Safe Harbor in a Turbulent World

 

Safe Harbor
With Friends in Our Safe Harbor

As each day brings us scenes of sectarian conflict and heart-wrenching misery, I wish I could share what I’ve learned with these poor, afflicted people and help them find a safe harbor.

My daughters and their families are Catholic, my son Jewish, his wife, Buddhist. My sisters are Unitarian, one brother follows the Tao and another ranges through many schools of thought. My in-laws include Spanish and Irish Catholics, Conservative and Reformed Jews. All are good, moral people. I can see that each of their beliefs has its place and purpose for them, and helps them navigate life.

 But different beliefs can separate people, creating dissension and discord.

When my husband and I agreed to divorce, I found that my church would accept me only if I denied my marriage through annulment, which would be very expensive and make my children’s births legally ambiguous. I told my father I no longer felt our church was for me. He was furious. He tried to dissuade me, not from the divorce, which was needed, but from leaving my church. When I wouldn’t comply with his wishes, he sent me away, telling me never to come back to his home.

I did move away, and met the man who would become my second husband. Then his parents tried to dissuade him from marrying me because I was not of his faith! But he accepted me and we made our marriage work. We raised our son in the Jewish tradition, and I investigated many beliefs, looking for a safe harbor. I always loved Christ’s message but was surprised how differently it was interpreted by divergent groups.

Then I got a job working for a boss who had a cheerful and kind way of running things – a breath of fresh air in the working world. I wondered what made him tick. One day I asked him about a beautiful wooden box on his desk. He said it had been hand crafted by fellow students at the school where he studied the Lemurian Teachings, derived from an ancient civilization on a continent that had once existed in the Pacific Ocean.

I had heard of the “lost continent of Mu,” and was intrigued. When I found the Lemurian Fellowship was a distance-learning school, so you could study at home wherever you lived, it didn’t take me long to write. I wanted the calm, cheerful faith my boss had!

I learned that the Lemurian Philosophy is based on Christ’s teachings and it was presented in a straightforward, inclusive way. As I read the lessons and corresponded with the teachers, the history of the world and how things came to be as they are, made more and more sense. How each belief system began was revealed, along with the need for everyone to understand and use basic virtues and universal laws to create a better and happier life. We aren’t really so different from each other, after all.

My years as a Lemurian student working to understand and apply tolerance, so difficult to practice consistently, have enabled me to more calmly accept decisions my beloved family members have made, as their own and right for them. If this simple thing could be done by everyone, all could find this safe harbor and how much closer to harmony the world could be!

Not-So-Random Acts of Kindness

friends to the rescue

 
Kind words are short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless. – Mother Teresa

Many people talk about random acts of kindness, and their stories are inspiring. To quietly serve another person seems to amplify the good many times over, especially when it’s  widely shared  on the Internet. I got to thinking about not-so-random acts of kindness that may be less often expressed but just as valuable despite their rarity.

My first inkling of this came in a store one day. I asked the clerk for an item I needed and he turned to get it for me. A man and his little girl stood next to me and as I glanced over I saw his face was beet red. Momentarily puzzled, I suddenly came to and exclaimed, “Oh my gosh. I am so sorry! You were here first and I didn’t even see you!” He visibly relaxed. His face returned to a normal shade as he smiled and kindly said, “It’s okay, no harm done.” Who performed the act of kindness here? I’d say that patient guy led the way.

Another time, I pulled into a Post Office parking lot to drop letters in the mailbox near a woman in an SUV, and saw her cursing loudly and literally bouncing off the walls of her car in fury. I pointed to the mailbox and mouthed, “It’s okay, I’m going over there, not parking.” The seemingly wild beast of a moment before immediately relaxed. A not-so-random act of kindness but a focused one, easing someone’s obvious pain.

Another instance caught me off guard. Actually I was shocked. Grocery shopping, I was near the end of the meat case checking prices when an exasperated voice said, “For God’s sake, every time you move I’ve moved out of your way. But I’m not going to move again!” Wow! How did I completely miss this person and his courteous attempts to give me access to the meat counter, or his rising ire? I said, “Oh, wow, I am so sorry.” He laughed then and said, “It’s okay, I’m just having a bad day.”

Being aware of the people around us seems so basic and ingrained in us that it’s a shock to discover we’ve missed something so important to another person. But when we make a sincere connection with that person, it so often clears the air.

It reminds me of a time I was driving and some teenaged boys pulled right up behind me obviously wanting to pass. I couldn’t do anything about it then, but as soon as I could, I pulled over. I thought they’d probably yell at me as they went by, but they didn’t. They honked and waved, and as their car pulled next to mine in passing I saw them smiling and saying, “Thanks!” Wow! I know that according to universal law, what I give out will come back, but it can still surprise me when it happens.

These are some of the seemingly ordinary, everyday moments that are without price, when we can express a kind of connection that shows someone we value them, we’re all in this life together. When we  make this small effort that costs us nothing, they feel happier, relieved, less stressed, and whatever the problem was evaporates in the genuine caring of a thoughtful human exchange.

Things Our Life Misses

I just got off the phone with the Dean of Instruction, and I was fuming.

The job I wanted – a job I had been doing unofficially for three years – had just been given to the other finalist.

The Dean said it had been a difficult decision as the two of us had very similar qualifications, but the other finalist had a little more experience with the software we would be using so they gave her the job.

I’d been working as a part-time instructor in a college lab, and since there was no full-time instructor, I had been running it myself. My supervisor often praised me for going above and beyond my normal duties, and everyone assumed I’d get this new position. But I didn’t and I was bummed! All kinds of negative thoughts rampaged through my mind, keeping me upset and annoyed at this ingratitude after all I felt I had done for the college.

Next day I was still upset and didn’t like this feeling. So I had a serious talk with myself. After 24 hours of feeling sorry for myself, the “pity party” needed to stop. I needed to get a grip. I had been studying the Lemurian Philosophy for years and knew it held the means for me to turn this around.

First, I believe all things happen for our greatest good. Hadn’t I gone into each interview wanting to succeed, but also wanting whatever was for my greatest good? Second, while only time would allow me to understand why this position was not the best for me, now I needed to turn my thoughts away from myself and think about others. Doing this – being selfless instead of selfish – could help me overcome my negative emotions.

I thought about what a difficult phone call it must have been for the Dean to make. Yet, she was kind and thoughtful, thanking me for all I’d done for the college and hoping I would continue with my present teaching assignment. I knew such a call would have been very hard for me to make. So I decided to write her of my gratitude for her kindness. And doing this changed my negative feelings into positive ones and helped me feel better.

About two months later, a new opportunity came along and I realized not having a full-time job gave me time to work on things that were more important to me. And later, I had the chance to talk to the instructor who got the job, and as I listened to all the challenges she was running into, I could see clearly how all things did work out for my greatest good. That’s when I thought of the lines from an old poem:

And sometimes the things our life misses

Help more than that which it gets.

– Nobility by Alice Carey

Things Our Life Misses

Shangri-La in California

Shangri-La in California
Picking beans in the Gateway garden

Shangri-La is a mythical,  almost inaccessible Utopia where almost everyone is happy, healthy, and content. But did you know that for over seventy years there has been a real Shangri-La in California? In 1943, Dr. Robert Stelle wrote:

Our own Shangri-La is closer than you imagine. Those who work here can tell you how hard it is, in Gateway’s peaceful quiet, to realize that feverish war activities are only 40 miles away. Except for occasional war planes high overhead, we wouldn’t know great encampments and barracks lie just beyond our protecting mountains.

James Hilton’s Lost Horizon caught a generation’s imagination, inspired two films, and put “Shangri-La” in the dictionary. This haunting story touches deep longings in human hearts. A certain magic confers many blessings including greatly extended life, as we learn the youthful guide is 97, and the High Lama over 200!

Yet, some who had lived in this paradise for many years eventually grew discontent. They could leave, but at their mortal peril. The gift of extra years didn’t travel. This was dramatically shown by the apparently young woman who fled the hidden retreat with the hero, only to age rapidly and die a short time later.

The truths in Lost Horizon help it endure. Its inhabitants expressed great patience, a virtue so rare today that may have been a key to their paradise, for as the Kauri of West Africa say, “At the bottom of patience one finds heaven.” And they had a sense of humor, expressed in their saying, “Everything in moderation – even moderation.” Any who found Shangri-La were free to stay or to leave. Those who stayed had a sort of grace period during which they purged themselves of compelling outside attachments and influences. After several years they could join the community, and their physical aging began to slow.

There are parallels with Shangri-La in California – the real enclave of Lemurians earnestly pursuing enlightenment today, known as Gateway. The positive atmosphere generated by a group sincerely working to create a better life is indeed conducive to physical and mental wellbeing, and many devoting their lives to this endeavor earn the health and energy to work well beyond retirement age. A feeling of peace visitors often notice pervades the grounds. No one is expected to fit in without a period of preparation. Only after carefully guided training in the Lemurian Philosophy is anyone ready to really appreciate and try to harmonize with what they find at Gateway. And one is always free to leave, but just as in Shangri-La, something vital is lost when this opportunity is relinquished.

But there are distinct differences between Shangri-La and Gateway. People don’t stumble into the home of the Lemurian Order accidentally. Contact with the Lemurian Work comes after a conscious search for something missing in our lives. It takes unusual personal effort to earn the longer, more fulfilling lives the Masters experience and we aspire to, and these lives are not without challenge. How else could we grow stronger and nobler? They are exciting, rewarding lives as we learn to harmonize and overcome differences and obstacles that have brought down every civilization since the original Shangri-La, commonly known as Lemuria. Our goals are not a secluded life free of problems, or even greatly extended life, but the chance to work with others who understand and live by universal laws to overcome the human problems common to all, and build together toward a more perfect civilization.