He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. (Mark 4:39, Early Church Writings)
We don’t have very many storms in this part of the country of Western New York. True, we have a few snowstorms each winter but for the most part we live in a fairly calm area. If we lived in parts of the South, Midwest or the rest of the country we would experience frequent hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and during this time of the year, raging grass and forest fires.
However we have storms here like everybody else in the world; storms of sadness, disappointment, deep losses in bereavement, family separations, and death to diseases and so-called natural causes. We also have storms of fear and guilt wondering if we are good enough or if we’ll ever make it big or if people will like us and be our friends.
Designated, certified, ordained holy people have raging storms as well. I read a few days ago of a pastor who one hour before a religious service decided he just couldn’t do it! He called a retired friend explaining he had everything ready including a written sermon; would the friend lead the service because he just couldn’t do it! The friend did.
Clergy have doubts about faith, about leadership abilities, about their family responsibilities, about their own health and well-being, physical and financial. I recently purchased a digital book by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik titled, “The Lonely Life of Faith.” In it he describes the loneliness of seeking to be an example, a teacher and scholar and worst of all, of a nonconformist. I can attest to those examples; they have all been a part of my own life. Just when we wonder if we can take it anymore we turn to God in life’s storms and it seems as if He is just sleeping in the back of the boat of life on a comfortable cushion!
Of course churches, temples, synagogues and mosques all have their storms. We all, who been a part of such organizations, know of “church fights, church politics and religious wars!” We have storms wondering, “How can we keep on going? Is the ship just sinking? Should we just let it sink?” We find ourselves asking, “What is the place of the church in these days called, ‘the post-Christian years.’” Is there still a place? What form might it be?
After all there is no place that says a “church” needs a building but it is simply a called out group which can meet in homes, storefronts, or outdoors under trees. The churches the apostle Paul started seemed to be mainly in homes, many begun after being rejected or thrown out from traditional synagogues.
But then storms are just not a part of our lives as religious leaders, as members of churches, or those of us trying to maintain families, jobs, and good health. The whole world in one aspect is a big storm! Just a one minute summary of world news will depict storms everywhere. It’s really not news. We are made aware of how catastrophe and Armageddon can occur anytime, anywhere with any of the present or future possible leaders. To some everything seems about to collapse. And so the trilogy of books and movies like “Hunger Games” spring to the top of sales as millions feel victimized by perceived storms coming from corrupt leaders to destroy their communities and lives. Such books are good for gun shows and sales!
We reel from the tragedy of the local medical doctor with the murder and suicide, of sex abuse scandals in churches and schools, fraud and deceit which seem to be everywhere. We might conclude the whole world is a non-ending storm as Angels and Gods and Creators are just sleeping on comfortable cushions in heavenly boats.
The storms of life, however, are best overcome by our thinking and remembering. As the contemporary book, A Course in Miracles teaches; “perception selects, and makes the world you see. It literally picks it out as the mind directs.” (Chapter 21.V.1-2) Indeed, great religious thinkers throughout history have seen the world and universe as nothing more than a big dream, perhaps more likely a nightmare. People like the apostle Paul saw reality only as in the unseen world, that everything we see is simply a passing illusion. It is not real because it is constantly changing and passing toward nothingness. “…for all that is seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18) Change our thinking, and we change the world. Perception makes projection outward, or projection outward makes our inward perceptions clear. And projection/perception is always a choice.
The simple, profound teachings of Jesus revolve around this one line; “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is within you.” It’s a way of saying that our true identities, our true higher selves are spirit and not matter or temporary form. God is the same “yesterday, today and forever!” Our bodies along with our thinking are constantly evolving, changing, calculating, and seeking ways to survive.
Sadness, depression, and anger simply reveal one’s reality interpretations as negative, limited forms of thinking. Heaven, happiness, and bliss just are; they’re non-dualistic in their unity of oneness. It is summarized by the ancient Hebrew Psalm, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:6)
Surviving the storms of life can be summarized by understanding that storms are created by our thinking but they can also be stopped by our thinking. In this world everything is relative. In some cultures when a family member has committed a “capital” offense or crime, he or she is shunned by the community. Within a few weeks the person dies from loneliness and the sense of abandonment. In our culture people leave families all the time, find new friends and new families so shunning isn’t really seen as a major punishment.
People survive storms which have destroyed their homes through fire and earthquake, destroying their closest relatives and friends, yet come to find peace. How? By coming to perceive everything we see and touch as transitory and therefore unreal. Only the transcendent and that which is “spirit” is eternal, unchanging, reliable, and endless joy!
I remember once seeing a woman standing by the charred ashes of what a few days before was her beautiful California home. She told the reporter, “Actually, I had gathered so much I am feeling a bit of relief and freedom from it all. We’ll take the insurance monies and find something simpler.”
But how can we possibly live and remember this? By disciplining our minds with meditation and readings of sacred Scriptures and helpful books. We live in this world but not of this world. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
Here on earth in body forms we are like passengers in a car or airplane, train or even a bicycle; everything around us is moving and we are moving with it with our bodies but in reality we are sitting still! The plane can be flying at 500 mph but we can remain still in our seats, an analogy for living in moving, changing bodies as eternal spirits, connected with our Creator.
So we ride out over and through the storms of life by remembering and staying awake. When we experience ourselves in the great storms we can awaken the sleeping Jesus within us and let Him say through us; “Wind, Storm – peace be still!”
In the summer of 1985 I had a roommate in San Anselmo, California who could go to sleep within seconds of lying down in bed! I asked him one day, “Sumio, how can you go to sleep so quickly?” He answered saying his Japanese parents taught him to control his mind. When distracting thoughts and unwanted thinking came into his mind, he learned to tell them, “Not now! Go away!” And they would.
It’s like teachers or parents having children who cannot settle down and become attentive to the task at hand; they need to clap their hands and shout, “That’s enough! Be quiet!” And it usually works.
When Jesus was awaken from his comfortable life of peace and joy by disciples who were frightened by storms surrounding their small boat, he got up, looked straight into the storm and said, “peace! Be still!” And the storm stopped.
In today’s discussion with Wayne Dyers book, “Wishes Fulfilled,” he wrote about the importance of staying attentive to negative and self-defeating thoughts which can constantly attack our minds of serenity and positive wishes. He uses the metaphor or image of his iPad. When something appears on your screen that you do not want, hit the button which says, “Trash”, and away it goes! We live so much of our lives feeding life’s storms junk and trash thoughts compared to our true potential being magnificent creations of God as His Sons and Daughters.
Today let us wake up again amidst the constant black storm clouds which fill our environment with negativity, hopelessness, and endless violence. Let us say “No! I refuse to allow my mind to be polluted and controlled by delusion. I am not my body, I am not my ego but I am Spirit, one with the True Creator of the universe which is endless joy, peace, and love.” Amen and Namaste to all!