Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Tao of Snowstorms


It’s snowing outside… it’s snowing and it’s snowing. I tried to go to New York today, but it was just not to be. We drove about five miles and realized that this was a fool hearty effort, so we turned back and stopped at the grocery store for a few essentials and made our way home.

I am sorry that I am missing my class today. It promised to be wonderful and deeply moving. I will be able to listen to it on podcast in a couple of days, but it isn’t the same as being there.

However, it was wise to turn back and return home. I probably would have made it to New York, but I was worried about Jon making it home safely and then thinking ahead to this evening… what a nightmare that potentially could be, it just wasn’t worth it.

Man plans and God laughs….

In the old days, I probably would have been bitterly disappointed that my trip was cancelled. I would have wailed, blamed, and struggled to go even though reason said otherwise. Now, I recognize that it really is true- Man plans and God laughs. I don’t know the reason and I probably never will, but I was not meant to be on the train to New York.

Letting go. Surrender. At times in our lives we are required to let go even though with all our hearts and souls we want to hang on for all we a re worth. But, if we can just manage to let go, and surrender, our lives seem to flow effortlessly and smoothly. We can experience the flow and joy of life without the struggles of grasping and chasing after things.

I experienced that today, I let go of my willfulness to make it to New York and to be in that class. Instead, I am home, sipping hot cocoa, watching the snow fall, enjoying the beauty of this wondrous manifestation of Mother Nature, without the hassles of trudging through the streets of New York sloshing in puddles and slipping on icy patches.

Life is beautiful. Life is full. Life is glorious. Even in the disappointments, even in the struggles, life is rich. All we need do to enjoy it to the fullest is to relax and let go, live in the Tao and follow the flow.

Verse 22

If you want to become whole, let yourself be partial.
If you want to become straight, let yourself be crooked.
If you want to become full, let yourself be empty.
If you want to be reborn, let yourself die.
If you want to be given everything, give everything up.
The Master, by residing in the Tao, sets and example for all beings.
Because he doesn’t display himself, people can see his light.
Because he has nothing to prove, people can trust his words.
Because he doesn’t know who he is, people recognize themselves in him.
Because he has no goal in mind, everything he does succeeds.

When the ancient Masters said, “If you want to be given everything,
Give up everything,”
They weren’t using empty phrases.
Only in being lived by the Tao can you truly be yourself.


Let it snow!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


The night before last I had a dream about our old house. I think we were still living there, but I’m not sure. Adrienne was little and I was putting her to bed. The details are a little sketchy now, I should have written it all down when I woke up, but I didn’t. I put her to bed in what was our laundry room instead of her bedroom. She wanted me to get something for out of her bedroom and I was afraid.

Her bedroom in this dream was like the room I always dream about, very frightening, very threatening and dark. She wanted her toy and I needed to go into there, I was so afraid. So afraid that I woke up.

Last weekend I had the realization that when Adrienne was in the hospital and I thought she was going to die or be seriously compromised I began to mourn her. I would cry so hard that I wailed. It was frightening. I deeply felt her loss even though the outcome was still uncertain. Then all of a sudden she didn’t die (thank you, God!) and the mourning and the deep sense of loss that I felt was gone.

My realization was that I interrupted the grieving process and I locked it away. I didn’t move through it all, I just stopped and buried my feelings.

I’m not sure that that really makes sense. When I tried to explain it to Jon last night and link it to my dream, I don’t think he got it. I was mourning, I stopped and what was left was fear. So, I locked it away and then I was left with unresolved fear that just festered and would occasionally pop up into my dreams.

So, when I had the dream the night before last and Adrienne’s room was the scary room instead of the scary room at the top of the stairs as it normally is in this dream I have quite often, I stopped and asked myself why. Why Adrienne’s room?

I think that my dream is telling me that, yes, “You stopped the grieving process. You locked away your fears of losing her.” I see the message in the dream. I connected it with my earlier realization that I had stopped the grieving process.

However, I still wasn’t sure I was reading it correctly and maybe the correlation that I was making between my thoughts of the past weekend and my dream really didn’t exist and I was just seeing shadows where there were none. Then I had another dream last night….

In this dream, Adrienne was grown up and married to Zach. Izzy wasn’t in the dream, but I think she was a presence in the dream, or at least in the dream, I had knowledge of her. The four of us, Adrienne, Zach, Jon and I went back to our old house to do some work. We still owned the house, but we didn’t live there. We hadn’t been there for years. The house was empty.

Adrienne was saying how ugly and dated the house was; I found it charming. The cabinets were dark and the floors and rugs were old, but I loved it. In my dream, I was wondering why I ever left there. We were working very hard in the loft, taking out an ugly cabinet someone had built. I wandered down the hall to Adrienne’s old room. When I went in there I was so excited. It was open and airy; there was lots of sun pouring in the windows. I said to Adrienne, “Look at this room, it’s beautiful. I could make it my sanctuary. There is enough room to dance.” I began to dance and twirl from one end of the room to the other.

That was the dream.

Have I shined light on yet another area that blocks me from fully embracing who I am? I feel that I have. It will be interesting to see if the scary room in my dreams shows up again or if this is the last of my deep-seated fears.

I feel that I have had a breakthrough of sorts. I feel lighter today. I’m not sure if this is all of it, I doubt it. I am a multi-layered creature like everyone else, but this has the feel of one.

Stay tuned… I’m sure there is more to follow.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Secret


I learned a secret this weekend. It is difficult to comprehend it. This secret will change your life if you deeply hear it, learn it and incorporate it into your life.

You are going to die.

That was the teaching I learn from one of my most profound teachers this weekend. We had a class on death… our own death. We confronted Death - I am going to die -you are going to die.

So ask yourself this question: “What are you going to do with your one wonderful, wild, and precious life?” Mary Oliver asked that question.

Death is our one common denominator, along with birth. We all are born and we all die. Everything alive in this moment will die, fade away and nothing will remain. Knowing that, takes us to a place of compassion for everything else that is living. We will all experience our own death, knowing this creates a realization of compassion in our hearts if we will allow it blossom.

By my calculations, I have about twenty-five to thirty productive years left in my life, if I’m lucky. Knowing that I am going to die changes an awful lot, doesn’t it.? I should be happy now, not tomorrow or next week… but, now. Knowing that I am going to die and that you are going to die, makes me want to extend my hand to comfort and to receive comfort. It is our commonality. Knowing that I am going to die makes me want to make a difference in someone’s life, it doesn’t matter if it is just one person or ten million people. Making a difference in just one person’s life is like planting a tiny seed of love within another human being’s heart.

From that one seed, an entire forest may grow.

Life is meant to be lived. Wake up! Do something wonderful today. Take flying lessons, take a walk in the park, give a homeless man a buck, start a non-profit to help the uninsured, find the path to world peace. It doesn’t matter what it is that you do, just live your life.

Never, ever, deny yourself something with the thoughts of, “Well, maybe next year…” There may be no next year. Today is the day to live.

When I was in my late twenties, I had awful nightmares. I was newly married, life was good and I was pretty content and happy. Then these nightmares started. I would dream that I was in my grave and my body was rotting and putrid. There were worms and everything else. I wasn’t witnessing it as it is in most dreams, I was living it. I would wake up in a sweat, crying. I think I dreamed this dream every four or five nights for about six months. They stopped as suddenly as they started and I never knew what the cause was. I don’t believe I ever told anyone about them since they were such horrifying dreams. I really thought I was crazy.

I thought about those dreams quite often for years. What I learned from them was, and this knowing took quite a few years for it to sink in, of my own impermanence; that all of life is impermanent. Everyone I know and love will die. I will die, my body will rot and I will not be here. From that I learned to love life and to just sit and take it all in, right now.

This lesson also gave me a sense that there is far more to life than just my physical body. I am not my body. My body is my vehicle, but there is more to me than just this body. I am beyond my body. I am.

I’m not always successful in remembering this lesson, but I have tried. Saturday was a good reminder to live life now, not tomorrow or next Tuesday, but now.

Learn this secret and you too will live your life to the fullest in service to others, because giving to another living being is the surest way to really feel alive!

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Rehearsal

My dream last night was interesting. It’s one of those that just sort of hang on. Now I know I haven’t been up that long, but it’s going to be with me all morning.

There were two parts to this dream. The first part was that I became my doctor’s healer. He was a young man, and I was a young woman in the dream. He was wounded in the war, I’m assuming it was Viet Nam, but the war was unnamed, maybe he was wounded by life and there was no war; he was spiritually wounded none the less.

He wounds manifested as a bad back that gave him tremendous pain. His pain was so severe at times that he would roll into a fetal position and stay there for days. His friend came to me an asked me to help him. I was reluctant because he was my doctor and that was outside of our range of relationship and since he was a doctor, he might reject my efforts. However, I agreed.

I laid my hand on his forehead and prayed. He responded and was healed. He became a “believer” and changed his opinion about how medicine should work. He then went on his way to live his life.

The first part of the dream melded into the second part, I was rehearsing a play. It was one act play with two players. I was the female lead. There is also disembodied voice that comes from off stage, this part is played by a young kid. This voice is a God like entity that speaks to the hero of the play. I don’t really remember now what the voice says to the hero, but it helps the hero to see what he should do.

So, we rehearsed. The plot of the play was very like those awful black and white movies from the fifties, very dark and dramatic. Our hero was a tortured soul and I was co-dependent. We rehearsed and had it down pat. We then decided to perform our play before an audience.

The audience was small, in fact so small that the audience sat on my patio. One of the people in the audience was my brother’s childhood friend Ed. I haven’t seen Ed in forty-five years, but he was in the audience, he was still a young man just as he was all those years ago. Along with Ed were my doctor and his friend that had asked me to help.

The play began and from my first line the play was different than we rehearsed. I went to say my first line and it came out completely different than it was written. In the dream, I thought, “that’s not right, but let’s see where this takes me.” So, the play went on, something completely different than we rehearsed. I liked it.

Evidently, our audience did not, they left in the middle of it.

My co-star and I just shrugged and stopped. We liked what we had created. We knew we were going to take this play on the road… next stop Chicago.

The dream went on after that. There was a statue that would have been worth a lot of money if it hadn’t been broken. In the dream, I said, “Of course it is broken. Everything in this house is broken.” Then I had some interchange with Ed from my childhood that I don’t remember now. But, the important part was the rehearsal.

Life is like that, isn’t it? We rehearse. We plan our lives and imagine things a certain way that never really seem to pan out. Many of us dwell in the disappointment; we harbor bitterness. Yet in my dream, the rehearsal turned out nothing like the performance, it wasn’t successful, and yet I enjoyed that switch. I went with the flow and decided to try it again in Chicago.

I think that is my lesson learned in the last few years. I dwelled in the bitterness that my life didn’t turn out the way I planned, oh, so many years ago. My lesson is that in the end things are good. It all worked out for the best. No, I’m not living in New York City wearing designer shoes, working at a high powered job with a house in the country. But, my life is pretty damn good. I healed my wounds, just as I healed my doctor’s wounds from the first part of the dream. We are our own healers.

So, rehearse; but be prepared to change in mid-sentence and what comes out might be pretty incredible… even if you lose your audience.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Faith... The Only Key


I have been writing this blog for just about a year now and there are a few themes that I write about over and over again. I guess I am going to write about them until I get it right….

One of the themes that I work with a lot is faith. Perhaps it is that I lack faith or I don’t have faith in faith. I don’t know, but faith is something that is so elusive at times. Do I have faith in God? Well, I think so. I would dearly love to have a personal relationship with God, I would love to feel his presence in my life. I see his tracks, I follow them, but I don’t really know God.

For me, God is present in his creation. I look at the trees and the sky and I know God there. Trees spend all of their lives reaching toward knowing God and I suppose I am too. But, when I am in and among trees, I feel close to God.

So, I am learning. I have an inkling of God occasionally and that helps to strengthen my faith.

I am reading a book about faith at the moment and I think that I might have mentioned this already- there is a difference between faith and belief. Belief is an opinion. “I believe that the Eagles are going to win tonight.” Is a different animal than saying, I have faith that the Eagles are going to win tonight.” Faith is a knowing. An assurance from deep within in that what you think is true.

The more I chased after my desires the more they eluded me. I realize that as soon as I relax my yearning for what I perceive I need or want the more it starts to flow towards me. In the past, the piece that was missing was the faith that all will be provided for me. I began to relax into the knowing that it will come.

The more that I was able to do that, the more I received.

Beyond that though, the more I received, the less I wanted material things. My wants turned towards love and kindness. I want to be a good person above all else.

In the Bible, Matthew says that the birds neither toil nor do they reap. They don’t gather in barns and yet all that they need is provided for them. The lilies of the field are arrayed in perfect beauty, and not even Solomon is clothed like one of these. Why do we chase after material things when if we have faith that they will come, they will come. Do we still have to work, well I’m pretty sure that God helps those who help themselves, but I do think that we don’t have to sweat the big stuff if we have faith that God is there.

In my experience this has proved to be true, the more that I relax into my faith that God will provide, the more my needs have been taken care of. When I want to do something, I don’t worry where the money will come from; I relax into the knowing that it will show up as I need it. And you know what? It does.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Living the Pissed Off Moment


I try to live in the moment. I really do. It has taken me a long time to get to this point where I live in the now, but of, course there are just as many times when I am caught in my dramas and in my thoughts. However, I feel that I am approaching a tipping point of sorts, I’m balanced on the head of a needle and I can go either way… living in the now, or wrapped up in the turmoil of my thoughts.

Today is a turmoil of my thoughts day.

My father’s vacation is driving me nuts. I’m not sure how he believes that he will be able to do this. He wants to meet his German girlfriend in the Dominican Republic for a romp in the sun and in the sack. It is all he thinks about, talks about and is concerned about. He cannot remember to take his pills, eat, or to pay his bills, but he doesn’t let this go. Yet, he isn’t capable enough to arrange it all. Not only do we have to make his arrangements for him, but we have to coordinate it with his girlfriends arrangements. And I’m no travel agent.

I need a vacation from his vacation. Personally, I will be glad when he goes; then perhaps we will have six weeks of relative calm. Perhaps…. Last year I had to fly to Oaxaca to rescue them both and I am assuming that this year will be no different.

In hospice there is a thing called a “Respite.” Respites are short periods, anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, where hospice provides care for a normally home-bound patient in a facility to give the family a break from the day to day (and sometimes minute to minute) care that patients require. The families receive a “Respite.”

I need a respite.

My father drives me crazy. His dementia takes the form of “A Dog With A Bone.” Once he has an idea or thought in his head, he is incapable of doing or thinking about anything else until he either completes it, or he forgets about it. Usually he doesn’t forget these things, he tussles with them (and me) until it is resolved. Of course, we have to get involved because he really can’t do it for himself. Now, I’m sure that somewhere he knows that he can’t do it, but he tries anyway. And I’m also sure that it must be frustrating to feel so totally helpless, especially since he was so capable. I see it. I understand it. And I empathize with it. But, it still makes me bongers!

When I am embroiled in his dramas, I lose the moment. I find myself caught up in all manner of psychological junk and issues. I still am not sure why I am his caregiver when I can’t think of a single incident in my life when he was my caregiver. I don’t have too many fond memories of my childhood and he was a prominent figure in my life. So, when he asks me to do these things for him, I get pissed off.

And being pissed off is the antithesis of living in the moment.

Then I walk away, I go back to my room or I get in the car. Eventually, I come out of my pissed off stupor and remember to breathe…. Aaaaahhhh. Inhale – exhale. Inhale – exhale. The breath of life – the breath of God moving through me. Brining me back to the moment. I am able to reconnect to Divine universal light and energy and deep dark mother earth energy. It is all there for me. With every breath I am held, supported, nurtured, and love. All day every day and it is just a breath away.

If I can just remember to surrender to the emptiness that is God at the very center of my being. Breathe….

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Belief vs Faith


The question today are what my “sacred cows?” My sacred cows? Do I have any really sacred cows? I don’t think so. So that probably means that I do, right?

Okay, Consideration for others – that could be one. I feel that it is important to consider people’s feelings when you interact.

Another would definitely be – Do no harm. I feel that all beings have the right to live in peace and to live their lives as they were meant to live them. So, chickens in tiny little boxes churning out egg after egg is not in keeping with that belief. Cows that have their young taken away immediately after birth would be in that category, too. I still drink milk, so I’m a hypocrite too.

I have a problem with industrial farming of all sorts. I know that in this country it is almost impossible not to eat food from these farms. I know I can’t afford to buy only local produce or even all organic food, but I do try. Plants need to be plants also, and not some genetically engineered imitation. My Native American teacher said that to eat food that cannot reproduce itself is eating death, or at best, something that is not fully alive.

So, I would say that those are two sacred cows.

Sacred cows are beliefs that we hold especially dear. Belief and faith is not the same thing. Belief is an opinion… “I believe this to be true.” Faith is a deep understanding that all is as it should be.

I feel (believe) that I have moved away from beliefs over the years. I’m sure I have lingering beliefs… it’s kind of hard to go through life and not have beliefs encrusted on you like barnacles. However, I feel that I have worked on loosening some of my beliefs and I am open to other possibilities.

There is a phrase that I attempt to employ and that is: “I wonder.” I wonder if there could be another way. When I am confronted with an annoying person or situation, I ask myself if there is something more that I am not seeing and generally, when I ask that question of myself, I see that perhaps there is another way of looking at this situation, or that there might be a different way of doing it. That opens all sorts of room for possibilities to come to me. It was just a small shift, but it opened enormous potential for growth and a more peaceful way of living.

The funny thing is that when I actually was able to make this shift, I felt my beliefs soften and my faith to grow.

I have faith that spirit is with me, that we are working this gig together. I know that I am not really in control. That God moves through me; for what purpose I have no idea. But, I have faith that I can rest fully in God.

When I act from a place of ego, there is hardness to the action. If I come from spirit, there is softness, an ease, to my actions. As I have begun to notice the difference, my faith seemed to grow on its own.

Most people would say that faith and belief are synonyms. I think that they are antonyms. Faith and trust are synonyms, as is belief and opinion. So, when we say that we believe in Catholicism or Hinduism, for instance, we are offering our opinion rather than our faith.

So, I don’t believe that I have sacred cows. But, I do have faith that there is so much that I don’t know and I am open to wondering what will open to me next. I abide in You… at least I try.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Awe


I had a strange and a wonderful experience this weekend on my way to New York. I was in the car with Jon on our way to Trenton to catch my train. It was early morning; the sun was just coming up, glowing red and orange with some pink and purple tints. There was some ground mist, but it had already lifted some and was about mid way up the trees. The trees now bare, display their intricately laced branches and twigs which silhouetted against the rising sun.

It took my breath away with the beauty and peacefulness of it all. I didn’t want to continue on to the train, I wanted to stop the car and go and stand among the trees until the fog lifted completely and the sun lost its color and was midway through its climb.

However, on we continued. I made it to the train with plenty of time to buy my ticket, watch it rumble on into the station- whooshing air, lifting hair and skirts as it pasted. Why do I walk along side the train as it slows to a stop? I walk beside the train trying to line up with a door, why not just wait until it stops and then go to the nearest door, I ask myself. Some how I feel I must help it park just so.

I settle into my seat, retrieve my ticket from my handbag, plug my earphones into my ears, turn on my iPod, pull out my Kindle, and wait for 7:34. I’m ready and so is the train, together we head to New York. With all my appliances up an running, protecting me from screaming children and gossiping young women, we move on down the tracks.

After we pass Newark International Airport, I put my Kindle down. I look out the window and see an industrial wasteland – factories opened and some abandoned. There is all the equipment lining the tracks that keep the train running and there is trash, junk, gravel and detritus, all in shades of grey. The only color comes from the splashes of graffiti lining the walls of factories and pillars of bridges.

But, every so often, there is a stand of trees or a tiny island of swampland with water along the tracks. I am amazed to see that where there is a tiny patch of water, there are also birds. The beauty of the wasteland is unmistakable and the tiny patch of swamp a gift. I am undecided if I find more beauty in the wasteland or in the swamp teeming with life. I still cannot choose between the two. But, I am awed that Mother Nature can always reclaim what is hers, even here in North Jersey.

Then we, me and the train, pass a large swamp with rice like plants that grow and cover a large expanse, just the kind of place Dick Chaney might like to hide and wait for caged birds to be released to shoot them out of the sky. It too was so brimming with beauty that I wanted to pull the handle to stop the train so that I could spend more time in the swamp looking for birds, not to shoot, but just to watch with an envious eye as they fly to the sky.

We enter the tunnel with one last look at New Jersey and it’s all black, I can see my reflection in the window and I notice that my hair is a mess. I don’t touch it however, I just turn my attention to putting away all of my electronic armor that keeps the world at bay and wait for the train to land. We stop on track eleven; I have this misbegotten belief that the track that we arrive on will be the track on which we will depart. I have been proved wrong, time and time again, but it doesn’t stop me from hoping that this time I will be right. So, I strained to look.

Leaving the station, I breathe in the chilly New York air. I love New York. I love emerging from the station on to the street and taking that first breath. Some how, as I breathe in New York air, I become one with the city, I feel good. The crowds are bustling, the cops hang on the corner near their mobile command post, cabbies flying past, people waiting for the light to change, but making a run for if there is a break in the cars going by, even though the cop blows his whistle at them, they run anyway. I love New York.

I stop at the pharmacy across from Penn Station to buy some aspirin because my back doesn’t feel so good. I love the train, but the seat and I are never one. They always activate my sciatica and today it was bad.

Even though it was difficult to walk and each step a reminder of my seat on the train, I feel the same connection that I felt that morning with the rising sun among the lacy branches and with the industrial wasteland, I feel awe. As the people hurried, or trotted, or ambled, or limped past me on their way to who knows where, I felt the beauty and the connectedness that I felt with all the other vistas that I connected with that morning. I felt our oneness, I felt perfection and I for just a bit, I felt God.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Old Stuff Revisited... And Some New Stuff


My spiritual counseling class is bringing up so much stuff for me. This past weekend, I was ready to quit. We did an exercise of the "inner critic” that all of us carry with us. We wrote out the tape recording that plays over and over in our heads-“I’m worthless,” “I don’t deserve good things,” “I’m fat… stupid… ugly… no good.” All those horrible things that we heard as children and then kept repeating to ourselves over and over through out our lives… my life.

After we wrote out about five of these pithy little ditties, our partner selected one of the sentences and said it to us; the object being to see where in our bodies that we felt the hurt. It was hard! I felt some of the sentences in my gut, others in my heart. It was not an easy exercise.

The entire weekend brought up all sorts of negativity. Not because it was a bad weekend, that I felt insecure, or anything like that, it was more that some of the issues that I worked so hard to dislodge from my head are also stored in my body. The power of those pithy little sentences is lodged, and I assume working in my body still.

I think that is the over-riding thing that I took away with me this weekend. I need to work on the stuff that I carry within my body or in my energy field. I need to get out of my head and into my body and into my spirit to break loose all those remaining little crusty bits left over from growing up to completely integrate.

Does even that make sense?

I’m not sure. However, that is what I felt. I still carry the scars within my body. If I didn’t, then those wonderful little sentences would not have the power to punch me in my gut the way they did, right? Right. What doesn’t mean anything to us, doesn’t affect us.

Every time I feel that I have taken two steps forward, I am pulled back a step. Spiritual growth is such fun….

Changing subjects….

Yesterday, I made a difference. I counseled two spouses of two patients with Alzheimer’s. I gave them a chance to speak and speak they did, they were able to voice their feelings to me. I feel very humbled that my presence made a difference. And I am grateful. I feel very blessed to have found my way into this job.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Perfection


The other night I was invited to attend a gathering of women for the auspicious date of 11/11… my birthday, which was just a coincidence. It was held at one of the women’s homes. Now the puja was lovely. We did a silent mediation and offered some prayers; it was simple, but quite moving and lovely.

My problem was not with the intention of the ceremony, nor the people involved, but with the place itself. It was perfect. The space from its inception was planned to be perfect. I am sure that I am being judgmental and perhaps there is a touch of sour grapes in there, but I truly feel that I am being as close to objective as I can be.

It was just too much.

The house is one of those bloated McMansions, built on a golf course. The woman has lived there with her husband for thirteen years and recently remodeled the entire house from top to bottom. She envisioned the living and dining room as a sanctuary and pursued her dreams. I have no problem with any of that, I would love to have a sanctuary too. But, this was just too perfect, filled with objects from all over the world; even the paint was specially created and filled with blessings… I didn’t know that Benjamin Moore specializes in blessed paint.

On the floor that we were on, the main living area of the house, there were four living rooms including the sanctuary space. The kitchen was flawless and the granite counter tops looked like the bed of a flowing stream, just lovely. It was perfect and in there lies the problem… for me.

I don’t understand the necessity of it. Wouldn’t the puja have been as lovely and meaningful in a lesser space? The woman gave us a long description of what she went through to create this space. She was obviously proud of her efforts. It seemed to be a complete exercise in ego, which negated the meaning behind the puja for me.

I am sure that there must be a note of jealousy within me… there must be. However, I honestly don’t feel it and I have searched my soul for it. I wouldn’t want a house like that, for sure. Her things were beautiful and yet, there was nothing there that I coveted. But, I feel that I am being critical because somewhere I would like to have the means to do something like. Right? I must be jealous, because why would it have affected me like this. Or is it that I just see ego?

God wants only to be included in our lives. He doesn’t care that we have five crystal singing bowls or an “Om” singing bowl or a water feature in our living room or a three hundred pound amethyst cut in half that doubles as a candle holder or a Quan Yin with a gold leaf backing hanging on the wall. God just wants to rest in our hearts; wherever they are.

Wherever two or more are gathered in my name….

Was it a beautiful space? You betcha. It was perfect.

The only trouble is that God loves our imperfections. God wants us to have our breath taken away by the grandeur of his creation.

Today the wind is blowing all the remaining leaves from the trees, it is wet and a definite chill in the air. Winter is coming there is no doubt. As I sit here looking out my window at the blowing trees, and feeling the cold in my bones, I know that God is here too. A flock of birds flew by not too long ago. I couldn’t see them from my vantage point, but there must have been ten thousand of them judging by the noise they made. And I knew that God was there too.

I didn’t feel God there the other night; I felt ego and for me, it made the puja pointless
.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Vargo Dragway


Yesterday was one of those days that become burned in my memory and years from now, I’ll still remember the sights, sounds and smell of it. It was a perfect fall day. There was a chill in the air and there was enough wind to make the air decidedly brisk. However, the sun was warm and the sky was completely clear.

Jon really wanted to go to the fortieth anniversary of the closing of Vargo Drag Strip car show near Allentown, PA. The strip closed while Jon was barely in his twenties, but he had many fond memories of the place. Every year since its closing, the powers that be put on a car show of all the old cars and hotrods from days gone by.

Since the strip closed in 1969, it has become a farm, but the owner left the old drag strip in place; it was probably too costly to get rid of it, so he just farms around it. All the cars in the show lined up along the side of the strip and people walked it to reminisce and dream about days gone by. We were no exception.

Before we left home, I had the idea to pack a picnic lunch and since we had to run to the store to pick up a few things for my father, I bought a loaf of bread, some cranberry stilton, triple crème brie, organic black grapes and some sparkling apple cider. We put it all together in our picnic basket and popped it into the trunk.

We arrived at Vargo, and there was no place to park The guy at the gate turned us away. We asked if we could park and walk in, he didn’t want to say yes, but he indicated that it would be okay. We found a place to park about a half a mile away on someone’s farm. We had plenty of company parked along with us and we assumed the farmer was tolerant.

It was a lovely walk in the fall air surrounded by beautiful pristine farmland in the chilly air. It smelled so clean, the grass that we walked through was verdant, the trees still had color, and the sky was a perfect blue. When we made it to the drag strip we had walked through some of the most scenic and inspiring views. Pumpkins were still in the fields and there were geese in the pond. I couldn’t get enough if it.

We walked the strip and the cars were pretty cool. I must say that I really enjoyed it. Jon was looking for inspiration for his car project. I think he may have found it. He is being a little circumspect today, but I think he has figured out his direction. Every car that we saw was better than the one before. Honestly, today, they have all blended together and I can’t remember the details of any of them, just that they had a lot of work and effort put into each one.

Then someone started one of the cars, and the rhythm of the engine vibrated in my heart. It was an interesting experience. I felt the energy of the car moving through me and it seemed to connect me directly to God. God was moving through all of us along with the vibration of the engine. It was a deeply moving experience. I’m not sure Jon would put it in those terms exactly, but he was moved as well.

After we walked the entire show, taking our time and taking it all in, we walked the half mile back to our car, just before we arrived at the car, we ducked into a cornfield and we both peed amongst the corn stalks. There was something so sensual and joyful about peeing in the cornfield together. I’ve peed in the woods and on the side of a road hoping no one would see, but peeing in a cornfield was a first for both of us. We made our way back out of the cornfield and we spread out our blanket, right there on the side of the road at this person’s farm and ate our fabulous lunch in the grass by the side of the road. It was the best food I have ever eaten, sharing it with my best guy and soaking up the sun along with the chill in the air. It was a delightful mixture of tastes, sensations, and smells.

We lingered over our lunch for sometime, enjoying the entire experience. Afterwards, we packed everything up and drove through more inspiring countryside.

On our way home we stopped to see Isabella, Adrienne and Zach for a short visit. And later still, we stopped and got Indian food for dinner and we watched Miss Congeniality for the sixtieth time slurping down curry and partha.

I’m not sure that I could have imagined a better day than that!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Interspaces


I woke up this morning at about five, now I don’t know what I was dreaming about, but I awoke with a question on my mind. My question is the same as always, finding God. I read in my psychology book for class that creation happens in the spaces in between. The example in the book is musical notes. Each note represents a tone or sound, however, it is the space in between the notes that creates the music. If it were not for these spaces all we would hear is noise.

I struggled with that concept. I understood the words, but the concept escaped me- until now. In meditation, it is said that meditation happens between the thoughts. It’s the same with music, art, anything. I get it, the creative part are the spaces in between. How much time elapses from one note to the next is what gives the music its rhythm, its texture, and its uniqueness. If not for the spaces then the notes really are just a series of boring tones. The spaces give them life.


On Thursday, I was sitting in the parking lot at work. I was about to drive away when I noticed a squirrel sitting in a small tree in front of me. He was just considering me and I began to consider him. We just watched each other for a time until he got bored and went on his way. I remained looking at the tree. It was a small but bushy tree, all of its leaves were gone, and I was taken with the “bones” of the tree. It had many intricate small branches that gracefully intersected each other and formed a lovely lacework. As I looked at this tree I noticed the interspaces between the branches. It struck me that it was the spaces that made the grace.

In those spaces is our connection to God.

We all form rigid personalities that clothe us in protective armor. The denser our armor the less spaces we have to allow the flow of God into our being. We are continually filling the chinks in our armor to keep us safe- safe from the judgment of others, and our own judgment about ourselves. But, all this armor does is keep us from realizing the God force that surrounds and flows through our Interspaces.

This is not a new concept, all the books I have read talk about the same thing, let go and let God. I think I fully understand it now. God is in the tiny moments of quiet in our minds. Our goal, my goal, is to quiet my mind more so to allow more space in between.

I have experienced those tiny moments of complete stillness many times. They come and go so quickly that it I forget they were there. Nevertheless, it is in those tiny moments that I have had the most profound impact on my life. These moments of complete awareness always seem to shimmer with a divine glow. In the Gospels when Peter and a few of the other Apostles are with Jesus on the mountain at night. Peter “wakes up” and sees Jesus with Moses and Elijah and he describes Jesus’ clothes as a brilliant white, and everything seemed to be lit from within and all just shimmered. That is how it is in those moments of total clarity… of being completely awake and aware- it shimmers and seems lit from within. We all have those moments, but we can’t stay awake, and they pass quickly. Sometimes, we don’t even remember them because we sink back into our armor and discount the moment that just past as a fluke.

I don’t discount those moments, I treasure them. I await them as a woman awaits the birth of her baby. They are as precious as a newborn to me because in them, I am in the Interspaces and I know God.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Egg-Shaped Lives


As I go from house to house, visiting one dying person after another, I am struck by what a complete package any life is. Their birth is followed by the entirety of their lives. I come in at the very end and yet, their lives are all there, full and complete, even if it is almost over. Even though they are near death, they are still very much alive and vibrant.

One man that I visited yesterday is from St. Thomas. He has been in the country for many years. He was a minister and has a deep faith in God and he knows that God is with him. He has end-stage Parkinson’s disease. He is bed bound, very weak and he is difficult to understand when he speaks, but he is perfectly lucid. He is a lovely lonely man.

His wife, who is somewhat younger than he, feels trapped in this small apartment with her husband, so three days a week she goes out to a senior center and leaves her husband home alone. When we arrived he was very thirsty, we gave him some Ensure to drink. His foot was bothering him and Maggie was able to adjust the pillow to give him some relief.

Then we started to talk. We talked about God, I read some from the Bible to him, and he started to cry. He cried because his wife leaves him alone so much and even when she is home, she doesn’t stay in the bedroom with him, she sits in the living room. She is probably afraid and can’t face her fears. I’m sure it is difficult for her. It is hard to see your husband fade away and that is what he is doing… he is fading away bit by bit.

I felt so honored to be there. I wanted to stay with him. We stayed about an hour and then had to leave. Fortunately, Warren stayed with him until either his wife returned home or his nursing aid arrived. This was one day he didn’t have to be alone.

Then we went to see a widow. She is the widow of a doctor, obviously very wealthy, quite beautiful and very intelligent and learned. However, she always lived in the shadow of her husband. They had been married for over sixty years. She is trying to make her way in the world without him. Now, she is fortunate, she lives in a wonderful independent-living community with all the amenities, and the possibilities of companionship with the other residents. She has her dog with her and she is able to walk the dog and care for her. On the surface she has it all. But, she is terribly lonely and very lost without her husband. Her struggle is palpable and her pain is very real.

We had a lovely visit with her and she was so grateful for the help that we offered her. We were just a sympathetic ear and a bit of a diversion from her pain for an hour or so.

Then we went to visit a woman with end-stage Alzheimer’s disease. She is only in her early seventies and has been struggling with this for fifteen years. Her husband is the most loving and caring person I think I ever met. He sees no difference in the woman he loves; to him she is who she always was. They were both educators who never had children of their own. He has help caring for her, but primarily, he takes care of her. It is impossible to communicate with the woman, she recognizes no one, not even her husband. She has no concept of anything that is going on around her, or if she does understand anything, she is unable to acknowledge it in any way.

In each home that I went into, there are pictures of their lives. As I looked at the photographs, I was struck but the totality of their lives. I saw a small egg-shaped entity that contained it all. All the years held within this egg. Each egg-shaped life nestled with the other lives that touched them. Together, these eggs are nestled in a nest that form a family, and then the nests come together to form a community. It grows and grows until it encompasses all of life on this planet… and I’m sure it doesn’t stop there. However, this one life, this egg-shaped entirety of life, while small against the backdrop of the whole is insignificant, but when that life is gone, there is a hole that is impossible to replace.

We may never know the man from St Thomas, or the rich widow, or the educator that has lost all ability to think, we may never know them personally, but their loss will leave an empty space in the fabric of our lives.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Finding Meaning


I have spent most of my life trying to find the meaning behind all the things in my life. When something dreadful would happen, or something joyous, I would pause and wonder what it all meant. It has been a puzzlement, a little nagging question in the back of my mind… What does it all mean?

Now, I don’t know and I’m not sure we are meant to know, but what I do know is that these happenings, whether they are tragic or blessed, form a tapestry that creates a life… my life, our lives.

One thing happens and then another, we move from one to the next in a seamless flow of time. If we could possibly allow ourselves to let go as we continually drift from one event to the next, perhaps life you would be less painful and suffering kept to a minimum. Perhaps the experience is the important element and not just the result of any event.

When something wonderful has happened to me – it could be a life-affirming event, such as getting the job at hospice, or something as simple as being with my granddaughter for a dinner together– whatever the event, I try to let it go as it is coming to its natural conclusion. I don’t cling and I let go.

There was a time when I would cling. I remember one time, and think it was when I first noticed my tendency to cling to enjoyable times, my husband gave me the gift of a massage and facial at a spa, I was so excited, and I looked forward to it for weeks. The day finally arrived and I went to the spa. They gave me a luxurious robe to wear and soft slippers to cushion me feet and led me into the massage room. The dimly lit room smelled of herbal oils, it was truly delicious. As I lay on the table and began to soak in the ambiance and the feel of warm hands on my body, the thought began to form - this is going to end. I remember I kept thinking, “Oh, I wish this could go on forever.” Which, of course, it cannot; all things must end. Time passed and I began looking for the end. There was a bit of desperation in my thought, it’s going to end, it’s going to end.

It wasn’t until later that evening that I realized I missed most of the massage because I was anticipating the end; so much so, that the actual experience of the massage slipped by unnoticed. It was then that I realized that all things end; slowly, I made peace with it and made a concerted effort to fully experience anything that was occurring that moment. And it has made all the difference!

No longer do I worry about the end, I dwell in the midst. It has taken some time to reach this point, but it has been a blessing. Even in the midst of difficult events, I dwell in the midst, knowing that there is an end, but experiencing all that comes. Somehow, it has freed me in ways that I do not fully understand. It is in this place of not knowing that I find the meaning to it all.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

October's Prayer


This morning I ate my breakfast outside. It is a kind of misty, damp morning; the weather is warm, but threatening rain. It’s the last day of my favorite month. Well, October is one of my many favorite months… each month has something unique and delicious about it. However, October has always been at the top of my list. I love the chill in the air, the feeling of drawing within, sweaters, fall vegetables and the time for making soups. Then there are the trees. I’m not sure I have words for the feelings that are aroused in me as I look upon a woods arrayed in the glorious colors of October.

There is sadness there for sure, and yet, it almost as if God is giving us one last gift before we settle in for the coming winter: the gift of breathing in unspeakable beauty. October awakens all these things in me, and more.

Today is the last day of October, yet today is warm enough to eat my Rice Krispies outside. I took my bowl and went out back to watch the leaves fall, wishing that I could pause time long enough to completely drink in the moment of following a leaaf floating to the ground. But, it is impossible to pause, of course, and even if we could, it would lose all of its power and magnificence. It is the moment of witnessing the falling leaf that is the prayer. Trying to grasp it or to slow its decent is somehow as wrong as it is pointless.

Our lives are like that. We are like the leaf. We move through time to an inevitable end, yet to cling or grasp after the moment before is somehow a sinful act. I’m not terribly fond of the words sin or sinful, but in this context it seems appropriate. We move through time, fluttering to the ground. It is in the fluttering that we are blessed.

Oh, dear God, thank you for October. Thank you for the gift of sight and the gift of colors. What a glorious month this was! My cup is full and I am at peace.

It occurred to me that happiness is in the little moments of our lives. It is like the young birch tree standing in the middle of a dense forest in winter. All the trees are bare, yet somehow the tiny birch tree manages to retain its leaves. They are almost white, no trace of green, for sure, but they stand out and shimmer against the backdrop of the gray and brown of the giant trees. Happiness is like the tiny birch in winter. Moments of little pleasures, that stands out amongst the rest.

Last summer, my granddaughter who was not yet two, came for dinner. She finished her tomato and asked for more. I cut up another slice and placed it on her plate. When she saw the tomato she clapped her hands and squealed, “Oooh, tomato! I’m so happy!” In that moment she experienced pure joy, it stood out like the tiny birch tree in the forest. That moment stayed with me, and I have thought about it often since then.

Happiness is a collection of tiny moments that stand out from the rest of our day. All we need do is to take the time to notice them as the pass; like the fluttering of a leaf to the ground, or the young birch tree in the forest, or even a slice of tomato on my plate. Joy comes in little doses. Yet, when we are able to notice them, they create a garland that we can follow, moving from one to the next. Somehow, the tiny little moments of joy can fill a huge space and totally wrap you in peace. Then as you look into the forest all you can see is the tiny birch tree illuminating your life.

Amen.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Somehow, during the night I came to the realization that much of my cynicism and maybe some of my anger is an emulation of my father. Is that even possible?

When I encounter a person that has obviously has money, whether they are driving a Mercedes or a Lexus, wearing beautiful clothing, what ever the outward appearance is, my reaction, is: “Look at them how rich they are, they are snobs, they are arrogant, they feel they are entitled….” Another example might be: “What do you expect? The politicians in Washington all have money and good health insurance, so they don’t care about the rest of us.” “The system is corrupt, so just forget it.” Observations that have no basis in reality, except in my own head. There is no way that I could know any of those things.

Now that seems like an obvious discovery and it is very superficial to be sure. I think, however, that it goes far deeper and its roots are in my father’s attitudes towards life. I aligned with my father growing up. Not because he was such a great guy or that he was my closest confidant, but because he wasn’t my mother. My mother was indifferent towards me. Her focus was on my brother and not on me My mother was down right cruel to me at times, so I aligned with my father.

In an attempt to win his favor, which in the end I was never going to do, I adopted an attitude of cynicism. Cynicism is a learned behavior. He is the king of cynicism. I can still hear his voice when I would tell him of an aspiration or a desire, he would almost growl, “Dream on.” It was ugly and it always felt like a slap in the face. It killed many of my dreams for many years.

Now this is not an attempt to bash my parents, I have done enough of that on my own, but rather, I am attempting to understand a pattern of behavior that I have carried with me for most of my adult life.

When I was younger, I would tell my parents of an injustice that I saw and I would want to right it, or perhaps, I would tell them I wanted them to right it. It could have been a political injustice or a personal injustice, whatever it was, their response was that I shouldn’t rock the boat, women shouldn’t act like that, or that I am always complaining, do you really think it is going to change anything? The result was that instead of being open and allowing my compassion to lead, I developed an attitude of cynicism and the accompanying emotion with cynicism is anger. I immobilized myself with cynicism and anger. I’m not sure that conveys deeply enough what I am trying to say.

My cynicism was an roadblock to social activism. Instead of acting on my instinctual compassion, my cynicism took over and cut off the impulse to help, to be of service. I have come to believe that compassion and the desire to help is our basic natural, we are imbued from birth a desire to be of service, and in my case, cynicism lopped it off at the root. Our nature is to be open and loving with all, but as a defense, we cut ourselves off from those around us. The walls go up and compassion is locked in a vault.

Take the key and open the gate. Allow your natural instincts to flow forth. There is no one that can call you back, there is no one leaning over your shoulder telling you that it is wrong to speak up. I am saying to you now; dream on. Yes, dream on, open the doors, the windows, and dream on!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


This weekend was a very interesting look at myself. I was in my spiritual counseling class and we were asked to go deep within to an issue or a hurt, and speak to it. The first exercise was picking an issue or a person or a part of myself that I take issue with. My teacher used the example of the part of her personality that she calls “Sweet Pea.” Sweet Pea” is a people pleaser, etc. She had a conversation with Sweet Pea for us. When she was herself she sat in one chair, then Sweet Pea would answer while sitting in another chair. And a real conversation ensued that was interesting and you could feel that she was talking to another person.

Well, it was my turn. Each of us had a witness to the process. I spoke to my brother. What came out, I think, for me is that Karl and I are very much a like and the things that I loathe in him are qualities that I am afraid I have. That is frightening to me. Now, I see too that he has done nothing to change these things, and I feel that I have worked very hard to release some of my old feelings of self-loathing. However, I recognize that I have much of the same stuff.

One of his qualities that disturbs me the most is his lack of concern for anyone else. In my heart of hearts, isn’t that me? I tend to be completely self-involved most of the time.I feel that many times all I can give is lip service. I don’t want to be like that. Another is that he is such a slob. Look at my room, it’s a mess.

So, if I find these qualities disturbing in him and I feel that I have the same challenges, then do I loathe myself just as he does? Haven’t I worked hard to change that? And yet it is still there, just waiting to jump out when I least expect it.

The next exercise involved three people sitting together. One was the counselor, one was the counselee, and one was the witness. The counselee was to speak to something that came up for them this weekend, an issue that they faced or realized or something to that nature. The counselor was to ask open-ended questions that would lead the counselee to realize something new, or get a new perspective on their issue. The witness was to observe and to give feedback on what they saw. Their role was more about the process rather than the issue. i.e. The counselor’s posture was too intimidating and made the counselee withdraw, or something in that nature.

I teamed up with Andy and Debbie. I know them both very well and maybe that wasn’t really fair or in keeping with the exercise, but that was my team. Perhaps we would have been better served had we chose a team with people we didn’t know well. I’m not sure that’s true, but in any case, I think we got the team we needed.

Andy and Debbie spoke about their issues and both went very deep. They were in touch with their feelings. When it was my turn to speak, I felt such a reticence to go there. I was not going to be drawn into my feelings. It was a palpable feeling that I did not want to deeply look at my “stuff.” That frightens me to no end. What is it that I don’t want to confront? Is there something terrible there hidden in the cracks of my mind? Why don’t I cry? If I open the flood gates will it all pour forth? Or perhaps it is that I have worked through my major issues and there isn’t pain any longer? I’m not sure that last statement is true, because many times I feel so out of touch with myself. I am so conditioned to cutting off that part of me that is experiencing emotions (except anger), I can’t go there even when I would like to. Anger is the easiest emotion to connect with for me, I know anger well and I am comfortable with it. So, outside of anger, in the end, I have a flat aspect. I experience never pain nor joy. Although, I must say, I have cracked the joy aspect of this, thanks wholly to One Spirit. They have given me that and for that I am ever grateful. I know joy and it is a blessing.

I wish I knew the answer to why don’t I cry. I don’t. The last time that I really cried was when Itza died. Losing him was so hard to bear. That was seven years ago. I have not openly cried since. What came out in my session was that I feel that I must “do the work,” meaning that I must concentrate on the task at hand no matter what. Feelings are secondary and to be ignored.

What happens if I am repressing some memory that has cut me off from my emotions? If I continue with spiritual counseling, I am afraid that it will trigger some dark night of the soul that will be impossible to bear. Or am I being overly dramatic?

This peeling away of the onion is a difficult thing and not for the faint of heart. Every time I think I have conquered my issues, there is another layer just waiting to be peeled away. Does it ever end? No, it doesn’t, I suppose.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Irrevocable Change


Yesterday while I was at hospice, I was struck by how much sadness there is the world. Young children who have lost a parent at an early, parents that have lost children, husbands, wives all just disappear. What does it mean? I can’t quite figure it out why God would give us so much pain.

Is it possible that things like this just happen? There was a book written some time ago by a rabbi called “When Bad Things Happen To Good People.” In it he basically says that stuff happens. Accidents occur and illness strikes without regard for the people to whom it is happening.

One of my biggest fears is that in an instant my life will change without warning. I have spent many hours worrying about it. Of course, it was a waste of time because in the end you can’t do a thing to stop irrevocable change from occurring. It will take place whether you spend your days worrying about it or not. The only thing to do is to have faith that all will be well no matter what happens. Place one foot in front of the other. That is all we can do. Keep moving forward.

Does God have a plan? I’m not sure. It seems to me that if God has a plan it is mighty confusing and complicated. But, then again, I’m not God, so I can’t possibly fathom what it is or why. All I can do is to rest in my faith and allow whatever is happening to me or before me to unfold as it will and trust that I will be held.

I don’t know what God has in store for me. Do I get frightened sometimes, you betcha. I just keep on moving forward and know that God is right there with me.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


I was listening to the podcast of my Spiritual Counseling class yesterday afternoon and as part of the meditation, we had to create a time line of our lives starting at birth. I was so resistant to this exercise. For a few days I would turn it on to do the meditation and then turn it off, or become distracted. It was so apparent that I didn’t want to do it, that I forced myself to do it yesterday after the soup was on and there was nothing of great import to do.

During the meditation, I had a few visions that were a little startling. The first one was, me as a little baby in my crib waiting for someone to come and pick me up. In my vision it seemed like a long wait, I don’t know if that was actually the case, but in my meditation it seemed like it. I didn’t see myself as crying or really disturbed by the wait, it seemed natural.

The next vision was when I was a little older, I’m not sure how old, but I had an awareness that my parents fought a lot after we moved to Cherry Hill. In my mind I had a realization that that wasn’t the case when we still lived on Pleasant Street. In this vision I was disturbed by the fighting.

Then the third vision, and this was just a little glimpse, was when I was in high school. I felt lonely, as if I were all alone with no one to turn to. In addition, I felt this as a smaller child in school. I felt that I had no one and that I was completely on my own. It wasn’t pleasant to go there again.

As a child I felt unloved. I felt that there was no one that I could go to who would nurture me. An image that I had very often as a child was being on the outside of a window and looking in. It was very sad.

I so identified with Shirley Temple in that movie she did, I think, it was called The Little Princess. Her father was off fighting in the war and was injured and had amnesia. The school that she was in made her a servant when the checks stopped coming. Shirley was cold and hungry. They overworked her and another girl. But, since Shirley Temple was Shirley Temple, she had an indomitable spirit and she made the best of it.

She made friends with the Indian servant across the roof in the next building and he provided them with heat, blankets and delicious food. When the headmistress saw their luxuries, she was convinced that Shirley Temple had stolen the items. Well, Shirley not to be kept down was convinced that her father was still alive doubled her efforts to find him. She would search the hospital wards every day, and one day, there he was. Queen Victoria just happened to be at the hospital that day and was pleased. (I’m not sure why, but she was especially happy when she saw Shirley, who wouldn’t be?) Anyway, Shirley found her father, he woke up when he heard her voice and they lived happily ever after.

That was my dream. I wanted to wake up and find that I was loved, cared for and nurtured. I would fanaticize that I was switched at birth and my real parents were searching for me tirelessly. I so wanted a different story. I so wanted to be loved.

So, this meditation brought all this up for me yesterday. I didn’t want to go there. I feel that I worked through all this long ago. I was in therapy for three years, and I thought, I had resolved all this long ago. No wonder I was resistant to doing this exercise.

But, I’m not angry. It's funny, I don’t feel the anger that I used to feel. This is now just a story… my story, but that is all it is, a story. It’s what happened and I can’t change any of it, but it doesn’t rule me any longer. I had moved past this and I am grateful. I am grateful too that this is my story, because this story has given me so much. I am independent and self-sufficient. I had to figure most things out for myself, so I am logical and intelligent. So, there was gold to be found in my story and for that I am grateful.

I am still working on forgiveness. My parents never understood. They never saw past themselves and their needs. I understand why they are the why they are, but I’m not quite up to forgiving their actions. I had a moment with my mother before she died, and in that moment, I saw comprehension. She got it… finally. But, more importantly I got it. She never felt loved either. I felt true compassion for her. So, is that forgiveness? It’s probably as close as I’ll ever come to it. My father is another story, maybe because he is still alive, but I don’t feel compassion for him. He just is so self-involved that he has no capcity to see what his actions caused. Maybe we’ll have a moment before he dies, but I doubt it.

I don’t miss my mother. That makes me sad. I really wanted to feel something when my mother died. The main thing I felt, and continue to feel. is relief, simple relief that I don’t have to face her criticism and disregard any longer. I suppose I will feel the same about my father when he goes too. Sad, isn’t it?

We are sold a bill of goods as children. We are told that he have to love our families. We have to love our parents. Well, I say that is a disservice. Where is it written that we have to love people that have no love for us? Saying that you have to love people that are cruel, neglectful or abusive creates a conflict in the child. It makes the child feel that there is something wrong with them. You don’t have to love someone that treats you like crap. You just don’t.

I wanted parents that loved and nurtured me. I didn’t get those parents. I feel compassion for both of them, because they are wounded too. I see that, I know that. But, it doesn’t change the fact that they could have been better parents. Their actions caused me a great deal of pain and they should have seen that, but they didn’t. Do I honor my parents? Yes, they gave me life, but I really can’t say that I love them. And that’s okay.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wake Up!


Who was Jesus anyway? Was he a prophet, the son of God, or a simple teacher?

I am being to fall in love with Jesus. Jesus was a really interesting person, forget for a moment whether he was the Son of God, or the messiah, or the savior of the world. Jesus was cool. He had a temper, he could be a little caustic. He was annoyed with all the people following him all the time; he tried on several occasions to get away from them.

I don’t think he was warm and fuzzy like some people try to portray him. Even when he performed, a miracle there was an element of detachment to it. As if he wasn’t invested in the outcome. He was not fully of this world. To me it seems that Jesus was a teacher that was on a different plane than the rest of us and he would become impatient with our ignorance and refusal to wake up.

I like that phrase – ‘wake up!’ Jesus wanted us to wake up and see that we are one with God, just as he was one with God. “Wake Up!” We are one with God.

In Matthew, Jesus tells us to consider the lilies of the field, see how beautiful they are and they don’t worry about what they wear, neither do the toil, they just are… perfect as they are. The birds neither toil nor do they reap, yet God feeds them and cares for them… just as they are.

We have complicated everything. We have wants and needs that far exceed what we really need. We can’t conceive that we are perfect just as we are and that God will provide for us. We are dis-functionally independent. We have to amass huge quantities of everything in our lives because we fear that in the future we won’t have enough. Well, what would life be like if we were able to rest in faith that all will be provided as we need it? Peace would rule the world. There would be no need for greed, struggle, exploitation, or cruelty. We would live in peace with each other. Everyday the people in the Bible would go out and collect manna for the day. There was always manna, but only if they only took what they needed, if they exceeded their needs, the extra would rot and disappear.

Last night David asked the question why would Jesus not want anyone to tell if he healed them. Several plausible explanations could be true were given and yet they didn’t ring true for me. I thought about it on the train last night as I traveled home and I began to read Matthew, it became clear to me as I read. In Matthew, Jesus tells how to live life (and I believe he was telling us how to make our way towards enlightenment). He says that when we are performing acts of charity we shouldn’t let our left hand know what the right hand is doing. He shouldn’t tell of our good deeds. He should speak our prayers in a closet and not in public. We should wash our faces even in the face of hardship. Because if we don’t do these things then the telling of our deeds is its own reward.

I heard the Dalai Lama speak to this, he said that the act of compassion is its own reward, not because we will have recognition, or we will please God or anything else. An act of compassion just makes us feel good. Plain and simple, when we are compassionate, that compassion is its own reward, it stands alone.

Jesus wanted all of us to hear his message, not because he would become the biggest rock star of all time, or that we would actually measure time starting when he was born, or even start a new religion, but because he wanted us to know how magnificent we are. That we are God’s children, we are one with God, and we are all Christ. He wanted us to “Wake Up!” Plain and simple.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Get out of the way!


I taught last night. This is my “simply meditation” class. I was a little nervous that I would be too tired to lead the class effectively because I was exhausted from all the driving and lack of sleep. That wasn’t the case. I was on. Well, maybe I was off, I don’t know. Perhaps I was so tired that I couldn’t struggle and I was able to get out of the way of spirit.

I felt as if I was carried as I led the mediation. I used the meditation from my spiritual counseling class that I had listened to on podcast as I was driving. I centered them squarely in their lower dan tien. It was inspired. I know that they were moved and something profound happened in that room last night.

So, is that the key? Be so tired that my ego is unable to rail against the flow of energy? Maybe so, but I would love to teach more classes like last night. I felt breathless and invigorated when I left the room. It was a beautiful thing. Thank you, God.

Sunset Celebration







Saturday Evening

The beach was crowded, but not like beaches are normally crowded with blankets spread out in front of the shore, everyone vying for the best spot. This was different. People were gathered in a circle; many had drums, some had tambourines or maracas, a few had on India shawls that had little metals discs that made a delightful sound as the body moved and danced. There were children and adults in the center of the circle twirling Hooh-la Hoops and one man was swing bolos and one was swinging numchuks to the rhythm of the drums and some were just swaying to the beat. Their ages spanned the entire spectrum. There was a man that seemed to be the shaman, he looked like an old surfer-dude with a long blonde ponytail that danced as he shook rattles and then pounded a large flat drum. He moved around the circle encouraging everyone to let loose and partake of the spirit.

The occasion: Sunset. They gather to put the sun to bed for the night.

We arrived shortly before sunset. First I went to the water to put my feet in the water, but looking back at it, I think instinctually I went to the water to cleanse my spirit before I approached the circle of drummers. We stood on the outside with our backs to the sun facing the main group of drummers; they had some really large drums that resonated deeply. Many people sat all around the circle with small drums.

I really didn’t want to engage in idle conversation, so I walked to the back of the circle facing the sun. There I was just behind all the biggest drums and their sound pulsed through my body and I began to sway. I wasn’t brave enough to join the dancers in the center of the circle, but I wanted to.

The sun was making its way to the horizon. There were a cluster of clouds just above the horizon, and some beautiful wispy clouds that streaked the sky. The world was cast in the fire of its light and the sky was turning purple. I was torn, should I partake of the spectacle in front of me or above me? I moved between to the two. I noticed that there were birds moving across the shoreline on their way to some unknown spot to spend the night. Not just a few birds, hundreds of birds in a steady river of flight. There were seagulls, of course, but there were also pelicans, and terns. They flew in rhythm to the beat.

From my vantage point I saw it all. I participated in it all. I was all. That’s when I realized I was smiling. My being was smiling.

My attention was drawn to a drummer near me, he was a young man in his early thirties, he looked like any normal guy that worked as a entry level manager in an office somewhere. No long ponytails, earrings or tattoos. Just a nice young man who probably drove a ten year old Toyota Corolla. He was good, he never lost the rhythm, he maintained the beat with ease. He loved what he was doing and I’m sure he has been doing this for some time. He was the essence of this celebration.

As the sun moved closer to the horizon, the beat increased in speed. The dancing became more frenzied. Some people stood up and faced the sun. The birds were still coming. Hundreds of them. The sun was very close to the horizon. It was moving below the clouds and approaching the rim of the horizon, dipping the first edge into the water. Some one began to blow a conch shell. The sound was plaintive and haunting; perfectly suited to saying goodnight to a dear one.

It was then that I felt completely at one with all that was before me. I was the drums, the dancers, drummers, birds, sand, spectators and the sun.

The drums were still pounding out their rhythm; the sun was almost gone. The conch shell gave one last long wail and the dancers all paused to watch as the sun quietly slipped away. In one final crescendo the drumming ceased. The lullaby was complete.
My heart felt full, my body was at peace and I felt happy. Afterwards, I walked to the water’s edge and dipped in my toes. The I rejoined Jon and our friends and life began again.

The Highway


Saturday - 6:29 AM

Since I don’t have and internet connection here, I am going to write and then when we have a connection I will post it as one entry… so this will probably be a long post.

We drove to Florida the other night. We left as soon as I got home from teaching. We threw our stuff into the car and were on the road by 9:30. I drove until about 2:30 while Jon slept. We were in Virginia when we switched places. I wasn’t really sleepy, so I sat up and we chatted until about 3:30 when I fell asleep. Jon pulled over at about 5:30 and we slept until 7:30. We made it to South Carolina.

I had a powerful dream while we were parked in the rest area. It was all about the stream of life. I was trying to get to the water so the current would carry me where I wanted or needed to go. Of course I had adventures along the way to "the flow," as I called it in my dream and I seemed to run everywhere, which felt so good in my dream. I loved to run and I ran up hill and through the town. I felt the air moving through my lungs and my lungs burned from my efforts. It was exhilarating.

I stopped in the town to get something to eat and I was seated on the floor waiting for my food when the “floor” show started. It wasn’t actually a floor show it was a “sky” show because the show was projected on to it.

The star of the show was Diana from my class in seminary. She was so Diana. The show was a series of positions that Diana took for maximum effect. She displayed her breasts at one point and then her two breasts turned into one really large one which she displayed and then popped. That part was a little odd and I’m not sure of the meaning. As for the rest of this portion of the dream, I recognized that while I was rejecting Diana for calling attention to herself and being projected on to the sky, a large part of me was envious that she gardened so much attention and I sat on the floor. I understood this even as I was dreaming.

Someone told me or I saw it for myself that the river that I was looking for as very close and I left Diana and her exploding breast behind and moved on to find the stream. I flung myself into the current. The water was very cool, almost cold, but it felt invigorating and I was happy to allow the current to take me. It wasn’t a gentle stream, the current was very strong, it was more like a mountain rapid, lots of dips and curves. In the dream, I was going to a friend’s birthday party and I knew the flow would take me there. So, I let go and allowed carry me.

That’s pretty much the whole dream. There were a few other parts to it; I think Jon was in the flow with me and there were a few other players and some delays along the way, but the flow was the important part, I think. I woke up invigorated.

I realize that the flow of this stream is very reminiscent of the flow of traffic that we had been experiencing for the previous eight hours. Isn’t a major highway very much like a rapid in the springtime? If you don’t keep moving you will be pushed to the side and none too gently. So, that may have contributed to the dream, but the flow of life is like that to: if you don’t keep moving you get pushed to the shore, sititng on the bank and watching life pass you by
.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Impatience


One of the biggest challenges of my live is impatience. When I am made to wait, I grow terribly agitated. Now, I rather enjoy waiting in line. There is a subtle difference for me between waiting in line in a store and waiting to complete a task at home.

It seems that every morning that I need to get started, I cannot get into the bathroom. My father sleeps most mornings until ten. On the morning that I have to leave, he is up at eight. I think he has a sixth sense about it, because as soon as I begin to turn my attention to the shower, he is up and heading to the bathroom. So, I wait and fume.

I wait until Jon leaves, I wait until Karl does his thing. I wait for Ernie. I wait. And I fume.

This is my ego in full play. Everybody is in my way… get out! The roots of this are that I was never the priority in the pecking order of my family. My needs came dead last, always. It wasn’t pretty around my house growing up. I was a pretty sad child. Joy was in limited supply… at least around the house.

I used to love to go to my neighbors’ houses. One in particular was just so filled with love. I used to fantasize that Ellen would adopt me and make her daughter. She was completely present to her children and I wanted some of that too. Other houses had a lot of laughter, there wasn’t any in my house. Other houses had lots of conversations, there were long silences punctuated by lots of screaming in my house. It was sad and I was sad.

Only now have I awakened to the fact that I can be joyful, I can be loved and give love. It is there for all of us, we just have to reach for it.

So, I sit and fume, but I do so with the knowledge that this is left over baggage and I know full well that when I fume I am sitting fully in my ego. I witness it, so I have progressed. Next step… to stop fuming all together.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

God in my eyes


At lunch the other day a friend of mine was talking about his daily spiritual practice and he used a paraphrased saying that he heard a Belgian woman named Niro Markoff say. According to him she said, “Discipline is the path to freedom.”

I have thought about that ever since.

I understand the concept and I agree to a point, but then another part of me thinks that you can become trapped in the discipline and the actual practice becomes nothing more than rote repetitions. I remember as a child, the priest giving me the rosary as my punishment for my transgressions and once he assigned three repetition of it! It was arduous and not very helpful. I wasn’t heartily sorry for my sins, I was bored to death and felt nothing other than anger at the priest for being so zealous.

Yet, I can see that discipline could very well be the path to freedom.

So, where does this leave me?

Honestly, I’m not sure. After my friend told me that quote, I decided that he was correct, discipline might just be the path to freedom and I began a spiritual practice of my very own, with the help of a little borrowing from my friend’s daily practice. I decided to make use of the mala that I bought in India and I would say, “Yes, Lord,” one hundred and eight times as I made my way around the beads. It just didn’t resonate with me. Then I changed to saying “Om nama shivaya,” one hundred and eight times. That was better, it suited my Catholic upbringing to say the words first spoken by someone else.

I vowed to say this twice a day, like my friend, once upon arising in the morning and once again before I went to sleep. I was good for about a week or more. Then something happened one morning and I couldn’t say it, I forget why, I suppose I had to be somewhere, Whatever the reason, I didn’t do it that morning and now it has been hard to get it back.

So, that brings me back to my original question. Is discipline the path to freedom? While I was doing my practice, I didn’t feel particularly connected to anything. I enjoyed the feel of the beads in my hand; I loved the smell of the sandalwood. I even enjoyed mouthing the words, but I didn’t feel closer to God. Isn’t that the purpose of spiritual practice – to feel a connection to God?

For me freedom comes when I look at the sky, or the ocean or a chipmunk running across the lawn with stuffed cheeks. Yesterday, I went to the park and parked my car in my usual spot. It was a beautiful fall day; the sun was warm with a slight chill in the air. The water of the pond was calm and reflecting the orange leaves of the surrounding trees. I did not walk around because I had gone there to read, and so, I just sat in the car and began to read. Of course, I was fast asleep in no time. I must have been a asleep for almost an hour. When I woke up and opened my eyes, there was the vista that I described above. That’s when I felt God’s presence.

Jon and I went to the beach last weekend and I did the same thing, I fell asleep and awoke with the ocean and the sky in my eyes, and God was there too.

For my friend, perhaps the “path to freedom” is discipline, maybe in the quietude of his apartment he feels God’s presence as he murmurs “Yes, my love, yes, my love.” I can understand it. But, I think for me my path to freedom lies not in repeating endless repetitious phrases, but in just falling asleep and waking up with God in my eyes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I Wonder...


We have powerful belief systems. We build these beliefs over many years of living, and once in place, belief systems are very difficult to break through. So, most of us spend our entire lives living according to our beliefs, never realizing that for the most part we are living an illusion.

In my own life, I was thought to be “delightfully dumb.” That’s pretty harsh and damaging to a young girl’s self esteem. The people with the power in my life repeated this message often. It was my older brother that coined the phrase when I was a baby, and it stuck. Therefore, for a large portion of my life, I believed I was dumb, delightfully so, but dumb nonetheless.

I am not dumb and honestly, I’m not sure I’m delightful. I like to think am. In any case; in addition to being delightful, I am also charming, graceful and beautiful… and smart.

I believed that I was dumb and I lived down to those expectations for many years. It was after years of therapy that I came to see that I am truly intelligent and that I have a good mind capable of figuring most things out.

To this day, all of my family, believes I am dumb, even when all the evidence suggests otherwise. Now I could get lost in trying to fight against what they think of me, spending my life railing against their perceptions, but I don’t. I learned a long time ago, that once a belief is in place, nothing I can do will change another person’s belief. Only they can do that for themselves. So, I don’t try and I am at peace.

This is not a story about my awakening to who I am, but rather a case for looking beyond our belief systems. “I wonder,” is an excellent place to start. Look beyond what you always thought to be true and see if it if that is in fact reality, or just the way you always thought it to be. Many times you will see that there may be an element of truth, or there may be no truth to it all. When I was a baby I’m sure that at times I was “delightful,” and I may have done silly baby things, but I doubt that I was ever dumb.

This was a great disservice to me and it’s not one that I want to do to anyone else, so when I feel myself about to make a judgment about another human being, I pause and say, “I wonder.”