HOW TO BECOME FREE OF OUR GREATEST FEARS AND SORROW.
THE ANSWER IS EVERYWHERE
The following is taken from the recent newsletter, "Happy Holidays - The Journey to Freedom" by Dr. Brenda Shoshanna (Dr. Shoshanna gave the keynote address at my ordination and you may follow her on Twitter @BrendaShoshanna. Dr. shoshanna is a beautiful example of interfaith understanding. She is both a Hasidic Jew and Zen Buddhist). In her newsletter Dr. Shoshanna begins with the idea that Passover represents " . . . a journey from bondage to freedom, from struggle and misunderstanding, to reconciliation and faith." She says this journey is played out in all of our lives daily.
She believes Passover is a time for focusing deeply on " . . . how to cross over into a place that is spacious with new vistas and opportunities for growth - how to become free of our deepest fears and sorrow.." Dr. Shoshanna offers this deep insight: "All the questions we struggle with have answers. All our doubts can be easily allayed. What looks like conflict can be resolved rationally, like mist floating off a lake. The one ingredient, however, that is crucial - is the abililty to have a true conversaiton, to know how to listen to another and to ourselves. And to know how to respond.
Most of us live caught up in automatic knee jerk reactions which only causes problems to become more entrenched and repeat themselves time and time again. We then toss about wondering how to solve this or that problem, how to find answers to our endless upsets."
To understand this let's look at the Buddhist idea of "monkey mind." The monkey mind is a description of all of those thoughts that are constantly playing over and over again, as if on an endless loop, in all of our minds. Our minds are seldom quiet. All day long we jump from one thought to another without any understanding of why any particular thought arises. Buddhists see these daily thoughts as as if they were like a monkey full of restless curiosity and sudden random senseless movements. The monkey mind is then seen as restless, capricious, inconsistent, indecisive and uncontrolled. It is sad but true that this describes most of the thoughts running around in most of our heads, most of the time. So, as Dr. Shoshanna asks, how do we find answers to the endless upsets that have become entrenched because of the way our minds function on a daily basis? How may we learn to not be caught up in our automatic knee-jerk reactions?
She has the answer: "The answer is everywhere. The universe speaks to us endlessly, but we do not hear. We are not present, but caught up in the continuous conversations in our minds. These are not true conversations, but repetitive stories we listen to and tell ourselves again and again. They turn into static which prevents us from being what is in front of us. When we become embroiled in old reactions, we are incapable of having a true conversation with others, or ourselves, or the universe."
Dr. Shoshanna describes a true conversation as the answer to everything. She asks, "Can we begin to receive our lives as part of the conversation between us and the Divine. Do we know that whatever happens, it is life speaking to us. . . " Here is the key point. Life is always speaking to us. How do we tune into the voice of life? If life is speaking and the answer is everywhere, how do we set our receiver to start tuning in? First - quiet the monkey mind. Here are six things, that if practiced regularly and with serious intention will allow life to speak. You will find life (the Universe, Divine Mind or the God of your understanding) speaking in many subtle ways. The voice of life is always subtle - attentiveness is always necessary.
1. Invite the Divine into your life
2. Be silent
3. Be humble
4. Cease to cherish opinions
5. Simply observe - do not judge (accept that all is in Divine order at all times)
6. Offer love first in every situation. Love is always the answer.
The answer is everywhere - this tells us meaning and purpose pervade the universe. Most miss this fact because meaning and purpose are so pervasive they are hidden in plain sight. It is in silence that we become aware of meaning and purpose in life. In silence we become aware that life is speaking to us. Let me briefly recount my own mystical experience of life speaking to me (for more details see the website Newsletter No. 1 and the poem When Everything Seems to Be Going Our Way):
At the time I was a person of no faith. While driving through Golden Gate Park in San Francisco one day, with no warning, and with exceptional intensity, I heard a voice speak to me. I described it as no longer driving, but only receiving. I suddenly understood it was the voice of life speaking to me. Life said, "You and I are a dialogue; but, so far you've been doing all the talking." Life continued, "So shut up!" It was short but intense (and a bit funny). I knew I had received a message, but did not know what to make if it at that time. The message stayed with me, bidding its time until I was ready to make something of it. The message in time I realized was so clear. I was caught up in the endless loop of my monkey mind stories. I was living life from automatic knee-jerk reactions, not able to have a true conversation - with others or with the Divine. I believe this was the Divine deciding I had things to do in this life, and time was running short. So the Divine found it necessary to do something that would seriously get my attention - before it was too late. It was time for me to get the message - be silent and listen. There life is speaking. It was time for me to awaken to the meaning and purpose in my life. So truly God works in mysterious ways. For each person the message will be unique, but the pathway will always resemble the six steps described above. Be still and know - the answer is everywhere.
Dr. Shoshanna also talks about true conversations with other people. She says, "Stop for a moment and see who it is you are speaking to." How are you viewing this person? Are you . . . judging them?" I will refer to my previous blog of 3/3/13 - Creating a Duality Free Zone:
"The moment we meet someone new, everyone of us begins to make assessments. We know nothing about the person before us, but we may notice how they dress. The judgment we make about how they dress leads us to other judgments, possibly about social status or where they are from. We may notice how their hair is done or an accented voice. All leading us to think we know something about a person we really know nothing about. Within the first few seconds we have already picked out a box into which we may place them."
From Dr. shsohanna: "There is another way to view that person, to approach them, to honor their truth and listen deeply. To see who they truly are, and the gift their presence is bringing us." Invite the Divine into your life. Be silent. Be humble. Cease to cherish opinions. Simply observe - do not judge. Offer love first in every situation. Remember Love is radical acceptance of every person on the planet just as they are in this moment. Love is kindness and compassion for every person no matter what our differences. We are here to put aside all differences and focus only on the common ground. That is true conversation.
Let me finish with Charles Fillmore's metaphysical definition of Passover - ". . . symbolically a mental attitude of bridging over from an old state of consciousness to a completely new state of consciousness. To pass from the mortal to the spiritual state of consciousness." Mortal meaning the apparent physical world of our sensory experience. This new state of consciousness may be focused on during this spiritual season. Realize as Dr. Shoshanna says, "When a person realizes that the Master of the Universe is actually present in his/her every word and gesture, all answers arise and confusion disperses."
Rev. Gene Ford Runnels
Behold the light in everyone!