Good Morning! It is great to be here with you! Thank you for this opportunity to share with you this morning. First, let me take a moment to finish dressing…There, that’s better. If we can’t kid each other who can we kid!
I must start with a personal confession: no matter how profound or wonderful my advice is, a lot of the time I don’t take it myself! Can you relate to that? These thoughts I’m sharing with you might be self advice. Also, some of what I will say this morning won’t be true. Will you care? I might make a mistake or two. Will you be tolerant? Much of this material, you already know. We’ll pause once in awhile to think about it.
The item in the newsletter about today’s program mentioned considering some of life’s big questions and what is involved in the process of searching for answers, so let’s just get started. The underlying question I would like to have us consider is “What is really going on?”
But we will begin with another little question you have probably been asked, or have asked someone this very week: “What’s for dinner?” It sounds simple enough. We’ve likely been hearing it and saying it all of our lives. Let’s back up a bit and look at it from several perspectives.
What’s for dinner? The question is a communication of some sort. It indicates a thought about and interest in a future event. It focuses on a perceived need—that is, as a way of thinking and speaking about meeting that need. This is without actually saying that we are needy, or what that need is. Something causes us to ask the question.
Let’s consider the concept of Cause and Effect. Do you agree? There is no cause without effect, and no effect without a cause. Let’s think about it for a moment. There is no cause without an effect, and there is no effect without a cause. Identify an “effect” and think about what caused that to be. Now, go a step further, and think about that cause as an effect of something else. If you take some time with this, you can go back and back and back… I’m guessing most of us don’t do this often. We don’t consciously think of things as a means to an end.
OK. Back to dinner. When I say the word “dinner” what comes into your mind? I’ll bet it is there something about a dinner you have experienced in the past. Or what we jointly agree on as “past.” And I would bet that no two of us would have the same thing in mind.
We all have different pasts, and of course many kinds of experiences of what “dinner” means. Possibly not all of them would be what we would evaluate as “good.” We all perceive the world, including dinner, differently. Some of us think in pictures, some think in words, some operate on inner feelings, or others on just knowing. And there are lots of “tests” out there that are used to define personality types.
When we combine the concepts of cause and effect with all the different experiences we have had, and all the ways people think about or perceive the world, things really start to get complicated. Is it any wonder we have a hard time communicating sometimes?
One aspect of cause and effect has to do with the idea that “projection makes perception.” We encounter a person, thing, event or idea, and project thoughts and feelings from our past out onto them, usually without consciously being aware of it. We dissociate or detach from the process.
But then we “perceive” that a person, thing or event is a certain way, colored by our past. We have disconnected from what is really going on, and our part in it. We assume that what we see, feel, think or even seem to know is “the truth.” And then we react to that. And sometimes we are surprised to find out that others aren’t seeing or experiencing the world the same way we are. Now I’m not saying this is good or bad. Let’s just call it part of the human condition. We all do it most of the time. Projection is a cause, perception is an effect.
Some of us were fortunate enough to hear two very interesting talks about the process of projection in August of 2010 by Les Greenberg and Justin Dean. Justin’s message is on the church’s website, and I encourage you to have a look at it.
Cause and effect, projection and perception, we do this a lot. But since we humans are all in this together, becoming aware of the process may give us a good reason or incentive to be a bit more gentle and tolerant, and yes even accepting of ourselves and each other.
Being human. How interesting, when you stop to think of it. But often we don’t stop. And we don’t think, or evaluate. We don’t reconsider before acting or reacting. And often we don’t even think of forgiving ourselves or each other. We haven’t asked ourselves: “What is really going on?”
Think of all the attention and energy we waste on all kinds of big and little irritations. And I emphasize waste, because when we are not empowering all areas of our lives by choosing positive and uplifting and even healing attitudes and options, it becomes an easy habit to dwell on negativity. We get stuck there, thinking we have the world and the people in it pegged for what it is.
Someone I met long ago said “First we make our habits, and then our habits make us.” Who is in charge of this habit making business, anyway? How does change happen? Some of it has to do with who we think we are, what we think we deserve, and where we fit in. What are the original sources of the attitudes and beliefs we have about ourselves and our lives?
Back to dinner and some of the bigger questions about “what is really going on?” Is dinner going to be a solo event? Even if you are dining alone, your thoughts, and the world you are surrounding yourself with are present. So much has come together to prepare you for this moment, and to prepare all the ingredients for dinner. But we don’t often stop and think about that do we? Maybe for a moment if one pauses so say grace, or express thanks before a meal.
And if dinner is not alone, the components just mentioned vastly multiply. Back to the concept of cause and effect. If you take some time to really deeply think about it you can find all kinds of links and branches that coalesced to make this moment, this dinner. The food, the place, you, who are you with, who is absent—it can go on and on.
Of course we are using dinner as just one example of many other things or events that you could substitute. I’m not suggesting doing this all the time, but once in a while might bring us deep insights. It might just enrich our experience and appreciation of life. Sometimes even a brief meditation can bring profound insights!
What is really going on? There is more than one way to consider just about any situation or event or even things. Some basic elements might include:
You—who you think you are.
You—who you really are.
You— what you really are.
Where you fit in time and place and relationship to others.
Take a moment now, How might you define yourself? Fill in the blank:
I am a _______________
I also am __________________.
Some people might think I am _____________
But ha, ha! I really am ________________.
Were you surprised at the answers that came? If you don’t like them, change them! Do you need permission? Give yourself permission right now! “I give myself permission to change my answer!” You have my permission and likely the permission of the rest of this caring and supportive community.
Now, moving on from our question of “What’s for dinner?” let’s imagine: Two people are having dinner together. What might be going on? What are some of the ways to think about it?
Two humans are having dinner. They are incorporating food. There might be conversation. Did you notice that using the word “incorporating” sounds real different than eating? That is partly because words are really just symbols… maybe even symbols of symbols. And we are trying out a new symbol with that word.
Ok, two physical mental spiritual beings we like to call human, seem to be occupying a particular dimension that we might refer to as time and space for a common purpose.
Or how about this definition: energy forms that “think” they are separate (at least for the moment) are having a joint personal interaction.
Or, needs perceived as real may or may not be being met.
Or, two animals, mammals, on a planet we call Earth, in this solar system, in our so called Milky Way galaxy… and so on.
As you can see, feel, hear, know, there are many, many ways of considering what is really going on. But we rarely stop to notice them. We rarely stop to think about how our past shapes us, or the meaning we each give to our version of our world, by way of cause and effect, projection and perception. But things seem to change, depending on how we see them.
Who are we? And why are we gathered here together in this place, at this time? It has been my experience that Unitarian Universalists and other open minded and inclusive folks like to consider a variety of viewpoints and ideas.
Talking about ideas and things helps people clarify what they really think. Years of participating in a wonderful read and discuss program helped me begin to understand how this process works. It can be exciting to watch yourself or others form and express ideas on the spot. This can be a great “ah ha” moment! And so fun!
But sometimes we get stuck. And for people who are heavily invested in being “right” (and I’ll bet you know a few) for those people, considering different ideas and viewpoints can be threatening. Perhaps it is just human nature, or at least the ego based part of human nature to want to be “right.” When that happens people (in my opinion) tend to look for other people and ideas that are similar to how they already think. This is a way to reinforce their current way of thinking and perceived self identity. To them, other or outside ideas and people become threatening. Then, the reaction to fear is to get defensive, or even go on the attack.
Even considering change can be a challenge. Once, a friend I’ll call Harry said, “But if I have to change my mind about what I think about something, that would mean I was wrong all this time!” He was a teacher to me without even knowing it. Who our teachers are is a topic for another day.
But back to us, here. Being exposed to a variety of people and ideas, especially if we have become somewhat secure within ourselves, allows us the opportunity to evolve our own thinking. It challenges and deepens us. It removes perceived barriers between us. It enriches our lives and the lives of those we meet and interact with, perhaps whether we know it or not. Gathering in this place can be an end, which can be a means to another end. Cause, effect.., cause, effect…
It has been several months since I agreed to fill this spot—here today. And those months have given me a wonderful opportunity to reflect on some of the people, places and processes that have brought me here. I thought about mentors and teachers who have guided me, sometimes in ways that seemed hurtful at the time. Some were in off-handed ways that now seem humorous. Co-workers, family, friends, and even strangers. I thank them now.
I considered mentioning my own personal spiritual journey, but no, not today. I thought about the many, many workshops it has been my privilege to attend and hoped to tell you about them. Those are for some other time. But I will mention two specific things that have profoundly guided me so far.
The first is “A Course in Miracles” – a self study book that many of you know about. I especially thank the two people who called me in the same week in the fall of 1983 and said “You need to get this book.” They did not know each other. I had asked the “Universe” for a spiritual path. I only had one condition: that it needed to be simple. So much for the simple part, even though it says it is! A Course in Miracles is my primary path, and I’m still using it to gradually “remove the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence,” which, it says, is our true identity. You know that old saying. “Be careful what you ask for!”
A nice place to look for more information on A Course in Miracles on the internet is www.miraclecenter.org. It lists study groups from all over the world, including the one that meets here at Davies Memorial U.U. and has many other great resources.
The second major influence comes from Gary Craig, who developed a form of therapy called EFT, or, The Emotional Freedom Technique. It uses tapping on acupressure points while focusing on a problem. I will be happy to share Gary’s web site, www.garythink.com with you again later. It explains how unresolved emotional issues hold us back, and how they contribute to all kinds of physical and psychological problems. The web site has a free tutorial on how to use EFT. Because it has been such a great tool for me, I am always happy share about the technique.
So now we are back where we started.
What is really going on? What is really going on, right now, here in this room?
What’s for dinner? Who am I? Who are you?
Let’s remember about cause and effect, and that what is behind each cause is still another previous cause. Let’s remember that projection makes perception, and that what we do — how we act and react, comes from what we think. Often what we do reflects who we think we are.
I believe that the very act of asking questions opens a door (even if just a little crack). It opens a door for an answer. It is a way of telling deeper parts of yourself that you are willing to receive. Even just a little willingness may be all it takes to get started or to take another step. And in my opinion you are worth it!
Thanks for taking this little trip with me this morning. Thanks for your tolerance. Whatever your personal spiritual path, or whatever you are having for dinner, I salute you on your journey.