Where Is Your Spiritual Identity?


Specific to American politics, the last few years have been very tough on the identities of all Americans. As an African-American, I may perceive that it has been especially tough for people color. However, regardless of our cultural perspective, we all may be feeling like our culture alone is being singled out. It appears that the current political strategy has raised the stakes in a game known as identity politics. Pitting the feelings of one cultural group against another group of humans is a very popular and easy way to win support for anything.  In the same way, the threat level was used to control public sentiment and manipulate perceptions about personal peace and safety after 9/11, the reporting of ethnic slurs float as headlines across our media. And like a group of children in a schoolyard, we continue to fall prey to its tactics watching a bully pick on the innocent all the while fearing that, that kind of attention is never focused in our direction.

So when asking the big and relevant questions concerning identity the key to the answer has to do with where we go for that answer? Many of us turn to an outside source like a mirror, family,  culture, or religion to tells us who we are. Then there are those families, cultures, and religions that we do not belong that also make their opinion of who we are known to us and others. Please notice that these sources appear to come from outside of our being.

As humans, we all have individual traits that separate us from others in our various groupings. However, we all have one thing in common, and that is, we all use the title “I,”  to describe ourself. As technology brings awareness of happenings and opinions from around the world, we develop a global consciousness concerning the opinions of others, and we allow those to shape our identity.

When one’s identity is no longer subject to outside opinion, tactics of identity politics go away. Thus, understanding our essential nature as spiritual beings allows us to see reality in its purest form. If we can grasp the infinite qualities of our existence, then we would understand that we cannot be threatened or harmed. Human consciousness is fundamental, revealing oneness with God and all creation. However, these truths fly in the face of some religious and cultural traditions. But at the root of these same cosmologies, often the peace and unity longed for, is ignored to foster hierarchical systems known as our social order.

As technology brings on global awareness it increases the tensions between the trends that want more equality and those that benefit when human culture continues to organize around economic, gender, and ethnic divisions. So how do we humans rise above these simple tactics of namecalling and other schoolyard strategies? How do we begin to see the truth of our identity and enjoy the immunity from outside threats and opinion?

First, we must be willing to change our personal beliefs about ourselves and others. Ultimately we must be ready to change our world view. Amazingly, we are eager to replace the software in our phones and computers, but we are unwilling to change the software of our being. Who is willing to live without a technology upgrade for the next 10 years? And yet, many of us are holding onto beliefs about ourselves and others that have origins older than 100 years.

Second, is the acknowledgment that human evolution is not complete. Our current social structure rests on the advancements and shortfalls of previous generations. As we spring forth from the unevolved creatures that existed during the days of black and white television and pre-transistor technology, we need to maintain a perspective that we humans are still evolving. 1950 was 70 years ago and the relationships between every human sub-category and social role has advanced. Therefore judging people based on traditional societal roles, rebels against human advancement.

We are fast becoming technologist about to embark on a journey side-by-side with Artificial Intelligence, and many of us are not willing to ask the deep questions concerning human identity.  If the assumption is that traditional religious and cultural authority will continue to be the arbitrator of what is right, then we might as well bring on the apocalypse. Many of the minds in some of these religions and cultures groupings see no future existence on earth outside of the scriptural interpretation or imagination from many centuries gone bye. The sad truth is that many of us today feel lost and we have settled to become better versions of the human creatures of days gone bye. Even the social justice activist of today that fight for new visions of equality still rely on the tactics of 70+ years ago.

Only by understanding the truth of our being can we get off the merry-go-round of identity politics. So, how to do we find out what is fundamental and essential to our being? Using a piece of rope as an analogy, we must see the truth of its reality.  Just realizing that the rope is not the snake does not keep us from mistaking the rope for a stick at a later time. We must see beyond what the rope is not and truly see its nature.

Overcoming a racial slur, gender or ethnic putdown will only happen when the truth of our identity is revealed. As long as we continue to allow others in this material world to define who we are, our lives will remain on the merry-go-round in the schoolyard. The ultimate security of our being rest in the knowledge of what we fundamentally are, and thus making us immune to the opinions of what others might mistake us for.

By the process of self-inquiry the answer of who am I is revealed. If we find that our identity is continually assaulted by reports in the news, then its time we get a hold on who we really are. Investigating more deeply the “I” of our being is not difficult. Here is a hint. About 6000 years ago, it was stated: “I am that I am.” Simply asking ourself and pondering the answer to that statement any human can begin to unlock their true identity and find out what all humans have in common with that statement?

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The Other Team Sport?

2019-01-01_waterdrops-8-1184377-1599x1066The human concept of religious freedom is our acknowledgment that spiritual beliefs, practices, and understanding can be as individual as the number of humans. The recognition and respect for all individuals to freely express their personal beliefs are fundamental as breathing.

So, why do so many people participate in their spiritual development as a team sport? Also, why have many people allowed their personal spiritual identity to become entangled with a religious organization? Organizational religion has two main goals. One is to aid in the spiritual training of those that join its organization. The second is to transmit to future generations the teachings and practices that are part of the religious culture for which it represents.

Many Sunday morning worship services in America have morphed to resemble sports and political gatherings with people supporting their home teams. The Sunday morning gatherings in America used to be a time of spiritual devotion where any visitor could join the community practice. It was an opportunity for people to temporarily escape from of their personal lives to reflect on the actions they committed or omitted during the busy week. It was a time for quiet reflection while being washed in spiritual words of encouragement. It was an opportunity for personal transformation.

Do you gather in huge a stadium or do you gather in a smaller group, and is it with people and friends that have the same perspective or worldview? Is there time for quiet devotion and reflection or does the gathering put on a production and presentation to keep you excited so you will come back again? Is the overall point of view being shared one that says, there is only one way to God and all others perspectives in the marketplace need to be driven out, so the world can become transformed? If someone holding a different worldview happens to visit or is invited to attend your service are they accepted as they are if they never change, or are they made to feel especially uncomfortable if they fail to cheer on the home team and its perception of the world?

This may be fine for sport and political gatherings, but it violates the concept for spiritual freedom. Yet, religious institutions have adopted this format as a method to support and bolster its organizational goals. Religious institutions train their membership in groups to maximize efficiency, but they fail to reinforce the idea that a person’s spiritual identity is as personal as their fingerprint and that it belongs to them. More important and because of tradition, many members freely abdicate their responsibility for spiritual development and trade in their personal identity for a group identity. Many people do this in hopes that God’s heart is moved by numbers when standing in faith on an issue. Have you given over your identity in hopes that it will be used as a political force that can influence the material world issues in a spiritual way?

For many years religious organizations, worldwide, have been more than happy to let people give them their identities so they can be the ones representing their spiritual lives. Just prior to the Protestant Reformation in the Christian culture, the most popular religious institutions were accused of having to much power and abusing that power. Back then the power was in the form of a financial tax on individuals, and families. From birth to death these organizations formulated a strategy of dispensing and withholding blessings to influence and control various parts of a persons moral and spiritual life.

Today people volunteer to be members of their religious institutions and have the freedom to terminate the relationship whenever they want. However, for those that choose to evolve spiritually, most never do it outside of a religious organization. Therefore, today these organizations continue to yield tremendous power from birth to death. They do not directly tax individuals, but the relationship has financial obligations and when it comes to political power, they strongly influence the beliefs and thoughts of most of its members. There is a valid chicken and egg argument to be made, however, within the membership only a few members hold differing beliefs from the membership at large.

But be encouraged, many people are waking up to these trends as it concerns personal spiritual development. The Spiritual But Not Religious (SBNR) movement and specifically within Christianity the Emergent Church movement and the Red Letter Christian movement are examples of pushbacks towards this trend. However, just switching teams is not a solution to the trend of spiritual development being a team sport.

Only the act of taking personal responsibility for one’s spiritual training can truly reverse this trend. It does not require everyone to exit organize religion, but it does require everyone to set personal goals and partake of training materials that they have sought out. With the advent of human technological advancements, especially in the area of social networks, individuals in the western world are without excuse when it comes to seeking spiritual enlightenment. Do you avail yourself of the spiritual resources available on the social network at least once a week?

To remained pigeonholed into a way of thinking spiritually from birth to death reflects truly on one’s beliefs about all things spiritually. Fear is the primary tactic that keeps many people from exploring spiritually. In every other area of life, people exercise freedom except when it comes to their spirituality. It is kind of like when a stockbroker or a doctor discourage you from getting a second opinion, you should automatically know that something is wrong. However, many falsely believe they will be better off not knowing the truth.

Again, be encouraged that you will not be the first pioneer to strike out on your own and do something spiritually on one of the other six days of the week and still show up on Sunday for the religious pep rally. Odds are that there are more than a few members already doing it. Social media sites like Meetup.com provide links with information about meetings and groups that have planned alternative events for exploring and finding people with awakened spiritual points of view.

For every charlatan standing in the pulpits in America, there is probably one on social media with the fraudulent intents, and yet my experience over the last 5 years has been all good and left my desire to explore peaked and all the while feeling safe. As human understanding grows some religious tradition will not stand the test of truth. What is true is that our spiritual identity as a created child of God is secure as God’s very Presence. That is our spiritual heritage and it has nothing to do with human tradition or the team we choose for our spiritual training.

One reason that unconditional love is in short supply among the human population, is because love has been made conditional to the spiritual identity of the spiritual team a person trains with. Yet, the true source of unconditional love is God. This is the reason that Jesus made love the only condition for a true relationship. While the religion of Jesus day had 613 ways to break the relationship, Jesus made love the only condition for a relationship.

So, let each of us stay mindful that we have the right and the freedom to develop our personal spiritual training. If nothing else, explore the limits of your current training organization. Ask questions of God, your organization’s leadership and other members. Open your heart and spiritual ears to God and determine where you want to end up when this earthly life is finished.

Do you want a personal faith relationship in your spiritual team or personal faith relationship in God? There are 52 Sundays this year, will your personal spiritual development remain as the other team sport?

 

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Most Overlooked and Most Abundant Substance of Our Reality

2016-10-01_ripple-1181181-1279x794Love is one substance in the earth realm that will never be in short supply. God is love, and therefore the substance that makes everything manifest is infinite. The real problem with seeing the infinite has to do with the way we see. Let us start with the population count of humans on earth as a dynamic demonstration of love in action. Is the population getting too large or can the earth sustain a population of 21 billion?

What many overlook, with such an example is a tendency to focus on the places and things that seem to stand out and displaced the background and nature of existence. The beauty of people and their personal lives capture our attention and seize or focus. The story on the screen of our lives is like a 3D movie overwhelming our attention. When this happens, we fail to comprehend the screen and overlook the background substance of which 7.5 billion people get existence and are manifest. It is this loss of our attention towards the infinite that steals our happiness and peace in life.

Recently, I heard an inspirational story which may help illustrate why our focus is often misplaced. The story goes on to say that a professor passed out a surprise exam to each student placing the exam paper face down on each desk. The professor then instructed the students to turn over the paper and describe what they saw. Everyone was surprised that there were no questions just a single black dot in the middle of the page.

After collecting and reading out loud all responses describing the dot, its size, and its location on the page, the professor observed out loud that not one student described the white space on the page.  The professor informed everyone the exam would not be graded.  The professor wanted to stress the point that everyone focused on the black dot and not the white space and how this is true in our lives. We focus on health issues, complicated relationships, global temperatures and global markets.

Even in a world where spirituality trends of meditation and mindfulness are becoming popular, the human focus remains on the objects of the material world. To quote Rupert Spira “Matter is not what is seen, but a way of seeing.” In the Hindu philosophy, there is a term called “Maya” which is Sanskrit for illusion. In other words, material reality distracts us by misdirecting the focus of our attention.

For those that believe in and acknowledge the existence of God are not immune to this mode of how we interpret and perceive reality. The focus of our attention falls only on the objects of reality. However, there is a background and substance that permeates everything and out of which the whole of our existence emerges. Known by many names like spirit, consciousness, awareness, and love, this actual substance of our realm mostly goes undetected by our human attention.

Those that can relax the focus of their attention will experience the essence of reality. This essence is the infinite substance of love which yields peace. God could confidently make the statement and promise “I will never leave you or forsake you” because the very presence of God is the infinite substance of love out of which all existence emerges. This is the reason scripture records that “In God, we live and move and have our being.”

Whenever we have a difficult time seeing love in the world, it is probably because our attention is being carried away by the movie of life playing out before your eyes. Practicing the Presence of God is the name in the Christian culture for defocusing from the people and objects of the material world. Every religious tradition in the world has a way to help us humans set and keep our focus so we can see the love and experience the peace we deserve as children of God.  Right now, are you seeing and experiencing the infinite substance of love?

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