Friday, November 30, 2007

Do Money and Spirituality Mix?

Recently, a local husband-wife pastor team was asked to disclose their personal finances to the IRS. They own 6 houses, including a mansion at a very prestigous address, several companies, and more. They earned most of this by doing the "Lord's Work."

Some church members stated they know about their extravagant lifestyle and approve of it. They said that they were "working for the King" and should present themselves as so. But did this televangelist duo go to far?

Things like this give religion, any religion, a bad name. When the leaders of a church, temple, or other organization are shown in a bad light, people begin to disbelieve. Historically, this is typical.

The Catholic Church used to sell indulgences, where one could buy their way into heaven.

The church mentioned above took donations by credit card. How one can preach financial responsibility while swiping members' VISAs is beyond me. The Bible states that one cannot serve two masters: money and God.

But there is a place for money in spirituality. Twelve-Step Groups call it "self-sufficiency," and decline outside contributions. Buddhism uses the term Dana, or genorousity, and ask for contributions to expenses. Christians tithe, or give 10% of their income to the church.

Giving to one's faith fosters responsbility and accountability. No one should be left to bear the financial burdens alone.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A little bit about faith...

What is faith? Where does it come from??

Faith to me is the belief in something I cannot hear, touch, smell, taste or see. My faith grows when I make through tremendous obstacles, and still have just enough energy to get the job done. (Kinda like today. I wasn't going to post or work on paying projects.)

Ralph Waldo Emerson says, "We are born believing. A man bears beliefs, as a tree bears apples."

That sums it up for me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Cultivating Humility for the Holidays

The holiday season is supposed to be the season for giving. But sometimes it seems that this is when the craziness sets in. Egos get bigger, people vie for position by having huge Christmas light displays. giving the best gifts, having the biggest parties, or making the best food. All this chaos takes away from the true spirit of the holidays, pushing humility out the window.

Kahlil Gibran says that "the smallest act of kindness is worth more than the greatest intention." You don't have to have a new wing of the local hospital names after you, or host a dinner party for 100 homeless families. In fact, the best acts of humility are often small and unnoticed. Here are 10 things to can do to start on this humble path:

1. Give to a charity in the name Anonymous.
2. Do something nice for someone everyday and not tell anyone about it.
3. Pick up trash from a local park.
4. Make small gifts or crafts and leave them in a public area with a sign saying, "Free, take one."
5. Help a child get up after falling down.
6. Smile at everyone you come across during the day, whether you know them or not.
7. Leave a bag of groceries at someone's door with a note saying Happy Holidays.
8. Donate travel-size toiletries to the local homeless shelter.
9. Adopt a child through a charity and don't tell anyone about it.
10. Leave wrapped gifts under a tree in a homeless shelter or other facility without marking who they are from.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Care and Feeding of the Soul: book list

Check out these books...

The Thich Nhat Hanh Collection by Thich Nhat Hanh
Simple Abundance by Sarah ban Breathnach
Alcoholics Anonymous
Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh
How to Know God by Deepak Chopra
How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life by HH the Dalai Lama
A Woman's Worth by Marianne Williamson

Even Grown Men Pray

Prayer is an important part of my daily life. I didn't realize the importance of it until I had serious problems with someone at work. This person tried to get me fired and treated me like I was worthless.

One day, I was so upset, I went to my car and prayed for him to have all the happiness he deserved. I did this daily, and our relationship changed. I learned an important lesson about the power of prayer.

So, how does one pray?

The most important thing to remember when praying is that it is not like making a list for Santa Claus. We are not to pray for selfish things. As a matter of fact, it is best not to pray for ourselves at all except for the knowledge of God's Will.

Forgive me if I sound overly Christian, that is part of my background. But when you pray, it does not have to be to Jesus. It can be Buddha, Allah, or whatever your idea of God is. Don't let terms such as God scare you away from prayer.

So when you pray, you are asking for the ability to stay out of your own way and do what your God would like you to do. You can ask for healing and love for specific people, and as in my example above, I find it helpful to pray for people that you are angry at.

This is just a small primer on prayer, use it at your discretion.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Loving the Unlovable

In Meditations on Love, Thich Nhat Hanh squarely faces the issue of returning to Vietnam to try to heal the damage caused by war. He tells his colleagues that the people there will not be easy to love, nor will they be very happy to see them. In my own experience I find this to be true.

When I donate money to a charity, I choose how and where to give my money. When I volunteer at a local shelter or other service, I choose who I am going to help and how I will help them. People are generally appreciative of the work you do.

But as a career social worker, I do not get to choose who I will help and how. I am on the other end of a ringing phone and do not get to choose when to pick it up and how to help the people I speak with. Many of them are unlovable, to say the least, and are not happy to be speaking with me. I resolve their issues as quickly and easily as possible, which means that I have to tell a lot of people what they don't want to hear. But what I have learned is that it is possible to love the unlovable. Learn how you can do the same if you are caught in this situation:

1. Do not return anger with anger. Be stern, but don't be hostile. People are usually frustrated and have gotten the runaround. Be patient and ignore negative comments.

2. Be sympathetic. I could not imagine have several small children and no means to support them. Many women have been abused or abandoned. Put yourself in their shoes.

3. Don't tolerate abusive language. If someone is verbally abusive, you have the right to warn them that you will end the conversation. Helping someone does not mean you have to be a doormat.

4. Practice lovingkindness meditation. Practicing this meditation before working with those less fortunate may not alleviate the problems, but will make people easier to bear.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I'm back

After a long hiatus (sorry guys) I am back on the blog. Stay tuned for new posts on meditation, spirituality, and other topics!

The Subtle Art of Self-Sabotage

Your life is going great. You've been going to the gym every morning, retiring at a reasonable hour, and making sure you don't say or do anything to hurt others. All your laundry is folded and pressed, and you've been finishing your work on time.

Then one day, you just don't feel like going to the gym. You decide you deserve a day off. After all, you've been working so hard. The next day, you decide that you can slack off a bit at the job. You've been doing so well...why should you be the only one in the company who works this hard?

Fast forward. It's two months later, and you don't even remember what the inside of your gym looks like. You are so far behind at work that you've been working late every night for the past two weeks, which has also kept you from getting that mountain of laundry out of the way.

What happened?

Self-sabotage seems inevitable to some. When everything in your life is going great, all of a sudden you start indulging in behavior which undermines all the hard work you have put in.

For some of us, success is too uncomfortable. Therefore, we subconsciously wreck everything great we have built up for ourselves. So how do we stop self-sabatoge from dashing our picture-perfect life?

1. Know your limits. Some people self-destruct because they have taken on too much. You do not have to be so busy that you don't have any time for some unstructured fun. Don't forgive to give yourself to permission to change your plans as needed. Flexibility is acceptable as long as it doesn't turn in to a permanent reason to slack off.

2. Don't beat yourself up. Let's say you miss one night of exercise. That's fine, as long as you don't make yourself feel guilty and try to punish yourself by adding extra time somewhere else or taking away one of your fun activities. IF you make a mistake, as you will, simply pick yourself back up and start again. No need to give yourself 100 lashes.

3. Prioritize and Practice. Make sure that you plan the priority things first and all other stuff later. By practicing your schedule, you will see what is important and what isn't, and can plan around that. Some people use a three step system: must do, should do and it can wait. Allow yourself some wiggle room by asking, "how important is this, really?"

Remember that every moment of your life needn't be planned; allow yourself time to do nothing or have fun. Give yourself permission to relax. And when that old "I can do it later" chimes in, think of the consequences.

eHow Articles-Recovery and Meditation

Check out my articles recently published on eHow:
Working Step Ten (AA)
How to Make a Twelfth-Step Call
How to work Step Four
Working Step Nine
How to Perform Lovingkindness Meditation
How to Attend a Buddhist Sangha