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Sunday, February 5, 2017

Striving for goodness, or

Already There

In what way can a person who is under the impression that they are a separate individual enclosed in a bag of skin effectively realize that they are Brahman. This, of course, is a curious question. It proposes a journey to the place where you already are.”
Alan Watts ( excerpted from “How to Reach Where You Already Are,” Parabola Magazine, Spring, 2017)

I was raised in the North Carolina mountains. My family were staunchly Christian, of the Methodist persuasion. We did go through a brief exotic period during which we belonged to the Episcopal church, but that's about as far afield as we got. As such, we were taught, (and, of course, the apostle Paul reminded us at every opportunity, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,”) that we, on our own, were incapable of achieving God's grace. Only the spilled blood of the Lamb of God could redeem our miserable selves from the tortures of hell. What that message sets up in a child, whether little or grown-up, is a continuous cycle of trying to be good, failing, feeling guilty and ashamed, and then trying again. We go to church/synagogue/temple, we pray, we do yoga, we meditate, we strictly govern our thoughts, our words, our appetites, our passions, and then something happens, and we're right back to square one. Busted!

I'm not suggesting that attempts to be decent and civil are not virtuous. They are. We couldn't live together in one world if at least some of us didn't practice kindness and civility. What I am suggesting is this: we are already there. What if we started from the point of view that we are loved, even cherished, by that which we call Divine. That love is not predicated upon our being Christian, or Jew, or Muslim, or Hindu. We aren't desperate serial criminals for having a lusty thought, or wanting something we don't have. We're humans; we are material expressions of one Spirit, encapsulated in a bag of skin and bones, in order to experience the grace of Universal love. We have all these ungovernable feelings, all these experiences of failure and success, so that we can grow in insight and compassion during this lifetime, and therefore, fulfill our soul's task of evolving.

Instead of telling ourselves, “I'm a hopeless sinner in need of a blood sacrifice to save my sorry …,” what if we told ourselves, “I made a human mistake. I can learn from that.” When we are open to life, when we are awake to all its manifestations, we are already part of the Universal Soul. Go forth and live. Be civil, and even kind. Celebrate your goodness.

                                                                  In the Spirit,


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