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.


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


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.”

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Light in the Tree

Last night I had a dream that has stayed with me all day. It has grown in its beauty, grace and charm the more that rest in its arms.

I dreamed that I was in a very large tree. I was somehow nestled in its branches and I was surrounded and enveloped in its leaves. I felt very comfortable, but I was alone and I was frightened. In my pocket I had a lighter, it was one of those old time lighters that flip open with a click and the unmistakable odor of lighter fluid pours forth when it is opened. Then I scraped the wheel on the flint, another unmistakable sound, and the flame was lit. The flame comforted me, and I watched it for a long time.

Then I looked up and I saw that in the surrounding trees there were many little flames. I felt such joy in my heart to know that I was not alone. I felt bliss.

I look back at my own flame and I watched it for a bit more and then I put the lighter in my mouth and ate the flame. There was no pain, but I did feel a little trepidation as I ate the flame, but once I swallowed the flame I began to glow and I became the light.

Then I woke up and still felt the bliss that I experienced in the dream.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Shoulder Shrugging

When I lived in Israel I learned how to shrug my shoulders. This was a most important lesson. Shortly after we arrived in Israel, I began to notice that people shrug their shoulders all the time. At first I was confused and didn’t understand why. I began to look for it. What I noticed is that Israelis shrug their shoulders for many reasons.

One is that the person they are speaking to is an ass and rather than get into a battle of ego, they shrug their shoulders.

Another reason is that they don’t know the answer to what is being asked of them and they shrug their shoulders.

Rather than getting angry, they shrug their shoulders.

When faced with a conundrum, they shrug their shoulders.

When they don’t understand the behavior of the person they are with, they shrug their shoulders.

But, the most intriguing reason is when faced with an impossible situation, they shrug their shoulders.

I came to understand that it is a form of surrender. They let go of the situation and with a shrug, they move on. I suppose with the prospect of living with the daily threat of war, most situations seem unimportant in the overall scheme of things; and so they shrug.

I, too, learned to shrug. I surrendered in tiny ways at first, such as having to change my plans because a car was not available to me. I shrugged. Then I moved on to bigger things, I couldn’t work where I wanted to work because the work committee wanted me to work somewhere else, I begrudgingly shrugged my shoulders. I would shrug my shoulders and work where I was told, but truthfully not very willingly, the shrug hardly worked in that case, but I just kept on shrugging. It took a while. While the bombs were falling and we were waiting, we all shrugged our shoulders, mainly because there was nothing else to do.

I am still learning to shrug my shoulders, it is a hard fought lesson.

Surrender is never easy. There is an inherent internal fight that is taking place within us. Our wills want us to do proceed in the way that we always have, with our fists held defensively in front of our faces, ready for battle. But, somewhere within our soul, is the desire to let go and allow what is unfolding before us to take place. One way to facilitate the letting go, allowing and ultimate surrender is to start with a shrug of the shoulders.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The River of Time

It’s 4:25 AM, the crickets are chirping, my dig Otto and my husband are snoring quietly. Off in the distance I can hear the trucks moving along the highway. The world is asleep except for the crickets, the trucks, and me.

I love this time of day.

This week I begin teaching meditation again. It’s going to be a little different this fall. I am teaching two classes, which will be challenging considering everything else I am doing this fall, however, I am excited by the possibilities. On of the classes truly doesn’t require much teaching, but rather, leading. I am facilitating a guided meditation for relaxation. It’s a short class, only 45 minutes, so there is not much time for talking.

The next class is called Modern Spiritualities. There will be some meditation, some spiritual practices, some Reiki and energy work, but it is mainly a class about finding spirit within. At least that is my vision. We will see how it plays out.

So, that is what’s on my mind. I am gearing up to lead these classes and I always worry that I won’t be interesting enough, or I will stir up too much in my students and they will be unhappy. I found that most people are eager and want to find meaning their lives and that’s why they sign up for my classes.

My insecurities aside… the other thought on my mind was the nature of time. Time is a dimension, time and space. It is part of the framework of physical existence on this plane. It is very difficult to imagine anything outside the parameters of time. We are used to having time as our constant companions. How would my life have any points of references if I couldn’t describe yesterday, or last year, or a lifetime ago? While the future isn’t here yet, we all spend much of our lives worried about it.

My thought, which isn’t particularly original, is that time is a river. A flowing energy transports us from one event to the next as we live our lives.

When my dog Itza died, I was devastated. My heart was broken. The thought of never seeing him again in this lifetime was more than I could bear. I remember thinking that I have all these years to live before I will see him again. However, there was never any doubt in my mind that I would see him again. There was a sense of movement with my feelings.

When we are born and we find ourselves immersed in this stream of time that doesn’t stop until we die. We just flow along moving from one event to the next. Occasionally the trip will be punctuated with emotional traumas, or joyous happenings that make us feel transported.

However, the river never stops flowing as long as we are breathing. We move past whatever took place that stirs up our emotions.

I am thinking of a boy floating down the river in an inner tube. The current causes him to spin slowly, ever carried forward. Occasionally he will meet a rock or a stick that protrudes from the depths, his forward motion will be halted for a time, but eventually the power of the current will win out and his forward motion will once more commence, leaving the obstruction behind him. That is the nature of time.

The problem occurs when the boy continues to long for the rock, he continues to think about his brief stay at that point in the river. He isn’t even considering the new sights right before him, because in his mind he is somewhere up river. Life would be easier if we could go of the rocks that have slowed our motion.

The loss of a loved one is a big rock in the river, and many times, we cannot move past it. We don’t want to let go of the rock because we feel that it will be letting go of the person we love so dearly. That’ is truly understandable. The death of a beloved person can completely stop anyone’s forward motion.

I found comfort knowing that there may many years to come before I would be reunited with my dog, but reunited we would be and I let my grip on the rock loosen enough to allow the current to take hold of me once again. Off I once again began to float in my inner tube, gently spinning. In my heart, I carry my beloved dog, and in a sense, we are now floating down the river in the same inner tube rather than two separate ones. It’s almost as if he jumped out of his inner tube, into mine and now our journey is one. This is where my true comfort comes from, we are now traveling together.

Is it possible to ease the pain of all loss by letting go of the rock that holds us and just allow the current to take us? I think so….

Friday, October 2, 2009

In Gratitude

Today I am meeting my husband, daughter and granddaughter for lunch. I love these get togethers. It is such a joy to be connected to these wonderful people. Izzy is simply a joy. I see her and my heart sings. I don’t care if she is being silly, an angel or a handful, she is perfect to me.

I know that I could have been a better mother; I wasn’t always completely present for my daughter. But, I think overall I was a good mother and I did the best I could. However, I have learned so much about myself, life and what it is all about, Adrienne would have been better served if I had her now. It would have been far better to have a child at this stage of my life than when I was in my twenties, she would have had so much more of me. But, of course, my patience level is not what it once was… so perhaps, this is how the journey of life is suppose to be- we have our kids when we are young, screw them up and then spend the later years realizing how we could have done it better.

I am grateful for all that I am, all that I have, for my family, my life. I truly am blessed.

While I was in India I saw an astrologer who told me that in my past life I was a disciple of Shirdi Sai Baba and I was very saintly. And because I was so saintly I accrued lots of good karma and so my life is blessed today. I believe it. I sense the truth of those words, my life is relatively easy because of my past actions and I have been very blessed. Of course there is no proof, but I know that I felt a sense of coming home when I arrived in India. It was all so familiar and comfortable. It was like a journey to an old friend’s house and the coffee was freshly brewed and waiting for me.

What ever the reason for my many blessings is, I am grateful.

I love you, Lord.

On nama shivaya… Om nama shivaya… Om nama shivaya