Sermon by Diane Donovan-Vaughn – 05132017

How do you decide what to do with conflicting voices droning on inside your head? Since the advice you hear inside and outside your head can be plentiful, how can you decide what to do, what to believe and where to focus your attention. The first problem is to notice that all these voices are making it all up. The body gets in the act vying for attention with hunger, pain and need. Truthfully, it becomes a little easier to decide what to do when you practice self-love, looking into the mirror and really seeing all the ways that you do not practice loving yourself and others.

For example as a woman, in many cultures we are brought up to believe we should sacrifice our own needs for the care of others. It is a great ability to be able to delay our own gratification for a helpless infant in need but this sacrifice gets misplaced when a woman learns to put herself last for those who are technically no longer helpless. By believing that you have limited self worth, you do not practice self-love and you model this behavior to the girls around you.

For example, my own mother, a workaholic would be gone eleven hours a day working in downtown Houston, Texas when I was in elementary school. As soon as she got home, she went into the kitchen, cooked food, served everyone dinner and finally sat down last to eat what was left. On Saturdays, she spent all day cleaning, shopping, and taking care of all her chores before once again serving everyone dinner. It would be very hard to find self-love in this schedule of servitude. She taught me that women serve the family even if those family members could serve themselves. When my teenage daughter lived with her for a short while, she would tell me how her grandmother would serve her coffee in bed in a beautiful, gold-rimmed cup with fresh half and half and offer to iron her clothes before school. This service would be preformed before my mother continued her day at work, which she accomplished until she was eighty-seven years old.

When I finally looked at my own similar behavior, I found her at the root of my training. She had me cooking for the family by the time I was thirteen years old. Today, if you go over to my daughter’s house for a birthday party, you will find her in the kitchen making sure everyone will be fed before she sits down to eat. However, in her case, her husband will also be cooking and cleaning with her. She looked at me on Easter Sunday while her teenagers looked through the Easter baskets she had carefully prepared for them and said, “This is your fault!”

I give only one example of the filters that a woman can obtain that become the advisor of how to behave as we age. We all get these advisors from the world from birth on about where to focus our attention and how.

The advisors we most often ignore would be the observer inside and death that stalks us from the moment we are born. The observer and death are very quiet. The mind drowns out the observer with these rules and filters we learn to hear, the voices in the head that we mistakenly believe is who we are. “Death is our eternal companion,” according to Don Juan in Journey to Ixtlan by Carlos Castaneda. It is always to our left, at an arm’s length.” You can actually feel a shiver if you look over your left shoulder. We ignore it and pretend that we are immortal, that we have time. In fact, death is the most awesome advisor we have.

Before I left for Sedona, I literally had three serial killer messages. It was as if the universe was saying that if I went to Sedona, a serial killer would find me. In fact, the killer did find me. It was the same death stalking me that I met when I was eleven years old and before that when I was electrocuted in the bathtub when I was even younger. It was in Sedona that Heather Ash Amara recommended Journey to Ixtlan as the best of Carlos Castaneda and led me right to the warrior’s advisor, death. He said, “Death is the only wise adviser that we have. Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong and you’re about to be annihilated, turn to your death and ask if that is so. Your death will tell you that you’re wrong; that nothing really matters outside its touch. Your death will tell you. ‘I haven’t touched you yet.’”

When you have a nightmare, the solution is to face the demon rather than run from it. The same solution holds true for death. Turn and face the death that is stalking you. Then, you will remember that you do not have time. Death will inform your decisions and you will know that all the time you have is right now to do what you are here to do. The observer inside you knows what you are here to do.

The reason we go to Sedona and keep doing a Destiny Retreat is to remember again and again what we are here to do. When you are looking in the mirror saying that you are the love of your life, listen to the observer tell you what you are here to do. You are here to love and to be that love in a way that you can express it. Death teaches you to let go of your ego, to become one with each moment you are given to be that love.

The selection for today from The Buddha is Still Teaching (Selected and Edited by Jack Kornfield) is titled “Committed and Balanced” taken from “The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation” by S. N. Goenka.

He said, “By learning to remain balanced in the face of everything experienced inside, one develops detachment toward all that one encounters in external situations as well. However, this detachment is not escapism or indifference to the problems of the world. Those who regularly practice Vipassana become more sensitive to the sufferings of others and do their utmost to relieve suffering in whatever way they can – not with any agitation, but with a mind full of love, compassion, and equanimity. They learn holy indifference – how to be fully committed, fully involved in helping others, while at the same time maintaining balance of mind. In this way they remain peaceful and happy while working for the peace and happiness of others.

“This is what the Buddha taught: an art of living. He never established or taught any religion, any “ism.” Instead, he taught them just to observe nature as it is by observing the reality inside. Out of ignorance, we keep reacting in ways which harm ourselves and others. But when wisdom arises – the wisdom of observing reality as it is – this habit of reacting falls away. When we cease to react blindly, then we are capable of real action – action proceeding from a balanced mind, a mind which sees and understands the truth. Such action can only be positive, creative, helpful to ourselves and to others.”

Let’s practice Vipassana meditation:
Sit upright, back straight, legs folded unless it is uncomfortable. The important part of your body position is that you can hold still for a few minutes in comfort.
Now as you sit still, watch your natural breath pattern, the inflow and outflow of air. As you watch it, you will notice your thoughts and body sensations as they arise. Continue observing your breath, the activity of your thoughts and the sensations in your body for the next five minutes.
Take a deep breath. Relax. Allow your observer to notice death over your left shoulder. Place your attention on the observer inside the center of your being and then inhale slowly through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Namaste.