Your Best Life Now

Your Best Life Now

What’s Your Mantra for Living?

posted by smcswain

“Mantra” is a sanskrit word made up of two other words: “man” meaning “mind” and “tra” meaning “instrument.” Hence, a mantra is an “instrument of the mind.”

Not mental gymnastics or a kind of pattern of positive thinking. More like instead the philosophy by which you determine your life…the guidance principle or the underlying motive that motivates your actions, behavior, priorities, and life.

If you were asked to sum up the overriding philosophy…the guiding light of your ambitions…the prevailing objective or principle both of how you live and the way you life, what would it be?

Could you state it?

Articulate it?

Share it?

I think you could. And, I think you should. You’d be surprised at the power of a Mantra when, not only have your articulated it, but, when it comes from your heart and you regularly repeat it, it becomes an instrument that, like the rudder of a ship, guides your life or like a GPS system, it’ll provide direction, helping you reach your life destiny.

Here’s my Mantra for Living…

Mantra for Living

Creationism vs Evolutionism…When Will this Debate Ever End?

posted by smcswain

adam_and_eveWe could not be luckier here in Kentucky. We are that state that promotes religious quackery. Oh, in case you don’t know or are making thinking of traveling south to warmer climates, on your way through Kentucky stop and see the Creation Museum. It is our pyramid to primitive faith.

Soon the Museum will serve as host to what some are saying is the debate of the century – Creationism versus Evolutionism. Not since the days of the Scopes Monkey trials has there been another more important debate.

Are you kidding me?

I am so weary of this nonsense. This madness just won’t go away, will it?

I suppose not. At least, not as long as there are Christians who mistakenly think that the infallibility of scripture all collapses if Genesis is not regarded as a scientific treatise on the nature and origin of the universe.

The story of Creation in the Genesis account of creation is the story of Adam and Eve, the story of human community. Or, the lack of it.

That’s about it.

What the Genesis account is not is a historical account of the creation of the universe.

Why can’t puny little minds let this primitive notion go?

You’ll have to answer that.

If, however, you were taught in Sunday School, as I was, that Genesis is all about how God created the world in six literal days of 24-hours duration and that Genesis is the explanation about how “original sin” came to be on this planet as a consequence for the sin of Adam and Eve, then you will understand just how conflicted I’ve been most of my church life after learning the truth that Genesis is not about any of this nonsense at all.

Furthermore, the madness misinformed Christian zealots taught me as an impressionable youth – “brainwashing” might be a better description of it – and so undermined my natural capacity to live by faith by saying stupid things like – “If you don’t believe Genesis…if you have doubts about its authenticity…you are not living by faith” and other such maddening and heretical faith statements – then you can understand my consternation over debates like this one that just won’t ever go away.

I’m sick of it. And, I know that this is just another reason why scores and scores of thinking Christians have left – again, not their faith or their devotion to Christ – but the churches and parishes that promote this heresy. This Creationism craziness is indefensible and only ever succeeds in making Christians look like a a bunch of intellectually-bankrupt nitwits.

That there are still Christians promoting Creationism is actually more unbelievable than the illogical nonsense in Creationism they wish everyone would just believe.

What is this story in Genesis all about?

The story of Adam and Eve, my friend, is really just the story of you and me.

You are Adam and I am Eve and together…well…that makes we.

Genesis is the Jewish version of the mythical stories of creation found in virtually every primitive culture and religion. Its emphasis is on the Creator, creation, and community. It isn’t about proving the existence of God. It isn’t about proving that God created the universe in six literal days. And, it isn’t about how human beings all got inflicted with something it calls “original sin.”

It’s not about any of this at all.  It is instead, and mostly, about the failure of humans to guard and grow the community God created.  Just ask any Hebrew. Which might be a good place for Christians to start anyway, since the book of Genesis comes from their scriptures, not ours.

The creation story is about human community or, more accurately, the propensity of humans to destroy the potential for community.

When you get this simple truth about the purpose of Genesis, you will begin to grasp the point of the Jesus story – which is all about the creation of a new humanity and the potential for a new community. Which is why Saint Paul called Jesus the new Adam (Romans 5:12-18).  In other words, Jesus’ message…the Genesis message…is that we are one human community, one new humanity!

Jesus did not come to create some new religion. Bishop Desmond Tutu is right when he says, “God is not a Christian.” Jesus no more set out to begin “Christianity” than Buddha set out to establish “Buddhism.” These religions, or philosophies, were creations of the followers who came after these spiritual masters. Both groups have done much good, as one might argue with all religions. But virtually all religions, including the Christian religion, have been responsible for incomprehensible evil throughout history.

If all of this sounds like heresy to you, think again. Much of what you and I were taught as Christians about Christianity…about other religions, and much of what many Christians are still being taught today, is where the real heresy lies. And, creationism is just one of its many heretical ideas. It may have been helpful in pre-scientific periods of human history. But to argue that the creation story in Genesis is a literal, historical account of the origins of the universe is to make yourself look to the rest of the world as an ignoramus whose words, and I would add, whose witness, cannot be taken seriously at all. If you’re an Evangelical Christian and reading this, is that what you want?

The story of Genesis, as well as the story of Jesus, is the story of the creation of humanity and community and a new humanity and community, respectively.  When you get this, my friend, every Adam and Eve you meet, which is to say, every person you meet, will be a member of your extended human family…your human community.

This is what Saint Paul was pointing toward when he said, “There is no Jew or Greek or bond or free male or female…”(Gal 3:28). In other words, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, Hindus, Churchgoers, those who’ve left the Church, insiders, outsiders, black, white, yellow and red, gays and straights, lesbians and transgendered…indeed everyone you meet…we are all just different Adams and Eves and, as such, we are all brothers and sisters.

This IS the Gospel story. If this is not, then what is it?  If this ideal is not realized, worked toward, then what else really matters?

When you get this truth, then you can appreciate Genesis for what it is. But you will also have a new appreciation for the story of Jesus as well. Furthermore, when this truth grips you…and, when it does, it will transform you…you will stop the blind and ignorant labeling of people…the categorizing and judging of people as “believers” versus “non-believers” or “creationists” versus “evolutionists.”  You will also give up the silly notion that the Bible needs your puny and primitive rants to protect its sacredness. Most importantly, however, you will suddenly, almost magically, start seeing people everywhere, not as enemies to be eliminated, but as brothers and sisters, even as your family members, who must be loved, forgiven, even redeemed.

Why?

Because stuff like this is the proof of real conversion…real salvation…real enlightenment.  Not the little rants disguised as Christian apologetics by less than intelligent-thinking Christians.

The day will come – and not too quickly – when the Creation Museum will disappear like the dinosaurs in it. What will remain will be people of faith who have not rejected evolution in favor of creation but have rejected religious ideologies and beliefs founded on fairytales and primitive thinking.

“Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge,” warned Einstein, “will be shipwrecked by the laughter of the Gods.”

It took the Church nearly four hundred years to admit its stupidity and apologize to Galileo.

For centuries, the Gods laughed.

On February 2, 2014, the Creationists will stand up to declare their Truth and Knowledge…

Meanwhile, the Gods…

And, I’m wondering, “When will their madness, and the laughter of the Gods, finally and forever end?

The Power of “I AM”

posted by smcswain

In The Book of Awakening, the poet Mark Nepo writes: “In seeking what is essential, we become essential.”I_AM

This is true.

Seek a sacred life, you become spiritual.

Seek to live by faith, you become faithful.

Seek compassion, you become compassionate.

Seek kindness, you are kinder.

Seek joyfulness, you are happier.

Seek patience, you become long-suffering.

Seek peace, you become a peace-maker.

Seek mindfulness, you become more conscious.

Seek God, and you become…well…I almost said it…maybe I should say it.  But, the fact is, some of you would be offended. You still think of yourself as separate from God, in spite of the fact that Jesus prayed you would become one with God just as he was (John 17). So, to avoid offending you, I’ll limit it to this: “Seek God and you become, at the least, God-like.”

You are that which you seek.  I carry a list in my head of the traits, goals, ambitions, longings…that which I seek and the conditions, or environment, I wish to create in my innermost self, as well as the world around me. I know, as many of you know, too, that what’s going on around me is but a mere reflection of what’s going on inside of me. This is the point in the oft-quoted statement first made by Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” What others mean when they say, “Change the way you see the world and the world you see changes.”

So, when the environment around me is chaotic or stressful or full of anger or drama or negativity or any environment I’d rather avoid, I pause and look within to check on the weather conditions within. Admittedly, there are things that happen that at first blush you did nothing to cause. But there is a mystery here that eludes everyone. It is the mystery that nothing happens that is ever completely random. No need to get all bent out of shape over such a statement. Just know that buried beneath the heap of randomness there is a treasure of self-discovery…a life lesson…a transcendent experience…a something so magnificent that, when it is known, your life will never be the same.

I recommend to you the following practice. Write down the five statements below or, better yet, write your own and carry them with you every day.  When standing in line waiting to order a skinny latte, instead of texting incessantly, why not recite these statements?

Copy them to a “Notes” page on your smartphone if you’d prefer. But, whatever you do, practice repeating them. Over and over again. In time, you’ll not need the “Notes” prompt. You’ll just find yourself repeating them from memory.

Most importantly, however, you’ll find yourself becoming becoming like the very qualities, or “intentions,” as some call them, that you seek. You’ll discover that you, the seeker, as well as that which you seek, are becoming one-and-the-same.

Which is why I call these the five “I AM” statements “powerful,” or “transformative.” They are. They will change your life

Consider the following “I am” statements…

“I am one with God.”

“I am complete just as I am.”

“I am equal to everyone but superior to none.”

“I am at peace now and full of joy.”

“I am present, aware and conscious.”

Remember the “I am” statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John?  “I am the light of the world.” “I am the bread of life.” “I am the good shepherd.”  “I am the resurrection and the life.”

There’s something here, my friend. Do not miss it.

It has the power to transform everything. To change you. Forever.

Again, I make you a promise. If you will write these down, or write your own, and repeat them several times each day for one week, the oneness you are with God, for example, will begin taking on a whole new meaning; the completeness you are already will actually feel that way inside. You will become more peaceful…more joyful…more present and aware…more connected with the Eternal Now. I promise.

If you’d like to know more of The Power of “I Am” statements, may I recommend to you Howard Falco’s book, I Am: The Power of Discovering Who You Really Are? He’s written a wonderful book and a great place to start.

“Just mental gymnastics,” some will say.

Perhaps. But, I am creating my own gym and, just as I see changes in my physical life when I regularly exercise at the gym across town, when I practice creating the mental and spiritual environment wherein I wish to live, I see changes, too.

Dramatic ones.

I have discovered that what the Dalai Lama said is true:  “When you are discontent, for example, you always want more, more, more. Your desire can never be satisfied. But when you practice contentment, you say to yourself, ‘Oh yes – I already have everything that I really need.’ ”

Make this your practice, my friend, and the day will come when you find it no longer necessary to say, “I am one with God.”

“I am…” will be sufficient.

“Why?”

When you no longer have to ask “Why?” you’ll know.

The One Resolution We Need for the New Year

posted by smcswain

Need in New Year

The Only 2014 Resolution You’ll Need…the One that Changes Everything!

posted by smcswain

This is the season for New Year’s Resolutions. Actually, however, there is only one resolution you could ever possibly need. Not surprisingly, it is also the one resolution that, when practiced resolutely, changes everything, about your life and our world. That resolution? To…

Be Compassionate!

Consider this: What do you suppose might happen in this New Year if you determined daily to treat yourself with compassion and to greet every situation, as well as every person, with a compassionate disposition?

How could this not change everything about your life? How could this not dramatically impact how you act, interact, and react to others, as well as to the world around you?

I was thinking recently about all the new friends I’ve made, as well as old friendships I’ve renewed, through the social media platform of Facebook and the like. If you think about it, it is really amazing. Friends I have not seen or talked to in decades, I now talk to regularly. People I would likely have never met, I have not only met on Facebook, but we have become dear friends.

Recently, for example, I made a new friend who is co-author the post you are reading. Although we live four thousand kilometers from one another, Bill Butler in Chilliwack, British Columbia and I in Louisville, Kentucky, we somehow connected on Facebook – at least, I think that’s where we first met – and we quickly discovered just how much we think alike.

It is our hope this acronym will inspire you to join with us in making the one resolution that could change everything about your life and in our world.

Benevolent
Everywhere

Consideration
Offering the gift of yourself
Mercy
Piety
Accommodating
Sympathy
Sensitivity
Intimacy is “Into-me-you-see.”
Objective
Niceness
Attentive
Thoughtful
Empathetic

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From Bill Butler and me: “Be Compassionate” in the New Year!
It’s the one resolution that changes everything.

Mr. Bill Butler is a humanitarian, thought leader, teacher, spiritual guide, and a John C. Maxwell certified coach and speaker who counsels executives, professionals, and clients within every professional field.
http://www.WilliamButler.ca

Dr. Steve McSwain is an author, speaker, thought leader, and spiritual guide whose blogs here at the Huffington Post, BeliefNet.com, and from his website are followed by people across the world.
http://www.SteveMcSwain.com

Want to Be Free…Truly Free? Here’s How!

posted by smcswain

FreedomThe Buddha used the word “anata” to refer to “no self.” What did he mean? The same thing Jesus meant when he said, “Deny thyself” (Matt. 16:24).

Then, what did these two spiritual teachers mean?

Detachment is the word, my friend. Or, to put it another way, “Let go.”

“But let go of what?” you ask.

All illusions of permanence. And, what is impermanent?

Anything to which the little “me” would attach itself.  The “little me,” as Eckhart Tolle called the ego or “the dog,” as the philosopher Neitzsche referred to it, can attach itself to almost anything, even to its-self. Anything you can see, touch, taste, smell, feel, or create is impermanent.  Nothing remains for every long. Which is why the widespread western practice of embalming dead bodies, entombing them in concrete and metal containers in the ground, is an indication of our widespread attachment to the illusion of permanence.

Until you and I detach from all things…until we can let go, we remain incarcerated, as it were, and not free to simply be or to enjoy the “abundant life” as Jesus referred to it.  Which explains much of our worry…fretting…anxiety even now. It explains explains why we live in fear…live with regrets…worry about tomorrow…and, consequently, create a hell for ourselves here on earth.

What do you think, for example, Jesus meant when he said, “Lay not up treasures on earth, but lay up treasures in church?” Church? Did he say “church?” No, but isn’t that one of the reasons many today do not attend? Because “they’re always asking for money?”  Yes, of course. And, since we are still attached to money itself, we are offended. This is Jesus’ point.

It goes both ways, you know. Don’t be fooled by your own little ego and reject what you don’t like in the church and then cling yourself to the very thing you despise about church. Can you fault the Church for being attached to the very thing to which you are yourself attached? That’s a big game you’re playing, my friend. And, what you don’t know is that you’re the one losing.

Freedom, or to use religious language…”salvation” for Christians, “enlightenment” in other traditions, simply refers to that life-long and cultivated capacity to live from a place of “no self,” no attachments or, as Jesus put it, the “denied self.”  Saint Paul called it, “the crucified self,” (Gal. 2:20). Yet, when he said that, he was still very much alive. So he’s referring to having died with Christ to something.

What is that “something?”

All attachments.

Death…detachment…denial of self, the little me in you and me – which is not evil. Don’t make that mistake. The ego is not something to deny or to fight against as if some little schizophrenic part of you that must be expunged.  The little me is you, just not the better you.

How is one free oneself of the little me?

Do not try.

Why?

There’s no need. Which is the irony. But, only be embracing yourself or, as Jesus put it, “to love yourself,” are you free of the self. Indeed a mystery. You win, not be defeating, but by surrendering.

What do you think Jesus was demonstrating in his death on the cross? Payment to God off for your sin? That’s a medieval theology the Church itself must let go. This explanation of the Christian story has become itself a monstrous collective ego. The Church must let go to it. When it does, and it will, the mystery of the Gospel comes to light. The scandal of the cross, as Saint Paul framed it, is this irony that life is won, not by defeating one’s enemies or, in this case, the ego, but by surrendering.

You only succeed in living the life Jesus referred to…that the Buddha pointed to…by learning the art of letting go. That’s all “detachment” means. Turn loose. Be free..

Think you have? Think you have arrived? That you’re now a “spiritual giant?” That you’ve completely detached…and are living an enlightened or abundant life?

“Go spend a week with your parents,” said Ram Dass and then you’ll see just how enlightened or how “saved” you are.

Think you’ve arrived at a higher level of consciousness? That you have detached from all illusions of permanence?

Then, consider this…

How do you feel whenever you get to work and realize you’ve left your cell phone on the kitchen counter?

Don’t think you’re still attached?  How do you feel when someone questions the things you’ve been taught to believe?

When, for example, I say things like, “I love all religions, but I’m in love with my own,” what does that do to you? Do you label people like me as “liberal?” When I say, “There are many ways to God and reading John 14:6 as if Jesus is saying there is no other way is a misreading of his words,” how do you feel inside?  Panic? Rage? Do you feel sorry for me, as if I’m “lost” but feel better about yourself because you and your group believe the truth? Or, does it make you want to lash out at me, mistakenly believing I’m out to destroy your beloved faith?

Think you’re not attached to your Church…to its beliefs and doctrines…as if, believing in those “beliefs” you have salvation?  Come on, my friend, wake up.  Know that no belief could ever be God. So, do not make them your God. Do not be attached to anything, no matter how precious the words may be. Remember they’re just words.

Think you’re not attached to the Bible as “the Word of God?” Think again. That is, if you want to be free. Really free. Saved. Enlightened. Or, whatever you’d like to call it. The word isn’t important. The reality toward which it does…well…that’s the focus, my friend.

“I want to be free,” you say. “But how?”

Don’t even try.

“But why?”

Because you are free already. That is the mystery of the Gospel. The mystery of enlightenment, as Buddha finally discovered. You do not achieve enlightenment by struggling, fighting, or seeking. You become enlightened when you know you are already. That is the real message of the Christian story, even the meaning of grace.

This is why Rumi, the Sufi poet, said to his followers:  “The prison door is wide open already. So, why do you remain inside?”

Why Is Your Religion Powerless to Change You? To Change the World?

posted by smcswain

412dpiDpVfL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_Why is your religion and/or religious belief powerless to change you?

Powerless to change the world?

This might explain it…

In Voice of Reason, a book shared with me by my Facebook friend, Bill Butler, author Bryant McGill writes: “Take any concept you believe in deeply and say out loud, and with full conviction, that your dearest belief may be totally flawed. Say, “There is no doubt that I could be wrong.” If you cannot do this, then you do not possess the idea, the idea possesses you.”

I’ve reworked this a bit. I’d like you to weigh in, should you be brave enough to do so.

Take the religion you believe in deeply — mine is Christianity — as well as every belief taught by your denomination (Catholic, Evangelical, Protestant notwithstanding) about that religion, and say out loud, and with full conviction, that your dearest belief may be totally flawed. Say, “There is no doubt that I (we) could be wrong.”

If you cannot do this, then you yourself do not possess the beliefs about your religion, those beliefs possess you.

My own feeling is, if you want an authentic faith, you’d better know the difference between your beliefs and the ineffable Reality toward which those beliefs point.

There is an eternal space of difference between them.

The Buddha said, “My finger points to the moon, but my finger is not the moon.”

Stop Striving to Be Important…

posted by smcswain

competitive“Stop striving to be important.”

Good advice from Mark Nepo.  Hard as heck, however, to stop doing.

Striving…seeking…competing…clamoring for the spotlight. It’s easier to see this stuff in others than to see it in yourself.  Ambition gone amok. Competitiveness gone viral.

Who can stomach for very long the performer who’s always seeking the applause of others?

I meet people like this all the time and, frankly, I don’t like them.

And then, a wise soul like Nepo comes along and reminds me that the enemy I meet in others is the enemy who resides within me.  I see faults in others infinitely faster than I see them in myself.  Which is why, in the last few years, I’ve been making it my practice, whenever I catch myself judging someone else – a trick itself hard to perform – whenever I find myself faultfinding…complaining…to stop right then and there and look within for the presence of that behavior I despise in another.

Why?

It’s really pretty simple.  But it’ll take you a lifetime to overcome.  My friend, you only ever judge in others what you have denied is in yourself.

Period.

You can argue against this, if you wish but, the fact is, you dislike in others what you’ve denied in yourself.

This reality has been so helpful to me when it comes to those Christians who are most offended by my openness to truth wherever I find it. You should read some of the emails I get.  The most hateful come from frightened Christians at one end and equally frightened atheists at the other.

When a Christian writes me, for example, writhing over something I’ve written, deeply disturbed that I would have the audacity to suggest something outside what they call “Orthodox Christianity,” as if that were some kind of official and infallible measure of doctrine, I realize they are most demonstrative in their anger and resentment precisely because they’re the most afraid and uncertain about what they believe themselves. Outside, they appear and sound absolutely certain about what they believe and why. If you could see inside their soul, however, you would see uncertainty instead…doubt, too…and lots of questions…most of which they’ve denied, however, or buried as if they were some kind of enemy. These persons get very defensive and so feel they must defend their faith. They become argumentative and are often quite skillful in their ability to debate and win the debates, too.

This creates the illusion of security in them. But be assured, my friend, it is just an illusion. They are not secure at all and, at some point, life will give them an experience that will cause their straw man of defense to diminish entirely.

At the other end of the spectrum, some atheists are equally disturbed by some of the things I say, write, and believe. I know, too, when I meet an angry atheist, they are likely very close to believing. They’re in an internal battle, however, and what is called for is understanding, not more debate or argument.   That will lead nowhere. Besides, I would likely lose as angry atheists are quite skillful in their arguments.

My point in all of this is this: when you are defensive, look within.  When you are offended, look within.  When you find fault with others or feel frightened, again, look within.  Something in you needs exploring.

When you find what you are looking for within, do not then turn around and find fault with yourself. Do not judge what you see. Embrace it instead, no matter how ugly it may appear to you.  You have, my friend, just as I do, a “shadow” self.  Which is where the cliche’ comes from…”We have met the enemy and he is us.” The shadow, however, is not an enemy, unless you make him into one.  He is you.  So forgive him…or, more accurately, forgive yourself. Understand where this shadow comes from, too. Your own life experiences, many of which were completely outside your control. So, you will likely need to forgive yourself for assuming you were the guilty party. You were not, however.  What you are is responsible now for how you will go forward, given the circumstances that occurred to you.

Why not decide now to go through this day mindful of every judgment you make of another? Why not resolve to catch yourself complaining and criticizing and, as you do, just stop it right then and there?

Then, ask yourself: “What’s going on here?”  “What is it about this person I resent? Why? Could there be something in myself I’ve overlooked? Or, denied? Or, don’t like that gets triggered every time I meet in another what I don’t like about myself?”

Not only will this free you from judgment. This will free you to experience greater joy, acceptance, and it will enlarge your capacity to forgive those who are always advertising for the approval and admiration of others.

It’ll help some of you to forgive what you see in me but do wish to admit is also in you.

And, vice versa.

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posted 2:14:17pm Nov. 28, 2014 | read full post »

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posted 11:12:43am Nov. 24, 2014 | read full post »


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