Category Archives: Spirituality

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.

Peace Gathering Reminder

Just a reminder, Sunrise Meditation and Counseling is offering weekly Ecumenical Contemplative Peace Gatherings on Thursday evenings.  The gatherings begin at 6:00 pm and last less than an hour.  The format includes a time of gathering, a time of sharing brief inspirational thoughts and readings, a time of contemplative silence, and a time for closure.  There will be no cost for attending, but donations will be accepted.

logolargerChristian Tantric Meditation workshops are now available for groups or individuals by appointment, so please call for more information.   This is a four class program that introduces several meditation techniques, including breath centered mind stabilization, self emptying, Divine Communion as a form of guru yoga, and Compassion outreach meditation.

For more information or to register for a Workshop or an Individual Therapeutic or Spiritual Discernment Session, visit our Contact and Registration page  or call 678-358-8775.

Meditation Class Reminder

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Christian Tantric Meditation classes provide tools for connecting with our Creative and Spiritual roots, and developing compassion for self and others.  Our next set of four Christian Tantric Meditation classes will begin on Saturday, May 13th from 10:00 to 11:30 AM EST.  We will be providing classes at our studio in Sautee near Helen Georgia, in the beautiful North Georgia Mountains.

Classes cost $20.00, and space is limited so sign up today.  Call 678-358-8775, email me at dave@sunrisemeditation.org, or register at http://sunrisemeditation.org/contact-us/.

Upcoming Events and Workshops

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Sunrise Meditation and Counseling Upcoming and Current Schedule:

Peace meetings:  Tuesdays 7:00 PM Starting Feb 7th – Contemplative time of reflection, all faiths (and no – faiths) welcome.  Cost:  No cost, donations accepted.

Recovery Workshops:  Thursdays 7:00-8:30 PM Starting Feb 2nd – Addiction and recovery education, people in recovery and family members welcome.  Cost: 25.00 / session, 20.00 if paid in advance.

Meditation Workshops:  Saturdays 10:00-11:30 Starting March 4th. Cost: 25.00 / session, 20.00 if paid in advance.

Individual Counseling and Spiritual Direction sessions available for 65.00 / 1 hour session.

Call 678-358-8775 or visit http://sunrisemeditation.org/workshops/ for more information or to register.

Meditation, Consciousness, Sentience, and Enlightenment

In the beginning, the universe came into existence. With the universe came the properties of time and space, and the content of energy and matter. The universe also came with a set of rules, and these rules dictated the relationship between time, space, energy, and matter. These rules are known as the laws of physics.

star-clusters-74052_960_720For a long time, all things in the universe obeyed the laws of space-time-energy-matter (STEM). Energy formed matter, matter warped time and space, matter followed the warping of time and space to form dense masses which became stars, and the matter in stars released energy according to fixed rules.

And then one day, after millions of years of interaction according to fixed rules, living creatures with consciousness emerged. These living creatures continued to obey the laws of physics in the larger sense, but they also developed an ability to utilize matter and energy, and an ability to move through space time with some freedom.

Along with consciousness came a desire to survive, and to survive consciousness needed to surreal-402830_960_720gather nutrients, expel waste, find a suitable environment in which to flourish, and to reproduce. To facilitate survival, a new set of rules emerged, the rules of attraction to pleasure, and aversion to pain (APAP). Consciousness began to identify pleasure with finding suitable nutrition and reproduction, and identifying pain with hostile environments and dealing with competing and predatory organisms.

For a vast amount of time, consciousness obeyed these APAP rules, until one day, the property of sentience or self-awareness emerged from within consciousness.

In a large sense, sentient beings continued to obey the survival laws of APAP and the physical laws of STEM. But with sentience came the willingness and ability to place the needs of others over the needs of self. With sentience a new rule emerged, the rule of love.

Still constrained by the laws of APAP, at first love limited itself to the raising of offspring, but grew to include larger units of family and community.

Some became obsessed with the rules of APAP, and taken to the extreme were trapped by attraction to pleasure in the form of addictions, and by aversion to pain in the form of phobias.

universe-1044107_960_720At some point, enlightened beings began to emerge from among the sentient beings. One enlightened being known as Buddha questioned the law of attraction, and rejected being controlled by desires. In the process he found a love that transcended the constraints of family and community and included the entire universe. He shared his newfound freedom to love without boundaries with his followers.

Another enlightened being known as Christ questioned the law of aversion, and rejected being controlled by the fear of suffering and death. In the process he found a love that transcended the constraints of family and community and included the entire universe. He shared his newfound freedom to love without boundaries with his followers.

Followers of these enlightened beings wanted to experience this newfound freedom to love solar-eclipse-151211_960_720without boundaries, and so began to investigate the longstanding rules of STEM and APAP. They developed rules and techniques for finding this new freedom, but in many cases found the rules (religions) they developed were not liberating but even more constraining.

Some followers developed contemplative techniques for letting go of APAP rules. After long hours of disciplined prayer and meditation, some actually managed to let go of the rules that had constrained sentient beings for so long. But in the absence of those rules, some found a profound sense of loss. They discovered that living without the pursuit of pleasure and the fear of pain left life empty and meaningless.

For those few who continued and persevered, beyond the dark and vast plain of emptiness, 1338259321they discovered the meaning that the enlightened beings who went on before had promised. Love without boundaries, unconditional love, love for all of the universe, love for all living consciousness, love for all sentient beings. Love beyond the constraints of family and tribe and nation. Unconditional Love for all that is, was, and will be. Love that transcends the rules of STEM and APAP.

The progression of creation has been, from the beginning, a progression of increasing complexity and freedom, from matter and energy, to conscious life, to sentient self awareness, to enlightenment. Rules were established and transcended. First the rules of physics were established and transcended by the rules of attraction and aversion. Then the rules of attraction and aversion were transcended by the freedom of unconditional love.

Contemplative practices such as centering prayer and meditation are a tool, a method for increasing freedom and joy. Whether trapped by obsession with desires in the form of addiction, or trapped by obsession with fear in the form of phobias, contemplative practices can help. For those who choose to continue contemplative practices to the release of all attractions and aversions, profound freedom and joy in the form of unconditional love is possible.

We are now opening registration for our next set of introductory meditation classes in the beautiful North Georgia Mountains.  Our next set of classes will be held Saturday February 27th.  Our location is in Sautee Georgia which is near Helen Georgia, about an hour from Gwinnett and about 1.5 hours from Metro Atlanta.

mtn_sunrisePeople who attend our classes learn skills for dealing with stress and increasing enjoyment of life and personal freedom through letting go of negative thoughts and emotions.  More advanced classes explore increasing Spirituality through Divine Communion practice, and exercising Compassion with healthy boundaries for self and others.  People who are new to meditation and people who are experienced with meditation find our classes helpful.

Our Saturday morning class from 10:30-11:30 teaches basic meditation skills including breath centered mind stabilization and mindfulness.  Our afternoon class from 1:00-2:00 will discuss the use of meditation in addiction recovery.  Our classes generally include about 20-30 minutes of instruction and discussion, and 20-30 minutes of meditation skill practice.

Registration is open from 10:00 to 10:30 AM, or visit our Workshops page and sign up on line, or call 678-358-8775.  Our rates are very reasonable, 25.00 for a class or 40.00 for signing up for two classes or bringing a friend.

See you there!

 

 

Spirituality and Meditation

As a counselor, when I talk with people about meditation, it is often in therapeutic terms. Learning how to relax, letting go of burdens that hold us back, and living mindfully and in the moment can help a person to be resilient in the face of day to day stresses.

cropped-20141025_163721_1.jpgThe process of self emptying not only allows us to let go of burdens and stresses, it also helps us to open a space within ourselves to receive Divine Energy that is beyond our 5 senses’ ability to perceive. In other words, self emptying meditation can increase our capacity for Spirituality. It’s often hard to see, hear, smell, taste, or feel anything with our five physical senses when we are burdened and stressed. When we have difficulty processing input from our physical senses our ability to perceive Spirituality is doubly impaired.

What is Spirituality? We often hear people say they are ‘Spiritual, not religious”, but what does that mean? For most people it means that we are in touch with something beyond ourselves, something that motivates, something that heals, something that inspires us to care for ourselves and for others. Jewish Scripture says God “breathed the breath of life into dust” (Gen 2:7) in creating humanity, in that sense Spirit is the breath energy that gives us life.

Spirituality can help “fill in the empty places” that are left behind when harmful thoughts or habits are challenged. Spirituality, connection with one’s inner strength and Higher Power, can help a person to move forward with a sense of fulfillment rather than emptiness and need.

Many people witness to “feeling the Spirit” as motivation for changing course when traveling, or floating-bonsaiin life. When they pay attention to this feeling, they find that they avoid major accidents or problems. In this sense, being “receptive to Spirit” can be part of maintaining one’s safety and well being.

“Divine Communion” meditation is used to help develop one’s sense of inner strength, and to invite one’s Higher Power to dwell within and be a part of our day to day lives. With a clear mind, open heart, and empty core that comes from “Self Emptying” practice, “Divine Communion” can help fulfill in a way that physical thoughts and activities and even relationships cannot.

1338259321With this in mind we are announcing the opening of our phase 2 classes covering “Self Emptying” practices on Saturday September 12th.  The morning session will cover “Freeing the mind and heart of harmful desires and resentments”, and the afternoon session will cover “Freeing the Core of Fears and Opening Self to Bliss”. Eventually we we will begin opening phase 3 “Divine Communion” classes.

We are also opening additional phase 1 classes on August 22nd, which introduce foundational practices of mindfulness and open consciousness. If you have been thinking about attending and would like the opportunity to move forward quickly through phase 1 and then phase 2 on September 12th, now is the time to register. All classes are open for repeat attendance if participants want to refresh and share experiences with others, but phase 1 classes must be completed before participating in phase 2.

If you are interested in learning more about Christian Tantric Meditation, Atlanta area classes are being offered in the beautiful North Georgia Mountains. Registration is open now, visit our website for more information and to register on line.  The book Christian Tantric Meditation Guide is also available through Amazon.com and local bookstores.