Forgiveness, Trust and YouTube

I hired this amazing video guy and last week we shot a really cool YouTube video promo for my book. He did a great job, I think. It’s fun, it’s atmospheric, and at the end it says ‘Available wherever books are sold’ and then lists my website, www.unlikelymessenger.com.

Beautiful. The only problem is, the book isn’t available wherever books are sold. In fact, it isn’t yet available, period.

And that website address isn’t even live yet, either. Oops.

But I wasn’t worried, because I figured I’d hold the video for a bit and release it when all systems were go. (Hopefully within another week or 2 the book will be available for preorder on Amazon, and the website will be up as well.)

But the video guy uploaded it to YouTube without telling me. And I found out because I saw it splashed across my Facebook page. And my Twitter page.

Then he needed to tweak the file format for best viewability. So he kept uploading new versions of the video – and Twitter and Facebook kept breathlessly notifying everybody about each one. So people kept going up there to view it.

The first video got 66 hits within just a couple of hours. Then the 2nd video got 29. Then the 3rd and 4th got a few each.

Then he put up a 5th video. And deleted videos 1 through 4, losing me over 100 page hits and some 5 star ratings in the process, and leaving a boneyard of broken links all over Twitter and Facebook.

So it was kind of exciting but mostly horrifying to watch this slow motion WTF train wreck taking place.

But I’ll tell you what, it was a prime forgiveness opportunity.

I’ve been practicing A Course in Miracles for a few years now, so usually a forgiveness situation like this is a no-brainer: Side with the person and not the circumstance. The Course says the person is in Oneness with God; eternally perfect and entirely innocent of whatever crime I think he’s committed. And the circumstance is nothing more than an imaginary fever dream.

All I know is, I feel deeply peaceful whenever I side with the holy innocence of the person. And I feel like hell whenever I don’t. So that’s why I’m usually so diligent about practicing forgiveness and overlooking the imaginary circumstances. I prefer to feel good.

Except here’s the thing: As you know, if you’ve been following this saga from the start, back in 2006 I was informed by Spirit that I was going to write books. Becoming an author was just about the furthest thing from my mind at that point, believe me.

But eventually I embraced the job offer, and have been engaged in this Blues Brothers-esque ‘Mission From God’ ever since.

So there’s a certain expectation of a little Heavenly help, here. And that YouTube debacle didn’t exactly qualify as helpful. So when I sat down to apply forgiveness to the video guy, I found I couldn’t get past the pointless mess created around the video’s release.

I had to stop right there and remind myself that I really have no friggin’ idea of what’s the best way to help my book find its audience. Or anything else, for that matter. I’m still caught up in the fever dream; how the hell do I know if 100 hits and some positive reviews make any difference at all to the effectiveness of that promo video? Or whether that video will make any difference to the success of the book?

So last night I just surrendered the whole thing to Spirit, and trusted that everything has been happening exactly as it’s meant to be. I had no other options, really.

And in the resulting ocean of peace that washed over me, I was able to connect with the divine Oneness of the video guy’s true nature and forget that whole Twitter/Facebook/YouTube mess.

And I discovered in the process that the video guy is holy, magnificent, radiant and totally perfect exactly as he is.

And I’m good with that.

POSTSCRIPT

This morning Video Guy informed me he could restore all my page hits and 5 star ratings to the remaining 5th version of the video. So I’m back up to 115 views, a half dozen 5 star ratings, and no lasting damage done.

I love it when I learn important lessons and it all works out happily ever after. Don’t you?

(to view the 5th and final version of the video in question, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3saOMax3xM )

God’s Love and the art of pest control

AntsAs a student of the practice of Oneness, I can tell you some pretty gorgeous-awesome-powerful things happen during my meditations on that subject. Beautiful radiant visions of perfect peace and divine Love; the feeling of being connected to everything that Is. No complaints, it’s wonderful.

But remembering to actually believe in these things during normal business hours is the real trick, isn’t it. And I’m not always so good at that. But I’m happy to say I was very good at it once recently.

Last week I had the house to myself; my husband was in Japan for his annual Buddhist pilgrimage.

For several weeks prior to his trip we’d been noticing an unusual buildup in the ant population surrounding our house. Columns and battalions, wave after wave of ant reinforcements marching in busy streams all around our property. Kurt commented on more than one occasion that the first rainfall would surely bring a huge infestation into our kitchen.

And it did exactly that, the day after he left for Japan. Ants on the countertops, ants climbing the walls, cavorting in the cupboards, exploring the trashcan, carrying off Baxter’s bowl of cat food. (well, maybe not that last one. But nearly.)

And at first I went to that place of ‘Us versus Them,’ of trying to kill them all and make sure they didn’t come back. I cleaned the cupboards and countertops, I took out the trash, I drowned as many ants as I could find. And in spite of my efforts, the infestation doubled in size over the next few hours.

Then, miraculously, I caught myself and realized what I was doing. Of my many conversations with Spirit, a significant number of them have dealt with this very subject of ‘Us versus Them.’ That there’s no such thing as ‘Them,’ and no such thing as someone or something outside oneself to be protected from.

So I looked down at the moving streams of ants and thought, “Okay, I’ll find the connection of Oneness that I share with you, and I’ll use it for communication purposes. When I know you can hear me, I’ll tell you to leave my house, and that you should save yourselves by going away peacefully. Because I really don’t want to have to kill all of you.”

(As any student of Oneness knows, that’s a compromise use of Oneness that I was planning to try. In connecting with the eternal Oneness of those ants, I was intending to overlook the 3-D reality of their ant-selves, but not overlook the 3-D reality of my kitchen. A flawed strategy, sure, but I figured it was better than wholesale ant murder, which was my Plan B.)

But as I closed my eyes to begin joining with those ants in Oneness, a remarkable thing happened. I felt them as thousands of individual sparks of divine Love; saw them as thousands of points of holy light. And a tremendous sense of gratitude unexpectedly welled up in me.

Part of me was still thinking: “Ok, you’ve connected with the ants, now tell them to get out of your kitchen.” But I found I didn’t care about my kitchen anymore. The kitchen wasn’t real – the divine Love of those ants was my only reality. So I offered them my love, my reverence and my gratitude for the remainder of that meditation. And I knew that when I opened my eyes and went to check the kitchen, the ants would be gone.

And they were.

Hafiz always says it best

Fran sent me this poem by Hafiz the other day; it was one I hadn’t seen before. It seems to describe perfectly the “explosive awakening” I spoke of in my last blog post, so I thought it might be a good thing to include it here. Enjoy.

Tired of Speaking Sweetly

Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,

Break all our teacup talk of God.

If you had the courage and

Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,

He would just drag you around the room

By your hair,

Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world

That bring you no joy.

Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly

And wants to rip to shreds

All your erroneous notions of truth

That make you fight within yourself, dear one,

And with others

Causing the world to weep

On too many fine days.

God wants to manhandle us,

Lock us inside a tiny room with Himself

And practice His dropkick.

The Beloved sometimes wants

To do us a great favor:

Hold us upside down

And shake all the nonsense out.

But when we hear

He is in such a “playful drunken mood”

Most everyone I know

Quickly packs their bags and hightails it

Out of town.

From: ‘The Gift’

Translated by Daniel Ladinsky

Wait – You mean God is real?

Oops.

That piece of news required a major rejiggering of the worldview.

I don’t know about you, but I managed to skate through an Orthodox Jewish childhood and a 20-year practice of Buddhism without ever once imagining that God might really exist.

(In my own partial defense, Nichiren Buddhism doesn’t address the question of God as we know it. Sure, it has a few allegorical gods who show up in the Sutras now and then, but they’re treated more as symbolic functions of the universe than actual deities.)

As I began to learn about non-dualism – the teaching that we’re all one – for the first time in the spring of 2006, I felt the unmistakable resonance of its truth deep within me. But I was knocked flat on my butt by its central concept: God is real and the world isn’t.

Of the 2 halves of that statement, you’d think the assertion that the world isn’t real would have been the more shocking – and in some ways it was plenty shocking. But it was the God part that completely blew my mind. Not only that God is real, but that God is the only thing that’s real. Because God is the only thing. Period.

Maybe this is old news to you, but I sure as hell had never heard anything like it.

This is part of a diary entry (from my book) in which I chewed over these ideas:

April 11, 2006

Leatrice lent me a book almost two months ago, a dog-eared paperback called Realization of Oneness by Joel S. Goldsmith. I didn’t like anything about the look of it. The grimly earnest, band aid-colored cover positively shouted “Eat your alfalfa sprouts!” circa 1973.

She’d said I’d probably find it interesting, but it turned out I just couldn’t get past those visuals. (Yes, I am totally that shallow.) So I slipped it discreetly to the bottom of the homework stack, where it languished for at least six weeks. And then the guilt of keeping the book too long finally got to me. I pulled it out and began to read.

Wow. This ugly little volume turned out to be jam packed with electro-buzz recognition, even as it spoke of completely alien concepts like: God is real and the world isn’t; (Really? Seriously? God is real?) And: We are not separate people who live in separate bodies. In truth we are one Being.

And then there was this one, which seemed the total opposite of everything I’d ever been taught: It doesn’t matter what we do (or do not do) in this world, because none of it is real; only God’s perfect unconditional love is real. And nothing can exist outside of God, because God is everything. So only unconditional love exists…

Freaky, right?

Yet, as it turns out, all true.

I swear, you can’t make this stuff up.

The grudge – no boys allowed

There was a time, back in the day, when I used to be very, very angry at one half the world’s population. So angry in fact, that I probably would have willed myself gay just to be rid of the bastards, had that been an actual option.

It wasn’t.

Years passed, Buddhist practice ensued, and eventually I got over it. Or so I thought, anyway. I mean, I’ve been married nearly 19 years now to a seriously great guy, so you can understand why I might’ve assumed that grudge was ancient history.

But then I had to write this crazy book filled with the most horrifyingly private personal things. Things that nobody, male or female, has ever known about me. Bad enough to have to tell it to women, but to men? Please. I don’t think so.

The internal discussion about it went something like this:

I’m never telling men that this book exists, because men aren’t spiritual.

Well, ok…maybe a few men are spiritual.

But they’re not going to want to read a book like this – it’s chick-lit, for Christ’s sake. A woman’s story, as told by a woman. Men aren’t interested in that.

Well…maybe a few men would be interested in that. But it’s none of their damn business.

Ok so it’s none of their business. But the book is loaded with all those messages from Spirit. What about those? Are they really only meant for women?

…………No.

Maybe.

No, I guess not.

Well it’s not like I’m stopping a guy from reading the book; I mean, if he happens to find it on his girlfriend’s nightstand or something…

And then in mid-April I joined Twitter. And was immediately followed by all sorts of interesting spiritual people, many of whom were men. My God, there were a lot of spiritual men out there. Well, no harm in following back, I guess…

And the Twitterverse began to work its mysterious magic right away. Within days, I started meeting wonderful, wise, caring women. That didn’t surprise me, of course, because That’s How Women Are. (And bless all of you, dear ones, for your kind friendship. I’m honored to have met you.)

But here’s the astonishing thing: I also began to be pulled, over and over again, into radiant, loving, ‘spiritual conduit’ connections of the most profound sort imaginable…with men. Mind blowing, heart-expanding, eternity-inhabiting bonds. With MEN.

Ok, I get it. Lesson learned.

Twitter’s awesome role as powerful spiritual connector is the subject for some other blog post on some other day. Right now all I can say is: God bless Twitter.

And yes, dammit, God bless men.

The Sedona connection – red rocks and spiritual power

A great big chunk of my story takes place in Sedona. The place has changed a lot in recent years; when we first visited, it was sort of a nondescript little town surrounded by staggering scenery. Now it’s much more developed and resort-y, but still surrounded, thankfully, by that same jaw-dropping beauty.

I’m deeply connected to the rusty rock energy of that place. Of all the spots in the world, that’s where I find it easiest to absorb messages from Spirit.

It’s ironic, this deep connection. Before all this happened, I was never what you’d call ‘into nature’, being more the slick fashion and trendy restaurants type. If anybody had told me I’d one day be developing a great fondness for hiking boots, or venturing hundreds of miles into remote wilderness on purpose…well I don’t know what I would’ve thought.

I guess in the grand scheme of things, this newfound outdoorsy-ness is probably the least unusual development of the past few years. But it was astonishing news to me that nature could facilitate profound spiritual experience.

Oh, sure – stillness, beauty, all that John Muir stuff. I got it, intellectually. God’s glorious handiwork in the American West, and all that. I just never managed to feel any real connection between spirituality and nature.

It took that crazy-powerful Sedona vortex energy to shock me out of my city girl complacency. Wide open conduits just waiting for a hookup. Who wouldn’t want to get right up in there and explore?

It’s kind of funny, because these days I practice A Course in Miracles. One of its core tenets is that everything is one. Which means, among other things, that all places are one. No individual place is more sacred or spiritual or special than any other. All are exactly the same.

Spirit sends me beautiful, loving messages of oneness all the time, but I continue to experience those messages, visions and deep synchronicities most powerfully in Sedona. So I get messages about the non-special nature of Sedona, while absorbing those lessons most deeply due to the special nature of Sedona!

I used to feel a little bit bad about that. But now I realize that nobody is able to put the Course’s very challenging teaching of ultimate truth into practice right away. Or at least, nobody I know.

And Spirit is endlessly creative at using whatever tools are available at the time. In this illusory 3-D world, I get a huge communication boost from being in Sedona. And Spirit is happy to make good use of that particular illusion, as it has made good use of so many others.

I’m sorry, and you are…? (Who’s doing the Talking?)

It’s taken me 20-plus years to figure out what that Voice really is.

The first time I heard the Voice was when my friend Johnny showed me his Buddhist Gohonzon. Naturally, I assumed it was Johnny’s Gohonzon talking.

And then after I became a Buddhist and set up an altar of my own, I assumed it was my Gohonzon talking. (A Gohonzon is a scroll of paper. But really, is it any weirder to hear a piece of paper speak than it would be to hear a statue, or other inanimate object?)

The Voice didn’t say much at first, and it didn’t speak often. Every once in a blue moon, it would deliver a short declarative statement:

HE JUST WANTS TO BE LOVED.

Or, several years later,

THAT’S NOT WHO YOU ARE.

It was such a rare and random occurrence that I never took the time to wonder who (or what) might really be doing the talking.

After what is now known as the Dinnertable Awakening of 2005, I began to study other forms of spirituality for the first time. As I did so, my communication abilities (both hearing and speaking) strengthened bit by bit. As we eased gradually into actual 2-way conversation, I started to think of this Voice as my Guide. But it wasn’t until I took up the study of A Course in Miracles in 2006 that the Voice seemed to reveal its true identity for the first time.

I should probably back up for a moment and say this: It’s not my job to endorse any particular path, or advise anybody about anything. When I agreed to write the book, it was with the understanding that I only have to tell the story of my own journey of faith in my own irreligious words, and to pass along the messages that I get while I’m at it.

Thankfully, it’s none of my business what anybody does with that information. So although I speak about various spiritual disciplines, and particularly A Course in Miracles, I do so only because that’s the practice that resonates most powerfully for me personally. If you’re into any of these disciplines, great. If you’re not, equally great. We’re good, you and me, either way.

Now, back to the true identity of my Voice. I’ll just quote you a passage from my book that says it all. Let me set it up for you:

My husband and I had just spent the morning hiking in the Sequoias, and throughout the hike Spirit had been pushing me persistently (but lovingly) to leave my own interpretation of the world behind and allow the gentle truth of Heaven to fill my awareness instead. That’s not nearly as easy or pleasant a job as it may sound, and by the end of the morning I was a little bit annoyed about the whole thing…

Back at the lodge I made a long-awaited beeline for the ladies room. As I headed into the stall, Spirit spoke once more:

Every moment of every day, the truth awaits your memory. Why not make it today?

“You’re asking me to give up everything I know, but why should I listen to You? You’re just an imaginary Voice in my head.” Kidding. Sort of.

Oh, My love, think again. I’m the only truth you’ve ever known.

“What does that mean? What are you exactly?” It had never before occurred to me to ask.

I Am the memory of God in you.