Tag Archives: Spirituality

Growing Pains

You remember those pains we used to get in our legs and arms as our bodies were growing when we were little? I do. Sometimes they were so bad I could not sleep. I would toss and turn all night long and never find peace. No matter which way I turned it only seemed to make the pain worse. It felt like it would never go away.
 
I get migraines. I have for years. They started after I survived a fatal car accident when both my breathing and heart stopped for several minutes. I had to have brain surgery and was in a coma for several weeks. When I came out of it not remembering anything at all, like I mean complete amnesia, the worst thing physically I suffered was chronic migraines. After the many years of dealing with these I have noticed one of the strangest phenomenon; I never noticed when the pain stopped hurting. I would just be going about my life and then it would come to mind that my mind was no longer hurting.
 
That is also how I remember what it was like after the growing pains went away. But something else I also noticed about the growing pains was that when I would get measured I would recognize that I had also matured.
 
Lately I have been going through a new kind of growing pains, and it is uncomfortable, and it feels like it will never be over. However, instead of it being something I am familiar and altogether comfortable with, this time I am feeling the stress of spiritual growth. Yet, even with all of my experience and knowledge that at some point these pains will pass, and that when they have that I will have matured into a more developed human being. Right now it hurts. The worst part about these spiritual growing pains is that the spiritual is not something that lives in isolation, like the pains in my legs. No, the spiritual blunders that are causing my pain, that is the growth is also affecting the people I care the most about. In fact, without them I doubt that I would even notice the pains at all.
 
However, there are two things that I have learned. First, there is nothing that I can do to change the fact that I am currently going through a growth spurt. Second, Unlike the physical pains that were personal and only affected me, and no one else could help or intercede; my spiritual growing pains are nothing of the sort. So, as I trudge through and into this new chapter of my life I am relying on those I love and those who love me.
 
Perhaps that is precisely the lesson that my spirit wants me to learn. We are spiritual and social beings and we do nothing alone. As a matter of clarity, trying to continuously do things alone when it is obvious that I cannot is a harmful symptom of toxic masculinity. It only serves to shut me off from the sunlight of the spirit, which for me shines brightest in the people around me.
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Justice, Equity, Liberty: The Revolution

When I was a child, to me there was something magical in the word “American.” It stood for something special. It meant something powerful. I understood it to mean freedom, justice, and equity. I believed what I was told, that “I could be anything I wanted to be.” I dreamed of being a baseball player and a construction worker, an architect, and even the President of the United States. I played baseball, not professionally, but I played on a team. I studied architecture for a time. I owned a construction company for several years. And I was even the president of one of my schools. For most of my life I do not think I ever really doubted the version of America that was taught to me in grade school. The America that was founded upon justice, equality, and liberty. That every human being had the inalienable right to life and the right to the pursuit of happiness. Inalienable means a thing which cannot be made separable. But, if the right to life cannot be separated from any human being, then how can the State justify depriving one of life and therefore, alienating one of their right? Even if it is desirable that if a person is found beyond a shred of doubt to have committed the most heinous and horrendous of acts, and who is also not safe to maintain in confinement should be put to death, how does that justify officers of the law being responsible for the deaths of people who have had no due process of law, no fact finding, and no trial? This does not fit any definition of justice I have ever read. How is it that a State whose guiding principles are liberty and democracy is responsible for the destruction of liberal and democratic societies elsewhere? How is it that a country that screams “freedom” at the top of its lungs, touting privileges and immunities, can simultaneously also be responsible for one of the gravest institutions of enslavement this world has ever known? How is it that in the “land of the free” twenty-five percent of the prisoners of the world, who have been stripped of their liberty, their civil rights, and their human rights are being warehoused and compelled to work in a neo-enslavement? These rights, are rights that are supposed to be inalienable, that is inseparable, but that is not the case. How can a government that touts “equality before the law” also be responsible for the starkest, meanest, longest lasting, and most vile genocide ever experienced on this world, and is still oppressing Native Americans, the descendants of the survivors of that genocide to this day? How is it that a nation, supposedly founded upon equality, can permit at least three different and unequal versions of America to coexist? The version of America that was taught to me and the version of America that I have come to know are inconsistent. The values I was told existed at the core of our society have turned out to be the values we need most at the core of our society, but are absent. It has come about that the America I loved as a child is but a dream, an illusion, and a fabrication. The reality of America is nothing comparable to the dream. It is a nightmare.

The values of justice, equity, liberty, and democracy pulse from the core of my being. I believe it is possible for us to achieve a society, as a people, wherein these values are the guiding principles. I see a time and place where our people are appreciated and loved for the natural and necessary differences that make us human beings. I see a world where criticism is valued because it is understood that it comes either from a place of pain or misunderstanding, and as such provides either and opportunity to right wrongs and heal harms, or to illuminate and educate. I see a world wherein the color of our skin reveals the richness of our history, deepens our cultural understanding, expands our conception of what it means to be a human being, and enhances our inclusiveness. I see a world that is more concerned with positive tension than a negative peace, that, is more apt to resort to concession than violent opposition because it is intimately known that together we are stronger, better, more vibrant and alive than we are apart and at odds in competition with one another. I envision a world that embraces sexual difference that has broken free of the chains of discrimination, where the harmful gender norms have been shattered, where there is no prescription for and limitation of what a person can achieve or who they ‘should’ be. Because we have realized that these limitations and prescriptions constrict our ability to evolve as human beings. I see a world wherein everyone has a role to fulfill and no one is bared from or denied work, but that each unique perspective and skill is utilized and allowed the creative liberty to enhance our whole civilization. I see a world when the institution of enslavement is but a relic and a warning against a return to a tragic and ignorant past that not only believed that distinctiveness was harmful, but also that it was possible to evolve in isolation. I see a world wherein “justice” carries its true meaning of that which provides for the flourishing of our civilization and not the perverted and twisted interpretation of it as mere punishment. Through the lens of justice it would be clear that harm occurs when people are in torment, when they suffer greatly themselves and believe they are in such an isolation that what they do unto others is not in reality what they do unto themselves. Through the lens of justice it would be clear that a theft of some form of ‘property’ was because people felt the deprivation of resources, the absence of security, and the void of interconnectedness. And through the lens of equity a path to right these wrongs and to heal these harms would emerge and surface from the pits of despair and suffering, guiding us toward justice and a world in which liberty can flourish.

The path laid before us is certainly not easy and we will not make it there overnight. The ideologies that have guided our civilization to the point it is at now are deeply entrenched and are even attached to people’s sense of identity. These ideologies have been written into law, they have provided the spiritual and theoretical foundations of nearly all of our institutions and social constructions, and even permeate our artistic representations of the world. These ideologies have led to actions that have created harms that now foster feuds centuries-old, whose memories incubate and fertilize distrust and hatred. The outcome thus far, has been an almost inescapable caste system wherein people are locked into privilege or pestilence. Those in the privileged caste, who have their privileges as the result of an unfair distribution of burdens upon people who are disadvantaged and disenfranchised, will not relinquish their grasp of the benefits they reap because they will feel as though they are being wronged. They still operate under the antiquated and quite mistaken belief that what can be taken or secured by force, whether by military, or by paramilitary police, or by personal injury is by right theirs and not the people’s. It is precisely this institution of force that is buttressed with an indoctrination of the ideologies that have led us here that has brought us to an impasse.

The path laid before us is one of complete revolution. A revolution that will not only change the structure and the dynamics of who is in power, but what power actually is. This revolution will not only concern leadership, but the entire composition of our civilization. This revolution will revise our conception of what it is to be a human being. There has yet to be a bloodless revolution, but ultimately, this revolution will and must be waged in the hearts and minds of every single one of us because this is a spiritual revolution. We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience. We start as spirits, our spirits take form, and to spirits we return. We are not the creations of our institutions, but rather, our institutions are the creations of spiritual beings who have become confused by a human experience dislocated and estranged from our spirits, connection to the world, and to each other. It is this dislocation that permits the violence, the carnage and the havoc that plague our civilization. Because we have been estranged from our connection to the world and to each other we believe that we exist in relative isolation and that what we do to one another does not impact and affect us personally, but that in reality is not possible. Thus, because our spirits emanate out into the world creating institutions through our human form, by waging the revolution on the plane institutions we but scratch the surface. But by waging the revolution on the spiritual plane we go right to the source and from there a revolution of our institutions will take shape naturally as a result. In place of the individualism that has been set as the cornerstone of the foundation of our spiritual core the values of justice, equity, and liberty must be planted and protected so that they may grow and blossom.

What I have grown to understand is that it is not America that I fell in love with as a child, but rather, the spiritual values it espoused. Today, it is still those values that I am in love with and that which I place all my hope and aspiration. In turn, and by corollary, it is with humanity that I place my trust and faith in because we are interconnected spiritual beings who depend upon each and every one of us for survival and liberation. The revolution is on and either we evolve as we greet this impasse, or we shall meet extinction as we destroy ourselves and our world. Such is the nature of evolution. However, I see a future in which our culture has yet again risen to the challenge and overcome almost insurmountable odds. I believe in us. The revolution is budding.

 

 

#JusticeEquityLiberty

 

Perception: Learning How to View the Glass

When we focus on the negativity in our lives it forms a cascading effect of compounding negativity wherein each little thing that occurs becomes exponentially more severe and negative than it would if it had occurred independently of everything else. Humans have this tendency to seek order and to find patterns or reasons for things occurring and when we focus on the negative it tends to exacerbate the problem by assigning an underlying negative force focused on our personal lives.

This is problematic and it leads to a lot of harm, suffering and stress that could otherwise be averted by not linking everything together. However, this trait also tends to work in the opposite direction; i.e., when we focus on the positive the positive tends to have an escalating compounding effect of positivity. Many like to call this or liken it to “good luck” or a “stroke of luck” or “being blessed,” but what is happening regardless of the nominal characteristics associated with it is that the positive is being focused on and it changes how each particular event is analyzed and evaluated.

In a nutshell, the key for me is to not dwell on the negative things associating evil or harmful purpose to independent and mutually exclusive events, and instead focusing on the positive things in my life. This does not mean that I ignore that bad things happen because that would not be healthy and some things do not to be dealt with as they arise. But it does mean that I strive to not let those things consume my being by crowding out the beauty that surrounds me.

(Exercise)

Make a list of ten negative things in your life that come to mind. I think for most of us this should come fairly naturally and easily. Do not be concerned if you have a hard time with this because that means you are already on the path to achieving and maintaining greater peace and joy in your life.

Then beside or underneath that list, or even on another sheet entirely write of list of twice or three times as many positive things in your life or your world. For many of us, myself included this is often much harder at first because we are not accustomed to looking for the beauty in our own lives, but it is there I assure you.

When you are finished look at the two lists side-by-side and allow yourself to feel how seeing the positivity in your life makes your feel. You may even enjoy a practice that I like doing; I like to burn the list of negative things because it symbolizes my letting go of the harmful things in my life. I actually feel as though I am letting go of the negative thinking I tend to allow to harbor in my soul crowding out the light.

I was surprised to learn that it was not the things that happen in my life, no matter how problematic they may seem to be that cause the harm to my spiritual well-being, but rather, it was how I perceived and thought about those events that caused the harm.

(Conclusion)

This is the philosophy behind viewing the glass either half full or half empty and it one method I have found useful in helping me to envision and experience the world and myself as being full of opportunity and beauty. Perceiving the glass as half empty reveals a thought that something is being taken away from us that we feel we deserve, which dramatically decreases our level of peace and contentment. In contrast, viewing the glass as half full reveals a thought that something has been given that was not deserved, an unwarranted gift. Learning how to view life as a gift and not as something that is deserved which is being stolen from me has allowed me the freedom to live in the grace that abounds uninhibited by the feeling that the world is out to get me. It has made a tremendous difference in my level of serenity, and I hope it helps some of you as well.