10/01/2012 01:32 pm ET Updated Dec 01, 2012

Names Can Never Hurt Me

"Tis but thy name that is my enemy ... What's in a name? That, which we call a rose, By any other name, would smell as sweet." -- William Shakespeare

Once again the world is on fire. Not just the heat wave the globe is experiencing and resultant burning forests, but also our media airwaves, Middle Eastern cities, and the passions of most of us paying attention. Inflammatory stories are told, sacredly-held notions are violated, the blood boils, and people act out violently.

Each side worships their own "G-d," as revealed by their own messengers, and sees the other as unfaithful followers of the devil, as infidels. This name calling directed against the holiest of notions cools the hearts as it creates hot-headedness, leading to the actual hurling of sticks, stones, firebombs, missiles.

Our defenses, our armor, our shields go up, and in this constriction we can get very fixated on our "rightness" and their "wrongness," and then apply those judgments directly to the other sides' "G-d" itself. And then the Holy War is truly on.

Of course, the huge irony in this very tragic and dangerous state of affairs is that in this situation, all sides are actually followers of the same Higher Power: the Jews, Christians, and Muslims, as Abrahamic religions, all trace themselves back to the same Source. Because the messengers and scouts they listen to have different perspectives on that Source, they have ended up with different "Guide Books" and conclusions as to how to best serve that Source here and now. But in actual, agreed upon reality, all are looking up from different angles to the same Summit.

But because we have different names for It, we get confused and start to believe these are different, perhaps even warring Energies. This is the very situation that the ancient Jewish teachers tried to avoid by NOT fixating on a Name for the Source. "I Am That Am", all of it, and so any attempt to nail It down does It a disservice and under-represents what It truly Is.

With this understanding, they used a variety of Names in a variety of circumstances, each reflecting one facet, one dimension, of the Dimensionless. "Adonai" reflects the "Lordship"; "Adonai Emit" the "Truth"; "Makom" is the Omnipresence; "Melek ha-M' lachim" is the King of Kingliness"; "Ro-eh" is the "Shepherd"; "Tsur" is the "Rock"; and "Ha Shem" is the "Name", to list just a few.

While there is an emphasis on "Allah" in Islam, there are formally 99 Names of the Divine, again each one reflecting a different manifestation of the Source, whose essence and nature is so overwhelming we can't conceptually grasp it all at once. "Ar-Rahman" is the "Compassionate"; "Al Malik" is the "King/Lord"; "As-Salaam" is the Source of "Peace"; "Al-Azziz" is the "Mighty"; "Al-Ghaffaar" is the " Great Forgiver"; and 93 more.

Jesus referred to G-d as "Father". In His language, Aramaic, the word used was "Abba", which is what a toddler would babble to address his or her father. {1} Sort of like "poppa" for us. It is both casual and intimate at the same time, and should bring a smile to the lips.

In each case, the specific Name represents one attempt to explain a specific experience of the Source, the Higher Power, but not the total experience, which is more vast than any attempt to label It.

I personally went through a period of avoiding all religion pretty much because of this fact, that it didn't seem logical to me that any one of them, with their levels of specific dogma, could possibly get It right. I know many other people who feel this way to, and might refer to themselves as being "spiritual, but not religious".

As the world heats up, as the fear creates an urge to tighten up, some people are becoming more fixated on their own perspective on, their own name for the Source, and seeing it in greater conflict with the others'. But we do have another choice. We can consciously decide to learn more about the depth of each others specific religions, trying to understand what "Piece of the Peace" each them reflects. We may even begin to see that all sides even share many of the same perspectives, experiences, and even names.

And there are very effective, "peace practices" in many traditions that utilize repetition of the name of G-d. To consciously familiarize oneself with one quality of the Source, we repeat Its name, in rhythm with the breath. This can be done for a certain number of repetitions, and each tradition has prayer beads to help stay focused but able to count as well. In addition to increasing our memory of one of our potential Higher Powers, this can also induce a meditative state.

Another method is to repeat the Name on the breath whenever you notice that you are feeling off, tense, angry, depressed, anxious, etc. So before a big meeting or phone call, or after an unpleasant encounter, do the practice for 5-10 breaths.

For many of us not really connected to any tradition, or maybe even the notion of a "g-d", we can still use this peace practice. Take some time where you can be quiet, uninterrupted, and contemplative. Take five deep breaths, feeling each one. Then, spontaneously open up to any words or notions or images that pop into your head as you reflect upon what are the highest, most admirable qualities you can think of. If These had a Name, what would they be? Is this a Name that inspires you or resonates with you deeply? If so, then use it as your own personal Name for Source. And really use it, help you write that Name here in our world.

While I have some connection to Jesus and Buddha, in my exploration of this territory I have come to resonate with "Ha-Shem", "The Name", as it reminds me that the word being used is just a pointer to something much Greater. I also personally relate to Source as "Guide", something pointing me to the way home, and feel comfortable using that as a Name also.

"Well I had a dream I stood beneath an Orange Sky,
With my brother, standing by.
And I said "It's a long road we've been walking on".
Yes I had a dream where I stood beneath an Orange Sky
With my sister standing by.
I said sister here is what I know now, here is what I know now.
"In your love, my salvation lies in your love."
--Alex Murdoch, "Orange Sky"

If more of us decide to take on this practice, then we can expand the number of people who will become more cool-headed, using the fire of our age to warm our hearts instead. Because only by opening more to and familiarizing ourselves more with our deepest aspiration --which are others deepest aspirations as well-- can we actually rain down and flow those Higher Powers into this world of ours on fire.

May Guide Bless You!

peace, salaam, shalom,

{1} Marcus J. Borg "Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time", Harper One, 1995, pg 35