Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

The F Word

            No, I am not referring to the four-letter “f” word. I am referring to feminism. Feminism is a term that became popular after World War II when women started to stand up for the proposition that they were equal to men in all respects. At the time, men reacted quite violently to the proposition that women had a place in the workplace, government, the professions and the arts. However, women had enjoyed an increased sense of importance during World War II as they assumed roles all across society that had been held by men. When men returned from the war, they found that women had taken their roles, and men assumed that women would meekly return to their supportive roles.

           The concept of feminism suggested the end of patriarchy, and a return to the Divine Feminine. The Divine Feminine is a concept recently adopted by the New Age movement, but actually finding its roots in France based on the legend that Mary Magdalene left Palestine after Jesus ascended and started churches in Southern France. The etymology of the word feminism comes from a French word “feminisme” allegedly created by a French philosopher in early 1800’s. The concepts of feminism were founded much earlier, based upon the legends of the Amazons and Valkyries of Europe and the religion of the “Black Madonna” in southern France.

           Feminism is not a simple concept in modern times. Terms like “White Feminist”, “womanist”, “Intersectional Feminist”, “sex positive”, and “TERF” make the concept of female equality quite muddy. How one views slave trafficking, pornography, and abortion makes debate quite passionate and divided. However, regardless of the politics or issue specific debates, feminism is a concept whose time has come.

           First of all, feminism must champion the ideal of compassion and understanding. In other words, we have to start listening to each other, rather than be stuck in the old rhetoric that men’s opinions are greater than women’s. Women have to insist from their male counterparts that they must listen to what women have to say. Men have a tragic history of teaching youth that the male point of view has more merit than any other and that must stop. The whole concept of the Divine Feminine rests upon the ideals of compromise and cooperation. For women to meekly do what ever they are told is not appropriate any longer. We have to start building consensus across sexual barriers. We have to start teaching our youth that we live in a world that has reached the brink of destruction because we have ignored our Divine Mother and desecrated her temple, the Earth.

           Second, feminism must embrace the notion that all people are equal, not only on a sexual basis but also racial, cultural and religion. Feminism must especially embrace the equality of religion or we will continue to destroy ourselves in religious crusades to wipe out all competitors for God. For God’s sake, we can no longer kill each other in the name of God. This also brings into play the debate of women in the military. We have totally missed the issue. It is not about getting women into the military, it is about eliminating the need for the military for any reason. Putting women in the military only brings women down to the level of the Neanderthals that think violence is a solution to anything. Women have to create a consensus of peace.

           Third, women have to start voting. There are more women than men in this world. So there is no excuse for men to win any political agenda. The women who have lead their countries since World War II have done much better than male counterparts. I am referring to Indira Gandhi (India), Mary Robinson (Ireland), Margaret Thatcher (England), Golda Meir (Israel) and others. It is time for women to start lobbying in earnest to be the leaders of religious movements as well. It is time for a female Pope, Dalai Lama, and other religious leaders. Men have to be convinced of the wisdom of balancing the power of the sexes.

          Finally, and perhaps most importantly, pornography, prostitution and slave trading is all about male dominance over women. Feminism must stand up and stop this, perhaps before we tackle anything else. The concept that women will sacrifice their bodies to make money is as old as history. The temple virgins of ancient Greece and Rome weren’t virgins at all; they were religious prostitutes. Being a former lawyer, I recognize the impossibility of regulating morality, but this is a fight worth fighting. We have to empower women to stop selling themselves if we hope to create equality; if we are to survive. Feminism must enable everyone to speak for justice and equality. The time for patriarchy is over.

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

All of the Suffering May Be Worth It

            I read an old Hindu story a few days ago that bears repeating. There once was a “Raja” (king) that wanted to go see his kingdom. He sought out his court physician to go with him to see the state of his subjects. While he was touring his kingdom, he got a splinter in his finger. He held his finger out to his physician and ordered him to get it out. The physician cut open his finger and removed the splinter. This surprised the raja, and having a very short temper, he started beating the physician, chasing him and shouting at him. The physician, fearful of his life, jumped into a well. The Raja looked down at the physician and screamed at him that he would not be saved, and that he would die at the bottom of that well.

            The Raja then went off back towards his palace. The Raja was captured by a band of thieves and outlaws. This band was well known for killing anyone that they captured as a sacrifice to the gods. However, if the victim had an open wound, they would not kill him, they would just beat them severely and warn them not to return. When they saw the cut on the Raja’s hand, they decided not to kill him but to beat him soundly. They then stripped the Raja and left him naked on the side of the road.

            The Raja stumbled back to the well, and asked how his physician was doing. The physician replied that he was cold and hungry. The Raja lowered the bucket down to his physician and pulled him up. The physician saw the Raja’s injuries from his beating and treated his wounds. The Raja finally told the physician what had happened and that he was sorry that he had left the physician in the well. The physician replied that it was fine, because if he had gone with the Raja, the band of outlaws would have killed him. So the cut in the Raja’s hand saved his life, and the trip to the bottom of the well saved the physician’s life.

            When we are going through hard times, the metaphorical “bottom of the well”, we never know what the big picture is. We may never know that we are actually being saved from other fates that may befall us. Even though we think that life is unfair and hard, we may be the lucky ones who are being saved by forces, guardian angels, or just providence from worst. We may never know what we were saved from or we may not find out until much later. We may find out that the person we were madly in love with but broke up with was actually a very mean person that would have made our life miserable. We may find out that the job we lost or didn’t get was involved in illegal activities that landed someone in jail. We just never know.

            So even when we are suffering and thinking that we are going through the worst of times, we may be spared from something worse. Never say things can’t get any worse, because they always can. Be grateful for what you have, what you are experiencing and know that no matter what is happening, it is for our higher good.

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

You Know That Glass? It’s You!

            Most everyone has heard the story about “is the glass half full or half empty”. However, take a minute and answer it for yourself.  Don’t spend a lot of time judging yourself, because it is a rhetorical question. Then get realistic, and think about it. Raise your consciousness and realize that the glass is always full, whether it is air or water. Now comes the really cool part, the part no one realizes.

           Imagine the ocean, vast, deep and lots of water. More water than we can even imagine. More than any river, stream, lake, pond or puddle you have ever encountered. The ocean is only contained by intermittent landmasses. When you swim in it, you cannot see very far. Even if you are in a boat or in the air, you can only see from horizon to horizon. So imagine that you are out on the ocean, far from shore, and all you can see is water all around you. More than you can imagine.

           Understand that the symbolism of water is consciousness. Water also represents energy. So when you are in the water, you still are not water, you are separate from it. Even though you have consciousness, you are not like a drop of water that is a part of the whole. You are different than the water.

           Imagine that you have a glass with you. Dip it into the ocean, fill it with water and bring it close to you. Look inside; what is inside, is it water? Is the water different than the water that you dipped it into? What is the difference between the water in the ocean and the water in the cup? The most important aspect of this visualization is the aspect of duality. When you were aware that there was water, there was no duality. When you realized that there was a glass, there was duality.

           Imagine that water is consciousness, awareness. Pure consciousness, pure awareness does not recognize anything. It just is. It is our ego that recognizes, differentiates, and segregates. When the glass is filled with water, there is duality, separation, something else only because the water in the cup was different from the water in the ocean only because of the glass.

           So understand that the glass is you. Even more, imagine the glass is your thoughts, your mind, and your personality. The glass is who you are to yourself. So when it is filled with the water from the cosmic ocean, you are separate from whom you were, in the sense that you were part of the vast cosmic consciousness before you went into the glass. This is the illusion of duality. When our bodies stop, the glass will break and the water will go back into the cosmic ocean and we rejoin the one.

          When we think we are the glass, and forget about the water filling it, we believe that there is an “I”. However, the glass’s only function is to hold water, consciousness. The glass has no function without the consciousness. We are but a shell without the water that fills it. We have to understand that life is the consciousness that fills our bodies, and this is why we are a part of the whole. It is the metaphorical glass that thinks that it has power over the ocean. It thinks it can pollute it and the world without consequences. This glass thinks that it can create violence and not suffer. This glass thinks that it is better than, less than, or even equal to all of the other glasses when the only function of the glass is to hold consciousness.

           This is the fundamental problem that causes suffering. We forget that we are nothing without the consciousness that fills us. It is the tail wagging the dog, because it is the consciousness that is life, it is the consciousness that connects us to the rest of existence, and it is the consciousness that will go back into oneness when the glass breaks. We are not separate from the ocean; we are part of the ocean.

          So we need to start acting in alignment with our fundamental purpose, and that is to hold consciousness. We have to support each other, be aware and compassionate of each other’s pain and suffering, and when we meet another glass that is not full, fill it with more consciousness. The Earth does not need saving. We need saving.

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

Brain Fails

            If you have ever watched your finger go in front of your head from one side of your head to the other, you will notice that it disappears while you are watching it. That is because your brain is not perfect, there are holes in its perception. These are called cognitive biases, and they make our lives more challenging at best, and down right stupid from time to time. We have holes in our reasoning, and if we don’t know it, we suffer because we think we are stupid, when we are not. It is just the way our brains work. Here are some of the ways our brains are stupid and we go for information that is easy, but not real.

(1) Best Available Information: When we don’t know any better, we overestimate the importance of what we know. We might know that someone did drugs and lived a long time. We assume that doing drugs is healthy.

(2) First Available Information: We put too much importance on the first thing we learn. Old timers are especially subject to what otherwise is known as “close minded”.

(3) Peer Pressure: The more people that believe something makes it more believable.

(4) Blind Spots: The fact that we don’t realize something only increases the blind spot.

(5) End Result Analysis: Whatever we choose must be right.

(6) Random patterns: We want to see consistency in random events, so we delude ourselves into believing that there is a pattern in complete randomness.

(7) Conformational bias: We only believe that which confirms our beliefs.

(8) Status quo thinking: The world was flat, then it swas round. Now it is flat again. We resist new thoughts.

(9) What we know is right: We look for reasons our beliefs are correct rather than investigate new information.

(10) Avoidance: We would rather recognize evidence that proves what we believe than seek evidence that changes that belief.

(11) Result Orientation: The ends justify the means.

(12) Placebo effect: Our beliefs create our reality.

(13) Familiarity: We observe what we know. This is the basis of the theory that the shaman did not see the Spanish ships.

(14) Expectations: We see what we want to see.

(15) Expectations: Stereotyping based on prejudice.

(16) Only the strong survive: we only follow the survivors.

These are all functions of a healthy brain. To be truly aware and mindful, we have to let go of these preconceived brain functions.

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

Be Careful What You Ask For

            [This blog should ruffle some feathers…] I am seeing more and more requests for healing energy or prayer by people who are struggling, sick, or confused. Alternatively, people are making similar requests for people who they know or have heard about.  I think people should be very careful about making such requests because you never know what you are going to get.

            First of all, the source of all healing and understanding is Source, however you may define or name it. That creative power of the universe that created us, that spark of life that transformed us from quivering protoplasm into living, sentient beings, is capable of miraculous changes. When we ask others to pray for us or send energy, what we get is Source filtered through their perceptions and beliefs. We may get prayers or energy from people who are tragically human, with problems and beliefs that we don’t want any part of. They may be sicker or more troubled that the target of these requests. Do you really want that kind of energy or prayer at work on you?

            Second, when we ask others for prayer or energy we are not focusing on the Source of the healing, the divine. When we focus on the divine, we are much more likely to get results, or at least comfort for our challenges. One of the most powerful prayers is “Thank You God”, the recognition to the universe that everything is good and for our benefit. It is kind of like asking a private to do the job of a general.

            Third, asking for someone to send you prayers or healing is avoiding the whole purpose of the lesson and every experience we have, which is to go within and contemplate our connection to the divine. It is a kind of spiritual denial that we don’t want what we are getting. Wishing life was different is the source of all suffering. When we are engaged in judging our life or the comparing ourselves to others, we are creating more suffering. We grow and become enlightened by letting go of judgment and comparison and being grateful.

            By now I am sure that some are protesting that “the power of prayer” is a proven medical tool. I would disagree that our prayers for someone else has any affect on the destiny of that person. I would think that is our ego at work, claiming responsibility for the work of the Divine. Some healers love to say “I don’t do anything, it is spirit at work” and yet they charge money for their services. If they are not doing anything, why should they get paid? For all of those healers out there, I am not being critical, but I question whether you are having any effect or is it the destiny of your client to come to you and be healed? But that begs the question for all of those people who seek out healers to help them with their problems, do you really want to be bombarded with an unknown energy from someone you may not know at all.

            I recognize that this whole line of inquiry is at odds with the spiritual principle that prayers for others are answered much quicker than prayers for ourselves. Delightful conflict I would say. I keep coming back to the proposition that we should be healing ourselves, cleaning up our own lives, thoughts, beliefs and actions rather than meddling in the lives and affairs of others. My savior complex has caused me nothing but suffering, loss and a great deal of stress. It is time for me to stop that kind of behavior and just be kind. It is not my job to save you.

            The last point I want to make is enabling versus empowerment. If someone is going through difficult times, perhaps that is due to the way they act, think, speak or behave. Like it or not, no one is a victim. We create our own reality. So if we are praying to make their life different, are we enabling or empowering? Or should we have compassion and unconditional love and let them learn their lessons. Yes, we can support them and hold their hands, but do we really want to take their lessons from them?

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

Don’t Get Me Wrong

I read an article the other day that made me want to clarify some blogs I have done in the past. The article was based on a formula that the author claims to be “the God Formula”, and it is simply 90/10. The article goes on to explain that most people have lives that are 90 percent positive and 10 percent negative. What happens for most people is that they focus on the 10 percent negative and it corrupts the 90 percent positive. I totally agree with this concept, that we actually have it pretty good in the USA with brief periods of what we don’t like that we have to deal with.

            Some of the more recent blogs I have posted talk about some negative events that I have had recently in my life that were potentially overwhelming and what I was doing to get through these events. Terminating relationships, financial losses, self-destruction are all events that occurred in my life this summer. I have to confess that if I were to look objectively at my life through this period I have had it pretty good. I have a place to live, I have fulfilling work and I am healthier than 99% of the population. I take care of myself and haven’t done anything remotely destructive recently. All in all, despite the occasional floating matter in the stew of my life, it is tasty and nutritious.

            It is all about what we focus on. Our minds are hardwired to expand whatever we focus on until it fills the horizon. This comes from ancient survival techniques that made sure that raptors didn’t have us for lunch. As our world has become less and less lethal, we have not changed our survival techniques to mindfulness techniques that allow us to operate at optimum efficiency and enjoyment. I am the first to admit that when the fecal matter hits the revolving blades sometimes it is difficult to remember how good I have it. My mother needlepointed a pillow that says: “Sometimes when you are up to your ass in alligators it is difficult to remember your initial objective was to drain the swamp.”

            Many people these days are seeking a life purpose, that special activity that will save the planet as well as our self-esteem and wallets. I believe that our life purpose, the reason we are here, is to enjoy everything life gives us. Success gets what it wants; happiness wants what it gets. I have to say that losing your savings is a lot harder to want than winning the lottery, but that is the secret to life. We all know those people who seem to breeze through life, as if they are floating downstream on a flotation device that is made of stardust.

            It has come to my attention lately that most of my life lessons (as in “ouch”) have come as a consequence of trying to save someone or something. I suspect that is why I want to be a healer; I have a subconscious need to save lives. I invest in risky investments in order to save a business or group of people. I also suspect that deep down inside, in the deep reaches where no one wants to go, I want the recognition and rewards that go along with being a savior. So I need to stop trying to save people and start serving them. There is a world of difference; probably about 90/10.

            The truth is no one and the world does not need saving. We invent this illusion to make ourselves seem needed. If we destroy the environment, the world will go on, although insects instead of humanoids will populate it. It is our ego that thinks we need to survive and look what our egos have done with the place. Perhaps if we start concentrating on how to serve each other rather than save each other we would have different results.

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

When Things Don’t Go Our Way

         I recently received the news that a very large investment that I had made upon the advice of someone I trusted has gone bankrupt. This investment has been a major source of stress for me over the last two years and despite my best efforts we have had to make the decision to shut down and liquidate. This has raised a swarm of emotions that aren’t positive. These are the negative emotions that I have been focusing my spiritual practice to heal for a long time. This has rocked me down to my core and raised all of those self-defeating emotions that I thought I had healed.

            Life is first and foremost what happens when you have something else planned. I know all about the platitudes that we can’t control what happens to us but we can control how we respond and how we feel about ourselves. All of that is fine when we are dealing with what I call the mouse turds of life, but when the earthquake comes and our foundations are destroyed, it is a totally different matter. Especially difficult to deal with is the fear of the future, which is the mother of all negative emotions.

            It is really important in times of fundamental change to focus on practices that lift our spirit. This is what spiritual and/or religious practices are for. We do ceremonies and activities that allow us to change the way we feel about life to more positive attitudes. The first of these practices is gratitude. When we practice gratitude, we actually allow our brain to produce serotonin and melatonin. This makes us feel better. There are several self-defeating things I have discovered we all do when we are faced with life changing loss, including worst case scenario thinking, self-crucifixion, denial and blaming. These habitual activities may make us perversely feel like we are accomplishing something, but they actually are making things worse.

            It is much more important to move on. It may feel important to do post-mortems, but not really. It is more constructive to start making decisions to take baby steps in whatever direction we have available to us. Sometimes things happen and it isn’t anyone’s fault. Most people do the best they can, and it just doesn’t work out the way we planned. When in the midst of huge loss, if we can reach deep inside of ourselves and find kindness we can start to rebuild. Sitting in our pity pot and blaming the world for not giving us what we want is a bigger waste of time than picking up the pieces and moving on.

            Another healing practice is to love our self. Just because it didn’t happen the way we wanted doesn’t mean we did it wrong. I truly believe that whatever force in the universe that is bigger than our limited awareness can perceive is not out to get us. God/source/higher self/universe is conspiring to shower us with abundance, but when in our limited consciousness we feel abandoned and rejected we may miss the gravy train. So we have to be our own cheerleader and start looking for the opportunities that inevitably will come. There are no such things as failures, only changes in direction.

            Sometimes God/source/higher self/universe is telling us to change. If we resist those messages, we will end up on dead ends roads that take us nowhere. When the lightning strikes, and our foundations are rocked, cracked or destroyed, we have to go in whatever direction we can. It really is about having faith that positive attitudes and motivation will have positive results. Although we have to take responsibility for our actions, we don’t have to beat our self up about it. The only difference between a “winner” and a “loser” is how they feel about themselves. Given the exact same circumstances, the “winners” will rise to the surface and the “losers” will sink. Many times this is simply a matter of faith, trust and patience. We can’t change what is happening, but we can change how we perceive it. When we perceive events as positive events we do not get stuck in the denial we can experience when we perceive events as negative events. The truth is there are no “winners” or “losers”, only our perception and judgment.

            I do not know at this point what will happen next. I will make plans and do whatever I can to sort it all out. I am past the denial and shock of what happened. That was only momentary. It is human to have emotions, and divine to let the negative ones go through us like clouds passing overhead. I am doing everything I know to do and that is enough. I have experienced the dread of getting out of bed in the morning, as I have experienced the excitement of getting out of bed to discover what will happen next. It is just as easy to focus on one of those as the other.

            In the final analysis, the only thing we all have in common is life. I keep reminding myself what an incredible gift life is (the “present”). I am the first to admit that I have no clue what the future holds, but I have hope and faith that as the roller coaster has valleys, the next thing that comes is the peak. So my chin goes up, I breathe deeply and I look for ways to serve. After all, what else is there to do?