Essay on a religious retreat

Pilgrim Hills Retreat, Berlin, Ohio

January 2016

What I liked about the retreat was the conversation. Here we were four people in the middle of nowhere, with no TV and no radio. So the questions becomes: “How are we to pass the time?” By engaging in conversation! Meaningful discussion. I am inclined to believe that because we “removed technology” the quality of conversation and discussion improved. I also learned, through experience, what the meaning of a retreat is. It is literally, a retreat from modern society into a “simpler time,” a time without technology.

Some of the things we talked about were philosophical in nature. For example, we talked about the idea of always wanting more. More money, more success, more riches. And how always wanting more is problematic because it makes you feel you don’t have enough. I am an author and that can be a problem: wanting more book sales, more popularity, more success. And it feels like you have too little. That’s a trap to be avoided. The temptation of always wanting more.

The first evening we read some psalms, one from the bible and a few written by regular people. I am struck by the positivity of these psalms. And the humility. And the imagery: “I am like a tree planted by a river… with leaves that are always green.” And I am also struck by the faith that the writers has. They truly believe in God. “God save me! I need your help,” says another one. And when I say they believe in God, I mean they believe in the power of God to help them, as opposed to just the existence of God. To believe as in to have faith in God. As opposed to be scientific about the facts of God. As a religious person I have faith that God exists and wants to help me. I don’t know that God exists. I can’t prove it. But that’s not what religion is all about. It’s about believing. And by practicing religion we cultivate the capacity for belief. Because, just like with everything else, if we stop doing it, we lose our skill to do it. This retreat taught me to practice my religion. It gave me practice.

The next evening we discussed the gospel of Luke. One passage that I am reminded of is “Love your enemies.” This to me is the most essential of Christ’s teaching. And we discussed how hard it can be to love your enemies. It’s easier said than done. And now that I think about it, did Jesus love his enemies? I don’t know. I don’t think it was easy for Christ to love his enemies; certainly it was no easier for him to do so than for any of us. But he tried to love his enemies. But let’s not assume that goodness was easy for Christ. I think it was just as easy for him to be bad as for us. But Jesus was good, because he valued goodness. And I’m sure Jesus made mistakes. But he never gave up the path of goodness. And he preached for us to walk the same path in life. It is hard to be good. It’s not a paved road. It’s bumpy and full of rocks. But it leads to the right place. I am struck by the fact that there have been several teachers who have made it their life’s work to: “show humanity how to live.” Christ, Mohammad, Buddha. Life does not come with an instruction manual. These leaders have written a manual for life. Religion is an instruction manual for life. And in all of these religions goodness and benevolence is paramount.

One other passage we talked about is “ask and it will be given you, search and you will find, knock and the door will be opened for you.” I love this passage. It shows the power of positive thinking. Then Dr. Padberg mentioned another Greek translation that says in fact, “keep asking and it will be given you, keep searching and you will find.” This in my mind throws an entirely different light on the matter. It emphasizes persistence. In life, you have to keep asking, keep searching, keep knocking. There is no way the door will open with one knock. Life is about perseverance and persistence.

This retreat showed me that religion has some of the same ideas I already believe in:  1. positive thinking, 2. goodness and 3. perseverance. If it’s in the Bible, it’s got authority! So I believe the early thinkers of our times, knew what we know, and valued what we value. They put it in the good book. And that’s why the Bible has survived for two millennia because it preaches the lessons of positivity, goodness and perseverance. These lessons have survived the test of time.

 

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Motivational Quotes 9/15/17

I am alive. Today I want to be happy and it is in my power to be happy in the here and in the now.

If you are depressed now, don’t give up. Look at the long view and take comfort in the bright future that lies ahead.

Have a purpose! Make your work/job/hobby your purpose!

You have what you need; you just have to learn to put it to good use.

Don’t stop dreaming. Don’t stop hoping

There’s gotta be something to live for!

Stand for something!

Your success matters

motivational quotes 3/3/17

If you are depressed now, don’t give up. Look at the long view and take comfort in the bright future that lies ahead.

Don’t expect your whole day to be good, but if your whole day is bad, then you have a problem.

You can’t quit! You can’t give up!

 Never underestimate the healing power of humor.

If you could change one thing about yourself, change your attitude!

Happiness is spontaneous and is unexpected;

Happiness cannot be induced.

Happiness cannot be planned for.

Spontaneity is the spirit.

Live spontaneously.

the thinking of observation

Let us imagine this scenario. You are out and about in society, let’s say, at a restaurant or a cafe, in downtown of wherever you live, your city. And your lunch mate, your friend, has gotten up and left the table, and you are left alone…alone with your thoughts…but you are not thinking. There is nothing you are thinking about. You are eating your sandwich, drinking your pop, and looking around the room, the walls, the ceiling, the other people, and out the window. But there are no thoughts in your head. Does this mean you are not thinking? No! You are thinking. You are thinking without language. You are thinking with your face when you observe. You are thinking with your hands, when you move them. You are thinking with your arms, when you move them and with you are thinking with your eyes when you look closely.

Language is not the only means of thinking. Observation-without language-is a form of thinking. To observe is to think. It is to think about what you are looking at. The people and the place, and yourself. Who you are, what you are doing and the way you look. To know the way you look is a form of thinking. Without language. Unintellectual. And so we may be tempted to label it as unintelligent. But it is nevertheless profound…it can be, if you are able to look carefully. To see the full picture of reality. The full restaurant, the full scene out the window, the full aspect of your fellow creatures surrounding you and your full self.

You are what you value

Aren’t you the product of your own values? Yes… He who smart values intelligence. She who is pretty values beauty.  He who is artistic values creativity, so on and so forth. All the  character traits and talents you possess, you possess because they  matter to you. No one can be something without finding value in it.

Newton valued science. Otherwise he would have no gift for it. Washington valued leadership. Otherwise he would have no talent to become a great general. Shakespeare valued expression. And that is why he  was so good at it. You cannot be something you don’t value.  Your character traits are your values. You are what you believe in. Jesus believed in faith. And so he was full of faith. Madame Curie believed in truth. And so she was able to find it. Emerson believed in wisdom. Thus he was full of wisdom. It was not by luck that each of these individuals had their unique talents.  Those talents were important to them. No one can be gifted at something random. One is what is important to him.

Motivational Quotes 8/11/16

I wanted to appreciate my life and live up to it  -Gretchen Rubin

Happiness is wanting what you have.

the fire in your heart is out -Oasis

Live fish swim against the current.

Gratitude is the best attitude.

Life will hit you with its best shot on your weak spot.

Let your passion be your driving force.

Excellence overcomes prejudice -Tuskegee airman

I am alive. Today I want to be happy and it is in my power to be happy in the here and in the now.

 

always pay attention

A lot has been made about the concept of mindfulness. Mindfulness, a concept that comes from meditation has entered our pop culture here in the west. And rightly so. It is an important concept. But what is mindfulness? Mindfulness, as I see it, is attention. It is quite possible, in fact it can happen a majority of the time, to go through life without paying proper attention. To see, but not to really see. To hear, but not to really hear. In other words, we can call this state, absentmindedness. And this is the way a robot functions. What differentiates humans from robots is attention. But if a human is not thinking and feeling properly, he loses his attention and he becomes a robot.

Mindfulness reminds us not to be robotic. It reminds us to pay attention to ourselves, our face and bodies, and to our surroundings. It reminds us to focus and to concentrate. When we feel, when we focus, and pay attention, we are happiest. When we are unfocused, and distracted we are unhappiest. When we move, without paying attention to our movements, and when we speak without listening to ourselves or to others, we are unhappiest. Attention is characteristic of humans. We are the only species with real attention.  But we have to remind ourselves of it. This is what mindfulness tells us to do: Always pay attention.