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

A Mother’s Day is Not Enough

          I always marvel at how we reduce to one day being grateful for something we should celebrate everyday. We should have a daily “Mother’s Hour” not an annual “Mother’s Day”. This also applies to Father’s Day, Christmas, Easter and my birthday. Interestingly, the initial idea for a day devoted to mothers in the United States came from the devastation mothers felt after losing their sons during WWI. Later, the recognition of a national Mother’s Day came when U.S. President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother’s Day a national holiday in 1914. Not surprisingly, over the years the celebration of motherhood spread far and wide and is now thankfully a holiday around the world.

          In truth, Mother’s Day is about more than just honoring the woman that gave birth to us. In fact, it celebrates ‘mothering’ in any way: that special aspect in all of us that conceives, creates, tolerates and nurtures life in its millions of varied forms. It celebrates the feminine energy that is reemerging into balance with male energy, thank God. Feminine energy is the energy of home, reason, sharing, community, nurturing, safety, traditions, healing, love and potential. It resides in us all, but is uniquely carried and entrusted to women.

          As you pick out your Mother’s Day card, remember our shared mother, Mother Earth. She is the epitome of silent acceptance, despite our gross neglect and pollution. Like so many of our mothers, she graciously accepts our selfishness and irresponsibility in silence, and continues to nurture and tolerate us, knowing that we will understand one day, even if it is too late. So send an acknowledgment to her, too, in any form that feels good to you. You could pick up some litter or simply sit, send love to the earth each morning, or send gratitude in the evening for being supported and nurtured for one more day.

          As you are write in your Mother’s Day card, commit to celebrating feminine qualities such as tolerance and acceptance. Who we choose to share our lives with and how that relationship looks should be a universal freedom for every one. The whole debate over who can be married is based on fear and intolerance. Additionally, the abuse of children must stop. Mothers everywhere, living or dead, must be grieving over the way their children are being treated. With your cards, let’s continue our commitment and work to protect our children’s rights, remembering the oneness of us all.

         As you sign your cards to mothers for Mother’s Day, not only should you thank them for their sacrifices and gifts, we should encourage each other to make the world a level playing field that does not discriminate on the basis of gender or any other criteria. All positions of leadership or otherwise should be filled with the person most qualified to fill it, and we need to let go of the illogical and antiquated notions of bias, prejudice and fear. If a woman wants to take a weapon into battle, that is their right. If a woman wants to be the leader of the free world, that is their right. Anything a woman wants to do should be their right. As you sign your cards, vow to support equality and empowerment for all genders.

         This Mother’s Day I want to cry out from the roof tops for men to embrace women as their equals, and empower women to take their rightful place beside them. At some point in time in our past, men took control of running the world and women took control of the home. It is time for those duties and responsibilities to be shared equally regardless of gender. Time is long past due for a female President of the United States, a female Catholic Pope, and a female Dalai Lama. For far too long religion has been a bastion of male power and authority. Some religions demean women and place them in a subservient role. I was overjoyed to learn that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter left the Southern Baptist Church because its dogma included women as being subservient to men. In this age of enlightenment and evolution could there be a more useless and counter-productive belief?

         It is obvious that women make exceptional heads of state as well as ruling in the home. Look at Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, and the great Queens of history. Their inner power and grace helped their nations become leaders of the world and bastions of civilization. It is the balance of intuition, intelligence, compassion and nurturing that women uniquely possess that makes it the time for them to once again share the reins of power. I encourage everyone to commit to these ideals for everyone’s benefit.

Happy Mother’s Day and let’s make it transformational!

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

RIGHT VS WRONG, GOOD VS BAD

           One of the most difficult concepts to let go of as we trudge the path of happy destiny are the notions of right and wrong and good and bad. This goes even deeper to the act of judging what we perceive. We perceive an event, and our mind/ego jumps to assumptions or conclusions that judges the event as “right”, “wrong”, “good” or “bad.” This can be a major cause of confusion and suffering, especially when someone challenges our judgment.

            When I was a trial lawyer and someone came in for a divorce, the first question I would ask is “would you rather be happy or right?” Luckily for my pocket book, most of them wanted to be right, or at least to prove their spouse wrong. Being right is an expensive proposition and many times does not result in happy endings. I also used to have a framed cartoon on the wall in my office that depicted a naval officer clinging to a piece of flotsam with ships sinking all around them. His fist was in the air and he was yelling, “We’ve won! We’ve won!” The only divorces which I recall being successful were the ones that the couple had already decided on how to split their assets and agreed on a parenting plan for their children. They only wanted me to put it in writing.

            People who can’t agree on major issues or come to a mutual resolution of major issues are in for much pain and suffering. The biggest impediment to a successful dissolution of a partnership (of any kind) is the fear that someone will not get what he or she deserves. It is amazing to me how shortsighted people can become when they are experiencing fear. They want to fight over everything and don’t want to compromise. That is fine with lawyers and exactly what they want to hear as they collect their large retainers and start billing by the hour.

            The only solution is love. Think about what the other person needs before your own needs. When I was divorced (for the second time), I was bound and determined not to make a fight out of it and give my spouse whatever she wanted. The problem sometimes is that is not enough. Every offer was rejected without a counter offer. As a result, we went through five years of litigation and she eventually got less than what I offered. Sometimes we just have to be brave and send love to people who can’t feel it and not resent their ignorance.

            When we feel like we have to fight to be “right” or “good”, we probably will at some point question the wisdom of that position. Sometimes we don’t have a high enough perspective or enough information to understand that we are fighting for an illusion. History teaches us that point in tragic ways. Germans still harbor huge guilt over the atrocities of WWII. The Middle East continues to create orphans and catastrophe after catastrophe over who is right. The United States has made a battlefield out of the world in the name of national security.

            The biggest problem is we have delusions about what is right and what is wrong. Bertrand Russell once said, “I will never die for my beliefs. I might be wrong.” The perception of what is right and wrong is constantly changing. I am sure that in the far future people will shake their heads over all of the pain and suffering the battles over marital rights, race, religion and abortion have caused in this country. It was not too long ago that belief about right and wrong regarding segregation caused bloodshed and death.

            I hope that one day we can open our hearts and minds to the proposition that there is no right or wrong or good or bad. There is only karma. We eventually learn what is best for us, even though it may take a few hundred years. These days karma seems to be coming quicker and the consequences of our actions hit us almost immediately. No one is getting away with anything anymore. Even the illuminati will have to face their karma at some point.

            I don’t want to be right. That is a double-edged sword that could mean that I am wrong. I want to be kind, considerate, loving, compassionate and patient. I want to embrace everything. I want all people in all of the worlds to be happy. The first place to start is to eliminate judgment and increase compassion. I hope it is in time.

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

STRENGTH

           Ah, a new day…a day of beginning, promise, hopes and plans. The day “resolutions” are born. Everyday we can remember the past and seek changes to improve our lives. My thoughts today are on strength. It is said that only the strong survive, but in this male dominated left-brain world, this is normally interpreted to mean the physically strong. So we lift weights, worship the low fat body, and exercise ourselves into a frothy lather trying to be strong in the way our egos, our left-brain, would have us be. Our society worships the male form without fat, muscles rippling, plainly defined. Interestingly enough, the male ideal form has not changed much over the millennium, while the female ideal changes over time. Now we worship emaciated models whose height/weight proportions are insane. I wonder if anyone has done a study on the life expectancy of a runway model. Fifty years ago society worshipped the Rubenesque form with the healthy curves of Marilyn Monroe or Jane Mansfield.

            I think the reason that we have seen these changes is due to the effect of civilization on the human psyche. When people became domesticated and lived together in large groups, certain beliefs started to manifest in males versus females. Roles were assigned by subconscious agreement; men assumed (grabbed?) the role of authority and survival and sacrificed their nurturing instincts. Women did the opposite, sacrificing their desire for survival and authority for the capacity to nurture. Thus we created the male dominated society.

            Today we see these roles changing, thank God. Women are becoming more empowered, taking on leadership roles in numbers unparalleled in history. Men are becoming more nurturing, willing to let women share the responsibility of leadership. Women gather to empower themselves, men gather to get in touch with their feelings. Slowly but surely we are becoming more balanced. In the far distant future perhaps we will become more androgynous, only time will tell.

            I agree that the strong will survive, but not the physically strong. The strength that will survive is strength of character, integrity, compassion and self-worth. It is said that the species that will survive is not the species with the strongest physical form; it is the species that is the most flexible with the ability to adapt. So unless we become more flexible, more compassionate and more caring about one another, we may in fact be replaced as the dominant species on the planet. It is not the strength of acquisition that will survive; it is the strength of sharing. It takes a much stronger person to sacrifice for the good of the people than someone to accumulate wealth.

            “Where does this strength come from?” one may ask. This strength arises from our undeniable ability to love one another. It comes from our focus on higher spiritual truths, that we are all connected and we have to put each other before ourselves. It is said that the wealth of the major churches/temples/sects/religions would feed every man, woman and child on this planet for thousands of years. I do not believe that God would approve of such hoarding. On an individual level, whenever we do not share our blessings, wealth and gifts, we also risk poverty of the spirit.

            So on this day, I resolve to think of others before myself. That is it. I don’t want to lose weight, I don’t want to learn a new sport, and I don’t want to accomplish anything other than to improve my connection with the God of my understanding. All of the major religions say this: be joy, be love, be compassionate, bring peace, and do no harm. This is the strength that will survive

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

CAIN’S LAMENT

            There is a story early in the Old Testament of the Bible called the story of Cain and Abel. This is a multi-layered story that explains much about human suffering. The story goes that two of the original humans in the Judo-Christian tradition (Adam and Eve) had two children after getting evicted from the Garden of Eden.  The children’s names were Cain and Abel. Cain grew up to be a farmer, and Abel was a shepherd.  Both were brought up by their parents to worship the Jewish God and to sacrifice a portion of their crops/herd to God in gratitude of their prosperity. Abel was faithful and sacrificed the best of his herd while Cain was a little more frugal and only offered the remnants of his crop.

            Abel prospered and Cain did not, purportedly because God was pleased with Abel and not pleased with Cain because of the quality of their respective sacrifices. Out of jealousy and victimhood, Cain killed his brother. God came calling and asked Cain where his brother was and Cain said the famous words “Am I my brother’s keeper?” God cursed Cain and sentenced him to a life of suffering.

            At first blush this sounds a bit harsh for those looking for compassion in their lives, but this story is rich in explanation of so much that is happening in our lives and correctly identifies the source of all suffering. It is based on an ancient cosmic law, which is that for every action there is a reaction. In Buddhist terms, it is known as karma.

            The story is man’s attempt to explain why suffering happens, but it is also divinely guided and much deeper than the surface level. It is actually an explanation of the origins of the split between Jews and the rest of the Middle East. And like most apologetic literature, it blames the split on God.

            However on a deeper level the story explains the concept and consequences of a spiritual concept called Separation Consciousness. In modern spiritual thinking, separation consciousness is the illusion that we are separate from each other and what we think, do, say or feel has no direct effect on other human beings. According to Buddha, this is the cause of much suffering for ourselves and for those we don’t think we can affect. The story of Cain and Abel echoes this teaching.

            To understand this deeper level of the story, we need to use some different labels. Instead of Cain, use “mind or intellect” and instead of Abel, use “heart” and see where the story goes. The story line would read that when the mind kills the heart, we are cursed. I believe this explains every aspect of human suffering. The intellect is always seeking to analyze, get a better deal, compare, judge and condemn. The heart only loves and does not care about material possessions.

            So on an individual level the story admonishes us to love and not be consumed by our mind’s inherent need to compare ourselves to others, to judge and feel victimized. The answer to “am I my brother’s keeper” is Yes! Not only do we suffer when we ignore the principles of love to material success, so does everyone else. When we look at the rich people of the world, they are not happy, they only desire more and more. As a result, resources are misallocated and the whole world suffers. Our heart constantly cries for us to help others and to sacrifice ourselves to the greater good of the world. That is our natural way of being. Another way of looking at it is that we are our brother.

            If you don’t like the word “sacrifice”, use the word “share”. If you don’t like the word “God”, use the word “world”. Scientists are beginning to find scientific evidence that even thoughts can change the molecular structure of things. When the world comes and asks the metaphorical question, “are you taking care of each other”, and we have been killing each other with hate, revenge, pollution and selfishness, we will be cursed. History has proven that to us time and time again, and we still do not learn the lesson.

            The moral of the story is that we are responsible for each other. No exceptions. When we give our best, we will be rewarded, no matter what it is we are giving. This is Abel/heart’s gift. When we give resentfully our leftovers, we will suffer. So when was the last time you spent time with your family, both biological and community? When was the last time you gave something to someone you didn’t know?  When we are giving, we are in our heart. When we are taking, we are in our heads.

            The beginning of the story was that Adam and Eve had children immediately after being evicted from the Garden of Eden. That was because they ate of the Tree of Knowledge. So the whole metaphor is concerned with the consequences of the competition of intellect versus intuition, head versus heart. 

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

WHAT SHALL WE DO TODAY

Today, I will create a masterpiece of precious thoughts. I will open my being to love. I will think about all the things I can be grateful for and remind myself how fortunate I am. I will give thoughts to the obstacles I have overcome and realize how strong I really am. I know that the power is always there within me.

Today, I will smile and help someone who is in need, or just give a loving hug. I will smile and look someone in their eyes and greet their sweet spirit. I will think with compassion about all the beings in this world who are experiencing suffering and pain. And I will remind myself that we are all connected – that we are all created by the same God. 

Today, I will look up at the sky and watch the clouds, the birds, the sun, the moon and planets– and see their ever-changing formations. Tonight I will watch the sky filled with sparkling diamonds. I will pause for a moment and be in awe.

Today. I will stop and listen to the bird outside who is singing a song for me. I will say thanks to the flowers and plants for brightening up my day. I will give thanks to Mother Earth for the nourishment and beauty she is providing.

Today. I will be aware of my breathing. I will feel my heart beat. I will pause for a moment and be grateful for the life God is offering me. I will be grateful for the incredible body I have and treat it like the fine instrument it is. I will think about what it enables me to do – hearing a child’s joyful laughter, feeling a loving touch on my shoulder, smelling a rose, tasting a salt tear running down towards my lips, or seeing the beauty of the sun rising over a crisp mountain top.

Today. I will pause for a moment and think about my friends. I will feel their love – and smile. I will give loving thoughts to my family. I will give thanks for all they have provided – including both the joys and the sorrows. I will cherish the joyful moments and know that the pains are lessons in disguise.

Today. I will not judge myself. I will give myself the same loving thoughts and compassion as I offer other people around me. I will not judge the people who may have hurt me– for they did not know better. And I will do my best in loving them for whom they really are deep within.

Today. I will not worry. Just for one day. I will focus instead on the loving presence of the power, force or being that created me and offer thanks.

Today. I will ask God to be of service. I will do the best I can in any activity I am engaged in. I will spend the day with an attitude of service and offer up the fruits of my labor. I will do my best to be in surrender and just let the day unfold.

Today. I will spend some time in silence. I will breathe deeply and clear my mind. I will smooth the ripples on the ocean of my mind and feel the peaceful love of God. He is there behind it all – always. I will close my eyes and breathe in his loving vibration – like soothing balm on sunburned skin. I will feel his love permeate my being until I have tears of joy in my eyes.

Today. I will let God’s love flow through me – in every little precious moment.

And tomorrow… is another precious today.

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

A KIND HEART

In a recent article about Buddhism I was taken by a statement that happiness is the result of a kind heart. Therefore, in order to develop happiness one has to develop a kind heart. The energy of that thought swept through me like a spring breeze and I relaxed into a deep state of bliss.

            My experience in this world and the experience of many people I have met on the spiritual path includes emotional and physical trauma. Something happens to us that frightened or hurt us and made the world a scary, unsafe place. These traumatic experiences can harden our kind nature like a callus or scar tissue on our heart.  We become defensive and can push people away in order to protect ourselves from pain. Even more subtle wounds are created when we experience something that we don’t like. These wounds are often dismissed or ignored because they don’t necessarily hurt. These more subtle wounds might cause frustration, irritation, anxiety or stress, but are accepted as part of everyday life.

            As I trudge the path of happy destiny towards spiritual freedom and light, I feel it  is my duty to remove these calluses, bruises, or wounds on my heart. This is necessary to allow my heart to open and to expand my consciousness. I am convinced that happiness cannot be logically reached; it must be experienced through our hearts. It is reassuring that one of the oldest belief systems in the world (Buddhism) incorporates this belief in the form of the statement that happiness can only be reached through a kind heart.

            I often contemplate what is a kind heart. So far, the best conclusion I can draw at the moment is that a kind heart is a heart filled with compassion, awareness and acceptance. There is no room in a kind heart for resentment, resistance, anger or any other “negative” emotions. I further believe that these painful energies are the result of what the Buddhists call lazy or habitual thinking. I call it “worst case scenario thinking.” As a former attorney I often imagined what the worst-case scenario would be in a trial and plan accordingly. This defense mechanism was very useful; however, when it spilled over into my personal life it causes great suffering.

            One of the most important steps in developing a kind heart is to understand that we are not our thoughts. When we have thoughts of a hurtful or painful nature, we must not condemn or criticize ourselves for these thoughts. We have to simply accept them as random thoughts that are not real.  When we dwell on these thoughts or resent them (“resent” means “to think over and over”) we are building thicker and thicker calluses and scar tissue on our hearts.

            Another important step is to understand that we create our realities for the specific purpose of becoming enlightened. So when life does not suit us, we have to look for the message we are telling ourselves by creating something we don’t like. Some common themes I am witnessing these days include: (1) money has nothing to do with happiness; (2) companionship is not necessary for happiness; and (3) “common sense is more important than spiritual sense” (Derek O’Neill).

            In order to develop a kind heart, we have to understand that we do not need money, mates, material stuff and thirteen spiritual diplomas to be happy. We simply need to accept the fact that we are exactly where we are supposed to be — going exactly where we are supposed to go. In my experience, one of the most damaging illusions and lies that we tell ourselves is that we are not living the life we are supposed to live, that we are somehow doing something wrong and that we are victims. Whenever we experience stress and anxiety it is because we believe something is wrong somewhere in our life. This leads us away from a kind heart, because a kind heart is flexible and pliable enough to understand that everything is perfect.

            A great exercise for those anxious moments is to sit still and breath into the heart. Imagine that when you inhale you are sending light and oxygen into your heart (not the lungs). When you exhale imagine that you are exhaling all illusions and misunderstandings that hurt out of your heart. It is amazing how fast relaxation comes when one does this.

            It is not so important that we be kind to others as it is to be kind to ourselves. There is no need to feel guilty, ashamed, stressed or anxious when we have a kind heart. A kind heart is like a loving parent observing a child who is angry or frightened and knows that everything will be all right. The child (us) does not know everything will be all right, but the parent does. When we can feel the feeling that everything will be all right, we can relax and enjoy life.

            The payoff for having a kind heart is the inevitable effect that people will gravitate to us. We have to understand that some people will be kind, while others will project their anger and fears all over us. When we have a kind heart, we do not take offense at these people, we understand their pain and have compassion for them. This is how we can develop compassion for others, by being kind to ourselves.

            Ultimately we come to the realization that everyone is simply a reflection of the thoughts and feelings we experience. When we can respond with kindness to everything, to the thoughts, emotions, events and people that we like and dislike, bliss will be ours.