Tag Archive: Dr. Steve McSwain


The American Dream goes like this: “get all you can, save all you can, achieve all you can.” If you do, you’ll be happy, healthy and enter your retirement years with peace and tranquility. The only problem with this: it’s a myth. The life people really want is found not in getting but giving.

In The Giving Myths, author Dr. Steve McSwain makes a compelling argument that your highest purpose in life is to give yourself away and generously share your abundance with the world. Any other way to self-actualization and personal fulfillment is a dead-end. Contrary to popular culture, the life you’ve always wanted isn’t found in career choice, personal achievements, or even the amount of money you may amass in a lifetime. Instead, it’s found in one of the simplest, yet most challenging, principles ever given by the greatest teacher who ever lived. Miss getting and living by this principle and you’ll miss getting the life you’ve always wanted.

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Dr. Steve McSwain is an award-winning author, speaker, adjunct professor, and spiritual teacher. He created The Foundation for Excellence in Giving, Inc., a church/parish consulting firm committed to providing consultation and guidance to leaders who seek to create a more charitable and compassionate spiritual community. For more than twenty years, Steve was a senior minister for churches in Kentucky and Georgia. For the last two decades, he has provided executive counsel to hundreds of churches representing virtually every Christian communion in America. These churches have ranged in size between 200 and 20,000 and, collectively, they have raised more than a half billion dollars for worthy causes.

The Giving Myths is in its second printing and is regarded by religious leaders representing all traditions as a most insightful and inspiring book on generosity. His most recent book, The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God view here was one of two finalists in the IndieBook Awards at the Global Book Expo, May 2011 recognized in the category, “Most Inspirational Book of the Year.” As an Adjunct Professor of Communication at the University of Kentucky, Steve not only teaches the art of speaking but is himself a professional speaker. He is frequently invited to speak to congregations, as well as Chamber of Commerce events and at leadership conferences for community and business leaders. Steve is an executive coach who guides a select client list in the art of leadership, the laws of success in business and in life, the life you live, and the legacy you leave.

The Life You’ve Always Wanted

Video clip of recent generosity workshop at a high school in Derby, KS. Three hundred people gave three hours to explore THE GIVING MYTHS: GIVING THEN GETTING THE LIFE YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED

How do I know when I am advancing on the spiritual path? What is a “sign” of spiritual maturity?

I would answer with a few questions of my own.

Must everyone believe as you believe in order to accepted by you?

Do you insist that what you believe is right and, by implication, suggest that what others believe must be wrong?

When you suggest that you, and other folks like you, “just believe the Bible,” for instance, are you aware that what you are really saying is that you believe your “version” or “interpretation” of the Bible and that equally devoted followers of the Bible frequently interpret the same Bible differently but just as sincerely as you do?

So, can you make room for others? Can you be honest enough to admit that you, and others like you, might just be wrong yourselves?

When you are able to make your “truth” claims with passion and sincerity, but at-one-and-the-same time clothe them with love, humility and room for others to believe and so hold to equally meaningful “truth” claims for them, you, my friend, are, in my own opinion, advancing in the direction of spiritual maturity — true enlightenment. Or, if you prefer, simply human maturity.

It is time that we live in a world of mutual humility, what I would call Christ-like humility –what others might describe as a Buddha-like respectfulness. It is time for greater openness, for conversation, for contemplation, for introspection, not only between all religions but between religionists and those who claim no religion whatsoever.

F. Scott Fitzgerald suggested, “The sign of first rate intelligence” — I would say, the sign of first-rate, maturity — “is the capacity to hold two opposing ideas in one’s mind and still be able to function” — I would say, “still be at peace with oneself and respectful toward all others.”

Can you?

Make it your spiritual ambition or, if you’re not a religious person, make it your human ambition, to live beyond arrogance or believing in your beliefs. “Beliefs,” as noted in “Why is God Laughing?,” “are a coverup for insecurity. You only ever believe in the things you do not know.”

When you “know” something, what is there to believe in?

If you are a spiritual person, make it your ambition to know yourself, to know God — this is faith. Do not be content with knowing “about” God — that’s the “belief” stuff, which is just believing in the words you say about God or that someone else might say about God.

No, know God for yourself instead.

“How?” you ask.

Wrong question.

Start from the premise that you know God already.

Why?

Because you do.

“What do you mean?” you ask.

If you did not know God already, why would you bother to ask the question?

Give up looking for God, too, for God cannot be found. When you make this discovery, you have experienced what I feel is grace.

Grace is simply the inner realization that God has found you already.

For more on Dr. Steve Mcswain view HERE

The title of this post alone will put some branches of the Christian church immediately on the defense. The fact is, however, I travel all over this country coaching religious leaders and consulting with congregations of every stripe imaginable. And there is one overarching conclusion to which I’ve come: Christianity is dying. Or, to put it more accurately, the Christian church is dying while the Christian faith, in too few places still, seems to be slowly, but gratefully, morphing into something new.

And better.

Admittedly, there are a few churches that are growing in the U.S. Some are evangelical; others are Catholic, although most of their growth is largely the consequence of the influx of Hispanics who are, almost universally, Roman Catholic. To those blinded by illusion, however, the few churches that are growing has made some feel driven to object, particularly if they happen to be part of such a church, by saying, “The church is doing quite well, thank you!”

The truth is, it is not. And when church leaders are honest, and many of them are not, they will acknowledge that they are drawing most of their growth from the disaffected, disavowed and disillusioned who have left or leaving other churches. If you were to interview those who are leaving and going to these few growing churches, as I have, you would discover that for many of them, they feel spiritually disconnected and displaced, while still desiring to know and to feel a vital spiritual life. Unable to find it in much of the madness they’ve chosen to leave behind, they turn to these rapidly growing churches, many of which have become “mega” churches as a result of this phenomenon, in a kind of last ditch effort to find something that resembles spiritual sanity.

Regrettably, however, what many of them soon find even in many of these growing churches is just a polished-up and well-rehearsed, as well as well-performed, version of the same madness they left. Before long, scores of them wind up leaving even these and then join the ranks of those persons known today as “Nones” — who are, by the way, now one in every five Americans. These “Nones” have all but given up on organized religion and now simply regard themselves as spiritual but not religious. It is to these and for these I regularly write and blog.

So, what do I mean by the statement, “the Christian faith seems to be morphing into something new?”

I do not mean by this a new religion. To the contrary, what I’m seeing is a new and refreshing emergence within the Christian religion itself. Perhaps, as at no other time in Christian history, except perhaps the first few decades following the death of Jesus, the church today is slowly becoming, but in too few places as yet, something that I suspect Jesus himself might actually recognize. There is within this new emergence an affinity for those matters of social and personal justice, compassion, spiritual wholeness and unity within and among all people and faiths. These were the obsessions of Jesus while here on earth.

I regard these few churches as glimmers of hope scattered here and there. So, what does this new emergence within the Christian religion look like?

1. This new, emerging church is made up of people who are desperately seeking ways of understanding, and in many cases, rewriting Christian theology. It needs to be rewritten. For decades now, the church has sought to survive on a doctrine of salvation that depended on the shedding of innocent blood to appease an obsessively angry God so as to rescue humanity from what would otherwise result in their conscious and eternal torment in hell. It’s crazy theology. It is not what Jesus taught. And as a consequence, it is more pagan than it is Christian.

2. These new churches have a healthier view of their sacred text known as the Bible. They revere the Bible without making a god of it. Instead worshipping the Bible as a kind of “Constitution,” as Brian Mclaren dubs it in “A New Kind of Christianity,” they interpret the Bible for what it is: an inspired book, capable of providing inspiration, wisdom and spiritual direction, not a textbook on science or morality or answer-book preachers might use for “Stump the Preacher” talk-shows.

3. These Christians no longer feel the enemy is liberalism, even “secular humanism,” as it is commonly labeled in the declining and dying branches within Christianity. Admittedly, they see dangers in any extreme notions, whether in liberal theology or humanistic philosophy, but they have awakened to the realization that the church has met the “real” enemy — and the real enemy is the church itself. Furthermore, these Christians no longer believe gays will destroy the institution of marriage when heterosexuals have successfully accomplished that all by themselves. Waging war against gays, lesbians and those within the transgender community is like trying to defend slavery. Furthermore, these have given up the church’s war with science and psychology, choosing instead to embrace the truths science teaches us, not only about the origins of the universe, but about the complexities of the human mind, human development and sexuality.

4. Further, I see this new evolving Christianity being birthed in the hearts of sincere and devoted Christ-followers who are open to what other religions can teach us about spirituality, too. They would regard, for example, Desmond Tutu’s statement “God is not a Christian,” as the truth. While affirming that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19), and cherishing that belief within their own faith confessions, these Christians would embrace and, in fact, do embrace the spiritual insights that may come from Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and scores of other spiritual traditions. They have exchanged the insanity of the dying church that insists “We’re right! You’re wrong,” for the sane “We’re in and you are, too” approach to human and religious solidarity. Together, these Christians seek spiritual awareness — spiritual enlightenment — and they seek the good of all people, too, even those who embrace no religion.

5. Finally, but I could go on and on in my observations, this emerging new Christianity no longer interprets Christian “hope” as some “pie-in-the-sky” future paradise that they alone will enjoy, along with those who agree with their theology, their eschatology and their exclusivist beliefs. No, these Christians would view “hope” the way Jesus their leader viewed it; the way the prophets of old viewed it; the way the entire biblical narrative views it: as a vision of the world wherein peace and justice and plenty for everyone exists in the here and now; a world that reflects “God’s will on earth just as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10); a world where all people are treated equally, cared for, respected, fed and nurtured for the wonderful creations of God that they are; a world where all people regardless of color, sex, race, religion, political party, nationality or sexual orientation have a voice and a place; a world where people and nations, as the Prophet Isaiah put it, “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; where nation no longer takes up sword against nation; where war is no longer learned” (Isaiah 2:1-5).

It is this kind of church that will emerge and thrive. The others will die a slow and agonizingly painful death.

For all the reasons above, and a host of others, spirituality is thriving both inside and outside these new and emerging expressions of the Christian faith. For me, and a growing number of other progressive-minded Christians, that is a cause for hope.

Dr. Steve McSwain has been called “the voice for the SBNR (Spiritual but Not Religious).”

He grew up in the Baptist church, but he’s an advocate of inter-faith dialogue. He was a Christian minister for over 20 years but didn’t receive his spiritual awakening until he quit going to church. Today, he is devoted follower of the Christ-path to knowing God but argues that Christianity isn’t the only pathway to the Divine.

Click Here  to view his latest book “The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God”

I once heard J. S. Spong tell of co-lecturing with Carl Sagan at a conference in the northeast a few years ago. Carl ran up to Spong, a long-time friend, and said with excitement, which he expressed with his hands, “You know, Spong, if the Ascension of Jesus occurred as it is literally portrayed in the New Testament … that is to say, had Jesus actually been caught up in the heavens in order to sit at the right hand of God … well … you know what that means, don’t you?”

“What?” asked J. S. Spong.

“Well,” explained the cosmologist, “if Jesus were caught up at the speed of light — 186,000 miles per second — with what we know today about the vastness of our galaxy — Jesus would still be traveling today just to reach the outer limits of the Milky Way! Furthermore, there are billions and billions of galaxies!”

Fascinating. Actually, our galaxy alone is not only vaster than you think, it is vaster than I can think. Hypothetically, for example, if you could place our sun at the outer limits of the galaxy and the earth at the opposite reaches and then shut off the suns rays, as in turning off a light switch, we would not know it for another 82,000 years. Theoretically, the last rays of light would take that long to reach us.

So, the cosmologist raises an all-important point for religious people, one I suspect many of them have never considered. The cosmology of the average New Testament saint was primitive at best. Clouds made up the sky and the heavens were just beyond the clouds. They had no way of imagining our nearest star being nearly 10 light years from planet earth. So, if the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are going to have any relevance in our world today, will not those who would like to take it “literally” need to rethink how they’re going to understand, and so interpret, the scriptures? Is it possible to regard sacred writings as inspired, as well as relevant and applicable, without pretending, and demanding others pretend, its limited views of the world must be accepted and never questioned?

Here’s something else. As long as you think of God as separate from you, which I did for decades and many still do today, that is to say, as long as you think of God as a male figure, grandfatherly type, having a long beard, wearing a white robe, sitting on throne and floating around in an imaginary heaven while angels sing the chorus to “Holy, Holy, Holy,” then your cosmology, and very likely your faith, is regarded by thinking people as mere fairytale with no connection whatsoever to reality. Sanity is the unequivocal acceptance of reality — of truth. Which explains why much religion today, and virtually all of it that you see on television, is insane.

What if you were to give up the ideas you learned from sincere but misinformed sunday school teachers that God is separate from you or that he lives somewhere in outer space in a place called heaven? Or that Jesus will return one day in a Rapture and rescue you?

Is it not enough that Jesus said: “The Kingdom is within you” (Luke 17:21)? Is it not enough that Jesus also said, quoting the Scriptures, “You are gods” (John 10:34). If he is the way, as most Christians insist, why would you look elsewhere or, as he put it, “travel a broad road that leads nowhere” (Matthew 7:13)? The “narrow road” leads to the universe within.

If you wish to find God, there is no need to look beyond for what could only ever be found within. Which is precisely why Rumi, the Sufi poet, said: “I have lived on the lip of insanity, wanting to know answers … knocking on doors. Suddenly, the door opens … I’ve been knocking from the inside.”

Note:For more book reviews/articles/video clips, copy and paste Steve McSwain and go to search on this website.

On Knowing God

Dr. Steve McSwain has been called “the voice for the SBNR (Spiritual but Not Religious).”

He grew up in the Baptist church, but he’s an advocate of inter-faith dialogue. He was a Christian minister for over 20 years but didn’t receive his spiritual awakening until he quit going to church. Today, he is devoted follower of the Christ-path to knowing God but argues that Christianity isn’t the only pathway to the Divine.

Dr. McSwain may be a walking contradiction. Or, he may speak for a growing number of Americans who are finding and creating new pathways of spirituality.

Jesus said “I am the way…no one comes to God but through me” (John 14:6). But what does that really mean?

For years, I was taught that it meant Jesus was the only way to God. That is to say, if you did not “believe” in Jesus, you could not know God. And, of course, that raises an entirely different question. “What does it mean to “believe” in Jesus?”

Does it mean there are certain words you must say about Jesus? For example, as a child, I was taught what Baptist people called a “Sinner’s prayer.” I prayed it, recited it, and genuinely believed that, if I spoke these specific words, I would be “OK,” meaning, I would be “safe.” In other words, I spoke those words largely because I was afraid. I was scared. I lived, as do many believing people today, in fear, afraid of God…afraid of not being good enough for God…afraid of spending an eternity away from God…or, worse, afraid of suffering in a place called hell.

So I recited these words, and others, with vigor and with frequency. And, temporarily, it seemed to work. That is, I felt better. But, as is always the case when your religion is more about your “beliefs” than about your life–how you live–before long, I was afraid again. When those times of anxiety returned, and they did so often, I would not go through the entire “getting saved” routine again (if you were raised in an evangelical fashion as I was, you know exactly what this means), but I would secretly pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” again…and again…and again…and again still. In other words, no matter how much I would say, “I believed in Jesus,” the words alone never quite seemed to be enough. As a consequence, I lived with this haunting fear that, in spite of my religious vigor, I still might not make it.

This is many people’s daily religious reality. Is it yours?

One day, I finally just gave up. That is to say, I quit believing. I quit trying to “believe” enough to make it with God. I gave up the fruitless effort to find God through words, or confessions, or the “right” beliefs. And, when I finally gave up, that’s when the transformation seemed to happen. To this day, I do not know what to call it. I’m not even sure how to describe it. But the mystery of grace was born in me. All the fear I had known disappeared. Since that day, I have never felt separated from God again. And, this is not because I finally found the right set of beliefs. Further, it is not because I had finally attained to a higher level or better quality of believing.

Not at all. In fact, it might be precisely the opposite. Not until I quit believing did I start living. Not until I gave up trying…gave up searching for the “right” beliefs about God that I discovered the Source of Mystery within.

I have since come to know that spirituality…that is, knowing the Divine…has little if anything to do with what you believe. “Beliefs,” writes one of my spiritual mentors, “are a cover-up for insecurity. You only believe in things you do not know.” In other words, it’s not about words. And isn’t this what your beliefs are? Are beliefs not mere words, albeit carefully selected words that your denomination or group has determined are the “right” words, but words nonetheless? Spirituality is really all about how you live, not about what you say…about the WAY you live, not the WORDS you say.

Sure, you can go through your life, as many do and as I did for decades, arguing over what Jesus meant by these words “I am the way,” defending and debating your belief that he’s the only way to God. But I assure you no amount of arguing and defending over this question will make you feel one iota “safer,” or more “Christian,” or closer to God. Further, believing this will not make you more Christ-like in how you live. I know. I tried all-of-the-above for decades. Most likely, you will discover, as I did, that all the defending and arguing only makes you feel all the more frightened and insecure.

And, when you do, what will you do? Argue and defend your beliefs all the more. You see, I now know, whenever I meet someone who vigorously defends their beliefs, I am really meeting someone who is frightened…insecure…who really knows not what they believe…and, so, they cling to words, to concepts, to ideas, to beliefs, and so on. They have confused living for believing. As a consequence, the little ego in them clamors for something to hold to…something to give their frightened little self a sense of security…of permanence. So, while they may call their defenses “Christian apologetics,” what they are really debating and defending is an illusion.

But, of course, they are likely unconscious of any of this. Yet, the fact remains, they’re engaged in a delusional effort to overcome their inner fear of separation.

An effort so, so unnecessary, too.

Today, I realize that what Jesus was really saying is this: “I am the way,” as in, “I know the way.” “I’ve discovered it” which, by implication means, “you can, too.” Elsewhere, he put it like this: “I and the Father are one” and he prayed that we would discover the same as well (John 17). Which is precisely why he said continually, “Follow me.” In other words, it’s as if Jesus was saying, “If you believe anything, believe not WORDS but the WAY to Life itself. My way, like many other ways, will guide you into the Eternal. In fact, you cannot separate the way to God from God herself. The way to God IS God.”

My own suggestion is this: instead of believing in Jesus, why not live similarly after the manner of Jesus? A life of self-denial, of compassion, of trust and surrender? Why not give up believing there is anything you must believe, as in beliefs or dogmas or doctrines or certain words you must pray? Give up believing…give up the religious performance…give up the belief systems…give up the catalogue of things you don’t do, as well as the lengthy list of things you do, do…as in, religious practices you engage in and specific behaviors you try hard to avoid – and all because you’re afraid…not certain you’re good enough…trying hard to please God…to fit in with some dysfunctional religious group…and on and on. None of this is necessary and I assure you none of this will get you anywhere.

Why? Precisely because you are where you need to be already. And, where’s that? Right where you are. You are accepted already. You and the Divine are ONE already. If you live from this place of knowing, you will be free–free of the religious dysfunction so prevalent in virtually all religions, Christianity included…the nonsense of thinking “Our beliefs are right…you’re beliefs are wrong or, at a minimum, not as right.” “We’re the chosen ones…you’re not.” It is pure insanity.

Choose to be free–free of the fear of God…of feeling you’re constantly auditioning for his approval. Know and observe that the way of Jesus, not somebody’s words about Jesus, is the real meaning behind, “…no one comes to the Father but by me.” For me, the choice was clear. I could argue and defend and so hope to arrive. Or, I could live knowing I had arrived already. This kind of “believing” gives way to living–real living. Which is why Thomas Merton used to say, “When you are disposed to being alone with God, you are…no matter where you are: in the monastery, in the city, in the woods, in the streets. At the precise moment it would seem you may be in the middle of your journey, you have actually arrived at your destination already.”

For what more could you ask?

Dr. Steve McSwain has been called “the voice for those who regard themselves as spiritual but not religious.”

He grew up in the Baptist church, but he’s an advocate of inter-faith dialogue. He was a Christian minister for over 20 years but didn’t receive his spiritual awakening until he quit going to church. Today, he is devoted to his Christian faith but argues that Christianity isn’t the only path to God.

Dr. McSwain may be a walking contradiction. Or, he may speak for a growing number of Americans who have left the church but are blazing roads to God on their own.

For a review on his book ” The Enoch Factor”, click on to this article and a video clip :
https://evolutionarymystic.wordpress.com/2011/01/01/the-enoch-factor-the-sacred-art-of-knowing-god-dr-steve-mcswain/

A mantra is a sound, syllable or group of words which, when recited, are regarded as capable of producing spiritual transformation (or so says Wiki). Actually, mantra is a word common in the eastern world and is itself made up of two words: man meaning “mind,” and tra meaning “instrument.” So, a mantra is “an instrument of the mind.”

In eastern religions, and to a lesser degree in the mystical traditions of Christianity, meditators use mantras to center themselves and so bring health and wholeness to the inner self (or, greater unity between the mind, body and spirit). Benedictine monks regularly use scripture in this fashion. For example, they might recite in meditation over and over again the words, “The Lord is my shepherd” (from the 23rd Psalm).

In my own experience, I have made it an every-morning practice to meditate and recite the following mantras. This is the first time, however, I’ve actually written them down. This was itself a wonderful discipline.

In many respects, a New Year’s Resolution is a kind of mantra. But, like mantras, resolutions must be practiced daily if you’re serious about them becoming your way of living. Which is why, my first mantra is…

1. I will practice meditation every day.

This is no longer difficult. But, in the early days of becoming a meditator, it was extremely difficult to shut down the mind with its propensity to chatter almost incessantly. With persistence, however, and with time, my mind began to slowly shut down whenever I entered a state of meditation. Today, I would no more consider starting the day without first meditating than I would to go through a day without eating.

Meditation is to my innermost self what food and nourishment is to the outer self, the body. Pema Chodron, the Buddhist monk, said, “We don’t sit in meditation to become good meditators; we sit in meditation to become more awake in our lives.” It is in meditating on the following mantras that the miracle of inner transformation takes place. I become that which I imagine. Or, in the slightly altered words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The antecedent to every behavior is a mantra.” You are what you think about. So practice meditating on the following and see what happens.

2. I will be one with all that is.

Why? Because I am, in spite of the fact that the ego in me wants to regard itself as separate or, more accurately, distinct and different. The way some spiritual teachers put it is, “I am that; you are that; all this is that; and, that’s all there is.” What is meant by this is, since we are all the same, it would be helpful to practice seeing yourself not as separate from everyone and everything else but as one and the same.

It is amazing what this sort of mindset does to your relationship to yourself, to others and to the environment. You are much more awake, alert and attentive to all things, as well as people, plants and animals. I used to love to hunt but I could no more hunt today, even as a sport, if I wanted to. I’m not saying this is the way it must be for all. But, for me, everything, as well as everyone, is becoming more and more sacred to me. I cannot help but feel the practice of meditation is changing my view of all things.

3. I will practice forgiveness, starting with myself.

Recently, an obituary in the newspaper referred to the deceased as a person who “lived with no regrets.” For me, however, I could not imagine such a life. I have many regrets. Today, I’m 55. I regret not having taken better care of my health. I wish I had quit smoking sooner. Exercising longer. Eating healthier. Spending more time, or better quality time, and attention with my children. I have other regrets that are too personal to share with you or anyone else. Sometimes, the regrets become overwhelming.

So, I have to practice the art of forgiving myself. What you do to yourself, you do to others. What you do to others, you will also do to yourself. These two sentences alone are enough to meditate upon this entire day. If you cannot forgive others, let that be a clue there’s something in you that you haven’t forgiven. Mark Twain once said, “Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet shed on the heel that crushed it.” Words have never been more beautiful.

4. I will be kind, even when the impulse is to be right.

In the past, I have found myself in frequent arguments with my spouse or someone at work. It’s not the problem today that it used to be, fortunately. And I think it has something to do with the practice of kindness, as well as the practice of meditation. I now realize, for example, when I’ve been in an argument in the past, it was nothing more than the ego in me feeling under threat and so lashing out or defending its illusory position or point of view. None of this is necessary and none of this is helpful. So, as someone once framed it, “If you have a choice of being right or being kind, practice choosing kind.”

5. I will judge or criticize no one, not even myself.

So much of my unhappiness in the past has been the constant self-judgment, second-guessing that went on and on in my mind, almost without ever stopping. Again, you only ever do to others what you frequently do to yourself. What this means is this: whenever I meet a person who is constantly judging others or situations or criticizing others and complaining about how things are, I know I am meeting a person who has very little regard for himself or herself. Knowing this helps me to be more understanding and less judgmental. For me, I’ve learned that to overcome the habit of judgment-making, I have to practice awareness-enhancing.

That is, when I catch myself judging others or some situation, I simply acknowledge the judgment in me. That’s enough. In the early days of my spiritual practice, however, I would catch myself judging others and then turn that judgment in upon myself. That never helped much. Then, it wasn’t one person or situation I was judging, but two — the person or situation creating the upset in me and the self-judgment for being judgmental. Pretty insane way to live, if you ask me. Don’t catch yourself judging others and then judge yourself by saying, “You idiot, there you go again judging others.” Instead, just observe the judgment in yourself. The observation alone is enough to cause it to diminish and, eventually, to disappear.

6. I will resist nothing.

Practice the art of acceptance. The Buddha reminded us, “All suffering is resistance.” In other words, whenever you feel discontent within — or unhappiness or just an underlying feeling of unease — meditate and go within. There is something in you, most likely, resisting something outside of you — some circumstance, situation, person and so forth. See if you can identify what it is. Then, ask yourself, “Is there anything I can do to change this situation or make it better?” If there isn’t, then practice acceptance. It takes practice but, if you can do nothing to change the situation, or remove yourself from whatever it is that is causing the inner upset, then acceptance is the only way to move beyond the suffering.

7. I will practice presence.

This is the secret to worry-free living. Learning to be present — truly present — in this moment is the greatest gift you could ever give yourself. I saw a woman interview recently on television. She has a rare form of cancer and her prognosis is not good (but, of course, this is a judgment I am making. How do I know what is a good or bad prognosis?). She has elected not to undergo additional treatment because the medical people are telling her that the cancer will eventually take her life in spite of their efforts to the contrary. In response, she said, “If I have learned anything from this illness, it is to treasure each moment of life.

In other words, life for me is more like brief snapshots of the present moment and I take great pleasure in each snapshot, studying it carefully and living it fully.” I was amazed as I listened to her. And then, it occurred to me: “Does it take going through a life-threatening illness to wake up to this present moment?” It need not. When you learn to live in the present, there is no worry or anxiety. It disappears. Worry is a thought with emotional and physical consequences. It’s the price your emotions and body pay for thinking thoughts about the past you cannot change and the future that does not exist. The past is over. The future, whenever it does materialize, will materialize only as this present moment. So, live in this breath.

8. I will think about death every day.

This may seem the strangest of mantras. But really, it isn’t. Death is not the opposite of life; it is the opposite of birth. Which means, just as you were born, you will die. All the great spiritual masters throughout history and in every tradition have taught us to contemplate death. It is only morbid to those who deny it is their REAL destiny. You were born to die. Death is not the consequence of the first couple’s screw-up in the Garden of Eden. It wasn’t God’s punishment for their, or your, wrongdoing.

God no more intended for you to live forever on this plane of existence than she did any of the other things or persons in creation. Life is preparation for death and whatever may be beyond it. So, think about death. It’ll do two things: For one, it’ll make how you live your life more meaningful; and, two, it’ll make the way you face death less fearful. Leonardo de Vinci said, “All my life I’ve thought I was learning how to live; now I see I’ve really been learning how to die.”

9. I will look for the synchronous events of life.

The late E. Kubler-Ross, who gave us the wonderful psychological insights into the “stages of grief,” said just before her death, “There are no mistakes. All of life is a blessing given to us to learn from.” Carl Jung coined the word “synchronicity,” to refer to those “acausal connecting realities.” In other words, Saint Paul said, “All things work together for good to those who chose God” (Rom. 8:28). Imagine the difference it would make to your daily life and happiness if you viewed everything that happens not as a conspiracy out to steal your joy but as “planned by One who has your best interest at heart” (A Course in Miracles). Look for the Divine in everything and everyone. When you do, then you can do the following…

10. I will be thankful for everything.

Gratitude, as I’ve written about extensively in The Giving Myths: Giving then Getting the Life You’ve Always Wanted, makes you generous, and generosity is not something God wants from you — it’s something God wants for you. Make it your practice to give every person you meet a gift. Could be as simple as a smile, a kind word, a handshake or greeting that is warm and personable. I try to live my life in such a way so as to view every person and situation that crosses the path of my daily journey as no accident.

So, whenever someone asks me for a dollar, I try to give them one, or two, or whatever I have available. I remember one day my daughter objecting, “But, Dad, how do you know that man won’t go buy drugs with it?” I responded, “I don’t. He might. That’s the risk I’m willing to take to live from a place of thankfulness and generosity. If I am going to err, I wish to err on the side of grace.”

Make these your mantras, or come up with your own. Then, meditate. In fact, if you have only one resolution this New Year’s, make a resolution to meditate every day. Your mantras will manifest on their own and in their own good time. Blessed journey.

Dr. Steve McSwain grew up in the Baptist church, but he’s an advocate of inter-faith dialogue. He was a Christian minister for over 20 years but didn’t receive his spiritual awakening until he quit going to church. Today, he is devoted to his Christian faith but argues that Christianity isn’t the only path to God.

Dr. McSwain may be a walking contradiction. Or, he may speak for a growing number of Americans who have left the church but are blazing roads to God on their own.

In a groundbreaking new book, author Steve McSwain summons a new kind of spirituality—one that truly connects people to God and to each other, regardless of race, nationality, or faith.

The survival of humanity is at stake,” writes McSwain. “Virtually every conflict—between nations, religions, even between people within the same religion—has been the inevitable consequence of the narcissistic notion in practically every religion that assumes, ‘We’re right; You’re wrong!’ ‘We’re in; You’re out!’ ‘We’re the chosen ones; You’re not!’ Such insanity must end, if humanity is to survive.”

The Enoch Factor is a disarmingly candid memoir on how misdirected religion has become, including Christianity. It calls for an end to religious dogmatism and fundamentalism and the consequential crisis of faith that is driving millions to question lifelong beliefs, to change religions, or to abandon faith altogether.

More than a personal odyssey, The Enoch Factor is a testament to the possibility of a spiritual awakening, one that genuinely transforms the human condition. With fresh insights into the teachings of Jesus, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and New Age thought, Dr. McSwain shows readers how to experience a spirituality beyond the distinctions and divisions that have divided people and religions for eons. It is in The Enoch Factor that readers discover what the author describes as “the sacred art of knowing God.”


Dr. McSwain’s Bio
He grew up in the Baptist church, but he’s an advocate of interfaith dialogue. He was a Christian minister for over 20 years, but didn’t receive his spiritual awakening until he quit going to church. Today, he is devoted to his Christian faith, but argues that Christianity isn’t the only path to God.
Dr. Steve McSwain may be a walking contradiction. Or, he may speak for a growing number of Americans who have left the church, but are blazing roads to God on their own.

Inside The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God (ISBN: 978-1-57312-556-7, Smyth & Helwys, June 2010, $18.00), McSwain reaches out to an ever-growing segment of the American population: those who came to church to find God, but discovered a complex and frustrating set of rules and burdens instead. Disenchanted, they switched denominations, or left entirely.

“Instead of a bridge to God, religion is often a barrier to God,” says Dr. McSwain. “Why else would over 34 million Americans have left the church in recent years? My goal isn’t to bring these people back to church, but help those who hunger for an authentic spiritual life create the conditions for one.”

Following in his father’s footsteps, Dr. McSwain was a minister for two decades in some of America’s largest churches. He received his Doctorate in Theology during that time (in 1986), and preached feverishly to God’s followers. But while steeped in religion, his life lacked spirituality.

“Sometimes I wonder if being ‘Christian’ for many people is little more than some ego identification, a role they play. It was for me,” says Dr. McSwain. “I mistakenly thought being a Christ-follower was subscribing to a certain set of beliefs, holding membership in a Christian church, or both. When I awakened, however, this all changed: I now realize there’s a day-and-night difference between labeling yourself a Christian and living a Christ-conscious life, one in touch with what Buddhists call your ‘Buddha-nature.’”

He experienced his “awakening,” what he describes as a satori in Eastern terms, on a normal Sunday, but outside the church. Detailed in The Enoch Factor, this event inspired Dr. McSwain to embrace a new kind of spirituality: One that connects people to God and to other human beings, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or religious persuasion. He hopes his circuitous spiritual path helps others re-discover their sacred selves.

The Science of Happiness

Why have millions left organized religion, but are still interested in spirituality?

There is in everyone the longing to know intimacy with the Divine. The only difference between people—all people—is that a few are aware of this longing, while most are not. For those who are not, life is a constant challenge, even a frustration, as they search for God everywhere but the one and only place where God could ever be found – which is, inside of you.

Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” In spite of this rather clear clue as to where to look to find God, many mistake their inner feelings of discontent, restlessness, or desire for happiness and fulfillment as an indicator they need to do something. Our culture’s answer to this inner dilemma is to find the right career. Or, to find and fall in love with the right partner. But even these events – as meaningful as they may be – fail to grant anything more than a temporary, impermanent peace.

Now, what happens in most religions, Christianity notwithstanding, is that people go to church looking for God, thinking she might be found there. And, the church perpetrates, as well as perpetuates, the illusion that God can be. How so? By suggesting to people, “We have the answer. We alone have the answer. What we believe is right or, at the least, a little more right than anyone else believes. So, attend our church, believe as we believe, think as we think, do as we do, live as we live and, of course, give us your money, and all will be well with your soul.”

But it isn’t so. Over time, this nonsense has created in people the expectation that, if they’ll do all these things, they’ll find God. Instead of helping to know God, however, these expectations, rules, dogmas, doctrines, and beliefs have sucked the spiritual life right out of their souls. The church too frequently confuses beliefs for faith and, in fundamentalist churches, the beliefs are then imposed on believing and unbelieving people alike. In fact, that would be a pretty accurate definition of religious fundamentalism – the confusion of beliefs for faith and imposing those beliefs on others. That’s what’s happening today in both Islam and in Christianity – the difference is only the degree with which the imposition occurs.

The American Religious Survey tells us that as many as 34 million Americans today have left organized reIigion. For the majority of these, it is the Christian religion they’re leaving or, more accurately, the church’s dysfunctional version of Christianity that they are leaving.

And, that’s the point. People can leave the church—they have, they are, and more will, as long as the dysfunction and insanity I’m describing goes on. What people cannot leave, however, is their inner feeling of discontent, emptiness, or the longing to cultivate a deep spiritual union with the Divine. So, in recent years, as westerners have had greater exposure to eastern religions, many have turned to other religions. What many of these seekers do not know is this: the dysfunction they met and left in the western church is the same sort of madness they will likely find in many other religions as well.

So, it is important to understand, I did not write this book as a disgruntled former minister looking to attack either Christianity or the church. I wrote this book to tell people what took me half a lifetime to figure out. There has only ever been one place you will go to find the deepest desires of your heart fulfilled – and that is within yourself. That’s what Jesus meant when he said, “The kingdom is within you.” The Buddha said this, too. Even the Jewish rabbis have a saying that goes, “God has but one synagogue – the human heart.” I wrote this book, The Enoch Factor to show people where to look—the human heart—to find what they’re looking for.

The Science of Happiness

A brief video of a recent workshop conducted in Naples, Florida on the topic The Science of Happiness.

In a groundbreaking new book, author Steve McSwain summons a new kind of spirituality—one that truly connects people to God and to each other, regardless of race, nationality, or faith.

The survival of humanity is at stake,” writes McSwain. “Virtually every conflict—between nations, religions, even between people within the same religion—has been the inevitable consequence of the narcissistic notion in practically every religion that assumes, ‘We’re right; You’re wrong!’ ‘We’re in; You’re out!’ ‘We’re the chosen ones; You’re not!’ Such insanity must end, if humanity is to survive.”

The Enoch Factor is a disarmingly candid memoir on how misdirected religion has become, including Christianity. It calls for an end to religious dogmatism and fundamentalism and the consequential crisis of faith that is driving millions to question lifelong beliefs, to change religions, or to abandon faith altogether.

More than a personal odyssey, The Enoch Factor is a testament to the possibility of a spiritual awakening, one that genuinely transforms the human condition. With fresh insights into the teachings of Jesus, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and New Age thought, Dr. McSwain shows readers how to experience a spirituality beyond the distinctions and divisions that have divided people and religions for eons. It is in The Enoch Factor that readers discover what the author describes as “the sacred art of knowing God.”

Book Excerpt:

There’s a chasm of difference between intimacy and interaction. With the widespread phenomenon associated with text-messaging, e-mail, and cell phones, a visitor from another planet might get the idea that, since humans are always connecting and interacting with each other, they must be friendly toward one another, even intimate and caring. It would not take him long however, to detect his first impression was an illusion.

Although virtually everyone is endlessly talking and texting, the irony is, we may be the most disconnected, as well as the most discontented and dysfunctional generation on record. There is division in almost every family—yours, mine, the families we know, as well as conflict in relationships both at school and at work. Furthermore, there is division between races, even religions, cultures, and nations. People are more divided than perhaps any other time in the history of the human race.

Conversation is no more communication than sex is intimacy. Communication and intimacy take presence and practice. They are learned skills. And, what is true of the horizontal relationships of life—humans toward other humans, is also true of the vertical relationship—the Divine/human connection. Those who know a God-realized life are those who practice the skills necessary for genuine communication and intimacy.

I love the way Rumi, the Persian Poet of Love, put it. He said, “You will know God the way you make love.” Just as love-making is for many people a connection that has little more than a surface depth to it, so the world is full of people, many of whom are very religious, but whose intimacy with God is little more than skin deep.

Biography

Dr. Steve McSwain is an author, speaker, thinker, activist, and spiritual teacher. He boldly calls for a new kind of spirituality. one that connects people to God and to other human beings, regardless of race, ethnicity, or religious background. “The survival of humanity,” says Dr. McSwain, “requires an end to the insanity of assuming, ‘We’re in; You’re out!’ ‘We’re Right, You’re Wrong!’ ‘We’re the Chosen Ones, You’re Not!’” Whether addressing a gathering of worshipers, corporate executives and company employees, seminar/workshop participants, or the keynote speaker at a convention, Dr. McSwain “has that rare gift of inspiring others to be more generous than they ever dreamed possible,” writes one observer. “He gives others the satisfying sense of belonging deeply to God and God’s plans.”

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