This is the second in a series I started a little over a month ago on positive scripture (click here to read the first). But first I have to state a very short disclaimer. I’ve said this before but feel I have to say it again. My personal theology is…um, well. Scratch that. Actually I am not quit sure what my theology is these days. But what I wanted to mention is that I take the bible almost entirely as metaphor, and that while I do consider myself a follower of the teachings of Jesus (which I usually fail miserably on a daily basis), I consider Him and His teachings a way, not the only way. That said, please do not send me hate mail or try to “save me.”
Anyhow, the scripture I wanted to highlight is Thessalonians 5:17 where Paul states that they/we should “pray continually.” This is the NIV version; the King James version states to “pray without ceasing.” Well that’s some pretty serious stuff. Or is it?
Over the years, like most I would assume, not only have I changed but so has my spirituality. How I see this now is to really live in a place of gratitude and to be in awe of life in general.
This passage–to pray without ceasing–is often taken and quoted out of context, just as I did. But the couple phrases just before and after this one are just as important, I think. 5:16 tells us that we should rejoice always; 5:18 says to give thanks in all circumstances, and 5:20 advises not to quench the spirit.
My interpretation of this is to really look on the bright side of life and enjoy every minute, and to take nothing for granted because everyday and every moment is a gift. Personally, I do try to do this, and many days I do. But some days are easier than others.
Sometimes it’s just simple things. Such as riding my bike at night and stopping to take photos on a cold night…feeling the wind on my face and being in touch with all that is around me. That to me is a way of praying; being in touch with the universe. Or talking to someone and looking in their eyes as they tell me a story and realizing that we, as everyone is, are all connected in some way. That to me is a form of praying as well. Sometimes at work while I’m juggling 10 or 12 pots on the stove and serving three parties at once and everything is running smoothly–and I am aware that it is running smoothly–I’ll acknowledge this ability that has been given to me, and be thankful for it; that to me is a form of prayer. Heck, even as I type these words–writing and thinking about prayer–can be a form of prayer. Sometimes–I really believe–just saying thank you is enough.
“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.”
I find this amazing…that the Golden Rule (or the Original Truth), which of course is a blueprint on how we as humans should treat one another, is said across the board in every religion, faith, and non-faith. While the actual words that are said may change, these all still say the same thing…be nice to one another! This is so easy but also so difficult. Such a simple task but we still don’t seem to grasp it, at least not entirely (I speak for myself here). Anyhow, this is by no means a a complete list–just a few that stood out to me–and they are in no particular order.
So first…a couple of things. One is that if you’ve been to this blog you know a few things about me. I like bread, yes; I prefer to ride a bike rather than drive a car, yes; but also that I–like so many others–am on a spiritual journey (but we all are whether we admit it or not). And you also know that I enjoy series of things on this blog…my oldest and most popular is Things that can be Carried on a Bike, but there is also the Five Quotes series, the View from My Handlebars series, and the brief Past and Present series. Today I am beginning a new series on positive scripture passages. I’ll likely post it sporadically or whenever the spirit moves me to do so. While I do believe that there is only One Source of us all, the religion of my birth and the one which I most closely identify with is Christianity, so for this reason I’ll be posting selections from the Bible; mostly the New Testament. The Bible, for some (myself included) carries so much baggage, and there are sections that can be twisted to mean truly bad stuff. But I personally do not feel that is why it was written…the word Gospel, of course, mean Good News in English, and thus I feel it was it’s original intention….to bring good news, not law or oppression. Anyhow, I am not a fundamentalist, nor am I a literalist…I tend to read the Bible mostly as metaphor (to read more about “where I’m at” click here). The reason I mention this is that my intention is not to offend anyone by what I post in this series or the commentary (if any) I accompany with it. If I do add any thoughts they are not intended to tell you how you should feel, nor are they intended in any way to “convert” you; they are simply thoughts on how a particular passage speaks to me. You, in turn, are welcome to comment, but please no negativity. And please do not send me hate mail or try to save me; in my view no saving is needed as we are all children of the One Divine Source. With this said, here’s the first Positive Scripture.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
I chose this as the first in this series because I believe this to be so powerful, and is fully aligned with the New Thought Movement. The only thing that I’ll add is that I can personally attest that in my life when I think of good things apposed to negative things, then good things happen. But even if they don’t, life is much better. It has taken me many years to do this–and I’m not enlightened yet–but it’s true, light overcomes darkness. Thinking good thoughts really does–to me–have positive results, even when things are not going as planned.
Okay. So first off, it is not very often that I post pictures of myself (almost never) but here you have it. This is a photo of my son and I as we (his mom and I) were dropping him off at his first year of college (the color-coordinated shirts were purely coincidence). And as I look at this photo I ask myself a few things. One is, when did my son get so tall and I begin to shrink? And another is, how can this be possible? Wasn’t it just yesterday I was sending him off to kindergarten? I have often thought/contemplated the passage of time but this is a milestone event. I have also often pondered what time is. Is it even real?
“Time is an illusion.”
In the scheme of things, we as humans have been around for such a short period of time. A good if not simplistic example of this is in the graphic below which illustrates the history of time on earth in a 24-hour capsule. Modern humans (us) don’t appear until a few seconds (yes seconds!) before the 24-hour mark, meaning we have just gotten here. Then why all the stress and worry I also wonder. There have been so many before us with the same problems and worries and in the end they (the worries) don’t matter at all. The key, I think, is to be aware…to be in the present moment; to be awake. Because all that there is, I also believe, is the present moment. The past is history and the future has not happened yet, and the present moment (no matter how difficult or boring it may seem) is really all there is. And when one lives in the present moment–being aware of all of its beauty and sometimes suffering–they are, in a way, fully alive…awake. There are plenty of versions of the following story floating around regarding when the Buddha was asked who or what he was. You may have heard this before; this version I found here).
When the Buddha started to wander around India shortly after his enlightenment, he encountered several men who recognized him to be a very extraordinary being. They asked him: “Are you a god?” “No,” he replied. “Are you a reincarnation of god?” “No,” he replied.”Are you a wizard, then?” “No.” “Well, are you a man?” “No.” “So what are you?” They asked, being very perplexed. Buddha simply replied: “I am awake.”
For me personally it is very difficult to be present all of the time. I suspect this to be true for most. But when I am (with conscious effort) I find that things can be pretty incredible, no matter how mundane a task…such as being consciously aware of my fingers tapping a keyboard as I am doing now. Time can fall away and become, in a way, illusionary. Even if for a moment. And another thing that I find happens when being present is awe. And this brings me to my next quote.
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
What I really believe is meant by this is that we as adults–while not shunning our adult responsibilities–need to lighten up and not worry so much…to be in awe of life in the same way a child is; to look at things anew and with interest. To remember what really matters. And when I am present this sometimes happen. I become aware of how incredible life is, even its worst parts. But still, this takes great effort (I am not enlightened yet…not even close).
So now, as I look at the above photo, I am in awe of the fact that my son has grown into such a handsome, kind, and intelligent young man. And I am in awe of the fact that I have made it as far as I have in this life. Time marches on (illusionary or not) but so do the good things (here, now, and in the future). And that’s what I’m looking at.
To learn more about Swami Vivekananda, visit one of the foundations that bear his name (here or here), or also this wiki.
“We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far. ”
“The greatest sin is to think yourself weak”
“The greatest religion is to be true to your own nature. Have faith in yourselves.”
“You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself.”
“Comfort is no test of truth. Truth is often far from being comfortable.”
“We reap what we sow. We are the makers of our own fate. The wind is blowing; those vessels whose sails are unfurled catch it, and go forward on their way, but those which have their sails furled do not catch the wind. Is that the fault of the wind?……. We make our own destiny.”
“We are responsible for what we are, and whatever we wish ourselves to be, we have the power to make ourselves. If what we are now has been the result of our own past actions, it certainly follows that whatever we wish to be in the future can be produced by our present actions; so we have to know how to act.”
“Things do not grow better; they remain as they are. It is we who grow better, by the changes we make in ourselves.”
More in the Five Quotes series.
I came across these two photos yesterday and they inspired me to post them for Christmas. The above photo is of the Christ Statue, in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, in front of a full moon. And the below image is of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama praying in front of an image of Jesus the Christ (this I find particularly moving).
Whether or not today was the actual birthday of Yeshua ben Yosef (Jesus’ original birth-name: Jesus, son of Joseph), this is the day it is celebrated. Today, of course, is a day of refection and personal re-birth for Christians around the globe. But I have to admit that with recent events as I look inward I am having difficulty finding peace. But still I try, and still I hope. I’ve posted the below prayer for the past four Christmases, but I find it inspiring enough to re-post it again. Personally I know that I can use to re-read and reflect upon it. It is a Christmas vow written by Paramahansa Yoganada and it can be found in his tiny book, Metaphysical Meditations. Merry Christmas, brothers and sisters, wherever you may find yourself at this time. Peace.
“I will prepare for the coming of the Omnipresent baby Christ by cleaning the cradle of my consciousness, now rusty with selfishness, indifference, and sense attachments; and by polishing it with deep, daily, divine meditation, introspection and discrimination. I will re model the cradle with the dazzling soul qualities of brotherly love, humbleness, faith, desire for God-realization, will power, self-control, renunciation, and unselfishness, that I may fittingly celebrate the birth of the Divine Child.”
Today is the winter solstice, which of course is also the longest night of the year. But it doesn’t have to be the darkest. From this night on, until the summer solstice, the days grow longer and the nights shorter. And I’ve used this example very recently (about light overcoming darkness) but I will again…when light is brought into a darkened room the room becomes light–overcoming the darkness–but darkness cannot be brought in to make the room dark. I suppose the same can be said of a person’s heart…
“The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”
I personally have always found the parallels between many (most) of the major religions fascinating, and these few sayings are just a very small example. Many more parallels in the sayings of these great teachers can be found at the World Peace Page. To read more in the five quotes series, click here.
Jesus: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31
Buddha: “Consider others as yourself.” Dhammapada 10:1
Jesus: “If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also.” Luke 6:29
Buddha: “If anyone should give you a blow with his hand, with a stick, or with a knife, you should abandon any desires and utter no evil words.” Majjhima Nikaya 21:6
Jesus: “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” Matthew 25:45
Buddha: “If you do not tend to one another, then who is there to tend you? Whoever would tend me, he should tend the sick.” Vinaya, Mahavagga 8:26.3
Jesus: “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword.” Matthew 26:52
Buddha: “Abandoning the taking of life, the ascetic Gautama dwells refraining from taking life, without stick or sword.” Digha Nikaya 1:1.8
Jesus: “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.” Mark 8:35
Buddha: “With the relinquishing of all thought and egotism, the enlightened one is liberated through not clinging.” Majjhima Nikaya 72:15
Yup. That’s me in the above photo. Very rarely do I post pictures of myself on this blog but here’s one. And what’s even more odd is that it shows me getting into a car. My son took the photo of me getting into a Buffalo Car Share car last weekend. But as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself.
If you’ve been to this blog before you know a few things about me. One of them is that I’ve voluntarily given up car ownership a few months ago, and that I choose to walk or bike whenever possible. If it’s out of (my) biking range I take a bus or use Buffalo Car Share (which I joined around the same time I sold my truck).
Well, you may ask, what does have to do with theology (or at least my personal theology)? Plenty. Firstly, at a most basic level, living simply (using a bike instead of a car, for example) helps me be more in touch with our Source, the Divine within me, you, and each one of us.
But there is another relevance when discussing (car) ownership. What is ownership and do we really “own” anything? The house I live in, for example, is nearly 150 years old; Civil War era. I’m just one of many who have occupied it (click here to see what I mean). I’m sure there will be more; I just happen to live here now.
To take this a step deeper, think of our bodies themselves. Do we really own them? Is this all we are…just flesh and bone? I think not to both questions. We just happen to occupy them at present moment. Okay, some of you reading this may have atheistic views, and that’s fine; I can respect that. Personally I believe that there is more–way more–than we can comprehend. And while I consider myself a practicing Christian–meaning I try to follow the teachings of Jesus the best I can, but usually fail miserably–I also believe that all major religions carry the same truth and that all lead to the same outcome and that all are pure at their core if you look sincerely within them and within yourself. Is there an afterlife? I surely don’t know. Likely, I like to think, that after an undetermined period of time, rejuvenation, and learning we are offered a new body and life to live (for additional learning). Reincarnation. And this is not outside Christian doctrine because the original Christians did in fact believe in reincarnation (please do not send me hate mail), as do many other religions.
So what does any of this have to do with car ownership? Well, overtly maybe nothing. But underneath, maybe everything. My point is that whatever your views we will all eventually leave these bodies…we can’t take them with us. So to bring this back to a more materialistic level–car ownership–they (cars) are just things, like everything else, and you can’t take them with you. You, if you have one, are simply occupying it.
I have to admit that in a culture where our very core is embedded with cars it was difficult if not a bit scary to renounce ownership. But I did and hope never to have another. Since not having a car of my own I have only used one on three occasions, but the first was mostly out of novelty. And on all three occasions the car share worked seamlessly. When I needed a car to get me outside my biking distance I had one.
I don’t believe that I have to “own” everything that I use. I can share some things, even big things in my life. and this is what I was thinking about as I pedaled home tonight carrying my son’s guitar after his music lesson. It was a hot evening. I had a couple beers across the street while I waited for him. And as I pedaled home into a slight headwind with a warm breeze on my face it felt good. I felt free.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
The above image is of a pin that was given to me yesterday by a friend (thanks Jane!). It’s a miniature version of a sign that I’ve had in the front garden for the past years. Actually the sign in front of my house is the second sign…the first was stolen (how’s that for irony). It’s an image/slogan that began with Sister Karen Klimczak. Anyhow, I was going to write a long post on how much I enjoy having the sign in front of my house (though I don’t always believe I do what it says), how much it means to me, and how powerful and beautiful I think the below quote and prayer are…and also how much inner work I feel I need to do to be able to actually embody some of the things I share on this blog. But I don’t know where to begin. The image, I believe, and the below words, speak for themselves.
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
The Prayer of Saint Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
The moon is amazing tonight. I was out on my bike and couldn’t take my eyes off it as I pedaled and coasted. The above image I took from my backyard (not bad for a point-and-shoot camera), and the below image is the Liberty Building with a low lying moon to its right. And if you’ve ever wondered about why the date of Easter changes each year it is because of the moon cycle. Easter takes place on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox (sounds sort of Pagan to me). If you want to learn more follow some of these links. And it’s interesting–I think–that in the Christian calendar, tonight being a night of darkness it is also a night of such immense light; literally and metaphorically. It’s as if there is a large nightlight showing outside illuminating the earth. While I consider myself a practicing Christian, I also believe that all major religions walk a similar path. That being said, I also consider nearly everything in the Bible a metaphor–to help each of us to discover our own inner truth–and right now I cannot think of a more direct physical metaphor than that incredible moon shining in the darkness like a beacon of hope and newness.
I love books and bookstores. When I travel I make a point of visiting used and/or independent bookstores in that city. And I really do believe that books sometimes find you…that they are placed before you for you to find and hopefully read. The book above is a good example (and more on that in a minute) but the one that stands out in my memory was one that found me when I was living in Poughkeepsie, NY. It was the mid 1980’s and I was a student at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), and was walking down the street on a sunny Spring day when I quite literally tripped over a book…yes it was laying there in the middle of the sidewalk. I picked it up and it was a well-worn copy of The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran. At the time I was not familiar with either the book or the author but was intrigued and kept it and read it. Later I was surprised to learn that we–the author and I–share the same ethnic heritage. Since then I have collected more than a dozen of Khalil’s books (though I haven’t read them all). But I believe that original one–which is also his most famous–found me. Anyhow, back to the book pictured above. As mentioned in an earlier post, I was in Toronto this past weekend with my son, and was in Seekers Bookstore on Bloor Street (which is one of my favorite Toronto bookstores). I have had an interest in Mysticism for many years but do not know anything about Kabbalah (who am I kidding…I don’t know much about anything). Anyhow, I was flipping through the above said book, and read a bit on cause-and-effect, but thought the book was a bit pricy at $9 (CAD), considering its condition. I liked what I was reading but thought I could probably find a better deal on Amazon (I didn’t) or just download it…so I put it back on the shelf and began looking at other books. At this point I was standing near the counter and heard a person ask another (who I’m assuming was the owner of the bookstore) how business has been. He went into a somewhat long dialog on how bad it has been, that even with a mild winter business was poor. Sometimes, he went on to say, that an entire hour would go by and not a single customer will come in, and then when they do they just browse and leave. Between the big chain bookstores and the Internet, he said, he felt his store was dying a slow death. I felt like he was speaking to me though my back was to this person. To cut to the chase…I took the book back off the shelf and purchased it. I love used bookstores and don’t want them to disappear; I felt good to support this one. This book–like the aforementioned title–most definitely found me…I had no choice but to purchase it.
“I have long since come to believe that people never mean half of what they say, and that it is best to disregard their talk and judge only their actions.”
“The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?”
“The legal battle against segregation is won, but the community battle goes on.”
“We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community.”
“Words are as strong and powerful as bombs, as napalm.”
Monk, activist, writer, poet, and artist, Fr. Merton was a true renaissance man. He was friends with Thich Nhat Hanh, and the Dalai Lama, and a contemporary of Martin Luther King, Jr. Before his untimely death he penned a huge number of books pertaining to spirituality, poems, artwork, and an incredible and moving autobiography. His work continues to touch countless souls…including the one typing these words. To read more about Thomas Merton click here or here.
“Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.”
“Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.”
“Just remaining quietly in the presence of God, listening to Him, being attentive to Him, requires a lot of courage and know-how.”
“Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.”
“A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.”
OK…I said five quotes, but here’s five more.
“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
“I cannot make the universe obey me. I cannot make other people conform to my own whims and fancies. I cannot make even my own body obey me.”
“We stumble and fall constantly even when we are most enlightened. But when we are in true spiritual darkness, we do not even know that we have fallen.”
“The man of faith who has never experienced doubt is not a man of faith.”
“Perhaps I am stronger than I think.”
This is another in the Five Quotes series on this blog, but I first have two preface the quotes with a couple comments. Firstly, I just wanted to say that I found the above photo at St. Francis Place. I chose the photo because I do believe that Jesus meditated (there are plenty of resources for this but the post at St. Francis Place is a good one). I also believe that Jesus studied in India with the spiritual masters of his time; many refer to this as the Lost Years, or more specifically, the years which the Bible is silent on the life of Jesus. It is also likely that December 25 is not the actual birth date of Jesus, but as Christians this is the day we celebrate it. At any rate, whether you are a Christian or not, you have to admit that if more of us (myself included) followed the teachings of Jesus–lived them–the world would likely be a better place. Anyhow, these–in no particular order–are just a few of His words that inspire me.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?
The Kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, but men do not see it.
The Gospel of Thomas 113
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
I know it’s a day early, and that not everyone in the world celebrates Christmas, but I thought I’d send out well wishes to all my fellow bloggers, bikers, cooks, and other misfit souls on this material plane in which we currently find ourselves. Merry Christmas and with hopes for a healthy and prosperous New Year
Merry Christmas, Milad Majid, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noel, Fröhliche Weihnachten, Kala Christouyenna, Mo’adim Lesimkha, Buone Feste Natalizie, Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom
(translation source; my apologies for not including all.)
Take this how you will, but I believe it to be true. And no I do not see God as an old grey haired man with a long beard sitting on a golden throne judging us…but more of the source of our very being; the reason that we live and breath and why we are conscious of our consciousness…a vibration that permeates all that we can see, touch, and comprehend (just felt I had to add this). This said, I would rewrite this fortune cookie to change the last word to need, rather than want. To read previous postings on Fortune Cookie Philosophy click here.