I’m seeing a psychic. She isn’t cheap, but she’s very helpful. My friends say she’s ripping me off. Are psychics real? Are they worth it?
Rabbi Rami: If this woman is providing you with sound advice that improves the quality of your life, then she’s as real as she needs to be. Her fee is her business. Louis Vuitton charges $1,300 for a canvas tote bag you can buy online for $5.19. Is Louis Vuitton ripping you off? If you can’t afford her fee, ask her to lower it. Don’t be embarrassed by this. After all, she’s a psychic: She already knew this would happen.
I’m haunted by a recurring dream: I’m walking down a dark flight of stairs against my will. I struggle to climb back up but the stairs behind me have flattened out. All I can do is walk down. I wake up in a panic every time. What is this about? Do dreams even matter?
Some dreams speak to your journey in life, and some are reactions to what you had for dinner that night. I think your dream falls in the former category. If this were my dream, as Jeremy Taylor taught us to say, I’d see it as an invitation to go deeper rather than down. The dream is calling you to live more deeply, more authentically. As deepening happens, returning to the shallow is no longer an option—hence the flattened stairs behind you. You will continue to have this dream as long as you resist its call to deepening. Find a spiritual director to accompany you on your walk downstairs.
My mom is always quoting you, so I thought I’d ask you something. I’m a high school junior, and this boy in my class keeps leaving me notes with “John 3:16” written on them. I looked it up. It means “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son who died for our sins that we might gain eternal life.” This creeps me out. How do I get him to stop?
Take each note, cross out “John 3:16,” replace it with “Matthew 16:23,” and return it to him. When he looks this up, he’ll find Jesus saying, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” Hopefully, he’ll get the message. If not, report him to your principal for harassment.
I’ve read several issues of this magazine, and you seem like a sane person. How do you reconcile religion with science?
Science and religion come in two forms: inauthentic and authentic. Inauthentic science and religion promote falsehoods in service to power and wealth. Authentic science and religion promote observation and experimentation in the “outer world” of nature in service to knowledge (science) and in the “inner world” of consciousness in service to wisdom and compassion (religion). It isn’t that science is irreconcilable with religion, but that authentic science and religion are irreconcilable with inauthentic science and religion.
I’ve recently gotten into astrology, and find it riveting. Yet I can’t shake the suspicion that it’s bogus. Do you believe in astrology? Do you think astrology works?
No, I don’t believe in astrology, and yes, I think it works. Astrology uses the cosmos to tell a story about you. Use your imagination to creatively engage with your story to deepen your understanding of who you are and why you are here. While it certainly helps to enrich your imagination by reading about astrological signs and archetypes, take care not to limit your imagination to what others say about them—or you.
Liberation is the capacity to engage with all feelings without owning or being owned by any of them.
Am I supposed to feel grateful regardless of what happens to me?
Gratitude isn’t so much a feeling as it is a life-stance: remaining open to whatever life brings, good and bad. Gratitude is about receiving rather than judging. I say “thank you” for whatever I receive, and then release what is given to receive what is given next. Receiving, thanking, and releasing are at the heart of cultivating gratitude.
I’m having trouble sticking with my spiritual practice. What can I do to be more diligent?
Redefine your practice so that not-doing is what you are supposed to be doing. If your current practice is to meditate an hour each morning, change it to not meditating an hour each morning. If you fail at this and end up meditating, don’t worry about it. In either case, ask yourself who is doing or not doing the practice, and notice that the one who is asking—the Witness, Self, or I AM—has no need of practice at all. Rest in that and let doing and not doing take care of themselves.
I know it’s not PC to ask it, but what is it about Islam that makes Muslims so violent?
This isn’t merely politically incorrect, it is incorrect in every way. Religious violence is rooted in, among other things, tribalism, unreason, and illiberalism, all of which can be found in every religion. These elements sacrifice reason to revelation, truth to propaganda, individuality to tribal conformity, all while defining violence against “the other” as the highest value. The cure for religious violence is free inquiry and personal autonomy. Sadly, most people are unprepared for either. This isn’t a Muslim problem, this is a human problem.
I’ve read that spiritual liberation requires me to disengage from my feelings. Won’t this make me cold and unfeeling?
Feelings are biological reactions to biological events. These reactions—sometimes positive, sometimes negative—happen outside your control: Something moves in the dark and you become frightened, a loved one dies and you become sad, you see some great injustice and you become angry, someone gifts you with a desired something and you become happy. You didn’t choose these feelings, you simply felt them. Liberation is the capacity to engage with all feelings without owning or being owned by any of them. Welcome fear, sadness, anger, and happiness without falling into the trap of “my fear,” “my sadness,” “my anger,” and “my happiness.” This isn’t about being unfeeling, but about feeling everything without being trapped by anything.
One For The Road
I have a fatal illness. Western medicine has failed me, and God is not listening to my prayers. I heard about a shamanic cure, but the cost will bankrupt me. My kids are against it, but I worry they are more concerned with their inheritance than my health. What should I do?
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