Priorities – Part Three

“Refrain to-night;
And that shall lend a kind of easiness
To the next abstinence, the next more easy;
For use almost can change the stamp of nature,
And either master the devil or throw him out
With wondrous potency.”

~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet

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They say that practice makes perfect … and permanent. If we’re interested to shift our priorities away from meaningless distractions and towards a fulfilled life, then it’s a simple matter of choosing differently and repeating the new behaviors that result. It’s especially vital to change our belief about who we are.

Habits can be difficult to break. We’re approaching the season of New Year’s Resolutions, that annual ritual of doomed expectations, repeating our intentions for change but, for many of us, failing to carry through after about two or three weeks of noble trying.

Gandhi had an intelligent perspective on what’s going on here. He said, “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.” Following that train of logic, it makes sense that if we only focus on changing negative habits – like eating too much, forgetting to exercise, gossiping, etc. – we’re probably going to struggle and fail.

Short-handing Gandhi’s formula: Beliefs become thoughts become words become habits become values become destiny. For change to happen, then, we would be wise to start with beliefs. What do we believe? All of us have our own beliefs and positions but, since our topic is personal change, let’s focus on beliefs about ourselves.

Misty Mountain

Many of us don’t think all that much of ourselves. Even boastful people harbor secret self-judgments. And we all deal with self-talk, much of which is negative. “Why did I do that? Oh no, I messed up again. Will I ever get this right? Why don’t they see my value… maybe I’m not really all that?” Those are just some of the thoughts that may arise, summed up in these words: “I’m not good enough.”

Of course, those aren’t likely the words we speak aloud. Instead, we might use words to inflate ourselves and/or belittle others. Why? It could be because we are suffering from what’s known as “imposter syndrome.”

Imposter syndrome is defined as “a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.” 1 While this applies to con men and those with low self-esteem, it’s also an affliction that can infect those on the spiritual path.

Despite centuries of wisdom and tons of sacred writings, all pointing to the innate truth of being, most humans feel disconnected from their true selves. So, when we hear the advice to “be yourself” or to “be authentic” that may not actually be an appealing idea. In fact, I remember a cartoon where someone said, “What if I expressed my true self and no-one liked me?”

Sacred Text

Indeed, the low self-esteem we inevitably feel when we are fragmented in disconnection from the wholeness of human consciousness has a nasty habit of feeding back on itself, like a self-fulfilling prophecy. We feel we are inadequate (and tell ourselves internally, in one way or another) and then we gather proof in our relationships and activities. “It’s true!” we may then declare, “I am an imposter. If only people know what I was really like?”

The Wiki definition elaborates: “Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon (imposter syndrome) remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved.”

There’s a simple solution to this problem: make it our every-moment priority to be the truth of ourselves. How exactly do we do that? First, by acknowledging that there are two aspects to us. We are “human beings.” The human is this bundle of body, mind, and emotions. The being is an eternal spirit, the one who is One with all. The imposter syndrome activates when we attempt to replace the eternal One with our humanness.

I am not my body, my mind, or my feelings. I am not my career, my accomplishments, my skills and experiences. I am a being of eternal majesty and beauty… as is every one within the One.

Knowing and honoring this distinction is the key. By the way, no human can become divine, although that is the struggle for many on the spiritual path. This human form has its limitations and always will. Enlightenment, so-called, is not about finally achieving some sort of human perfection to become a flawless expression of God, but rather gaining and sustaining the full conscious awareness of true identity and, through the actual (not theoretical) experience of Oneness, being able to flow spirit through our limited human forms, as accurately as they will allow.

So, the next time that inner voice tempts you into self-flagellation, remember Shakespeare’s instruction and “either master the devil or throw him out with wondrous potency.”


Robot Heart Love

Priorities – Part Two

“Physics isn’t the most important thing. Love is.”

~ Richard P. Feynman

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It’s encouraging to note how many scientists, like Feynman – quoted above – come to realize through their research that the universe has a beating heart.

Science and religion used to be at war with each other. Even a cursory review of human history exposes the dark divide between the two. But, times change and there’s a reason why the two camps have moved steadily closer to each other. “Scientists and theologians are discovering that their shared conviction to pursue truth has the potential to make them more allies than enemies. The result has been a greater willingness to engage each other.” 1

What is truth? For both science and religion, the answer is often theoretical and far removed from the pragmatic realities of daily life. Philosophers are often said to live in ivory towers, isolated above and beyond the drama of everyday life. Scientists labor in laboratories and offices; gurus may sequester themselves away in monasteries, caves, or ashrams.

“How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” is a term that dates back to the 16th century and was postulated to be a question debated by scholars in ancient Constantinople… while Turks besieged the city. It’s thus considered to be “a metaphor for wasting time debating topics of no practical value, or questions whose answers hold no intellectual consequence, while more urgent concerns pile up.” 2

Scientist vs. Robot

But both science and spirituality have major contributions to make in addressing the urgent concerns of this 21st century. Science, especially the field of quantum physics – which is the domain where Dr. Feynman does his work – is revealing the magical nature of creation. Feynman said, “Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars – mere globs of gas atoms. I, too, can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? 3

In other words, “knowledge about” needn’t diminish emotional impact. Seeking to understand the mysteries of the universe does not inevitably lead to skepticism about its innately spiritual nature (although scientists would immediately argue with that descriptor).

As we burrow our way into the details of our lives, we can both understand more and be increasingly awed by the deepening mystery of it all. And, again from quantum explorations, it’s becoming obvious that we will never succeed in fathoming all the mysteries and understanding everything. The human mind is simply incapable of containing the vast complexity of that which created it.

It is encouraging to witness a rapidly converging alignment of scientific and spiritual viewpoints, well expressed in a recent book that pitted a new age spiritualist, Deepak Chopra, against a scientist, Leonard Mlodinow. In War of the Worldviews, they wrote: “Our best hope for a better future, then, is through the development of values that encourage caring for one another, cherishing knowledge and learning, preserving natural resources, and minimizing harm to our environment. It is only this kind of evolution, which is cultural rather than biological in nature that can save us.” 4

Such a statement can indeed give us hope, because its coming from the heart, not just the head. It’s a perspective that looks forward, not towards modernizing theory but to improving the human condition. It’s wonderful to know that certain scientists and some of those more spiritually inclined are making this a priority and further proving what Feynman said in our opening quote, that “love” is the real priority.

When we share that personal priority, we are less inclined to assume positions that provoke competition and argument. In fact, we can respect our different viewpoints and seek to learn from each other, acknowledging that all of us are seeking truth, while exercising our personal preferences for navigating that journey.

And, as scientists have demonstrated and articulated through such theories as The Observer Effect, we always influence whatever we observe. That’s what makes it so vitally important to look through the eyes of love. When we do, we tend to see a universe of love… and that makes all the difference in how we treat each other.

4. War of the Worldviews, by Deepak Chopra M.D. and Leonard Mlodinow

Praying Catholic

Priorities – Part One

“When men choose not to believe in God, they do not
thereafter believe in nothing, they then become
capable of believing in anything.”

~ G.K. Chesterton

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Faith in God has nothing to do with religion. We crave certainty, it’s in our nature. And when we lose faith, because we cease to believe in something certain, then the world becomes for us a shopping mall stocked with pale substitutes.

People can be convinced of just about anything because, absent the certainty that a firm spiritual foundation provides, they become susceptible to the con men of this world. For instance, New York born investment rock star Bernie Madoff managed to keep every one of his clients deluded for decades.

Wiki reports: “The Madoff investment scandal defrauded thousands of investors of billions of dollars. Madoff said he began the Ponzi scheme in the early 1990s. However, federal investigators believe the fraud began as early as the mid-1980s and may have begun as far back as the 1970s. Those charged with recovering the missing money believe the investment operation may never have been legitimate. The amount missing from client accounts, including fabricated gains, was almost $65 billion.” 1

Mr. Madoff is in prison now, sentenced to 150 years, the maximum allowable for his type of criminal activity. His real crime? He was an individual. If he had been operating out of a large bank, he’d likely still be sipping martinis in his pent house apartment. Case in point, HSBC (Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation) has 85,000 employees in 7,500 offices in 80 countries. “HSBC is paying a total of $101.5 million to end a criminal case in the United States in which the bank stood accused of using currency trades to swindle its own customers out of tens of millions of dollars.” 2

Dirty Money

This is just the latest scandal for the bank, which is featured in one chapter of the Netflix documentary Dirty Money. That program exposes how HSBC laundered billions of dollars in drug money. They were indicted and found guilty. They admitted their crime, on paper and in extreme detail. And, they were fined. No one went to jail, even though their fraudulent activities made Bernie Madoff look like a shop lifter.

As one of the congressional investigators noted during the film, any individual found guilty of possessing even a small amount of a controlled substance will go to jail. They can’t buy themselves out of it. Big banks can and do. Fines are just the cost of doing (dirty) business.

The greed for obscene amounts of money acts like a virus. Once infected, a person succumbs to an insatiable desire for more, just like any addict substituting the effect of something – money, drugs, sex, etc. – for the natural experience of joy in life.

Addicts who succeed in conquering their addictions and reclaiming their lives always need help. Some brave and rare souls do recover on their own but most need support. And, they need to go cold turkey, as the saying goes, that is, quit absolutely and totally and never take another sip, snort, etc.


This highlights the purpose of the “sangha,” the spiritual community that serves to support members in remaining true to what is referred to in the Bible as our “first love.” Our first love is God, not a religious concept but the reality of God, of which we are a part. The sangha – whether it’s in India or Indiana – is comprised of individuals who have made that commitment and hold each other accountable to remain steadfast in their faith.

Someone once told a friend of mine that the problem with abstinence was that how you felt when you woke up was the best you’d feel all day. In other words, they believed that without alcohol things would invariably go downhill. Obviously, this person had lost their connection with spirit because, as those on the path well know, a day can and often does swell with enjoyment as we deepen our practice through meditation and mindfulness, in work and play and rest and even while resolving conflicts.

We may pity those who are lost in delusional addictions – even if they have millions of dollars – but the sobering lesson for us is to keep our own commitment fresh. We might recall that when you love someone, you yearn to be with them. When we love our God, however we conceive Him, Her, or It to be, then we likewise long to be with them and will seize every opportunity that presents itself to deepen our relationship, to enjoy that unique intimacy with spirit which renders every temptation powerless to bewitch us. Ironically, this gives us the best chance to enjoy everything, without changing our priority.


Clock concept

Good News / Bad News – Part Four

“The good news is, you don’t have to worry, you can’t change the past.
The bad news is, you don’t have to worry… you can’t change the past.”

~ Charles Yu

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Time heals all wounds, some say. But, like many other popular phrases, the truth of this one withers under thoughtful analysis.

Time doesn’t do anything but pass, or, in some special instances, seem to stand still. Einstein described his Theory of Relativity in layman’s terms this way: “When a pretty girl sits on your lap for an hour, it seems like a minute. When you sit on a hot stove for a minute it seems like an hour.” In other words, depending on what’s happening (and your reaction to it) time can slow or speed up.

As far as healing properties, there’s actually more evidence that time doesn’t heal. From a website on grief recovery: “Time is not a healer. The passage of time may take the edge off of acute pain, but it does not heal pain. On the other hand, time can be used well for healing purposes. When time is used well, in terms of healing wounds, then it is because we do something specific with and within it. We take time and shape it in order to do inner work. It is inner work coupled with courage and honesty that heals all wounds.”1

All of us carry traumatic memories around with us. It’s impossible to avoid damage in this world. Ironically, some of our greatest humans have survived the worst traumas. They have been imprisoned, tortured, ridiculed, bankrupted, jailed… yet they persevered. We write about them and make movies about their heroism. We champion their ability to heal their wounds enough to overcome the damage and blossom.

So, it’s not the passage of time that heals wounds but the inner work we do on them. Sadly, modern civilization is increasingly frantic, leaving us less and less time for introspection and, hence, less healing is happening at deep levels for many people, who seem to need more dramatic distractions every day, simply to stay functional. If those avoiding what’s really going on inside them turned away from their screens and into their hearts, they might discover just how wounded they are.

Fresh Air

Those who have the time and money for therapy can benefit from professional support to discover, understand, and seek to heal trauma. Leslie Becker-Phelps Ph.D., writing in Psychology Today, says: “After feeling your emotions and treating them with compassion, it is time to refocus on other things – preferably situations, activities, or interactions that feel good. If, like many other people, you need to return to the painful feelings again (even repeatedly), be patient with yourself. Working through your feelings takes time.”2

This presents a balanced approach somewhere between denial and obsession. Feel the pain and move on, seems to be the formula. Those of us who have undertaken such inner work can report both the benefits and the challenges. It takes courage to face our wounds because this often requires reliving an experience that can feel almost as traumatic as it did when it originally happened. But we can witness the memory, remaining identified with our mature self and, as we become comfortable with the process, even learn how to transmit healing energy into the memory, effectively changing-not the memory itself, but the impact it has on us.

In some ways, this does change the past. At least a memory can cease to have such an influence in our lives today. As valuable, is the experience of empowerment that comes from addressing our memories this way because a central feature of most trauma is the residual feeling of powerlessness. Now, many years later, we can take our power back, as we observe, feel, and offer what was missing back then. In this way, we can become our own best healer.


The long-standing tradition of spiritual masters floating above the travails of human suffering is fading. Today’s masters are more human. They have their failings. They suffer. They fail and learn and grow… just like everyone else. Sterile wisdom is being replaced by fertile compassion and, for all of us who have benefited from such soulful guidance, the best reward we can return to our teachers is to do likewise. Every one of us are surrounded by people who need reassurance and comfort and the silent entrainment that emanates from those of us doing our inner work, healing our wounds, and can say – teaching without words the way true masters do – “Don’t give up.”