Hope – But what to pin it on?

Turn on the television news, look at your bank statement, listen to your friend’s woes. Faced with the basic problems of living who hasn’t despaired of things ever turning out okay? How are you to be delivered from all that is going wrong with the world – the hate and violence, crime, stress, family breakdown, business dishonesty? What power for good is going to make a real difference? In what can you turn to for confidence about things improving?

Hope in bodily pleasure

One answer is to rely on bodily pleasure. Who doesn’t look forward to escaping home at the end of a fraught day and crashing out. Some people get a bit tipsy after work trying to forget their troubles. Or indulge in comfort eating. Those who are bored with life perhaps look forward to the excitement of a new sexual thrill or dangerous sport. Others may take recreational drugs to enhance their mood.

Whatever your fix, you will know deep down that it can’t be relied upon to make things better other than on a temporary basis. Bodily indulgence is just a temporary distraction that never really solves anything.

Hope in technology

How about counting on technological invention to permanently make life very different? Given time, engineers, who designed vacuum cleaners and washing machines, will probably create other labour saving equipment in the home. The electronics industry will probably change your life as much as did computers and smart phones.

But do machines make you any more contented? Do they reduce work stress or just give us more emails to answer? Do they help us cope with personal relationships or just take away our privacy whilst using social media? Do they liberate human beings from mundane work or just make people redundant?

Hope in politics

You might be banking on politics to make a real difference to your life. The hope is that it may produce a better world to live in. National government can provide solutions to social and economic problems by ensuring good public services such as education and health care. Can politicians do all this and at the same time protect the environment, encourage commercial enterprise and pay for our security? Certainly, they are happy to appeal for votes with policies claimed to meet the country’s need for good housing, high rates of employment, a sense of social justice, and a level of socially cohesion that enables good community relations.

The trouble is there seems in Britain to be a widespread disenchantment with the main political parties. Can we really hope politicians will offer us salvation from our economic and social woes or will they just be too busy slagging off the other side creating falsehood, fear and smear? How can national policies expect to radically change the way human beings behave towards each other in the home, and in the workplace? What the government do cannot make us show more respect for others, give us a social conscience, and reduce our self-interest.

Hope in therapy

Perhaps you should be looking to some form of counselling to rid you of unpleasant feelings like anxiety and depression. Talking with a friend or with a professional therapist is for you when going through a bad time or when you have emotional problems you can’t sort out on your own. You can hope that life will be made easier if you look at your problems in a different way and learn new personal skills.

Critics, however, point out that with over a 25% drop out rate from professional therapy, what may count is how you and the other person get on. What is called the quality of the therapeutic relationship. But choosing who is best for you to work with in confidence is virtually impossible in advance. Also although therapists may be seen as the new high priests, they can’t actually solve the deeper issues of life – tissues to do with your sense of identity, the meaning you attach to being alive, your eventual death and an unknowable future. Nor can they alleviate the socially caused problems that beset you, over which you have no influence.

Hope in oneself

Many will feel that if you want a job doing well then do it yourself. In other words in the end one has to put one’s hope in one’s own solutions to difficulties. Don’t depend on others but become more self-reliant. Taking responsibility for dealing with the mess you find yourself in can be liberating. It can reduce the feeling of helpless dejection by giving a new sense of control. This self-confidence may seem to be a good idea for those who feel they are managing life’s difficulties.

But when you are in crisis being confronted by failure, and factors beyond your own influence then you will be brought up sharp by the burdens of reality and a sense of helplessness. The need is to turn to something that is stronger then yourself to effect change. Members of AA turn to a higher power to help them abstain from alcohol.

Hope in the transcendent

In my view, in rightly rejecting the punitive and judgmental ideas of traditional religion, many people today nevertheless believe in a life force that gives nature its vitality. Others recognize a universal spirit which inspires humane compassion and love; and a divine providence that provides us with the opportunities for learning life’s lessons so that we can become wiser and calmer in the face of adversity.

hopeI happen to believe that what saves you, from all that is bad, is a humble acknowledgment that what is good ultimately does not come from the world or from yourself. For we humans are finite. Instead it originates in an infinite source of goodness itself, far beyond your or my own strength to create. A source of divine love and wisdom which is both mysteriously simultaneously transcendent beyond us and immanently present within us. To find a lasting sense of hope is to put one’s faith in this divine power. Perhaps that is why even in these secular times in Britain many people in crisis, who do not normally do so, pray to God when they are desperate for help.

Copyright 2015 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

 

Multiply Yourself – Everywhere!

Be honest. Don’t you wish everyone would think and be like you? If you could turn everyone else into “you,” the world would be six billion times better. I am not kidding.

Furthermore, you actually have the power to do so.

Not only would it be a good thing to turn everyone else into copies of “you,” God wants you to do precisely just that! In fact, it is actually one of God’s great commandments. The commandment is to love thy neighbor as oneself.

Confused? Let me explain.

God really does want us to look at others and see ourselves. But this is not to be understood as a spreading out of one’s self-centeredness in all directions. It is an act of humility.

When one person loves another as him or herself, he or she will then see the other in oneself, and oneself in the other. This spiritual love and consciousness is called empathy.

It is not the multiplication or the forcing of one’s will upon everyone else, either. It is the harmonious unification of the wills of many.

This unites one person with another. And even better, unites one society with another.

This union does not superimpose our likeness upon another person. Rather, it allows us all to take on the likeness of the Lord God, who is Divine Love.

Heaven is a likeness of the Lord because it consists of those who live in spiritual love and unity. Heaven on earth is the adoption of neighborly love by all its terrestrial citizens.

This is the deeper meaning within God’s command to be “fruitful and multiply.” God wants us each to increase the good in the world.

That would indeed make the world six billion times better.

Posted on September 5, 2008by thegodguy

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What’s so bad about a bit of self-pride?

Self-prideA bit of self-pride seems part of the positive trait of self-esteem.

Possible danger of self-pride

Yet we speak of pride before a fall. The story of Icarus is about a young man’s attempt to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father constructed from feathers and wax. Icarus ignored instructions not to fly too close to the sun, and the melting wax caused him to fall into the sea where he drowned. In flying too high he is often seen as possessing overconfident arrogance. The proverb ‘Pride goes before a fall’ seems apt, implying suffering for those too cocky for their own good.

On the other hand, sounding superior and important are favoured traits in today’s tough competitive economic climate.  Even if you are not in business, you need to market your work skills in order to keep your own job or get another one.

“At home I am a nice guy: but I don’t want the world to know. Humble people, I’ve found, don’t get very far.” (Muhammad Ali)

And it is said that it can become counter-productive to be modest because you may not be taken seriously.

So is it really true that you will be like Icarus and suffer in some way as a result of being full of yourself and your ability? What’s so bad about a bit of self-pride?

Noticing the sacred in others rather than self-pride in oneself

In his book Essential Spirituality, Roger Walsh writes about noticing the sacred in other people.

He tells a story about an old woman sitting by the roadside outside her town who was approached by a traveller who asked “What kinds of people live in this town?”

“What were the people like in your home town?” queried the old woman.

“Oh, they were terrible!” fumed the traveller. “Liars, cheats, incompetents, you couldn’t trust any of them. I was glad to leave.”

“You’ll find the people in this town just the same.” Responded the old woman.

Not long afterwards, she was approached by a second traveller who also questioned her about the people in the town.

“”What were the people like in your home town?” she asked.

“Oh, they were wonderful!” exclaimed the traveller. “Fine, honest, hard-working, it was a privilege to be with them. I was so sorry to leave.”

“You’ll find the people in this town just the same. “responded the old woman.

So, how you see others and what you say about them reveals more about yourself than about them. You don’t want to seem to be a know-it-all full of self-pride who fails to notice the value in others. Few people want to appear big-headed about their own abilities at the cost of the abilities of others. Moreover, seeing what is valuable about others helps you be honest with yourself about your own limitations even when this is uncomfortable.

Seeing the sacred in life itself

Spiritually-minded people acknowledge a source of deeper energy and wisdom beyond their own mind. They ask how can one not feel humbled by the wonders of the universe, or when seeing the power of altruistic love manifest in the most extreme circumstances. We are so often exposed to the scientific view, of an evolution without purpose and a universe as a meaningless machine, that no transcendent sacred force — whatever we want to call it — is allowed to exist.

But then we are pulled up short by tantalizing glimpses, of a mysterious quality within nature — perhaps triggered by a beautiful sunset, the wisdom of birds and animals, or the vastness of space — glimpses that offer a truly awe-inspiring experience of something beyond oneself.   At such moments the mundane world is transfigured.

Such experiences, can lead to acknowledging a higher good and truth that exists beyond your own ability, and which is the source of inspiration for human effort. In this way of thinking, the focus is not on the strengths of humanity but on the strengths of the Divine presence within the human soul and accepting one’s dependence on this presence for finding tolerance, patience, and other virtue. Not, as do some Christians, in sanctimoniously promoting themselves as Godly and thus betraying a self-pride in being better than others. Instead, by genuinely bowing down to an origin of all that is good, the individual does not feel empty but full.

“Jesus is the God whom we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair.” (Blaise Pascal)

Neither need one indulge in self-abasement as do some believers but rather celebrate one’s ability to be uplifted and share the spiritual power available: not in denying the inner strength in oneself but rather in recognising that it is received from a higher Divine source. A bit of self-pride might not be an appropriate attitude for those with this kind of true humility.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

“God tempts no one.”

I-CAN-RESIST-EVERYTHING-BUT-TEMPTATION-480x600The above phase is taken from Emanuel Swedenborg’s Apocalypse Explained (246).

Yet elsewhere, Swedenborg insists that God’s truths cannot be instilled (acquired) into one’s inner life without temptations.

So what gives here?

According to Swedenborg, the Lord God uses every circumstance wisely (and providentially) to promote His heavenly trajectories. This means allowing infernal spirits (from hell) to reprove and chasten—that is, to challenge any genuinely spiritual idea in a person’s memory.

(Even noble ideas must go deeper than a person’s memory function in order to be appropriated. But such a temptation to make this happen is not permitted among those with wrongly oriented hearts.)

The resulting conflict (and friction) between opposing influences forges particular notions to form an eternal belief system within one’s inner (spiritual) organic fabric. In this way God uses evil to help in the process of spiritual transformation because evil is then used as an important passive principle to allow Truth to become organically fixed (qualified) deeply into the human spirit.

Gushiness, chumminess and worldly affirmations are manifestations of lazy worshippers choosing not to enter into this humbling process and self-conflict.

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Gratitude – How to feel it?

Psychology research is showing that grateful people are more likely to have higher levels of happiness and lower levels of stress and depression. An attitude of gratitude can make the difference between a life of fulfillment, or a life of emptiness.

True gratitude is more than merely saying ‘thank you’. It is not just noticing and appreciating the good qualities of a person or thing which make you pleased. Rather, the essence of the true spirit of gratitude is a positive feeling towards a benefactor and desiring to do something good in return.

gratitudeThankfulness can be seen in the humble innocence of a child. But this attitude may be lost as we grow up and adults can actually find the feeling of gratitude hard to cultivate, because it is the opposite of the normal state of self-orientation. It is very different from a striving to better one’s lot and contrary to a tendency to credit oneself for one’s successes while blaming others for one’s failures.

If you realise it is no good just waiting around to feel thankful, you will ask about what you can actually do to experience gratitude.

Finding gratitude by acknowledging unhelpful thoughts

As a child you may have been told ‘You are special’, ‘You’re number one’ and as an adult you are probably familiar with the ideas about consumer, democratic and human rights. And so having a sense of entitlement can easily be mistaken as natural and even healthy.  It is not uncommon to hear about some youngsters who seem to take everything for granted.

You might think that you are the centre of things but find life doesn’t meet your needs and desires. If so you might well feel aggrieved that you are not getting what you feel you deserve.

How can one feel grateful in this state of mind? Well you can’t according to cognitive therapy- not unless you change your expectations and assumptions.

“There’s nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so” (Hamlet – William Shakespeare)

Is it not true that we disturb ourselves by the beliefs we hold about events?

However, you can challenge a negative habit of thinking once you have spotted it in yourself. One way of challenging aggrieved thinking is to consider the notion that the world owes you nothing: that anything good that happens to you is a gift: something extra to what one might expect which can be appreciated and enjoyed.

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has” (Stoic philosopher, Epictetus)

Acting as if one already had gratitude

One exercise is to write down what is good in your life instead of what is bad. This needs to be done on a regular basis perhaps once a week.

It helps to do this by thinking about:

  • What you do have, instead of what you don’t have,
  • Where you are lucky, instead of where you are unlucky,
  • What you love, instead of what you hate,
  • Who likes you, instead of who does not,
  • Where you feel empowered, instead of where you feel helpless,
  • Where you feel inspired, instead of where you feel depressed.

Even if you are sceptical “once you get started, you find more and more things to be grateful for,” says Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher at the University of California at Davis.

He says gratitude doesn’t depend on circumstances. You can be grateful for just about anything that you’ve received in part because of someone or something else. You may feel grateful to your neighbour for a favour, to luck for meeting your spouse, to nature for a scenic view or to fate or a higher power for your safety. Thankfulness helps you see that you’re an object of love and care.

Gratitude as a sign of a noble soul

There is a fable by Aesop about a slave who pulls a thorn out of the paw of a lion. Some time later, the slave and the lion are captured, and the slave is thrown to the lion. The hungry lion rushes bounding and roaring toward the slave, but, upon recognizing his friend, he fawns upon him and licks his hands like a friendly dog. ‘Gratitude’, Aesop concludes, ‘is the sign of noble souls’

From a spiritual perspective, gratitude enables one to connect with something that is not only larger than oneself but also fundamentally good and reassuring. It opens our eyes to the miracle that is life, something to marvel at, revel in, and celebrate, rather than ignore or take for granted as it flies us by.

Gratitude thus involves a dimension of awe, wonder or humility. Christian believers say that ultimately all good things come from the Lord God, the source of goodness, and we are helpless without this higher power active in our lives.

Gratitude in the afterlife

Emanuel Swedenborg described his visions of a heavenly afterlife. He wrote that the angels refuse all thanks from others for the good things they do. They direct all such expressions of gratitude to the Lord God. For, they say, without the Lord they could not carry out anything useful.

They are said to give a further reason for not wanting to be thanked. Doing useful things is the delight of their lives, so why should they be thanked for doing what delights them?

Copyright 2015 Stephen Russell-Lacy Author Heart, Head & Hands

Posted on20th August 2015CategoriesHealing attitudes, Latest post, Spiritual healingTags, , , , ,

Humility

Humility

Matthew 5: 1-11: “1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  2. Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.
  3. Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.
  4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.
  5. Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.
  6. Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.
  7. Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.
  8. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  9. “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matthew 16:24: “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” “

Matthew 16:25: “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

Mark 10:15: “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

(compare Matthew 19:13-15 and Luke 18:15-17):

Matthew 19:13-15: “13 Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.”

Luke 18:15-17: “15 Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 17 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

John 12:25: “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”