David McKay, author of The One Open Door, lived in silence as he trained as a Zen Buddhist Monk for 18 years.  He was taught a way of combining an ancient Buddhist understanding and practice with modern psychological tools.  He promotes Awareness practice in the form of retreats, workshops, online meditation groups, and spiritual coaching and counseling.

WATCH THE INTERVIEW HERE OR JOIN THE LIVE CHAT ON FACEBOOK OR YOUTUBE

What is the nature of Mind?  What is Buddha Mind?

Buddha Mind is the mind that is uncontaminated by social conditioning.  The flip side is Conditioned Mind where we assume a separate self that has a history, preferences, opinions, and wants control of life.  Buddha Mind is more easily described by what it isn’t than what it is.  It is not separate, has no preferences or opinions, and does not need to control outcomes.  It just is.  Everything is Mind, everything is intelligence which comes in the form of a human, animal, tree, or rock.  So our human mind which has an individual perspective is the same as the intelligent Mind that is causing everything to be.  Being in the Buddha Mind is when there is no difference between the human mind and the intelligent Mind that is creating everything.  

Charles Fillmore, co-founder of Unity, used the word Mind in place of God and taught that we share the same intelligence as the Divine.  This idea is common to Unity and Buddhism.  

Is Buddha Mind like the witness state?  

If by “witness” we mean pure Awareness, then yes.  But not in the sense of someone observing.  Buddha Mind does not operate as a separate entity and transcends separateness. 

How do we know if we’re in Buddha Mind?

A huge part of spiritual practice is answering this question.  It can be very subtle.  We are taught to believe that we are the conditioned mind and it can be difficult to step back and understand that our beliefs, assumptions, and perceptions of the world are an illusion.  It takes a lot of work and paying attention over time to notice a mind functioning as a self and a mind functioning beyond a self.  

When functioning as a self, we suffer, meaning we are operating outside of Life and we feel a sense of separateness, disfunction, sabotage, confusion, and are swept away by emotions.  Whereas when functioning in the Buddha Mind, there is a flow state where things tend to align and work.  

We can ask “What is the result of my thinking”?  Is my thinking taking me to a place of connection with all that is or a place of separation and division?  

Is there a feeling associated with being in Buddha Mind?

We cannot know in our human minds that we are centered, in awareness, in Buddha Mind.  Our intellect doesn’t understand that state.  There may be an energy, sense of connection, or guidance, 

Spiritual practice consists of trying to answer the question of “Who am I?”.  In the midst of living as a human self with conditioned mind, who am I underneath that?  It’s somewhat of a mystery that takes us on an alluring exploration without a final answer.

How do we understand “me” within the oneness of Divine Mind?

When we let go of the conditioned self built upon false assumptions, we can feel into our Authentic Nature or Authentic Self.  It’s unique to each of us and yet is also simultaneously the same as Life as it unfolds.  It can be described as we are a wave in the ocean of Divinity.  We cannot understand it intellectually, but we can experience it. 

What are the benefits of exploring Buddha Mind?

Anything unhappy that we experience as human beings comes from believing that the conditioned mind is reality.  When we feel we’re not good enough, not meeting expectations, feel lonely, or self-sabotage.  Sometimes even when we have successful experiences, we may be trying to compensate or cover up ideas of unworthiness.  If we let go of our conditioned mind, we don’t have to live in a world where we think something is wrong with us or we are not good enough.  We don’t have to compensate for imagined flaws.  Living in the Buddha Mind allows us to just be who we are, inherently worthy.  Life is easy because it takes care of itself without us needing to control anything.  Life unfolds clearly and perfectly in a flow state when we are in Buddha Mind.

The futility of Buddha Mind

When feeling the flow state of Buddha Mind, it’s easy to want to hold onto it and stay in that state.  The conscious thought of wanting to hold on to it causes us to lose it.  The goal is to be in this awareness without trying to own it or hold onto it.  Spiritual practice will take us into a state of oneness with all that is.  The perspective and desire of wanting to hold onto that state is the separate self which by nature takes us out of it.  When we act from a separate self, we remove ourselves from the unfolding of the flow state of Life.  

 One cannot “know” Buddha Mind or get to the flow state by intellect.  It must come by allowing the experience to happen.  

We all have a fundamental need to be who we really are, one with Buddha Mind, Divinity, Source.  And when we are not able to be in that space, it’s distressing.  We sometimes try to compensate for our suffering with worldly accomplishments or accumulating money or material things, but in the end still end up feeling empty.

Practices to achieve Buddha Mind

Two ways to achieve Buddha Mind that really compliment each other are:

Via Positiva – Being in the now, feeling into the present moment, looking for guidance, being present and open to what is here now.

Via Negativa – Seeing everything that is not authentic and letting it go.  What is left is your true essence.  One tool is to watch our thoughts.  Most of our thoughts are not us thinking, but conditioned mind talking to us.  Stepping back from the conditioned mind can allow us to be in present awareness.

Spiritual practice is a lifelong process, a journey without completion, but one well worth the energy and attention.

Cast Book Study – Week 4

Unity’s core belief and mission statement talks about “awakening to our Divine nature through…personal transformation”.  Part of this Awakening process is understanding that there are teachings we have inherited through our society that are not in alignment with who we really are.  Studying the book Caste by Isabel Wilkerson opens us up to a new realization that we have been part of a deep rooted system that unjustly suppresses some people and lifts up others.  

This caste system has become second nature to us and as we learn the depth of the horror and injustice of it, we come to realize there is a lot of work to be done to correct it.  It will take a collective effort and it won’t happen overnight.

What can we do to help the process?

Education is fundamental.  It’s a shameful history but we must not let the emotion stop us in our tracks.  It’s important to learn about this history and how it still lives on today and then to turn that knowledge and emotion into action.

See no one as a stranger.  When we listen to the stories of others, we relate to them as humans who carry hurt and love their families just like we do.  We are all connected by our similar emotions and desires.  

Everything is a call for love.  If someone is acting in an unpleasant way, beneath it all is an unhealed wound and a desire for acceptance and love.  Every time we see beyond the unpleasant action to the hurting soul and extend love and forgiveness, it moves us further along the path to healing.  Jesus taught us to love our enemies.  Acting on this example of unconditional love benefits the perceived enemy as well as the one extending love.  We realize there is an unlimited amount of love to give and express.

Love yourself first.  We cannot give what we don’t have.  When we care for ourselves and show ourselves honor, respect, and love, we then have more capacity to extend those gifts to others.  One way to care for ourselves is to feel our emotions – without the story that brought that emotion.  Suppressing emotions builds up tension within us that may explode onto someone else.  Sit with the uncomfortable feeling without telling the story behind it and it will disperse.  Letting go of fear and negative emotions opens us up to choose love as our primary force.

The Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal.  This truth was not available for everyone when it was written, but over time we are getting closer and closer to allowing all people to feel and experience that equality.

We have the awareness and ability to facilitate change within ourselves and in our world.  With our hearts open, there is room for hope.  Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.

Can’t watch the video but want to listen in? Check out the audio version above! (TIP: For a better listening experience, download the Sound Cloud app on your mobile device)

It’s hard to fathom that the Nazis looked to the United States for direction and inspiration when moving quickly to implement plans for racial separation and purity.

America has a reputation for being a land of opportunity, where dreams come true, and freedom rings.  As we learn more about the backbone of how our society was built, it was literally on the backs of suppressed people who were tortured and murdered to grow and uphold the upper caste.  It’s disturbing and embarrassing to think of America as being a motivator for Nazi Germany.  The Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  There is a huge contradiction between what the document states and the reality of what people of the lower castes have experienced.  Native Americans have been massacred.  Chinese were discriminated against with the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the first immigration law that excluded an entire ethnic group.  Irish Americans were oppressed and persecuted.  African Americans were enslaved, abused, and slaughtered.  Other groups such as Middle Easterners, Hindu, East Indians, and Japanese have also been oppressed.

The trajectory of this nation is slowly moving in the right direction but our past is more sinister than most of us realized.  Our caste system is systemic within our institutions and creates a deep economic disparity between white Americans and other groups that extends for generations.  It will take many more generations before suppressed groups can enjoy equal opportunities to acquire wealth, good health insurance, safe neighborhoods, and have equal opportunities for higher education, career placement, and job security.

Unity’s second principle states that each person is a unique expression of God with sacred worth and goodness.  We cannot fully awaken to our Divine Nature individually until we take steps to make comprehensive institutional changes in our society.  Our role right now is to actively take part in the transformation of our society to bring about these changes to level the playing field for all Americans.

See the problem – recognize that it exists.

Sit with the pain – endure the pain and loss that comes from it.

Heal – once the problem and pain is acknowledged, healing can begin.

Healing includes a shift in consciousness as well as action.  First, we must look within ourselves and find where we are upholding and keeping the caste system and racism alive.  How can I educate myself about the suffering of others?  What thoughts and feelings do I have about certain groups?  What assumptions am I making?   And then make a decision to divert those thoughts and feelings into more accurate ones, not influenced by what society teaches us.  As our thoughts change, our actions will change.  We will be more likely to befriend someone that is not like us, give them a hand up, encourage them, vote for them, hire them.  Collective action over time bridges the divide.

Progress doesn’t happen in a straight line, but in stair steps.  Our willingness to be courageous in our exploration of understanding each other, having compassion for each other, and feeling the pain of others, opens our hearts and allows us to see through the Christ perspective.  When we embrace and uplift others, we ourselves are uplifted, and all people move towards a more equitable, peaceful, and happy existence. 

Today we continue our Fall book study with the second of four video podcast episodes where Rev. Neusom and Rev. Ana will be discussing the book “Caste” by Isabel Wilkerson.

If you haven’t seen our week 1 episode, you can tune in here. We’ve also prepared a study guide that you can download here. Don’t forget to join us next Thursday for the Virtual Book Study group with Rev. Neusom Holmes.


Caste – The Origin of Our Discontent:  Week Two

Let’s start with a definition of Caste.  It is a fixed ranking of human value to pursue supremacy of one group against the inferiority or presumed inferiority of other groups on the basis of ancestry and traits, neutral in the abstract, but with meaning in a hierarchy favoring the dominant caste.

Caste is about power.  The system stigmatizes those deemed inferior to justify the dehumanization necessary to keep the lowest ranked people at the bottom and rationalizes the enforcement of the caste system.

Race in the United States is the visible agent of the unseen force of caste.  Caste is the bones and race is the skin.  Physical traits have been given meaning and judgements are made based solely on them.  Caste is the powerful infrastructure that holds each group in its place.  What lies beneath each label of race is centuries of assigning assumptions and values to physical features in a structure of human hierarchy.  

It’s tricky because people of the highest caste, white people in America, can say “I don’t see race” or “I’m not racist” but still enjoy the privileges of the caste system.  The term Racism puts the emphasis on our emotional state but Caste tells the larger story of the systemic privilege for those of the higher caste.  Privileges of the upper caste include physical safety, learning opportunities, job opportunities, economic opportunities, positive assumptions being made about their character, and countless others.

The caste system dominates our overall experience in life, even though personal relationships don’t always follow the caste system.

There are several ideals that have upheld this caste system in America:

  • Divine will and the natural order – the Bible was used to justify originating the caste system.
  • Not allowing people of different castes to intermarry or have relationships – laws were on the books in the U.S. against interracial marriage until 1967.
  • Purity and pollution – the upper caste is pure and the lower caste is polluted.  They do not not shake hands, swim in the same pool, or drink from the same water fountain. 

In our current time in history, videos are exposing the dominance and terrorization inherent in the caste system whether it be police shootings of unarmed black men or a woman in Central Park terrified of a black man bird watching.

We can share the same last name, same level of education, same place of birth, same religious upbringing, and still identify as a different caste by the visual characteristic of skin color and physical traits.

In Unity, we like to say that we have access to Divine Mind, but we also have access to the Collective Unconscious.  Sometimes that collective unconscious provides wisdom and sometimes it provides harmful attitudes and emotions.  Once a caste system has been held in place for a long time, it begins to bubble up unconsciously.

It will take enormous effort to transform ourselves and break this unconscionable cycle of caste in America.  We can do our part by examining ourselves, our beliefs and actions, and making a conscious effort to transform them to be more equitable.  But it will take some time to transform the collective unconscious.

In the words of Marianne Williamson, “May judgement of others, bigotry, racism, and intolerance be washed clean from our hearts.  May God’s unconditional love and acceptance allow us to accept everybody.  May our lives be turned into instruments of resurrection that the sins of our fathers might be reversed through us”.

Can’t watch the video but want to listen in? Tune in to the audio version of today’s dialogue.

Today we are starting our Fall book study with the first of four video podcast episodes where Rev. Neusom and Rev. Ana will be discussing the book “Caste” by Isabel Wilkerson.

To get you started, download your book study guide, and tune in to today’s dialogue in video format (shown above) or audio format (below at the end of this post).
Download your Study Guide Here


The death of George Floyd, and the many others before and after him, has uncovered for a lot of us what we knew existed, but didn’t understand the scope or depth of.  There is a segment of our population that for over four hundred years has gone through, and continues to go through, unfair and unprovoked deprivation of their rights. 

People are treated differently than others in America because of the caste system in our country.  This caste system, first by law and now by social custom, places people of African descent among the lowest caste, not much different from the caste system in India where the Dalits are of the lowest caste.  

In the movie The Matrix, artificial intelligence takes over humanity with a program called the matrix and people didn’t even realize they were trapped.  One character started to wake up to the idea that his reality wasn’t actually reality.  He was courageous enough to take the red pill in order to wake up to the truth of life, as unpleasant as it may be.  This is somewhat like Unity’s idea of waking up to a reality other than what we may have been taught or experienced.  And not so different than us choosing to wake up and acknowledge the complexity of the program American has been running on for centuries.

The word “racism” has a lot of shame associated with it which can sometimes lead us to not want to have a conversation about it, much less concede to its current prevalence.  The book Caste explains America’s system in terms of a hierarchy rather than race which allows a bit of room for examination.  It educates us without invoking shame and embarrassment by showing us that this system has groomed us to believe in the caste structure.  It’s almost understandable that we would each take our place within it without question.  

But with our eyes open to seeing this system’s cruel and discriminatory nature, we can choose to change our thoughts and behaviors to help raise up all people to be treated with the worth and dignity they deserve.  We can ask ourselves “What beliefs do I hold that I have not seen before and are ready to be dissolved?”.  We hope to gain a deeper understanding of what others experience, have compassion for them, and to be willing to step up and be their companion and ally.

For members of the highest caste, the ego takes hold and wants to keep the caste system in place because it affords power, money, status, and privileges.  Unity’s second principle says that as humans, we have the divine essence of God within us.  Giving in to our ego rather than honoring this divinity within others leads us away from Truth.

We are all divine beings, one with the Presence and with each other, and we have the ability to progress in our consciousness, raise our vibration, and create a better and more equitable world for us all.

Join us next Friday as we delve deeper into Caste – The Origins of Our Discontents.

Can’t watch the video but want to listen in? Tune in to the audio version of today’s dialogue.

A Case for Forgiveness: The culmination of the Book Study of Unity and A Course in Miracles with Rev. Neusom Holmes.

What’s the matter with people?  They always letting me down, messing up, doing me wrong!  Does is feel like a cycle of blame and forgiveness over and over with others?  How about with yourself?  How do we escape this cycle?

According to A Course in Miracles, we have created this world from the initial false thought that we are separate from God. And in this sense of separateness, we live with a sense of guilt because God may be upset that we think we’re separate. And we project our guilt and fear upon others as a quick fix to feel better about ourselves.  There is a way though that we can return to our true Self, who we really are, which is one with God and all that is.  We just need to realize that what we see in others is also in ourselves and simply ask for forgiveness.  This is not the type of forgiveness that says “you are guilty but I release you and won’t hold it against you” but rather a forgiveness that says “you never were guilty because I realize that you are perfect and whole just as you are”.

We return to the realization that we are without blame because we are one with the Presence, we are Divinity itself.a

Another year, another fabulous book study! The first book study of 2020 has officially begun.

We invite you to participate in a 5 week, church wide, group study of Unity and A Course in Miracles by Paul Hasselbeck and William Heller from February 2nd to March 1st.

Book Study Feb. 2nd to March 1st

All are invited to join (or lead) a Small Group in order to participate. Small Groups have a facilitator or leader and meet 1-2 times per week to discuss the book with the help of a study guide.

About the book:

Unity and A Course in Miracles brings us two perspectives of underlying spiritual reality. With some study and reflection this book may open doors to seeing the world differently – to seeing the world of abundance, forgiveness and oneness as the “truth” and the world of scarcity, strife and separateness is really the illusion.

Paul Hasselbeck chats with Rev. Neusom to give us a sneak peak into his book and the upcoming workshop at Unity of the Triangle on Sunday, February 9th 2020.

This year the book study has added features including:

A special Sunday service and 2 hour workshop with Paul Hasselbeck, the co-author of the book, on Sunday February 9th. Click here for more info.

A special social event for those who rise to the occasion and choose to lead a Small Group. To sign up to lead a group, contact Emily at smallgroups@unitytriangle.org.

‘Dinner and a Discussion: 3 Courses and a Miracle’ culmination event featuring a panel of Unity and A Course In Miracles experts and dinner provided by Unity of the Triangle on Thursday, March 26th. Stay tuned for more information.

3 reasons to join a Small Group:

  1. Small Groups are a wonderful way to deepen your spiritual understanding and follow along in a spiritual course of study.
  2. It is an opportunity to meet twice a month in a close-knit social setting with like minded people. Leaders/hosts of Small Groups often choose to meet off-site in their home.
  3. You’re likely to meet someone new! The great part about book study month’s at Unity is that it is open to non-members. We invited anyone interested in the chosen book to participate. Or if you are a Unity member, you have the opportunity to get to know folks you may not see outside of Sunday service.

3 options to participate:

  1. Sign up to lead a small group or join an existing one. Some groups are seeking 1-5 additional members to join their discussion during the book study time frame. Contact Emily at smallgroups@unitytriangle.org for more information.
  2. Study along with the Rev. Ana’s Spiritual Dialogue group, meeting Tuesdays at 1pm in Room 228.
  3. Study along with the either one of the ACIM discussion groups meeting regularly at the church. These groups will be following along with the book study time frame and welcome new participants. A Course In Miracles meets Mondays at 7pm and A Course In Miracles for Unity meets Thursdays at 1:30pm.

Got your book?

Limited number of copies are available at the Unity bookstore. A Kindle version is also available from Amazon.

More about Small Groups:

Small groups are social structures long standing at Unity of the Triangle. Some groups have been meeting for years and continue year round outside of book study time frames. Many new groups form around book study times as a place for individuals to join.

For more information about Small Groups or the book study, please contact Emily at smallgroups@unitytriangle.org.