Bowing At Easter

ChurchAnnually, I use the Christian time of Lent as the impetus for extended contemplation. I have mentioned before that I consider the ability to be compassionate and loving a vital part of my spiritual growth. This year I’ve been thinking about why although I seem poised in social settings and can write compositions for others to read, actual interaction with other people can be downright painful for me. I consider myself fortunate to have the concepts of different faith traditions to access for help in making sense of my definition of spirituality. If you’ve been reading this blog you know that frequently I refer back to a Buddhist article I wrote about in my very first blog entry; “Long Journey To a Bow” by Christina Feldman. (“The Bow” 12/25/10)  It’s a piece that serves as one of the guides to my personal “wandering through the wilderness”. In it the author discusses the conceit (in this context meaning the metaphor or organizing theme) of self.  She shows that for most of us (and definitely for me) the conceit of self is a stumbling block that is made of “better than, worse than, and equal to”.

I got to the point where I recognized that I had developed a serious sense of  “I’m better than, they’re worse than”. That was easy because that comparison is so prevalent in our culture and I was raised on it.  As I have mentioned before, the only way I could understand others was to evaluate their “flaws”. ( “This Month’s Stop”1/17/12 post) And I evaluated myself by things like how incredibly clean my house was and how impeccably dressed I was. I left several good jobs because “they didn’t appreciate how good I was or they were too incompetent”. When I realized the detriment of that kind of thinking I thought I was working the conceit of “better than”. Then I was prompted to dig deeper by the article. I found that the reason I judged others was because actually, I felt I was diminished and deficient. In reality I was working the conceit of “worse than”.

I spent the first half of my life putting together and putting on what I came to call “the suit”.  That was the persona of competence I thought I needed to present to others to hide my true inadequacies. Although I really didn’t wear it long, I wore it hard. It got to the point where it was my second skin, or maybe even THE skin. But it became so uncomfortable that I drank alcohol to deaden myself to the pain of the weight of it. It took therapy to teach me that I could remove it and to accept and appreciate what I was like without it. And yet I still kept it around. I was afraid I’d experience a different kind of pain without it. It was like an old friend who I suspected I might need again on occasion because I hadn’t let go of the need for comparisons. By reading “The Bow” many times and lots of contemplation, the consequences of those comparisons, even trying to judge “equal to” finally became clear to me.

Now, at this stage in my life, I see that the fabric of the suit is cheap and inferior. I don’t need a suit made of fear, self-defensiveness and suspicion to protect me. I need only to stand naked before God.  Being naked in the wilderness scares me in its potential for pain. I now think that I’m strong enough to withstand my own vulnerability but am I strong enough to endure and love the vulnerability of others?  The image scares me but keeps me mindful that there’s always pain in life. I can survive it and I don’t always need to deflect it but rather try to know it.

Spring Meditation

   Ok, this is my planned “Easter piece”. (Please see previous post.) I actually wrote it a while ago and waited for this time of year to post it. I know it sounds like I wrote it standing on a soap box and I promise not to preach again if you forgive me this one time. I’ll write for this blog “in the now” from now on but I can’t let all that planning go to waste!

Get It Together*

    I probably read more into song lyrics I than I should or the writers intended. I admit that sometimes I can’t tell the difference between love songs and hymns. But this particular song overtly speaks to spirituality. If you listen to the song I think you’ll agree.

“Now’s the time for stepping out of place. Get up on your feet and give account of your faith. Pray to God or something or whatever you do.”

The British singer Seal co-wrote the song “Get It Together”. I have often wondered if he realizes that the song is divinely inspired. Ironically, it’s on the same CD as his famous song “Love’s Divine”.

   The words of this song are so powerful; that’s why I included them in my prayer. The first line, “Now’s the time…”. Wow! It puts out there the profound concept of all of us, whatever the form of our faith, addressing our collective spirituality, together. “Now’s the time for stepping out of place.” Now’s the time. If ever there was a time we needed to get over ourselves enough to step out of places in time, with our involvement in what wants to be a holy war, this is the time. For what is extremism at either end except being locked in place? “Get up on your feet and give account of your faith.” I try to imagine if I had to account for my faith. Could I do it? Notice the song doesn’t say, “give account of someone else’s faith” because that would be my first inclination. As in ‘I don’t know how so and so can give account since they have the wrong faith.’ Or ‘so and so isn’t doing right by our faith, they don’t do this and they don’t do that.’ Or how about a two-fer, which goes something like, ‘What kind of values was that child raised with?’ With that one I get to account for the child and the parent.

   Imagine if we all had to give account whatever our faith is. If we all had to step up and say ‘This is what I believe, this is why I believe it and this is how I live it.’ Do you know what would happen? Besides those who try to use the term “faith” to wrongly justify violence, what would happen is….we would be giving the same accounts. We would be expressing the same things no matter how we expressed them. Seal gets to the point in the next line. “Pray to God or something or whatever you do.” Or something. So he’s saying it’s not so important how we account but that we stand up together and account, again in our collective spirituality. He goes on to say, “What I see can make me stop and stare but who am I to judge the color of your hair.”  So when I see someone who makes me stop in my tracks and think ‘WTF?’, let me remember to give account only of my own faith.

   “We’ve got to keep this world together, got to keep it moving straight. Love like we need forever, so that people can relate.”  The only way we can keep this world together is together. And with the lyric “love like we need forever” the songwriter is beating us over the head with his point. He’s saying that together we need to love one another in a deep way, in the true way that comes after we give account of our faith. That’s the meaning of the Christian concept of Agape love, isn’t it? It’s compassionate love that comes from faith in love as a manifestation of the divine. If we can love each other like that then, once again, it doesn’t matter how we express it. We can be together and relate to one another in love. As in the song line “so that people can relate”.

   The next line is the one I adapted for my prayer. “If you’re rolling to the left, don’t forget I’m on the right.” I interpret those words to mean that no matter what position I take I have to consider the ‘other’ position with compassion and love if not agreement. Next comes the big payoff of this stanza, “Trust and forgive each other.” After I have accounted for my own faith and therefore opened my heart to the love I want and need forever then maybe I can trust and forgive. Trust and forgiveness are clearly not new ideas in faith traditions but they are two of the biggest obstacles to Agape love.  In order for me to trust and forgive I have to get over myself. I don’t mean get over my traditions but get over past ideas of group or tribal righteousness that prevent me from trusting. I must accept that the values of “the other” are as valid in God’s sight as my own, and then I can trust. And forgiveness is even harder. On more than one occasion I have convinced myself that I have been forgiving only to find myself hanging on to my own sense in my heart.  When I tell myself that I will forgive but not forget it’s just a ruse I use to disguise my lack of forgiveness. To forgive is to forget and let it go completely. The greatest and holiest of those among us throughout history have all stressed the importance of forgiveness. Forgiveness through compassion is a fundamental in our traditions.

    In the next stanza the songs says, “Thinking of the troubles of today is it easier to put that gun away or is it difficult to stop and show you care.” Yeah it’s difficult! It’s a lot easier to put flag decals on my car than it is to step outside my comfort zone for the sake of others. I know that often I’ll feel the desire in my heart to show I care but then my mind gets started and I’ll think ‘If I get involved it might take to much of my time or I’ll have to take up someone else’s burden and I’ve got enough of my own. Or I might get hurt.’ But if I listen to my heart sense instead of my head sense I know that what is really important is that I show that I care.

   The next line is the most profound to me. “Everything and everyone we know is beautiful.” Amen to that! The words go on to say, “Surely you will be the guide in light to see us all. Maybe we can be the vision of a perfect man’s dream.” The words are so optimistic and hopeful. When I hear them I envision the songwriter in a kind of rapture. What do you see when you think of those words? Maybe we can discuss that goal, together. Any contemplation of collective spirituality is vital in today’s world. Now’s the time.

(Track from Seal’s CD “Seal IV”, 2003, Warner Bros. Records)

Thoughts On The Season

This is the first post that is difficult for me to write. Before I started this blog I carefully considered why I’d be doing it. I took all the time I needed to define the aim and the message. (Please see About This Blog) I went through a long period of questioning whether I was ready to expose myself. This included testing the waters by creating another blog about which I told no one and I even used another personae for authorship. Finally I felt confident enough in my voice and writing skills to go public with what I had to say. Even after all that it took a year of planning and collecting material before I felt ready to launch.  I never intended for this to be an “off the cuff” blog ala Twitter. I edit my pieces a couple of times before I actually post them. I committed to myself to write at least one post a month so as not to put too much pressure on myself, which I knew would be self-sabotage. I thought I had covered all the bases.

So what happened this month? A close family member went through a frightening medical event.  It threw me off my game mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. I’ve gone through similar experiences with others and I know that I’ll process through it all and regain my balance. But I couldn’t figure out how this blog fit in with that process since I hadn’t planned for it. This is where I confess that I’m a planner. And by planner, I mean control freak. Doesn’t exactly jive with the Yoga/Buddhism leaning, does it? And that’s the point of what I learned about making time for this blog during rough periods. Although I doubt I’ll ever write a “stream of consciousness” post, I think they can be edited but not guarded. They can be organic if not spontaneous. They can be  “in the now” if not “in the minute”.  So this is not the post I had meant for this month but it’s the one that happened. If I get a chance I’ll type the “Easter” piece I had planned. (Hahahaha).

And now back to the business at hand. Last month I talked about Easter and the moon. Tomorrow is Easter of course and it’s late this year.  Easter is a “moveable feast” holiday which means it doesn’t fall on a fixed date on the Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian calendar follows the sun cycle. Moveable feast holidays follow a lunisolar calendar similar to Jewish holidays. So this year the Christian Holy Week and the Jewish Passover coincide as they often do. I prefer it when it happens because it reminds me that we beings are all connected in the world, whether I like it or not. That connectedness is important for me to think about at this time when the emphasis is on forgiveness and salvation. I reflect on how I treat others and how I want to be treated. But I also reflect on how I respond to how I’m treated by others because that’s the tricky one for me.  When I perceive that I have been insulted or aggrieved will I turn the other cheek?  As I’ve talked about before, I’m still working on “the bow”.

Speaking of reflection, tomorrow, Easter is the beginning of the last quarter moon phase. The waning moon is a perfect time for reflection and meditation before the renewal of the new moon and new projects.

I’m giving my best wishes of the season to all of you who celebrate Passover and Easter.

Moon Mania II

I guess I’ve been thinking about the moon because at this time of year it’s “going and coming” is so important to how we human beings mark cycles. (Maybe that’s why it seems so natural to me to factor the moon into my personal cycles.) For instance, Easter is next month. Do you know how the date of Easter is determined?  Easter Sunday is the Sunday following the Paschal Full Moon date for that year. In June 325 C.E. astronomers approximated astronomical full moon dates for the Christian church, calling them Ecclesiastical Full Moon dates. From 326 C.E., the PFM has always been the EFM date after March 20th (the vernal equinox date in 325 C.E.)

Today is the waxing gibbous moon. As I mentioned in my previous post, the best time to clean is right after the new moon but anytime during the waxing phases is good. Now, we could argue all day long about the need for clean. But to paraphrase character Marie Barone of the old “Everybody Loves Raymond” TV show who was speaking about those how argue against cleaning; you know who says that, people who don’t like to clean. And so you’re just going to have to give me that cleaning is good and I’m going to give you some great (organic/natural) cleaning recipes, applicable only if you’re the one responsible for cleaning where you live. Don’t blame me, blame Marie Barone and please go to the Recipe page.

Today is, of course, St. Patrick’s Day. I remember the March I was introduced to Irish soda bread. I’ve put the story and the recipe on the Recipe page.

Spring starts this coming Sunday, March 20th . Although the moon doesn’t determine the seasons, the sun does, it’s worth noting that this month’s full moon is on Saturday. Spring equinox marks the first day of the spring season and the beginning of a long period of sunlight at the North Pole. In the northern hemisphere, usually March 20th, the sun crosses the equator moving northward. March 20th seems to be a circled on the moon and the sun’s calendars!  And spring is like that, isn’t it. The factors that were dormant or distant last month are acting on us at a fever pitch now. I can see it where I live. The crocuses are coming up and today marks the start of 12 hours of sunlight in my area. And oh, that moon. Is there anything more beautiful than a spring moon after a long day of sun? What a blessing! And that’s why I have moon mania.