What Scares You?

Several months ago, my friend Elaine introduced me to a free online subscription to receive thought-provoking quotes from John-Roger, a prolific metaphysical author. One of his books is entitled Loving Each Day; the daily emails carry the same name. Frequently, I save some of these powerful quotes in a special folder on my computer. Several weeks ago, I not only saved one, I printed it and posted it on my desk:

Nothing here is designed to hurt or harm you. It is all for you to use to lift yourself into Spirit. It all points you toward God.
It is all for your benefit.

I was reminded of that quote several times this week, as I walked through the Chicago and San Antonio airports, observing yet another inconvenient shift in the air travel experience. I had to check in my carry-on bag–something I’ve avoided like the plague for years, since spending my entire Hawaiian vacation without my luggage. I also had to trash the potentially refreshing bottle of water that I received at the front desk when I checked out of my hotel. These were annoyances; but they didn’t bother me nearly as much as a word that I heard repeatedly throughout my trip:

“Travel has gotten so scary,” they said. “Times are scary. The world is a scary place.” Nearby, eyes rolled and heads nodded in solemn agreement.

From where I’m sitting, it’s not the travel or the times or the world that’s scary, it’s our thoughts. It’s our universal inability to fully comprehend how Life works, and our proclivity toward separating and judging everybody and everything, based on our religious beliefs. And, our religion is the only one that’s right. Of course.

Let’s take a look at that, shall we? A careful investigation reveals that no matter what rituals, regulations, restrictions and rules the world’s religions wrap around their beliefs about what God is and what God does, all of them seem to agree on a few key principles that not only make the physical world less scary; they paint a totally different picture of Life and consequently, God.

Author Jeffrey Moses spent a decade traveling around the world, studying its religious scriptures, and he made an interesting discovery. All of them shared some basic Truths. His research culminated in a simple little book entitled Oneness–Great Principles Shared by All Religions. It’s one of the favorites in my spiritual library.

A quick glance at Moses’ table of contents reveals a few of the pearls that he found in practically every holy book; wisdom that too many of us have lost. A few are quite applicable right now:

The Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.)
There Is One God.
God Is Love.
Man Is Created in God’s Image.
Heaven Is Within.
Conquer with Love.
Blessed Are the Peacemakers.
Do Not Harm Anything.
Judge Not.
As Ye Sow, So Shall Ye Reap.

Let’s come to a screeching halt at that last one. It’s the one that I call “the karma memo”, the one that asserts that life is round: whatever you do circles back to you. For me, it’s the one that declares that Life is not only fair, navigating through it is dramatically simple.

I can’t help but notice that the message of the karma memo syncs up with several other Life principles shared by religions as diverse as Christianity and Confucianism: The Golden Rule, Do Not Harm Anything, Conquer with Love, and Judge Not. They all say the same thing in different ways, just in case we didn’t get it the first time. There appears to have been a concerted effort to drill this into our brains.

Ironically, even though these principles have been making the same declarations for centuries, we’re still choosing to do to others what we would not want them to do to us. We’re still harming others. We’re still trying to conquer through violence. We’re still judging without the expectation of being judged. We’re still waging war, fully expecting it to result in peace. Utterly fascinating.

Thousands of years have passed, and we still don’t get it. We still don’t understand that if the world is scary, our enemies didn’t make it that way; we did. We have planted and fertilized beliefs that Life is unfair and that God has announced a plan to torture us sadistically for eons, if we behave like humans and make mistakes.

It’s no surprise that our world appears to be a scary place. What we are looking at, Loved Ones, is the harvest of our own terror.

We’ve made it a ritual: Every morning we rise and take our places in the service line at a virtual buffet of fear, plates in hand. We ingest each mouthful, savoring each morsel. We keep our spiritual digestive systems in constant motion.

Unlike the rest of the stuff that seems to find its way into and out of our bodies, fear attaches itself to our inner being, keeping us always on the defensive, always ready to attack. We never seem to eliminate it from our systems, as evidenced every time we burp, “The world is scarier than it’s ever been.”

As fast as we can say “Jiminy Christmas”, others are nodding in solemn agreement. And the buffet table is instantly refilled for our next feast.

Ancient wisdom says that what we sow, we reap; but we’re too scared to be clear-minded enough to choose a peaceful, joyful harvest. Instead, we have agreed to let others dictate just how frightenened we should be at any given time. They play us like a kid’s xylophone, by color, until we’re scared enough to leap head first into the quid pro quo “you started it, so I’m going to finish it” abyss. We’ve allow ourselves to be chased right smack dab into the Dark Side, where the so-called terrorists lurk.

It’s not exactly the itinerary we thought we had booked. Oh, but we certainly did it. We just weren’t paying attention. We weren’t monitoring our thoughts. We weren’t questioning our beliefs. We weren’t listening closely to our words. If we were, we’d notice that we constantly give voice and life to our fears.

Fear wails bloody murder at such a high decibel that it rattles the very core of our being. All that racket prevents us from discerning a single word of wisdom that our omnipresent “still small voice” is trying to impart.

When we believe that we’re merely vulnerable physical bodies, unworthy in the sight of God, everything is potentially threatening. When we believe we are insignificant beings that are separated from a very distant and heinously punitive God who intervenes capriciously and lets bad things happen to good people, everything is potentially terrifying–from flying in a plane to falling in love.

Fear is truly a bad actor, the prototype for the ridiculously spoiled child who can’t be controlled by her parent. Fear has an absolute hissy fit until we agree to believe that the Golden Rule, Do unto others ONLY that which we want others to do to us, applies to everybody else.

Fear makes us believe that we must retaliate when someone violates us. It makes us forget that what is done to us is precisely what we’ve done at some point in our souls’ eternal life. It’s always stirring up mess, urging us to punish rather than forgive; then it plays the nut role when the circle becomes full and someone retaliates against us, rather than forgives.

This pitiful drama has encored ad nauseum, and will continue to do so until we learn some simple and ancient Life principles–or at least read them with some level of comprehension.

Fear insists that we should control the time and circumstances under which our enemy gets his or her due; and we should take care of that piece of business immediately, if not sooner. By contrast, faith in the fairness of Life (and God) makes it easy to remember that we should control nothing but our own consequences, knowing that our every action naturally meets its own joyful or painful karmic come-uppins–and so will our enemies’.

Many of us don’t understand karma, what it is and how it works. Most of us dismiss it as woo-woo and opt for woe-woe. I explain the concept quite simply in one of my other favorite books, EARTH Is the MOTHER of All Drama Queens.

Here’s the short version: Karma is the natural consequence of each action; it establishes natural balance. For example, you hurt me in some way. That pain might show up on the surface as my pain, but in reality what you’ve really done is sign a virtual requisition for someone to hurt you. You can’t see it with your physical eye and Lord knows, I certainly can’t–what with my crocodile tears, my whining, wailing, and that annoying runny nose.

Even though I might feel vulnerable, maybe even weak, in reality I have the power to make a life-altering decision. My decision is not going to change your life, it’s going to change mine. Problem is, I have to make this critically important decision under extremely stressful conditions.

What I know is that you will naturally attract someone to hurt you as deeply as you have hurt me. I merely have to decide whether I will be the one who puts that hurting on you.

If I understand that retaliating puts my signature on a requisition for someone to hurt me again, I will make the choice that doesn’t causes me more pain: I will choose to allow you to reap the natural consequences of your actions, instead of bumping my head in the karmic clothes dryer with you.

The problem is that when we’re stressed, we really don’t think clearly, do we? Our reactions are knee-jerk, habitual. We almost have to re-program ourselves, practice choosing joyful consequences with the small violations we encounter on a daily basis: smiling at the woman on her cell phone who almost ran into our lane, showering blessings the co-worker who makes our work day miserable, forgiving the dude in the express line with 30 items.

With enough practice, as I suggested a very nice woman earlier this week, we’ll be able to tackle the Biggies: I imagine that she will actually be able to send Light and Love to the friend who stole her husband and is trying to be mother to her kids. She will generously give both of those souls loving allowance to reap what they’ve sown–and back away.

We are not bodies. We just think we are. Our bodies are merely costumes we wear over our eternal spirits. And we don’t know our spirits’ histories. We don’t know if a situation is, as I like to say, “karma created or karma completed.” But we don’t have to know.

All we really need to grasp is this: Forgiveness transforms all of our consequences. It keeps us on the air conditioned side of the karmic clothes dryer. On the cool side, nothing is unforgivable.

Forgive your trespasser. Forgive yourself. Free yourself. Let the buzzer on the dryer announce that this karmic cycle is finally done. Hop out of that joker, empty out the lint basket, and keep it moving.

Or you can keep spinning. That’s what free will is all about. We get to choose our consequences. No one’s taking score. No one’s going to punish us for millions of years for human error–no one that calls itself Love, anyway. And, excuse me, no one else counts.

From the balcony of Earth’s theater, we can see so clearly that the track records of everything we’ve sown and all the consequences we naturally reap travel with our eternal souls, not our finite bodies. Planet Earth, physical life, the stuff and the people we’re looking at, this fascinating world that seems light years from God, is an illusion, pure fantasy. We think it’s real because it’s all our physical eyes can see.

See this: The physical world is constantly changing. Absolutely nothing here is absolute. Nothing here remains unchanged. Nothing here lives forever.

Real Life, on the other hand, is eternally the same; nothing changes. The rules apply evenly, for every soul. Not one escapes the consequences of its actions–ever.

Real Life is always fair. Physical life, by contrast, is always fear. We can’t plant seeds of fear and expect a harvest of faith. We have the freedom to believe, as John-Roger says, “Nothing here is designed to hurt or harm you. It is all for you to use to lift yourself into Spirit. It all points you toward God. It is all for your benefit.” Or, we can believe that others can harm us without harming themselves; that it’s up to us to settle the score; that the world was designed to be painful and scary; and that in another place, far, far away, lives a God who gives us the freedom to make choices and sadistically punishes us for…making choices.

Plant your seeds wisely; choose your thoughts, actions and reactions with a real understanding of how to stop your personal cycle of pains, big and small. And if you must be afraid, be afraid of forgetting that.

Know that I love you.

Slamming the Door on Summer (and Space) Travel

If you’ve noticed that the balcony has been eerily silent for the past eight weeks, it’s because the Loud Mouth has been traveling exhaustively—and staying in places where folks really make noise: hotels. Day or night, I was frequently jolted out of a dead sleep or deep thought by a slamming guest room door. Blam!

At home, we generally don’t slam doors near other folks’ bedrooms. Why do we do it when we’re on the road? Do we forget that hotel rooms are bedrooms, too? Blam! I haven’t the slightest idea. My guess is that they haven’t read the karma memo: Whatever you do will be done to you. When you disrespect others’ peace, you’ve written a spiritual requisition for your peace to be disturbed. Blam!

After weeks of enduring this annoying racket in a variety of gorgeous hotels, I decided to do my part to help my floor mates avoid their karmic fate. If you’re ever in a hotel room and someone has slipped a handwritten note under every door saying, “Thanks for not slamming your door! ( Your neighbors appreciate you”, just smile. The Loud Mouth is probably down the hall trying to get some sleep or write her next book.

Being on the road really makes me appreciate being home! Right now, I’m watching people lined up to board the Tall Ships. I’d love to join them, but it looks like rain. Obviously, they didn’t spend most of yesterday in a hair salon, as I did. So I’ll just watch the ships pull out of the harbor from the comfort of my desk chair.

Never mind. A few umbrellas just popped open. Watching people get drenched is not exactly my idea of great entertainment. Guess I’ll catch up on the news, instead.

Here’s a goody: Did you see today’s Associated Press report about life on Mars? How time flies. Apparently, it’s been ten years since scientists announced the possibility of Martian life. Looks as if a few of them have green cheese on their faces. After a decade of studying the evidence from a 4.5 billion year old meteorite that fell onto Antarctica, most scientists now agree that the claim doesn’t hold water—even though billions of years ago, Mars did.

Now that it’s quiet enough to think deep thoughts, the Loud Mouth is compelled to ask, “What’s up with that, my scientist brothers? Can we pull out to the wide shot a little bit, embrace Life as well as…uh, life?”

Chicken Soup’s Mark Victor Hansen tells this fascinating story about being with his grandmother when she made her transition. Doctors had just weighed her before she passed. They also weighed her immediately after she stopped breathing. Hansen noted that his grandmother weighed less; and he concluded that the Life within her must have weighed something.

Hey, I’m not a scientist; but I don’t think that breath has weight, does it? On the other hand, I think that Hansen was onto something by making the distinction between his grandma’s body and her Life. Was she the lifeless shell that stayed on planet earth—or the part that left the body? It’s a distinction that few of us make.

Life is always defined in terms that we know: physical terms. Bodies and other visible organisms are physical. But are they Life itself? It’s the kind of stuff Spiritual Sleuths love to explore.

I began my search by looking at how many definitions we have for the word “life”. What struck me were the wide variations. The 10 definitions in Wikipedia’s Wictionary (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life) dramatically illustrate this point:

  1. The state that precedes death and follows birth or conception.
  2. In biology, a status given to an entity including animals, plants, fungi, bacteria and sometimes viruses, etc, with the properties of replication and metabolism.
  3. In philosophy, the essence of the manifestation and the foundation of the being.
  4. In phenomenology, the subjective and inner manifestation of the individual.
  5. In Christianity, the essence of God, its own revelation.
  6. A worthwhile existence. e.g. He gets up early in the morning, works all day long, and even on weekends, hardly sees his family. That’s no life!
  7. The world in general, existence. (in life you should remember…)
  8. Something which is inheritantly part of a person’s existence, such as their job, their family, their loved one, etc.
  9. (colloquial) A sentence imprisoning a convict until his or her death. More formally phrased life sentence.
  10. The duration during which something operates, e.g.This light bulb has a long life.

Clearly, each of us views the word differently, depending upon our vantage point, our beliefs, and whether we’re sitting in the orchestra section or the second balcony of the world theater. Up close, we view life as only that which we can detect with our senses or microscopes. Our perception is limited to our relationship to the physical world. Those in the nose-bleed section, however, can see much more, frequently, they can even peep behind the curtain. Which is the grander, more comprehensive picture? Which puts everything in greater perspective?

A couple of years ago, when Florida was being battered by one hurricane after another, I called my friend Phil in Tampa to see how he was faring. As often happens during conversations about extreme weather, we speculated about the cause of it all. Mankind has been doing this for centuries. According to renowned theologians, that’s how we developed the myth that violent weather was punitively inflicted on us from a wrath-filled, vindictive killer who “lives” in the sky.

I wasn’t going to entertain that limited notion of God as a satanic fiend; so Phil and I considered the possibility that space exploration—and residue from the gases, fuels, and other debris spewing from the spacecraft—might disturb the atmosphere enough to spawn deadly storms.

“What gets me,” Phil said, “is that they’re up there looking for life on other planets, and they never find anything.”

“Really?” I wondered. “How do we know they haven’t found life on another planet? Granted, the astronauts and their cameras don’t see anything; but they’re looking for water, plants, and conditions that would sustain physical life.

“Frankly, I think life is invisible and takes many forms. What if life, in its invisible form, was chilling on another planet, guffawing at the dude in the Michelin Man suit, and wondering what in the world he was looking for?”

Phil laughed; but I was serious.

Is there life on Mars? The late Carl Sagan thought so ten years ago. A few experts still believe it, including NASA biochemist David McKay, whose NASA scientist brother thinks he’s dead wrong. That has to be the worst indignity, don’t you think? Your scientifically credentialed brother doesn’t even believe in you.

I contend that there’s life everywhere because I believe that God is everywhere—omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent. Yeah, yeah, I know that most folks think that God is sitting on a throne in the sky, heinously throwing down bolts of lightning, stirring up hurricanes and tsunamis, instigating diabolical ways for His kids to kill each other with pre-emptive attacks, devising gruesome, sadistic ways to punish His surviving kids, and engaging in the mind-numbing, never-ending job of keeping a scorecard of all of His kids’ sins.

Frankly, none of that sounds quite Godly, to me; but to each, his own. For me, God is Life and Life is eternal. You can annihilate bodies, planets and all physical things. Try to destroy Life. Just try. Long after Earth, Pluto and Mars cease to exist, Life/God will remain.

The next time we send a crew into space, looking for signs of Life on a distant planet, I hope they consider that their physical eyes have physical limitations. As scientists I hope they take into account that organisms are merely one of the many forms that Life takes.

And, in deference to the peace they find when they arrive on those faraway planets, I hope the crew doesn’t slam the door when they leave.