Monday, March 21, 2011

Barack Obama's Faith

Integrally Religious

Since he began his campaign for the Democratic nomination for President, I’ve been tracking Barack Obama’s pronouncements about his faith particularly and religion generally. When he was elected, I declared him the most integrally religious president since Woodrow Wilson—even more so than Jimmy Carter.

This declaration reveals my bias about “deep religion,” that it first be a well-reasoned choice, thereafter monitored, and appropriately adjusted relative to accumulating experiences and a growing wisdom.

To an unprecedented extent, Mr. Obama has spoken of his faith as well as the role of religion in a pluralistic society. In part, this has been reactive. The climate of the 1990s, when he rose to prominence and first won elective office, was characterized by the so-called culture-wars and the ascendency of evangelical Christianity.

Over that past two decades, Mr. Obama adroitly positioned himself as a man of strong Christian faith yet holding liberal values, such as being pro-choice. (You might remember that when in 2004 he ran for US Senator from our state, his opponent Alan Keyes opined, in reference to Mr. Obama’s pro-choice position, “Christ would not vote for Barack Obama, because Barack Obama has voted to behave in a way that is inconceivable for Christ to have behaved.” He has also consistently supported gay rights, yet he has religiously opposed same-sex marriage, but not civil unions, a position he now says is evolving.)

We well know that Mr. Obama’s Christianity, his chosen faith, was shaped in one of Chicago’s large black churches, Trinity United, a UCC congregation of more than 10,000 members. His spiritual mentor was the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, Jr., whose fiery and unapologetic black liberation theology caused one of the great controversies of the 2008 Presidential campaign, leading Mr. Obama and his family to resign their membership.

Because of this association, Mr. Obama’s Christianity became the focus of an angry animus that was hard to pin down, but to me seemed a vestige of our culture’s long standing racism. Since his election, he’s further endured an irrational accusation by a group known as “birthers,” who assert that he was not born in the US, but in Kenya; and more, that he is even a stealth Muslim planted to undermine the Jewish Christian tradition in favor of Islam.

Although it’s beneath him and his office, so to speak, Mr. Obama has had to assert his Christian faith in the face of an ongoing, inchoate animus against him.

So, his motives in speaking of his faith and faith generally so often, and so intimately, have political ends. But I maintain he does so because faith has made such a difference in his life and because he steadfastly maintains that faith matters in the larger life of the Republic and its society.

Here’s something of an aside, an opinion of mine. The traditional Christian church—including the myriad Roman Catholics as well as the Evangelicals—have missed an unprecedented opportunity to assert their shared values into the larger culture by not jumping on Mr. Obama’s faith bandwagon. In some degree, they let the inchoate but palpable animus against him get in the way of accepting what he has offered. In his autobiography Audacity of Hope, he declared, “we make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in the lives of the American people, and so avoid joining a serious debate how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy.” Though he said something similar many times since, as well consistently testifying of the role of faith in his life, it’s fallen on so many deaf Christian ears. From my disinterested perspective outside the Christian community, for Christians this is an opportunity lost.

My working hypothesis is, in regards to religion and faith, Barack Obama continues to be misunderstood, underappreciated, maligned, and yes, feared.

Influence of Mother, Stanley Ann Dunham

Let me talk a little about his faith:

He credits his mother as a major influence, positively and negatively. As a single mother, working her way to becoming an anthropologist working in the field, she inculcated her young son with the notion that religion was a phenomenon of human culture, not its wellspring. It was a way, but not the best way, for humankind to control the unknowable and find the meaning of our lives. She introduced him, somewhat casually, to a variety of faith traditions, their practices and holy books, but made no particular demands on him.

But, she made an abiding impression on him with her spirituality. (That’s a contemporary mantra, isn’t it, she’s not religious, but she’s spiritual.

In The Audacity of Hope he wrote:

And yet for all her professed secularism, my mother was in many ways the most spiritually awakened person that I've ever known. She had an unswerving instinct for kindness, charity, and love, and spent much of her life acting on that instinct, sometimes to her detriment. Without the help of religious texts or outside authorities, she worked mightily to instill in me the values that many Americans learn in Sunday school: honesty, empathy, discipline, delayed gratification, and hard work. She raged at poverty and injustice.

Most of all, she possessed an abiding sense of wonder, a reverence for life and its precious, transitory nature that could properly be described as devotional. Sometimes, as I was growing up, she would wake me up in the middle of the night to have me gaze at a particularly spectacular moon, or she would have me close my eyes as we walked together at twilight to listen to the rustle of leaves. She loved to take children—any child—and sit them in her lap and tickle them or play games with them or examine their hands, tracing out the miracle of bone and tendon and skin and delighting at the truths to be found there. She saw mysteries everywhere and took joy in the sheer strangeness of life.

Conversion and the Black Church

It was during his years as a community organizer on Chicago’s South Side that Mr. Obama chose, and I underscore chose, to commit himself to Christianity. Here’s his testimony about the decision, again from The Audacity of Hope.

It is only in retrospect, of course, that I fully understand how deeply this spirit of hers guided me on the path I would ultimately take. It was in search of confirmation of her values that I studied political philosophy, looking for both a language and systems of action that could help build community and make justice real. And it was in search of some practical application of those values that I accepted work after college as a community organizer for a group of churches in Chicago that were trying to cope with joblessness, drugs, and hopelessness in their midst.

My work with the pastors and laypeople there deepened my resolve to lead a public life, but it also forced me to confront a dilemma that my mother never fully resolved in her own life: the fact that I had no community or shared traditions in which to ground my most deeply held beliefs. The Christians with whom I worked recognized themselves in me; they saw that I knew their Book and shared their values and sang their songs. But they sensed that a part of me remained removed, detached, an observer among them. I came to realize that without an unequivocal commitment to a particular community of faith, I would be consigned at some level to always remain apart, free in the way that my mother was free, but also alone in the same ways she was ultimately alone.

In such a life I, too, might have contented myself had it not been for the particular attributes of the historically black church, attributes that helped me shed some of my skepticism and embrace the Christian faith.

For one thing, I was drawn to the power of the African American religious tradition to spur social change. Out of necessity, the black church had to minister to the whole person. Out of necessity, the black church rarely had the luxury of separating individual salvation from collective salvation. It had to serve as the center of the community's political, economic, and social as well as spiritual life; it understood in an intimate way the biblical call to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and challenge powers and principalities. In the history of these struggles, I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death; rather, it was an active, palpable agent in the world.

And perhaps it was out of this intimate knowledge of hardship, the grounding of faith in struggle, that the historically black church offered me a second insight: that faith doesn't mean that you don't have doubts, or that you relinquish your hold on this world. Long before it became fashionable among television evangelists, the typical black sermon freely acknowledged that all Christians (including the pastors) could expect to still experience the same greed, resentment, lust, and anger that everyone else experienced. The gospel songs, the happy feet, and the tears and shouts all spoke of a release, an acknowledgment, and finally a channeling of those emotions. In the black community, the lines between sinner and saved were more fluid; the sins of those who came to church were not so different from the sins of those who didn't, and so were as likely to be talked about with humor as with condemnation. You needed to come to church precisely because you were of this world, not apart from it; rich, poor, sinner, saved, you needed to embrace Christ precisely because you had sins to wash away—because you were human and needed an ally in your difficult journey, to make the peaks and valleys smooth and render all those crooked paths straight.

It was because of these newfound understandings—that religious commitment did not require me to suspend critical thinking, disengage from the battle for economic and social justice, or otherwise retreat from the world that I knew and loved—that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ one day and be baptized. It came about as a choice and not an epiphany; the questions I had did not magically disappear. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side of Chicago, I felt God's spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.

Further Thoughts on Community

Before the church year ends, I intend to continue these remarks, giving continuing substance to how Mr. Obama has pronounced his faith. What I’ve brought to you today is the foundation, self-articulated, of Barack Obama’s melding of personal values with a social vision, including his personal yearning and fulfillment for a religious community. In my estimation, it’s a powerful narrative of contemporary significance, most importantly dealing with the quest of taking traditional Jewish Christian values and using them to inform and transform a pluralistic society.

There’s a number of possible takeaways from these remarks. I lift up this, regarding one of the dilemmas of your life. There is value in investing yourself in a community of shared values. Recall Mr. Obama’s words, regarding his own faith choice, that it “confronted a dilemma that my mother never fully resolved in her own life: the fact that I had no community or shared traditions in which to ground my most deeply held beliefs.

On a Sunday when we welcome new Members who have freely and thoughtfully chosen to join this congregation and become part of this Church-Home, it is good to acknowledge the significance of a faith community of a rich tradition and shared values in each our lives, a place where we ground our most deeply held beliefs, and yes, where we seek to make a more perfect, that is, a just society.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spring Cleaning

I’ve long maintained: the various and great religious festivals and observances --the so many Holidays and Holy Days—make eminent sense relative to our creatureliness in the midst of the yearly cycles of Nature.

We have instincts, spiritual itches that these so many seasonal habits and rites scratch.

This is to say, universal human needs, emotions, responses and such are embedded in Holiday and Holy Days. And, so, in this regard, religion is a natural phenomenon, a product of human yearning and aspiration.

This is true for the great season of birth and renewal in this time of year. On the national calendar, it is known as spring, beginning with the vernal equinox. On the church calendar, it is known as Easter with its season of preparation called Lent.

Lent began on Wednesday—Ash Wednesday. It ends on Holy Saturday that proceeds Easter Sunday. In church lore, Lent is a time for introspection and sacrifice, 40 days of preparation for the most holy day of Christianity: Easter.

Lent resonates to a natural instinct to imitate Nature’s renewal, or perhaps more accurately, to answer the stirrings of renewal within self.

I read it last week, but I love it so, I’m going to read it again, a meditation by a venerable 20th century Universalist minister, Clinton Lee Scott:

The Teutons of ancient days, after the long hard winter, rejoiced when the season's cold began to pass and the promise of spring was in the air. They held joyful festivals and sang praised to their gods. The "lengthening days" were for dancing and feasting.

The the ponderous councils of the church moved in and proceeded to take the joy out of the season by prescribing that Lent be for self-denial, sackcloth and ashes, and a shortcut to holiness.

We should do better. Lent should be a season not of gloom, but of cheer, not of sulfur and molasses but maple syrup and raised doughnuts, a time to celebrate the goodness, the beauty, and the utility of life.

Lent is not a time for monastic introspection but for expansion of mind and heart, for vigorous exercise and deep breathing, a time for getting the whole self tuned up so it can function harmoniously with the forces that lift the tulips and make the grass grow. It is a time for becoming more alive, for making love with your mate, and for getting acquainted with your children.

Now this little piece is as rich in spiritual wisdom as it is rich in old-timey New England references. And it predicted what has become conventional wisdom by contemporary spiritual types for meeting the spring. No area of contemporary spirituality has been apparent as the recent enthusiasm for home and domesticity, as evidenced in a proliferation in the 1990s of what are called shelter magazines, such as The House Beautiful, Town and Country, and Martha Stewart’s Living.

When I searched the Internet for using spring cleaning and spirituality, I found a proliferation of similar articles, including several on the theme of spring cleaning from a 2005 edition/posting of Soulful Living. The articles even had a piece of text on which to draw: “Out of Clutter, Find Simplicity. From Discord, Find Harmony. In the Middle of Difficulty Lies Opportunity. ” [attributed to Albert Einstein.]

After I read the articles by authors who specialize in the convergence of contemporary home, domesticity, and spirituality, I identified something timeless yet very up to date about the meaning of spring cleaning. Call what I’m about to read, that is also a clear and wide window into what might be called the contemporary soul—the yearnings and aspirations of the human spirit as spring approaches.

I hope you find these excerpts illuminating about the human sources of spirituality. And I hope you find them inspiring enough for you to also seek harmony with that which “lifts the tulips” and “makes the grass grow”—a time to become more alive.

[The following articles may be found in their entirety at Soulful Living, 2005:]. Individual copyrights held by the writers of the articles.]

Tips for Springtime Space Clearing: Christan Hummel

Spring cleaning goes beyond normal everyday cleaning. It's a major project of home revitalization: to make everything new by removing dust and dirt, to make sure everything is in good repair, and to put things in order, so that you will have everything in your household in working condition for the coming year.

There is a rhythm to Life, a time for growth, and a time for death. Cycles are important to observe: moon cycles are often used for planting, cutting hair, beginning new projects. Similarly, observing the cycles of the sun of day and night, being more active during the daylight hours, and winding down in the evening when there is less energy available. As well there are the larger seasonal cycles, solstices, equinoxes, and the times in between them (what the Celts called the cross quarter days.) When we are in tune with and align consciously with these cycles of nature, the rhythm of Life, we find more harmony and balance in our lives.

Spring is a natural time to go forward and celebrate the energies which are coming out of the hibernation of Winter. … Now that spring has come, we can support those tender little sprouts of Life by clearing out the past and creating a space for them to grow and flourish.

When we follow these cycles, we harness the Life energy of the planet and begin to dance to the same beat of Life. So by paying attention to the cycles of Life, we begin to work with them to receive the gift of their energy.

With some small investment on our part, we can dramatically change the energies of our environment making our homes a sanctuary to reflect our highest intentions and dreams.

Spring Cleaning for the Soul: Kathryn L. Robyn

Get a piece of paper and draw a line down the center, dividing it into two columns. This is your Spirit List. Identify which things make you feel wonderful and which make you feel uncomfortable. Put things that Buoy Your Spirit down the left side. Those that Sink Your Spirit go down the right side. Take your time; and make a note in your journal about any feelings or questions that come up while reviewing each of your possessions. Commit yourself to return to any issues that arise, for further exploration.

Some things will clearly be headed for the trash. Anything is a burden if it doesn’t make you feel good, a millstone if it actually ticks you off—if that’s not clutter, I don’t know what is. Surely there are 50 ways to toss your trash. If you can’t quite face sending something to the dumpster, make a note of your hesitation and take a first step by packing it up for storage. Label your box with the exact contents and set it aside to let it "season." Living without it for a time can help you get clear on whether it ’s ultimately headed for keepsake status in the attic, rotation to be brought out another year, or history in a garage sale or donation bin. Remembering the old adage, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, your "spirit-dampening" items can become a gift to you when transferred to someone else’s ownership—either in the form of cash money or a charitable tax deduction, if not simply in the relief of seeing them go. Turning your trash into treasure clears out old energies that dragged you down like nothing else. However you choose to release them—store, sell, donate or dump—let go of all the unnecessary burdens you can....

Rituals for Springtime Soul Cleansing: Barbara Biziou

Spring is the time for each of us to usher in new growth and possibilities. It is a time to be more open to love and joy. In ancient times, the New Year started at the Spring Equinox. In fact, astrologically it still does. In many traditions, this is the start of the New Year. The Roman year began on the ides of March (15th). The astrological year begins on the equinox when the moon moves into the first sign of the zodiac, Aries, the ram. The Greek god Ares is equivalent to the Roman Mars for whom the month of March is named. This is also the festival of Nawruz, Persian New Year, which falls on the spring equinox.

Now is the time that we are able to renew our hopes, aspirations and dreams. Yet, we cannot do this if we are weighed down by old beliefs that create barriers for opportunities and fulfillment. Loving yourself and appreciating others is a key to achieving your goals in life. The Spring Equinox ushers in a time of new balance. The season invites you to become aware of whatever is out of balance in your life and to put in the corrections.

Take some time to contemplate the following:

Could you change your diet so your body can safely eliminate toxins and regain its natural rhythms?

How much of your time is spent working?

How much of your time is spent worrying?

How much of your time is spent with friends? Family?

How much of your time is spent enjoying yourself?

Are you getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night?

When is the last time you took time for yourself?

How can you grow in a healthy way and become more open, compassionate and accepting?

Can you simplify your life? ...

Release guilt

You should be guilty if you are not taking care of yourself. All other guilt is useless and a burden. If you have made a mistake do the following:

Take a few deep breaths and allow your body to move into a state of relaxation.

Call in and connect to the Universal Law of Forgiveness and asked to be forgiven for anyone you have hurt in words, deeds or actions. Then ask that the cause of this mistake be released and consumed. This will free you to be in your life completely.

Spend a few minutes sending yourself love and light.

Send energy to anyone you have harmed consciously or unconsciously.

See if there are any concrete steps you need to take to heal or reconcile a relationship.

Spring Cleaning as a Spiritual Act

Spring Cleaning: Debra Lynn Dadd

There must be something about cleaning to welcome spring that dwells deep within our instincts. Just as the windy storms of early spring scour the land before new growth arises, and new seedlings shake off dirt as they shoot up through the soil to greet the sun, so too do we humans feel the impulse to open the windows and clear away the dust and cobwebs of winter on the first warmer days of spring.

Spring cleaning is a time-honored tradition in cultures around the world--and for purposes beyond simply removing dirt. In China, for example, the agriculturally-based springtime New Year’s celebration is preceded by a thorough housecleaning, both to remove accumulated grime and to rid the dwelling of any evil spirits that have taken up residence so they don’t come into the new year. …

Here are some tasks that are traditionally included in a major spring cleaning:

Put away winter clothes and take out spring and summer clothing.

Sweep and vacuum floors, walls, and corners.

Wash floors and carpets.

Clean window panes, sills, and frames.

Replace thick winter curtains that keep heat in with light summer curtains that allow breezes through.

Remove storm windows, hang up screens.

Brush or vacuum stuffed furniture and remove spots.

Wash every surface in every room that has accumulated dust or grime.

I like to finish a spring cleaning by bringing in loads of spring flowers and placing them in vases in every room.

Spring Cleaning for the Soul: Sunny Schlenger

[W]e need to clean out the deadwood once in a while – so we can get a clear view of what’s actually there now. Removing the deadwood is not always the easiest thing to do, especially for pack rats. We get very used to having our belongings around, even if they’re serving no useful purpose. That was the case with my hemlocks. When I thought of the years I’d spent staring out at them while I worked and all of the experiences I’ve had that they’d borne silent witness to, the idea of chopping them down seemed impossible. But that was then, and this is now.

And that is one of the keys to being able to part with things. Often it’s not the things themselves but the memories they represent that we’re holding onto. But memories can be preserved in other ways, such as in pictures. So many times when I’ve run out of space to store items and have to make choices about what to save and what to get rid of, I’ve taken a picture – of my favorite raggedy Mickey Mouse sweatshirt, a shelf of old college texts, a broken baby toy. And my row of hemlocks.…

Think of spring cleaning for the soul as a way of removing the deadwood that blocks your perception of your best self, and enjoy the present-day vistas that emerge!

Clearing Spiritual Clutter: Gaylah Balter

How would I go about spring cleaning my soul? First, I will introduce you to some concepts that you might never have associated with spirituality or your spiritual bank account, and then I will show you how to go about the process of spring cleaning the soul and why it’s so important.

Let’s look at some aspects of spiritual clutter first. Here’s a quiz to get you started:

When I look at my physical clutter do I understand how my mindset, emotions, and lack of self-nurturing have contributed to the mess around me?

Do I understand the interconnection between the physical clutter in my life and the mental, emotional, and spiritual issues that are present?

Do I have a hard time breaking habits that no longer serve me?

What is spiritual clutter and why do I have to be concerned about it? It is the inability to nurture and support your purpose in life and prevents consistent and conscious behavior and decision-making. It limits your ability to fully develop values and actions that are in sync with your innermost desires.

Here are some things to do that will get you thinking in the right direction. Go over these and refer back to them when you need to.

Take a positive attitude towards life.

Learn to forgive and forget.

Let go of past experiences so they don’t continually go round and round in your mind.

Learn to let go of past grievances, bitterness, and resentments.

Become aware of how your inner world is not sync with the outward manifestations of your life.

Learn to take risks.

Decide to live in a manner that is consistent with your desires, goals, and values.

It is important to take responsibility for your cluttering ways. The truth is simple. You have spiritual clutter in your life because you have given importance to other matters rather than taking care of the status of your surroundings, your thoughts, or your behaviors. Honesty with yourself and your goals is one of the most important things to begin to do. Are you living your life in accord with your goals, desires, and values? When you don’t, tension and anxiety take over your life. These spiritual issues have kept you depressed and drained of the ability to think positively. Restoring consistency between your outer and inner worlds will help resolve all forms of clutter, restore your personal power, and elevate your self esteem.

Post Script

These six selections seem so mundane and ordinary that their insights are easily ignored. But isn’t this the definition of conventional wisdom? And what is conventional wisdom but tangible truths of our lives?

These days people are more apt to say, “I’m not religious but I’m spiritual.” In my estimation what I’ve read to you today are expressions of contemporary spirituality!

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Journal for the Journey

There is no handier tool for self-understanding and personal growth than a daily journal. All the Elements: A Journal through the Seasons of Self is such a tool, organized for self-understanding and personal growth: to help you examine your life in depth, to awaken insight, and to guide you toward your true Self.

All the Elements is my creation, a daily journal format rooted in Jungian psychology.

All the Elements appeals to three levels of engagement. On the surface, it places no more expectation on you than keeping a record of your experiences and reflecting on them.

A second level takes the process of reflection from one day to a week, then to weeks, and eventually across seasons into years. You pay particular attention to the rhythms and patterns, the larger cycles of your life.

If you desire greater depth in your journal keeping, discover and explore the implications and urgings of this structured journal's design. If you do, you will be led into the wonderful workings of the psyche via the process of individuation, a third level.

Psyche's root meaning is soul. When you use the third level of this journal format, you do soul work.


The format of All the Elements draws upon a model of the mind's working devised by Carl Jung. Jung's psychological model describes a lifelong journey of the psyche he called individuation. In Memories, Dreams, and Reflections Jung related his own journey. All the Elements incorporates these three processes—memories, dreams, and reflections—in its design.

When the conscious self (ego) is established at maturity, usually in the early twenties, a process begins whereby the contents of the unconscious exert an influence on the ego. Dreams and memories—spontaneous outpourings—access the unconscious. Projections also reveal unconscious aspects of the psyche. Jung determined that our emotion-laden perceptions of others (projections) reveal our often-repressed qualities. For example, the evil we see in someone else, particularly of the same gender, is our shadow projection reflected back to us.

By recognizing the stirrings and urgings of the unconscious through dreams, memories, and projections and by incorporating them into the ego or conscious self, the ego expands but paradoxically becomes less self-ish. This is the process of individuation—a journey in anticipation of an authentic Self, an ever-achieved balance of the conscious and unconscious components of the psyche. Jung observed that Jesus and Buddha were cultural projections of the archetype of the Self— engaging examples of the possibility of a union of the ego, the personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious.

This journal holds out the possibility that you may become your authentic Self through awareness and integration: the process of individuation. You will realize your integrity; and wonderfully you also become less egotistical.

Optimism for the human condition—for you in particular—grounds this personal journal format. There is the beguiling possibility of Self, a compelling blend of your uniqueness and of the universal. You reach for that Self, though it will always exceed your grasp. You yearn for that wholeness, because (using Jung's metaphor) it is theGod-within. The reaching and the yearning take you deeper and deeper into personal authenticity and meaning.

Your progress toward the Self—a journey of the psyche—is fundamental. It occurs naturally, but awareness and intention enhance the journey. It is a journey of adventure and realization. It is a journey toward balance and wholeness—the universal spiritual journey. There is no journey more wonderful or more important.

Benefits of This Journal

The benefits of keeping All the Elements: a Journal through the Seasons are many. Here are some of those benefits. (They are generally the benefits of keepin a daily journal in any form.)

A record of your days. Each day comes as a precious gift. Yet those days are so ordinary that we too easily lose them in the retreat and onrush of time. Contemporary life is an ever-accelerating tumult.Your journal entries are like souvenirs—beloved reminders—that you pause to gather and keep so you will not neglect or forget the preciousness of your days. And each day is a precious gift.

Embedding you in the moment. When you keep a journal, you are generally more aware, because you've charged yourself to keep a record. The sections of All the Elements make particular demands on your awareness: weather, health and mood, events and relationships, and dreams and memories. Details and texture pop into clearer focus. Context becomes apparent. Journal keeping encourages the active form of meditation known as mindfulness.

Centering. A journal gives you a sense of order and at least a semblance of control of your life. You focus on yourself, but you also see yourself in context, particularly through your many relationships. Such a vision allows you more easily to repose in your world with understanding and even serenity, though the demands of the world press upon you and time rushes you into the future. It is good to be centered in this fashion, in the midst of a demanding, hectic contemporary world.

More memories and memories that are more accurate. We unconsciously forget much more than we ever consciously remember. What we do choose to remember is sometimes so processed as to be fabrications rather than facsimiles. A journal's record is a memory aid and a memory corrective.

Relationships. A significant section of All the Elements pairs the events of your day with the engagements and encounters—the relationships—of those events. You are encouraged to register the connection or lack of connection you may experience. You have a relationship with yourself, with other persons, with your work and other aspects of your life, with nature, with the Divine. The quality and affect of your relationships reveal what Jung called projections.Relationships also have a transcendent quality that reveals the spirit that marbles Life; and they can take you toward the depth of existence.

Accumulation of rhythms and patterns. When you review your daily journal entries, particularly as organized by the various sections of All the Elements, certain aspects of your life and world will seem to repeat or progress: a dream recurs; winter weather melts into spring's warmth; a particular relationship languishes; you continue to resolve to lose weight but fail to do so. Rhythms and patterns alert you to the seasons of nature, your world, as well as seasons of yourself. The weekly review section, titled "Rhythms and Patterns," encourages this vision. The seasonal format—a bound journal book is a season—furthers your attentiveness to rhythms and patterns that become larger cycles.

Change and Growth. An accurate record of your days and ways inevitably reveals the changes that are always working around you and in you. When you recognize the constancy of change, it is natural to not only accept the changes but to direct them toward your aspirations and goals. Personal growth hinges on an acceptance of the reality of change in all aspects of existence. A daily record also alerts you to the harbingers of change.

Commitment and Accountability. The seductions of the world are many, and we are culturally conditioned to be perpetually entertained. Many of us fear commitment. We tend to deny responsibility for our actions, especially by casting ourselves as victims of this or that influence. This journal insists that the "buck stops here," with you, the person who keeps the journal. If you are not honest, your journal silently but steadfastly admonishes you.

Confession. Keeping a journal works only if you're honest. The one person you can never deceive is yourself. A journal's intimacy makes it easy to tell the truth, because truth telling is therapeutic. There are two sorts of confession. We generally see confession as coming clean— admitting to something negative. However, there is a more positive confession—baring the depths of your soul. Both are good for the spirit. Your journal is your conscience on paper.

Discipline. Journal keeping requires commitment and steadfastness.There are days when you for one reason or another you will want to shirk from doing it. These are occasions that make or break the journal's many benefits. Journal keeping is a form of exercise to keep you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually fit. To maintain a healthful tone you do it especially when you don't feel like doing it. It is an end in itself, too—a dedication to Life and your life, that you sacrificedaily. (Sacrifice literally means to make sacred.) Through dedicated journal keeping, you realize the inherent sacredness of Life and your life.

Creativity. You are a work in progress. A journal encourages your active engagement and participation in becoming your true Self. This is the surface creativity of keeping this structured journal. There is another level of creativity that relates to the art of writing. All the Elements has a large section, "Reflections," where you can process your day through your marvelous imagination. With daily practice, you will discover that writing unlocks creativity. Your life as written down in a journal is a kind of art.

Spirituality. Spirituality animates religion. Spirituality—the emotion, the realization, and the imagination that merge into a unique consciousness—marbles every life. Intention and awareness brings such qualities to our consciousness. The attitude of mindfulness swells our grateful, reverent participation in Life. All the Elements'design emphasizes the journey toward the Self that Jung also called the God-within. Many find that keeping a journal illuminates a spiritual truth: the journey is, at least, as important as the journey's destination.

The Journal's Design

The seasonal journal book has two facing pages for each day of that season. The paired pages have eight bordered spaces designated for recording specific aspects of a day. These eight spaces are relatively small—more suited to notes rather than longer expositions. Every seven days there is a page designated for the review of a week's worth of entries in discernment to patterns and rhythms. At the end of a season, there are pages (“Notes”) to reflect on the larger rhythms and patterns, the cycles—of your life.

The structure of All the Elements encourages you to record aspects of your day and asks you to review and reflect on your entries. It will help you access and understand the archetypal images of your unconscious. As days accumulate into weeks and weeks into seasons, patterns and rhythms will emerge in time, with understanding, you may realize the meaning of your life as you repose in Life. You may also acquire the insight and will to grow into your authentic personality.

A record of your everyday, ordinary relationships allows you to savor with happiness and gratitude the connections you do have.Your disconnects signify areas of your practical life that need attention. Ask yourself, "Why am I disconnected?" and also, "Whatcan I do to connect or reconnect?"

It is possible for relationships to attain a mystical plateau, when the two partners in the relationship encounter the other partner in the other's fullness. Neither participant is objectified—turned into an object, a thing, or an it by the other participant. Such an occurrence is strange in a lyrical way and always brief. But it is a glimpse into an extraordinary level of reality. It can happen between two persons. It can come as individuality in the midst of humanity. It can occur with parts or the whole of Nature.

The philosopher Martin Buber described the mystical possibilities of relationships in I and Thou. He said that a true relationship—an encounter rather than an experience—occurs outside of each participant. And he proposed that all such encounters intersect in the Divine—or the Eternal Thou.

Don't lose sight of the simple truth of relationships fulfilling our need for one another. Hold out the possibility that relationships reveal the Divine—in whatever way you might construe the Treanscendent in Nature and Human Nature.

An Invitation

And so I invite you to a one meeting seminar tomorrow night at 7:30 in the library on the second floor of the Religious Education Building.We’ll talk about journal keeping generally and All the Elements specifically. For those who took the Jungian types/Four Spiritualities seminar this January, this is a follow up. But anyone is welcome to attend and more, each will find this seminar a practical and effective means to deep understanding and personal growth.