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Monday, December 9, 2019

Joe Rodota Trail, Unsheltered Community, Kwanzaa, Rohatsu, Science of Mind

This week's video may be seen on YouTube here.

Across the highway from our Center’s main entrance, the bushes and growth were cleared away last week. Now the unsheltered encampment on the parallel bike trail next to the highway can be seen in stark reality. One local grassroots movement, Sonoma County Acts of Kindness, is organizing meal drop-offs for the unsheltered. Individuals can sign up for breakfast, lunch, or supper. Feeding the over 170 inhabitants can be overwhelming. Not only that, there is much disagreement about how to address the unsheltered.

Whether a person thinks the city, or the faith communities, or individuals, or underfunded agencies should be doing something, the fact is the encampment is in plain view almost on our doorstep.

I marvel at how consciousness works: Things move into focus when a person takes a stand for such ideas as a world that works better, a world in which there is continued sharing of resources, in which people have enough food and adequate shelter, and so on.

I understand the frustration in my community about the situation, and I understand the pushback from concerned folk about making things worse through maintaining the encampment. I, too, have some conflicted feelings as a result of our property being broken into, from having bikes and statues stolen from our Center (and then retrieving them from the encampment.) I am a cyclist who has had items thrown at me on that path, and I no longer bike on it.

And still, I can’t do nothing. And I can’t ignore the vision we have for our world. I learned in Science of Mind that Principle is not bound by precedent. In this case, it suggests to me that I ought not to let my past wounds control my current decisions and future actions.

I’m thinking of the lyrics in Jana Stanfield’s song: I cannot do all the good that the world needs me to do, but the world needs all the good I can do.

So, although I don’t know what the physical solution is, I am leading my community in Spiritual Mind Treatment. At the same time, we are claiming a spot with that organization to feed some people. We have started collecting money for that purpose.

Some in the community object to this approach and feel that partnering with severely underfunded and understaffed community agencies that are familiar with the unsheltered population is the better way to go. (Our Center in Santa Rosa already has a history of supporting nonprofit organizations that are doing the work in the world that we are not skilled to do. We have been doing that for 16 years.)

Some in our community are concerned that issues such as severe addiction to methamphetamine, and mental illness, cannot be easily solved by sporadic good intentions. They express concern that volunteerism can cause things to get worse. Others are concerned that generosity and compassion will be taken advantage of by people who are not motivated to leave the encampment.

Nevertheless, there are people living on that trail who are not addicts, who are not criminals, but who are caught in traps that are difficult to escape from. If you’ve ever been low on resources and someone helped you out, you probably already know the power of loving-kindness. I’ve never been homeless, but I’ve lived close to the edge of not having enough to pay for anything other than my rent. That was terrifying. (I’d love to hear from any colleagues who have struggled with this.) Had it not been for the kindness of others, and what I learned in Dr. Bitzer’s Hollywood Church of Religious Science from Dr. Polifrone, who knows what might have become of me.

One organization that is inspiring me is Sonoma Applied Village Services. Their motto is “Shelter with Dignity.” They are working in encampments throughout Sonoma County to provide as many basic services as they can, such as case management, donation distribution, wellness checks, basic applications like ID and social security, and connecting to services like veterans and women’s support. They, I believe, provided portable restrooms on the trail, an action that is both applauded and criticized.

What is the unsheltered situation in your town like, and what in your town’s leadership has inspired you related to the issue?

Photo by Mayur Gala on Unsplash

This month we are celebrating the many ways various spiritual traditions observe the Holy Days. Today we are exploring Kwanzaa, an African American celebration of life introduced to the United States in 1966, in part to provide an alternative response to what some see as the commercialism of Christmas. The core principles of Kwanzaa are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

The last day of Kwanzaa is the beginning of the new year, January 1, and is a time of self-reflection and recommitment to values and vision. People who celebrate contemplate the answers to these questions:

Who am I? Am I really who I say I am? And am I all I ought to be? It is also a time, if necessary, to recommit to our highest values.

If you would like support getting grounded for the new year, and recommitting to who you are as a spiritual being, consider signing up for our free Lunch Time Learning series which takes place on Wednesdays at noon, January 8, 15, 22, and 29. Bring a pen, a bag lunch, and spend some time exploring your spiritual identity and setting your intention for how to navigate the year 2020. All are welcome, but everyone must register at the Information Table.

Warm regards,

Edward Viljoen
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Monday, December 2, 2019

Science of Mind and Rohatsu

This month we are celebrating the many ways various spiritual traditions observed the Holy Days. Today we are exploring Rohatsu, a Japanese Buddhist celebration of the moment the Buddha achieved enlightenment.  Rohatsu in Japanese means the eighth day of the twelfth (lunar) month, which means it sometimes falls in January. After the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, the celebration became fixed on December 8 and is sometimes called Bodhi Day. Bodhi means awakened or enlightened. Those who celebrate Rohatsu sometimes extend each evening's meditation, making it longer than the previous evening and culminating in a night-long meditation.

To view this week's video on YouTube, click here.

Also, this month, we are paying tribute to the Christian tradition of Advent by focusing on the qualities of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in our free Wednesday Wisdom classes at 7 pm. Rev. Tara Steele, Rev. Siota Belle, and Rev. Joyce Kinzel will be facilitating the first three Wednesday evenings; and then on December 25, we will have one service only at 10 am on Christmas morning, focusing on love, and facilitated by Rev. Ruth Barnhart. All are welcome.

If you would like support in your meditation practice, Rev. Siota Belle is hosting a Wednesday evening meditation, from 6 to 6:45 pm starting on January 8, called Inviting the Sacred. Watch this bulletin for more information about how to start your new year off on the right spiritual footing.


Edward Viljoen

Photo by Eric Prouzet on Unsplash

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Monday, November 25, 2019

How to Talk to People With Radically Different Points of View

How do we talk to other people who have radically different conclusions about the way life works?  How do we disagree and argue while maintaining respect and kindness?

The Science of Mind teaching calls us to align with our spiritual nature, which we inherit from divinity, while respecting the divinity of others. Science of Mind is a prayerful approach to life, that instead of laying out a one-size-fits-all mindset, invites us to contemplate and pursue the highest good for all.

In this video, I'll share ideas about how to talk to people with radically different points of view, as well as make suggestions for how to engage in our world without becoming overwhelmed.

Our founder, Dr. Ernest Holmes, in How to Change Your Life, wrote that we ought to be thankful for the splendid design of this Universe that has planted within us a guide to right conduct. He called that guide conscience and said that we may access it through our spiritual intuition. He taught us that by knowing the Truth (which means to contemplate the nature of the Divine) we will be compelled to act in a correct way.

If we take time daily to sit quietly and think about what the Divine is to us (and that idea will no doubt change with our growing understanding) will it not become impossible for us to want to harm another, take what is not ours to take, or be deceitful?



Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

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Sunday, November 10, 2019

You Have A Self. Aware, Permanent, Holy

Part of the spiritual journey is to discover the hidden power of the Self within and to bring it out into expression in our lives. Today's message explore the obstacles, celebrations, and joys of the spiritual journey.

The Nonprofit Partner Program is an outreach program of the Center for Spiritual Living, Santa Rosa. Each year since 2004 twelve nonprofit partners have been selected from nominations submitted by individuals in our Spiritual Community who are either associated with a nonprofit or have benefited from the services of a nonprofit. Nonprofits may not nominate themselves. Nominations are received in the fall of each year. 

A committee meets to review the nominations, vet them to make sure they have a nonprofit tax ID number, and to ensure that the mission of the nonprofit is harmonious with the values and teachings of the Center for Spiritual Living. From the nominations, twelve are selected, and each nonprofit is assigned a month of the year. During their assigned month, representatives of the nonprofit are invited to make a 2-minute presentation during all three of our Sunday morning services, and also to staff a table in our Social Hall with information about their work and volunteer opportunities. 

This year your committee selected the following organizations from your nominations for our 2020 Nonprofit Partners:

• Aids Lifecycle Ride (nominated by Jerry Huffaker, Jeff Basham & Nancy Reynolds)
• Clean River Alliance (Cindy Collins)
• COTS 572 (Giving Intention Team)
• Knights of Sonoma County (Jeffrey Sanders)
• Lily’s Legacy Senior Dog Sanctuary (Ronni Berg)
• Positive Images (Alicia Carroll)
• Seeds of Awareness (Lauren Darges)
• Shoes4Kidz (Lucas Hensley)
• Sonoma Bach (Christopher Fritzsche)
• SRJC Shone Farm (Robin Zolotoff)
• Verity (Edward Viljoen, Linda & Dennis O’Rear)
• Zariki Nursery and Primary School (Elisa Baker)

Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash
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Friday, November 8, 2019

Coping With the Evacuations, A Spiritual Approach

Last Sunday, October 27, 2019, was the first Sunday in over 25 years that we have not held Sunday services. I missed being with you. As inconvenient as it was for our community not to be able to gather for our celebration services, I am filled with gratitude for those who are going through much more inconvenience, danger, and hardships so that we can be safe.

To see this week's video on YouTube, click here.

Thank you, firefighters. Thank you, police officers. Thank you, sheriffs. Thank you, volunteers. Thank you, paramedics. Thank you, medical professionals. Thank you, all helpers and volunteers. Thank you, dispatchers. Thank you, those who prayed, and those who took people into their homes.
As we prepared to return to our homes and works on Wednesday after the mandatory evacuation order was lifted, I felt gratitude for the news sources and reporters who have kept our community up to date and helped us understand the selflessness of our first responders with images showing their tirelessness and bravery.

I am thinking also of those who have lost something, whatever it is. I’m thinking of those who were displaced, or who have yet to return to normal. With them in mind, I’m making a goal of being as kind, helpful, and appreciative as I can be today.

Thank you for being here today, part of our Center for Spiritual Living Community. May you be filled with love today.

Edward Viljoen
Senior Minister

Photo by Aidan Bartos on Unsplash
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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Principle of Oneness - May You Be Filled with Loving Kindness

A Lama is a Spiritual teacher in the Buddhist tradition.  A group of travelers from the Center for Spiritual Living, Santa Rosa, met a Lama in Bhutan.  He initiated us into the chant Aum Mani Padme Hum.  This chant is said, by some, to activate the spiritual qualities of generosity, ethics, patience, diligence, focus, and wisdom.

To see the video fo this practice, click here.

The way it worked is we sat with the Lama is that he first gave us spiritual instruction, and then prayers, to set us going in the correct direction.

In his lesson, the llama emphasized the importance of focusing our loving-kindness intentions outwards.  In other words, he instructed us not to focus so much on ourselves, but instead, when we start our practice, to start with all sentient beings, imagining them healthy, happy, and free.

Next, we were instructed to turn our loving-kindness intentions to our mothers, fathers, teachers, and loved ones.  And the, most importantly, the Lama said, to turn our loving-kindness intention on those we still have trouble with.  The way the Lama said it was "on those you still hate."

He said that our focus on others would generate good-will and blessings, that through our oneness-connection would eventually bless us individually anyway. So, he taught, we don't have to be very concerned with our own needs.  He advised us to offer our energy and practice for the ending of suffering for all beings and to take a few minutes every day for their benefit.

He said that focusing on love and compassion for others is important because when a sentient being has love and compassion, they won't need anything else.

Photo by Caleb Gregory on Unsplash
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Monday, October 7, 2019

Radical Welcome, and the Habits of Highly Happy People

Happiness, it seems, has more to do with life long habits, than it does with single events, such as winning the lottery. Habits such as helping other people, making in-person, face-to-face connections, and having deep connecting conversations are the kind of habits that lead to a life of happiness, and help us to become resilient during times of stress.

This week, Dr. Edward shares a message about being a radically welcoming community, and mimicking the habits of highly happy people.  Sustaining pledgers Ann and Kevin Hutchinson write this about our community:
"Regular Sunday morning attendance keeps us grounded and centered throughout the week. One particular workshop set my husband and me on a course of daily spiritual practice that has lasted for years and improved every aspect of our lives. The Center provides a haven for people of any—or even no—belief system, for people at any stage of spiritual growth. All are welcome at the Center; no one is judged. Lives are transformed here. The music and message are always positive and uplifting — the focus is on oneness and God as Love. The teaching reminds us we are all perfect God-beings, and that we can make a difference in the world around us."

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Monday, September 30, 2019

Loving Our Mother: Planetary Stewardship

To see this week's video on YouTube, click here.

Thich Nhat Hanh wrote in Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth, that “the world is not a problem to be solved; it is a living being to which we belong. The world is part of our own self and we are a part of its suffering wholeness. Until we go to the root of our image of separateness, there can be no healing. And the deepest part of our separateness from creation lies in our forgetfulness of its sacred nature, which is also our own sacred nature.”

In what ways can you commit to staying aware of the sacred nature of our planet, and the sacred nature of our own being?


Edward Viljoen

Photo by Amy Humphries on Unsplash

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