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I contemplate this a lot. What is mine to do? Eleanor Roosevelt said that “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people." Stuff bugs me, but I’m not going to discuss people or events here. It’s a waste of time, and just contributes to what is really bothering me: Polarity. Us and them. Separation. Duality. All different names for the same thing. I feel as strongly about this as Ernest Holmes must have been feeling when he said this: “The belief in duality has robbed theology of power and has polluted philosophy with untruths; it has divided science against itself, and has made countless thousands go through life with saddened hearts.” And this: “The belief in duality is the father of most negative thinking.”

The opposite of duality is oneness, and that is what I believe in. I also believe that what we believe in affects our lives and shows up in physical form. If you don’t believe me, check out quantum physics...specifically the “observer effect.” I’ll leave that up to you, I’ve got other things to write about. And if you think science has no place in a conversation about oneness and theology and ideas and god, I respectfully suggest that you consider why you are even reading this. There are no mistakes in life. There must be a question in your mind or you wouldn’t be reading my words. Contemplate that while I move on.

Oneness to me means that not only is there no separation between me and you, but there is no separation between me and god. Powerful stuff there. Because believing in oneness means that I believe that what you do affects me, and what I do affects you. This happens in the micro form, between you and me, and it happens in the macro form, world wide. So when we point fingers and blame and attack and separate ourselves from them because they are all fucked up, it is hurting us as much as them. All this polarity that is going on in the world hurts. It hurts me, and it hurts you. It is duality at its worst.

What does this duality look like on a gritty level? It looks like I’m right and you are wrong. It looks like there is only one way to refer to god, my way. It looks like “well, I’m not perfect, but you did this and that and for that I am standing firm and holding my ground and blaming you for all this trouble.” Duality looks like stubbornness and close mindedness. And it bugs me.

When I get really bugged about this stuff, and I do, a lot, I contemplate: “what is mine to do?” And the honest answer? I don’t know. I sometimes feel like the way I felt when I witnessed a devastating fire burn down much of my town. There was nothing I could do but bake cookies for the firemen and the displaced. So I baked cookies. I guess in a way, I really do know what is mine to do. It is the metaphorical equivalent of baking cookies. I’ve got a certain skill set, and certain credentials, and I can voice this, and spread the word. I can present a different way to be. And so that is why I speak. It is why I write. It is why I teach. It is why I do workshops and retreats. I want people to be happy. I want them to live more peacefully. I believe that when individuals live happier and more peacefully, that has a far reaching effect.

I look at it like this: if it is true that there are only two basic states of being: fear or love (and I believe this to be true), then we are either coming from a place of fear or a place of love in any given situation. When we attack, when we point fingers, when we judge, it is all fear based. What’s up with the fear? Why would someone else’s lifestyle threaten you? How could it? What if, instead of attacking, you realized that this fear you are feeling that is making you attack and condemn and judge others is really a call to investigate why you are so fearful in the first place? This removes the attention from them and places it on yourself. Perhaps an uncomfortable place to be, but people like me can help you with that.

What if instead you contemplated what love would do? Call it what you will, there are many names for love, just as there are many names for god. What if instead you asked why a suggestion that there are different names for god gets your feathers all ruffled? What if instead you contemplated what your life would look like if you replaced all that fear with love? What if instead you contemplated how a belief in separation and duality is harming you, and found a different way to believe? What then? Do you think that might contribute to a better life, for you and for the rest of the world? I do.

So I’m going to bake cookies. What if you baked cookies too? What is your metaphorical equivalent of baking cookies? Do that.

As Rumi said, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

I am a minister.

That statement has an air of unreality about it today.

I worked for nine years to get to this point.    When I began nine years ago I didn't think I would end up here.  Actually, that's a bit of an understatement. I ABSOLUTELY DID NOT have minister on my list of things to do.  I hated church, disrespected organized religion, and really thought that the entire system of religious authority and religion needed to be overhauled and revised.  I wanted no part of it.  When I began this journey nine year ago, I simply wanted to enlarge my spiritual life.  I was depressed, and not in a very good place.   I'd been sober for over 15 years and I felt a bit stuck.

So I decided to begin taking classes at my local Center for Spiritual Living (CSL).  I'd taken other classes, and they helped, but there was always something about them that ruffled my feathers.  One class was very valuable in teaching me a great form of meditation, but when they began talking about guarding ourselves from all the dangerous influences when we meditated, I was out of there.  I didn't want a lifestyle where I felt I had to be on guard.  CSL seemed to fit perfectly.  It was spirituality without the New Age woo woo trappings, and without the dogma of more traditional religions.  I loved it, and from the first class I knew that I was going to pursue becoming a Practitioner.

Being a Practitioner in CSL means being a type of coach.  The work interested me, and I knew it would help me.  It takes about two years of prerequisite classes to become eligible for Practitioner classes, which is a two year course of study.  That was the first four years of my journey.  I became a Practitoner and was happy as a clam.  I converted a room behind my photography studio into an area to meet clients and started a life coaching business.

Then the calling began.  They say being a minister is a calling, that no one would ever choose such a thing.  I know it's not like that for everyone, but it is for me.  But when the calling begins, that inner nudge that just won't go away, in fact it gets louder and louder, you have to heed it.  Then the outer nudges began.  People began asking me when I was going to begin ministerial school.  My grandmother came right out and told me I had to go, and offered to pay my tuition.  That's a big deal in a Masters Degree program.  So I heeded the inner and outer calls, and I went.

For almost 5 years, I studied, attended classes in person at the Holmes Institute campus in Santa Rosa, attended other classes via phone and video conference, studied a ton of books, wrote a ton of papers, did about 20 internships, went on student retreats, and immersed myself in my studies.  I used mentors and prayer partners and other Practitioners as my coaches, and opened myself up to all that the program had to offer.

It changed me the same way the 12 steps did back in the beginning of my recovery:  at a very deep profound level, from the inside out.

I got my Masters Degree in June, I successfully paneled and received my license as a CSL minister the first week in August, and yesterday, I was unanimously elected to be the new Spiritual Leader of the Center for Spiritual Living Carson City.

As one of my minister friends likes to say, "what a trip."

So off I go on this journey of being a minister.  I'm excited about my counseling practice, since I've graduated I've been blessed to have a whole new batch of wonderful clients.  And this part time job at CSL allows me to do the others things I love to do:  speak and teach.  So, I'm counseling, speaking and teaching, and life is pretty good!

Now, I'm in a position to help you.    Are you getting a nudge to do something different?  Perhaps it's more like a big push?  Or maybe you are ready for a change in your life?  Do you pay attention to those calls when they come?  Or do you simply push them aside?  What is up for you today?

 

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