Category Archives: Musings

A Consciousness of ‘Enoughness’: Prosperity Teaching for a New Millennium

By Lauri Boyd, MDiv,  Unity Minister, ordained 2009

In this time of financial uncertainty for so many, it is important to embrace a practice that is relevant to today’s consciousness. Of course, it is useful to look to history for wisdom and strength. We are not the first generation to experience financial hardship, and we will not be the last. Myrtle Fillmore was one of the co-founders of the Unity movement. Together with her husband, Charles, she helped to create a whole new approach to spirituality at the beginning of the 20th century. There is a story about Myrtle that is famous in Unity circles. 

In the 1930s, during the height of the Great Depression, there was a time when Unity was in serious financial straits. Bills were piling up and there did not seem to be enough money to meet the next payroll. Turning to their trusted spiritual practices, the Fillmores call their staff together to pray about the matter. As they gathered, one of the staff is reported to have said, “Let us pray that the money holds out.” Myrtle immediately responded, “Oh, no. Let us pray that our faith holds out.”

Myrtle understood the foundational truth about prosperity, and that truth is — Money is not the source of our supply. God is. Prosperity is a state of consciousness in which we know, and we know that we know, that God is the source of all that we need, and that we are expressions of God. Myrtle also understood that it takes practice to establish such a state of consciousness. Specifically, it takes spiritual practice. One of the most effective practices for establishing a consciousness of prosperity is the practice of giving.

And in the 21st century, it is just as important to apply this foundational truth in a way that is in alignment with our current values and world-view.

Evolving our Language

Before we dive deeper into these ideas, let us consider the word “prosperity”. In our culture, this word has become closely tied to the concept of money. Though we can learn to broaden our definition, our first thought upon hearing the term “prosperity” is usually financial well-being. It is also unfortunate that the term has become inextricably linked with the Prosperity Gospel, causing further confusion. (see Afterward)

Language is a living thing, and, like all living things, it evolves. In Unity, we have seen this evolution of language as people have begun to substitute the word ‘abundance’ for ‘prosperity’. This term broadens our understanding of the experience of prosperity beyond a focus on money. However, it still evokes a feeling of lavishness, of having more than enough. As we have become more skillful at understanding and addressing the effects of inequality and how to be better stewards of our planet’s natural resources, our collective values are shifting away from a desire for lavishness and toward a desire for a fair share for all.

In his work on Inclusivity, Shariff Abdullah has coined a term that better evokes the concept behind Unity’s teachings around prosperity in conjunction with our evolving sensibilities. This term is “Enoughness”.

Continue reading A Consciousness of ‘Enoughness’: Prosperity Teaching for a New Millennium

Spiraling Through the Parables 2: The Vineyard Workers

This is the second article of a series called Spiraling Through the Parables. In this series, we are looking at the Evolution of Consciousness as we study the Parables of our great teacher and way-shower Jesus of Nazareth.

When we consider a parable through the lens of the Evolution of Consciousness, we focus on the idea that human consciousness is not static. Our consciousness evolves as we move through our life experiences. Further, we go through recognizable and predictable stages of spiritual growth. Our understanding of God and ourselves changes in each stage.

As we look at a parable, we will draw from it meaning that is appropriate to our current stage of growth. It’s not that we move closer to the ‘right’ answer! Rather, whatever stage of growth we are in, we find the answer that speaks to us right where we are. We find the meaning that helps us deal with our present-moment challenges.

The Vineyard Workers

Today, we are exploring the Parable of The Vineyard Workers. This parable is known as a ‘Reversal’ parable. It presents a story that just seems wrong. When we hear it, something in us resists. Yet, we are told this story represents the Kingdom of Heaven. So the question we wrestle with is – How is that possible?

The following translation comes from The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say? created and published by The Jesus Seminar.

Jesus used to tell this parable:

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a proprietor who went out the first thing in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the workers for a silver coin a day, he sent them into his vineyard.

And coming out around nine a.m., he saw others loitering in the marketplace and he said to them, “You go into the vineyard too, and I’ll pay you whatever is fair.” So they went. Around noon he went out again, and at three p.m. he repeated the process. About five p.m. he went out and found others loitering about and said to them, “Why did you stand around here idle the whole day?” They replied, “Because no one hired us.” He told them, “You go into the vineyard as well.”

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard told his foreman: “Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with those hired last and ending with those hired first.” Those hired at five p.m. came up and received a silver coin each. Those hired first approached, thinking they would receive more. But they also got a silver coin apiece. They took it and began to grumble against the proprietor: “These guys hired last only worked an hour but you have made them equal to us who did most of the work during the heat of the day.” In response he said to one of them, “Look, pal, did I wrong you? You did agree with me for a silver coin, didn’t you?  Matt 20:1-13 

What Does it Mean?

In the first article in this series, I introduced you to a model of human cognitive and spiritual development called Spiral Dynamics. That model defines several broad Levels of Consciousness. We are going to look at the parable of the Vineyard Workers from the point of view of four of these levels. At each level, we will ask the question, “How does this parable challenge me to grow? … i.e. What does it mean?”

Purposeful, Authoritarian (Blue)

What is important to us when this meme is our center of gravity?  Life is all about order. There is a right way and a wrong way to do things. It is important to be in integrity. It is important to be fair. We work hard now to earn our just reward later.

At this level, the parable challenges our notion of what is ‘fair’Why did those who came late to the work still get the same reward? One meaning we might find at this level is that it is never too late to say ‘yes’ to God. Anyone who accepts God will be rewarded in heaven. We might also interpret this as a call to surrender. God is in charge. We will never understand God’s ways, and we do not need to. Our job is to surrender and accept.

Achievist, Strategic (Orange)

At this level, our most important value is self-empowerment. We use our intelligence and skill to create our good.

At this level, the parable challenges our notion of how we achieve our goodHow is it possible that those who worked one hour earned just as much as those who worked all day? That isn’t how the world works! One lesson we might take from this parable is to question what is the true source of our good – our labor or Spirit? If our good only comes from the efforts of our ego self, the parable makes no sense. If our good comes from Spirit, then the story encourages us to become co-creators with God.

We might also see that the silver coin represents all that we need in the way of supply – the divine flow. It makes no difference when we awaken and begin to work with God. The moment we open ourselves to the divine flow, and the wholeness of God is available to us immediately. Whether we have been working these principles for years, or it is our first attempt, anyone who aligns with God may draw on the infinite resources of Spirit.

Communitarian, Egalitarian (Green)

In this meme, we value equality. We passionately believe that everyone deserves an equal voice and an equal share of the pie.

This parable challenges our notion of equalityThe parable is a clear case of social injustice! On the one hand, we have the downtrodden masses working a full day for a silver coin. And on the other hand, we have an elite few working only an hour for that same silver coin. The proprietor is perpetuating systemic injustice! How can this be like the kingdom of heaven?!

The parable invites us to consider the idea of equality. Although people are to be valued equally, people are not all the same. It is calling us to honor diversity. The silver coin represents the equal value placed on each individual’s human worth. The different working hours represent our differing gifts and talents. Each of us has some things we are really good at and other things –- not so much. We have differing values and differing worldviews. When we try to make everyone the same, we inadvertently set people up for failure. So the parable challenges us to allow people their differences while still honoring their sacred worth. And we might also discover that the hardest people to honor are those who disagree with our belief that everyone is equal.

Integrative, Holistic (Yellow / Turquoise)

This is a level of consciousness that was not covered in the first article. It arose as a response to the previous meme’s tendency to try to make everybody the same. At this level, we see life as a kaleidoscope of natural hierarchies, systems and forms. Our work is to integrate diverse people into healthy, cohesive groups. We meet people where they are at in consciousness. We respect the unique gifts of each level of consciousness. We honor people by providing them with the motivation that is most deeply meaningful to them

This parable challenges our notion of what a healthy, cohesive group looks likeThe proprietor is interacting with a wide variety of people at different levels of consciousness (represented by the different times of day). He is trying to integrate these people into a team, but it isn’t working. We can tell it is not working because people are complaining. There is tension in the team. By giving everyone the same motivation (the silver coin), the proprietor is failing to recognize that people at different levels of consciousness have different values and are motivated differently. How is that like the Kingdom of Heaven?

One meaning we can take from the parable is that we have this idea that if we successfully integrate people into a healthy, cohesive group, all the tension will go away and we will live in peace and love and harmony for the rest of our days. This is simply not true. The parable challenges us to recognize that tension and chaos are a natural and necessary part of a healthy system. If tension and chaos are skillfully managed, they become the drivers for creativity and innovation. Without them, the system stagnates and dies.

Consider the Parable of the Vineyard Workers. What do you think it means?

The Pandemic as an Easter Experience

Today is Palm Sunday.  In the traditional Easter story, this is the first day of Holy Week. This is the day on which Jesus entered Jerusalem for the final time. He came riding on a donkey, on a road lined with hundreds, if not thousands of people. And as he came, people spread palm fronds on the road in front of him and cheered with shouts of ‘Hosanna’.

Metaphysically, the story of Holy Week is a metaphor for the process of spiritual growth. Imagine growth as a Spiral. Each trip around the spiral follows a pattern, and each trip takes you to a higher level of growth.

There is a Beginning, followed by a period of Growing and Learning. In the Easter story, this is represented by the beginning and growth of Jesus’ ministry of healing and teaching. It is everything that led up to Palm Sunday.

Eventually, we reach a point of Mastery at our current level of growth. In the Easter story, this is represented by Palm Sunday. At first, it feels good. We feel skillful and relaxed. We know how to handle the challenges we face. And then, inevitably, something happens. Sometimes, we begin to notice questions that cannot be answered at our current level of growth. Sometimes, we just begin to feel a sense of restlessness or dissatisfaction with the ‘same old same old’. Sometimes, we are faced with challenges we don’t know how to cope with. Whatever the driver, we feel the urge to grow, and that urge gets stronger and stronger until we finally are willing to take a leap of faith toward a New Beginning.

But before we arrive at that new beginning, we have some work to do. We must release our old way of being. In the Easter story, this is represented by  Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday. In order to grow, we must metaphorically ‘die’ to the old. We must release our old story of who we thought we were. We must release our assumptions about how the world works.

We will spend a period of time in the void. In the Easter story, this is represented by the time Jesus spent in the tomb. We have left the old behind, but we have not yet found our new beginning. During this time, we feel disconnected and disoriented. The more skillful we were at our old level of being, the more uncomfortable we will feel with the uncertainty of the void. Sometimes we get so uncomfortable, we feel a great urge to go backwards — to return to a time when we felt safe and capable — to return to a time when all of our questions had answers. Other times, we feel a desire to dive headlong into the new — pretending we have all the answers when we don’t. We want to skip right from our Palm Sunday experience to our Easter Sunday experience without going through the crucifixion and the time in the tomb.

And…this time in the tomb is when we experience our deepest spiritual growth.

Our world is going through an Easter experience right now as we move through this global pandemic. Though many were struggling, many had felt some level of mastery with our current world. And yet, the unanswerable questions were already there. Why do some have so much while others have so little? How can we provide compassionate care for those in need while still maintaining a healthy economy? How can we protect our planet while providing for the needs of our people? 

Then in January, the first reports began to come into the news about a new virus emerging on the scene. As the weeks and months went by, we began to understand that our current skill-set and our current way of being were not going to be adequate for this challenge.

And finally, bit by bit, all of us have begun to take that leap of faith into the unknown. The old way of being has died. We have been forced to release our assumptions about how the world works. We have been forced to release our old story of who we thought we were.

The whole world is now in that void space of the tomb. And, as expected, we feel disconnected and disoriented. We fear what may come and grieve for what we have lost. Sometimes we get so uncomfortable, we feel a great urge to go backwards — to return to our old way of being. Other times, we feel a desire to dive headlong into the new — pretending we have all the answers when we don’t. We long to skip right to our Easter Sunday experience without going through the time in the tomb. We waffle back and forth between these feelings. This is normal. We see it in ourselves, our families, our friends and our leaders. And, we should have compassion for all of us.

As I was preparing to write this, I was searching for something to give hope and comfort and reassurance to all of you. I ran across a short blog post that brought everything within me to a complete pause.  In reading it, I felt all my fear and grief and striving settle for a moment into utter peace. In it, I found for myself everything I wanted to bring to you. I knew in that moment that I needed to share it with you.

It was written by the Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, who is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and a Bishop of the Episcopal church. He wrote,

“Now is the time for which our faith has prepared us. Now is the moment when all that we believe can be put to work.

Now we can turn to the inner resources we have been developing over these many years to face the challenge of a world in desperate need. We are not afraid of this crisis for we have been made ready for it.

We have devoted our lives to the belief that something greater than fear or disease guides human history. We have studied, prayed and grown in the Spirit. Now we come to the call to use what we believe.

Our people need hope, confidence, courage and compassion: the very things for which we have been trained. We are the calm in the midst of a storm.

Stand your ground and let your light so shine that others may see it and find their faith as well.”

Now is the time for which our faith has prepared us. We are here to be the Presence of God, right where we are, each in our own unique way. We have the tools we need in our spiritual toolkit. Every experience we have ever had — every skill we have ever learned — every moment of our life — has brought us to the right and perfect skillfulness of Spirit.

I can almost hear many of you thinking — who, me? I don’t feel prepared. I don’t feel skillful. I feel scared. I feel angry. I feel disconnected and adrift.

I know. I feel all of those same things. It’s part of that ‘tomb’ experience. And…I know that we can feel all of those things and still know that we are expressions of God. We can feel all of those things and still know that, through God within, we have all the strength and wisdom and creativity we will need to see this experience through. And, just as we know it for ourselves, we can also know it for each other.

As you spend your time in the tomb, I invite you to consider some questions that will help you tap into your own spiritual strength and creativity.

  • What is hard for you right now?
  • What makes you angry?
  • What makes you want to cry?
  • What has helped you let go of your anger and sorrow, if only for a moment?
  • What has helped you feel connected?
  • What has helped you feel love?
  • What has brought you a feeling of peace?
  • What has made you laugh?
  • In taking in all of the many creative ways people around the world have responded to this crisis, who are you proud of, and why?
  • What is one thing you can do to ‘pay it forward’?

That is your homework assignment for this week. To take some of these questions and journal about them, or talk about them with someone you love.

Touch The Sky (Brave)

I will ride, I will fly
Chase the wind and touch the sky
The idea of ‘touching the sky’ has long captured human imagination. Since recorded history began, people have speculated on what makes up the sky. In the book of Genesis, the creation story of the ancient Israelites, the author imagined the sky as a great dome, separating the waters above (rain, snow) from the waters below (rivers, seas).
Metaphysically, the waters symbolize unexpressed capacities of the mind. They may be conscious or unconscious desires, calling to us to manifest. They are our dreams, as yet unformed.
The sky (dome, firmament) symbolizes our power of Faith. Faith moves and works in both the conscious and subconscious mind (the waters above and the waters below).
Faith is our power to move the unseen into manifestation. When we seek to ‘touch the sky’, we are putting our faith into action. If our dream is unconscious, we are inviting it into our conscious awareness. If it is conscious, we are inviting it to come forth.

Almost There (The Princess and the Frog)

This whole town can slow you down
People takin’ the easy way
But I know exactly where I am going
Gettin closer ‘n closer every day
Almost There was composed by Randy Newman for the Disney movie, The Princess and the Frog. This is a song about vision and persistence. On our spiritual journey, we often begin with great enthusiasm and a clear picture of where we think we are going. And then real life gets in the way. We encounter distractions and setbacks that slow us down and cause us to divert from our original path. Sometimes we abandon our vision altogether.
What we too often fail to realize is that these distractions and setbacks are not interruptions of our journey, but actually one of the most important parts of the journey. These are the moments when we have the opportunity to dive deep into our own transformation.
One of my common distractions is that I have so many calls on my time that I just never seem to “get around” to working on my vision. When viewed from the perspective of spiritual transformation, I can use this as an opportunity to look at the stories I am carrying. Do I believe I have to “do it all”? Do I believe others are not capable? Do I prefer to do something easy and familiar rather than tackling something new?  All great questions for triggering self-awareness and transformation.
One of the most important lessons we can learn on our spiritual journey is that the destination is not nearly as important as the journey itself.

How Far I’ll Go (Moana)

I’ve been staring at the edge of the water
Long as I can remember, never really knowing why
I wish I could be the perfect daughter
But I come back to the water, no matter how hard I try
Every turn I take, every trail I track

Every path I make, every road leads back

The song How Far I’ll Go was composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda for the Disney movie Moana. As we find in so many songs, this one reveals deep spiritual wisdom if we have ears to hear.

This particular song addresses one of the most profound human experiences – the experience of being “called”. A calling is a strong inner impulse toward something greater than our ordinary day-to-day life. It is a mystical experience, whether we feel called to a particular career, to a mission, or to a spiritual path.

If you have ever longed to discover your life purpose, you are feeling the call. If you have ever sought deeper meaning in your life, you are feeling the call. If you have a dream, whether grand or simple, you are being called.

Our calling asks us to live our life on purpose, with intention, with passion, and with wholehearted dedication. When we answer the call, we ourselves are transformed into something more.

How is Spirit Calling You?

Advice from an Alligator

In our ongoing series on Wisdom from Nature, today we are taking a deeper look at the alligator. Alligators are perhaps one of the closest experiences modern humans can have with dinosaurs. Not only do alligators have size, strength and razor sharp teeth, they also have thick skin which protects them from would-be predators. Alligators are quite literally armor-plated. Every ridge on an alligator’s back represents a bony plate contained within that area of skin. These bony plates make the skin very hard to penetrate.

This trait reminds me of the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  Agreement #2 says, “Don’t take anything personally.” In other words, develop a thick skin of your own.

Don Miguel writes, “Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally…If I see you on the street and I say, ‘Hey, you are so stupid,’ … it’s not about you; it’s about me.” Nothing other people do is because of you, even if they tell you it is. What they do is because of themselves. They are reacting to something from their own story.

All people are immersed in their own story. As much as we try, we can’t really know each other’s story. We only know our own. When we take personally what someone has said, we make the assumption that they know our story. In fact, you might say we are trying to impose our story on them.

The truth is, If we take something someone else has said personally, we do so not because of them, but because of ourselves. If I take something personally, then it’s probably because, deep down, I agree with them. I might think to myself, “How does he know? Is he clairvoyant? Or, can everybody see?”

So, what someone else says or does, comes from their story. My reaction, comes from my story. There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to us when we take nothing personally. We no longer need to place our trust in what others do or say. We simply trust the divine wisdom within us and let it be our guide.

Advice from a Pig

Pigs have a bit of a mixed reputation in human history. Some say pigs are dirty or unclean. Others find them delicious. Some find them frightening and dangerous. Others see them as cute and cuddly. Some see them as livestock. Others see them as pets. We find pigs in books and movies — Wilbur (from the book Charlotte’s Web), Miss Piggy (from the Muppets), Babe (from the movie Babe) and Pig Pen (from the Peanuts comic strip), to name just a few.
Of all the characteristics we attribute to pigs, perhaps the most prevalent in my own experience refers to how they eat. Pigs eat anything. They eat in great quantities. And they don’t mind making a mess. As a kid, I learned early that to say, “You eat like a pig!” was a serious insult.
As an adult, I have learned to question my unexamined beliefs. As a spiritual practice, I have learned to re-examine facts, but even more, to question the judgments and stories I have carried.
I ran into an affirmation today that made me reconsider the old insult, “You eat like a pig”. The affirmation says, “I feast daily on the joy of living in God’s world.” What a vibrant image. Perhaps when a pig eats, she is feasting on joy. She is eating with enthusiastic abandon, taking in the bounty of God.
The book of Proverbs tells us “He that is of cheerful heart has a continual feast.” (Prov 15:15) The routine events of everyday living offer a feast of joy to the cheerful heart. A conversation with a friend, the beauty of God’s world around us, an opportunity to serve or help another — all these are food for joy when we cultivate a cheerful heart. Maybe that pig has cultivated a cheerful heart.
Eat like a Pig! Feast on joy with a cheerful heart.

Advice from a Bat

The baby bat 
Screamed out in fright, 
Turn on the dark, 
I’m afraid of the light. 
…a poem by Shel Silverstein
In Unity, we enjoy looking for spiritual wisdom in unusual places. This week, as part of our recurring Wisdom in Nature series, we are seeking advice from the Bat.
A bat is a creature that dwells comfortably in the dark. I, too, can dwell comfortably in the dark, when I remember that there is nowhere that God is not. Even in the midst of experiences that I find painful or challenging, I am never separate from God.
In the light of God, even darkness becomes a tool I can use for my spiritual growth. There is no human experience that I must hide from the light of God. Every experience can be part of my journey toward wholeness, if I will let it be so. When I practice self-awareness and self-acceptance, I remember that light and dark are two halves of a transcendent whole. Resting in this awareness, I am at peace.

What is Unity?

Abiding in the consciousness of unity, I am identified with God and at one with all good.

In considering the question, “What is Unity?”, the deepest answer lies in our understanding and practice of the relationship between ourselves and God. The first thing a student of Unity learns is that God is absolute good, everywhere present, and that our essence is of God and therefore, we are inherently good.

Our foundational spiritual practice is to establish conscious unity with God. We seek to hold an awareness of our oneness with God, first in our times of silent contemplation, and as we mature, to carry that awareness in our everyday activities. Eventually, we learn to carry the awareness of oneness even in life’s most challenging circumstances.

When we live in the consciousness of unity, we cannot be separate from God. We find that we are in touch with blessings that formerly passed by unnoticed. Our conscious unity with God reveals the energy of abundant blessings flowing all around us. We find strength, creativity, peace and wisdom that we had not dreamed possible before we began this practice.

Let this day be dedicated to unity, to finding your unity with God, to identifying yourself with divine blessings.