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Burning Bowl Ceremony

GREAT MORNING BELOVED!!

It’s so good to see you this morning. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. Whether it was with family or friends, or our furry angels in disguise, I pray it was just what you wanted and needed this year.

Today is an important Ceremony for us, as we leave the past year behind us and prepare for the new year to come. I hope you have been searching your heart for what needs to be released today. As we release what no longer serves our growth or our soul’s growth, we enjoy freedom. Freedom from attachments and from suffering over things in the past that are no longer true. Remember, there is only the NOW. Living in the Now is all we have. It is there we find freedom. Freedom from the heavy weight of not forgiving ourselves and others.

‘Attachment is the source of all suffering.’ Buddha

We all yearn for that freedom. Our yearning is the Divine within us all, waiting for us to open to the light and grace that is ours to behold.

Burning Bowl

The Burning Bowl Ceremony is all about releasing; meaning to set free. Anytime you want to clear out unwanted memories and conditions from your life, a burning bowl ritual offers a sacred and powerful way to release negativity.

The goal of the burning bowl ritual is to make space for new beginnings. It can be done at any place, at home alone or in a gathering like this, with others.

For centuries, indigenous groups used smoke as a symbol of their thoughts and prayers rising to the Great Spirit. Even engaged couples have also released the past in a burning bowl before taking their vows.

Whatever the circumstances, the purpose of the ceremony is to shift consciousness. It’s about becoming still, naming what you want to release, and letting it go.

When we let go and let God, we experience freedom. Letting go opens us to the power of inspiration, insight, wisdom, and love.

AS you bring to mind what it is you need to release, Let the feelings come to you

Lao Tsu, wrote in the Tao Te Ching: “In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired. In the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped.”

It is your conscious awareness that begins the activation of the release of problems, thoughts, and things from your life.

Describe the events as much or as little as you want. It can be as simple as a name or word, or more in-depth. Let your heart open to the flow as it releases old wounds, negativity, or unhealthy thought patterns. 

 Fire is the symbol of transformation. The use of a Burning Bowl Ceremony can be a transformative ritual. to release old wounds, disappointments, unfulfilled expectations or mistakes that might be holding us back.

For those of you at home, if fire is not safe for where you are, use water, it has cleansing attributes too.

Many of us (if not all of us) have things that seem to cling to us and hold us back. Attachments.  It could be something that someone has said to us, or unfortunate events that we’ve experienced, inappropriate reactions, uninspiring thoughts, outdated ideas that have served their purpose in the past, but which now serve no useful purpose, or it could be the negativity we hold, etc. All these seem to cling to us, and other things, too, and can hold us back from being who we are meant to be.

Our reactions to life events, if we’re not careful, can become something like a weight that clings to us, that weighs us down, but it is so subtle sometimes, or we’re so used to the same actions and reactions, that we are hardly conscious of it.

“In the process of letting go you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself.” – Deepak Chopra

It’s a celebration of the end of all that is holding us back, and the release into something new.

I hope you share with me the new you that you are sensing, seeing, as it comes into fruition.

Then, when you are ready, on a piece of paper, write down your release. Letting go begins the moment you put pen to paper.

As you watch the paper burn, visualize your unwanted thoughts rising up in the smoke, being released from you.

Allow yourself to experience whatever you are feeling: fear, anxiety, sadness, loss, gratitude. Let the feelings lift as the fire consumes your paper.

 

 As the smoke travels up, say words of letting go such as:

“Easily, gracefully, I release the past so that I am free in this moment.”

Please, only one person at the Bowl at a time for safety. Give the person ahead of you space for their release.

We sit in quiet contemplation as we wait for the folks to complete their release.

Once you have completed the ritual, now is a good time to consider the future.  to visualize what you want to take the place of what has been released. What do you want to experience in life now? How do you want it to take shape?

Write your intentions  for the new year.

As we write, be aware of your words.

we can let go of those words that have kept us back from our full potential. Words like can’t and try. We know that Yoda loves to say: “Do or don’t do, there is no try.”

“Trying” prevents us from ever achieving our goal. “Try” is a word that signals commitment avoidance, lack of confidence, and it undermines our success.

Another word to release: “need”, as in “I need to do X.” Use “choose” instead, because “choose” takes the activity from the realm of mandatory into the realm of choice, where it belongs.

”Want” is another word to release. Remember in the book, “Conversations with God,” it is made clear that we cannot have what we “want”, as long as we want, we acknowledge lack. So, instead of saying “I want X,” say “I choose X.”

Maybe you have a habit of saying “It’s always something” or other phrases that we say without thinking…. “This is just like pulling teeth”, “I don’t believe it”, “It’s too good to be true.”

It’s time to think before we say things out of habit.

Eliminate the words “ought,” & “should.” Use ‘choose’ in their place.

Remember; “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” -Maulana Jelaluddin Rumi

That works for all our good. That is whet we did with the fire and now we write our intentions to do our part to manifest our future.

When you have completed your letter, place it in an envelope, address it to yourself and we will mail it to you next June. If at home, place the letter some place out of the way and make a note on your calendar to read it on a day of your choosing, but at least 3-4 months away. I like June because it gives us plenty of time to do what is ours to do.

Joy in Autumn

GREAT MORNING BELOVED!!

Welcome to our 4th Sunday of Advent, Joy.  Now all our candles are lit. Hope/Faith, Peace, Love and now, Joy.

I hope as we have brought each candle to life, you too, were feeling that emotion? And maybe, sharing that feeling with a season, it made it even more memorial.

Let’s get to the Joy in Autumn.

We all have experienced ‘growth opportunities’ with this pandemic and all that it has brought to us. I say growth opportunities because if we look back, we are bound to have learned a lesson or two, maybe more, that will aid us in our future.

We certainly learned a lot here at the Spiritual Center… how to do Services virtually and all the different ways we could reach out to our people and the greater community.

And, spiritually, emotionally, and sometimes, physically, we’ve learned a lot too. Many of us are still working through some of those issues. Please reach out to me, or the prayer chaplains, if you could use a helping hand.

When we light the Advent candle for joy, we remind ourselves of the spiritual truth of this season: “Unto us a child is born.”

In telling the Christmas story, the Gospel writers remind us that when things seem darkest, joy can come in unexpected places and small packages.

Children are great reminders to us of the joy of playing, giving, learning, and loving. In the presence of such joy, our inner child can awaken our Christ nature and then we are reborn in the teachings of our brother and way-shower, Jesus.

Joy is almost contagious. If you feel joy spreading out from your friends and family, it’s very difficult to fight it. It spreads from within, soon to fill you with feeling joyful along with them.

Christmas is not an event that happens only in December or 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem. Christmas happens as we open to the possibility of hope, when we live in the understanding of peace, and when we give and receive love.

The joy that is Christmas—the birth of the Christ, happens all the time, every minute of every day. It happens when we smile as we pass our neighbors, as we let a driver in the flow of traffic, when we open the door for a stranger, when we buy a cup of coffee for the next person in line, when we hold a pet close to our hearts. It happens in so many ways when we open our hearts, as they naturally spread love to our world.

As the days get shorter and darkness seems to close in, we light the candle for joy to remind ourselves of the power and presence within us. Then we celebrate the season with newfound glee. Keeping our hearts open, keeping connected to our higher power within, this is Christmas.

Joy to the world, the Savior is here and has been here all along, the Christ within us all. We are our saviors, each individual one of us as we open our hearts to the Divine within us. We are made in the image & likeness of the Creator. When we get connected and keep connected, we save ourselves by being One with all.

I truly believe Happiness can fade, but joy does not. Joy comes from a deeper, more profound place of connection with the Divine in all its expressions.

Most of us want more joy and happiness and, in our humanness, we are often deluded into looking for it from things and people outside of us. But joy is within, and it’s always there. There is no ‘more joy’ it’s just us, letting it shine through.

In The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama explains how to cultivate joy.

“Joy is the reward, really, of seeking to give joy to others. When you show compassion, when you show caring, when you show love to others, do things for others, in a wonderful way you have a deep joy that you can get in no other way. You can’t buy it with money. You can be the richest person on Earth, but if you care only about yourself, I can bet my bottom dollar you will not be happy and joyful. But when you are caring, compassionate, more concerned about the welfare of others than about your own, wonderfully, wonderfully, you suddenly feel a warm glow in your heart, because you have, in fact, wiped the tears from the eyes of another.” 

Joy can be felt in a connection with other people, with nature, and with other beings. It is the wonder, the delight, the welling up of loving energy—so that we feel our connection with God in all its forms—that brings forth the light of the soul as joy. It can be the joy of the first snowfall, the first signs of spring, the birth of a child, the stars at night. It is seeing the miracle of life and celebrating it.

“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.”—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

And since God is everywhere present, that joy can be brought forth just by noticing, and appreciating what is all around you.

And that is how we can associate autumn with joy.

Close your eyes for a moment. Now connect with your inner child and recall the joy you felt as you walked through the leaves that have fallen, going out of your way to kick them up in the air. I actually do this when I walk the dogs, there one area when the road is filled with the leave from the nearby trees. I try not to kick the leaves too much, don’t want the leaves too far out on the road, they can be dangerous for bikers.

Or recall jumping into the big pile that was just raked together by Mom or Dad or big brother or sister. The laughter following you as you sink into the center, maybe your dog joining you barking and running over and over again.

Maybe you even did this as a young adult too. Not so much now for me, but many of you can still replay that scene and be able to get up again!

That is joy.

Autumn is also a teacher of change. School and work resume, and soon the year begins to wind down. Following the harvest, the growing season ends, and we enter a period of slowing down. The autumnal equinox is a perfect time to meditate on balance.

Autumn invites you to reflect on your priorities. It’s an opportunity for metamorphosis, a chance to liberate yourself from outdated beliefs, resentments, or relationships. Ask yourself, “What are my burdens? How can I release them?” Autumn offers a deeper experience of your own transformation and spirituality.

As the leaves flutter from the branches, we too can let go of those people, places, things, events that no longer serve us. And when we finally let go of that pain, that thought, that scene locked in our mind, we will feel joy bubbling from within because you have taken a step toward freedom from your past. A step to wholeness on this physical plane.

We’ll prepare for the Burning Bowl in a couple of weeks. Keep in mind what you wish to release.

SO yes, Autumn is a season of change. And if we use it as an example, we can note how easy it is to change. It’s letting go and letting God. The seasons are governed by the laws of our planet’s tilt with regards to the sun.

If we would go with the flow, so to speak, as our seasons do, we would BE the spiritual person filled with love that we truly are. Easy, right? Unfortunately, & fortunately, we have choice, free will. That can mess us up and our spiritual journey thrown off course just as it provides us with opportunities to grow.

When we notice nature, as we have through this Advent Season, we can see that following the flow of natural law would be a great way to keep us on the spiriual path through all seasons, no matter the ‘growth opportunity’.

We have seen an example of transformation with each season, with each Advent …..

Autumn, one of learning to let go when it’s right, winter; a time to go within and allow transformation to take its place in our being, spring; a time for planting our new seeds of being who we want to be, summer; growth but also fun, leisure time, warmth.

The Peace of Winter, December 5, 2021

GREAT MORNING BELOVED!!

The Peace of Winter

Welcome back to our Sunday Celebration, anticipating the coming Birth & rebirth of The Christ, the Child, and the essence of that Child within each and everyone.

This morning, we light the second candle of Advent, this one representing Peace.

“Peace isn’t something you have to search for or create. It is always present. Available the very instant we stop fighting and accept what is.” Rev. Michael Gott

Rev. Teresa Burton says, in the booklet, “A Christmas to Remember”: “Peace is presence. Peace is attention. Peace is not getting rattled over things that don’t really matter.”

And in Job 22:21; “Agree with God and be at peace; in this way goodwill will come to you.”

Those statements follow a story Rev. Burton talks about trying to do everything and be everything during the time leading up to Christmas. Isn’t that what we so often do? Buy the presents, wrap the presents, bake the cookies, make the special dinners.

In my family, with a strong Italian heritage on my mother’s side, we would often spend so much time baking and cooking, little time was left for the fun things…getting together with family on both parents’ sides. Traditionally, Christmas eve was spent with my Grandparents on my mother’s side.  We would travel to their house in the next town and as soon as you opened the door, that wonderful aroma would fill us with anticipation.  The long table was filled with all things Italian and the small home with many, many relatives.

After my grandparents passed, my mother did a smaller version of that Italian celebration. So many things to make and bake and cook, not to mention the shopping. Special sausage from the cousin’s store. Special mincemeat from another.

And of course, the gift shopping…and wrapping.

Christmas day was spent with family on my father’s side. Not as much special preparation, but still time consuming with the cooking and visiting.

And of course, it all had to be perfect. I don’t know about my grandmother, but my mother placed a lot of pressure on herself for everything to be as ‘right’ as possible. I guess she compared herself to her mother as many of us do to our own…is the pie crust good, my sauce was never as good as hers, she liked her sand tarts thin while like a little more cookie!

One thing she did do, as the years went by, she adjusted what needed to be on the Christmas Eve table, so she could handle it and she finally allowed us to help. My grandmother would never have settled for that!

Still, Where’s the time to truly prepare for the coming of the Christ Child? How do we fit in the preparation of our hearts and minds for this important reminder that we are of God, that all-encompassing Spirit of power, and truth, and knowing?

Now think about winter.

Not about the cold winds, and wet, blowing rain. No. Think of the quiet, peaceful presence of perfect white snow, lying everywhere you look. Step outside and just listen. No cars, no snowblowers yet. Just the peaceful presence of a noiseless moment in time. If you’re lucky, it will be more than a few moments.

Just stillness, and peace.

Take a deep breath. It’s almost like the air is cleaner during this part of winter.

WINTER is a going Inward time, a time for sensing our Truth.

From “Folklore, Customs, Legends and Mythology.The winter solstice time is no longer celebrated as it once was, with the understanding that this is a period of descent and rest, of going within our homes, within ourselves and taking in all that we have been through, all that has passed in this full year which is coming to a close… like nature and the animal kingdom around us, this time of hibernation is so necessary for our tired limbs, our burdened minds.

Our modern culture teaches avoidance at a max at this time; alcohol, lights, shopping, overworking, over spending, comfort food and consumerism.

And yet the natural tug to go inwards as nearly all creatures are doing is strong and the weather so bitter that people are left feeling that winter is hard, because for those of us without burning fires and big festive families, it can be lonely and isolating. Whereas in actual fact winter is kind, she points us in her quiet soft way towards our inner self, towards this annual time of peace and reflection, embracing the darkness and forgiving, accepting and loving embracing goodbye the past year.

“Winter takes away the distractions, the buzz, and presents us with the perfect time to rest and withdraw into a womb like love, bringing fire & light to our hearth”.

.. and then, just around the corner the new year will begin again, and like a seed planted deep in the earth, we will all rise with renewed energy once again to dance in the sunlight

Winter welcomes you to quiet your mind, be still, and listen. It is associated with the element water and its properties of conserving energy and tranquility. Sounds about right.

During the dark of winter, icy winds blow. Trees become dormant. Bears and other animals hibernate. Did you know chipmunks hibernate?

Sometimes we feel like hibernating! And many do, in a sense. We tend to stay home more, snuggle up with a blanket and a good book, maybe a cup of hot tea or chocolate…don’t forget the tiny marshmallows!

We dress in colorful sweaters, layering up with the thought of layering down when necessary. We even dress up our dogs in sweaters to keep them warm when it is really cold outside. pic

What other things are on your favorites list?

Winter is exciting because it takes you to your depths. You reflect on your progress and areas that need growth.

We have the Burning Bowl in a few weeks, a time of reflecting on what no longer serves us. An opportunity to leave behind us people, situations, experiences that we have resolved with our inner work and can now release and move forward.

And after that we look to our future with the White Stone Ceremony, listening for our word or phrase that will be our strength and guidance for the new year.

The letter we then write, going into some detail about what we are looking to accomplish in the new year is the next activity as we look to what might be in this new year. It might be associated to the word or phrase you received for your White Stone, or something altogether different. Maybe your goals for the new year.

Still, it’s something to look forward to, when our letters arrive in June, or if you are at home, something you will bring out and read on the date noted on your calendar.

Inspiration can and most often does, come from the dark days of winter. As a former gardener, one of the things I loved to do, and most avid gardeners did also, was ordering the gardening catalogs and planning our gardens. The BURPEE catalog was my favorite. It is always filled with wonderful photos of the new and favorite flowers and plants. They even include some designs to inspire our imagination. I might just order one again and dream a little….

In every process of change, there is a season of winter in which hidden progress is taking place as our prayers are answered in their right time and way. It is up to us to nourish the work we are working on with quiet time, introspective time, prayer, meditation & contemplation time.

As I suggested last week, we all may want to make time for prayer, meditation, contemplation during advent as we anticipate the Birth of the Christ Child and our own rebirth, acknowledging our true selves…of God, in God…all One.

Let’s make a point to prioritize our preparation for the coming renewal, for the coming of the Christ Child, our own rebirth.

Summer and love

GREAT MORNING BELOVED!!

Welcome back to our Sunday Service. We are on the third week of Advent. We have lit the candles for Hope & Faith, for Peace, and now we light the candle for Love. Notice, it’s a different color than the others.

Why do you think that is?

Love

This week we are looking at summer through the eyes, experience, thoughts of love.

Summer has always been considered the most romantic of the four seasons. The clear skies, the blazing sun, the gentle summer breeze, and the lazy afternoons flavor the season with passion and warm love.

So our Advent message: Summer and love

All the time I have been thinking about Love and summer, my mind goes to GREASE…’summer loving…you don’t want to hear me sing it! But Grease is one of my favorite movies. Are you singing that song in your head?? I’ve been all week!

So much of our teen years were wrapped up in the wonder of a summer romance. Dances at outdoor venues, beach or pool antics. Walks in the park. In my area, going to Hershey Park for all the rides and entertainment.

And all that is fun to reminisce about. I’ve been doing a lot of it lately, reliving some fun times.

But love and summer don’t just mean walking hand and hand with a person your heart is interested in.

Think about all the places, people and things we love about summer. Here’s an easy start, the beach…nothing like walking along the beach, cool breeze keeping us from the heat of the day.

My family would vacation at the beach with sometimes 4 other families from my father’s side. We’d rent a big house just a few blocks from the beach and share the meals and responsibilities. Our place to go was North Wildwood. So much fun. Pack a lunch and all the chairs and towels, walk the couple blocks and someone would be there by 10 to stake out our spot.

As the morning went on, everyone would end up there for the day. Playing in the waves, waiting for the ice cream man to come around, spending time with cousins and aunts and uncles. These were some of my favorite memories, when we spent time together.

When I was young, I liked the heat. Not so much now, too many heat waves…climate has changed and continues to do so.

Still. Lots to be loving in summer. Look at the abundance in the fields. Love walking through the Farmers Markets, looking for that perfect tomato, or more plants for your garden.

And flowers…who doesn’t love flowers, whether inside making the house smell wonderful. Or outside, beautiful flowers for sight and smell and for the food and habitat of the animals and insects.

Summer is the season with the most ‘light’ and is often symbolized by the sun and the fire element. Summer offers you the special gift of playfulness. It invites you to lighten up. It’s vacation time; school is out. You can laugh more and worry less.

DO you do that? Lighten up? Worry less?

But, if I wander through my favorite Holiday movies that would embody love, I would have to think of when Rudolph leads Santa and his reindeer to the Island of Misfit Toys because what I’m really witnessing is love in action. I feel happy when Ebenezer Scrooge meets Christmas morning with outpourings of generosity to those he had spurned just the day before. Christmas Present – “Come and know me better…” And I feel the same when George Bailey’s friends rush to his aid, and Harry raises his glass and says, “A toast: To my big brother, George, the richest man in town,” because I’m witnessing the transformational power of love, just like Rev. Theresa Burton tells us in the Unity booklet, “A Christmas to Remember.”

She continues, “We have in common the love that elevates us beyond personality and self-centered concern, allowing us to be the vessels through which divine love expresses. To see someone through the eyes of love—to finally see ourselves that way—truly is a Christmas miracle.”

We often forget that love is a verb. Oh yes, most of us think of love as a noun, a thing. Or a feeling, I love you.

But we must put action behind those statements. Rudolph is putting action to his love of the misfit toys, understanding their plight because he experienced it too. He makes sure they get a home with a child. Action.

And Ebenezer Scrooge puts action immediately, not only dancing around in his night clothes, but putting the passing boy to the job and purchasing the prize turkey for the Cratchet family and then swallowing his pride, his ego; and going to his nephew Fred’s house for dinner. Steps of action.

And finally, George Bailey tried everything to find the missing $5000, even swallowing his pride and going to Mr. Potter. Those were all actions of love, taking responsibility for his family. And his family returned that love in the end, helping to gather the town to aid him and everyone dropped what they were doing to help him. I cry every time. This is one of the movies I watch every year…I have a list!

We have an opportunity to put love in action so often. We sometimes miss the chance. Simple things to do for friends, family, neighbors, community. It may look like just opening the door for the person next, but it is love in action.

“When we finally grow weary of making life so hard, of doing battle within and without, we have a way out and a way up. We can choose love.”

The Hope & Faith found in Spring 

GREAT MORNING BELOVED!!

The Hope & Faith found in Spring 

The first Sunday of Advent…can you believe it? Already Advent! Amazing how time flies by.

Advent refers to Latin ‘adventus’ meaning ‘arrival’ or ‘coming’. Traditionally, this means the ‘second coming of Christ’, the physical ‘nativity’, and the reception of Christ in the heart of the believer.

Of course, the New Thought understanding is what Unity professes, which is with the celebration of the birth of the baby Jesus is our birth or rebirth, if you will, of our Christ understanding within our being. It is a reminder that we believe in the Christ of our Being and are reminded of that connection we all have within us and all around us. We are One with Spirit and One with ALL.

As we prepare for this birthday celebration, we might (avoiding oughts & shoulds here) want to consider additional time in prayer and meditation. This is a joyful season of preparation for the coming of the Christ essence. We would benefit from this extra time of anticipation with quiet time for ourselves. And it would help us keep Christ in Christmas.

Today, we will ‘light’ our first Advent candle, a purple one which represents repentance and royalty.

Rev. Richard Mekdeci wrote in the Unity Christmas Booklet, “A Christmas to remember”, “In Unity, we often celebrate both hope and faith in the first week of Advent. Is there a difference?”

Unity cofounder, Charles Fillmore wrote in “The Revealing Word”, ‘Hope is a quality…of sense mind because it is subject to time. Faith is the certain knowledge that our good is ours right now, it is of God; it goes beyond time and space.”

Jesus never told us to hope. He said in John 7:38, “Have faith in me.” He said to pray believing we will receive. Yet, Jesus was a great symbol of hope.

During this first week of Advent, we can think of hope as a gift that has been given to us through the birth of the Christ in us and the life of the man Jesus. When hope is inspired within us, we can nurture that hope through possibility, to expectation, and then to faith.

Each week we will light the corresponding candle for Peace, Love & Joy.

This year, I was looking for a different way to present the Advent Lessons.  During some ZOOM workshops I was involved with, I got the idea to link the seasons to each week. I believe you know that each Advent week is associated with a theme. This week, I believe the theme of Hope & Faith goes well with the season of Spring. My title is The Hope & Faith found in spring.

Imagine looking out your windows and seeing how much the snow has melted. The sun is out and it’s getting warmer each day. As you walk your neighborhood or maybe one of the trails around here, you notice crocus and snowbells blooming and maybe even daffodils breaking through the ground.

Some trees are starting to bud, and it looks like it’s going to be a beautiful spring.

This is hope. This is life waking up from winters nap.

This is divine order.

We don’t have to make winter to end and push spring into being. It’s not our business. Its Gods business.


We can hope all we want to make spring come early, but our only resource is having faith that winter will ends its cold hold on us and spring will arrive when it’s time. No matter what Punxsutawney Phil says.

Everything comes alive in spring. It’s a time when we think of fresh starts, of rebirth. And rebirth fits during Advent. We are recalling our rebirth, our reminder that we are of the Christ Child. We are remembering the reason for the season.

So, our hope for the coming spring is like our hope for the coming Holidays – Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa; and the faith that when they arrive, we will be filled with anticipation, excited to experience the joy and love shared by family and friends.

Remember what else springs reminds us of…clearing out what no longer serves, spring cleaning. Yes, spring cleaning is everyone favorite spring activity, right???!!!

Maybe not, but very necessary. More important is the cleaning out of negative thoughts, words, and actions. And this is part of our preparation process as we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child and our renewal of our Christ Consciousness.

You may say this is so much to do, how can I complete the tasks, how am I worthy to receive The Christ?

Faith, my friends. Faith makes us worthy. It is our faith that takes over and brings us to the manger, surrounded by shepherds, sheep, donkeys, and wise men. It is our faith that allows us to realize that we are worthy to stand with Mary and Joseph as the Child is worshiped and praised.

We, you and I, are worthy because we have faith to see, even when we can’t see the next step forward.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

We just close our eyes and silence our minds and go within to that secret place, our Higher Self, our Christ Self. We all have this special, silent place. This place to go to in times of pain, and discord, and peace, and praise.

This is the place my mom went to as she prayed daily to her Jesus; she’d look at the picture on her bureau and hold her Crucifix and pray.

We don’t need a picture or a Crucifix. We just need an open heart and a willing mind.

So, as you prepare for your holiday, take, no MAKE some time for hope, and faith and connect to your Authentic Self. And then listen to that still small voice, the answer to your hope and faith.

“Through spiritual practice, hope evolves into its fuller expression, faith.” Rev. Karen Shephard

“For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

Celebration by Rev. Karen Laughman

During our calendar year, we have many holidays that we recognize and celebrate. Celebrations have always been a part of the many cultures and religious traditions throughout the world. It seems to be in our DNA as human and spiritual beings that we find ways to celebrate. As I have been thinking of this topic, I believe we have three major reasons we create occasions to celebrate. First, it is our nature to have fun and to be happy, and celebrations are one way to have fun and celebrate joy. Celebrating joy is a primary spiritual practice in Unity. Our uplifting messages, Greg’s music and our time together enhances our sense of joy. When we feel joy, we feel connected to our Spirit, to the beauty of life and to one another.Secondly, celebrations connect us to others and help build community. We celebrate occasions with family and friends and within organizations we belong to. Celebrations such as birthdays, anniversaries and holidays are significant and give meaning to our lives.

And, celebrations are often a recognition of history as we honor individuals, groups of people and events that have made a positive impact in our lives and our world community.

As I highlight the celebrations of this season, I am going to talk about some of the history of the holiday celebrations, which I hope you will find interesting. I learned some new things from my research. And, I invite us to explore how we might find more spiritual meaning in the ways we celebrate and also celebrate with a consciousness of service to the people we care about and to the benefit of our wider community…our Fifth Unity Principle. 

I am going to start with Halloween. Why Halloween? Because Halloween is truly fun! Halloween was and is my son’s favorite holiday. Growing up, Halloween gave him the opportunity to use his creative mind. There wasn’t anything that he enjoyed more than creating his own costume. We lived in a neighborhood where people decorated the outside of their homes and served cider or witches brew on their front porches. So, Halloween was a way to feel connected in our community. My son still loves Halloween and is delighted to celebrate with his wife and two children as they create costumes and have fun playing with new identities. He still receives awards for his costumes, as he did when he was a boy.

Although Halloween is a secular holiday in the United States, it has spiritual roots. In many countries, All Saints Eve also called All Hollows’ Eve became Halloween. All Hollos’ Eve is celebrated on Oct 31, remembering those who have passed, including saints. The word hollow is a synonym for saint. Celebrants attend church and light candles on the graves of their loved ones or create altars to honor their memory, closely related to the Day of the Dead celebrated in Hispanic cultures. Historically, Samhain (sow-in), a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season also begins celebration on Oct 31. Samhain is and was widely observed throughout Ireland and Scotland, and it is believed that the Scottish and Irish brought Halloween customs to America in the 19th century, and the holiday evolved from there as a celebration for many, although there are some religions that do not celebrate Halloween here in our country. I would like to share that at one time in the communities I have lived in, Trick or Treaters carried UNICEF donation boxes so they could collect money for children supported by UNICEF, the UN organization that helps disadvantaged children all over the world. This was and could be a way for our young people to make a difference for other children while also having fun.

Our tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving of course begins with the story of the Plymouth colonists called Pilgrims from the Mayflower who reportedly shared a meal with Wampanoag Native Americans in 1621 as a way of celebrating the autumn harvest after surviving a previous harsh winter. This is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. It also needs to be acknowledged that this narrative is not told from the Native Americans perspective and many take issue with how the Thanksgiving story is presented to the American public, and especially stereotypically to schoolchildren. We need to be mindful of our history and be respectful in how we view the gifts of our Native American brothers and sisters. Historians have noted that many cultures from ancient times have commemorated the fall harvest with feasting and celebrations including Native Americans long before Europeans set foot on America’s shores. Thanksgiving also bears a resemblance to the ancient Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot, which is still celebrated in some Jewish communities.

In many ways, as we become less of an agricultural nation, we have lost our connection with the earth, but there is certainly value in finding ways to connect with our earth and connect with thankfulness for the bounty of our blessings.

 As we gather with family and friends for this season, we eat foods that are indigenous to the Americas namely turkey, potatoes, green beans, corn, squash, cranberries and pumpkin pie and this tradition is always something to look forward to.

 Of course, we can practice gratitude everyday as a spiritual practice. When we are consciously grateful for our blessings, we attract good to ourselves and others, and that energy of Thanksgiving can transform our world. On Thanksgiving, when we are with loved ones, we can truly be present with them and share out loud how we feel blessed by their presence in our lives and for all our abundant blessings. Taking a deep, mindful breath in the midst of all the preparation, praying together and expressing true gratitude from our hearts. This intention of being present in our gratitude with ourselves and those we are with, I believe, is how we experience the spiritual meaning of Thanksgiving.

Presidents Washington, Lincoln and Grant all proclaimed a day to celebrate Thanksgiving. You know the history of these men, but have you ever heard of Sarah Hale? A little known fact is Sarah Hale was once called the Mother of Thanksgiving. She was a prolific American writer, activist, and influential editor in the 1800’s. Interestingly, she wrote Mary Had a Little Lamb in a collection of poems for children, but that has nothing to do with Thanksgiving. She is most well known for her campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For 36 years, she published numerous editorials and sent scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other politicians, advocating for a National Day of Thanksgiving. When she died, she was living in Philadelphia and a blue historical marker with her name and story, I learned, exists on Spruce St in Philadelphia. It took until 1941 for Franklin D Roosevelt to sign legislation creating Thanksgiving as a national holiday on the fourth Thursday of every November in the United States.

In addition to blessing our family and friends and perhaps inviting others who may not have a place to celebrate Thanksgiving, there are numerous ways we can be of service to others in this Thanksgiving season. We can contribute to the Food Bank for food insecure families and donate non-perishable foods as we are doing here at our Unity Center. We can donate our time at places where people are served a Thanksgiving meal such as Salvation Army. We can make a donation on this Giving Tuesday, this next Tuesday, as charitable giving to an organization that helps individuals and families have quality of life. These are some of the ways we can be of service in the Thanksgiving season. As we express thankfulness for our blessings, we can be a blessing.

I want to give a highlight to the Jewish holiday, Hanukah, which begins at sundown on November 28, a week from today. The Jewish calendar for commemorations and holidays is a lunar calendar with each month beginning on the new moon so the date of the Hanukah holiday can shift from year to year. It often falls on a date in December. Hanukah is an eight-day “Festival of Lights,” celebrated with a nightly Menorah lighting combined with recited prayers of blessings and songs. The Menorah is a nine branched candle holder. Eight of the candles are lit as the week progresses to symbolize the eight nights of the holiday. The historical significance is a commemoration of the time in the second century BCE when a small band of Jews were able to defeat a Greek mighty army and reclaim their land and the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicate it to God. When they sought to light the Temple’s Menorah which was then 7 branches, they found only a small amount of oil. They lit the Menorah with enough oil for a day, but miraculously the oil lasted eight days. And, this is the religious symbolism of the eight days of celebration. Traditional Hanukah foods are served, and traditional games are played. Gifts are often exchanged, and children are given Hanukah gelt which can be is a gift of money or chocolate gold coins. It is a tradition in the Hanukah season to give to charity with a donation, and children and adults are encouraged to a good deed in some way.

Christmas is celebrated every year on December 25th. Numerous cultures have long celebrated the winter season with festivals. The winter solstice is celebrated in December throughout the world as the days become longer and the return of light is celebrated. In the times of Roman rule, a popular festival called the Saturnalia was celebrated in mid-December honoring the agricultural god, Saturn. In the time of the early Christians, the birth of Jesus was not celebrated until the fourth century when Pope Julius the First chose December 25th for the church to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child. This celebration was first called the Feast of the Nativity. Choosing the date at the same time as the fun- filled winter festivities, church leaders anticipated Christmas would be popularly embraced by the pagan culture. Many of the traditions of ancient winter festivals are the source of many of the traditions we now associate with Christmas. What we know as Christmas spread to most of the world by the end of the sixth century. It wasn’t until the 19th century that Americans began to embrace Christmas as we now know it. Christmas has been a national holiday in the United States since 1870 when Grant was the 18th President.

Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural celebration, observed with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. On Christmas, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth born 2,00 years ago. The profound healing and spiritual teachings of Jesus formed the core of Christianity. Jesus taught and exemplified love, forgiveness, inclusion and acceptance of one another. In Unity, we revere Jesus as our Way Shower. On Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus and the rebirth of the Christ light within each of us. During the advent Sundays, we celebrate the divine gifts of faith and hope, peace, love, and joy. I love the Unity Christmas ritual that our spiritual leader, Sandy, leads every Christmas season here at our Unity Center as we light a successive Advent candle each Sunday to represent the spiritual gifts of hope, peace, love and joy. We can look forward to Sandy’s services in December when she will present a series on nature and the Advent season. I personally enjoy the Christmas spirit of beauty, generosity and excitement that I feel in the Christmas season.

We know the popular customs of Christmas include exchanging gifts, decorating with lights and evergreens which symbolize eternal life including Christmas trees, attending church services, singing Christmas carols, making Christmas cookies, sending holiday cards, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for the arrival of Santa Claus, otherwise known as Saint Nicholas. St. Nicholas was a most well- loved saint in Europe because of his magnanimous generosity. In 1882, Clement Clarke Moore, an Episcopal minister wrote a poem to his daughters named a visit from St Nicholas which is now popularly known as “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”  Moore’s poem became our modern image of Santa, although I am pretty sure that was not his intention. In the 19th century, images of jolly Santa were widely used for America’s businesses to advertise during the Christmas holidays….the beginning of the consumerism of Christmas.

I believe Christmas is a time to be generous with others who have less than we do. There are many organizations we can donate to help families in need. Dan and I buy gifts for our grandchildren, but are conscious that just as we celebrate birthdays with people we love, love and attention is the most treasured gift, and a gift that lasts forever. My favorite gift to give family and friends is a subscription of the Unity Daily Word, a gift that gives and gives all year long everyday. The gift we can give ourselves is to slow down in the bustle and busyness of the holiday season and go inward to be with our spiritual essence and Christ consciousness….to be intentional in setting times for meditation, contemplation and renewal of our divine light and spirit.

Finally, before I finish the topic of Celebration in this holiday season, I want to give some attention to Kwanzaa, an African American holiday that affirms African and African American, and is celebrated in addition to Christmas by many African Americans. It is celebrated from December 26 to January 1. Kwanzaa was created and encouraged in 1966 by a professor of Africana studies at California State University. It began in the United States and has come to be celebrated in other countries where there are large descendants of Africans. Each day is dedicated to one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa: Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith. On each day, families and communities light one of the seven candles of red, green and black and discuss the principle for that day, red representing the struggle, black the people and green for the future. The holiday concludes with a feast on the last day with African inspired foods, and festivities can include music, drumming, dancing and sharing of writings and poetry. My son is bi-racial African American. When he was growing up, we didn’t celebrate Kwanzaa specifically, but we found ways to honor the value and strengths of his ancestry which celebrates spirit.

Finally, in a few sentences I want to touch on New Year’s which is celebrated throughout the world to look back over the last year and look forward to the New Year with new possibilities. At Unity, we have a tradition which Sandy leads on the first Sunday of the New Year with the burning bowl ceremony, writing and burning what we want to let go of and the next Sunday meditating and writing what we want to strive for in the New Year on our spiritual journey. They both are meaningful ceremonies that we can look forward to.

So, I hope you enjoyed the journey that you took with me this morning of the holidays that are celebrated this time of the year. I wish you and yours many blessings. And, may we be a blessing!

Is your YES, yes, and your NO, no?

GREAT MORNING BELOVED!!

Is your yes, YES and your no, NO?

Great to see you this morning. And welcome to those of you who are watching & listening at home. We appreciate it and would love to see who you are, so, just take a moment and say Hi to us. We will say hi back.

Yesterday’s Daily Word started with this statement: “There is no situation the power of peace cannot transform. What a wonderful way to start a day! Of course, today’s affirmation, “Prosperity fills my life,” is a good affirmation too. If you’re not reading Daily Word, you are missing  uplifting start for you day.

Before we start, just a huge thank you to all our veterans for the work you have done, often with many sacrifices, to keep our Nation, all of us, safe. If you are a veteran, please stand and let us thank you…and bless you

          We love you

          We Bless you

          We behold the Christ in you.

So, this morning I wanted to chat a bit about choices. You all most likely know that our choice, our free will, is one of the biggest, most precious gifts we have been given as humans on this 5 senses journey in this physical plane.

There have been times, I’m sure, when we all have had a moment or more when we weren’t very happy with our lives. And why was that?

Most likely, it was because of a choice we made.

Remember our 3rd Principle; We are co-creators with God, creating reality through thoughts held in mind.

So, for the most part, our choices brought us to the different situations in our lives.

Every time you say YES to something, you are saying NO to something else

If we could look back with eyes & ears wide open, and look with an open heart, maybe we could truly ‘SEE’ what really happened in any situation. What was that choice we made that got us into the situation in the first place?


Be truthful. Sometimes it’s something we didn’t even realize would end in the situation it did. But it was a choice we made, somewhere along the path that turned the circumstances to the conclusion we were wrestling with.

There’s always a consequence. There’s always a reaction to our action. Newton’s Law: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Everything you think with energy behind it is put out into the Universe. That energy you are sending into the Universe will have a response to it.

As Rev. Dr. Paul Hasselback, metaphysics wizard says, watch your words…and I add no matter if they are thought or actual spoken, they are powerful.

Matthew 5:37 reminds us: “… let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.”

The evil one? What could our ancient writers mean with this statement? Well, in ancient times people did believe in an evil force. But we do not give power to some outside ‘devil’. Unity truth followers believe evil means:

That which is not of God; unreality; error thought; a product of the fallen human consciousness; negation.

There probably have been times in our past when we did believe in a ‘devil’, but that was before we followed this path of spiritual information, we were seekers until we unveiled this knowledge hidden within all of us; that we are all One, we are all Divine, made in the image and likeness.

“Your ‘yes’ to God requires your ‘no’ to all injustice, to all evil, to all lies to all oppression and violation of the weak and poor…” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

So, one of the more important ‘yes’s’ is the yes to the God of our understanding. We have all been seekers some time in our lives. For most of us, that seeking has brought us to Unity. Many others have come to our door and many other Unity churches & Centers, only to step away because Unity wasn’t their fit, not yet. It takes many steps on the path to be ready for the philosophy & Principles that are the backbone of Unity.

This is not saying anything, or anyone is better than or lower than, but that Unity takes a different look at things, and some cannot comprehend the science of metaphysics.

But back to yes and no.

Remember,

Every time you say YES to something, you are saying NO to something else

Have you ever thought of it that way?

A perfect example from last weeks’ Message, Are you for peace or against war? One is positive and the other negative. We said yes to peace and therefore, we are saying no to war.

And our everyday choices bring about responses that may be what we thought would happen, or maybe we didn’t think before we ate that donut, or had a second, or third, or fourth (!) drink.

Action + reaction = consequence.  My Father was drinking with his golfing buddy and choose to get a ride with him = action, they had an accident = reaction, and my father’s death.

There are always consequences to our actions.

And they can be good. Action, me taking Unity classes, reaction, a better, more conscious, awaken me, further response, moving to Delaware and, with several friends, starting Unity.

This morning, those of you in attendance said yes to Unity in person, and no to staying home and watching online.

But let’s step away from God and Unity for now. Let’s talk in general terms.

How often do you find yourself saying yes to something when you really want to say no? Or maybe vice versa?

How often have you said yes to a friend or family member to aid in, say, moving them to another house? Or taking the kids for the day? Or, driving them to the airport? Or a number of other ‘favors’ people ask of others?

If we say YES or NO when we really mean it, it would be so much more meaningful to both persons.

We are all responsible and accountable for the choices we make. This makes for a more meaningful life.

This hits at the heart of what each of us controls—ourselves. No one else.                  

Or as Byron Katie would say, who’s business is it, mine, yours or Gods?

I’ve mentioned this before, several times actually, this is one of the reasons I love Unity Principles and expression so much…personal responsibility.

The way we choose to think, feel and act directly comes from one of two places—our egos or our higher self. If ego or personality is at the root of our thinking, feeling and acting, our choices may be based on lack, survival, or fear. None of these would come from our higher self. Rather, our higher self shows up as possibility thinking, gratitude and inquisitiveness.

From “Say Yes to What Really Matters in Your Life” By Martha Lynn

“When we listen to our higher self, choices, decisions, thoughts, feelings and actions take on a whole new realm of possibility. Our perceptions are more objective, our thoughts are more compassionate, our feelings are more loving, and our actions are in integrity.”

As an example, steeped in choice, intention and right action: Martin Luther King Jr. wrote “If you are called to be a street sweeper, sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
 

Of course, and yet we often unconsciously say no to choice, because we rely on that automatic pilot—our domestication, our habits, our ego-self—that we have relied on for many years.

Unconsciousness to our own light and power could be due to many things: our lack of awareness of who we really are, our lack of discipline, our lack of a plan, our willingness to play small.

Have you done that? Lower the light in your heart to not antagonize another?  “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house” (Matthew 5:14) 

We just need to clearly remember and recognize who we are at the core of our being and act from that place of love and strength.

The Process according to “Say Yes to What Really Matters in Your Life” By Martha Lynn

  1. Identify your intention. Maria Nemeth, author of Mastering Life’s Energies and owner of the Academy of Coaching Excellence, trains coaches and shares her work through classes and writing. Maria teaches her students to start each day by asking: “Who am I willing to be in order to produce an extraordinary result out of this day?”

2. Become a self-observer.
We have to be able to observe our thoughts and the stories we are telling ourselves about our encounters. A great storyteller and meaning-making machine person can listen to a few words in a team meeting, phone call or dialogue with another and create an entire three-act play. Ego loves drama, fear and power, and many stories are great tragedies.

It’s important to quickly observe the stories and stresses we are experiencing … and to be able to redirect the reactions in ways that will be helpful to ourselves and others.

  • Take authentic action.
    “Authentic” in this context means to act from our higher source—our intention—not from the ego, but from that spark of divinity that is in all of us. When we act from that place, we know we are being true to ourselves. We are expressing energy that is coming from our soul. We are spirit in action.
  • Choice is Freedom
    Choice is the only freedom we really have. Remember to say yes to what really matters in our life; to say yes to choose; to take time to pause, reflect and choose our intentions carefully; to self-observe our thoughts and feelings; and to act authentically from that sacred place of love and strength.

We may want to ask ourselves what miraculous moments had I missed by being casually dismissive, letting my ego make my choice, thinking the practical path was best? 

Sometimes we let guilt be the determining factor in our choice points. We have all heard statement about Catholic guilt. It’s not just the Catholics! It’s part of our domestication.

And many of us may have heard our mother remind us how she stayed in an unhappy marriage ‘because of us kids’ so we can feel guilty about that. That was not our fault.

The interesting thing about guilt is that it only works when we let it.

Be aware exactly what you feel guilty for and more importantly who that guilt is linked to.

Often, we say no first up but then people keep badgering us until we say yes. This whole situation is no fun at all. It’s exhausting and draining to have to keep saying the same thing over and over again.

If someone is badgering you to do something you definitely don’t want to do, you need to realize that they are not respecting you.

Set some boundaries! Whether it’s one person or a group, hold people up on their behavior and stand up for yourself.

That group or person you are trying so hard to impress might not even be part of your life a year from now.

You get to choose who you want to be and who you want to spend your time with.

Choose wisely.

If people are trying to pressure you into doing things you don’t want to do (particularly if they are harmful, dangerous or just plain stupid) these people are not the ones to have in your corner and they are definitely not the ones to feel pressured by.

It’s easier said than done but remember you get to choose. It has to be your choice; what is right for you. AS we say, ‘doing what is ours to do’.

What is the right thing for you is not necessarily right for another. They get to choose too,

No oughts and shoulds, either

How Often Do You Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda?

When you are trying to help people, whether it be friends, family or co-workers you can end up doing things that you don’t want to do.

However, trying to help can become a problem when the person you are trying to help does nothing to help themselves. (tough love)

Helping people is a wonderful thing and we don’t want to give up on people who need our help, but people have to be willing to take some responsibility for their own lives as well.

Keep in mind, no is an option. We don’t need to over explain or justify our ‘no’

No is an answer all by itself. Stop explaining and justifying your choices. Say no politely and firmly. Don’t lie – this might come back to bite you later.

It’s time to stop saying yes when you want to say no. Continue to help people but take into consideration your own needs as well.

A yes is nothing without the no that gives it boundaries and form. Learn to say yes, a little more slowly — ask more questions before committing, no matter what side of the question you’re on.

Remember, every time you say YES to something, you are saying NO to something else.

It could be time for yourself or your family or friends. And those things are just as, if not more important to you.

Time for a Discussion

GREAT MORNING BELOVED!!

It’s great to be with you today. I see who has remembered to change their clocks.

So, today’s topic – did you wonder what I had in mind? Connie & I conspired and didn’t give you any hints. I would love to know what came to mind for you!

Time for a Discussion…

So much has happened in these last few years…politically, of course, economically, that follows, the environment…when will we get it right? And don’t forget a pandemic that some people are having a hard time figuring what the correct way is to eradicate it.

For me, I follow the science.

And let’s not get started on our religious or spiritual lives? Unity Spiritual Center is not any different than so many others, asking what to do to bless our folks, to be in touch with them, to serve them and our community.

Have you been responding to your Connection Person…you know, the one who keeps bugging you about “how are you doing?”. “Do you need anything?”. “Can we aid you in any way?”, “Do you need prayer?”

It’s all in an effort to keep in touch, to be of Service to you. Remember, it’s a circle, we give, and we receive. Please keep giving to us too. We all could use that virtual hug….

So, let’s ask a great question, and you know I love a Great Question—What would Jesus do? Would He be welcomed in the churches and Synagogues, and Mosques of today? Could he walk the halls of Congress? How about the streets of Philly or any other big city? Would he be in the small towns and farm country?

How about the Buddha? Hari Krishna? Would ANY of our so-called Spiritual Leaders be welcomed in our church and Centers today?

I ask this question for many of our Spiritual Leaders because they all essentially say the same thing, just in different ways:

What we call the Golden Rule:

Islam – No one of you is a believer until you desire for your neighbor that which you desire for yourself.

Buddhism – Treat all creatures as you would like to be treated.

Hinduism – This is the essence of morality: Do not do to others which if done to you would cause you pain.

Christianity – Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

Sikhism – Do as you desire goodness for yourself as you cannot expect tasty fruits if you sow thorny trees.

Judaism – What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor – that is the basic law, all the rest is community.

Baha’i Faith – If your eyes be turned towards justice choose for your neighbor that which you would choose for yourself.

I ask because we, our society, is and has been for some time now, falling away from the very doctrine that is supposed to be our founding Principle….Look at our Bill of Rights:

  Freedom of Religion, Speech, and the Press; The Right to Bear Arms; The Housing of Soldiers; Protection from Unreasonable Searches and Seizures; Protection of Rights to Life, Liberty, and Property; Rights of Accused Persons in Criminal Cases; Rights in Civil Cases; Excessive Bail, Fines, and Punishments Forbidden; Other Rights Kept by the People; Undelegated Powers Kept by the States and the People.

THE PEOPLE.

And that’s as political as I will be for today.

Have we lived up to these principles from a Spiritual standpoint? This is what I wish to discuss today.

When we look at our Unity Principles, they should easily come before the 10 listed above.

  1. God is absolute good, everywhere present. There is only one Power, one Presence, God. God is good without opposite. There is no other power. God is omnipotence- all power.
  • Human beings have a spark of divinity within them, the Christ spirit within. Their very essence is of God, and therefore they are also inherently good.
  • Human beings create their experiences by the activity of their thinking. Everything in the manifest realm has its beginning in thought.
  • Prayer is creative thinking that heightens the connection with God-Mind and therefore brings forth wisdom, healing, prosperity and everything good.
  • Knowing and understanding the laws of life, also called Truth, are not enough. A person must also live the Truth that he or she knows. …

And, saying that, it would be easy to follow the 10 because our belief that we are ALL One, we are ALL of God, our Creator, all good, we can honor the 10.

So, the issues facing our country and the world are not political issues, they are Spiritual issues, or lack of Spiritual issues.

Luke 4:18-19 tells us: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Jesus called us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, to turn the other cheek, not to consider ourselves better than others, but to live in peace with all people, to model an engaging faith, to bind up the wounded, rescue the perishing and bring God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

And WHAT does that mean?

It means we can’t risk walking around with a negative, resentful, gossipy, critical mind, because then we won’t be our true selves. We won’t be usable instruments for our Creator to use for good. That’s why Jesus commanded us to love. It’s that urgent. It’s that crucial.

A command to love.

Fr. Richard Rohr wrote: “Jesus tells us not to harbor hateful anger or call people names in our hearts like ‘fool’ or ‘worthless person’ (Matthew 5:22). If we’re walking around all day thinking, ‘What idiots!’ we’re living out of death, not life. If that’s what we think and feel, that’s what we will be—death energy instead of life force. We cannot afford even inner disconnection from love. How we live in our hearts is our real and deepest truth.”

What we say & think is creative…it’s magic because of the energy surrounding those words.  We forget the power we have in the thoughts and words we wield.

I’ve said this before, what Prof. Albus Dumbledore said in Harry Potter, “Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.”

Our thoughts can have that same magic if we are thinking the same negative things with strong emotions behind it.

Fr. Rohr continues: True religion is radical. It moves us beyond our “private I” and into the full reality of ‘us’. Jesus seems to be saying in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) that our inner attitudes and states are the real sources of our problems. We need to root out the problems at that deepest interior level.

Jesus says not only that we must not kill, but that we must not even harbor hateful anger. He clearly begins with our need for a “pure heart” (Matthew 5:8) and knows that the outer behavior will follow. Too often we force the outward response, while the inward intent remains like a cancer.

If we walk around with hatred all day, morally we’re just as much killers as the one who pulls the trigger. We can’t live that way and not be destroyed from within.

Do you recall what President Jimmy Carter said he had “looked on a lot of women with lust” and had “committed adultery in my heart many times”.

This is what I am talking about.

Yet, for some reason, many who call themselves Christians have thought it acceptable to think and feel hatred, negativity, and fear. The evil and genocide of both World War I and World War II were the result of decades of negative, resentful, and paranoid thinking and feeling among even supposedly good Christian people.

Unfortunately, more wars and conflicts have followed from the same causes.

In Matthew 5:44, Jesus insists that we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Once we recognize that whatever we do in conscious, loving union with our inner Christ is prayer, we can better understand what Paul means when he says, “Pray unceasingly” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). If prayer is merely words or recitations, such constant prayer is impossible in any practical sense.

But prayer is not only words or recitations…it is our thoughts…it is our actions. It’s what we mean when we say, put feet to your prayers.

So, when we speak of the issues of the day, it is not political, it is SPIRITUAL. It is our responsibility as caretakers of this earth to care for the environment; to honor the lives of all life including the lives of those animals that feed us and labor for us and are companions to us.

It’s our Spiritual duty to care for all humanity and do ‘what is ours to do’ to aid any who are in need. When we recite our Opening Affirmation and state: “When we do that which is ours to do…” The next step is to DO IT!

I’m not saying to take on every issue and cause. Ask your heart what is yours to do.

In Unity, we don’t speak forcefully when it comes to politics, though we are finally speaking on the issues, especially regarding the environment, and social issues.

Unfortunately, we are living in an increasingly polarized society. ‘Red or blue, ‘left’ or ‘right’, our stances on politics and issues are becoming more inflexible. Our social fabric is being ripped asunder while we breathlessly assign blame to “those idiots on the other side”.

it takes more than an open ear to communicate effectively, especially if the other person in the conversation holds an opposing view. An essential element in this conversation must be to understand the opposing view, not just hear it.

The point is not to change anyone’s mind but to illuminate how those opinions were formed and why they are maintained. It is not about determining who’s “right” or “wrong” but about gaining insight into the other’s perspective, so communication becomes more effective and constructive solutions more accessible.

I’m hoping today, we can start right here. That we can be open to listen to opposing views, and yes, I’m sure we have some here in this room and listening in. That we can then, start the healing process and let our light and love shine to the larger Community and the world. So, we can do better…

Wayne Dyer said, “You don’t need to be better than anyone else. You just need to be better than you used to be.”

Here are some suggestions for improving ourselves:

7 ways to be better than you were yesterday from The Road to Character, by David Brooks

  1. Nourish your soul daily. At least once each day, we need to break away from our work or home routine and take a little time to feed our soul. This may involve a walk out in nature, reading a spiritual text, taking a yoga class or spending 15 minutes in quiet contemplation. You choose what works for you….and DO it!
  2. Be gratefulFind something to be thankful for each day, even if it’s just to give thanks for the food in your refrigerator or the roof over your head or the fact you lived to see another day. Say a prayer or affirmation of gratitude each morning, giving thanks for family and friends, for life and all blessings.
  3. Be humble. “Humility reminds you that you are not the center of the universe, but you serve a larger order.” This also means keeping your ego and pride in check. “Because of pride we try to prove we are better than those around us. It makes us more certain and close-minded than we should be.” Be willing to hear out others. Be open-minded.
  4. Don’t be led astray. This means: Stay away from temptation. Be brave when the situation calls for it. Don’t look down on others. Try not to overindulge in food or drink.
  5. Trust in a force greater than yourselfThe world can be a tough place and we need all the help we can get. Whether you believe in the God of the Bible,  THE FORCE or a set of moral principles, we all need a guiding force.
  6. Know how to quiet the inner self “Only by quieting the self can you be open to the external sources of strengths you will need. Only by muting the sound of your own ego can you see the world clearly.” That means engaging in a regular practice of meditation, contemplation or centering prayer.
  7. Determine what life is asking of youWe spend much of life focused on what we want—but we also need to discover what the world wants from us, what is your gift. That means finding it and then sharing it, in some way. This can be a hard one, but a question you should ponder often, if you have not found your gift.

It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to change jobs or move to Delaware like I did. Maybe what you do IS what is yours to do. Whether in your work or in your volunteer time. We love our volunteers and that is a great way to help our community and the world.

Dalai Lama reminds us –   love & compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.

Maybe what we see in our world today is evidence of what the Dalai Lama means.

Let’s be FOR something…for love, for peace, for compassion…not against anything.

If we have an issue with that,

Johannes Tauler tells us, “In prayerful silence you must look into your own heart.  No one can tell you better than yourself what comes between you and (your) God.  Ask yourself.  Then listen! —

The 4th invitation is “Find a place of rest in the middle of things.”

GREAT MORNING BELOVED!!


There was a wonderful Daily Word on Friday…did you see it?

Friendship

I AM GRATEFUL FOR MY FRIENDS.

I give thanks today for my friends. My friendships are among the great gifts of my life, sources of fun during my easiest times and support during my toughest.

Friends accept me just as I am, and their understanding gives me room to grow and change. Friends are the family I choose, and the ties that bind us help give life meaning—a history with memories I can treasure and a future I know will be full of love.

I let my friends know what they mean to me by responding in kind. I am supportive when friends are struggling and share their sorrows when they’re hurting. I delight in their joys and love to celebrate their blessings. Throughout all the seasons of life, I am as dependable, present, and accepting as a good friend can be.

Friends are so important to our wellbeing. I am so grateful for my friends, both here and in other places.

Anyway— it’s always wonderful to see you. I am very grateful for you all, both here in person, and those who take the time to join us on FB live and later on FB and our web page.

We are working our way through Frank Ostaseski’s book, “The Five Invitations-Discovering what death can teach us about living fully.” Today, we take a rest…the 4th invitation is “Find a place of rest in the middle of things.”

This is something we all have an issue with, right? Finding peace in our day? How often do you say to yourself, ‘today I’m going to start that book I’ve been wanting to read, or maybe get back into meditation or contemplation? Maybe you’d like to spend more time with the kids or grandkids, or take a walk on the beach?

But what do we do instead?  Yea, you fill in the blank!

Frank reminds us, ‘we often think of rest as something that will come to us when everything else in our lives is complete: at the end of the day, when we take a bath, once we go on holiday or get through all our to-do-lists. We imagine that we can only find rest by changing our circumstances.’

The 4th Invitation teaches us that we can find a place of rest within us, without having to alter the conditions of our lives.

This place of rest is always available to us. We need only turn toward it. It is experienced when we bring our full attention, without distractions, to this moment, to this activity. With sincere practice, we can come to know this spaciousness as a regular part of our lives. It manifests as an aspect of us that is never sick, is not born, and does not die.”

Here’s an example, see if you get it…there is a Zen story of a monk who is vigorously sweeping the temple grounds. Another monk walks by and snips, “Too busy.”

The first monk replied, “You should know there is one who is not too busy.”

What’s the moral here? Outwardly, he appears ‘too busy,’ but inwardly, he has recognized the quietness of his state of mind.

Just like Brother Lawrence and washing the pots and pans. The most effective way Brother Lawrence had for communicating with God was to simply do his ordinary work. He believed it was a serious mistake to think of our prayer time as being different from any other. Our actions should unite us with God when we are involved in our daily activities.

Can you do that? Be busy on the outside and calm on the inside?

Most of us think we are too busy. Probably we are, but also the way we think about the topic matters.

We get caught up in the time-driven, scarcity mentality or move unconsciously from one moment to the next, we are a prisoner of our thoughts.

Finding a place of rest is about choice – it’s a choice to be alert, to bring your attention to the present moment. Multitasking is an exhausting myth.  We can only live one moment at a time.

But this seems boring, frustrating. Some exclaim; “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!”  

So, we become addicted to busy. We confuse rest with non-productivity and laziness.

We imagine we are accomplishing more, when in reality we are living less.

Computers were supposed to free us up, provide more leisure time and greater human connectivity.

Do you fear rest? Many doctors and nurses often speak of exhaustion. Yet they continue to push themselves at work. Why?

See if this fits you… “They fear that if they were to stop racing around, the enormous suffering that have witnessed would crash through their defenses. Tears would flow, and they would be unable to stop crying.”

You don’t have to be a nurse or doctor to experience these feelings.

We build armor around our hearts to block the pain but that also prevents tenderness from entering. We are afraid we will be forgotten, and the loneliness and emptiness we fear will surface.

Ask yourself this question—”what’s right about being exhausted?” Do you think….

          People believe I am hard working.

          I get credit for being dedicated.

          Being overworked and worn out means I matter.

          People feel sorry for me, and that makes me feel loved.

Rest is found when we are present instead of letting our minds wander aimlessly through the hallways of fear, worry, and anxiousness. Rest comes when we become more by doing less, when we don’t allow the urgent to crowd out the important. It is the result of a decluttering of the mind and decoupling from fixed views.

We have a perfect example right outside our windows…Follow nature. It knows.  We are entering the seasons of rest, so follow nature as it goes into rest.

Angeles Arrien: “Nature’s rhythm is medium to slow. Many of us live out of nature’s rhythm. There are two things we can never do in the fast lane; we can neither deepen our experience nor integrate it.”

“Living out of touch with the primal rhythms of life takes a toll on us.” “When we lose touch with the rhythms of nature, we become unbalanced with the land around us.”

Maybe this is part of our environmental ‘learning opportunity’?


Have you heard someone say, “I’m trying to rest,”? 

Our writer tells us; “Trying to rest is not resting; it’s just more trying.” It’s just like Yoda, Jedi Master said, “Do or do not, there is not try.”


We can’t seek the deepest rest through striving to change the way things are. We can only relax the activity that obstructs our contact with the rest.

Frank tells us: “This is the real paradox of the spiritual life: that which can save us also can drive us mad. Seeking has a place in this world. It isn’t all bad. In order to begin our spiritual journeys, we must be motivated by seeking a better life—deeper connections with ourselves and others; explanations for our existential questions; relief from our pain and suffering. Yet too often our quests for peace and fulfillment get entangled with striving. We read books, seek out teachers, and go looking for our tribes. We accumulate practices, beliefs, and strategies as we seek solutions. We continuously search for answers outside of ourselves.”

He suggests that we “become ‘wholesome desire’ seekers, that is the desire to be free, to know what is true and to be completely ourselves.”

What a nice place to be.

When our awareness comes to rest in the peaceful depths of our essential nature, our seeking just ends.

A truly open mind is deep in restfulness, attained by accepting and understanding our desires.

Try this…Pause at the threshold of a room to break the momentum of habit. It gives us a choice. A choice to be open or closed. Open to what is unfolding or selective in our allowing of it.

Being a seeker is an inevitable step on the spiritual path. Ponder these questions to help you seek your truth.

What does death have to teach us? Begin to look at endings. The end of an exhale, the end of a day, the end of a meal, the end of a sentence.

Our author asks these questions: how do you meet endings in life?

Do you go unconscious around them?

Do you leave, either emotionally or mentally, before an event is over?

Or are you the last one in the parking lot, watching as the final participants depart?

Do you feel sad and get teary-eyed about endings? Or anxious?

Or are you indifferent, isolating yourself and withdrawing into a protective cocoon?

Do you stop talking to others before the end arrives?

When leaving work for the evening, do you say farewell to colleagues and clients?

Do you wait for other to acknowledge the end, or do you jump the gun?

Do you visit friends who are dying? Do you think it doesn’t matter if you don’t say good-bye?

All things change…what story do you put to the change? Sad? Disappointed? Depressed? Or content? Happy?

The way we end one experience shapes the way the next one arises. Clinging to the old makes it difficult for something new to emerge.

“Our Breath offers us an opportunity to study our relationship with endings in an intimate way. Breathing is a living process, constantly changing and moving in cycles – inhale, pause, exhale, pause. Every breath has a beginning, middle, and end. Every breath goes from a beginning, middle and end. Every breath goes through a process of birth, growth and death. Breathing is a microcosm of life itself.”

Breath animates human life and sustains it. It comes before thought and words.

Breathing only happens in real time. Life can only be lived in the present, not the past or future. And this present moment is the only place where we can rest.

Frank ends this section of the book discussing fear.

“The willingness to sit with fear is an act of courage.”

Fear doesn’t require a basis in reality in order to have an impact on us. No matter what its cause, the fear still feels real. That said, it’s best not to treat fear as the absolute truth.

Living from a place of fear can narrow our vision, shrinking our lives down to what is comfortable and familiar. We easily become consumed with safety precautions and the dread of uncertainty, constantly looking over our shoulders.  It is reasonable to want to protect ourselves and those we love. But being driven by fear alone, we stop using our common sense and make unwise choices. We grow less willing to take risks and face conflict or disapproval…

Unaddressed fear is a self-imposed exile, a prison of our own making. The goal is not to get rid of all fear. Rather it is to free ourselves from fear’s choke hold around our lives, to learn to face our fear with courageous presence.

Taking fear as our teacher and learning to work skillfully with it can lead us to some degree of inner freedom.  We quickly see that operating from a place of fear means we have little trust in reality. We are separated from others, from the possibility of unity. This is our default position. In Buddhist circles, the small, cut-off sense of self is sometimes called ‘the body of fear.’ It takes physical form as a shell of tension around us, a stiffening of our bodies, a thickening of our defenses against the fear. Then the mind becomes rigid and confused. The heart closes.

A separation does need to occur, but not the one we might have imagined. In coping with fear, it is helpful to distinguish our emotional states from the object of which we are afraid. When we obsess about the objects we fear, we avoid contact with the emotion itself. Like the monster in the closet, the thing we fear may not even exist, but all of our attention to it turns the illusion into reality.

When we discern the difference between the emotion and the object, we can see the part we play in the process. Then we can begin to unhook ourselves from the overwhelm. We relax and temporarily hold the fear in the container of the body, supported by steady breathing, so that we can examine the mind’s operations—the beliefs, assumptions, memories, and stories that underpin the fear. In this way, we can begin to reduce our reactivity.

“The Five Invitations – Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully.” We are on Invitation #3 – “Bring your whole self to the experience.”

We’re back! Special greetings to you all. We continue our discussion of the book by Frank Ostaseski, “The Five Invitations – Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully.” We are on Invitation #3 – “Bring your whole self to the experience.”

I highly recommend this book, there is much, much more in the chapters than I am including in these 5 weeks. I’m merely hitting SOME highlights…if it is interesting to you, get a copy or borrow mine. You will be glad you did.

Frank starts out this invitation with an interesting idea…suppose you could take a photo of yourself and print it on thick, stiff cardboard that included your whole body, including a multi-dimensional of your whole being including your personality.

Now, you take a laser-cutting die and make a jigsaw puzzle.

Spread the 1000 or so pieces out and begin to put yourself back together.

As you progress passed the easy edges, you might come across a part you didn’t like…maybe your fear of something, or your lust for something and you think that fear isn’t something you wish you had, or you recall lust wasn’t a good thing to have if we are spiritual folks. So, you don’t include these pieces.

As you continue, ‘deeming certain aspects of yourself acceptable and others not. After a while, your puzzle wouldn’t be recognizable because it’s so fragmented, holes everywhere.

You wouldn’t be able to see the whole picture.

We all want to look good, projecting an image of confidence, sensitive, spiritual, strong, intelligent and certainly well adjusted. We don’t want to be known for anger, fear, helplessness.

However, our experiences give us the ability, the compassion to connect with others as they may be experiencing these same traits. If the cancer this body experienced or abuse experienced as a child can help another, then that aspect is part of ‘what is mine to do’ during this lifetime.

Because after “what is mine to do” continues “and then do it.”

Frank tells us: “it is the wisdom gained from our own suffering, vulnerability, and healing that enables us to be of real assistance to others. It is the exploration of our inner lives that facilitates us in forming an empathetic bridge from our experience to others.

To be whole, we need to include, accept, and connect all parts of our selves. We need acceptance of our conflicting qualities and the seeming incongruity of our inner and outer worlds.

Wholeness does not mean perfection. It means no part left out.

So, lets imagine for a few minutes yourself as a jigsaw puzzle, and what parts would you want to leave out? How much of the puzzle would be left after you removed the unwanted parts of yourself? Something to consider this week…

This chapter also talks about our roles, some of which you may have left out of your jigsaw puzzle…those things we fall back on when we are in fear, for example. We are vulnerable and courageous at the same time as we hold the space for those who are reaching out to us, often as they are waiting for that moment when they transition from this plane to the next.

My role as oldest daughter, closest friend to my Mother as she lay in the hospital bed, just wanting no pain was established long before that moment. I walked into the hospital ‘room’ with family around the bed. The bedside chair was made available as I walked in and the words, ‘she’s been asking for you’, made my role now as caretaker even more established.

It was on me for choices to be made on her comfort, getting answers from the doctors about hospice care, but, no it’s too late for that, just a ‘real room’ for comfort, quiet and privacy.

I got to my Mother’s room Sunday afternoon after rushing out of our Service, just giving my Message.  Monday evening she transitioned.

Then more roles as what to do next.

“We are social animals and have a multitude of roles as we travel through our lives.

‘Roles are neither good nor bad. They are primarily functional and provide for some needed predictability in our lives, especially when it comes to interpersonal relationships.”

Developmentally, our roles change as we move through life.

For me, I didn’t have much opportunity to be a kid, for many reasons, but soon I became big sister, babysitter, teacher, cook, cleaner, housekeeper, because I had to.

Finally, I got to be friend because a part of my role as school student was added, I met others. Girlfriend, worker, driver, college student, spiritual explorer….many roles.

I have often asked the Tuesday Group about their roles, often they do not go very far back as they shared.  Sometimes that is hard, painful to do. Survivor was added to my roles several times, as a baby when the house blew up from gas, and abuse, from auto accidents, from cancer and other surgeries…

These are all roles. We really need a long sheet of paper to add them all.

Each role comes complete with its own expected set of behaviors, functions, and responsibilities.

But our roles are a choice. I chose to be the caretaker for my Mother. I chose to work with her to help her past her victim belief and hope she could learn to see what a wonderful, intelligent, strong woman she was.

Sometimes my role as daughter on my spiritual journey conflicted with her victim mentality. She wanted to continually fall back on that place of confronting hers and my abuse. That was easy for her, it was familiar. Sometimes it’s hard to move forward.

So, I had to carefully allow her opportunities to open her eyes and heart to see and HEAR me as I tried to come to terms with my experiences. Her role as victim was tested until she could see that her role as Mother was so much more important.

This is how roles can and do change as we go through life. They do. They will if we allow it.

It is important that we don’t over-identify with our roles. You may know of someone who, after retiring from a job held for many years, was so attached to their role, that they fell into despair and maybe even finally died because of that attachment.

We are not what we do, what we think, what we feel, what we say, or what we have.

Ram Dass: “Don’t be a role; be a soul.”

We are not our roles or conditions. Recall Myrtle Fillmore, “I am a child of God and therefore do not inherit disease.”

Frank tells us: “We are first and foremost human beings, with all the complexity, fragility, and wonder that life encompasses. When we only look through the lens of a role, it narrows our vision of the world. We don’t see things and people as they actually are, but rather project our story onto them. This frequently causes us to attribute a particular significance to an experience and miss the true meaning that is trying to emerge.”

“Naomi Remen, MD, “Helping, fixing, and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of ego, and service the work of the soul.”

To be in service Frank suggests we sit with another person without a solution to their problem, without playing a role. No analyzing, no fixing, no meddling. Listen. Be a listening presence.

Our roles are not enough…we need the courage to be authentically whole. Its saying what is so when it is so. Its showing up, doing what we say we will do, remembering our commitments, and honoring our agreements.

While service is natural for most of us, it isn’t always easy. Sometimes we get caught up in a role. We become drained. We have to remember what called our souls to serve in the first place. Discover what we love and do it. Find new life in our path. Rediscover that zeal and be born again in it.

WE must learn early, I wish, that we can’t please our inner critic. It has something to say, usually very negative, about everything. Nothing you do is good enough.

This inner voice says, “It’s my way or the highway!” Using weapons of fear, shame, and guilt in order to get you to do what it wants.

This inner critic comes from our pursuit of perfection, which is learned early on. To bring our whole self to the experience, we must address the often unconscious, voice of the inner critic.

Without removing this obstacle, we are blocked from discovering our self-acceptance, blocked from our power, and keeps us from connecting and empathizing with others.

Embracing wholeness is a loving act of reclamation, a “both/and” way of meeting life, replacing “either/or” mentality.

The critic says, “Trust me. I know you so well. I’ve been through this before.” Wisdom says, “Relax into your experience. You can trust yourself to know what to do.”

Wisdom teaches us how to discover what is really true.

Trust your inner Higher Self, connected always to the Source, all Wisdom, Always.