Posts Tagged ‘suffering’

Exploring difficult moments as our path to freedom. A talk by Lyndon at Cenla Meditation Group on 6/11/13.

Exploring right concentration as part of the path that leads to well-being. A talk by Lyndon at Cenla Meditation Group on 5/28/13.

Exploring right mindfulness as part of the path that leads to well-being. A talk by Lyndon Marcotte at Cenla Meditation Group on 5/21/13.

Finding the balance in life and on the cushion, exploring Right Effort as part of the Eightfold Path that promotes well-being. A talk by Lyndon at Cenla Meditation Group on 5/14/13.

Exploring our actions & livelihood as part of the Eightfold Path that promotes well-being. A talk by Lyndon at Cenla Meditation Group on 5/7/13.

Exploring Right Intention as part of the Noble Eightfold Path that leads to the end of suffering and promotes well-being. A talk by Lyndon Marcotte at Cenla Meditation Group on 4/16/13.

Exploring Right View as part of the Noble Eightfold Path that leads to the end of suffering and promotes well-being. This is a talk by Lyndon Marcotte at Cenla Meditation Group on 4/9/13.

Exploring the Fourth Noble Truth as the path that leads to the end of suffering and promotes well-being. A talk by Lyndon Marcotte at Cenla Mediation Group on 3/24/13.

Exploring the Third Noble Truth of the cessation of suffering and the realization of well-being. A talk by Lyndon Marcotte at Cenla Meditation Group on 3/19/13.

The Second Noble Truth is that there is a cause for suffering. By looking deeply into our suffering we can set out on the path toward healing and liberation. This is a talk by Lyndon Marcotte at Cenla Meditation Group on 3/12/13.

Life doesn’t always go according to plan. The First Noble Truth is that life contains suffering. By recognizing suffering in our lives we can begin to heal. This is a talk by Lyndon Marcotte at Cenla Meditation Group on 3/5/13.

I’ve been thinking a lot about sin lately. No, I don’t have a guilty conscience. Quite the opposite. My conscience has never been clearer, although I think my fundy friends would say that it’s been “seared with a hot iron.” I consider it liberated from guilt theology. The big question of the day: is it even possible to sin? My short answer: no.

At a recent Interfaith Dialogue I was struck by how Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are so dominated by sin consciousness. The primary thrust of each religion appeared to be an attempt to find atonement for sin and be reconciled to God. My favorite college professor delievered the guest sermon at church yesterday. His teaching, along with Brennan Manning’s books, helped me to overcome the narcissistic guilt I inherited in the church growing up. True to form he preached about God’s forgiveness and willful forgetfulness of our sins. That is a very necessary message to help people come out of the trap that is fundamentalism. It’s like opening the prison doors and setting people free. I don’t want to play off the Matrix too much, but at this stage of the journey I’ve come to realize that there is no prison to begin with. We are imprisoned only by the smallness of our minds.

To tell guilt-ridden believers that there is no sin would probably do more harm than good. If they didn’t write you off as blasphemous but actually considered the possibility, it might well throw them into a theological tailspin. I read yesterday in Deepak Chopra’s book Quantum Healing that researchers proved that if newborn kittens are blindfolded within the first few days before their eyes are opened that they will be blind for life. Although they have perfectly healthy eyes, something gets crosswired in their brains permanently blinding them. Conditioning, especially in our formative years, is so powerful that it can cripple a person for life.

One of the statements that resonated with me so strongly months ago regarding the reality of sinfulness was made by Micael Ledwith in What the Bleep Do We Know!?:

The single greatest obstacle to our evolution is the way our culture often views God – as a God sitting up somewhere “registering the scores on his laptop as to whether we perform according to his designs or whether we’re offending him, as it’s put, an absolutely outrageous idea. How could we offend God? How could it matter so much to him? How could it, above all, matter that he would find it so serious a situation that he could conform us to an eternity of suffering? These are bizarre ideas.And they are bizarre ideas: that in this vast universe, where there are more galaxies than grains of sand in all the oceans, that in that vastness, a group of people – well, men actually – on a small planet got the exclusive franchise for the pearly gate arches of heaven. And every other being in the universe will spend an eternity of suffering in hell. It’s hard to imagine a more bizarre idea. And if that’s the sort of God you believe in, you just have to wonder: How does that affect your view of the world?

The more you think about it sin appears to be nothing more than a means of control. We’ve seen repeatedly in history how the dangers of hellfire can be a useful tool for the church to keep even Kings in line. It was just such a mockery that prompted Martin Luther to nail the 95 Thesis to the Wittenburg door, “As the coin in the coffer rings, another soul from pergatory springs.”

Is sin real? Is it possible to sin? Does our sinfulness really offend God? You couldn’t tell by looking around. If God is offended by our sinfulness or brokenhearted over our suffering, He doesn’t seem to do a hell of a lot about it. Does He? You cannot convince me that God or the Supreme Being or the Unified Field or the Force is offended by you lusting after a girl, failing to pay your tithes, or skipping out on church. So what is sin?

I think the word “sin” is damaged goods and loaded with baggage. I don’t think you can sin against God, but you can “sin” against your neighbor. As humans we have enormous potential for cruelty, as well as for good. Our pain and anger over the imbalance of justice in the world feeds the need for religions of atonement and damnation. We have this innate need to have our consciences cleared and believe that those who do evil will be punished in the next life to make the scales balance out again. When injury is done to another, the real consequence is that the whole of life is somehow diminished and robbed of joy, not that someone will burn in hellfire for all time.

It is a cold hard fact to grasp that the rich and poor, the kind and the cruel alike, will all die and turn to dust. There is evil and suffering in the world, and much of it has never been made right. I’ve learned that it is a common misconception that many people believe that one of the basic tenets of Buddhism is that “life is suffering.” That is not true. Apparently the appropriate translation reads that “life contains suffering.” No amount of labeling and fear-mongering is going to change that. It’s been tried for the last few thousand years and look where it’s gotten us. Why not try a radically different approach? Instead of telling people how worthless, how no good, and how sinful they are, why don’t we try showing people the incredible potential they have as persons and as a collective whole? Now there’s a novel idea.

Maybe enlightenment is as elusive as chasing after the wind, but if we spent our energies pursuing nobler ideals, we would not waste so much time hurting each other and seeking to have control over anyone or anything else. Just my opinion.

If you’ve read much of my blog, you will know that I’ve been like a kid in the candy store the last year and a half learning to live life all over again. I’ve been through self-admitted detox to break my addiction to vocational Christianity and have begun the journey to truly know Christ and to know myself. My family is well and happy. I wish I could freeze time and keep my two boys at 4 and 1.5 years old forever, if not for the joy of watching them grow up. I’m in love with my wife who is still my best friend after 13 years. My business is finally turning a corner, and 2006 is looking to be my best year yet. I’m in love with life and am pursuing my passions.

Before you think I’m in a state of disillusioned euphoria, let me tell you that I have never been more in touch with reality. My mood vacillates almost as much as the balance in my checkbook. All things considered life is good, very good, and for that reason death is beginning to sting. Watching my kids grow up and the seasons change makes time seem to race on by. Who knows how many more years God will allow me. Forty, if I’m lucky. 1976 didn’t used to seem that long ago. My grandparents are getting older, and their health is failing. My grandfather was invincible when we were growing up, and now he seems very human. My grandmother has alzheimers and doesn’t even know her own husband or her own children anymore.

I read the Bible differently these days. I try to read it for what it really says, not for what I want it to say, or for what others have told me it says. [This is the point in the movie where you may want to change channels for a bit or risk getting really messed up theologically.] I’m not so sure anymore what I believe about heaven and hell. If both are real, something tells me people won’t be divided up so nice and neatly as we’ve been led to believe. If Jesus told us anything about it, He said that there will be a lot of surprises for many people. Some days I default to the nice Sunday School version of life that allows you to sleep in peace knowing that you’re an insider and have nothing to worry about. Some days I think that the blood of Christ covers every sin and no one is turned away. Some days I wonder if we just don’t die like every other creature and cease to be, simply return to the earth from which we came. No matter, death still stings.

I fell in love with the music of Johnny Cash some time last year, especially his later recordings. Johnny Cash was a man in touch with death and pain. He was able to vocalize what we think and feel about death like no other. You cannot listen to his music and not come face to face with your own mortality, which, I believe, is the key to truly enjoying life. The stark reality of death makes life more precious.

I don’t think we should live in fear of death but nor should we surrender to it. I’ve seen many terminally ill people over the years who cling to every last breath they can muster long after their body has given out. There is something in the human spirit that fights against death and clings to life. I’m not afraid to die, but not because I know exactly what happens after death. I’m not afraid to die, because I know God and trust Him to do with me what He will. Until my time comes, and it will, I will celebrate life and enjoy every day I’m given. One day, I will fight the good fight then lay this body down and rest in Him.