Myth or Religion?

My daughter is in 8th grade and is learning about mythology.  Of course, that is really the gods and stories of ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt.

I remember when I learned about that stuff when I was her age.

On my library shelf still is the classic textbook I used in high school -Edith Hamilton’s Mythology!!

Great stuff!

When people think of mythology, most people think of “stories that really aren’t really true but contain some wisdom/truth/insight’, etc.

I think we need to be a little careful with that definition– that one person’s mythology is another person’s truth.  For some people might really believe those stories to be true as a matter of their faith.

I personally have met people who worship Thor, Zeus, etc. (I always wonder how they feel about the Marvel super hero movies with Thor and Odin in them!) To them, aren’t the stories about Thor and Loki true?

Then it struck me.

When we use the term mythology aren’t we really referring to someone else’s religion?

After all, there are members of the pagan community who worship the gods of Rome and Greek religion as sincerely as Christians worship Christ or Muslims worship Allah.   Conversely, to non-Christians the stories of Christ (and Christ himself) could be a myth. To them, isn’t the virgin birth just part of the Christian mythology?  To many Christians that was a real event that is the heart of their faith.

What is myth vs. religion? It is all a matter of perspective, is it not?

Can we even use the term mythology without being condescending to the faith from where that mythology originates?

Should these classes be renamed to “study of ancient religions?”  At which point these courses would no longer be held since you can’t teach religion in public schools!!

Yikes! I feel like I am opening a Pandora box on this.  Surely, I can’t be the only person who has thought about this subject as it is taught in our schools and in our society.

How would you feel if your religion was being taught as mythology in school?  Would you be okay with that?

If not, then are we really doing the right thing by continuing to call the stories of ancient Greek and Roman religions as mythology?

Hmmmm.

Peace,

Steve

 

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On to other things.

This is to inform the world that effective, March 1, 2013, Of Mind And Spirit, LLC is no longer a legal corporation and is being dissolved, per the laws of North Carolina.

While I am still pursuing a mind and spirit approach to life, right now I am focusing on other things.

If you enjoy my posts, then please visit my site Stevebenkin.com

Thank you.

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You say you want a resolution?

Ah,
New Years Day!

Another chance to start again.

Another opportunity to grow as a person.

Another view of our relationship with God and others.

For many, the new year day has come and gone.

In America, most of us accept the Christian Calendar as the guiding calendar for business, if not our personal lives.

Traditionally, we make these things called “resolutions” on this day.

These are goals that we WILL do this year!!

(unlike last year..

or the year before..)

It is very easy to list a gazillion grandiose goals for the year.

“I am going to win a quad-billion dollars!”

“I am going to lose 90 pounds!”

“I am going to sing “I am a little teapot” on American Idol!”

(well, I know some grandmothers that might want that last one!)

Nah.

Here is what I do.

I make a list of 5 to 10 goals that have the following characteristics

1) I HONESTLY BELIEVE I can achieve them in the next 12 months. Losing 90 pounds? Sounds nice.. but I really don’t think I could do that. These goals must be backed with an inner belief that they can be accomplished by the end of the year. Make them realistic!

2) Stretch – a little. Don’t go too far the other extreme. Writing down “When I wake up every morning, I will open up my eyes!”. Yes, you can probably do that every morning (though there has been that one day that I stumbled out of bed with my eyes closed. You see, it was a late night at the local.. oh.. sorry.. need to focus). So go just a LITTLE beyond the easy ones. Too much of a stretch and you won’t believe it. Too little of a stretch and its not worth focusing on.

3) Make sure it is measurable. Some goals are easy to do this. (I want to take a vacation to Florida, for example, is easy to mark off when complete). A goal like “I will be happier this year” is too vague. How exactly will you measure this happiness? Perhaps you could say you will wake up 5 out of 7 mornings with a smile. That is something that you can track against. Doing something daily or weekly obviously takes more work than a one time event like taking a vacation. So think carefully about this.

4) write it down. It ain’t a goal if it is not written. Seriously. If you can’t write it, print it and see it then it is not a goal.

5) Write a set of resolutions for yourself, then for your family (or significant other). You need to work together on these. My entire family sat around last night and came up with 5 awesome goals for the family. One of which we actually started last night which was VERY emotional for all of us.

I hope this humble post helps.

Don’t let the new year overwhelm you.

It is an opportunity to grow, not to get stressed out!!

Enjoy the day.

Enjoy the new year ahead of us!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Peace,
Steve

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The story of myth

Once upon a time,

in a land long ago..

There lived Story.

Now Story was VERY beautiful.

Not only did Story have a lovely face and form,

but she was wrapped in the most incredible cloak that was every made!

Oh, this cloak was really something!

It was made of satin..

Lined with fur.

It was covered in sequins of all shapes and colors.

Diamonds, sapphires and rubies sparkled from every angle!

the collar was a unique material that shimmered in the sun light.

So when Story came around, well- people got EXCITED!

When people heard the jingle-jangle of her cloak, and saw the shimmer of the diamonds, they dropped whatever they were doing to come out and to see and listen to Story weave her tales.

These tales were fluff. They had no substance.

Pure entertainment.

And the people LOVED it!

They could sit for hours, entranced by Story’s charm at speaking and mesmerized by her glorious cloak!

Of course, they really didn’t learn anything from Story.

But that didn’t matter, because it was just a wonderful experience!

———————–

On the other side of town was Truth.

Now Truth was VERY ugly.

Not only did Truth have a repulsive face and form,

but she went around being stark naked.

Oh, her body was too ugly to even glance at.

It was full of open wounds.

Covered with boils.

It was misshapen.

Dark spots, cuts and bruises could be seen from every angle!

So when Truth came around, well- people got SCARED!

When people heard the pitter-patter of her limp, and saw her ugly naked body, they dropped whatever they were doing to run inside their homes and pull down the shades so they wouldn’t have to see and listen to Truth speak her tales.

These tales were so difficult to listen to. They made people face themselves and the choices they made.

They made people think, and face their dark sides.

And the people HATED it!

They couldn’t sit for one minute to bear her presence.

Of course, they could really learn from Truth. They could grow as human beings and transform their lives..

But that didn’t matter, because it was just a horrible experience!

—————–

One day, after Story was done walking through the streets entrancing her adoring fans with her tales of fantasy, she wandered off from her usual path, and found herself in a part of town that seemed deserted.

On a street corner, sat Truth. She was crying.

Story said “Truth! What’s wrong!! Where is everyone!! Why are you crying?”

Truth looked up at her with a tear-stained face, and said.

“Oh, Story. I don’t understand!! I have so many important things to tell people. Things that people NEED to hear!! But nobody wants to listen to me! Look at me!! I’m ugly and tell people things that are too much for them to bear. They all hide when I come around! But YOU! You strut around in that beautiful robe telling all kinds of nonsense, and people FLOCK to listen to you!! What good is it for people to hear your stories when they really need to hear what I have to say! O woe is me!!”

Story was truly moved by what she heard.

She thought about it a long time.

Then Story took off her beautiful cloak, wrapped it around Truth and said

“now people will listen to you.”

———————————

There is an old saying that you may resist hearing the truth, but you can’t resist hearing the truth wrapped in a story.

What is a myth but truth nestled within a story?

What do we learn from the most?

The outer story that – on the surface – which is entertaining.

or the difficult truth that is buried within the story?

As this holiday season enfolds – celebrating the story of the birth of Jesus – take some time to look between the lines.

Ask yourself what is the deeper truth that lies within this story?

Maybe we still need to hear that – even after all these years..

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The game of life

I was looking for something new for the family to do.

You know, like a new board game!!

We had already done the “classics.”

Battleship.

Monopoly.

Sorry.

Scrabble.

What else was there!

AH HA!!

“LIFE!”

Actually, I don’t remember playing that when I was young.

So I was pretty stoked to play it with my family.

I was pretty SHOCKED at the message of this game.

Seriously.

It sounded like an instructional game..

You know, to TEACH people (especially the children) about the game of life!!

Go to school, get a job, save money, get married, etc.

Yes, those things happen in the game.

But so did these things.

1) the government (the bank) PAYS you for having children!! It even requires other players to PAY YOU when you have children!!

2) The government gives all the students $100,000 loans. There is never a hint of the parents saving money to send their child to college, or for the child to get a scholarship based on academic achievement. Nope – you want to go to school? no problem! The government will pay for it!! Even more surprising, was that the loan was not required to be paid until you retire!!! (Assuming you had enough funds to cover the debt!)

3) Along the way, there are a least 2 main ways to become a millionaire. a) win the lottery, and b) find buried treasure in your backyard!! No joke!! There is no opportunity to become a millionaire from starting your own business.

4) There are spaces which forces you to gamble. Based on the # that shows up on the spinner, you either get 10 times what you placed your bet on, or you lose your bet. Wonderful. Now gambling is taught as a great way to get some money!!

5) You were forced to change careers many times, and in our game most of us got lower paying jobs. No thought about actually moving into a better job with better pay. Or starting your own business. And nothing about factoring in whether you actually liked your job or not, or how well you did at it.

It showed that going to college was an investment that will take longer to get a job then just dropping out, but you were just as likely to earn more money with just a high school degree than going to college.

Some pretty interesting messages this game is sending our children, isn’t it?

Is this what most people think the game of life is all about?

Getting paid to have children?
Getting rich is all based on luck?
Let the government pay for education?

I couldn’t disagree more!!

Where is the self-responsibility?

Where is the American spirit of entrepreneurship?

Where is money management and saving for things?

Have we really lost these values in our country?

It’s time we start taking a long, hard look at ourselves and our values, my friend.

To me, this game should be called “entitlement mentality.”

It’s a view that the world (or government) OWES you something.

Instead of viewing yourself as having something to GIVE the world.

You are an incredible creature!!

God made you to be AWESOME!!

I don’t see anybody “OWING” anyone.

I don’t even see you as “OWING” the world anything either.

“OWING” does’t even come into play here.

It’s simply a matter of viewing ourselves an spiritual beings put here on earth.

To love..

to share..

to give… naturally from ourselves…

To be what we were meant to me.

And luck, my friend, has nothing to do with it.

Not at all.

let us rejoice in the freedom God gave us.

Not so much to change or transform ourselves.

But to become who we really are.

That we live in the greatest country in the world that allows anyone – anyone – to be rich and successful.

No, it is NOT easy.

It will NOT come without sacrifice.

And yes, there are those who are too old or ill to win this game of life if they have not played it well when they were young. Of course, we need to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves.

My question is: are we really taking care of ourselves to our fullest?

This is something that challenges me.

Am I really doing everything I can to help society? (answer: probably not).

Am I making all the money that I can? (answer: probably not)

Am I everything that my creator intended? (answer: definitely not)

This season, I am taking stock in myself to see how I can change those answers.

Luck and the government will not really help us in our journey.

It is up to us, with God’s help, to ensure this journey is the best we can make it.

For we only have one shot at this, folks.

Let’s make the best of it.

Peace.

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On prayer

Some of you who are advanced in their spiritual path may find today’s musing a bit of “well, duh! Steve, you are JUST realizing this?”

Part of the beauty of the web is that for every person who thinks that, there is another person who says “Hey! I didn’t know that!”

I dedicate today’s post to those people.

It was only today that – with clarity – that I understood the vastly different approaches to prayer.

First, there is saying prayers. This is memorization, or at least a one way dialogue with God. It has its purposes, but to me this has limited value in our relationship with the Divine.

Next, there is praying. Praying is hard, folks. To truly pray, you pour your heart and soul out and – here is the key for me – you listen to the Divine. In essence, this is a two way dialogue with God. Just yelling at God without listening to any response – even if it is just silence – is no different than saying prayers.

Then there is mystical experiences. I suppose this isn’t technically prayer, but closing one’s eyes and entering into an openness where one receives visions is something different that I thought worth mentioning.

There is also intercessory prayer. Here the focus is on helping others – to call on God’s mercy (or infinite intelligence, if you prefer) to heal others.

Then there is centering prayer. This is where you focus on a word or a tiny piece of scripture/inspirational reading (no more than a few words) and use this to commune with God. This is the brainchild of a Father Thomas Keating. A very unique and powerful form of prayer.

Then there is meditation. Here there is only silence to free the mind. I distinguish this from centering prayer because centering prayer’s goal is communion with your beloved. In meditation, there is no Divine, no beloved – there is only an mind to empty to realize your real essence.

Each one of these has a different flavor, a different purpose and different affect on us.

Realizing this has changed my morning ritual, and I am still exploring inventive ways to incorporate all of these somehow into my day!!

I encourage you to experiment with a new form of prayer today and think about incorporating it into your practice.

Prayer does make a difference.

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to meet the guru

There is an ancient tale of an old woman who wakes up one day with a revelation.

She is to meet THE guru in the Himalayas.

Not just ANY guru, mind you.

but THE guru – the one who has ALL the answers!

She goes to her travel agent who is shocked at her request.

“Edna, the Himalayas?? Do you have ANY idea of how long a trip that is for you?

You will have to travel by car, plane, boat, train and do a lot of walking!!

At your age, this could kill you!!”

The woman was not moved in the least.

“I had a revelation. I MUST see this man!”

Reluctantly, the agent made the reservations.

And so the old woman went on the long and hazardous journey.

It took her 2 full weeks to get to her destination.

When she arrived, she was surprised at the long line of people waiting to see the “master.”

She was told it would take at least 2 weeks for her to get a few minutes with the guru.

and then..

she could only say exactly three words to him.

2 weeks of waiting?

Only 3 words to say to this man?

The waiting was almost unbearable.

The local food did not agree with her and she almost starved to death.

Eventually the moment came!!

She was led up these huge steps to a mountaintop.

The entrance to the guru was heavily guarded.

As she approached the guru, she saw him wrapped in the finest satin robe.

His face literally shown as he was obviously in a constant state of bliss.

She quietly approached him..

Then she grabbed his shoulders,

shook him back and forth!!

and said…

“Morris!! Come home!”

———————–

Being holy does not mean we forsake our life, our family or our friends.

The challenge is to find bliss in the midst of the chaos of our lives.

Peace.

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from the beginning…

Do you remember the very first time someone cut you off on the road?

Maybe it was one you were first learning to drive.

Probably during your teenage years.

Think back to that moment.

You are driving down the road…

and all of a sudden a car jumps out – seemingly from nowhere ! – and cuts you off.

The car is now in FRONT of you!

What was your reaction?

(Think carefully).

Was it:

1) Whew! That was close! I could have hit that car!

2) Whew! That was close! That care could have hit me!

3) Hey!! Can’t you see I am just learning to drive?

4) What a jerk!

In either case, how long did you let it bother you?

I suspect not very much.

Oh, maybe you told a friend..

“guess what happened to me today? some jerk cut me off on the road! Can you imagine that?”

And that was that.

Did you let it get you angry – REALLY angry?

Did it make you want to ‘fight back’ on the road and cut HIM off?

(the “Oh yeah, buddy? Well watch THIS!” syndrome).

No. Probably not.

But WHY not?

Because it was your FIRST such experience.

You had no frame of reference. No history of something like this happening to you.

It was ‘fresh’, so to speak.

Now fast forward 30 years..

You are on the road and someone cuts you off.

Chances are this REALLY gets to you!!

Road rage may even occur.

Your feelings toward the driver are intense (and not very nice).

You may even curse.

Hit the wheel!

Engage in a lively conversation with your passenger on how horrible that driver is!!

You may even inject some ethnic stereotypes and use their driving as another example of why our country would be better off without “THEM!”

Why is your reaction so different?

It is the EXACT SAME experience – the EXACT SAME even – that you had when you were a teenager!!

What happened to make the reaction so different?

Simply this – between then and now you have had many, many such experiences.

Each one BUILDS on the memory of the other.

So now, it is not just one person cutting you off.

It is the ACCUMULATED memories of ALL the people who have cut you off!

Hence the intense reaction.

Buddhism has a wonderful concept called “Beginners mind.”

This means to treat every event as if it was for the first time.

Your significant other says something and you have an intense negative reaction.

You may even get angry.

Chances are the very first time s/he said this to you, you reacted differently.

More calm. Less judgmental. More compassionate.

Now it becomes (oh no! here s/he goes again!!!)

What if you lose something.

If you are ‘prone’ to lose things, you may react “Dang nabit! I lost something AGAIN!”

(fyi – dang nabit is an official form of cursing which is not deemed offensive by most people. Try it some time as an alternate to the other forms of cursing).

Again, the first time you lost something you probably got upset, but eventually let it go.

It is the accumulation of all the losses that make you feel so horrible about losing yet ANOTHER thing.

etc.

The challenge is for us to develop a Beginners Mind to EVERY EXPERIENCE.

To treat everything as if it was the first time.

Now, I am not asking you to be silly.

Don’t put your hand over a fire and go “well, I learned about being burned the first time, so let me forget that and get burned again!”

Beginners mind does not mean we are to be stupid.

Perhaps having a Beginners Mind with discernment is an ideal state.

Learning from the past, but being open that each event is truly unique.

Nothing happens EXACTLY the same twice.

Yes, the person cutting you off could be a jerk.

It might even be a reaction of HIS road rage.

S/he could also be late for work.

Or rushing someone to the hospital.

The fact is, we really don’t know, do we?

Maybe that is the point after all.

Without having all the facts, we jump to conclusion and ASSUME it is the same experience.

Today, try to have a beginner’s mind.

Treat each experience – each event – as if it was the first time.

You might be surprised at how much calmer you are.

Peace.

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How Do You Spell Relief?

A long, long time ago..

I used to complain when I was ill.

or in intense pain.

Why, O Lord, am I suffering?

What did I do to deserve this?

Please take this pain away!

etc.

My perspective was the body should be pain free – that was my starting point – my default belief.

Therefore any pain that was introduced was the abnormality.

And every minute of pain literally stuck out like a sore thumb in my life.

(okay, that turned out to be a weird pun!).

Then I got chronic back pain.

Statistically, over 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain.

That’s about one third of this country’s population!!

So there is a high probability that some of you know what I am talking about!

Every minute – no every SECOND – was agony.

I couldn’t walk.

I couldn’t stand.

I couldn’t sleep.

The back pain was constant, intense and frequently brought me to tears.

Since then I have found the cure to chronic back pain.

It is a combination of exercise, maintaining the proper body weight, stress management, deep spiritual work, fish oil, ensure that I spend time doing things that give my true joy, and changing my basic attitude to life to be optimistic.

Certainly not a simple silver bullet that people look for to solve their problems.

As long as I follow my regimen, I have little to no back pain.

I go to the chiropractor about once a month to keep my back in shape.

Then one day, it struck me!

I was praying to God asking Him to relieve my pain – thinking that a pain free existence was the status quo.

In an instant, my philosophy changed.

I realized that for so many, chronic pain is the status quo.

And thus every minute withOUT pain was the abnormality.

It was a pain free minute that was the exception in my life!

I changed my prayers.

Today, every morning I thank God for EVERY SECOND without pain, for I know that many are in constant agony.

Every second without pain is a blessing.

That really turned me around (and still does).

Do you know there are 86,400 seconds in a day!

That is a LOT to be thankful for!

Take some time today and take stock of your physical body.

Even if you are in pain – is it truly every second?

If you have chronic pain, then how are you managing it?

Can you see any second – even a few – where you weren’t in pain?

Those seconds – no matter how fleeting – is a gift.

A blessing.

If you are in constant pain, and have found a way to accept this so that it no longer something that you think about every second.

I think that is something to be thankful for, too.

Sometimes being pain free is not an option.

I understand that.

We can be thankful for the gift of learning to deal with pain.

That too is a blessing.

And if you are in good health, then today you have 86,400 blessings.

In fact, every second is a gift from God, isn’t it?

Whether we are in pain or not.

Millions did not wake up this morning.

You did.

If you can do nothing else, then try starting off the day thanking God for just waking up.

Be thankful for every second of life, for they are precious.

And I am thankful that someone, somewhere, is reading this.

Peace.

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Happy (you know what!)

In the US, today is Thanksgiving.

Originally, it started off as day of Catholic prayer (no turkey!).

Later, the pilgrims celebrated it, invited some Native Americans, had some turkey,
and the holiday was born!

Yet, what REALLY were the pilgrims thankful for?

It we are to be honest with ourselves, it was to celebrate the genocide of the natives of this country.

Sorry, there is no easy way to sugar coat this.

To celebrate the settlers, um, settling in this land, they had to first displace the natives.

In many ways, the invasion seems to me reminiscent of how the State of Israel was formed.

The oppressors/victors/etc. are so happy conquering their new land, that is natural that they want to celebrate.

But this celebration is at the expense of those who were slaughtered in order to own the land.

Today, I suspect that most people just see it as an opportunity to be thankful – to be grateful for life, friends, family, etc.

That is wonderful!

We should celebrate that every day!

But today, when we eat our turkey and fill our bellies, and say a prayer of thanksgiving for all that God has given us…

Let’s not forget to say a prayer for all those who suffered in the past to make this day possible.

If you think this is extreme, then imagine seeing a Native American and walking up to them and say “happy thanksgiving.”

Is there anybody that thinks that is appropriate?

I always wonder – how did the natives feel when they were invited to that first thanksgiving with the pilgrims?

How do the native feel about this holiday today?

Perhaps we can give thanks for being alive, while realizing our country was created by killing others.

It is a strange day, indeed.

Peace.

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