Gratitude Marathon Day #4

I am grateful for my Hannah… though, in reality, she isn’t “mine”. As Kahlil Gibran wrote of children, “they come through you, but not from you.” The love of a parent is so nuanced. It’s sweet, you know? Sweet and sad at once because we parents know that everyday is but a snapshot of a moment in time – a moment that is as fluid as water, yet as certain as the grave and as such will never return. This understanding reminds me to remain ever present with my daughter.

I am thankful for how she reiterates to me the proper way to treat a lady – asking me to carry her bags for her when we arrive home; subtly influencing my decisions with implicit statements and encouraging good behavior from me by stroking my ego. Oh, her future suitor has his work cut out for him for sure!

I watch her personality develop and complexify with each rising sun, reminding me that Hannah is her own and not mine. Never mine. She teaches me to let go a little more each day.

For the strength that is found in letting go of the ones we love and the wisdom that could only awaken in me through fatherhood, I give thanks.

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Gratitude Marathon Day #2

Gratitude Marathon day# 2
Today I am grateful for the pulse of life which courses through my veins. When I still myself, I can feel the ebb and flow of life reminding me that everything in life moves in cycles; from my physical body to my emotional body to the body of my affairs. I feel this cyclical nature with every heartbeat – for this and for more than words can convey, I give thanks.

On Religion

I have come to learn that religion, from Buddhism to Christianity, to Islam, whatever the theology, all of them are just ways of telling a story about who God is, who we are and the purpose for being, and that I could simply drop the story, silence the chatter and hear for myself the answers to the questions of my life. I have found this way of being to greatly accelerate my personal growth as I learn to see God in everything and everyone.

When you are finally able to dislodge yourself from the prison of cultural conditioning, you will see the world with new eyes. It will be for you a rebirth. This is what that master teacher Jesus meant when he said, “Truly, truly, I say unto you, you must be born again.” In order to enter the kingdom of heaven, which, by the way he reiterated over and over again was “within.”, you must turn your gaze from the heavens, toward which our stargazing species have been looking from the beginning, and enter in.. penetrate into that subtle Universe from whence all things emanate. When we look to the stars, we are looking at the fringes of existence beloved.That which has already been spent. Upon looking within however, we reconcile ourselves with our beginnings…Our essential Selves, which just happens to be the Self of every other living and nonliving thing in our present experience.

When you are truly Born anew, your life will unfold before you as a supple and shining spring leaf, unfurling toward the light of the sun and allowing it to both deepen the roots of your history and expand the branches of your destiny. It isn’t required of you to Make this happen, rather you allow it to unfold before you once you have made the decision to stop pretending not to Know the Truth of your Divine nature. As Gautama Buddha said, Once you have made the decision to be enlightened, the dye has been cast and it will occur. You’ll strike the mystic chords of memory and become transformed as, over time, you begin to become in consciousness Whom you have always been in essence.

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Prisons

God has the worse memory. In fact, the Infinite has no memory. It isn’t seen as a flaw however. Truth be told, it’s a genuine attribute that we would do well to emulate. Thanks to the very present nature of the Universe, it matters not who you were… only who you are – for it is who you are when you’ve breathed your last, crossing the veil, that you get to take with you.
Forgive yourself of any “miss deeds”. Be released from your self imposed prison and free all others of the prisons of vengeance and retaliation. So long as you hold the keys to these cages, you act against Universal law, making life unnecessarily difficult.
The universe is creative in nature. Unforgiveness creates nothing of benefit, therefore it is a lie.
We forgive ourselves and others by breathing in the sweet air of this present moment where there is no vengeance. No hatred. Only what actually is. The pregnant Void. What a divine dichotomy; an emptiness that is yet full of all of the beauty, all of the grace, opulence and love that exists. Acquaint yourself with this place. It is nearer to you than your neck vein.

Insight

When engaging in a discussion with someone who is presently in denial over the existence of what we would call God or Source, it would behoove you not to reduce the conversation down to a battle of wits and whim, for ultimately your God cannot be explained.. It must be revealed. Either swiftly, In a moment of insight, or slowly like the turning of a sleepy planet about it’s star.

My faith doesn’t require that I convince any person to believe anything that I believe before I am to accept and love them as the divine creatures that they essentially are. I have not an imperative to save anyone from any divine and fiery wrath. I have only a flame of compassion within the recesses of my heart that would compel me to awaken those who are asleep.

Learning to be Free

“Is all that we have been taught all that we know?”

~Emmerson

Perhaps we could go a bit deeper with this inspired question:

Is all that we have been taught Truth? The answer would seem obvious. Yet if we observe the behavior of our fellow man, or even that of ourselves, it would seem that the natural tendancy of mankind is to become rigidly dogmatic, settled in a particular way of being, usually depending on where we were born and what we were exposed to early in life.

I would submit to you that subscribing wholesale to any school of thought, from scientific inquiry to religious ideology, from political affiliation, to sociological engagements, or even artistic interpretation ( believing that there is only one way to know what constitutes beauty) retards our growth as a species. And yes there has been growth, in fact if there is one thing that seems to define us as a species it’s our constant propencity towardl, mental, psychic and spiritual development, however slow that development may unfold.

Here in the west, we can look in our world and observe technological and scientific advances, and how knowledge in these areas is increasing exponentially. Yet in terms of our care and concern for ourselves, for others or for our environment at large, there seems to be a deceleration of sorts.

In a world where the majority are being ruled by a small percentage of people the world over, being taught both how to think and what to think, the enlightenment of humanity at a macro level is being hampered greatly.

Does it sound strange to the ear to hear me suggest that we, Westerners, particularly American citizins who “supposedly” live in a country which represents democracy in it’s grandest form, are being led, bridal and bit, by a minority of people?

We’re supposed to be represented, not ruled.. Right?!?

Enter cultural conditioning…

There are pre set patterns of behavior that we naturally adopt from infancy to adolescence which helps us to navigate our way through our social environment. These pre-set ways of being are what we call culture, and cultural practices have their place in the life of the human. The problem occurs when we fail, at a certain point in life to see this culture in a larger, global or even Universal context. When we determine that our way of being is the only way to be in this world. This is what I refer to as allowing our culture to think through us and there are institutions that exist in our world who promote these ways of being for their own gains by means of popular media and religion (to be certain, there are other means, but these have had the greatest effect on the populous).

Do you know that there’s a good chance that some of the things that you say you believe on matters of religion, politics, race for example may actually be what your culture believes and not necessarily the real You? That if you dislodged yourself from your cultural conditioning, you would discover a You and a world that you were heretofore unaware of?

So how does this dislodging of sorts occur exactly? Let’s look at some of the tools of conditioning:

Media

Are you aware that there is an entire science that has been developed around getting into your mind via television ads and “news”, in order to hypnotize you into believing and consequently behaving a particular way? Here are a couple of practices that I have found helpful in developing a discerning ear whenever I decide to watch a news program:

Question

Sit down to watch a news program and ask yourself after each story,

1.”How did that story just enrich my life?

2. Will it cause me to to make empowered, informed descisions, or fear based ones like clutching my purse whenever I see a bald-headed man with an earring?”

3. does it promote unity or division?

Go on a one week news fast.

That’s right, I said it. I promise you the world will not begin spinning in the other direction because you’re not standing vigil in front of your flat screen watching CNN. In fact, I’m willing to bet that not much of your life will have been down graded as a result of your “information” abstinence.

At the end of the week, do an assesment. Ask yourself how you did overall during the week, both physically and emotionally.

Religion

I have come to learn that religion, from Buddhism to Christianity, to Islam, whatever the theology, all of them are just ways of telling a story about who God is, who we are and the purpose for being, and that I could simply drop the story, silence the chatter and hear for myself the answers to the questions of my life. I have found this way of being to greatly excelerate my personal growth as I learn to see God in everything and everyone.

When you are finally able to dislodge yourself from the prison of cultural conditioning, you will see the world with new eyes. It will be for you a rebirth. This is what that master teacher Jesus meant when he said, “Truly, truly, I say unto you, you must be born again.” In order to enter the kindom of heaven, which, by the way he reiterated over and over again was “within.”, you must turn your gaze from the heavens, toward which our stargazing species have been looking from the beginning, and enter in.. penetrate into that subtle Universe from whence all things emminate. When we look to the stars, we are looking at the fringes of existance beloved.That which has already been spent. Upon looking within however, we reconcile ourselves with our beginnings…Our essential Selves, which just happens to be the Self of every other living and non living thing in our present experience.

When you are truly Born anew, your life will unfold before you as a supple and shining spring leaf, unfurling toward the light of the sun and allowing it to both deepen the roots of your history and expand the branches of your destiny. It isn’t required of you to Make this happen, rather you allow it to unfold before you once you have made the decision to stop pretending not to Know the Truth of your Divine nature. As Gautama Bhudda said, Once you have made the decision to be enlightened, the dye has been cast and it will occur. You’ll strike the mystic chords of memory and become transformed as, over time, you begin to become in consciousness Whom you have always been in essence. You can call it what you will: you may call it God.. you may call it Source, you may call it Spirit. Just call it forth beloved.

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Resting in Infinity

Yesterday I was assisting in a pretty complicated procedure. It required a great deal of concentration on everyone’s part and lasted quite some time. I happened to be working with and depending upon an operating Room nurse who just didn’t appear (initially at least) to have the requisite skills to perform sucessfully  during the procedure. As I made certain requests of her, I observed as she would begin to panic! With each request, her breathing would become shallow. Her face blanched to snow white and then would run red with blood. The surgeon I was assisting could feel her energy and he would just become silently frustrated as his concentration would be broken repeatedly. I could feel her fear. I could nearly smell it. taste it.

I matched her panic and sense of overwhelm with calmness, clarity and love.

At the end of the procedure, the nurse just grabbed me and showered me with hugs and kisses, thanking me for my patients with her. “How do you remain so peaceful all the time Mike?” She asked.

With that I just burst out in my signature baritoned belly laugh!

“I’m sooo sorry for laughing”  I returned contritely, “but you have to understand that 10 years ago NO ONE and I mean NO ONE would’ve EVER accused me of being ‘Peaceful’!”

It was true! In a matter of 10 years I had gone from being a farely nice guy with a swift east coast temper  to   being quite a cool-headed, relaxed and patient guy (if I do say so myself)! I don’t mean to sound self serving, but understand. I just LOVE being able to say that because it truly wsn’t always the case!  But what had made the difference? what had changed?

to avoid offering  up my entire autobiography, here’s a brief overview: 11 years ago I was an Afro-wearing fundamentalist Pentecostal Christian minister (no kidding, collar and all).  9 years ago I was an excommunicated minister who dared to ask the tough questions regarding Theological doctrine and teach what he believed in oratory.  7 years ago I went through an extremely difficult spiritual shift where I had completely uprooted decades of religious conditioning in order to see the Light with my own eyes rather than viewing it vicariously through  second-hand stories and subliminal suggestion. 5 years ago I was a bald-headed meditator with deep insights into my interior Self and my relationship with Spirit. I had become a mystic.

Though I have experienced much these past several years, If I had to credit one thing with my growth, without controversey I would say it was developing a daily meditation practice.

When you experience the vast openess of your infinite self, in contrast to your finite physical self, nothing which is typically labeled “stressful” can stick so-to-speak. Over time, this open expansion just ceases to be merely something which one experiences, rather something which one BECOMES.

In meditation, as you begin to identify with your INFINITE Self, FINITE things are observed upon the backdrop of this ifinitude. From such a perspective nothing so small as stress or anger, fear or worry can ever be taken seriously.

We all agreed to enter into this finite world both for our own individual reasons AND for a collective Purpose. So we do not want to deny our finite selves, i.e. our bodies, the feelings which they house and the cares which concern them. It’s just that to the extent that we IDENTIFY with this limited self, we will always feel a longing, a sense that there is something missing. More to be had.

It’s the identification with the finite self which is the cause for most of the suffering on the planet, for in our individual pursuits to fill a percieved void, we become frustrated as we realize that nothing quite scratches the itch. Not money, sex, alchohol, hobbies… nothing. This is because all finite things long for infinity. It is a part of our evolutionary impulse. It is a necessary part of of development in the physical world for without it we as a species would never have left the caves.

By contrast and by means of a Divine paradox, when we sit in the silence and simply observe ourselves, a few things happen…

By grace, we eventually come to realize that there are 2 aspects of ourselves: the seen and the Seer. We note how the seen, or finite self lives in Samsara, what Buddhists refer to as the prison. Yet wonderfully we also come to know the Seer Who rests in Nirvana, the infinite space outside of the prison. This Infinite Self which does not touch the stream of time, neither tarries with the vicissitudes therein, is in constant peace and bliss. Not happiness, happiness is an emotion for the finite self. Bliss is simply the freedom from emotions, all moving energies. Bliss doesn’t move within the heart like love, or burn within the chest like anger. It just is!

Practice Touching the Silence beloved friends. Sit daily in 2012, not trying to fit meditation into your day, but shaping your day around your silent time. Just sit without expectation until, by grace, the world melts into emptiness and you rest in infinity.

~Michael Ezell