Jan 18

Embracing External and Internal Silence.

Statue of Silence – Guthrie Scottish Rite Temple

During last weekend I was blessed to have been part of a ~48 hour silent prayer and meditation retreat. At the retreat, all electronic devices had to be completely turned off. Therefore, my beloved MacBook Pro and iPhone, were left in my briefcase, my Fitbit was replaced with mala beads, and my iPad was replaced with a pen and notepad. The weekend consisted of several guided meditations of various lengths and styles, break-out sessions where you were permitted to speak only about your current feelings and insights, and ample personal time to do solitary meditation, prayer, journaling, reading, etc. It was truly an amazing experience to simply get-away from the world for a few days and focus solely on inner-work and prayer, and in essence have a clean re-boot to start the new year on a positive footing.

The lack of electronic devices actually caused a bit of initial discomfort and annoyance, because I, like most people, am constantly surrounded by electronic noise. My morning and evening commute is filled with news and music from my radio, cell phone conversations, and GPS traffic alerts. At the office I am tethered to my computer and office phone, and at home there is a constant stream of electronic noise from the TV, my son’s electronic toys, my computer and iPad, etc. I’m also used to instantly finding the answer to any question, and being in constant contact with friends and peers via social media. However, at the retreat I had to rely on making notes if I really wanted to looking something up later, and I had to resign myself to being out of the social media loop for a few days.

One of the overarching themes that I kept going back to over and over again throughout the weekend, and the days since, is the need to slow-down and not only experience the present moment, but embrace silence. Although, I have tried to practice mindfulness techniques in my daily life for the past several years (hence the name of this blog), when I was able to take a step back at the retreat, I was really surprised to see how much I had unconsciously let the buzz and clatter of daily life get in the way of actually experiencing life.

Instead of truly spending time in the now, and fully experiencing life, It seems over the past 6 to 9 months I have slowly allowed my attention to be divided between my physical activities, and whatever electronic media is humming around in the background. So in essence, instead of living in the now, and actually fully experiencing life, I have allowed life to be clouded, and even become somewhat consumed, by electronic distractions, that serve no real purpose other than to distract me. This poignantly came to me during one of my silent sitting periods, where I though back to how when I normally play with my sons, my attention is usually divided between them and some sort of electronic device. Even my meals had become overran with electronic buzz, and all the joyous extra calories and pounds that comes with mindless or half-distracted eating.

Accordingly, by unplugging from external noises and distractions, I was able to re-embrace my inner silence, and reconnect with the things that are really important.

Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself, and know that everything in life has purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences, all events are blessings given for us to learn from.” – Elisabeth Kulber-Ross

Practical Tips:

– Be mindful of the electronic noise around you. If you aren’t watching TV or listening to the radio, simply turn them off. This saves you from being bombarded by useless noise and advertisements that you don’t really need or care about.

– Be mindful of how much time you spend on electronic devices. I am a bit of a social media junkie, because I enjoy perusing Facebook, various blogs, more than your average bear, and I also enjoy surfing the web for entertainment and news. However, a good deal of this is just really a useless distraction, so I have resolved to spend more time in silent contemplation.

– Be present in your relationships. Practice deep listening in your conversations, and truly connect with those around you.

As always, thanks for reading, and if you enjoyed this piece, please subscribe to this blog, and share it with others.

Also, please check out my book, “The Path: Using the Religions of the World as a Guide to Personal and Spiritual Development.” (Click the Book Cover to view on Amazon.com)

Dec 19

The Illogicacy of Christian Homophobia

Used with permission from WikiCommons

Ah, it’s that time again. That magical time of the year when conservatives can unite around a cause in order to circle the wagons against a phantom onslaught against conservative values and perhaps Christianity. No, it’s not the annual war on Christmas, but this has to do with the supposed war on Christianity. Recently Phil Robertson, of the Duck Dynasty Show gave an interview to GQ magazine, in which he went on an anti-gay tangent. (Click Here to Read it)

After receiving a negative backlash from the public, and advertisers, A&E has suspended Phil Robertson indefinitely. Now the airwaves and social media pages are filled with people from the anti-gay and pro-gay camps weighing in.

I think it is odd that the same people who called for a boycott of Macy’s when they hired Ellen Degeneres, are now up in arms about Phil Robertson being suspended for anti-gay remarks. So when Macy’s hires a gay person as a spokesperson, the anti-gay crowd feels the need to exercise their God given right to free speech and expression by boycotting. However, when advertisers threaten to pull advertising from Duck Dynasty (essentially an advertising boycott), then the same anti-gay crowd cries out that Robertson’s free speech being violated? Yes, Phil Robertson had a right to say whatever he wants under the constitutional right to freedom of speech. He’s not going to go to jail over it (that’s what freedom of speech means: you can say what you want, but it does not preclude social or economic forces reacting). And yes, A&E and advertisers also have the right to pull advertisements, suspend him, etc. And yes I know the pro-gay crowd has done boycotts in the past. Freedom of speech goes both ways.

What disheartens me the most, is that much of the anti-gay crowd is made up of Christians. Christians who say that they love everyone, and don’t judge, yet for the LGBT segment of society, they openly judge and seek to have prejudicial and bigoted laws enacted and/or enforced. Many Christians cite to the Old Testament to provide validation that homosexuality is a sin. However, if you are going to throw around Old Testament laws to justify inequality, then you better also be following the other 613 Old Testament laws (Mitzvot), yes there are more than just 10 commandments… (Click Here for the Complete List) So if you eat pork, shellfish, meat and cheese together, touch a woman who’s on her period, have a tattoo, etc. you are going to hell as well. You can’t pick and choose, either you take them all, or you take none, to say otherwise is illogical.

I am also flabbergasted that I have friends who are clinging onto the “traditional marriage” and “slippery slope”  (we will start marrying animals, our sisters, etc.) arguments to justify inequality when it comes to LGBT marriage and relationships, when they themselves are in or have had interracial relationships. The Bible was used to justify slavery, and the Bible (specifically stories about God punishing the Jews when they intermixed), and the traditional marriage and slippery slope arguments were also used to uphold laws against interracial marriage and relationships. Read the rest of this entry »

Nov 18

10 Reflections on Turning 30

Yours Truly at a Mustache Themed Birthday Party.

Yours Truly at a Mustache Themed Birthday Party.

Some thoughts on turning 30:

Well today is the big day… yep I’m officially 30. It’s odd how officially entering into a new decade of age makes you feel suddenly older, even though in reality I am just a day older than I was yesterday, because we each are continually traveling upon the path towards, “that undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns” (Shakespeare-Hamlet).

I’ve noticed over the past few years that time seems to be speeding up. When I was in my early 20’s making plans for a few years down the road, or pushing something off for another year, didn’t seem like that big of a deal. However, I have become more acutely aware of the math, where our son John who was born in July will be 18 when I’m 48, and that if we wait a few more years to have another child it would mean that I will be in my 50’s by the time he or she will be 18 and moved out of the house, or where even buying a new house on a 30 year note would mean that I’d be in my 60’s when I pay it off! (unless I make extra payments off course).

Turning 30 is also an odd feeling for me because in all likelihood I’m not 1/2 way to retirement (unless I win the lottery), but I’ve almost definitely lived over a 1/3 of my life. Also, while in the past few years I’ve been acutely aware of the need to live in the now and enjoy life since we never know when we may die tragically or unexpectedly from something like a heart-attack or a traffic accident, it is odd to run the math and know that even if I avoid unexpected endings and health issues, I’ve already consumed at least a 1/3 of my life’s gas tank.

However, I am lucky in that I’ve lived a pretty good life thus far, and I’ve checked a lot of my goals and to-do’s off: I have a wonderful family with a beautiful wife and two sons, and amazing friends. I’ve accomplished the goal going to law school and I’m now a practicing attorney, I’m a published author with a book, and over 30 print magazine and journal articles in addition to numerous web articles (not including this blog), which is astounding because I used loath writing in high school and college, much to the dismay of my mother who taught English for over 30 years. :)

So I have a lot of things to be thankful and grateful for, and here are my 10 reflections and tips on turning 30 (In no particular order).

1. Surround yourself with good friends- I can’t stress this enough. Surrounding yourself with good friends will help you stay positive when times get rough, and they will be there when it is time to celebrate the good times.

2. Find a creative outlet- I think this is essential for helping you channel your feelings and thoughts, which will help you to stay balanced, and work through various thoughts and emotions. As I said, I used to hate writing; however, when I stopped thinking of writing as a chore or an assignment for work or school, and started using it as a creative and expressive outlet, my perspective changed, and I couldn’t imagine hanging up my keyboard.

3. Believe in Yourself- Put yourself out there and stop being afraid of rejection. Many of the achievements that I’m the most proud of have began with more than a little self-doubt. However, I have always tried to accomplish whatever I’ve put my mind to, and the first step is believing that you actually CAN accomplish anything you put your mind to. Read the rest of this entry »

Nov 08

Letting Go of Perfectionism

Used with Permission from PublicDomainPictures.net (c) Daniele Pellati

Used with Permission from PublicDomainPictures.net
(c) Daniele Pellati

Everybody strives to be perfect in one way or another. We strive to have the “perfect” friendships, family, job, hobbies, etc. We also strive for perfection in our actions.

As a society we encourage and even demand not only perfection, but also that individuals constantly “reach for the stars”, and have “go big or go home” attitudes. However, the problem with this type of mentality is that many of us end up constantly feeling as if we are failures because we haven’t reached the stars, or we didn’t “win” somehow.

At its core, perfectionism is rooted in our own feelings of inadequacy. While we may strive to appear perfect to the external world, what a perfectionist is really doing is putting a nice façade on inner wounds, insecurities, and feelings of self-doubt and low self-worth. This is why so many perfectionists have a hard time keeping friends, dealing with criticism, or even taking advice from other people without thinking that it is a personal affront.

The truth is that there is no such thing as “perfect”. If we constantly strive for perfection, we will just end up being a perfect mess.

Everybody makes mistakes and we all do things that we regret. I can’t tell you how many times I have came down too hard on my son, said something stupid or insensitive to my wife or a friend, lost my temper, or just flat-out failed at something… all in the past week. The key is to not dwell on the mistakes or imperfections of life. We should strive to learn from our mistakes or missteps, and try not to repeat them. Beating ourselves up over stumbles and missteps only contributes to feelings of being a “failure”, or somehow “not good enough”. Read the rest of this entry »

Oct 27

The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man

(c) Alex Grichenko http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=37609&picture=light-travel

(c) Alex Grichenko

My first exposure to Jungian psychology was during my undergraduate studies, when I happened upon a copy of Dr. Carl Jung’s 1933 book, Modern Man in Search of a Soul. While up until that point I had never even heard of Dr. Jung, the title resonated with me because I myself was a modern man in search of a deeper understanding of myself, and the world around me; therefore, I was compelled to read the book. What I discovered in those pages set me firmly upon my spiritual path, so I owe a great deal to the wisdom contained in those pages.

The Swiss psychologist Dr. Carl Jung (1875-1961), founded the field of analytical psychology, which seeks to aid individuals on the path of individuation. Rather than rejecting religion as his contemporary Dr. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) had done, Dr. Jung explored and integrated religion, alchemy, and esoteric elements into his theories. By exploring various religious and esoteric studies, Dr. Jung, integrated a great deal of ancient wisdom into his theories. Dr. Jung’s theories regarding the unconscious and conscious subparts of the psyche can be extremely beneficial in understanding the methods, rationales, and goals of the world religions, as well as esoteric and initiatic systems, including Freemasonry.

One of the final chapters of, Modern Man, is aptly titled, “The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man”, and it really sums up the issues that most of us encounter in our spiritual lives, as well as the solutions to lead a more balanced and spiritually integrated life. In this chapter Dr. Jung discusses the fact that modern people often suffer from various forms of anxiety and neurosis, because we have severed our conscious self from our unconscious subparts. Most modern people no longer reflect or partake in personal introspection, instead we are only concerned with instant gratification and that which can be validated by our physical senses. However, this causes a myriad of problems, because no matter how hard we try to divorce our conscious self from our unconscious, our unconscious will always seek to guide and gain control. Since modern people don’t partake in introspection, and thereby gain an understanding of our unconscious subparts, we are in essence trying to sail a ship without an adequate knowledge of the engine or navigation mechanics.

Read the rest of this entry »

Oct 07

From the Archives- The Application of Shakespeare’s “To Be or Not to Be”

In Shakespeare’s famous soliloquy from the play “Hamlet”, the main character, Hamlet, is racked with despair, and is questioning whether or not the unknown world beyond death will be easier to bear than the current life. Hamlet is in such despair that he is contemplating whether or not he should continue to “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”, or if he should “take arms against a sea of troubles”, by possibly committing suicide. However, Hamlet is unsure of whether or not he should act on his wish to end the pain he is suffering, because he is unsure what will await him in the afterlife in that “undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns”.

While every sentient being suffers in one form or another, it appears to be a uniquely human characteristic to wish, or at least look forward to death. Many people turn to the concept of the afterlife presented in their religion to such an extent that they cease to truly live in this current stage of life. For example, some Christians look so forward to the day when Jesus Christ will appear in his prophesized second coming, that they are constantly trying to interpret every disaster as some sign of the upcoming Rapture and Armageddon. Other people are so disheartened with the world around them that they buy into the newest doomsday prophesy that the world is soon to be destroyed. Read the rest of this entry »

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