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Matthew 20:16 “So the LAST shall be first, and the FIRST – last.”
What does that mean? Often when we first find spirituality, we’re very hungry for Truth, we study often, go to church for every service, and attend every class. We are on fire with enthusiasm. Later that may wane in some.
Some experience miracles and then begin to take it for granted. We must guard against lazy or asleep spirituality.
Have a “beginner’s mind.” That is the concept that everything is new. Every moment is new. Every day is a fresh start with no residual mistakes from yesterdays.
Matthew 18:3 says the same thing in a different way, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
You do not become children again, in small bodies. You become converted in attitude and see the wow and wonder in everyday life. You become LIKE children in your spirituality, and you enter a heaven state of consciousness.
You see, when you spend a lot of time in prayer and meditation, watching your breath or working with whatever focal point you are working on, the mind can sometimes say, “This is boring.”
So, we want to begin to focus on every moment as being rich with newness. What happens is we get information or spiritual truth on Sundays, and the mind says, “Oh, I’ve heard that before. Let’s find something else. What’s new? What’s bigger?
What’s brighter? Where’s the new information on this?”
Beginner’s mind tells us that every moment, every time you hear the same truth, it is new. That is the way it is – because we hear it at deeper and deeper levels.
The Bible says that you must be born again, that you must become like a little child. Another translation of this is that you must begin again that you must look at your spirituality with a childlike wow and wonder to discover the hidden truth.
So let us have beginner’s minds this morning. When we walk outside, let us notice the birds – as if for the first time. When we meet and greet our loving friends as if for the first time, what a gift that is.
We live in a very sped-up world right now, due to technology and all of the changes that are occurring. We are no longer separated by oceans. We are all part of a global community, because we can all communicate with each other so quickly. We care a lot more about what is happening on the other side of the world, because it is right in front of us on television.
There is a lot of energy with this. There is some chaos with it. There are all kinds of human interaction. It is very distracting.
How do we navigate through this? Some people are working out their career goals; some are raising little children, and some are just trying to make it through every day. The lives of people who are retired are just as busy, wild, full of distraction and energy, as they were when they were trying to move up that career ladder. It is a BUSY time.
Even commercials on television now changed their images everyone and 1/2 seconds to keep the attention of the preoccupied mind. We define success by how busy we are – how many projects we have going, how many clubs we belong to, how many things we are doing with our time.
It is an exciting, energetic culture, and it can be distracting. How do we maintain this connection to the Christ through all this distraction?
One way is to pray and meditate. It is the most powerful tool. But it is also counter to everything taught in society – for it encourages you to slow down and stop and notice what is important is it for the first time.
I know you have all heard this before and you are probably saying to yourself, “Yes, I should pray and meditate more, but I don’t have time. I am not really very good at meditating. Maybe there is something else I can do.” Or you may be saying, “I really want to pray and meditate, but the kitchen has to be cleaned first. Then I will get around to it.”
In the past, some schools of thought have given arbitrary amounts of time as to how long you should sit in the silence of prayer. “You should sit in the silence of prayer 20 minutes, twice a day,” or “You should sit in the silence of prayer right after you get up in the morning and right before you go to bed at night.”
We have gotten these kinds of feelings about how it is supposed to be, and that if we do not do it that way, then we are not doing it right. And if we do not do it right, we tend not to want to do it at all, so we do not meditate quite as much as we should. Then we come to church and hear about sitting in the silence of prayer, and we start to feel guilty. We think, “Maybe I should pray and meditate more.” Then, when we get off-center from some of the activity that is all around us–if we get nervous, have some sort of anxiety issue, or maybe a little stress comes up in our lives–we think, “Oh no, I haven’t been praying or meditating enough.” Then, we feel MORE guilt.
Do you know what human beings do when something is not working smoothly for them? They tend to avoid it more. They tend to put it on the back burner. They tend to fall asleep to it.
Yet, that quiet is the way we feel the Christ.
It helps us to be 1000 times more effective in our busy days.
There are MANY ways to pray and meditate. We do not have to just sit and try to be still when our bodies want to move. And we do not have to do it in full 20-minute blocks of time.
We have a belief in this culture that more is better. So, if I pray and meditate for 10 minutes, then I would be a better meditator if I did it for 20 minutes. But time is relative; it is a human concept more than a spiritual concept. The interesting thing about prayer work is that if I spend a moment saying, “God is with me RIGHT NOW, this moment,” that can as valuable as spending 20 minutes saying it. It depends on the depth that the spiritual seed is planted in our consciousness.
In God, there is no time or space; there is only Presence. So we meditate and pray for a moment, if that is ALL the time we have, or if that is all the focus time we have.
When we invoke the Presence of God, God is with us in our awareness, as we go about our daily living.
Sometimes we get a little off-center and it is difficult to remember that God’s help is at hand. We try, but we get distracted. Then we get down on ourselves for that feeling of separateness. We do not have to do that! Life is much more pleasant, and the world is much more loving than that.
If we feel far from God, we need to know that God did not move – we did. God is waiting, and the reconnection is so sweet – as if for the first time.
Do you have one minute to fix yourself?
Time is relative, so one minute of prayer and meditation can be as good as 20, especially if we do it twenty times during the day. Prayer and meditation is a skill. The more you do it, the more skillful you become at it. The more miracles you see in your life because of it, you will move its importance from the back burner to the forefront.
When we meditate, we are really observing the activity of God at work, in us and around us. The natural flow of our minds is constantly going. There are some belief systems that say that the goal of meditation is to stop the mind. If you think of a river flowing, and you try to stop the river by putting a big board in the middle of it, what is going to happen to the water? It is going to go up and over the board even faster and make a big splash. It will be really hard to hold it there. That is what happens if we try to stop our human minds.
Rather than trying to sit down and stop the mind, instead we might try a kind of prayer and meditation that helps us gain insight from God. This is done by observing the mind, by separating from it enough to observe it, so thoughts become like birds flying by. When you can observe your mind, you develop the ability to witness what is going on, and you realize you are so much more than your thoughts. You sense your connectedness to God.
There is also a recharging of your soul that occurs.
Thoughts are reactive. You hear an old song, and it brings back memories when you were in high school. Thoughts are all over the place. We can work with them, but the nature of the mind is just to have a bunch of thoughts going all the time. We like our dominant thoughts to be positive, uplifting, and conscious. But to stop the mind can be a challenge, especially at first. Over time, as the human mind gets used to this, it will literally sit back and relax, much as a person sun him or herself on vacation on a pristine beach.
The nice thing about observing the mind is that it then moves into a quietness, because we are not reacting to all the thoughts. We are saying, “There goes fear. There goes judgment. There goes emotion. There goes greed. There goes boredom.” We are not saying, “I am angry. I am enraged. I am greedy.” We are not taking those feelings in; we are just observing them like one would observe a movie.
We go on a one-minute vacation to the gap!
This is a wonderful tool, because it is the space between observation and thought that creativity and God’s guidance can be felt. It is where newness of life springs up. It is where new ideas come in, new ideas that have no limits or boundaries. That is the gap – through which God-given, creative energy flows. That is where solutions are, and it is also where peace is.
GAP – God-Awareness-Present!
If we can allow our human thoughts to be and not get upset about them beyond just saying, “Okay, there is that thought,” they continue on and leave. The nature of the mind is to move, so that thought just goes. If we look at that thought and say, “Oh no, that’s a horrible thought. This is terrible. I’m a horrible person because I’m thinking this thought,” the thought starts to get bigger and bigger, and we fuel it.
This strength that we learn, this ability to observe this mind flow, is such a gift. We can say, “Yes, there’s that old pattern … ” Don’t you have patterns that you see come back, again and again? It is a part of being a human being. We all have patterns of behavior, patterns of thinking, and patterns of reacting. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could look at these patterns and say, “Here is that old friend again,” instead of saying, “Oh no,” and cursing it? We do not have to feel it or give it that energy surge. Then it can just pass, because we learn how to not react to it. When we do not react, we do not have to give into it, and we develop strength over our mind. This all comes from simply sitting and observing our thoughts a minute at a time.
There is a story about a tortoise that got mugged by a snail. The tortoise went to the police and the policeman said, “What did the assailant look like?”
The tortoise said, “I don’t know … it happened so fast.” Time is relative.
We give ourselves a gift, a spiritual vacation, a moment of meditation and we make our day one minute at a time.
How would you walk across the entire United States? One step at a time. One small step added to another is accumulative.
A mother used to say that every time she would see someone whose mouth was curled down, it made her want to curl her mouth up in a smile. We use the times we might make mistakes as reminders to remember the truth of God, instead of getting down on ourselves. If we are in a human form, there are going to be a few mistakes made. We are doing the best we can. We are listening. We are trying. We care about what is going on.
You know that a minute smiling at another can change a life. Now know that a minute spent with God allowing God to smile at you can change your life.
Another way to fit prayer and meditation into your busy schedule or to try to raise your motivation to do it is to do it with a group of people. Didn’t it feel wonderful to sit in the silence of prayer here in this holy place, together? Meditation and prayer is not just an individual activity. It is a group activity. We cannot underestimate the value of support.
There is a story about a CEO and his wife driving into a gas station. The gas station attendant filled up the tank with gas, and they drove off. The CEO looked at his wife and said, “Aren’t you glad you married me? If you had married that guy, you’d be married to a gas station attendant.”
She said, “Oh no, honey. If I had married that guy, he would be the CEO and you’d be the gas station attendant.” You also cannot underestimate the value of support.
We need to reinforce prayer and meditation. This goes with other life-affirming practices, too.
We need to reinforce these things, so we are not thinking negatively about them, we are not making ourselves wrong for not doing them, but we are opening ourselves to them like excited beginners. It is easier to form positive habits when taken a little at a time until our consciousness gets used to it.
Here is one way to reinforce prayer and meditation. Start associating positive, feel-good reward with meditating.
One woman loves chocolates; she gives herself permission to have a chocolate after prayer. Chocolates are a wonderful way to reinforce prayer and meditation! You will not see that very often in a meditation book. Maybe for you it is carrot sticks; for this woman it worked with chocolate. Reinforcement is relative too. It is whatever excites you about it.
The main thing is we must give ourselves credit for doing whatever we do, whatever it is. We have to say, “Good job!” instead of saying, “It could have been better.”
That is where peace comes from. We realize that through this gap and through this awareness we are one with and empowered by the Christ; we are more than the old human thoughts. We are more than the sum of our thoughts. Our thoughts are just things of this brain.
Have a philosophy. Try to live your life in the GAP.
Try to be gracious and joyous about all things, without overreacting to one, or the other; a sort of keeping that sense of wonder about everything, evenly and joyously, a nice, even peaceful, joy that isn’t rocked by ups and down.
It is your life; you can form a new standard of what is holy in you. We must answer to our own Divine connection. When you have fifteen people coming over for dinner, and if you only have one minute to go to God, you spend that minute in the highest way possible, then it keeps working in you ALL evening.
Let’s try it right now for one minute …
Just take just a moment to close your eyes and take a moment in prayer and meditation. Breathe naturally with no force. This not anything we have to do; it is just being in the loving presence of God. Feel the thoughts of mind and set them aside. This is the moment to observe the in and out of the breath. That is all; just feel the Holy presence of God. If a thought comes you say, “Oh, there goes that thought,” and you go back to your prayer. It is so good. Just be. Thoughts come, and they go by like clouds, or schools of tiny fish. In this gap there is Christ. The Christ has no judgment, no bad. The Christ light is here in this moment.
Now, let’s open our eyes. Congratulations! You just did your minute of meditation and prayer.
Now, it is time for your Chocolate.
Have one Hershey Kiss for each congregant, you hand them the person as they leave.
Remember, meditation and prayer are your gift from God, and opening it is your gift to yourself.
You want to do it – whenever you can. It does not matter how long you do it, it matters how you do. What matters is you enter into each prayer with a beginner’s mind, receptive, ready to learn as a child, and expecting your blessing.
God Bless you!
PRAYER / MEDITATION________________________________________
Let’s expand our awareness into the light of God.
Being spiritually present, with loving beings of like faith, having made this decision to be present, to be with God in prayer.
If any thoughts come through, maybe thinking about the rest of the day or feelings in the body, we simply allow those thoughts and feelings to sit right next to us. We can think about them later – if we choose. Right now, in this Holy moment, we choose to feel the heart of the love of God.
We open ourselves consciously to a deeper connection with God.
Rest in the silence of God …
Your breathing is natural and easy. There is no force here. The door of your consciousness opens inward. We simply step back and allow it to open to God.
What a gift each moment is! What a gift this moment is, right now – this oneness we feel to God. There is no separation. Our bodies, hearts, and spirits are filled with the light of the Christ. It is warm, recharging, and refreshing.
Just being quiet, breathing, and having nothing to do is so wonderful.
Rest in silence of prayer …
We give thanks for this experience and for the pleasure of knowing the truth that we are one with God. That is being one with the greatest love there is. How refreshing! What a joy! What a gift this day is! We smile; it feels good.
Dear God, we pray that You will help us expand our awareness in our thinking and feeling. We pray that we are spiritually present in this moment of time, and we are ready and willing to have a full spiritual experience. We pray that every time we come in contact with You, we are aware of how holy and sweet that gift is. May we be fully aware of what is happening in us spiritually and how profoundly we are changing.
Rest in the silence of God …
We give thanks for this awareness and all good things to come.
Thank You, God
In Jesus Christ’s name … Amen
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