2/28/21 Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. I have to say that life is good. But that is easy to say when your health is good, and you have enough money to pay the bills, and you have an avenue for expressing your talents, and you have a way to serve others. When things are right in our world we feel grounded in Christ, centered in Spirit, and steeped in the love of God. It’s easy to be happy when things are going well. One goal as a Child of God is to find happiness amidst life’s challenges as a human being. There are so many ways that our human experience can drag us down if we allow it. If we don’t closely monitor our attitudes, and choose to focus on the light, the alternative is to sit in darkness and be alone with our own thoughts. Much of the time this is not pretty. I was doing something in the kitchen this week and I spilled something. Immediately, I felt all these negative emotions flood into my mind and blood stream. But right behind that I felt something new – a sense of calm and peace. The thought came into my mind, “Patrick, why do you choose to follow that programming?” Why do I choose to follow that programming? And I realized in that instant that I have programmed myself to react to things in a particular manner. I learned this programming by watching others and I adopted it; it became how I was to react to a given occurrence. It is now habit and feels normal; it feels normal to not be happy, and that is really sad. There once was a farmer who had a wife and a son. The one son helped the farmer with the chores. On the farm they had one horse, which helped the farmer plow his fields and travel to town. One evening, after feeding the horse, the son left the farm gate unlocked and wide open overnight. The horse ran away. A neighbor heard about the escaped horse and said to the farmer, “You are so unlucky to lose your horse.” The farmer replied, “Maybe yes, maybe no.” A few days later the horse returned, and it had three other horses with it. The son opened the gate and secured all of the horses. As the neighbor rode by and saw the four horses, he remarked to the farmer. “Now surely you are lucky to have so much good luck with your horse.” The farmer said, “Maybe yes, maybe no.” One of the three new horses was wilder than the others, and the son, tried to break the horse of bad habits and tame her. The son was thrown from the horse and broke his arm. Spotting the sling and brace on the son’s arm, the neighbor said, “What terrible misfortune to have your son’s arm broken, you are so unlucky!” The farmer remarked, “Maybe yes, maybe no.” A few days later, the government troops marched through town and conscripted all able-bodied young men in the area to serve in the army. Seeing the boy with the broken arm, he was not admitted to the army. The neighbor heard the news and ran to the farmer and exclaimed, “Surely now you can see that your son’s fall from the horse was a good thing. You are so lucky!” Again, the farmer lamented, “Maybe yes, maybe no.” Most people react to negative events in a predetermined planned manner. According to analytical psychologist Carl Jung, there is a collective unconscious behavior that we inherit, which gives impetus to our reactions. So, when we face a disaster, we all pretty much react the same way. To disappointments, upsets, bad news, challenges…we tend to fall in line with our reactions. We respond normally, like everyone else. But suppose we decided, “Phooey”, to how everyone reacts. Suppose we decided that from this moment on, we are changing how we respond to the challenges that we face. I’m not suggesting that we act with joy when something bad happens. But instead of falling off the deep end of despair and anger, we remain neutral. Suppose we actually believe God when it is written, “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Suppose we decided to believe that despite all appearances, all the negative fall-out from everyone around us, all of the seemingly irrefutable evidence to the contrary – that everything that is happening, has happened, and will happen is part of God’s good and perfect plan for us. Therefore, a challenge must be in our life to somehow teach us, or heal us, or empower us by making us wiser and stronger. If we truly believe that, even if we cannot understand it with our human minds or see it with our human eyes, couldn’t we then begin the process of reprogramming our reactions to life? We would begin to react to disaster with pragmatic neutrality. We would see the situation and know that somehow, in some way, totally beyond our capabilities of understanding that this was happening for us – not to us. We may not feel joy in the situation, but we can choose to remain neutral…open to the possibilities that God is working this situation into a benefit that we cannot see. We are spiritual beings, and although we are here to love, and serve in love, the human condition can fog our sight. As Paul states in 1 Corinthians 12:12 - Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. When we are caught in the web of human thinking, we cannot see through the purity of Spirit. We blame, see ourselves as victims; we feel oppressed and angry. Here is a song that reflects some of those feelings. Sadly, some societies teach that those feelings are part of being manly. ‘Real’ men solve their problems by fighting, intimidating, and through violence. Real men dominate and overpower. That’s what being a man means. Real men don’t need education; they need more strength and aggression. After all, it’s the survival of the fittest. Is that part of the collective unconscious? Are some people channeling that sort of behavior and attitude from humankind’s collective memory? I don’t see that as being the primary choice of evolution. We are not a society predominantly comprised of big, strong, uneducated men. Don’t get me wrong, we all know those types of men exist, but I believe it is a vestigial remnant of the ancient days when those qualities were necessary for our survival. I see these times as a transition to a more spiritually enlightened mindset. It may take another ten generations, but I believe we are moving toward a more God-aware, higher consciousness society. Humanity is opening its eyes, minds, and hearts to Spirit and the movement of Spirit throughout all Creation. It may be nearly impossible today for us to make the decision to embrace emotional neutrality when we face challenges, but I feel the Christ inviting us to turn down that road. When we can keep grounded in Christ, maintaining the thought and attitude of Christ’s Love in all that we experience, and remaining open to the possibilities that we are actually here to learn from and enjoy the multifarious encounters in human form, then we will respond with either neutrality or joy. This does not mean we allow harmful behavior and disrespect to rule. We do not idly watch as people are victimized. Emotional neutrality is not ethical or moral neutrality. It is the contrary. When we can see without painful emotions blurring our vision, we can respond more directly: We no longer attack the individual, we address the problem. We address the cause and spend less time contemplating the effects. We could call this self-control. The Buddhists call it equanimity, which is defined as being able to face life’s permutations with tranquility and a calm mind. Emotional neutrality is the feeling of even-mindedness in the face of both suffering and joy. It is the ability to regard all beings with loving-kindness without any trace of partiality or bias. It is a non-reactive viewpoint where we experience fully what is happening without getting caught in it. When we can remain emotionally neutral our spirits soar. We understand that God is Source, and we are all connected in this grand adventure we call Life. And as part of Life, each of us is a part of God and part of God’s plan. Things will not always go our way, but we don’t have to react with discouragement or anger. Of course…we can. We can become angry and discouraged, and downtrodden. It’s just that our actions stemming from anger and discouragement are not always the most productive. When we become ill, we don’t have to react with fear, although we certainly can; we are allowed. We can become fearful and filled with despair, but those feelings don’t always lead to useful solutions, and all of these lower emotions can cause damage to our bodies, as well as being contagious to those around us. So, suppose we decided that from this moment on we are going to release the non-productive emotions as soon as we are aware of them and reprogram our responses toward neutrality. We are going to believe that God’s plans for us -- whether we understand them fully or not – are actually for our highest good. We are going to recognize and bless the normal way of responding, the way that the rest of humanity responds, then release it and choose to stay grounded in Christ, centered in Spirit, and steeped in God. It is a difficult task to stay grounded, centered, and steeped. It takes the emotional neutrality that I‘ve been discussing. Emotional neutrality grows from being aware – paying attention to what we are thinking, doing, and feeling. If we don’t pay attention we can spend an entire day, a week, and yes, sadly, a lifetime in judgment, anger, fear, victimhood, complaining, grumbling, blaming, and missing out on all the good that God is sending our way. To remain grounded in Christ and emotionally neutral, it is also helpful to remain in the present moment. If we find ourselves rehashing the past or rehearsing for some future event, it is tough to stay even-minded, plus we miss out on what is happening right now. We are quite capable of meeting a challenge in this moment without dwelling on its possible future negative ramifications. Let’s not rehash; let’s not rehearse. Says Christ: each day, or moment, has enough trouble of its own. Probably the most important technique for staying in a state of emotional neutrality is to respond to everything with love. When we are feeling love, we are spiritually balanced. We are not tipping one way or another; we are neutral. Maybe yes, maybe no. Love emanates from our spiritual center and is easily accessible. We can ignite this spark of love within us by focusing on what we love about our family, friends, pets, the outdoors, or the God of our heart. Spirit asks that we look for the love within others; see past their façade of control, seriousness, or grumpiness, and connect to the soul in each person we encounter. Christ said, “My Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” So my prayer is that we can remain balanced, at peace, and emotionally neutral so that we can stay grounded in Christ, centered in spirit, and steeped in the love of God.