THE PATHWAY TO ENLIGHTEN-UP-MENT
This month we are exploring the idea that there is an urge in each of us to transcend the mundane to experience:
higher levels of being,
higher levels of thinking, and
higher levels of behaving in this human experience.
This desire is fueled by an underlying urge to experience our oneness with the Divine and to live the Spiritual Truth that we are.
We are being supported in this quest each week as we look at a different Pathway of Transcendence, each one taking us deeper and leading us higher into that desired state of conscious, Unity with God, as we walk through this human experience.
So far, we've looked at the Pathway of Power (and you had an opportunity to select a power word) and, last Sunday, the Pathway of Clarity.
Remember our symbol of the Hindu God Ganesha sweeping his mighty trunk in front of our path clearing away anything that stands in the way of our connecting with the One Clear Voice of God within us. I loved last week, a congregant said to me as she was leaving service - "well, I'm going home. I have a lot of sweeping to do!"
Today is the day for our Transcendent Pathway of Enlightenment with the idea that the Pathway of Enlightenment might best be served with some Enlighten-UP-ment.
Two prime ministers are sitting in a room discussing affairs of state. Suddenly a man burst in, rigid with fury, shouting and stamping and banging his fists on the desk. The resident prime minister admonishes him: "Peter," he says, "Kindly remember Rule Number 6," whereupon Peter is instantly restored to complete calm, apologizes, and withdraws.
The politicians return to their conversation, only to be interrupted yet again a few minutes later by a woman very upset and screaming wildly, her hair flying. Again, the intruder is greeted with the words: "Marie, please remember Rule number 6." Complete calm descends once more, and she too withdraws with a bow and an apology.
When the scene is repeated for a third time, the visiting prime minister addresses his colleague: "My dear friend, I've seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. Would you be willing to share with me the secret of Rule Number 6? "
"Very simple," replies the resident prime minister. "Rule Number 6 is: Don't take yourself so damn seriously."
"Ahh..." says his visitor, "that is a fine rule. And what may I ask, are the other rules?"a
"There are no other rules."
In one of his final sermons, Dr. Ernest Holmes said, "I do not even take myself seriously, but I take what I am doing seriously."b Do you take yourself too seriously at times? Perhaps the path to enlightenment can be made smoother by lightening up a bit!
To even speak of joy and being a joyous person in the face of the many heavy problems in our world may invite the criticism that one is shallow and unrealistic. The truth is that joy can be equated with a zest for living, creative thinking and acting, high goals and the hope of reaching them. This being the case, it would seem that the very best way possible to help ourselves and the world is to cultivate and express as much joy as possible.c
I love these scriptural references to joy.
"All who seek for God shall live in joy."d
"When a man is gloomy, everything seems, to go wrong; when he is cheerful, everything seems right."e
"A cheerful heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit makes one sick."f
In the Bhagavad Gita, we are told that the full nature of God is joy and that we are the enjoyers.g
Here are some psychological as well as physiological reasons to experience laughter and joy in your life:
Studies published in the Journal of Personality & Social Psychology and in Psychological Review claim that when we smile, we feel happy for a couple of reasons.
One is that by tightening and loosening the muscles of the face, we activate a network of nerves that sends signals to the emotion centers of the brain. A frown turns on the depression center. A smile turns on the elation center.
Another reason why smiling triggers happiness has to do with blood temperature. Have you ever been boiling mad? Have you ever been accused of being hot-headed?
Our very way of speaking gives a clue. Frowning tightens a set of muscles which sends more of our 98.6 degree blood to the brain, warming it up.
Smiling tightens a different set of muscles, a set which decreases the blood flow to the brain--not enough to impair its functioning, but just enough to cool it.
Not only does smiling and laughter help the emotions, they help the physical body as well. Norman Cousins used to say: "Hearty laughter is a good way to jog internally without having to go outdoors."h
A recent Mayo Clinic Health Letter reported on the physical benefits of laughter. It said that laughter aids breathing by disrupting your normal respiration pattern and increasing your breathing rate. It can even help clear mucus from your lungs.i
Laughter is good for your heart. It increases circulation and improves the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to tissues throughout your body.
A good laugh helps your immune system fight off colds, flu and sinus problems by increasing the concentration of immunoglobulin A in your saliva.
And it may help control pain by raising the levels of certain brain chemicals (endorphins).
It is also a natural stress reliever. Have you ever laughed so hard that you doubled over, fell off your chair, spit out your food or wet your pants? You cannot maintain muscle tension when you are laughing!
In other words laughter is good medicine, it's completely organic, it can be shared, it is recyclable and it's absolutely free!
In that vein then, here are a few stories from It Happened in Church: Stories of Humor from the Pulpit to the Pews:
A Pentecostal minister wrote: One Sunday, we were in an uplifting, lively, high-spirited praise. The music was electrifying; the people were dancing, clapping, leaping, shouting and singing. I mean this went on well over ten minutes.
There was one particular congregant new to their service who was well dressed with a beautiful hairdo, stunning to look at. She clearly was overwhelmed by the presence of the Spirit of God. She danced and leapt and enthusiastically praised God until the sweat beaded on her forehead and ran down the sides of her face. She was so caught up in what she was doing that when she finished praising, she sat down exhausted, reached up to her head, snatched her wig off and used it as a fan!
Reverend Billy Graham tells of a time early in his ministry when he arrived in a small town to preach a sermon. Wanting to mail a letter, he asked a young boy where the post office was. When the boy told him, Dr. Graham thanked him and said, "If you'll come to the Baptist Church this evening, you can hear me telling everyone how to get to heaven." I don't think I'll be there," the little boy said, "You don't even know your way to the post office."
The minister asked, "Is there anyone in the congregation who wants a prayer said for their shortcomings?"
"Yes," was the answer from a man in the front pew. "I'm compulsive spender. I throw money around like it is growing on trees. I just can't stop myself."
"Very well," said the minister. "We will join together in prayer for our brother's spending affliction-just as soon as the collection has been taken!"
C. W. Metcalf: "Be willing to access joy in the face of adversity."j
Remember the woman with cancer in the movie The Secret. She and her husband just watched funny movies.
And as a great mystic, Teilhard de Chardin, once said: "Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God."k
Laughter and joy - cornerstones of the pathway of Enlighten - UP- ment. But there's more . . .
Thomas Carlyle once wrote: "A laugh, to be joyous, must flow from a joyous heart, for without kindness, there can be no true joy."l
In the movie The Moses Code it talks of three keys to unlocking the Moses Code - G - O - D. The "G" stood for giving. Giving of oneself in kindness and in service to humanity.
This is another way we walk the Transcendent Pathway of Enlightenment - through loving service.
Mother Teresa was once asked how can she could serve the population she served - those with horrible disease (lepers), the dying. She said, in the face of every person she holds and serves, she sees the face of her beloved Christ Jesus.
There was a story in The Boston Globe some years ago about a bride-to-be who had planned a lavish wedding only to be jilted. The woman had the choice of losing the deposit for the reception or having a party regardless.
The woman had the wild notion of treating the down and out of Boston to a night on the town. The hostess sent invitations to rescue missions and homeless shelters. Waiters in tuxedos served senior citizens propped up by crutches and aluminum walkers; bag ladies, vagrants and addicts ate chocolate wedding cake and danced to big band melodies late into the night.
Heard on the news of the young man who works at Kinko's/Fed Ex. He was in a chat room and they were discussing how everyone needs to see what they can do to help each other right now during these difficult times. He had the idea to offer those looking for work free copies of their resumes. Took it to management who said "yes" and now Kinko's/ Fed Ex stores will copy up to 25 resumes for free.
Mother Theresa: "There is a light in this world, a healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter. We sometimes lose sight of this force when there is suffering, too much pain. Then suddenly, the spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways. Some of us wish to wait until our gift is potent and comprehensive enough to solve all the world's problems. Seeing that our gift does not stop all the suffering, we decide it is inadequate. But every gift is a drop of water on a stone; every kindness, every flash of color or melody helps us remain hopeful and in balance. Each of us knows some part of the secret, and each of us holds our small portion of the light. We can thrive on the earth only if we each bring what we have and offer it at the family table."m
Parable of the Spoons
A holy man was having a conversation with the Lord one day and said, "Lord, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like. The Lord led the holy man to two doors. He opened one of the doors and the holy man looked in. In the middle of the room was a large round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew which smelled delicious and made the holy man's mouth water.
The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful, but because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths. The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering. The Lord said, "You have seen Hell."
They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one. There was the large round table with the large pot of stew which made the holy man's mouth water. The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here the people were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking. The holy man said, "I don't understand." It is simple" said the Lord, "it requires but one skill. You see, they have learned to feed each other.
We are in this together. We Enlighten UP our path when we open our hearts to one another!
In his book, The Art of Being, Dennis Merritt Jones writes: "The fact is, every day can be a new day of enlightenment for us when we remember to remember this truth: You and I can never be closer to spirit than we are in this holy instant, we can only be more aware that we are already 100% pure spirit. When we do this consciously, we call it enlightenment."n
Laughter and loving service - or ENLIGHTEN-UP-MENT -- are ways we can become conscious to the pure Spirit that we are!
aThe Art of Possibility Rosamund & Benjamin Zander
bDr. Ernest Holmes
cThe Word Is, p. 68
iMayo Clinic Health Letter
jC. W. Metcalf
kTeilhard de Chardin
nThe Art of Being, Dennis Merritt Jones p. 211