Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Mad Scientist versus the Haters (who gonna hate)

One of the most important sayings of wisdom in our modern era is the phrase, "Haters gonna hate."  These three seemingly simple words have given me perspective over and over again in many tricky situations.  What others thought and felt about me was once a primary motivator in my life, and while I still struggle with this from time to time, it no longer rules me in the way it once did.   I used to think that if I could time my actions and responses just right I could make someone stop hating or judging me or make them happy and that would make me a good, love-worthy person.

I have come to see that trying to make haters stop hating, and judges stop judging, and to make others happy is never about me trying to be a good person.  It's really me trying to practice mind control.  I want to change the thoughts of another person, to control their brain, as if I am some sort of mad sciencist from a bad B movie. Once I saw how ridiculous and impossible my little mind control games were I had an easier time letting go.  Sometimes I even envision myself in a B movie villian costume shooting out mind control rays from a control-o-matic machine so that I can smile and laugh at myself for such silly behavior.

People's thoughts and actions are within their control, not yours or mine.  If someone is a truly good person they have already forgiven you any slights against them, and have let go of any judgements they had about you.   But it is not in your power to make them do it.  The ones who want to judge will keep judging and the ones who want to dissaprove will keep dissaproving.  Haters gonna hate.  It's an inevitable fact of life, like the rising and setting of the sun.

Any good you do towards others should come from the graciousness and tenderness you cultivate within yourself, not from a desire to control others so they won't think poorly of you.

You cannot give others anything unless you first develop it within yourself.  You must first give yourself grace, forgiveness, tenderness and love.  Only then can you offer it to  others.  Even if you have developed this grace within yourself, people will still judge you, misunderstand you, hate you, gossip about your and dissaprove of your choices.  But that is on them.  It's not on you.

Sometimes it's the silent judgements we fear the most.  If a person is actively making your life miserable it's easier to externalize that and see that behavior as a reflection of their character, not yours.  But it's hate, dissaproval, dissapointment and disgust we cannot see, and in fact are imagining the other person is feeling, that we let worry and stress us.  Not only do we try to practice mind control, but we try to become mind readers as well.  Our B-Movie mad scientist has become all the more ridiculous.  She has now invented the psychic-control-o-matic machine. We obsessivley imagine all the judgements against us and let them seep into our souls.  Maybe the other person didn't smile at you because they didn't get enough coffee in the morning, but we, being all powerful mind readers, think we know better.  We think they didn't smile because they are rightfully judging us for something inherintly wrong with the very core of our being.  We need to show tenderness to ourselves and smile and laugh that our silly B movie mad scientist has come out once again.  In these situations I like to imagine myself giving that wild eyed scientist a pat on the head, then sending her away.

Not only do we think that we have psychic and mind control powers, we imagine others have such powers too.   We think their thoughts can somehow leap out of their heads and shoot us with lazer beams of hate, shame, disgust and self-doubt.  We need to recognize that these miserable feelings are coming from within us.  We are cultivating them.  We need to give ourself a mental (and sometimes physical) hug in those moments.  Instead of submitting to or fighting against these imaginary lazer beams of hate, we need to focus on cultivating kindess, love and tenderness with us, and to start by giving those wonderful things to ourselves.

One thing I do when I find myself worrying about what someone else thinks, (and I use this for worries in general) is that I try to imagine the worst possible outcome, what I fear the most and I try to accept it and make peace with it. I offer myself peace, love, grace, compassion and acceptance for the present moment and for the moment I most fear.  I am not fighting against or submitting to the imagined bad thoughts of others, but rather acknowledging my lack of control, accepting that and choosing to move forward in love.

This is all still a work in progress for me, but it has dramatically lessened the amount of time I spead worrying about what others seek and has strengthed my ability to be kind and compassion to others.  The haters who gonna hate do need love and compassion, but they don't need my attempts at psychic mind control.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Science!!!!

When I left Christianity it had almost nothing to do with scientific theories or biblical scholarship (i.e. Bart Ehrman.)  I left because I found the Bible to be morally reprehensible and because I realized that I was not in fact a guilty sinner, just suffering from a lack of serotonin to the brain.  I admit I still have yet to read Ehrman, or Pagan Christianity or really any other fine tome that helped so many to break away from the Bible.  However I think science is just the bees knees.  I credit Brian Williams, my awesome grad school professor for waking me up to the joys of science.  Also seeing the joy in my students faces when we did experiments together really inspired me to dig deeper.  I discovered RadioLab on NPR and I'm currently in love with Neil DeGrasse Tyson.  (Though I first loved him before Cosmos, back when he was hosting NOVA Science Now.)

Learning about how all life is interconnected, and our very atoms were birthed in the stars kinda gives me the spiritual grounding I've been missing since I stopped believing in an all powerful deity.  I also like how scientists are inspired by the unknown, rather than fearful of it.   I'm not really sure what the point of this post is.  I guess I wanna give a big shout out to all you scientist out there.  Thanks for doing what you do!


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Some thoughts on dealing with anxiety, depression, emotions or what ever neurotic shit is running through your brain.

No ones likes unsolicited advice...So with that said, don't read my blog if you don't want to hear what I have to say.  I know there were times when I was dealing with anxiety, depression and a fragile emotional state, that you could give me all the good advice in the world and it wouldn't take.   However, if it wasn't for the wise words of people in my life, authors I've read, and speakers I've listened to, I would still be back in neurotic fun land.  So the following is my little contribution to the people in my life who are suffering.  Take from it what you will.


1.  Don't be afraid of your anxiety, or depression, or emotions, or phobias or whatever it is that plagues you.  Your neurosis like to keep you afraid so you won't do anything about them.  They like to pretend they are big terrible monsters with fearsome teeth.  They are really just whiney little babies who have never been loved.  The sooner you can see them for what they are, the better.

2.  Don't be afraid to talk about what is going on in that messed up little head of yours.  Your neurosis are like germs who fester and grow in dark, damp places.  Talking brings them into the light.  I would advise seeing a therapist rather than relying on friends or a spouse.   Although friends and spouses can be a great support network they often have too much invested in you emotionally.  Your stress can become their stress.  If you are terrified of seeing a therapist because you don't want to face your emotions, you definitely need to see a therapist.   You can sit in their office and tell them nothing substantial for the first few visits if it helps you get comfortable.  I was terrified of going at first too but it was soooo worth it.

3. Stop taking all that shit in your head seriously.  The best way I know how to do this is through breath meditation.  After sitting for an hour, watching my thoughts, I began to see how unsubstantial and vaporous they are.  We give so much weight to the thinking in our heads and we turn our thoughts over and over and over till they make us crazy.  It's can seem hard to let them go and be at peace.  For me breath meditation and mindfulness are the way I let them go and it becomes easier and easier with practice.

4. Learn what your body needs and then provide it.  For some people it's more exercise and a better diet.  For others its medication.  You are a biological organism, and the roots of your neurosis are biological in nature.  There is nothing to be ashamed of in admitting you need a lifestyle change or medication. It's no different that taking an allergy medication to stop sneezing, or changing your diet to avoid hives.  I spent many years trying therapy, exercise, diet and meditation.  All these things were helpful,  but the drastic changes didn't start until I went on anti-anxiety meds.  

That's all for now.  If you want me to expand on anything let me know.  If you want more ideas let me know too.  I am not ashamed to talk about my struggles so don't be afraid you'd be prying if you want to know more.  




Sunday, June 9, 2013

My Faith

So despite being an "Ex-Christian" I am a person of faith.

I have faith in myself.  I believe and live by the faith that I will grow as a human in love and compassion.  I have faith that I will recover from my mistakes and that I will allow my successes and failures to transform me into a better person.

I have faith that others are capable of learning to grow, think, love and recover from their mistakes.

I have faith that living in the present moment will put my worries and fears into the right perspective.

I have faith that the seeds of love, kindness and compassion that I plant will grow.

I am trying to live this faith out from day to day.  It's not a complex -ology held together by a web of correctly ordered texts.  It's a faith born out of hardship and experience, joy and love.

My faith is about being true to myself and the people in my sphere of influence,  rather than being true to a god or a religious text.  

I know many wonderful people who are true to themselves and others while still maintaining a belief in a god, but to me their act of faith is how the live their lives,  not the fact they believe something difficult to prove.  

I think faith is needed in our world.  If people come to the kind of faith that produces love, kindness and compassion through a religious path that is fine by me.  If people come to that kind of faith through humanism, therapy, charity work, or life experiences, that is great too.  We need people of faith in this world.   To many people are drifting through life caught up in fear, doubt and selfishness, which are at the root of so many of the problems in our world.

Those of us who have faith need to stop fighting each other on whose faith is best, and start helping those who live in fear.






Saturday, December 15, 2012

Please put Jesus in my school. (An agnostic's response)

I've seen this statement going around today.
"Dear God, why do you allow so much violence in schools?"

"Dear Student, I'm not allowed in schools."

If you believe that God's absence from schools is the reason for Sandy Hook and other school shootings, then why aren't you putting God back into the schools yourself?

2 Corinthians 5:20
We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.


Christians, aren't you supposed to be God's ambassadors, his hands and feet?  If you are, then you can walk into the schools yourself.  You don't have to wait for the government to pass a law.

I would love to have you in my classroom.  You could kneel beside a child and help them with their reading.  You could bring in school supplies to pass out to my needy ones.  You could read stories, sweep up spills, and wipe away tears.  You could tutor after school, or mentor a child.  Which is more Christlike, to have a mandated school prayer in the morning, or to have people serving the needs of "the least of these" in our schools?

I know that many people, like myself, were horrified by the idea of God letting Sandy Hook happen because we don't have prayer in public schools.  However, many of these same people are just saying that they are praying for the victims.  Those of you who are just praying, please do something more. Unless you change, the world will never change.  Volunteer at an elementary school, donate to mental health research, befriend that shy and lonely person next door. Stop hiding in your prayer closet, waiting for Jesus to end the suffering in this world.  Go out there and be like Jesus to those who suffer now.  






Friday, November 23, 2012

Awkward....


Right now I am reading a book called "A Chosen Faith."  Its sort of a primer to the Unitarian Universalist faith.  I am thinking about formally joining our local congregation.  (I already sing in the choir.)   Unitarian Universalism seems to line up with where I am right now.  However I find myself still in the awkward getting to know you stage with the congregation.  Folk are fairly friendly and there is a lot to do and a lot to get involved with.  However there are not a lot of younger childless couples in the church so its a bit harder to form those easy friendships one does with ones peers.  This has me thinking about the place of awkwardness in the spiritual experience.  We'd all like to be up on the mountaintop, blissing out to a spiritual high, but life is not often made of moments like this.  I think the Buddhist view of the present moment helps.  i.e. "Dwelling in this present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment." Thich Nhat Hanh.   If I remember to breath and be at peace with awkwardness and uncomfortableness it can be easier to deal with.  However, sometimes these awkward experiences have caused me to discount the "authenticity" of a spiritual experience.  For example, when someone starts sneezing during meditation, I  can loose my peace and start getting annoyed and uncomfortable.  Then I might start discounting the whole experience, thinking "If this were an "authentic" spiritual practice,  would anybody really sneeze.  Wouldn't we all just start glowing with inner light or something?"

I appreciate that Buddhism convicts me to accept things as they are.  I think a lot of people I consider "spiritually flaky" are all about finding these perfect, blissful experiences, which can often lead them to have no common sense in the real world.

I think that when we are on the mountaintop, we should appreciate it for all it's worth, but being back down in the valley, trucking through the mud, is a spiritual experience too.   The mountain top experience may in fact be a reward for learning the lessons that the muddy valley had to teach us.  When we spend all our time dwelling on being annoyed and uncomfortable, I think we miss what the here and now is trying to show us.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Response.


This is a response to my friend's comment on my last post.

Yes, I have heard the lunatic/liar/lord argument.  I know there are scholars from the different camps who have written extensively on the historical Jesus, some to give evidence for faith, some to destroy faith, and some who simply want to examine the facts honestly.   For me, to parse out the truth of what happened 2000+ years ago is an hopeless task.  To call myself even an amatuer history buff would be too much.  I enjoy history but only have devoted myself to it sporadically.  Yet even if I did devote myself fulltime would the conclusions I come to be any more valid than the countless other historian who have gone before?   I have trouble enough determining what is true in the here and now, let alone seeing the truth in a distant path, where much knowledge has been lost and forgotten.

In truth I haven't given a lot of thought to the historical Jesus, to either prove or disprove his worth.   It has always been the idea of a living Christ which concerns me.

Like many others I find Christ's message of compassion and love inspiring and convicting, but I know that it is not what you are asking about.  I think you are asking about the unique claims of Christianity.  You want  to know what I make of Jesus's claim that he is the son of God and that salvation comes only through him.   For myself I also question what we should expect from Christ's promise to send the holy spirit to us.   I want to know what we can expect from a living Christ in the here and now.  If the full weight of the historical world were behind  the Christian view of Christ as Lord, and yet we do not experience Christ in the here and now then all that historical data is useless.

What is it that Christianity provides that no other faith experience can?  What will accepting Christ as Lord and trusting in him do that there is no substitute for?  

I know people who live wonderful lives, inspired by Christ's message, but there is a difference in saying that one has touched the divine through Christ versus no one may touch the divine except through Christ.  I think that you believe that confessing Christ and Christ alone is the only way, not only for one to be saved for eternity, but to live a truely meaningful life in the here and now.  

What convinces you of this?