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Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Phantom Price of Authenticity

There can be a very real, tangible price for choosing to be authentic. But what often goes unexplored is the phantom price, the price we pay when we let our perceived opinions of others limit the person we allow ourselves to be. The phantom price exists only in our minds. Yet its impact can be very real indeed.

The past two months have been my busiest and boldest yet since choosing to act upon my own authenticity. Besides speaking at three conferences in October, I also started my new Blog Talk Radio show "The Frontier Beyond Fear".

It is indeed the radio show that has brought me face to face with my own lingering phantoms related to authenticity. The pilot episodes were unflinching and straight from the heart and conscience, basically an experiment in thinking out loud live on the air, all while becoming adept at various logistical details.

In retrospect, the monologues that resulted may have the appearance of being somewhat narcissistic, but I realized that the only way to get the hang of talking live online is to do just that - talk live online.

Even so, I do look forward to interviewing a wide range of guests in the shows to come, in an open and honest format exemplified by the most recent show A Discussion with Su Elliott, organizer of Portland Christians with Questions. Su's group in Portland, Oregon unabashedly takes on questions conservative Christians are often afraid to ask in church, questions such as whether they truly do believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. I know from experience that such doubts can cause intense silent anguish, and Su has created a safe setting where they can be explored, free from judgment.

The recent election pushed me very hard to stand in my own authenticity with regards to openly stating how I feel about the Tea Party movement's dangerous dance with theocracy. For a movement which claims to be all about individual freedom, it is highly ironic that these freedoms only go so far when you closely examine some of its most passionate agendas, constrained within very particular dictates of conservative theology.

Or could it be that a significant portion of the movement isn't exactly about freedom after all? This is what it means when people say they want to re-establish what they think has always been a theocracy - a "Christian nation". What many in the Tea Party have apparently failed to see is that freedom of religion in this country has produced precisely that: freedom of religion - indeed a wide diversity of religious and spiritual faiths, including a wide diversity of opinion on what personal liberty actually does convey. Assuming just one particular faith should be paramount in determining restrictions related to the choices of women or the marriages recognized by the state, for example, while still claiming to be all about individual liberty, is a highly inconsistent message.

Then to top it off, I have started reading a book called "Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement" by Kathryn Joyce. I am only a little way through the book, and I already find it to be addressing the rawest of topics of the utmost importance, topics also related to my own authenticity in choosing to speak, topics that too often people are afraid to talk about at all.

In the most extreme of cases presented in just the very early pages of Kathryn Joyce's book, we are told of women and young girls essentially taught to be slaves, being told that they must "die to themselves" and serve the men in their homes, calling their fathers and eventually their husbands "Lord".

Freedom of religion is paramount in this country, but is the freedom to completely brainwash and enslave someone from birth included? It's a very challenging question. People are afraid to even talk about such things. It's much easier to talk about abuses happening in other parts of the world, instead of looking at what is occurring right before our eyes.

So-called "complementariasm" and other kinder, gentler versions of justifying the diminishment of women using the Bible will never get a free pass from me again, at least when it comes to the expression to my own opinions on the matter. At its best, it is feeding an outdated, disempowering form of indoctrination to young girls (and boys). These views are not just isolated to a particular group either, not if they have an agenda to pass legislation regarding the rights and choices of women.

At its worse, what appears to be the indoctrination and outright enslavement of some (if not all) Quiverfull young women, many never taught to know any better, may very well be a civil rights violation, indeed a human rights violation, and I really don't think that should be ignored, with hardly even a word of criticism. I sometimes think that many today are so very cautious and politically correct, they would have remained silent even in the midst of slavery in the South, so as not to offend or infringe upon the religious choices of the slave owners. Slavery back in those days was justified using the Bible too.

Considering all of this has led me to ponder some very challenging questions related to my own faith in the dawn of a New Age. I can only hope that as Consciousness expands, people will simply come to realize that the subjugation and diminishment of women is an ancient tradition that must come to an end. That's what an expanded Consciousness delivers after all. Enlightenment doesn't force its way on anyone. One day you simply wake up astonished that you ever could have believed anything less, and the old beliefs fade away.

I felt this way on the day I looked back in true horror on how I could ever have even entertained the notion of a fiery (or even non-fiery) hell. More and more people are awakening to the truly unconditional Love of our Creator, a Creator who values men, women and people of all cultures and religions equally, with no one sex or creed placed in absolute authority over anyone else, and that is where I place my faith.

But we must never allow ourselves in the midst of political correctness to suggest that what we all believe will not be shifted by the transformation of Consciousness taking place on this planet. I believe that a day will come when any belief based in fear or disempowerment simply will no longer make sense, not to anyone. Only the unconditional Love will remain. There will be no loss on that day, not even the need to persuade, only astonishment, acceptance and Joy. We will simply Know.

I have to say that I was encouraged by a Glenn Beck program I happened to catch one day where he talked about "I AM that I AM" as the name of God and then applied that to each and every one of us. Amazingly reminiscent of a standard "New Age exercise", Glenn proceeded to write the words "I AM" on his chalkboard, followed by a blank. Then he filled that blank with several positive affirmations, all affirming positive qualities of human individuals. It is this sort of thing that demonstrates how Consciousness is indeed expanding in the most subtle of ways.

But until that day when we are certain the quantum leap in Consciousness has taken full effect, the only way many of us can continue to share what we believe is by authentically expressing who we are and what we feel. The sharing of information is another way to gently shift Consciousness. The judgment of others who believe otherwise, whether phantom judgment or real, cannot deter us. For me, my own choice to be authentic is an expression of pure conscience and Love. Love is the most powerful force in the Universe, and when you choose to stand in the Empowerment of Love, you can never go astray.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Forgiving and Forgetting: What We Truly Need to Remember About September 11

Like most Americans on that dreadful day, I watched with horror on September 11, 2001 and felt the very foundations of my day-to-day reality rocked in the days, weeks, months, even years that followed.

I was quite a different person back then, a person who stressed about all the little things in life, not to mention the big things. And this was a VERY big thing to me at the time.

We were living in a semi-rural area of Kansas in those days, and fear was running rampant, with no way of knowing at the time what might happen next. I recall well in the days that followed the sound of fighter jets overhead, the only planes flying at all, no doubt heading to and from nearby bases. And I must have watched the twin towers fall almost 50 times, addicted news junkie I was at the time.

When the "shock and awe" of war quickly followed, it seemed unavoidable. Like other mostly patriotic Americans, one who had actually been persuaded into voting for George W. Bush not long before this happened, I accepted the inevitability of war, though I do recall feeling uneasy about it at the time. I can still remember the palpable fear and uncertainty of those days. I was so very paranoid I was almost afraid to open the mail in the Antrax scares that followed. Yes, I was a much different person back then, a person ruled by fear. But fear was the rule of the day. Fear, righteous anger and revenge.

And the fear did not really let up throughout the year that followed. It was during September 2002, when anniversary fervor was reaching a fever pitch, that I had to confront a personal crisis, a thankfully brief, yet intense health scare that ultimately resulted in my own spiritual awakening. No doubt the crisis was made even more intense by the year following September 11, but in a way I felt like the entire nation was facing what seemed like a continual prospect of cancer, not just me. We had all been given the bad news a year ago, changing us forever.

I find it interesting that only in this very moment did I ever make the connection between the fear surrounding my health scare and September 11. For it was this time in my life that indeed led to a very dramatic spiritual awakening about 8 months later, an awakening that finally freed my life and my writing voice.

As with many personal awakenings, mine was the result of intense turmoil facing my own mortality, the turmoil of a person with no trusted spiritual anchor to rely upon, so great were my doubts about the evangelical beliefs instilled in childhood. I felt like I was standing at the very brink of hell. My confrontation with mortality was not just related to the state of my health, but the fear-based state of the entire nation.

In retrospect, I now realize the tremendous gifts fear gave to me. It was fear that led to my heartfelt prayer to the Creator of the Universe, tearfully begging to be shown "the way", whatever it might be.

And the way was indeed shown, though it took years for me to begin to understand, a journey of progressive understanding that continues on this September 11 too, nine years later.

The way had to do with unconditional Love. The way had to do with unconditional Forgiveness. The way had to do with lasting Peace.

I have not forgotten what happened on September 11, 2001. I have not forgotten on a personal, national or global level. I have not forgotten the many people who died that day. I have not forgotten the many people who died in the days and years that followed, on all sides of the resulting wars, including many innocent children and civilians, in addition to soldiers. But there is a difference between forgetting and letting go.

I am finally finding a way of letting go the fear of those days. And it's been quite some time since I have felt any need for vengeance. Instead I have discovered understanding. Instead I am really beginning to see what true faith, forgiveness and unconditional Love actually ask of all of us.

When you begin to look through eyes of understanding, you realize that the entire event on September 11 (even if you believe in alternative theories on the subject) resulted from centuries of fear and vengeance, something that drove a few misguided people to commit an act they felt was justified by their own convictions.

We can question those convictions of course, but can we even dare to try to understand what might have made them feel this way? Can we even dare to end the silence of tolerance (which need not be silent at all)? Just as we expect the tolerant in other countries to take the lead in educating those in their midst, can we dare to take on the responsibility of educating and enlightening those in our own country plagued by eerily similar fears?

Wars breed more wars. Any student of history can see that this is true. Fear breeds more fear. Vengeance breeds more vengeance. Blame breeds more blame. Anger breeds more anger. Death breeds more death. This is true on both sides of any conflict. And sometimes the cascading domino effects of war go on for centuries. This is what happens when we choose not to forget, when we choose not to let go, when we choose not to understand, when we choose not to forgive, when we choose not to Love.

We have a choice. We can indeed choose to Love. We can indeed choose to Trust. We can indeed choose to Understand. We can indeed choose to Forgive. We can indeed choose to place our Faith in the Love that binds us all together on this Earth.

That is where I place my Faith tonight. I have released the angst of September 11, and I no longer believe reacting in fear has anything to do with Faith or Love. I have not watched a single news report today. I honor those who died, just as I honor those who died on every horrendous day, days that continue in some parts of the world, impacting people of many nations, not just ours.

I'm going to dinner in a while. I choose to visit a small family-owned restaurant run by a Moslem married to a Christian (not sure if she converted, either way is fine with me). I happen to know that these people have personally felt an impact from the fear and unreasonable bias that still have a strangle-hold on some who claim to be all about forgiveness, but are actually more interested in judgment, vengeance and a a skewed nationalistic furor instead (something that has led to more wars and death than can be fathomed). I look forward to a nice meal of spicy lamb tajine, a favorite of mine.

I invite you all to dine with us at the table of Universal brotherhood, sisterhood and Unconditional Love.

Understanding breeds more Understanding. Tolerance breeds more Tolerance. Forgiveness breeds more Forgiveness. Love breeds more Love. Joy breeds more Joy. Peace breeds more Peace. Faith breeds more Faith.

I have unwaivering Faith that true Peace on Earth will soon be in our midst.

In peace,
Susan Larison Danz (aka BridgeBuilder)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Sneak Preview of "The Frontier Beyond Fear"...

Nothing is more motivating as a writer than to see a beautiful preview of the book cover art created by talented artist Richard Crookes.

Have you visited the new frontier?

It is not a place.

It is a way of life.

One life, one moment at a time...

Join the new pioneers.

The Frontier Beyond Fear...a new book by inspirational writer Susan Larison Danz.

Coming soon...

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Dialogue on the New Age Between Evangelical Christians & "New Agers"

There is a profound and fascinating dialogue that has been underway for about a week on the Oprah spiritual forum regarding defining what is meant by the so-called "New Age". I did not initiate this dialogue, but I am actively participating. Like myself, there are those participating in the dialogue whose journey led them to the New Age after experiencing evangelical Christianity to various degrees. There is also at least one person participating in the discussion who was once a New Ager and is now an evangelical Christian. Others have a diversity of views, including at least one atheist.

Whether or not we agree regarding our particular points of view, I believe dialogues of this nature are essential to mutual understanding. I know that my evangelical friends and family, both online and otherwise, would lovingly like to see people like me led back to what they see as "the Truth" of the Bible. By the same token, those of us who can no longer fathom fear-based notions such as hell or the violence attributed to God in parts of the Bible hope that others will one day come to see that there is no exclusive path to the truly UNCONDITIONAL Love of God.

Often there are misconceptions about what people actually do believe, and only through dialogues such as these can we begin to find understanding. Such dialogues most certainly do NOT require that everyone agree, and indeed they can be quite empassioned, intense discussions, where everyone authentically and openly expresses their sincere beliefs and spiritual journeys.

Since I only have permission to share my own contributions to the discussion in this blog, I'm going to post two of my posts to the thread. You can read the entire dialogue (which continues to evolve) here:

My first post is in response to a very dedicated Christian who claims New Agers lack "conscience":

Since I consider myself a "New Ager" now (despite the many different confusing connotations of the label), I will respond in a moment to the overall question posed by this thread.

However, I did want to specifically respond to this notion of New Agers lacking "conscience". Personally I think more people need to find their conscience when they ponder the notion of a violent God who would actually choose to torture or abandon most of humanity for eternity, behave in the violent manner described in the Old Testament or engage in the promised wrath of the End Times. The reason I am now a New Ager and not an evangelical Christian actually has EVERYTHING to do with conscience (as well as courage). Other people leaving Christianity attest to much the same.

In fact, the reason I ALWAYS had doubts, even in the years I was trying to believe in the entirety of the Bible, was because of my conscience. I also find it fascinating that as I travel in New Age circles, many of the teachers and friends I encounter were once on the conservative Christian path and left it.

Personally I couldn't even fathom following a violent "god" anymore, and that has everything to do with conscience. I now know that Love is what matters, not harsh judgment and threatened punishments. God is SO much greater than that. When I used to sing "How Great Thou Art" in church, I could never fully accept it because of the violence in the Bible. But I get the concept now. I wish more people could know just how great God actually is and what true Love and grace actually are, abandoning NO ONE ever.

If you are being told something that violates your conscience (and I can surface any number of horrendously unconscionable concepts in the Bible), if it just doesn't really make sense to you that a Loving God could also be a harsh and violent judge and war-like entity, those doubts are actually God speaking within your heart. I hope you choose to listen some day, as many of us already have.

In my second post to this thread, I endeavor to define how I interpret what it means to be a "New Ager". Just to give you a little bit of context, I also refer to a question asked about the "New" Age actually being a "Middle" Age, as defined by writer Carolyn Myss.

Since I now consider myself a New Ager, and I have become quite active in New Age circles, I will tell you my impressions. I doubt I will get all of this in to one post. An entire book could probably be written on this subject.

I'm not sure about this concept of "the Middle Age" Carolyn Myss refers to (although I am familiar with some of Carolyn's work), but I will say that many view the New Age as very old. There are parallels to Gnostic interpretations of Christianity, but it even goes back farther than that to what some might call pagan roots (keeping in mind that Christianity also has many pagan roots). One concept of the New Age that is very old is the concept of the feminine aspect of the Divine (not just the masculine).

I believe I gave Biblically-based Christianity every possible chance to transform my life and show me the way to God. In fact, I cannot begin to describe my distress over the years, even starting as a young teen, regarding why others seemed to experience dramatic effects from Christianity, but I never did. As recently as about 8 years ago, I was sitting in church and Womens Bible Study trying to believe with all my heart (even after being exposed to New Age concepts) - I can't begin to describe my heartwrenching prayers over the years, begging God to assist me with my doubts, asking to be shown the way.

But ultimately it was only New Age concepts which transformed my own life for the better, not Biblically-based Christianity, and I do know many other people in New Age circles who have had much the same experience. So if you think New Age concepts are not life-changing, you are wrong. People have personal testimonies of miraculous transformations every bit as dramatic as any Christian conversion story I ever heard in my many years of being around evangelical Christians.

But I will say that New Age life transformation is different (yet in some ways the same) as what Christians report. For a New Ager (and many would choose NOT to use that label at all, but I'll use it), it is more about empowerment than disempowerment, not in a prideful way challenging God (as is often misconstrued), but such that you are on the path to becoming EVERYTHING your Creator intends you to be. God doesn't want us on our knees. God gently lifts us off our knees and then teaches us how to hold the keys to the kingdom, in full PARTNERSHIP with the entirety of God. And just like what many Christians report, God gently shows us the way to becoming a far more loving, giving, compassionate person in the way we deal with our fellow humanity. This is not at all a path devoid of conscience as some seem to think. I am a far more giving person now than I ever was before.

The most fundamental belief of New Agers, shared by almost all of them in my experience, is that we are inseparable from God, that we are aspects of God having a human experience, not yet fully conscious of Who We Are. Once they begin to have an increased awareness of this reality, people often have profound "One with the Universe" experiences. Often the Love conveyed in such an experience is completely overwhelming. It is not at all impersonal (even though some on New Age paths have a less satisfying impersonal view of God). What some might call "miracles" also occur, including dramatic healings (which I have personally observed) and other amazing "coincidences" (which New Agers call "synchronicities"). Many New Agers approach the dire news of the economy, wars, terrorism, the oil spill, etc., with far fewer fears than the average person. I know I wouldn't have handled it well years ago, as I was a very fearful person. I can see the transformation on a daily basis within me, more and more each day. I place my trust in God.

The dawning of the "New Age" itself is that process of more and more of humanity becoming aware of their Divine natures, precisely as our Creator intends. Many call this "expanded Consciousness". Some with Christian roots like to call it "the Christ Consciousness" because they believe mainstream Christianity has misinterpreted (misled by early saboteurs) what Jesus actually said and did. Many New Agers can point to verses in the Bible supportive of their views (though not in the entirety of the Bible).

What is the "New Age"? In many ways it isn't all that much different from what Christians look forward to on the Earth, a time of Love, peace and complete communion with your Creator. A Golden Age. An Age of fully knowing the unconditional Love and omnipresence of your Creator, including within your own heart. It is dawning already for many of us.

We would welcome more contributors to this dialogue, no matter what your point of view. Keep in mind that the Oprah forum requires respectful dialogue, even though it supports the notion of healthy debates. "Respectful" doesn't necessitate that everyone agree, and people do very honestly express things that sometimes others may not want to hear, what some might call a form of "tough love". But it is important to realize that LOVE for others is indeed the primary motivation behind the posts of almost ALL participants, no matter what they happen to believe. Many of us have discovered lasting online friendships on the forum with people of much different beliefs than our own. We may debate each other, but at the end of the day, we still love and care for one another, which is why we are engaging in the discussions to begin with.

If you do wish to participate in the discussion, registering for the Oprah forum is quite straightforward, and my experience with the forum, its privacy and email policies, etc., have all been very positive. I have been an Oprah forum member for several years, posting very honestly and authentically under the pseudonym bridgebldr. Over the years, I have found that hiding what I believe, just because some may not agree, serves the purposes of no one. To have authentic understanding of one another in this world, we must not only BE authentic ourselves, but we must allow OTHERS to be authentic too. Nothing undermines genuine dialogue and understanding more than the judgment or suppression of ideas and beliefs. What is so refreshing about the Oprah spiritual forum is that people do find the courage to express what they actually do believe, whatever it may be.

Here once again is the thread containing the ongoing dialogue:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Gulf Between the New Earth and the Old? Just a Few Miracles...

"I never did believe in miracles,
But I've a feeling it's time to try.
I never did believe in the ways of magic,
But I'm beginning to wonder why."
~ Fleetwood Mac

I am finding it increasingly intolerable to think about the problems on this Earth in any sort of traditional way. We are running out of Old Earth solutions to Old Earth problems, and these problems have been with us a very long time.

The last gasp of the Old Earth is looking quite grim right now, particularly for those who have no faith or knowledge of the New Earth that is truly dawning.

When I first heard about the immensity of the Gulf Oil Spill, another oceanic tragedy immediately came to mind: the Titanic. If greed-based business interests hadn't insisted on excessive speed that night, the Titanic would not have gone down at all. And we have all heard about the lack of lifeboats. Sound familiar?

And then there is that other Gulf so many try not to think about, that Gulf in the Middle East, where the corporate war machine stokes the frenzied flames of fear to just keep going and going and going, with precious lives the price. Fiercely loyal nationalism and fear-based religious exclusivity express the selfishness and pride ever more ~ the world itself would be the price if they continued unabated.

The Gulf Oil spill is a vivid reminder of the plumes of poison we can no longer choose to ignore, poison that has silently infiltrated almost every aspect our lives and our deaths. We would prefer not to know. We would prefer to enjoy the comforts and not think about the price. Even the medical/pharmaceutical establishment, the churches and the paternalistic government we might turn to in times of need have the disease, with not much real relief to be found.

It is the price of progress, some say. Ironically even progress itself is often brought to a standstill. How many innovations, how many dramatic cures, have been stopped in their tracks by those whose interests might be infringed upon? How many peace-based solutions have been stymied by nationalistic pride?

Yet we so often fail to see it, so busy so many of us are marching off day after day to passionless jobs which occupy not only most of the hours of our days, but most of the years of our lives, in businesses with "leadership" structures more like authoritarian dictatorships, where even asking an honest question can be an inexcusable offense. Governments can become much the same. But so few of us dare to question and accept the norm as unavoidable, while those we allow to take advantage of us waltz their way to the halls of power and the bank.

Until we find the courage to JUST SAY NO. And JUST SAY YES to something New. Some of us are choosing a new way of life. Some of us have struck out on our own, and we aim to do more GIVING than taking. No longer will we invest our time and energy into those things that no longer serve our world. We have discovered Love in our spirituality instead of fear and intolerance. And no matter how sentimental we may be about the place we choose to live, more and more of us value worldwide Peace and Harmony more than selfish nationalistic pride.

Yet still that is not enough. It is just a step beyond Old World thinking, not the quantum leap required to reach the New.

What will be required? How do we find this New Earth many of us know is already dawning in our midst?

It's really very simple.

Do you believe in miracles? Maybe it's time to try. And some day the miracles will find you even if you don't...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Sound of Silence

I realize it has been some time since I have written in this blog. Although I have maintained some presence online in the many venues I visit, for many weeks I have been experiencing an unexpected exercise in the sound of silence.

It started with a particularly intense case of the flu, bringing my busy life virtually to a standstill for almost two weeks (with an even longer recovery time). Then I developed a lingering case of laryngitis that only now is finally subsiding. Because I was unable to talk on the phone or engage in conversations, this had a significant impact on my professional and personal life. Yet I discovered my life was far more flexible than I realized, perfectly capable of accommodating the unexpected.

While at first I fought the illness and the imposed silence, after a time, I began to recognize the gifts they were bringing my way, seemingly uninvited. As I listened ever more closely in the silence and the stillness, I began to discern and release those things in my life distancing and distracting me from those things that really mattered. The gift of the silence was clarity, not to mention a noticeable deepening of my own spiritual practice, allowing me to rediscover vital tools I had for a time forgotten or neglected. I even discovered the serenity of a beautiful nature park in my area I had known existed for over a year, yet for some reason had never bothered to visit...a wonderful park just waiting to be explored, rendered all the more special because of the wait.

Ironically, in the midst of the silence, I made two huge steps in the direction of discovering my voice, at a time when my physical voice was virtually gone. For the first time, I conducted two small seminars at a metaphysical expo held at the Oregon Convention Center, loved every minute of both, despite practically whispering as I leaned into the microphone (and also providing the space for others to speak in significant ways, yet another reason why my voice was diminished).

Before my physical voice returned, a new book project intuitively appeared on my radar, one that simply cannot wait to be written, thus expanding my current active book projects from one to two.

And, yes, finally I return to this blog, a blog I intend to take in new directions in the coming weeks.

Those of us conscious of our spirituality often expect that the perfect life will proceed exactly as planned, and we set our intent to make it so. What we fail to realize, however, is the imperfection of what we think might be perfect. The overall map of our lives cannot be written by micro-controlling every single moment. Can we begin to perceive the divine perfection of unexpected gifts?

The sound of silence lingers with me still, never again to be forgotten in those sacred spaces of the day I intentionally set aside for the Stillness of Spirit.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Lost Keys

Not long ago, I was convinced I had lost my keys. I searched high and low throughout my belongings, even using a spare car key for a short while. Just to discover they were somehow in my purse the entire time, never lost at all. As my significant other Bryan and I had searched, shaken and emptied my purse multiple times, Interdimensional socks...we joked afterwards that maybe they fell out of space and time, perhaps to that interdimensional place lost socks like to live, just to return when I was ready. Or perhaps that new semi-designer purse I was so happy to snag at TJ Maxx is of the magical "Mary Poppins-style" variety. If all the lost socks return next, I'll need more drawer space!

My lost keys represented a lesson I needed to hear. And for a time, I contemplated the many things I had "lost", including a great deal of writing from my youth, something I had tried to preserve, yet had somehow mysteriously vanished years ago.

Or the box that apparently fell off the truck during my last move, containing more writing still and all my precious piano books with the songs I actually know how to play. Anyone who once played the piano, yet fell out of practice, knows of what I speak.

A beloved possession
Or the backpack of my son's precious things stolen from my car a few years ago, including what was arguably one of the most beloved possessions in our entire home - the stuffed animal from his childhood. In a fire, I would have said it was the possession in the house I would have rescued first, right after the people and the pets. Yet one day it was gone, along with every single item my son held dear enough to transport from house to house, lending the consistency children of divorce often require. What a lesson THAT was for both of us, and imagine the challenge I had later that day sharing the news.

So what lessons are these seemingly trivial losses of possessions teaching me? Yes, I could venture into exploring even greater losses and grief, but this particular lesson starts with attachment to things, as well as finding peace in the present moment, no matter what surface-level annoyance attempts to cause a stir.

Attachment is often about fear of change. When we cling to the things in unhealthy ways, what we really fear is the disruption of change. Sentimental and familiar items anchor us with a sense of security, and there is nothing wrong with sentimentality, but the key to peacefully co-existing with such things is to know that we can be at peace even when they are gone.

Even lost keys can shine the light!Society can be sentimental too, clinging not only to things but to ideas, even preserving particular ways of doing things which may no longer serve us well. As I have said many times, the Earth is experiencing a quantum shift. I happen to believe that many of the things we have grown accustomed to are in for radical change.

If we "lose" aspects of our way of life that no longer support our evolutionary growth, do we view it as a tragedy? Or do we celebrate the possibilities? It's our choice.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Oscar showing his age...

Despite the touted improvements in the ceremony this year to improve ratings, if THIS was the promised facelift for Oscar we heard people talking about prior to the ceremony, maybe it's time to find a new surgeon!
Antiquated Oscar
I found that watching Twitter was far more entertaining than watching the ceremony alone, including a running humorous commentary from many in the this choice oft-repeated comment at the end from Tina Dupuy: "The Academy Awards should not hand out Oscars for editing until they learn how to edit the Academy Awards."

I discovered this nice sampling of Oscar-related tweets, after being alerted to one of my own being included in the list.

And if you looked closely at the continuously updating tweet stream with the #oscars tag, you may have even discovered live comments from bonafide Jane Fonda: "It IS moving to see sandra win. And she made a great speech. I am weeping #oscars" or "I love jeff honoring his parents. I have felt that way when I won. #oscars".

But when it comes to the actual production, it's obviously time for far more than a facelift. Maybe a complete reincarnation is in order.

First, it was a mistake to eliminate the performances of "Best Original Song" and instead include breakdancing to the "Avatar" theme (I kid you not, if you missed it). Although I know "Dancing with the Stars" is hot, so maybe people think these big dance production numbers on the small screen still entertain (no, they really don't), it is far more entertaining to see the original artists perform the best songs.

As for the big dance numbers, back in the 1960's and early 1970's, people were regularly entertained by an endless array of such dance productions on their tiny television sets. But that just doesn't work anymore in 2010. Unless you are actually sitting in the theater, all those feathery costumes lose a great deal in translation.

Maybe it's time for Oscar to give social media a try - perhaps include live polls (like "who is wearing the best dress") or display the most entertaining live Oscar-related tweets on-screen during the broadcast, kind of like CNN and the other news networks, even from certified celebrities watching from home.

Now THAT would increase ratings! I laughed far more at the Twitterverse last night than most of the lame pre-canned jokes of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. A few struck gold, but not very many. And where was the spontaneity? The best hosts of all are the ones who do it on the fly (or manage to make it SEEM like they're doing it on the fly). Faking on the fly falls flat very fast.

And what was going on with the production itself? Did anyone else notice all the little "glitches"? The missed cues? The awkward pauses? The odd way the John Hughes presentation ended (with apparent disarray and chatter being caught by the mics)? And the more-than-usual confusion at times getting award-winners on stage?

I know they cut the time limit on the acceptance speeches this year, and apparently Tom Hanks felt pressed for time (an understatement), but it's the speeches that actually carry the unpredictability which have added spice to Oscars past. Unpredictability isn't sanctioned much these days. And the joke segment at the beginning was FAR too long, excruciatingly awkward, and not in a good way.

I personally think it's time for something completely new, some truly adventurous, out of the box innovation. Think "Avatar". A paradigm shift. Yes, the Oscars are a tradition, no doubt about it, but it's 2010. We don't need to keep pretending it's 1950 for nostalgia's sake. Recast the nostalgia in an ENTERTAINING way, and add some high-tech, up-to-date flair to the broadcast. The more I think about it, the Twitter feed is not such a bad idea!

And focus on the MOVIES themselves, not poorly written jokes and obtuse production numbers. Maybe even find a way to make the whole thing SHORTER, but BETTER, without sacrificing the parts that matter most.

Don't get me wrong. As a long-time movie buff, I LOVE the Oscars. But Oscar is ready to be reborn.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Shifting from Fear-Based Authority to Love-Based Respect

Lately I have been contemplating how our historical societal beliefs in a strict, judgmental authoritarian God have influenced just about every aspect of our lives, from marriage, to parenting, to schools, to the workplace, to government itself.

When you view the Creator of the Universe as a gentle Loving partner and guide, as something truly inseparable from us all, that is a paradigm shift with profound effects on how we view relationships and leadership in general.

In marriage, some may be surprised to know that there are still many people who believe the husband should be in a leadership role, based on their beliefs, although how they interpret their beliefs does indeed influence how much of a partnership exists in marriage, as opposed to the husband taking on a strict authoritarian role. I have explored this topic online in the past, with interesting responses on all sides. In fact, it was one of the most popular posts I ever created on the Oprah forum, with almost 23,000 views and over 200 replies (Let's Discuss What the Bible Says About Women ). I learned a lot from that thread regarding how marriage is gradually evolving towards more of a respectful partnership, even very subtly in conservative circles (though many women still disempower themselves daily). There are some who are attempting to re-assert the authority of men in marriage, but I believe such attempts will ultimately fail, as more and more women claim their truly equal status in marriage and in society.

As a parent, when a child behaves inappropriately, it is easier to lay down the law in an strict, authoritarian way, than to act as a gentle guide. Yes, younger children require more direct intervention, if they are about to run into the street, for example - however, HOW you go about this is very important. James Dobson and "Focus on the Family" still advocate authoritarian methods of parenting, even physical punishment. However, many parents are now evolving towards a different model altogether, as indicated by the popularity of "Love and Logic" parenting classes.

A strict authoritarian approach does not truly teach a child. All it does is instill fear of punishment, just like strict, authoritarian depictions of God. Fear may be a motivator, but it's not a truly productive one, and ultimately this is why children choose to rebel. And directing anger or physical correction towards a child only tells a child that reacting in anger, or even worse, with physical violence, is perfectly ok. When you view parenting as a partnership, particularly as children become old enough to understand, when you use your creativity to lead via influence, not authority, when you gently guide a child towards appropriate behavior in innovative ways, THAT's when lifelong lessons are truly learned. Threats and punishment may have a short-term effect, but the lasting effect is more harmful than good.

School districts which deploy "zero tolerance" approaches are essentially modeling the behavior of a strict, authoritarian leadership structure, indeed subtly modeled on the concept of a "zero tolerance" God, though we may not realize this is so. Such approaches are based on fear, not on reason. Children are punished severely, even when there is no intent to commit an offense. I believe all such approaches in school administration will ultimately fail and be replaced. In the old days, even corporal punishment in public schools was allowed. Now it is almost universally frowned upon. Society has evolved, and society will continue to evolve towards a model which treats children with the loving respect they deserve, while still creatively guiding children to appropriate behavior. This is NOT the easy path - it is much easier to lay down the law in a strict authoritarian way, but we are capable of creatively devising the solutions to make it happen. And the result will be children who actually listen and become the balanced, loving citizens of Planet Earth we seek to create.

And now we come to the workplace. Authoritarian structures run rampant in just about every workplace environment today. We all know the difference between a good boss and a bad boss, and generally the bad bosses are the ones who do not know how to treat their employees with the respect they deserve, who choose not to listen to those they lead, who have forgotten that a true team is a partnership, not a dictatorship. Where did we ever get the idea that it is ok to yell at employees in the workplace? Yet such highly disrespectful, disempowering scenarios occur daily, with many workplace environments resembling abusive parenting households more than true teams. We must have the courage in business to lead with gentle influence, to take the road less traveled, to innovatively find ways to motivate those we lead, and to treat even the people on the lowest rung of the corporate ladder with the respect they deserve. People with good bosses already know why this works. Indeed the term "boss" itself has authoritarian implications. A true leader is not a "boss" at all.

And then we come to the ultimate authority structure of all: government. Our criminal justice system is failing us. That's because it is based on punitive, often unreasonable, vengeance-based, fear-based foundations, not on the intent to truly understand and seek to rehabilitate those who fall into its clutches. We see our impulse for vengeance in the punishment of accidental crimes, or of the mentally ill, or in punishing offenses based on the results, not the intent. Even when clear intent exists, we would rather slam the door shut and throw away the key, rather than seek to heal what caused the crime to begin with. Once again, our impulse in society to follow the strict, punitive path is based on age-old beliefs in an authoritarian God who does much the same.

Embracing a new form of enforcing the laws of society will require a huge paradigm shift, and it is not the easy path. Yet we will begin to treat people with the respect they deserve. And when it comes to leadership in government, we are finally evolving as a civilization beyond the kingship/emperorship/dictatorship model. Many of us are beginning to realize that government cannot rule with an iron fist, even if that's the apparently easy path (not really, since it ultimately leads to strife and dissolution). But still, we have a long way to go before we figure out how to define the government of a society based on true respect and influence, rather than authority.

There is an ultimate solution. It is evolution. The old fear-based approaches are based on survival-level existence, where fear is inevitable, where God is something to be feared, not simply Loved, where authority appears required just to survive. I truly believe our quantum leap to a new level of Consciousness holds the lasting key. And that is once again where peace not only becomes possible on Earth, but in every aspect of society.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Quest for Authenticity

Lately I have found myself faced with walking the walk of authenticity, not just talking the talk. One of the legacies of my conservative evangelical past is a subconscious instinct (and sometimes very conscious too) to avoid the judgement of others at all costs. This can also include assuming that someone may be judging me for my "New Age" spiritual path when in actuality they do not. And yes, sometimes they do judge me indeed, I have no doubt of it. Not long ago, I encountered a situation where the judgement was very real and directly expressed.

And when this happens, whether real or falsely assumed, it makes me feel intensely uncomfortable. So today I'm exploring this aspect of myself openly and honestly.

I write from the heart. I have deeply felt convictions about what I choose to write about, including engaging in dialogues online in which I often ask some very challenging questions. I have been doing this a very long time, without hesitation. When I write, I have no problems being intensely honest and forthright.

This is who I am when I write online, and now it's time to find a way to claim my authentic self in person too. I often find myself speechless when asked to explain not only what I do for a living, but what I choose to write about. If the person asking might be one who would find the heartfelt honesty and authenticity of my path offensive, I find myself waffling. I find myself hesitating. I find myself couching my responses in language softening what I actually do.

It's really not surprising, as this is what most evangelicals are taught to do from childhood. We are taught to fear judgement at all costs. We are taught to hide our thoughts that might be contrary to what we are being taught. So we learn to play this game of demure acquiescence, especially the women, no matter what we happen to actually be thinking, no matter what our doubts or questions actually happen to be, lest we experience the perceived shame of being judged. And even when we have learned to release most of our shame-based misconceptions, they can resurface both unexpectedly and predictably.

I find it ironic that I was caught in precisely this situation today - one day after I scheduled my first ever spiritual speaking appearance on the topic "Be the Master You Are", all about releasing the baggage of fear from our pasts. Yet one reason I chose this topic is as a reminder to myself, as much as to those who will be listening. Someone close to me mentioned yesterday that there is no better way to learn a topic than to teach it. And it is my intent to be as honest as possible when I do so. I'll make it clear that this is a process for everyone, including myself. Indeed the talk itself is a step on my own path of mastering my fear.

The walk of mastery does not require perfection. The walk of mastery is a process. Being the authentic master you are is actually all about loving yourself in the present moment, even when it seems the master is in hiding, even when it seems we want to hide who we are altogether. We are actually only hiding from ourselves. We are all masters on this Earth. We just need to remember who we are.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dialogue with a Christian struggling to feel Love

Since I have spent most of my online writing time in the Oprah forum, I am going to begin surfacing some of the profound dialogues occurring there. My writing on the Oprah site provides some real insight into my own spiritual journey, as well as exploring heartfelt questions many are afraid to ask.

As a discussion forum, the Oprah forum is much different than a blog. Every thread is an ongoing dialogue. I have been posting to the Oprah boards since late 2006 as user bridgebldr.

Today I am engaged in an active discussion with a sincere Christian who states he is having difficulty experiencing the Love of God. This is a topic near and dear to my heart, based on my own journey, as I believe that when we place conditions on the Love of All That Is, we limit Love's true UNCONDITIONAL power.

Unconditional Love does not include conditions. It's that simple.

Unconditional Love does not state "I love you all, but do what I say and believe precisely the way I tell you OR suffer the worst fate imaginable".

Unconditional Love (or any type of Love actually) does not "save" just a few, while supposedly deceived souls and dear loved ones are left to suffer in pain and despair for eternity. Some say such suffering is a choice. But there would be NO free choices in the presence of the supernatural deception so many believe is very real. There would be no true heaven either for anyone in that scenario, not even for those who think they are "saved", not if they choose to love those left behind. Or forget and then become a mere shell of what they once were.

Unconditional Love can never abandon ANYONE, under any circumstances. Unconditional Love never gives up, for it is infinitely patient. Unconditional Love couldn't even give up on "Satan" (if one chooses to believe in Satan - I no longer do).

All a Christian (and anyone else) needs to do is turn to 1 Corinthians 13 to understand what unconditional Love actually is (and what it is not). Unconditional Love "keeps no record of wrongs" and "NEVER fails". The answers are actually in parts of the Bible, if that is a spiritual source we choose to read, just not in the entirety of the Bible on every page, as many misconstrue.

The Bible actually contradicts itself regarding the nature of God, and for those who choose to read the Bible, it is a very real choice whether to emphasize the judgemental, brutally violent "God" or the unconditionally Loving "God". The two competing descriptions cannot be successfully reconciled in any logical, consistent way, despite the attempts of many to do so. As for me, I choose to emphasize the Love, as any other way is all about Fear and contradiction, not Love and truth.

Here is an excerpt from the Oprah dialogue, something I just posted this morning on the following thread regarding difficulties a Christian contributor to the forum (whose name I have omitted) is having with experiencing the Love that surrounds us all. The dialogue is continuing to evolve, such that we are finding a great deal of common ground. I'm also addressing how I feel about other forms of spirituality which suggest we are to give up all of ourselves to find the Love of All That Is. I use the term "God" often in these dialogues to be on the same page with those I'm conversing, but the age-old connotations of the term "God" can be limiting - substitute whatever term works for you. I actually prefer "All That Is".

Since I only have permission to post my own writing in this blog, I am only including my latest response.

"I need to express something here, based on my own experience, which I know may be contrary to what you believe. I actually feel quite the opposite about the Love of God. I believe the Love of God is intensely direct and personal, valuing YOU. Many are being taught that they are nothing, but in truth, they are EVERYTHING.

It's not that God revolves around you. God is of course much bigger than just one human aspect. However, that beautiful created soul YOU are IS the center of God's Universe when it comes to interacting with YOU. You exist on this planet to be YOU, and God loves every part of you, every single part. God also wants you to know all that you are capable of becoming, without completely losing that beautiful created soul you are in the process. Yes, you are inseparable from God, inseparable from 'the Universe and its glory', while still being uniquely YOU.

This is why Christianity doesn't work for me anymore, and perhaps why it never worked for me. Even some other spiritual paths are much the same. They expect you to give up or diminish the special creation you are in order to find God. Sometimes this is expressed as abandoning the self to find God. Sometimes it involves judgment and repentance, which I believe are disempowering and not truly of God. I believe finding God is all about finding the self, but not in a self-serving way. There is a very subtle distinction. It is also about being the very best, most loving self you can be, in partnership with the entirety of God, as YOU, not as some nameless shell.

Do you understand that God loves YOU - YOU, with every single imperfection you may perceive about yourself. God loves and understands every single part of YOU and does NOT judge you for those imperfections. God understands your struggles and loves you every bit of the way. As long as you feel God is judging you, instead of gently guiding you to more loving behavior (BIG difference), you cannot completely understand just how very much you are Loved. You are Loved as YOU. You exist as YOU. You may be a part of the Universe too, but fundamentally you are here right now in this place to be YOU, the person you are on Planet Earth right NOW, every ounce of your being loved UNCONDITIONALLY, with no judgement, just as 1 Corinthians 13 tells you.

Yes, we can get lost in the mystical wonders of Oneness with the Universe. I have had highly profound visionary experiences too, so I know of what you speak. But we must never lose sight of who we are right NOW. Otherwise, there would be no point in any one of us being a part of God's Universe at all.

Why do you think you were created? And do you know how much God LOVES you right NOW as YOU? That Love extends to EVERYONE, no exceptions, no judgement."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Our Quantum Leap: the REAL "Game Change"

As I observe the ever-widening political divide in the U.S., I realize that we can no longer abide the continual cycle of bouncing back and forth from one party in power to the other. How does it serve us to continue in our seemingly endless and irreconcilable differences? Yet the opposite extremes become ever more starkly polarized.

Even our Supreme Court is so obviously NOT impartial and driven by idealogical agendas. If our Supreme Court was truly impartially interpreting the law, then you would NEVER be able to predict how a particular vote might proceed or a particular justice might vote. There would be no predictable 5-4 split on controversial issues. The outcome would be virtually random. The party in power when a justice is nominated would be completely immaterial. There would be true impartiality. Yet the justices bring their politics, personal preferences and idealogies into the courtroom with them. This is not impartial justice. This is something else altogether. And the proof is in the votes themselves.

So how do we heal the ever-growing chasms appearing between us?

The old, highly honored traditional way would be to patiently seek common ground, and of course it is the natural and noble impulse of many of us to do so. Yet those of us who have lived on both sides of the fence, observing the fierce commitment of the factions, also know that in many cases, there simply IS no meaningful common ground to be found. Except a change of mind.

Is hammering a particular agenda through, just because you have the political power, an answer? That's actually the worst and most divisive approach of all, with endless reverberations, starting the vindictive vicious cycle of back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, all over again.

So let's take a step back and examine this situation in an entirely new Light. While we're at it, we might as well expand our focus to ALL that divides us, not only in the U.S., but the world. The polarization on Planet Earth grows ever more severe, the more extreme extremists become, with each contingent feeding the fear-based fires of the others. The only difference now from the centuries prior is that we do have the ability to destroy ourselves in the process.

As spiritually awakened citizens of Planet Earth, I fully believe the time is coming when we must realize that our true agenda must be HUMANITY's agenda. Even nation-states, a system of organizing ourselves that I truly believe will one day be as transient as feudal fiefdoms once were, cannot allow their often fear-based self-serving, isolationist and protectionist impulses undermine the agenda of HUMANITY. This too is a difficult leap to make, virtually impossible, completely contrary to everything we have known and held in esteem. Until we go QUANTUM.

I have said many times that I fully believe that the Consciousness of Mankind is expanding. What exactly does this mean? It means that although we will still treasure our individuality on the planet in a non-divisive way, including sentimentally treasuring our national and cultural origins, a time is coming of TRUE common ground, and that common ground is one of shared Consciousness. The chasms of fear and confusion will be distant memories. Extreme polarization will no longer exist, for it can't exist in the presence of telepathically shared understanding. Humanity's dark secrets will no longer be hidden, but fully revealed, understood and forgiven. We will simply know that we are many, yet One, not only on the planet but One with All That Is. That's HUMANITY's agenda and our only viable future.

Yes, true revolutionary change IS possible. QUANTUM change. This change begins within, not without, a quiet revolution in the stillness of the mind. And for every person who experiences the shift, it will be that much easier for the next, and the next, and the next, accelerating at quantum speed, until we find we have arrived, taking the leap TOGETHER. It is only then that "politics as usual" (and "vengeance as usual" and "secrets as usual" and "religion as usual" and "war as usual" and "fear as usual") will be over. What will remain is simply Love. And that's when Peace on Earth begins...

Monday, January 18, 2010

"Avatar" and the Voice of Expanded Consciousness

I have now seen James Cameron's "Avatar" twice, and I will no doubt see it at least one more time during its theatrical release. Why is it that so many feel this movie calling them back to theaters again and again? Is it the special effects? Perhaps, for some. But I think for most, it is something far more profound. It reminds me of how we lined up for "Star Wars" again and again and again in the 1970's. That wasn't all about special effects either.

Some have claimed that the storyline of "Avatar" is simplistic, but the greatest messages of humanity are often delivered in simple packages. I realize in retrospect what a remarkable impact "Star Wars" had on me in my sheltered youth, despite its simple story. The themes behind the story, exposing many of us to the concept of expanded Consciousness in a subtle way, were what gave "Star Wars" its true power. And the "Avatar" phenomenon is the "Star Wars" of the present day, both in special effects and more importantly, Consciousness effects.

We are at a point in our history where "the little people" will no longer tolerate being disempowered by those who claim authority over us in unethical, insatiable ways. That's because we finally realize we are not "little people" at all. Corporate greed and power plays are being exposed for what they are. The ignorance of selfish, war-hungry arrogance, such as what led to the utter desolation of many indigenous cultures on this planet, is rapidly falling out of favor. Religions claiming fear-based, violent, authoritarian "gods", veiled with a veneer of privilege and conditional love, are losing their resonance. Fear itself is losing its grip on the planet, though it may not seem that way at times.

The Voice of expanded Consciousness is speaking to us through "Avatar". The Voice of true transformation. We are fully capable of connecting to the planet, the Universe and each other, even more readily than the fictional Na'vi. We can already "see" into the hearts of others and All That Is, if we simply open our eyes. We can finally release our fear of death and even connect to the voices and the hearts of the past, once we realize Life is never-ending.

"Avatar" is leading many to ponder whether the supposed glories of our technology are truly worth the price. The sarcastic, atheistic snickering quietly explored in "Avatar" reveals just how arrogant, vacuous and destructive the strictly materialistic mindset can be, when taken to an extreme, in light of TRUE reality. Ultimately I believe technology will become one of many tools in a much grander toolset, until it is one day rendered obsolete by Consciousness itself. Technological evolution is not the answer for mankind. That path, when pursued at the expense of all others, only leads to emptiness, unbridled greed and utter destruction. The real answer for humanity is our quantum leap in Consciousness.

Dawn is breaking, after a very long night. Can you "see" the Light?

We are ALL "avatars" dreamwalking on this planet we call Earth. Our true Consciousness resides in Infinite Love.

I See You.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year, New Frontier - Reason Outside the Box

I vowed I would write in this blog before the end of New Year's Day, as part of my commitment to expanding my writing beyond the Oprah Discussion Forum. For whatever reason, I find it easier to ask questions, to fully engage people in interactive conversation, and although that can indeed happen with blogs, they tend to be more declarative than interactive.

Even so, perhaps I'm not interacting quite as much as I seem to think on the various forums where I have participated. That's because many questions I have posed go unanswered. Like how is it that so many of us (even me at one time) could even consider the notion of a "God" who would eternally torture people by fire? It is utterly preposterous and devoid of conscience, once you really ponder the implications. Such is the power of the voice of fear. But the voice of Love, combined with the voice of reason, is more powerful still.

Mentioning the voice of reason, I found myself following well-known skeptic Michael Shermer on Twitter in the past couple of weeks. I couldn't resist directing a couple of tweets his way in response to some debate points that went unanswered during a recent CNN debate on the afterlife with Dr. Shermer, Deepak Chopra and others.

Who was it that decided closing your mind completely to the potentials of the true human experience is "reasonable" or "rational"? Who was it that decided that dismissing even exploring the possibility of some form of GUIDED evolution is "reasonable" or "rational"? Who was it that decided that all spiritual experience can be placed in a pre-defined box, labeled with one of the major religions and then dismissed?

Not all spiritual experience fits inside a neatly defined box. Indeed most of it does not. Neither is investigation into spiritual phenomena devoid of science, or of reason. In fact, such investigation outside the box is precisely what science has always been all about.

During the CNN debate, Dr. Shermer asked a question regarding reincarnation that I thought was very inadequately answered. He also made a dismissive comment about a particular famous reincarnation case which was one of those evasive diversions typical of so many skeptics, not actually based on the facts that had just been explained moments earlier. Since I just happen to be becoming unexpectedly engaged in objective, logic-based reincarnation research myself, I think Dr. Shermer deserves a reasonable and rational response.

Dr. Shermer noted that his biggest objection to reincarnation is that the numbers do not add up, given the number of people on the Earth today or the numbers that have existed in the past.

Whether the numbers increase or decrease, the answer to Dr. Shermer's conundrum is really very simple.

More people are living on the Earth right now than at any time in Earth's history. There are also times on the Earth when the population has been reduced. Where could those souls possibly be? On CNN, there was essentially a non-answer from one of the other panelists suggesting they might be reincarnated as cockroaches. Sigh, yet another box, defining reincarnation itself based on age-old assumptions from an ancient religion. We must think outside those boxes too, leaving dogma out of it.

So here are some very REASONABLE and RATIONAL possible answers to the question, answered within the framework of postulating that reincarnation could indeed be true:

1) When the number of incarnations increase on the planet, it is completely possible that they are being created. Do we assume the number of the souls in the Universe is static, or can they increase? Do we assume that a single soul can only have one incarnation ongoing at a given time?

2) Another very reasonable consideration is that souls are incarnating in multiple locations in the Universe, essentially on tour, even in parallel, not just in this little corner of the Universe we call Planet Earth.

Many are quick to scoff at such notions, but let's talk about reason here. As they say in the movie "Contact", if Earth is the only inhabited planet, it would be "an awful waste of space", not to mention as Earth-centric and ignorant as we were in the Middle Ages. Only a reasonable person would conclude that statistical probabilities point to a Universe teeming with life, even if intelligent life exists on a very small percentage of planets. Carl Sagan is a notable atheist/agnostic who certainly entertained this notion.

And if you choose to ponder reincarnation, as was the case during the CNN debate, that makes the numbers game a no-brainer, whether the numbers on Earth increase OR decrease.

3) And there is yet another option. One can reasonably speculate within the framework of reincarnation that there is a place where souls go in between incarnations. How do we know how long they stay there? This could easily explain variations in the number of people incarnated on Earth (or anywhere else) at any one time. Those souls are simply unincarnated at this time. Is that so difficult to understand as a reasonable possibility?


And BTW, there is also reason to believe that each incarnation continues its existence in some state, as what is created does not necessarily need to be destroyed, nor would that impact other incarnations of the same soul. We do NOT need to believe we return to the ocean as little drops, as Deepak Chopra speculated during the debate - any obliteration of a life once lived is essentially akin to the annihilistic version of hell.

Yet another comment of Dr. Shermer's completely ignored the facts of a reincarnation case which had just been clearly explained to him. He made a statement suggesting that the young boy James Leininger, who had memories of being a World War II pilot could have just had an interest in pilots, building model airplanes, etc. The statement clearly implied that the boy was his current age when he came up with all of this, befuddling the actual facts of the case.

What Dr. Shermer failed to address was that the boy came up with many of these facts at a very young age, starting as young as 2 or 3, long before most boys are building model airplanes or studying obscure details of world wars. And how does that explain how the boy knew the name of the ship, a ship so obscure that the father had to research history to find it?

Of course, you could suppose that the parents are not telling the truth (not something I think is the case, but no possibility can be ruled out). That's why reincarnation cases based on hearsay alone are not easily proven to a skeptic.

An even more compelling aspect of this case (and many reincarnation cases) is that James Leininger has an eerie resemblance to James Huston Jr., the fighter pilot in question, not to mention the statistically unlikely "coincidence" of sharing the same first name. That never came up on CNN, but photographic parallels are without a doubt the most compelling, observable evidence of reincarnation, especially when discovered among an entire group of people.

There are other cases where not only does one person look like the person from the past, but a parent looks like a parent of this same individual from the past, friends look like friends from the past, etc. This is when statistical probabilities come into play, as in some cases there are astronomical odds that all of these photographic parallels could occur through mere coincidence, particularly if you have life parallels, names and skills carried forward and/or memories as well in the mix. This happens to be an area I'm studying myself.

One more note about the CNN debate....I was dismayed to see the fear injected by the doctor who mentioned the hell-like experiences people have at death, suggesting that those people go on to change their lives to avoid such a fate. If you study the statistics, such experiences are much, much rarer than positive experiences. And it really is within the realm of possibility that some of what occurs in these scenarios is akin to dreaming, whether a good dream or a nightmare.

Some people have been so indoctrinated with stories of hell all of their lives that their fears at death might be so powerful they could indeed allow their fears to get away with them in that dreamlike near-death state. I don't find such cases to be convincing. When the evidence gets more compelling is if people are able to describe what was happening in the room when they were floating above their body after death. I thought the story of the blind woman describing the room was particularly interesting and would like to study that case more myself.

Apparently Deepak Chopra is going to debate Michael Shermer again. I happened to see Deepak live at the ABC Nightline debate on the existence of Satan. I think Deepak can be quite effective with Dr. Shermer, but only if he doesn't let him get away with assumptions or unfounded observations.

As I venture into the New Year, I sense the time is coming for me to expand my own discussions to include atheists and skeptics. Ex-evangelical Frank Schaeffer in his book "Patience with God" echoes what many of us have been observing for quite some time regarding another form of Fundamentalist zeal taking root in our society, demanding conformity to their unproven assumptions about reality. This has also been a point of discussion among non-atheist, non-agnostic ex-evangelicals in the Oprah forum.

New voices of reason need to be heard above the fray, those who know how to balance spirituality with logic, without resorting to the assumptions and intrusiveness of Fundamentalism, those who have learned what having an open inquiring mind actually involves, those who can even find ways to systematically and thoroughly present objective evidence of life after death.