I don't believe God is an old man in the clouds. I think God is the space between every living cell in every living being. And though we are made of different cells, the space between them...I think that space is infused with Divinity, and I think that is what connects every living being in the Universe. We are all just a part of God. God isn't separate from us, He is the Connecting Force between us.
When I smell a flower, and can't see the scent, but know it is there because I can smell it...I think that is God.
|Photo Credit: Kate Gale|
When I hear a song, and don't have a distinct memory tied to it, but still get tears in my eyes...I think that is God.
When infant babies smile, though they have no memories or experiences to be happy about just yet...I think that is God.
|The two utmost loves of my life|
When I feel a breeze brush my cheek, and realize it is the same breeze that sways the tree branches above me, and the grass below me...I think that is God.
I also believe in Heaven and Hell. But I believe they are here, right now. Not some destination. Just as the wind can gently and lovingly cool me down on a warm summer day ((Heaven)), it can also meet certain earthly weather conditions, turn into a cyclone, and wipe out a city ((Hell)).
|Photo Credit Dylan Stable|
That is not to say God chose to put me in Heaven with a breeze, and the victims of Moore, OK, in Hell with a tornado. Rather, when I feel a breeze, I choose to Thank God, and enter the Kingdom of Heaven in that moment ((even if it is a 5 second, fleeting moment)), and when I drove through the destruction in Moore, Oklahoma a year ago, I acknowledged the Hell those people were going through...furthermore, I realized that even in that Hell, God was everywhere. But, in order to access Heaven in Hell, the victim must make that conscious choice. It is in the most devastating circumstances that we see God most easily, or choose to not see God at all.
Having been a traditional Christian for a couple of decades, I'm familiar with the verbiage used in the Church, and what I think is the more comfortable vocabulary for most of my friends. They would word it this way, "When God closes a door, He opens a window," or, "God is always knocking, it is up to you to answer."
Same thing. Different words, same message.
The people gathering from all over the country to help...God. The American Red Cross raising millions of dollars all over the world, and then the hands and feet of their volunteers...God. Even in Hell, there is God.
Realizing God is everywhere amidst horrible circumstances ((not caused by God)) is accessing Heaven.
Being unaware that God is around, and focused on the horrible times//situation//person//damage, and feeling like a victim is accessing Hell.
The people who were in that unfortunate set of circumstances, in Moore, during that horrific deadly tornado a year ago, who didn't see the help, who didn't realize the Love being poured in...they have an absolute separation of God and Self, and that is the Ultimate Hell.
Hell is not some fiery pit with a fictional cartoon character complete with horns and a pitchfork, dancing in fire...I would have to really try to believe something like that, and even if I really tried, I just couldn't. That seems so juvenile, so silly. We can see with our eyes pain and despair, and separation from God, right here, right Now. And seeing that, and not helping, but rather, coming from a place of self-righteousness, does more harm than good. Believing in a Hell doesn't make it real, and it doesn't save anybody. Donating money to natural disasters, donating time and service...that makes a difference. Showing people love, and opening people's eyes to the beauty all around them...that is the most effective way to "save somebody" from Hell. We don't have to wonder if Hell exists, or if Heaven is real. We can see it, and experience it. And we can make a difference.
I believe every thought we have is a choice before it is a thought, and most humans are unaware of the ability to choose their thoughts.
I think the first step for me was realizing I am not my thoughts. I didn't fully realize this until I was probably about 20. I think I've mentioned it before, but reading Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth" changed my life, and the way I see the world.
Though I'd definitely heard phrases like "This too shall pass," and even the less regal, "Don't get too attached," I didn't truly grasp the temporary-ness of not only my life, but the world. Everything is temporary; this world is transient. All it takes is walking through an old cemetery to realize generations existed before us, and we had no idea who they were or what they did. This can be depressing...or it can wake us up to the moment at hand.
|Photo Credit: The Moravian Cemetery|
Situations always arise, therefore, it is not the situation at hand that is the problem; rather, my feelings toward the situation that is the problem. Change my thoughts, change my feelings, change my life.
But how can I change my thoughts? I wish it was that easy. If only I could "turn off a switch" and stop my mind. It is way too fast. Thoughts come and go too quickly for me to even acknowledge each thought and tell it to stop. I can't keep up with my mind. It has a mind of it's own.
Tolle explained in "A New Earth" that his "aha moment" was when he was contemplating suicide. The thought, "I can no longer live with myself" kept repeating in his mind. He questioned,
Who is the "I" that can no longer live with "my self"? Are there two of me? Who is the "I" and who is the "self" that "I" can no longer live with?
Tolle is definitely one of my most influential spiritual teachers. He embodies peace completely. Watching one of his interviews, I could see how a viewer not familiar with enlightenment or inner awareness could find him incredibly boring. He doesn't get worried, mad, sad, or visibly happy. He is just peace, wrapped up in a body. Of course he wasn't born this way; he achieved this Zen like way of life through years of practice. And I often try to think about his approach when I am faced with a negative set of circumstances.
**Sidenote to keep it real...I said I TRY. I am so far from Zen it isn't even funny. But I'm aware of what it looks like, and blissfully aware of what it feels like, and I am trying. I am also aware that it is easier to feel and embody peace on a perfect day. The month of May is my absolute favorite. The birth of my daughter, Mother's Day, my birthday...the cool mornings and nights, and warm days, when I can feel the Vitamin D soaking through my pores...it is easy for me to feel like a peaceful little flower child when everything is going my way. But I must remind myself when I'm getting that speeding ticket, or have a conflict at home or work, or am dealing with a customer service agent on the phone sorting out bills...it is the stressful situations that are gifts from God to teach me how to embody peace at all times. Tolle wouldn't get upset in those moments. He's a Zen Master! Neither would Buddha, Jesus, or the Dalai Lama! But if I can just continue improving...I'm on the right track. Looking at these moments as gifts to help me become more Zen, more peaceful...that's how I TRY to see the situation (even if I'm unable to realize that until after the moment has passed).
Anyway, back to my "aha" moment this morning. Many of the spiritual teachers that inspire me have detachment to emotions like sadness, nervousness, and anger. And they also are detached from the material world. For a while, when I had less money, I found it was healthy to detach myself from material pleasures. I even kind of judged those that were attached to their mani/pedis, or expensive cars, or luxurious clothes.
But my "aha" came to me this morning, realizing, the huge advantage we as human beings have over other living beings. The mind is both a blessing and a curse. We have the ability to have positive, uplifting thoughts, and most importantly, the ability to realize God in His Infinite Wisdom. A tree doesn't think about God, or feel God or wonder about God...a tree just IS God, without the mind to be conscious about it. The mind is also a curse, because it can go in auto-pilot ((how most humans are functioning, without even being aware of it)), with negative thoughts, and no awareness of how to turn it off. The tree doesn't worry, because it has no brain to create worry. But WE ARE NOT OUR THOUGHTS. We have livers, that create bile, but we are not bile. We have brains, that create thoughts, but we are not our thoughts.
The logical next step is realizing if we can detach from our thoughts, we can achieve enlightenment and embody peace. I think when I began looking at life differently ((or as some would view it, my "hippy phase"...hehe)), I took the mindset of no more material pleasures. And if I have one, it is a guilty pleasure. I shouldn't enjoy it. But this morning, I thought, if I can control my mind, why not allow it to enjoy the earthly pleasures? Why not allow it to get temporarily attached to the things that make me happy? I know Tolle would say that attachment allows other entities to become part of my identity, and then I face a potential identity//ego crisis when that entity fails, dies, or disappears. But, if I can control my mind, can't I deal with it then//later? And enjoy the Now?
To be more specific, if I live my life completely detached from the material world, I am not going to get a manicure or pedicure. And I usually don't, because it's not worth the money to me. A Tibetan monk goes decades without experiencing earthly pleasures. They seem to have the whole "peace and Zen" thing figured out!! But, I am not a Tibetan monk, and I never will be.
|Photo Credit: Mitchell Kanashkevich|
But this morning, as I was enjoying my morning coffee on a wooden porch swing, admiring the birds, squirrels, and watching the breeze blow through the trees, I had an "aha" moment of my own. In my life, I can indulge in a mani//pedi, and be present, and thoroughly enjoy it. Appreciate the person rubbing my feet. Appreciate and admire the color I choose from the wall of choices. Feel happy and ::gasp:: slightly attached to my new prettier fingers and toes. And, when the polish begins to chip, and come off, rather than think "I need to get another!" or "What a rip off, it only lasted a week!" I can think, "Well that was lovely. I'm so grateful to have had that experience. It is ending now, but it was wonderful while I had it." Then focus on the next experience at hand, which might have nothing to do with that mani//pedi whatsoever.
Every day of every week, and every year of my life, is an opportunity to discover on a deeper level, Who I Am. I think I am very familiar with my Soul, and I have felt conflicted with a personality. I blame it on being a "Gemini" ((which I think still holds some validity!))...I have eaten a Vegan diet, and I have eaten Culver's burgers for days. I can be very calm and peaceful, and I can flush my man's phone down the toilet in a fit of rage ((in my defense, that was 8 years ago)). I can rise above gossip and not make comments, but I can also dish dirt with the best of them. I guess, I'm human, and I am flawed.
I am also a chameleon! My surroundings dictate how I am going to act, and what I am going to say. I can blend with the sorority, I can blend with the crunchy granolas. I can relate with my plastic surgery patients, and I can relate with my feminist friends. I think ultimately, I have a unique ability to relate with almost any person, on many different levels. My favorite part about this blog is that people who read it choose to read it... it is not required reading to be my friend. So, I don't feel like I'm pushing my spiritual beliefs on anybody ((unlike some religions that literally knock on your door)). However, if I am at a dinner table with traditional Christians, I have the vocabulary and the history to relate to them on that level. For that matter, I have many friends who are politically conservative, or have other fundamentally different values, and I know when to not bring up certain topics, and I definitely know how to be respectful in their company. This blog allows me to express how I feel without the societal filters I put on when I know my audience will take issue with what I have to say. And I can always default to, "If you don't like it, don't read it."
Purging my musings out of my head and onto the glowing screen helps me go deeper within. Reading what I've typed, backspacing, and re-wording, helps me to realize how I actually think and feel. I could easily put all of this in a journal, and I do keep one for the thoughts I don't feel like sharing ((though it has been sparse lately...I find I go to that journal when I am upset, and I go to the blog when I'm discovering something about myself, or happy and want to share my feelings of joy)). But sharing these thoughts also opens the conversation with friends who I might not have known to start the conversation with, or complete strangers, who, thanks to technology, can become friends through the world wide web.
If you've made it this far, thank you for dedicating so much of your time to getting a peak into my mind. And as I type this, I remind myself...all of these thoughts are a product of my brain. The One aware of them, that sees them as clouds passing in the sky...that is actually Me. I end this Now with a big deep breath.
This was quite cathartic. Thank you.