Posts Tagged ‘spiritual’

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

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anonymous presence

June 27, 2010

Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities. (Alcoholics Anonymous, Tradition #12)

As one of my last assignments for the class I am taking on substance abuse, I explored the 12 Traditions that support the 12 Step programs for Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, etc. These traditions are principles that describe the external environment required for any 12 Step program to exist and be successful. The 12 Steps are an internal process of personal spiritual growth and change for recovery to occur. The 12 Traditions are regarded as the rules and regulations, but they are also a set of spiritual principles that create a safe environment for the process of the 12 Steps to be shared.

Tradition 12 is saying that being unknown and ordinary is the breath of life for all the principles of the 12 Step programs and maintaining these principles is more important than any one person’s habits or behaviors. These words imply that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one. They prevent any one person from taking over 12-Step groups.

Being anonymous is required. It protects each individual alone and collectively. By protecting the group, Tradition 12 guarantees the safety of all the principles. This does not mean that principles or other people are more important than an individual. Even while living among the many, each person must continue to put his or her own welfare first unless, by some tacit agreement, he or she has agreed to put others first. The men and women who go to war and fight battles and are willing to die to keep us safe come to mind. Yet, even then, soldiers are expected to take very good care of themselves so that they can be effective and keep their agreements.

This tradition says that the principles come before personality. Some people believe that if they cannot be their personality, then they are not being themselves. We are not our personalities. Our personalities are behaviors that reflect who we believe ourselves to be. We are all in charge of our behaviors. We select the behaviors that show the world who we are.

I thought about what it means to be anonymous. Synonyms include being nameless, unidentified, unknown, ordinary, indistinctive, everyday, unexceptional, and unmemorable. There is an element of safety in being nameless and ordinary. There is an element of loneliness in being unknown and unmemorable.

We can be nameless and still be known. I put my name aside. I set my personality along side of my name. Who am I when I have no name and no habitual behaviors to display myself before the world? Throughout my day, I am nameless and unknown at the grocery store, the post office, the gas station, and a dozen other brief encounters. I display behavior appropriate to the circumstances. At work, I am no longer nameless and I am known only to the extent that I reveal myself through my behaviors. Again, I choose the behaviors that represent how I want to be perceived in my work world. But, these are not therapeutic settings as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings are.

How can one remain anonymous in a therapeutic setting? My brief experience in attending 12-step program meetings gave me an insight that says being anonymous opens a door for exploring the individuality of the person who has been submerged under drugs or alcohol (or any other behavior that is an addiction).

It brings up the question we can all ask ourselves: who am I and how can I be in the world when I am not my name or my personality?

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

The presence of pain

April 8, 2010

Pain (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, whatever) is an indicator that I have cut off from me . . . blocked my flow of energy – the energy of well-being, love, inspiration, kindness, health, transformation – any energy that will take me from here to there; my pain can feel sharp, burning, clutching, sad, numb, bewildered, afraid, jagged, and it is all uncomfortable for a reason: to get my attention.

Emotional and mental pain send me the message that I believe something is wrong and often when I look at the source of my pain, that is where it has originated – in my thoughts, my expectations, my illusions – I believe something is wrong. Love and connection feel as if they are dying and leaving an empty spot when a friend, a lover, or a child leaves my life. I even grieved for 8 months after I quit smoking cigarettes because there were these huge empty spaces in my life that smoking (and the emotional equilibrium that nicotine provides) used to occupy. People are irreplaceable and I need to acknowledge their loss, yet at the same time, I need to remember that there are others in my life who I can connect with and love. Loss also opens up new possibilities, even though at the time, I may not want to admit it.  

Physical pain indicates that something in my body needs attention. Sometimes, pain is a gift. That blaze of rocketing flame in my chest might indicate a heart attack. I have to stop and look at exactly what needs attention and what kind of attention do I need? For an injury, I probably need a person with a medical degree. I am not going to stop, analyze and resolve the underlying issue to my injury right then (for example, when I set my thumb on fire with one of those sparklers we light up during the 4th of July, it was very evident from the golf ball size blister that visiting someone with burn treatment expertise would be a wise investment of my time and money). Other pain, like a headache, many times means I need sleep, a massage, less thinking, or a long, long walk in silence.

Spiritual pain is often present within any other kind of pain. I am a spiritual being and spiritual pain means I have cut off from that which is permanent and indestructible: my eternal presence and my connection to all that is. I am forever, as are those people who I might believe I have lost. Every creature on earth has the gift of self-comfort, including me.

I am on fire today – all my similes and metaphors and examples indicate something is ready to be lit up, cooked, heated, warmed, or incinerated.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass