Sunday December 18, 2022 50th Anniversary Celebration –
Sunday Service Speakers – Rev. Jim McCaw and Rev. Bob Sisler
Rev. Bob Sisler: Practices and Phisosophy of the Chapel of Awareness:
Good Morning. We get to wear our beautiful stoles today! I am going to apologize ahead of time for being nervous. I haven’t spoken up here in five years. So I am feeling a little rusty. Plus, I am still a little jacked up from watching the World Cup Final this morning! That was pretty amazing! I won’t say who won because some of you are probably taping the game to watch later.
Wow! We’re still here! That hit me as I was sitting over here listening to Jim. My time here at Chapel started in ’73. Half of you weren’t born yet, probably. I want to talk about philosophy a bit today. And I want to share some experiences that I have had here at Chapel and how they have affected me and maybe what I got out of them to share with you, so that you may find them meaningful.
This Chapel and all of you sitting here today come from many places; all sorts of people are here today. It hit me this week that Chapel is kind of like the old story of the Blind Men and the Elephant. These blind men are presented with an elephant and they each go to somewhere different on the elephant. One grabs the tail and says,” Well an elephant is like a rope.” And one grabs a leg and says,” It’s like a tree!” And one feels the side of the elephant and says, “It’s like a wall!”
And they start to argue. The elephant represents reality. We all come in here with a different background, different experiences and different goals. The Chapel affects each of us differently. My experiences aren’t like anyone else’s in the room. So keep that in mind as you are listening to me because I may be saying things that you don’t believe in.
Rev. Larr always said that he opened the Chapel to share with others a philosophy and a master way to live and to provide a school to learn to do seemingly miraculous things, have miraculous experiences using your mind and your awareness. He wanted to share these experiences with others.
I found Chapel in September of 1973. I started by coming to the Sunday Evening services because that was all that we had at that time. I learned about it from Rev. Nancy Tappe. She was an expert in Auras and Color Reading. She could Look at what is in the Aura, as well as being an incredible trance medium among other things. I met her down at San Diego State where I was a student in the Experimental College. She had a class there on Auras. It’s funny; I met her within three months of moving to San Diego. You know, things happen for a reason. Sometimes you need to be open to allow yourself to be pushed in a direction. Your teachers will make you aware of that.
One of those Sunday Evenings when I first started coming, I met Dr. Larr and saw him present for the first time. I had heard about him from Nancy. As was customary, he was on the podium. He was in a suit, long sleeve white shirt and a tie. You know, very formal. He began to give his lecture about outward appearances and what is the real depth of substance of what’s below the surface. At one point in his talk, which was probably 20-25 minutes long, he took off his jacket and placed it over here on the pew behind me. It seemed kind of odd. Maybe he was hot, I don’t know. And then a little while after that, he removed his tie and unbuttoned his shirt. And then a little while after that, he undid his cufflinks. Some of you don’t even know what cufflinks are! Yea, he took those off and rolled up his sleeves. He finally got to the point of his lecture – that the suit and tie, the outer appearances of esteem commanding respect, were not necessarily a reflection of what is inside the suit. He asked, “If he would be respected less and his teaching less valid to the listeners if he had just come out in short sleeves, no tie and maybe a pair of shorts.
What’s really going on? We kind of get the same sense with all that is going on on the internet now. What’s below that picture? What’s right there? He was always challenging us to think about what we were going to be thinking about. We used to have T-shirts with that on them, maybe we still do? He also threw in one of his favorites – If you passed a frog speaking the teachings of Jesus, would you not stop and listen and honor it?
Well, with the likes of Rev Tappe and Rev Larr and the other healers and teachers here like Tom Emrick over there, (when I first came to Sunday Services Tom was one of the healers) I found out where I wanted to be. Here at the Chapel. I knew that I had so much to learn about philosophy, meditation, controlling myself, interacting with others and making sense of psychic experiences that I had had when I was young…I knew that I was in the right place. I found at Chapel an open mindedness towards me by individuals that I never knew was out there. They accepted my good and my bad. What seemed to be my strengths and what were my obvious weaknesses. It was all OK when I walked through those doors. So, I accepted that I was here to learn and I am going to dedicate myself to that. Chapel would help me to discover what I am about and why I am here on earth.
I came here with a humble attitude that I am a student at all times. I saw those in positions of power reinforce the notion that even though they were teachers of us, they were always a student first, as well. Humble is not a state of weakness. It is a sense of fearless openness and open-mindedness to what you face in life. Jesus said ’Suffer the children come unto to me.’ It’s coming as a child. You don’t know everything yet. I know we like to pretend like we do.
Don’t always strive to be the one that is right. Be the one who is seeking to know the truth. There’s a big difference there.
Rev. Tappe also commented to me, just outside that door behind me in the hallway, that every person that I come in contact with in this lifetime has something to teach me. Everyone is my teacher. It is difficult to see that if you are afraid to be humble. And as my teacher, Amitaba, says, “The open mind sees more truth in a moment than a closed mind in a lifetime.”
Chapel was founded to help individuals to find and share the truth while also being able to recognize and accept what is not true. To find a pathway that is an ever growing awareness and harmony with the universe and with all others; to find life’s deepest meanings and to learn to give and receive love.
Chapel’s Master Way is a life based on practice. You become what you do, not just what you think you would like to do. Right now those of you sitting in the audience probably have habits or traits that you are pleased with, and others that you are not. That was my reality, too, when I stepped through those doors. I had some good qualities. But the funny thing was, the list of weaknesses was about three times as long. Things that I needed to change. So, I began to focus on the mental practices and to look more at what is positive. I challenged myself to get better at life. Nancy told me one time “There are a couple of chapters in your life that you have not even opened yet. You haven’t even looked at.” So I knew I had a lot to learn! Again, are you humble to being not perfect?
I advanced well in class by practicing meditation and concentration without fail. But being out in the world doing my worldly things was a bit slower process of learning to change. I had a lot of social intelligence to add to my traits.
I joined classes in September of 1974 and by 1976 I had been, along with a number of my classmates, moved into the staff class to advance and learn to teach. In the summer of ’76 I was assigned my first Sunday Lecture. I’m the guy who dropped out of Speech Class in college on the first day! To get in front of a group like this..whew..my worst nightmare. But I accepted my challenge and my teachers in Spirit supported me. In my lecture I asked this question, “What is more important in life…Being psychic or being Spiritual?” I posed that to the audience. One is a skill or a tool. The other is a connection to the deepest meaning and purpose of our existence. If you are building a house; you will use many different tools. Some, over and over again. But don’t confuse the tools with the house. The home is the grand goal. It is what all the time and energy is all about. Your skills with the tools will give you rewards and a sense of accomplishment along the way. Your mastery over them will determine how long it takes to put the whole house together. Remember, though, what happens when you get too bogged down in the details of the window trim. We do this in life. We can spend far too much time on one trivial pursuit and the big picture suffers. Looking back at your own life, is there one matter that you have put way too much time and energy into? I’ll let you answer that yourself.
For today, I am going to give you an affirmation. Again, all these things I am talking about today are just what have come out of my many experiences here at Chapel. I didn’t know any of this stuff when I came here. Your affirmation is – I am here to be here. You are in this lifetime and this is your school. This is the place to reach humankind’s highest aspirations. You need to be about the journey of your Spiritual development and progression. You have been given the gift of life! The gift of Existence and the ability to be aware of it! Have you discovered that yet? If you have, it will make you tear up and want to cry out – Thank you! ; For me having this experience. What is the likelihood that anyone of us gets created by this universe?
Start each day with an awareness of this viewpoint and awareness of your life and then your dreams, worries, aspirations will begin to find their realistic place in your perspective and in the world of Right Thought and Right Action. Get down on your hands and knees every morning – Thank you for giving me this opportunity! And then everything will fall into place. What is really important? What should I be about doing?
Be aware that it is easy to get caught up in worldly details and the true perspective becomes lost. The Master Way to be found is stable, and grounded in the knowledge that moment to moment your awareness, your Spirit, is here to grow. This is the right lifetime. This is the right place. Is your mind in the right place?
So I am going to give you five questions. Question One – Where do we start to find this Master Way? Buddhist author, Thich Thien-An, not Thich Nhat Hanh, had a chapter in his book, Zen Philosophy, Zen Practice. It was titled – Every day is a Good Day. Just what does that mean? I know in my life I have had some really bad days. And not just one or two, but a number of them with the issues I was dealing with in life. Thien-An realizes this but his statement comes from the core Buddhist and Chapel teaching that this day is a good day because you are getting the opportunity to experience life and existence. Wow! What a great gift, huh? Would you rather be a rock? Today is good because you are here; the one and only in the Universe. There is no other you out there. You are the only one that experiences what you experience. You have Awareness; the question is ‘How are you using it?’
Now that you recognize that you are alive, what should you do? To move forward, awareness is your greatest tool. Tau Sing pointed out that awareness is comprised of many parts, like the Universe. We have logical thought, we have emotional thought. We have desirous thought. We also have memory, so we can pull up old tapes. We can also think about the future. We can plan and act on these ideas, even alter them, and adjust as we go. As with most journeys, we all need a map of where we are going to go. It should include markers along the way to help us recognize that we are where we should be. Now days we have GPS in our cars and for hiking. Is there such a thing as Spiritual Journey GPS? Yes…that does exist and was the inspiration for Dr. Larr creating a place like the Chapel. A place like Shangri-La in Lost Horizons to serve and help others find their inner voice, their inner knowing that is at our core. As the Lama in Lost Horizons says, ‘There are times in people’s lives when they touch the infinite.’ Have you done that today?
Question number two – What are you trying to become with your life? This is the Master Way. We need a guide book until doing what is right and best becomes your natural way of behaving. You never chose what you know is not for your highest and best good. Today or yesterday. Part of taking control of your Spiritual journey is being able to recognize and choose the activities and aspirations a Spiritual Being should pursue. Buddha used the image of an eight spoked wheel to teach this step. The eight fold path served as the eight spokes on a wheel, all interconnected at the hub, in the center, and reaching out to the rim. The rim, of course, would roll along the earth. That’s the sort of interaction that you and I have. We interact with the earth every day, don’t we? With the world, with people. The spokes need to be strong, like your personal qualities and aspirations. For Buddha, these eight were Right Meditation, Right Thought, Right Livelihood and so on. You can study that yourself. At Chapel, the Master Way has additional guidelines like Moderation in All Things, Non-Interference in other people’s lives, No Distractions from your path, The Golden Rule and the Recognition of Awareness. Those are the spokes that are part of our Master Way here at Chapel.
Next question – What are the spokes of your wheel of life? The choices you make to focus on your life will help you create changes to support your foundation. Our Chapel philosophy affirms that you become what you do. You become what you do. And ‘doing’ is mental processes as well as what you are working towards out there. It’s nice to embrace getting in touch with your Spiritual pathway to make changes, but remember, what is real is what you do. You have to do something more than just embrace. Some dream of living in a retreat to go within, but most of you have chosen to live in the world; the day to day world. Sticking to a path of enlightenment requires much strength, practice and focus. So, are you ready to write down what your spokes are? What are the spokes that drive your wheels? One other aspect of the spokes is that they need to be the same length. Can you imagine a wheel with different length spokes? How is that going to roll? Here in lies the goal of Moderation in all things; The Middle Way. All spokes are interdependent, so don’t let one aspect of your life dominate the others. Too much work, too much meditation, too much fun – balance them. This gives you the Master Plan to watch over yourself. I remember years ago, I made up a chart. It had different aspects of my life listed, and then a grade of 0-5 judging how did I do today? I would do this every day. I would rate myself. Am I getting any better at anything? How’s my meditation? How are my relationships with others? How are my thoughts? How’s my health? How’s my work? You can make your own list. Here in lies the importance of the practice of keeping a daily reflective diary – We must stop and reflect. It is a key to growth. If you never stop, slow down and look at what’s going on, you may not learn what you need to learn.
The next question is – What have I learned today? I want to hit one thing here that I talked about earlier. I find it interesting that a part of the religious world, New Age etc., points to sacred places, circles of power, nexuses. But let me tell you that the most sacred site in the world, the center of power and how to get to it, is inside your awareness. That is the most powerful place in the world! You must stop and recognize it. Oh, I thought we already did? Take control of it! As the Buddhists would say, “You are the mud. You are also the Lotus. You are also the Diamond.” You are everything. You must stop and recognize it. My Teacher, Amitaba, says “To find the infinite, look within.” The infinite is within you, but that doesn’t mean you are perfect yet. We must work hard on our lives to improve ourselves and take steps. But My Goodness! Isn’t that why we are here?! Isn’t it why we came into this lifetime? To grow and find our potential? It was not for all the distracting stuff. The mainline core is finding your next step towards perfection. Learn to talk to yourself as a reflective exercise. It is so vital to the process of growth and enlightenment. In the times that you talk to yourself and sift through thoughts and emotions, difficulties and ideas, you will learn to appreciate all that you are. We all have strengths we are proud of. But these reflections will also reveal short-comings. Don’t be afraid. As you look within, the layers peel back like an onion. You will discover your desires and aspirations, your hopes and fears. You may not see why they exist. You may think ‘when did that start, where did it come from?’ But you will see what drives you. You will learn to eliminate delusion. You decide what to keep in your life and what to discard.
Last question –What is your reason for being at Chapel? Buddha said it is our nature to desire. That is what our Spirit is grounded in. That’s at the core of our being; to desire things. Rev. Steve Ball called it The Wanna Theory. You do what you do because you wanna. You are the one that motivates and gives the energy to it: whatever it is that you want right now. What is it focused on right now? As Spiritualists, find and desire the Master Way as this is what our existence is all about anyway. The Master Way is the way to get to that goal of Spiritual perfection that we each have in front of us. It will help you see what you have come into this lifetime to do and to learn. You have one responsibility; one great responsibility. Make something beautiful with what you have been given. Open the gift, find out what’s inside.
When Dr. Larr was getting ready to cross over, it was a bit like Buddha preparing his followers for his crossing. “Do not cry as you must each be the light to discover your path to perfection.” Dr. Larr and Tau Sing gave clear teachings for all to find that path through practice and not relying on someone else to do it for you. It’s your job to get you there.
So let us be happy and grateful that a place, Chapel of Awareness, was founded with a Master Way, a master pathway, for those who choose to practice the teachings. You are each in this lifetime as you are supposed to be by your choice. Nobody put you here. You stepped into this lifetime because you wanted it. It’s like you are in this building because you wanted to be here. You are in this lifetime because you wanted to be here. You are part of an unimaginable Universe. What’s out there? Luckily, you are out there to learn to grow, to experience. It has created you and blessed you, anointed you with awareness. Use it! Get about completing your journey! And remember – Everything is going to be Ok! Thank you.