Category Archives: Spoken Presentations

Earnest Intention to Practice – Koinonia Chapel Lesson 11/4/2015

Note about the timing of this post.

This post was originally created in draft form back in 2015 and I never got around to making the last needed edits to publish it in a timely manner. I’m currently visiting Koinonia and just happened to rediscover the draft when I was working on my last post about my visit here. So I had new inspiration to finally finish this up.

This actually more about my own spiritual story than just reflecting on the scripture. One of the reasons I delayed was the in-depth nature of the sharing and my normal tendency (before I published my book) to not “blow my own horn” about spiritual matters. Now that I’ve shared in my book’s About the Author chapter and on this site about my awakening to ubiquitous unconditional Love (Bliss), there is no further need to delay.

Luke 14:25-33  – English Standard Version (ESV)

The Cost of Discipleship

25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”

My original notes from which I spoke:

For me, every moment is a precious opportunity to explore who and what I am.

Today’s reading reminds me of what I know about a spiritual seekers relationship to his or her guru in the east. I also think of the vows a monastic takes when they enter their order. Both require total commitment and devotion to do exactly what you are told by your superior, even if everyone you know will, and has, said that you are crazy! The seeker surrenders their life to the guru, to speed the journey to enlightenment. Jesus evidently knew that the prophetic phase of his life would be short, so there would be no time for waffling, if he was going to enable all 12 of his disciples realize enlightenment before he was through.

Because that’s what it meant to be a disciple of Christ, because unless and until they had reached that level of consciousness, they would not be able to understand the most profound meanings of Jesus’s teachings. Until they had reached those higher states of being and until they had realized that they are one with Christ just as Christ is one with the Father, they would not be able to perform acts of healing in his name.

I’ve been seeking enlightenment for decades now, mainly through meditation and a mindful, contemplative lifestyle. I recently renounced my status as a middle class computer programmer. I even renounced my middle class financial responsibility as the father of two girls, who are still in college. So I know something about what Jesus was talking about in this passage. Two out of three of my sisters were very upset with me when I decided to retire from my career to seek a life that was more consistent with my primary goals and desire for right livelihood. They felt that I was shirking my responsibility to my daughters, because I’d no longer have a place for them to come home to, nor was I planning on earning money to help them with their educations. At one point, when I admitted that I’d been counting the months until I could afford to quit my job, one of my sisters said she was afraid my daughters would think I’d wished that they had never been born! Lucky for me my daughters knew better than that, so her fear was unfounded. So you can start to see how this scripture kind of touches a chord with me! I did not hate one minute of raising my girls, but I did dislike the work that I was required to do to afford the child support payments required of me by law. 

This morning I’d like to share a part of my spiritual journey that I did not have time to include in the 20 minute version of the story that I shared back when my internship started. I’ll also share some of what I’ve been experiencing lately, which ties in quite nicely to my interpretation of today’s scripture.

There are two reasons to teach: to impart your understanding to others with the hope that it will be helpful in their own lives, and to “teach what you want to learn.” Because when you teach something, you learn it better.  This morning I’m sharing as much to benefit my own spiritual process as for any vain notion that what I share will make much of a difference in your lives, but I hope you find it interesting, at least.

Back in 2012, I was already preparing my transition and starting to look for intentional communities. I was still in my job and I’d just broken up with my girlfriend. I decided that given the fact that I was probably going to have to leave my stomping ground in NH to find an intentional community that I liked, that it would not make sense for me to get involved in another primary intimate relationship. So I decided to start an “experiment in celibacy.” For the first time in my adult life, I was neither in a primary relationship nor was I looking for a new one! Releasing that process and part of my life preceded something of an awakening. Within a few weeks, I started to experience all of God’s creation as radiantly beautiful. It lasted about three months, during which I did not talk to anyone about the experience. Since then the beauty of all experience has come and gone, usually after periods of extended meditation practice such as a weekend or day long silent retreat, the experience would return for anywhere from a day to a few days in length.  I did not mind when the beauty faded, really, because I knew it was still there I just was not currently experiencing it!

Some of you already know that I’ve been reading this book, titled “I am that” which is a record of actual conversations between spiritual seekers and a fully realized, enlightened guru in India who died in the 1980’s. He realized enlightenment after only 3 years of following the advice of his guru! The core of his advice to seekers is the same as his guru gave to him, and is radically simple: explore the fact of your own awareness, your own experience of “I am.” Do this in every minute possible, until your true spiritual reality opens for you.  

I’ve been following this advice as best I can since I got the book back in March. Then about three weeks ago, the experience of radiant beauty of all returned, this time for good. At least it has been with me since then, with only short lapses.

The exploration of “I am” had started to get sweeter. When I got my schedule of assignments, I started to anticipate with some joy the ease of doing the practice during some of the repetitive work here at the farm.

Then one morning while I was meditating, with the beauty of the wall I was facing shining forth in all it’s glory, I realized that when I was done with my silent practice, which was particularly sweet that morning, I could go right on doing the working version of the “I am.” Continuous practice, how sweet. I thought, every moment is a precious opportunity to explore who and what I am. That thought, just hearing my mind think that very sentence, triggered some kind of further awakening. A warm all embracing Love was revealed. For a few minutes, I was Love. The feeling was powerful and I was overcome with both joy and sadness and started crying audibly and forcefully. A couple of weeks later, that feeling of being Love started to occur during the day. Stronger in the mornings, fading somewhat in the afternoons, it seems to be the new state of my being, for much of the time.

So if you ever get serious about realizing the mind of Christ in your life, there is quite literally, no time like the present. If you dedicate each present moment to seeking the perfect Love of God, the very decision to gladly hold that intention, with no attachments in this world or even to the success of your exploration, that earnest intention will energize your practice from that very first moment. For me, settling into my practice with a more joyful and earnest mindset, was the trigger to realizing a profoundly new state of being.

Thus when Jesus informed potential followers that they must hate their very lives to follow him, he was screening out all but the few that were ready commit their full dedication to their new spiritual master. It seems to have worked, because we read in acts how the disciples were able to perform miracles in Christ’s name and carry on his teachings. I believe that they all reached enlightenment in the course of those three short years, just Nisargadatta did in the three years that followed him meeting his guru, by faithfully and diligently following their master’s advice.

Every moment is a precious opportunity to explore who and what I am.


 

As I post this to my blog, I must report that the feeling of “being love” has subsided for the most part. I lasted about 2 1/2 months, during which it was experienced for some part of each day. Evidently when I started to plan my return home from Koinonia, the logistics and uncertainty around that (I had no car so I had to hire space in a moving truck and take public transportation) were distracting from my practice of “I am.” I’ve had glimpses of that experience a few times since I’ve been back in the Upper Valley, but nothing as solid as when I was at Koinonia. No matter, I know the practices that seemed to facilitate progress and the situation that was most beneficial. The memory of the experience will continue to serve as additional motivation to practice, quite earnestly!

 

Joyful Choice Making – Koinonia Chapel Lesson, December 15, 2015

 

Some of you that are my Facebook friends may have seen my status Monday. It read:

“The more you remember and regret things you have done in the past, the more troubled you will be when making decisions that you believe will affect your future. In this context, memory is a curse! I think this is why babies and the elderly, with no ability to make new memories from this moment, normally live in bliss. For those with fully functioning memories, we can practice forgiveness to come to peace with the past and meditation to cleanse our karma, freeing us to live fully in this moment with faith in a joyful future.”

I’d like to pick this apart a bit, because lots of us are in the process of making decisions about where we will go in January, and that day is just around the corner. In the meantime, you members will have plenty of decisions to make in the process of finding new interns and discerning how to continue your lives here at Koinonia. So I’m hoping you will find these ideas helpful as well.

Of all the illusions we live with and through every day, time is perhaps the most challenging one. Physicists tell us that time was created, along with the matter that makes up the universe, by the big bang. In other words, before the universe was born, there was no time either. Regardless of your understanding of time at that level, it seems that just about all our fears stem from our relationship with time.

When we regret or feel shameful about things we have done in the past, or when we worry about how the future will unfold, we take ourselves out of the current moment and project our fearful selves through time. I actually can’t think of a fear that is not related to time, so it follows that if we heal our relationship with time, we would free ourselves of all fear!

The monastic answer is to live in the current moment only, but I’m not going to talk about that today. Most of us have not mastered the art of releasing unhelpful thoughts about the past and future, so I’d like to talk about how to heal our relationships with time, through forgiveness and faith.

When we are plagued by our choices and actions because we are unhappy with the consequences, we naturally want to avoid the same kinds of “mistakes” in our current and future choices, so our lives will be more fulfilling. All regret is an error, because to truely love ourselves and those around us, forgiveness must always follow judgment. As Jesus taught us, we will be forgiven to the degree that we forgive others.

When looking at our relationship to time, if we forgive our past selves, our current and future selves are automatically forgiven as well.  Every decision and action we have ever taken in the past was the best we could muster at that time. When we consistently accept that, even when we hate the consequences, we can trust that choices we make today and in the future will also be acceptable to us too.

So once you have forgiven yourself for the messes you have made the past, what is the best way to make new choices? Some of us like to analyze all the options and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each using reason and logic. Others like to dive in based on gut instinct, with little regard for the facts. I prefer the middle road of learning about each choice and then following the advice of Depok Chopra, from his  book “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.” He writes about heart based decisions in his chapter on the law of Karma:

(I read from the last paragraph on page 42 through the first paragraph on page  44, which I don’t include here but is in the audio recording.)

So to review, all our fears are anchored in our relationship and sense of time. Our fearful judgments of mistakes in our past are projected into our futures, leaving little comfort in the present moment. If we consistently forgive ourselves for ALL the so called mistakes we have made, we project unconditional self Love into the future, which allows us to make joyful choices in the present moment.

The most reliable way to make choices that are best for us and all the people that will be affected by them, is to pay attention to the feelings in our hearts. There are actually more neuron cells in your heart than muscle cells! The heart is just as much a thinking organ as your brain and they work beautifully in concert.

There is one more belief that is very helpful when healing your relationship with time, which comes from the sermon on the mount. God always provides everything we need. We don’t have to worry about the future, just keep your attention on today and leave the future to God. Even if we don’t like some things about our lives, with faith we can see that we are learning from our troubles, so they are actually just as much a divine gift as those moments of joy and pleasure. If you fully believe what Jesus said about the lilies of the field and so on, you will be able to accept this moment as being exactly the way it needs to be in order to meet our needs, even when the reasons are a total mystery!

So I encourage you to forgive your past and joyfully follow your heart into the future, with faith that it is impossible to make a bad decision!

 

Responsible Happiness – Koinonia Chapel Lesson January 8, 2016

This is the first of a series of posts I will be making to share my monthly contribution to morning chapel at Koinonia Farm this past year. I recorded a few of the “lessons” or “mini-sermons” but never found the time to post them here. This post contains my thoughts from the last chapel I spoke at on January 8, 2016.

Prepared text

This morning I’m going to share some thoughts that are excerpted from my forthcoming book, “Faith to Practice.” The chapter is titled
“Responsible Happiness.”

Happiness is 95% interpretation and 5% circumstance.

We want to “be happy” but our culture teaches us we must “do happy” or “experience happiness” through our circumstances. This morning I’d like to discuss the art of “being happy” in it’s purest meaning.

A happy interpretation of your circumstances takes two things: wholesome beliefs such as faith in a loving God, and the mental discipline to release unwholesome thoughts and feelings that are inconsistent with your faith.

For example, there was the time that I needed to get myself to the car rental office. My car had been rear-ended so it was in the shop. I walked down to the bus stop and climbed onto a red line bus, which was waiting for its scheduled departure time along with a few others. When the driver came back and I told him where I was going, he informed me that I was on the wrong bus. The one I needed had just left. The next bus that was scheduled to stop at my destination would not depart for two hours.

I got off and started walking back home. It was a beautiful summer day, so I decided to enjoy the extra walk back to my condo. I had not been getting as much exercise as usual anyway, so I did not mind. As I happily arrived at my home, I noticed my friend Al sitting alone in the community gazebo, so I went to visit with him for a while.

I believe that we create our own realities. I could have been really mad at myself for not paying enough attention when I boarded the wrong bus. I could have spent the entire walk back home thinking about all the other things I would have done with the extra time I had “wasted.” But that would not have been the responsible interpretation of my situation, given my faith. I believe that every situation is given to us for a reason, to provide an opportunity for us to grow in love, so it was easy for me to remain grateful and happy. I fully enjoyed my extra walk and the chat with my neighbor.

Meditation, prayer, acts of loving kindness for a stranger, and finding ways to give of yourself in every situation are all examples of spiritual practices which nurture your ability to respond in positive ways to any situation. You are literally practicing happiness, from within.

Happiness can never be sustained through (increasing) the quantity of anything (eg:consumer culture) it stems rather from the quality of your experience of everything. It is the interpretation of your situation that matters. That is all. Most of us spend our lives “making ourselves miserable” through negative judgments of others and our circumstances. The most satisfying combination, to our ego selves, is to blame others or even the universe (eg:Murphy’s Law) for our difficult situations! Your ego wants to deny responsibly for your misery, so you must be a victim.

To be truly happy, you need to be the master of your mind. Unfortunately, our minds are often the master of the moment and if we are victims, the real “perpetrator” is our own fearful, unhelpful thoughts! Worry, anxiety, anguish, disappointment, jealousy, frustration, regret, you know the thoughts I mean. Yet most people have received no training in the process of thought awareness, discernment and release. Contemplative practices such as meditation and mindfulness help us to be self aware enough to experience thoughts, or at least trains of thoughts, as discrete events. Events that we can decide, at the level of conscious awareness, to reinforce and nurture or to gently release to the universe.

Thoughts deserve our attention, but many can be gently dismissed as unhelpful. If you found a sight disturbing, such as a dead animal on the side of the road, would you force yourself to continue to look in that direction? Thoughts are like that. There is no need to beat yourself up over a negative thought, but you can allow yourself to let go of that thought once you realize it is causing distress. But it takes practice!

Buddhists masters teach that the mind is the 6th sensing organ. Thus thoughts occur in our minds just as light and sound are sensed by our eyes and ears. Because so many thoughts are unhelpful, we need “eye lids” for our minds. These can be nurtured through practicing meditation, mindfulness or silent prayer.

The many benefits of meditation are well researched and documented, so I won’t list them all here. Perhaps the most significant benefit is an opportunity to practice thought awareness. For example if you meditate through conscious breathing, you are taught to notice when your thoughts are taking you away from your breath and gently return to feeling it coming in and out of your body. Invariably thoughts occur many times over the course of a meditation session. That is actually good, because each time you “catch yourself thinking” you are practicing this very important life skill. It hones the ability to become aware of and let go of a thought, until we get to the point where the act of following a train of thought becomes automatic. It is like having a remote control for the “programs” in your mind!

The conscious awareness from which we can discern thoughts is a mystical connection to the mind of Christ. True self awareness requires access to this conscious awareness that is the ocean on which the waves of thoughts flow. We are each already aspects of the mind of Christ, most of the time we just don’t realize that fact.

Through mindfulness, you can practice accessing this awareness while doing the dishes, picking up sticks in the orchard, sorting pecans or just walking between buildings. First turn off the radio, music player and TV. Then just do your repetitive task mindfully, noticing your breathing, your simple motions and task experience. When your mind drifts to other thoughts, gently notice that and go back to your task and your breathing. The fruit of this practice is no less than the ability to chose your thoughts, so you can live a happier life!

Happiness is 95% interpretation and 5% circumstance.

We can take responsibility for our happiness through clarity in our faith in a loving God and mastery over our troublesome minds. You don’t have to sit in silent meditation every day to start to practice, although it will accelerate your progress to a rock solid inner source of happiness. You can practice every day while doing what you are already assigned to, right here on the farm.

Song Lyrics

Perfect Love

Our God is perfectly loving
but how am I to prove?
I see the gift of all my pain
inspires me to move

Chorus:

Our love is God our God is Love
The Circle is so neat
My faith in all providing Love
has made my life complete

We are all one with our God
Our Unity is true
The miracle of karma is
reflecting all we do.

Chorus

This faith enables my vision
to see my life anew
God always gives me what I need
to help me see things through

Bridge:

But when I stray with faltering heart
and my judgments rule the day,
my vision dims my world grows dark
and then I loose my way.

But every leg on our journey
both back and forward parts
are perfectly designed to help
hold lessons for our hearts.

Chorus

repeat last line as:
My faith in all providing God
has made my life complete

Some additional thoughts

Since this talk was written to fit into the 10 minute time slot we try to stick to for morning chapel, I had to focus it as much as I could while still hopefully conveying the main message. Thus, some important points had to be “givens,” such as the kinds of beliefs you may or may not hold and what to do when unhelpful thoughts keep recurring despite your best mindful attempts at release.

One of the main themes of my forthcoming book is on faith based beliefs being foundational to our lives. Since they are so foundational, it is very important recognise what you belief already so you are better prepared to choose new beliefs that will be even more helpful to supporting happy interpretations and fruitful spiritual practices. In the Koinonia context, I hoped that most of the listeners believed in a God that is loving and that provides everything we need to be happy. I actually talked about that a bit in the previous month’s “lesson” which I’ll be posting on this blog at some point. For the wider audience on the web, it will be up to you to develop “wholesome beliefs” that are supportive of your happiness. When I do publish the book “Faith to Practice” you can read more about what I think about that process.

It is important to understand that when I say “gently release” a thought, I really mean gently! If you find yourself back at a thought or train of thought that just won’t go away, please don’t struggle and attempt to force it out of your mind through concentrated effort. Just stay aware of the thought(s) and the feeling(s) that they evoke and accept them as part of how you are experiencing yourself in that moment. Know that with practice, any unhelpful thought or feeling can eventually be released and be very patient with yourself in this process.

This post, “Responsible Happiness” by David Gaia Kano is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.