Dr. Mike Obsatz, Professor Emeritus at Macalester College
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What Everyone Needs to Learn about Healthy, Mature Spiritual Living
Or: What Jesus Taught and St. Francis Reminded Us About How to Live a Love-Filled Life
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We grieve where the world is at. War in Ukraine, gun violence and killings at home, corruption in the government, oppression of the poor, minorities, people of color.
We grieve that life does not seem to be getting better for many people. Women are no longer in control of their reproductive lives, diseases are rampant, and millions of people have died in recent years. Forest fires are raging. Droughts are everywhere. The climate is changing and the earth is suffering.
We wish we could heal everyone. We wish people would rise to a higher level of consciousness and focus on oneness, compassion, empathy, and abundance for all.
We wish for wholeness and holiness to take the place of separation, labels, and marginalization. Why, oh why does there have to be so much suffering?
Some people are living longer, but are they living better? How can we enjoy good health and peace when so many are suffering at the hands of others?
The Cosmic Dump, the large letting go of how things could be or should be. Knowing one can do what one can. I am doing what I am called to do, capable of doing at this moment. I take joy in seeing the good in every little act of kindness, every slight amount of compassion, generosity, empathy, and grace.
Grace is the Ultimate Cosmic Dump. Grace is knowing there is love, and love abounds. In the midst of the turmoil and pain, in the midst of the worst upheavals.
Grace, grace, grace. We are loved. We are lovable. We are loving. We can make a difference, no matter how small it appears.
Listening, being fully present, showing caring and concern for others. Letting go of the world, and holding onto God. Letting go of the need to "fix" what is wrong.
Now is the time for flushing out toxic messages, hate language, and divisiveness.
Thank you, dear God, for the time to be on this planet, amidst all of its pain, and make even the slightest difference.
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Laura Collier has written an article called "Growth After Trauma." She describes people who have experienced trauma and instead of just closing down and dying, they become more aware, compassionate, purposeful, and connected. Working though one's pain, and seeing one's inner beauty was the primary focus of the Human Potential Movement started by Abraham Maslow and others. Maslow was my college psychology professor in 1960 - 1963.
I began my teaching career at Macalester College in St. Paul in 1967. In the 1970's, I worked part-time at the American Chemical Dependency Center in Chanhassen, Minnesota as a group facilitator, aftercare leader and family group leader. The Center was created by Robert and Mary McAullife. They had a written a manual about the disease concept of chemical dependency and its treatment. One of the core beliefs in the treatment program was that of "Weller than Well." It meant that people who explore and work through their suffering and pain in depth can become more whole, loving, connected human beings.
"Well" is considered what is "normal" in America -- an unexamined life. "Weller than Well" is about people who have struggled with abuse, addiction, trauma and oppression. They have cried and yelled, and dealt with feelings of isolation, betrayal, unworthiness. They become more in touch with emotional connections, and more compassionate and empathetic.
During the seventies, books about healing shame were written by John Bradshaw. Shame, he stated, was a necessary bi-product of a culture of greed, hypocrisy and hierarchy. I call this Empire Consciousness which focuses on domination, power, control, and hierarchy.
"Weller than Well" means moving beyond the cultural norms of individualism and domination. It means see the larger picture, the picture of Oneness. Oneness Consciousness is about wholeness, compassion, and experiencing love for all of creation. This includes the earth, diverse people, animals, plants and oneself.
Going through suffering, pain, and trauma has growth potential. There are centers in the United States focusing on "Growth After Trauma." Many believe those who have worked through their pain, developed meaningful spiritual connection, and moved from Empire Consciousness to Oneness Consciousness are more loving, insightful, and empathetic.
It is interesting that wholistic concepts created more than 60 years ago laid the groundwork for our understanding about addiction, abuse, and trauma today. May we all become "Weller than Well."
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In More Than Three Letters
Concepts of God have been taught for generations. For some children, God was taught to be an old white man with grey hair and a beard. If you weren't white, you couldn't identify with God.
So, I have come up with my new understanding of the word based on the 3 letters, G, O, and D. Given my Jewish upbringing, my thirty year Methodist church experience, my Unity understandings, my Buddhist readings, and other ideas, I wish to share my latest ideas about the nature of God:
G -- Guiding
O -- Omnipresent
D -- Devotion
There are truths, principles and beliefs which guide our lives to living into wholeness, oneness and connection. To accept this guidance, one must have faith and trust in something beyond ourselves, beyond the visible. There is some guiding idea, some plan, some force that provides an inner knowing where we are discerning, supportive, and life-affirming.
This force is everywhere, all over, in everyone, everything. It is the ubiquitous life-giving energy that infuses all of creation. It is timeless, formless, and within each of us.
This guiding principle which is everything and in everything cherishes us, is devoted to our well-being, wholeness, and oneness with all of universe and creation.
It is filled with love, compassion, empathy, and kindness. It is the ultimate unconditional love energy that immerses us in the wholeness and oneness of all. We are loved and supported beyond measure.
So, God is Guiding Omnipresent Devotion. We are all Walking, Waking, and Talking Miracles who have overcome difficult challenges and limitations. The more we emerge into our Oneness consciousness, the more we can infuse the world with it.
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Journeying Through Life With Few Expectations or Agendas
We travel through life from the time we are born until we die. We go many places, meet many people, and have a wide variety of experiences. Some of these experiences bring us joy, others bring us pain. And some are just neutral.
As we grow and change, evolve and experience, we can be too caught up in appearances, approval, and expectations. What if every encounter with anyone was simply an opportunity to learn something or support someone else on their journey? What if we had no expectations of reciprocity, or continuous contact with particular people?
Letting everything go, not having an agenda, and not expecting a desired result can seem like it is avoiding the real meaning of living. However, being too caught up in the "real" meaning of everything can be restrictive and depressing.
The government changes. Politicians come and go. Their decisions affect the lives of many people. What if we didn't expect them to be wise, or evolved, or even thoughtful?
Not being attached to outcomes can result in a calm spiritual peace. There will be peace and there will be wars. People will leave us, betray us, and hurt us. But it is simply the way they are. We can grieve all the pain in the world, as well as our own. Or, we can just accept that life has its ups and downs. Nothing lasts forever. Some people are spiritually evolved, but many are not.
The world suffers from a lack of compassion, empathy, and trust. No one is totally safe anywhere. How can we live in the world, but not be too devastated by the world's inhumane, unloving ways?
Do your best. Give life your best shot. But don't expect to be loved or appreciated or valued for the gifts you give. Give the gifts because you are a gift giver. Give time, energy, attention, love, compassion, empathy, and nurturing.
Life is a garden to be continually watered, and cultivated. I think Voltaire got it right. By letting go and letting the Divine energy lead the way, we go with the flow, and have few fits of rage, jealousy, envy, resentment, and regret.
So, ease on down the road of life. Savor every minute of real beauty and connection. We are all in this together, and yet we are on our unique paths.
Let's simplify, and let's watch the "dramatic response" to life's ups and downs. It's an amazingly wild ride, and it is time to let go and let God.
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Formation, Conformation, Transformation, and Illumination
As children, we are taught to listen to our parents, obey rules, and conform to certain norms. These norms are created by a culture -- norms about gender, norms about appearance, norms about seeking approval, and norms about being accepted and popular.
Social media including television and advertising are in our faces from the time we can read and see.
At some point, if we are fortunate, begin to develop minds of our own. We re-think
and re-examine what we have been taught as the truth. We grow more mature and realize that what we have been fed is not necessarily for our own personal good, nor the good of others. Someone else must benefit from our blindly following the ideas of our culture.
Empire Consciousness is taught from our early childhood. We are brainwashed from the beginning about power, success, competition, domination, control and hierarchy.
Unless we challenge these ideas, we will continue to live in a world of pain, fear, destruction, violence, addiction, and loneliness.
The opportunity that we have on the spiritual journey is to see something else that matters. Another way, another idea.
This is Oneness Consciousness, a transformational awareness that can move us from "me" to "we." The common good of all becomes our touchstone, our focus.
This transformation to Oneness Consciousness is crucial for the survival of the country, planet earth, and all of creation. Without this, we stay stuck in a level of immaturity, striving, and the never-ending longing for more.
We can become conscientious objectors to the cultural norms. We see an alternative to hatred, fear, and desperation. It is the process of sharing what we have, being mindful stewards of what we have been given, and living with compassion, gratitude, generosity, mindfulness, and Divine guidance.
We see the Divinity everywhere, especially in the diversity. We see the Divinity in the disheartened, the lonely, the oppressed, the marginalized, the outcasts.
This Oneness Consciousness leads our way to meaningful connection and compassion for all of life and the earth itself. We are illuminated, becoming beacons of shining lights, to dispel the darkness of Empire, and to bring peace, love and joy to all of creation.
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Age-ing, Sage-ing and Still Shining
When I was a boy, age sixty was considered pretty old. Many people I knew were ill and dying in their fifties and sixties. Today, the miracle is that people are living longer these days -- many to almost 100. That is 40 additional years for many people. This means that midlife is now around 50, and retirement does not mean packing it up and sleeping for hours in our rocking chairs.
This may be due to medical advances, early detection of diseases, more available health
care, and people learning to value and care for their mental and physical health on a regular basis.
I am almost 81 years old. My body parts have
become my children. I must care for my ears, eyes, teeth, hips, backs, legs, feet, joints, lungs, heart, etc. Every day, there is attention paid to diet, exercise, medical appointments.
Older people are not the fragile, dawdling people sometimes shown in movies and on television.
I have watched older shows like "The Carol Burnett Show" and "The Golden Girls." The humor is often putdowns of growing older. Carol Burnett plays "the old folks." Estelle Getty is in her 80's, and although she is sharp and witty, there are clearly jokes at her expense due to her age.
Side note: On "The Golden Girls," Rose Nyland (played by the wonderful Betty White) is a dumb hick from Minnesota. Many of the stereotypes of Minnesota are degrading. But that's another story.
Older people are incredible. They have wisdom and experience. They have overcome many obstacles and much suffering. They have gone through loss after loss. They have watched trends come and go. They have lived through peacetime and wartime. They have marched for the freedom and rights of others. They have created beautiful art-- books, movies, paintings, etc.
Many have traveled to different parts of the world. Many have raised children and loved grandchildren. In "the Sibling Society," Robert Bly states that many young people rely on the internet or each other more than they do and older people. He believes that elder wisdom goes untapped.
Elder wisdom is cherished in so many cultures. In America, we learn early that wrinkles are ugly and gray hairs are signs of incompetence.
A number of amazing elderly people have died in the last few years. Cicely Tyson, Robert Bly, Stephen Sondheim, Betty White, and Sidney Poitier are just a few of the famous ones.
What can the elderly teach others about patience, humility, living in community, and social change? It is time to change our thinking about getting older. Older can be bolder. Older can be wiser. And older is definitely not time to be "put out to pasture."