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God is everything, and therefore, a single name doesn't properly identify Him. The early Israelites called him El. They later began to call Him Jehovah and more commonly, Yahweh. But when Moses asks His name, He replies, "I am who I am." He further says to Modes, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I am has sent me to you.'" So God is everything that is, was and shall be.

Tiamat is more like "Mother Earth." Many ancient cultures describe a Mother Earth in their creation epics, usually related to fertility. The Sumerians worshipped her as Inanna, goddess of love, sensuality and fertility. The Canaanites identified Asherah as the queen consort of the god Anu, later adopted as consort to the Ugaritic and Israelite god El. Like Inanna, she was the goddess of motherhood and fertility, the Lady of the Sea. Similarly, in the Babylonian text, Enuma Elish, Tiamat is described as a dragon that was cut in half to form the waters above and below the firmament. So Tiamat is Mother Earth, including all life upon the Earth.

Mother Earth has always supplied mankind with food and water. Ancient men were hunter/gatherers and some became farmers. As we learned to store grains, we could stay in one place and build cities and cultures. Several city/states developed, including Ur, the home of Abraham, the father of the Hebrew religion. He lived at a time when climate change was weakening the Sumerian and Akkadian cities in Mesopotamia. Their culture, philosophies, ideas and even their religious observances were transferred to the cultures that succeeded them.

Sumerian and Akkadian cultures influenced the early Hebrews, as did Canaanite, Babylonian and Zoroastrian cultures on later Israelites. The Hebrews and Zoroastrians were distinctive, however, in that they recognized one omnipotent God rather than a pantheon of lesser gods and goddesses. They tended to be somewhat dualistic, because of their belief in a great conflict between good and evil, through God and Satan or Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu. It is likely that there was a period of evolution, with some overlap between polytheism and monotheism or dualism in these early cultures.

Tiamatians are pure monotheists. Since Tiamat is Mother Earth to us, our identification with her is like calling ourselves earthlings. While we identify ourselves with Tiamat, it isn't because we worship her. We simply identify her as a beautiful creation of God. She is both magnificent and tragic, full of potential but also flawed. She can exhibit traits that are good, but she can also manifest evil. This is why we are careful to worship only God, and not to deify any of His creations.

We recognize God as omnipotent and inviolate. God is an infinite singularity. Influence from God is unilateral.

We recognize Tiamat as powerful, but not omnipotent or inviolate. Tiamat has a strong influence over us all. But we also have some influence on Tiamat. Tiamat is a finite creation of God, one that has strengths and weaknesses, can be good and evil, and that will live and die.

We also do not recognize an "evil deity." There is no deity that represents an opposing force to God. The "evil" that exists is simply caused by things that oppose the Will of God. There is the potential for good in all of God's cognitive creations, and there is also the potential for evil. But none are God's equal. God is above all and is completely unaffected by any actions of any of His creations.

God is "all-knowing." He has all information contained within Him. Just like energy cannot be gained or lost - and only changes states - so too is the case for information. In a very real sense, God knows everything, how things start, how they progress and how they end. So to Him, all is known throughout eternity.

But for Tiamat and for each of us, our idea and meanderings, our choices both steps and mis-steps, all are the results of free choices that we make. We influence our individual destinies with our choices, but the end result is the same. It's like the movements of individual water molecules in a stream. Each molecule flows its own separate path through a complex and chaotic environment, but they all move downstream or are evaporated. Water goes through a predictable cycle of movements and state changes, evaporation and rain, freezing and thawing.

In the Enuma Elish, Tiamat was originally the primordial ocean that our world was made from. She was the "raw material" which was used to form the physical world. She was cut in half to create heaven and earth; Tiamat Eliti being the upper part and Tiamat Sapliti, the lower part. This is also expressed as waters above the firmament and those below being split into heaven and earth, the skies above and the oceans below.

This can also be likened to the "Big Bang" concept of the Universe. The inflation period of rapid expansion from the singularity to larger space, where primeval chaos became the natural orderly physical laws as we now perceive them. The Universe then became heaven and earth.

We live, of course, in the earthly realm. We are a part of God, and we are a part of Tiamat. God is infinite, all-knowing and perfect. Tiamat is not. She is finite and imperfect, sometimes learning through trial-and-error, sometimes not.

You can consider God to be like a collective consciousness of the entire Universe and all that is within and without. The astrophysicist says energy cannot be destroyed or lost, it only changes states. Similarly, information cannot be destroyed or lost, it only moves from one domain to another. The information that is collectively contained in all the radiated energy and in each and every atomic particle of the Universe was there always and will be there indefinitely. That is God.

Likewise, you can view Tiamat as a collective consciousness of the Earth and all creatures living on Earth. She is a part of God, and she evolves and learns from her mistakes because mankind itself grows and changes.

The fact that the cycle of life goes on indefinitely is a form of immortality. Not immortality of the self, but immortality of the community, or of life, itself. Everything is perfect, the system works exactly as it should. It is one way God is manifested in His creation.

God will never lose information, but individuals and organizations can, by forgetfulness or by failing to document what is known to pass between individuals in a society. God will never make a mistake or learn anything new because He cannot - He is infinite, inviolate and absolute. But Tiamat will learn and forget, grow stronger and become weaker, live and die.

It is not particularly productive to consider the viewpoint of God, or to ponder what it might be like to be a singularity that contains all knowledge. None of us will ever experience that or need to know much about how He works. But it might be useful to at least understand the concept. It helps to know that from the perspective of God, everything is known. It is also useful to know that His Will isn't expressed by intervention but by natural cause-and-effect.

In a very real sense, the scientist that studies physics knows more about God than the ascetic monk who avoids all excesses by avoiding experiences. By studying the properties of the Universe, a person can know many aspects of the Will of God. But that's not all there is to know about God's Will, of course.

An arrogant scientist may lack humility and empathy, two things that are very important. The scientist may be totally lacking in social skills, as a result. Such a person will probably have a hard time finding happiness. The monk, in contrast, may know nothing about the Universe but may be empathetic and serene, humble and compassionate. He may have a great relationship with his fellow monks and enjoy a wonderful life in his monastery. So the monk would then have a better understanding of God's Will in the ways that matter most.

"Nothing happens in God's world by mistake." This is an axiom that we live by. It reminds us that everything works out towards good in the end.

But it implies predestination, and that seems at odds with the concept of "free will." The concept of free will is not just a mere theory, nor is the concept of predestination. Both are absolute facts. Both are simultaneously true.

One might ask, "How is this possible?" It would appear that "free will" and "predestination" are mutually exclusive. But, in fact, they are not. The seeming difference is purely a matter of perspective.

From God's viewpoint, everything is known so everything is predestined. All information is contained within God, as is all energy and all matter. They're all just parts of God.

From our viewpoint, we have choices and can alter our destiny. We can make choices that are good for us or choices that are bad for us. We live and die by those choices. Our quality of life is affected by those choices. We are not in control of our destiny, but we certainly have influence by way of our choices.

So for each of us, quite a lot happens in our worlds by mistake. Sometimes we learn, sometimes not. And sometimes the only way to know if our choices were mistakes or not is to give time, to wait and watch their fruits.

The words natural and supernatural should blend together for you. Most people consider supernatural things to be things beyond this world in some way. They consider natural things to obey the laws and rules of our physical world. But by that conception, supernatural things are either misunderstood natural things or they are exaggerations or myths. Because there is only one set of true laws and that is God's Laws.

We never expect God to perform miracles that would violate His natural Laws to save or to satisfy us. We do not pray for things that would require God's Laws to be modified for our purpose, even if that purpose is unselfish and seems to be good. This would be no different than witches, necromancers and other occultists that believe they can use the force of their own wills to influence some deity to perform certain acts.

One can pray to a deity to be given the gift of supernatural flight. A person could hope to fly by the force of their willpower, as a result from some magic incantation. They may actually begin to believe that if they pray in some special magical way they will be given the gift of supernatural flight. Some people become very lost in this kind of distorted thinking.

None of that works.

But you can pray to God to be given the gift of natural flight. He will show you birds and suggest that you emulate them. You may study God's Laws of physics, like gravity, inertia and aerodynamics. You can learn how to build an airplane and enjoy the gift of flight.

Similarly, the ways we interact with each other are governed by God's Laws. These are actually some of the most difficult things to learn. Because we must learn how we ourselves think and act. We must learn our motivations and desires. And we also have to see our fellows accurately, to communicate and to understand them. That's when we will have the best relations with other people, and that's when we will be most happy.

As an example, if you are good to people, you will naturally attract them. If you make a mistake and damage a relationship with someone, you will have pushed them away. You can make restitution and take other appropriate actions. If the other person decides to forgive you, then the relationship may heal. There are causes and effects in relationships, just like there are causes and effects in physical laws. Prayers to God should consider this obvious fact and not expect Him to change other people in miraculous ways. Do not pray that someone forgive you - Instead pray that you have the abilities to do the right thing, whatever the outcome.

That's how to learn God's Will and how to apply yourself within His Laws.

Accordingly, when praying, consider your internal dialog with God to be more like asking a teacher how to live, how things work and what to do in your own life rather than asking him to affect change in others or in the world around you. Even if what you ask for is positive change in another persons' life or for things like world peace, your prayer needs to be focused instead on what you can do to affect positive change or what you can do to help bring peace. You can ask for help with your attitudes and your focus, and you can ask for help directing your actions. And always be focused on how grateful you are for the beauty of this life and the lessons you have learned along the way.

Prayers are sometimes well-meaning but misdirected. They can be unselfish, yet still ask for "miracles" from God that violate His Laws. Such prayers give the subtle impression that we can direct God's attention, or that somehow our altruistic prayers might influence God into action. These are subtle attempts to play God ourselves, and can lead to frustration or even resentment if the well-meaning prayers are seemingly "unanswered."

Zoroastrian and Hebrew laws direct specific actions, which help guide a person in "right ways." They direct us towards good words, good thoughts and good deeds. However, we also must realize that we are animals, and are driven by our instincts, desires and passions. Sometimes our instincts put us in collision with others, and we are prone to make mistakes.

The Christian monk Evagrius Ponticus described principal vices which are sometimes called the "seven deadly sins." These form a partial list of the kinds of mistakes we can make that get us off track. In contrast, spiritual laws, practices and traditions are specific directions that guide us away from sins and lead us towards a path of prosperity and serenity.

Christian traditions teach that we prioritize the importance of each action, especially where spiritual laws are seemingly in conflict. For example, if you encounter someone in urgent need of medical attention, Jesus suggested that it would be best to break rest and take action - even if on the Sabbath - to aid that person. The urgency of the situation outweighs the benefits of rest on the Sabbath.

Of course, this is no longer true if someone lives in a compulsive manner that brings them constantly in conflict with the Sabbath rule, which will eventually cause a person to become spiritually unfit, exhausted and irritable. With some contemplation and prayer, it is easy to see that the Sabbath Law is there to help bring balance, to prevent a person from becoming obsessed with their work and to ensure that there is at least one day of rest and meditation.

An honest personal inventory is what's really important, because spiritual laws can be easily misinterpreted to justify improper action. A slothful person can point to the Sabbath law and feel superior when, in fact, what they really need is to work on any day, be it the Sabbath or not. Honesty of motives is one of the kinds of things expressed in the Christian texts.

Another part of the Christian tradition is its emphasis on God's Grace. Jesus taught that God would forgive sins, so we should seek constant improvement rather than to expect perfection. The Christian recognizes the unavailing goal of perfection and depends on God's forgiveness.

Tiamatians adopt each of these, in balance. We acknowledge our primal instincts and drives, and we do not attempt to hide them. However, we do ask God for steady growth, for evolutionary change in our habits towards adherence to God's Laws. We are thankful for God's Grace, and try to make acceptance and forgiveness part of our own lives as well. We focus less on others and more on ourselves in our efforts to improve our understanding of God's Laws and our application of those Laws on our own lives.

Almost every religion uses allegories, parables and other imaginative creations to paint a picture of God, the universe and man's part in it. There are many useful lessons in each religion and the wisdom expressed therein is both supremely useful and beautifully expressed for the readers' edification.

However, parables and imaginative creations are only beneficial when put into action. Religious and philosophical stories are intended to teach lessons, and to influence our thoughts and actions.

So when mentoring, do your best to be succinct. We think it best not to get too wordy, to help prevent the student from getting lost in interpretation. We are practical people, and we find it best to have clearly defined actionable methods for spirituality.

We propose actions to be taken regularly and also actions to be taken in response to issues that arise in life. The better you are able to make habits of these good kinds of behaviors, the more fully you are able to live in God's Will, and to be successful and happy as a result.

There are three aspects of humanity that are both blessing and curse. One is our intelligence, another is our will and the third is our habits.

Our intelligence is high enough that we are curious about our world and so we endeavor to understand it. We can become more and more skilled at understanding the laws of God and applying them successfully. But we can also become arrogant, which paradoxically tends to move towards closed-mindedness. We may cease trying to continually improve our understanding of the laws of God.

Our willful nature tends to motivate us to interact with our environment in ways that benefit us. So we can improve our conditions. But we can also become stubborn, which paradoxically causes us to do things that are counter to our best interests.

And we rely on habits, which is good because it allows us to train ourselves to do things "automatically," without having to use our conscious mind to complete tasks. We are able to form habits that make life easier, almost without effort, allowing us to use our conscious mind to explore interesting ideas. But we can also develop bad habits, which cause us to harm ourselves rather than to help ourselves.

So we must be aware of these traits, to refrain from arrogance and stubbornness, and to break bad habits when we find them and replace them with good habits.

People rarely do things purely because they are ethical or moral. That's not human nature. We do things because we wish to gain something or are afraid of the consequences. So ethics and morals are actually skills we develop and refine as a result of living with other people. They are relationship skills. We do things because they benefit us in the long run, and "morality" is really just learned behavior. It is an understanding that in the end, sometimes it is better to take the "high road" rather than the "quick fix" or immediate gratification.

Our emotional needs are simple, but powerful. They are distinct from our intellectual and physical needs, but are intertwined. For example, our physical needs for sleep, food, water and shelter in a safe environment can affect our emotional needs if neglected.

Other physical influences include our hormonal drives, which push us towards fulfilling physical and emotional needs. Hormonal drives can be huge, and have an enormous power to drive us in both good and bad directions. As an example, when startled, adrenaline is produced which will drive a person into fight or flight mode. When sexually aroused by any of the senses, we will be similarly driven.

So it's important to understand what physical mechanisms drive us and to make good choices when fulfilling needs to satisfy hormonal urges. Because when driven by hormones we can make choices (or sometimes blind reactions) that have a huge effect on our emotions. But again, physical needs are separate from emotional needs, although they are very much intertwined.

There are four basic emotional/spiritual needs. Our first and most important is a connection with God, which brings serenity, security and acceptance. Second is a connection to oneself, which provides self-esteem, recognition and expression. Third is connections with other people, which provides emotional and physical intimacy. And last is engagement or interaction with our environment. We feel a need to do things, sometimes alone and sometimes with others, or we become bored. We may feel pride in a job well done. We can enjoy recreation. And we must also provide for our physical needs.

Connection with God is most important. In some sense it is automatic, but is easily lost. When we have all the other emotional needs in order, it is easiest to find a connection with God, but ironically, it's the connection with God that allows all the other emotional needs to manifest themselves. So we have to find acceptance in God's Will to have serenity, and that in turn, allows us to fulfill the rest of our emotional needs.

Connection with people is next most important, starting with our mothers and fathers. Ideally, we sense the connections from mom and from dad. We feel that they adore all our little cooing and actions and every little thing. This also helps us grow our connection with self, by improving self-esteem and recognition attributes. We also probably want to please them, and we adore their qualities. These are things we'll look for in all future intimate relationships.

Connection with self is really required as a pre-requisite to connection with God or with people, but like other needs, these are all intertwined. The Greeks had a word for this, philautia, which could be used to describe selfishness, arrogance or narcissism but could also be used to describe a healthy form of "self-love." That is the form we seek, a calm confidence of knowing ones-self. In order to have a healthy self-esteem, you need a connection with God and with people. So these connections have to be developed simultaneously, and they grow simultaneously. The better you can express yourself and the more empathy you have to understand others' needs, the better your relations with others will be and the more that is reflected back to you as improved self-esteem. To know one's true self helps to understand others.

Engagement action, be it work or recreation, is an emotional need that can be satisfied while alone. Most would probably rather experience things with other people, because that fulfills both the need for engagement and also the needs for connections with other people. But the fact of the matter is you can enjoy a variety of activities while alone. On the other hand, it can be a problem for some that have limited abilities to connect with others, in that they try to get all their needs met with "exciting" activities. A person can have a life full of adventure, but still craving intimacy, feeling alone and never satisfied.

There is one precondition required before emotional needs can be satisfied, and that is the need for safety. When a person is in "survival mode," their emotional needs shift towards primal instincts for food, shelter and protection from harm. One becomes less concerned, for example, with building intimate connections when they are fighting for survival.

But once a person's basic physical needs are met and they begin to feel safe in their environment, they then find themselves searching for satisfaction of their emotional and spiritual needs. Many find themselves shifting between "survival mode" and "enlightenment mode" at different times in their lives, or sometimes even at different times of the day.

Imagine a time when man was still pre-cognitive. The "cycle of life" wasn't something he understood or even tried to comprehend. Everything was animal instinct to survive.

Then imagine the transition to cognition. Mankind had eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. No longer was man free from pondering the nature of life, and why things are as they are. Man began to contemplate the order of things, and in fact, he had to.

These are states we can still find ourselves in. When in "survival mode," we have a different set of emotional difficulties than when in "enlightenment mode."

For example, when struggling for basic needs, one rarely has time and energy to ponder the reasons why a romantic relationship is difficult. Then again, when in survival mode, one is often afraid that their basic needs might not be met, or they may even be in danger. Each has a different set of emotional difficulties.

Everyone has a god, whether they think so or not. Whatever you focus on the most - that is your god. Best for your god to be the One God.

This can be difficult with respect to mates. Your spouse is someone that you focus on more than any other person. That is how it should be. But be careful to maintain realistic expectations and to worship God first and foremost. Be careful not to place too much reverence on your spouse because that's not fair to them or to you. Depend only on God, because only God is perfect, absolute and inviolate.

Just like Tiamat is Mother Earth, whom we have a dependency upon for our very lives, our spouse is also most important. It's easy to feel connected with people or with things in nature, because you can touch and feel them. You drink the water from Mother Earth and eat her fruits. You might respect your nation and depend on its laws. You caress your spouse and make love and build a family. So it is normal and natural to place them on a pedestal most high. And it is good and proper to do so.

But never forget that Tiamat is not God, and neither is your country or your spouse. They will make mistakes. They will let you down. And if you haven't maintained the proper focus on God, then you will resent the people in your life for their mistakes. You may grow spiritually sick and make your family and possibly others around you sick also. So if you fail to keep God as your ultimate, you can multiply the pain rather than to bring healing. Don't let something or someone else be your God, or you will surely lose them.

There are seven types of love:

   1. Love, Reverence, Self-Subordination: This first type of love is the highest form, reserved only for God. It is an absolute and unconditional subordination of the will. The willingness to subordinate one's will to God is the highest form of love and is reserved solely for God. To subordinate one's will this fully to any other person, place or thing causes problems. It is what is described in some religious texts as the sin of idolatry. But it is important to love God this way, and not be conditional in your reverence.

   2. Love, Charity, Goodwill: The Greeks have a word for this kind of love, agape, which is the highest form of unselfish nonsubordinate love. It is the kind of unconditional love that God has for man. Agape is used in ancient texts to denote feelings for one's children and the feelings for a spouse, and it was also used to refer to a love feast. It can also be used for altruism, "to will the good of another."

   3. Love, Lust, Passion, Desire: The Greek language uses the word eros to describe this kind of love. It means "love, mostly of the sexual passion." The modern Greek word "erotas" means "intimate love." But it can also be a non-sexual passion, even for an inanimate object or non-sexual activity. Eros can initially be felt for a person, but with contemplation one may find they are really feel appreciation of the beauty within that person, or even of beauty itself. Eros may seem to be shallow to some people, but it actually is very important and has a great deal of staying power.

   4. Love, Friendship, Affection, Companionship: Greeks use the word philia, which means "affectionate regard, friendship," usually "between equals." It is a dispassionate virtuous love, a concept developed by Aristotle. In his well-known work, Nicomachean Ethics, philia is expressed variously as loyalty to friends (specifically, "brotherly love"), family, and community, and requires virtue, equality, and familiarity. Furthermore, in the same text, philia denotes a general type of love, used for love between family, between friends, a desire or enjoyment of an activity, as well as between lovers.

   5. Love, Acceptance, Tolerance: In Greek, the word is storge, which means "love, affection" and "especially of parents and children." It is the common or natural empathy, like that felt by parents for offspring. Rarely used in ancient works, and then almost exclusively as a descriptor of relationships within the family. It is also known to express mere acceptance or putting up with situations, as in "loving" the tyrant. This is also used when referencing the love for one's country or a favorite sports team. It is the kind of love one has for extended families, in-laws, people that are tolerated and respected even if not with a close bond.

   6. Love, Love-of-Convenience, Passive-Love, Like, Favorite, Enjoy: When someone says, "I love that dress" or "I love steak" what they really mean is they like this person, place or thing very much. It can rise higher than "like" though, more like a favorite thing. It is sometimes confused with eros, because it is also a lustful type of love. But it lacks the passion and drive. The most beautiful girl in the room will fill you with this convenience-love. Time will tell if she's more than that to you.

It is worthwhile to explain the difference between this convenience-love and eros. Eros is a good thing in marriage, and it's a good thing in "labors of love" because it can keep a fire burning. But convenience-love lacks the passion of eros. It can feel like eros at times, but it doesn't have the staying-power of eros. It can really get you in trouble sometimes, because it's the one most likely to drive you to make bad choices hoping to get what you want. If you are willing to do the work to maintain the person, place or thing you desire, you have eros. But if you are easily distracted towards something else, or if you aren't willing to put much energy into maintaining a relationship, then you have this passive kind of convenience-love.

   7. Love, Love-in-Principle, Minimal-Acceptance, Tolerance-at-a-Distance: This is the lowest form of love, like the "accepting a tyrant" usage of storge. It is what you have when you set a boundary between yourself and a person, place or thing that would otherwise likely cause strong negative reactions. If you fail to maintain healthy boundaries with this person, place or thing, you will likely develop resentments that may even rise to the level of hatred if allowed to persist. This is the hardest kind of love to achieve, so even though it is lowest, it is probably the most important kind of love to master.

Love for your mate is a combination of all the types of love below the first one, reserved only for God. It is mostly the top two types of loves - The ones just underneath the self-subordinate love for God. The Greeks called these two kinds of love agape and eros. When you find your mate, you will feel both of those at their highest levels.

It's tricky to get this one right, because when you feel this strongly about a person, you can begin to place them on a pedestal, even above God. If you know better, you may tell yourself that you love God more. That's a good start. But it's easy to pay more attention to your sexual partner than to God, and that can put you on a dangerous path.

The goal is to find a mate that you cherish more than any other person, one that you want to do everything with. But this kind of intense longing makes you feel vulnerable and unsafe, so you will tend to want to protect yourself. That will cause you to lack some kinds of intimacy. You will sometimes have a hard time being yourself.

It's a paradox because the right mate is someone that you will trust to love you and understand you. But the right mate is also someone that you will want recognition from more than anyone else. So the competing emotions of trust and longing - one a calm knowing and the other a nervous excitement - will tend to keep you off balance a little bit.

The intense longing will calm somewhat, but in the right mate, you will still feel passion and desire. Trust will grow from years of experience with your mate, times that you have nurtured and supported each other. So even after many years, in the right mate, you will feel desire and longing eros combined with trusting and nurturing agape love.

Another tricky part is trusting God while feeling the heated emotions of romantic love. While finding your mate, and at many times during your relationship with your mate, you will feel emotions that tend to drive you to place more focus on your mate than on God. In the beginning, you will feel an intense longing, an obsession to be with your mate. That's both good and bad. It's good because it is the very core of the bond between you and your mate. But it's bad because it can reduce your focus on God. It can be a very real form of idolatry.

If that occurs, you will lose your ability to depend on God, and you will place an unhealthy dependence on your mate. It will turn ugly, subtly at first but increasingly pathetic and/or controlling and manipulative. So that's tricky. You want to have your mate on a pedestal, but not one higher than God.

When the relationship has matured, you should become comfortable with each other. That's a great place to be, but it's also a time when both you and your mate begin to become complacent. Be on guard that you maintain yourself in all areas. Maintain your appearance. Maintain your friendships and other healthy relationships outside the home. Maintain your work ethic and your hobbies. Stay well-rounded and balanced in life. Because you do not want to narrow your focus solely to the day to day responsibilities of maintaining the home. You will become bored and resentful, and your mate will too. It's a slow and gradual slope, so be careful to avoid it.

And of course, there are difficult times too. There are times you will be anxious and afraid. There will be times when you are angry. Life brings many problems that don't have immediate solutions, and some of them are heart-wrenching. Those are times you will be tempted to blame your mate or to make the mistake of expecting them to solve your problems for you. The way that usually happens is you have a mutual problem, and you overlook your part or simply "delegate" the whole thing to your mate.

Another common mistake is to have an emotional problem - some slight insecurity or grudge - and to view your mate as being responsible rather than to just work through it. That's a path of resentment, when what we want is the path of forgiveness and acceptance. The path of resentment is a very unhappy path that only gets uglier and uglier. It is the way of increasing loneliness and bitterness. The path of acceptance and forgiveness is sweet and tender, full of warmth and passion.

In each of these, the answer truly is to remember that the first love and first focus must be on God, or all things fall apart. It is not wise to put your mate on a pedestal above God, because then you will lose your mate. It is also not wise to get "stuck in a rut," with your only focus on the daily grind. And it is not wise to get stuck on a resentment, insecurity or another fear, because that's an unhealthy focus too. All these are ways we put more focus on our mates than on God. The love of God is the only place for self-subordinate reverence.

In relationships, those who are highly passionate will have a different set of problems than those that are more steadfast. Passionate people tend to be wildly enthusiastic about something, but they also tend to lose interest after a while. Steadfast people tend to warm much more slowly, and may never seem to get hot, but they also rarely burn out. Look at yourself to determine where you are on the passion scale.

If you are steadfast, you can find a suitable mate and be entirely happy for your whole life. You can build a life together that is free of strife, provided you choose well. If you are passionate, you will need to commit only to those that you feel you cannot live without. And even then, this yearning must exist for years before you can know if it is lasting, or if instead, the one you are obsessing about is just the next in a succession of obsessions.

Finding your truest mate takes some time. Attraction through eros is primal and automatic, but learning whether there is lasting agape love takes time. Both must be at the highest levels for a happy romantic relationship.

Some cultures allow individuals to choose mates and other cultures have the parents arrange the bond. Both can work well, as long as the passionate eros and the altruistic agape forms of love are maximized. That is the true requirement. One is a sort of selfish love, it's the longing and the desire to please oneself. The other is the selfless love, it's the desire to please your mate and to do what is best for them. As long as both of these loves are maximized, the relationship will be a happy one.

In the process of finding and living with your mate, you will probably suffer some disappointments. Most people have to endure a broken heart from time to time. The way to heal a broken heart and to minimize obsession is to have a network of family and friends. Be emotionally intimate with mentors, apprentices and friends so you do not have an unhealthy singular dependence on only one person, even if - or perhaps especially if - that one person is your mate.

Notice that your network of family and friends must already be in place. If you have made the mistake of isolating yourself when you find yourself in a difficult romantic relationship, your heart will be even more hurt and healing more difficult. In that case, you must endure the pain alone, but as soon as you are able, start finding friends and building your network of friends. This is important at all times in life, so do not allow yourself to become isolated again.

Platonic intimacy must be first. Not physical intimacy, but emotional intimacy. One must have emotional intimacy with a network of friends before romantic intimacy is found. Romantic intimacy is always better when both partners have a strong network of family and friends having close emotional bonds. It also helps each partner to endure hardships of all kinds.

When suffering a broken heart - which can happen at any age but especially happens a lot in the teenage years and twenties - there are different scenarios. The breakup can be mutual, or it can be more unilateral, prompted by one partner or the other. Either way, you will be in shock. Then you will begin to feel grief and sadness, anger and disappointment. But the feelings are slightly different, depending on who is more dissatisfied and why each person is upset.

If the feelings are mutual, which is rare but happens, then the anger and shock are lessened. This is usually an evolutionary "growing apart." You will feel deep sadness and loss, but it will pass in time. Endure the sadness and trust that God will provide a truer love for you.

If your partner is mostly responsible, then you will feel lost and afraid, sad and lonely. You may try to influence them, to "change their mind." But you will begin to sense there is nothing you could have done. So you will feel powerless and there is some resignation of that fact. You may still "get stuck" though. In this case, the form of the obsession is usually an inability to accept the situation. In a sense, you can get stuck in the grieving process. It's like permanent waiting.

If you are the one that precipitated the breakup, there is one additional component. You will feel responsible for breaking the relationship and you will feel responsibility for the pain. You might start thinking you made a mistake, that things weren't so bad after all. You may be tempted to reunite or to "fix" things to remove the pain. Refrain from that, because there's a reason you weren't satisfied in the first place. So reuniting to reduce the pain will not work - You will eventually become dissatisfied and leave again. You can get stuck in a back-and-forth "yo-yo" pattern that makes things even worse - breaking up and reuniting over and over again.

Our instincts are God-given. They are part of our nature and they are useful driving signals. Our troubles are always caused by instincts that are either suppressed or obsessed. It's a mistake to suppress an instinct, and it's also a mistake to demand that our instincts be overly-satisfied. And since others have instincts too, it's important that we respect each-others' needs.

Suppression of an instinct often leads to an obsession with the very same instinct.

That's why it is important for you to explore your desires and find a mate that you can express them with. And allow them to express their fantasies too. Provide for all their wants and needs, which requires compatibility, understanding and willingness.

Do not fall into the trap of feeling shame for your desires. You are an animal and have primal drives. That is how you were created, and these urges are created by God. The desire for arousal is not much different than the desire to eat or to sleep. It is a physical craving.

So rather than feeling shame for a perceived weakness, understand this craving and explore it with your mate. Learn what your mate craves too, and provide release for those desires.

There are some that think it is more spiritually "pure" to repress their sexual desires and fantasies. This ignores the fact that God made us with these drives. So to ignore this reality is to misunderstand God.

In general, men are motivated by sights and sensations. Men tend to be easily seduced by erotic images and revealing clothing styles. Men also like flirtation and sexually suggestive conversation.

Women tend to be motivated more by romantic conversation and gestures. They also enjoy flirtation, but are more aroused by emotional intimacy than by physical suggestion.

Of course, these are generalizations and there is a lot of overlap in what men and women like. But the point is these are the kinds of things that cause arousal. And another point is that we are all aroused by our thoughts and senses, and those feelings are normal and good. Which brings us to the most important point, which is that it is very important to continue to arouse and seduce your mate during the entire relationship, not just during the courtship phase.

Men and women intuitively know to use flirtations and seduction techniques in order to draw potential mates near to them. As we mature, we observe what seems to work best for us and we refine our style. It is sometimes a conscious effort but more often, it is semiconscious.

We seduce potential mates in the beginning to try and secure the relationship. But a very common mistake is to slowly reduce our seductions once we feel the relationship is secure. That's not good for the relationship at all.

The same lustful fantasies that our mates had when we met - the ones we encouraged by flirting and seducing them - are all still there no matter how long we've been in the relationship. That's how we're built.

But if we become complacent and do not continue to seduce our mates, those fantasies are likely to be directed elsewhere. We will become common to them, and we will lose our seductive charm. Our mate will begin to take us for granted. They will be vulnerable to other temptations.

Find out what arouses your mate and provide those stimulations for them. Continue to explore them, and to provide for them. Do not become complacent or distracted, and never seek to judge or show discomfort or disgust.

If you feel discomfort or disgust, then you may have failed to honestly look at your own desires and motivations. You may have misrepresented yourself or you may be ashamed of your own feelings. If you find this to be the case, seek yourself to learn why. Have others influenced you to feel this way? Do you think there are moral or ethical rules that forbid your desires or those of your mate? Or is it that you find it to be an unwanted or unsafe path?

Let's look at an example. A husband enjoys seeing his wife in a seductive manner of dress. He is aroused when he sees her in provocative and revealing clothing. He is further aroused by his wife when she is somewhat aggressive romantically, especially when she shows that she is trying to seduce him. But his wife feels uncomfortable and exposed wearing revealing clothes. She thinks people seeing her in those clothes judge her. And she isn't comfortable with seducing her husband with sexual advances unless she has had a few glasses of wine first. She prefers being the one who is being pursued.

The right thing to do would be for the wife to look inside herself to see what causes her to feel uncomfortable. It could be that she was influenced throughout her life by people that gave her an inflated sense of shame in her sexuality. But if she is a Godly woman, why is she so concerned about other people's thoughts? Why is she concerned that others might think she had "low morals" if she dresses mildly suggestively? Isn't her motive to arouse and seduce her husband good and proper?

A thorough inventory shows that her discomfort is caused by fear and pride. She is afraid of rejection and ridicule, and she wants to control what other people think. She thinks it is better to live by a code of conduct that she believes is "pure" and "moral," and towards this aim, she wants to appear to be modest. Now she might examine whether her outward modesty is actually more pure and moral, or if it has more to do with projecting a certain image. She will want to examine the sincerity of her motivations, and how important they are to her.

So now she might consider whether or not her presentation should stay or if maybe she might be willing to change. This is entirely up to her. Is it better to have strangers think she is prudent and modest than it is to have her husband become aroused by her appearance? Or would it be better to amend her behavior to dress more seductively? Or is it possibly that her attire is stylish as it is, and that her husband wants clothing styles that are more erotic than appropriate?

Perhaps a compromise is best. Maybe she could dress conservatively enough to maintain her appearance of prudency, but provocatively enough to arouse her husband. The attention she generates might make her proud of herself in a different way too. Instead of being proud of her supposed "high moral character," she might find herself proud that her husband and all the other men around her find her very attractive. She might find that prudence and allure aren't mutually exclusive.

But she might instead take the position with her husband that he should be ashamed of himself for even wanting such a thing. She might say it in words, or she might give nonverbal clues that let him know she thinks he is immoral to want such things. She uses shame to influence her husband to refrain. She hopes to control his actions instead of her own.

This has an unintended side effect. Her husband may feel some shame, but since not all woman have these motivations and act as his wife does, many others will dress suggestively and he will naturally be attracted to them. He may still love his wife very much, and he may find her most attractive. But he will be attracted to other women, and will be conflicted. This will make him want to see his wife in those clothes even more. And if his wife notices this conflict and redoubles her efforts to influence him with shame, he will begin to resent her for it. None of that brings the couple closer together.

Similarly, the husband may try to influence his wife by being too demanding. Instead of allowing her time to find her own way, he may try to push her into doing the things he wants. He might tell her how many other women dress provocatively, and to subtly insult her. He might trigger some fears in her, implying that he could give his attentions to other women. After all, he might explain, there are plenty of other women that would love to have him.

Of course, this doesn't make his wife want to run right out and purchase revealing dresses and sensual swimwear. It makes her hurt, scared and angry. She may tell herself that it's just a phase and that he would not really do anything to hurt her like that. But if this behavior continues, she will start thinking he might. She will become insecure in the relationship and her desire to please her husband will decrease. Eventually she will grow cold and stop even caring.

These kinds of mistakes are all too common. It's an emotional trap to try to make someone else feel ashamed for their temptations or their inner motivations. Instead of taking the effort we did in the beginning to arouse our mates, we might make the mistake of trying to control them through shame or guilt. Or we might resort to other techniques, like using their fear of loss of security, making them think they may lose us, suffer financial hardship or other kinds of spoken or implied threat. Obviously, none of these things will bring the desired result. We cannot force someone else into a romantic mood. Certainly not with escalating ugliness.

So the answer is obvious when you think about it. Give your mate what they desire most. And let them change from time to time. Let them explore new romances and passions. Give these things to your mate, and your mate will choose you every time. Don't give them any reason to stray.

This all requires compatibility and reciprocity. It will only work if both parties act this way and live by this same set of values. If either side fails, the other side will eventually fail too. So it is important that you have chosen your mate well because you cannot do this alone.

You can only do your part. You can give all the attention, caring and seduction that you gave your mate during the courtship phase. You can give them your honesty and your willingness. You can tell them what you want, and be willing to provide for them what they want. You can give them your patience and tolerance. You can give them everything that you have to give, and you should.

But that's all you can do. Be sure that you do not begin to bend in a way that's solely done to appease your mate if they become "stuck" in a controlling or manipulative mode. That can be tricky, because you do want to give them everything they desire as long as there is reciprocity. That's the key thing to watch for. If you sense that your mate is not giving back their love but instead giving back a form of manipulation or control, then the relationship is in trouble in a way you have little influence over. All you can do then is to give your honesty. Talk about what you see. Tell your mate how you feel. Hopefully, they can get themselves back on track.

You must do what you can to be a healthy person and a good mate, and you must trust them to do the same. You cannot control them and you should not try. You can tell your mate what you need and what you want, but limit your comments to that. Resist the temptation to say things you think your mate should change.

If you think your mate needs to change something about themselves, then you will be tempted to control or manipulate them. That's an unhealthy path and is very dangerous for the relationship. So do not focus on what you think your mate needs to change. Instead, focus on what needs to be changed in yourself, on what to do to help yourself accept the situation.

Let's look at an example. Let's say your husband becomes obnoxious when drinking. He has a tendency to say ugly things or to be inappropriate around other people. Maybe he has become complacent with his romantic gestures and rarely wants to go out on dates with you.

You do not want to say hurtful things that might make your husband ashamed. You do not want to try and control or manipulate him into changing, even though change is ultimately what you want. You have to trust him to correct his own behavior. If you cannot trust him to do this, then you have a bigger problem than his drinking.

The right thing to do is to tell him that you are uncomfortable with the ways he talks when he is drinking, and that you are longing for more romance and date nights. It is entirely reasonable to be honest about your feelings and to ask for what you want.

If he is a good husband, he will respond to your request. You have to trust him to do that.

If he cannot, then you may have chosen the wrong mate. He will either correct himself eventually or he won't. If he doesn't and things continue to worsen, then you may have chosen the wrong mate and you may need to reconcile yourself to that fact and make other choices. Remove yourself from him, and begin a new chapter of life. It is possible that he might grow and change and become the man you thought he was at a later date. You can reunite then.

Let's look again at the earlier example about the wife's attire. Let's say your wife has become complacent and rarely dresses attractively. Maybe she doesn't want to have sex as often as you'd like.

You do not want to tell her how homely she looks, or to make her feel ashamed about herself in any way. You do not want to tell her how many other women would want to be with you or openly flirt with other women. You shouldn't try to force her into change because that will only make her become hurt and resentful and will ultimately make matters worse.

The right thing to do is to tell her that you yearn for her and want to have romantic dates again like you did before you were married. Bring her roses and love letters. Shower her with praise. If you do not see her the way you used to, then just remember how you used to see her. Phrase your romantic gestures towards that girl - the one you dated before you were married. Tell her that you crave her attentions, want to date her and make love more often. Tell her that you are really struggling with that and you want to express your passions within your marriage bond.

If she is a good wife, she will respond to your request. She will begin to dress to arouse you, and she will explore more erotic passions in the bedroom. You will have to trust her to do that.

You may have to give her some time to settle into a new pattern. She may have become complacent and let herself get out of shape. She may be self-conscious about it, and that may be the root cause. So she may start on a course of self-improvement before she begins to approach you. She may join a fitness club or get a makeover. If you see those things start happening, then date nights and passionate lovemaking are probably not far behind.

But if she doesn't respond, then you may have chosen the wrong mate. If she resorts to insults or trying to make you feel ashamed for your desires, then she may be trying to control and manipulate you. If this becomes an ongoing pattern, where she seems to always be complacent and rarely tries to satisfy your romantic desires, then you may have chosen the wrong mate. If she regularly demeans you and suggests that you are asking for too much, then you may have to consider your choices.

In each of these cases, it is very important that you assess the situation honestly and fairly. Take care of your problems and give your mate time to address theirs. Don't sit and allow resentments to grow and fester, but don't overreact and make hasty decisions either. Usually, when one partner starts to slip, the other will too. So once you start to become unsatisfied with something, both you and your mate have probably started slipping into some of these unhealthy patterns. Give some time to work them out.

The best way to be happily married is to continually try to give all the attention you can to your mate. Give them everything you can to arouse them and attract their attention. Never stop dating them. Get married to them every day.

Life is precious and special for each of us. But for God, life is abundant everywhere.

It is natural to think of God as having a sort of paternal and loving influence. But the truth is that God doesn't make direct intervention in our affairs. He goes on, within us and without us. It may seem cold, but the truth is that God is not affected by any sort of emotional attachment to life. Life is a natural force that is a part of Him, one that is manifested in many ways and in many places.

Tiamat, our Mother Earth, is teaming with life. She is where life began for us. She is like the collective living organism of Earth. So just like an individual can benefit from healthy actions, so too can Tiamat. And just like an individual can be harmed by unhealthy actions, so too can Tiamat. She is a product of her actions and her environment.

The way God talks to us is by giving us good ideas. We think they're our ideas, formed in our own minds, and they might be. But they are also the way God talks to us. The opposite is noise. Bad ideas, including all the "sins," are just noise. They can be so wrong and so harmful, retaliatory, vindictive, thoughtless, cruel, or any other sort of "evil." But it's really all just noise. Those hurtful thoughts fill our minds and don't leave room for the good ideas that are God's language.

There are three main decision-making algorithms available to the human mind: Calculation, Habit and Random Choice. We can contemplate our conditions and make calculated choices. We can repeat things (on purpose or accident) to hone skills and make useful habits. Or we can choose something random, either because we don't know what to do or just because we are lazy.

Sometimes, accidental chance works out nicely for us. Sometimes, it doesn't. But often times, we benefit from accidental situations and we consider ourselves lucky. We can examine a situation and learn from it, making a conscious decision to do on repeated attempts what was initially an accident. We can always learn from these "happy accidents." That's sometimes the way progress is made.

The smartest answer for many questions is "I don't know." Always seek to learn, and never pretend to know something that you don't. Resist the temptation to have contempt prior to investigation. That's a form of laziness, where you just don't want to bother to look and learn.

The human mind is full of assumptions, misconceptions, inaccuracies and even outright lies. We are all somewhat incapable of being honest with ourselves because we are built with a brain that is able to make decisions without all the required data. Whatever data we don't know, we involuntarily fill in the "blank spots" with generalities and simplifications.

These blank spots are far more than just preconceived notions. A preconceived notion is a conscious decision to assume something without having all the facts. But at a deeper level, we do this unconsciously. It's engrained in us.

It has to be this way, otherwise we would get stuck and never make decisions or make them too late to be useful. We have to make quick decisions without having all the facts - It's a part of life; A primeval survival mechanism that evolved from long ago when we were more exposed to the elements and more vulnerable to predators and other natural threats of all types.

So we literally make things up to fill in the blanks. And after a while - sometimes even just a short while - we forget that we had no source for our information, so we invent a source too. We "legitimize" our subconsciously invented information to make it more credible to ourselves. It's involuntary and subconscious, a sort of mental habit. It's just how the biological thinking machine works. But our inventory process can be used to help us spot those lies and re-think our old ideas and habits to evolve and improve them.

Sometimes we are very sure we gained information from a reliable source that we actually invented. This mental mechanism is strong and we can fool ourselves without even trying to be deceptive. So be on guard for this and always double check your facts, especially when arguing the point with another person that is equally sure their facts are right and yours are wrong.

Do not be embarrassed to be wrong. You were made this way, and you were made that way by God. We are not built to store information like a digital computer. Our storage is more fluid. While we have very good memories, we also have this tendency to "fill in the blanks."

However, there is another kind of "mental blank spot" that is driven by ego. It isn't one caused by the way we're made, it's driven by our pride or by shame, which is pride in reverse. We don't want something to be true, so we lie about it. We convince ourselves that something isn't what it is, or that it shouldn't be what it is, so we tell ourselves a convenient lie. There is no benefit in that.

An example is someone that misrepresents their weight out of vanity. They give a false weight when asked because they are ashamed of their true weight. While there is no need to share this information, it's a pity to be ashamed of it. Either accept it or change it if it bothers you too much. But if you're bothered by it enough to lie about it, you might want to do something about it. Otherwise accept it. Because the hurt you cause your self-esteem by being ashamed is worse than the weight. Be proud of who you are!

Another example is the person on a spiritual path that tells themselves that they have no lust. They decide to embark upon a path of chastity, which may be worthwhile like fasting, but not if they deny their very real emotional and physical urges. To tell yourself and others that the urges don't exist is to invite a secret that will grow and fester, becoming too large to ignore. Then you have not only the lust to deal with but also shame. So do not pretend to be something you're not.

Men tend to misrepresent things about themselves in a way that they think makes them more masculine and powerful. Women tend to misrepresent things that they think make them more feminine and beautiful. Both have a tendency to exaggerate skills and to minimize liabilities.

God made you exactly as you are. So do not manipulate the truth to make yourself feel better because it doesn't work. You will give yourself a fear of being caught and a secret shame since you know the real truth.

This is why the spiritual inventory process is so important. It is used to uncover all those "mental blank spots," whether they are consciously created or not.

Everyone experiences harm caused by trauma. Broken bones and lacerations are caused by physical trauma. Mental anguish is caused by emotional trauma, like the loss of a loved one, the loss of resources, income or security and other things like that. These things are a part of life.

A person can be profoundly affected by traumatic events in their lives. Psychologists have even named this wound "post-traumatic stress disorder."

But trauma can also be a source of growth. Microfractures in bone cause it to grow more strongly. Mental anguish can spur spiritual growth too, helping the sufferer to grow closer to God.

There is a predictable series of internal processes that are put into motion by a traumatic event. The first is the direct result of the traumatic event, whether it is caused by a physical or emotional impact. The body generates physical changes almost immediately, hormones that cause the body to go into shock. These are self-preservation hormones, those that set it in to a primitive mode of "fight or flight." They will push the body to be stronger and feel less pain, but one will not think clearly in this phase.

After that initial hormonal release, the shock will begin to go away. Mental facilities will return, but often times this leads to a period of ineffective thought. It's easy to get stuck here, and in fact, it may be impossible to avoid this to some degree. It's very much like grieving, and in fact, grieving is often also involved. Some traumas involve grieving, but some do not.

We often wish things were different. We wish we could go back in time. We ask God to change things. Or maybe, if the shock is from eustress instead of distress, like if we are experiencing a "happy trauma" from an unexpected victory, we may ask God to give us even more "power" or to make everyone else see what we think God has done for us because we are so "charmed."

These are examples of ineffective thought processes. They are a mild form of insanity, actually. We are no longer charged from hormones created by outside events, but we can easily generate similar hormones from our own internal thought processes. It's like we re-create the shock over and over again.

This phase can last a long time. It's like we cannot see things the way they are, and stay stuck in an internal world that looks like how we think things did before the trauma or sometimes even during the trauma. We relive an event in our minds, or we yearn for things to be the way they were before. Or we stew in our misery, visualizing a "perfect world" that should be, and yearn for things to be that way. We are in denial of the truth, and can't see the way things are now.

As we pass through the denial phase, we will begin to see the truth. Sometimes we know that we should break free, but we don't want to take action just yet. We delay because we have become comfortable with our habits, even if we know they aren't particularly useful for us. Or perhaps we justify inaction by declaring things are too hard to change or that they are unfair. We may insist that others change to accommodate us.

But if we truly want to get past our trauma, we will walk through it. We can get through the trauma and our natural reactions to it. It's a normal part of healing.

Some people get mad at God for trauma, others think trauma is a consequence of past sins. Neither are good or true. Trauma just happens. It can destroy you or you can take advantage of it by letting the pliability of your soul grow you in new ways. It can be like the pruning of a rose or the hardening of a tree.

There are spiritual traumas that we might call "hitting rock bottom." Sometimes it's more like the last of a series of repeated traumas. How we react can be either good for us or bad.

The best way to react is to realize our willful nature can cause us harm, and to make a conscious decision to accept God's Will for us, no matter what. We are often desperate when we reach this point, so we decide to accept God's Will and take life on life's terms. We are willing to do anything to be on the right path. Some call this the "gift of desperation."

The bad way to react is a "jumping off point." We have gotten ourselves in a position that is unbearable, but we're not really ready to accept God's Will. The difference between this and the previous is the lack of honesty and willingness. We want the outside circumstances to change, but we still want to control them. Sometimes, we get so bad we would even consider suicide in this mode. We aren't willing to change, but we might be willing to die. Sad but true.

And then there's a third form of this, something of a "false bottom." It's like the last one, but it's not quite as stark. In this mode, we are even more likely to try and control the situations we're in, and even less likely to be willing to do anything truly positive. This is like a "false jumping off point," one where we try to convince others that we are at wits end, simply to manipulate them so they will solve our problems for us or submit to our demands. In this mode, we might pretend to try and commit suicide.

Trauma is almost a requirement for some kinds of spiritual growth. It's not a part of life any of us want to have. But it is a gift, actually, because it is the only thing that makes us pliable enough to truly accept God's Will even when things get tough. So remember that when you have traumas that hurt or frustrate you.

One may observe a similar mental phenomenon in ecstatic behaviors, like those seen in some religious rituals or socio-political events. A sort of mass-hysteria becomes present that can have a strong effect on participating individuals. These effects create a form of mental state that is not unlike a mild trauma. Just like the effects from traumas, the lasting effects from ecstatic environments can be good or bad, depending upon how the individual chooses to react after the initial hormones have begun to release.

The ecstatic effect may be enough to spark a change in some people, but the more willful the person is, the stronger the traumatic influence must be to effect spiritual change.

The problem with traumas is their potential for getting us stuck in that post-traumatic stress cycle. If we don't process through those right - and most of us don't - they cause serious mental twists. So instead of having the pliability of trauma drawing us nearer to God, most of us just get bent and twist away from God. We are shocked, then hurt and often angry or depressed. We become angry with God and hate his creation. Then we try to find ways to exert our maladjusted willpower even more.

But what we want to happen is exactly the opposite. We want the trauma to heal. We can be sad and grieve. We can even be angry in this time. We just don't want to become stuck there. We want to "let go and let God." Only then can we grow stronger and happier.

You will either gain the strength of God from a trauma or you will suffer the weakness of failure. Ironically, the weak path looks like strength - angry clinched teeth in defiance - but this is the weaker one trying to look strong. It is nothing but pain and anger.

Traumas will either make us stronger or weaker. Examples of trauma that make the host stronger are pruning a rose, hardening a tree, microfractures in bone and an alcoholic "bottom" convincing him to get sober. An example of a trauma that makes the host weaker is defiance towards God.

So choose the grateful path and turn trauma into strength. Complaining and mumbling are sins. Resist them and be grateful. If you cannot - if you find yourself angry or afraid - then try again when you can. And don't make things worse by failing to forgive yourself. Just because you were mad at God yesterday doesn't mean you can't turn it around today. Sometimes we just get stuck for a while. This is actually very common. So choose the grateful path when you are able.

Try to direct your focus on what you are grateful for. Remember that what you focus upon will be magnified in your mind. If you focus on your troubles, resentments and difficulties, you are going to amplify those things and make them all you can see. But if you focus on what you can actually do to influence the difficulties in a positive way, you will become more hopeful and more optimistic. And even if everything is out of your control and you have no influence at all, you can still find things you are grateful for and focus on those things. Always know that things change, and that they will change for the better if that's what you focus upon.

It is very easy to make the mistake of focusing on a situation that makes you angry, and then to magnify it by describing it forcefully to friends and family. This only serves to work you up further and it often infects the person you are talking to. It's like a disease that spreads.

If you look at it honestly, this kind of interaction never releases the anger. It makes it grow within you and spread to others.

This doesn't mean that you are to be in denial of the facts. Don't misunderstand the concept of focus and think of it as denial. We are to be keenly aware of our strengths and liabilities, and we are to also to recognize the strengths and weaknesses in those around us. This isn't done to be critical or harsh though.

If you are able to effect change with your words, then it may be worth voicing your anger. For example, if someone has taken actions that make you angry, you may wish to go to them and express your dissatisfaction. This is done to give them a chance to correct the problem or to let them know you are going to enforce a boundary. It is an honest communication.

Or if you are analyzing your situation with someone, hoping to understand the situation better, then that may be worthwhile. You can learn your strengths and weaknesses, maybe discover your part in a situation and also understand others.

But if all you're doing is venting your anger, hoping others will "see your point," then you are probably just making things worse.

We just want to have an honest assessment of the facts. And then, armed with the facts, we can make better decisions than we would if we were ignorant of the facts. The focus we maintain is on the things we can influence for the better, and we have acceptance of the things that we cannot change. We have optimism and we are grateful for what we have.

Being grateful is probably the most important single thing you can do. Contentment is a state of mind. If you find acceptance of life and are grateful for what you have, you will be contented and happy. If you focus instead on what you lack, always searching for what you don't have, you will stay miserable. Learn to enjoy what you have, don't yearn for things you don't have. Want what you've got, instead of trying to get what you want. That is the answer to happiness.

Consider these three kinds of distractions: There are meaningless distractions, meaningful distractions and permanent distractions.

Permanent or long-standing distractions are always harmful, because they keep you stuck. A permanent distraction is really a type of mental obsession or addiction. Religions that warn against idol-worship are referring to this kind of distraction. Anything that prevents you from seeing the things that matter - something that blocks you from God - is a permanent distraction and it has no good value.

Temporary distractions are often very useful though. Of course, there are the meaningless distractions that we all face from time to time, and those range from minor annoyances to semi-major detours in the course of events you have planned. Those kinds of things are usually seen as annoyances, but sometimes they open doors - whether known at the time or not - that prove to be very useful later on. So try to endure the annoying distractions as they come up.

And then there are the temporary distractions that we actually enjoy - the things we place temporary focus on in order to give ourselves a break from difficult situations. Those can be very useful, because they can let us get through hard times with a reasonable amount of comfort. There is a potential danger though, which is the possibility of having a temporary distraction becoming a permanent one. In order for a temporary distraction to be truly useful, you must be mindful of what you are doing. You must realize that the distraction isn't the goal, and not let it become one. Let the distraction break the monotony of a difficult situation without becoming stuck in it.

Before we do spiritual inventory, we acknowledge that God is in control of our world. We become willing to accept His Will, no matter where that takes us. Our actions after that - our introspections, restitutions and interactions with others - increasingly become the tools God uses to put things in our path to reshape our inner world for the better.

We are like precious metals being refined. First, we are encrusted rock. Then we are broken and melted, which are painful processes, but they perfect the soul.

The whole reason we do spiritual inventories is to understand ourselves, to know who and what we really are. We need to understand not only our actions but the motives behind our actions, our deepest desires, regrets, wishes and unfulfilled fantasies. We need to know what we are subconsciously promoting or avoiding. Only then will we really know what we're working with.

An inventory can be useful to expose deeply held beliefs and internal habits. It can help us see how we tend to think and how we respond internally to emotional and physical stimuli, as well as how we respond to our own thoughts. A thorough spiritual inventory is a lengthy process, one that takes some soul searching and an appropriate amount of time. We look at all the things that gave us strong emotions from time of our earliest memories, through childhood, adolescence and adulthood. We examine the events that triggered our emotions, the other people involved and the part we played in each event.

In this case, we do not seek to find fault or blame as much as we seek to know ourselves, and possibly to understand others a little better in the process.

Another kind of inventory is useful for things that are more routine, things that occur during our daily activities. We find it useful to examine our reactions to difficulties as they come up, or sometimes we examine our reactions to things that aren't difficult, but that are very exciting or otherwise out of the ordinary. This kind of inventory is similar to the deeper spiritual inventory, and the internal motivations are intertwined. But the difference is the depth at which we examine ourselves. We aren't looking so much at our full histories as we are at the here and now. The core of our psyche influences our daily reactions in profound ways.

In this case, we do seek to find fault, not so much to assess blame or consequence but more so we can identify the problem, if there is one. We are attempting to find solutions. It could be that consequences might need to be enforced or boundaries made or changed. Or it could be that the problem is solely in ourselves, in which case we may find that it would be more productive to make a conscious choice to change our reactions or the way we interpret our perceptions. We may need to make amends.

After we truly learn who we are - and have made restitutions for any harms done - we begin a phase of life where we realize we can do anything we want as long as we are fully willing to accept the consequences of our choices and actions. Those may be physical/tangible things, or it may be things like the effects on relationships, effects on reputation, etc. At this point, we no longer feel like we are spiritual children. We understand our part in the world and become accountable for our actions.

Take the actions that you think are most appropriate and leave the results to God. If your choices are right, they will be successful. If not, then they will fail. But even those "failures" are successes when you see them for what they really are. A failure is simply an action or choice you thought would be best but turned out not to be. So you learn from the choice, finding out that it was not God's Will. By leaving the results to God, you succeed either way.

Climbing a mountain is done with individual steps, one step at a time. On your path along the way, some steps ascend, some are lateral and some even go downward for a few feet. But the journey ends at the summit for anyone that perseveres.

All emotions are normal and healthy. It is normal to be afraid when you sense danger. It is normal to be angry when you think you or your family or friends are being treated unfairly. You will become sad when you experience a loss. You will feel joy when you realize that you have been blessed.

Anger and fear are just as normal as sadness and joy. There is nothing wrong with any of those emotions and, in fact, there is something wrong if you don't experience each emotion.

But some people think anger is wrong. They think they should be able to suppress anger. It seems more "spiritual" to resist anger. Some people think that sadness is only felt by those that cannot accept God's Will, that somehow they should be able to accept any adversity with joy. Similarly, some people think fear is a weakness. If they feel afraid, they will pretend not to be.

None of that is good, because none of it is honest. It can cause the unwanted emotion to become pronounced, and it acts like an infection. An unexpressed fear becomes a phobia because it is never explored and understood. A suppressed anger becomes rage, because it is not expressed and acted upon when it is small and manageable.

As an example, let's look closer at anger. Anger that isn't dealt with properly can become a resentment, which is an obsession with anger. While anger is normal and can be healthy, resentment is never healthy.

The best response to anger is to identify it and to decide on the proper reaction. Even if the trigger causes an awkward knee-jerk reaction, you can still decide a proper reaction later. It's not unusual or unhealthy for the shock from the trigger of anger to release hormones that drive a person to a fight or flight reaction initially. But once those initial hormones die down, you can choose what to do about the situation, and make healthy choices.

It might be somewhat complicated, and you may have to grieve a loss or process other feelings at the same time, but if you analyze the situation accurately, you can make good choices. Your anger may be pushing you to change some condition in your life. Or it may be that you need to change the way you view the condition, and to accept it as being the way it is supposed to be. So maybe you will change your perspective. But one way or another, a healthy way of dealing with anger is to evaluate it and make appropriate and effective changes. Anger is there to promote change.

But let's say that you are one of those kinds of people that thinks anger is wrong, so you suppress it. Instead of doing something to change, you minimize your anger, pretending it isn't real. This lets it fester and become toxic. You become resentful. The anger you pretend doesn't exist becomes like a hot coal, burning inside you hotter every day. You may distract yourself so that the anger doesn't show, but anything that brings it back into focus causes a severe reaction. And those triggers can be external events, or they can be internal memories, images and thoughts. You will have created a labyrinth of traps that trigger deadly rages.

Every sin starts from an instinctive desire, one that isn't bad in and of itself. Sins are just mistakenly expressed instinctual desires that have been blown out of proportion. Understand yourself and find out how to satisfy these desires in a healthy way that doesn't hurt you or anyone else. Everyone has desires and motives, strengths and weaknesses, darkness and light.

If you understand your dark side through rigorous honesty and thorough inventory, you may conquer your dark side with God's help. This is the way to the light. You then have both darkness and light, but the light controls the dark. If you embrace the darkness and never overtake it, then you have only the darkness. Only those that conquer their darkness have real power.

It is important to be rigorously honest with oneself. It's not enough to "arm yourself with the facts." What is much more important is to know your true motives.

You may think you know what you want and are willing to work to get it. But if you are young, you probably haven't learned the process of honest and thorough self-appraisal. Or even if you aren't so young anymore, if you haven't made rigorous spiritual inventory a priority in your life, you probably have some "blind spots" in your own motives. These blind spots make it more difficult to find serenity and happiness, because you will less effective at discovering your true internal motivations. In turn, you will have a harder time finding real solutions or being able to work with others to do the same.

As an example, consider a prevaricator that states chosen facts - but omits important details or is purposely ambiguous - in order to influence someone else's decision. The goal is not to help the other person, but to manipulate them. They are hoping for personal gain.

In this case, the facts may have been true but the motive wasn't. The manipulator presented the facts in a way that suggested they were doing it for the benefit of the other party, when in fact, the real motive was selfish. This is the path of a con artist, a person that seeks to gain the confidence of others using deception.

Had they disclosed their intentions, they would have been honest in detail as well as motive. But if they do not, they are being deceptive, even if the facts are true.

Prevaricators use ambiguity and incomplete information to deceive. They present some true statements, but withhold crucial information. And of course, their motives are selfish too, which is naturally also withheld. So while true facts are disclosed, the equivocation of important details is purposefully deceptive. When confronted, that kind of person is likely to point to the "true facts" they presented, and exclaim that they did not lie. They will try to hide their deception, claim they were unaware or use other such tactics.

Cerebral narcissists work hard to find facts and to understand details, but the reason they want to know these things isn't so that they can use their understanding to solve problems. Their motive is to boost their ego, and to be able to use their intellect to have power over others. They are intellectual bullies. They might be 100% right in the facts they present. They might be industry experts cited by all others in their field. And yet they may still fail at being rigorously honest, because their true motive may be to have power over others or even just to soothe low self-esteem.

The reason it is important to be rigorously honest isn't because there is a cosmic fact checker or score keeper. You won't get points with God for being rigorously honest. But it will help keep you find serenity and happiness. If you do things with a stated motive that isn't truly accurate, you will probably miss the mark and not get what you really want. You will have told yourself your "little white lie" so long you will believe it. You may not have even considered what your true motive is. So naturally, you will have a hard time achieving your goal. This is true even if you are a peer-reviewed expert in your field that everyone cites.

Think about it: If you work so hard to prove your worth in order to soothe self-esteem and "get people to love you" then what happens if you succeed? What happens if all your hard work wins friends and influences the masses? You will gain recognition and possibly fame. So if that's your goal, then you will have it. But if it was to get the attention of someone you love, to "get them to love you back," then you may have put yourself in an ugly position. Even if that person begins to love you, you might question whether they truly love you or if they just love successful people. You may begin to resent them for not loving you for "who you are." But you set the stage for all that.

Something similar can happen from jealousy or from other emotional fears of losing a relationship. A person can be constantly "setting rules" for their partner to abide by. Those rules might be presented - overtly or covertly - as requirements to prove love. So for example, a jealous partner might tell their lover that they must not talk to other members of the opposite sex. The implication is that if they do, they are being disloyal in some way. Or maybe the jealous partner makes the case that they are trying to prevent their mate from being tempted. But all that they are doing is to try to control their mate to protect them from their own fears and insecurities.

The problem with this is it doesn't work. The jealous partner can never really know if their mate is being "true" to them because they want to be or because they forced them to be. They still have deep-seated insecurities, so they add on other rules to control their partner. They may build a cage so strong that their mate is trapped financially, emotionally and sometimes even physically. The jealous mate might have forced them to not work, not see friends, and maybe not even leave the house. And ultimately, none of that soothes the insecurities. It only makes it worse.

We must find out what "makes us tick" using rigorous honesty through spiritual inventories.

As said elsewhere, the idea of "turning the other cheek" can be easily misunderstood. It is definitely the goal - to have such a low level of resentment that offenders have no power and don't really offend - but this isn't always the case. It takes an understanding of oneself and some good personal boundaries to be able to "turn the other cheek" without building resentments.

So the only truly honest course of action is to at least avoid the offenders until the resentments subside. That's the best way to "turn the other cheek." To do otherwise is a lie to oneself, which can result in internal strife that can boil over later and also lets the offender believe their offenses are acceptable. We must let others know what is acceptable to us and what is not, and this isn't done by allowing abuses.

Jesus proffered a prayer that, among other things, asks God to give us the strength to forgive others for harms they have caused us. It is a most excellent prayer, but like the idea of "turning the other cheek," forgiveness takes some action that isn't automatic. One cannot honestly forgive harms from an abuser, for example, until and unless they feel safe from future abuse.

To feel safe from harm requires strength of some sort. You must either have a boundary between yourself and the abuser or you must be made strong enough that the abuser cannot harm you.

A boundary can be one of time, meaning that the abuser has changed and sufficient time has passed for you to feel comfortable that they will not act in harmful ways anymore. Or the boundary can be one of space, where you have prevented the abuser from being in your presence. Or it can be a physical boundary like a structure, a building or a wall.

Strength comes from readiness, be it physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual. Strength is preparedness and an ability to respond. Having strength doesn't require that you respond, but it does mean you have the ability to respond.

Naturally, God has little trouble with human sins, because His strength is infinite and His boundaries are inviolate. But humans struggle, and lack the strength to endure all. Forgiveness, then, is different too. We must learn how to forgive, or we are not really doing it.

Until you are truly ready to forgive a trespasser, try a prayer that's similar to the "Lord's Prayer," but that asks for healthy boundaries, like this:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,

Thy kingdom come, Thy Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

And remove us from trespassers as you taught us not to trespass.

Teach us through temptation, and deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever. Amen.

This version of the prayer asks for a peaceful resolution for boundary violators. You can only really "forgive your trespassers" once you have set good boundaries.

This isn't to say that forgiveness is less important than boundaries. The original phrase, "forgive us our trespassers as we forgive those that trespass against us," is a wonderful lesson too. It rightly reminds us how important forgiveness is, and it also reminds us that we have plenty to be forgiven for too. It's just that true forgiveness isn't likely without healthy boundaries. The boundaries must be there before the forgiveness can take place.

And there is a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. When someone trespasses against you, you can forgive them once a boundary is in place and some time has passed. The pain will be in the past, and there is no current problem with your trespasser. They might still be doing the same ugly things, but they aren't doing them to you. Nor are you even seeing it, so no difficult memories resurface. So you can forgive them.

Reconciliation requires something more than just forgiveness. Reconciliation requires trust. So if you have forgiven a trespasser and then learn that they have truly changed, you may begin to trust them. If so, you may move towards a reconciliation and mend the relationship.

You might also notice another slight shift from the traditional form of this prayer. Rather than asking God to "remove us from temptation," this prayer asks that He teach us through temptation. The reason is simple: In this life, we are to learn and grow. We are not going to be able to walk through it without struggle, disappointment and temptation. It isn't reasonable to ask to be delivered from those things. It is better to ask for the courage to face them, the strength to endure them and the wisdom to choose well. Typically, the way we gain wisdom is through lessons learned, and those often come by trial and error. So we ask to be taught.

Our beliefs combine the studies of physical laws, sociology, psychology and philosophy. We learn from these kinds of disciplines and apply them to our lives in a meaningful way. We make the observation that the Earth has forces that are greater than all of us, and that the Universe has forces that are greater still.

We are Illuminati. But there is no "secret knowledge." The only secret knowledge is there is no secret knowledge. If you seek, you will find. It's just that the un-enlightened never seek. They think they know all that's important to them, and they make up the rest. The Illuminati actually seek the truth. In themselves, outside themselves, in others, in Tiamat, in the Universe and in God.

We are pragmatic Gnostics. Like the early Christian Gnostics, we seek to grow by learning spiritual lessons. We strive to know ourselves first, ask God to help improve where we can, and to assist others in their walk. But Christian Gnostics had things backwards. They were like Platonians, and thought that ideas were perfect, and physical manifestations were imperfect. Their very religion expressed this, having Sophia begat an imperfect child, who then created an imperfect world. We believe just the opposite. The physical world is perfect. It is what we seek to understand. All ideas are models of this reality, and they help us to understand it and interact with it.

There is no special knowledge. The only special knowledge is the truths that people take the time to actually learn. Sometimes you have to unlearn some superstitions in order to learn the truth.

All the way back to the Sumerians, there was initially an egalitarian society with temples and religious leaders and non-religious workers and city/state leaders. At first, it appears the leaders were "trusted servants" that didn't make a permanent profession of ruling. Then powerful families began to emerge and both the city leaders and the temple priests began to try and seize more and more control. They were increasingly smitten with grandiose ambitions for themselves and their state. This describes the rise of the culture of Ur-Nanshe in Lagash around 2500 B.C. There were battles between Lagash and Ur as well, and finally, there was a reformer that wrote a code of conduct, creating the first uniform laws.

This seems to repeat itself over and over again. We see the rise of Israel, at first so idealistic in the laws of Moses, then David comes to power. But we see idolatry and other sins wrecking the culture too. Many of the prophets describe this, people like Isaiah and Micah. So there was a roller coaster effect, going all the way up to the time of Jesus.

One thing many of them seemed to miss: Some of the prophets and reformers seemed to point the finger at "them." The wrath of God is always directed at "them" for "their" sins. That may very well be what is missing and why we seem to do the same things over and over again. The clue is in the texts that read, "All have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God."

What we all need to see is the finger must point at all of us. It's not "them." It's us. It's me. And it's you. But no matter what, I must always focus only on me and what I may do to improve my spiritual condition. I must realize that my habits are ineffective at times, and improve them. And since I usually get stuck, I must rely on God's help. "I sin and fall short of the Glory of God." But I can always improve, and I should. I must. This is the only path to happiness.

When you learn to fly, as you get more and more experiences with flowing through the air currents, you will instinctively seek out air currents that help keep you afloat. You will find thermals and avoid downdrafts because you will recognize the conditions that create them. And in so doing, you will increase your chance encounters with good air conditions and decrease the number of chance encounters with bad conditions. It will seem as though you have been lucky and lead a charmed life.

Of course, not all weather conditions are good, and one cannot avoid every storm. The first planes we build are fragile. After we learn more from experience, we build planes that are more tolerant of wind conditions and other hazards. We become less affected by our environment because we have prepared for it.

God protects you from enemies in the same manner. As an airplane creates a wake, if someone tries to approach by stealth to harm you, they will be tossed asunder in the wake. Of course, you must be responsible and try to avoid those that aren't aware. But if they get in your way on purpose, God protects you from them by the wake you leave along your path.

The right relationship with God is still and usually quite silent. For most, a mature relationship with God doesn't involve passion and it doesn't evoke strong emotions. It can seem boring compared to other relationships. The best relationship with God creates a sense of serenity.

In contrast, you can really feel the absence of God. It is a restless feeling that cannot be quenched. You become resentful and irritable, and things seem always to go badly. It is a downward spiral where everything seems to continually get worse.

When you begin to feel this way - Catch yourself. Do not blame God for your problems. Instead, focus on what is good in your life, even if it seems little or nothing is. Do not make things worse. Take an inventory of your life to find out what is going well and what is not, and do things that will correct mistakes and affect positive change where you can. Trust that God will take care of the things you cannot change. After a while - if you are able to do these things - life will get better. Your relationship with God will heal and life will improve.

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