May 3

Religion:  Caught on the treadmill of futility

       Bono (lead singer for the rock group U2) has been quoted as saying: “Religion is what we do long after the Spirit has left the building!”

       The reason I bring up “religion” has something to do with my experience growing up in a dysfunctional family of religious fundamentalism.  It was the extreme far right (so far right it was almost left) of protestant Christianity, a family with rules and regulations that were more emotionally based than intellectual.  There was usually no explanation for the rules.  You just had to follow them. 

       Even though we were Protestants, there was a strong authoritative influence on everyone, particularly the children.  I remember never being allowed to play on Sunday because it was the “day of rest.”  I remember never being allowed to attend a school dance; never going to live theatre or movies; never drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes; never being allowed to act in a school musical; never allowed to play in a rock and roll band; never allowed to… think for myself.

       The above list of rules and regulations just scratches the surface; the list is far too long to allow for a complete inventory in this short blog post.  But it gives you an idea of where I came from.  A treadmill of endless limitations and taboos was the environment in which I grew.

            What is the definition of insanity?  “Repeating the same thing over and over hoping for a different result.”  I laughed when I first heard this definition.  But quickly realized that I must be insane! 

       My religious background had me convinced that I needed to ‘up the ante’ if I wasn’t getting the results I wanted.  “You need to pray more” I was told.  So I would pray more, and with more intensity. But that wasn’t cutting it.  Just more time spent on the treadmill.

       “You need to have more faith!”  But I was never quite sure what that meant – more faith – where was I supposed to get more faith?  I spent more time struggling with the rules and trying not to sin than I did making any connection with God.  Still, I continued to run the treadmill.  It was the least I could do.

       The problem with religion is realized when an entire group of faithful ‘believers’ can continue the charade of knowing God even though there is little or no evidence to support their claims.  Religion can keep going long after the “Spirit has left the building.”  It took a powerful addiction to make me realize that I was hiding behind my religion.  My connection with a Higher Power was almost non-existent.  And my religion was merely a treadmill of futility.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Religion: The absence of grace

May 2

Chaos: Clarity and informed choice

       When everything seems random, chaotic and out of control how do we cut through the confusion?  When our thoughts are unclear about what’s going on, how do we get clarity?  Do you find yourself in a state of confusion?  Has it been difficult to understand what has been the problem? 

       Perhaps you are too close to it.  It’s hard to see something when you’re standing right in front of it.  I’m suggesting that you need to stand back.  Back away from what’s going on in order to get a better perspective.  It’s time to step back and observe.  Simply watch what’s happening and notice your reaction to it.  In this way you’ll be able to look at it without passing judgment. 

       You’re still going to feel the pain if there is any to feel.  But you’re not going to resist or pass judgment.  You’re simply going to let it be “okay.”  There’s no other way you’re going to get clear on your situation and begin to make informed choices. 

       It takes time in order to learn how not to be judgmental.  Not everyone can allow events to just happen and not resist them.  It takes time to learn how to search for the beauty in your circumstances, and accept the things over which you have little or no control. 

       It is necessary to practice in solitude.  You can’t always get a better perspective when you are in the thick of your circumstances.  When you are alone and quiet, solitude allows you to reflect on the events of the day, and observe them without judging anyone or anything. And it’s this practice of solitude that will better prepare you for the next time.

       Each of us has learned to interpret things – objects, people, and events – in a certain way.  How you interpret an event is not necessarily the way I would.  We give meaning to our life experiences; we do it with our thoughts.  Without adding meaning the events that happen in our lives would just be events.  It is possible to observe what is happening to us without assigning any meaning and, therefore, let whatever is happening be okay.  (I will be looking at this topic in a later blog post when we cover “letting go.”)

       It takes time to gain control over your thoughts.  This is not an easy thing to do.  But if you begin with simply being aware of your thoughts – if you learn how to think about your thinking – you will have made a great start toward gaining more control over your thoughts.  And control is really what we want, is it not?  Not the kind of control that causes us to suffer because we’re resisting, but authentic power and control over that which is our only choice:  Our thoughts.    

 Tomorrow’s topic – Religion: Caught on the treadmill of futility