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!
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!’”
“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
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.
Looking 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.
“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 Dictionary.com 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.
The 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.
Sunburst offers surrender as one of the words that describes humility—surrender to the Divine. Who among us has not had those moments of excruciating pain and frustration over an unwanted situation that seems like it simply will not change? Those are the moments in which we can pick up and develop surrender to the Divine, dropping the story, the struggle, the fight, our resistance. Finally, we can just relaxing into what is. With this surrender comes the grace of peace, finally peace. There is nothing more to do. The war is won because the battle has ceased. Often, such letting go is followed by moments of tremendous grace, as if our resistance was a lock on the floodgate to Union with God.
We are taught to fight, to struggle, and to win. There is a place for that in human development, but at some point in our spiritual walk we begin to develop surrender, saying to the Divine, “Thy will, and not mine, be done.”
In the book, Cosmic Consciousness, is a detailed account, in her own words, of a woman’s experience of Illumination as it took place in the late 1800’s. It came upon her after a time of inner discontent, pain, and ultimately, surrender. She writes of this period in her life just before Illumination, “Something in life had been missed which it seemed ought to be there; depths in my own nature which had never been sounded; heights I could see, which had not been reached. The chasm between what I was and what I needed to be was deep and wide, but as this same incompleteness was obvious in the lives of others, it was accepted as my share in the common lot.” At this point, C.M.C. fell into a long physical illness which brought about her ultimate surrender.
She reported, “I had come to see that my need was greater even than I had thought. The pain and tension deep in the core and center of my being was so great that I felt as might some creature which had outgrown its shell, and yet could not escape…. The great tide swept on uncaring, pitiless, and strength gone, every resource exhausted, nothing remained but submission. So I said: There must be a reason for it, a purpose in it, even if I cannot grasp it. The Power in whose hands I am may do with me as it will! Meantime, with every internal sense, I searched for that principle, whatever it was, which would hold me when I let go. At last, subdued, with a curious, growing strength in my weakness, I let go of myself!”
This letting go, this surrender of herself, opened the floodgates of grace and she wrote about the immediate improvement of her condition, and of a surprising happiness that she began to enjoy. She describes what happened in the evening of that same great day. She said, “Perfect rest and peace and joy were everywhere, and, more strange than all, there came to me a sense as of some serene, magnetic presence—grand and all pervading…. Presently what seemed to be a swift, oncoming tidal wave of splendor and glory ineffable came down upon me, and I felt myself being enveloped, swallowed up…. Now came a period of rapture so intense that the universe stood still, as if amazed at the unutterable majesty of the spectacle! Only one in all the infinite universe! The All-loving, the Perfect One! The Perfect Wisdom, Truth, love and purity! …Then came the relaxation, the happy tears, the murmured, rapturous expressions. I was safe; I was on the great highway, the upward road….”
So, let us lovers of God fight the good fight. If we one day, however, see that we are fighting a losing battle, let us put all needs—ours and the needs of others—in the hands of the Almighty, resting finally, as did C.M.C., in the Everlasting Arms: “It was as if surrounding and touching me closely on all sides were the softest, downiest pillows. Lean in what directions I might there they were. A pillow or pillows which fitted every tired spot…. It was ‘the everlasting arms’. I was anchored at last!”
Dear God, help me to anchor in the truth that You have created all world; You fill all worlds; and YOU are the Savior in all worlds. I put all needs and outcomes in Your hands. I am the humble and surrendered servant of Your will. Show me the way, and I will walk it with all my might, doing Your will in this world, loving You with all my strength, body and mind, and loving others as my very own Self. Amen.