Overcoming Resentment – Take 2!


Resentment, resentment… blah, blah…here’s a personal story you can identify with…blah…blah. Who gives a shit. Here’s the deal:

Resentment is the pain that results from believing that something should be different than it is. It is an unconscious defense mechanism that protects our conscious mind against fear. Insomuch as it works it saves us from the hard work of having to change our beliefs to match reality, especially when to make that change before we are ready to integrate it, would work against the development of our own evolution. That is to say, resentments work really well to cope with persons/institutions you think suck… until they don’t. When they stop working, we get sicker and sicker until we transform, heal, change.


Most of us, instead of heal/transform immediately, just look to medicate ourselves to further avoid the consequences of holding onto resentment and fear. Medicating takes innumerable forms, from the obvious to the subtle. The obvious forms are easily recognizable – smoking, drinking, drugging, bingeing on sex, sugar, interwebs, news, porn. The more subtle compensations are more challenging to identify because they also operate unconsciously – excessive exercise, laziness, co-dependencies, playing the victim, workaholism, bullying, self-abuse.

Overcoming resentment is an inside job. There is nothing you can change externally that will solve your shit. If you change scenery the same resentment (fear) will just constellate around the next relationship or job or whatever the case may be until you learn to overcome it. You attract the forces that you need to learn from – the entire universe does this – it’s a wonder it takes people so long to discover this fundamental principle. BUT, awareness is just the first step. NEXT, comes practice.

I’m going to give you one concrete practice right now to over come resentment. It’s an inventory process called: WRITE IT DOWN!

1. Write down the WHO: (Who do you resent – a person, institution, idea?)
2. Write down the CAUSE: (Not a fucking book – just the cold details.)
3. Write down the AFFECT: (How does it affect you? Does it challenge your security, your finances, your relationships, pride?)
4. Write down YOUR ROLE: (What did you do to set the ball rolling? How did you react? What is your responsibility now?)
5. RELEASE all your shit to the universe, or better yet, to someone you trust. (Read all that you wrote!)
6. REPEAT! THE! PRACTICE! If internal (life-sucking) voices continue.

BAM! Repressed resentment will kill you. Don’t let it. Do the work to heal! The energy used to deny the resentment is equal to the work it takes to heal from it… SO… DO. THE. WORK.

Overcoming Resentment


Resentment is the pain that results from believing that something should be different than it is. It is an unconscious defense mechanism that protects our conscious mind against fear. Insomuch as it works it saves us from the hard work of having to change our beliefs to match reality, especially when to make that change before we are adquately prepared to integrate it, would work against the development of our higher self. That is to say, resentment as a tool to cope with persons/institutions you think suck, works really well until it doesn’t. Most of us medicate ourselves to further avoid the consequences of resentment and fear. Medicating takes innumerable forms, from the obvious to the subtle. The obvious forms are easily recognizable -smoking, drinking, drugging, bingeing on sex, sugar, interwebs, news, porn. The more subtle compensations are more challenging to identify because they also operate unconsciously – excessive exercise, co-dependencies, playing the victim, workaholism, bullying, self-abuse.

Overcoming resentment is an inside job. There is nothing you can change externally that will solve your shit. If you change scenery the same resentment (fear) will just constellate around the next relationship or job whatever the case may be until you learn to overcome it. You attract the forces that you need to learn from – the entire universe does this – it’s a wonder it takes people so long to discover this fundamental principle. BUT, awareness is just the first step. NEXT, comes practice. Belief or faith is the last gift in the process. I’ll share a revelation I had running just this last week.

I get a lot from running. I gain access to my higher self – a type of euphoric communion takes place. In that window of revelation this past week the thought hit me that I haven’t been attracting a very familiar resentment – one that I’ve had my entire fucking life. I have consistently attracted authority figures in my life that I resented and rebelled against. I’m assuming it began with my father, but it’s only been over the last seven years or so that I’ve become AWARE of it, as a pattern. I can point to each individual who I resented and how they embodied the very forces I was being called to look at and overcome.

So much of overcoming resentment takes place in what are called inventories. In most people, when it happens, these inventories take place in semi-meditative states of reflection – on the toilet, when people lay their heads down to rest, in a trance after lunch, driving home. For those people whose awareness has grown these inventories grow – they develop, more often than not, into writing practices. Almost everyone I respect on the matter practices written inventories on resentment and fear – CONSTANTLY.

Overcoming resentment is less like fighting and much more like surrendering. I’ll never forget the last boss I had that I really had a bad resentment toward. I was aware enough to know that I was learning, that in fact the very judgment that I cast upon her was being returned to me in kind. I resented the resentment, the trap, the impassibility of it all. The solution was to surrender, again. “God?! Again!?? WTF!!” “Yes, again. SURRENDER.” I had this intuition that Spirit kept reminding me the entire time – about a semester’s time – that I was going to overcome this dynamic that produced this toxic resentment. I felt my resentments finality – the finality of the specific internal configuration producing or attracting the circumstances of disempowerment that so easily gave way to resentment.

Now two years later, that old, old life-long resentment is gone. It was a process of overcoming that took time, but I found that my resentment has left me in direct proportion to the growth of my empowerment. First, I became aware of the resentment (fear-pattern). Second, I went to practicing surrender. Surrender looked like inventory processes over and over when the resentment would crop up. I was using the phone a great deal. I would check in my inventories within a trusted network of understanding, closed mouthed allies. The development of faith – belief in myself – is the positive consequence that resulted from all this work. As I’ve changed internally, then and only then, have my external conditions shifted so that I’ve literally been placed in a protected position against such negative forces. Like MAGIC!!

I was on the treadmill when I came to my realization that my resentment was gone. I couldn’t help but smile and chuckle to myself – almost in amazement. I guess at some point without knowing it I had resigned to always attracting that resentment, always suffering from that sick pattern. I didn’t realize that my faith in overcoming that resentment had started when I became aware of it and that each time I surrendered it and practiced written inventories and intimate disclosure I was growing the faith it took to overcome it.

Don’t delay overcoming resentment – shit will kill you! If you’re looking for solutions to old patterns of resentment and fear, then you’ve come to the right place. My entire life’s mission is about helping you heal and transform. Reach out to me and let’s work together. Click Here!


Humility and the Carrot

Once I was a carrot. Seriously. I’ll never forget when I was employed as a carrot mascot for a company named, Full Circle. It was a farm to door vegetable delivery service expanding into the San Francisco Bay Area. I had a full black onesie. There was something unforgettable about wiggling into the bottom of my carrot suit, like entering into my own private suit where I was protected from the outside world. I became a carrot. I would yell at kids from my private, protected, carrot suit world, “EAT YOUR CARROTS!! I was the best dancing carrot you’ve ever seen! I would also have frequent thoughts of existential prayerful angst: “Lord. I’m becoming a carrot! What happened!?”

One of my roommates had offered me the part time gig, and honestly I had nothing else coming down the pipe-line. At that time in my life I had run out of ideas. All of my best ideas about how to live life had imploded on me. My best ideas weren’t bad ideas in-and-of themselves. Actually, they were quite inspired. The previous year I had been working on a Ph.D., living in a beautiful flat, with caring roommates who had been my long time friends from college. I sang in a choir. And yet, that year, I found myself at a bottom, a place of incomprehensible demoralization. I had lost myself and the dreams that I held so dear. How did I end up a carrot?

The down had its pitfalls, landslides, and mishaps. Becoming a carrot was not an overnight matter, but a series of poor decisions which when put together over and over led to suffering and a life without faith or hope. Coping with hopelessness requires really strong drugs – addiction set in and a period of homelessness quickly followed.

So you might be surprised when I say that becoming a carrot was one of the best experiences of my life. By the time I slid into that black onesie I had found an ever so fragile foothold in recovery. The carrot job was the first job I had been offered in over a year, and it was an experience of radical humility. God was putting me in my place! I had been unemployed and unemployable for years. I thought I was the most insightful, most handsome, capable human being around. I was so gifted that I needed a lot of drug relief to cope with the suffering those gifts inflicted. Actually, I used drugs in direct proportion to the suffering brought on by my over-inflated ego – EGO: “Edging, God, Out.” I didn’t understand it at the time but selfishness and self-centeredness were at the root of my problems, and I was driven by fear.

I’ll never forget being in prayer inside that carrot suit. Those were some of my most fervent prayers to God. I’ll never forget the experience of God laughing at me and at the experience that I was having – the most loving, hilarious laugh you can imagine, followed by the clear voice of God, “Yeah, its humbling isn’t it.” It was humbling; it always is when we’re, “put in our place.”

Humility as a character attribute is often misrepresented. It doesn’t fair well within a world that celebrates power, success, strength, and victory, “If you’ ain’t first, you’r LAST!” shouts Ricky Bobby in the film Talladega Nights. Humility isn’t against winning or being strong, in fact, it’s foundation of empowerment. As a spiritual principle humility is a requirement of power. Humility is all about being right sized in a world obsessed with taking more than it deserves. All I deserved, could do, was be the best carrot that I could. I was right sized in that carrot suit – the suit fit!! I was the best carrot, man. I had a blast doing it because I knew that God was with me, that God had directed me and was going to continue to lead me into something better. Still, I had to get a dose of humility.

Humility comes from a Latin root word, “humus,” meaning “earth” or “ground.” In agriculture, humus refers to maturely composed soil rich with organic matter and stability. Humus is rich because it has undergone a process of transformation where microorganisms thrive and produce organic carbon. It is often called the “life-force” of soil. (Thanks wiki) There is no transformation, no resurrection – plant, human, or otherwise without “humility.” I was transforming in that carrot suit. Each time I surrendered my will to do God’s will I was being made more ready, more mature so that new things could be born in me.

And, let us not forget the heart of the matter, Christ came to the world, humble. St. Paul‘s Letter to the Philippians 2:1-8 captures the enduring meaning: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

I did have fun in that carrot suit, but there were so many moments of anger too. I was angry at God, at myself, and my circumstance. I would argue and plea with God, “How could I have gone from working on a Ph.D. with some of the brightest, most inspired people on the planet, with so much opportunity, to selling my time for money in a carrot suit!?” I would try to justify getting out of my duty, my job, and in those moments God would remind me of the truth about my circumstance – that I had agreed to go to any length for recovery. God was always gently reminding me that staying in that carrot suit was somehow keeping me sober. My carrot suit was a literal and symbolic act of surrendering my life and will over to the care of God. I was always welcome to take back the rains and try to live life on my terms instead of God’s terms, but I had already proven that path to be false over and over. In my own small way God was taking me through the very same process Christ experienced – obedience – Am I willing to let go of my will for one more moment? Letting go, moment after moment as Christ first taught – even to the point of death. That’s the practice… Humility is a practice.





Prayer & Meditation

“Those of us who have come to make regular use of prayer would no more do without it than we would refuse air, food, or sunshine. And for the same reason. When we refuse air, light, or food the body suffers. And when we turn away from meditation and prayer, we likewise deprive our minds, our emotions and our intuitions of vitally needed support. As the body can fail its purpose for lack of nourishment, so can the soul. We all need the light of the God’s reality, the nourishment of His strength, and the atmosphere of His grace.” (my italics)

The above quote is taken from the book, “The Twelve Steps and The Twelve Traditions.” I recently spent a few months with a mentor giving this text a close reading. The passage is from a commentary on Step 11 from Alcoholics Anonymous – widely accepted as one of the most impactful spiritual movements over the last century. Though, not in any way unique in its observance of prayer and meditation, over the last six years it has been my access point to these spiritual disciplines. This passage holds one of my favorite lines in all spiritual literature – “atmosphere of His grace.” It reminds me where I want to be and what I have to do to get there.

I really appreciate the analogy of meditation and prayer with other essential resources for life. It is much more than a nice play on words. From a physiological point-of-view, there is an order of importance for our essential needs – the rule of 3’s. We are the most dependent on air. The average human being will go unconscious after three minutes without oxygen. After about three days without water the body’s main systems will die, and after about three weeks, despite the amount of air or water one consumes, without food, the body will cease to metabolize and die. With each lighter element the dependency grows exponentially – the lighter the element the more important to immediate survival.

I have to remember that many find it an extravagant leap to conclude that spiritual energies – conscious thought – deeply affects living systems and human life.  The best research in transpersonal and depth psychology is conclusive, not to mention the momentum and impact of religious inspiration that is undeniably clear – we are built and sustained by a set of spiritual energies or principles, though subtle in nature, shape life-worlds more significantly than the air we breathe. Religious texts, including the New Testament, are reminding their readers over and over that one cannot live on mere bread alone, but must strive for righteousness – right relationship – with self, others, and their world.

I have been mentoring others for a number of years. I always insist that those I work with begin or grow meditation and prayer. Still, people balk when I suggest using prayer and meditation as essential tools for life. Don’t I just need to make more money? Or grow professionally? How will prayer give me a new degree? Or meditation pay my child support? At surface it seems so counter-intuitive that mindful, spiritual practices would improve our ability to meet life on life’s terms more effectively.

I like to think about the problem as a confusion about the order of things. I think we all intuitively know the order of things, but we get so grossly distracted – an apathy of attention or an excess comfort – that we forget what’s happening and we forget the order of things. We’re conditioned to confuse and forget that our material, grosser, problems are only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. We must get at the underlying causes and conditions and address our lack of resourcefulness – the source of all power, accessible to us all, more abundant than the air we breathe or the water we thirst – a source accessible in large part through the cultivation of prayer and meditation.

I know that I am absolutely committed to prayer and meditation, and I have been deepening my practice recently. I haven’t failed to notice how much fun I’ve been having, the quality of my elevated attitude, my increased ability to meet resistance and positively influence others. I haven’t failed to notice the direct correlation between the commitment to prayer and meditation and the empowering week that I’ve experienced.

There’s a great story about a master who meditates every day for one hour without fail. He is approached by a student exasperated with the idea that he could find an entire hour to meditate during his wildly important, busy day. He asks the master what he does when he’s faced with a packed schedule of real importance. “Oh,” the Master replied, “When I have a really important, busy day I meditate for two hours…just to be safe.”


The Familiar Cycles

They’re like old friends or ghosts from the past. Why are they so familiar? Is it this season again? Already? I’m always hit with this conflict between wonder and bewilderment when I encounter one of my old patterns of behavior – the familiar cycles of struggle and conflict. Often I don’t even see them coming. Out of the blue, there goes my back. I threw out my damn back again! Should this show up on my medical record as “chronic” now? Or less physical and more spiritual? Did I just do that? Curse a driver, beat my cat, get that ticket, freak out on my sister, hit my father up for money…AGAIN? Do I owe an apology for that!? “Excuse me, I’m going to go over here alone and just set myself on FIRE! Hey, each one of those events happened this past year – 2016. It used to be much worse for me…but I’ve grown… Isn’t that nice?

Where I notice the familiar cycles the most are in, what I like to call, my character defects. Those areas of my life which I am deeply unskillful at surrendering. Finances. I’m like a baby. I remember when I would get on the phone with phone companies and just spew anger – projections, transference, whatever you want to call it. I was sick, and I loved to make other people wrong when it came down to my irresponsibility. “Oh, I get what the contract said, BUT… whatever! I’m right!” And…the results were always the same…they still took my money.

Now, I’m a great deal better. I usually find success when I’m speaking with the billing department. I like to think that I’m a magician, but it’s likely the result of kindness. But still, those old cycles of familiar struggle come up. It was an insurance company last month. I didn’t cancel my insurance on time and they charged me for half a month, despite receiving a verbal commitment that they would ensure a full refund. The charge came right as my account reached zero. I was hit with an overdraft fee and a familiar set of emotional reactions that reminded me of someone I spent a great deal of time with in my 20s.
It hits you hard when you encounter one of these ghosts. I have worked hard and I continue to work hard to become someone whose relationship to money is one of attraction, empowerment, and abundance. The difference today is that I get my refunds back…eventually. Five years ago nothing ever came back.

I’m talking about all this because I’ve been working as a recovery grief specialist over the past year, and frequently I find my clients suffering from familiar cycles of struggle. It takes an encounter with grief to see it for what it is, to remember it. They seem – we seem – to attract that which we are, what we struggle with, our unique ghosts. I know it’s not a strange concept, but why do we forget so often? I should know myself by now! Right?

The path of awakening is much more like a set of daily practices than any one-time revelation. We call that spiritual development of the educational variety. The more I practice the more encounters with my own b.s. I’ll find and therefore the more opportunities for growth will present themselves. It’s strangely paradoxical that I must encounter the cycles of pain and frustration brought on by life in order to know them, and therefore overcome them with new practices. Without them – these familiar cycles – we are doomed to repeat our mistakes in unconscious darkness.

Grief, depression, addiction, anxiety, physical pain, financial or social struggles – none of it is cured with time. You do not recover by waiting long enough. One must practice a state of recovery-in-time – making more skillful decisions with time.



The Problem of Grief

No one knows how you feel. Your heart is broken. It’s true that people have had similar circumstances. You’re father died and so did mine. You experienced an untimely divorce and so did I. We identify with you on the basis of our common experiences, but in the end, you stand alone in your grief. You are unique; your grief is unique because no one shared that relationship quite like you. The true gift of your grief lies in taking responsibility for your unique experience. No one can suffer your grief for you. No one can heal for you; it is your unique calling and duty. I love this beautiful idea communicated in Viktor E. Frankl’s,

There is a beautiful gift that follows from this truth. The true gift of your grief lies in taking responsibility for your unique experience. No one can suffer your grief for you. No one can heal for you; it is your unique calling and duty. This truth comes from one of the most profoundly impactful books written the last century, Viktor E. Frankl’s, Man’s Search For Meaning: When a man finds that his destiny is to suffer (or grieve), he will have to accept his suffering as his task; his single and unique task. He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden… (and speaking about his experience in the concentration camps) Once the meaning of suffering had been revealed to us…there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer (grieve).

“When a man finds that his destiny is to suffer (or grieve), he will have to accept his suffering as his task; his single and unique task. He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden… (and speaking about his experience in the concentration camps) Once the meaning of suffering had been revealed to us…there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer (grieve).”

The problem of grief lies in a broken heart and healing must begin where the wound is found. Most of the advice/comments that grievers hear from friends and family are intellectual in nature and fail to touch the “heart of the matter” which leads grievers into emotional isolation. We’re conditioned to solve problems with our intellect so when issues of broken hearts emerge we try to think our way out of them and though we might appear to have moved on we carry our woundedness forward in silent desperation. There is a different path – a path of recovery.

Over the next few weeks, my blog will be covering grief recovery. I will take the majority of my information directly from the chapters from The Grief Recovery Handbook. I hope you find it as valuable as I have. Definitely reach out if you have any questions or comments!



Clinton, Trump. You’ll Enjoy This Dose of Reflection.

This past Monday I was meeting with my mentor before heading to watch the debates. I asked him if he was watching. I was a little excited about the prospect of inviting myself over to his house to join. He said matter of factly, “No.” I admitted that upon reflection, I wasn’t sure if I was interested in watching the debates. It was an open question for me. Was I attracted to the drama or some sense of civic duty? Surely, it’s the drama! Shouldn’t the debates be as good as the most recent episode of the Walking Dead!? ‘MURICA! I could go either way – Walking Dead or 2016 Presidential Debate? Both calibrate at about the same level of input – blind entertainment, cultural kitsch, consumer fetishism. He looked at me again after my rant and interjected: “I value my serenity more than I value watching the debates.” True that…but…the Walking Dead isn’t on tonight!

The DEBATE! Oh, political annihilation – a vacuum of meaning. As an aside, the French have always had a beat on us. You’ve got to check out Jean Baudrillard‘s commentary on U.S. culture in his book, America. At the beginning of the debate, my god, I thought it might be dry. No! The collective unconscious archetypes thundered down! Here we have the hyper-misogynized Trump – the external incarnation of America’s purified white-male privilege so deeply unconscious he’s unaware that he’s unaware and by-in-large so are “we”…or is it, “U.S.?” I’m pretty sure the reports showed that he interrupted the red woman over 50 times. Any women out there that have been in a meeting populated by men know what I’m talking about – interrupted much? Then there’s Hillary. Wow. I’m voting for her, but rest assured, it’s not at all got to do with anything you would agree with…probably. I’m voting for Hillary because I’m so ridiculously agasp it’s suffocating. Let me explain in the context of my Socratic legacy corrupting the youth an’ all.

I’m a teacher. Ok, I’m a teacher assistant. How many degrees do I have? #abitpathetic. No matter. At lunch the students gather around like moths to the light and we talk about the debate. I captured their attention this week by speaking not only to their intellect/mind but also to their heart – matters of the heart – the heart matters. (By the way, our children see right through our bullshit.) The integration of the heart and mind was the vital human quality completely missing from the debates. Don’t we see through the bullshit too?

Here’s what I communicated: The sincere truth – the heart stuff – is written on the candidates bodies. The truth their bodies speak is absolutely fascinating! If our bodies are external representations of our internal psyche (from my view they are intimately linked) then both candidates function as individual representations, mirroring the unconscious collective culture in the U.S. This is the same point I made above about Trump; hopefully you’re following. Repetition of insight is always helpful.

So, on to Hillary. Her body is writ with decades of pain, having endured the events of marital, public betrayals and years of assimilation into a hyper-masculine political culture. In that culture, she passes as a man. She has spent her entire life living, struggling, resisting, incorporating, succeeding, dressing, speaking in a man’s world. Her body is non-sexual, not feminine. She is not an object of desire. She strikes audiences as inauthentic, cold, rigid. Does she laugh? As a matter of fact…why is it that I don’t feel her heart at all? Isn’t that the “heart” of the matter? She is sooo thoroughly intelligent. She is a hyper-mentally masculine, absolutely prepared work-horse. They calculated how dehydrated she must remain so that she wouldn’t need to pee during the debate. My friend joked they put catheters in…Is that true?

Hillary Clinton is the complete fulfillment of first-wave feminism – embodied. It’s not that pretty. It’s not heart-warming, it’s broken-hearted – years of accumulated heart wounds unable to express themselves, bound-up in the consequences of living in 2016 as the most powerful woman on the planet. The Claire Underwood archetype realized (thank you House of Cards). It’s damn near sacrosanct. It is – Hillary is – sacred inasmuch as she is profane. I don’t know whether to see her sacrifices as profoundly heroic, disciplined, empowered or to view her as desperate, scapegoated, foolish.

I’ll vote for Hilary, but it’s a time for reflection. We are experiencing the collective consequences of living so deeply in our heads – endlessly trying to “figure it out” – that we’ve become utterly disassociated from our hearts. The products of some of our deepest collective unconscious fears are literally manifest in our presidential candidates! I think we’ve taken the “separation of church and state” to such a dramatic level that we’re missing something vital, something utterly essential in our politics – a sense of heart, of humility, or even…dare I say…a sense of spiritual principle.





Grief Recovery For A Lost Society

Our United States have been torn with violence and grief. A season of brokenness seems to grow with each new event of loss. It seemed that not a breath passed after Orlando – the largest mass shooting modern U.S. history – than our entire country viewed and felt the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castil. Only a few days later our hearts were torn again as we witnessed our public servants gunned down during what was intended to be a peaceful march.

I live in Chattanooga, TN. For us the wounds of grief only a year past are still fresh. This weekend we remembered and honored the five servicemen that were lost on July 16th, 2015 – Randell Smith, Carson Holmquist, Squire Wells, David Wyatt, and Thomas Sullivan. Checkout this 30 for 30 short here.

After all that’s happened it is really easy to be angry or shout statistics about gun violence or systemic racism. It is really easy to target the president or those that stand across the political isle on facebook and twitter. Those on the opposite side of the isle are infuriating! Right? Or… Left? Didn’t you know that gun sales are booming and boom after mass shootings? Didn’t you know that a disproportionate amount of mass shootings are related to gang and domestic violence? Haven’t we learned that blacks and Latinos are 30% more likely to be pulled over than whites and three times more likely to be searched? Haven’t you seen the statics, the videos?

I have consumed it. The challenges facing our present moment are more available for consumption than ever before – instant access, viewable in our pockets at any moment. I have been increasingly drawn into feelings of anger, disappointment, and grief, but mostly anger. I believe that in our United States, no matter what side of the isle you may stand, we are addicted to anger, feeding off it. Anger is a drug and its often unconscious. My experience is that the degree I toss blame at others is always in direct proportion to my inability to take responsibility for my feelings and actions.

I’ve been about the work of healing for some time now. Most recently I’ve been immersed in Grief Recovery. I’ve read enough about grief to know that it is deeply neglected by most people. As individuals deny the process of grief after loss society as a whole suffers. The increasing amount of violent mass shootings in our country is point-in-case and is symptomatic of accumulated, repressed pain that has no healthy outlets. Our great social institutions – family, school, church, government – offer few tools to negotiate and heal from grief.

The messages/tools most of us receive growing up are clear. Crying in public is shunned. Wipe away your tears quickly. Don’t let anyone see. Often we cry alone or not at all. We immediately try to quiet a crying child with incentives – “Cookies and milk?”  Later in life we try the same strategy on ourselves: drugs, alcohol, sex, hyper-exercise, workaholism, binge-watching or eating, even religious fanaticism, even violence. Doctors consistently mis-diagnosis grief and prescribe anti-depressants or mood-stabilizers. Or we cope with grief by attempting to quickly replace the loss with another object – offering the child a new dog or jumping from relationship to relationship, cross-addictions. Grief irrupts as anger or depression even in folks we would consider relatively productive and happy. We explode or act-out and often we don’t know why!

Loss is profoundly impactful and inescapable. It is not only encountered during the loss of life – as in the death of a loved one; it is felt when one loses a pet, a business, health, an intimate relationship or even an ideal, expectation, or dream. I have been learning that there are better strategies to receive, honor, and integrate grief – more holistic and sufficient strategies offered through grief recovery. We explored a few of those tools this past weekend.

The framework of grief recovery has a great deal in common with the 12-step process; much of the practice felt very familiar to the 12-steps. Openness. Honesty. Willingness. The willingness to practice grief and relationship inventories, the openness to participate in group processing and be guided by the frameworks of recovery created opportunities to heal from our grief.

In one conversation we were discussing forgiveness. Forgiveness is a skill, an action word. Like faith, love, or even death, forgiveness is my responsibility. No one can forgive for me, like no one can suffer for me or die for me; it is my duty and how I respond to that task is my gift to the world. One of my favorite books is Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. In it he speaks to this point:

When a man finds that his destiny is to suffer (or grieve), he will have to accept his suffering as his task; his single and unique task. He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bares his burden… (and speaking about his experience in the concentration camps) Once the meaning of suffering had been revealed to us…there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer (grieve).

Grief and mourning are natural responses to being human, to honestly encountering the human condition without fear or distraction. Grief is absolutely emotional and bound up with our unique spiritual calling. Our grief is the pathway towards generational healing. Taking responsibility for our own grief, embracing the courage it takes to fully feel our pain, and practicing the art of healing through specific action-steps creates space for us to be more alive, and future generations benefit as we intervene, rupture, severe the lines of pain that flow through our society, family, history, experience.



A New Church

Recently, I’ve been witnessing the growth of a new church. I’m attracted to growing things. Spring is evident everywhere and its outstandingly beautiful in Chattanooga, TN. Today I sit on my back porch looking over the back yard at the vibrate greens embracing my vision. There is a pear tree – probably older than I am – full of new leaves. I just noticed the emergence of tiny little buds that will soon be pears. Much in my life has this quality currently, especially a little community of seekers at a church called White Oak in Red Bank, TN. This particular church holds a great deal of meaning for me. I’ve returned to this church my entire life. My father insisted that I join him there each Sunday during my childhood. His parents were attending and he had grown up there so I too grew up there. I carry this history with me in the present which makes this church’s growth deeply meaningful.

But there’s much more here. Over the past month church has meant more to me than I can remember, at least since I was at Glide in San Francisco over a few years ago. I have been genuinely moved during our services. The critically corrosive thoughts that typically swayed my mind during worship have fallen silent. I have noticed the space in my heart to feel connected and that feeling has a quality of the miraculous.

This past Sunday I witnessed the pastor celebrate a moment of true spiritual experience. She accepted the membership of her father into the church. This sounds nice already, but the history of healing and transformation that stood testament in that moment was much more than nice. It was a miracle. Pastor Amy spent years looking up to her father. Her father spent his entire life as a Church of God minister – a denomination that unabashedly rejected women in ministry. Still, in reverence and faith Amy thought of nothing else but following in her father’s footsteps as a pastor – practically an insurmountable challenge facing the denominational sign that read: “No girls allowed.” This little girl, with a persistent heart, spent years under the shadow of discrimination based on gender and pressed forward in pursuit of her calling despite convention, family criticisms, and religious dogma. Last Sunday our entire congregation witnessed the power of transformative grace and generational healing when a loving father whose heart had been melted by a determined, faith-filled daughter publicly announced his membership and unwavering support of pastor Amy’s ministry.

I haven’t witnessed such a spiritualized event in a church in a long time. It was more than just generational healing. It was an another event that symbolized an entire religious movement to overcome gendered oppression. It was a spring time event in a new church.



Thinking About A World View

I’ve spent the better part of an undergraduate degree and two successive master degrees thinking about a worldview. I grew up and still find myself situated deeply within a Christian worldview. Admittedly, it would take the intimacy and care of thinking, loving Christians to recognize me as such. Nothing about my worldview would necessarily be recognized by the majority of Christians as having anything to do with “Christianity.” I’m more rightly sized as a secular-Christian critical pluralist. I think all religions express aspects of divinity, threads of perennial wisdom, and are challenged with problematic dogma. For those initiates, I would sail my boat into the seas of panpsychism, a view that the entire cosmos is imbued with aspects of consciousness or even further, a cosmotheanthropic (Cosmos, Divinity & Human) play of complementary and complex matrices of being and becoming, but I digress.

I’ve been reading a great book recently. Perhaps, its a book that has brought this thinker back to books. I have been on leave from scholarship, research, thinking, and writing for some months. The book’s title is The Road Less Traveled authored by Scott Peck. It was written on the precipice of my birth, in the late 70s, but didn’t find the best seller lists until much later after circulating and reaching popularity through the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. Rarely do I speak of a book so highly, but the entire book is helpful. It reminds me of the Frankfurt School of thought and of Eric Fromm’s insightful work in particular.

Section III is entitled “Growth and Religion.” I realize that most of my readers will find the following commentary agreeable, even obvious. Those I would like to write for, for whom this commentary would really benefit will unlikely read it. It is largely written for those whose convictions find them in church. I’m learning how to write for those persons whose beliefs still define Christianity and especially those leaders whose voices influence entire congregates of believers. With that confession out of the way, Peck believes, as do I, that despite one’s ideas about religion – whether they believe in the God of Christ, practice Buddhism, or profess agnosticism, whether they “think” they have a religion or not – everyone has a world view, a religiosity. And further, that despite religious affiliations or non-affiliations, world view’s are as diverse as the individuals who hold them. There are atheists whose actions of love outshine the best Christians and there are Christians whose commitment to capitalism is so faithfully blind they will perform the most un-ethical deeds in service of profit motive despite or in advance of Christianity. Often a persons world views are generally unconscious – the atheist is often unconscious that his/her rejection of God is not a rejection of “God” per-say but a rejection of a particular conception of divinity or world view – he ‘rejects’, the God of classical theism or that of Jesus or a ‘Universal Order’. Through and through, Peck finds that one of the largest problems with people’s conception of religion is their narrow perspectives about the world and reality. These limited and limiting views produce all sorts of challenges: unproductive judgments, shame, institutional corruption’s, psychological neurosis, and in some cases violence.

His point strikes a resonant cord, especially as I begin a professional path as a life coach in the heart of the Bible Belt. Over and over I witness the cultural and individual challenges created by the confusing relationship between religion and reality. Easter pasted recently and churches all over the planet, especially in the Southern United States celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The story has captured the faith and convictions of countless believers for over two millennia, but while the rest of the world moves on to reinterpret this story in light of the last 500 years of conscious evolution – thoughtful science and information – the majority of churches are simply being left behind.

In an interesting aside: The Left Behind series was super popular among Christians all over the US, but not for the reason you might expect. The series was entertaining and made a great deal of money for its authors, making Hollywood out of the the Book of Revelation. But, if we look deeper into the success the series tells us another story. With a little insight into the collective unconscious we see that the entire Left Behind series is the externalization of a collective Christian unconscious fear – that it has been and continues to be literally “left behind” by contemporary culture. It functions as a piece of entertainment kitsch, a psychological catharsis for an entire Christian community blinded by the very symbols they claim save them, a collective character defect of unwillingness and lack of humility at the heart of its own decline. For more on the churches decline see here and here.

What’s more is that the faith as a whole is generally unconscious as to the reason why their popularity is declining. They find themselves curious why their numbers, on the whole, have been steadily decreasing over the last few decades. “More Jesus” has always been the rallying cry to spur growth, yet “More Jesus” is a call to again embrace an old world view, one that consistently asks the believer to compartmentalize reality for the sake of their faith.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the problem I had with the Christianity I grew up with was that it wasn’t big enough to hold space for the history of science and human diversity. I heard over and over that all “others” – non-Christians – were going to Hell. I saw countless of my peers outright reject biological evolution because they couldn’t fit the science into their faith. Whereas so many chose to ignore the science, indeed all voices that challenged their faith, I sought to enlarge my faith. My faith would include and transcend reality – the history of science and religious diversity all became ground work for the development of my faith.

Change is hard work, and especially difficult when what’s changing was supposed to be absolutely foundational and unchanging. It took years of education to change and it was frightening at times because I knew I was “leaving the fold” of my community, family, church, friends. I had to risk alienation and suspicion to develop my faith. What I discovered was an entire culture that had already made the leap into an entirely new kind of discernment – a new world view. I had the privilege of an education with nurturing, critically rigorous instructors guiding me step by step into a new world view. I worked hard to clear the baby from the bath water and re-integrate – resurrect – my faith after criticism.

The average churchgoer is still frightened by rigorous honesty. Reflecting back on Easter again, when I say that I don’t believe that Jesus’ body literally rose from the grave it is in fulfillment of my faith, not despite it. I respect my faith far too much to burden Easter with the fallacy of literalism. My faith reads the Easter story as a powerful archetypal mythos that communicates some of the deepest human revelations about God and our universe. My faith stands in awe of science, not against it, and it celebrates the inherent mystery which ties me to a common humanity and Christian legacy.

It is the case today that far to many Christians are desperate to make the Easter story, indeed all of Christianity, determinately literal, final, and authoritative – a fixed statement of faithful superiority over all other world views nicely securing every believer’s place in Heaven. The rallying cry has barely changed from the pulpits: “You must believe in the risen Christ to go to Heaven!” – a message that looks more and more like the fundamentalism popping up in Islamic factions – growing more and more radically uncompromising in their beliefs the more the world around them leaves them behind. And History – with a big “H” has and will continue to leave them behind. ‘History’ is a professional at separating the wheat from the chaff, and it dispassionately vanishes what refuses to transform.

All over the interwebs there were zombieism memes about Easter. Do the faithful find them curiously insulting? Or do they get the joke because they secretly know themselves: “It’s not really true… just symbolic.” I have to imagine those lost to comedy have judgements of their own, feeling pity for the world of “non-believers” surely going to Hell – paradoxically succumbing to their own judgement as more and more people leave the church because the enlightenment they offer fails to outweigh the ignorance.

I have to be careful here. In the past I have been prone to throw stones and yell “WAKE UP!” from the ivy towers of academia. I have to remember that honesty without compassion is brutality. It’s an easy judgment against an entire religion – easy to depersonalize. When I reflect compassionately, it took years of education to let go of inadequate ideas and emancipate my faith filled world view. Please check out the book, The Fight of Peter Fromm for an outstanding read through the evolution of Christian thought out of deep fundamentalism. The book is grounded in arguments that span the 20th centuries most competent and persuasive theologians.

To conclude: Peck writes, “To develop a religion or worldview that is realistic – that is, conforms to the reality of the cosmos and our role in it, as best we can know that reality – we must constantly revise and extend our understanding to include new knowledge of the larger world. We must constantly enlarge our frame of reference…Most of us operate from a narrower frame of reference than that of which we are capable, failing to transcend the influence of our particular culture, our particular set of parents, and our particular childhood experience upon our understanding. It is no wonder , then that the world of humanity is so full of conflict.