Here is a sampling of previous interview exchanges with me as part of my book releases.
How is human spirituality different than our religion? And how can a broader, values-based spirituality transcend traditional religious doctrine and denominations in healthier ways?
One can be both spiritual and religious. Or either one. Or neither one, for that matter. Real spirituality drives from ‘being’ and connection. Connection to one’s authentic self, to firmly held values, to other persons, to our planet, to overarching meaning and purpose, to timeless causes, and to that which transcends us. Spirituality should both underpin and go beyond religious beliefs. Sadly, and far too often, we ‘stop’ at belief– seeking refuge and permanence in our dogma, rituals, and sacraments. Spirituality calls us to honor these things, while simultaneously refusing to stop there. By going and striving forward with a perpetual heart of unbridled spiritual curiosity and seeking.
What things most hinder our ability to get in touch with our real identity as human ‘beings’ in life? How can we better seek the authentic, loving self within?
We are most hindered, I believe, by our primary point of reference in life. Tragically, too many of us live almost solely in accord with external values, judgments, expectations, and sources of spiritual sustenance. We almost exclusively seek external affirmation, confirmation, acceptance, and success as defined outside of ourselves. In so doing, we too often create pseudo-selves to project an image (or face) outwardly in conformance with what we think others want of us. And we ‘bury’ the authentic self that God created in us, to our own detriment and alienation. It’s said that we can’t love self without first loving others. But, in truth, we can’t really love others without loving and actualizing our very selves first. For God made us with love in the first place.
How does our perceived need for safety, security, and the status quo hinder our spiritual development and our relationships?
Our human search for safety is, in fact, a felt-need for homeostasis in our lives. Change is quite difficult for most of us, if we’re honest. We strive to avoid change, or at least to get through it as quickly as possible. All in an effort to re-freeze in some new, seemingly comfortable state of the ‘status-quo’. But this sense of safety is an illusion to a large extent. For we control far less than we think. And we self-imprison ourselves when we accept a reality, however comfortable, that is dictated by fear. In the end, the key is understanding that change ‘is the main thing’. Continuous change is the reality. But we can thrive in this change, not merely survive it. We can do so if we learn to embrace the journey in life, not an artificial destination created by ourselves or by someone else. For ‘being’ is not found in a place or a thing or in someone else. It’s found in our quest.
What is the important difference between seeking truth in multiple, contextual ‘truths’ versus practicing simple relativism?
All things are contextual. It’s therefore impossible to separate our grounding beliefs from our pasts, our individual identities, our relationships, our genders or ethnicities, our socio-economic statuses, or our geographies. Each of us brings unique, personal understandings of ‘truth’ based on our own respective experiences. So did the authors of the books that we hold sacred. This is not to say, however, that all truth is relative– based only on our own individual desires, goals, needs, worldviews, or beliefs at the expense of others. For we must seek truths with an abiding appreciation of factual evidence, respect for others, and an honoring of core human values such as justice, peace, love, compassion, and grace. And we must seek truths fully humbled by the awesome mysteries of a loving creator God who transcends all things, all places, and all people. Our continuous openness and curiosity will guide us well along the way if we allow it to do so.
How can we view the notion of the Transcendent Sacred more holistically? And see it in literally everything around us?
For so many of us, all that is sacred is contained in a holy book. One book. Inerrant and unchanging. Complete and forever. Unquestioned. But the very words written in these books reflect our imperfect efforts to understand the transcendent. Reflect our only partial notion of what we can never truly know in full. God created all things long before we were given human languages to describe or to define. Long before our holy books were written. Long before we made places to worship in. As such, we should look upon God and all things of God with unbridled awe and wonder. And with the knowledge that God is embodied in all things that God has made. That of God is within everything around us. God is not these things, but God’s life, love, and creative brilliance is reflected in them in marvelous ways. So we must strive to never limit or constrain God’s ‘word’ to us in any one book or on a shelf in some library somewhere. For, if we do, we’ll miss the majesty of God all around us every day.
How could we look at suffering differently in ways that allow us to better move within it, versus navigating out of it as quickly as possible? What does this, in turn, mean for how we define ‘healing’?
We suffer a double portion when we see our suffering as something that we’ve somehow perversely ‘earned’ through our own evil acts. As retribution or payback from God. As a form of Godly judgment on the sinfulness of humanity generally. Or as the evil acts of some supernatural demon. In contrast, we move within suffering in healthier ways when we understand that suffering is inevitable. Not as God’s judgment (or as part of some celestial battle for our souls), but as an honest reflection of our human bodily finiteness. Of continuous evolution. And as a result of the periodic randomness of our world. Like all living things in nature, we are born, we live, and we die. Life is a cycle and a circle. The unexpected simply happens at times. We all will suffer in some form. But we better navigate suffering when we seek those things within and around us that are infinite. Things that transcend us in our limited life’s existence. When we open ourselves to different, more universal notions of salvation, resurrection, and heaven. All grounded in a loving and grace-filled, not judgmental and vengeful, God.
How does our internal ‘picture’ of God both positively and negatively impact our view of ourselves and of each other?
So often, God is seen as a ‘verb’ more than as a noun or an adjective. In other words, we view God in terms of what God does for us. How God has acted in history. How God will act in the future. And how God will make all things right at the end of time, as we know it. When things are going well, we feel blessed or even rewarded for our goodness. We feel God’s generous presence in our fortunes. But tragedy, loss, or suffering can bring about our resentment, doubt, distancing, forsakenness, and a sense of perceived silence by God. Especially when we feel that God should be doing something to fix things. That our prayers should be answered by God… yet they’re not in the ways that we want. Or that we or others must have it coming to us from God. Or that God heals others whom God loves more. True ‘healing’ comes when we look to God for loving accompaniment and support, not causality or an outcome. When we don’t ask for something ‘from’ God, but simply ask ‘for’ God and the loving presence of others around us for comfort, support, and accompaniment.
How do we move beyond our future, privatized notions of life and salvation– to a more collective, grace-filled, and present ‘Heaven’ right now?
When we individualize and privatize our faith and our views of salvation, we create a zero-sum game of sorts. We embark on a faith of dualisms. Of tomorrow versus today. Of a world where some are saved, while others are not. An after-life where the ‘chosen’ will someday rise, while others will not. Where some will inherit a heavenly reward, while others will be left behind. These dualistic and hurtful notions fail on many levels, in truth. For God has created us all in love, not some more than others. And God has created us for community and communion, not separation, alienation, and competition. God’s own intrinsic character calls us to salvation. A salvation not achieved somewhere else or in some distant future time. But right here and now in our world. In the very place that God so majestically created for us. We were born already ‘saved’ and are imbued with a sacred, shining light within. Our work is to shine that inner light and love outward in justice, hope, and life. For a salvation ‘miracle’ that we can all ‘live’ with… together.