Sorrow & Pain & the Artist

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In the morning when i open my eyes, after a night of pain, after a night of desperate prayers for consolation, birds sing outside in the sunlight. Outside a window filled with silk colors hanging, prisms on string dangling, blooming violets of pale pinkish lavender in a blue willow pot on a dusty ledge, with quartz crystals in varying hues tumbled together in a pile–all catching glimmers of daylight–the pale sun dares to discretely stream into a darkened room.
The birdsong is a natural sound of joy that serves as a reminder that life is bittersweet. nothing is truly this way or that. Light or dark. heaven or hell.
Beauty is everywhere. It can be found within anything when we choose to look. But within a certain mind all the vibrance of brilliant color is drained by the experience of a hard sad painful life turning everything into homogenized tepid gray. it suits our bad humor, our morbid habitual lack of imagination.
a broken heart sees a colorless broken world, yet a broken heart can accidentally or incidentally fill the world with a type of redeeming beauty that is beyond essential.

An artist takes the bleak mirage and out of necessity recreates–like magical ancient alchemy–an inner vision from whatever caustic despair may block the light. that’s how some of us survive. and in turn, that’s how artists share the art of survival.
an artist offers a vision of recreated determination back to the world as a challenge to its indifference.

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Please Don’t Kill All That Is Beautiful In The World

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What does beauty mean to you? What is it exactly?

Is beauty only a mirage–a fleeting visible image of the superficial, like an illusion? Is what we call beautiful only a shallow temporary experience of what pleases our physical senses? Or is what is truly beautiful a gift to our infinite being, something we visit that imprints indelibly on our soul, our character, making it richer and more expansive? A song that uplifts, a smile that enlightens, a hand reaching out to gently reassure us in encouragement and love, a shared spontaneous experience that makes us bust out laughing, a new born baby, a flock of birds swirling in graceful shapes against a sunlit blue sky–is beauty that indescribable breathtaking moment that makes us feel grateful for being alive? Isn’t that beauty? Is it an experience of a incredible moment, or an interaction that surprisingly arises in our mundane path, or something amazing we feel within the confines of a personal relationship that goes mysteriously far deeper than just a pretty dress on a fashion model, or a gilded framed peaceful landscape that matches our couch on our living room wall?

What is your idea of beauty?

Well, this is mine.

Beauty is like the picture above and what is behind the picture above–the story of what it is expresses or invokes the experience of beauty in what we see and what it all means, even when what it means is ineffable. In that deeper sense of what it means to me, there is something more to the experience than a 2-dimensional photograph.

The day I took this photograph, I was out hiking in the woods by a river and I stopped to watch several monarch butterflies at play. Sitting on purple iron weed in Autumn time, under a pristine blue sky next to a rolling river, I was entranced by a pair of perfect vibrant delicate orange and black wings that fluttered and flitted from place to place. It gave me a great deal of joy to watch this butterfly dance from flower to flower. My little butterfly friend even allowed me to touch it, and it sipped water off my fingertips.

But here’s the hard truth in comparison to this fleeting ephemeral image.

What is truly beautiful in this world we live in, like this monarch butterfly, is in real danger of going extinct. Just like the climate change has drastically affected the yearly monarch migration detrimentally, and heavy use of pesticides that have killed off vast numbers of these North American butterflies, potentially weakening future generations and their ability to thrive, there is a huge probability that to behold a monarch playing among the iron weed may indeed become a very rare sight. Once something is gone, there’s no bringing it back.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we, as human beings, are directly complicit and completely involved with the destruction of all the beauty on our planet. That is a sad and unpleasant fact. One we need to own up to and change. And I will not be so self-righteous as not to count myself in that lump of humanity. No one gets a pass. It is everyone’s responsibility, not just our “leaders”–spiritual, environmental, political or otherwise.

Just by going along with the way we do things in the modern age, we cause destruction to the planet and to each other. And yes, I love our modern conveniences, but not every convenience is necessary. Not every popular viewpoint or interior thought that comes to us with ease is beneficial. We can change the way we do things, as well the way we think–which is where what we say and do flows forth from–in a way that will have less harmful impact and more direct good. And we must think beyond ourselves. Selfishness, pettiness, greed, hatred and fear is the enemy at our gates. And we must beat it back interiorly within our own person. We must as a whole think of life on earth as interdependent, because it is actually and factually interdependent.

We breath because trees exists. Simply stated, trees exist because we and other animals exhale out what they need to live. But they can’t live if we chop them all down. And also, we can’t live if we chop them all down. The same holds true for the ocean. The ocean is our primary source of oxygen, but we are quickly killing off that symbiotic relationship too. When one part is out of balance, there is a cascade failure that causes catastrophic disaster. It’s like the process of organ failure in the human body. Each organ shuts down because each organ is dependent of the other organs to get what is needed to continue living. If our planet was a patient, it might already be in the ICU.

Humanity was never meant to be a plague on the earth. And the best of what humanity means in its highest idea would not be celebrating the way we treat each other either. I say that because there is so much violence and hostility in our current world, and, in particular, in America. What is wrong with us? Mob mentality is not higher thinking. It’s toxic death to everything beautiful and glorious about what we are as  human beings. Celebrate only what should be celebrated–goodness, compassion, wisdom and brilliant potential. Our habits of hate only cause harm, because hate begets hate. And love begets love. What do you want? Love or hate? Heaven or hell? And we all go there together, so chose wisely.

Because of our ability to reason, we were meant to be good custodians, caretakers and peacemakers, who ensure the positive cultivation and continuation of the indwelling natural abundance found within this miraculous planet of ours. But we aren’t doing that right now, are we?

Greed kills all. Hatred only causes destruction.

Of course, it is completely possible with a little extra consideration to educate one’s self so that we are individually able to make wiser, more comprehensive decisions on how to make better choices. And there is no excuse for not becoming a better person. Anyone can be compassionate if they want to be. It just takes effort. Becoming kinder wiser people not only makes our own life better, it makes life better for everyone.

You want a better world, be a better person.

Many people chose to live that way right now. And all of us have that capacity. I’d like to think we all care enough to be that person who makes a difference for good. But just how much do we really care about that? Is it far easier to sit and blame others, while placing all our responsibilities onto some political party, leader, employer or church affiliation? It might seem easier to go with the flow, stay silent, grumble and complain, spew hatred, incite violence, point fingers, but the end result is that things only get worse for everyone. No one else will do the work for us. We are either all in this thing called life to uplift, cultivate and protect the beauty in our glorious existence; or all that is inspiring and good gets eradicated systematically because of our own ignorance and apathy.

Very few things go extinct without our direct involvement with the destructive process. And the essential point I’m alluding to is that our involvement is not limited to the extinction of our splendid wonders of the world, our immaculate wildernesses really no longer exists in an untouched pristine manner. The wildernesses are already dying and so are the animals that live in them. Our oceans are full of garbage, spilt crude oil and radiation. Sea life is choking to death on our old cracked sippy cups, plastic forks and grocery bags.

And yes, this destruction of our beautiful environment is symbolic of our concern for life and each other. We are also directly involved with the denegration and destruction of our fellow human beings. Stepping on someone else’s back to feel superior or to take whatever we want is not acceptable behavior. Some of us do this intentionally–fully aware–driven by ignorance, hatred, anger, greed, and the hunger for power. And many of us do this each time we stay silent when we see injustice. Injustice is everyone’s problem. When irritable or angry, it is not our inalienable right to shove hatefulness and abuse at another person–despite what you may think. We become complicit when we don’t want to get involved with the struggle to uphold human rights and mutual respect for all.

Within our humanity, our divinity is waiting to be seen and acknowledged. Unfortunately, It doesn’t appear that many people think it’s important to make an effort presently. If we did, there would be no hatred, bigotry, inequality, starvation and war. Why are we allowing big industry to ruin our water systems and farm in ways that are toxic? Why do we eat that toxic food, when it sustains a greater problem? And don’t say because it cost less. Almost everyone in American has a big screen TV and a smart phone. If we wanted to spend money on more important things like healthy sustainable food sources, we would. But we just want our shiny stuff, don’t we. Why do we allow the deforestation of what’s left of our precious wildernesses? And why is there a garbage pile the size of Texas floating in our oceans?

Do we not care whether there is oxygen to breath? Do we not care about our children’s children?

We all have immense potential for good, regardless of our personal weaknesses or imperfections. The glorious state of human perfection is not possible because we have this crazy idea that perfection is what it is not. Perfect is not looking perfect. Perfect is not being unrealistically happy all the time by focusing only on external material things. Perfect does not equal wealthy, materially successful and powerful. Perfect is not the ability to do everything we do precisely in the correct way, without missing a beat. Perfect is not keeping your house immaculately clean. Perfect is not pretending you are superior to anyone else.

There is no such thing as human perfection. Our beauty is not judged by that ridiculous standard, like a beauty queen with a certain figure and a certain smile and perfectly straight teeth. The idea is absurd.

Beauty is far greater than restrictive ideas.

There is only a divine mystical perfection shrouded discretely behind the chaos of our unique experience as we think it is on the planet earth. The comprehensive perfection I speak of is that beyond our limited understanding, which is only glimpsed in the beauty of how all life is woven interdependently into seamlessness.

Humanity can kill or allow that beauty to be killed easily if we don’t all wake up.

Nothing is random. Everything that arises in our lives is a result of cause and effect. We  make choices, even when we refuse to make a choice. Refusing to make a choice is in fact a choice. And as I said, all life on the planet is interdependent. And it requires positive participation to keep that interdependence from taking us down the proverbial toilet. There is no us and them–no one to blame. There is only personal responsibility.

In our imperfect individual lives, we all are immensely beautiful in our own messy paradoxical existence. It is within the experience of our faults, weakness and imperfections that we are able to find mercy for others. But we have to seek truth. And we have to want to become merciful. Mercy doesn’t come automatically. Compassion is something we must work on developing. Not everything is warm and fuzzy.

Mercy is beautiful. Compassion is beautiful. Love is always beautiful. Wisdom is supremely beautiful. Nurture those virtues. Do not distain them or ignore them into oblivion.

With that said, yes, it is entirely possible to snuff out the beauty that gives life joy. It is also possible to repress or oppress all that is splendid, compassionate and awe-inspiring to the degree that we all will suffer such great atrocities and planetary disasters that our joy will only return on the wings of future generations, if we give them a planet to live on.

Do we allow beauty to be destroyed? Do we actively participate in destroying everything that is beautiful in the world?

That is a choice we all must make.

The choice to uphold beauty can be in the simplicity of a smile. It is in loving instead of hating. It is being accountable for what we think, say and do. What is our intention? Do we actually want to harm others? And if so, why would we ever think that way? We must learn to work things out compassionately and wisely by listening and learning from each other. There are no easy answers, but if we value what is truly beautiful we have a personal responsibility. If we treasure loving family, healthy relationships, a livable planet where our children can exist without chronic impending catastrophe or unilateral despair, the majestic wildernesses, clean water, land that grows food, the eagle soaring, honey bees, the great blue ocean, the air we breath, the ability to have freedom on this earth to live in peace, monarch butterflies flitting on wildflowers–then we must think, speak and act accordingly.

Give beauty a chance to thrive. It’s specifically up to you.

 

The Useless & Confusing Nature of Guilt

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Guilt (emotion)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Guilt is a cognitive or an emotional experience that occurs when a person believes or realizes—accurately or not—that he or she has compromised his or her own standards of conduct or has violated a moral standard and bears significant responsibility for that violation.[1] It is closely related to the concept of remorse.

guilt | dictionary.com

noun

1.

the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law; culpability:

He admitted his guilt.

2.

a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.

3.

conduct involving the commission of such crimes, wrongs, etc.:

to live a life of guilt.
verb (used with object), Informal.

4.

to cause to feel guilty(often followed by out or into):

She totally guilted me out, dude. He guilted me into picking up the tab.
See also guilt-trip.

The Useless & Confusing Nature of Guilt

The two definitions above are the common ideas of what guilt means. Yes, one can be found guilty of a crime and one can live the proverbial “life of assigned guilt” by the narrow minded views of society. However, what I would like to explore is the nature of guilt within our individual psyche and how destructively confusing, energetically wasteful and useless it is. Based on my personal experience, there are far too many people walking around mistakenly thinking or believing within a distorted religious format that guilt is some sort of a virtue that helps a person make positive decisions. It is not.
So what do I know about guilt?
Guilt is an ingrained pattern of thinking based in an insecure fear-based concept of self-hatred. Self-hatred or self-loathing is not a guidance system. The idea of guilt overwhelms the inner positive qualities that help us navigate life in a trustworthy, reasonably peaceful manner that is practical, compassionate and wise. When we are able to access our inner wisdom, we make positive decisions. When we allow ourselves to be guided by guilt, we resist our own inner positive nature, centered in wisdom, and rather lean upon suspicion and lack of trust. We do this because we don’t trust our own self as being able to make good decisions, which makes us even more reactive and unstable. In guilt, we habitually shift our focus from higher innate truth, toward small distorted ingrained ideas based in insecurity, fear, lack of self-esteem, false identity and deception. It is extremely confusing to think that way. It divides us from our higher-self, our indwelling Christ, our wisdom center. The use of the delusion of guilt and other distorted negative false beliefs systems as a method to navigate through life–accepting any hateful ideas that tell us we are “less than” and “inherently evil”–will always be unreliable at best because they are a cause of schismed thinking that is destructively detrimental and guaranteed to bring great suffering.
No one is less. No one is more. All are equally precious and sacred. In that forum, guilt cannot exist. There is no room for it.
If we hurt someone’s feelings or do harm to someone else, real or imagined, it is not guilt that guides us to make things right. It is love and compassion. It is integrity. It is the desire to be a better human being.
Regret should only be a moment of reflection that brings us to rectify past wrongs in the higher minded manner of bringing about healing, reconciliation and release. Regret is not useful other than that. And regret and remorse are not the same as guilt. If we think of them the same way, then we need to adjust our own awareness of how we are thinking to understand who we are in truth. Regret and remorse are feelings directly in relation to the past that can be resolved with positive effort. We cannot live in the past. We can understand it, forgive and move on. We also cannot live in the future thinking of how we are going to screw things up. Not a healthy point of view either. We should live in the present moment with deliberate awareness and do the best we can with what we have.
Guilt is a way of seeing everything as being our fault. Guilty people are easy to manipulate. And people who cannot shed the false burden of guilt are frustrated, confused, stagnated and despairing people who seem to really only want to be beautiful lights of love and compassion in a world of darkness. The ensnared “Guilty” souls have yet to figure out how to be that light. These people are usually sensitive, empathically connected and sympathetic to the needs of those around them, and would genuinely like to help others, but feel they cannot without failure or fault. They ruin their own joy by not being able to realize–or accept as truth–that at the core of who they are they are already dazzlingly in the divine sense of perfection. So stop trying to be humanly perfect–because that is not ever going to happen–and embrace the expansive mysteriously divine forgiving perfection hidden within the messiness of our own being and in all life.
Let me share a little fairytale story to further explain.

Butterfly the Free

Once upon a time, there was a young girl who was taught that she was not worthy. Although she was perfect in everyway–intelligent, compassionate, joyful and loving–she was taught something all together differently about who she was. Throughout her childhood she was told by her parents through words and actions that she was not good enough, nor lovable. She was repeatedly told she was stupid, and inferior because she was female. She was regularly yelled at, and sternly told that she was irritating and annoying to be around, a financial burden to everyone, and that her presence–truth be told–was not wanted or appreciated. Now even though children all through the ages are unfortunately taught false detrimental ideas by unpleasant ignorant parents, family and social structures about of who they are at a young age, this particular little girl for whatever mysterious reason decided that those words–those hateful ideas forced upon her–were in fact not true.
As she grew into adulthood, this beautiful little girl resisted the cruelness of what she had heard and witnessed through her life so far. Yet even though she resisted, those horrible voices went everywhere with her in her own mind, as we all carry forth our abusers, belittlers and naysayers until we pull them out by the roots. In essence, during this part of her life, the voices won. But the voices only were victorious over her life until things became so dark that she was forced to face her greatest fears or die. And as a spoiler alert, she eventually broke forth from her past, and sloughed off the nasty burden of what was said and done to her. And she became like a brand new being made of indestructible light–a new creature dedicated to life and truth.
For most of her life the girl, we will call her Butterfly the Free, was greatly troubled by what she felt within her mind and emotions. It made her insecure and frightened of everything, particularly good things like love, success, prosperity and respect. No matter what she did, Butterfly felt surely she was not good enough. She felt guilty for everything, even good things. When she spoke up to someone in truth–a necessary essential truth–she constantly apologized. Somehow Butterfly felt that her truth was a burden that no one else could handle. She projected some imagined false sense of harm in an exaggerated delusional idea that even when she was being honest and sincere that it was bad or even evil to discomfort others emotionally or mentally. She didn’t seem to understand that we are all responsible for our own inner negative emotional and mental baggage, because we carry it around and inflict it on others if we don’t seek to understand it and embrace our own unique healing process. We cannot be responsible for everyone else’s comfort. We can however be kind, compassionate and helpful. But in order to really help others, we have to help ourselves by working out our own conflicting issues.
Inflicting our inner garbage onto others makes life bad for everyone. On the contrary, being compassionately honest, ethical, having self-esteem and self respect will inevitably make things better for everyone in the higher idea of living a non-harmful life, despite the conflict it might bring. We cannot avoid conflict. Conflict is part of life as a human being. Feeling interior emotional and mental discomfort is a valid part of spiritual growth, which we all need to learn how to cope with in order to become better, more emotionally literate people. Emotionally literate people have a much better skills that can insure having healthy, positive, happier relationships. So Butterfly chronically apologized because she was afraid that what she said would offend whoever she was communicating with and cause a conflict. And she feared conflict. She feared offending others. She felt that conflict would ultimately result in rejection. Hostility and rejection was her greatest fear. Hostility and rejection had been her life experience so far.
Hostility and rejection leads to isolation. And isolation is a lonely place for one who treasures love. And we all treasure being loved and being able to love on some level.
Butterfly was so unsure of herself that when she spoke truth, she was immediately afraid of rejection, which made her a reactionary insecure mess. She felt guilty for making others uncomfortable, even when that other was a raging jackass. She let guilt consume her life. Every decision she made, even if she knew for sure it was the right and ethical decision, was accompanied by feelings of guilt. If she actually made a mistake, it was unforgiveable in her own mind. And everyone makes mistakes, so she was doomed to struggle with depression because of how she thought about herself. Because of this, she strived so desperately to be perfect, to live up to some unrealistic idea of human perfection that would appease the hateful parental voices in her mind and make them finally proud enough to be silent forever more. And that really is a fairytale. One that will never-ever-ever have a happy ending. Yet, Butterfly does have her happy future regardless.
Appeasing the voices of abuse is impossible. There are people, both real and imagined, that will never be appeased by anything or anyone. So don’t try. There are many people who have learned to use guilt to manipulate others quite effectively. And this is not a good thing on either side of the equation. Manipulating others is a no-no. And on the other hand, do not try to live up to the flighty fleeting irrational pissy unrelenting standards set by the voices of the ugly abusers in our own heads. No one can validate our worth, but our selves. We have to find love for our self within our self, and then work ongoing to live life within our own concept of what’s right, compassionate and good for the sake of our sanity and happiness. We must break free of the delusional habit of needing approval and validation. We must get to the point where we can authentically feel and declare, “Who cares what other people think about me! I am the only one who needs to feel good about what I am, what I think and what I do!”
Butterfly the Free, before she was free, felt guilty for everything good she did as well. Doing something good and right was not the immediate cause of the guilt problem. It was that after she did something good and right, people where still displeased. Her being able to do good things and right things made many people uncomfortable, to the point of these same people becoming rather cranky, antagonistic and condescending toward her. So when she was brilliant, she felt sadly guilty. It made her want to hide her amazing abilities. She tended to stay hunkered down like a beaten dog, which is not to be confused with being the virtue of humility. Being demeaned–even self-demeaned–is not humility. It is merely a result of abuse disguised in another form. Humility is simply realistically knowing our abilities without being an egotistical braggart about it. The Dalai Lama said something to the effect of this on the topic of confidence; it’s like being tall. When you are tall you can reach higher places. Being able to reach something someone else cannot does not make you better. It just makes you tall.
The end of Butterfly’s story was also the beginning. One day Butterfly met a mystical revered spiritual teacher. He taught her special prayers and helped her understand who she was in the core of her being. He taught her that she was everything infinitely good, pure and wise. One morning not long after talking to this spiritual master, she woke up and had strange new experience. She had no guilt. It was so radical to have no feelings of guilt, that Butterfly was initially frightened and amazed. How could she have gone through life so far without noticing that  guilt had colored her every thought, action and view with a hazy perilous darkness? This new freedom from guilt was alarming at best.
Her first thought was, “How will I tell right from wrong?”
And within just a short time of reflecting on that idea, Butterfly understood how completely ridiculous it was to think that guilt was her interior guidance to truth and positive choices. Guilt was in fact a plague on her life, as it is a plague on everyone’s life. Guilt does not make us good people. Guilt does not inform our decisions in truth, but burdens them down with confusion and deception. Guilt is not a virtue. Rather, guilt is a weight worn about the neck that keeps one bowed to the false Gods of egotistical habitual self-abuse.
Butterfly was finally free! She realized immediately that her true guidance is the deep innate wisdom within her already and that she would have to learn to trust that abiding wisdom. This inner divine Wisdom Guidance is pure eternally aware and omnipotent, and centered at its core is pure goodness, love and compassion. This is where she will find her answers. This is what she will pull on to make her good choices. This is the quality of virtue that can successfully help us navigate life. And with this revelation, Butterfly finally successfully and faithfully allowed herself to accept a new clear viewpoint so she could live the rest of her life with joy and accuracy. And at her ending and beginning, she flew away to pursue a happier life, free from the weight of useless confusing guilt.
So this is the end and the beginning of the little story of Butterfly.

And further more, we do not need guilt.

In a more straightforward and realistic manner, guilt is not good for anyone. Shame is not what we need to have making our decisions, but rather something we need to heal within ourselves. Shame is a sense of doing something we are not proud of. It could be seen as guilt, or it can be something all together different. But what shame and guilt have in common is they do not help us, other than to enable us to see something that needs to change in our life. Shame is something that needs to be healed, and it might be a warning to create a more positive environment through positive choices. Guilt we’ve already discussed. We cannot let our habitual patterns of thinking and false ideas ruin our lives by stunting our potential growth, and placing joy and happiness out of our reach.
There is confusion to what is guidance and what is not. We must learn how to discern goodness and truth. If it isn’t compassionate, it is not from God. And in that manner of speaking, if it isn’t God, it isn’t who we are in truth. All good gifts are from above. Focus on trusting higher truth, instead of letting our doubts, fear, insecurities and self-inflicted punishments consume our possibilities. Simply this, we cannot appease anyone but the divine within our own self, and all that takes is love, forgiveness of self, and being open to a better viewpoint. And if we seek truth, which we must bravely do, then we will have conflict. And conflict is part of life. Life requires great effort and courage. Guilt keeps us hemmed into a way of life that is small and fearful. It is bad programming that destroys happy life.
So look to the guilt we feel. Why is it there? Examine that. Work through our interior constructs of mind and emotion with compassionate awareness. Forgiveness for being an imperfect human being is necessary, particular towards one’s self. Prayer is essential. Ask for truth. Seek it. Allow it to transform our idea of who we think we are as opposed to who we are in truth. Allow it to show a divine perfection within our humanity that has nothing to do with our faulty human ideas. And let Holiness and Wholeness shine within our person for the sake of everyone, despite what anyone may think.
Shining is always a great thing to do.
Be free.

Spiritual Verses Religious: What Really Matters?

Today is a good day to better clarify “I am spiritual not religious” verses “I am religious.” All this back and forth about one being more enlightened than the other has no bearing on actual reality. And personally, I am finding it tiresome.

It may be that I exist in circles where this discussion has become bogged down in tedious repetition, while the rest of the world is completely untouched. So pardon me if this isn’t an issue where you are presently.

But for those like myself who have had it up to infinity with the bickering, this is what I want to say.

Has anyone thought why are we debating spirituality verses being religious in the first place?

In my own observation this distinction on one view verses another is a direct result of the fact religious people–or those claiming to be religious–often do horrible things. History is full of atrocities done in the name of religion.

Does that make religion bad?

No. It does not.

Does it make all religious people bad?

No. It does not.

It merely points out that anything, especially religion, can be used as a means to control, exploit, repress or enslave a population. And since religion is supposed to be a sacred space to find God and the divine truth, it makes a very powerful platform to manipulate the masses to whatever end is desired. Of course, if we stop to think about it, we all have an understanding of how this has happened and how it continues to happen.

When people–any people, culture or individual–surrender over all responsibility to make appropriate ethical choices on a personal level to a larger organization, the result will be disastrous.

If it isn’t compassionate, it isn’t from God.

If it isn’t compassionate, it isn’t divine truth.

If it isn’t compassionate, it isn’t wisdom.

Sheep. That is the popular term for those who don’t like to think for themselves. But sheep aren’t necessary exclusively religious. Non-thinking people are everywhere. Everyone has his or her own special nasty shroud of ignorance to work though. Life can obviously be confusing.

When evaluating the spiritual side, without religion what do we get? We get billions and billions of people with billions and billions of ideas on what spirituality means to them. The same goes for those who are religious. No two people think the exact same thing about anything. It would be impossible for it to be so.

We all have our subtle individual perspective of what words and spiritual concepts actually mean. Our view of reality is directly colored, distorted or radically personalized by the circumstances of our own life and existence as we “think” it is.

So this whole persecution or promotion of spiritual verses religious is quite inane. To be frank, it’s just stupid.

If we wanted it to be so, there could be amazing dialogs and positive discussions in the exploration of this fascinating subject. But so far, all I’ve seen is petty arguing, all for the sake of nothing.

So in the name of my own decompression, as well as positive intent, I now feel the need to clarify in the hopes of ending needless battles.

I am may be over-optimist with that hope, but hey.

A religious person can obviously be spiritual, since that’s the point of religion. It’s only when a religious person knows absolutely nothing about the tradition they claim to practice that they might not be having spiritual experience. And no one would know how religion has affected or transformed a person better than the person herself who is being affected or transformed. No outside source has the ability or right to judge another’s inner most experience; and that is true whether one is religious or not.

And on the other hand, if a person says they are spiritual and does nothing to grow as a person and put into practice the inherent inner qualities of divine awakening, then that person is as much a hypocrite for the outward claim of “spirituality” as one who is touting religion without merit.

So why do we keep fighting?

Maybe we fight because we have not gone deep enough into interior divine spaces to access wisdom. Maybe we fight because we are not even close to being consciously aware and don’t really want to change anything about how we go about life.

Maybe we are just a bunch of frustrated people.

Frustration is understandable. However, frustration cannot  continue to be a defense for being belligerent, and creating more conflict in an already turbulent world.

We need wise bridge-building compassionate peace keepers.

It doesn’t matter if one calls themselves religious or spiritual, if we want a better world where people do not constantly destroy one another, we must be willing to make an effort to change our negative reactive patterns of thinking. We must make room for one another. And we must learn how to love, respect and honor ourselves by learning to love, respect and honor others.

Religion has profound insightful inspired spiritual teachings to offer. And there are in fact concise religious practices that can transform a darkened view into one of blessed grace.

But religion is also is tainted with human weakness, because humans habitually make mistakes by imposing egotistically self-serving agendas onto everything we touch.

So if one wants to learn and transform spiritually, emotionally & mentally, one has to open the mind and heart and seek truth.

The truth will set us free.

True spirituality demands discernment. True spirituality requires dedication to compassionate living, which is finding more compassionate and non-harmful ways of experiencing life from where we are. And if one is spiritual completely devoid of  religion, hats off to you. But to the point, there is literally no possible way to not be influenced in some degree by whatever religion we have been exposed to in life, directly or indirectly. Hopefully, our exposure will have uplifting results. That isn’t always true. But we are also exposed to positive religious concepts through people we meet everyday. Many of civilizations altruist concepts of ethics and positive behavior have grown out of religious precepts.

Buddha began early in life studying the Vedas before he was enlightened. He tried many religious and spiritual techniques before finding the answer to the end of suffering in the four noble truths, and attaining liberation in enlightenment. Jesus of Nazareth was raised Jewish. He was a Rabbi who reformed the religion of his time, reincorporating the immeasurably important core teachings of fearless love, faith and non-judgmental coexistence.

How many peace keepers of this world have not been directly affected in some manner by religion in the positive degree? Martin Luther King was a preacher. Mother Theresa was a Catholic nun. There are great heroes to be found that are not religious, but I would make an educated guess that most of that kind of selfless courageous people have been impacted by being open to truth wherever it is found.

If we look at all great benevolent leaders and spiritual masters of this world, all have been affected by religion in wildly varying degrees. Many have reformed religion rather than accepting the popular dogmatic restrictive ideas. But we are all influenced by religious teachings regardless. Let us simply honor what common sense has been offered from past generations. And may we respect the lives of Holy Men and Women who have given us a glimpse of the divine in human form.

We do need to think for ourselves. If one wants truth, one must actually make an effort to seek it in order to find it.

And we should be mutually encouraged that truth is worth seeking. Our wholeness will be found in truth. And in that process we will have to face our fears.

All the concepts I have learned that have made my spiritual life rich, inspiring and restorative have come from religion. I knew about the idea of God from religious experience as a child. At first I was a very non-religious person. Thankfully, when pushed to the extremes, I didn’t allow my ego to bar the path to greater insights. I learned to pray the hard way. I learned to see my own negative habits and how to change them. I have learned that we are all sacred beings. My spiritual experiences have been cultivated through mostly religious means. I recognized my own brokenness and I have sincerely pushed forward to find answers on how to be restored to wholeness. Anyone can do this if they want to, but again it takes effort–ongoing effort.

I am not restrained by religion. I just appreciate what I find within it. I have trusted in a spiritual path that has utilized teachings and practices which allow my own mind and emotions to inform my decision making. I have to power to make my own choices, as we all do. How I think, speak and act are my responsibility.

And if I pray, that is my choice. If I reach fearlessly into the unknown and cultivate faith, compassion and wisdom, that is my choice.

It is that way for all people whether we accept that responsibility or not.

So call yourself spiritual, religious or whatever. However, whatever label we all may stick upon ourselves, I would suggest we all make an sincere effort to walk the walk and talk the talk, rather than wasting time arguing about trivialities.

Rather than point fingers and wagging heads, as we cluck like hens in disapproval, we should be doing our part to make the world a better place.

It boils down to “do we want a peaceful solution?” And if the answer is something else, we should reevaluate our agendas.

It is time to break our own individual repetitive limitations within our own mind and hearts. Whether imbued in religious devotions or avid freeform intuitive spirituality, we still have to learn to develop interior skills. And it should be a joyful process, because we will need that joy to push through the hardship and pain.

Contemplate existence. Examine why we individually do things the way we do. Our perceptions are not ultimate reality but a façade that flows forth from our own personal delusional ego.

There are answers. There is truth.

A simple place to begin is to just be kind.

Straight up, it is an entitled spoiled “first-world” view to think our whiny bitching, hateful disparagement and emotional tantrums are freedom of speech.

Suck it up and be nice.

Learn discipline.

Work out tumultuous personal issues with great care within your own space, rather than justifying the spewing out of ugliness on the rest of humanity as your imaginary right.

Spiritual or otherwise, being a hateful jackass is no one’s inherent human right when harm is done onto others. And hateful abusive words do harm.

Again, if it’s not compassionate, it isn’t from God.

“God” is a very small word that denotes something infinitely expansive. May we not ignore or dismiss the significance of our own personal responsibility in creating a better world. It takes all of us.

Go beyond ego.

Go beyond concepts, into pure bliss.