Monday, May 26, 2008

This Is Your Ego Speaking.....

I found this picture on my computer in "My Pictures" the other day. I don't know where I ran across it..or when I saved it, but I thought it very much applied to the teachings of Tolle about the ego, the dysfunctional parasite of worry and other consequences of living out of our egoic mind. ATT257579It also applies to the teachings of Byron Katie (the Work) and the self help methods of David Burns explained in his book "Feeling Good." It explains Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in detail. Eckhart tells us that we are not our thoughts. Now we have Maxine's words on it....

Who needs more confirmation that that?

Christ Within - More Musings on ANE

On The Beautiful Heresy, my friend Brian said:

As much as any teacher I've ever seen, Tolle talks about working from a completely different place and putting aside the "old man". The difference I see between Tolle and traditional Christianity is instead of a reaching up and out for G-d, it's a reaching inward to find G-d.

The following verse came to mind when I read the above snippet from Brian's post....

Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:[Col 1:26,27]

I think the Christ in you is another name for what Tolle refers to as Being or Presence. On Oprah's message boards, there are Christians on a mission to declare loud and clear that Tolle is everything from deluded to the antichrist....or worse....yet for me, scripture after scripture comes to mind....illuminated in a new me a deeper understanding.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

More Thoughts on Eckhart's Teachings....

Some of the following post was adapted from writings I've posted on other forums where A New Earth was being discussed.

I find the thoughts in A New Earth very enlightening. I keep underlining, marking passages with an asterisk, circling things, jotting down much applies. The weird thing is that it also encompasses some of the other "teachers" I've been exposed to over the past year or so. There were a lot of passages in the first couple of chapters that reeked of Girard's theory. Gleaned a few insights there into yearning and craving and always wanting more.

Then there is Byran Katie. I've read some of her stuff on the internet and downloaded some of the "worksheets" she has on line. I have even used a few to try to get a clearer view of things going on in my own (tumultuous) life right now. I think a lot of her teachings sort of line up with Tolle's. She is a bit more "in your face" about it....

There is a video on her website where she does "the work" with a man who has what appears to be terminal cancer. It could be argued that in it she goes a bit too far....but perhaps it is just more of a shock jock kind of way of doing the same thing Tolle encourages...acceptance of what is. Her turn it around questions seem to expose the lie we are telling ourselves about so many different things that are "truth" to us. I also noted several times that Tolle referred to "your story" which is the collective life experiences and things that form your identity...things that your ego clings to and identifies with. Katie also asks the question "Who would you be without your story?"

David Burns is someone who the counselor introduced me to. I am enough of an open book to admit that I am going to a counselor in order to try to sort out some of the issues with my daughter and the turmoil it has caused between the four adults involved. At our first session, she told me I should order his book. His book came a while ago (used from Amazon). I have only leafed through it at this point, but I had already gleaned his major premises on the internet (in addition to some cool worksheets and "exercises") His belief is that we bring on much of our own depression and grief by ten distorted thought processes. From a quick google cyber trip yesterday morning, I saw there are variations of CBT which incorporate "mindfulness" into the basic premise. This seems to be getting away from some of the guidelines of Tolle perhaps but one website I visited described CBT as mindfulness for beginners. Sort of a very practical way to start to disarm one's negative thought patterns. Tolle says that awareness of this is the beginning of the process. Perhaps CBT is the way to awareness. I see myself in a great many of the CBT distorted thought processes.

One place I visited this morning (love to google) said the following:
Here are 3 broad categories of ways of breaking the cycle of negative thoughts that are at the root of most (or possibly all) our psychological distress:
1. Change our behavior
2. Change our thoughts/perceptions
3. Get out of our heads altogether - instead of thinking or doing, we are being
The "teachers" that I mentioned above encompass one or more of these three areas..and in fact, these three categories greatly overlap. If we master #2, #1 automatically occurs. Still working on the "we are being" thing image

As the daughter of a worry wart mother, who was the daughter of worry wart parents, my dysfunctions come from both nurture and nature. Right now my teenage daughter encompasses a lot of my thoughts...and has affected relationships with her dad, her stepmother and her stepdad....not to mention siblings who have been affected by her behavior and all the attention that goes to her. It has been very mixed up and distressing...with a few steps forward followed immediately by a few steps back. Although it is SLOW going, I hope some of this awareness will eventually help the situation.

As far as the spiritual implications....I am for the first time getting an understanding of the christ within vs. the carnal/adamic man, flesh....whatever you want to call what Tolle calls the "ego." This goes beyond the practical, everyday, more secular results and understanding. As far as the terminology etc., I find that some of the way Tolle expresses things is a bit like the message bible. Some of the confusing verses in the KJV are much more understandable in the Message. Some of the confusing concepts seem to be easier to grasp when worded just a bit differently. I know that when I am reading Tolle, scriptures spring to mind. I don't necessarily swallow everything Tolle says...nor do I swallow everything ANYone says...but always looking for the diamond in what some might consider a dungheap.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Self Inflicted Pain of Worry

On The Beautiful Heresy Message Board we are doing a book study on A New Earth. Brian said:

One of the lessons from Buddhism that sticks out with me is the "second arrow". When we screw up or someone does something to us, that's the first arrow in us. We can't avoid that. It happens. But, the second and third and subsequent arrows are self-inflicted. When we obsess over something we've done wrong and wallow in guilt (even guilt over having the guilt), we inflict unnecessary suffering on ourselves. Those are the arrows I'm learning to avoid.

One teacher I know put it this way. "Pain is inevitable. But, suffering is optional."

Hmmmmm...and how about the self inflicted pain of worry...which seems to be related to the arrow theory. You could probably substitute the word guilt for the word worry in the quotes below and it would equally apply....or anger...or fear....etc.

As I've mentioned before, I've been spending some time at Oprah's web site....listening to or reading the transcripts from their discussions. Following are some quotes about worry that I thought were very good.


Tolle said:
Now, something applies that we talked about the other week when we are talking about worry. Worry is another type of that kind of thinking, what you call obsessing. These thoughts, the way I put it two weeks ago was these thoughts pretend to be important and necessary. These thoughts want to draw in all your conscious attention. It's almost as if every thought were saying, "Give me your attention, this is very important, you must think about this, think, think. So these, the thoughts have the ability, they have a certain momentum behind them. This is the momentum of the mind. And so it's not easy to become free of that. But the first freedom is in realizing their futility in the moment they happen. And to realize that it is, they fulfill no useful purpose except to make your life miserable. It's like a little parasite. Egoic thought patterns are almost like a parasitic entity that lives in you, and it sucks up all your conscious attention.


My daughter made referred to me as a glass half empty kind of person. That's me...the queen of the worst case scenario....a firm believer in Murphy's Law....even though my fears have not come to pass so many times. More scripture comes to mind....

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

In ALL Things Give Thanks...

I’ve just about finished ANE…reading slowly….reading a lot of the message boards on Oprah and listening to the webinars. We’ve been on vacation this week. We went to Ontario over the weekend. It was their long weekend…so we usually go then since we can visit longer with people since they don’t have to on the Monday. They take it seriously too since even walmart’s were closed on Monday (Queen Victoria’s Day) We came home Monday and on the way home, I started to get sick. By Monday night I had a full fledged stomach virus….aches, pains and all the other unpleasantries that go with a stomach virus. I was sick all day Tuesday (deathly) and most of yesterday was spent being awake for a few hours…back to bed. I feel okay today but am resentful of spending two vacation days sick.

“Coincidentally” I was reading the transcript from Chapter 7 last night and part of the the conversation went like this:


OPRAH: And that when you acknowledge and are grateful for whatever you have, when you can see and feel the gratitude, experience the gratitude in whatever you have, that changes your vibrational frequency…literally.


OPRAH: And allows more to be drawn to you.

ECKHART:Yes. It changes your entire reality. It changes the way in which you experience life.

OPRAH: Yes it does.

ECKHART: It changes your world. And so it's—if that's the only thing people remember, there are many things in this book, but just if they want to change their lives, they're not happy with their lives, bring gratitude into it, which is, of course, connected also to the present moment because it's only, "Here in this moment…what is it in this moment that I can be grateful for?" And then you suddenly say, "Oh, it's all that." There's always—it's miraculous if you truly look around and sense and feel, it's miraculous. The entire universe is miraculous. And when you are so trapped in your thoughts that you don't see this anymore, then the entire universe becomes dead to you and there's nothing new that ever arises.

OPRAH: You know, I was practicing this this weekend, I was saying to Eckhart before we started that I was under the weather and had an obligation in New Orleans and wasn't able to fulfill that commitment, and normally I would've just been beating myself up about it, cause I've never had to cancel anything before, but I decided to be with the fact that I was sick. And I had one of the happiest days of my life being sick in bed because I accepted it and was not fighting the fact that I wasn't well. I thought, "I'm going to be with feeling badly, and I'm going to appreciate everything about the day." So every cup of tea that Stedman brought me, I was happy. And happy that I was, you know, I had clean sheets. I mean—and happy that I could open the curtains and there was sun coming through the window. Just—and I just had the most happy time being sick in bed. Yeah. So that's what you're talking about.


So, let’s just say that I was not thinking about the clean sheets (although they were) and I was not thinking about the cup of tea (other than the fact that I was throwing it up) nor was I especially thankful for Keith even though he was very gracious about having two days of his vacation plans spoiled because of me. I wish that I had read this snippet before I was sick….because in retrospect, there were things I could have been grateful for. One is that the kids are with their dad this week and I didn’t have to deal with them (since even talking was “painful”) and that I didn’t get really sick until I got home near my own bathroom. I was fine while I was there in Ontario for three days and we got to do all that we planned on doing. That Keith went to the store for me to get me apple juice and chicken noodle soup (which I threw up) I watched a movie with Keith in the afternoon on Tuesday, something I rarely do, but I was too sick to do anything else at that point (and it was a good movie). I’m sure I could go on…..but again the book reminds me of scripture….a well known scripture…..

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you

….. and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.

I have no deep insights from this “lesson” other than to remind myself to remind myself of what I have to be grateful for in each and every moment….which may be the point afterall…..

A New Earth....

Lately I have been immersed in Eckhart Tolle's book, A New Earth. It has been teaching me miraculous things about scripture and Christianity, even though it is not a specifically Christian book. In fact, many would claim that it is an anti Christian book.

Oprah has just completed hosting a 10 or so week class through what she calls a webinar, which is a 90 minute discussion with Eckhart which was available to view live on line or to download. Viewers could call in, skype in or email in questions about the current chapter and Eckhart and Oprah answered their questions and discussed aspects of the book chapter by chapter. The first series of classes are over but there is a summer session coming up....registration is open now. Transcipts from the webinars are also available to read online or download. There are many other resource available on her site including message boards, (which is where I have spent a lot of my time lately, reading but not posting) a blog by Eckharts life partner (personal and business) and the archives of a radio broadcast by Elizabeth Lesser which aired every Monday after the webinar. You have to join in order to access some of these resources, but it is a simple process and well worth the few minutes it takes to register. There are also many other resources on her site, too numerous to mention and outside the scope of this blog post.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Binding of Isaac Revisited

During my cyber journeys this morning, I came upon a blog post called A Girardian Interpretation of Genesis 22:1-14 on a blog called Faynights. It looks like the last post was sometime in 2007 so it is not a currently updated blog. The post about the Binding of Isaac was written as an essay for the author's Hebrew class. It brought out a few Girardian points I have not seen mentioned anywhere else. Isn't it amazing what you can find on google!!!???

One of the points she brings concerns the knife referred to several times in the text:

As Abraham prepares to kill Isaac, the language used is not that of ritual but that of butchery. In his translation of the Pentateuch, Robert Alter points out that the word מאכלת, which is used throughout for the knife, usually refers to a cleaver used in butchering rather than a weapon used for sacrifice. Likewise, עקד (verse 9), while it does not appear elsewhere in the Old Testament, is used in rabbinic Hebrew to mean trussing the legs of animals, and שחט (verse 10) means not “sacrifice” but “slaughter.” 5 It is difficult to see the attempted killing as having the dignity of a divinely approved ritual when this brutal vocabulary is used.

Now that is interesting indeed, eh? Makes me think of comparisons of Scripture to an onion...layer upon layer upon layer. Or another way of looking at it is that the deeper we dig, the more we find.

Another interesting facet of the tale when examined from a Girardian perspective is that Isaac is identified as the victim/sacrifice and the text clearly stresses his innocence. Scapegoats are usually perceived as guilty of something...and in fact, it is because of the belief in their guilt that the whole thing works as a kind of catharsis for the mimetic rivalry that is threatening to erupt into the all against all scenario. In this essay she says:

Indeed, it may be to emphasize his innocence that the author depicts him as if he were a young child, even though the timescale of Genesis suggests he would have been an adult. Girard believes that this acknowledgement of the victim‘s innocence is the first step in dismantling the sacrificial process:

She also discusses the "name change" of God in the text. I think I discussed this in one of the posts in the "series." I originally got the idea from the Girardian Lectionary...which she also quotes in her essay. About this name change she says:

Another very significant change in vocabulary occurs when the angel saves Isaac. Up to this point, the word used for God has been אלהים. While often used in the Old Testament to mean the God of Israel, this is really a generic term that can refer to any god or goddess. Only when Isaac is rescued does the true name of God -- יהוה, “the Eternal” -- appear in the text.

She also discusses some very interesting thoughts about the ram that was caught in the thicket....things I have never pondered before. Why a ram? If Isaac is a "picture of Christ" as many believe, then why not a lamb...a sheep? Why a ram? A wild animal? And although it is thought astounding to many that the ram was caught in a thicket, in nature it happens often during mating season when they are in a mating frenzy. She says:

How did the ram come to be caught by its horns? This sort of accident is not uncommon among wild hoofed mammals during the battles of mating season. It usually happens either when the animal is ‘horning’ vegetation to intimidate a rival, or as it charges in a blind rage. An animal caught this way is doomed: it will either be killed by a predator or starve. 8 Could it be that the ram appears in the story, not to provide Abraham with a “surrogate victim" 9, but as another warning of the destructive effects of rivalry and violence?

There's that onion again...layer upon layer. Then she goes on to mention the name Abraham gives the mountain....not "God spared my son" but rather "The Eternal Sees." I have not checked this out in any other resource. I am taking her word for it. It does make sense...and what is it that the "Eternal Sees" that we don't yet...even still to this day? This whole mimetic rivalry thing...pent up anger...the need to find a scapegoat...a victim to hang all societies ills upon. We still scapegoat as surely as they did in ancient times. The ritual is different, less crude, perhaps more subtle and hidden, but the heart of it, the purpose is still the same.

Lastly, in the footnotes, she cites some sources that discuss the ram:

In her classic account of the wildlife of the American Southwest, The Land of Little Rain, Mary Austin describes finding the skeleton of a young ram with its horns still embedded in the trunk of a tree (p. 58). And Richard Despard Estes, an expert on the hoofed mammals of Africa, tells a true story that could just as well serve as a parable. Two fighting springboks found their horns inextricably locked; each spent the rest of its life face to face with its rival as they starved to death together (African Mammals, p. 83).

My sincere thanks and accolades to Laura Brown, the author of this essay. She brought out several points that peeled another layer off the onion. And my sincere thanks, as always, to google, for the many vistas it has opened for me....the information that came to me with the click of my mouse. Someone told me that yesterday was "shut it off" day...a challenge to turn off your computer for 24 hours to see if you could do it. Now why would I ever want to do such a thing??

Thinking Some More About This Old Testament Stuff....

Some of these recent posts (inspired by recent reading) have really got me thinking. Even though in the past, I have alluded to the belief that God had nothing to do with the violence in the OT. That can't quite be true because it is pretty obvious...if only by his inaction...that he did. In other words, even if he did not directly order the wars and pillaging and plundering, he let it all happen and is therefore responsible for it. Ultimately, the buck stops with God. I am musing here. What follows are random thoughts that are not refined...are not thought out. Much of this blog is made up of research and random thinking. I am on a journey, an exploration. Sometimes in determining what we do not believe, we come to find out what we do believe and hold it nearer and dearer to our hearts.

At this point, I do believe that something pivotal happened in the garden...or a very early part of our human journey began there. (There is the question of pre-existence...which cannot be tackled in this post...but might make a good series at some point in the future) When we ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, it began the process whereby we would become acquainted with evil and by which God would make us into his image and likeness. Girard thinks the fall had to do with mimesis...mimetic rivalry....when the serpent enticed Eve by telling her that God possessed something she did not...something that would open her eyes and make her like God and that he was trying to keep it for himself. She fell prey to mimetic rivalry and the whole scapegoating process began. Tolle believes that the fall took place when we acquired the ability to think and our thoughts overtook us and alienated us from God. Tolle's beliefs are not necessarily incompatible with Girard's. Did we have a choice in the garden? I don't know. Someone who used to post on some of the same forums as I did believed that we did have an element of choice, but that if mankind had not "fallen" in the garden, they would have fallen sooner or later.

Perhaps to take us from where we were after the fall to where God wants us to be (a process that is still taking place) mankind had to go through all the wars, the OT atrocities, the sacrificial system etc. But the flaw, the weakness, the propensity toward violence and mimetic rivalry, the vengeance etc. is in the heart of man, not in the heart of God. He endures with long suffering the vessels of wrath (us) fitted for destruction. Us.

It is still hard to reconcile the God we see in Jesus with the warrior God of the OT. Perhaps, like the God Quest site proclaims, satan was the one who handed down most of the commands in the Old Testament. I am thinking, perhaps, God allowed him the liberty to direct mankind for a while. He gave satan some slack in the leash he is on, similar to the slack God gave him when he tormented Job. Granted, God called satan's attention to Job and when "prompted" gave satan permission to torment Job. God did set clear limits on how far satan could go but did not specifically say just what those tortures and torments would entail.

Or perhaps it was just mankind's carnal nature that orchestrated most of the violence in the OT...with God coming to the rescue when they got themselves in too big of a bind to get out of.

Just musing here....lots of thoughts running through my mind...including the fact that it is time to make dinner.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Other Thoughts and Resources on the OT Atrocities 2

As I mentioned in "part 1", Greg Boyd is doing a series of articles about the OT atrocities. In the last two posts he focused on the book "The Problem of War in the Old Testament" by Philip Craigie. Boyd says, "

"Craigie’s small book contains a number of insights that I believe can help us begin to reconcile the "God as warrior" motif of the Old Testament with the self-sacrificial God revealed in Jesus Christ."

Hmmmmm....isn't that what almost everyone has to somehow come to terms with at some point in their Christian walk? I am doing it right now....and with perhaps a bit of a paradigm switch because of some of the ideas I've read in Boyd's blog entries and especially in the article I mentioned in part 1 of this post.

In Christians and Violence the author states that he sees two possible hypotheses. that might explain what appears to be profound differences between the God of the OT and Jesus. Hypotheses A is that:

"God's unabashed involvement in war signals that the God of the Old Testament is in essence a deity that thrives on war and violence."

The problem with that, however, is that it conflicts with a God of love and compassion. Yep, sure does. His hypotheses B entails three points:

1) God has a make men and women in his own image who will ultimately serve him out of love.

2) God is fully committed to the principle of partnership with humanity...meaning that he not only works ON us and IN us to achieve his purpose, but he also works WITH us.

3) Because he has chosen to work in cahoots with sinful man, he meets us where we are...with all our foibles, warts and weaknesses. We are trapped in history and although he probably could magically transform us to a higher level of awareness, morality etc, he has chosen not to work that way. There is a verse in the Psalms that declares, "he stoops down to make me great." Perhaps in the OT times he had to stoop very low, indeed, to meet mankind where we were in our in development.

The author of this article, uses as an example, a father playing on the floor with his young sons....rolling around, tickling, carrying on. If one were to judge him infantile, they would not understand he has condescended to the level of the kids. And so, perhaps it is with God.

A father cannot expect little children to come up to his level; if he really wishes to relate to them in a significant manner, he must take into account their limitations and adapt himself to their

Now this is starting to make a bit of sense. Even though I still cannot reconcile the thought that God actually ordered the carnage in the OT, I can accept that he did not stop it and that he actually used it to achieve his purposes. If there was some supernatural help there in some of the situations, I'm not sure. Will have to ponder that a bit more.....

This author points out that God's involvement in war in the OT:

.....does not suggest that God is essentially violent in character. On the contrary, his willingness to intervene and participate in human history, a history profoundly and irrevocably tainted by sin, broadcasts his infinite love for humanity.

And to stress the point that God is not afraid to get down and dirty with humanity, he reminds us that God, in Jesus, condescended enough to take on human flesh and dwell among us in. He stooped down to make us great.....