Sunday, 5 February 2017

Religion, Spirituality and enlightenment

This is the first in a series of blogs that I'll be posting on this subject as I explore the quagmire of religion, spirituality and enlightenment.

The never ending need to experience and understand something bigger than ourselves, something beyond our flesh and blood lives is an obsessive human endeavor.

As a result, there are countless disciplines, religious movements, cults, you name it, that have come and gone since man first became self aware.

Each venture into the non-physical world through millennia of questioning and exploring reveals aspects of our makeup and our needs. We see primitive religions creating external deities to provide answers. We see mystical disciplines that look inwards and endless variations and combinations of the two.

The road to "enlightenment" (whether it be with an external deity or internal exploration) is complicated and twisted, winding in and around our incredibly complex nature.

Every form of spiritual endeavor has disciplines, theologies, doctrines and sacrifices that each one embraces to achieve it's goal. But without exception every "road" requires a devotion to it's beliefs and practices, study in it's principles and applications, teachers and disciples, structure and leadership.

What if all of this could be simplified?
In fact what if the utter simplicity of it all has always been staring us in the face?
Perhaps we like the idea of achieving some unique skill that elevates us above the mundane and the ignorant and the "glory" that goes with it (ego perhaps).

But the true value of any spiritual path has to be in its universality - it must be simple, doable, and desirable for every single human without the need for years of intense study and discipline.

I look at christianity and it fails in this regard from the ground up. In fact all religions fail in this regard as they claim exclusive truth, demanding adherence to their doctrines to achieve "enlightenment" or "salvation" etc.

I look at Buddhism and all it's variations, and all the eastern mystical beliefs, and although they are based on more realistic premises than theistic beliefs (such as christianity) they still require years of discipline and devotion to reach their goal.

What if there is a simple universal truth that every human can embrace right now?
What if we can adopt it and simply grow with it ourselves, using what's already in our heart?
What if the only thing required of us to walk this road is honesty and integrity?

What if this thing is nothing more or less than love?

Ponder this and it's implications. Examine your own ideas and assumptions about the nature of "love". Look inside and ask if yourself if you've ever experienced unconditional love. Perhaps even ponder what unconditional love looks like!

More to come....

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Observe. Listen. Communicate.


There's a huge difference between seeing and observing, hearing and listening.

Random pic cos I couldn't find anything related to the topic
In some ways its obvious, when we consider our daily lives - things wizz past our eyes and ears and we simply can't stop to take in and evaluate everything, and we can eventually become numb with sensory overload, affecting our ability to observe and listen to the most basic (and often important) things, and our ability to successfully communicate.

It takes a conscious effort - a shift in our focus - to observe and listen without judging or reacting.

As we move through our day, we begin to look up/out from our inner chatter. I even find the physical exercise of straightening up and making myself look around with the intention of shifting focus makes a difference.

When we bring this into communication, we don't just see and hear someone, we observe and listen to them without judging. This is the essence of communication.

It's all about shifting our focus from the never ending inner rambling of the mind and taking in the bigger reality around us, extending into our focussed interactions. When we communicate with someone we shift from trying to talk to them, to hearing them without judgement.

So much of our communication is reactionary, rather than responsive - meaning that we have only heard and seen things in a way that triggers a reaction in us, rather than listened and observed with empathy and the goal of understanding, leading to a response that empowers, challenges and respects the value of the other.

It takes effort though, and often we are so caught up in our own reactions that we aren't even aware of what we are doing - or not doing. I often get into trouble, especially online, when I don't make the effort. And I see it so often in others, when try as I may to communicate clearly, they are too busy reacting from their inner dialogue and eagerness to judge and justify.

Lets all try to listen. Ask questions, draw out the real issues. Bypass the rhetoric and clichés. Challenge biases and paradigms, but most of all, hear each others hearts.

And here's the BIG one: don't be afraid of being wrong!

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Respecting "the journey"

I treat this blog as a place to publicly process my ideas as I keep growing and moving through the maze of life {insert other appropriate clichés here}.

Because of this, I get labelled and boxed with monotonous regularity, and in some ways that's fair enough. We can't be expected to read between the lines or know the entire background and "paradigm" behind everyone's journey.

The thing is, although I present stuff that undermines religion and especially Christianity on a regular basis, I fully realise that this is MY journey.

I challenge and provoke, question the status quo, present new or alternative ideas, use critical thinking and rational thought (to the best of my ability) in my quest to understand the greater mysteries of life.

But I also realise that its taken me many years to get to this point, and I simply can't expect anyone else to suddenly accept that my ideas should be theirs.

There have been many people I've encountered over the years who presented ideas that were way beyond my paradigms, and I thought they were deceived, deluded and lost souls. But their words were seeds that took root until, when the conditions were right, started to shoot.

In hindsight, I'm incredibly grateful for those challenges, and often confrontations - they helped prise open the door of dogma.

I often feel I cross the line when challenging people and presenting highly provocative stuff. But when I think about the unique and subjective journeys that we are all on, I know that even if someone is offended now (and it's never my heart to offend), I've hopefully planted a seed that will start to grow some day.

I really do respect everyone's unique road through life. I have to! I had to grow at my own pace, absorb new stuff only as I was capable, be open to new ideas only as I saw the failing of old ones.

I guess I'm really trying to say that we have to respect the unique journey each of us is on, and yet not be afraid to lovingly confront and challenge with the goal of bringing truth and love to humanity, that we will continue to mature as a species and one day come to true unity in love.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Let's Talk About Anal Sex

I talk to a lot of people about being gay, especially christians. Once you cut through all the religious doctrinal rubbish you usually end up with "the yuck factor".

This is the dreaded anal sex - yes, in the end this is what it comes down to far too many people. There's even a new group that call themselves "g0ys", (who despite some good intentions suffer from ignorance of the full nature of sexuality and gender, and engage in active bigotry towards LGBT people) and are pro homosexuality but anti anal sex as well as anything that suggests the slightest hint of breaking out of gender stereotyping.


But what IS the deal here? The most recent U.S. data from a national representative sample comes from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), which was conducted on over 12,000 men and women aged 15 to 44. Results show that 34 percent of men and 30 percent of women reported engaging in anal sex at least once *. This is certainly an eyebrow raiser because we aren't talking about gay people here!

Other stats say around 90% of gay men practice it, some less, but generally at least 80%. Other stats on straight women say about 11 to 15% regularly practice anal sex. Whatever the figures, it's not just a small minority.

Is it safe? Is it yuckie? Is it pleasurable? Why do we even care?

As with ANY form of sexual contact it has it's risks. There are links to anal cancer etc, but what most people don't realise is that the research assumes that all gay guys engage in rough, unprotected sex every night of the week with a different partner - something that far too many accept as a stereotype. The truth is that it's as safe as you make it. If you clean yourself first, all good. Clean up after, all good - basic stuff really.

Yuckie? I can see why people think that because that's the hole where the crap comes out. Of course the semen comes out of the whole where the urine comes out, but we don't think about that. Again, it's all a matter of what we've been conditioned to thin rather than any reality.

Pleasurable? Most guys find it great, not all, but most. This is because it directly stimulates the prostate gland. It gets a nice stimulating massage during the whole process and it can be pretty good. Some guys don't like it and that's fine. No one is forcing anyone else to like it (well, they shouldn't). Many women like it as well. It's just one of those sexual experiences that you either like or don't.

Do we even care? This is the crunch! Why the hell do we care what other people do in their bedrooms? How does it affect YOU? If your gay neighbours are having anal sex, exactly how does that affect your life? If you are spouting religious reasons, really, what do we care what your interpretations of some ancient tribal writings say? I know it's very important to many people, but if that's your views, then you are actively involved in killing people. Religious views are the primary cause of mental illness that directly causes chronic depression and suicide - at alarming rates.

So if your opinions come down to gay people having anal sex, perhaps you should give it a go yourself!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Is Love a Discipline? - Pt 3

So, is love a discipline or isn't it?

So far I've proposed that it isn't (Part 1, Part 2) . However there are aspects of our self worth that create the free flow of love that do require discipline.

Loving ourselves doesn't come from doing nothing, we have to work at it. But that work isn't striving and beating ourselves up. It's a gentle, honest and determined work. It's a work that requires us to be painfully honest with ourselves on one hand, and incredibly gentle on the other.

We must stop and look closely at how we feel about ourselves - question our actions and reactions - our habits - the things we say to ourselves - what we think when we look in the mirror and so on. We must look at what has hurt us, abused us, broken us, to create these reactions and self image. It can be really painful indeed, especially where abuse is involved.

Then we "let go" and simply accept those things as who we are with no judgement. Yep, as ridiculous as it sounds, after being honest and recognising our lack of love, we simply accept it and stop struggling. When we have suffered abuse and trauma, this can be very scary and "triggering", but that's ok. We are allowed to feel the emotions of these things, but with the intention of "letting go", in the sense that we become the observer, rather than the participant. This requires the discipline of non-judgement, a gentle and respectful process, and often needs the help of trusted friends or compassionate counsellors.

Only then can we begin the important task of "re-programming" our minds, requiring the next step in  discipline. We've spent years soaking up all the crap that creates a bad self image and allowed ourselves to be brainwashed by it all, so we have to reverse that process, and that takes some determination.

We all know that pretentious stuff about positive self talk, well guess what, it works! BUT, it only works when we have been honest and done all the ground work I've mentioned. The two sides go hand in hand - non-judgemental observation and acceptance of our past and the paradigm that has created, and the re-programming of our minds to the truth of our worth.

Positive self talk isn't some fluffy bullshit. It can be painful, and seem like you are going against everything your mind and even your body is telling you. But remember, you are actually reversing the brainwashing of a lifetime of pain and lies, so it WILL go against all you feel.

The basic idea is telling yourself all the time and in every way we can think of, that we are perfect, beautiful, awesome, loved, accepted, needed etc. We take the time to think of all the things we'd like to be and actually declare that we ARE those things. We look in the mirror and say (no matter how hard it is) "I love you!". Find people who love you exactly as you are, who feed your heart. Immerse yourself in positive books and media - anything that affirms your real value as a beautiful, loving creation.

This is discipline, and it can be bloody hard work! But the one thing it isn't, is trying to love others by doing "loving" things. It's not sacrificing our own desires for the needs of others. It's not putting god first, others second and ourselves last. It's not trying to be loving. But it IS disciplining ourselves to undo the lies that we have been told and have taken deep into our hearts.

You ARE love incarnate - live loved!

Friday, 7 October 2016

Is love a discipline? - Pt 2

I had some people ask for some practical application of my last post "Is love a discipline?"
(although I'm not sure if this will qualify, lol)

The idea that self love is the only source of true love for everyone else can be a tricky one to get our heads around, especially when we have no real experience of self love outside of the context of the christian paradigm/belief system.

Many have never even considered the issue and just plod through life trying to "do" love, hoping that it will get easier as the learn self sacrifice.... and there in lies the first part of the problem! Self sacrifice is not going to make us more loving, never has and never will. It does, however, create an attitude self neglect, repression, a minimisation of our own natural talents and beauty, and often a form of self abasement that amounts to being a doormat, and all too often, forms of metal illness.

Christians are told that the correct process to be pleasing to god is put god first, others second, and ourselves last. We must sacrifice ourselves as Jesus apparently did - to carry our cross in the worship of God and service to others.

The second part of the problem is we are taught to "channel" god, to the point where we are nothing more than a means of god pouring out his love to mankind. The theological reasons for this are complex and sound reasonable given the premise that we are broken and incapable of doing anything good without the indwelling of god's spirit.

All this creates the paradigm that our own ability to love is flawed from the ground up, and that only god has this ability.

With all that in mind, back to the original topic - how do we apply the idea that self love is actually the single most important thing all humans need to not only thrive as an individual, but also as a "species"?

Of course, it's a process. It's not going to happen overnight. Some people have a spiritual experience that helps shorten the process - some sort of cathartic event that reveals our beauty and "oneness". For most of us it requires us to do a bit of inner searching and be brave enough to accept who we are right at this moment, with no thought of needing to change, or not being good enough etc.

It takes time, and of course, doesn't exclude the need to "do" loving actions for others as we grow. But the whole point is that we need to turn the destructive discipline into a natural flow of genuine affection, compassion and empathy from our core.

For example, I used to occasionally lose the plot and get angry out of frustration. People would annoy me (often those closest to me, sadly) because they couldn't understand me or I couldn't successfully communicate what I was feeling or needing. As I let go of the religious aspects of love and began to nurture myself things began to change. I recognised that I couldn't change by trying, so I just accepted that I was suffering - with NO judgement. I allowed myself to recognise I was just like everyone else and that was absolutely ok. I could then love people even if they didn't "get" me. I saw their struggle to understand with empathy and accepted and loved them totally in that, just as I now accepted and loved myself.

The key? NO SELF JUDGEMENT!

I stuffed up? - not a problem. Fix up the mess and treat yourself like the loved children we really are.
For example, our toddler wets the bed, but we don't berate them and demand they repent and try harder. We love them and say "never mind", clean up and show them that they are loved and wonderful. Its proven beyond doubt that if you scold a child for bed-wetting, it makes toilet training much harder. The worse the shame and punishment, the harder the toilet training becomes. This is true of all childhood behaviours (yes, I know many of you are thinking we have to be strong with kids and use discipline etc, but that's a whole other topic).

This is how we need to treat ourselves in every area. We don't judge ourselves - we don't need to!! Just like a loving parent, we embrace all we are, knowing that love will bring self confidence and the innate ability to prosper as a human, and share that love to everyone else.

This is a huge subject, and something I've spent the last few years getting a handle on. I've hardly scratched the surface here, and yet the whole thing is so incredibly simple. The problem is our indoctrination by religious paradigms.

More to come....

Live loved!!

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Is love a discipline?

One christian tenet that is commonly touted is the whole idea of love being a discipline - something we have to work on - to actively "deny ourselves" and exercise Godly love despite our feelings.

I always battled with this. I could never figure out why love had to be so hard, even though the excuse provided by traditional doctrine is that we are born "fallen" so everything we do that has value is going to be resisted by our "fallen" nature. It just didn't gel.

As I began my journey out of traditional christianity, I began to see people who genuinely felt "emotional" love towards everyone. It's the kind of love that isn't a discipline or a consciously focused exercise on applying scriptural doctrines, or trying to "channel" God in some way. For these people, they just felt simple and unconditional love for every person.

How could this be? So I read and observed, and discovered it isn't just super spiritual gurus who have obtained "enlightenment" of some sort, but was often simple, average people.

I've discovered the one common factor is self love!

I'm not talking about anything narcissistic in the slightest. I'm talking about a full acceptance of our own worth as neither better or less than any other human being. It's a complete acceptance and love of self as we are at this moment, no guilt, no shame, no regrets. It's a full embracing of our core being as an expression of love. It doesn't matter what religion or doctrines you may believe, apart from the basic fact that we are all beautiful and created in love.

This alone creates an inner peace that is far beyond any religion or spiritual discipline. If we have to strive to be loving, then we have missed the point entirely. And I can personally attest to it! Over the last 5 years I've grown to love myself "warts and all" in such a way that I feel equal to everyone else. Love to others becomes an expression of my love for myself. I don't have to "fake it till I make it". In fact, when I don't feel love for someone I'm getting to the point where I stop and look at what is being reflected in my own lack of self love.

Yes, it's something we grow into as we peel away the layers of self loathing in all its blatant and subtle forms. We have to abandon any belief that says we are broken and needy and require an external "saviour" because that shifts the focus and responsibility to that "thing" rather than embracing our true value on it's own merit.

If you don't experience natural, emotional based love that feels like empathy and affection for others, then the solution isn't "trying" harder, it's loving yourself more, and that only comes by unconditional acceptance of all that we are right now, and then allowing that internal love to gently strip away anything that isn't a product of love. No striving or effort to repent and renounce sins, no berating ourselves or struggling to be better - we are enough as we are, and all the we hate about ourselves is just a product of our "journey" so far, and we can change the direction of that journey by embracing self love.

Sounds too good to be true? Yep, we've been told a lot of lies for a long time. We ARE beautiful, all of us, right now. It's how we are "created". We truly are "one".

Live loved!


Thursday, 22 September 2016

The Unchanging God

One of the great tenets of Christianity is the "unchanging god" - the same yesterday, today and tomorrow - his character is solid and is never indecisive, always full of love, mercy and justice. We can count on him because he is always constant, in every way.

The truth though, is a bitter pill to swallow, a pill that most christians refuse to acknowledge.

For those christians who see god as totally loving and full of grace, they have had to shed the idea of the "monster god" of the Old Testament, and to do that, there's a large problem. 

To make god really as good as we say, we have to cherry pick the bible. God should be good of course, and we know that, however fundamentalists and traditional christians are trapped in the idea that you have to adhere to the entire bible, which is impossible, so you end up like the Jews - creating a god in your own image, and a nasty one at that.
 

Even the new testament has a lot of the old nasty god in it, which we have to tiptoe around to make a much better religion than the bible presents.
 
In reality, the christianity that most sane people like is one we have constructed out of morals and ethics far superior to those of biblical times.


However we don't see it that way. We use the term "doctrines" to describe the new beliefs that we stitch together from these cherry picked scriptures. I spent years doing this myself, and could justify it all with "scholarly exegesis".

I think this is actually a good thing, as we outgrow the primitive tribalistic god of the bible, but lets just call it for what it is - we are creating/modifying god into our own image - an image that reflects our evolving spiritual understanding, morals and love. 

The day will come when we see the bible for what it really is rather than worship it as a god actually speaking to us. Perhaps the only hold that traditional christianity will have over people is the fear of the unknown - what happens when we die. This is the last bastion of fear that we can be threatened with, and the last thing we need to come to terms with before shedding the old and walking in real love and unity as the beautiful creatures we really are.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Meme Me

Memes everywhere - silly, ugly, bigoted, ignorant, wise, profound, cats, you name it.

It seems our world is slowly being reduced into simple bite size chunks of information. This can be a great way to attract our attention and provoke us to read, research and ruminate, in order to grow and become better humans. On the other hand, it does little to expand our knowledge and broaden our perspectives, as most people either give it a quick glance, instantly decide if it agrees with their current paradigm and perhaps click the appropriate emoticon.

I've resisted the urge to create my own for this reason. It's too easy to be taken out of context and for people to put their own spin on it. However, that's exactly what we all do with just about everything we are exposed to - we see it through OUR eyes and interpret it through OUR paradigm.

It's only when we take the time and are really willing to hear and see, exercising empathy and a willingness to be open to change and growth, that the barrage of memes can be of any real use. Sure, they can help as little reminders to things we already know and agree with, but not when it comes to something that needs to be assessed and processed before passing any judgement on.

We see political, religious, philosophical and social memes, and quickly judge based on the rhetoric that we are already embracing, rather than looking at the deeper story, the context, trying to put aside our biases. But the meme is not designed for that. It's designed to be a fast and often aggressive tool to fire up emotions, divide and polarise.

I am constantly finding myself pausing to reflect on the endless meme stream, making an effort not to judge and allow myself to be swayed by unfounded claims, unchecked "facts', fear-mongering and hate speech. It's not easy!

I now usually post memes with the intention that they will be pondered and perhaps used to inspire further research. I always hope that people will realise that one tiny meme does NOT constitute the entirety of my intelligence, wisdom, experience or biases and react accordingly.

Except for cats. There's always cats.


Monday, 12 September 2016

Sup Jim?

I've been posting some confronting stuff lately and getting flack for my attitudes - so here's the story... 

I've slowly been leaving the fold of christianity, and in the process, posting heaps of stuff online (Facebook mostly) about the journey. I get very provocative, poking holes in doctrines and theologies as I continue to process, and get lots of "hate mail" because of it.

I make fun of stuff, I present radical views, controversial ideas, even some pretty offensive stuff. I stir up the pot of religion, no matter what's in there or who gets offended by the smell.

I've been accused of being arrogant, rude, judgemental, (and heretical of course) and I can't deny any of that. Sometimes I look at my comments and think "Jim, you really stuffed that up!". But hey, I'm human, fallible, growing and learning to "live loved". I am who I am, and I'm accountable, open, honest and strive for complete integrity in every area of my life. You can correct me and challenge me, and I'll always listen. And I've even admitted to being wrong and apologising (at least once I'm sure).

But what the heck am I on about? Be assured that nothing I say should be taken as personal offence (yes, I've been pretty hacked off with individuals who should know better, lol). I know all too well that each of us believes what we believe because of very real personal experience. No one picks up a belief system because it just seemed like a good idea at the time (well, hopefully).

So here's my biggest dilemma in terms of christianity (and religion in general). Do I simply say "believe whatever you want, it's all good". Or maybe "believe whatever you want, but if it affects other's negatively, then you should be aware of that and examine what you believe closely". Or perhaps I should present the whole underlying psychology and spirituality of christian theology as nothing more than a construct that meets deep human needs, being neither good or bad in itself, as long as we are aware of that fact. Maybe I should be brutal and stuff the consequences. Or maybe I should just quietly post pictures of dinner and cat memes.

The problem is I see the validity of each point of view. The thing that influences me the most, of course, is my own experience with the abuse that I and countless others, have experienced because of our sexuality. But that isn't the whole story by any means. Aside from that, millions
 of us have simply seen a far bigger picture than the one christianity paints. A picture that can't be "unseen" and that makes the christian world very small.

As many of you know, I loath dogma in any form and see it as one of the most destructive elements of human thought and behaviour. Even the philosophies and science I explore for bigger and better answers are always open to change.

I will not fit into any box anyone tries to label me with. And I hope for the day when all of us refuse to join a system of dogma that is in any way exclusive, denying our intrinsic oneness and unique individuality.

If you don't like what I say, then fair enough. But don't be surprised if I challenge you, and possibly be offensive in the process. If you can't handle having your beliefs questioned then they aren't worthy of your acceptance in the first place.

Life is tough and we all look for comfort, safety, security, love and acceptance - but this should never be at the cost of reason, logic, integrity and honesty in everything. We are worth more than that. We are love incarnate, but a species who, over countless generations, have lost sight of that, and have ended up creating endless religions to understand what went wrong and how to fix it. It's time to grow up!

And believe it or not, I do love you all - even you fundies who get up my nose!!