The Cain and Abel Dynamic

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Today I would like to discuss a common challenge that you will likely encounter when attempting to make positive changes in your life. In my book, Meditation and Prayer, I refer to this as the Cain and Abel dynamic and I describe it in this way:

In reading the story, you know that Cain was a tiller of the soil—a farmer. Abel was a shepherd. The farmer must stay in one place, planting his crops in defined areas, making his location at any given time predictable. Cain represents that tendency in us to seek out the familiar, set up predictable routines, and hope nothing comes around to disturb our world. A shepherd, on the other hand, must constantly be on the move, changing the location of his flock so his sheep will not overgraze the land. Abel represents that part of us that is on the move growing, indefinable, changing.

These two characters represent two aspects of our consciousness. One seeks the comfort of familiarity while the other seeks the expansive mental attitude that invites growth. You may be praying for a condition to change, for example, so you don’t have to. You want some unusual circumstance to go away so you can get back to living your life as usual.

When you pray for change you will, in all likelihood, be presented with an opportunity to change. This opportunity could come in the form of a challenge that forces you to broaden your understanding of yourself and your life. It may be unexpected and seem like an undesirable development that you want to pray away.

Be mindful of such opportunities. See if you are hanging on to old ways of thinking that you need to let go. Every challenge has something of value if you are open to it. The value may be as simple as letting go of a negative emotion and proving to yourself that you do have a choice about how you feel. Your Cain may attempt to slay your Abel but growth is inevitable. Think growth and let go.

Our True Home

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Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”                     Matthew 11:28

Today I would like us to explore a feeling familiar to those of you who have been called from the safety of your previous religious indoctrination to the freedom and challenges of navigating your own spiritual path. The feeling I refer to is that vaguely familiar sensation of having come home.

Most of us have come from diverse religious backgrounds. And yet we share the common thread of knowing there is more to our spiritual reality than the theological framework into which, by social default, has had such a strong influence on our thinking. We are answering more than a need to find a better religion. By striking out on this path, you and I are responding to a deep stirring in the soul. We seek an understanding of our spiritual origins, a conscious reunion with those vast fields of everlasting life from which our spiritual identity is perpetually hewn.

This journey is not without its trials. Life can throw us questions we cannot fully answer and we are often tempted to scurry back to that well-worn path of our old ways. But we do not linger long. The desire for spiritual freedom has its roots, not in the easily accessible layers of our consciousness, but in the very essence of our being. We are seeking new ways, asking new questions because a broader dimension is opening within us, stirring and prodding us to greater horizons. The same expansive energy that causes the chick to start pecking at the safety of it shell causes us to tap at the circumscribed parameters of our programmed thinking. We are simply responding to the stirring of the Infinite.

It’s important to seek clarity in what we believe and, most importantly, why we believe it. As a direct expression of God, it is logical to assume this clarity is achieved from within our being. The closer we come to our spiritual center, the closer we are to God, our true home.


Oneness is a Verb

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Sometime ago, I made this statement: Truth is the omnipotence of God expressing as the spiritual essence of every individual. As you consider this idea, you can see that the word expressing implies action or a process. Though God is expressing as us, the individual, we may often feel as if nothing could be further from the truth. It’s a nice idea that we accept in theory, but it doesn’t carry much practical weight.

I ran across a helpful analogy this week. I mentioned that my telescope had fallen out of alignment. This means that the primary and secondary mirrors needed to be collimated or aligned. Light enters the scope, reflects off a primary mirror to a secondary mirror, which is then directed to the eyepiece. If the primary and secondary mirrors are out of alignment, the image you see in the eyepiece – a star, for example – will be blurred. All attempts to focus the telescope and make the star a fine pinpoint of light will be in vain.

The word collimation means to make parallel. To collimate the telescope is to make the two mirrors parallel, thus allowing the eyepiece to focus. Now, think of the primary mirror, the one that receives and reflects the original starlight, as the soul. Think of the secondary mirror as consciousness, our belief system. If our consciousness is not in alignment with the true light that enters the soul, our spiritual vision will be blurred. In this case, prayer, our attempt to focus on some solution, is not achieved. James says we pray amiss. God is no less active than the ever-present starlight. It is our consciousness that is out of alignment with the soul.

We can think of meditation as the process of collimation, making the consciousness parallel with the soul. Prayer is the act of focusing, which is successful to the degree that soul and consciousness agree, that they are aligned in oneness. Just as the open telescope always receives starlight, we are in a perpetual state of oneness with God. Experiencing this oneness requires an active alignment, a letting go of life as we think it should be so we may behold the light of God as it is. It is then that our world comes into focus.

Simplifying Truth

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“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:25-26).

Jesus raises a puzzle when he suggests as an ideal model for peace of mind and prosperity the “birds of the air” who do not sow or reap or gather goods to assure their future. The average bird obviously ranks very low in terms of intellectual capacity, which may be why we refer to people whose intelligence we question as bird brains. And yet all the things Jesus says of the birds are true. If you observe any bird, you will see an animal that is perfectly adapted to survive and flourish in its environment. You will see an animal that is fully alive. You will see an animal that does not live for the future or regret the past, but one that is fully tuned into the now moment. Though the human being obviously possesses a superior capacity for intelligence, it is rare to find one living in the state of harmonious contentment seen even in your average bird.

Anthropologists mark the beginning of our interest in spiritual matters by artifacts they discover in conjunction with the development of human intelligence. They’ll point to Neanderthal burials, for example, as an indication that humans were beginning to think of life in a larger context than that of physical expression. Do the birds of the air think of such things? Have they developed religions, theories of what happens when they die, or do they apply theological constructs around ideas of sin and punishment, heaven and hell? There is no evidence that they do any of these things.

Perhaps Jesus was suggesting that it is through letting go of our preconceived notions of who and what we are and getting back to our true core that offers the prosperity we seek.

Daisy Dancing in the Wind

Click title: Daisy Dancing in the Wind
Verse 1
Daisy dancing in the wind, notice how it’s learned to bend
It never learned how to pretend, it only dances in the wind

Verse 2
The winds of change will blow you down
Shake the truth that you have found
Just go within to safer ground, and the wind won’t keep you down

Verse 3
One thing you must learn to do, is come to know the I of you
To your higher Self be true, it’s the one thing you must do

The road it stretches out ahead, beyond the horizon
We’re following that golden thread, forever on
And if we ever go astray, we turn within to listen
In silence then we find our way, to another dawn

Daisy dancing in the wind, notice how it’s learned to bend
It never learned how to pretend, it only dances in the wind

Daisy dancing in the wind, notice how it’s learned to bend
It’s being what it’s always been
It only dances in the wind, It only dances in the wind, We’re all dancers in the wind
©2002 J Douglas Bottorff


Note: This is a song I wrote and recorded as a 45 record in the early 70’s. I was accompanied by my friend and guitar player, Rick Reynolds and bass player, Reese Free in a little storefront studio in Missouri. Though a bit vague, the lyrics  hint at the type of message I strive to include in the songs I write today.

Click title: Words

Words, don’t take much time, to leave your mind, to leave your mind
But feelings, stick to your heart, become a part, become a part
And who’s to know, if you’re traveling down the right side of the road
O you’ve never been told

O people raise your hands up, to the sky
Don’t you ever let go, Don’t ever let go
And keep on reaching ‘til the day you die
Only settle for more

When your truth, becomes a lie
Can you stand to bend, can you stand to cry
And if you ever, change your head
Because of what is said, then you’re living like the dead

‘Cause words, don’t take much time, to leave your mind, to leave your mind
But feelings, stick to your heart, become a part, become a part
And who’s to know, if you’re traveling down the right side of the road
O you’ve never been told

©1972 J Douglas Bottorff


Click to listen: Colorado

Stealing away in the shadows – Moon climbing up through the pines

Washing the snow-covered branches – Lighting the smile in your eyes

Wind blowing down through the canyon – Taking your hand into mine

We listen and watch in the silence – Rocked in that soft lullaby


Stars shine so bright in Colorado – Deep western skies are so clear

With you by my side I have no worry – Oh how I love to be here


We’ve traveled through some valleys, over mountains – Shared in some dark nights of the soul

But through it all we have never forgotten – That mystical union of old


Stars shine so bright in Colorado – Deep western skies are so clear

With you by my side I have no worry – Oh how I love to be here

With you by my side I have no worry – Oh how I love to be here

Oh how I love to be here

© 2001 J Douglas Bottorff