Tag Archive for: Rev. Carolyne’s Musings & Messages

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?

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.

The Miracle Standing Before Us

We have come to my favorite time of the year. The coming of fall means it’s time for Adventure in Faith (AIF) and then soon, the holidays. My heart goes pitter-patter in anticipation of it all. This is the perfect time to come back from your summer travels and busy-ness and give yourself the gift of being spiritually fed and inspired each Sunday at Unity of Tustin. This year, our AIF book is The Creative Life by Eric Butterworth (available in our Timeless Wisdom Books & Gifts Store) and I’m finding it is becoming one of my favorite Unity books. We’ll also be tying in each chapter to a site in our Meditation Gardens.  Modeled on the book of Genesis, our gardens are a living template of and for creation. I love that we’ll be working so deeply with this material and that you get to apply it to your life so powerfully.

As you begin your own journey in The Creative Life, there might be something you would like to hold in consciousness – a Divine Idea that is feeling ripe to you. To bring this idea into manifestation, we’ve created an AIF Passport for the Journey. This is a guidebook of spiritual teachings, a journal with space for you to record your own creative process each week. AIF is more than a personal study of a book. AIF is an opportunity for you to connect with your community in a meaningful way. Thich Nhat Hanh said “The next Buddha will be a sangha.” A sangha is a community of spiritually oriented people. AIF is our way of cultivating a stronger tie to our spiritual life and to our community.

There are several ways that we accomplish that vision. There will be home groups for you to attend, services and fun activities to participate in, and an opportunity to set your commitments to our spiritual practices both at the beginning and end of AIF.

Over the years I have noticed that the word commitment can bring up a variety of responses. I have a home loan. I have committed to pay off a part of that loan every month. I have friends. I have committed to being there for them in times of joy and sorrow. Some of our commitments are formal, others not. But the fact remains that we are constantly setting and following through (or not) on our commitments because we are constantly in relationship. Without commitment, the fabric of society falls apart. No Divine Idea can come to fruition without a commitment

Just as we are in relationship with the world, we are also in relationship with the Divine. During AIF at Unity of Tustin, we have created a comprehensive commitment form that encompasses the six spiritual practices that sustain us on our spiritual path. It is your way of consciously considering how you want to be in relationship with the Divine through practice.

For the first time we will be setting our commitments on week one of AIF so that we will have all seven weeks to consciously practice our commitments together. Considering how we want to be in relationship with the Divine is a valuable part of the spiritual journey. It helps us be aware of how and where we want to place our energy and intention. One of those practices is tithing. AIF is the perfect time to practice and put the spiritual law to the test. There is something important about giving consistently, participating in the on-going flow of abundance in your life. A great way to stay consistently in the flow of abundance is to sign up for automatic giving. Go to our website www.unitytustin.org, click on Donate Now and set up your recurring donation.

Tithing at Unity of Tustin allows you to join with your community in transforming lives and realizing God. We are a community and sacred grounds that require the circulation of our good and blessing in the form of financial abundance. As you engage in the sacred practice of tithing, you are truly part of the stewardship of our sacred community, ensuring sustainable funding for our programs, people and gardens.

On October 2, we’ll begin our journey in conscious commitment to our spiritual practice and demonstrating our devotion to Unity of Tustin. On the last Sunday of AIF, November 13, we will have our third annual Spiritual practice commitment ceremony at the 9 and 11 am services.

What miracles might be standing before you, waiting to unfold through the creative process? Let’s find out together…


Much Love,

Rev. Carolyne

Introducing Big Magic for Jan & Feb 2016

Have you been wanting to see something manifest in your world? Perhaps a new idea or a certain quality? This Sunday, January 10, 2016 I’ll officially begin our series on Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert! My talk title is “Should I Be Upset Or Grateful?” This question came out of my mouth when I was reflecting on those moments in our lives when someone else’s action or choice shaped your life. And, in reflecting on that, it leaves us wondering, “should I be upset or grateful?”

As we begin our exploration into Big Magic this type of reflection seems to be a little off topic. Except it’s not. The universe, through creation, is constantly creating. Experiences are happening all the time. Objects and structures are coming into expression every second. From the cellular level to the cosmic. There isn’t one moment that something isn’t being created. And that’s where we come in. As human beings, we are in the unique position of being conscious of the creative process.

Creative living is really about living from the Divine creative power that we are as bridges between the unseen and the seen world. Using both our metaphysical principles and our mystical experience, we become the field from which the creative impulse lives in the world. But before we go into the much more popular topics of manifestation and creativity, I want to start where Elizabeth Gilbert starts, with fear and courage. This is one of the major blocks that I have seen in any spiritual realization. And, we typically aren’t even aware of it or we are told in a more new agey sort of way to just not be afraid. I’ve even asked myself “what would I do if I wasn’t afraid?” While a good question, fear is much more complicated than that. Just like those situations I spoke of earlier, we can also ask our fear if we should be upset or grateful for its existence in our life.

The primary companion (notice I didn’t say antidote) to fear is courage. It is actually a requirement if we are to bring forth the gifts that are hidden deep within us. Ultimately, that gift is the gift of living from our awakened nature. Over the next 2 months we are going to be in relationship with the creative spirit, work with dissolving the blocks to manifestation and ultimately live a life of Big Magic. I’ll also be weaving in teachings from Discover the Power Within You by Eric Butterworth. It will be a rich time for us all as we discover what creative living really is and why it’s not just reserved for professional artists. Creative living is God’s invitation for us to show up in the world from our power. See you at Unity…