Anger Touches Death


My nephew, Drew, committed suicide on December 15.

The pastor at his memorial (which happened yesterday) said this: “People who commit suicide think that they are putting an end to their pain. This is not true. They are simply passing that pain onto everyone they leave behind.”

Bingo.

Drew’s suicide touches everyone differently, and we all cycle through the typical stages of grief.

For me, there’s been a lot of anger, self-loathing, self-disgust and discontent. A clinician would, without doubt, say that the stage of depression has been reached. I, on the other hand, do not subscribe to the pathologization of the natural descent cycle — but I do see that a descent has occurred and I’m endeavoring to embrace it for all it’s worth.

The Buddha would say that this mess of reactivity is due to excessive identification with the body, and he would be correct.

I am still in the body, and unless I consciously attain “Right View,” I definitely identify my body as “me.”

The body is not only physical, but it is mental and emotional as well.

The emotions are what assail me now.

So, I turn to a pair of companions who bring comfort through thick and thin: astrology and the Bible.

What does astrology say?

Astrology says that transiting Mars, the Warrior, planet of anger and physical vitality, has been moving directly over Pluto, the Dark Mother, planet of death and transformation, in my natal chart.

Mars and Pluto happen to be ruling planets in my chart. This means that, whenever they are “lit up” by mutual connection, I am thrust into processes that go directly to the “core issues” in my life.

Astrology says that Mars conjoining Pluto guarantees at least a month’s worth of physical, mental and (especially) emotional INTENSITY — which, of course, exceeds the boundaries of rationality, descending my emotions into the deepest, darkest recesses of existence.

My experience of what Astrology says includes the above-mentioned anger, self-loathing, self-disgust and discontent. I’m sure there are other things going on in my chart (i.e., Jupiter squaring Nodes and Saturn in the 7th, Uranus opposing Moon, and Pluto continuing to square Moon) that contribute to the seeming bottomlessness of the descent I’m in… but, for whatever reason, I can’t seem to find the lower floor, and I’m getting a little desperate.

What does the Bible say?

Here’s where I was led:

Eph 4:29-32 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

So… the remedy for my corrupt communication, my grieving of the Spirit of God, my bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking and malice… is to forgive those who are on the receiving end of my projections, and to show tenderhearted kindness toward them — no matter how difficult it may be for me to get there from here.

Whew! Tall order!

And, yet… the forgiveness piece is something that’s worked wonders in my past… because, only through forgiving others am I able to receive forgiveness for my own loathsomeness.

Yes, I am inundated by explosive emotion right now.

I feel terrible about my reactivity and my frantic corruption of communication. I feel awful about ALL my shortcomings, the totality of which seems so obvious and exposed.

In this place, I can’t seem to get over the shortcomings I see in others — I want to blame them for the pain and suffering within me.

So… I forgive everyone who has ever “wronged” me — just as I forgive Drew for killing himself.

And… I pray that my own wrong-doing toward others is forgiven in kind.

* * *

Somewhere in all this grieving, there is a bottom floor.

May my feet touch down in that place as soon as possible.

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How to Pray

Prayer
The great Walter Lanyon winnows the wheat from the chaff:

In an amusing article which appeared in the London Express, George Bernard Shaw says: “Lots of people pray for me; and I have never been any worse for it. The only valid argument against the practice is the Glassite one that God knows his own business without any prompting.”

Is prayer, then, a futile thing? Certainly anyone who acknowledges the fact that there is a God will likewise grant Him the intelligence to run His universe without any prompting, and also will allow that it is reasonable to believe that no amount of begging or beseeching is going to make him alter His plans.

Yet we are admonished to “pray without ceasing,” but we are also told how to pray and how not to pray. “Be not like the heathen with vain repetitions.” Words will not accomplish anything. Prayer must be something deeper and finer than telling God what He is and what He should do. Prayer is a conscious recognition of the eternality of good, here and now.

Any prayer that beseeches and begs God to do a thing is an open acknowledgment that the Creator has forgotten or overlooked something that is very necessary of accomplishment. The more we beg God to be good, the more we show forth our ignorance of His eternal nature.

Jesus prayed the unceasing prayer of the isness of the kingdom when He said, “It is done,” before the sense-man could see that any change had taken place. Again He said, “Thank You, Father,” indicating that He knew the finished works already existed.

We are told to “enter the closet and close the door.” Turn from the appearances of things and close the door of the senses. When we close the door of the senses, we shut off the testimony of the senses. We do not do this by effort, but by the contemplation of the isness of God and His universe, and so completely fix our attention on Him that the door to the senses is closed without effort or struggle.

“Whatsoever things you desire when you pray, believe [be firm] that you receive [present tense] them and you shall have them.” “Desire is not something to be worked for, but is the thing in its incipiency pressing towards us for expression.” Again we see the acknowledgment of the finished thing which is given to us before we ask, and while we are yet speaking. This would all be impossible if the thing or desire did not already exist in the kingdom of the Real. How could you believe that you receive a thing if it did not already exist?

No man who prays the prayer of acknowledgment will look for a sign. Remember that the “signs follow,” not precede. Looking for results only indicates a state of doubt and fear, and has nothing to do with the real consciousness, which is yours for the acceptance.

“Arise and shine” indicates that you can do both of these things and that you can glorify God for ever and ever, when you realize that glorifying Him is simply acknowledging His perfect universe here and now. “Stand fast,” then, girt about with the armour of right-mindedness with the two-edged sword turning in all directions, upon which is inscribed, “It is done.” “It is done.” What matter though the whole circumstance world offer testimony to the contrary? The storm may sweep over your house and rage without the portals of your universe, but you are founded on the rock and shall not be moved and the storm will soon spend its fury. Its fury will only last so long as it finds anything in you which accepts fury without.

Praying without ceasing is a present possibility. It is an open acknowledgment that “all is well” because God can and does run His universe without help or aid, or even suggestion. The great use of prayer is that it brings us into line with the facts of Being. We get into the universal rhythm and are carried on into our expression of peace and joy. The song of freedom is on our lips, the song of the Giver. The Giver gives without thought of return. He pours out His joy on all mankind. He does not seek to change anything, but His coming brings out hidden beauties, as the sunlight shows forth the glories of a new day — and lo! all is changed.

When man comes to recognize in prayer an opportunity of allying himself with God, he understands how “all things are possible with God,” and if possible with God, possible also to the expression of God.

Not the words uttered but the motive back of them will determine the result. He who prays constantly for self will have few, if any, of his prayers answered. Self-seeking is unnecessary when man takes his place in the universe of all good. He becomes a steward, a distributor of the gifts to all mankind.

“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” the Master asked. Why waste more time trying to piece together past conditions and failures? “Come out from among them and be separate.” Why fondle the cocoon which has given up its butterfly or the shell which has been left behind the flown bird. “Come out from among them.” Go forth into your new universe, resplendent and joyous, for you are the son of a King.

“Let us pray,” used to be a very somber and doleful thing, despite the fact that we read, “The people of God are a people of joy.” Even Jesus came “that your joy might be full.” This all seems to indicate that prayer should be a joyful acknowledgment of good and not a mournful beseeching and begging.

“Arise and shine.” Approach the Throne of Grace with the smile of freedom; the acknowledgment that God runs His universe perfectly and that you, the son, are merely taking up your place in the “body of Christ Jesus.”

If you are praying for things, remember the admonition, “Consider the lilies and the ravens.” All the effort to make God see how poor you are and how needy your case is will not alter the fact that you have a lesson to learn from the lilies and the ravens who “let” things come into expression and do not constantly worry and storm about the lack of them. How effortlessly the lilies grow and reach perfection and come season after season in all their glory, in all their freshness and beauty.

“He gives His beloved rest” — rest from the hard struggle you have made to get things. A glorious light suddenly surrounds you and shuts out everything. You are wrapped in adoration in the presence of the all good, and you are ready to hear and to understand: “My grace is sufficient for you.” Sufficient is enough. Why worry about signs? Why worry about things? Why worry about circumstances? “My grace is sufficient for you.” That is enough. Claim your “sufficiency in all things” and rest, and you shall see that though heaven and earth shall pass away the Word shall remain. You are that word, which was “let” into expression.

In a recent play the question was asked, “Who made the devil?” The answer was “God,” bringing out the natural deduction that if God made the devil, then God must be using him for His own ends.

“Awake thou that sleepeth.” Reclaim your lost Garden of Eden and dwell there in peace. “Ye shall be in league with the stones of the field,” even as Job has said — one in all and all in one — God in everything and everything in God and the blessed rest that comes from knowing consciously: “My grace is sufficient for thee.”

“He giveth his beloved rest.” You are the Beloved of God.

Not how I was taught growing up… but much more in alignment with my sense of how it should be done… which is something along the lines of becoming completely absorbed in the Spirit, surrendered, abandoned and given over… as in true communion.

True Prayer

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I’ve not been real big on prayer during this lifetime.

It always felt either like: 1) talking to myself in my head while pretending an invisible God or Person was listening to me, a minuscule human being amongst 5 billion others on this tiny third stone from this tiny star on the far edge of a small galaxy in a universe filled with countless super-galaxies; or 2) talking out loud in a roomful of people, reciting memorized formulas that, no matter how hard I try, never feel like they’re coming from the heart — mine or theirs.

On the other hand, I’ve always thought that there’s something to prayer, if by “prayer” we mean “communion” with the Infinite. In this sense, meditation can be prayer. Singing can be prayer. Nature walks, art, poetry, love-making, dish-washing — it can all be thought of as prayer.

The Orthodox tradition, with its Jesus Prayer as an all-day meditation or mindfulness exercise, has always intrigued me. So, I was not surprised to stumble upon an exposition on prayer from the Orthodox perspective — a perspective that resonates in me, a lowly ecstatic contemplative whose hunger for God diminishes not:

There is a story told in the Gerontikon, the sayings of the desert Fathers, about a visitor who goes to see three monks. And they talked all the afternoon. Suddenly the visitor realizes that the sun has set. “It is time for vespers;” says the visitor, “it is time for us to pray together.” And the monks answered, “But we have been praying together all the last four hours.” Prayer, in their experience, was not just occasional but continual; not just one activity among others, but the activity of their entire lives. It was a dimension present in everything else that they did. St. Gregory of Nazianzos says, “Remember God more often than you breathe.” Prayer, ideally, should be as much part of us as our breathing.

Sometimes people talk about having a “prayer life,” but is that not an odd phrase? We do not have a distinct and separate breathing life; we breathe as we live. But how are we to attain prayer of this kind: all-embracing, ever-present, prayer of the total self?

That brings me to another question: What is prayer? Evagrios of Pontos says in a famous definition, “Prayer is communion of the intellect with God.” So Evagrios sees prayer as an activity of the intellect (nous). Nous, like pathos, is a word that is hard to translate into English.

Another writer of the fourth century, contemporary with Evagrios (in Syria rather than in Egypt), the author of the Spiritual Homilies attributed to Macarios, has a slightly different approach to prayer. “It may be,” he says, “that the saints sit in the theater and watch the delusion of this world, while with the inner self, all the time, they are speaking to God.” There we see, as in the story I told from the desert Fathers, that prayer aims to be continual; not so much something we do from time to time, but something that we are all the time.

Also, we see from the Spiritual Homilies of Macarios that prayer is something that goes on in the inner self (o eso anthropos). This is a biblical phrase, used for example, in Ephesians: “May God according to the riches of His glory, grant that you are strengthened with the power of the Holy Spirit in the inner self so that Christ dwells in your heart by faith” (3:16-17).

There we see that the inner self is associated with the indwelling of Christ and the Holy Spirit. And also we see in Ephesians that the inner self is identified with the heart. So for Macarios, prayer is something that we offer with the inner self, that is, with the heart. Where Evagrios emphasizes the intellect, the Macarian Homilies emphasize the heart (cardia).

These two approaches are combined in a definition of prayer given by the nineteenth-century Russian writer St. Theophan the Recluse. “To pray,” he says, “is to stand before God with the intellect, in the heart, and to go on standing before Him day and night until the end of life.” So, prayer is something that goes on with the intellect in the heart, and it is continuous. St. Isaac the Syrian even says that the saints are praying while they are asleep. Sometimes when I am lecturing, I notice that members of my audience close their eyes. But then I think that perhaps they are saints, and though they are sleeping, they are also listening.

[…]

C. G. Jung, in his book Memories, Dreams, Reflections, recalls a conversation he had with an American Indian, one Ochwiay Biano. [Mr. Biano is also known by the English name “Mountain Lake.”] Ochwiay Biano said,

“How cruel the whites are: their lips are thin, their noses sharp, their faces furrowed and distorted by holes. Their eyes have a staring expression. They are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something, they are always uneasy and restless. We do not know what they want, we do not understand them, we think that they are mad.” I asked him why he thought the whites were all mad. “They say they think with their heads,” he replied.

“Why, of course. What do you think with?” I asked him in surprise.

“We think here,” he said, indicating his heart.

Now, Ochwiay Biano is coming very much closer to what Scripture and much of the Patristic tradition meant by the heart.

[…]

Mark the Monk of the late fourth or early fifth century (also known as Mark the Hermit or Mark the Ascetic) gives a particular explication to this theology of the heart – a sacramental application. He says that through baptism, Christ and the Holy Spirit enter the innermost secret and uncontaminated chamber of the heart. By virtue of our baptism there is an inner chamber, a central shrine within us where grace dwells and where evil cannot reach. Mark believes that from our baptism there is a point or spark within us that belongs entirely to God, that is the pure glorious God in us. “By the good treasure of the heart,” says Mark, “Scripture means the Holy Spirit who is hidden in the heart of the faithful” – hidden through baptism.

So the aim of the spiritual life, according to Mark, is that we should become consciously aware of this secret presence of the baptismal Christ Who is already in our hearts, mystically. The Christian journey, for him, is a journey from baptismal grace, present secretly in the heart, to baptismal grace, experienced in the heart with full conscious awareness.

[…]

Where have I heard this before?

Oh, yes… in just about every contemplative tradition known to humanity, that’s where.

I know that, from the Traditionalist perspective, it is important to choose a Path and stick to it, so as to benefit from the religious Mystery embedded in that particular Path. I understand the wisdom in this perspective and want nothing other than to honor it.

At the same time, when I read the concluding paragraph in the collection of snips above, I am reminded that there really are many, many Paths leading to the same place.

We should celebrate this fact, rather than always seeking to convert everyone else to our particular perspective.

Radical Reverend Bates

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Just a quick note of welcome to my new friend, Rev. Hank Bates of Desert Cities Religious Science in Palm Springs, CA.

His brand of Radical Religious Science appeals to my tendency toward taking a practice to its logical extreme — which is to say, I’ve no interest in watered-down spirituality, and Rev. Bates is all about walking the talk when it comes to the business of living in communion with the One Mind.

So, I’ve added his website to my blogroll, and am appreciative of his willingness to engage my earnest questions in a series of email conversations. For those interested in the prospect of 24/7 communion with All That Is, please check him out at the above link….

Second Coming

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I’m excited to have received an Amazon.com gift certificate (thanks, Hawk!), which I put toward the beautiful new Paramhansa Yogananda box set called The Second Coming of Christ.

To whet my appetite, I’m extracting some quotes from the book’s introduction, written by the Paramhansa himself:

There is a distinguishing difference of meaning between Jesus and Christ. His given name was Jesus; his honorific title was “Christ.” In his little human body called Jesus was born the vast Christ Consciousness, the omniscient Intelligence of God omnipresent in every part and particle of creation. This Consciousness is the “only begotten Son of God,” so designated because it is the sole perfect reflection in creation of the Transcendental Absolute, Spirit or God the Father.

It was of that Infinite Consciousness, replete with the love and bliss of God, that Saint John spoke when he said: “As many as received him [the Christ Consciousness], to them gave he power to become the sons of God.” Thus according to Jesus’ own teaching as recorded by his most highly advanced apostle, John, all souls who become united with Christ Consciousness by intuitive Self-realization are rightly called sons of God….

In these pages I offer to the world an intuitionally perceived spiritual interpretation of the words spoken by Jesus, truths received through actual communion with Christ Consciousness. They will be found to be universally true if they are studied conscientiously and meditated upon with soul-awakened intuitive perception. They reveal the perfect unity that exists among the revelations of the Christian Bible, the Bhagavad Gita of India, and all other time-tested true scriptures.

The saviors of the world do not come to foster inimical doctrinal divisions; their teachings should not be used toward that end. It is something of a misnomer even to refer to the New Testament as the “Christian” Bible, for it does not belong exclusively to any one sect. Truth is meant for the blessing and upliftment of the entire human race. As the Christ Consciousness is universal, so does Jesus Christ belong to all….

It is an erroneous assumption of limited minds that great ones such as Jesus, Krishna, and other divine incarnations are gone from the earth when they are no longer visible to human sight. This is not so. When a liberated master has dissolved his body in Spirit, and yet manifests in form to receptive devotees (as Jesus has appeared throughout the centuries since his passing, such as to Saint Francis, Saint Teresa, and many others of East and West), it means he has an ongoing role to play in the destiny of the world. Even when masters have completed the specific role for which they took on a physical incarnation, it is the divinely ordained task of some to look after the welfare of humanity and assist in guiding its progress. Jesus Christ is very much alive and active today. In Spirit and occasionally taking on a flesh-and-blood form, he is working unseen by the masses for the regeneration of the world. With his all-embracing love, Jesus is not content merely to enjoy his blissful consciousness in Heaven. He is deeply concerned for mankind and wishes to give his followers the means to attain the divine freedom of entry into God’s Infinite Kingdom….

In all my years of reading spiritual literature, I can honestly say that I’ve never come across a sweeter, more inspiring presence than Yogananda’s. And the fact that he reaches back into my own spiritual heritage to show that Jesus Christ was onto something — well, this is a boon, and a reason to keep digging.

I can’t recommend him highly enough, and his Autobiography of a Yogi is the place to start….

How to Pray

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According to Paramhansa Yogananda, that is:

In Whispers from Eternity, by Paramhansa Yogananda, we are taught to pray to Our Heavenly Father by demanding instead of begging, and thus not limit ourselves to the law of beggary. The author explains in the beginning why all our prayers are not answered. All the property belonging to a father can be claimed by his son, but not by a beggar. That is why the author tells us that in order to demand, we must first realize our forgotten identity with the Father by deep meditation, and that we must learn to remember by right living that God made us in His image.

I just ordered Whispers from Eternity, partly because I love Yogananda, and partly because I’ve been using various formulations of the Law of Abundance during the past several years in order to transform my chronic case of scarcity consciousness.

The fact is, there is so much abundance in the universe that every single being should be able to live like royalty. We are, after all, the sons and daughters of divinity. But most of us are so conditioned to accept our limited place in the scheme of things that we never get around to embodying our true nature.

Having read five Yogananda books so far, I have a good feeling that this sixth one will nudge me a little closer to an overall empowerment that has so far eluded me.

And even if it doesn’t, I can look forward to a good read.