Category Archives: Holiday

Easter: Faith in Possibilities

For Christians everywhere, this is Holy Week, the most sacred time of the year. During this week, we remember Jesus’ sacrifice on behalf of his followers and all of humanity.

The entire story starts, of course, with Jesus appearing and proclaiming “the kingdom is at hand”.  At hand means up close and personal, here and now, within our grasp.  Jesus also described this kingdom in terms of healing and unconditional love.  To demonstrate what he was saying, Jesus performed miraculous healings and spent his time with the people who were considered unclean or unlovable at the time, including tax collectors and people living in the streets, living day to day and finding food and shelter any way they could.

Well, this caught the attention of the religious leaders of the time, who were busy telling people what is right and what is wrong and how to live.  When Jesus came along and said the old religious rules take a second seat to loving one another and practicing peace, they had a problem with that, so they started following Jesus around to gather evidence against him.  Their power base was being threatened so they wanted him to shut up.

When they tried to challenge him with questions regarding scripture and the law, Jesus turned their questions around and challenged their interpretations right back at them.

Eventually, they caught up with Jesus.   Jesus and some of his followers gathered together to celebrate a Jewish Holy day called Passover, and after dinner they went to a hilltop park. While they were gathered there, a group of officials came to arrest them all.   Jesus told the officials “I’m the one you seek, take me, leave them alone.”  So for the followers of Jesus who were in that garden with him, Jesus literally saved their lives, because the penalty for speaking out against religious and political leaders was death.

And so, the man Jesus was arrested, put on trial, convicted, and sentenced to death by crucifixion. After the execution, on the first day of the week, some of his women followers visited his grave with the intention of preparing the body for a traditional burial.  When they visited the grave, and they found the grave was empty.

Luke 24:1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.[a] While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women[b] were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men[c] said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.[d] Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

When we speak of faith, we often speak in terms of possibilities.  Science gives us demonstrable facts.  If you throw a ball with a certain amount of force at a certain angle, science can tell you where the ball will land.  Science tells us the universe appeared after a big bang, and science tells us that humans evolved from mice.  Science tells us that when a living creature dies, they are dead, they cease to live.

Faith offers possibilities.  For example, faith offers the possibility that there is an unconditionally loving higher power.  Faith tells us that it is possible that the universe, this galaxy, this solar system, this planet earth, us human beings, and each of us as individuals are here for a reason.  Faith tells us that it is possible that we are all brothers and sisters, born from a common set of parents.   And faith tells us that the reason we exist may be to love, to love our creator, to love all of creation including the trees and flowers and mountains and rivers and oceans and all the animals, and ultimately to love ourselves and one another, even as we are loved, unconditionally.

Remember, the story began with a statement that the Kingdom of heaven is at hand, here and now.  The final chapter of Jesus life, and this first chapter of Jesus eternal life, is also about here and now.  The possibility presented by this first chapter of eternal life is that even death can’t stop the power of Grace, of unconditional love that Jesus spoke of.  Even in death, healing is possible.  And this healing and Grace is possible for our friends and loved ones who have passed on before us, and for ourselves and our friends and family who suffer here and now.

Faith is about possibilities, and Grace and the signs of resurrection are all around us.  Every sunrise is a resurrection, ever morning awakening.  There is resurrection in the tender leaves that faithfully appear in the spring time.  In the voices and play of little children.  In our own experiences of healing and love, and in healing relationships we are blessed with.

In summary, the story of Jesus’ life, His teachings, his death, and resurrection present the possibility that even when we feel alone, we are not alone, and even when we feel unloved and unlovable, we are loved, and even when we or our loved ones are injured or ill, even in death, healing is possible.

Hope in a Weary World

I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted. And this year it’s not about the bustle of the Holidays and Christmas shopping, if anything those activities were a welcome distraction.

After a year of  extreme politics and further division within the USA, rising deficit and threats against health insurance,  I for one am just tired.

As I look back to the events that have led to where we are, I remember the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001.  I remember videos of terrorist attrocities in the Middle East.  I remember US cabinet members laughing and clapping when a Middle Eastern leader was killed, and most of all I remember angry people arguing politics, myself among them.

It occurred to me that we are a Nation and a World that is constantly dealing with both primary and secondary traumatic stress.  And we are dealing with these stresses not only as individuals, but as communities, as nations, and as a world community of human beings.

There is a phrase from old Western movies that applies to how communities deal with traumatic stress: “circling the wagons.”  We form groups of like minded people with the intent of protecting ourselves and our families.

Both ancient and modern history are filled with examples of communities experiencing extreme stress and trauma, pulling together, rallying around a common identity, be it ethnic or religious or nationalistic, becoming powerful, and in turn becoming the source of stress and trauma towards neighboring communities.  Eventually, someone stronger always comes along and the cycle begins again.  Trauma, circle the wagons, gain power, cause trauma, and then experience oppression and trauma all over again.

At Christmas time, the world celebrates the birth of a man called Jesus.  I say the world because at this point in human history, with few exceptions, everyone is pretty much aware of everything, including the origins of the Christian religion and culture.  I say the man Jesus because the humanity of Jesus is something we all have in common.  Jewish people may view Jesus as a historical Rabbi, Buddhists and Hindus may view Jesus as an Enlightened Being, Muslims may view Jesus as a revered Prophet, and Christians view Jesus as both Human and Divine.

Enlightened, Prophet, Human, Divine, Personal Savior, or anointed Christ, however we view Jesus, the words and teachings attributed to this person are what is left for us in the 21st century to read, share, interpret, and draw inspiration from.

2000 years ago, Jesus’ words and teachings inspired a group of people, human beings, to become  followers.  These human followers of Jesus the Christ also experienced extreme trauma, at the hands of a government, specifically the Roman government who had power at the time.  And like human communities have done since the beginning of time, the followers of Jesus the Christ reacted by circling the wagons.   They focusing on mutual care of each other, they comforted families who lost loved ones to the Roman Government’s systematic oppression, they cared for each other, and they talked about ways to deal with the stress of living in the traumatic world they lived in.

They also turned to the teachings of Jesus the Christ whom they followed for guidance.  And in those teachings, they learned of the repeated history of violence, conquering, and being conquered.  And they saw the alternative message that Jesus taught: demonstrate our love of God through loving each other, loving neighbors, and even loving the oppressive enemies.

So, instead of gathering weapons and power, these followers of Jesus the Christ offered love and help to their Roman neighbors.  They bound wounds, offered medicine and a kind presence to people who were sick, they loved their neighbors, they loved their enemies, and they prayed and worshiped together, reminding each other that though the path they chose did not make sense in a world of “fight power with power,” this was the path that Jesus of Nazareth lived and taught.

The world is still a dark place, people are still circling wagons and gathering resources to hide or fight.  But Christmas is a reminder, a still small voice, a voice so small it is symbolized in  the presence of an infant child, calling us to a path of Grace.  A small voice reminding us that peace is possible, we don’t need to react with anger and violence, we can choose to be loving and caring instead, even with those we perceive as enemies.

It is my fervent wish this year that even in the midst of darkness and conflict, even with memories of trauma and fear either fresh or distant in our minds, experienced first hand or vicariously through social and broadcast media, we think of this infant, this prophet, this enlightened one, this Jesus who is called Christ, and remind ourselves that even as we circle our wagons, we can choose to share peace and kindness with others, even others we don’t know or feel suspicious about.

I’m going to follow this thought with a challenge.  For those who are able, if you find yourself sitting in a drive through window waiting for coffee or a meal, consider buying the coffee or meal for the car in line behind you.  It’s a way of sharing that does not judge, and does not expect a reward or even a thank you.  Catch the Spirit of Christmas, offer up a gift of kindness.  The family in the car behind you may be Jewish, Christian, may be Muslim, may be Buddhist or Hindu.  They may be black, they may be white, they may be Hispanic or Asian, they may be Gay or Straight.  They may be living in poverty or blessed with great wealth. They may be politically conservative or liberal; they may be a member of the law enforcement community or they may be struggling with legal issues.  No matter what their race, culture, or circumstance, they are human, and they are loved, even as we are loved.  Share the Love.

May All People experience a Merry Christmas, a Blessed Holiday, and a Peaceful and Prosperous New Year.

A Christmas Meditation Gift

advent-wreath-1879730_640Another holiday season is upon us in the United States and worldwide.  For Christians, this season celebrates the birth of Jesus, whom we know as Emmanuel, “God with us.”

If we were to imagine for a second that Jesus was born at the year 0 CE (historians differ as to the actual year of Jesus’ birth), He would have been celebrating His 16th birthday 2000 years ago.  Imagine that, Jesus as a young person, with all the hopes and dreams, the fears and insecurities, the hormones and emotions associated with a 16 year old maturing human being.

Prior to that he was a child, full of curiosity and questions, and prior to that a toddler brimming nativity-scene-1807599_640with energy.  And prior to that, like any human child, Jesus was completely dependent on His parents for sustenance, nurture, love, and protection.  Jesus was born in an area of the world that was perhaps as unstable and dangerous at the time of His birth as it is today.  He was born homeless besides.

But the story of the birth of Jesus is not only about vulnerability.  Nor is the birth of any child only about weakness and vulnerability.  A newborn child has a mind that is not limited by learned rules and desires.  The heart of a newborn child is not scarred with resentments and disappointments. And the core of a newly born child is not burdened with learned fears and responsibilities.  A newborn child represents earth%20sunrise2pure, unfettered potential for a free and joyful life, filled with unconditional love and meaningful accomplishment.

And this is my prayer for this Season, that we may all take a lesson from the newborn child, and make an effort to lay down our desires, resentments, and fears so that we may see, feel, and experience the world in new joyful, hopeful, loving, and faithful ways.

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With this in mind, consider sharing the gift of Meditation for Christmas.  The Christian Tantric Meditation practice helps people to let go of desires, resentments and burdens, and realize our potential as joyful, loving, and confident human beings.

The Christian Tantric Meditation Guide book is available through Amazon at http://sunrisemeditation.org/publications/, and our next Christian Tantric meditation classes will be conducted in February of 2017.  The series of four  classes will be held on Saturdays February 4th, 11th, 18th, and 25th.  In addition to the core practice classes, we will also be offering classes oriented towards addiction recovery, and advanced classes in compassion for people who have already taken the first four classes.

These classes are useful for beginners and people who are experienced in meditation alike.  Our pricing will be 25.00 per individual class, or 80.00 if all four classes are signed up for in advance.

For more information, either call us at 678-358-8775, email us at dave@sunrisemeditation.org, or register at http://sunrisemeditation.org/contact-us/  on our website.

Whatever your tradition, religion, and culture, we wish you a joyful holiday season, filled with hope, love, and peace.

Christmas Meditation Prayer Gift

This Holiday Season, we are grateful to be blessed with friends who are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Athiest-Humanist, Gay, Straight, and from many continents and many walks of life.

We were recently reminded that Jesus the Christ was born a Middle Eastern Jewish child who was raised speaking Aramaic, which was an early form of present day Arabic.  May we come full circle in recognizing that we are all God’s Children, all Beloved, and all Brothers and Sisters.

Meditation can be described and used as a form of listening prayer.  As a gift to all who read this blog, we have condensed the entire Christian Tantric Meditation process into prayer form.  We hope this prayer inspires healing, peace, and gratitude in a world that sorely needs hope.

Gracious God, Merciful Allah, Bountiful Universe,

Please receive this offering of the desires of my mind, that my mind might be clear to discern your Holy Presence.

Please receive this offering of the resentments and attachments in my heart, that my heart might be open to receive your Unconditional Love.

Please receive this offering of the fears and burdens in my core, that my core might be empty to receive your Boundless Strength.

Gracious God, Merciful Allah, Bountiful Universe,

Please fill my mind with your Infinite Awareness, that I may fully experience your Bountiful gift of Life

Please fill my heart with your healing Grace, that my heart may overflow with your Love.

Please fill my Core with your Strength and Wisdom, that I may be filled with your Peace

Gracious God, Merciful Allah, Bountiful Universe,

Please open my mind to the suffering of others, that I may be moved to Compassion, even as you are Compassionate.

Please open my heart to the brokenness of others, that I may be a Hopeful Healing Presence, even as you are a Hopeful Healing Presence

Please open my core to the fears of others, that I may be Merciful towards others, even as you are Merciful.

Can a Smile Change Everything?

Harvest, Harvest Festival, PumpkinThe holidays are coming, with all of their joys and stresses. Days are growing shorter, the weather is increasingly unpredictable, and holiday memories from childhood, young adulthood, and other times in our lives that lie dormant through the rest of the year begin to emerge.

As the example below illustrates, maturing in Mindlfulness oriented Meditation practices like Christian Tantric Meditation helps us to become more “self aware” regarding our own inner experiences and the world around us.  We also become practiced in using tools like “intentional smiling” that are available for letting go of some of our negative experiences, thoughts, and behaviors, and increasing our positive experiences.

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The morning commute was dark and rainy, and the traffic was bumper to bumper. Joe’s grumpy mood seemed to be reinforced by his surroundings as he inched along in his car, trying to get rain-933490_640to work.   Maybe it was the darkening days of late autumn, maybe it was the prospect of dealing with the upcoming holidays. Whatever the reason, this mood was as familiar to him as a miserable old friend.

In past years, Joe knew his grumpiness would tend to alienate his family, and he would increase his own alcohol and food consumption. This year was different however, because Joe had been developing self awareness of his own moods and emotions. This learned self awareness was just one of the positive outcomes he experienced from practicing Christian Tantric Meditation over the past several weeks.

Joe remembered some advice that was repeated throughout the Christian Tantric Meditation “Self Emptying” instructions he had received; “smile, accept, and let it go.” At the moment, the thought of smiling seemed to sour his mood even more, for no apparent reason.

emoticon-937609_640Perhaps in spite of himself, he forced a large distorted smile to his face. Alone, in his car, creeping along in the dark and the rain, surrounded by other unfortunate souls trapped in the same traffic he was a part of, he smiled so hard his eyes squinted and watered. He pictured himself with his teeth bared like some crazy hyena. And in spite of himself, he chuckled. He exhaled. He inhaled. He exhaled again. His forced smile relaxed into a natural grin.

He thought of a saying he had heard from a grumpy old actor from the 1920’s, W.C. Fields, “Smile first thing in the morning and get it over with.” This made him smile even more.

Feeling better, he recognized that in the midst of the cleansing rain, the filtered morning light was eroding the darkness and the traffic had started moving again. He was grateful.

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If you are interested in learning more about developing self awareness skills and tools like “intentional smiling” that are included in Christian Tantric Meditation, consider attending a Workshop.

Our introductory workshops introduce the skills of mindfulness, mind stabilization, and opening consciousness.  Please visit http://sunrisemeditation.org/workshops/ to register online or call 678-358-8775 for more information.

Our next class is scheduled for Saturday November 14th in Sautee Georgia near Helen Georgia.  Two weeks before Thanksgiving, this might be an ideal time to visit, to take a meditation class, and to enjoy the late autumn beauty of the North Georgia Mountains. Just over an hour from Atlanta, the act of getting away and taking in fresh air itself makes the trip worthwhile.