Welcome to OneLife Ministries. This site is designed to lead you prayerfully into a heart experience of Divine Presence, Who is Love. While it focuses on Christian teaching, I pray persons of varied faiths will find inspiration here. Indeed, "God" can be whatever image helps us trust in the Sacred, by whatever means Grace touches us each. Please share this ministry with others, and I hope you return soon. There is a new offering daily. And to be placed on the daily OneLife email list, to request notifications of new writings or submit prayer requests, write to email@example.com .
Rev Dr Brian K Wilcox, MDiv, MFT, PhD
Pastor-Teacher, Author, Workshop Leader, Spiritual Counselor, Chaplain
Brian encourages support of the 4-Star Christian organization Compassion, which supports children worldwide; for more see www.compassion.com .
Divine Presence, You know what is best; let this be done or that be done as You please. Give what You will, as much as You will, when You will. Do with me as You know best, as will most please You, and will be for Your greater honor. Place me where You will and deal with me freely in all things. I am in Your hand; turn me about whichever way You will. See, I am Your servant, ready to obey in all things. Not for myself do I desire to live, but for You - would that I could do this worthily and wholly!
*Thomas A Kempis. "Prayer of Surrender to God." In The Imitation of Christ. Modern Adaptation by this writer. See www.feastofsaints.com .
LISTENING TO THE SCRIPTURE
8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from meŚeverything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
*Philippians 4.8-9 (NLT)
RECEIVING SACRED TEACHING
It is only from the stirring of emotions based on love, compassion, joy, and equanimity that we can gradually become a person who is loving, compassionate, joyous, well-grounded, and not given to extreme mood swings and instability. Many people are extremely generous and caring one moment and then, without warning and seemingly for no apparent reason, are spiteful and vengeful the next - usually toward the same person and on the same day! ... Acts of love and compassion come from being a loving and compassionate person. While we must recognize that there is a difference between practicing these healthy emotions in meditation and applying them in daily life, there is nonetheless a strong connection between the two experiences, because the meditation and the action inform and influence each other.
*Traleg Kyabgon. Mind at Ease.
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For varied reasons some of us have a more turbulent emotional life, while others seem blessed with a more stable emotional temperament. We know there are included in the factors genetic predisposition - biology, nature. We know environment has shaped our emotional processes - nurture.
If we struggle emotionally, we realize, at some point, the gift of our choice to re-shape our emotions. Spirit works through our brain, and we can make choices in thought, as well as action, to re-shape the configurations of the brain. I am not saying we do this alone, we do this in reliance on the help of Grace. We co-operate with Spirit: Who is the Master Chemist.
Philippians lists qualities we are to think about. This thinking can become a spiritual practice within our meditation times, as we ruminate upon specific words representing spiritual qualities. Likewise, we can, within meditation, image scenes - actual or imaginary - to reflect what our soul "sees" as of a certain quality.
What is happening when we do this? The brain is experiencing these words, thoughts, images, ... as actually happening. This is providing an antidote to the oft thinking upon the opposites of these qualities.
We take one example - Love. Your Prayer Word, or mantra, can be Love. You can use that word in silent repetition, allowing yourself to open to the feeling of that quality. What does Love feel like?
Then, another thing can be done in meditation with that word "Love." You can image a scene of Love. This can be a past experience when you felt loved or loving. This can include a fabricated scene, in which you see and feel yourself loving toward someone, or someone toward you. Or this can entail a moment in which you felt dearly Loved by the Divine.
Now, you can work with any quality in this same manner. You may wish to focus in a meditation on a quality that God seems to be challenging you regarding or a quality particularly challenging to you.
Now, here is a key - the meditation is founded on an un-selfish attitude. A "selfish, self-focusing spirituality" is a plight in our culture of extreme individualism.
Our experiences change from minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, so how can we put our trust in anything as fleeting and untrustworthy as experiences? The cult of experientialism, which is so prevalent in all quarters of the modern world, from psychotherapy to politics to New Age spirituality, has to be regarded with a degree of caution. If I think something is important and worthwhile, it also has to be something others can relate to and engage in with the same degree of certainty if it is to be of any benefit to them. Too much emphasis on our own experience can cause our practice to collapse into total subjectivism and solipsism.
*Traleg Kyabgon. Mind at Ease.
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What is solipsism? What is its threat to healthy spirituality and adjoining emotions? Solipsism is from the Latin solus, "alone self." While this refers to a philosophical theory, which entails in extreme form the belief that a person can only know his or her own mind, nothing more, the word refers in popular usage to self-absorption. The threat to healthy emotions, then, is that such self-absorption turns us in on ourselves, cutting us off from emotions that arise and grow in and from a degree of healthy engagement with others.
Again, note, meditating on Love is not enough. The intent is to become more Loving in the actual context of your life. So, intent and follow-up is a bedrock determinate in the actual fruition of spiritual practice.
Say, today, I might meditate on Love in the morning. Then, I might do something as simple as go write a kind email to a friend. I have acted in Love. Or, I may decide to look for little opportunities to be more loving throughout the day.
Now, here is the wonder. My meditating on Love with proper intent and follow-up - which could seem like a self-focusing sentimentalism - leads me to be more loving, toward others and myself, for I am focused less on myself, and more on Loving.
[O]ur own experience will become transformed by our paying attention to the experiences of others. How much our notions about ourselves, our way of seeing things, and our experiences of emotions and feelings become transformed is proportionate to how much attention we give to others.
*Traleg Kyabgon. Mind at Ease.
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A problem with religious moralism is such does not provide enough spiritual tools to work with emotions. We can say, "Well, just give it to God." But we are co-operators with God. Or, "Just ask to be healed." But our emotional healing is, again, a process we participate in fully.
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What I can know at any moment is that the "I" I am experiencing at any moment is partly a result of the biological and cultural inheritance given me. That may well, and will, shape my inner and outer worlds until I die. Yet, that does not mean I have to be a passive victim of either nature or nurture.
In the biology of a person is a created plasticity. Yes, there are parameters of potential; however, within those boundaries we are able to re-shape and shape our lives, including our emotional processes.
An example of this is a hard-drive. Let us look at biology as a hard-drive. The hard-drive has certain capabilities. It can, with a mind other than it, in some sense, experience a shifting of data, a deleting of programs, an adding of information, ... So, the brain - the hard-drive of the Person.
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Paul has "think on" certain qualities. The Greek is logizomai, and refers to computing, ruminating; and the substantive corresponds to our word meditation.
Persons, long before neurobiology, intuited the relationship between what we ruminate upon and how it shapes our lives and relationships.
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So, you say, "What happens when I meditate on qualities, yet, I still struggle to act that quality?" Well, the emotional imprints we have were not shaped overnight, and it is a process, often, of slow, persevering inner work and outer life to re-form emotional processes. Do not get discouraged, and keep focused on inner thoughts and outer actions. Also, do not be judgmental to yourself - that counters all the positive qualities - but forgiving of yourself.
Choose one positive, spiritual quality to meditate on today. Meditate on this for a while in the morning or at another time you set aside. Refer to this word meditatively as you have opportunity during the day. Likewise, be alert to opportunities to share this quality with others.
Rev Dr Brian K Wilcox
June 4, 2009
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*OneLife Ministries is a ministry of Brian K. Wilcox, of SW Florida. Brian lives a vowed life and with his two dogs, Bandit Ty and St. Francis. Brian is an ecumenical spiritual leader, open to how Christ manifests in the diversity of Christian denominations and varied religious-spiritual traditions. He is Senior Chaplain for the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office, Punta Gorda, FL.
*Brian welcomes responses to his writings or submission of prayer requests at firstname.lastname@example.org . Also, Brian is on Facebook: search Brian Kenneth Wilcox.
*Contact the above email to book Brian for Spiritual Direction, retreats, or workshops. You can order his book An Ache for Union at major book dealers.