How Can I See The Good When All I See Are Flaws?

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There’s an old story about a group of monks living with their master in a Tibetan monastery. Their lives were disciplined and dedicated, and the atmosphere in which they lived harmonious and peaceful. People from villages far and wide flocked to the monastery to bask in the warmth of such a loving spiritual environment.
Then one day the master departed his earthly form. At first the monks continued on as they had in the past, but after a time, the discipline and devotion that had been hallmarks of their daily routine slackened. The number of villagers coming through the doors each day began to drop, and little by little, the monastery fell into a state of disrepair.

Soon the monks were bickering among themselves, some pointing fingers of blame, others filled with guilt. The energy within the monastery walls crackled with animosity.
Finally, the senior monk could take it no longer. Hearing that a spiritual master lived as a hermit two days walk away, the monk wasted no time in seeking him out. Finding the master in his forest hermitage, the monk told him of the sad state the monastery had fallen into and asked his advice.

The master smiled. “There is one living among you who is the incarnation of God. Because God is being disrespected by those around the Incarnated One, God will not show Godself, and the monastery will remain in disrepair.” With those words spoken, the master fell silent and would say no more.

All the way back to the monastery, the monk wondered which of his brothers might be the Incarnated One.

“Perhaps it is Brother Jaspar who does our cooking,” the monk said aloud. But then a second later thought, “No, it can’t be him. He is sloppy and ill tempered and the food he prepares is tasteless.”

“Perhaps our gardener, Brother Timor, is the one,” he then thought. This consideration, too, was quickly followed by denial. “Of course not” he said aloud. “God is not lazy and would never let weeds take over a lettuce patch the way Brother Timor has.”

Finally, after dismissing each and every one of his brothers for this fault or that, the senior monk realized there were none left. Knowing it had to be one of the monks because the master had said it was, he worried over it a bit before a new thought dawned. “Could it be that the Holy One has chosen to display a fault in order to disguise Godself?” he wondered. “Of course it could! That must be it!”

Reaching the monastery, he immediately told his brothers what the master had said and all were just as astonished as he had been to learn the Divine was living among them.
Since each knew it was not himself who was God Incarnate, each began to study his brothers carefully, all trying to determine who among them was the Holy One. But all any of them could see were the faults and failings of the others. If God was in their midst, the Holy One was doing a fine job of hiding Godself. Finding the Incarnated One among such rubble would be difficult, indeed.

 If God insisted on remaining hidden, then they had no recourse but to treat each monk as if he were the Holy One.

Each so concentrated on seeing God in the other that soon their hearts filled with such love for one another the chains of negativity that held them bound fell away. As time passed, they began seeing God not just in each other, but in everyone and everything. Days were spent in joyful reverence, rejoicing in the Presence of the Holy One. The monastery radiated this joy like a beacon and soon the villagers returned, streaming through the doors as they had before, seeking to be touched by the love and devotion present there.

It was some time later that the senior monk decided to pay the master another visit to thank him for the secret he had revealed.

“Did you discover the identity of the Incarnated One?” the master asked.

“We did,” the senior monk replied. “We found God residing in all of us.”

The master smiled.

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What Can We Learn From The Stoics?

stoicismStoicism is a philosophical school that arose in Greece and was influential in Rome. It shares the insight that  the most important aspect of our nature is the part that we share with the rational divine, which is a union with nature/the universe/the cosmos.

The Stoic philosopher Seneca was born about the time of Jesus, was educated in Rome and became a Roman senator. He wrote about the importance of using reason to control our negative emotions and gain control over our internal lives in response to a world that is largely out of our control. He suggested we should be internally skeptical about the causes of our anger, to be reflective and to rise above it.

Another Stoic philosopher, Epictetus who was a slave, reasoned that we should accept whatever happens to us, good or bad with good cheer, control our emotions and act in the most rational way forward. He said that because life is short and will end, we shouldn’t waste it on being unhappy and upset.

He said that we should find meaning in our social relationships and roles and responsibilities in our families and community. Getting along, and not letting negative emotions get in our way, is our most important task. First calm down and then approach any problems rationally.

He also discussed the cycle of life and that we shouldn’t feel any more anxiety about death than we do watching leaves fall from the trees. It is a natural process that should be accepted like all of the other processes we encounter in nature, but at the same time cherish the moments we have here on earth.

Marcus Aurelius was a serious student of both Stoic and Epicurean philosophy. He wrote about taking the long view of life and realizing that everything passes. Most things that we obsess over are really very brief and inconsequential in the long scheme of life, and so are not worthy of the attention we give.

The Stoics find meaning in reflective thought, a cherished finite life, and rational action in the face of an irrational world.

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What is Spirituality?

Spirituality is a region of human experience.show 18

Without your own personal inner spiritual experiences of otherworldly wonder, awe, peace, comfort, compassion, clarity or love– talking about spirituality is akin to science fiction. One must have the experiences to truly understand.

Spiritual experiences could include an intense awareness of the present, transcendence of the personal self, a spiritual thought or feeling to do something or that something will happen, a still-small voice that seems independent of thoughts, a feeling of overwhelming loving connection with life or a united group, or with the universe or a supreme being.

People report spiritual experiences with and without the benefit of religion.
Many individuals see themselves on a “spiritual journey” – an intentional direction for spiritual development. They seek spiritual experiences to inform life choices and find meaning. This often includes the practice of “waiting” in connection with the sacred, along with commitment and discipline.

Some seekers find spiritual experiences in sacred spaces, such as awe-inspiring buildings. Others find it in informal Sunday-morning meetings in unused bars, in silent solitary journeys in nature, or simply at home. Many go where they feel inspired, such as a mountain top during sunset, or where they feel nurtured and nourished in the company of kindred spirits.

Spiritual practices could include meditation, prayer, rituals, music, service, inspirational reading, podcasts or talks, gardening, walking, yoga, tai chi, sacred dance, commitment to right action, or pondering and reflection on the sacred.

Sometimes spiritual experiences are transformational- forgiveness becomes possible, inner turmoil and pain is replaced by comfort, joy and love, a life of hate and bitterness is let go and a new life of love and compassion is born, patience is expanded, a solution is realized, a peaceful acceptance of a tragedy occurs, one feels infused with the courage to endure or to do what is needed to be done, wrong thinking is corrected, true priorities are realized, an understanding of one’s faults are brought to light, an overwhelming gratitude is experienced, an insight into how or who to help or befriend, a new found peace, thoughtfulness, kindness, goodness, discipline and gentleness is incorporated into one’s character.

Most major religions or faith groups are rooted in spiritual experiences espoused by their founders. Experiences that made it possible for each leader to bring forth a spiritual message that if followed could lead one on the true spiritual path to the ultimate.

Spiritual seekers today want a direct experience. They are looking to have this experience of spiritual direction for themselves. This seeking is often done in the context of traditional religious groups, in alternative groups, or alone, in an attempt to get in touch with their inner spirit, or being and its connection with Light.

Spirituality and Aging by Robert Atchley

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What are Lessons from the Bhagavad-Gita?

gitalogoThe universe is already infused with a spirituality and significance. We only have to open our eyes to see it for what it is.

The universe is a vast, organic entity that in itself is divine. As part of this cosmic whole, individuals are already transcendent, already divine.

Each spiritual life has its place and its own kind of beauty. Thus our actions are significant and meaningful.

The Bhagavad-Gita introduces Krishna,  a teacher who represents the divine universe.

Krishna teaches that deep knowledge enables us to make right decisions. Inaction is never a choice; the only choice is to act wisely for the higher good.

Disciplined action is essential. We are to be warriors for justice and right action. There is much in our lives that we can’t control, but we can control our actions. Relinquish attachment to outcome and instead focus on wise choices and correct, disciplined action. This is the path to freedom.

The word “yoga” means discipline to accomplish things. The yoga of action teaches us to restrain ourselves from selfish goals or desires and push through to victory and strength.