some of my dysfunctions, trying to find the motive force behind my recurring problems.

I suddenly understood, and more importantly, felt the truth of the matter: the love I was seeking was within me. It was like a wellspring that had been forgotten and ignored, but I had rediscovered it. I have not visited that place, that state of mind, in quite some time, but knowing that it exists makes me feel better.

This well exists as a boundless love, love which as always implies acceptance. This acceptance is centered in the timeless divinity of now, the eternal peace of Being. The well is the love of God, the path comes from awareness and presence: a state of Being. The well is within us; the path is within us. And this is not a path that the so-called egoic mind can traverse. Only the higher consciousness, the Observer, the great “I am” can walk this path. And all of this is within you. This divine wellspring, this boundless love is within you right now, waiting to be found.

The well, the path, and the traveler; all three are God. These three aspects are one and the same; each implies the existence of the others. When one discovers this love, this peace, this presence… the moment before the realization, you feel a progression, you feel like you’re approaching a destination, you have a sense of the path. But the moment after the realization, you will realize the unity of it all. The truth is that you are at the well because you are the well. The love comes from within you, and it is only now that you are finding yourself.

Words are terribly insufficient for describing this phenomenon. I’ve tried like four times to write a sentence and I can’t come up with one. You’re not just finding yourself, though. You’re finding everyone else, and realizing that the every words “everyone else” are meaningless. I’m going to quote Don Miguel Ruiz from The Four Agreements and hope that it is sufficient:

“It is true. I am God. But you are also God. We are the same, you and I. We are images of light. We are God.”

My brain is officially wracked trying to explain something for which there are no words. Just be present, explore yourself, love yourself. Grok the meaning of “I am,” and never forget that it is one of the names of God.

Peace be upon you.


¹ Henry, Matthew. From http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=23

Day 16

I’m sure by now most of you have heard this song, and some of you are probably sick of it. I used to not listen to the radio much, and I still listen to it minimally, so I have the benefit of not getting tired of songs that are overplayed… mostly.

I had an amazing revelation yesterday. I was listening to this song on the radio, and thinking about it as it relates to the historical city of Pompeii; the song obviously relates to death and dying, the total destruction of the city. And it is romantic. It is so hauntingly beautiful, and it is not the only work of its kind. We often romanticize death, we romanticize people leaving or committing suicide, and dying. I realized yesterday that it is not so much a longing for death that afflicts us but a longing for rebirth. We romanticize death because it is a doorway, it is the next step toward something better. We want to die, and like Don Miguel Ruiz said, we are not afraid of death but we are scared of living.

On some level, I think we know that death is the next step, that part of us has to die. This human life, the world to which we are all so accustomed, the things that we’re all so convinced of… we consider this world, this life of sin and suffering to be inevitable. We believe that the way we live now, the way we exist is inevitable, and in a way we want to die. We want to die, so that we can go on to something else. We know that part of us has to die, that something has to go away.

And the part that is left will be beautiful. That something will survive after death, that some part of us will be reborn into a much better, happier, life… that’s dying and going to Heaven, that’s why we have that dream. We want to die and find peace, to find Heaven, to achieve Nirvana. We want to stop the cycle of death, of living “as if we are dead,” to quote Ruiz. We want it to end.

Regardless of whether Heaven is a literal physical place where the soul goes after the body dies or not, regardless of whether the soul literally transcends suffering and attains Nirvana, these stories, these ideas are present the world over because they represent the innate human desire to get away from all of this. Regardless of the truth, these stories are also potent metaphors.

If you’ve spoken to someone who engages in transcendental meditation or someone who’s taken psychedelic drugs, you may have heard of a feeling of “oneness.” Perhaps for one reason or another you have experienced this for yourself. There is a related but deeper phenomenon known as “ego death” that can be experienced in a variety of ways. “According to Stanislav Grof, ‘Ego death means an irreversible end to one’s philosophical identification with what Alan Watts called skin-encapsulated ego.'”¹

In The Four Agreements, Ruiz talks a great deal about a process that will lead to joy and freedom that he calls the “initiation of the dead.” This, he says, is a spiritual, symbolic death that destroys the wounded mind, destroys the inner judge and victim, destroys what Eckhart Tolle calls the “pain-body.” In this way, we cease associating with the body and the mind’s conception of the “self” and instead begin to see the bigger picture, so to speak. We begin to become aware of the Unity that is.

When we realize our oneness, our connection with all things, with things beyond ourselves, we find that we can love everything and everyone. It is not easy to do, and it takes practice and awareness. But according to Ruiz, this is the state of mind that has been called “Heaven.” This is the kingdom of Heaven that is within man; this is the Heaven that is in our midst (Luke 17:21). This is truly living, being fully alive.

Part of us has to die to get there, but fear not. Once you break through, you will realize that there is no “you,” and that instead, We have been here all along. That is the best way I can put it at this time. I’ll just leave this here:

“Jesus Christ knew he was God. So wake up and find out eventually who you really are. In our culture, of course, they’ll say you’re crazy and you’re blasphemous, and they’ll either put you in jail or in a nut house (which is pretty much the same thing). However if you wake up in India and tell your friends and relations, ‘My goodness, I’ve just discovered that I’m God,’ they’ll laugh and say, ‘Oh, congratulations, at last you found out.'”

— Alan Watts²

Genesis 16

Gen 16 describes Abram seeking a child. Sarai, his wife, tells Abram that he must have a child, and she tells him to marry her maid and father a child that way. Abram heeds her words instead of seeking a solution or a sign from God, and lo and behold, the trouble begins. Hagar, the maid, begins to despise Sarai, and the two women just about get into a fight.

Hagar runs off, and “an Angel of the Lord” finds her by a spring (Genesis 16:7). Matthew Henry states that this Angel is “the eternal Word and Son of God,”³ and considering that everything about the Angel is capitalized, that makes as much sense as anything else. Especially when one considers that the Angel blesses her and tells her the things which He will accomplish. I figured just by reading it that the Angel was in some way an extension of God.

Hagar says as much, when she asks, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” (Genesis 16:13) This reminds me of a fun limerick:

“There was a young man who said ‘though

It seems that I know that I know,

What I would like to see

Is the I that sees me

When I know that I know that I know.'”

— Alan Wattsª

A name of the Lord given in Genesis 16:13 is “You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees.” That limerick is lifted from “The Nature of Consciousness,”ª and I highly recommend it. Just from reading a few paragraphs I know I’m going to revisit it soon.

After speaking to the Angel, Hagar returns to the house of Abram, returns to that holy family and the righteous life, after having wandered off. I don’t think I need to explain this one; Matthew Henry does a fine job of that already.

Hagar bears Ishmael, and so ends Genesis 16.


That great illusion and tormentor, time, is pressing on me. My heart and mind are distracted by impending work. I feel as though I have said what I needed to say today, and I shall see you all tomorrow.

God bless, and peace be upon you.


¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ego_death

² http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Alan_Watts

³ http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=16

ª http://deoxy.org/w_nature.htm

Day 14

Holy crow, yesterday felt like three days. I worked a solid eleven hours, mostly outdoors, and I can feel a slight crisp on the skin of my face.

I slowly struggled out of bed just now to eat a slightly dried chocolate muffin that I got from a church’s coffee shop. I might have to check out this church in the future; it seems like a pretty nice place. I’ve never consistently gone to church in my adult life, and I only once attended a Mormon service, sort of out of obligation.

Just as recently I had a vision of death, two nights ago I fully connected with my Spirit Council again and was shown something else. Anyway, I wrote a short poem about what happened. It doesn’t have a name.

I have seen the face of my anger
It is a swirling burning thing.
Crimson light bleeds from it
Like an image of an angry sun.
Into the four corners of my life does it spread
A profane cross of impotent rage
Fueled by the fear that hides in my heart.

I haven’t written poetry in a while, and I’m not terribly satisfied with it, but the whole point of this project is to “Learn by Doing.” I’m not only writing when I feel like writing because I’m often unmotivated and tired and too busy seeking other pleasures. I was listening to the book Antifragile, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, and he wrote that if he ever procrastinates writing something, he doesn’t ever use it and throws it out. I’m just not like that. I’m busy rekindling my writer’s spirit, and it’s going to take time and practice before this becomes a habit, before it becomes a burning need that I cannot ignore.

I wanted to tell you about my Left today, but I think I will save descriptions of my spirit animals for a later date. Although, without meaning to, I have already introduced one.

Genesis 14

I read this chapter today and didn’t think a whole lot of it. It describes a war between a handful of kings, but Abram and Lot get caught up in this mess. Long story short, at one point, Lot gets snatched up (it seems) while he is in Sodom, and the armies take his stuff.

Then, someone comes and tells Abram, “Hey, so these guys up and kidnapped your nephew, Lot.” Abram mans up and arms his servants and chases the offending army as far north “as Hobah, which is north of Damascus” (Genesis 14:15). That’s a pretty damn long way.

Abram saves Lot and heads back home; it would appear that on his way or upon his return, he is met by a) Bera, the king of Sodom and b) Melchizedek, king of Salem.

Melchizedek is a very interesting character, if he be a character at all. He “brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High” (Genesis 14:18). Firstly, he brings bread and wine, which most of us associate with Jesus Christ and the idea of body and blood. Secondly, while Abram and his family have been described as being the righteous ones, Melchizedek, who has no ancestry mentioned thus far, is a holy man, a “priest of God Most High.”

There are a lot of odd mysteries surrounding this name and this person. Some identify him as Shem, descendent of Noah. The Dead Sea Scrolls identify Melchizedek, if not this Melchizedek, as a divine being, sometimes giving unto him the name Elohim, traditionally associated with God. Even his “name” itself may mean “the king [of] righteousness,” from malki tzedek, which contrasts with a mention in the Dead Sea Scrolls of a “Melchi-resha,” which means “king of evil,” the name for an angel of darkness. ¹

Jehovah’s Witnesses – An Aside

I was just interrupted from my work by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who come to my house frequently because I invite them back. Today they invited me to their annual event commemorating the day on which Christ gave His life that we may all live. They also talked to me for a while, and I told them about my project. They told me to pay attention when I get to the story of Joseph (of Technicolor Dreamcoat fame), because he has something to say about interpretation. I want so badly to look ahead but I am reading this Bible chapter by chapter and I will wait. The gentleman today brought his wife, who seemed like a charming lady, and she slipped a hint as to what Joseph says, but I will not yet mention it.

What I will mention, though, is John 17:3.

“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

— Jesus Christ, John 17:3

The Witnesses told me essentially that it is Good to study the Bible, that by reading it and learning of it, we can know God and Jesus, and thus gain eternal life. The gentleman said that everything in the Bible tells us about God. Interesting when contrasted with the ideas of, say, the Eastern Orthodox Church, which believes that

“The words do what they can do, but the nature of the Trinity in its fullness remains beyond our comprehension and expression, a Holy Mystery that can only be experienced.”²

Perhaps God is knowable for practical purposes but a Holy Mystery in totality, the way Albert Camus describes man in The Myth of Sisyphus. We can know God and seek union with Him enough to be saved and to know, sense, or feel what He wants for us. But the nature of God? The essence of God? The spiritual form of God that exists in contrast to the material? At least in this lifetime, in these bodies, it cannot be understood.

The King of Sodom

There are but a few verses left in Genesis 14, but before reading about Melchizedek, they were the only thing that interested me. The king of Sodom offers to trade Abram: Abram gives him back the people (his people? Previous subjects? I’m not super clear on this) in exchange for stuff. The stuff is really unimportant; the important part is that Abram says no. Abram vows in the name of God to not take even “a thread [or] a sandal strap” from the king (Genesis 14:23).

Abram remembers God’s promise and realizes that he has no need for these material things. Abram chooses the people because he knows that God has plans to make him rich in spirit, a wealth to which material substances cannot compare.

Peace be upon you.

 

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melchizedek

² http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Orthodox_Church#Trinity

Day 12

I had the strangest experience last night.

I had an overwhelming sensation that I wasn’t going to wake up in the morning. Or at least that the “me” that was going to wake up in the morning was not the same “me” that was lying in bed.

There is an illusion we call continuation of consciousness, and I suddenly became aware of it in a very big, big way. I felt as though I was going to die, whether that be in a literal or figurative sense. I felt as though the person who woke up in my body would be someone else, an alien who would have forgotten things that I was thinking, would have different motivations, hopes and dreams. It was all very strange.

As I was lying in bed I had a number of bizarre visions as well; I had visions like an hourglass running out, looking as though it were limned by the infinity symbol. I watched it run out, tried to envision it turning over, only to watch it run out again. When I tried to visualize my council of spirit animals (more on that later), I came up empty. I instead envisioned a blank gray wall which receded from me until I realized I was looking at a large skull that became part of the form of a Grim Reaper-like figure. It was then with this figure positioned over me that I suddenly became aware of the presence of my spirit animals once again. My Left cried out against this figure and I felt strongly implored to take up my “sword” and defend myself against this manifestation of Death.

All in all, it was both a deeply humbling but empowering experience. I’m not entirely sure what to make of it, but as much as any man can say this, I know I’m here today.

Genesis 12

Here in Gen 12 we have the departure from Abram from Haran, where his father Terah lay dead. God tells Abram to go, leave for a new land. Abram feels this conviction from God and takes his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot to the land of Canaan, which if you recall from Genesis 9 was basically cursed by Noah and by the Lord. Or at least its inhabitants were. So the godly man, Abram, is cast by God Himself into the realm of the ungodly, the Canaanites. And the Lord sayeth, “Trust Me on this one.”

One verse of note is Genesis 12:3, wherein God tells Abram, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” According to our old friend Matthew Henry, this is to signify the coming of Christ, that by the line of Abram shall the world be saved.

So when Abram finally settles near “Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh” (Genesis 12:6).

This guy.

This guy. ¹

It seems there is a great deal of discourse surrounding this tree business. Matthew Henry does not touch on the nature of the tree or any symbology thereof. This website, the Jewish Heritage Online Magazine, mentions that tree worship existed in some form in ancient days. They suggest that by being “rooted in the earth and [reaching] toward the sky,” trees represent a bridge between Heaven and Earth, or symbolize man’s journey from the latter to the former. Apparently at some point this practice was discontinued, possibly to mitigate confusion and prevent blurring between the holy religion of Israel and the idolatrous religions of the Canaanites.² Interesting. Now back to Abram.

Abram carries his faith with him throughout his journey and sets up an altar wherever he makes his home.

“Wherever we go, let us not fail to take our religion along with us.”

— Matthew Henry ³

God blesses Abram and tells him that his descendents will inherit this land, this land of Canaan that is currently in possession of the ungodly. As I said recently, perhaps as recently as yesterday, worldly goods cannot fill a spiritual void. In time, the cruel and evil will fall and the righteous will rise. I’m not necessarily using “righteous” to mean “Christian,” here, but I believe in the inherent goodness of humanity, or at least the potential and desire for good.

Man is often his own worst enemy, and our desire for righteousness must overcome our desire for comfort in sin. Man must become accustomed to some level of discomfort in order to break the cycle. In our modern society, we have food and shelter and entertainment but these things do not bring happiness. Our comforts are worldly and fragile; satisfaction of the soul, peace with the Divine, is forever.

“So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key.”

— The Eagles, “Already Gone”

But I digress. Things become difficult for Abram once there is a famine in Canaan, as described in Gen 12:10, so he leaves and heads to Egypt. Even a godly man such as Abram is burdened with doubt and disbelief in this trying time, and he lies because he is afraid. Abram pretends that his wife Sarai is his sister because he fears for his life and safety, believing he will be killed by someone who wishes to claim her.

Once the Pharaoh’s men see her, they take her to the Pharaoh, but God has other plans. Even though Pharaoh treats Abram well, the Lord shakes things up, perhaps so that Abram will not be comfortable in this land but will return to his God-given destiny. God plagues the hell out of Egypt (a preview of things to come) and Pharaoh realizes the problem, gives Sarai back to Abram, and kicks him the hell out. Matthew Henry’s commentary fits well here:

“Those who set out for heaven must persevere to the end. What we undertake, in obedience to God’s command, and in humble attendance on his providence, will certainly succeed, and end with comfort at last. Canaan was not, as other lands, a mere outward possession, but a type of heaven, and in this respect the patriarchs so earnestly prized it.” ³

Just as is in The Four Agreements, Matthew Henry equates Canaan as a state of mind, a type of heaven. Though the story in the Bible is about a land, there is more than meets the eye. It is symbolic of the gifts that God grants to the faithful, it is symbolic of peace, serenity, and love. God did not let Abram settle in a land of fear, a land of suffering and deceit. Abram found no peace in the land of Egypt, and so too do we find no peace while we are burdened by our lies and our mistrust. Abram initially trusts God to provide, but when times get difficult, he abandons the dream and promise of Canaan for worldly “security” elsewhere.

It seems to me that this was a lesson that Abram needed to learn the hard way. God is not a wizard, but had He wanted to, I am sure He could have prevented the famine in Canaan. But God does not make our lives easy; instead God teaches us to have faith in the most difficult times. God does not clear the skies and calm the waters, but instead dances with us in the rain and teaches us to weather the storm. This is how we learn and grow stronger. Like a parent to a child, God allows us to suffer and be injured that we might grow wise and strong.

God does not always appear to us and tell us where to go and what to do, but if we pay attention to ourselves and to our feelings, we can know right from wrong and find a good path for ourselves. We will not be comforted in Egypt, and must find our way to Canaan. In Canaan we will find peace, and our faith will be rewarded. It may be a long road, full of setbacks and obstacles, but faith can move mountains, not by magic, but by inspiring us and motivating us to take up our pickaxes and start chipping away, one stone at time.

I feel as though I am repeating myself and rambling; I will end here for today. Love and be loved. Spread joy wherever you go.

Peace be upon you.

 

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pistacia_palaestina

² http://www.jhom.com/topics/trees/worship.htm

³ http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=12