BRINGING ENLIGHTENMENT TO EVERYDAY LIFE
Lesson presented to Unity on Cape Cod – September 3, 2017

A year ago, I stood up here and delivered the first sermon I had ever given. It was well-received and struck a responsive chord with many of you. My subject was the spiritual energy in this room, which I called the angels in the room.

Since then many of you have told me how something I said changed the way you think about life. It wasn’t my thoughts on spiritual energy that struck a chord, though; rather it was my comments on enlightenment.

So today I want to expand on those comments to define what enlightenment is; to suggest an easy way to take it beyond the church steps into everyday life; and to explain why I believe that is important.

Of course, speaking to this group about enlightenment is the classic definition of preaching to the choir. So, let me ask you, what is your definition of enlightenment? Anyone? (several parishioners responded).

Charles Fillmore, the founder of Unity, called enlightenment “the awakening of man to spiritual consciousness, the dawning of light in his mind.” In my talk last year, I called it thinking, acting, and living in a saintly or God-like way.

The best definition I have heard came from my favorite spiritual channel, who called enlightenment “the compassion of the Creator within”. The compassion of the Creator within; what could be more consistent with the teachings of Unity? We understand that the spirit of God resides within every one of us; we just need to tap into that spirit to shine its light in everything we say and do. We need to light up the room, not just on Sunday, but every day.

Some good indications that you have reached a high level of enlightenment, that I offered before, are:
1. you have set aside your fears and seldom worry about anything;
2. you decline to participate in family or workplace dramas;
3. you no longer take on other people’s problems as your own – including those of your adult children, although you still love and support them in finding their own  solutions; and
4. you treat every person as special, important, and equal, regardless of their social status, education, job position, or ethnicity; and despite their attitudes, beliefs, or behavior.

Joy is another sign of enlightenment that I noted before, when I said that although you might still feel blue or overwhelmed now and then, most of the time you feel nothing but pure joy and gratitude every minute of your life.

A few weeks ago, Paula and I attended services at Unity on the River in Amesbury. The minister, Ogun Holder, gave a wonderful lesson on Joy. He noted that two of the most enlightened people on the planet, the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu, were the most joyful people he had ever seen, despite the many hardships both had endured.

As a frequent world traveler, the Dalai Lama is known for his practice of joyfully greeting the housekeeping staff whenever he stays in a hotel or inn, treating them as he would treat any world leader.

Just as with most everything else in life, there is a long spectrum of reality between the least enlightened and the most enlightened among us. Most of us fall somewhere in between, and often struggle to set aside our anger and our egos when dealing with aggravating behavior by others.

It is also clear that there is no relationship between enlightenment and intelligence. The world is full of simple souls who are purely enlightened, while many of the most brilliant people in government and corporate offices seem to be dangerously unenlightened.

So what characteristics and behavior would we expect from an enlightened person? Surely the top one would be love. Here in Unity we know God as pure love and only love. If we are shining the light of God within us, the greatest expression of that love is compassion—caring about and for others.

At the other end of the spectrum we find the opposite of love, which is fear. All other attitudes, feelings, and beliefs arise out of or express either love or fear. Fear has a crippling effect on our efforts to be more enlightened.

As part of my thought process about enlightenment, I compiled a list of 35 attitudes and behaviors that would be universally considered to be expressions of the Christ spirit within us. And next to them, I listed the opposite attitude or behavior that nobody would expect to see from an enlightened person. I won’t list them all, but here are some of the top contenders:
Enlightened people tend to be:
• compassionate,
• understanding,
• authentic,
• serene,
• respectful,
• forgiving,
• grateful,
• and most of all, joyful.

All of these characteristics are positive and universally desirable. They clearly represent the energy of light.

Unenlightened attitudes and behaviors that oppose these characteristics include being:
• fearful,
• hateful,
• blaming,
• angry,
• secretive,
• deceptive,
• combative, and
• morose.

These are all negative and universally undesirable characteristics. They represent the energy of darkness.

It’s easy to think that dark energy is taking over the world because that’s what makes news. But look again and you will see that the old dark energy is not in fact winning or doing much of anything. The energy of our planet has changed. Enlightenment is beginning to emerge; it just doesn’t make headlines.

In his sermon at Amesbury last month, Ogun Holder said the fear and hatred that dominates the news is bubbling to the surface so that it can be healed.

Remember that it is not our job to cure the world of all its ills by ourselves. But it is our job to shine our light into every life that we touch. As each of us does that, we will collectively raise the consciousness of the whole planet.

Another way to measure enlightenment comes from psychologist Abraham Maslow. I mentioned him in my earlier talk describing people he called “Sunday Christians” who leave their spirituality on the church steps after the service. While Maslow wrote extensively about the psychology of religion, he was best known as a professor and business consultant. His defining work was a theory of psychological health culminating in what he called self-actualization.

Maslow defined self-actualization as “what a man can be, he must be.” Of course, he was referring to “man” in the generic sense, applying to all persons. That strikes me as a good description of the purpose of becoming enlightened: what a person can be, they must be.
Here are some of the characteristics Maslow saw as signs of self-actualization:
• Acceptance of themselves and others for who they are;
• Ability to see life situations objectively without excessive emotion;
• Resistance to trends and fads, but not purposely unconventional;
• Highly creative and problem-centered, rather than self-centered;
• Having strong moral and ethical standards, democratic attitudes; and concern for the welfare of humanity.

And the key characteristic that Maslow defined as common to self-actualized people: frequently having what he called peak experiences. Peak experiences are those moments in life where everything suddenly comes together exactly as you would wish it to happen, despite all odds to the contrary.

Maslow’s contemporary, Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, said that events are “meaningful coincidences” if they occur with no causal relationship, yet seem to be related. He called these events synchronicities. Wayne Dyer called them “real magic”. I call them spiritual intervention.

These are the moments when Spirit steps in to help us realize our fondest dreams. That could be anything from landing your ideal job or meeting the perfect partner, to finding a parking spot next to the door during a storm.

Now this is the best reason why we should all be striving to shine our light of compassion, caring, and authenticity into the world around us: the light that we shine reflects back at us like a parabolic mirror, magnifying what we send out, bringing those peak experiences into our daily lives.

So just how do we go about becoming more enlightened? There is, of course, no single path to spiritual enlightenment. Our service script reminds you of that every Sunday. Whatever works for you is the path you should follow.

My own path is simple and straightforward: I try to watch my thoughts, my words, and my expectations. As some of you have unfortunately seen, I’m not always successful. I admit to being human and too often losing my cool or letting my ego get in the way.

But I try to keep my thoughts, words, and expectations positive. When fearful or negative thoughts creep in, I face them; try to figure out why they arose; then deal with them or dismiss them. When I let them linger, I always feel bad afterward. If they don’t carry light, they don’t belong in my life.

You might ask, why bother? We come here on Sunday; we feel the presence of spirit; we enjoy the wonderful sense of community; and we leave feeling ready again to deal with all the stuff that life throws at us the rest of the week.

My answer is, when you carry the effort to shine your light throughout every minute of the week, life tends to throw less stuff at you. You begin to see the synchronicities, have the peak experiences, and occasionally enjoy a miracle.

Most of all, when you keep your focus on shining a positive light on everything you say and do, you begin to feel a closer and more constant connection with the Christ spirit that resides in your heart. And that connection will make every aspect of your life easier and more rewarding. So, shine on, and wherever you are or whatever you are doing, be the person who lights up the room.

MEDITATION 1

Meditation Presented November 27, 2016 at Unity on Cape Cod, Hyannis MA

As you now sit quietly and calm your thoughts
place your feet on the floor
and get comfortable in your chair

Close your eyes if you would like
and absorb the wonderful loving energy in this room

Let the spiritual energy of the living earth rise through your body
and into the universe, carrying away anything that is troubling you

Clear your mind of all conscious thought
Let it be a blank screen awaiting a message from Spirit

Focus only on your breathing
Exhale
Inhale
Breathe out all tension and stress
Breathe in the love of Spirit
Breathe out all worry and care
Breathe in the grace of God
Feel the magical balance between your body, mind, and spirit

Sense the caress of angels surrounding you
Know that you too are an angel wrapped for now in human form
Remember the words of the Christ Jesus, who said “I AM”
You might say “I AM an expression of God on this earth,
raising my spiritual vibration, and shining my light of compassion,
acceptance, and authenticity for others to see”

Know that you are in charge of your life, your thoughts,
your health, and your emotions
Tell your body “I AM healthy, I AM healed,
and I AM infinitely grateful for being here today
surrounded by the love of friends and family”

Know too that while we speak to God through prayer
God speaks to us through intuition
and thoughts that we do not consciously create

With your mind clear of conscious thought open yourself to the intuition of Spirit

Ask the ultimate prayer: “Dearest God, what do you want me to know?”
The answer will appear in your thoughts but not come from your mind
Say that silently to yourself and listen for the answer
“Dearest God, what do you want me to know?”

(pause)

You now have your answer
Remember this message from Spirit

When you are ready, open your eyes come back to this room

As you slowly return to conscious thought think about what just happened

Consider how you can use this exercise every day
to bring the wisdom of Spirit into your life
as you do your work, carry out your chores,
and interact with all those around you

Once again, breathe in the love of Spirit
feel the loving energy of this room
and joyously celebrate this life we are sharing

And so it is

ANGELS IN THE ROOM

Lesson Presented August 21, 2016 at Unity on Cape Cod, Hyannis Massachusetts

Angel Wings

There’s something special about this room. Every Sunday I get here early and take my seat – one on the aisle with extra legroom – then I sit quietly while I absorb the energy around me. I might listen to our musicians rehearsing, which is always a treat; I’ll share hugs and greetings with those around me; or I might simply meditate. As I do this I always feel a loving spiritual energy filling the room. I know—and am grateful—that God is here.

Over the years I have worshipped in majestic churches and grand cathedrals. I’ve felt the power of their choirs and mighty pipe organs; and participated in their timeless rituals. Often, though, I’ve left feeling empty—as if God had overslept and missed the service.

Abraham Maslow wrote 60 years ago of Sunday Christians who leave their spirituality on the church steps when they head home on Sunday morning. I understand why they do that and suspect that it rarely happens here.

I first came to Unity on Cape Cod about two years ago, and recently became a member. I come here from a spiritualist tradition, however. I was baptized in a New Jerusalem church 75 years ago. That church is based on the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, a nineteenth century Swedish mining engineer and philosopher who began communicating with spirit when he was 56.

Swedenborg went on to write 18 works in 30 volumes on spirituality and biblical interpretation, and was an important contributor to the beginning of the New Thought Ministries. Ralph Waldo Emerson ranked Swedenborg with Plato, Shakespeare and Goethe, calling him “A colossal soul … not to be measured by whole colleges of ordinary scholars.”

Three themes that sound familiar today pervade Swedenborg’s writings, even though they were written more than 150 years ago. The first of Swedenborg’s themes is that the established religions had strayed from their original teachings and become more interested in money and power over their congregants.

The second theme is that the bible had been distorted and misrepresented by church leaders. And the third of his themes is that there is a relationship between the physical, spiritual, and divine worlds that would explain how matter relates to spirit.

Swedenborg called this last concept his “correspondence” theory. This is an idea that was a century ahead of its time, and is only now being embraced by quantum physicists. Swedenborg believed that angels and spirits were omnipresent in everyday life.

Angel Flying ByHow can I describe what I feel in this room? I agree with Swedenborg, and call it the presence of angels. Not cloud angels like this one that flew by my window a few years ago. And not Sunday school angels in flowing robes with enormous wings. I believe what I feel is the energy of an entourage of spirit beings that surround each of us all of the time.

As children, we called them our guardian angels; as adults we might call them our spirit guides, our higher self, our over-soul, Jesus, Mary, or any number of saints. I call mine Henry. More likely they are the spirits of departed family members or ancestors we never knew. Whatever we call them, they are all a part of God.

As I look out here, I see a room full of old souls and understand that most of you know exactly what I’m talking about. You feel it too. Now, the term “old souls” is a bit of a misnomer – all souls are ageless; they always were and always will be. But old souls have lived many lives on this earth and with each life have grown closer to their higher selves – the angels that surround them.

Most of us in Unity are in constant communication with the higher selves that serve as our direct connection with the Creator. We rely on that connection for ideas and inspiration. We use that connection to guide our words and our actions in a way that shines light on the world. It is that connection with God that helps us to recognize our purpose in life and our personal path to spiritual enlightenment. We don’t just talk to God through prayer; we listen to God through meditation and intuition.

By spiritual enlightenment, I mean thinking, acting, and living in a God-like way. In metaphysical terms, enlightenment quite literally means raising the vibration of our spiritual energy so that we shine a light of compassion and authenticity. That light can be sensed even by people who don’t understand why, but somehow feel that they want to be around us. We haven’t reached a level where we have visible halos, but we are heading in that direction.

The best indications that you have reached a high level of enlightenment are when you seldom worry about anything; you decline to participate in family or workplace dramas; and you no longer take on personal responsibility for other people’s problems – including those of your adult children. You might still feel blue or overwhelmed now and then, but most of the time you feel nothing but pure joy and gratitude for every minute of your life.

In addition to the spiritual entourage that follows us everywhere, each of us radiates an energy that is our soul being—our consciousness. Consciousness is the energy that animates our bodies and defines us as living beings. This energy is not visible to most of us, and not yet measurable by science. But it does exist, and suggests that each of us is an angel too, temporarily occupying a human body.

I think there is a scientific explanation for this metaphysical concept that will someday be discovered when we learn more about quantum energy. We live in a world of three dimensions: width, height, and depth. You can call time a fourth dimension. There are many more dimensions to the universe, however, most of them aspects of quantum energy we have not yet learned how to see or measure.

We can observe the effects of some quantum forces, though. Gravity, for instance, is a quantum force that is totally counterintuitive but obviously real. We know what it does, but don’t really understand how it works. Magnetism is another form of quantum energy. We see it holds our shopping list to the refrigerator door, but don’t know why. Cosmologists know that theoretically all of what appears to be empty space is actually filled with a quantum something or other that they call dark matter.

I believe that angels too are a form of quantum energy. I think the energy of angels is the same energy of consciousness that animates our bodies. When you see a lifeless body you know the consciousness has gone. The consciousness of that person remains with us, though, as a form of quantum energy.

Years ago I worked with a man whose wife, Barbara, had very strong psychic abilities, and was especially good at reading tarot cards. At that time my life was pretty much of a mess and I was willing to try anything to get things back in line, so I had Barbara read tarot for me several times.

For all her psychic ability, Barbara was always getting lost and forever late for appointments. One day when she was about twenty minutes late for our reading, the first thing she said was “Oh good, I’m glad you’re not angry.” I asked how she knew that and she replied that she could tell by the color of my aura. That was my introduction to one more metaphysical concept.

I’ve since learned that our aura is also known from ancient Jewish lore as a mercabah. The mercabah is our spiritual essence – our consciousness – and the part of us that endures when our bodies wear out. I know that at least one of you can actually see auras, and I suspect many more of you have the ability.

But those of us who can’t see auras can still sense them. That’s why the hugs and handshakes we share each Sunday feel so good. We are not just sharing greetings; we are sharing spiritual energy.

This is especially true when we gather in a circle of peace and love at the end of each service. When we do that we are combining our angelic energy so that it is multiplied and projected into the world. I know I’m not the only one who wells up with tears of joy from the power of that energy.

Unlike those church-goers who drop their spirituality at the door when they leave, most of us in this room live with spirit every minute of every day. We meditate regularly; we pray often; we speak and act with authenticity. Many of us serve our communities by volunteering on town committees, helping out in schools and libraries, or serving meals at the Salvation Army.

We collect shoes to send to the shoeless. We give books to children who have none. We take flowers to people in nursing homes. We gather care packages for military people who are far from home, and for others who have no home. We contribute generously to food banks, United Way, and to our little church. We help our families, our neighbors, and strangers as well when we see a need.

What more could we do? We need only to shine our light as angels; and let the spirit of God that is inside us show through every thought, every action, and every encounter with another person. That light shines brighter than you know; others may not realize what it is, but they know there is something special about you.

Here are some of the ways you demonstrate your angelic wisdom:

You treat every person as special, important, and equal, regardless of their social status, education, job position, or ethnicity; and despite their attitude, beliefs, or behavior. You realize that people who radiate negative energy are those most in need of your compassion, understanding, and acceptance.

You are constantly aware of the need to be kind and compassionate. Wayne Dyer once said “If your choice is to be right or to be kind; choose to be kind”.

You have stopped lending energy to negative behavior. The daily news is full of negativity because that’s what makes news. Compassionate behavior doesn’t make headlines. You might even have unplugged your television and turned off the radio news. You might catch the headlines on a newsfeed, but you don’t obsess about problems and behaviors that you can do nothing about.

My daughter asked me how to deal with all the violence and hatred that is so prevalent today. I suggested that she send compassionate energy to those who can do something about the problems; and send healing energy to the victims of those problems. Then let the problems go. The universe does not distinguish between positive and negative energy. Both feed and strengthen any situation, so we need to be careful to send out only positive thoughts.

You don’t need to solve all the world’s problems by yourself. I like to compare this thinking to the way many people behave when invited to a pot-luck dinner. They will bring enough food for everybody, so much of it is wasted. If instead, each shared only enough food for one or two, everybody would have enough. The same goes for solving the world’s problems: each of us solving the problems surrounding our own lives at the moment contributes to healing the larger issues of the planet.

So, why is the angelic energy of this room important, and what should we do with it? My response is to use it to magnify all of the prayers, the affirmations, the wishes, and the desires that we express to spirit in private. We have felt the power of our communal prayer for peace, when we all join hands and project it into the universe. That same power is available to each of us individually.

We can use that same power of communal energy to heal any illness or other trouble that we encounter in ourselves, even when others are not praying with us. While you are in this room full of angelic energy, visualize yourself as healed, as healthy, and as whole as God intended you to be. Feel the spiritual love and peace of the room, and absorb that love and peace into your soul.

And that’s all any of us need to do; we just need to listen to our angelic spirits, emulate them in all that we say and do, and radiate the joy we feel for knowing we are each a piece of God on this earth—constantly grateful for the lives we live and the people around us; and showing the world that wherever we might be or whatever we are doing at the moment, we are the angels in the room.