Tag Archives: beliefs

Burn a Koran Day?

I am not sure who started it, or how it began, but whoever came up with the idea for an international day to stand up and burn a Koran (or any other holy book for that matter) is just looking to stir the pot they live in. This describes to me a person who thrives on hate and chaos, and not a person that wants to spread love and peace.

While these people may not have invented international burn a Koran day, Drs. Terry and Sylvia Jones of the Dove Outreach center has a site dedicated to demonizing Islam. There are pictures of signs stating that Islam is of the Devil and a video that includes inflammatory clips about terrorists chanting their hatred in the streets.

This makes me feel sad, and sick, and angry. And maybe anger is not the way to go, but I can’t help it. Spewing the crap that is coming from this small church is not the way to peace. The Drs. Jones say that they follow the Bible, but to be honest I can find nothing of the Bible, or any other scripture that I know of in their words. What they are spouting is pure hatred.

I was inspired by a friend, who wrote a letter to the Joneses and sent it privately (and if she will let me, I will include it in the comments section later), to write my own letter, but instead of a private statement I want to make it public. So here goes:

Dear Drs. Jones,

This is an open letter to both of you and your congregation in Gainsville, FL. I hope that you will share it with them.

Over my many years of studying comparative religion, alternative beliefs, and even atheism I do not believe that I have come across a more hateful, non loving message from a church. You claim that you follow the Bible, but where I cannot see. Throughout the Bible, from the Old Testament to the New Testament, love is the law. The first commandment is to love God before all others, and then Jesus came and brought us the law to love our neighbors. These words start in Exodus and continue through Leviticus, Mathew, Mark, Luke, Romans, Galatians, and James. No where can I find a place that says hate thy neighbor of condemn thy neighbor if they believe, think, dress, act, look, speak, etc differently than you.

While I may not be able to stop you, I do hope that these words and the words of many others from the United States and around the world at least cause you to think and realize what hatred you are unleashing unto the world. What you are doing is going to harm and condemn so many souls, according to your own beliefs and sacred book. Your words and actions make no sense to me.

Instead, I am going to do what I can to counter act the hate you put the world and ask the people who regularly read this blog, who read this letter, and all the other places they are following us to take time on September 11th this year, light a candle, say a prayer, or just think good thoughts to help bring a little more love, a little more tolerance, and little more peace into this chaotic and crazy world we live in.

Sincerely,

Rev. Kelly Hunt and Rev. Zita Rudiger

Heartfelt Ministries, Plover, WI

With that my friends, please take 5 minutes and think peaceful thoughts on September 11th this year, and if you can continue it every day of the year.  This situation reminds me of a poem by Frank Outlaw.

Watch your thoughts,
for they become words.
Watch your words,
for they become actions.
Watch your actions,
for they become habits.
Watch your habits,
for they become character.
Watch your character,
for it becomes your destiny

Change and peace begin at home, let’s start spreading it today.

If you have thoughts that you would like to share with Drs. Jones, please leave a comment. I am sure that they would love to hear from you.

The Suicide Paradox

First of all, I am not suicidal, to be honest I am not even depressed, so you are not in for a whiney rant about how life sucks. Instead, this is more of a philosophical look at suicide, how religions view it and if that view is right or not.

For centuries, we have been told that suicide is the weak way out of life, the coward’s path. Judeo-Christian religions say that if you commit suicide, you go directly to hell…do not pass go, do not collect $200…and no matter what good you have done with your life, nothing can balance out that you took your own life. Buddhists believe that life is suffering, so if you are too depressed to go on, what else did you really expect? Wiccans and several other Pagan paths claim that all of life is sacred and taking your own life is shoving a precious gift from the Goddess back in Her face.

Then there is the whole reincarnation issue. Many religions and I would even venture to say most religions believe in reincarnation in some form or another. If you commit suicide and you know you are going to return to earth, what makes you think the next life is going to be any easier? Or what makes you think that you won’t be punished for your actions and come back as a lesser being (whatever that may be)?

Now, we are switching gears, just a bit…many people believe that we come to earth and live this life to learn certain lessons. The ones that commonly come up are learning to love, to forgive, to nurture, to be joyful, grateful, and at peace…and on and on. These lessons are always in a positive light, and it is great that we all want to learn to be a positive influence in life: ours and those around us. The problem that I have is that you can’t have the light without the dark; nature is always in positive/negative, yin/yang, male/female (and you get the point).

What if the lesson the suicidal feeling person was supposed to learn was the heart wrenching desolation, isolation, and depression that drives a person to take their own life? What if they are supposed to come back and be a social worker, psychologist, or other health care professional and their soul knowing that pain is imperative to their ability to help others? Do we assume that we know better than God, Goddess, Deity?

If we are really supposed to be here to learn specific and individual lessons, I would say that it is fair that we are supposed to let people live out the destinies that they have chosen for themselves. If someone tells you that they want to kill themselves, always take them seriously and intervene; you never know, it may be your destiny to change their mind.

All that being said, a good friend once told me that there’s always hope if you’re breathing, so breathe on friends, breathe on.

Prophets should Keep their Mouths Shut: Part II

When I posted the Aphorisms for Heretics a few weeks ago, I knew there would be some disagreement with those statements, but I must say I hadn’t thought that Rev. Kelly would decide they needed a full-on debate. I enjoyed reading her position, it was uniquely hers and brought up some good points: namely the ideal of a Prophet being a teacher of how to live in a humane and loving way, the wonderful diversity of belief the various Prophets have brought to us, and yes, even the minor point of a prophet in the role of a soothsayer (her notorious obsession with the Tarot—she does have some lovely decks of cards!)

While religious teachers through history have given us much that is good, their followers have often twisted those teachings or used them in ways that most likely would have appalled their originators. I will point out that it is not a Prophet’s fault if his followers choose to change things, but if the incentive had not been there, perhaps things might have been different.

If you have any doubts as to my stand on this position, I can point you to many, many historical examples: the Crusades, the Witch hunts of Europe, the events of 9/11; the persecutions of the Protestant Reformation when it was Christian against Christian, the bombings and infighting of Muslim sects at the current time and of course, the Holocaust. Even the Bhudda’s concept of the Middle Way has caused conflict and strife as his followers through the centuries have attempted to force compliance among other groups to their standards.

As far back as the ‘Heretic Pharaoh’ of ancient Egypt, Ahkenaten, conflicting religious visions have more frequently produced social strife, political turmoil and devastation than peace and plenty for all.

Believe it or not, my point is one of pragmatism, not religion: conflicting religions cause conflicting politics, often to the point of vicious bloodshed. When you believe that your God has commanded a course of action, anything goes. No crime is too horrible, no destruction too great, no devastation too much to be contemplated so long as it is committed in the name of the teachings. Those who do not follow those teachings must be removed to prevent their offending viewpoint from tainting the pure minds of your believers.

Had Ahkenaten not forced his monotheistic vision of sun worship on Egypt, they may have held onto their empire a little longer.

If Moses and Aaron had not lead Isreal across the desert, Canaan may well still exist and many of the problems in the Middle East may never have occurred.

Had Jesus kept up with the family carpentry business, the Crusades and Witch Hunts would not have happened, nor would the barbarity of the Holocaust stain all of Europe for generations.

If Mohammed had continued as a humble caravan leader and trader of the respected tribe of Quraysh, what would the map of the Middle east look like now?

In the light of everything that religion has done for us all, good and bad, I still cannot help wondering how different things might have been if the world had simply said ‘Yeah, okay, there is a God or Gods, but I need to get some work done, okay? ‘Bye.”

But for Kelly’s sake I would hope that there would still be Tarot cards—they are nice to work with some days.

 

Find your Peace, friends.

Rev. Zita.

Prophets should keep their mouths shut. Part I

For something a bit different this week, Zita and I agreed to take a side of one of the Aphorisms and argue it. I think that when we post a list like that it sometimes helps you to see where we are coming from, and know that is it OK to disagree with us (respectfully) since we do not always see eye to eye either. I believe that Zita is preparing her side to be posted on Friday this week, so keep an eye out for her rebuttal.

Aphorism #3 is Prophets should keep their mouths shut. According to Dictionary.com, a prophet is someone who speaks for a god or deity, or from being divinely inspired, or it is a person who predicts the future. And with that last part of the definition, we are all prophets at one point or another.

Without prophets, we would not have the wonderful variety of religions we have today. Granted each one claims their god is the true god, but each one also teaches very basic rules to living that, at least I believe this, we should all follow to get along with each other.  Muhammad, who was inspired to set up the 5 pillars of Islam , While 4 of those pillars have to do more with professing belief rather than living right, the 3rd pillar has to do with giving to charity or to those less fortunate than you are. I think that if we have extra, be that time, money, or stuff, we should give it to charity so that someone who really needs it can have it.

To some Jesus is the savior of the world and to others, who do not believe he is the Christ, believes he is a prophet. Either way, I think that he said one thing that makes sense over all the rest. Jesus claimed he was sent by God to bring us a new law, and that is to love one another. I think this just extends what Muhammad’s law about giving to charity, so now we have to care about those around us. We are supposed to love them deeply. Just think that if we all loved our neighbors like that, even if we didn’t understand them, how much more peaceful our world would be.

I could go on from a religious stand point, but let’s take a look from the practical stand point. The last part of the definition says that a prophet also predicts the future. Hmmm…I am not sure about you but the first image that is brought to mind is a Gypsy fortune teller. The Gypsies have a lovely and long history with magic and foretelling the future, would you want to take that away from them? And, OK that is not so practical, but it is a very cool image.

A more modern version of a prophet would be the weather person on the nightly news. Many of us depend on those prophets to know how to dress for our day or how to dress our kids so they will not freeze or overheat. What about those economists that predict how the various market s will do? They are a form of prophet, albeit one that is not very good at their job, but a form of prophet none the less.

Finally, on a personal note, I enjoy reading tarot cards and collecting them (I have 64 decks to date, and need a way to display them if you have ideas email the Practical Heretic).  Would you take a hobby that give me joy away; even if I am wrong about 10% of the time? The rest of the time I am very good at what I do and how I do it. Can’t I keep my prophet hood?

God’s Will???

I know it has been a while since either of us has written here, but admittedly it is sometimes difficult to come up with ideas to write about there. And since I am the one who thought that on a subject as broad as spirituality, it would be easy….I was wrong. In spite of that, sometimes an idea just falls in your lap, like this one…

I have a friend who emails quotes to me from time to time. Most of the time I think they are cute, smile, and hit the delete key. Today’s email kind of slapped me in the face, and said get busy (not really, I am not crazy, emails do not talk unless they have a video or animation embedded and then it is only sometimes).  So, thank you my friend, those quotes not only work personally, but professionally as well.

“To profess to be doing God’s will is aform of megalomania.”     -Joseph Prescott, aphorist (1913-2001)

While I have never really thought of it in these terms, I have to admit that Mr. Prescott was on to something. Who are we to think that God talks to us and needs something from us? The very idea of carrying out God’s will suggests that either God needs us to do something for him. God is supposed to be all powerful, all knowing, all encompassing….so if that is true, what could he possibly want from his creations? Honestly, I can’t think of one stinking thing, but I can think of several that I want from him.

OK, now that we have established that God does not need a thing from us, let’s go back to the fact that God may or may not talk to us. In most cases in modern society, if one of us starts talking about God talking to us, the rest of society labels them as crazy. Then we lock them up, medicate them, and send them to a therapist to look at ink blots, talk about their parents, and try to judge just how connected to reality they are. And in most cases, I am going to say that yes, this is the right course of action, and hopefully helps that person live a better life.

Now that we have discovered the practical side of me, let’s look at the completely emotional side. I do believe in a God/dess of some sort or another. My definitions of these things are rather fluid and hard to describe, so let’s just go with the word Deity, which is a nice all encompassing idea. Within my personal beliefs, I do think that Deity talks to us. Not in words, and not really directly, but through nature and each other. The rainbow that sometimes appears after a storm, that is to remind us that we are usually better and stronger after we have survived a struggle. Sometimes a friend stops by and says just the right thing to make us feel better, understand something that was confusing us, or just shows us that someone cares. So, in a way Deity does talk to us and care for us.

There are religions, like our friends at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who recently visited us and believe that God is speaking with their leaders regularly and giving them new commandments and revelations for them to follow. I do not agree with them, but will never deny their right to practice their beliefs either. Why would God choose to speak with them and not other religious branches who are just as dedicated to following the word of the Bible as they are? If God created all of us, why would he turn his back on any of us?

Many times we hear God the father, which suggests that he is a parent to all of humanity. If one believes what the Bible professes, God is the creator (parent?) of everything. Now I am a parent as well, and I know that no matter what my children did, I would not be able to turn my back on them. Even if one of them committed murder, which is one of the worst crimes we can commit against each other, I would be there for him. I may not stand up and defend his actions, and I would not take responsibility for them either, but I would not turn away from my child. If I knew about it ahead of time, I would do what I could to stop it, but not turn away after the fact.

Now that brings up an interesting idea. If God is a parent type Deity, then would he/she interfere with what we are doing? On the one hand, it is said that all humanity has free will and God will not interfere, but then we have some people saying that they are following the will of this god, that god, or the other god….so who is right? And how do we know what God wants? Every single material that we have that may possibly be divinely inspired has been given to us through human minds, mouths, and hands….therefore it is colored by our own experiences and beliefs, this included. Which means that the information may be right or it may be heretical, depending on the exact views of God. Since he has not made an appearance on Earth since the Garden of Eden (or some other long ago event, time, or place depending on your beliefs), it is not possible to ask him. The original stone tablets with the commandments on them have been lost to time. They were supposed to be written by the hand of God, and might clarify things for us.

Since a direct line to God is not possible, I guess we humans struggle along as we normally would and decide for ourselves if God has an agenda and should we buy into it, or is that agenda some other person’s? In the mean time I think that I will continue trying to be a good person: love my neighbors, my children, my family, and my friends; try to be more patient, since each of us is different; try to be more accepting of things I may not agree with but do not harm me; and basically try not to harm anything in this life…

What are you thoughts, God’s will or Free will?

Aphorisms for Heretics

Aphorisms for Heretics

 

In keeping with the spirit of the ‘Practical heretic’, the following are a few thoughts about religion in general. Some are obvious, some are less so, but all have at least the quality of (hopefully) being thought-provoking. It’s good to think, the exercise is good for the mind. I hope you enjoy them, and I would appreciate reading your own thoughts and comments on any that catch your eye.

1. God is infinite, Humans are finite; no human is equipped to understand the infinite.
2.   No Scripture ever was delivered from Heaven already printed.

3.   Prophets should keep their mouths shut.

4.   All Religions are equally right and equally wrong.

5.   Never trust anyone who tells you to check your brains at the door.

6.   Willful stupidity is common, but that doesn’t make it right.

7.   Never stop thinking.

8.   Never stop learning.

9.   Killing someone over a religious dispute will not change their mind.

10.  ‘If’ and ‘why’ are the two most dangerous words in any language; use them often.

11.  Authority should be questioned often, and the answers checked.

12.  Women have souls.

13.  Men have souls.

14.  Humans have sex. It’s natural. Deal with it intelligently.

15.  Stupid mistakes are regular occurrences; fix them as quickly as possible.

16.  Respect must be earned.

17.  Loyalty must be given intelligently, and withdrawn when necessary.

18.  Ask questions and listen to answers.

19.  Love is the highest good.

20.  When proof is available, ‘faith’ is not needed.

21.  Life is a process, not a result.

22.  Hatred and grudges are a waste of energy. You have better things to do, I hope.

23.  Murder is common, but that doesn’t make it right.

24.  The definition of what constitutes ‘sin’ changes from place to place and in different times.

25. Dogma is for people who have stopped thinking

26. The Infinite includes everything, even the things you don’t like.

27. A true God has no need to be defended by humans.

28. Be practical; the bills must be paid.

29. Be honest, it’s easier.

30. People gravitate to the gods they can handle.

31. ‘God’ has no religion.

32. Tolerance is challenging.

33. Help where you can.

34. Accept help when you need it.

35. You are responsible for the care and feeding of your own soul, no one else’s.

36. Pointing out other people’s faults does not change your own.

37. Happiness is a conscious choice.

38. Accept responsibility.

39. Forgive yourself first.

40. You cannot quantify a deity.

41. There is no mercy in nature, but nothing is wasted, either.

42. Polytheists do not start religious wars.

43. Monotheism is impossible–every person has their own definition of God.

44. The difference between a ‘cult’ and a ‘religion’ is social acceptance.

As thoughts occur to me I may be adding to the list, or you may have suggestions for others. Please let us know what you think? Have a great weekend, folks, and may you find your peace.

I am a Daughter of Eve, And I am Proud of My Mother.

I am a Daughter of Eve, And I am Proud of My Mother.

On this Mother’s Day, I had a few thoughts about the first mother that ever was.

Genesis is that tale of beginnings, endings and beginning again. We were made, we lost it all and we started over on our own terms. Humanity lost its status as a sequestered pet and stepped out to enjoy the benefits and pitfalls of free will.

And to whom shall we give our thanks for that gift of freedom and the right to choose? Why, the person who first seized that right and took it for themselves:

Eve.

In ancient Greek myths, Prometheus stole fire and knowledge from the Gods in order to give humanity a fighting chance. For this he was imprisoned and tortured by Zeus, but deeply honored by the humans that benefitted from his actions.

In the Biblical myth, Eve plucked the fruit that would give her the knowledge to discern good and evil, ate of it and gave it to her mate to improve his cognitive skills as well. God was angry, paradise was lost, men don’t seem to be too bright and women are in league with the forces of evil. That just about sums up the story of Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit.

The reaction of God was to curse Eve with labor pains. (Get off it: Push a nine-pound baby through a tunnel the size of a tube of toothpaste and tell me it isn’t going to hurt. That’s a major design flaw, as far as I’m concerned.) Adam, since he had merely gone along with the little woman, just had to work hard to keep his family fed.

There are a few holes in this story. If God didn’t want us to try things, why give us free will? Why mention the fruit at all? Certainly he could have put the tree some place where they wouldn’t have found it. In fact, why make the tree at all if it wasn’t to be used? Or are theologians so accepting of the idea that an omnipotent deity had no idea that his creation would want a taste?

“It was a test and Eve failed,” is the answer I was given in my childhood, “and now all women have to suffer because of her sin.”

Hmm. I don’t think so. Since I am flying in the face of several thousand years of cultural tradition, I will add a slap:

Eve did the right thing.

If you believe the myth as written in Genesis, then all of humanity sprang from those two, but they were still two individuals who made their own choices. They took the hit for it, too. I see no reason for me to take the heat for something I didn’t do, in spite of the opinions of scholars and priests of many religious sects. Get over it, guys. Eve was the First Woman, but she was not ALL women. That is not a mantle I am willing to assume and there isn’t a thing you can say that will convince me otherwise.

As for my opinion that she was right, let me put it this way: without her fit of the munchies, humanity would still be ignorant, naked, uncivilized and nothing more than pampered livestock in some sacred enclosure. There would be no music, no science, no curiosity, literature, art, architecture, or understanding of the world around us. We would be nothing to write home about, that’s for certain.

Yes, we would be nice obedient little monkeys, but that is all we would be.

Sure the snake told her what was up, but to follow through was her decision. She chose to be more and dragged her complacent mate along with her. Apparently she had a better opinion of her mate than he did, as is often typical of females.

Eve was not just the Mother of All; she was the Mother of Choice and the Mother of Learning. She was our Prometheus, the giver of that internal fire that drives us to become so much more than we could have been if we had been ‘obedient’.

She was brave, too. It takes some courage to disobey a God and we have never given her credit for that, either. She was the instigator of culture and we have never given her the kudos deserved.

And so on this Mother’s Day, I say “Thanks, Mom. Thanks for making me a thinking being that can look at things with a clear eye. It may not always turn out the way I want, but I learn from it, and thanks for that as well. Happy Mother’s Day, Eve.”

A Happy Mother’s Day to all of you out there as well. Call your Mom, she misses you.

Tolerance is difficult but well worth the effort

Tolerance is very difficult, but well worth the effort.

Tolerance is an advanced concept, reserved for the most civilized of cultures. In a social context, a definition of tolerance might be that it is to have an attitude of objectivity and fairness towards races, opinions, religions and practices that are markedly different from your own.

Sounds pretty good, right? So if you are a politician in a heated debate with someone over an issue, you can act like adults and listen to each other’s points in a fair and objective manner, with grace and intelligence. Umm, yeah, suuuure you can.

And Spin doctors treat motion sickness.

Most of us choose our friends based on how well they fit into our own world view. It’s natural to want to be around people who share your basic view of things. It’s normal, so don’t think I’m running anyone down over it. I do it too. But I like to think I am capable of expanding my world view a bit to include more variety.

To be a tolerant individual means that you also make room for those who may not exactly fit into that clique: perhaps you are an atheist, but your friend is Catholic. You favor a Pro-choice stance but they are Anti-abortion. To maintain the friendship you agree to disagree and try not to bump into one another at the rallies. That is one form of tolerance: an intellectual stance of respect for the attitudes and beliefs held by someone else.

Maybe there is a Muslim family in your neighborhood; perhaps their daughter wears the hijab, the traditional religious head scarf. Maybe she gets some flak for it, times being what they are. Tolerance in action would be walking her home safely and to introduce yourself to her family. To get a good neighbor you have to be one, don’t you? Makes sense to most people.

And then there is the advanced form of tolerance: respecting someone’s legal right to do something that makes you absolutely grind your teeth in frustration.

I have a passionate dislike for racism, but I must acknowledge that a Neo-Nazi has the same civil rights as anyone else to hold their views, no matter how repellant I personally find them. (I am likely to point out that the human genome project has proven that all of humanity is interrelated and came from Africa, many hundreds of thousands of years ago; but that is because I have a problem keeping my mouth shut at the best of times.)

That is where the objective part of tolerance comes into play. While I can support that a racist may hold those views, I cannot permit those views to be imposed on someone else without their consent. That is where tolerance becomes very, very hard.

My father was a WWII veteran. During the McCarthy era he hired a man who was under suspicion of being a communist. It was a difficult and dangerous decision for my parents to make at that time, when so little could get you investigated. While my father had no love for communism, he also had no love for trying to control how people thought. An advanced concept for the mid-twentieth century.

He was an ordinary man; not an intellectual or any sort of a free-thinker. He worked hard, went to church as everyone did back then and tried to raise his family as best he could. But he understood tolerance, not as an abstract, but rather it went to his very bones.

Tolerance was and is a part of living and helps to make our lives better, more rounded and far more interesting. New ideas can be discussed and savored, new art can be enjoyed or rejected, but from reason, not a knee-jerk reaction to the unfamiliar. While we may be shocked from time to time, there is nothing in the Bill of Rights that says we have a right to not be shocked. Thank goodness.

Tolerance is a form of respect for the lives, religions and opinions of others.

Tolerance is a right and a benefit to both those who receive it and those who practice it.

Tolerance is a necessity as our world continues to expand and we become more involved with the rest of the people who live in it.

Tolerance is a debt that sentient beings owe to one another and is paid in peace and cooperation.

Or at least that’s the way we would all like it to be.

Find your peace, Friends.

Religious vs. Spiritual

I thought that sitting down to write the differences between being religious and being spiritual would be easy, but let me tell you that I was wrong. Dictionary.com defines them as the same thing essentially, but I have issues with that. I do believe that there are plenty of similarities between the two groups, but there are also some vast distinctions between the two.

Religious and spiritual people both deal with an aspect of themselves that not everyone accepts, the spirit within and the connection to God, Deity, Goddess, Great Spirit, and the many, many other names out there that describe some aspect(s) of the infinite. But here is where I see the difference being made. Religious people allow others or an outside influence to define their relationship with what is infinite where as spiritual people tend to study the infinite from more than one angle and accept that there is more than one view of Deity.

This is not to say that all religions are bad or evil, they are not, and have in fact done some positive things for society. Religion was the first science. It was a way that ancient man could explain and control his environment. Granted most of it was not accurate or in some cases even close to what reality is, but it was a start to discovering why things did and do what they do. While science may have developed on its own, it may not be as advanced without the foundation in religion. Religion was the first laws, and in many small tribal societies the religious leader was also the judge of the law of the land since both were intertwined. This does not mean that I support such a system; laws should be secular so they apply to everyone, no matter what religious or spiritual practices they may be involved with.

Getting back to the more spiritual side of things, specific religions really do not matter much. The stories in religions teach the same basics: love one another, be a good neighbor, give to the needy, help out in your community, take care of your home, and take care of your person. So if these are the lessons that we all seem to think that we should learn, what is the purpose of religion? Many times the nitpicking of the small differences between religions seems to lose the more important, albeit more generalized messages of love, peace, and support. Some, not all, religious people have lost sight of that message and are breeding hate and contempt in place of love and peace.

Another point about organized religion is that there is a support system available to help individuals make moral decisions according to the beliefs he or she was brought up with. Spiritual people tend to be disorganized, in that they do not gather in one spot to worship or necessarily have a hard and fast dogma to measure their lives by, but a more general sense of right and wrong. While most of the time the spiritual person may not care that the support of a group is missing, and in fact enjoy it, there are times where support from a like minded spiritual group would be beneficial for guidance if requested or at a minimum, support.

Is there a moral to this story? Sort of. We should all learn, religious, spiritual, atheist, whatever to accept where that person is along their journey. We should accept that that person knows themselves and has chosen the path that is right for them. We should also try to be the best that we can be by loving ourselves, our households, and our neighbors. Be the peace that you would like to see in the world.

Practical Relaxation and Meditation

During January and February, we did a practical and spiritual journey through some mediation and relaxation exercises. Relaxation and mediation are great for a person’s body, mind, and soul. Today’s society is all about go, go, go, and what did I accomplish today, and how can I get ahead financially or do better than the Joneses. These techniques can help combat the damage done by the stresses we all face daily and can help us communicate with the Deity we personally believe in (if we believe in one).

The first part of any successful meditation session is to relax. Most of us only relax as we start to fall asleep, so as you learn to relax without sleeping and practice that skill, do not be surprised if you feel relaxed then only remember waking up.

A quick way to relax is to lie down on the floor or in your bed and tighten all the muscles in your body, hold for several seconds, then let go of the tension. This is done muscle group by muscle group, starting with the toes and continuing up through the calves, thighs, glutes, stomach, lower back, chest, upper back, hands, arms, shoulders, neck, and finally the face.

Now that you’re relaxed, the goal of mediation is to have a blank mind. This does not necessarily mean that all thoughts are gone, but that you are aware of any thoughts going on and just let them be. Many of the Eastern religions believe that at these moments, when your mind is so still, that God (or one of the Gods) can commune with you, but even if you do not believe in God(s), the relaxation and meditation exercises can be good for you, just by reducing stress.

Training your mind to enter into this flat or empty space, depending on how you see it, can be difficult to do. Our brains are so used to being active that slowing it down is sometimes near impossible. One way to help slow it down is to start by concentrating on a candle. A candle is a stationary object so not much brain power is needed to concentrate on it, but the flame moves a bit, making it easier to start with than a block of wood. As it becomes easier to see only the candle and not lose concentration, graduate yourself to smaller and even less interesting items, until you do not need an item at all.

Learning to relax and meditate is a process and usually a long one, since many of these concepts go against what we were taught as Americans:  doing nothing is bad; we are supposed to be constantly entertained. So, remember to give yourself time and a lot of patience.  Your brain needs time to adjust to its new expectations.