Posts Tagged ‘God’

The presence of self-remembering

November 23, 2014

I sometimes forget that I am an eternal presence. Just over four years ago, I had a small epiphany and made a connection more with what I call my “eternal presence” – the essence of my soul or spirit who came to live in this body and experience this life – who knows that I have always existed and always will and knows that I am a part of the ultimate divine being (God/Spirit) and remain connected. I began this blog then and write about how my eternal presence connects to everydayness of life and how the everydayness of life connects to my eternal presence.

But, I get waylaid by life, distracted by other paths of existence and forget to stop and come back here to connect . . . to write about the outside. Writing about the outside brings it inside where I – the “I” who is eternal — can connect and process and reflect and give back to me who is thinking, sensing, and feeling her way through this life.

Events, people, writings, readings, animals, objects, thoughts, tasks – in other words: life – comes into my awareness to remind me of what I already know: I am an eternal presence existing in this mortal body, resting behind this thinking sensing feeling experience. Life is poking at me. God is poking at me. I make all of these invitations to the universe to show me how to bring my true self to life, yet unless those invitations show up in the way I imagine they should, I completely miss them.

Until I choose self-remembering . . . and suddenly I recognize them as singular messengers responding to my requests. A phone call from my daughter reminds me that my morning candlelight vigil for her is being heard. The balance in my bank account more than sufficient to meet my obligations. The person who comes upon my path with a word that leads me to a hidden wisdom.

It is the everydayness that makes the eternal interesting.

©2014 by Barbara L. Kass

The presence of spiritual addiction

March 2, 2014

My addiction is no secret. Spirituality is my drug of life. My spiritual adventures are a relentless romp of reaching for the Divine in all that exists and they have this terminal quality to them: I have a singular devotion to the ultimate connection with God/Spirit/Jesus/the One/Universal Consciousness. I keep telling myself, once I am truly connected, I will no longer have the urge.

And, no, death does not count.

Just an aside here: yes, I know I have been a disappearing spirit ever since Christmas but I’ve been busy becoming a licensed counselor and setting up a practice. Feel free to explore at One Spirit Counseling.

Now back to that addiction thing. Contemplative Outreach has me on their mailing list. It is important that you understand that I want to BE contemplative outreach. The concept is much like the Jesuit’s contemplative in action: to be so in touch with God/Spirit that the communication is continuous, as if we are One, and I am transformed as a result, able to be that transformed soul seamlessly in the world, in action alone and with others.

Any time I see an invitation for a spiritual exercise or to learn a spiritual technique or engage in a spiritual lesson, my fingertips start tingling, my palms get sweaty, and my vision goes dark around the edges. The good guys at Contemplative Outreach have joined forces with the lovely people at Spirituality and Practice and they are offering a year-long series of online retreats. Those retreats call to me much like the street-drug vendor whispers to a junkie.

(C’mon . . . it doesn’t cost much. You know you want it.)
[but I’m on a budget]
(I’ll make you a deal. Buy all five at once and you’ll save twenty-five bucks)
[wow – that’s like getting half of one free]
(And I’ve all your favorites. Lectio Divina . . .)
[Oh!]
(Contemplative Living . . .)
[Stop it!]
(Forgiveness . . .)
[la la la la la la I can’t hear you la la la la]
(and a Practice Group)
[Sold]

Can one have too much spirituality? The shaman in me knows that Spirit is all that exists so the question is moot.

I would pray for willpower but that is feeding the oxymoron.

©2014 by Barbara L. Kass

The presence of prayer

January 1, 2012

The only way for human beings to change is for them to conquer their inner darkness and rediscover the eternal dignity within their own lives. Cultivating the noble spirit with which all people are endowed will directly lead to a change in the destiny of humankind. -Daisaku Ikeda (www.sharingbuddhism.com)

In reading God Has No Religion (by Frances Sheridan Goulart), I came across this passage about how one can become the prayer that is prayed. By making the prayer a mantra that is repeated several times a day, a person eventually becomes “transformed into the prayer itself and begins to reflect to others the compassion, love, and nonviolence of Jesus, Buddha, or the spirit who is invoked.” Goulart is obviously indicating that the prayer translates into compassion, love, and nonviolence (as opposed to “please, God, let me win the lottery!” I am not sure how that prayer would be translated into personhood).

This is the same idea as the notion that our thoughts create our lives (which is not really a notion, but becoming more of an irrefutable fact). Self-awareness can be a real beast sometimes. I am painfully aware that I am not living the prayers I pray.

It could be that I don’t have a good working definition of what a prayer is. It could be that I don’t pray long enough or often enough. It could be I am not praying the right words. It could be that I am not pointing my prayers in the right direction.

I was taught early in my Catholicism that we could pray to God, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit, and an array of saints, all of whom have a specific function in prayer world, such as St. Jude being the Patron Saint of Lost Causes. A prayer to St. Jude is a prayer of desperation and, in my view, there are a lot of desperate people so he must be overloaded with requests. Mostly, my prayers go to the nebulous God who I define as the universal consciousness – the energy that we are all a part of.

I had always thought that a prayer is an asking, a desire for something specific – an outcome, an item, a direction. I have prayed for strength and wisdom. It has never occurred to me to pray in seeking my noble spirit. If I pray to “rediscover the eternal dignity within” my life, exactly how will that prayer be answered? Does it matter if I fulfill my own prayer or must that gift be bestowed upon me? Will God swoop down and suddenly gift me with eternal insight? Probably not. God’s swooping and bestowing days of a Biblical nature are the products of fairy tales and wishful thinking. I think what will probably happen is that God (i.e., life) will place opportunities for me to witness my eternal dignity.

The answer to every prayer is its intent. It is simply up to me to open my eyes, my heart, my soul, my mind to the presence of God in everyone and everything I encounter.

What right do I have to pray for someone else? Is it right for me to wish for an outcome that might not be the one that person desires? What if someone wants me to pray for something that I know is not good for that person? Like everyone else, I view the world from my own need to survive. I project my hopes, passions, desires, needs, wants believing that my way is the right way, the best way for me, and if it is good for me, isn’t it good for everyone else?

Maybe. Maybe not. I might never know. But I believe that prayer is a powerful way to move the universe.

My friend, Laurie, at Speaking from the Heart sent me a wonderful prayer for this New Year: that my every dream comes true; that I find myself surrounded by friends, laughter, and good times; that my every cup runneth over financially, romantically, spiritually, and creatively; that good health be my faithful companion, peace my guarded ally, and love my perpetual guide. My noble spirit stirs at the thought that I can become the living transformation of this prayer.

How can I go wrong with that?

©2012 Barbara L. Kass

A hooked presence

September 5, 2011

Many of our loved and not-so-loved ones are skewered on the hooks of our resentments.

Our best-known hookees (<== not a real word) are our parents. Some people are excellent parents. They know how to nurture, have the resources required to raise healthy children, and we grow up with a strong sense of self and belonging. Others had parents who should have opted, did not, and many of us grew up in emotionally fragile and damaging environments.

Even if we grew up without parents, we can still hook those invisible beings tightly on a barb and hoist them up high for everyone to see. We can proclaim something profound about how our lives would have been better had they been around to help us. We batter everyone (and ourselves) with the resulting being we have become all because of their actions or inactions. We hold them accountable for our response to their presence. Even invisible parents have a huge presence by virtue of the empty space they do not occupy.

Occasionally, hookees are complete strangers . . . people who happened by in our lives either by design or circumstance and something happened to us that we did not want to happen. Sometimes, we never even see or know our hookees. I have had property stolen from me and never saw the person, but he or she left a mark, a trail, a permanent indentation on my trusting psyche who can forever recount that episode, mourn again what was lost, and have that person’s actions influence my way of being in the world.

Others have had worse episodes of infringement upon their boundaries. Children suffer unspeakable abuse. Entire families are wiped out by murder. Some are left financially devastated by the actions of the greedy and ignorant.

There are deadly villains who are not even human. Along with lions, tigers, and bears, we have microbes, bacteria, and viruses. Tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes can wipe away any evidence of our prior existence.

On a world-wide basis, famine steals the lives and dreams of thousands. And we are ALL on the hook for that one, but that’s a blog for another day.

Life is a dangerous existence, as I have alluded to before. We have the idea that someone at some point should have made our lives perfect and protected us from reality . . . or at least invented a better reality. And because they didn’t, they are going to pay. In our daily memories, we feel again the humiliation of that forgotten birthday, the embarrassment of a drunk alcoholic showing up at our parents’ night at school, and the betrayal of having just been beat because someone else had a bad day. In our imaginations, we strike back: we think awful things about them, we create vindictive scenarios where we win, and, if they are still alive, we let them know often just how they failed us, and continue to fail us. Or, we don't acknowledge them at all.

But everyone still knows they are there.

Some of us are public torturers. We brandish and berate our hookees publicly, shamelessly, with a flaunting sneer and righteous attitude. We are proud of how those people did us wrong at some point in the past. We don’t hesitate to tell anyone who will listen just how badly we were treated.

Other hookees are silently suffered. The silent sufferer sighs a lot, with woeful heaves and crumpled shoulders. We recognize their burden is tiresome and heavy.

And I want to yell at all of them “Give it up already!” (Yes, some smarter part of me yells this at me, too.)

At some point, we have to lower the hooks and let those people go. Letting someone “off the hook” is a fancy term for “forgive” without all that God stuff looming around it packed with its religious and saintly forebodings. When we let someone off the hook, we also let go of our responsibility for feeding them and the hurts (real or imagined) that they caused. It doesn’t change what happened, but it does change our chemistry – our way of interacting with the world. While that person is still accountable for his or her actions, they can no control our response. We are free to acknowledge the incident, know it will always be a part of us, and transcend it . . . we can still be the presence we intended for ourselves when we came to this life.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

The presence of violence

August 12, 2011

It is inescapable. Life is a violent affair.

Our violent nature is instinctual. We must be able to defend in order to survive. We must be able to kill in order to survive.

Physical survival is dependent upon violent acts from extremes as mild as that of plucking a fruit from its tree for food to killing another human being defending our lives. But we don’t limit ourselves to just the violence necessary for survival.

We are so enamored with violence we create stories in books and in movies that glorify violence as entertainment. We are not so different from the Romans who fed the blood of slaves and animals to the soils in its famous Coliseum and nurtured the eyes and ears of its audience with the screams and frenzy of the dying.

There is incredible beauty within violent beings in the world. The fox who visits me in our backyard is a magnificent creature. He is tall, lean, and confident. His furry red and orange cloak is trimmed with white and black — he is nature in its finest suburbia clothing. In the eyes of my granddaughter, though, he loses his luster when he captures one of the many chipmunks who feast on our gardens, and trots away with his squirming prize locked in his jaws. I am humbled that I have been granted the role of witness to these events.

There are stories that the Buddha sacrificed himself to become food for starving animals, knowing that he would be reborn again. That one life did not matter in terms of longevity. What mattered is what he did with it.

Yet the violence disrupts me. It brings my concept of God to an abrupt standstill, for if God is everything that exists, God is this violence, too. If all people are manifestations of God, then God is the mass murderer, the rapist, the abuser the same as God is the dying, the victim, the cowering abused. God is the person who turns away and pretends not to see. God is the person who charges and sentences, seeks revenge, and weeps with inconsolable loss.

It makes no sense to my logical brain that we would destroy that which we are. Yet, without destruction, we cannot exist. This tight and silly game has no rational explanation that I can accept.

But I’ve put it out there now. I’ve asked the universe to answer my dilemma. I am a manifestation of God seeking order, justification, and resolution.

We will see how I answer myself.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

A big bang presence

October 11, 2010

A friend of mine forwarded me a commentary by Bishop John Shelby Spong (a retired bishop from the Episcopal Church) on Stephen Hawkings’ new book, The Grand Design. Note to readers: I can’t copy the entire commentary here, but it is available at Bishop Spong’s Web site at http://www.johnshelbyspong.com/publicsite/index.aspx for a fee. To receive his commentaries weekly will cost you about $40.00 a year.

Bishop Spong writes that “Hawking’s conclusion is that one does not need the God hypothesis to explain the origin of the universe.” That, of course, sent the Vatican and fundamentalists into a tizzy. I find any arguments about who created what and when or was it all just a freak accident highly amusing. Really. What if someone was just sort of mixing stuff up in a test tube just to see what would happen? What if we are fragmented organisms that resulted from that older-than-dirt (literally) big bang party we threw a bazillion years ago? I struggle with the big bang theory only because if that condensed ball of energy was all that existed, what did it exist in?

Stephen Hawking, even with his exceptional brilliance and insight, is still a limited human being just like the rest of us who is examining the evidence left behind by that little pop in the universe a long time ago. He still has only limited conjecture because he wasn’t there when it happened. Breaking news: NO ONE WAS THERE WHEN IT HAPPENED. At least, no one was there as we are now. We were probably all locked up inside that tiny flaming atomic particle screaming for more space and Gatorade, and our frenzy was so great that eventually we became critical mass and exploded into a gazillion particles and in between us was the space we craved.

And now we’ve spent the last 15,000 or so years trying to explain it. Uh-oh. We made a mess. What did we do? Wait. It’s not our fault. Let’s blame someone else. I know, let’s blame it on something that was totally out of our control . . . like . . . like . . . a supernatural being who is all powerful . . . so powerful that none of us could control, um, him. Yeah. That’s good. Make him a man. Men are always stirring up trouble anyway.

Bishop Spong argues that Hawking’s book that “the idea of God as a supernatural being who started the universe, and who from time to time has intervened in miraculous ways in the affairs of the universe in general or of this world in particular, is no longer viable.” What Spong is arguing against is not that God does not exist, but rather the definition of literal theism: belief in a deity (an immortal being) who is in charge of everything. Hold on to your wobbly beliefs because here comes my punch line:

Read the title of this blog: Eternal Presence. We are all immortal. We have been and always will be a presence in the universe. We are in charge of everything we do.

Sounds a little bit like we are God, doesn’t it?

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

the presence of forgiveness

September 16, 2010

What is the color of forgiveness? How big is it? What scent does it carry? If forgiveness walked up to me and smacked me in the head, would I even recognize it?

In all my explorations of personal growth and desire to connect with divine grace and eternity, forgiveness has been an elusive concept defined for me through the perceptions of others.

This word and its watery definition has caused me all sorts of problems and been the root of justified abuse. The religion in which I was raised insisted that we forgive others for their transgression, but often people used it as a rationalization to cause further hurt; in their minds, they could do whatever they wanted because “God would forgive them.” I came to believe that forgiveness is nothing more than a cheap way out for people who don’t want to change or be held accountable for their behavior.

I don’t see any need to “forgive” someone of their human nature. I have hurt others out of my ignorance and stupidity, and have said I was sorry, made amends, and worked to not harm another. However, I know I continue to say or do things that, when viewed by another’s perception, are harmful to them or others. (Anytime I see a cheap, useless trinket that has a tag that reads “Made in Japan” or “Made in China” or “Made in Taiwan” I feel a twinge of remorse that someone has to make such things to be able to exist and I am actually torn between buying it so that person would continue to have a job or not buying it because it serves no purpose and simply perpetuates the problem.)

I would prefer to accept us for all our humanness. But I don’t forgive anyone who purposefully harms another with knowledge and intent — that, for me, is enabling them to continue that behavior. My forgiveness in those cases consists of removing my presence from theirs. I do not have to let those people back into my life. I love me too much.

Forgiveness means to let myself off the hook of being responsible for anybody else’s behavior. My eternal presence nudges me to “let it go, let the incident go, let go your feelings to blame yourself or to seek revenge. We’ve other things to move on to.”

But I come to find that I do not have an honest, working mechanism of forgiveness for myself. I don’t know what forgiveness sounds like, looks like, or feels like. I know what it does not feel like. I still walk through life with ancient strings tied to my emotions over incidents long past and feel the same sorrow, emptiness, hurt, and pain as if the incident had only occurred yesterday. I continue to hurt myself through my memories.

My eternal presence does not urge me to pray for anyone to change their energy to what I think it should be. People are entitled to have the energy they have chosen. What I am hearing from my presence is that I need to view life from another person’s perspective and know that I can never really, truly perceive their experience accurately. I can only glimpse a fragment of how I might be and act given that person’s circumstances and beliefs. That is full of guesswork and projection. From my limited human point of view, I must find the God struggling to become within them.

And then I will be able to see the God struggling to become in me.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

the presence of spiritual atheists

August 18, 2010

My cloistered Roman Catholic childhood still blisters my world awareness and often makes me blind to all that exists. While I can often see the wide panorama that is our universe, I sometimes miss the details that paint that picture.

I’ve been reading the book How God Changes Your Brain. The researchers who wrote the book surveyed atheists and found a number of them to be highly spiritual. While it sounds like a spiritual atheist would be a living oxymoron, a clear view of their beliefs makes me realize I am not so far removed from them.

An atheist is a person who does not believe that God (or any deity) exists. This is not to say that an atheist does not believe in a higher or greater power in the universe; they just do not believe in beings external to the universe who created and control everything. Because they do not believe in worshiping a being outside of ourselves, religious worship has no value for them. It is not that they don’t believe in religion. Religions exist. A spiritual atheist simply has no need of a traditional religion. However, a spiritual atheist is very open to transcendent experiences.

I ventured on to the Web site for the Center for Spiritual Atheism. And there they are advertising the slogan “We are all ONE” and connecting with other spiritual atheists on a Ning network. I wandered around and found phrases like “thoughts, words, and actions that are in harmony with the idea that the entire universe is, in some way, connected” and “that as they [spiritual atheists] go about their lives striving to be personally healthy and happy, they should also be striving to help the world around them be healthy and happy.”

Interestingly, an atheist is defined by another person’s definition of God. One spiritual atheist was quoted as saying “If ‘others’ accidentally mistake ‘God’, the mythical representation of the universe itself, for something that exists outside of the universe (the external creator and ruler of the universe), I have no ethical choice but to declare myself to be an ‘atheist’.”

I consider myself to be in a process of self-definition. I go about the world identifying with some labeled groups, yet not belonging to any single one of them. I do not want to be labeled. My beliefs are very similar to those of spiritual atheists, but I don’t know that I would use the term to label and define myself. I definitely want to transcend any categorization that is defined and determined by other people’s beliefs.

If we are all ONE, then we are all some of everything. And that can never be labeled.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

the presence of free will

July 24, 2010

On my internal quest to reconcile the God of my childhood with the reality of who I am, I struggle with the all-encompassing definitions of God.

In the July 2010 issue of Science of Mind, the 22nd daily guide, the quotes and text define God as humans being God. A quote from Emma Curtis Hopkins says “No word can express your understanding of God. You are It.” I can interpret this two ways. First, “It” is me. In other words, I am God. A second interpretation is that I am my understanding of God. My question is: If this is true, is it true for all humans? Even the ones who commit atrocities against the earth and their fellow creatures? Are they God, too? Or, are they expressing their understanding of God? Our entire history up to the present moment is full of examples of people behaving stupidly, disregarding other’s beliefs, disrespecting boundaries, and preying upon the weak and helpless to express their God or their understanding of God.

A second quote says “The only God man knows is the God of his own Inner Life; he can know no other.” This quote indicates that God is a manifestation of our own creation. You are reading this and you know what God means to you. What you might be thinking is that I don’t know what God means to me. I suggest that you suspend that thought for a moment and consider that I am God struggling to define my presence and define myself through this human being everyone calls Barbara.

As a human, I have my human conditioning, limits, beliefs, and free will. I choose whether or not I believe in the existence of God. I choose whether or not to become more conscious and aware. I even choose how God is expressed through me. In spite of my belief that we are all God (the One, Spirit, Divine), I don’t believe that I am a marionette dancing to the pull of strings upon my body and soul. When I am in touch with my own eternal spirit, my true presence who ventured into human existence, the touch of God is inherent in my being. In those moments, God is no longer struggling to define his/her/my/itself. And it is not because I discovered who God is or how God behaves. It is because eternity’s wisdom becomes one with my human existence and my feelings, thoughts, choices, and actions come from the all-knowing, the all-understanding. This knowledge and understanding are not whirls of timeless memories of all that has ever existed. Rather, they are intentions and ways of being that I have evolved in my eternal presence.

Because I came from God, because I exist within God even with my free will, all that I express is God. The only decision I need to make from moment to moment is how I want the God who is me to live and be seen.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

The Presence of God

July 22, 2010

No, it’s not the second coming and not to be confused with a second helping .

I am talking about the presence of God in my life, in my being, in my beliefs, in my thoughts, in my feelings . . . you get the picture. What is God to me?

The third step in Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program is: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

I take the liberty of substituting “Him” with “it” or “Her” or “the concept” or “that guy” or “the Oneness” or “Spirit” or “the Creator” or “the Divine” or “(you fill it in).”

When I went through the class at Loyola on substance abuse and addictive behavior, this particular step caught my attention because I am not sure that I have completely let go of the God defined for me through the Catholic church in my youth. And I am not real keen on that God. He is not a nice person. Adults used to hold God over my head like a sword threatening to chop it off to make me behave like they wanted me to. God was mean and liked to smite people. There were all these commandments to follow. Sunday mass was as boring and tedious as watching knitting on television.

I’m not likely to turn my life over to the care of someone like that.

But I believe that I belong to and within a greater, larger, all-encompassing power. I have not fully defined my relationship with that power or named it “God.” I don’t know who or what “God” is.

My true presence knows but is currently silent on the subject. I always take this as a signal that I need to do some inner exploring. For my presence, whatever God is just is. There is no need to define. For the squirrely human that I am, definition is everything.

Hmmm . . . I think it might be time to write a book. Books can take a long time to write, so I need to get started right away.

You never know when that second coming is . . . well, coming.

And just in case it happens tonight, I am going to have a second helping of ice cream.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass