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


           Memorial Day is the federal holiday established to honor those who died fighting for the United States. It is not clear how the holiday originated (hard to believe in the modern age) with many cities claiming to have had the first celebration for the fallen. Tradition states that it began in Charleston, SC in 1865 with a celebration by newly freed slaves to honor those who died in the Civil War to free the slaves. Whether the national holiday grew from that or other memorials for the fallen soldiers, Memorial Day has grown to be one of the major holidays of the US, at least in part because it unofficially marks the beginning of the summer.

            The irony is that it would seem that we only pay this holiday lip service as we continue to lose soldiers in conflict all around the world. One would think that any intelligent life would recognize the effects of violence on itself and cease perpetuating death and violence. How many orphans does it take to stop war? How many PTSD cases does it take to stop violence? When will we stop the idea that violence is a solution for any problem?

            My father graduated from the United States Military Academy (West Point) in 1945 and joined the occupational forces in Europe for three years following surrender by Germany. To this day he is apologetic about not being a part of the actual war against Germany. When he is asked if he served during World War II, he goes into a long story about not actually fighting Germans but he did have a violent incident with Russian troops. A more telling story is how kind and gentle he was before he went to West Point; and how angry and driven he was after that experience. Until the US Military Academy accepted women, graduates of West Point were quick to point out that the experience of going to West Point makes men out of boys. I am not sure what the tag line is now, but I shudder to think how many sweet, kind and gentle teenagers were transformed into killing machines and then unleashed upon an unsuspecting public without any deprogramming. This process continues unto this day.

            The affects of military service is overwhelming our VA hospitals and becoming more and more of a problem with PTSD and chemical warfare poisoning, not to mention the physical damage many wounded warriors have to live with. How much suffering do we have to experience before we stand up and cry “ENOUGH”! It is clear that we are losing the war against terrorism. A case in point is the Boston Marathon bombing. The lone surviving terrorist was sentenced to death several times over. One death will never repay the damage done to the victims of that day. Ironically enough, death is what the surviving terrorist wanted; now he gets to go to heaven and have 72 virgins. Somehow something is not computing.

            The truth is the wars that we are waging in other countries will likely bankrupt our country. We spend trillions of dollars in research every year on how to kill our enemies better. We could simply buy our enemies lock stock and barrel more cheaply. I am not suggesting that we do that, but I am questioning why we spend so much money on death and violence. Having the biggest and most deadly weapons in the world has not kept us safe.

            This Memorial Day we have to wake up and become more conscious about what we are doing as individuals and as a nation to perpetuate the fallen. We are the victims of our own device. There is too much money flowing into the hands of those that profit at war. There is too much disinformation being fed to us by politicians that want us to continue funding war and violence.

            I believe that we should honor our fallen and demand an end to war by whatever means are available. We have the resources, technology and intelligence to do so. We are funding both sides of every conflict currently waging in the world. We are so afraid that nations will turn on us if we don’t fund their violence that we have sold our grandchildren’s destiny to continue the fighting. We need to stop making weapons of mass destruction. We need to clean up our mess. We need to stop sending soldiers into harm’s way. We need to learn the lessons of our past so that we do not repeat them. The world will not support the status quo much longer. We either have to chose freedom or totalitarianism. We have to choose peace. 

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


           I read in the paper this morning that Al Queda was claiming responsibility for the machete death of a civilian Bangladesh blogger it claimed was a blasphemer, along with other victims it had recently murdered. In the same paper was an article on the mounting suicides of Lakota youth on the Wounded Knee Reservation in South Dakota. In a synchronicity of irony there was another article on the return of a golden statue that held the remains of a meditating Buddhist monk to its original temple in China. A foundational premise of Buddhism is that peace and serenity can only be obtained through acceptance. The instant question arises, “does acceptance prohibit taking action to change something that appears to be inhuman?”

            The Al Queda story is a story of religious intolerance that has been repeated over and over and over. When will the world say “enough”? Does the world have the right to say “enough”? How many mutilated girls, murdered innocents and kidnapped virgins in the name of Allah does it take for the world to push back? Is the answer really prayer and acceptance? It is the Buddhist way to abhor violence and accept whatever is as the interplay of karma and the human condition. It is extremely difficult to take a benign position on something as inhuman as the taking of life. However, the Buddhists also take the view that this is all an illusion and if we find Samadhi (bliss) in this lifetime through meditation and acceptance, we can influence these events. Sometimes I wonder what we are up to…

            The climbing Lakota suicide rate seems to also be a complicated issue with no easy answer. The youth are targets of racism and poverty, living in below poverty level conditions without much hope of improvement. Native Americans in general are still warehoused in governmental reservations in substandard conditions. How can we allow this to happen on our soil? Yet it does.

            I wonder sometimes if Buddha got it wrong. I read another article the other day that argued that acceptance is an avoidance of working through hard problems. When we accept someone for who they are and don’t confront inappropriate behavior, we avoid having hard conversations which may be needed to challenge that individual and help everyone grow.

            I recently spent over a year in a cult organization headed by a charismatic man who is highly abusive to his employees and his followers. I accepted that behavior because I was a “spiritual” man, and felt that since he claimed to have mystical powers (which some claimed was a fraud) I had to accept his behavior. I learned a very valuable lesson during that time. No one has the right to abuse others and I do not have to accept that behavior.

            There is a saying that in the West we would stop a man from beating a donkey for the donkey’s sake and in the East we would stop a man from beating a donkey for the man’s sake. This means that if a man is committing violence, it is acceptable to stop him because “he knows not what he does” as Jesus said on the cross. It certainly seems plausible that if Al Qaeda seemingly has no conscience or care for the sanctity of human life, we should stop them. The question is how.

            Gandhi, Martin Luther King and other spiritual leaders have achieved great things through the practice of passive resistance. This is not acceptance; rather it is a means of interfering with the socio-political economics of a group without resorting to violence. It is obvious that attempts to bomb and destroy Al Qaeda have been ineffective. Perhaps it is time to discover who keeps supplying them military aid and intelligence. God forbid it would be some of the clandestine intelligence agencies which Hollywood suspects of everything. However, a civilized society cannot accept violence in any form without causing more violence. We have certainly seen in this country that prison is not the answer either. I wonder if a million man march to Washington DC protesting the actions of terrorist groups would have any effect? If the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in China can cause a hurricane in the Caribbean, can we affect the actions of religious fanatics/criminals in other countries.

            I certainly get that these are complicated issues and there are considerations that I am not aware of on national or global scales. However, it seems that we are just accepting the fact that terrorism is a given in this world and we just have to live (or die) with it. Sending troops seems to be a colossal failure. It is time to stop the man beating the donkey. We have to come up with a better solution. 

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


            I read an article about how one college’s students hates another college and its rival student body. This arises out of a sports rivalry spanning over one hundred years. My initial reaction was wondering how in the world we are going to have peace on this planet when even simple friendly sport competitions provokes hatred in the Bible belt. This is not merely a frivolous academic animosity; it breaks into violence from time to time. I observe with great compassion that there is something seriously ignorant and misguided if is this is what the institutions of higher learning are creating. It is rather obvious to anyone that looks that both sides to this emotional violence acts and behaves like mirror images of each other. When one side loses, the other side is “obnoxious or poor losers.”

            If one were to add family, ethnic and religious resentment to this emotional soup, it is no wonder that there is genocide occurring on this planet as I write this and you read it. I wonder if I am contributing to this suffering. If I believe the ancient wisdoms and teachings, if I can perceive it, I am creating it.

            When we say “I” followed by an emotion, we usually follow it with an object of that emotion. If we say “I love”, we usually direct that towards another person or idea, such as “I love you” or “I love America”. Similarly, when we say “I hate”, we direct that emotion towards someone or something, such as “I hate you” or “I hate intolerance.”

             The truth is there is no object for our emotion outside of us, because ancient wisdom states that all perception is projection. We perceive that there is something “out there” to project our emotions at, when it is only us projecting that emotion at us. In other words, when we say “I love you”, we mean “I love me.”  When we say, “I hate you”, we mean, “I hate me.” There is no “you”, there is only “me.” When we say, “I miss you,” we mean that “ I am missing me.” When we say, “I want/need you,” we mean “I want/need me.”

            We have to understand that what we project out into the world will manifest. When we get into the whole “I want…” manifestation illusion what we are projecting out into the world is our lack. When we buy into the “Secret of…” nonsense we are only creating more of what we are attempting to fill, i.e. unhappiness. Grace only comes to those with open and happy hearts, not to those who are trying to keep up with the Joneses. When we say, “I will not be happy until I have [fill in the blank]”, we project unhappiness and lack into the world. When we say “I don’t like [fill in the blank]”, we project rejection and denial into the world.

           The ultimate truth is there is no “you.” When we say, “I love you,” we mean “I am love.” When we say, “I hate you,” we mean “I am hate.” This, of course, is all an illusion that we create to make us realize that we are everything, there is nothing that is not us. The Muslims have a powerful prayer, “La ilaha ilallah,” which means, “There is nothing that is not God.”

            If we want peace, we have to apply it to our lives. It can’t start somewhere else; it has to start in our hearts. Whenever we think unkind or violent thoughts about someone or some situation, someone dies in a far away land on the other side of the planet. This is known in quantum physics and metaphysics as the “butterfly effect.” Thus, when a butterfly beats its wings in Japan, a hurricane is born in the Atlantic. Everything is connected, and to deny this is to live in ignorance. So when we think that someone is an “asshole,” this will have a very real consequence somewhere in our world and ultimately will come back to us, because we are really labeling ourselves with this epithet.

It would be so amazing if we stopped competing with each other and started cooperating instead. Peace might actually break out all around the planet.



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


             Many spiritual teachers and new age gurus talk about raising our vibratory rates. What they are really talking about is changing the way that we relate to the world, each other and our minds. Most spiritual beliefs include the proposition that we have a soul, or spirit, that is separate from our minds and thoughts. It is commonly referred to as the “higher self”, or an awareness of the perceived and the perceiver. When we can observe our minds thinking, our personalities working, our bodies doing, we can stop being held captive to these aspects of ourselves and begin to become aware.

            We constantly struggle with how we perceive the world and how we fit in it. This is the role of philosophy, the study of life. Many scientists, theologians, spiritual leaders and holy men have endeavored to explain why we see the world the way we do and why we suffer. Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, and scores of prophets and gurus have taken turns sharing wisdom and their perspective of how to become happy and enjoy our lives.

            The current notion is to “raise our vibratory rate.” There are no machines existing that measure vibratory rate, so this must mean something other than a physical phenomenon. There are many metaphors running rampant through this belief system, such as “being the light”, “we are not the Doer”, and others. What, we ask, does this really mean? I believe that the basic message of all religions and philosophies is that in order to truly relate to this world and understand our roles in it we have to attain a certain manner of thinking and awareness of our surroundings.

            Another way of describing this concept is that we actually do not raise our vibratory rates, we simply stop those beliefs that distract us from our true nature. Our true nature is energy, awareness and being that is not our bodies, thoughts and beliefs. It is this energy that gives us life, breath, and awareness, and survives the cessation of our physical bodies. When we become trapped in the beliefs that we are our thoughts, our bodies, our circumstances, we cannot understand life from the bigger perspective. The bigger picture is that we are here to have experiences and to learn how to love others and ourselves without condition, and this leads to happiness and bliss.

            We talk in terms of “raising vibratory rates” to describe how we feel. When we feel light and happy, we have “raised our vibratory rate”. When we feel sad and depressed, we have “lowered our vibratory rate”. So we are actually talking about how we feel about others and ourselves. Feelings are tied to thoughts, thoughts are tied to beliefs, and beliefs are tied to our experiences, and our experiences may not be what we perceive them to be.

            Let me give an example of how we perceive the world can make a huge difference on how we experience it, what we believe about it, what we think about and how we feel. I was on a flight the other day and the attendant announced that there was a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor on board. The Congressional Medal of Honor is given for military bravery far above what is expected in battle. This particular man had won his CMH in Vietnam, a war that produced few heroes and divided the United States. The thought that went through my mind as the man received thanks and applause, was that we should be giving the same accolades to men who had refused to fight and declared Conscientious Objector status or fled to Canada. These were pacifists who were ready to give up everything they had for their belief that killing others was not an appropriate way to handle the situation. People who are willing to sacrifice for non-violence are just as honorable and courageous as those who are willing to kill others to keep what they have. Until we are willing to honor those who refuse to fight, we will continue to have war and killing.

            Even in this age of “raising our vibratory rate”, we continue to celebrate those who kill. Whether it is “the enemy”, or an animal, or ourselves through addiction and pain, we glorify the taking of life. One of the biggest debates we have now is over abortion. People take hard stands on these issues and refuse to compromise. The irony of all of this is karma will even it all out in the end. When we commit violence to force compliance with our beliefs, we are only hurting ourselves. It is interesting that the Dalai Lama resigned because he could see that the Buddhists were not following their own beliefs when they rioted to free Tibet. When people refuse to participate in violence, peace will come. This is “raising vibratory rate”.




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


             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.