Love is difficult to define. We try to describe it by comparing it to other ideas and concepts. Some of these include the ideas to accept, tolerate, embrace, and forgive. Each of these gives us a piece of the whole, but none are complete images of love. Love entails a multitude of expressions, each lovely in their own right, but made even more beautiful when they work together.
Socrates stated that “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Certainly this holds true when it comes to religion and spirituality. If we don’t examine our beliefs, if we don’t question what we have been told — as Stone Three suggests — then how do we know we are living up to our highest and best? What if there is more knowledge, more spirituality, and a deeper meaning that is only ours if we examine and discard what doesn’t work in order to accept the highest and best?
Sometimes people tell us they don’t need Religious Recovery because they’ve already healed from religious abuse, yet at times their actions seem to suggest otherwise. We don’t try to correct or change their mind. For one thing, we may have misinterpreted their actions, and it is we who are mistaken. As Step Thirteen says, “ . . . when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
Gratitude is one way for us to change our thoughts so we can live happier lives. Being grateful for the things we interpret as positive is easy, but choosing to be grateful for the challenges of life is where the real difference is made. When we are able to give thanks in all things, we enter the realm of contentment.
One of the best ways to release emotions we deem harmful is to own them, and even to admit them to others. Take for example the emotion of envy. In its mild form envy can be helpful, even productive. I might see a good athlete and be envious of his talent. As long as we don’t allow our thoughts to turn in the wrong direction, envy can spur us on to work harder to achieve similar results. If the emotion is not owned and released, envy can manifest itself in ugly ways and lead to cruel words or actions.
If I am jealous of another author’s success, I have learned to own that feeling, and to even admit to them I am jealous — not because of their success — but because I haven’t been as fortunate. This allows me to own the feeling, and then I am able to sincerely admit I am happy for them in spite of my petty jealousies. When we do not own our feelings, they can turn ugly. When you bury your feelings they take root and grow. Owning them is like plucking them before they have a chance to germinate.
Owning our positive feelings provides positive results. By owning our joy, happiness, and love, we plant them more firmly in the soil of the soul where they germinate and grow, producing rich fruit that nurtures us and those around us.
All life shares the air, so why do some believe The Divine — no matter what name we assign — is the sole property of their religion? Isn’t it more logical to believe the “Great Spirit” that supports one religion might also be the same “Spirit” that supports all? If so, then wouldn’t we benefit from each religion’s perspective of “Higher Power”?
We have the ability to choose our thoughts. That is part of what is meant by the idea of having free will. We can selectively choose positive, energizing, joyful thoughts, and we can also decide to discard all negative, energy-consuming thoughts. We can choose our thoughts about other people and determine to love them and not to judge them.
As Dr. Wayne Dyer said, “Change your thoughts: change your life.” And when we change our lives we also change the lives of those around us. As we heal and grow, our relationships and situations are also affected. The difference that even one person can make in the world is immeasurable.
If we set our sights on a destination without regard to the path we’re walking, we can find ourselves veering off the path and losing our way. Of course we keep our ultimate goal in mind, but we must also notice the journey and the things we can learn and enjoy along the way. We might even discover the journey was not a means to an end, but was in fact an integral part of the end we sought.
Any time a religious organization discourages its members from asking questions regarding the organization’s beliefs, we should immediately see that as a warning that something might be amiss. If the organization’s beliefs insult our intelligence, weaken our morals, or darken our soul, we should question what is being taught.
What does it mean to be “enlightened,” “born again,” or “awakened”? These expressions may hold more in common than we think, and by reflecting on each one we might gain a better perspective on The Divine and on our own spirituality. By opening to new concepts, we can open to other religions and cultures.
The ego is not our enemy. Like most things in life, balance is the key to a healthy ego. To think too little of ourselves is not healthy, but to think more highly of ourselves than we do of others is also unhealthy. The ego was given by The Divine and must therefore have a divine purpose.
As a child, most of my decisions were made for me. Where I would go to school, were I would live, the style of clothes I would wear, and to a large degree, what I would believe. Like most children, I went through a phase where I asked a lot of questions, and for a period of time, the main question I asked was “Why?” My parents answered my questions as best they could until they finally grew tired of all the probing and, out of frustration, simply said, “Just because,” or “Because I said so.”
As a parent and grandparent, I understand. I’ve used the same lines myself when the questions became more numerous than I felt I could handle. The questions, however, were a natural and healthy part of growing up. Without them we don’t learn to think on our own and make decisions. We recognize this in the natural order of things, but do we sometimes fail to recognize it in the religious world? Were we allowed to ask religious questions? In fact were we encouraged to ask religious questions or were we discouraged and told in religious speak, “Just because,” or “Because I said so?”
If we were told not to ask questions, to accept their answers and “just have faith,” then I propose it’s time to grant ourselves permission to ask “Why?” We are more likely to put our faith into a religious system that isn’t afraid of questions, in fact, encourages them, and who admits freely they don’t have all the answers.
For those who have been disappointed, hurt, or abused by religion or the religious, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to wipe the slate clean? One of the nicest compliments that Religious Recovery has received is that we help individuals to start new, to find their own path, and to make decisions on love-based spiritual intuition.
Religious Recovery does not judge religions as good or bad. Our goal is to remain neutral and allow individuals to determine if a particular religious path works for them. It is not our purpose to dissuade someone from religious belief, but to merely be an aid in healing when and if that healing is needed. We trust that each individual has enough Light within their soul to find the path that works best for them.
The expression, “You can’t change your past,” is true in that the things that happened cannot be altered, but what we can change is our interpretation and our reaction to the past. By choosing to see the past through a different light and from a higher perspective, we can release negative feelings that affect our present and our future.
The call to follow our heart and intuition is being heard in more than just religious circles. The call is universal and makes sense to great thinkers in science and industry, too. Find your path, follow your own way — these are words of wisdom we’ve heard over and over. Why? Because it’s good advice.
When we claim our path to be the only way, we create exclusivity and division. When we state that our path seems to be as good as any other path, we open to tolerance. When we say that perhaps another path might have insights and wisdom that might benefit our path, we open to acceptance. Only then can we embrace and love all beings and all roads Home.
If we want to grow something in a garden it is important to first tend the soil. Nothing grows well if the soil is not rich and ready to breed life. Similarly, if we would grow spiritually then we must first tend the soil of our spirit. Worrying about outside forces matters little if we don’t first prepare the soil of the soul.
The more we examine the practice of forgiveness, the more we realize how powerful it is. Forgiveness can transform our personal world for the highest and best, and it also has the power to transform and heal the planet. As more and more people comprehend and apply the power of forgiveness, our world will lay aside hatred, prejudice, and strife.
In the 1999 film, The Matrix, the protagonist, Neo, is given a choice between a red pill and a blue pill. The red pill will allow Neo to “wake” from the world of illusions and see the real world, while the blue pill will allow Neo to remain within the world he thinks is real. He chooses the red pill, and the story takes us on a remarkable adventure.
When hearing the stories of people who have been seduced into destructive cults such as Heaven’s Gate, The People’s Temple, and the Manson Family, we wonder how their leaders could have gained such a powerful control over their followers. More importantly, how can we convince people who have been caught up in these unusual and destructive systems that they are living in a destructive world?
We need a red pill. A pill much like what was offered Neo to help him see beyond the matrix of illusion to the real world. The problem is, however, even if such a pill existed, the members of the cults would refuse to take it, explaining with deep conviction that we are the ones in need of waking up.
The pill does exist. The pill is our intuition and common sense. When a religious belief system goes against common sense and our gut instincts, when it demands self-sacrifice in the name of their god, then it is time for us to wake up. Promises of happiness, heaven, and better lives in the afterlife are made, but most, if not all, religions make similar promises. What makes Jim Jones or Warren Jeff’s promises any better than someone else’s? We always keep in mind the advice from Stone One that states, “I assert that I am responsible for my own spiritual path.”
Forgiveness can almost be a selfish act. In applying the law of give and take, we forgive in order to be forgiven. As we forgive others we also find within us the ability to forgive ourselves. But if we truly forgive from the heart, the result is not selfish but selfless. We are creating a more beautiful world, one act of forgiveness at a time.
As the world becomes smaller through technology it’s important to let go of political, social, geographic, and religious boundaries. As we take in the bigger picture it behooves us to see ourselves as members of one world. Let us cooperate, love, and treat one another as we want to be treated.
If we want to be a happy, healthy, spiritual person, then hatred is another emotion we want to release. Some hatred can also be traced back to religious beliefs, and one of the most toxic is the belief that our way — however the individual defines it — is the only way. Hatred doesn’t solve problems; it creates and magnifies them.
One emotion that we might want to release is fear. After acknowledging the emotion of fear, we can go beyond it and examine the source. Quite often the source is a belief, and sometimes that belief is a religious belief. Is the belief true and universal or only held by a minority?
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Our purpose is to help individuals to heal who have been injured by religion or the religious. We welcome your comments and questions.