The Twelve Virtues

Developing Intuition

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In 1939, an article by Paramahansa Yogananda stated (excerpt):

Intuition is that directly perceiving faculty of the soul which at once knows the truth about anything. Unless you have the power of intuition, you cannot possibly know Truth. It is the knowing power of the soul without the help of the senses or the mind. Intuition can give you knowledge about things which your senses and understanding can never give. Intuition does not depend upon any outside data whatsoever.

Intuition means “soul-perception.” It shows the difference between true and false reasoning. Many books and courses of study are prescribed for students in school, but nothing is taught them about concentration and the development of the sixth sense–the all-knowing faculty of intuition. 

By the development of intuition one can outgrow the law of cause and effect in one’s own life. Intuition tunes the mental radio so that it can intercept all vibrations of future happenings which otherwise are deflected by diverse currents.

In India, Lahiri Mahasaya, revived the ancient meditation technique of Kriya Yoga for our era. He is quoted as saying: “Solve all your problems through meditation. Attune yourself to the active inner Guidance; the Divine Voice has the answer to every dilemma of life. Though man’s ingenuity for getting himself into trouble appears to be endless, the Infinite [Comforter] is no less resourceful.”

Sunburst’s teachings, outlined by founder Norman Paulsen, lead us to a life in greater harmony with the divine creative forces. He wrote and spoke of humankind’s evolutionary steps, which include gaining a “moral compass” that Norm says “derives from knowing our oneness with all life.” He goes on: “There will be no doubt of the Absolute Godhead, as every spirit shall see and know God, I Am That I Am, face to face.” There will be “no worry of death, or the future to come.”  

O Father, Mother, Friend, Beloved God! I will reason, I will will, I will act; but lead Thou my reason, will, and activity to the right things that I should do. –Paramahansa Yogananda

Permaculture and Virtue – A Perfect Marriage 

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By Ischa Lea

The backbone of our spiritual practice at Sunburst is the application of  the Twelve Virtues in our lives: Charity, Faith, Loyalty, Patience, Honesty, Perseverance, Temperance, Humility, Courage, Equanimity, Continence, and Compassion. This makes for balance, peace, and inner joy — the barometer of all spiritual success. Likewise, the application of these virtues with the Twelve Principles of Permaculture and Permaculture Ethics ensures success in our outward endeavors at Sunburst.

A successful Permaculture project is contingent upon the application of Spiritual Principles, whether we use such terminology or not.

Charity resonates with the Permaculture Ethics of Fair Share and People Care.

Faith and belief in our endeavor creates the motivation for success.

Loyalty among participants ensures steady commitment.

Patience is critical, for even the best designs and objectives in Permaculture are still subject to extremes in environmental conditions.

Honesty is important — As in spiritual practice, we must walk our talk.

Perseverance in meditation and living in virtue ensures spiritual advancement; likewise, perseverance in Permaculture and living in integrity ensures generational rewards.

Temperance in spiritual practice ensures balance; in Permaculture balance ensures that no strand in the Web is broken or weakened.

Humility in spiritual practice ensures that we’re not acting from our lower ego selves; likewise, humility in Permaculture ensures that we are open to suggestions, respectful of other’s opinions, and are able to “hold hands with each other” and work together toward our common goal.

Courage is critical: Spiritual advancement requires courage, patience and perseverance. Likewise, Permaculture cannot survive as a practice without courage, patience and perseverance.

Equanimity in spiritual practice means overlooking obstacles and maintaining even-mindedness in our goal to achieve enlightenment. In Permaculture we are faced with doing the same in order to maintain symbiotic relationships that ensure successful outcomes.

Continence, the practice of self-control, ensures the conservation of vital energies necessary for higher meditational practices. Likewise, self-control is necessary in Permaculture — it ensures that our goals and visions do not exceed our physical capabilities.

Compassion may sound simple; yet, in spiritual practice our ego selves can often propel us into being critical and judgmental rather than compassionate and understanding. Likewise, in Permaculture, without a loving and compassionate relationship with the Earth and each other as we work toward a common goal, there can be no successful rewards.

In the end, Permaculture at Sunburst is Spiritual Practice!

Permaculture and Virtue

Ischa during Sunburst’s “Permaculture As Spiritual Practice” workshop

Telling the Truth

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By Ischa Lea

Recently, sitting, wondering what I might write about and figuring it would come to me, I decided to lay it to rest for a moment and turned on the tv just in time to see an older man holding on to a young fellow by his collar admonishing him, “I’m gonna get you to add another virtue to your list – how about telling the truth?”

“Wow!” I thought, “That’s what I’ll write about!”

The twelve virtues have been referred to again and again in many disciplines, being expressed also as the predominant energy of its astrological counterpart. Reflecting on the Sunburst teachings, one of the paths of conscious living happens to be Speech. Looking further, I realized that its counterpart among the twelve virtues is Honesty.

Thinking about this and focusing on the topic of “Telling the truth,” I realized that it takes great Courage to be truthful every day—before oneself, before God, and even more so before others. It takes Perseverance to continually practice being truthful. It takes Patience to offer with tender words the truth. It takes Humility to tell the truth, not caring in what light others may cast us for doing so. It takes Forgiveness and Compassion to honor someone who is being truthful, even if that truth may tug at our sensitive nerves. And above all, it takes great Love to be able to rise above the aftermath that truth often engenders.

In the following excerpt, Victoria Raynor writes regarding the great philosopher and mystic, Aristotle:
“He believed that the function of a human was to engage in an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue.”

Reflecting on why certain companies, foundations, and spiritual organizations have endured, grown, thrived and gained respect over decades, one salient feature seems to stand out—that to the best of their abilities, they operated being truthful to their mission—to offer good products and services, operate in integrity, and take good financial care of all those upon whom their success depended. Respect for each other was key. People were more than workers or members; they were invaluable to the long-term survival of the whole.

As this New Year dawned, millions of people made new resolutions. It’s been said, however, that only a tiny percentage of resolutions are actually kept. Thinking about this, I realized that the reason might be two-fold: Firstly, that our old habits of thinking and behaving die hard. And secondly, that if we live truthfully in our lives, the very Universe would bend to our assistance, ensuring that our dreams, desires, and resolutions are fulfilled, bringing us more joy in our lives.

At Sunburst EarthLight Fellowship, a sacred seed ceremony was held to commemorate the dawning of the New Year and a new energy. Beautiful melodies filled the air as each participant offered into the fire the seeds of old habits, old thoughts and old desires. Prayers and seeds of new desires and good habits were also offered into the fire for divine blessings.

What an amazing feeling it was to release the old and bring in the new in such lovely settings, surrounded by loving soul travelers and filled with the blessings of Divine Spirit! How gratifying the thought that the New Year brings another opportunity for telling the truth, and living the truth.

Help me Oh Lord that in truth I may stand

‘Though tattered, worn, disappointed I may be.

I know that perfection yet a myth is to me,

But Lord keep me rooted in truth before thee.


May the good that I seek for myself of use be,

To all brothers and sisters thou hast sent to me.

Help me to carry out thy greatest command,

That with the same love, as for myself I hold,

I may take tenderly each brother’s, sister’s hand.

New Year's Eve Seed Ceremony

New Year’s Eve Seed Ceremony

Dissolving Pride Into Love

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By Sharon Ray

Humility can be a hard thing for Americans to grasp. We’ve been raised in a culture that is competitive, where people are actually applauded for clearly “making their mark” as being better than others. We are raised to strive to be higher than, better than, and to shine brighter than others. The climate of competition leaves some feeling that they have more intrinsic value, and others feeling that they have less. Neither position is true, for the Divine lives in every heart. We are all equally, infinitely precious.

This culture of standing out from and above others is not an exclusively American phenomenon. It is a condition that exists all over the world. It is a human condition that needs the medicine of Humility which dissolves pride into love.

In a valiant effort to avoid self-glorification, often people will take the opposite stance away from pride: self-deprecation. We are all children of God, made in God’s image and likeness, and depreciating ourselves is just as false a practice. It is false to say, or even worse to believe: “I’m really not as capable or worthy as others. They shine and I’m dull. I can’t do the great things that others can do.”

Love, the Mother of Humility, takes neither of these two positions. Love cares nothing about being higher or lower, and wants only to be at one. Love wants communion, to be in relationship with others the way that the fingers on two hands can be interlaced. Humility, born of Love, knows that being higher is separation; being lower is equally separation.

Love lives in the truth. The truth is that we can all shine brightly—bright light is our very nature. Doing wonderful things is the Divine drive of the Soul. The important thing is to give all the credit to the Divine whom we are expressing. St. Paul said to the Corinthians, “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? Let he who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Encouraging us to shine our light, the biblical book of Matthew says, “Nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

So, let’s shine in the image and likeness of the Divine, and do great things to uplift this world, saying, “Thank You, God, for living through my life!”

Ultimately, Humility will be experienced by each of us through God-Realization, and we will perceive, experience, and rejoice that there is only One Doer. We will know, and say, “I Am. I Am. My body is this whole world. I’m not higher than; I’m not lower than; I am every being. One. There is only One. I Am that One. I Am that Love.”

Father–Mother Divine, help me to use this lifetime to uplift this world giving all the glory to You, the Divine Doer of All. I rejoice that we are One. We are the Love of the Universe. Amen.

sunset in heart hands

I’m Down? Loyalty Is Up!

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By Sharon Ray

Our lives have been touched by the Divine. Yes, we have been touched, exactly like the lighting of a candle. Our candle has been lit, now we are the protectors and tenders of that fire. The flame that has been given to us is our most precious possession. We want to build that little flame into a blazing bonfire of devotion that will magnetize the Divine to us; and in that Unity we will feel what Norm spoke of as “God’s unbelievable love”. We will feel the Glory of the Almighty Creator who loves us more than we can imagine. Those who know, say, “God wants us a million times more than we want God!”

Sometimes on the Path I get discouraged. I think I’m not growing fast enough, or I think that for God’s sake, I should be enlightened by now. It makes me feel like giving up, except, I’m really lucky: I know that for me, there’s nothing to give up to; there’s nowhere else to go; nothing else worth pursuing. I know that the pleasures I’ve had can’t compare with the pleasure of attaining the One I am seeking. Those who know, tell us, “God is the most relishable!”

So, when I’m down, loyalty is up, and it says, “Redouble your efforts.” Paramahansa Yogananda said, “Results are found by forgetting about results and going on working for them.”

flame-heartSo, when I want to feel the touch of my Divine Parents, when I want to come closer to God, I have to practice loyalty and STAY with my Lord: I have to give my Beloved more of my time, in meditation, in doing the things that inspire me, in tuning into the Presence throughout the day, that Presence that is always here supporting us, and is always HERE for us, loving us. God is very loyal to US, because that loyalty is born of an intense Love; and as we fan the flames of devotion, our loyalty will grow until we can say with all our heart,

“Lord, there is nothing I wouldn’t do for You.”

Beloved Father, Mother God, teach me to be loyal to the path homeward, to do everything I do for Your sake, to never give up– having faith that you want to merge with me even more than I want to merge with You. Help me find ways to prove my love and loyalty to You by practicing virtue especially when it is most difficult. Help me find the daily quiet time I need to build my relationship with You, giving Your Presence my full attention. May my love for You grow until I can truly say, “Lord, there is nothing that I wouldn’t do for You,” Amen.

Temperance and Our Earth Mother

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By Sharon Ray

One of the beautiful transformations that happens to us along the spiritual path is that compassion for and oneness with all things increases. We don’t have tunnel vision on our own needs anymore. Our scope becomes much wider and ultimately covers the whole world and everything in it. The feeling of Ahimsa (harmlessness), grows strong in us and we care about the health and welfare of everyone and everything, including the planet.

Driving into the Sunburst Sanctuary, I am often struck by how feminine the lines of the earth are, those rolling hills are so reminiscent of the female outline in all its softness. “Earth Mother,” the planet is often called for her loveliness and for all she gives to support and sustain the lives of all who live upon her.

Sunburst teaches that good “stewardship” of the Earth’s resources and refraining from waste are practices that belong to the virtue of temperance. Norman Paulsen, Sunburst’s founder, wrote, “If God is indeed all things, then all images should be treated with respect. With this in mind, waste not that which God has created. Be temperate in all pursuits.” When we love something we take care of it well. Love is the center from which temperance and all the virtues emanate.


I recently viewed a documentary on YouTube called, “The Overview Effect,” and it powerfully deepened my appreciation for and love of our Earth. In the movie, astronauts who have seen the Earth from space were interviewed. Their description of this life-changing experience is accompanied by footage of our lovely blue-green planet floating in space. The astronauts say that it is a moving experience to see the Earth from the rocket’s perspective where the background is the black sky of outer space. As the Earth turns, the ozone can be seen as a very thin layer glowing and hugging the surface of the Earth. One astronaut said that it struck him how “paper thin” the atmosphere is, and how sobering it is to think that this tiny layer “is all that protects every living thing from death.”

“The overview effect” is the name that was given to describe the transformational shift in perspective that so many of the astronauts experienced in space, where this feeling of unity and oneness with all life came upon them. They felt without a doubt that their individual self and the species as a whole is a manifestation of a larger Whole. They saw the Earth as an exquisitely beautiful, “living, breathing organism, extremely fragile.” It was seen that Earth is “an oasis against the backdrop of infinity,” and that everything we do on one side of the ecosystem effects the other side of it.

How important, and what a joy is the practice of temperance towards the Earth’s resources—not to waste or harm, but to choose wisely, realizing that Her welfare is in our hands. In thanks for all we are given, we can give back the gift of good stewardship!

Oh, Mother Earth, how lovely you are! Thank you for sustaining my life with oxygen, water, food, and for blessing my life with your natural beauty. Help me to be a good steward of your health and wellbeing, to be temperate and use only what I need, and to think of your welfare as I live and make my choices. Help me to find ways to make my life a healing blessing to you, dear Earth Mother!

Loyalty and the Red Rubber Ball

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by Sharon Ray

The equinox just passed on March 21st, and we are springing into the vibration of Aries, which is the virtue of Loyalty. This is a great opportunity to celebrate our love for the Divine, our love for the Path, and our Loyalty to both.

“Loyalty is the first law of God.” – Paramahansa Yogananda.

How loyal God is to us! He is never in another Universe, not watching us. From without and from within our Soul, our Father-Mother God watches us always.

The question is: With all the ups and downs of life, how can we keep our eyes on the Divine Presence always? How can we loyally stay connected to God? We are so conditioned to react to life’s circumstances, good and bad. It’s the practices on the Path that can keep us in the inner peace and joy that is the Presence of God within us.

The problem is what I call the Red Rubber Ball Syndrome. When I was a kid, we had these really cool red, rubber balls to play with on the playground at school. Some were so big you could hardly bounce them, and some were so small you could hardly hit them; but the medium sized red rubber balls (RRBs for short), were just right. You could throw them WAY up in the air, and you could DASH them onto the ground and watch them fly up again.

Life is like that. We let Circumstance hold us in its hands like a red rubber ball. When something good happens and we get the EXACT thing we have been waiting for, Circumstance throws us WAY up into the air with excitement. This is the “WOO-HOO!” of life. There is no dignity in this at all.


Then there are the times when we get exactly what we didn’t want, sometimes quite suddenly. Then what? Since the RRB is in the hands of Circumstance, Circumstance plummets us onto the floor until we are as red as a red rubber ball. This is the “BOO-HOO!” of life.

My car of 3 yrs—I still owe on it—was pronounced deceased. I cried, but then put my nails into the RRB. Reeling with all the unpleasant possibilities this predicament posed, I told myself to BREATHE and to find my feet. With faith, I put my situation in God’s hands and realized that one can actually live in the mystery of life with some acceptance of not knowing the outcome to every situation.

The solution to living in the WOO-HOO and BOO-HOO syndrome is: We must take the RRB of our inner experience away from Circumstance, and HOLD IT OURSELVES.

“Hold onto the center,” Lau Tzu proclaimed in the Tao Te Ching. If we are to escape the “WOO-HOO” and “BOO-HOO” of life, and loyally live in our center where God’s peace and joy abide, then we must put our foot down and say:

“I am NOT, going to allow Circumstance to throw me up and down. I’m going to live a life of dignity, in communion with the inner Spirit. I’m going to loyally keep my eyes upon the Light. If Circumstance brings me something very exciting or very painful, I am going to say the same thing to each. I’m going to say, ‘Peace. Hold onto the red rubber ball. Don’t drop the ball. Where is my breath? Focus on the breath. Okay, breathing, breathing. Where are my feet? Feet on the ground. I can feel my feet on the ground, and my breathing. Subtle joy, O subtle Divine joy! Only You, Lord! Lord, I am Thine! I am loyally ever Thine!’”


The Rose Petals of Faith

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by Sharon Ray

“Faith is that belief I have in You, O Giver of Life,
a force of energy and consciousness that is projecting everything I see and know.
My heart beating this very moment, this beat, this pulse of life—
what a miracle it is to burst forth from sleep and greet another day.
Oh, how I do delight in being alive!”
– Norman Paulsen

The wonder of creation, and the testimony of the inner Spirit are ample proof of the existence of our Father-Mother God. The fruition of the playing out of many lifetimes is to see our Creator face to face—and not only this, but it’s possible to fully embody the Spirit of the Divine. The Path to these experiences is strewn with the rose petals of faith, the faith that it’s all possible.

In this month of Pisces, contemplating the virtue of Faith, we celebrate how deeply touching are the moments when we experience a piece of the wonders of which we’ve heard or read, but never before experienced. How joyful to find the Path to be true when we first hear the sound of OM, or first see our inner vision flooded with color, or catch the first glimpse of the Star that shines at the third eye. What graces! What joy! These are the fruits of our offering ourselves to the Divine—an act of faith.

Father-Mother God, I offer myself to you. Please gift me with the faith that is required to walk this Path unto its great culmination: Oneness with you. May I embody all of your virtues so that I may see as you see, and love as you love. May I serve you in my brothers and sisters that they might find that same joyous Oneness in themselves.

“God’s word is:
‘He who strives never perishes.’
I have implicit faith in that promise.
Though, therefore, from my weakness
I fail a thousand times, I shall not lose faith.”
– Gandhi



Charity Is the Nature of Divine Spirit

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By Sharon Ray

O Divine Giver of Life, may I become a true recipient of Your cosmic healing forces, and then may I join You in helping others wherever I can.
– Norman Paulsen

Charity, the selfless act of loving and caring for others, grows as we grow. Charity, as Norman Paulsen put it, “is the nurturing nature of Divine Spirit!”

Sometimes I lay in bed, so warm and comfortable that I pray, “Oh God, thank You for this grace; please multiply it around the world to all those who need it.” I imagine God creating many miracles of love, making those sleeping on cold hard floors feel as warm and comfortable as I am in my bed.

God takes our prayers seriously. We have to be watchful for the moments when we are given the chance to participate in their fulfillment. This happened for me the day I drove into a parking lot in town. On the corner I saw a woman in a wheelchair, clearly homeless, and sheltering herself as best she could from the relentless, cold wind. I normally don’t approach the homeless, having some kind of fearfulness about doing so, but this day I wanted to break that in myself with this woman.

flowers in handLooking into her beautiful blue eyes, I found out her name is “Elizabeth”. We became friends. She shyly inquired of me, “Could I ask you for a favor? It’s so cold at night, and I know it’s a luxury, but could you go into Ross and find out how much their pillows cost?” As I went to my car to get my purse in anticipation that I might be able to find the things she so needed, an intense compassion filled my heart and tears filled my eyes. I asked in wonder, “God, what have you done to me?”

I found a pillow and comforter set in pink, for about twenty bucks. As I stood in line it suddenly dawned on me: God had given me a chance to fulfill my prayer directly! Spirit is giving me the opportunity to help Elizabeth to be as warm and comfortable as I am in my own bed. Wow!

The nurturing nature of Divine Spirit comes forward in us as God opens our hearts along our journey to the realization that God lives equally in all of us. We rejoice in giving, feeling that the needs of others are as important as our own. Not only this, but there is the joy of serving the Divine Beloved when we serve others—we now understand Jesus’ words, “That which you do unto the least of these, you do unto Me.” God is serving God, through each of us.

Oh Divine Spirit, open my heart to serve You in all people. Through acts of charity, may I become the instrument of Your very heart.


Creating a Temperate Climate Within

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By Sharon Ray

“Temper, temper, temper!” These are the words we used on the playground, way back when, to tease other kids who were very angry. I used to think that the words “temper” and “anger” meant the same thing, but actually the word temper is the root of the word “temperance,” which is defined by as “moderation or self-restraint in action, statement, etc.; self-control.” So, as kids, we were actually saying, “Get a hold of yourself!” The process of tempering steel or glass makes it stronger. How can we make our characters stronger so that we no longer overindulge in intense, negative emotions? How can we build the virtue of temperance within ourselves?

Sunburst teaches that “restraint” is one of the words that defines temperance. If we look at it, anger, like all other unpleasant emotions, arises from a thought. Enlisting a good dose of compassion and forgiveness towards the perceived cause of our woes, if we then restrain our thoughts by guiding them back to the present moment, we can put an end to much suffering since much of it is NOT arising from something that is happening NOW.

When we are “in the now,” we create a temperate climate within ourselves. We are not tortured by past resentments and regrets, or future worries and trepidations. This is what the Buddha called “mindfulness” (mind-full-ness). We literally give the mind something to be full of other than the past or future—we give it the present moment. The senses can help bring us there.

We ask ourselves, “What am I hearing right now? What sounds do I detect?” or, “What sights do I see? What taste is in my mouth?” The key is to be aware of these things, to let the mind be busy with what’s going on now, and to stop its wandering.

Another powerful practice to help establish ourselves in the present moment and to create and maintain a temperate climate within, is to become aware of our breath and to describe what it is we are doing right now: “Breathing, I am driving, and I know I am driving,” or, “Breathing, I’m typing, and I know I’m typing.” This can apply to emotions also: “Breathing, I feel angry, and I know that I feel angry,” or, “Breathing, I feel happy, and I know that I feel happy.” The key here is to be awake to what is happening now, and this helps things from running amuck and keeps us on track. The practice is to identify with our awareness, not with the experience we are aware of. We are identifying with the awareness that tells us we’re angry, and not with the anger.

tropical beachThe wandering mind does not only wander into wonderful fantasies and pleasurable memories, the wandering mind wanders also into all the dark and painful places. So, the remedy is to temper the mind’s wanderings, transforming it into a mind that’s awake, awake to life here and now. The most wonderful thing about this practice is that what is right here right now is God, I Am That I Am. In that name God has given Itself, every word is in present tense, and in the present moment we can make our minds full of sensing for the presence of the Divine.

Meditation is one-pointed concentration on keeping the mind right here right now, or on the present Presence of God. What an immeasurably helpful tool! When combined with devotion, one’s life becomes ceaselessly connected to the divine Source, always right here right now, always full of peace, wisdom, and compassion. “I am breathing, and walking; I am sensing the presence of God.” What a wonderful respite from overindulging on thoughts about the past and the future.

Norman Paulsen, Sunburst’s founder wrote,
“I enlist you, Temperance, to become the captain of my actions.
Yes, I call you forth from deep within my castle, riding on your mount of deliverance.
You, among all the twelve knights of virtue, strengthen my will to decline the beckoning allure of overindulgence.”

Dear God, help me to temper and transform my wandering mind into a mind that is stable and established in Your presence here and now. Thank You for this abundant life where beauty is everywhere to be found and I truly have all that I need. You are my great Mother, my great Father, and I always want to be right here where You are.