Practical Spirituality

Thank you for visiting Practical Spirituality. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here is another blog you may also enjoy:

 Inspiration Report

Happy Reading!!!

Ok, so to begin, I am not a big fan of TV or pop culture in general, and while I think everything has its place in the world, I wasn’t overly interested in Lady Gaga a week ago. I certainly knew who she was and of course lots of her songs are catchy – but a “meat suit” – really??? It just didn’t seem worth following.

Then came my mom’s 70th birthday and my wife and I wanted to do something fun, memorable and uniquely honoring my mother’s eternal youth, love of rock and pop culture and wildly open mindedness… so what else could we do? We took her to the hippest biggest tour of the season: LADY GAGA MONSTER’S BALL.

My mom and wife LOVED every minute of the journey – from the moment they started to plan their “outfits” to the dinner before (at a restaurant full of insanely dressed Gaga fans) and of course the “Broadway, meets Madonna, meets  LSD, meets a massive LGBT pride parade, future disco rave” show itself…

Me, well….

If you don’t know me, I have a PhD in Comparative Religion, I am an ordained interfaith minister, trained as a chaplain, and business consultant and author of a few books including “Return to the Sacred” and “Inspiration Deficit Disorder,” both with Hay House books. I have been a director at Canyon Ranch Health resorts, an executive director at a major Canadian healthcare management company, and have been featured as an expert in books, films, radio, TV – the likes of Larry King Live, Yoga Journal, In Session TV, CNN, etc. etc. etc.

Why do I say all this? To blow my own horn? To promote myself? No. I say these things to make my comments very clear.

As of March 26, 2011, the night of the Monster’s Ball, The Gaga is my Guru!!!

No, really! I loved this show and the woman herself! It was fantastic . My taste in clothing (or lack of it) and music is not always the same as hers, but she embodies something extraordinary and I have to honor it and follow it. Who knows if she was always like this, or not, or why she started on this road or not… Gossip is gossip and you can judge the past all you like.  But in this moment she has been transformed into more than an icon and she is using her status to raise huge amounts of money for charity, huge amounts of awareness for disenfranchised groups and maintains a bizarre kind of artistic integrity that shows that you can be in the world and not of it at the same time.

That’s why I am going to dedicate a mini-blog series to the Wisdom of Lady Gaga (as I see it). If you love her it Gossip is gossip and you can judge the past all you like.he same time.she is using her status to raise huge amounts of money fois worth reading, but if you don’t get her yet, it makes it more worth reading…!

So, before concluding Gaga for my Guru vol. 1, I want to highlight the three core messages she repeated again and again in her show.

1.     Charity: Vote with your money, support charities, get involved, get educated and align yourself with brands that support your beliefs. Don’t be an ignorant contributor to what you don’t agree with.

2.     Love Yourself: Its basic, but a universal spiritual and psychologically healing message. This isn’t about narcissism. This is about believing in your innate goodness no matter how high, low, on or off you make think you are. At least know that you are lovable, right now without exception.

3.     Don’t Let Others Tell You Who To Be: Whether it is about how to be a good mother, a powerful man, your sexuality, ideas success, appearance, you name it – define yourself from within. Trust your intuition, your calling, your passions and sense of purpose and true nature. My book Inspiration Deficit Disorder says this a thousand different ways and gives you the tools to make it happen – but Gaga can do it in about 4 minutes with a song, an outrageous outfit and imagery that simply blows away all stereotypes, sense of judgment and control. It about PERMISSION and FREEDOM to choose.

We were on the road to
Malinalco, Mexico, when we came upon clusters of people of all ages walking
along the highway. It was surprising and mysterious to me. As we passed
families, groups, and individuals, I felt as if I were looking through the car
window into a world I couldn’t begin to comprehend.

Some of the people
carried crosses, some carried flowers, and others carried bags of food and
water. The people seemed intent, and the mood appeared committed but also
content. Their dark faces were made more beautiful in contrast to the freshly
laundered clothing they were wearing, as if dressed for a special occasion.

“Where are they
going?” I asked. It had been miles since the last town, and it was a very small
one. “Where have they all come from? Why?”

“Have you not seen
people making a pilgrimage before?” my guide Raphael asked me.

“They are on the road
to Chalma, a sacred place where there’s a cave with a very special altar. It’s
the second most popular site for pilgrimages in Mexico. Hundreds of years ago,
Native people would go there to honor and request help from Ozteotl.” Ozteotl
was said to have great healing ability and people visited the cave in order to
connect with his power to help and heal them. Since the time of the Spanish,
the cave has been dedicated to St. Michael and is now known as a place where
people travel to be in the presence of God through miracles and experiences of
the Divine. Pilgrims come as an act of devotion, and they make the journey on
foot to show their deep love and commitment to God.

At the time, I didn’t
understand the devotional path, and it made me uncomfortable.

“Do you mean it’s
similar to individuals who are in love saying to their beloved, ‘I’d walk a
hundred miles on broken glass if only you’d be mine?'” I asked Raphael. “Or the
way people will stand in line for three days to buy concert tickets to see
their favorite rock group?”

“Well, in some ways,
yes–it is like that,” Raphael replied. “I think those people say and do those
things because they’ve found a connection to a force that helps them feel loved
and understood. I’ve been to rock concerts like that! Everyone sings along as
if the songs were about their own lives. They like to be understood and heard,
experiencing a state of devotion. I think that the devotion itself feels good for

“The experience is
similar for these pilgrims. Unlike adoring a rock star, the force that they’re
in love with has the power to work miracles in their lives. Their beloved
offers grace and peace. I’ve traveled with pilgrims in the past. Thousands make
the journey every year. Their worship is from the heart, and they want to show
it. They want to feel it. For you and me, we feel God in nature. We’re
comfortable with a faceless God who is expressed in the physical world as a
force beyond ideas and words.”

I agreed and listened

“For these people, God
has a face, and a name. Even the saints have personalities, form, and
preferences. These people feel and need a personal relationship to God. They
call upon Jesus by name. They honor Mother Mary by name, and they pray to the
saints for help by name. Love of God is their path. They’re not unsophisticated
or foolish. I know great professors, scientists, lawyers, doctors, and other
highly educated people who worship in this way. They connect to the Sacred
through love. It’s no better or worse than what we are attracted to on
mountaintops and in the call of the eagle.”

As my practice and
experience have evolved in my life since that day, I’ve developed a very
different relationship to the path of devotion. As my experience of the Sacred
has deepened, I’ve felt compelled to relate to God–The Supreme Force and Divine
Mystery–also as a friend and beloved. It somehow feels incomplete to restrict
my connection to The Sacred to only my mind or body. It’s difficult to focus
the feeling of love for something if it has no personal dimension. To
think of God as Pure Consciousness may be accurate, but it’s awkward. The great
Sufi spiritual teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan once said, “Mysticism without
devotion is like uncooked food; it can never be assimilated.”

Excerpted from Return
to The Sacred

Approach the world of spiritual practice
with trust and an open heart. Don’t be afraid of spiritual experiences. Strange
sensations of energy, a feeling of deep love, vulnerability, connectedness, and
a loss of ego and control are all aspects of spiritual experience that test and
try people’s limits. Such profound and healing encounters can trigger fear and
resistance. People doubt what they don’t know, resist what they don’t
understand, and cling to what’s familiar. It’s a longing for safety that
sacrifices freedom and growth. Some even fear for their mental and physical
health when they begin to have pronounced spiritual experiences.

These concerns are not
hollow. We’ve all seen examples of people who seem very committed to a religion
or spiritual practice; and the outcome is only distraction, a new source of
control, or worse, a rational for the judgment of others. These, however, are
not examples of effective applications of spiritual practices nor are they
accurate expressions of what spiritual experience teaches.

A healthy spiritual
practice is both the mechanics and a certain mind-set about the practice. These
elements–combined with guidance, grace, and dedication–are necessary to
liberate the human spirit. Without an open mind and heart, without a sincere
desire to learn, grow, and discover, any spiritual practice can become a barrier
to growth.

Much of what scares
people about spirituality is its demand to move beyond absolute trust in
science and the five ordinary senses. The Spiritual World largely remains
beyond the scope of material science, but that isn’t a “problem”–it is simply
its nature. In his magnificent book The Little
, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote: “It is only with the
heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Joseph Campbell, the
great historian of mythology and religion, affirmed this by pointing out that
nearly every culture in the world holds foundational stories of sacred heroes
whose only salvation comes from facing their deepest fears and risking the life
that is familiar in favor of a willingness to explore the unknown. Often, we
must sever the ties to what we know and believe in order to be reborn and

It is this dimension
of the spiritual journey that remains the greatest barrier: fear. Anywhere that
fear lives, the Spirit withdraws–including in groups, in families, or in
ourselves. Where fear grows, love is diminished and the qualities of The Sacred
are forgotten. People become paralyzed by the fear of the unknown, of being
rejected, of not being in control, and of the discomfort they might face as
they surrender who they’ve come to believe they are.

A healthy spiritual practice will cause you to
become aware of your limits and your opportunities to heal and grow.
This ensures that it won’t always be easy, but it will always be worthwhile. My
own journey has also come with many difficult crossroads, including loneliness,
surprises, the recognition of old wounds, hard choices, and the need to make
many sacrifices. But it has also blessed me with the most rewarding gifts and
an abundant sense of personal power, happiness, and freedom.

Excerpt from Return to the Sacred