Category: Spirituality

Farewell to a Great Friend

Word came yesterday evening that one of my best friends and the man to whom I literally owe my life passed away yesterday. Ted Lane was a rare human being who lived his life in as close to constant contact with Spirit as anyone I’ve ever known. He was the creator of an amazingly helpful healing technique called Patternology, which changed dozens and dozens of lives, including several in my family.

Ted had a congenital disease which by all rights should have laid him to rest many years ago. More than once, doctors told him he was in his final days or weeks of life. Time and again, Ted and Spirit — an indomitable duo if there ever was one — rebounded and proved the medicos wrong.

We worked together for nearly 20 years refining, documenting, automating, and promoting Patternology. Being a perfectionist, he never quite brought himself to release his miracle discovery to the broad attention it deserved. Perhaps he was intended only to plant the seed and see it through to early adolescence; others may pick up the mantle now that he has released it by his passing.

Ted was one of the most consistently optimistic people I’ve had the pleasure to know. No matter what setback or challenge he faced, he could always be counted on to find the silver lining and the life’s lesson. In each obstacle, he saw opportunity. I could always count on him for an emotional lift when I needed one, and often when I didn’t even realize I needed one.

On the first day I should have died, Ted appeared at my house. I still don’t know how that happened. Maybe we had a scheduled meeting. Maybe my wife asked him to come. Three days prior, I’d been in the ER and been diagnosed with “pre-pneumonia” and I was still feeling really lousy from that multi-day experience. I didn’t have any of the classic symptoms of heart attack, so when my wife Carolyn tried to force me to call 9-1-1 or get someone to take me to the ER, I resisted. I didn’t want to become “that guy.” Ted walked into my house, took one look at me, said, “Your skin is gray. I’m calling 9-1-1 and I don’t care if you get so angry you never speak to me again.”

Less than 20 minutes later, I was on a gurney in the trauma room at the local ER, my wife by my side, when I heard the female doctor say, “Code. He’s having a heart attack right now.” She said to my wife, “You’ll need to leave because in a minute this room is going to be filled with people who need to be here.”

It turns out I experienced what doctors call the “widowmaker”; upwards of 85% of people who have one don’t survive. And if it hadn’t been for Ted, I’d have been at home, alone with my wife, when it hit. And I likely wouldn’t have made it either.

So, Ted, I still owe you one, my friend. I wish you Godspeed on your new adventure, with gratitude for all the ways you changed my life and those of people I love. You are a hero.

I’m missing you already.

Does Adding Voices to Prayer Increase Its Power?

For those who are interested in following me on a more personal, spiritual level:

You might want to check out my newest post on my spiritual teaching site. In it, I address the question of whether there is a connection between the number of people who pray or meditate for a specific purpose coming together at a common date and time, and the efficacy of such prayers. Just click on this link to read that post.

 

Here’s One for Spiritual Chess Players

I’ve begun resurrecting my long-time interest in chess now that I’m retired and have the time for such nicely paced activities. In rummaging around my documents attic today I ran across this chess-themed spiritual essay I wrote a couple of years ago.

I hope you enjoy.

I AM Pawn

I AM a proud pawn, the most important and powerful piece on this playing field. I am the least valued by inexperienced players. There are more of me than any other piece, of which there are only one or two. We are eight.

But look at me!

pawnI am the only piece in this game who can move more than one way. Think about that! I have choices. Everyone else lives by a single rule of movement. I can only move forward, it’s true, but I can move one or two spaces my first time. I can move diagonally to capture other pieces, which makes me a stealthy fighter. I even have a sneaky move many players don’t know (and I despair in their ignorance) in which I can capture an enemy pawn who thinks he’s slid past me by moving into the empty space behind him. Nobody else can do that! (It’s called en passant in case you don’t know.)

Because I cannot retreat, I cannot give up. Nor can I turn on my own fellows and become an impediment to their successful attack or defense.

But in the end, I AM the most important and powerful player in the World of the Game because I alone can transform myself into any other piece. Knights are and always will be Knights, however noble. But if I can reach my enemy’s home rank, I can choose to become a devious Knight, or a dominant Bishop or even an imperious Rook. Or even the King’s consort, the Queen.

Don’t overlook me. Don’t dismiss me. Learn me. Watch me. Use me.

I AM Pawn.

(Inspired by re-discovering Hans Kmoch’s brilliant study, Pawn Power in Chess.)

A Physicist on Spirituality

I ran across this great quotation from a world-renowned physicist this morning and really resonated with its sentiment, apart from his characterization of us as “molecular machines”, which I find accurate but insufficient:

To think that we are animated molecular machines made of the remains of stars dead billions of years ago and capable of self-awareness — this, to me, is very spiritual. –Marcelo Gleiser, physicist

 

The End of Church? Physical Barriers to Oneness Eroding

Will church transform in American life?

Will church transform in American life?

Two separate and seemingly unrelated articles on religion from the Huffington Post newsletter in my inbox reinforced a conclusion I’ve been talking and writing about for a good many years. Namely, that my generation or, perhaps, the next, may well be the last in which the majority of people in the United States attended church with any regularity.

This would represent a change of monumental proportion. It would impact literally every aspect of our society and culture. Particularly if, in the process, the widely accepted sanctity of Sunday as a day of rest and worship were to get finally dismissed, as it has been about to do for the last several decades, the shifts involved could be literally felt everywhere.

The first article from HuffPo to reinforce this idea was a seemingly random collection of polling data on religiously related subjects. Among other things, this data reveals that fully 1/3 of Americans under the age of 35 today characterize themselves as “nones”, that is as religiously unaffiliated, making them the second-largest “group” of Americans when categorized by religious preference. Other relevant highlights:

  • The “importance” of religion has declined from 70% to 56% in the past 50 or more years.
  • Self-described church membership is off by 10% (70-60) from the 50’s and 60’s.
  • About 40% of American adults are members of different faith traditions than that of their parents. (This number is probably much higher if inter-Protestant breakdowns were recognized.)
  • Faith-sharing online is becoming commonplace with 61% of Millennials reporting they have seen someone share their faith over the Net.

The only statistic that appears to contradict this trend of fragmenting and decentralization in the American religious experience is the vastly increased prevalence of the so-called “megachurch.” Pollsters define that term to mean, “those with a charismatic senior minister, an active social outreach ministry and at least 2,000 people attending every weekend.” These organizations now number at least 1,600, up from a mere handful in the 60’s.

The Pope and a “More Universal” Church

pope_francis_wavingThe other post that caused me to pause was about Pope Francis’ comments on his recently published mega-teaching on Love in which he said, among other things, that the Catholic Church must become less dogmatically rule-based and more willing and able to take many concerns on a case-by-case basis.

He tipped his hand to this position when, after the second of two conferences (synods) he called to discuss and debate the issues at the heart of his 260-page Apostolic Exhortation entitled “The Joy of Love,” he made the following distinctly undogmatic observation:

“What seems normal for a bishop on one continent, is considered strange and almost scandalous — almost! — for a bishop from another … what for some is freedom of conscience is for others simply confusion.”

Near the beginning of the Exhortation itself, Pope Francis sets this new tone firmly in place:

“Not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium.”

It may be relevant — and it’s at least interesting in the context — to note that the word “catholic” had as its original meaning, “universal.” This latest document and his related comments appear to be attempts to bring his followers into a bigger tent and to attract new followers and members who have been put off by the church’s long history of dogmatism and rigid, ideological behavior.

So How Do These Connect?

Both of these developments seem to me to represent the breaking-down of borders and barriers between religions and between those of a religious persuasion and those of a more generally spiritual nature. If we are to have any chance of increasing the global awareness of the Truth of Oneness, we must expect to find ways to blur and eventually erase these distinctions, not necessarily in socio-political terms but in theocratic contexts. In other words, we need to ease the psychological barriers that currently hinder sincere desires to bridge those walls that come about because of the clear distinctions we tend to want to draw between, most famously and egregiously, various branches of Protestantism.

The doctrinal and credal differences among Protestant denominations are often so small when examined in the bright light of ecumenicalism that they disappear into insignificance if not invisibility. It appears that the American public in general and the Roman Catholic Church broadly may be being led in a direction that will shatter those barriers over the course of time.

One likely consequence of this path to Oneness is the emergence of new forms of worship that transcend brick-and-mortar places dedicated primarily or solely to the religious experience of followers. I don’t know what this looks like; perhaps we will see a return to the pattern of the first century CE when early followers of the Jesus branch of Judaism that later became Christianity met in peoples’ homes. Perhaps virtual gatherings will replace some or all of today’s physical meetings. I can see a combination of those two providing an easily-followed pattern for future “gatherings of the Saints”.

Regardless of the impact on church-going and the existence of churches, I must say that as a Oneness believer and teacher, I am overjoyed at these developments and others like them and welcome them with open arms!

 

Ignorance Wins Again: Yoga is Not a Religion

When officials at Bullard Elementary School in Kennesaw, Ga., implemented a meditation mindfulness program recently, they stirred up a hornet’s nest of ignorant blather that is forcing them to severely alter or eliminate a program with nationally proven success in helping teachers deal with classroom behavior and student performance.

Ignorant parents decided that Yoga is a religious practice rather than a relaxation and exercise technique and forced the school to rethink the program. One of the uneducated (about this subject at least) parents said, “Now we can’t pray in our schools or practice Christianity but they are allowing this Far East mystical religion with crystals and chants to be practiced under the guise of stress release meditation,” he wrote. “This is very scary.”

Yup, fear is driven by ignorance. Yoga and mindfulness do not include crystals or religious chanting, and they certainly do not comprise a “mystical religion.”

It is true that in its broadest sense Yoga is a term for religious discipline and practice. But Yoga as practiced in the West has all but eliminated the religious overtones of the practice and turned it into something bland but nonetheless helpful that thousands of schools and businesses across the country are using to great effect.

But not in Kennesaw, Ga. No, sirree, Bob. Down thataway they protect their kids from ideas that are different from their own narrow viewpoints. Hopefully none of their kids will grow up to be as ignorant as they obviously are and then find themselves in positions of power.

This is just silly.

Happy PI Day, Einstein!

Today was Pi Day, the day marked by nerds and mathical folks because the important mathematical constant pi has a value of 3.14. So March 14 = 3/14. Get it?

Anyway, it’s also the birthday of the most famous physicist in the history of the world, Albert Einstein, who was born on this date in 1879.

Albert Einstein at Age 25

Albert Einstein at Age 25

Dr. Einstein was something of a prodigy. At age 26, in 1905, he had what many of his biographers have described as a Miracle Year. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Zurich that year and also published four of his most important and influential papers on the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, special relativity, and the equivalence of mass and energy. These established him as a pre-eminent theoretical physicist.

I’m equally fascinated by Einstein’s deep understanding of religion and religiosity. While not religious in the traditional sense, Einstein, if he were alive today, would probably easily accept the label, “spiritual but not religious.” He actually co-authored the book Einstein on Cosmic Religions and Other Opinions and Aphorisms with George Bernard Shaw. He also wrote a famous article for the New York Times Magazine entitled “Science and Religion” which was later collected into my favorite volume of Einstein thought, Ideas and Opinions.

Anyway, I love the coincidence of Pi and Einstein’s birthday.

Gotta Love Bernie’s Positive Thinking!

Bernie Sanders is drafting is inauguration speech.

Not his acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination, mind you, His inauguration speech.

I love that.

One of my core beliefs is that we co-create our own experience of reality. I practice affirmative prayer. I even wrote a book about it. So when I read today that Sanders is writing his inauguration speech, I gave him a virtual standing ovation. “Acting as if” is one of the most powerful spiritual practices, though it is often misunderstood.

Get that talk polished, Bernie. You may need it yet!

Feel the Bern!!

The Francis Effect = +10-20% on Climate Change

After Pope Francis’ recent visit to the United States following his issuance of an official Papal position on global climate change, at least one survey indicates he exerts a powerful influence on the opinions of Americans of every political persuasion. In a before-and-after poll conducted for the Center for Climate Change Communication, the Pope gave climate change an 8-point bump across the nation, from 51% who said they were very or somewhat worried to 59%. Catholic opinion was influenced even more strongly, with the worriers going from 53% to 64% while mainstream (non-Evangelical0 Protestants also shifted upward in double digits from 47% to 57%.

The only group to report a relatively small increase in concern over global climate change after the Pope’s pronouncements and his visit to the U.S. were evangelical Christians, who went from 39% worried to 43% worried, remaining the only identified religious group that doesn’t take climate change seriously.

Chart of public opinion before and after Pope Francis' comments on climate change. (Center for Climate Change Communication)

Chart of public opinion before and after Pope Francis’ comments on climate change. (Center for Climate Change Communication)