Sometimes when I sit down to write, the words seem to have a life of their own, and they lead me down a path I had never intended. Spirituality is often a lot like that, too. I’ve learned to follow the words, the prompting of the heart, and the Spirit.
The truth we cling to can barricade the door to any other truth. By holding our truths lightly and understanding there is always more to learn, we open ourselves to new ideas, new worlds, and deeper ways of loving and accepting.
We enjoy food from a variety of cultures. How silly would it be to claim that American food is the only right food to sustain us and save us from starvation? Yet many people make that claim about their religion.
Talking about our past religious experiences — good and bad — helps us to overcome the negative and retain the positive. For some there may be a period of time when they cannot see anything positive in their religious past, but given enough time and thought, most people are able to find enough good things in their past that make it easier to release the negative and move forward into a more positive direction.
Religious Recovery is often about unlearning. Indeed, as Osho has been credited as saying, “It’s not a question of learning much… On the contrary. It’s a question of unlearning much.”[i]
[i] Young, Christopher (2012-04-12). Buddha Quotes - 365 Days of Inspirational Quotes and Sayings in Buddhism (Kindle Locations 1421-1422). Kindle Edition.
Some people can analyze and criticize other religions by asking intelligent and thought-provoking questions, but when it comes to questioning their own religious beliefs they seem to have succumbed to the problem of trying to remove a splinter from someone else’s eye while at the same time they have a log in their own. Before we question anyone else’s faith we must thoroughly examine our own.
There are times when someone speaks in jest, but we still find their words offensive. When this happens it helps to do a mental inventory. Why was I offended? What “button” did they push that triggered my response? Even if they were only “joking” was there still a measure of truth in what they said? Was their intent to hurt me? Sometimes we discover spiritual truths through comments that were never meant to hurt, and the person speaking had no ill will toward us.
The Fairy Tale, Little Red Riding Hood, is a story — not about a wolf in sheep’s clothing — but a story about a wolf in grandma’s bed posing as the good guy, or in this case, the good grandmother. Grandmother was kind and loving to Red Riding Hood. Granny even made the red cloak and red hood the little girl wore. Red trusted her grandmother, but was suspicious when she was approached on her journey by a big wolf.
The majority of the religious leaders I’ve met were good men with good intentions. I’ve rarely, if ever, met one I would classify as wicked as the big bad wolf. But, there are those whose intentions are self-serving and eventually turn dark. They are wolves dressed in religious attire who seduce us with their words and pretend to be something they are not. How do we identify those who would do us harm and not good?
Little Red Riding Hood missed all the warning signs. She didn’t pay attention to her inner voice that tried to warn her. When the wolf spoke, dressed as granny, she noticed the gruff voice, but explained it away as granny’s illness. She noticed the big arms, the big legs, the big ears, the big eyes, and finally, the big teeth. She should have known, but she failed to see what was before her eyes. Ignoring her intuition and her questions and doubts, cost Little Red her life.
Throughout history individuals have made deep commitments to pursue the spiritual life and have had remarkable success. Their words, especially their written words, often represent the best of the best. If we would aspire to pursue a spiritual path, we would be wise to study them and glean their wisdom and insights without concerning ourselves with the religious labels they carry.
Religious Recovery has no commandments, no rules, and no agenda except for the healing of those who have been injured by religion or the religious. Our thirteen Steps and thirteen Stones are merely guidelines. Perhaps the most important one is to “...question every experience, all information, personal motives — mine and others — including the ideas presented by The Religious Recovery Program.”
Step Three encourages us to “recognize that we are spiritual beings.” Recognizing this truth about our self is not enough if we fail to recognize it in all others. In this recognition comes the truth that we are all part of one family, and though we may disagree on certain things, we acknowledge our brothers and sisters and treat them as worthy of our love.
Laughter can be cultivated by learning a few basic techniques, but the one thing that nearly all of the techniques have in common is the element of surprise. Things didn’t work out the way we planned? Surprise! We can bemoan the outcome, or we can find the humor in it.
Laughter can be cultivated. We may not think we have a good sense of humor, but whatever humor we have can be increased with a little effort on our part. When we look for humor in the situations of our lives, we will find it. Past heartaches can be held as hurts or transferred into humor. The choice is ours.
We can see with our eyes, but we can also see with our hearts. The way we perceive the world often depends on the choice we make. Our lives are richer when we choose to see with our hearts.
October 16: There comes a time when we see things clearly and we have a moment of no return. Like Neo in “The Matrix,” we see things as they really are, and we have to move in a new direction. This happens with religious beliefs, too. Once we see beneath the “matrix” of religious facades there’s no turning back. The “matrix” then becomes a door into a new world — only this time it’s a better world than the one in Neo’s matrix.
Many religions have concentrated on the negative nature of man, claiming we were born into sin and thus have an inherent evil streak. The cure for this tendency to want to do bad rather than good is often seen outside the self. Christianity provides a savior who forgives us and sets us free. Other religions have methods that often entail following the teachings of their faith which also include extreme devotion to certain tenants of faith. This might entail doing good deeds which will help them work their way out of damnation.
Few religions recognize the inherent good in each individual. Perhaps it’s time for a shift in perception. Maybe we should recognize the good in others and also the good within ourselves. After all, the prisons may be full, but that is the exception, not the norm. Millions of people live lives free from crime, hate, and fear. Despite what the news would have us believe, our planet is growing less violent and more peaceful.
As we shift our perception of what is wrong with the world and begin asking what is right with the world, we will begin to see that kindness surrounds, forgiveness abounds, and love — not hate — is the driving force of the planet.
 For further reading on this subject check out The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker
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.
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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.