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."