Sunday, December 16, 2018

Empathy and Being Moved with Compassion

I often spend late evenings in the gym working out, alone, reflecting on life while music or youtube videos play through my headphones.  Yesterday, the following segment below played.  I don't know who it's by, I just know it is from a speech on depression, a particular demon I often find myself struggling with.  The imagery spoke loudly to me.   

Picture yourself in an open area where there are no bodies and no shelter and there is a storm above you. The storm represents the situations in your life. you don’t tell anybody what you’re going through because first of all they wouldn’t understand and second of all they can’t even help you anyways. You’re in this storm and you’re down on your knees, cold and you’re weak and you feel like this is the end.What kind of purpose do we have to live? Are you just here to live to die? I mean is there not a purpose for me? Is there not a purpose in life? 
Are you not still here?
There are some things in life that are out of your control, that you can’t change and you’ve got to live with. The choice that we have though is to either give up or keep on going.And it’s not the end until you’ve given up.You are still here. And just the fact that you’re here should persuade you that you have another chance to get back up. 
You don’t have to do this alone. Hold on to that person who you think might help you. And imagine them right now saying that they can’t stop the storm right now, but they will hold you and keep you warm until the storm passes. Because when they hold you the storm is still there, but it’s okay because there with you all the way. 
Don’t give up. There’s still hope.  
Alma 7:11-12

Today I kept seeing and hearing a particular name of God: Immanuel which means God is with us.  

Immanuel in the storm-  God is with us in the storm, holding us, keeping us warm, until that storm passes!

God is with us in our suffering, God is with us in our pleasure.  God is with us in our trials, God is with us in our triumphs. God is with us in our addictions, God is with us in our freedom. God is with us in our heartbreaks, God is with us in our joys. God is with us in our loneliness, God is always with us. Are we with Him? Immanuel! 

The name Immanuel is profound to me concerning the nature of Christ and our ability to also perform miracles and usher in God's Love on earth.   There is a word that is often mentioned in scripture before a miracle or healing would occur:

Compassion, or moved with compassion, or had compassion.  

The Latin root word for Compassion comes from compatÄ«, which means to suffer with. 

Christ is Immanuel, so He will suffer with us through the storm, He will experience with us our pain and struggle.  Compassion is a state of being Jesus was in before performing miracles.  Perhaps it is the same state of being we must be in if we are to facilitate and minister the power of God to others.

I want to dive just a little deeper into the word "Compassion".  Consider the following dialogue between an Abbot monk and seeker of Truth, Gregg Braiden.  

At one monastery, I asked the abbot, “In your tradition, what is the force that connects everything in the universe?” He answered with a single word. I thought it was a mistranslation, so I asked our translator to ask him again, and he came back with that same word: “Compassion.” 
I said, “Wait a minute. Is compassion a force of nature that connects everything in the universe—or is it an experience that we have in our hearts?” After the translator had made sure he understand exactly what I’d asked, he answered again with one word: “Yes.”

Compassion or love is a force, from the heart, that transcends material reality.  It is interconnected in everything.  It is the light of Christ that fills the immensity of space, (D&C 88:6-13)  Everything in creation is sustained and powered by that light.  This is why when people recount mystical experiences where they reach a "Nirvana" state, are translated, or are "quickened" by the spirit they will often mention a loss of self (ego) while their soul expands beyond the physical constraints of their body and they feel at-one with everything in the universe.  They attain to this state because they are tapping into the Light of Christ.  They are filled with compassion and are therefore experiencing a more transcendent reality.   It is love because they see the reflection of God in themselves and in all of creation.

When acting as physical beings we are limited by our 5 physical senses.  Throughout our lives we are trained to rely wholly upon our physical senses.  We, therefore, create for ourselves an isolated island of perceived reality in which we spend all our days walking around in.  We interact with other people, but due to ego, we find ourselves so caught up in our own little island of reality we rarely, if not ever, discover the beauty of walking in a shared reality with another being.  Yes, we may have shared experiences with fellow voyagers in this world, but how often have we actually had a shared reality with another soul?  

Sometimes we think the only way to create coherence in a disconnected world is to understand our own isolated island of reality so well so that we can go about imposing our little island upon others.   We do this in the intellectual arena through preaching, proselyting, and philosophizing.  We see others as lacking in understanding and equate their suffering to the lack of understanding which we possess.   We love to play the hero who knows best and attempt to critique and correct everything in their life.  We have sympathy for them and will often find ourselves preaching to them, trying to fix their dilemmas from the righteousness of our own little-isolated island of reality.  

That method can accomplish coherence to a degree, but it only creates unity of mind, and not of heart.  We are to be of both "one heart and one mind".  Creating unity by imposing our isolated island of reality upon one another will cause our lips to draw near unto one another, but leave our hearts far separated.

The way we can transcend the oceans that separate each of our isolated islands of reality is empathy.  

Having empathy is allowing ourselves to be in a vulnerable place where we experience the feelings and thoughts of another soul.  Instead of having sympathy for them- trying to fix their problems by imposing your ideas from your "superior" island of reality onto them- you instead enter into their island and fully experience their world with them.  You don't judge their world or try an align it to the way your world is.   You simply hold space and remain fully present with them.    You become an archetypical Eem-anu-el because you are with them- in better or worse.   You have compassion because you suffer with them.   You may not be able to stop the storm over their life but you will hold them through it.

Sympathy vs Empathy 

When in this state of compassion (empathy) you are tapping into the force that connects everything in nature together.   There you will find yourself in a place where you can be "moved with compassion"  and be a conduit to usher in God's love and perform miracles.

These are just my thoughts, conclusions I have come to so far based on personal experiences.  If you are reading this take it with a grain of salt and ponder them a bit.    Most of my experience with God have been in solitude, but there have been a couple of times in my life where I have experienced the supernatural power of God in a group setting.  During these times we were not trapped in isolated islands of reality.  We crossed the oceans dividing our souls and shared in a reality far greater.   It didn't come about through zealous and intense preaching.  It didn't come about through magic incantations of precise words.    We had our hearts open and vulnerable to one another and to God.  There was no judgment, no sympathy.  Just empathy, love, and compassion.   In that place and moment we were truly one heart and one mind.


Jonathan Chan: "Book of Mysteries"

I'm going to teach you how to speak Hebrew,” said the teacher, “or at least one sentence.”
“I’m ready.”

“The Hebrew word for with is eem. And the word for us is anu.”
“Eem . . . anu,” I said.
“And the word for God is El.”

“So how would you say ‘With us is God’?” he asked.
“Eem . . . anu . . . El.”
“Say it again.”
“Eem . . . anu . . . El. Eem anu El . . . Immanuel!”

“Yes, Immanuel. So Isaiah prophesied of Messiah, ‘A virgin shall conceive and give birth to a child and shall call Him Immanuel.’”
“The Name of Messiah.”

“And more than a name. In Hebrew, it’s a sentence. It’s a declaration, a reality. It’s the reality of Messiah. His very life on earth was this Hebrew sentence, a declaration in Hebrew—eem anu El.”

“How was His life a sentence?” I asked.
“When He was sorrowful. Who was it who was sorrowful?”

“It was Immanuel in sorrow,” said the teacher, “Eem anu El in sorrow. It forms a sentence: ‘God is with us in sorrow.’

And when He was in the boat on the Sea of Galilee in the midst of the storm, it was Immanuel in the storm. Eem anu El in the storm. It forms another sentence: ‘God is with us in the storm.’

And when He was despised and rejected of men, it was eem anu El in rejection.”
“God is with us in rejection,” I replied.

“When He hung on the cross in judgment, it was eem anu El in judgment.”
“God is with us in judgment.”

“And when He ascended to heaven, where He is, it is eem anu El forever.”
“God is with us forever.”

“Immanuel came into the world and to every circumstance of life, so that we could say, ‘At all times, in all places, in every circumstance . . . eem anu El, God is with us . . . always.’”

The Mission: Today, practice the Hebrew of His name. In every circumstance speak and fathom the reality of eem anu El—God is with you, always.

Isaiah 7:14
Matthew 1:21–25
Luke 8:22–25

Alma 7:11-12

Marriage was established at the beginning as a covenant by the word and authority of God, between the woman and God, the man and woman, and the man and God.
(Answer and Covenant)

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Gratitude for the Scars

"The wound is the place where the light enters you."
- Rumi
My face and hands still bear scars from this incident.  I was very self-conscience about them for a long time, but now I am grateful for them.  They serve as a reminder of a pivotal time in my life.  This incident temporarily left my faced ugly and marred and injured my wrist which prevented me from working out.  In a sense, it stripped me of my physical identity for a season, but that is what caused me to begin seeking to discover my spiritual identity.  Light began to enter into me through those wounds. 

I am grateful for weaknesses.  This past year I have had so many of them laid out before me.  Its been a terrifying endeavor venturing into those deep wounds, but it's deep in our weakness where the true strength of the heart is discovered.   It is through our brokenness we find God and the divine within. 

Strength and weaknesses are one-in-the-same at the core, not mutually exclusive.  The only way out is in.  The only way out of your weaknesses is by going in and seeing the truth about who you are, and that means owning all of the possibilities.  You cannot get to your strength except by traveling through your weaknesses, owning them and allowing the potential that lies within your light to transform them into powerful strengths.   
Where your weaknesses are, there will your strengths be also.
-Staci Sadler, "Aura Personalities"
2nd Corinthians 12:9, Ether 12:27 

I am grateful for wounds and weaknesses- they have given God the opportunity to come through for me.   I have gratitude for the scars- they bear witness of the healing received through my Lord, Jesus Christ. 

Although I have been through all that I have, I do not regret the many hardships I met, because it was they who brought me to the place I wished to reach.  Now all I have is this sword and I give it to whomever wishes to continue his pilgrimage.  I carry with me the marks and scars of battles- they are the witnesses of what I suffered and the rewards of what I conquered.   
These are the beloved marks and scars that will open the gates of Paradise to me.  There was a time when I used to listen to tales of bravery.  There was a time when I lived only because I needed to live.  But now I live because I am a warrior and because I wish one day to be in the company of Him whom I have fought so hard 
-John Bunyan

Happy Thanksgiving Davis County!


The Shadow- Jonathan Chan

Moab, Utah

It was a dark night. There was no moon. And only a few stars could be seen in the desert sky... just darkness and the howling cold winds.

“Are you afraid of the dark?” asked the teacher.

“Sometimes,” I replied.

“In the Scriptures, darkness is a symbol of evil. Darkness is an absence, the absence of light. So too is evil…”

“Evil is an absence?”

“Evil is not so much a reality as the absence of a reality. It is not of the creation, but a denial of creation, a negation of what is, the negation of God. And so it can’t exist on its own, but only in opposition to existence.”

“What does that mean?”

“Truth exists on its own. It just is. But a lie cannot exist without truth. A lie is a twisting of the truth and so it can only exist by the truth, and in the denial of it. So too life exist without death. But death cannot exist without life. And good can exist without evil. But evil cannot exist without good. Evil is the denial of the good.”

“It’s the force of opposition,” I said.

“Yes.” He replied, “and in Hebrew that which opposes, that which goes against, is called the sahtan.”

Sahtan,” I repeated, and paused until it hit me. “Satan! You can have God without Satan, but you can’t have Satan without God.”

“Yes,” he said, “So we can only discern darkness, because light exists, and what is false because the true exists, and what is wrong because the right exists. So then evil is actually….”

“A witness,” I said, “a hostile witness, that, despite itself, testifies of the truth.”

“Yes. The witness of the shadow, the darkness of falsehood bears witness that the Truth exists. The darkness of hatred bears witness that Love exists. And the darkness of evil bears witness that God exists. So never let your heart lose its focus by dwelling on evil. But seek always to see the Good, which is always there, beyond it and above it, on the throne, to which even evil must bear witness and bow its knee.”

Today, practice seeing through the darkness of every problem or evil that confronts you- to the good that lies beyond it.

-Jonathan Chan, "The Book of Mysteries", The Shadow.

2nd Nephi 2

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

A New Day, A New Love

People are often weirded out or offended by the way I talk about God and my relationship with Jesus Christ.  It is not the same view of God they were raised to believe in, and so when I openly speak about my deep appreciation, feelings, and infatuation for Jesus, it is easily mistaken by the strict traditional church-going type as being disrespectful and sacrilegious to the divinity of Christ.  It makes them uncomfortable when I use more intimate and familiar terms such as friend, lover, and wild to describe Him.  When I asked these religious friends to tell me about Jesus the term that is most commonly used to describe Him is "The Savior."  The title is mostly used as a form of formal respect as opposed to sincere gratitude for being saved.  It is used without emotion.   It is true Jesus Christ is our savior, however, the term "savior" is only used 24 times in the New Testament, and referenced only 12 times in the Book of Mormon.   Jesus Christ is much more to us than our savior.  As John Eldredge says about Jesus,

He is the playfulness of creation, scandal and utter goodness, the generosity of the ocean and the ferocity of a thunderstorm; he is cunning as a snake and gentle as a whisper; the gladness of sunshine and the humility of a thirty-mile walk by foot on a dirt road. Reclining at a meal, laughing with friends, and then going to the cross. That is what we mean when we say Jesus is beautiful. But most of all, it is the way he loves. In all these stories, every encounter, we have watched love in action. Love as strong as death; a blood, sweat, and tears love, not a get-well card. You learn a great deal about the true nature of a person in the way they love, why they love, and, in what they love.” ― John Eldredge, Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus

I believe constantly revering Jesus as a distant "Savior" separates us from the vast and diverse, yet deep and intimate, love available for us to partake in.  I recently read this about God's love in Johnathan Cann's, "The Book of Mysteries"

"In the Song of Solomon," said the teacher, "the bride compares the love of her beloved to wine. Wine was a symbol of earthly pleasure. Yet when the bride speaks of her beloved, she says this: 'Your love is better than wine."
" And the Song of Solomon is ultimately about God and us; the bride represents us and the beloved represents God. " 
"That's correct," he said. "So what is it saying?" 
"That the love of God is better than any earthly pleasure. "
"Yes, and something more than that. Behind the translation is a revelation one can only find in the original language. The Hebrew reads this way: Kee tovin dodekha me yayin. It is translated as 'Your love is better than wine.' But in the original language, the bride says, 'Your dodekha is better than wine." 
"And what does dodekha mean?"
"Not 'your love.' Dodekha means your loves...'Your loves are better than wine.' What does that reveal?"
"The love of God is not just the love of God...but the loves of God!"
"Dodekha means that God loves you so much that it can't even be described or contained without breaking out of the language. It means the word love cannot adequately express it. It means that God doesn't just have love for you, but many loves. When you need His mercy, He loves you with a merciful love. When you need His strength, He loves you with an encouraging love. When you've been wounded, He loves you with a tender love. When you need the love of a friend, He loves you as a friend. When you need to be lifted up in His arms, He loves you with the compassion of a loving Father. His love for you is many. He loves you today, not with yesterday's love, but with a love for today, a love that is new every morning. Therefore, you must seek not only to know the love of God, but to know the loves of God. You can never rest on knowing yesterday's love or the love you have known before. You must seek each day to know the loves He has for you, the new love, the fresh love, the surprising love, the never-ending love. It is that love, His love, that is better, much better, than any earthly joy...for His loves are better than wine. "
Seek this day to know not only the love but the loves of God-the always new and never-ending loves of your Beloved for you.

God is so many things to so many different individuals.  We shouldn't get angry at one another because we experience Him in different ways.  Every day is a new opportunity to know God in a new and unique way.  I shared a picture of the sunset because of how significant the setting and rising of the sun has become for me.  In the temple endowment that was practiced in ancient Egypt, it was a day-long religious ceremony that began with sunrise and ended with sunset.   That single day was symbolic for the birth, life, and death of the participant.  Likewise, every night we go to we sleep we experience a miniature death of the past as we are reborn into the next day, a new day of possibility, and adventure.  A new day to discover God and His love afresh as a little child in a deeper and new way.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

I'm a Mormon

I’m a Mormon, even if religious organizations once associated with that name disregard it.  I’m a Mormon because “one of the grand fundamental principles of "Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may”, even if that truth comes from outside or goes against “proper authority”.  (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith pg. 313)

I’m a Mormon because Joseph Smith defined Mormonism as this:

The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men, or by the dominations of one another, when that truth is clearly demonstrated to our minds, and we have the highest degree of evidence of the same.  
-Letter from Joseph Smith to Isaac Galland, Mar. 22, 1839, Liberty Jail, Liberty, Missouri, published in Times and Seasons, Feb. 1840, pp. 53–54; spelling and grammar modernized.

I’m a Mormon even if it means being completely estranged from the religious culture of my youth and being regarded as a heretic to religions of the world.  I’m a Mormon even if it means never fitting in because although walking that middle Way of Life can be scary, treacherous, and sometimes lonely, it’s worth it when you belong to the Truth, Jesus Christ.   

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Die or Step Off Your White Horse

Warriors, sometimes people ask for help not because they truly want it, but because deep inside they would rather avoid the responsibility of confronting their own problems and failures. It's easier for them to avoid responsibility if they have a knight in shining armor to place blame on when that knight gets knocked off his white horse battling the dragon meant for them to defeat.

Princesses, maybe only you have the ultimate power within you that can slay the dragon, but that can only come out when you decide to wake up from your sheltered beauty sleep and fight alongside the knight. However, it's much easier to sit in a high tower bitching about how fate sent you an ogre on an ass instead of a prince on a stallion.

This analogy came to me today. I offered my assistance to someone who asked me for my help. Bent over backwards and made time and financial sacrifices to make sure I could help in the best way I was able. But this person wouldn't help themselves because deep down inside they didn't really want my help, which was the only thing I agreed and was able to offer.  What they truly wanted was for me to take ownership of their problems, not help them through it.   When issues arose because of this person's negligence to research and properly prepare for the task at hand, they refused to confront them, assuming that they were entitled to have their problems taken care of for them.    They became angry and emotional when I sought to uncover and address these ignored issues.  This "princess" chose to remain asleep to the growing dragon outside her high tower, expecting her knight in shining armor to save the day.  

For it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength - Mosiah 4:27

Continuing to help this person would have dragged me further into hell and would have resulted in my destruction.  I don't believe its wise to offer something to someone you are unable to offer.  Jesus offered the most beautiful sacrifice to humanity, but He knew full well he possessed the power and capacity to do so. When I saw that this situation was too great for me to battle,  I had to step off my white horse as opposed to dying on it.  This person was devastated, but really, due to their own neglect, they were screwed with or without me.  A warrior knows how to pick and choose their battles and how many fronts they can fight on at once  I'm not her knight in shining armor.  I have my own dragons to slay, and my own princess, to fight for and with.   

Of course, its easier to avoid responsibility when you have someone to place the blame of failure on.    Now I'm the jack ass villain in this person's story for not offering something I knew I could not offer.  

Warriors, its okay to say no to a battle.  Be careful who you help.  Help those who are seeking to help themselves, or else you may just be someone's scapegoat of failure, and that's not helping them, that is crippling them.   

Princesses in distress, (and I'm being gender neutral when I talk about knights, warriors, and princesses, not necessarily assigning masculine/feminine roles to them), maybe the best place to meet your knight in shining armor is not in some safe high tower suddenly awaken by true loves first kiss - riding away into the sunset. Maybe the only place where you will encounter Him is outside the tower, awakened to the power within you - fighting side by side and walking victorious, hand in hand, over that dragon's dead carcass