From the News, Religion

Does Truth Exist?

Last week we went to the beach in North Carolina.  Annie invited a group of her high school friends to join us.

Every night after dinner we asked each other probing questions and talked about the big concepts of life.

Is there a God?

If so, what is He like?

Does God have a plan for us or are we in complete charge of our lives?

What beliefs and values shape your life?

Where do you want to be in 10 years?

What is faith?

Why do some people have faith and others don’t?

How can someone really live by faith?

Why is it so central to some people and irrelevant to others?

How do you know whether something is true and is there such a thing as truth?

This group of 19-year old college students astound me with their passion for answers to these questions.

They are achievement-oriented and live their lives “on purpose.”

They believe that being their best matters.

They believe in being good people and they know right from wrong.  Even though there are many questions on their minds, they are clear about their own ethics and morals. They are true to what they believe even though they are still sorting out what it is they really believe.

They all come from different religion backgrounds and some grew up without any religious influence in their lives at all.

Yet, they yearn to define themselves.  They want to stand for something.

thank you Griffin Harrington for the photo!

Part of me wanted to tell them all the answers to these life questions because after living so many years, I’ve figured a lot of things out.

But part of me relished the conversation, the struggle, the growth that comes from figuring out life on your own.

I enjoyed listening to what they wonder about, what scares and worries them.

Annie Turner photo

I learned their fears and questions aren’t much different from my own, and that while I have a strong set of beliefs and values, I have much to learn from them.

I wanted to tell them what it’s like to grow up and finally have all the answers.

I discovered two problems with that.

First, we only learn by experience and by figuring things out ourselves.

Second, and most important, I still don’t have all the answers.

Even after all these years of forming my own beliefs and relying on a certain set of religious guideposts, I still have a lot to learn.

And I love learning it from optimistic, bright, questioning 19-year olds whose minds are on fire with curiosity.

There is power in their intellectual form of gymnastics as they ask hard questions, and seek inspired answers.

Our conversations reminded me of Mormon Church President Gordon B. Hinckley’s words:  “The time has come for us to stand a little taller, to lift our eyes and stretch our minds to a greater comprehension and understanding of who we are and what we stand for…This is a time to move forward without hesitation, knowing well the meaning, breadth and importance of our own mission…It is a time to do what is right regardless of the consequences…It is a season to reach out with kindness and love to those in distress and to those who are wandering in darkness and pain…It is a time to be considerate and good, decent and courteous toward one another in all our relationships…It is a time to nurture yourself spiritually, intellectually and to have no fears, no doubts about your future.”

This stellar group of friends are living up to these words, giving me no doubts about my future because I feel assured that as I age and they take my place as the responsible adults in life, I am in capable hands.

Change, Personal, Uncategorized

Doing More isn’t Being More

Several years ago, Oprah recommended a book called A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. She even held an online class to tell the world about it because she thought it was such an important book to help us awaken to our life’s purpose.

I studied that book carefully because it reflected many of my personal and religious beliefs. But when I recommended it to Doug, he raised his eyebrows all funny at me like I’d fallen into some rolling river of philosophical weirdness.

Basically, the book is about discovering and developing our divine essence. Tolle’s contention is that most of us identify only with our physical and psychological forms, never realizing that we are more than that.

“Trying to become a good or better human being sounds like a commendable and high-minded thing to do,” he wrote, “yet it is an endeavor you cannot ultimately succeed in unless there is a shift in consciousness…You do not become good by trying to be good, but by finding the goodness that is already within you, and allowing that goodness to emerge.”

I love the concept that we are full of deep, pure goodness, and that the way to become better is to excavate that goodness like a miner diligently unearthing gold.

In theory, most of us know there is a difference between spirituality and religion.  Having a belief system doesn’t necessarily make you a spiritually strong person.  “In fact, the more you make your beliefs your identity, the more cut off you are from the spiritual dimension within yourself,” Tolle said.

This is where it sounds like I’m in the rollicking waters of weirdness, but stick with me here…

His point is that when we realize we have a divine or spiritual self, we then can see ourselves as infinitely better and more valuable.  “You then no longer derive your identity, your sense of who you are, from the incessant stream of thinking.”

In other words, you are more than the voice in your head.

We see everything through a veil of self-talk, and unfortunately most of it is negative or laced with worry and fear. What if we could get beyond that and get in touch with our divine essence or the place where all the pure goodness resides?

Through all the philosophical blather of the book that Doug teases me about, there is this wonderful and liberating thought:  What if I could live believing I am more than my thoughts? What if I could get a sense of my being that has nothing to do with my mind?

The real beauty of A New Earth is in that question.

Tolle’s teachings line up with ancient beliefs that we have an inner and outer body. Most of the time we are only in touch with the outer body, but when we still the mind, slow the steady flow of pounding thoughts that we let define us, we can find an inner life where there is more beauty, love, and acceptance, and potential than we ever believed was possible.

I’m writing about this book today because I need to be reminded of the value of a quieter mind and a more fortified spirit.  I need the reminder that I am more than the voice in my head.

At the risk of tiptoeing back into the raucous river of philosophical pronouncements, consider this: Thinking is only a tiny aspect of who we are.

So even when my brain won’t stop spinning and my body feels weary, if I pause for just a few minutes and breathe a little slower, I can feel my divine essence emerging, reminding me that I am more – and even better — than I think I am.

Tolle said, “Doing is never enough if you neglect Being.”

Sometimes we get so caught up in doing things that we forget why we’re doing them in the first  place.

I had a few life changing thoughts during the months I lived in a chemo stupor simply because cancer drove me to a deeper place. It actually helped me lose some of my dysfunctional thought patterns like that doing more meant being more.

But that was five years ago and I’m slowly forgetting some of those lessons.

During those months when I couldn’t do much of anything, I realized that doing less didn’t make me less. In fact, it put me in touch with the still, creative, deep, rich essence that was behind, under, and around all the doing. And I think that’s what Eckhart Tolle is trying to teach.

“In form,” he said, referring to our physical and psychological selves, “you will always be inferior to some, superior to others.  In your divine essence “you are neither inferior nor superior to anyone. True self-esteem and true humility arise out of that realization.”

My lesson for today is slow down, breathe, and remember that doing more doesn’t mean being more.  In fact, like I learned from spending too many days curled up on the couch in a chemo coma, the reverse is actually true. Sometimes doing less gives us more, and reminds us that we are more than the reflection in the mirror.