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Are You Experiencing Suffering? Or Are You Suffering Your Experience?

by Robert Meagher on 06/03/20


So…here we are! Smack dab in the middle (a metaphorical expression) of what has been labelled a global pandemic. This surely must be fertile soil for suffering! Or is it? The currently evolving situation reminds me of the somewhat-whimsical Buddhist parable about suffering:

The student runs to the spiritual teacher. “Teacher, teacher,” says the student. “I am experiencing suffering.” After listening to the student’s tales of woe, the teacher responds, “You are not experiencing suffering. You are suffering your experience.”

The first change I experienced in my life was that my local recreation center closed. I would faithfully go to the center on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for a noon-hour swim. I had been swimming laps for more than 40 years. Now, all of a sudden, I couldn’t. What was I to do?! After a couple of days I adjusted to this new state of being with an acceptance that, for some reason that has not been revealed to me yet, life (my name for God) does not want me swimming at this time. I dusted off my yoga mat, resurrected some of my Yin, Hatha, and Ashtanga flows, and designed some brand new cross-training workouts I could easily enjoy from the comfort of my home and that would keep my healthy and fit.

The next change to my lifestyle was I could no longer go to the grocery store and simply walk in to the grocery store. I now had to wait in line to get in. Public health authorities were limiting the number of people allowed in the grocery store at any one time, and this meant I would sometimes be faced with having to wait to get into the grocery store, if the store capacity had already been reached. After a couple of occurrences of waiting in line, I accepted this new experience as an opportunity to welcome a new meditation session in my day. I would often wait for 15-30 minutes to get in the store. What better way to pass the illusion of time than to ground myself, get peaceful, and meditate—yes, while standing, waiting in line to get in the grocery store.

The next change to my lifestyle was caused when our neighboring province closed its borders to our city. I live in a city that is situated on the shores of a river. On the other side of the river is another province. The river is only a few hundred meters across and is spanned by several bridges. Police had set up posts on each bridge and were stopping all pedestrians, cyclists and motorists from crossing the bridges and entering the other province. This situation was initially quite a jolt for me. I am an avid cyclist and the terrain on the other side of the river is outstanding for cycling. I quickly accepted that given the predicted trajectory of the evolving pandemic, I would not likely be cycling on the other side of the river for the upcoming season. I turned my attention to other options to enjoy cycling for the season. I realized that I had never explored the towns and villages south of the city. When I researched cycling options south of the city, I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that there were many hundreds of kilometers of dedicated cycling paths that offered the cyclist many options for short-, medium-, and long-distance cycling rides. I am looking forward to discovering all the new pathways this upcoming season.

The preceding anecdotes are only three examples of how I was able to look at a situation differently and transcend suffering. In each situation, I did initially feel sadness, frustration, and even anger. I felt like something was being taken away from me. In each situation I asked myself “How is my sadness, frustration and/or anger helping me?” In each situation the answer was “It’s not!” And I proceeded to look for others ways to get physical exercise or adjust to a new way of living.

Adjustment was key for me. I needed to change. In the case of my recreation center being closed and not being able to go swimming, I needed to change the form of exercise I did in order to stay physically healthy. My ability to adjust to the change was only possible through an acceptance of life on its terms. If I resisted the change, then I suffered. But if I accepted the change, I opened the door to opportunities for peace.

As the Buddhist teacher imparted to the student in the parable that started this article, it wasn’t about experiencing suffering. It was about choosing, or not, to suffer my experience. I chose not to. And that choice allowed me to accept what life was offering me. And the acceptance of what life was offering me, removed suffering and offered peace.

 

Robert Meagher has been ordained as an Interfaith Minister and certified as a Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) Therapist. Robert is the Founder and Spiritual Director for Spiritual Guidance and Co-Founder of the Center for Human Awakening.


Home

by Robert Meagher on 05/04/20


I have been asked to comment on the current global events regarding the Coronavirus and COVID-19. I have only a few things to say about the unfolding situation.

First, let us not try to make sense of this. ‘Sense’ cannot be made of that which is not reality. Reality is changeless. This pandemic, as it’s been labeled, is ever-changing. Therefore, it is not reality. We cannot know what this means now. We are far less likely to know what this will mean for the future. Take this as an opportunity to practice being in the ‘now’ and accepting the ‘is-ness’ of the now.

Second, this feels like a transformational portal we are going through; like the wormhole scene in the movie, ‘Contact,’ with Jodie Foster. In the wormhole scene, Jodie Foster’s character is being hurled through what scientists refer to as a wormhole. A wormhole is reported to be a speculative structure linking disparate points in spacetime. The experience is uncomfortable because it is new and different. As we relax into the transformation, we will experience calm and peace. For those interested, here is a link to that wormhole scene from the movie ‘Contact:’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8axMaBL4uo

Third, there are many messages coming at us, very quickly, during this time. These messages are being offered to us from many different sources. Some of these messages are fear-based. Some are calling out for love. Others are calling us to return to love. One message that I have noticed predominates throughout all the messaging is… ‘home.’ How many times have you heard someone say, amidst the unfolding situation, “Stay home!”? Or how about… “Go home.” Or… “If you are away, return home.” This messaging of ‘home’ is increasingly interesting to me. What interesting parallels may exist in this messaging of ‘home’ with the spiritual home. Are we being called ‘home’ in the spiritual sense? In Regiena Heringa’s ‘Notes from the Light” below, we are “being asked to return to this birthplace which does not dwell outside of the self.”

Lastly, many people around the world have been crying out for change on a global scale. Our requests have been answered. We are in the process of the very change we have asked for. Surrender to this change. Resistance will only lead to suffering. Please don’t confuse suffering with something that is happening to you. Suffering is a choice. Suffering is something we create. It is best portrayed in this beautiful, ancient parable.

The student runs to the spiritual teacher. “Teacher, teacher,” says the student. “I am experiencing suffering.” After listening to the student’s tales of woe, the teacher responds, “You are not experiencing suffering. You are suffering your experience.”

Robert Meagher has been ordained as an Interfaith Minister and certified as a Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) Therapist. Robert is the Founder and Spiritual Director for Spiritual Guidance and Co-Founder of the Center for Human Awakening.

From Outward Therapist to Inner Guide

by Robert Meagher on 04/02/20


There may be no greater gift than the transformation possible through the healing or therapeutic relationship. My one and only embodied therapist saved my life. Not in the sense that I was wanting to take my life or end my life. The healing relationship saved me from a life of egoic-based separation.

Working with my therapist served as the mirror on my perceptions. Another trusted soul was able to poke at my perception of reality and gently guide me to question that existence.

The journey with my therapist began tentatively. I was afraid. But I had grown less resistant to my fear of change than my fear of staying the same. The way I was living my life was no longer serving me. I was not at peace, yet I didn’t quite realize this was the core issue at the time.

As the relationship with my therapist grew and matured over time, I was granted the blessing of knowing my authentic self was being witnessed. I could show up and try and put on a façade and act like someone I was not. But I quickly grew to know my therapist could see right through me. At first this was unsettling. But it quickly became an immense relief. I could, perhaps for the first time in my life, be exactly who I was, without judgement.

After my therapeutic relationship came to a formal end, something quite poignant started to unfold. An inner guide started to emerge, and this inner guide was a graceful extension of the embodied therapist I had been working with. Through my working relationship with my embodied therapist, I was able to develop a stronger connection with my authentic being, what might be called ‘Higher Self’ in some milieu.

What was evident to me at the time was that this new, authentic teacher and inner guide was not a replacement for my embodied therapist but an extension of the therapeutic relationship—a sort of Therapist 2.0! This new therapeutic relationship was one based on opening myself to the wisdom of the heart. This new therapeutic relationship was training me to move away from my fears into the presence of God—to be ‘in’ love as a state of being.

The transformation from the outward therapist to inner guide was, in retrospect, a natural progression for me. Not a progression in terms of advancement or raising my level of consciousness. The progression was more about an expanding awareness of returning to my original state of being. I needed to grow in relationship with my inner guide to return to my original state of being. My outward therapist played a critical and fundamental role in ushering me toward this primordial awareness. My outward therapist was a stepping stone along the road of the healing relationship.

Some of you might be asking, “But what did the first therapist actually do to facilitate this transformation?” The therapist didn’t ‘do’ so much as ‘be.’ The therapist was a grounding presence that modelled the possibilities inherent in being in the present moment. The therapist did not offer any advice. The therapist merely witnessed me; and through a process of gentle inquiry, the therapist guided me to an awareness of my true, authentic and divine self.

As for the inner guide, the ‘how’ of the healing relationship is reminiscent of trust. For many people, opening yourself to an inner guide may be analogous to building your intuition. The relationship with this inner guide goes beyond intuition, however. The inner guide nurtures an enduring trust in life. When you develop a trust in the unfolding, problems melt away and all that remains is peace.


There Is No “You”, There Is No “Me”…There Is Only “We”

by Robert Meagher on 03/02/20


This message is for all of humanity.

I was recently complimented by a colleague on an achievement that had been reached. My colleague sent me an email saying… “YOU have done incredibly well.” My colleague was referring to a milestone that had been reached in marketing and promoting a collaborative initiative we had been working on for almost 10 years.

I was momentarily flattered by the compliment. It felt good to be acknowledged. It felt good that someone understood all the hard work that went in to reaching this milestone. It felt good to be noticed.

I then began to ponder what got us to this point of accomplishment. The milestone was not reached by me alone. The success was made possible because of the efforts of both myself and my colleague. It would be quite easy to enumerate what my colleague did and what I did. It would be quite easy to separate the tasks from one another. It would be easy to say “He did this…and I did that.”

But the truth lay in the realization that it was our working together that enabled us to reach the milestone. It was our working together that allowed us to realize the success we had realized. In fact, without each other none of it would have been possible. We each made our contribution to the effort. But the outcome was the synergy of our collective efforts.

I responded back to my colleague’s congratulatory email with the following:

There is no ‘you’. There is no ‘me’. There is only ‘we’. Without each other, we have nothing.

The isolated success story above is a mere microcosm of what is a growing need for humanity. There has never been a time when we, as a human society, need each other more. There are a lot of successes we can celebrate. But none of them are possible without each other. Our own success is dependent on others. We cannot be successful on our own. We cannot even survive on our own.

The reason is simple. We are not ‘me’ or ‘them’. We ARE one! Terms such as ‘me’, ‘you’, ‘they’, ‘them’…only serve to divide us. ‘We’ is indivisible. There is no separation in ‘we’.

There is no you. There is no me. There is only we. Without each other, we have nothing.

Robert Meagher has been ordained as an Interfaith Minister and certified as a Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) Therapist. Robert is the Founder and Spiritual Director for Spiritual Guidance and Co-Founder of the Center for Human Awakening.


If You Don’t Like Something, Try Liking It!

by Robert Meagher on 02/02/20


A couple of months ago I got a new pair of eye glasses. What made this of significance for me was that it was my very first pair of eye glasses! Yes, at 53 years young, I was needing eye glasses to help me read. But the ophthalmologist said I also needed glasses for seeing far away. So I was prescribed ‘progressive lenses.’ Progressive glasses incorporate three different prescriptions in one lens—near for reading, middle distance for working at the computer, etcetera, and far for seeing off in the distance.

From the moment I put on my new glasses, I didn’t like them. I quickly became dizzy and nauseous. While my distant vision was better with the glasses, my middle distance was blurry, I could not read with ease (the vision kept wandering in and out of focus), and my peripheral vision was almost useless. Everything was blurry!

Over the next few days, I tried to use my glasses, but I kept thinking about why I didn’t like my glasses. I couldn’t imagine ever being able to see well with my new glasses. They were far more an annoyance than they helped me see better.

As my list of reasons for not liking my glasses grew, I considered taking them back to the ophthalmologist and having them test my eyes again. Surely, there must have been a mistake made in my prescription. Overall, my new glasses were making my vision worse, not better!

The next morning I woke and decided to try something different. Instead of focusing on why I didn’t like my glasses, I decided to think of one reason that I ‘did’ like my glasses. Well…it was clear to me (pun intended) that my distant vision was more clear with my glasses. Check! Okay, that was at least one reason I liked my glasses. Could I think of another reason I liked my glasses? I was aware that when I wore my glasses outside, the glasses blocked the cold wind. The glasses actually helped to keep my face warmer. Great! That was now two reasons I liked my glasses. In the days that followed, I started to get more comfortable reading with my new glasses. I began to like reading with my glasses because I could see what I was reading more clearly. Hey!...now I was up to three reasons I liked my new glasses.

While I was still concerned that my middle distance was blurry and my peripheral vision was poor, I now had ample reason to like my glasses. As I began to like my glasses more and more, my concerns about middle distance and peripheral vision faded away (pun intended). And when my concerns faded away, so to did my last remaining issues fade away.

Our minds are very powerful. We focus on whatever we allow our minds to focus on. When I began to look at why I didn’t like my glasses, I realized it had nothing to do with the glasses. It had to do with my sense of growing old and my body giving out on me. I was angry that I could no longer do the things I used to and I projected my anger onto the glasses.

As I began to focus on why I liked the glasses, something quite remarkable unfolded. I was able to shift my thoughts from fear and anger to one of joy and love. The transformation from fear to love eventually was completed, all with a simple, conscious decision to move from a focus of why I didn’t like my glasses to why I ‘did’ like my glasses, from a focus on the dark to the light—from a focus on fear to love.

 

Robert Meagher has been ordained as an Interfaith Minister and certified as a Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) Therapist. Robert is the Founder and Spiritual Director for Spiritual Guidance and Co-Founder of the Center for Human Awakening.


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Shanti, Namaste, Agapé,

Rev. Robert Meagher
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