Archive for June 2016

Living Consciously| Spirituality in Daily Life || Mary Coday Edwards

By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards

People House Featured Blogger
mindfulness
As I mentioned in my first blog regarding contemporary spiritualityno one institution or religious practice owns its definition. Spirituality does seem to imply, however, a two-way search: We seek for a connection with something greater than ourselves and at the same time, seek through self-knowledge to live a fully human and integrated life.

How can we do that? Mystics and poets through the ages stress being mindful – to paying attention to your NOW. After all, that’s all any of us have! The past is gone and our future hasn’t arrived.

All we have is this moment. And this moment. And this moment.

Yes, we make plans, but we hold onto them lightly. Our NOW holds the seeds to the future; this is where inspiration hits, where creativity manifests itself, or when answers to life’s challenges break into our consciousness. When we’re ruminating over the past or anxiously planning our future, we miss those revelatory moments.

And speaking of life’s challenges: They are designed to increase our consciousness.

As humans, we automatically have ideas and beliefs about the world and these determine what is important and what is not important to us. This is our worldview or world picture, the way life is and our place in it.

When our worldview isn’t serving us anymore

Often our worldview lies unconscious and unchallenged – we’ve just soaked up what our parents told us or our culture through its various delivery points, such as advertising, social media, TV, Hollywood, government, education, or religion.

Gordon D. Kaufman says,

“A worldview or world-picture is working well when (1) it performs the indispensable task of providing communities and individuals with order and orientation in life, that is, when it is able successfully to organize and interpret the experience of women and men in such a way that they can come to terms with it and life can go on; and when (2) this orientation provides sufficient meaningfulness and motivating power to enable them to continue to struggle even against serious adversities and troubles, indeed catastrophes” (Note 1).

Life’s challenges are intended to wake us up, and by paying attention to our assumed values, beliefs, and attitudes, the Universe presents us with opportunities for to examine our unchallenged way of life. Having lived all over the world with so many people of so many stripes, I’ve had opportunities aplenty!

 

Letting life change us – before we explode!

My journey began in Peshawar, Pakistan, about 25 years ago when I set off to look for universal values. It was also when, at the time unknown to me, cracks were forming in my own worldview. Unaware that these cracks originated deep in my soul as shifting tectonic plates, I spent a long time holding them together with duct tape before I would recognize them as the gifts they were and allow them pull me apart.

Through these past five blogs, you have been the recipient of my resultant changed interior landscape, my upheaval.

I learned to delight in mystery: Blog 2.

picture

Anak Krakatau, Indonesia, taken by Edwards.

 

While living in Pakistan, I was ready to jettison the God baggage, but what I realized was that I wasn’t throwing out God – just the metaphor/model that I had embraced in my late teens, when I joined the Jesus Movement.

A metaphor is used when we don’t know what something is in order to give it some sort of meaning that we can connect the concept to.

Life, as well as every religion’s scriptures and/or holy books as well as science, uses metaphors and models to explain the ineffable. I had God in my worldview, and my metaphor/model wasn’t serving me anymore.  Someone has said that the God we believe in must be compatible with the way in which we understand the fabric of reality.

However, a downside of living with mystery, with uncertainty, can be a weak character, one who takes a stand for nothing. If nothing is completely “right”, then why study? What is the good?  What is justice?

 

Which takes us to Blog 3: Critical realism as a guide to the real.

The meaning of truth is correspondence with reality, but what is reality? We have a pretty good idea, for example, of what’s in an atom – otherwise I wouldn’t be typing on this computer, but not an absolute. We have an inkling also of spiritual realities. Although their experiences are not as easy to duplicate, all of us can relate to some of the spiritual nuances revealed by generations of seers, mystics, poets, and artists.

Therefore, we have a form of realism, in that some aspects of the world are accessible to us, but it is a critical realism because our scientific – and spiritual – constructs are also reflections of the imagination and intuition of our human minds; they are extrapolations.

Consequently, based on the fabric of reality shown by quantum physics, I live my life as if my efforts mattered (Blog 4: The physics of prayer: choosing mystery). At a subatomic level we live in an observer-influenced world.  Compassion for sentient beings might indeed make the world go ‘round – including compassion at a distance.

 

And translating this all into action – why should I care? Why should I exhibit compassion?

Blog 5: Values, Morals – and Quantum Ethics. Because we’re all hitched together, as John Muir wrote in 1911. Father of our national park system, Muir spent time with and in nature and sensed those interconnections just when Einstein’s Nobel Prize winning discoveries were beginning to disturb existing worldviews.  Relationality, inclusive patterns and interconnectedness appear to be deeply imbedded in the fundamental structure of our physical world. Elements in a system adjust themselves to other modifications and system laws develop.

For up to 4,000 years various versions of the Golden Rule, “Do not do unto others as you would not want done unto you”, have appeared in nearly every religion and ethical tradition.

And this was before the Internet, so these great intuitive thinkers for the most part came up with this with little interaction amongst themselves.

In summary – and speaking as a critical realist – mindfully practice your spirituality, comfortable with mystery. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, says mindfulness is “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.”

Be grateful for everything; circumstances wake us up so that we learn to bring all of ourselves to every life event, we show up as ourselves.

This may mean drastic changes to your worldview. Embrace them, mindfully, living the question of “Where is this taking me?”

And tentatively perhaps, base your values, ethics, and decisions on an interconnected world where your efforts matter.

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Note 1: Kaufman, Gordon D. In Face of Mystery, A Constructive Theology. Harvard University Press, USA, 1993; pg. 47.

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About the Author: Mary Coday Edwards is a Spiritual Growth Facilitator and People House Minister. A life-long student of spirituality, Mary spent almost 20 years living, working and sojourning abroad in Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Latin America before finding her People House “tribe” and completing its Ministerial Program. Past studies include postgraduate studies from the University of South Africa in Theological Ethics/Ecological Justice, focusing on the spiritual and physical interconnectedness of all things. With her MA in Environmental Studies from Boston University, abroad she worked and wrote on environmental sustainability issues at both global and local levels, in addition to working in refugee repatriation.

Not All Heroes Wear Capes|| Craig Freund

By Craig Freund, Affordable Counseling Program Intern
New posts every other Tuesday

superhero

“Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

                                                                -Nancy Rogers

 

In my time as a student, mental health counselor and therapist I’ve come to learn firsthand that there is most definitely a great deal of pain in this world. This pain comes in all forms and can stem from events of the past, of the future, as well as from the trials and tribulations of our everyday lives. From a young child who has experienced unspeakable trauma, to the hurting middle aged man that has bottled his depression for years, the work of helpers and healers is never ending. In spite of this pain, every day, countless people do amazing, incredible, wonderful things for their fellow man.

These helpers and healers are made of something truly courageous as they hold hope for the hopeless, make space for the hurting, speak for the speechless, fight for the weak and care for the forgotten.

 

With the hardship that our therapists, case managers, nurses, doctors and counselors confront day in and day out, there is nothing quite as amazing as seeing someone heal, find their power and regain an authentic sense of self. In this way, the emotional burdens that our helpers and healers regularly experience are very much an honor, blessing and privilege. However, with the inherent dangers associated with compassion fatigue and secondary trauma, this work is not for the faint at heart. These helpers have pushed their comfort zones to the max and through the heat of emotion, chaos and their own experiences, have found themselves refined as diamonds in the rough of adversity.  

 

These helpers and healers are often composed of the strongest, most compassionate, most resilient hearts and souls. Often these healers have experienced their own pain and through their experience are able to pass along some learned intrinsic strength. In lieu of their strength and in the face of true empathy, the hurt can be shared and tears may be shed. Our helpers and healers fight through the pain, just as they encourage their client to do the same.

In the midst of uncertainty and with a sense of true purpose, day in and day out, these healers fight for recovery and encourage healing often in an abyss of hurt and heartbreak.

 

As we recognize the important, irreplaceable role that our helpers and healers have in our communities, it seems important to appreciate these brave souls. It becomes ever more apparent that not all heroes wear capes and that these everyday heroes most definitely deserve some credit. To all the trauma warriors, courageous counselors and hopeful healers… this one’s for you. Thank you for all that you are and all that you do!!!

 

If an effort to further foster resiliency for our helpers and healers… check out these supportive resources.

 

http://www.compassionfatigue.org/

 

http://www.proqol.org/

 

http://rekindlesolutions.com/

 

“No one is more cherished in this world than someone who lightens the burden of another. Thank You!”

                                                                                                                 -Unknown

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About the Author: Craig is one of the many exceptional interns working in the People House Affordable Counseling Program. With over 4 years of experience as a Mental Health Counselor working in residential, crisis and hospital settings, Craig is a wonderful addition to the People House community. Craig is a gentle, compassionate and genuine person who works to tailor his therapeutic approach to the specific needs of each and every individual. He enjoys working with a wide variety of individuals with various life experiences and personal interests. For more information or to contact Craig, please see his therapist bio.superhero

Which YOU are you Feeding?|| Lora Cheadle

By Lora Cheadle

wolf

 

Although there are several versions of this old Cherokee Legend, the basic story is as follows:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

 

As a hypnotherapist, fitness trainer and Intuitive Angel Reader, I am called upon to assist people with change; in particular with releasing old habits and creating new, healthier habits. It doesn’t matter if those habits are dietary, exercise related, spiritual, mental or simply plain old garden-variety habits such as nail biting.

We are quite simply, the sum of our habits. The habits that we nurture and feed are the habits that grow.

This morning I was doing an Angel Reading for a client and the Angels asked her which self she was nurturing. Was she nurturing the broken, wounded person she was trying to heal and move away from or was she nurturing the perfect, infinite, self inside that she wanted to embrace and become? She had spent years learning, healing and processing all that she had been through and this message made it clear that continued focus on her old self constituted nurturing and feeding of the parts of herself that she no longer needed to feed. Her desire was to be healed, whole, free, healthy and happy, but very little of her daily actions or thoughts nourished or nurtured that part of her. She was so focused on what she didn’t want that she wasn’t able to nurture and grow all that she did want. She had been feeding the wrong wolf.

Which wolf are you feeding? What are you nurturing and growing in your own life?

Do you want to be deeply intuitive, spiritual, in touch with nature or do you want to be quick thinking, decisive, energetic and successful? Do you want to feel vibrant and powerful or calm and centered? Do you want to look like an executive, a nurturer, a super model or a loving grandparent? How you want to look, act, feel and be is up to you. We all have different roles, purposes and desires and it is up to us to live our lives exactly as we see fit. I had one grandma who relished the stereotypical role of grandmother letting her hair go gray, wearing house dresses and keeping her glasses pushed down to the tip of her nose from age 40 on. I had another grandma who was young and vibrant with dark brown hair, hip clothing and involvement in pop culture until she passed away in her 80’s. They nurtured what they wanted and they became the wolf that they fed.

With summer around the corner, everyone wants to get in shape and lose weight. Imagine how you want your body to look and feel. Now, which body are you feeding, your current body or your intended body? How many of your daily thoughts and actions support your old body and how many of the support your intended body? As I sit here munching on a cupcake as I type my blog, I am aware that this action of sitting and eating does not support the body that I’m envisioning for summer! Although I will work out later and although I will have a healthy dinner, every action and thought still counts. I am aware of which body I am feeding.

Many of us are surrounded with difficult people or challenging situations and we desire to be the voice of reason or to at least not feel the impact and drama of other people’s situations. So, when we are confronted with challenging situations, which wolf do we feed? Do we give in and bitch to our co-worker? Do we respond in a way that fuels the fire and increases our angst? Or do we feed our calm, centered, peaceful self and react with compassion, peace and love? When my children or husband pushes my buttons I know that my response will set the tone for the rest of the interaction.

I can feed the part of me that wants to be right, I can feed the victim in me or I can feed my higher, spiritual self. We are the sum of our actions. Are you nurturing the person you want to be?

Step back and take a look at the many wolves in your own life. Which ones are you feeding? The answers just might surprise you!

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About the Author: Not sure what lights your fire, or do you know exactly what lights your fire, but you keep spinning your wheels? Either way, Lora’s got you covered! Whether it’s through an Angel Reading or through hypnotherapy, where the subconscious mind is brought on board with the conscious mind, working with Lora reveals your divine path and gets you chugging down the road in no time. As a former lawyer, (She knows firsthand the courage it takes to following a new path!) Lora is very straight forward and process- oriented, using modalities that that yield results. No crystal balls or goddess robes here! See more on her website.

Values, Morals – and Quantum Ethics | Spirituality in Daily Life || Mary Coday Edwards

Water-500x250

By Mary Coday Edwards
People House Featured Blogger

Every spring I do battle against cheat grass, an invasive plant species which grows quickly, sucking our meager moisture out of the ground.  Meanwhile, the native grasses and plants slowly making their annual appearance wither and die due to lack of moisture.

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And when the native plants go, so do the insects, butterflies, reptiles, bees, and small mammals – in short, our ecosystem – that depend on the cyclical flowering and subsequent nutrients produced by this local ecosystem.  Cheat grass lives long enough to kill everything else, whereas all year round native grasses offer protection, shelter, and food, as well as maintain the stability of the soil, keeping erosion at bay. When the cheat grass dies after its brief reign of destruction, it leaves only dirt which is blown and washed away.

Other than poison – which also kills off an ecosystem – the only way to effectively remove it is to pull it out by hand, ensuring that the thick, matted root system comes with it.

 

“All things are bound together. All things connect. What happens to the Earth happens to the children of the earth.” Chief Seattle

 

This annual garden scenario divulges much about me:

-My values, which are defined as my principles and my judgment of what is important: i.e., diversity and a healthy ecosystem.

-My morals, defined as reflecting what I believe to be right or wrong: cheat grass’ bullying behavior is wrong and thus everyone should pull out the cheat grass! (This has now become a moral imperative for me – which I’d like to impose on all my neighbors.

-Lastly, my ethics. Ethics examine and give a reason “why” behind my moral imperative. I’m calling this quantum ethics in this blog, as my why is based on what I believe quantum physics is telling us about the fabric of reality, focusing on interconnectedness based on the EPR (Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen) Effect.

The EPR Effect posits a reality where at the subatomic level, the universe is in relationship. Physicists use various terms to express this concept including mutual entanglement and interconnectedness. Einstein referred to this entanglement as “spooky action at a distance”. Physicist John Polkinghorne calls this interconnectedness a “… deep-seated relationality present in the fundamental structure of the physical world” (1).

Austrian quantum physicist Anton Zeilinger claims that we can build an ontology, or a way the world is, of relations, and that “one consequence of this entanglement is that relations are more important than individuals” (2). In other words, we shift from focusing on the individual to focusing on the relationship between individuals.

Not random, but participating in patterns

Out of quantum physics have developed system laws, where elements adjust their properties to those of the others; none can be modified without causing a modification to the others. Ian Barbour said that the being of any entity is comprised not just of its individual parts, but primarily by its relationships and its participation in more inclusive patterns (3).

Indigenous cultures, mystics, seers and poets have long known this as the fabric of reality.  Rebecca Adamson says, “The indigenous understanding has its basis of spirituality in recognition of the interconnectedness and interdependence of all living things, a holistic and balanced view of the world.”

Philosophers extrapolate from this interconnectedness, saying reality consists of events and relationships rather than of separate substances or particles.

However for centuries, the Western worldview has been in the grip of classical physics, where the scientist – and everyone and everything else by association – was seen as separate from its surroundings.  In other words, Asia’s disappearing Aral Sea, fed by the Amu Darya and Syr Darya Rivers whose waters were siphoned off to irrigate cotton in the desert so we could purchase unlimited t-shirts, wouldn’t impact us living on the other side of the planet. And it has, of course, in the form of desertification, localized climate change, and subsequent starvation and refugees.

And what about the nonphysical world? How does our lack of compassion and love – our meanness of spirit – impact our own energy and the life around us?

 

Orphaned ship in former Aral Sea

Orphaned ship in shrunken Aral Sea

The mystics and poets have spoken of this for centuries. In this last century, scientists have proven it. For me personally, it’s a daily spiritual exercise to mindfully  remember that “In nature [of which I am a member of], nothing exists alone,” as Rachel Carson wrote (4).

 

Hitched together with the bees

But our postmodernism society views any truth as suspect, as a process of social construction, and therefore, reality/truth is defined by those with the social power. Be skeptical of what I’ve written. However, as a critical realist, for me there’s enough evidence via the physicists and mystics to support an interconnected world, one built on relationships. This is a piece of my ethics, this helps inform my daily choices.

And because my compassion/love is so imperfect, this ethic also serves me when I’m in the grip of my selfishness and self-centeredness. It’s in my best interests to pull out that cheat grass and keep those bees pollinating my food supply.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Einstein’s Nobel Prize winning discoveries were just beginning to ripple upon humanity’s consciousness. Ahead of his time, John Muir, father of our national parks, penned in 1911, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

In other words, I’m hitched together with the bees.

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Note 1: Polkinghorne, J.C. Quantum Theory: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002; pg. 80.

Note 2: Zeilinger, Anton. “Quantum Physics: Ontology or Epistemology?,” in The Trinity and an Entangled World: Relationality in Physical Science and Theology, ed. John C. Polkinghorne. Grand Rapids, MI; W.B Eerdmans Publishing, 2010), 35-36.

Note 3: Barbour, Ian. Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2000; pg. 175.

Note 4: Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring.  Houghton Mifflin, 1962; pg. 51.

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About the Author: Mary Coday Edwards is a Spiritual Growth Facilitator and People House Minister. A life-long student of spirituality, Mary spent almost 20 years living, working and sojourning abroad in Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Latin America before finding her People House “tribe” and completing its Ministerial Program. Past studies include postgraduate studies from the University of South Africa in Theological Ethics/Ecological Justice, focusing on the spiritual and physical interconnectedness of all things. With her MA in Environmental Studies from Boston University, abroad she worked and wrote on environmental sustainability issues at both global and local levels, in addition to working in refugee repatriation.

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth