Saturday, January 31, 2009

Morning is breaking; steely winter light is the appropriate description. Jon is snoring and the cat is complaining. Otto is content to drift in and out of consciousness; he is curled against my leg. Oh, the joys of Saturday mornings!

I look at my life and I read the Tao, what an incredible document it is. There are so many facets, so many twists and turns and small delights, and oh so, many ways of finding yourself in it. So simple and yet so unbelievably profound. At times, I am the stream and at times I am the stream bed. My fields are lush in their growth, and at times, my fields are all churned up muddy messes. I am the bowl and the water too. I find solace in the words, I find that my village is self-contained and I really need not look to other villages to fulfill my needs. It is all contained right here.

I think of my ministry and I feel a tremendous amount of pressure to find a spiritual home in which to perform great miracles with fishes and loaves and to be of service What if I never do? What if I spent two years of my life studying and writing paper after paper, and never find this mythical mystical place that wants to have me as its spiritual director?

Well, on this steely Saturday morning, I say it doesn’t matter. I studied for me and my spiritual growth and I have grown. I see the web I have woven, I see my ego’s dance, I know my nooks and crannies, and I even like them. However, the thing is to be of service and I have such a resistance to it. Me, me, me, me! I am reminded of the seagulls in “Finding Nemo.” There is a scene where all the seagulls are out foraging for food, one of them finds a morsel, I believe, and the rest of the seagulls start screaming, “Mine, mine mine!” All they say is “mine.” That’s how I feel. When do I lose the attachment to “me?” To be the light and lose this mantle that lays against my shoulders and weighs me down.

My aren’t I melodramatic? I sound like an ass.

I am not an enlightened being, but I try. I want to be of service. I want to have a ministry with meaning and not just to be “Marryin’ Sam.” I want to have relevance, and to help people, not just with spiritual things, but with everyday life. But, I see clearly, how “I” and “me” get in the way. I see my reluctance to get my hands dirty, I know I am afraid of their pain; if I get too close, their pain will become mine. And I am afraid.

So, now I turn to the one source that can see me through. I lay this problem at your feet, God. I turn it over to you. Help me find my way to my ministry. I surrender the “my” the “me” and the “I.” It will become apparent. I surrender.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Sometimes I feel like such a fraud; me, I’m going to be a minister. Minister of what, of whom? I sit in awe of my classmates and realize that I can never be as spiritual or deep as they. Why am I so simple, so plain?

The question this week is- what form will my ministry take? Will I speak from a pulpit? Will I hold the hand of a dying child or an elderly gentleman? Will I be in the trenches and minister to drug addicts and ex-cons? Will I run a beautiful retreat center where the lovely spiritual people can meet? I think not. But, what it will be I have no idea.

The other question is, what called me to service? I don’t have a clue. It sounds so silly to say that Judy made me do it. She didn’t make me do it or anything else. Yes, she show me the possibility, but I’m the one that took the plunge without a thought that the diving board would end.

So, here I am at the end of the board, my toes are hanging off, the crowds are waiting far below all poise to cheer or groan and I am frozen at the edge; too late to go back and too scared to jump. Help me, Lord, can you give me a shove that will propel me out and off this stupid board? Let me hear you voice, dear God. Give me a sign how my ministry will look, perhaps if I had an inkling of the direction, I could launch off this precarious pad.

My whole life I’ve never had a direction, is it enough just to send out blessings on the earth?

“Bless you, my child, I am a minister and I have the ear of God. Bless you. Bless you.”


Ministry is about rolling up your sleeves and jumping in, hold a hand, find someone a new apartment, make a phone call; whatever it takes. Am I the kind of person that can do that? Who then will me my support?

Dear Lord, help me to surrender enough to let go of my doubts. Guide, Lord. I heard the call, I don’t know how. I heard the call, now light a little light in front of me to show the way.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

India is looming large
And so is my fear.
I feel its presence with me
I almost can smell the smells.
I long for you Krishna
You are in my bones.
Hot, humid, fetid.
Why do I want to go?
The ashram in the morning,
The mist in heavy swirls,
Incense rolling about my head,
The press of someone’s thigh
As I sit in meditation.
The glow around Sai Baba.
Wait for me, India,
The time is drawing near.
We made the food for hours. Well, I didn’t make a thing, I just showed up. Judy must have been cooking all day. There was pasta with tomato sauce, a huge container of rice. Spilt peas, it was more than soup, but less than stew. The last thing she made was boiled cabbage with carrots. Marta made two pounds of dried chickpeas and then made a fabulous hummus. She made an enormous fresh salad, carrots with raisins. Steamed broccoli and she washed tons of fresh spinach. Then she bought about nine or ten loaves of bread.

We gathered at this very nice apartment in Harlem. I’m not sure exactly whose apartment it is, the woman lives in Seattle, but maintains it for the Seva group to meet and cook the food. Judy cooks her part there; Martha brings hers in a sturdy shopping cart after she prepares it at home. Judy’s uncle Abel helps with the cooking, does the heavy lifting and the dish washing when it is all done. Lakshmi wears plastic gloves, does crazy drawings and helps to make the sandwiches. I think I took her job last night, but she helped anyway. Lakshmi is six.

When I arrived most of the cooking was finished. Martha was on her way. When she arrived, we laid out the bread, slathered on hummus, and topped it with fresh spinach. Jon and I shared one of the sandwiches and mighty tasty it was. As we made the sandwiches and put the salads together Judy and Abel began to pack the dinners. Usually they don’t made up Styrofoam containers of food, but because of the weather and our India meeting afterwards, they packed up individual dinners. Normally they serve the food from large containers and ladle it out, so that the people have a choice of what they get. But, the weather was raw and they took the expedient route and packed the food in advance.

Then we piled into Neil’s car, I tried very hard not to step into a slushy mess at the curb. The thought of a wet foot in that cold was ore than I could handle. We drove the six blocks to the corner. When we arrived, everyone jumped out and started grabbing bags of boxed dinners. Two banquet tables appeared from I know not where. The food was piled on to them and from another unknown place three cases of bananas and one of oranges arrived on my end of the table.

People gathered and wanted the food. But, no, we had to say a prayer first. A young African-American boy volunteered, it was simple, to the point and quite lovely. We prayed too, of course, even though Martha prayed ‘Om ni ma shivia’ as she mixed the salad and I joined in. We prayed again.

All that cooking that lasted hours, all the carting, the magic tables that appeared out of nowhere, the fruit; gone in less than seven minutes. Hungry faces and eager hands snapped it up and were gone. It all happened so fast, that I didn’t have time to engage self-congratulatory thoughts of all my good works, ponder the plight of those who are hungry or really even to look hard into the faces of those who needed food. I felt like it was a well-choreographed dance, in and out. The group tries to avoid the gaze of the wandering police. Martha told me that they police said as long as no one complains or gets sick, they will look the other way, perhaps which is the source of their need for speed.

In the end, I saw that the tables weren’t magic at all, a shopkeeper allows the Seva group to store the tables in his back room. So, everyone helps in a way.

Can I take this home from New York and do it in Philly too? How much love and prayer went into making the food last night! I tried last year, I made food for the homeless a few times, but their faces haunted me. How selfish of me, to be haunted. No one in the Seva group thought they were hot stuff; no one was smug or superior. There is a need which they fill. It is common sense.

I’m not sure why I stopped cooking, but I think I will start again.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

It has been an interesting week and a half. The weekend before last Jon and I happened to have hosted a pro-Obama (?) anti war (?) demonstration down at the center. The entire concept seemed superfluous and nonsensical, but the people were happy. They were marching to 30th Street Station to see Obama off on his Inauguration train ride to Washington.

While we never got close to the station, nor saw Obama, I felt that in some way I was part of the whole thing. The marchers were surrounded by civil affairs police who told me of the plans to keep the people away from the station and a little of the security measures; it made me feel a part of it all.

However, that wasn’t really part of the story; After the protesters left the center, we were free to go. We decided to go back towards home and go out to lunch; we chose to go to Norma’s. Norma’s is a Lebanese restaurant, I love their Hariarra soup, it was freezing and the idea of a steaming bowl of soup and some hot mint tea sounds wonderful and it was. We were seated in the window and from there I had a view of the large Asian market down the block. There were drummers and people dressed in red and white. The waiter saw me looking and told us that it was Chinese New Year, which I had forgotten and they were having celebrations all week.

We finished our soup and went to the market to see what was happening. As we approached the market there was a great amount of noise from all the drumming, plus there were cymbals crashing and flutes fluting; it was quite the tumult. Of course we dove right in.

Inside there were two large Chinese dragons going up and down the aisle accompanied by several small children dragons, leading them was a tall man with a mask that one side of the frightening face was black and the other was salmon colored. Following the dragons were the flutes and a very large drum that one person pulled and another person pounded on.

Up and down the aisle they went frightening all the bad luck accumulated through the past year away, cleaning the grocery store to accept all the good luck coming their way. They made several trips around the store.

It was fabulous.

The next day we went to Barnegat Lighthouse which I described in another post. They was a day of such peace. It was a simple day and utter quiet. I will remember it for the quiet.

Tuesday was the Inauguration which was exciting and intriguing; a day of hope and renewal. However, it is also the day that I got a text message from Sybil saying that my father was in the hospital in Oaxaca and that I needed to come.

Very early the next morning I found myself on a plane to Charlotte, NC with a short layover on a flight to Mexico City which had a long layover awaiting my flight into Oaxaca. I arrived at the hotel at 5:00 PM.

As I am checking into the hotel, here comes my father walking through the door of the hotel! He looked thin, but he looked healthy. I think that he is having panic attacks. He is afraid to die and clinging to his life. I will write more on that at another time, but he was okay. Sybil panicked and called me prematurely. She was now very ill. She had food poisoning and was totally incapacitated.

So, here I am in Mexico to take care of my father, but now I am caring for a total stranger. Very strange to see the resentment I feel at the situation, but Sybil really needed help.

The next morning, she realized she needed to go to the hospital and I went with her. They kept her for two days. I was her translator, which is funny because I don’t speak German or Spanish, but I understand enough to make myself understood and to understand.

All the while, I am looking at the resentment that I am feeling, knowing that the care of my father is on my shoulders, caring for Sybil and that I am going to miss at least on day of school in New York. I didn’t like what I saw. I am suppose to be of service as a minister, but I was completely annoyed.

My father was so happy that I was there. I was happy too. I made him feel better with my presence and I made him see that there really wasn’t anything wrong with him, he was just feeling a little out of his element and that he can come home any time he feels like he doesn’t want to be there any longer. Carmen, the concierge assured me he would help him change his flight any time he wanted. All this made him feel back in control and anyway, he loves Oaxaca. Oaxaca is a lovely place. The weather is warm, the sun is bright, what’s not to love?

I met two women, both named Mary. The two Marys and I shopped. The live there a few months out of the year and they knew all the best place to buy junk. I had so much fun with them. The are both retired, one is in her late sixties and the other is in her seventies. Both have a lot of energy and will walk anywhere for a pair of earrings. They are acquaintances of my father. Oaxaca has a large American following, my father among them that go every year and through the years they build friendships and meet every year.

At night there is a gathering in the zocolo to rehash the day’s events. It was very pleasant sitting with them and enjoying the bantering and a coke. My first evening was very cold, but the second evening was warm and balmy. I could have sat there all my days.

My father didn’t want to come home with me. He wanted to stay with Sybil, which I understand, but I needed to get back to make it to school and Jon and I had a few days planned in New York the following week and I didn’t want to miss out on that, so I decided to leave on Saturday.
Friday night the zocolo crowd took me out for a farewell dinner at a place called LaRed, a little seafood place that is for the locals. They all love it. I got sick.

I got so sick that traveling home the next day was an agony and a blur. I have never been so miserable in all my life. Thank God, for golf carts in airports; I would still be wandering around Houston. I don’t remember much of the flights back, I slept most of the way. When I finally arrived home thirteen hours later, I crawled into bed and didn’t get up for twelve more.

I missed school.

My friends from school called me at lunch time and made me feel missed, but my heart ached to be there.

Jon and I came to New York yesterday and had dinner with Victor at a wonderful sushi restaurant on the Upper East Side. I am feeling better, but I am definitely not 100%, I am hoping in the morning I will feel energetic and my old self again.

It has been an interesting ten days or so filled with cultural diversity; the American Inauguration, Lebanese, the Chinese New Year, Mexico, the solitude of the seashore in winter, sunny Mexico and now New York.

It was been interesting.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I sit alone in my room, I contemplate life, God and me. Where do I fit? How will I know you, Lord? Are you in my granddaughter’s face, or are in the trees as squirrels prance and fling themselves from branch to branch? Who are you? Are you me?

I look for you , Lord. I look everywhere I go. Yesterday, as I climbed the lighthouse tower, I felt you in my breath. My chest was pounding, the cold air poured into my lungs and I was greedy and wanted more. But, I felt you there, Lord. Upon reaching the top, trying to catch my breath, what I saw took my breath away. There before me was miles and miles of ocean, sky and island spread out before me like a picnic blanket and I was invited to the feast. There were gulls soaring below me trying to steal a morsel from the hard working ducks. Snow capped the rocks that hold up the lighthouse tower. I saw you there, God. You were everywhere.

Still I do not know where I fit. I am an observer of you, God. I see you everywhere, but why don’t I see you in me as well. I struggle, I moan, I even whine, but you still allude me. Let me be still enough to hear you whispering in my ear, God, allow me the moment to feel you move through me. Am I as dense as one of the rocks that hold up the tower? I saw you in the rocks and yet you were there. Let me be transparent so that I may see your face.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Finding your center is all about shutting up long enough to become aware of the witness that we all have. Actually, to say that we have a witness is a misnomer, we are the witness, we are the mind running on at the mouth too, but the witness is an invitation to meet the soul. At times of stress the witness can be heard commenting on what is going on. Have you ever heard it? It sort of points out in a humorous way- you ebing the human you.

However, beyond that witness there seems to be another witness that is witnessing the witness. There is an overriding aspect that sees it all and takes notes. This witness of our witness, is the soul.

Somehow we think that we have a soul, it is ingrained in was from the time we were young, we have a soul. I have come to realize that that soul and our physical being is all one. There is a non-duality between our bodies, our minds, our soul, and God. It is all one entity. There is no difference between any of these aspects. Every so often, if we pay close attention, the vast oneness of the universe becomes apparent. A brief instant where the is an over whelming sense of connection to everything else and in those moments, there can be a golden glow to the scene before your eyes. I have experienced this on a few occasions, it was wonderful. At that moment, I felt whole, perfect and part of everything else. What would the world be like if we could live in that space for our whole lives? There would be pure unconditional love for everyone and everything. There would be no war, no anger, no judgment; how can you judge something harshly if it is perfect? Harmony would be the norm.

Harmony. Harmony is the sound of the vibration of the universe.. It is the perfect blending of all things and when there is harmony the sounds blend effortlessly into to one sound, so much so that it is hard to differentiate the individual sounds. We can achieve this, I believe that with all my heart. It is a matter of letting go of the self and embracing our universal self. The soul.

In the Tao it is told, at least to my understanding, that the yin and yang are separate, but in their separateness and because of their separateness a whole is completed. Neither would exist without the other. Think of an empty bowl. Without water to fill it is nothing, just empty. Think of water without the bowl, it runs off with nothing to contain it. But, the two together create something usable and important.

We are that too. We are the vessel that the spirit fills. Without the vessel the spirit is meaningless and a drift and has no purpose. A body without spirit, is less than nothing, it is an empty shell, without direction, without desire of any sort.

So, what does this all mean? It means that we are a whole package. Trying to dwell only in the soul is not the goal. The goal is to be fully human, to live fully, but to live with purpose. Embrace it all.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I keeping running into myself. I know that sounds strange, but that’s the truth of it. I clearly see my beliefs, biases and prejudices as I move throughout my day. I will be talking or moving through the day and in my head I hear the judgmental thought as it pops up. It is very disconcerting to be sure.

However, I understand how this seeing is helping to “clear” out my judgments in order for a new and expansive consciousness take their place. I see it, I understand it, but it ain’t easy! I see how ugly and divisive my judgments are.

It’s kind of funny that when these moments happen and I see the prejudice or bias, I find myself saying, “I don’t’ agree with myself.” How don’t you agree with yourself, but it’s true. I don’t agree with some of my thoughts. They are not how I really feel, these thoughts are born from a time when I felt threatened and needed to defend myself, or I thought I needed to defend myself, and I projected my fear out on to someone or something else. Then a belief was born.

I see it, I understand it, but it doesn’t make it easy to tolerate. I have been struggling with this seeing on many different subjects, from personal family issues to societal problems. I am sad to think that I have been holding on to some these misguided ideas just to make myself feel worthy. I see now that I am stretching and expanding and letting go much of what has held me back or kept me stuck in this place and it’s good.

In order to be enlightened, consciousness needs to expand and it cannot as long as I hold on to beliefs that no longer serve me.

I had a dream about six years ago. It was one of those totally real and commanding dreams, My husband and I were on a cruise and I had the dream at about four in the morning, I awoke with a start and realized that I had been given something important. At first I thought that I would remember it in the morning, but I realized as I started to drift back to sleep that in reality, I wouldn’t. So, I got up and fumbled around our stateroom for a piece of paper and a pencil, went into the tiny bathroom and wrote it down.

The dream was: I was seated at the knee of a giant Buddhist monk. He was so large that all I could see of him was his saffron draped knee and nothing else. Then he said in a booming voice, “Enlightenment is the recognition and understanding of the psychology behind action, thereby, preventing, reaction; creating peace in place of suffering.” I woke up.

It was so powerful that I lay there for several minutes in disbelief. Then I struggled with finding something to write it down. Since I had that dream, I think of it often and I have applied it many times. When someone was speaking to me in some outrageous way, I would call to mind the dream and I would quell my instinct to react. If I was successful, volatile situations calmed. However, now I see how it also applies to me. I see myself, I see my beliefs, I understand my psychology and I am calmed.

So, this seeing, while it may be difficult and the temptation is there to judge myself too harshly, I also see how I am being prepared for an initiation to another level of consciousness.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

So, I made my first post. I'm impressed. I thought blogging was for techno-type people. This is pretty cool. I wasn't happy how the "The Guest House" posted, but perhaps I'll figure that out at some later date.

This month at school we were given the assignment of writing a worship service. The subject of our service was completely up to us. There were no parameters given, the choice was ours. Well, I'm not a worship service type person. I meditate, I pray, I go for long walks in the woods, I don't, however, go to worship services. So, this was a difficult assignment for me. I struggled. I complained. I pulled my hair. I couldn't come up with a thing to worship. It is my belief that we are God; all of us is a manifestation of God. God in different forms, without separation. So, I feel that worship is a little silly, I am, in essence, worshipping myself and the inner journey entails a realization a lack of self. I'm not sure that is entirely clear in its import. So, I feel that to worship God is to worship myself and that is pointless and a little pretentious. So, I struggled.

Then it occured to me to refer back to my Personal Code of Ethics. This was an assignment from a coupe of months ago. One of my personal codes of ethics is gratitude. IN fact, I feel that gratitude is key to beginning the inner journey. When we wake up to the realization of how blessed we really are, no matter what our circumstances, a shift begins to happen. It's like a gate way to the soul cracks open and we can see a glimpse of the inner workings of the soul.

I looked at my personal code of ethics and I realized that gratitude was going to be the subject of my worship service. Once I had a topic, the rest began to flow. I think my service is good. It may not be fancy have a lot of smoke and mirrors and fancy stuff, but it is certainly an expression of who I am and a glimpse at my beliefs. So, I'm happy with it.

I opened my service with the Rumi poem, which is one of my favorites and it speaks directly to the heart of my views on life and how I am grateful for all of my experiences.

More later.
This is my blog. I hope to share my journey with you as I write. Of course, it's quite possible that I will be the only one reading this blog and that's okay. It is about my journey. I am the one learning as I go. If I can give a hand to someone else along the way, fabulous. But, the main way that I am of service to the world to to work on myself. I look within to see the inner soul and I can rejoice.

The Guest House
by Rumi

This being human is a guest house,
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of all its furniture,
Still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
Meet them at the door laughing,
And invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
Because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond.