Our Very Own Surrender Experiment

Rev. Carolyne Mathlin
Senior Minister

When The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer came out two years ago, many of you read it and told me how much you loved it. I purchased the book fully intending to start reading immediately. After almost two years of it sitting on my shelf, I recently picked it up. I had been searching for a book that would help me (and you) through these times of great change and uncertainty. Whether it is in your personal life or you are sensing into the world events, there is much to hold in prayer. I wanted a teaching and teacher who was deeply committed to consciousness and spiritual practice first, but who also knows how to walk in the world with brilliance. I found what I was looking for in The Surrender Experiment and I hope you will too.

The book is a personal story about what it has meant in Singer’s life to live with a basic question:

What would happen if we respected the flow of life and used our free will to participate in what’s unfolding, instead of fighting it?

That question sparked a life-long surrender experiment that takes him on some fascinating journeys. All through surrender.

Whenever I talk about surrender, and it feels like I have been for quite a while now, I get a familiar objection. The objection is something to the effect of, if I surrender then I will let people walk all over me and I’ll not be able to get anything I want or need. This is like thinking of surrender in military terms. From that perspective, surrender means the weaker side loses a battle. The victor has all the power and the loser has none. From an egoic perspective, this would of course be the last thing you would want to do – surrender.

To think in military terms when it comes to surrender means to think of life in terms of one big battle. It’s a perspective rooted in the world with very little Self-awareness. There is a mentality of “you win some, you lose some, who do we play tomorrow?” It’s a perpetual game with no ultimate winners. The more Self-awareness dawns, the more you can start to hear the thoughts and see the patterns that bolster up this limited understanding of how the universe works and your interpretations of it. Having a sense of who you are, including your preferences, is important. But it is not the end of our work. It is the beginning. Once you start to see your preferences, what you believe, how you act, etc. shape your world, you can start to question how important those preferences are in light of Reality.

For example, when I was in college I dated someone I liked very much. The relationship ended and I was heart-broken. One night, recently after the breakup, we ended up at the same party. Also at the party was another guy I had met earlier that summer. We were talking a lot and I’m assuming my ex saw. A friend at the time saw what was happening and made the comment to me that revenge dating is the best. Her statement was a helpful and clear wake up call. I had enough Self-awareness to know that going down that path would not serve anyone. In fact, it would actually create more of a mess.

Awareness is the first step. What we choose to do next is entirely up to our personal will. We must use our personal will to be in alignment with what is real. At the time of my break-up, what was real was that my heart was broken. Jumping into another relationship, especially based on brokenness and revenge would hurt me even more. It would be denying my current state and entangling others in it too.

Which brings us back to surrender. In my example, I didn’t surrender to the obvious situation unfolding in front of me. I didn’t take what was happening as a sign that it was ok to act out unconsciously and enter a new relationship. Instead, I surrendered to my inner resistance to not being in a relationship. The truth was I wasn’t ready for another relationship.

Surrender isn’t about giving in or conforming to outer conditions. Surrender is about letting go of our inner resistance to outer conditions. My inner resistance could have forced me to deny my broken heart. Instead, in that moment of clarity, I let go of my inner resistance and preference to get back at my ex.

The more we can pay attention to the voice that is constantly commenting on everything the more we can begin to witness the madness it often creates. Believing our thoughts at the expense of experiencing reality is one of the most unloving things we can do to ourselves. Our thoughts are based on half-truths at best that are designed to keep us safe but actually end up keeping us stuck. Releasing our thoughts’ hold on our view of reality is one of the forms of liberation the masters talk about.

It also promotes an experience of what one of my favorite spiritual teachers, A.H. Almaas call basic trust. Basic trust is not a trust in something, a person or situation and it cannot be diminished by life circumstances. Basic trust is an unspoken, implicit trust that whatever happens will ultimately be fine. There is a confidence that nature, the universe, and all that exists, are ultimately good and trustworthy. With this basic trust there is a sense of unquestioned safety and security that is intrinsic to the way you act and live. There is also a capacity to let go, to jump into the unknown.

For many of us, this is a momentous leap into a new paradigm. For others of us, it sounds more natural. One of the ways Michael Singer looks at this approach to life is to ask the following question:

Am I better off making up an alternate reality in my mind and then fighting with reality to make it be my way, or am I better off letting go of what I want and serving the same forces of reality that managed to create the entire perfection of the universe around me?

The more our own experience of basic trust is present, the more the process of realization and transformation can proceed smoothly. To cultivate basic trust in all areas of our life, I invite you to join me in our very own surrender experiment.

For this quarter I’m going to invite you to go deeper into the material. Not only do I suggest getting your own copy of The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer, but I also invite you to take on your own experiment based on the question  “what would happen if I respected the flow of life and used my free will to participate in what’s unfolding, instead of fighting it?”

Each week we will explore practices and tools to experiment with surrender in your own life. On Sundays we’ll have an opportunity to add a glass stone to our surrender chalice as an outer sign of our inner work. Please also share your stories of surrender with me via email.

Each new experience of true surrender can deepen the soul’s contact with basic trust. It is a profound way to live. While the outer circumstances of Michael Singer’s life will not be yours, that isn’t the point of his book. His invitation, and mine, is to let the consciousness of devotion to Reality, the Universe, be more powerful than any preference or belief you hold. See what unfolds. It’s an experiment. How will you know what surrender is really like if you don’t at least experiment?

Finding Your Yes and Leaning In

Debbie dela Cuesta
Board of Directors, President

The quote “may you live in interesting times” came to mind as I sat to write this article. It seems to reflect the collective consciousness of today, one of change and transformation. This also includes our beloved Unity of Tustin.

It was recently announced that Jim Tyner, President of our Board of Directors has been guided to resign. Sensing into his own spiritual direction, he understood his work and service was complete. He knew he had finished what he had come to do. He had been a key player of the leadership team that had led us through the transition of ministry, from Dr. Marj Britt into the ministry of Rev. Carolyne Mathlin. Jim has been an excellent leader, providing much stability and vision for not only the ministerial transition but also for many other ministries and projects over the years that have blessed us all. And now, Jim’s wisdom is to lean into this time of change and mystery. Though he also added, “we (he and his beloved Sue) are not going anywhere!” We are grateful for his leadership and his mentorship of our board over the years. And our response to this call and change is “Yes and…”

Each of us are invited to find our yes in times of change. My yes has been a willingness to be open to this next call to leadership. My old story of the reluctant leader is no longer serving what I have been called to be and do. I’ve become aware that this old story is actually turning away from where the rubber meets the spiritual road. Where I am called to act on and from love. Synchronicity and grace brought me a quote from Marianne Williamson’s The Law of Divine Compensation, “Putting Love first means knowing that the universe supports you in creating the good, the holy and the beautiful. It means knowing that you’re on the earth for a purpose, and that purpose itself will create opportunities for its accomplishment.” What might be your call into this new Yes?

One of the ways we as your board are being called is to lean into you, our beloved community. In this time of transition we have been guided to hear from you in the form of a survey (something we have talked about for a while now). We want to know your spiritual longings and needs for these times. It is our intention to move ever more deeply into our vision of being a mystical, spiritual community, radiating Light and Love, transforming consciousness. As a holder and beacon of this light of consciousness in these times of uncertainty we especially need you. While this is a call to continue our essential practices of contemplative prayer, meditation, devotion, spiritual study, transformation of Self, conscious giving and selfless service, it is also a call into a collective mysticism, an embodied WE-mysticism.

I have been hearing and seeing this call in many of the master teachers of our time. One of my favorites is Richard Rohr, a Franciscan whose teachings embody the mystical, non dual traditions we embrace here at Unity of Tustin. I begin my day with his daily meditation. He too has been speaking of Love in the form of “WE.” He writes “the beginning and end of everything is love. Only inside the mystery of love- mutual self-emptying and infilling- can we know God. This is the greatness [of God], that it asks of all of us something we -alone, apart, separate- cannot do! Only by living in love, in communion- God in us and we in God- do we find a love flowing through us, toward us and from us that is bigger than our own.” He ends his mediation with Gandhi “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” This wisdom is also reflected in our own Unity fifth principle, “Knowing and understanding the laws of life, of Truth are not enough. A person must also live the Truth he or she knows”.

I am leaning in. Will you join me in this time, in this dance of the mystery? I am grateful to you all.

Answering the Call to Pray

Lisa Huett
Prayer Chaplain Director

It has been my honor to serve as the Prayer Chaplain Director for two years now. I find with each passing year my faith in the power of prayer only grows. I watch as our Prayer Chaplains serve selflessly every week on Sundays and make monthly prayer calls to our members. When we gather for our meetings the energy of prayer and devotion is evident. I am lifted up by their spoken and unspoken prayers. I hope you are too.

I am also touched by you and your willingness to come to us for prayer. When we rise above fear and doubt, we raise our consciousness and become more readily available to receive the blessing. I often say to myself, “do your best and let God do the rest.” Having the support of our Prayer Chaplains during challenging times and joyous times is one of the great gifts we can receive at Unity of Tustin. To know there are committed souls willing to pray with you, that do not judge the situation, but instead hold you in the highest light is a blessing. They hold what is shared in confidence, ensuring that you can share the prayers that are truly on your heart. If you haven’t asked a Prayer Chaplain to pray with you recently, I encourage you to do that. It is their honor to serve you in prayer.

For those of you who are feeling the call to join in that service, it is once again that time of year when we open up our Prayer Chaplain Ministry to new members. If you are interested, even slightly, in participating in this sacred ministry, I invite you to join me and Rev. Carolyne at our orientation on March 19 at 1 pm. At the orientation we will answer questions such as:

  • What is a Prayer Chaplain?
  • What is the role of a Prayer Chaplain?
  • Position Description
  • Expectations / Commitment
  • Training Schedule

You will also have an opportunity to ask your own questions. Email prayer@unitytustin.org for more information.

I look forward to serving with our amazing Prayer Chaplains another year as we join together in prayer.


FAQ edition 1

Why, when and how do I renew my membership?

Every year in March we send out an email to our members asking you to renew your membership for another year. This is in accordance with our bylaws that state that to be considered an active member we need a current renewal on file. This ensures that our records are up to date and that you still would like to be considered a member at Unity of Tustin. It also means you are a legal, eligible member to vote at any membership meeting. Members: please check your email box or the welcome table in the weeks leading up to the Annual Meeting for a renewal form.

What’s the difference between tickets and love offerings for classes and workshops?

A ticket is typically for an event or class that has a set price attached to attendance. You can purchase a ticket online at www.unitytustin.org or at Timeless Wisdom Bookstore during regular business hours.

We offer many classes and programs on a love offering basis. A love offering is an amount you give from your heart that reflects the value you have received in spiritual nurturing. Like tithing, a love offering is participating in the sacred flow that has its Source in God. Your love offerings go specifically to support that class including potentially compensating the presenter.

Serving in our Meals Ministry

Sandi Rynerson
Meals Ministry Coordinator

The Unity of Tustin Meals Ministry Team has been in selfless service since 2006. Our mission is to provide one or two preferably home cooked meals for our Unity of Tustin active particpants and members in times of grieving, birth, or medical challenge/recovery. While we provide meals for our members, Love is the most important component of our ministry. We see this ministry as a way to extend our heart and hands to those who are the heart and hands of our church and in need of extra support.

Even though we have worked under the radar, and have not advertised our ministry, recently the need for our ministry has increased. Since we are a small group we see that this is Spirit’s way of letting us know that it is now time to expand. Our vision is to enlarge our team so that we can better serve our Unity of Tustin community.
There are many ways in which to serve on the Meals Ministry Team:

  1. Preparing a meal
  2. Purchasing a meal
  3. Purchasing a gift card for a meal
  4. Financially contributing towards a meal
  5. Delivering a meal or being a part of the delivery team
  6. Holding this ministry and our members in prayer

Our team communicates primarily via email. Please go within and listen if you are being called to serve on this beautiful ministry of love. Please email meals@unitytustin.org if you are willing to serve. We would be honored to have you join us.

Revisiting “Holy Temple”

Rev. Carolyne Mathlin
Senior Minister

Every year on the first Sunday of the New Year I lead our community in the White Stone ceremony. This ritual is derived from a scripture in the Book of Revelation about receiving a new name written on a white stone. When I personally participate in this ceremony my intention is to go into the Silence with a clear heart and mind, remain open to the highest expression available to me and simply record what I receive. This year my word was “Holy Temple.” My rational mind immediately thought it understood the meaning. While that word hadn’t been in my consciousness, I had been wanting (and needing) to focus on my diet and exercise. Surely that’s what this word was holding for me in 2016, to treat my body as the holy temple that it is.

I’ve come to know the importance of returning to insights I’ve received over the years and probing for the deeper layers of understanding that may be there. Yes, my initial intuitions have been helpful, but typically, even when they have felt profound at the time, there is often another, deeper soul relevance to be understood. Case in point, 11 months later I’m returning to my white stone name and it is revealing a new level of meaning for me.

As I have been putting up my Christmas decorations and preparing for our December services I have once again fallen in love with Mary. I was inspired to pick up an old book The New Age Bible Interpretation by Corinne Heline. I began reading about Mary, starting with the legend of her conception. As I read, I was reminded of my time in Chartres, France in 2015 when I got to meet Mary in a new way.

Chartres is a cathedral devoted to Mary and birth. It also is home to one of the last surviving walkable ancient labyrinths. One of the highlights of my time at Chartres Cathedral was a candlelight labyrinth walk. Because the area where the in-laid stone labyrinth is was under construction, we walked a temporary labyrinth in a different section. As I walked I was able to gaze across the way to the North Rose Window, dedicated to the glorification of the virgin. There St. Anne, original Hebrew name Hanna, sits with baby Mary on her knee. I was intrigued. I had never even considered that Mary had a back story or to investigate what it was. But that’s where I left my curiosity. My interest was more in the virgin mother, not the virgin child.

Mary at the TempleSo now, late into 2016 as I once again prepare for Christmas, I’m returning to the virgin child, the legend of her conception and early childhood. Joachim and Hanna, Mary’s parents, couldn’t conceive a child and they desperately wanted one. So they turned to prayer and contemplation. Joachim went out to a remote part of the desert. Hanna stayed home in her gardens to pray and meditate. Both were visited by the Angel Gabriel who let them know they were to have a child. They came running to each other and it is said that they met at the golden gate of the city. They decided early on to dedicate their daughter to temple service and when she was three they followed through on their promise.

A temple is a dwelling place for God, built to create a sense of unity with and home in God. It is here that Mary grew up, surrounded in this physical and metaphysical unity with God. It is said that Mary’s virtue was immediately apparent and that she was known for her purity of spirit and genuine devotion. Mary is the archetype and symbol for conscious consent to God’s presence.

Mary & Anne Chartres Window - fullAs I gazed up at that North Rose Window in Chartres Cathedral I can now see that I was gaining a new perspective and building a relationship with my own Mary quality. Not the part that is fully developed and surrendered to the movement of God’s presence, but the part that has been dedicated to the temple in order to cultivate that quality. Heline writes that while a long period of preparation is necessary, “each spiritual aspirant, as you qualify for it, passes through the Rite of the Immaculate Conception.” It is not reserved for precious few. It is a part of the spiritual journey in God.

“Holy Temple” has taken on a much more nuanced meaning now. It still includes my diet and exercise, but at a much deeper level also points to a conscious understanding of the Mary quality in me. The aspect that has been living in the holy temple, devoted to serving God, understanding Divine will and living the spirit of that in my life.

The holy temple is where the dedication both begins and ends. The Mary quality in each of us opens a new portal of conscious consent to the Divine action. It comes from willingness to dedicate our life to the Divine as we know it (and by the way, be prepared for what you know of God to change over time too). Then, allow the life that flows from that dedication to come forth. Before the birth of Christed consciousness, there is the willing vessel. Without the vessel, there is no container for the awakening.

Stretch, Don’t Stress

Rev. Carolyne Mathlin, Senior Minister

As I read in The Creative Life by Eric Butterworth, “churches could be much more effective and Sunday attendance much greater if the emphasis were more on teaching than on preaching, on helping people to find their spiritual center rather than on demanding loyalty to a place of stone and stained glass.” I immediately thought, “YES!” That is one of the cornerstone values of Unity of Tustin. We are about the teachings and consciousness that invoke and evoke the Divine as YOU! Our programs, Sunday services, people, even our gardens are all specifically designed for just that purpose. And, you contribute to that. It is a collective field that holds the conscious container for the stretch we are all leaning into.

On that note, I was recently reminded of the value of stretching. Stretching the body increases flexibility, circulation of blood, energy levels, and is a great stress reliever.

During times of stress it can feel like all I’m doing is stretching – stretching to meet a deadline, to attend another meeting, to squeeze in as much as I can, to hold it all together, etc. But that’s stretching on the human plane. Stretching is about conscious movement that brings health to the whole system. There’s an intentionality to it that brings our heart, mind and body together. In yoga I’ve heard over and over again that it’s not about making the stretch painful, it’s about going to that point where you feel it and then rest into wherever you are. When I’m consciously stretching, I know when I’ve reached my muscles’ current limits. I’m aware and therefore don’t push. I rest into it.

Stress and stressful situations typically induce a conscious-less state. In stress, I’m running around (either physically or mentally), not connected and out of touch to what I’m doing, thinking or feeling. My thoughts and emotions are running my life. I’m not consciously connected with a Higher Power. I’m pushing myself so hard that I don’t know what my limit is. Instead of being aware of the pain I am in, I start deflecting it onto an outer circumstance, or perhaps shove it away in the recesses of my mind to be dealt with at a later time. That practice actually creates more stress because there is a constant running from and avoidance of reality. There is another way.

The hardest thing in these moments is to see what is really going on – that once again I’ve slipped into that place where I am pushing too hard. It is a moment of grace to actually see what is happening, because then there is an opening for another way. When I wake up to these truths, I am reminded of my fragility and vulnerability. It’s humbling. It’s also freeing. From an unchecked egoic perspective, we will want to deal with our fragility by trying to control things and setting up our life so that we are as insulated and protected as possible. It’s pushing the river.

In Chapter 7 of The Creative Life Butterworth says, “In the marketplace of life, peace may seem elusive and even unattainable, but it comes easily to the mind that is disciplined to the creative intermission.” He advocates for consistent periods of Sabbath, or rest, from the activity of our everyday lives as a way to stay connected with the Divine within. We cannot find this consciousness externally. It is an inside job. To remain conscious of the Divine requires intention. That is one of the main reasons I am so passionate about inviting you to set your commitment to spiritual practice. It is a way for you to continue to stay conscious and when you forget, to come back to your original intention.

As we turn toward setting our commitments for 2017 on November 13, I invite you to join me in remembering the difference between stress and stretching. They are not the same. As you review your intention and the spiritual practices you would like to engage with in this coming year, be aware. Go into prayer. What are the areas that would be a stretch for you, where you will feel a sense of discomfort, but then know to rest into that, bringing conscious awareness to what is arising. This will be an opening to remain aware, not checking out and reverting to your old ways that just don’t work.  Breathe into the stretch. In that space, that inspiration, you might even want to go deeper. Allow Spirit to fill you as you become fully aware of your Divine nature.

This is a holy time, a sacred time. As we prepare to go into the holiday season and then usher in a new year, this is a great way to consciously lay the foundation for how you want to remember the Divine and help your capital “S” Self be the inspiration of your life.