October 15: I saw an image of a frog, but the caption said I could also find an image of a horse. It took a while, but after I looked from a different angle I was able to see the horse. One could argue the image was a frog while another could argue it was a horse, and both would be correct. When it comes to religion, many of our differences are because we view the same concepts from different vantage points.
Being spiritual versus religious often means we go against traditional wisdom no matter how loud the voices scream that tell us we’re wrong. When we know in our hearts that something is right — or wrong — we must follow our hearts and risk the ire of the crowd.
The Stones of Religious Recovery help us to find happiness, contentment, and joy as we release the past, stop projecting into the future, and determine to live fully in the present. Stone Twelve in particular speaks of gratitude and how it attracts positive people and situations. The change is an inner transformation created through gratitude.
Vegetable soup combines a variety of vegetables. Suppose the beans said to the carrots, “You don’t belong here. We’re the only ‘right’ ingredient.” The planet contains a vegetable medley of religions, but some people feel justified in claiming that their religion is the only true one. It sounds about as ridiculous to me as the beans trying to throw out all the other vegetables.
Manipulation is a tool that is used by toxic religions. Good and evil are religiously defined under strict guidelines which require a form of perfection that is nearly impossible. The rewards of achieving perfection are said to include such things as enlightenment, heaven, nirvana, and eternal life. When guilt and shame are used as tools to keep their adherents in line and to manipulate behavior for personal gain, that religious institution or leader can quickly slip into abusing people and situations.
If we can recognize that The Divine has no religion, perhaps we can also recognize that maybe we are like The Divine in some small way, and if that is so, then every human being has that same small spark of sameness, and we are all simply looking for our way Home. We are spiritual beings having an earthly experience together.
Does The Divine have a religion? To me that seems like a silly question. I believe The Divine has no religion — or The Divine encompasses all religions. If The Divine, “God,” “Allah,” or whatever name we choose to assign, has one particular religion, then all the others are wrong, and we’d better figure out which one is right and all flock to it.
Rarely do we find that life gives us only two choices, and some might argue against the case I’m about to make, but when we are judging, we are not healing. We must let go of judgment in order to move to the point of healing. To use a simple illustration, during an argument, both sides fight to be heard and often judge the other person’s position as wrong, and at times they resort to judging the person — not that person’s beliefs. They judge that the essence of who that person is, is wrong. Of course, winning an argument of this nature seldom if ever heals. In fact, the accusations and judgments made create more hurt and pain that require additional healing.
The same is true when the person we judge is ourselves. As long as we judge ourselves as unworthy, evil, or wrong, we cannot heal, and we create an additional need for healing. Guilt causes fear, not peace. Guilt, the result of judgment, moves us further away from wholeness, health, and recovery.
A space is created for healing when we refuse to judge ourselves or others. Prisons are filled with people who have been judged guilty, but few prisons have found ways to restore the guilty to a place of health because the emphasis is upon the crime, not the cure. The golden rule would tell us what we are doing to our prisoners will fail and come back to haunt us if we don’t let go of condemnation and find better ways of restoring the prisoner to spiritual health.
We want to be right. We want to believe that what has been told us and handed down from generation to generation — as well as from century to century — is true. When we begin to doubt the validity of our beliefs, our lives become unsettled. When we encourage people to question their beliefs, we don’t give that advice lightly. It takes courage. But even more than courage — we must be fearless.
Rejection is part of life, but it isn’t a pleasant part. When the rejection originates from your spiritual family and also your personal family because you chose to believe differently, the pain can feel as if it were unbearable. We have to ask ourselves the question, “Why would someone put us through that?
Letting go of unwanted emotions can help us heal and live life with more peace and happiness. One emotion that keeps us from living life to the fullest is fear. Yes, fear can be a beneficial emotion, but when it becomes the focal point of our lives, we are not enjoying life but dreading it.
Often we do not pay attention to our ability to discern what’s right for us and what is not. We have been so conditioned by the world and its laws, doctrines, and codes that we bow to the authority of those we think are wiser or more experienced than we are. No matter how experienced or intelligent, no one knows what the right thing is for every person in all situations. Listen to the Voice within.
Look for the best in every situation you encounter. Look for the best in every individual you meet. Look for the best in every religion you examine. Most of all, look for the best in the mirror.
Do not draw wisdom from only one source, for if your source becomes contaminated your foundation may crumble. Draw wisdom from many sources, and your world will stand strong in all adversities.
Some people say they will and then they don’t. Other people say they won’t and then they do. Some religions say they love and then they don’t. Some people don’t believe in a Divine Being and yet they love. I prefer those who do and those who love.
Today we celebrate the concept that formed the Religious Recovery program and gave birth to the first book, Every Path Leads Home: Opening to Your Spiritual Journey. As we stressed in the first book, we are not against religion, but we do find fault with some of the things that have happened to individuals, races, and even nations in the name of religion. The idea that any one particular religion is the only true religion comes across in bold and subtle forms in many of the religions of the world.
What Every Path Leads Home proposes is that none of these religions are right, and that perhaps none of them are wrong. Perhaps every spiritual path we take will get us home. Religion can help us on our journey or it can hurt us. The main goal of Religious Recovery is healing, but a secondary goal is religious tolerance.
I used to deliver mail for a living. It would be preposterous to think there was only one way to deliver mail, and to prescribe to one tradition beyond all others, even to the point we would die for those beliefs. Some homes have boxes on the front porch, while others mount them on a mailbox on the curb. If I prescribe to the curb box delivery method and decide to drive my vehicle onto someone’s porch to deliver mail, I wouldn’t have a job for long. This is simple common sense, but when it comes to religion, we often leave our common sense and wisdom behind and accept what has been told and taught for centuries. Who are we to disagree? Then again, who are we not to disagree?
The first step in recovery is to acknowledge the need. In the case of religious recovery it is recognizing and admitting we have been hurt or abused by religious beliefs or a religious person. Once we acknowledge that need, then we can open ourselves to The Divine and allow wisdom, insight, and healing to come to us from whatever source The Divine provides.
Our job is to help people. Religious Recovery specifically wants to help people heal from religious abuse, to help them forgive and move forward, and to help them understand the difference between being spiritual versus being religious. We’d like to help people strengthen their connection with The Divine with or without the aid of religion.
The things we fail to forgive keep us tethered to the past reminding us of our mistakes and missteps. There is no reason to allow the past to affect the present or the future. We can forgive, set boundaries when needed, and enjoy life to the fullest.
Stone Thirteen, the last Stone of Religious Recovery, talks about deepening our ability to love. If we could love perfectly we would have no need for religions, governments, or borders. All fear would cease. All hatred would end. All guilt and shame would be abolished. As we deepen our ability to love, we become peaceful warriors who can bring salvation to the world.
Laughter is often an indication that healing has occurred, or is taking place. When we can recall painful experiences from our past and laugh about them, then we’ve forgiven and moved on. If the past still brings pain, then we need to lighten up, forgive where needed, and look for the comedy in situations that once devastated us.
The way in which we view the world is our choice. We can see it as a scary, cruel world filled with evil people, or we can view the world as kind, compassionate, loving, and good. Our view might not change the way the world really is, but our view can have a tremendous impact on our peace, joy, love, and contentment. We can make the world our enemy, or we can make it our friend.
Many people were born into a specific religion, and often that religion plays a significant role in shaping their lives — even to the point of thinking their religious views are the only ones that are valid. It is as if they lived in a cage and cannot accept anything outside their shortsighted view of the world. Or as Alejandro Jodorowsky said, “Birds born in a cage think flying is an illness.”
Step Twelve of Alcoholics Anonymous encourages its followers to carry their message to other alcoholics. Steps Twelve and Thirteen of Religious Recovery encourages its followers to be a Light to point the way but to not be aggressive in our approach. Rather, we recognize our subject matter is often volatile, and we wait until the students are ready. Religious Recovery also recognizes our lives bear witness to our recovery — whether it is a good witness or whether our lives are still in need of healing determines a positive or negative encounter.
Often people who overcome an addiction become the most vocal against the “demons” that held them under its spell. By being so boisterous about their newfound sobriety or weight loss, they often have an adverse effect on the people they want to help. But, there is a strong need within us to help — to teach what we have learned — and whether we recognize it or not, that need is not as much for others as it is in grounding the healing more firmly within ourselves.
As the saying goes, old habits die hard. Helping others is a good way to strengthen our resolve not to slip back into those old habits. We applaud the efforts of Alcoholics Anonymous and their realization of how important it is to give back. Religious Recovery agrees, but our only concern is to be sensitive to when we are pushing our personal beliefs on another who is not interested and who might be driven further away from anything religious or spiritual. We do not want to be the problem, but merely a guide to help them discover their solutions.
Go easy on yourself. You are a divine creation of Divine Spirit with all the qualities and attributes needed to be successful, happy, healthy, and at peace with the world and with yourself. Mistakes happen, but they don’t change your spiritual character. Believe in yourself — and others will believe in you, too.
Note: You might need to refresh your screen to see the current day's Inspiration.
Our purpose is to help individuals to heal who have been injured by religion or the religious. We welcome your comments and questions.