Your Best Life Now

Your Best Life Now

On the Pathway…But, to Where?

posted by smcswain

Boardwalk Through Lush ForestOn the Pathway…But, To Where?

It’s today’s buzzword, isn’t it? Pathway…Journey…People speak quite frequently these days about being on the path…or, on the journey.

But, to where?

For some Christians, it is a journey to heaven.

Really? Is that the point of this life? Just to endure it to make it finally to heaven?

At one time, I would have agreed. Everything I was taught about Christianity was all about getting saved in this life so you’d avoid hell in the next. So, you might say, the pathway…the journey was through this life and to heaven in the next.

You will have to decide this for yourself. I only offer the following suggestion for your thoughtful consideration:  What if the journey is really about something else entirely?

When Jesus said, for example,  “I have come that you might have life and it more abundantly,” has it ever occurred to you that what he meant has nothing to do with tomorrow?

Some of you will dismiss this notion as absurd, fixed as you are on an conditioned mental construct that includes a heaven somewhere in the sky. You cling to that idea as a child does his hope Santa will remember his requests on Christmas day. You hope for heaven the way some hope a vacation will free them from the stresses, as well as the drudgery, of their daily life. Ever noticed, vacations seldom do. There’s a reason they don’t. It’s the same reason a child’s elation on Christmas Day…his thrill that Santa remembered…soon disappears and then…well…there’s always another Christmas in which to hope, around which a child wraps his dreams.

Perhaps you’ve never been challenged to reconsider the widely held but mistaken views of New Testament “hope.” Maybe you, too, have thought that Christian “hope” is a wish for something better…something out there…the longing for what you do not have now or do not know today will be fixed one day…then, you’ll know, in the sweet by and by, as we used to sing in the little white church on the hill…then we’ll have whatever it is we feel life has cheated or stolen from us now.

No, my friend, New Testament hope is not about “wishing” at all. It is, instead, a quiet satisfaction…an inner calm…an unwavering confidence that frees you from all such wishing. Hope is knowing what others do not; it is having today what everyone seeks tomorrow.

And, what is it that everyone seeks? A future that they imagine is better than now. A blissful, trouble-free tomorrow that replaces the boredom and drama of today.

What these people have yet to learn, and I am only beginning to learn, is this: the future…whatever it is…only ever comes to you, to me, as today…

If you cannot know today or have today what you imagine tomorrow bringing, when tomorrow comes as today, will it not just bring with it more of today’s longing…more today’s unfulfilled wishing?

My friends, the mystery of life is the awakened, enlightened, salvific realization that the path you follow…the journey you’re taking…leads absolutely nowhere…

And, yet, everywhere at the same time.

That’s the paradox.

You say, “That’s confusing?”

Perhaps.

But perhaps that’s because you and I are still looking for what we do not have…still seeking for what we do not know.

When the seeking, the wanting, the wishing, the hoping…when the looking finally ends…then, and only then, will we discover the wonder, the mystery, the bliss of abundant living – life as Jesus knew it…described it…life as the Buddha and a myriad of others have lived it…

They have learned life’s greatest secret…

The path is NOT about going anywhere.

The journey is instead…

The destination.

Is There an Unforgivable Sin?

posted by smcswain

unforgivable sinThe question: Is there a sin God will not forgive? What did Jesus mean by these words?

In Mark 3:28-29, Jesus says, “I promise you that any of the sinful things you say or do can be forgiven, no matter how terrible those things are. But if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven. That sin will be held against you forever.”

I remember preachers saying things like, “When the Holy Spirit seeks to lead you into repentance from your sins and you continue to reject the Holy Spirit, He will withdraw, leave you alone, and, at that point, you have sealed your eternal destiny…you’ll never be forgiven,” by which these preachers meant, you’ll not go to heaven when you die. You’ll go to hell instead.

Is this what Jesus meant by “speaking against the Holy Spirit?”

I suggest a different reading, one I think is closer to the meaning Jesus wished to convey.

Shortly before his death, Jesus sought to comfort his troubled followers. As he spoke of leaving them, they spoke of going with him instead. Peter went so far as to promise he would defend Jesus to the death.

Jesus reminded them, however, where he was going they could not come. But he would be with them nonetheless, because the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, would come after Him and be that Presence in them and among them and all would be as before. (read the entire section of John 13 – 16 to get the full import of Jesus’ words).

What is this Holy Spirit?

Isn’t it the voice within? The inner impulse you feel? The Presence of God guiding you…leading you…prompting you…enabling you?

You’ve heard his voice before, observed  his messages, however subtle they may have been.

Can you remember the last time, for example, when you needed to make a decision and, in that moment, you knew what you should do but, for some reason, you did not do what you knew you should?  Instead of taking the hint right before you, you ignored the message from beyond and did something else entirely.

The consequences you’ve never forgotten. Maybe have never forgiven either.

The promise of Jesus is that you will know what to do…what to say…how to respond…the choice you need to make…what’s the right thing to do…at just the right time.  Maybe not long before the decision has to be made but, when it does have to be made, you’ll know what to do in that very moment.

The Holy Spirit is not some “hound of heaven.” He’s more like a “hint from heaven” instead. Not the wine but the aroma that hovers just above. The Holy Spirit provides just the right reminder, at just the right time, and, as you pay attention to these subtle messages from beyond…the tiny impulse and so “take the hint,”  you know you have made the right choice and that you are creating what they would call in the east “good Karma.”

When, however, you ignore the impulse, the inclination, the indicator, the invitation and so, do something differently than that which the message from beyond is quietly reminding you to do…that is, when you ignore the path to follow and so continue following your own path, you more and more silence this inner voice and you create “bad Karma.”

It is not that God’s Spirit leaves you or that you damn yourself to some eternal hell. That is to miss the point altogether. It is ignore and so create the conditions within your life that are not favorable, sometimes even hellish and unforgivable. When you ignore the prompt, the promptings becomes less pronounced over time. The Holy Spirit is like a prompter just off stage who gives you the word you need to pick up and go on with the play of your life. If you ignore the prompt, the drama becomes drama indeed. The consequences more and more profound, too.

The Boston bombers are an example. The irony in their choice of bombs cannot be overlooked.  Pressure cookers…the kind my mother used for the Sunday roast, potatoes, and carrots…these became filled more and more with the pressure associated with wrong choices and, as a consequence, when the pressure became too great, the cookers became weapons of destruction.

I cannot but wonder how many times those two young men ignored the messages from beyond…the impulse to take courses of action differently than the ones they chose to take?  In extreme instances, what is clearly wrong can even look right. Or, justified. Each time they ignored the subtle impulses to make better choices, the pressure inside the cooker of their own consciousness grew dangerously explosive.

The choices you make today may not turn you into some criminal or damn you to an eternal hell but they do create the conditions, the circumstances, even the climate within which you live out your life. Sometimes, these conditions can become intolerable, perhaps even unforgivable, if by no other than yourself.

The choices made by the two bombers in Boston have changed reality for many people forever. The consequences unforgivably altering. But, before we judge them too quickly, perhaps it would be wise for us to examine more closely the conditions inside the pressure cooker of our world that results in intolerable acts of violence.  Think of our culture as that pressure cooker. Is there a message here our culture might receive? Or, ignore?

Train yourself to listen to the messages from beyond. They will not scream at you. But they’re there. They are everywhere. Everyday, too. Perhaps even now through this little blog. You’re reading this and you are saying to yourself, “I know. I know what I am supposed to do, even though I’ve been trying to ignore it.”

You must remember that God is not “out there, somewhere.” God is here. Right here, even in these letters on your computer screen.

You have read this for a reason. And, you know what that reason is.

So what is God saying to you?

How To Question Everything and Be the Stronger in Faith for It!

posted by smcswain

The Birds are Singing“Doubt is no more disbelief than questions are compromise” (from, The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God).

Until you question your faith, you have no faith. It is true, however, you might have beliefs. But there is a chasm of difference between a believing person and a person of authentic faith.

For many people, and I include myself in this group, much of our religious conditioning has discouraged us from asking questions, as if there was something wrong with questions or, worse, with doubt. Questions were regarded as off limits. Doubt was regarded as stepping into the unknown and would lead to all kinds of aberrant behavior.

I say instead, this is all just poppycock.

Whenever you meet someone who appears so certain of what they believe…so sure…so confident, it is right for you to be suspicious.  Do not judge them, but you should investigate.  It is possible they have arrived at a place of certainty.  But do not blindly assume this. If you feel suspicious, you may have good reason. I have learned, too, it’s best to follow your heart.

Usually, those who are absolutely certain that they’re right about whatever it is they’re advocating…that those who seem to know what they believe and have no doubts are often some of the most uncertain and insecure people – but, just below the surface. This is why you must keep an investigative heart – or, if that’s too heavy a word, an inquiring, curious heart.

For example, when someone defends their positions or their beliefs by saying things like, “Well, I just believe the Bible,” ask them this very important question, “What does it mean to you to ‘just believe the Bible’?”

If they respond with something like, “It means to just accept what it says and believe it’s true?” know this: you are most likely listening to a frightened person who comes across as if they’re trying to convince you of something they’ve become convinced of themselves.  Instead, they are really seeking to convince themselves that all is well with them because inside they are terribly frightened about something…whatever it may be…fear of being reprimanded for questioning things…fear of losing their faith…fear that what they’re trying to believe may not be so. Like Mark Twain used to put it in one of his characters: “Faith is belief in what you know ain’t so…” They want you to think they are at peace. They are really anything but.

Know this. But do not judge them. They are likely doing the best they can. Be compassionate toward them and understanding. Remember there was likely a time when you, too, hid behind the “Certain and Sure” exterior. The louder someone is about what they believe, the more argumentative someone may be about their beliefs, the surer you are that they likely know little of what they really believe and cannot at this time in their lives admit this to themselves.

So, what is the pathway to authentic faith?

1. Question everything.

2. Open your mind and heart to many possibilities.

3. Trust that God will lead you either to accept what cannot be known by you at this time or She will grant you the capacity to live within the ambiguity…the capacity to know an inner peace beyond the conflict. Authentic faith is trust even when you are doubting what you’ve been taught to believe. Reciting the Bible, for example, while claiming to know things you neither can know nor truthfully defend or pretending to be at peace when of course you really are not…these things will not serve you well, my friend.

Bertrand Russell’s words are a little harsh for my taste but the truth within them is worth pondering. Russell, British historian, said “the problem in our world is that the fools and fanatics are always certain of everything; the wise are those full of doubt.”

4. Finally, let go of your fear about questioning and doubting. The inevitable consequence of both is this instead: you will grow stronger, emotionally and spiritually healthier, and, you will be at peace.

The path of doubt is the pathway to peace.

I can promise you this. It is the path to authenticity, too.

The day I gave up defending my beliefs…trying to make others wrong by making myself right…the day I gave myself permission to doubt everything…it was on that day…

Faith was born. Rich and real, vibrant and alive.

Which is why I love the spring…such is the dawn of new life…a new day.

As they say in the east, “A bird does not sing because it has all the answers; a bird sings because it has a song.”

The birds are singing this spring morning.

Can you hear them? They are singing your song…

The Point of Human Existence? What Is It?…

posted by smcswain

The Secret to Finding God Is…

posted by smcswain

Do You Seek God?  And yet, no matter how hard you try, you do not feel as if you can quite make it with God?

I understand.  Which is why I write so much and so often about this. I have struggled most of my life looking for God…longing for God…but only occasionally ever feeling close to God. Instead, I mostly felt I was undeserving…not quite fit…missing something…as if I wasn’t doing enough…and, as a consequence, my sense of spiritual fulfillment usually left me feeling like a thirsty runner carrying an empty water bottle.

But then, one day, I unexpectedly understood something Saint Francis of Assisi was trying to say, when he said, “What you are looking for IS what is looking.”

“What did he mean?”

When you get what he meant, your life will change. Your religious life will end. Your struggles will cease. Your humanity will emerge. You heart will heal.

You, my friend, will experience a resurrection that causes those who do not yet know it to look for it in some resurrection beyond this life.  In other words, when you become aware of this single greatest spiritual truth, you will have discovered the mystery of all mysteries…what Jesus called, “the abundant life” (Jn. 10:10).

For me, it was like waking up. I woke up to the realization that grace comes to those who stop struggling.  Which is why, in the little novel, Why Is God Laughing, one of the characters says, “When it finally sinks in that there is nothing you can do to find God, he suddenly appears.”

That’s the mystery. Perhaps even, life’s greatest paradox.

Remember this, my friend.

You can make knowing the Divine Presence into a problem if you’d like.  You can let your religion brainwash you into thinking that you’re undeserving of God…or, God’s grace…or, that your ugliness is so ugly that God had to kill his own Son just so he could look in your direction.

You can believe in madness if you wish…but, if there is something in you that feels as if there may be more to this story of God’s grace than the limited version you’ve heard, then I’ve got good news for you…and, I mean, really good news…not bad news peddled across a religiously misguided marketplace as if it were good news.

Want to know what this good news is?

A Course in Miracles puts it like this: “When we are finally ready, God will take the final step in our return to him.”

Lama Surya Das, the most highly skilled western lama in the Tibetan tradition of Buddhism, put it like this: “The finding of God is inseparable from the longing for God.”

If you’re a Christian, here’s how Saint Paul put it: “Saving is all God’s idea. And, all God’s work, too. What we do is trust him enough to do his work in us…” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

In other words, anything you do to add to what God has done is, of course, the problem. You cannot add anything to grace.

Why would you? How could you?

Even following some prescribed formula for activating this grace – like reciting the Four Spiritual Laws or some “Sinner’s Prayer,” as it is sometimes called – is little more than a great big attempt to add something else to the nothing else that needs to be done. Why would you add your icing to a perfectly decorated cake created by a skilled bakery chef? What, the chef needs your help?

No, my friend, the secret to knowing God is to quit trying.

“The day you stop looking for God is the day you discover God has found you already.” (From The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God).

That IS…

Your best life now!

The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God – Video Blog # 4

posted by smcswain

The Enoch Factor: Video Blog # 4

What’s the difference between “beliefs” and “faith”? And, what kind of internal environment is needed for my faith to grow?

1. Question Everything (Video Blog # 3)
2. Today, I would suggest…

Going Within…Changing Your World!

posted by smcswain

Nepo says that when he was young he talked fast and loud.

Sometimes, I still do.

What he did not realize until much later in life is that “I kept talking faster and louder to the world around me because I couldn’t hear the world within me.”

A profound sutra.

When I read those words, I shuttered within.

Why? Because he was kind of describing me, especially when he warned, “Do not mistake the need to hear with the need to be heard.

Wow!

Don’t you think that sometimes we do not enter the world within – what Jesus referred to as “the Kingdom within” – because we do not want to hear the messages coming from there…or, maybe it is that we’re afraid of what we will hear.

My friends, here’s what I’ve been learning, having regularly visited my inner world for several years now. I now go there daily and I can tell you, unequivocally, there is nothing to fear. There is nothing you’ll hear that won’t heal you.

Easterners call it meditation; Christian Benedictine monks call it “praying without ceasing” (1 Thess 5).

You can call it whatever you like.

The fact is, going within is the way to transformation. It is the only way.

If you want your outer world to be different than it is, something has to change internally. Your outer world is only ever a reflection of your inner world. If it isn’t working around you, it isn’t working within you.

Oh, sure, you can blame your circumstances, other people…many do. You can complain, criticize, and so judge others and the world as if it all one huge, unfair place toward you. You can say things like, “He makes me mad.” “If it wasn’t for her, my life would be peaceful!”

Think the world sucks?

I assure you, the world without IS your world within.

Others may push your buttons, to be sure, but you, my friend, control the volume.

Nothing will ever change around you until something changes within you.

“But,” you say…

No “But’s!”

“But, if I could just win the lottery…just get a better job…if I had not married him…I would be happy!”

You really believe this internal message?

You, my friend, have much to learn about life…much to listen to that your voice in the head mistakenly believes. You, my friend, have many beliefs that need questioning.

The world around you is but a reflection of the world within you. It has only ever been this way. Which is precisely why Jesus taught, “The Kingdom is within you” (Lk 17:21).

Learn now to go within and watch the world without transform before your very eyes.

Start today. Take a walk within. See where it leads. You will not be disappointed. That’s a promise.

The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God – Video Blog # 3

posted by smcswain

Do you ever long to know God?

I have come to believe that knowing God is both an art and an art that is sacred. That is to say, knowing God is not difficult. But most of us make it difficult. Sometimes, the difficulty comes from within ourselves and, at other times, our religious conditioning.

There are things you can learn that will help you step beyond the hurdles you have either created within yourself or inherited from our religious upbringing and reconnect with God. That’s why I call this, “the sacred art of knowing.” Once you learn how to reconnect with your inner self and your spiritual Source, you will restore the sacred side of your life. You will have rediscovered the secret to peace and happiness.

So, I offer you these videos to guide you…that is, to help you in your spiritual journey with God. I hope you find them useful.

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