Your Best Life Now

Your Best Life Now

How to Control Your Mind and Thoughts?

posted by smcswain

mind and thoughtsMaybe you don’t have any trouble with your thoughts, but I do. Thoughts pop into my mind without my permission faster than a mosquito bites my skin on a sweltering summer afternoon. And, equally without my permission.

Descartes, father of modern philosophy, pointed to both the distinguishing characteristic of human beings and to the biggest curse of human beings when he made his famous statement, “I think. Therefore, I am.”

The fact that you and I can think, reflect on the past, imagine the future, even to be conscious of our own consciousness is what distinguishes humans from all other animals. The fact that you and I CAN think, reflect and so often regret the past, imagine and so often fear the future, even to be unconscious of our own capacity to be conscious is the biggest curse humans live with and so try to escape from almost continually.

In other words, “Thoughts,” as Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard, “can be our best friends and our worst enemies.” I would highly recommend his book entitled Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill. I heard him speak for the first time just last week and love the way he blends the best in psychology and the science of happiness with Buddhist teachings regarding the mind and its many afflictions.

Until what is on the inside – that is, your mind – is corrected, the external world, that is, how you perceive and experience the world around you will be a mere reflection of it.

In other words, if the world around you is to you an unfriendly, hateful, scary, and judgment-filled place, why is this so? Have you ever sought to know why? Is this the way the world really is? Or, is this the way you really are? Often we project onto the world, as well as onto other people, the afflictive, negative thoughts and emotions that we cannot admit. Or refuse to acknowledge.

More and more, I am convinced, you and I create the world in which we live. Pop psychologists glibly suggest, “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” While this is true, the problem for most people is how to change their negative thoughts and the afflictive emotions that are their inevitable consequence.

Want to change your inner world? Better control your mind, as well as your thoughts?

Here’s the only way possible:

1. Meditate daily. If you’re one of those persons who quickly excuses yourself as having tried meditation and discovering it does not work for you, that’s the first thought you need to change.  Why? Because it isn’t so.  So much of our thinking is just that – wrong. Deceitful. And, the most deceived person is one-and-the-same deceiver.  You CAN learn to meditate and you must, if you wish to learn to control your thoughts and your thinking.

Books on meditation are as abundant today as cookbooks. I would recommend The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation, written by Thich Nhat Hanh.

2. Observe your thoughts. Don’t judge them, observe them. How many times has a thought popped into your mind – let’s say some kind of judgmental thought about a colleague at work and, instantly, you jump into judgment mode, finding fault with yourself for even thinking something negative about someone else.

I would suggest an alternative solution to unwanted thoughts. Instead of quickly dismissing them and then judging yourself harshly for having such thoughts, start from the premise that thoughts are neither right nor wrong. They just are. It’s what you do with your thoughts that introduces the “rightness” or “wrongness” of them.  In other words, in the purported words of Martin Luther, “You cannot keep a bird from flying over your head; what you can do is prevent it from building a nest in your hair.”

How? By observing your thoughts. In the east, this is called acting as the “witnessing presence.” Like witnessing an accident and then reporting on it to the authorities.  Be the observer of your own thoughts, even the ones that frighten you.

3. Cultivate the space between thoughts.  In other words, as you train yourself to be the observer of your mind…you thoughts, you are actually cultivating what easterners call “the primary consciousness” or “pure consciousness” that underlies all thinking.  It is that “space between the notes,” said Claude Debussy “that makes the music.” If there were no spaces between the notes on a sheet of music, the sounds you would hear would not only be unintelligible but meaningless, even annoying.

This space is the place of internal peace. It is what some call “pure consciousness.”

The idea of emptying your mind of thought is terrifying to many people.

Why? Because they mistakenly think they ARE their thoughts. This is the core error in our shared human experience. You are NOT your thoughts. You’re not even the observer of your thoughts, although that is much closer to who you really are.

Why is this all so important?  Because this is the only way to get control of your thoughts. And, if you wish to be happy, and who among us does not wish for this, you must learn to manage the mind. Otherwise, it will menace you like the constant dripping of a leaky faucet.

The problem in our western world is not that we do not know how to think. As enumerated so eloquently by the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth, “the problem most people have is not thinking; it is not knowing how to stop thinking.”

Make this your spiritual practice for to do so is to pursue…

Your Best Life Now!

I Was Born with a “W H Y” Chromosome…

posted by smcswain

questionningI was born with a “W H Y” chromosome which is why I’ve been asking questions all my life. Unfortunately, many religious people are threatened whenever you question faith. But, my own opinion is, until you question your faith, you have no faith.

Yes, of course, you may have beliefs.  And, many of them.  Religion is the consequence of a accumulated system of particular beliefs. Faith, however, requires no particular belief.
Why? Because faith is something you do; beliefs are things you say.
So here’s a sampling of the questions I’ve been asking since my youngest days…
  1. If God knows all things, why did he have to “look” for Adam and Eve in the Garden? (Gen 3:8)
  2. If a “man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife” as Adam is instructed in Gen. 2:24, how did Adam understand that command if he had no father or mother?”
  3. Does God not have to live by his own rules when he commands everybody, “Thou shalt not kill” (Ex 20:13), but then tells King Saul to slaughter all of the Amalekites (1 Sam 15).
  4. If Jesus is really God, why did he command killing in the Old Testament but then tell people to “love their enemies” in the New Testament? (Matt. 5:43-48).
  5. If Adam and Eve are the first people on earth, where did their children, Cain and Abel, find their wives? (Gen. 4).
There are a myriad of other questions. I’m interested more, however, in the questions you’ve asked over the years. Would you share them here? Thanks.

The Madness that Must End Among Christians…

posted by smcswain

Monkey TempleThe Dalai Lama is coming to Louisville this Sunday.

I was thinking the other day, “It’s about time. After all, I visited his part of the world for the first time when I was but fourteen.”

It’s true. It was the first of many trips around the world that I was fortunate to take. My mother was a tour planner…tour leader, too. She and Dad would lead groups on trips to faraway places and my two brothers and I got to go. By the time I graduated high school, for example, I had been to Europe and the Middle East on three occasions, but also to the Scandinavian countries, as well as the far east including Russia, China, Thailand, and Japan. Hawaii was included in all those trips too.

It was a remarkable childhood, to say the least.

You can imagine then, to a young Baptist boy growing up in a conservative Southern Baptist church with its conventional notions of Divine exclusivity and its theological propensity to act as the self-appointed guardians of God’s grace, that I would see things in my travels that would lead me to question my narrow upbringing.

Before traveling the world, for example, the most “other” in terms of religion I had ever known was another Catholic. So, when we visited Rome for the first time, I found myself wandering around the Basilica of San Pietro with thousands of other Catholics who were waiting for the appearance of the Pope. I could not help but wonder who these Catholics  were and where they had come from. I knew that Baptists could trace their lineage all the way back to John the Baptist himself but, I wondered, when after us did these Catholics appear?

LOL!  I had a rather limited understanding of Christian history at age fourteen.

What I did have, however, was the curiosity to ask questions. Even hard ones. So, as someone else has said, I, too, was born with a WHY chromosome. I’ve questioned things all my life.

I heard a psychic on the radio the other day advertising her services.

“You have problems? I’ve got answers. Call me at 1 – 800…”

I thought. “If you are so psychic, wouldn’t you know who had a problem and call them?”

My propensity to question has led me to the conclusion: Christian fundamentalism doesn’t work anymore. Not only in its more extreme forms, as in Islamic fundamentalism. We all know that does not work. Nor can it be tolerated. But, fundamentalism does not work in it’s tamer versions either.  In the tamer versions of Christian fundamentalism, for example, followers vent their anger on the world they’ve failed to save by believing in and praying for the imminent return of Jesus and the rapture of the church.  In other words, since they’ve failed to save the world, they pray and long to get the hell out of it.

A kind of paranoid schezophrenia fundamentalist Christianity.

Fundamentalism, either in its harsher forms or milder versions, has never worked. But this is especially true today.

In our increasingly scientific and pluralistic world, fundamentalist theology unravels at almost every seam.  I’m becoming more and more aware of this and I suppose I’m becoming a bit bolder in my public admission of it, too.  God has not appointed me, nor has God appointed you, to be his guardian over truth.  For one thing, you and I “can’t handle the truth.” But it’s also because our little minds and even smaller egos too often try to squeeze God into our little box of limited explanations. In other words, we are guilty of the very thing God warns against – “fashioning God into an image we can manage…control…manipulate…put parameters around…and, basically, just incarcerate in our little heads.

But God is not only bigger and grander than you can imagine, God is bigger and grander than you can imagine.

For me, the shift in my thinking began even at fourteen when we visited Kathmandu, Nepal. That beautiful city that sits under the shadow of the snow-covered Himalayan Mountains. Can you imagine how impactful it was to observe, as I did, the Buddhist Monks in prayer and meditation, sitting in the familiar Lotus position, draped in their saffron-colored robes?

“What do they believe?” I asked myself.

“How is it so different from what I believe?”

“If God is a God of love but Christianity is the only way to know God…the only way to go to heaven, why would God permit so many other religions?”

“Why would he allow so many nice people to be so misled, too?”

My confusion was compounded when, after meeting some of them and then exchanging conversations with the monks who knew English, I discovered that they were actually happy in their faith. They weren’t the bit interested in my more enlightened way…my truer path to God. They seemed quite content with the path they were following. Furthermore, when I learned some of them had been sitting in meditation for days without food or water, I remember thinking, “When have I ever seen that degree of discipline or dedication even among the most dedicated Christians I’ve known?”

I had not. Why? Because most Christians are not that dedicated. Nor are they that sincere. This is no judgment. It’s just a fact.

The really big question came to me after having made friends with some of them. That question was, “If I’m going to heaven because I believe in Jesus but they’re going to hell because they don’t, how am I going to be happy in heaven knowing these happy monks are suffering in the flames of hell?”

My narrow, fundamentalist theology of exclusivity was falling apart even at that very young age. Yet, like many Christians then and many Christians still now, including many ministers who draw their livelihood from fundamentalist Christian congregations, I learned to stay quiet about what I was really thinking…what I was really believing…even through my own seminary days where I earned a doctorate in theology and went from there to serve as a Baptist pastor…I kept quite about what was going on inside my truer self, my higher self, because, to admit publicly the questions I had would have been tantamount to career suicide.

This is why I receive almost daily today emails from Christians ministers, priests, pastors, from virtually every denomination across America – Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, notwithstanding – and, they all say virtually the same thing. “I believe much of what you write about Steve but, if I were to admit this from my pulpit, my ministry would be over.”

I learned the hard way, my friends, you cannot live a lie and pretend to be a happy Christian or believe things you really do not believe.  Oh, I suppose you can and many do. Sooner or later, however, and, for me, it came sooner than later, the curtain will drop on your theological charade…you phony belief system.  If salvation, as Christians call it, or enlightenment as Zen Buddhists call it, is anything at all, it is inner wholeness…integrity…peace inside, even within paradox and contradiction. If you’re trying to make yourself believe something that, “just ain’t so,” as Mark Twain would put it, or preaching one thing but, in your heart, believing something else, just know that you’re likely on board an emotional and spiritual train wreck that’s just waiting to happen.

And, guess what?

Life will find a way of bringing your duplicitous journey to a screeching halt.

It did me. I’ve written about that in The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God.

On this day, at fourteen, in Kathmandu, Nepal, we visited the famous Swayambunath Temple, known to most tourists as the “Monkey Temple” because monkeys actually live there.

When our tour group was ready to return to the bus, I was still standing near the Zen monks, transfixed as I watched them sitting motionless in meditation. I thought, “It’s just a show…surely, at any moment, one of them will twitch with discomfort or peek to see who was watching.”

They never did.

Fearing I might be more impressed than I should be by their devotion…their discipline, detachment, dedication…or, worse, their happiness and contentment, one of the little Baptist ladies in our tour group came over and stood by me. Presently, she whispered in my ear, “Look at those poor monks praying to a God they do not know.”

She paused.

Then, she picked up the familiar, fundamentalist refrain: “Why, if only they knew our sweet Jesus”…it came out like – ‘schweet Jesus’ – the way some southerns ask for ‘schweet’ tea in small town cafes’ – “why,” she said with such certainty…”I know but those poor souls do not”…”why,” she continued, “if they just knew our sweet Jesus, they would go to heaven when they die…instead of that other terrible awful place.”

My Christian friends, this is the madness that must end.

I was just fourteen years old that day outside the Monkey Temple in Kathmandu. No kid could have been more self-centered, more self-absorbed, or more pretentious than I. Yet, I can distinctly remember feeling offended by the sincere but sincerely wrong old Baptist lady. I wanted to look up at her and say…

“What makes you so certain you’re right and they’re wrong?”

“What if they’re right, and you’re wrong?”

What is it in you and me that wants to make God into a manageable deity?

The psalmist said, “The fool says ‘No god’!” (Ps.14:1).

I think the psalmist today might say, “The fools say, ‘We KNOW God’!”

No God.  Know God.  I’m not sure which fool is the bigger.

Seeing the Most Obvious…or, the Measure of Enlightenment

posted by smcswain

captain_obviousTwo little fish are swimming along in the ocean one morning when they meet with an older fish who casually asks them, “Hello fella’s, how’s the water today?”

They responded with equal casualness, “Fine, sir” and then, they continued to swim on. After a moment passed, one of the younger fish turns to the other and asks, “What the hell is water?”

The point is obvious. But, isn’t it true that often, the most obvious signs of Divine grace are all around us, but we miss them? We fail to see, or express our thanks…our deepest and most profound thanks…for the most obvious…the air you breathe…the sunshine, as well as the rains, the Presence so obvious in the eyes and smiles of another we but casually meet along the way?

What is spiritual enlightenment?

The capacity to see, and so appreciate, the most obvious signs of grace…God’s inexpressible grace.

Awaken, my friends. Spirituality need not be more complicated than joy over the obvious.

What Is the Sign of Spiritual Maturity?

posted by smcswain

spiritual maturityHow do I know when I am advancing on the spiritual path? What is a “sign” of spiritual maturity?

I would answer that question as many spiritual teachers like Jesus did when questioned…with a question of my own.

Must everyone believe as you believe in order to accepted by you?

Must you insist that what you believe is right which, by implication, means others must be wrong?

When you suggest that you, and other enlightened folks as yourself, “just believe the Bible” are you aware that what you are really saying is that you believe your “version” of the Bible and that equally devoted followers of the Bible frequently interpret the same Bible differently but just as sincerely as you do? So, can you not be honest enough to admit that you, and others like yourself, might be wrong yourselves?

When you are able to make your “truth” claims with passion…with sincerity…but draped with love…humility…and room for others to believe and so hold to equally meaningful “truth” claims, you…my friend…are advancing in the direction of spiritual maturity…true enlightenment.

It is time that we live with Christ-like humility…Buddha-like respectfulness. It is time for greater openness…for conversation…for contemplation…for introspection.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was right when he suggested, “The sign of first rate intelligence (I would say, the sign of first-rate, spiritual maturity) is the capacity to hold two opposing ideas in one’s mind and still be able to function”…(I would say, “still be at peace”).

Can you?

Make it your spiritual ambition to give up your believing in your beliefs. “Beliefs,” as my spiritual mentor always loves to say, “are a coverup for insecurity.  You only ever believe in the things you do not know.”

When you “Know” something, what is there to believe in?

Make it your ambition, therefore, to know God – this is faith. Do not be content with knowing “about” God – this is the “belief” stuff…which is just believing in the words you say about God or that someone else says about God.

No, know God for yourself instead.

“How?” you ask.

Wrong question.

Start from the premise that you know God already.

Why?

Because you do.

“What do you mean?” you ask.

If you did not know God already, why would you bother to ask the question?

Give up looking for God.

God cannot be found. You will NOT…I repeat…you will not find God in a book of religion.

When you stop struggling to find God, that is grace…real grace…the Biblical kind of grace.

Grace is the inner realization that God has found you already.

Why Coach Young Executives…and, People Like You?

posted by smcswain

coaching

I had a client coaching session late yesterday afternoon. The first of many sessions to come with a young, executive who is driven, ambitious…a rising star in his corporate environment.

I asked, “Why did you come to me as your personal coach?”

“I need balance in my life,” he answered without hesitation.

I thought, “Don’t we all.”

“I’m driven,” he explained.

Obviously.

“I just left an interview, for example,” he continue, “just before coming to meet you and, even although I have been with this company only a few months, I’m being promoted already.”

“Congratulations.”

“It’s no small promotion either,” he said. “It actually puts me in line to be the next CEO.”

“Wow,” I thought. And, only in his mid-twenties. So young and, yet, so smart. Articulate. Winsome. Likable. He’ll make it. Heck, he’s making it already. His mind reminds me of a hamster in a ferris wheel…spinning…away from something…or, maybe toward something…I’m not certain yet…I’ll need an other session or two…but I cannot help but wonder wonder if the progress he’s making is the kind he really wants to make.

It must not be. Not entirely, anyway. Otherwise, why seek a coach?

I like him. I’ll be able to help him. As long as he remains teachable, and, for some reason, I think he is; then, I am sure he’ll advance in this corporate world…heck, he has already. But, more importantly, he’ll advance in his inner world…where now he feels a bit out-of-kilter, he will soon and then always feel what now he misses. In spite all of his exterior togetherness…and, he does come across as together…this young executive who knows himself well enough to know something valuable is missing…something isn’t quite working inside…something is out-of-balance…this executive wants to fix it.

What is it?

It is the same thing you want fixed in you. He is no different than you or me or anyone else. It’s that in you that brings you back time and again to read this stuff I write. It has nothing I know to do with my ability to write. There are writers in this world. I’m hardly one of them. What I do write, however, resonates deeply within you because I write about the stuff that matters most. And, nobody has to explain to you what that is. You know this innately. Something in you connects with it and you find yourself saying, even if you don’t say it out loud…”That’s right…that’s me…he’s speaking to me…writing about me…what he’s desribing is the very think I want…I need…I must have.”

And, what is it that you want…that I want…that this young, executive needs more than all the trophies that are already gathering dust on the display shelf of his ambitions?

It is to feel connected to Life itself…it is to know what Paul Tillich called “the Ground of our Being.” It is to feel grounded in Presence itself so that, no matter what rages around you, there is peace within you…a quiet, enriching calmness…a joy unspeakable…indescribable…permanent even.

My friend, what you want…what I want…what the young executive wants is no trophy you could ever compete for and then win…no summit you’ll have to climb in order to reach…no reward you’ll ever get for making all the right decisions…no accomplishment you could ever achieve…and, certainly no promotion you’ll one day get but only after impressing the Board or pleasing the shareholders.

You, my friend, are already at that very place you seek. You’re atop the summit already. You have arrived at the destination you seek. You are already one with Life itself.

This is why Christians call it Grace. You really had to do nothing to get it. Why? Because you cannot arrive where you are already. You cannot become who you are by grace.

YOU ARE yourself the natural state of felt oneness with God. Why would you seek what you are already? Who you are…now? Do you feel this? The very Essence you are? Live from this place my friend and you’ll never ever…I repeat…you’ll never ever wonder whether you’ve lived a successful life…

You have succeeded already!

 

Mystery of Mysteries…You Say, “Jesus Is the Only Way!”

posted by smcswain

the-universeTo those who know me, it is no surprise that I was born with a WHY chromosome.

Because I was so fortunate as to travel the world during my teen years…those highly impressionable years…I’ve seen things, heard things, experienced things that became fertile soil to my many questions.

I was raised in a Southern Baptist pastor’s home. Everyone I knew was Christian. Most were Baptist. Even if you did not go to church, you regarded yourself as Christian and, very often, as Baptist, too. So, the nearest thing to me of a person of another “religion” was a Catholic.

Yet, on more than one occasion, I’ve stood with thousands of other actual Catholics in St. Peter’s Square in Rome…as they eagerly awaited a blessing from the Pope…and, as I watched with curiosity…wonder…questions.

Questions like, “Who are these Catholics? What do they believe? Do they believe in God? Are they Christians like us Baptists?”

If you have never been to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, put that on your “Bucket List.” Hard to stand inside what is quite likely still the most beautiful basilica in the world with its colorful windows, its magnificent ceilings that reach the heavens themselves, or to observe the beams of light as they cut their way across that breathtakingly, sacred place and not wonder to oneself, “What do these people know about God that I do not know? That we may not know?”

Pretty profound questions for a teenager to ask, wouldn’t you say?

I know many, many adults who never get around to asking such questions. Or, if they do, they quickly dismiss them. They mistakenly think that questions will lead to compromise just as they mistakenly think that doubts will lead to the loss of faith. What they do not know is that, until you actually question your faith and allow yourself permission to doubt, your faith is at best borrowed and superficial. Or, worse, inauthentic…even phony.

Imagine the questions I asked when visiting Jerusalem…walking around the Dome of the Rock, as I have done many times, holy site to two of the world’s greatest religions, Islam and Judaism. Can you understand how such observations…such experiences…would cause me to wonder, “Why do some people within these two religions claim the same spiritual father but dislike, even hate, each another? Furthermore, one calls God Allah, the other Elohim. Is it the same God? And, how are their gods different from the God we Christians worship? Or is it really the same God?”

As a teenager, I’ve stood outside the Swayambhunath Temple – known to Buddhists as the “Monkey Temple” because monkeys actually live there – in Kathmandu, Nepal, that beautiful city that sits under the shadow of the towering, snow-covered peaks of the Himalayan Mountains. I’ve watched as these monks sitting in the lotus position, some of them for hours…others for days, wearing their saffron-colored robes…making not the slightest movement…but only in deep stillness, meditation, prayer. I’ve observed the discipline of their spirituality, a discipline I had never observed even among the most devout of Christians.

Can you understand how I would wonder? How I would question?

Once, while observing the Zen monks in meditation, I was skeptical. I was certain it was all just a big religious show, the kind you and I are accustomed to seeing in much of Christianity today. I was convinced the monks were just playing to their audience of tourists. Our tour group walked on with the guide as she explained other things they were seeing. I stood transfixed, however, staring at the monks, certain that, at any moment, they would twitch with discomfort or peek to see who was watching.

They never did.

When it came time to leave, the guide sent one of the little Baptist ladies to fetch me. She put her arm around my shoulder and, perhaps feeling as if I might be a little too impressed by the display of spirituality I was observing, she whispered in my ear…

“Look at those poor little monks…praying to a God they know not. Why…if they only knew our sweet Jesus…they would go to heaven with us when they die.”

Even to the self-absorbed, self-centered teenager that I was, her condescension and dismissive certainty offended me.

I wanted to ask her, “What makes you so certain you’re right and they’re wrong? What if they’re right and you’re wrong?”

Some will read this and they will glibly…with certainty…with absoluteness that sounds as if they may actually know what they’re talking about, “Well, I just believe the Bible. And, since Jesus said he was the only way to God, that’s enough for me.”

Is it? Is that “enough for you?” Really? Or, is your “certainty” just a cover-up for your insecurity? You think your absoluteness fools me?

You’re wrong, my friend. There was a time in my life I tried my best to appear as certain as you. There are two kinds of fools in this world. The one who says, “There is NO God.” The other is the one who says, “I know God.” “No God; Know God” No difference.

Sure, you can “know” God, as the inner, inexplicable and transformative personal experience. But, do not ever, my friend…do not ever be so arrogant as to assume you actually “know” God, in terms of explaining God or understanding God. Or, maybe you should go back and read the Book of Job. When you’re so foolish as to assume you know more than you could possibly ever know, you’re hardly like Job. You’re more like his dysfunctional friends whose glib answers to life’s questions made them seem to Job, and to every reader, as the intellectual buffoons that they were.

My friends, if I have come to believe anything it is this: Mystery goes by many names…has many aliases…and, may wear many different faces. And, since this Mystery is too mysterious for either your little mind or mine, the better part of real humility would be to “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2), as Saint Paul counseled.

What “mind” is this?

The Mind of Mystery…a Mind of Humility…a Mind of Compassion…a Mind of Service.

It was this MIND that created the universe, was present in Jesus, is everywhere in this universe and present in you and me and everyone.

And, oh, by the way, know how BIG this universe is?

Have you bothered to look? And then, to ponder?

When the spiritual emptiness of your soul becomes so great you can no longer stand it, you WILL look. And, what you’ll see when you do is a vastness that is not only greater than you can imagine, it is greater than you CAN imagine.

When you become aware of this, you will most likely make a discovery similar to one I’ve made…and that is…

That God is like this Uni-Verse…He…or, She or whatever it is, is THE One-Song.

And, when you hear that Song, you’ll sing it, too. It is the One Song that is melodious enough to include all singers everywhere.

And that, my friend, is the greatest Mystery of all Mysteries.

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.

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