In his book The Twelve Powers of Man, Charles Fillmore offers the affirmation, “I am a radiating center of love, peace, and harmony.” What stands out to me is that love is not a single feeling. It has many facets – like a diamond – and more valuable than any precious gems. It consists of things like empathy, patience, compassion, understanding. In short, to me it includes the most positive of all human feelings.

I’m reminded of Janie, a friend of mine, a woman who had traveled on all the continents of the planet. Once another friend of mine and I took Janie and went to a nature area were we could see the migrating cranes awaken in the morning. We were walking along a dirt path and could hear the quiet rustling of birds in the undergrowth. Suddenly, as if one of them had hollered, “On the count of three!” from all sides of us there arose a huge wash of white cranes rising to meet the sun.

Janie’s reaction was as wonderful as the cranes. After having traveled the world over, she was still able to see and appreciate this spectacle of nature with unbridled joy and enthusiasm. She clapped and twirled and shouted as the birds flew over us and out into the day.

“What does this have to do with love?” you might ask. To me it’s the recognition and appreciation, the admiration of all the wonders of our earth. It is the in-built response we can feel for this fantastic place we call home. It is an acknowledgment of the treasures we can see in the everyday world around us all the time if we just stop and look.

Even something very tiny can remind us. For example:

Dew be-sparkled grass
glistens in the mornings
lifting hopes of Spring.

As we continue to think about the power of Love, we realize it’s not that easy to definite, much less practice it! In the Bible in Matthew 5:44-48, we are commanded to “Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.”

Our first reaction might be, “Yeah, right! And what am I supposed to do when they kill my loved ones, or destroy my home, or attack my country?” We are going through a time of unparalleled challenges in the world and in our country. How do we summon up the grace (and “guts”, if you will) to love the people who’re wreaking such havoc?

My thinking is that we will only have peace on earth when all of us have peace in our hearts. And my understanding at this point is that I need to be at peace in my own heart so that I can contribute to the healing of humanity and to peace everywhere.

That’s where loving myself comes in. In Lori Deschene’s book Tiny Buddha’s Guide to Loving Yourself, she writes, “Many of us know intellectually that we need to be good to ourselves if we want to be happy. But it feels so hard. We are simultaneously the harsh judge and the lost, scared child who wants to stop feeling judged. It becomes a vicious cycle. It only stops when we step outside ourselves and observe how we get ourselves stuck.” We can’t be loving to the people who hurt us if we have not released our own past hurts. To me, the hardest part of this commandment is not the part about loving our enemies; it’s about loving ourselves.

One idea that helps me is remembering that all those who are doing harm to others are people who do not feel any love for themselves. They are wounded just as we all have been in one way or another. The truth is we all grew up in the same family of humans, and we all have wounds that have not fully healed. As we continue on this journey to enlightenment, or what I call the evolution in consciousness, let’s remember we are all members of the same family. Everyone I encounter is not my enemy but my brother or my sister.

In the Book of John, we read that Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.” That sounds pretty simple, but we human still have a hard time knowing how to do it. the strange thing is that even when we know the dictionary definition of the word, we still have a hard time doing it.

Wikipedia tells us that “love refers to a feeling of strong attraction and emotional attachment. Love is considered to be representing human kindness, compassion, and affection, as ‘the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.’ It may also describe compassionate and affectionate actions towards other humans, one’s self or animals. In its various forms, love facilitates interpersonal relationships. Love also is a function that keeps human beings together against menaces and to facilitate the continuation of the species.

So why is it so hard to do sometimes? Learning how to love is a lifetime challenge because we are so deeply controlled by our basic fight or flight mechanism that helps us stay alive. And therein lies the problem: we still depend on this biological power and are still learning about the inner power we also are born with.

When the wise people tell us that we are all one, it’s very hard to believe. Am I one with people like Adolph Hitler and Rasputin and Vlad the Impaler? How – and why – am I supposed to love them?

So here’s a theory. We are involved in the evolution of consciousness which is the ability of the mind to reflect upon its own experience. Robert Ornstein, PhD, an internationally renowned psychologist and author wrote the book God 4.0 which offers a fresh understanding of how the brain can produce a transcendent shift in consciousness that some have called “seeing God.” The book points toward a new unity of science and spirituality concerning a reality that people have sought forever. This higher consciousness is not something “out there,” but something in the brain that we can develop. Once unlocked it allows us to see and use vital connections that can help us unite around a common higher perspective.

So, my friends, we are still learning about who we are and why we’re here. Learning to love is one of the first lessons!

STOP! LOOK! LISTEN! That’s my mantra for reminding myself to slow down and turn to my inner wisdom when I don’t know what to think or do about some situation. There are many times when our minds are in turmoil over some issue in life. So the first thing to do is STOP everything and get calm. Take a break like go for a walk or meditate or sit with a pet or listen to some quiet music.

When we are calm we can LOOK at the situation and the issue we are concerned with. Then we can examine the ins and outs, the pro and cons of the issue. By really looking, we can see aspects that aren’t apparent at first glance. This is when we can ask questions like, “Is it harmful to me or someone else?” “Will it be a good thing in the long run, or is this just a passing thing? Do I really need these challenges in my life?” There are many stumbling blocks ahead, but they don’t have to trip us up if we let ourselves see them instead of just hoping they’ll go away. This phase of things may take time, though.

While waiting for your inner wisdom to speak, it’s a good idea to be patient. In this fast-paced world we want everything right now, but Spirit doesn’t work that way. it waits for us to relax and be ready to LISTEN. Just like all living things on earth, growth and progress take time. No matter how hard we try, we can’t make things happen any faster than they can – period.

Our number one enemy, however, is doubt. We worry about whether we’re on the right path. Looking back, I’ve seen so many times when life took me where I needed to go, even though I thought it was totally wrong. One of the most valuable mantras I’ve learned so far is that “all thing work together for good,” even though we can’t see it at the time. So maybe another part of this process is TRUST. If we genuinely turn to our inner wisdom, we can trust that it will lead us on the right path.

My dad was a very quiet fellow who didn’t talk very much. But when he did speak, you wanted to listen because it was always something wise or kind or funny. I think he ascribed to the old saying, “Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” To me, that is one of the aspects of wisdom – when to speak and when to keep your mouth shut.

But there’s another angle to it. The beloved 13th century Persian poet Rumi wrote, “The quieter you become the more you are able to hear.” And therein lies the wisdom. When we remember that inner voice of Spirit, we can listen and follow its guidance.

We humans are still learning about our inner wisdom, though. We tend to go off half-cocked into situations that turn out to be disappointing or actually harmful to us because we so often act on impulse. We can think a relationship is going to be perfect and fulfill all our needs for love and acceptance only to find that it turns out to be abusive or at least regrettable. We can think a lot of money will provide us with all the power and prestige we want so we don’t have to be afraid of anybody only to learn that it makes things worse.

We tend to think that we just don’t have good sense or we are losers because we keep making the same mistakes over and over. The trouble is we don’t listen to that Inner Voice that will always speak if we just slow down and listen.

Learning how to slow down and listen is a life-long learning process. Some of the things that can help us are prayer, meditation, walking out in nature or simply taking a deep breath. Reading inspirational writings can help or even engaging in something creative. When we are able to do this, the voice of wisdom within us can speak. It’s always there. It just needs our attention. There is nothing or no one who is great enough or smart enough or rich enough or even wise enough to surrender our destiny to. Only the Spirit within is that.

Thinking about this month’s theme of wisdom, I remembered one of the most powerful ideas I have ever encountered: the Hero’s Journey. In his famous book The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), Joseph Campbell describes the hero’s journey as follows: “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

The most powerful part of the story is when the hero finds himself at the lowest point in his life. This is when he surrenders all his preconceived ideas and asks Spirit to help him. When he does this, he receives the answer as to the cause of his suffering and is able to release it and start a new way of living.

I like to think of this journey as the path to wisdom. Being able to learn from our mistakes, to realize why we did the things we did, and how to let go of them is how we become wise. To acknowledge our mistakes, forgive ourselves and others, and to go in a different direction is the essence of wisdom.

No, it isn’t easy. And sometimes we have to keep making the same mistakes again and again until we finally say to ourselves, “Wait! Why do I keep doing this?” That is the important moment. And to me, the most important question in this process is, “What is it I believe that causes me to keep making the same mistakes?”

That takes us back to what metaphysics tells us: that we have within us the creative energy of the universe that we can use to create anything we want to in our lives. And to learn how to use that energy in a creative, loving, peaceful way is the essence of wisdom.

Remember that old quote, “Winners never quit and quitters never win”?  I disagree with that in terms of the idea of wisdom. Knowing what to quit and when to quit may be one of the building blocks of wisdom.

We in metaphysics believe that our thoughts have power and that by using our thoughts correctly we can enjoy a happy, prosperous, healthy life. So I’m thinking that we are wise if we become aware of our thoughts and how they’re affecting or lives.

But a question comes up. Why do our thoughts have so much power? I personally believe it’s because we have within us the creative energy of the universe. (You can call it God or Spirit or something else.) And we are free to use it any way we want to.

So, in some ways it’s a simple process of looking at our lives and our circumstances and asking, “What was I thinking that got me in this situation?” But it isn’t as simple as that sounds.

Our deep-seated beliefs about ourselves and others and life have more power than we realize. One of the most powerful concepts I’ve ever encountered is the idea of a Core Belief. If I think there’s something wrong with me, I may not have good relations with others until I really look at that core belief and let it go. Our fears and angers are profoundly powerful because they are based on our core beliefs, those ideas that we adopted as our own as a result of earlier experiences.

And as long as I hold on to one or more of these core beliefs, I will manifest in my life circumstances, events, and relationships in line with them. The biggest challenge, and what we are called to do, is to realize the truth of who we are — spiritual beings having a physical experience. We are expressions of the Creative Energy of the Universe and we have all of its power inside our own head to use as we want to.

Mountaineering involves going up mountains. Mountaineering-related activities include traditional outdoor climbing and skiing. Indoor climbing, sport climbing and bouldering are also considered mountaineering. Mountaineering lacks widely-applied formal rules, regulations, and governance; mountaineers adhere to a large variety of techniques and philosophies when climbing mountains. That sounds a lot like the world’s religions, doesn’t it? And the question about both of them can be, ”Why do people try them?”

Why people believe is a question that has plagued great thinkers for many centuries. Karl Marx, for example, called religion the “opium of the people”. Sigmund Freud felt that god was an illusion and worshippers were reverting to the childhood needs of security and forgiveness. A more recent psychological explanation is that religion is a by-product of a number of cognitive and social adaptations which have been extremely important in human development.

Okay, but what does religion offer us that mere life in a physical dimension doesn’t offer us? And does it really matter that there are so many ways to finding whatever it is? Throughout history, scholars and researchers have tried to identify why people are attracted to religion.

Steven Reiss, a professor emeritus of psychology at The Ohio State University and author of The 16 Strivings for God, offered the idea that “People are attracted to religion because it provides believers the opportunity to satisfy all their basic desires over and over again.” He identified 16 basic desires that we all share: acceptance, curiosity, eating, family, honor, idealism, independence, order, physical activity, power, romance, saving, social contact, status,
tranquility and vengeance.

A key point is that each of the 16 desires motivates personality opposites and those opposites all have to find a home in a successful religion. So religion offers people the opportunity to satisfy all their basic desires over and over again.

So if your religion helps you live a better life, why should I try to change your beliefs?

The world is in a strange, frightening, challenging, and amazing time of change. We may yearn for things to be like they used to be, but in our hearts we know that’s not going to happen. We are in the middle of a tremendous cognitive shift for everyone on the planet. So how do we deal with it without giving into fear and anxiety or even hopelessness?

Some years ago a man named Ram Dass wrote a book titled Be Here Now. In it he wrote about how he had the realization that, at his truest, he was just his inner-self: a luminous being that he could trust indefinitely and love infinitely. His message was basically simple: there is only the present moment. There are tomorrow and yesterday but the only real power we have access to is the present one.

This message is especially powerful now as we watch what is going on all over the world. So how do we stay in tune with the moment and stop spending time worrying about the future or bewailing the past?

Just recently, I re-read a quote from Anne Frank’s diary of July 15, 1944:

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too. I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”

So it just seems to me that the best way we can help that vision become a reality again is by holding to being peaceful within ourselves as much as we can every moment, holding the lamp inside ourselves so that others can see it and take courage.