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

GIVE IT UP

            Ever since I heard the word “enlightenment”, I wanted it. It is a word that is surrounded by mystique and mystery, something only a few people in the world have attained. Why is it so illusive? What is the gift of enlightenment, or is there a gift involved at all? Or is enlightenment something that we can only obtain at the verge of dying, when we realize all that we have attained and desired are illusions?

            My understanding of enlightenment is that is the state of our consciousness once we have rid ourselves of all desire. Immanuel Kant argued that enlightenment was the state of maturity, and therefor unobtainable by most humans. Humans are too lazy, too victimized and too comfortable to seek true enlightenment. Who seeks true freedom, which is the initiation of enlightenment, when captivity and immaturity is rewarded? What concepts must we let go of in ourselves in order to achieve this rare state of existence?

            Most people want to use reverse engineering to achieve enlightenment. They have heard that enlightened people know stuff that “muggles” (ordinary people) don’t know. They have powers that muggles don’t have. They can see into people’s souls and heal their greatest illusions. Who wouldn’t want that? The problem is everything is relative and no one is willing to pay the price for these mystical powers. People promise systems and modalities to achieve enlightenment, but they don’t have the dedication or desperation to give it everything they have. They believe that they are willing to sacrifice everything to obtain enlightenment, but when things start disappearing from their lives they revert to victimhood and self-doubt. They forget that the hallmark of the spiritual path is to remove the illusion of pain, and the only way to do that is to go through test after test until they can understand that pain really is just an illusion.

            When I first started on my spiritual path, I asked a very wise person how I could feel safe in a very unsafe world. His statement continues to unfold like a lotus blossom. He said, “get over it”. How do you get over the traumas and experiences that shaped my soul and my psyche? I continue to struggle on that one. While there are some character defects that I continue to heal, I happen to like a lot of things about myself. I am kind, compassionate, generous, wise and humble. (You can laugh). The pity is that in order to obtain enlightenment, not only do I have to let go of my character defects, I have to let go of everything I think about myself. Whatever I think about myself is a distraction and interferes with connecting with the divine. So I have to let go of myself.

            The truth is I have to let know of everything I know in order to rise above my limiting beliefs about who I am. This includes what I consider to be “good” as well as the “bad”. This includes the notion that I would like to have a companion to share life with. This is an antiquated notion that I inherited from my parents which has not served me very well. I have to let go of my expectations and needs, especially the feeling that I need anything. After all, everyone I meet is someone I can love and share my life with and the fact that I am interacting with any person is by definition sharing my life with someone.

            Intellectually I know that if the divine wanted me to have a life partner I would have one. Intellectually I know that if the divine wanted me not to have a life partner there is nothing I can do to have one. Enlightenment is the realization that the divine is operating in my highest and best good and it is only my myopic and short sightedness that keeps me from embracing that thought. I think I know what is best for me, and that is my biggest trap and impediment from achieving enlightenment. I must accept the fact that my highest self, my divine self, is running the show and as a physical being I do not.

            So I have to give up everything I know or want from life in order to transcend the physical, mental and emotional barriers that keep me bound to suffering in this life. As an aside, that doesn’t mean reject abundance given to me by the divine as karma, dharma, or grace from the divine. Simply because I have abundance does not mean I am attached to it or desire it. The zen nature of enlightenment requires that I not want it in order to achieve it. I have to give it up, let it go, and accept what karma and grace has given to me. That is probably the hardest thing in life to do but it must be done to transcend the illusions of reality and human life in order to achieve the deep divine connection that my soul seeks.

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

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

THE WHEEL OF KARMA

            One of the most often asked question of spiritual teachers by students is “what is my purpose”? Students who study spiritual concepts want to have some idea of why the universe operates in the manner it is experienced. They want to understand so that they can stop suffering. An understanding of the “big picture” is helpful to reduce anxiety and give us something to feel more comfortable. The Wheel of Karma created by the Tibetan Buddhists gives us that bigger picture along with clues of what we can expect. The Wheel is a symbolic representation of the nature of life.

            A great way to use the Wheel of Karma in a practical way is to be familiar with the symbols on the wheel. These symbols represent the issues that we face over and over again through out our lives. Everything is in circles just as life operates in circles. We always hear about life operating in cycles and circles. Nothing in nature is a straight line, and the symbols on the Wheel of Karma recognize this fact. For someone looking at the Wheel of Karma for the first time, it is a confusing montage of symbols, colors and shapes. When students contemplate on the symbols and the place they occupy on the Wheel, life starts to make more sense. Just like life, it is impossible to focus on the whole thing at once, we must take it step by step.

            On the central circle, we see the symbols of the pig (ignorance), the snake (anger and aversion), and the rooster (vanity and greed). We can spend an entire lifetime simply contemplating how these concepts control our lives. If we could control just these three concepts in our life, we would be enlightened. Concentrating on one of these concepts each day would bring us closer to self-realization, that elusive state of consciousness for which we strive. Being aware of how we live our lives in ignorance is not to be a source of concern, simply acceptance. We could spend all day recognizing the actions that are reactions to the events of our lives. If we could simply be thoughtful about how we react to the events of our lives, everything would be effortless. It is when we react out of ignorance to the events of our lives that things spin out of control.

            Similarly, when we focus on anger and aversion or vanity and greed, we can change what happens in our lives. When we feel anger arising, if we can be conscious enough to ask the question, “what desires are being threatened,” then we can understand where the anger is coming from. If we understand the source of anger, we can release it and not have to suffer it any further.  It takes total focus to be able to trace the source of the anger, and it is a great reminder to have that in the circle in the center of the Wheel of Karma.

            The third concept represented on the center of the circle is vanity and greed. We all can see the results of world greed and vanity being played out in stock markets and global collapses. In our own worlds, we may be experiencing much the same effects with jobs, or our health. When we focus on how we are being vain or greedy in our lives, we can start to see where we may need to be more compassionate and giving.

            When we look further out from the center, we see a circle of figures, on the right unhappy and on the left happy. This is the familiar cycling up and down that characterizes our habitual thinking. At any given time we go into cyclical thinking that either lifts us out of our depression (positive thoughts) or plunges us into the depths of despair (negative thoughts). The ancients recognized thousands of years ago that we have some control over our habitual thinking. If we are fearful and stressed, it feels like we are in Hell. Many of the depictions of the Wheel of Karma shows the unhappy people falling out of the circle into a hell-like scenario. That is where our negative thoughts take us. Conversely, positive thinking lifts us out of the top of the circle into heavenly realms.

            The purpose of these images is to impress upon the student the necessity of being aware of the habitual thinking that controls our mind. Are we in victim mode and thinking life is hell? Or are we empowered and recognize that we create our reality that brings us to heaven? Anyone that is aware that they are spiraling down in negative thinking can stop it at any given moment, and start spiraling up, at will. By looking at the Wheel of Karma, we are reminded of this aspect of our life and that we control it.

            The next ring of images is made up of the six aspects of consciousness. We assume that we are in the human portion of the ring. However, this is all a matter of consciousness. Some people believe they live in Hell (the bottom of the images) while others believe they live in Heaven (the top). It is interesting to note that the belief that hell is below heaven is illustrated in the ring, but that may not be necessarily so. It is the way we think of things, and so it is illustrated that way on the ring of consciousness. The six segments are the God realm, the Demi God realm, the Hungry Ghost realm, the Hell realm, the animal realm and the human realm, as you go from the top, clockwise. There are two layers to this ring. On one level, it represents the types of lives one can be born into based upon your behaviors in past lives. On a deeper level, these are the levels of consciousness that we can experience in this lifetime, depending on our mastery of our mind.

            As we are looking at the Wheel of Karma from the “human realm” (it is assumed that anyone reading this is human), one has to accept the fact that there are other states of existence other than what we are experiencing at the moment. When we accept that, we can move freely to the aspect of consciousness that we wish to experience. Native shamans who can shape shift are adept at this. They can go from the human realm to the animal realm at will. So the lines between all of these realms are not walled in concrete, they are fluid. So it is important that we compare our lives to the images on this ring and if we find that we are living in a way that causes suffering, we have to change the way we live.

            The next ring is the ring of twelve aspects of human experience. It begins at the top and goes clockwise around the ring. Each aspect is unique and like a board game, must be experienced before you can get off the board (unless you can master the inner rings and get a “get out of jail card free”). For many people, why events happen in their lives is a total mystery and a source of suffering. If they understand that we have to experience all of the aspects of life on the ring (unless we can jump out), then they can pick which image they are experiencing.

            The twelve aspects are excellently summarized elsewhere in this page. Everyone can find themselves somewhere on this ring, as when we spend our time in the human realm. So we are simply playing the game as we invented it. We are born, become aware on some level, grasp, label, drink, have sex, 

            When we contemplate the Wheel of Karma, we come to realize that this is the blueprint for a human life. It is in our genetic structure to experience all of the experiences symbolized in the Wheel. We can either experience the Wheel as set in stone or as a fluid experience that can change at will. Simply being aware of the fact that this is the basic nature of human existence can be the foundation for experiencing whatever kind of life you want.

            One of the subtle symbols of the Wheel is that the Buddha (you) who is above and to the right of the Wheel, has transcended all of the suffering and drama of the Wheel. This is because the Buddha understood that he created the Wheel and could transcend it anytime he wanted. Buddha, like Christ, understood that he was in the world, not of it. This means that he and Christ and all ascended beings who have left the Wheel knew that we are not trapped on the Wheel at all. We choose to be here. The ironic play here is that if you are reading this, you are on the Wheel. If you had worked your way off the wheel, none of this would matter to you, including whether you had a life purpose or not.

            We do not come to this life with a purpose other than that illustrated on the Wheel of Karma. When we ask ourselves “what is the purpose of my life?” we jump back on the Wheel. We must understand that we are simply playing a game that we invented to have fun. We are like people who play cyber-games and forget we created the game for our amusement. If we can remember that we created the game, and we can get off anytime we want, then we stop suffering.

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

KARMA IS AN ILLUSION

            Religions and philosophies teach us that there are three kinds of karma. There is (1) the karma that we are born with;  (2) the karma that we are creating at any one moment; and (3) karma we will encounter in the future. All of these karmas are created by action, whether by thought, word or deed. It is this karma that keeps us bound to the wheel of death and rebirth, for we keep coming back to pay off these karmic debts over and over again.

            The most intense karma is created by desire and craving. We long to be rich, powerful, or in control. We are attracted to pleasure and adverse to pain. We are like puppets on strings controlled by these addictions and aversions. For every longing and desire that we crave and do not experience in our lifetime, we are bound by karma to return to experience.  It is the desire and aversion that creates the karma that binds us to the cycle of death and rebirth.

            Furthermore, we believe that we create karma when we cause suffering in others, consciously or unconsciously. As we are all one, we have to experience that which we do to ourselves in order to understand what it feels like. This is the Mosaic law, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. The aspect of the law that is often overlooked is that since death is an illusion we will keep coming back to satisfy the law that must be satisfied. These are the teachings of the religions and philosophies.

            The higher teachings of the saints and enlightened masters state that all of this is an illusion we create for our own enlightenment. We perceive karma is self-perpetuating and inescapable because of our limited grasp of the situation we call life. However, the illusion can be overcome and enlightenment reached when we recognize the simple fact that we are the divine creators OF EVERYTHING and can change this by simply changing our minds.

            We can’t do this by ourselves. As Albert Einstein once stated, “a problem cannot be solved by the thinking that created it.”  The only way we can find our way out of the illusion is to find an enlightened teacher who can show us the way. In other words, it is our desire-filled conscious that keeps us enslaved to the operation of karma, and it takes a teacher or saint to show us how to detach from this illusion. This is why the teacher will tell us “to keep our eyes on the teacher” because it is the only way to escape the distraction of pleasure and pain. If we focus on the teacher and the teachings, we have a chance of self-realization and liberation. If we are constantly distracted by desire and avoidance, we will stay caught in the illusion of thoughts and matter.

            It is a self-fulfilling belief that karma is inescapable. Until we understand the nature of our thoughts and attachment to materialism we will always be hooked by karma and its operation. The only way to escape this illusion is by the practice and discipline of self-analysis and awareness of every thought, word and deed in the light of our own divinity. When we can see God at all times in ourselves and others, we will be freed from the operation of karma and its illusion.

            When someone does something that makes us feel like a victim, we are buying into the illusion of karma. When we feel imperfect, unworthy or unhappy, we are buying into the illusion of karma. When we compare ourselves to others or sit in judgment or lack, we are buying into the illusion of karma. Anytime we believe that we are anything other than God creating our experiences for our enlightenment, we are buying into the illusion of karma.

            By finding a saint or enlightened being and becoming a student, one can learn to discipline him or herself and through practice release the bondage of karma. Discipline comes from the word “disciple”, one who follows a teacher. By focusing on the teachings, one can let go of the illusion of materialism and thought forms that arise as addiction to pleasure and aversion to pain. By focusing on our innate goodness, one no longer strays from the five virtues; peace, love, truth, non-violence and right action. By contemplation and meditation of our role in this life to create the experiences that will lead us to enlightenment; we escape the (de)illusions of perception and projection.

            I had a wonderful experience in Scotland not too long ago. I was blessed with the occasion to stay with a man whose whole life is focused on helping others. On a day a winter storm was closing roads and airports, I went with him to help push total strangers out of snowdrifts. He laughs often and helps many. His first thought on arising is always “how may I serve?”  It was a humbling experience to be in his presence.  My guess is that he knew on some level that life is an illusion to be enjoyed and not suffered.

            We all get what we need when we are ready. When we follow a teacher and apply the teachings (disciple/discipline) we have a choice to believe that karma is inescapable or an illusion. We have a choice to follow a higher path to enlightenment or continue to wallow in the maya of our illusions. We have a choice to believe we are divine creators of our experiences or the victims of our karma. This is the true nature of  “free-ing” will.

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

DOING IT “WRONG”

            I had a astrological reading the other day. After studying my star chart for a while, the astrologer told me that according to the positions of the planets and stars, I was destined to struggle because the struggle increased the speed of my growth. It was my destiny to feel like I was doing something wrong because it made me be more conscious of what I thought, said and did. In other words, it was my karma to always feel like I was making a mistake, and that I was a mistake. This was the grace that fueled my growth as a spiritual being.  So when I was feeling like I was screwing up, I was paying my karma. I wasn’t actually screwing up; I was living my life in accordance with the divine plan of my life. So the irony of my life is that when I feel like I am doing it wrong, I am doing it right.

            When talking to others I have discovered that most of us carry an irrational belief that somehow we will never get it right. Somehow there is a belief buried deep in our subconscious that we must be screwing up because if we were doing it right, we would be enlightened, or at least we would be more enlightened than we are at the moment. We succumb to the temptation of looking to the left and right and comparing ourselves to each other. This is guaranteed to create suffering. We forget that our karma has everything to do with where we are in the moment compared to everything else. We are where we are because of the choices we have made.

            Due to the fact that most of us were raised in an educational system of some sort, we were programmed with the belief that life is graded. If you do well, you get an A and if you don’t do well, you fail. Life is not based on a grading system. There are no “A’s” and there are no “F’s”. If there are, the only grader is our ego. If you look back on the education you received, I would be willing to bet that the best lessons you received in school were not in the classroom. Our best thinking is done when we allow our minds to roam and imagine. Quite frankly, I couldn’t tell you anything about what I studied in school. I can tell you a lot about all the times I thought I was screwing up.

            As we get older, we keep grading ourselves using different grading systems. The size of our bank accounts, the number of toys that we have, or the kind of relationships we have all are grading systems that we use to determine how we are doing.  These are all created by the mind, for the mind to keep the mind in power.

            The good news is that if you are reading this article you are ahead of the masses. If you are like me, it was a big relief to know that my angst was only an illusion I created to grow as rapidly as humanly possible.  The truth is that without my angst I would be stuck so deep in the creek mud that I could only get out with dynamite (otherwise known as divorce, disease, bankruptcy or disaster, all of which I have experienced). Compared to dynamite, I would take my angst every time. If you feel like you are a mistake, take heart! You actually have the potential to become enlightened. We either believe or don’t believe everything is God. If we do believe it, then we have to conclude that nothing is wrong.

            It is our ego that judges our situation to be “wrong.” When we feel like we are doing it wrong, we are in our heads. If we looked at our circumstances through our heart, we would know that it is right. Many people think that they are schizophrenic or bipolar because they always have dialogue going on in their head between an angel and a demon. The dialogue is actually between our hearts and our heads. It is our head/mind that labels life as “right” or “wrong”, just like we learned in school. Our hearts don’t care about any of that, our hearts only care about loving others and connecting with God.

            The truth is that life is a mystery most of the time. We are not supposed to know everything. If we did, our heads might explode. Whenever you think you understand it, you don’t. We think we are screwing up when we actually are unloading lifetimes of karma. The trick is not to panic and to keep breathing. I have discovered that the more I concentrate on my breath, the less I care about how I am “doing.” So if you find yourself stressed out because you think you will never get it right, relax. Join the crowd. At least you are in the crowd going where you want to go. So remember, when you think you are doing it wrong, you are doing it right.

             

 

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

PRACTICING NON-VIOLENCE

             I had an experience with another driver several years ago. The driver had tailgated me for miles, and then passed me on the right of a four lane local road and cut me off at an intersection. I blared my horn at him to let him know how much I did not appreciate his aggressive driving. He got out of his car and started screaming at me and I actually thought I might have to defend myself. The traffic light turned green and he got back in his car and drove off at a dangerously high speed.

            Why did I create this event for my own enlightenment?  Ah, now there is the interesting question. I have to take responsibility for the fact that I create conflict with others in order to create attention. I did not have to blare my horn. The karma of that driver’s aggressive driving would catch up to him sooner than later. My superficial purpose was to help him see where he might need to look at his behavior. That is the superficial rationalization of a lot of my behavior. In fact, I was failing to realize that people I claim to want to help are only mirroring back to me what I need to change about my behavior.

            When we were children, we quickly found out that if we didn’t get attention by getting good grades and behaving politely, we could get attention by acting out, throwing temper tantrums, and eventually behaving in an anti-social manner. I am guilty of all of the above. I am an over-achiever with a guilt complex. Being a very clever fellow I have reduced my anti-social behavior and only occasionally throw temper tantrums in the privacy of my head. Instead, I subtly create conflict so that people have to pay attention to me. I could pass it off as being a type-A Leo, but hanging around spiritual teachers has forced me to look at my behavior and motivations more closely.

            It has been pointed out to me that one of my subtle forms of negative behavior is telling inappropriate jokes and making inappropriate comments that on some level I know will offend others. Up until now I rationalized this behavior by thinking I was helping people see where their issues were, known as pushing their buttons. I even thought I was being funny. Actually I was engaged in a very subtle violence towards people I said I loved. At times it became an art form of emotional terrorism. Now that I am aware of it, I have stopped this. This doesn’t mean that I will stop telling jokes. What it means is that I have to raise my level of self-analysis regarding the appropriateness of my behavior and my motivation.

            Another means of unconscious violence is gossip. When we pass judgment upon others with another person, we are conducting a violent campaign against the energy of that person that is really just a mirror of ourselves. I make every effort not to gossip about others, but sometimes I fall into the trap of character assassination. I rationalize it by pretending concern about the other person or “gathering information.” I know instantly when I realize that I am gossiping because I get a sick feeling in my stomach. Maybe I am starting to understand that I am talking about a reflection of myself.

            The piece that was missing was the realization that I was actually committing the violence against myself. I did not realize that when people state that my articles, behavior or jokes offended them, I was actually talking to myself.  I did not understand that when I was talking about someone else I was really talking about myself. There is the subtlest form of self-destruction, committing violence against myself and not even realizing it.  I kept missing this aspect of my behavior.  Spiritual principles state that what we become aware of will change. What we are not aware of will not change. I am truly aware that this behavior must change. The only way to take advantage of spiritual teachings is to apply them. Applying them means ending violence against myself. Then I can go on to the next issue.

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

BE THE HERO IN YOUR OWN STORY

Many times I see people who are stressed out, unhappy, overwhelmed, angry and afraid. And these are the “spiritual” people. I have to ask myself “What isn’t working?” Then I see people who are happy, self-aware, and enjoying their life. I have to ask myself, “What is working?” The interesting thing is, from outward appearances, there is no rhyme or reason really as to who is happy and who isn’t. Lack of money is blamed for many ills; however, I have met a number of people who have no money and are full of life and love without stress.  So money obviously is not the key. I meet people who blame the people they love for their woes; however, I have met people who are not in relationship who are happy and content. So whether you are in a relationship or not is not the key.

The one common denominator that is shared by all of the happy people and lacking in the unhappy people is a sense of self, the acceptance of who they are. The happy ones do not want to be different; they do not want their life to be different. They are enjoying what they have and don’t care about what they don’t have. They understand that they are constantly growing and changing. They are doing the best they can and that is good enough. They do not look for validation outside of themselves and do not care what anybody else thinks about them.

A hero can be defined as someone who does what is best for the common good no matter the risk, danger or cost. The definition of “common good” gets to be a little tricky because it is so subjective. Morals, ethics, politics and judgment will always make “common good” a shifting ideal. I believe that the common good is anything that helps us to evolve to be divinely inspired beings who put others before us. It takes quite a bit of courage to stand up to a gossip, or your friends when you believe them to be acting against the common good. It takes more courage to be who we think we are, regardless of what public opinion might think about it.

One of the biggest challenges I see with people today is that they are unwilling or afraid to stand up for what they think is best for themselves and others. It could be that they are afraid of losing friends or employment; there is always something that is blocking their willingness to think of others before themselves. In a metaphysical sense, they have bought into the concept that they are separate from everyone and everything else and they can do whatever they want without consequences. However the consequences are inevitable and usually take the form of misery and suffering.

Most of us have some concept of what a hero is. What we don’t have a handle on is what our story is. Even worse, we let people tell us what our story should be.  Basically, our story is whatever we believe about ourselves to be true. We can be victims of our childhood suffering from emotional scars; or we can forget all of our baggage from the past and focus on who we are right now. Our story is whatever we want it to be. The biggest story of all is whether we are happy or not; whether we are the result of our past or the creation of what we believe to be true. Whenever someone asks “tell me about yourself” or “who are you?”  The answer is “MY STORY.”  Our past is only the training ground to be the hero of our story. If we are happy, we are the heroes. When we suffer, we are not.

The highest metaphysical/spiritual teaching is that we create our experiences, perceptions and reality. We create this individually, as a family, community, nation and world. The reality of a street beggar in India appears to be far different than the reality of the people who created Facebook. However, there is one thing in common between the two. They both are creating their experience for their own enlightenment. The street beggar has an illusion that his/her life is either easy or hard, while a multi-billionaire has an illusion that his/her life is easy or hard. The amazing thing is that the street beggar may be happy and the billionaire may be miserable. It depends on who understands that their reality is a self-created illusion and it is all good.

For me, to be a hero in my own story means that I have to take responsibility for my thoughts, words and actions and understand that whatever I am experiencing has a purpose. The purpose for my reality and the purpose of your reality is exactly the same. It is to be happy no matter what and to understand that we are experiencing the same thing viewed through different perspectives. If I am not getting what I want, then to be happy I have to change one fundamental belief. I have to want what I have. This takes a lot of discipline and courage and many people are too lazy to do this. The street beggar can be happy because (s)he accepts life as it is and doesn’t want anything else. The ironic thing is that when they become happy, God will smile and life will change. Here is the absolute truth about being a hero; sometimes it takes more effort to be happy than it does to suffer.

Sometimes being a hero means showing up and giving 100% of myself to whatever is happening at the moment. It might mean letting someone else have that parking space I was waiting for five minutes to get because I can walk. It might mean letting someone in line ahead of me because they are obviously in a hurry. It might mean being kind to someone that isn’t. It might mean doing everything simply because that is who we are, without expectation or desire for reward.

Where and who you are is the result of all your past decisions. Probably the most valuable asset we have is our smile. When we can genuinely smile in the face of challenges and fear, we will always win and be happy. When we can genuinely smile through pain and despair, we are the hero.

 

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

THE WORKSHOP OF NOT GOING TO A WORKSHOP

            The other day I found myself in a different kind of space. I had just found out that a workshop I wanted to go to was already filled up. For the first time in six years, I was not able to go to my favorite teacher’s workshop. I must admit I was not comfortable about that situation. So I had to discover what was going on in the battlefield of my mind. Most people would have just shrugged it off, but to me it was much more serious than that.

            The first step was to be still. This was not easy, I was in the space of “my guru walked by me and ignored me. He didn’t give me a flower.” In other words, some deeply buried feelings of unworthiness, rejection, and abandonment were coming up to be healed. It did not feel pleasant. Had I done something wrong? Was I being punished? Why were some people lucky enough to go and I wasn’t? Was life really that capricious and unfair? Luckily I didn’t have to experience that nonsense for long, I quickly realized that I was in an old thinking pattern that was making me a victim.

            The second step was to look for the lesson. After all, I had created this situation somehow for my own enlightenment. I am still contemplating that one, new revelations arise constantly. I marvel at how the lessons that we least want are the ones that teach us so much. For me, I think one of the lessons from this situation is that not going to a workshop is a workshop. Sometimes we get more out of not getting what we want than getting to go to a workshop. I know that I talk with a lot of people who can’t afford to go to all of the workshops that they would like and that makes them feel a certain way. I have compassion for anyone that is attached to going to workshops like I am. This is a sure source of suffering.

            So the third step in the process was to detach. The contemplation of this little mouse poop of a situation has brought me some valuable insights.  First, I am not going to die if I don’t get to a workshop. If it isn’t my karma, it just isn’t my karma. I have to learn to love myself even when I don’t get what I want. The most valuable lesson I have learned from this is that I am in control of my suffering. I create my suffering, and I can let go of it. I can hang on to it as long as I want, and I can return to my bliss anytime I want. Sometimes being a victim can be so much fun though, even when it doesn’t feel all that great.

            I was quite mystified as to why I felt so abandoned and rejected because I was not invited to this workshop. After all, I go to many workshops and teach many myself. To be able to spend that time by myself and search for the cause of these irrational feelings was a gift that I finally accepted. I later found out that this particular workshop was not for me, the teacher had carefully picked the people that were invited to go and they were in great need of healing, much more than me. I did get the opportunity to look at my desire to belong, to be apart of the group and why I felt like I was being excluded when the reality was there was only so much space and I did not need the workshop. So I finally concluded that it was all in divine timing and destiny. I did not miss anything, I actually was able to learn some valuable lessons about myself.

            The final step for me was to be grateful for the lesson and the teacher. This includes myself. So by being grateful for not being able to go to the workshop, I transformed the energy of being a victim into being a creator. When I do that, I go from suffering to bliss. Like the old saying goes, “life doesn’t happen to us, it happens for us.”

             I am actually feeling pretty good about not going to a workshop. The workshop of not going to a workshop was very helpful.

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

A MESSAGE FOR VIOLENT TIMES

            A snippet of Charlie Chaplin’s iconic movie The Great Dictator has been circulating on the Internet. It is a fascinating movie, released in wartime 1940, where a poor Jewish barber (the protagonist Everyman) is mistaken for a violent dictator (a parody of Hitler) and is given the opportunity to impersonate the dictator. The snippet is a speech by “Everyman”(God/love) to the world crying out for good to overcome evil. I was so fascinated by the words that I transcribed the snippet and set it out below.

             There are many ancient teachings in the speech; I invite everyone to keep them in mind as they read this classic call to goodness. I was struck with the similarity of the themes to the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Hindu work taught by Derek O’Neill (derekoneill.com ) and other advanced masters throughout the ages. Like the Gita, we should consider the metaphorical value of the speech, which is not just about the fight for democracy. It is, in fact, about the path to enlightenment. As we read this text, consider that “soldiers/people” are actually our thoughts. “Machines” are “technology” and “dictators” are the “ego”. When we do that, the true enlightened teaching of the speech becomes clear.

            I’m sorry. I don’t want to be an emperor. That is not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible, Jew, Gentile, Black man, White man. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone and the good earth is rich and will Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world in hate, and goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives us abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life would be violent and all would be lost.

The aeroplane and radio has brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out to the goodness in men; cries out for universal brotherhood for unification of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions of people throughout the world; millions of despairing men, women and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. For those that can hear me, do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but a passing of greed and bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress.

The hate of men will pass and dictators die. The power that they took from the people will return to the people. As long as men die, liberty will never perish. Soldiers, don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you, who regiment your lives, who tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel, who drill you, lie at you, treat you like cattle, use you like cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts. You are not machines, you are not cattle; you are men. You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don’t hate. Only the unloved hate, the unnatural hate.

Soldiers, don’t fight for slavery, fight for liberty. In the 17th chapter of St. Luke, it is written that the kingdom of God is within man; not a man, a group of men, but in all men. You the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You, the people, have the power to make life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then, in the name of democracy, let us use the power, let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work and old age a security.

By the promise of these things brutes have risen to power, but they lie, they do not fulfill that promise, they never will. Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfill that promise. Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, do away with greed, hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite.

                                                                                    -Charlie Chaplin 1940

When we read this passage metaphorically, we can see that the themes of goodness will always triumph over evil. The deeper truth is that goodness and evil are projections of the ego, each has its own karma. Goodness reaps happiness and security; greed reaps suffering and imprisonment. The question that we have to ask ourselves is which do we choose in every moment? A choice to do nothing has its own karma. We have the ability to choose kindness and gentleness for each word, thought and deed. The choices that we make determine how we experience life.

The irony of the teachings is that a free and happy life requires effort and discipline. Without effort and discipline we will experience suffering. With effort and discipline we have the opportunity to experience happiness and freedom. The joke is that many teachers will tell us that if we diligently and thoroughly practice the spiritual teachings, we will receive what our heart most desires. When we start at the beginning, what we desire may take the form of superficial pleasures and material wealth. When we reach the end of the journey, if we have properly practiced and incorporated the teachings into our lives, we don’t care about the superficial stuff anymore. We will be happy with what we have.