A Few Thoughts on Spiritual Peace

Peace that is based upon a circumstance is not spiritual peace.  For me, spiritual peace is both the experience of one’s True Nature (which is peace itself), and a general perspective on life.  To perceive through meditation and the grace of God that your True Self is eternal and indestructible is the source of a peace that cannot be shaken, and does not oscillate as circumstances inevitably change.  It is as if one is watching a movie that has all sorts of ups and downs, thinking that they are an actor in the movie.  Then they realize that the Watcher of the movie cannot be affected by the images that are, in reality, merely entertaining illusions.

Meditation does not solve all of one’s problems, for we must still do our duty, serve others, and remain subject to the law of karma as long as we are on Earth.  But spiritual realization catalyzed by deep meditation can give us access to a Peace that is beyond the constant ups and downs of life, and the gains and losses of karmic fortune.  People may pass out of our lives; we may lose all our wealth and talents; everything we love, and even our body, will someday be taken from us.  The wise, however, never grieve about this natural schema.  For the peace of God, which comes from understanding that you and God are eternally One, can never be taken from you.  To realize this for yourself is truly a priceless gift beyond any means of comparison!

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Zen Meditation in Activity

Introduction

Modern psychology has a strange way of categorizing the different aspects of our life.  Many psychologists emphasize that there are different spheres of life, and that we must find a proper balance in each sphere.  Everyone ideally, for instance, should have meaningful work, positive relationships, and soul rejuvenating hobbies.  Each sphere of life has different principals, and if one sphere is neglected our life becomes unbalanced.

There is certainly wisdom in this view, but all-too-often people make their spiritual practice just another category.  They divide enlightenment and the world, and allot spiritual practice only a portion of their time and dedication.  “This is my job, and there is my spiritual practice.”  “This is my prayer time, and there is the time I spend running errands.” “I go to church on Sunday, but during the week engage in ‘worldly activity.’” “I visit a monastery to live ‘the holy life,’ but my ordinary life in the city is mundane.”  Without realizing it, when we think in this way, we are re-enforcing the false view that the Divine and the world are separate, and our spiritual practice becomes just another delusion to garland our ego with.

When I began studying Eastern religions, my understanding of spiritual practice was utterly revolutionized.  In Zen Buddhist teaching, the tradition I have studied with the most depth, this very life is the activity of enlightenment.  There is not a moment of our life that is separate from enlightenment, from the Way, from God.  It naturally follows from this perspective that all of our activities are spiritual practice.

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Remembering the Goal of Life

“If a person beholds a lesser happiness and a greater happiness, let them leave behind the lesser to attain the greater.”
– The Buddha in The Dhammapada

It has been said that the spiritual path can be summed up in a single word: remembrance.  Remembrance of what?  The word remembrance points out that, in the spiritual path, we are seeking something we all know deep down to be life’s most important pursuit.  We all know that every person we love, and every material thing we cherish, will eventually be taken from us.  We all know that death will take even our body from us in a cosmic blink.  Deep down, we all know that true happiness cannot be found in impermanent things and people.  It can only be found in the realization of God, who is Bliss Itself and is our True Nature.

The word remembrance also reminds us that God-Realization does not imply the gaining of something.  Rather, the sages tell us that we have simply forgotten that we are God!  We have spent lifetimes upon lifetimes falsely identifying with our temporary minds and bodies, trapping ourselves in the illusion that we are not already Eternal.  Luckily, sages like the Buddha and Christ come to the Earth to remind us of what will truly bring us happiness, and to show us a path to Awakening.

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My New Book, Daily Bliss

Here is a link to where you can purchase my book on amazon: Amazon Page

Here is a link to the free pdf version:  Daily Bliss (Final Version)

Imagine we are having coffee together, and you ask me to explain my thoughts about God and the spiritual path.  If I totally disregarded your role in the conversation, and went on an excruciating five hour rant, the result would be my new book, Daily Bliss: Practical Ways to Experience God in Everyday Life.  All the things I consider to be essential concerning my views about God are contained in it.

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Perspectives on Forgivness

Introduction

The spiritual path is always easy until it isn’t easy.  Forgiveness, for instance, is something that most people say is good, and it is extolled by nearly every religion.  Yet when we are actually wronged, it can be so unspeakably difficult to choose forgiveness that it often seems like an unattainable ideal that human beings are simply not wired to embody. Yet I believe that forgiveness is literally inseparable from our relationship to God, and when we do not forgive, we do ourselves a great disservice.

Forgiveness is not merely a good sentiment, or even the “correct” thing to do.  Rather, it is a profound spiritual principal that, when we choose it, has innumerable blessings to reveal.  Forgiveness is a vast and profound topic, but in this post I’ll share my thoughts on five dimensions of it: forgiveness and health, forgiveness and God’s love, forgiveness and karma, forgiveness of yourself, and forgiveness and non-duality.

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Working from the State of Rest

America is one of the only countries on planet Earth that is, in its ideal sense, not defined by ethnic identity.  Ethnicity has, of course, played a huge role in our formation as a nation, and still unfortunately heavily influences us today.  Yet I am talking about America in an ideal sense.  Germany is primarily composed of the German ethnicity, France is the home of the French, Mexico has a majority of Mexicans, etc.  What is a America, however?  In its ideal sense, it is a nation of people who share a set of governmental values, and also a group of people who are seeking to create their own identity.  To be an American means to lack an ethnic root that other nations take for granted.  This fact has had interesting psychological effects on us and, in my opinion, has generally produced a restlessness that, for better or worse, has helped produce one of the most domineering and massive economies to ever exist.

Our diminishment of ethnic identity has caused us to seek identity elsewhere, and nowhere is this misplaced identity more apparent than in the way we relate to work.  From birth, we hear the word “do” repeated like a mantra that endlessly jabs our souls like a searing brand.  From almost the moment we leave the womb, we are asked, “What do you want DO with your life?” instead of “How do you want to BE?” As adults, when we meet people, the first thing we usually ask after asking someone’s name is, “What do you do?”  I do, I do, I do… When we describe ourselves, our professional identity usually is preeminent: I am a doctor.  I am a construction worker. I am a teacher.  I am, I am, I am…

In recent years, God has been working to reprogram my brain from this repressive and capitalistic way of thinking about identity.  What I do is indeed important because, in a society, we must all contribute, and I have a natural desire to help people with my work.  Yet I refuse to think about myself in terms of my contribution to the economy.  Factoring out my career, what do I do?  Ultimately, I BE.  I live inside of God’s Mind in a state of indescribable Union with the ever-blissful Lord of the Universe.  And who am I, in a more personal, dualistic sense?  I am a child of the Most High God, unconditionally loved with an depth that couldn’t be described, even if all the trees of this world were converted into a single scroll filled with love sonnets from the timeless Muse.  Even if I achieve more than any human being has ever achieved, God will not love me one iota more or less.  What I do affects my own karma and life circumstances, but my identity is not based upon my work, but upon God’s Love that is entirely unaffected by it.  Blessed and forever praised is the One who has revealed this to me!

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A Meeting with the Cosmic Boss – The Missing “Step” in the Steps to Success

There are a zillion blogs on the internet that give people “steps of success,” and many of them contain wonderful practical wisdom.  In my opinion, there is a “step” in the steps to success that is frequently missing, and that is having an “appointment” with God.  I do not worship the God of a religion, but the One Spirit that intelligently governs creation and has a purpose for every part of it.  Does the nameless and infinitely glorious One who is manifesting this very miraculous moment, and this very indescribably massive universe, have a religion?  Can the Infinite One be called a Muslim, or a Jew, or a Christian, or a Hindu?  Like tiny bickering birds scattering when a majestic lion appears on the scene, the confusing doctrines of our Earth’s various religions vanish entirely when you have an inward revelation that there is a Great Something that is responsible for everything, that It is intimately aware of you, and that It has a purpose for your existence.  Ultimately we are all different forms of God Itself, but in this post I am discussing God in Its personal aspect of Creator.  That is for another discussion, however…

In my opinion, this Great Something has a purpose for everyone, a plan A.  However, “God is a gentleman,” so to speak, and although He holds the key to our material and spiritual fulfillment, He will never force us to seek Him or to ask for His help.  God can do things for you in an instant that it would take you lifetimes to do on your own.  God can open doors of opportunity in a day that people work their entire lives for.  God can give you inward joy that when compared to all the wealth in the world is like a massive diamond compared to a dust ball in your pocket.

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Becoming a Master of Technology: Developing a Skillful Relationship with Technology from the Perspective of Spiritual Practice

technology

– In the 21st century, we must all learn to balance our use of technology with a lifestyle that is conduce to mental, physical, and spiritual health.

Introduction

What a fascinating age we live in!  Imagine traveling through time, and explaining the mystery of the internet to an ancient Roman citizen.  Imagine approaching Isaac Newton, holding up an I-Phone, and saying, “All the knowledge of humankind is now contained in this.”  Imagine Galileo, who worked tirelessly to create a telescope capable of seeing Jupiter’s relatively nearby moons, gazing through the famous Hubble Telescope at untold galaxy clusters that populate an ever-expanding universe!

Technology is a beautiful expression of the human mind, yet the way we use technology also reflects the dichotomy of the human condition, and our age old capacity for both good and evil.  The internet, for instance, is potentially the most innovative tool the human mind has ever created.  It has the capacity to educate every human being on Earth about the subtlest discoveries in science, the humanities, spirituality, and the arts.  Yet, a vast portion of it is used exclusively for pornography and cat videos… To use another well worn example, nuclear energy has the capacity to support humanity by providing power for entire nations; yet, as we all unfortunately know, it could also destroy the planet many times over.

I mention all this because I am philosophical by nature, and I typically cannot simply talk about a topic without shamelessly digressing about grand themes. This post wont be a grand exploration of technology’s effect on human society; rather, it will be a series of observations and practical tips about how to skillfully manage daily technology use from a spiritual perspective.

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Spiritual Priorities

When the spiritual path is painted as, “Love God, do the right thing, and only good things will happen to you,” it is a superficial and one-sided explanation that misses the deepest truth about why we are alive. The Divine indeed showers countless blessings upon us, a truth which anyone breathing air right now would be hard pressed to deny. Yet we all sometimes create suffering through our own bad choices and past karma. And, even when we are doing the right thing, I believe God sometimes allows disappointments, delays, and frustration in our lives to draw us back to Himself, and to remind us of the true purpose of life. For no material thing, person, or amount of success could ever take the place in our heart reserved for the incomparable joy of Divine Communion. 

I have found that sometimes disappointment is used to show me that I have been committing spiritual idolatry. Idolatry is not the worship of stones, but inner devotion to anything material we think will make us happy. If we truly believe that wealth, romantic love, success, etc. will satisfy us, we will soon learn the painful lesson that no impermanent thing can take the place of inner spiritual fulfillment. In this sense, the deeper lesson of some disappointments is not, “How can I do better next time” (even though such thinking has obvious practical importance) but rather, “Why did I think that this thing, person, or project could bring me true happiness?”

The good news is that once we learn the deepest lesson that only God-realization can give us lasting happiness, we can also enjoy the world as well. Jesus taught, “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things (i.e. needs and wholesome personal desires) shall be given to you as well.” This promise was almost identically spoken through Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita when he said, “Those who worship me and meditate on me constantly, without any other thought – I will provide for all their needs.” These are wonderful divine promises and express the double blessing of putting God-realization first in one’s life! Yet much of modern religion misses the first part of the promise which, if overlooked, nullifies the second.

The way such a principal manifests in the lives of unique people is surely a mystery. Sometimes people understand from the beginning that God-realization is the superior bliss, but sometimes people are drawn to the spiritual path through suffering. Yet whether people are drawn through knowledge or through perpetual disappointment in outward pursuits, it is my deepest conviction that at some point all people will learn the difficult lesson that God-realization alone can truly satisfy us.

Enjoy your day! With love,

-Jeffrey

Homosexuality, Christianity, and The Future of Scripture

Introduction:  A Hyperbolized Moment

A few months ago I was visiting my hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and I attended a local church on a Sunday night.  This church helps a lot of people, and the messages there have often inspired me during crucial periods of my life.  This particular night was only about one week after the historic Supreme Court ruling that finally granted gay people the equal right to marry, something that should be an obvious option in a secular democracy.  I was feeling somewhat down that day, and I expected to hear an inspirational sermon.

What I actually sat through was a 50-minute rant from a constitutional “expert” the church hired to speak.  He outlined how America had entered an age of destruction typified by the Supreme Court’s “disastrous” decision.  I won’t get into his political arguments here, but I will share how he dramatically ended his sermon:  in one hand he held up the Bible, and in the other hand he held up the Supreme Court ruling.  With a gesture of passionate defiance, he threw down the ruling, and lifted high the Bible to the rapturous cheers of the audience.

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