Monday, April 12, 2010

My Call To Ministry

In the early hours of December 8th, 1993, I received my call to ministry. It came in the form of a dream-vision from God.

At first in the dream-vision, I was being shown around an area that worried me, as it was of a Hindu teacher. Then this Voice I completely trusted told me I could trust this Hindu teacher, he was the real thing. So I turned back, and I was at Lake Shrine (the same place I had gone to during my month of silence in Los Angeles). Paramahansa Yogananda was standing in front of me, and just over a tiny bridge was Shunryu Suzuki. Yogananda told me firmly and directly I needed to be a minister. Before I could say anything, Rev. Russ - the minister of Santa Anita Church - came into sight, and began whispering into Yogananda's ears, his doubts about me. Yogananda kept nodding his head showing he was aware of everything Rev. Russ said. All the while, he never took his eyes off of me, and repeatedly said, "You need to be a minister, you need to be a minister. " Behind him Suzuki Roshi was nodding his head in vigorous agreement.

And that was it. I knew almost nothing about Yogananda. I was familiar with Shunryu Suzuki through his book Zen Mind, Beginners Mind which I had read in college. I had so many questions. Who was Yogananda, was forefront in my questions, so I went to the bookstore and discovered his book, Autobiography of a Yogi. I also wondered why God asked a Hindu and Buddhist to tell me to be a minister? what about Jesus? Of what was I to be a minister?

There were many questions, but the one question that I no longer asked was, what was I going to do with the rest of my life? I knew whatever it was going to look like, I was on the path to become a minister.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Jesus At His "Death"

"Jesus is the example not the exception" is a common understanding in New Thought. The idea is that The Christ is a principle, not a person. It is God fully awakened as individuality, of which Jesus is an (not "the") example. Thus, the intention is not to imitate Jesus, but listen and commune with Who (and What) Jesus was listening and communing. In this way, we each - made in the image and likeness of God- progress on our individual path to Christ Consciousness.

To be like Jesus has been my deepest desire since I was a girl. As I grew up, my understanding evolved into the above idea. It's a powerful concept, and sometimes this highly rational concept can lose the awe that comes with the rarity of fully realized Souls.

One afternoon in the fall of 1993, I was meditating on the mantra, "The Christ and I are One". Without knowing when I shifted, the "I" (beyond Harriet) was in a crowd of people and the aura/energy of the place was so sacred it almost had the feeling it shouldn't be touched. "I" was pushing through a crowd of people to see something, and then I saw. It was Jesus, laid out on stretcher of some kind, as He was being moved from the cross to the tomb. The energy I was feeling was coming from "Him", though His body was "dead". And that's it, I was back in my room, my breath taken away.

I barely even saw Him, and yet the vibration, the sacredness, was beyond anything I could ever possibly describe. Even writing it now, it brings me to tears in awe. I have written several of my altered -state/mystical experiences, yet nothing compares to the feeling of being for a moment in His Presence, even at His "death."

He may be the example, but I dare say, most of us have one heck of a long way to go before we will ever come close to living at His level of embodiment. I bow in joyful humility at what I do not understand.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Wild Revelation Blows My Mind

I told God I was willing to serve, in any way, on two conditions; it had to be enjoyable and I had to get paid enough to support myself. Coming from a time of such stillness, I effortlessly got I was to move back to the east coast, to which I effortlessly said yes. And continuing in this listening energy, when first a friend recommended for me to work in a psychiatric hospital (she worked in the mental health field), then my Dad's neighbor the next day told me about an opening at a private psychiatric hospital 5 minutes away, I acted.

For my first 3 weeks working as a psychiatric technician at Dominion Hospital, I cried every day. There was so much pain in that building and it seemed like I was feeling it all. Eventually, however, I did build up an immunity as I was told I would.

I loved working at Dominion! I loved that being of service 8 hours a day meant a lot of talking about real things. I was thrilled I received a paycheck for something I loved to do. In addition to the work, the staff was fun and I made some wonderful friends. I had never been happier in my life.

One day in the quiet of my apartment, I began to read some of my old journals, when I read something that blew my mind. 6 years earlier I had been having dreams where there was some discussion about my possible death. Everything was fine in my waking life, and the dreams themselves weren't emotional, just matter of fact. Then I had this dream, recorded August 16, 1987:

"I had a dream the other night about how I didn't want to die because I have so much to live for. I saw me working like in a psychiatric hospital, making friends with the staff and the feelings of comfort and love was there. All the senses seemed to be at work in an effort to convince somebody (I think it was myself or maybe God - something non-identifiable - or it was trying to convince me - there were 2 things there, who was doing the convincing and who was doing the listening is unknown) that to die now and I'd miss out on a very happy life. I must say it was pretty convincing and I woke up feeling refreshed and motivated and happy at the thought of such a nice future."

I shook as I read this knowledge written years before. What knew I was going to be working at this hospital and knew I'd be as happy as I was? And all the things that had happened in the 6 years in-between that dream and working at Dominion, did It know that was all going to happen to0? Did I really have choice in my life? So many questions, but I didn't try to answer them at that moment, I just let myself revel in the awe-inspiring mystery of this Love-Intelligence that was way, way beyond my human concepts.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Practice, Patience and Peace

Doing my 3 spiritual practices began to give me a stable, inner strength I had never known before. I found a TM center, paid for my mantra, took some basic meditation classes and began meditating twenty minutes twice a day. Journaling was always fun and the consistent exercise was helping me physically. Spiritually I was now feeding myself, and with that, I realized my time in ministerial school was at an end. I was there only for spiritual growth, but I had no calling from God to be a minister, so to continue there felt out of integrity with my Soul.

What was next? I had no idea, so I decided to spend a month in the silence. I told all family and friends not to contact me, I didn't work, go to school, watch t.v. or listen to the radio. I read, meditated, walked, journals, read for 30 days.

Just up the street from the TM center was Lake Shrine Temple. I knew nothing about the organization, but the lake was beautiful, surrounded by statues dedicated to each of the world's religions. I went there almost every day to read and contemplate. They had a bookstore with a guru's picture, so I made sure to steer clear of that, as I had heard so many news reports of unethical Hindu gurus.

The first half of the month being in the "silence" was agony. By the second half of the month, however, my mind had slowed down quite a bit and I knew the "Peace that passes all human understanding." Though no clarity about what I was supposed to do with my life came at the end of the 30 days, I was clear that I was supposed to participate in life and not be a hermit. Finding peace away from the active world felt very familiar, and my growth this lifetime was to find that Peace in the midst of worldly activity. This clarity was energizing and freeing, the question of being some sort of hermit was now off-the-table.

The last Wed. of my 30 days, I went to a evening service and the Agape International Center of Truth. I had been there before, but had found the yelling too much, as well as the non-linear style of Rev. Michael a turn-off. Yet I was pulled back there after the month of silence, and as I sat in the sanctuary, eyes closed, mind still, I was in awe both in what Rev. Michael was saying and the inner place from where it was coming. I remember looking around at the people, amazed, all these people were getting the depth of this mysticism. Church was now up-leveled to a whole new stratosphere. I sat in awe and gratitude for the richness my spiritual life was becoming.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

My Path To God, And Who I am, Is One And The Same

Just over 2 weeks after making my God First commitment, I was blessed with a stunning revelation while I was reading about Hinduism's four paths to God in Huston Smith's book, The World's Religions. I had always read that the path of jnana yoga was the path of knowledge, and as such, had rejected it as way too intellectual for me. However in his book Smith called it the path of the reflective, which didn't have such a negative connotation for me, so as I read his description with less resistance, I realized I was reading an description of myself. Everything he described was how I had been my whole life, not out of effort but because I couldn't help it. With this realization, I began to shift into another state of consciousness.

I, but now the "I" transcended my body/mind "I", knew that my path to God and who I Am was one and the same thing. With this realization, I was awash in Light, then walls of my apartment dissolved into pure Light and I could see and feel my oneness with a homeless guy that hung out on a street a few blocks away. It was blissful to see and know, for the moment, who I was.

Later that night, I woke up and this Light energy was pouring into my body from above, and my understanding of It was, this Light was Truth. I very much felt the strong intentionality of this Intelligence to accept who I was.

It took me a long time to figure out why the homeless man was part of the experience, it made me nervous at first, was I to be homeless? What finally dawned on me is, I associated reflective type people as disassociated from the pain of the world,one of my judgments of folks on this path. What this vision revealed to me was that in being myself, I was one with the homeless, not separate. As New Thought teacher, Ernest Holmes says ,there is nothing to be healed, only God to be revealed.

As extraordinary and blissful as this experience was, it still has been difficult for me to embrace over the years. Reflection has seemed more like a hobby, not as "real" as the other 3 paths. Karma yoga (path of service), especially is where I have perceived really "good" people live as they are the ones who make a difference because they do. Over and over the Light experience, described above, has been a blessing for me, reminding me that my natural way of being is actually the way I'm supposed to be...amazing.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

God First

I joined my 15 classmates for a Christmas potluck to celebrate the end of the fall term. Besides the joyful communion, Rev. Russ had assigned us to write out any spiritual/mystical experiences we had had in our lifetime. Up until that point, not only had I never shared my mystical experiences, I had never thought about them collectively before. I wrote them out, excited and nervous to share them for the first time.

That evening is one of my all-time favorite Christmas celebrations ever! I had never heard other people’s mystical/spiritual experiences before. To sit together, and listen as each person stood and shared their experiences - each so unique and extraordinary - was expansive. The gross physical energy in the room got lighter and lighter, the veil was thin. I shared my experiences in this energy without fear, without any feeling of superiority (spiritual materialism) or inferiority, just in the joy of being in the Light with my friends. For the first time, I wasn’t alone in God, but experiencing this Light with others. It was pure delight!

Then for Christmas, that year, I flew to Boston to be with my oldest brother, his wife and their 2-month-old baby while David went to Mexico for Christmas. I had been floundering all year, and to suddenly be in the midst of my very stable family, continued the healing begun at the Christmas potluck. It wasn’t in the words my family spoke, it was the way they lived their lives day to day, calm, clear, anchored in high ethics and fun. It was a relief. I breathed a little deeper.

The day after Christmas, I walked around Boston, contemplating. I ended up at Old South Church in Copley Square. It was the same denomination of my childhood church (United Church of Christ), and there too, I felt the stability of tradition. I sat in the back pew, I was the only one in the sanctuary, and poured my heart out to Jesus The Christ.

I was powerless to change my life. I cried and cried and cried, I had no idea what to do. Then I just knew. The declaration I made earlier in the year came to me full force, God had to be first in my life every day. I was putting everything before God, and yet God was the reason I wanted to be alive. I breathed. I also knew in my heart, that whatever commitment I made, I made in the name and Spirit of Jesus The Christ, as He was my home, my roots and my anchor in God.

“But Jesus”, I said, “This is too abstract. I want to live for God everyday, but if there’s one thing I now know is, a thought isn’t strong enough for me. I have to anchor it in something I can do, or the idea of God First, just dissipates in the daily grind of life.” I left the church that day with the agreement that I would listen to Jesus The Christ’s guidance over the next week as to how I could anchor my commitment of - God First -every day.

On New Year’s Eve, I was back in L.A., sitting at my dining room table making my commitments. Jesus The Christ had made clear what it was I was to do. I was to meditate (and I didn’t have to worry “how”, just sit silently watching my breath go in and out), journal and exercise every day as my way of saying, “God is first in my life”.

As I wrote my commitments, I released trying to change, or fix anything in my life, I completely surrendered everything. The only thing that mattered was to get those 3 things done everyday, they were more important than my relationships, school, work, my emotions, my tiredness, my thoughts, it didn’t matter - God First. This was going to be the foundation for my new life.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Life's Curriculum

1991 - a year of extraordinary pain and confusion. I entered the Santa Anita ministerial school, not from a calling to be a minister, but I craved spiritual growth and these were the only consistent classes being offered at the church. Who knew that the real curriculum was going to come from life itself?

Feeling lonely, as a single 25 year old in a family environment (L.A.suburbs), I took the first job I could get on the west side of L.A. It was at an ethically questionable telemarketing firm, from which I would have normally walked away, but the charm of the manager kept me. In fact, it wasn't long before David - the manager - and I were in a passionate romance. He was fun, affectionate and charming. I loved being in his company and soon found myself often deciding, at the last minute, not to take the long trips back to go to my ministerial classes, but instead spend the evening with David.

Misery soon became a close companion to the fun. So many wars inside of me welled up at once. I was ashamed and upset I wasn't going to my classes, the whole reason I moved across country. I also had had the vision of becoming a mother, so now I examined this relationship - the first since Paul - as something more than just fun...could I be married to David? The answer within me was no, we were very differently motivated. However, though my mind was saying no, my emotions and body were totally hooked. I couldn't let go of him.

I couldn't understand my behavior. I couldn't understand why I was doing what was "wrong" by not going to class and by not breaking off this relationship that didn't have a future. There were times when rage would explode against David, I hated him with as much passion as I loved him. Then the hate would turn on myself, how much I hated myself because I couldn't make myself act in the way I knew I should. I knew the power of mind, I knew my psychological story from all those years in therapy, and all this knowing couldn't touch this need that was consuming me. I couldn't fix it, control it, change it, no matter what I tried, I just couldn't change myself.

Frustrated, I went hiking in the Foothill mountains one day, to sort out my thoughts. With no other hikers around, I felt free to talk out loud to God and I did. I talked and talked and talked as I climbed up one of the mountain trails until I reached the point of exhaustion. Then on the descent, with my mind completely still from the exhaustion, I heard - coming from the trees - "Write, write, write". It's the only time I have heard this Voice coming externally from me. I was so grateful for this "answer", though I wasn't sure what I was to write. I decided I could write more consistently in my journal. In my past, when my emotions overwhelmed me, I would stop writing in my journal for months, I guess afraid to really see myself. It was time to be willing to be naked - at least to myself- in my writing about the darkness I was in.

I dropped out of ministerial school in the spring, I was too far behind to catch up. The darkness in my heart intensified. After one of my rages late one night, David comforted me as he always did, and went to bed. I remember - and wrote in my journal about- standing at the balcony wondering why I was staying alive. I detested myself, I had no close friends, and though I loved my family, we had very little to do with each other's daily lives. I figured they wouldn't miss me more than a few days. There was no one to stay alive for, least of all myself. Then I became aware of The Powerful Presence of God right there with me and I knew that God wanted me to live. I said, "okay, I have no idea why You want me to live, but I'll stay. The only reason why I'm staying on this planet is because of You and no other reason." From that moment on, I never allowed myself to consider intentional death again. It actually was very helpful to know why I was on the planet as, until I made that declaration, I was never sure.

I had stayed in touch with some of my classmates from ministerial school, and wanted to return to school in the fall. I met with Rev. Russ Williams, the minister of the church and dean of the ministerial school. I told him I just didn't understand why I had stopped coming to classes when I loved what I was learning. The only answers I could come up with were about the weakness of my character, and I was sure he was going to lay into me as well. Instead, his response was of compassionate wisdom, "Harriet" he said,"David is obviously meeting a need you have more than school is. What is that need?"

That totally shocked me. I had been rejecting my dependency on David so much, that it had never occurred to me there was something good in it. I had no immediate answer for Rev. Russ, but over time my answer became clear, "love".

When I was with David, I felt physically and emotionally loved. His constant affection, both verbally and physically, were the balm that my Soul longed for more than anything else. Even at my worst, David did not reject me, but loved me. Classes, even about God, were still classes. David was, in the flesh, love.

With this new revelation, the intensity of the self-hatred lessened, but did not go away. I wanted to change things, me, the situation, my life, but I still had no idea how. Why was my spiritual journey not leading me to fulfillment in God's Love? I was stuck.