Q: I’m a lily of the field (Matthew 6:28), trusting God to care for my needs. My parents want me to leave home and get a job, but I know God will provide. How can I help my parents trust God?
Rabbi Rami: I wonder if it isn’t you who lacks trust in God. Right now, you trust your parents to support you. Move out of your parents’ home onto the street. Give no thought to money, clothing, food, or shelter. Trust God to take care of you. Of course God may be so busy with the millions of involuntary poor, naked, hungry, and homeless that your needs may go unnoticed for decades, but God is eternal, so stick with it.
I’m an impatient person, and I have no time for years long spiritual practice. What can I do that will bring me enlightenment now?
Ask yourself Who wants enlightenment now? Notice that the self who is asking is not impatient. Ask similar questions regarding every thought, feeling, and sensation—Who is thinking this? Who is feeling this? Who is sensing this?—and sense the pure awareness behind all experience. Living from this awareness is enlightenment. Or, you could forget about enlightenment and simply live justly and kindly in service to others. I suggest doing both.
When I tell Bible stories to my preschoolers I always edit out the violence. Am I giving them a false impression of the Bible?
Yes. The Bible isn’t a children’s book, and turning it into one shows just how shallow our capacity for deep mythic and mystical exploration has become. When Jesus said, “Let those with the ears to hear, hear” (Matthew 11:15), he wasn’t referring to preschoolers. That said, the violence in the Bible, like the violence in The Brothers Grimm and Disney, reflects real life, and can help your children deal with real life. So, when appropriate, share the Bible as written, help your kids ask hard questions regarding it, and be prepared to wrestle with some tough issues regarding God, humanity, and the immorality of both. Raising questions rather than answering them is what reading the Bible is really all about.
I have recently discovered A Course in Miracles and love it. Some friends worry that I’m being deceived by Satan. How would I know?
A satanic deception closes your mind, hardens your heart, and tightens your fists in a fear–filled narcissism masquerading as truth. If your religion or philosophy forbids certain questions, shuns certain people, and locks you into an “us against them” worldview, it is, metaphorically speaking, satanic.
I believe all religions lead to truth. Do you agree?
Religions operate on two levels: conventional and mystical. On the conventional level, religions lead only to themselves and to those opinions they hold as true. On the mystical level, both religion and opinion drop away. As Zen master Seng–ts’an wrote, “Seek not truth. Cease only to cherish opinions.”
How can I understand God without spending years studying and meditating?
Walk into an ice-cream shop and order a cup of ice cream. When the clerk asks which flavor you want say, “No flavor, thank you, just ice cream.” The clerk will be stymied: There is no “ice cream,” only flavors of ice cream. As politely as you can, explain that you want ice cream without any label. She won’t be able to satisfy your request, but you will begin to understand the nature of God as that which manifests as all things but is in and of itself no thing at all. Before you leave, buy two scoops of your favorite flavor, generously tip the clerk, and “taste and see that God is good.” (Proverbs 34:8)
My boyfriend is convinced that I’m cheating on him. I’m not. How can I convince him otherwise?
Ask him what it is about your behavior that convinces him you’re cheating. Change that behavior. If he still thinks you’re cheating, change boyfriends.
How can I teach my 10-year-old daughter to respect religious differences without erasing the spiritual unity I want her to love?
There are three ways to look at the world’s religions: the way of the Dum Dum, the way of the plain M&M, and the way of the Tootsie Pop. The first teaches that each religion is unique and distinct with a flavor all its own. The second teaches that, despite appearances to the contrary, all religions are exactly the same. The third teaches that surface differences matter—you may prefer one flavor Tootsie Pop over another—but if you investigate deeply enough you will find the mystic heart shared by them all. Follow the Tao of Tootsie, and all will be well.
I am techno–spiritual, believing salvation comes from moving to and terraforming new worlds to escape the collapse of this one. Do you think this is possible?
Yes, but for whom? Your techno–salvation is for the 1 percent of the 1 percent who can afford to escape this planet, and for those few among the rest they will hire to serve them. I’m not opposed to terraforming, but I suspect that unless we first transform our hearts and minds, the worlds we create will suffer the same fate as the one we are currently destroying.
God is bogus, and you know it. Why not admit you’re an atheist?
If by “God” you mean a supernatural Being separate from the universe, then yes, I’m an atheist. If you mean being itself, that non-dual process embracing and transcending the universe, what Torah calls Y-H-V-H (from the Hebrew verb h–v–h, “to exist”), then I’m a believer, for it is in that process that “I live, and move, and have my being,” (Acts 17:28).
One For The Road
I’m a “daddy’s girl,” and my upcoming marriage to my girlfriend is killing him. I want him to walk me down the aisle, but I don’t think he’ll even attend. How do I get over my anger at him? Should we just elope and hope that in time he will accept us?
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Author and teacher Rabbi Rami Shapiro has been called “one of the best bridges of Eastern and Western wisdom.” His newest book is Embracing the Divine Feminine. Check out Rabbi Rami's weekly podcasts for S&H here.