Archive for the ‘interfaith’ Category

Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart. Don’t scratch for answers that cannot be given now. The point is to try to live everything. Live the questions for now. Perhaps then, someday far into the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.  – Rainer Maria Rilke

By Rabbi Akiva Feinstein and Charles W. Sidoti

When life turns difficult, a common way of trying to get around the pain is to try to think our way out of the situation. The problem with this is that it assumes the process of effectively dealing with emotional upset and spiritual challenges is linear, sort of like a Betty Crocker recipe, in that one step necessarily follows another in order to get the desired outcome.

The truth is that the process of inner healing is inherently non-linear and is often contradictory. When things do get better and our inner struggle eases for awhile, we often don’t know how or why we feel better; we just do. Have you ever gone to sleep with a problem on your mind and awakened not troubled by it anymore? As the saying goes, “What a difference a day makes!” Nothing about your problem changed; you just went to sleep.

Our mood and therefore our perspective change constantly, and that has much to do with the way we process the problems that come our way. Sometimes we wake up feeling great and ready to face the day’s challenges. On these days, problems that come up don’t bother us too much. We process them easily because we approach them from a positive perspective and keep moving along. The very next day (or even hour), we may feel totally different. The world seems to be spinning in the wrong direction and it seems that everyone is working against us. In addition to affecting the way we handle the daily problems that arise, our moods and our perspective affect the way we handle the big problems in our lives. This is especially true regarding the way we process grief, the pain involved in losing someone or something very important to us.

The Jewish tradition, which is full of wisdom gained by facing pain and suffering head-on, says a great deal about mourning, and how to understand the life path and grief process of the mourner. Mourners often suffer deep anguish and trauma. Helping them to recover, according to Jewish tradition, requires the implementation of customs and practices that can seem contradictory.

Yet these work well in helping mourners deal with their own contradictory feelings. For example, individual mourners can feel the need both to be alone and to be surrounded by people and love; the need for silence, and the need to be able to tell their story; the need to give and the need to receive. They can experience waves of denial and waves of acceptance.

It’s contradictory, yes, but it all can be a very real and necessary part of the healing process and the nature of mourning. It is very wise counsel to advise a mourner thus: “Let these contradictory feelings be, feel what you feel. Live with the contradiction and don’t fight it, for it will eventually evolve into something else.”

It is very difficult to put this advice into practice, for in our rational, modern society, we find these contradictory truths difficult to accept. The fact is that the suggestion to learn to live with contradiction is not just some remnant of a confused, out-dated psychological model. Rather, it’s a keen insight into the human condition itself and is a testimony to the power and efficiency of contradiction.

For example, human relationships are uniquely able to stay intact despite competing feelings of pure love and absolute frustration. There are rules to human emotion and pain, but the hope and the salvation lie in the fact that for much of it, there are no rules. It is what it is. You can be sad and happy at the same time. You can harbor a lot of pain, but still move on. You can cherish a memory of a lost dream and still pursue a brand new one.

Quantum physics, which helps us to at least begin to understand the universe, is based upon one of the most poorly understood contradictions known, yet it works and does its job just fine. Quantum physics teaches that it can be scientifically proved that light travels in waves (up and down) but it can also be proved that light moves as physical particles. A person with knowledge of quantum physics understands these principles to be mutually exclusive, yet the whole science of quantum physics is based on both of them being true.

If we cannot answer life’s questions, we should not go into despair. Many a Jewish grandfather would tell his children, “From an unanswered question, you don’t die.” Living with the questions makes life more exciting. A life lived looking for something that has not been found yet is a whole lot more interesting. Consciously deciding to live the questions is a way of responding with trust to life and its inherent challenges.

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This article is an excerpt from “Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time” written by Charles W. Sidoti with Rabbi Akiva Feinstein

Visit my Blog: Finding God in Daily Life https://sidoticharles.wordpress.com/

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Have you ever wrestled with a personal issue and felt as if you wanted someone else to make a decision for you? That’s how I was feeling.

By Charles W. Sidoti, From: “Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time”

Thomas Merton once compared living a spiritual life to standing before a field of fresh fallen snow that you must cross, his advice: “Walk across the snow and there is your path.” Being a trailblazer through the fresh fallen snow, as Merton puts it, involves walking your own unique, untrodden path. As good as Merton’s advice sounds, it can be difficult to put into practice. Many of us would much rather walk familiar, well-trodden paths. Yet it is precisely the walking of a unique, untrodden path that each one of us, individually, is called to do in our life if we truly desire to grow in our relationship with God and others. Reflecting on what walking your own unique path would mean in your life can make all the difference in the world.

In considering how to follow Merton’s suggestion, it is necessary to realize that it involves a paradox. None of us walks through life completely alone. We live out our lives among other people. We have all heard the saying, “No man is an island,” by the great Christian poet John Donne. Hopefully, the relationships we have with others are mutually beneficial in helping us to grow and develop. On the other hand, it is also true that we are at times quite alone. Our personal moments of loneliness remind us of this truth in no uncertain terms. Taking the first step onto our own field of freshly fallen snow involves realizing this paradox and accepting it into our life. Just realizing and accepting that these two things, loneliness and our feeling of being connected with others, are a natural part of life can be helpful. There is a natural rhythm that exists between these two feelings, and at different times one of the feelings is dominant.

It is very helpful when we discover the relationship between our aloneness and our connectedness with others because the two work together in our lives. The relationship was explained to me in a most interesting way on one of my visits to the Abbey of the Genesee, which is a Trappist Monastery and retreat house located in Upstate New York. During a conversation with my spiritual director, Brother Anthony, I asked his advice about something I was dealing with at the time. I remember wanting him to just tell me what to do about the situation. Have you ever wrestled with a personal issue and felt as if you wanted someone else to make a decision for you? That is how I was feeling.

His answer to me contained wisdom. He very kindly said, “Chuck, you know its kind of like making a loaf of bread. You can find a recipe in a book and follow it. You can ask others about how they bake theirs, learn about other interesting ingredients and get advise about how others do it. But in the end, everyone must bake his or her own loaf of bread.”

After this conversation, I realized that I would not want anyone else to bake my loaf of bread – make my decisions, live my life. It is our involvement, our interaction with life, and the decisions we make that keep life fresh and alive. Once we reach the age of reason, no one can really make a decision for us. When you think about it, would you really want them to? Our lives are unique, just as we are, and therefore our relationship with life is meant to be unique. Seek out the wisdom others have to offer, yes, but realize at the same time the precious and exciting opportunity you have in your life to bake your own loaf of bread.

Connecting Point: Can you see a rhythm in your life between feelings of aloneness and a feeling that you are connected to others? Sometimes it is the aloneness part that needs attention, so that aloneness may eventually evolve into the positive state of being, called solitude. You can do this by seeking out a little bit of time alone each day just to be quiet or pray. Through this time, you will discover that you are never really alone.

Prayer: Good and gracious God, place gratitude in my heart for the gift of life. In times of difficulty, I don’t always see it as a gift. Sometimes it feels like a burden, especially in times of loneliness. Help me to make decisions that will lead me to the peace that you desire to give me. Place in my heart the desire to bake my own loaf of bread – with you. Amen.

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Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time” – Traditionally Published

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What are you holding on to today – that has you caught?

This article is an excerpt from, “Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time” by, Charles W. Sidoti

Living a life where trust is the guiding principle will ultimately require that we choose to trust. I have noticed, however, that at those times when I have asked God to increase my ability to be trusting, the request is usually answered with increased opportunities for me to practice trust. That really wasn’t what I had in mind. I was assuming that God would answer by zapping me with more trust, after which I would suddenly live in a more trusting way, worrying less and relaxing more. I am now convinced that it isn’t going to happen that way.

Learning to trust in God involves acceptance. It means accepting things, people, and life in general, without always feeling that I need to change everything to the way I think it should be. On the other hand, trusting God will always involve my participation. Living with an attitude of trust is not a passive thing, where we sit back as spectators and think, “God will take of everything,” so we need do nothing. It involves living out the wisdom and balance of the Serenity Prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Acceptance almost always involves letting go of something. It may be letting go of a fear or worry, or an obsessive desire for a life situation to be different. Or it may be a need for someone to respond to us differently. I once heard a very helpful story about letting go. The story posed the question, “How do you catch a monkey in India?” It explained that the way people catch monkeys in India is to glue a baby food jar onto a stump or large rock, put a few peanuts in it, and leave the lid off. When the monkey comes along, wanting the peanuts, he slides his hand into the small opening of the jar. Grabbing the peanuts, he closes his fist around them. Once the monkey makes a fist to grasp the peanuts, his hand will no longer fit through the opening of the jar, so he cannot pull it out. He is caught, and very upset.

What is so ironic in this story is knowing how easy it would be for the monkey to free himself and go back to enjoying his life. All he needs to do is simply let go of the peanuts. But he will not.

When I notice myself preoccupied with a desire or need to have something be a particular way, I reflect back on this story. I visualize myself like the monkey, with my fist in the jar, holding on to what I desire. This imagery has helped me to let go of my particular desire and enjoy life again. It sets me free.

Connecting Point: What is your “fist full of peanuts?” What are you holding on to today – that has you caught? Try to imagine yourself letting go of your peanuts (your situation or desire) and moving on with your day in peace.

Prayer: Lord, often I am so convinced about what I think I need. I have my fist wrapped tightly around a particular desire. Help me to loosen my grip and to eventually let go so that I might enjoy the inner freedom that comes with knowing myself to be a child of God. Help me to desire that which will really bring me peace, and to trust that you will fulfill that desire in your time. Amen.

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By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

Consider:  How do my religious practices or beliefs affect the way I treat other people? How do  other people feel when they are around me?  Do my religious practices help me to become a more hospitable – loving, kind and accepting person?  Does my religion help me to have a generative attitude toward others, one that affirms and nurtures other people’s growth as a human being?   Or does my religion provide me with a reason to feel better than others?

The goal any healthy religion is to help us to re-discover our connectedness to all of creation and recognize the spark of the divine in each person.  It is to help us to realize that there are invisible ties that bind us together.  In fact, the more enlightened we are, the more humble we will become.  We will consider ourselves better than no one.  We will notice a growing sense of gratitude and appreciation for the gracious free gift of life.

Visit my blog, “Finding God in Daily Lilfe” – https://sidoticharles.wordpress.com/

 

 

“With Open Hands” – Free me, Lord, from the inner bondage and endless cycle of what I think needs to happen before I can be happy. Free me, Lord, from my idea of the solution. Help me to wait with open ended, joyful expectation; and help me to experience your peace. Amen. (Charles W. Sidoti)

By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

Ever wish you were more able to go with the flow? Have you ever wished you could go through the day without something upsetting your inner peace? It can be very helpful in this regard to think about how well you process the constant change that life provides. How well you process change has a direct relationship to the level of inner peace you experience.

If you’re like most people, you will discover that it is usually easier to talk or philosophize about change than it is to deal with it when it occurs, especially if the change is unwanted or unexpected. When the ground shifts, and life changes, our clear-sightedness and wisdom, so readily available when all is going well, evaporate, and an inner storm arises. For the moment, we may lose our footing, our sense of being in control.

I have begun to realize, however, that the inner storms we sometimes experience are usually naturally occurring events in the process of human growth. The transitional period of life commonly referred to as the midlife crisis is a classic example. Even the sense of losing control can be an important part of the growth process. This insight can be the beginning of a healing process, one that can help us to loosen our grip on the steering wheel of life. An ongoing personal transition can then begin to take place—a transition from fear to trust. If we can somehow manage to remain open, resisting the urge to panic, we will begin to realize that there really is a higher power that remains in control when the things we can do come to an end.

Famous American Catholic writer Thomas Merton, describes the need to feel that you are in control as “a need to see the future before it happens.” This is something many of us try to do even though we know that it is impossible. As we gradually learn to trust, our “need to see” starts to become less powerful in our lives. Merton goes on to say,

 Realizing that you don’t need to see—is seeing, and it can be a very clear form of sight (Thomas Merton – The Mystic Life).

This “realizing” can be a very slow process, but just knowing that an inner transformation is taking place is, in itself, healing. It is true to say that the healing each of us desires is being born out of the various struggles of our individual lives, out of the very ground upon which we stand. The more we are able to be attentive to what is happening in our lives in this present moment, the more we will be open and available to receive the gift of inner healing that God desires to bestow upon us.

Becoming a person who is better able to go with the flow is proportional to our level of trust. Trust that the changes that occur in our lives are not just random, chaotic events, as they sometimes seem to be. Trust that there’s more to life than meets the eye.

Connecting Point: Believing there is more to life than meets the eye opens the door to the personal realization that life is a sacred journey. It enables you to see beyond the outward appearance of things and to trust in what is yet to come. Trusting that there is more to life than meets the eye is a prerequisite to living a life of hope, making it possible to go with the flow.

Prayer: Lord, it is obvious that there is much more going on in life than what I am aware of. Help me to believe that “more” is you. Enable me to trust in your work in my life enough to not need to see today that which you are preparing for my tomorrow. Amen.

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This reflection is an excerpt from ,”Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time” https://www.amazon.com/Living-Gods-Speed-Healing-Time/dp/158595831X

Visit my blog to read more reflections, listen to live presentations and more:https://sidoticharles.wordpress.com/

By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

I remember being startled, and at the same time intrigued, as I read a short essay written by Alan Watts titled, “Wash Out Your Mouth.” It is contained in a book called, “The Gospel According to Zen.” The short piece deeply challenged me. It used something I hold very dear as a Christian, the precious name of Jesus, as part of a metaphor, to make its point. At first I was put off by what the essay was suggesting. I found it unsettling. Yet, at the same time, I sensed that it contained a powerful lesson. It pointed out a characteristic about Jesus and the way in which he communicated as he is depicted in the Gospels. It is an undeniable characteristic, and its implications something that I could not ignore. The message of the essay suggested a strikingly different aspect of what it means to be a disciple of Christ in a way that I had never considered, a challenging, yet very interesting, aspect.

The Watts essay makes sense in that the Gospels depict Jesus as always pointing to something beyond himself. Jesus describes himself as being, the way, to that something. “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). But what is, the “something” beyond himself that Jesus came to reveal to us? That, “something,” Jesus intimately refers to as his “Father,” and he invites us to do the same. The Father is no less than the omnipresent, incomprehensible God, the source of all life and goodness, the Higher Power in life, or the Universal Creative Life Energy. Becoming aware of “the Father’s” presence in our life is “the fullness of life” that Jesus refers to. “I came that you may have life and have it to the full” (John: 10:10). All of Jesus’ teaching, through the many parables found in Scripture, and his own example of how to live, are intended for the purpose of helping us to see the presence of God in ourselves, in others, and in the created world.

The Gospel narratives describe Jesus as being someone who is not self-absorbed but rather a person who is incredibly free from self-interest or glory seeking. The Jesus depicted in Sacred Scripture is not hung up on himself. This observation supports the lesson contained in Watts’ essay. Yes, Jesus wants us to come to him, however, our relationship with Jesus is paradoxical. For when we sincerely go to Jesus, he gives himself to us, however, we receive much more than we ever imagined, for Jesus reveals to us the Father. Jesus said, “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30). Watts’ article encourages us to do what Jesus himself is asking us to do, to look beyond (or through) Jesus, to what Jesus came to reveal, the presence of God already in, and around us.

I thought I would share the essay with you. Some may find it blastfamous. Others, through openness of mind and heart may be able to move beyond what might be an initial negative reaction to the metaphor. Realizing that the author intends no disrespect, and accepting what the piece has to offer, some readers will find their spiritual journey enriched. I hope that is true for you. I invite you to read the essay for yourself and to share your thoughts!

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Wash Out Your Mouth” By Alan Watts,

Christian piety makes a strange image of the object of its devotion, “Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” The bearded moralist with the stern, kind and vaguely hurt look in the eyes. The man with the lantern, knocking at the heart’s door. “Come along now, children! Enough of this horsing around! It’s time you and I had a very serious talk!” Christ Jesus our Lord. Jeez-us. Jeez-you. The Zen Buddhists say, “Wash out your mouth every time you say ‘Buddha!'” The new life for Christianity begins just as soon as someone can get up in church and say, “Wash out your mouth every time you say ‘Jesus!'”

For we are spiritually paralyzed by the fetish of Jesus. Even to atheists he is the supremely good man, the exemplar and moral authority with whom no one may disagree. Whatever your opinions, we must perforce wangle the words of Jesus to agree with them. Poor Jesus! If he had known how great an authority was to be projected upon him, he would never have said a word. His literary image in the Gospels has, through centuries of homage, become far more of an idol than anything graven in wood or stone, so that today the most genuinely reverent act of worship is to destroy that image. In his own words, “It is expedient for you that I go away, for if I go not away, the Paraclete (the Holy Spirit) cannot come unto you.” Or, as the angel said to the disciples who came looking for the body of Jesus in the tomb, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen and has gone before you …” But Christian piety does not let him go away, and continues to seek the living Christ in the dead letter of the historical record. As he said to the Jews, “You search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life.”

The Crucifixion gives eternal life because it is the giving up of God as an object to be possessed, known and held to for one’s own safety, “for he that would save his soul shall lose it.” To cling to Jesus is therefore to worship a Christ uncrucified, and idol instead of the living God (Alan Watts, “The Gospel According to Zen“).

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Grasping a concept or idea intellectually is one thing: having it become a real part of who you are is something different.

By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

I once heard it said,”Scripture contains the word of God in the way that the acorn contains the oak tree. It is all there, but its presence is made known to us little by little.” Living at God’s speed means accepting that my understanding of the way God works in my life will come to me in God’s time.  Sometimes the proverbial light bulb goes on in our heads and we learn something instantly, but most of the time real learning (spiritual growth) takes place slowly, over real time, as our life unfolds. This is especially important to understand in regard to the reading of sacred Scripture.

I had an experience I would like to share with you that might help to illustrate this point. I facilitate the operation of what is called the Relaxation Channel at the hospital where I work as a chaplain. The Relaxation Channel is a closed-circuit television system that is operated within the hospital. The channel is programmed with relaxing and spiritually oriented videotapes offering patients an alternative to commercial programming.

In setting up the system (prior to DVDs and digital technology appearing on the market), I had to make arrangements with a vendor to make copies of the original program tapes. The copies would then be run in a bank of VCRs that are used to run the channel so the original tapes would not get worn out from constant use. In all, I was was asking the company to copy about one hundred tapes, which I did not think would take very long at all. Having one hundred tapes made would provide enough copies to run the channel for about 5 years.

I imagined the vendor putting the original and the blank tape into a machine, then a button would be pushed and, zip, the tape would be copied in seconds. I figured the turn-around time to have the copies made would be a couple of days at the most. I was wrong. Making each individual copy would take two hours – the actual running time of the original tape. The vendor explained to me that every copy had to be made in real time.  The recording process was not zip as I had imagined.

This experience was a real eye-opener. It is a good illustration of the way God’s lessons (often found in Scripture) are revealed to us. God’s word becomes part of who we are – in real time – in real life, though we sometimes wish it were otherwise. It is through the interaction with life and the people in our life that we learn the really important lessons. It isn’t just a matter of reading it in a book. Even if the book is the Bible, experience with life matters. Here is another story:

Indeed there is a story about an intellectual youth who felt he could learn everything from books. He read about the stars and became an astronomer, he read about history and became a historian, he read about swimming and drowned. Some things we can only learn by wading in slowly, from the direct experience of the ocean lapping against our body. To enter this process directly is to participate in the healing we took birth for, is to become fully alive. – Stephen Levine, Healing Into Life And Death

The meaning of this story is not that you can’t sit in solitude with your Bible or some other spiritual book and gain valuable insight. If course you can. What it means is that some of the things that you read about will only be integrated into your life through your active participation. That is how God chooses to work. Scripture, if it is affecting us in a healthy way, if it is to be a source of lasting inner peace, will direct us to find God revealed within the created world, especially in our relationships with others. Usually this happens slowly, over the course of many years, in the everyday situations of life.

Connecting Point:  Grasping a concept or idea intellectually is one thing: having it become a real part of who you are is something different. The latter takes active participation in life and is realized in real time – God’s Time.

Prayer:  God of wisdom, grant that I may give sacred Scripture and other spiritual writing the respect that they deserve. Help me to read with humility, allowing the knowledge you bless me with to move from my head to my heart, that it may truly enter into my life. Amen.

This article is from “Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time.” A Traditionally Published book.

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