Is God Real?

Oct 24
2009

A visitor to another website of mine, http://wordsculptures.com, asked, “Is God real?”

What a fascinating question! What does this question mean? 

What does the word “God” mean? Are we talking about an old man with a long white beard sitting on a cloud with a thunderbolt in his hand waiting to punish sinners? Are we talking about a king sitting on a throne? Are we talking about something we’ve been told is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, but something that remains a mystery? Are we talking about nature: the chatter of a squirrel, a gorgeous rainbow, a babbling brook, a magnificent sunset? Are we talking about an energy, like electricity, that we can’t see but somehow know is there because we can see the results – the lights go on?

Getting clear on what we mean by the word “God” allows each of us to clarify for ourselves our own answer to the question “Is God real?

Maybe it’s more useful to ask, “In what sense is God real or unreal to me?” You may decide that sunsets and babbling brooks are real, but an old man with a long white beard sitting on a cloud with a thunderbolt in his hand is not.

A friend of mine who was struggling over a similar question suddenly realized she could believe in God when she substituted the word “good” for the word “God.” She somehow knew what good was, even though she didn’t know what God was.

What do we mean by the word “real”? Is it what everyone agrees to call real? Or is it what feels real and makes sense to each of us?

If you and I are both looking at, smelling and touching a daffodil, we would probably agree that the daffodil is real. On the other hand, in the fourteenth century, most human beings agreed that the earth was flat. Was the earth really flat, just because everybody thought it was?

So what does it mean to say that something is real? 

I would encourage you to explore this question in a way that seems appropriate to you and come up with your own answers. You might try setting aside some focused time to journal. The answers you come up with for you are the ones that you will be comfortable with and the ones that will work for you. You might even be able to say with authority, “This is what I believe.”

My answer? From an intellectual perspective, I don’t know. I certainly can’t prove there is or isn’t a God.

However, I have chosen to believe that there is some energy or power greater than myself that somehow supports me and directs my life in miraculous ways that I could never figure out on our own. I have chosen to believe because it has been the only way I can cope with terror. My choice to believe has come from a place of sheer desperation, from hitting such a low spot that I’ve known I simply can’t cope by myself. I’ve had to let go and ask for help, and I wasn’t going to ask other humans.  They were the ones who betrayed me.

I know from observation that when I choose to believe, my life suddenly becomes more harmonious and centered and I can deal with life’s challenges more courageously. Is this really real? I don’t know. It surely feels real.

Sometimes, “making the connection” feels like turning the dial of a radio. At first, I get nothing but static. Then, suddenly, I’m tuned into a crystal clear channel that guides my actions easily and effortlessly. Do I know where I’m going? No. I simply trust that there is much more to this wonderful life we’ve been given than any of us can begin to fathom.

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

Sep 20
2009

Why do bad things happen to good people? There is always a deeper spiritual purpose behind the “bad” things that happen in the physical realm. Time, experience, and hindsight ultimately provide answers.

Many “bad” physical things have happened to me: my divorce from my first husband,  struggles caring for a family member hooked on drugs, the sudden death of  my second husband, a landlord who evicted me because he thought he could get more money from someone else. At least, they felt bad, unjustified, and unexplainable at the time.

Is this Higher Power’s way of strengthening me with courage, deepening me with compassion, clarifying my values, and moving me along the path I am intended to go? Not my will, but Thine?

I never thought I would divorce my husband. I believe in commitment and accountability. Yet when he became involved with another woman and refused to end the relationship, I found myself sitting in a spiritual limbo. I felt degraded to nothing more than a baby sitter, cook, and housekeeper. I had lost my partner. Perhaps I never had one. We were simply on different spiritual paths.

I agonized for months over whether to stay or whether to leave. After all, we had three children, all of whom I loved dearly. I struggled with anger, guilt, and fear. Ultimately I left the marriage and applied to law school.

I had never considered being a lawyer. The divorce radically shifted my path. After almost twenty years of staying home to care for husband, home, and children, I had to find a way to support myself financially on the physical plane. On the spiritual plane, I  felt compelled to find a way to speak about the mystical experience I had had years ago. Law school could teach me to think and speak with more clarity. None of this was easy.

Would I have become a lawyer had I remained married? Probably not.

My struggles in a relationship where a family member was addicted to cocaine propelled me into Naranon, a twelve step support group for families and friends of addicts. Would I ever have become aware of my own addictions to people and relationships, but for that experience? Would I ever have realized the value of setting boundaries and tough love? Would I ever have learned to focus on my own issues and stop trying to change others? Would I ever have learned the value of using first person singular language when speaking? The words then become simply my own thoughts. They are no longer ideas I am forcing on others, but, at the same time, I am free to express what I truly think and feel.

When my second husband Don died suddenly of a heart attack on Roatan, Honduras, it was, of course, a terrible shock. My life immediately afterwards was not easy. His death changed my life direction drastically. Among other things, I no longer had a home in the States.

Don was 14 years older than I. He had heart problems and had begun to lose his balance and fall a lot of the time. His mind was not as sharp as it used to be. It was becoming a full time job to care for him.

When I look at his death from hindsight, I can’t help but wonder if the timing and manner were exactly right. Have you heard of people making agreements before they enter this physical life to relate to one another in a particular way? I can’t help but wonder if Don and I did that.

After Don’s death, I simply holed up in the house in Roatan and wrote Shift, the book I’ve known for 35 years I had to write. Would I have had the time and focus to write a book had Don wasted away for years? Probably not.

When my landlord in a foreign country evicted me because he thought he’d found another tenant who would pay him more money and give him a longer term lease, I was furious. The anger again made me aware of how important commitment , accountability, and trust were to me. I struggled to find ways to enforce those values in a country that had little respect them. On the physical plane, it was not a struggle I could win. Even though my landlord had violated our agreement, I soon discovered I had no legal right to stay. On the spiritual plane, I had help in ways I could never have imagined.

I left as quickly as I could. With the breach of trust and lack of accountability, I didn’t want to pay this man any more money than necessary. I had to let go and trust Universal Energy to take care of the “bad” physical things. I was not disappointed.

Shortly after I left, my landlord’s wonderful new tenant breached his lease with the landlord. He hasn’t rented the house since.

An astute, spiritual friend said to me eighteen months ago when I was first having challenges with the builder of my home, “Haven’t you figured out yet that you aren’t supposed to live there?” No, I hadn’t. I’m stubborn. I will exhaust every viable avenue I can think of to resolve a situation or relationship issue before I’ll walk away. However, when Higher Power doesn’t want me to stay where I am, She just keeps slapping me harder and harder and putting more and more roadblocks in my way until I have no choice but to move in a new direction. From hindsight, the new direction is invariably the one my spiritual path is intended to take.

Can You Be Authentically Angry and Authentically Fair at the Same Time?

Sep 05
2009

My first thought was, “No, I can’t be authentically angry and authentically fair at the same time.”

In our human world, I frequently experience a sudden shift from being fair and reasonable to feeling rage when a person on the other side of a transaction stops being fair and reasonable, blames, doesn’t listen, doesn’t respond, and tries to control, manipulate or dictate an outcome that is not mutually acceptable. 

However, at a different level of consciousness, I think I can be both authentically angry and authentically fair.

On the human level, “fair and reasonable” assumes that the other and I have a mutual goal – working together to create a result that neither of us could create alone. We brainstorm and mastermind, throwing our thoughts out to each other and exchanging information about what we can do and what we can’t. We look for alternate ways of creating the result. Together, we make it happen. This happened for me recently with the help of almost 40 other people. It was both mind-boggling and humbling. 

“Fair and reasonable” at the human level breaks down when the goals of the parties are no longer identical. The homeowner wants a beautiful, well-built home. The builder wants to pocket as much money as possible with as little expense as possible. If the original understanding was that the builder would construct a house in accordance with specific plans using specific materials, and the homeowner would make progress payments, when one of them does not do what they agreed to do, it’s very easy, on the human level, to shift from “fair and reasonable” to authentically angry. 

“Authentically angry” is, of course, an emotion. “Fair and reasonable” is a function of the rational mind and normally involves committed action.

What does it mean to be “authentically angry”?

It does not mean lashing out with blame, criticism, and name-calling. Those are actions, not emotions, and often they’re done re-actively, not consciously. Experience tells me they are not useful. 

It does, however, mean noticing and feeling my anger. Then I can decide what to do with it. 

Usually, I have to shift from creative mode to assertive mode. While before I was working with another to create a mutually beneficial result, now I am taking unilateral action to create a mutually beneficial result. I am still being authentically fair and reasonable but I am using my authentic anger to change my own actions.

Change is never directed at the other. It is only directed at myself.

The mutually beneficial result may not feel mutually beneficial to either of us on a human level at the time, but from hindsight, it is always a karmic vehicle for bringing both of us into harmony on a more expanded spiritual level. 

When I first moved to the part of the world where I am now living, I rented a home from a Long Island real estate investor. I told him I needed to stay in the rental until my own home was built. He agreed. I thought my lease protected me. 

Two years later, someone  else offered to pay him more money and give him a three year lease. He asked if I would match the offer. I said, “No. I couldn’t make that kind of commitment.” He sent me an eviction notice. 

Fury does not adequately describe what I felt. I had always paid my rent on time and took good care of the place. Yet this man didn’t care. All he wanted was more money. 

I spoke with several local officials and attorneys. They told me he had every legal right to evict me. 

“What if I refuse to leave?” I asked. 

“You’ll get a judgment against you,” they replied. 

I had no legal support and no other worldly options. However, I had spiritual options. I left politely and quickly. I wanted my landlord to receive as little additional money from me as possible.  

My landlord breached his agreement with me. At the human level, there was nothing fair and reasonable about this. But was there a spiritual benefit? Absolutely.

I had learned once again that I needed to be more selective in choosing the people to whom I gave my trust and my money. This man had helped me step into my own sharpened discernment, assertiveness and power.

And the spiritual, karmic benefit to him? My landlord’s wonderful new tenant breached his agreement with my landlord. The house has now been vacant for over a year.

Searching for Healing? Pay Attention to Your Words

Aug 30
2009

Did you know that you shape the world in which you live by the words and emotions you allow into your mind and heart? If you need to heal, put healing words and emotions into your life.

Forty years ago, I would have been skeptical of that message. The way I viewed the world then led me to believe that the problems I experienced were caused by others. After all, I was doing the best I could and yet awful things were happening. 

Now, I know differently. Forty years ago, I was simply giving my power away to people who didn’t deserve it. I didn’t have to do that. Because I was unaware, I unconsciously allowed it to happen. I permitted dysfunctional people to have free rent in my head all the time. 

What changed? As a young mother, I unexpectedly had a mystical experience. That experience started me on a long journey through the world of perception, thoughts, words, pain, despair, paradox, anger, fear, terror, joy, peace, skepticism, faith, humility, gratitude, self-esteem, and personal power. 

The mystical experience was not one I was seeking. It just happened. I couldn’t find the words to describe it. My religious training offered me no ready-made vocabulary. Yet the experience was so magnificently transforming I needed to find some way to communicate it. I desperately wanted to understand it. My search for the ‘right’ words turned into a forty-year quest that ultimately left me acutely aware of how many different ways I could perceive the world and how the ways I perceived it affected how I felt. 

I’m not going to go into detail here about the mystical experience. Those who want to read more can go to my website at http://wordsculptures.com/experience.htm or read the first chapter of my book Shift: Change Your Words, Change Your World. 

As a child I’d been fascinated with optical illusions. The famous one of the old hag and the young woman is a good example:

Old Hag - Young Woman

Old Hag - Young Woman

The lines on the paper don’t change. What changes is the way our minds shape those lines and the meaning each of us gives to them. Depending on what we see, we use different words. We either use words like, young, beautiful, vibrant, charming, gentle or we use words like big nose, toothless, hag, jutting chin, drooping eyelids. Depending on what we see and the words we use, our emotions and energy levels change. Most of us feel better about the words young, beautiful, charming and vibrant than we do about the words drooping eyelids, big nose and toothless. 

Our real world is just like an optical illusion. We have a choice as to what we see, the words we use, the emotions we feel, and the actions we take. Perception, words, emotions, and actions are all interrelated. 

Eastern religions speak about piercing the veil of illusion. This is exactly what they are talking about. Christians talk about salvation. Same thing. Both are simply talking about consciousness-shifting experiences that suddenly allow us to view our world in a new, more harmonious, and creative way. 

How does shifting our consciousness allow us to heal? 

When we accept the fact that the influx of sensory data is what it is and that each of us is in a dance of consciousness with that sensory data, we suddenly realize that we have the power to change that dance by choosing our own perceptions, words, emotions, and actions. If our partner wants to tango and we want to waltz, we simply stop doing the tango. Either our partner will waltz with us or we will find a new partner who loves to waltz as much as we do. 

In short, by becoming acutely aware of the choices we have every minute of every day, we can seek out those people and experiences that enhance our energy and well-being and blithely dance away from those that do not.

Warm regards,

Janet

Janet Smith Warfield
Ordinary words, extraordinary insights
Author of Shift: Change Your Words, Change Your World
AMAZON BEST SELLER
WINNER: 2008 Next Generation Indie Book Award for Best New Age Non-Fiction

http://word-sculptures.com
WINNER: 2008 COVR Best Website Award

Questions

Aug 29
2009

Dear Ms. Warfield,

I live in Boquete with my husband and little boy, and I came across an email about your work.

Some years ago I had an insight that is very difficult to describe… the idea that in situations… in ALL situations in life, if only we would ask the right question (to ourselves or to the other(s)), this would be the key to successful living, and even to spiritual growth.

The best way I can relate this idea is to use your own described situation from your book… the one where you asked the fighting boys questions instead of scolding or lecturing.

It takes practice, especially if one is rooted in a faulty foundation, insecurities, and anger. But I believe that the practice of asking the right questions works. And I don’t think it is unlike what you describe.

Yours, Elizabeth Slagle 

Elizabeth Slagle has a blog at http://slaglesatlarge.blogspot.com/ – all about her family’s Panama adventure.

 

LOL! Questions are good. The right questions are even better. 

One of my struggles in writing Shift has been how to communicate my experiences and what I know without sounding authoritarian. This is not about following rules. This is about personal freedom. 

Over lots of years, I’ve learned techniques that work. One of those techniques is questions. Another is telling stories. A third is dialog. A fourth is first person singular. A fifth is poetry, particularly haiku. A sixth is thesis and antithesis. A seventh is paradox or unusual juxtapositions of words. The latter jolts people out of their conditioned linear thinking. Divisive, linear words simply cannot communicate wholistic understanding. 

If you look at the linguistic techniques great philosophers and spiritual leaders used, the best of them used one or more of the above techniques.

  • Socrates used questions
  • Plato used dialog
  • Jesus used parables or stories
  • Zen masters use koans and haiku
  • The Buddha used statements such as “I am aware.”
  • Kahlil Gibran used poetry
  • Hermann Hesse used novels
  • Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Friedrich Nietzsche used thesis and antithesis.

Current spiritual writers also use these techniques:

  • Neale Donald Walsh uses dialog
  • Eckhart Tolle uses dialog
  • Elizabeth Gilbert uses stories and first person singular
  • Janet and Chris Attwood use stories
  • Esther Hicks/Abraham use dialog and questions
  • Stuart Wilde uses stories and first person singular
  • Dr. Wayne Dyer uses paradox

But getting back to the subject of questions, how do we know when we’re asking the right question and when we’re asking the wrong question? There’s a very simple answer. When you’re asking the right question, you’re putting the power to answer in your own hands, not in the hands of somebody else.

For example, you can ask, “Why is she always late?” It’s a question that puts the power for answering in the hands of somebody else. Maybe she will answer. Maybe she won’t. Maybe she doesn’t even know the answer. Maybe it’s conditioned behavior. Who knows.

But when instead you ask, “If she’s late again, how am I going to respond? you put the power back in your own hands.

 Warm regards,

Janet

Janet Smith Warfield
Ordinary words, extraordinary insights
Author of Shift: Change Your Words, Change Your World
AMAZON BEST SELLER
WINNER: 2008 Next Generation Indie Book Award for Best New Age Non-Fiction

http://word-sculptures.com
WINNER: 2008 COVR Best Website Award

Do People Need to Socialize?

Aug 09
2009

This is one of those questions that truly can’t be answered in its present form. There is no general answer. Some people need to socialize. Others don’t. You may need to socialize sometimes and not others.

One of my workshop topics is “Ask the Right Questions to Get the Answers You Need.” Isn’t that the bottom line? Getting an answer you need, right here, right now?

The questions I’d ask would be: 

  1. What do I get out of socializing with other people?
  2. What do I get out of being alone?
  3. When do I need to be with other people?
  4. When do I need to be alone?
  5. What kinds of people do I enjoy socializing with?
  6. What kinds of people drain my energy?
  7. Do I need to socialize with someone now or do I need to be alone?
  8. If I need to socialize, who can I socialize with who will support me and fulfill my needs?

Those are questions each of us can answer for ourselves at any given moment.

Socializing with positive, creative thinkers can be hugely supportive to your goals and visions. Choose wisely the people you socialize with.

 

Spiritual Disparity and Lack of Communication

Aug 09
2009

Can a relationship work when there is spiritual disparity in understanding and no communication?

That is such a tough question. It has many ramifications. Let’s see if we can break it down. 

At what level do you want your relationships to “work”?

A car with a bad muffler “works” in the sense that it runs, but it doesn’t “work” as well as a car with a good muffler.

A relationship with spiritual disparity may “work” on some levels.

For example, perhaps the partners have children together. Both love their children and are working together to support them. The man earns money to pay the mortgage and buy food. The woman cooks, cleans, washes dirty diapers, and educates the children. Neither is abusive, so on the physical level, the relationship “works.” This is a “working” that is not to be discounted.

However, on other levels, the relationship isn’t working. In the sexual area, the man wants an orgasm. The woman is frigid because her needs for mental and emotional communication aren’t met. The man spends his free time with male friends, bragging about how many orgasms he had in a single night. The woman feels deserted and relegated to the role of a convenient babysitter, cook, and cleaning lady.

Perhaps the woman tries to express her feelings and needs to the man. He never learned how to deal with emotions so he doesn’t know what to do with them. After all, he’s been taught that real men don’t cry, right? God forbid that his buddies should find out he’s a weakling. Better to avoid the subject altogether, crack a joke, and move on to an area where he’s comfortable and doesn’t have to look at what he doesn’t understand and doesn’t know how to deal with. 

So what does the partner with the more expanded spiritual consciousness do? Not an easy choice. The answer is entirely individual. I can promise it means you have to change.

The change you make in yourself will affect both your partner and your relationship. Will the relationship hold together? I don’t know. It will either become stronger and more satisfactory to both partners or there will be too much of a disparity and the partners will go separate ways.

Regardless of what happens to the relationship, I can promise that you will become stronger and wiser in the process and will expand your own spiritual consciousness.

Fear and Honesty

Jul 31
2009

The municipal officials looked just like little Hitlers as they strutted into the hearing room. They refused to look at us. The first one on the stand stated my client should camp out in his tenants’ yard to make sure the tenants behaved.

I can’t say I felt fear before the hearing, but I did feel tension. I was not primarily a litigator, this was not my usual territory, and I wasn’t familiar with the procedures or personalities of that particular municipality before I stepped into the hearing room. 

I had, however, prepared both law and facts thoroughly. As the hearing progressed, it became obvious that the municipal officials were familiar with neither. 

I knew the police chief’s list of violations was inconsistent with the notices he had sent my client. After he haughtily read his opening testimony listing all the violations of which my client was guilty, I simply asked him to show me where my client had received notice of the violations. He spent a full two minutes looking through his file. Every eye in the hearing room was on him. 

Both my client and I sat respectfully silent while he looked, but we were both chuckling inside. Finally, he had to admit on the record that my client had never received notice. The police chief’s arrogance suddenly evaporated. 

The Code Enforcement Official, hands trembling, testified that the last time he had viewed my client’s property was over four months ago. He nevertheless adamantly stated that the property did not meet the Code requirements as of the hearing date. Did I hear that right? 

When I asked him how he could possibly testify that my client’s property didn’t meet Code requirements today when he hadn’t viewed it for four months, he backed down, retracted his statement, and suddenly started testifying honestly. Interestingly enough, his hands also stopped shaking.

Resisting Evil

Jul 25
2009

A visitor to one of my other websites, http://wordsculptures.com, asked an interesting question:

“Do you resist evil 100%? Does the impulse come to resist, and what do you do with the impulse?”

What do we mean by the word “evil”?

Personally, I don’t much like that word. It smacks of judgment, and judgment is not my job. Discernment, however, is.

Discernment is just noticing and making choices about how I am going to respond to behavior I prefer to call “dysfunctional.” Dysfunctional behavior is behavior that is win/lose. Functional behavior is win/win. That means doing the best I know how to bring harmony into a conflicted relationship or situation. Sometimes, I just have to walk away. That, in itself, often leads to harmony, as well as a lesson to the person who is stuck in win/lose thinking.

As far as impulses go, I always notice them and listen to them, but I rarely act out on them. Instead, I make choices about them. It’s called “being the witness.” Impulses and emotions are generally bringing me a message I need to hear, decipher, and understand. Once I understand what I need to change in my own life to restore peace and harmony, I can make a conscious choice about the appropriate action to take. It is never about taking action against another. It may be about protecting myself from dysfunctional people and situations.

By making choices about how I am going to change, I put my power back where it belongs – in my own hands.

Spirituality and Religion

Jul 17
2009

Spirituality is an attitude, a consciousness, a way of seeing life. Religion is an attempt to put spirituality into words – an effort that can never be adequately accomplished because of the nature of words. Words divide. Spirituality is whole and integrated. Words are only reflections. While often, they can guide the seeker to Truth, they are not Truth. Using words to communicate the spiritual experience and consciousness is like trying to hammer a nail using a screwdriver.

A major reason we have war is because some people set their own words up as Truth and then fight with others who have set up different words as Truth. The fact is that neither has evolved to a consciousness where they understand that words are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. This is the huge danger of religion. Religious doctrines are created to codify the spiritual experience and guide the seeker to it, yet in the process of codifying it, they frequently destroy it. Used correctly, religious doctrines guide one’s own actions. They should never be used to control the actions of others.

The spiritual experience is pure awareness, beyond dualistic words, beyond my words, beyond the word “awareness.” And yet it can also include dualistic words. Sometimes, it needs to because they can be wonderful catalysts when used in context to shift energy. They just pop up and they’re there. 

Despite the inadequacy and imperfection of words, we have to put them out there in the best way we know how. It is through putting our words out there and engaging in dialog that we clarify, both for ourselves and others.