I’m joining Susan on this journey. I’ll be using some quotes from Richard Rohr’s “The Naked Now” as guiding thoughts on some days. (See Center for Action and Contemplation link.) I feel the same as one of Susan’s other respondents; amazed at the perfect timing of this opportunity. Thank you, Susan! Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how it goes.
A Journey of Fulfillment, a 40-day Consciousness Journey, begins at susanwithpearls.com on Monday June 16, 2014.
The schedule for the journey will be as follows:
Monday June 16, 2014: A brief overview of this journey– “Why a Journey of Fulfillment”. Find out if it sounds like something you’d like to do for yourself.
Tuesday June 17, 2014: The commitment statement will be posted. This is the statement that focuses and dedicates the journey.
June 18- July 27 : 40 days of guiding thoughts for consideration and contemplation; 40 days of sharing about the contemplation. 40 days of shifting my consciousness into a higher understanding and experience of Fulfillment–maybe yours too?
July 28-August 3: There will be one or two posts of an afterword, and some concluding thoughts. Processing myself, thinking about thinking about the thinking.
The structure of the Journey is:
Spend 5 minutes reading and thinking about the guiding…
I was reading in the newspaper today about the recent sectarian violence in Turkey and Pakistan. I was thinking about how much tribal, factional, “us” vs. “them” violence still happens all the time all over the world. It doesn’t just happen in places where we Americans can point and say, “What’s the matter with them?” It happens in this country too. (How many gay youths have been bullied or beaten recently and remember the massacre of six worshipers at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee?) I guess it’s been uppermost in my mind lately because a spiritual practice group I belong to is having an event in remembrance of Dr. King in a few days. There will be discussions during the event and two of the themes are, “the goal of interracial, global Christian fellowship” and “the pursuit of justice as a holy calling.”
In light of the violence, I asked myself if true interracial, global fellowship (Christian or otherwise) and therefore peace, is actually possible. And given peoplekind’s penchant for using “otherness” as a reason for inequity and for that matter, elimination, can the pursuit of justice ever be consistent with a goal of peace and fellowship?
Sometimes I fear, in my more pessimistic moments, that the only way we’ll have peace and justice is by the “Day the Earth Stood Still” model; that is if we’re forced into it by beings much wiser than ourselves. That would achieve peace and begrudging justice but that couldn’t be called fellowship, could it? It’s more than just my being disheartened and saying, “Oh, the fate of the world!” It’s because I belong to a faith community now and if we’re going to talk the talk I wonder if it is really possible for us to walk the walk. Do even people of faith fear deep down that our human nature negates the possibility? I was around during Dr. King’s ministry and at that time many people were fast and loose with the use of the words peace and justice. They became rallying cries for assorted social and political agendas. Unfortunately, many times those agendas didn’t include “others”. Are we still throwing the terms around? Are these discussions really meaningful to us in the context of our modern world views? Are we simply having them because it’s MLK’s birthday and we think it’s what we’re supposed to talk about at the interfaith events and prayer breakfasts?
I went to one of my favorite sources of lucidity and insight in these matters, Richard Rohr. (https://cac.org) In his book “Breathing Underwater” he says, ‘…a system of retributive justice (author’s italics) …has controlled the story line of 99 percent of history. It seems history could not see what it was not ready to see; but in our time more and more are ready and willing to understand. One cannot help but believe there is an evolution of human and spiritual consciousness.” He goes on to say that there are many theories (like Spiral Dynamics) that describe the evolution and they “are recognizing that history is moving forward, even if by fits and starts, and even many steps backwards.” (pg 39) I wonder if Dr. King would believe that now. When I think about his agenda I wonder if he would think the fits and steps backwards are too large to move past. But then I think, of course he would have the kind of faith Fr. Rohr has.
I want to have that kind of faith. I want to believe the theories and research are correct. I want to believe that the conversations my community is having aren’t just because it’s MLK’s birthday but because they are a manifestation of our evolution.
I guess that has to be a component of my faith, believing that the process of working toward peace and justice is important even without the expectation of witnessing the eventual success.
In my post “The Love in Loss” I talked about the power of Love. Because of the time of year, because of the death of my stepdad and because of the shooting in Connecticut last week I’m going to continue to speak to that power.
I actually used the term power of Love because of a great song that’s been one of my favorites for a long time. “I Have Learned to Respect the Power of Love” was a modest hit by Stephanie Mills back in the 1980s. I think it’s about romantic love but to me, it’s about all Love. From the first time I heard it my heart was touched in a “feeling the Holy Ghost” kind of way. I missed my highway exit once while I was sing along to it. Every time I listen to it I want to testify. These are the lyrics to the first part of the song:
I was a victim of my foolish thinking
Carelessly I’ve risked my love and my life
There’s no self-pity I admit I obliged
Overpowered by love I pretended to be blind
Faith has survived all the doubts I’ve summoned
My heart has stood all the failure and loss
Helpless I cannot further be driven
I’ve learned to respect
The power love…….
How beautiful is that? Say Amen? I absolutely relate to the foolish thinking that leads to careless risk part. That could be the title of the first half of my life. But then I was thinking about the idea of being overpowered by Love. I feel like the Love we need to pay attention to and live by can be overwhelming. I’ve talked in this blog about how I can’t show as much compassion as I’d like. I think it’s because there’s too much negativity inside of me to get over in order to be that compassionate. I guess I feel like my love can’t outmatch my negativity. But I’ve come to realize that my love with a little “l” can’t. It’s only when I participate in the larger Love with the big “L” that it’ll work. And that participation takes getting over the petty sense of myself. That’s the part that’s overwhelming.
I thought about that this week in terms of the shooting of those babies at the elementary school. Like everyone else I was blindsided by how terrible an act it was. How do the parents, the community and the nation get over that much horror? Then I saw the footage of the prayer services held that night. The collective prayers sent up demonstrate the power of Love. They provide the pathway to the Love that can overpower that kind of hate. Witnessing all those people earnestly praying for the comforting of others (for a lot of them, others they don’t know) was so encouraging to me. Those people in that moment put themselves aside to give Love through prayer. I know the effect that kind of positive energy can have because I’ve felt it in my own life.
Just as the lyrics say, our hearts can stand all the failure and loss if we have faith in Love, even when we feel as helpless as we did this week. It can survive all the doubts we have about ourselves, about others and about the condition of the world we live in. It’s hard to hold on to though, when it feels like our daily lives are filled with nothing but failure and loss. But there have been so many good and spiritually blessed folks who have come along to remind us of the truth of the power of Love. Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama come to my mind immediately. Who just came to yours? And for those of us who celebrate Christmas, Jesus of Nazareth is supposed to be the number one bearer of that exact message.
So since it’s the season we’re supposed to be thinking about it and because we really need it at this challenging time, let’s sing along with Stephanie; “I’ve learned to respect the power of Love, (Yes I did!)”
THE FATHER WHO RAISED ME FROM THE AGE OF 12, MY STEPDAD, PASSED AWAY TODAY. I’ve experienced the loss of several loved ones in the last few years, my husband, my mother, my biological dad, a cousin, an aunt and now “Gramps”. I didn’t have this blog when the others transitioned. This post is for all of them.
Loss through death is the big one, isn’t it? It affects us more than any other type of loss. It’s accompanied with so many complicated feelings besides pain and sadness. I have also felt guilt, confusion and anger with each passing. When my husband died I was blessed to have the insight of two very wise people (a friend and a therapist) who taught me about the Love in loss. They showed me that all those feelings were/are really products of the power of the most important feeling and of course, that’s Love. It’s the power of Love that keeps our loved ones with us in a very real way. The pain in our hearts when we think of those who have transitioned is where we are blessed to keep them through the power of Love.
My stepdad wasn’t a perfect man but he had a quiet strength of character (He had to be quiet and have strength to be married to my mother!) He was also a man of immense faith. He taught me to have faith in that power of Love. That’s why at this time of his passing I’m sitting in gratitude instead of grief.
Now that my move is complete and I’m officially a permanent resident of Virginia, I can return to my spiritual practice. I’d like to say that I was practicing all along but that would be a lie. I was intermittently distracted during the move from the main components, which are:
Prayer/meditation– Prayer is never an issue for me but if conditions are right I can go from a gratitude prayer to swearing in a heartbeat. (That’s the reason I stopped praying while driving.) And I wasn’t in a place to quiet my mind enough for meditation while negotiating the issues around moving.
Living in the moment- Impossible for me while moving because I’m an obsessive planner which requires thinking ahead.
Community- I’ve only been here a little while but I’ve made progress by joining meet-up groups.
Yoga- Let’s just say it petered out mid-summer.
Compassion- This is the one that’s the hardest but it’s the most important to me. You see, compassion isn’t so much a component to my practice as it is the goal. I’d like to come to and stay in a place of love and compassion because I feel it’s the state that’s closest to the divine. Unfortunately, as I’ve pointed out in previous posts, when dealing with people in challenging situations it is not my go-to position. (My posts that deal with this are; “Stumbling on Pebbles” and “Bowing at Easter”.) So, I’m going back to “The Bow”.
For those readers who don’t know, “The Long Journey To The Bow” is an article that was the subject of my very first blog post. (December 2010) It deals with a Buddhist take on love and compassion. Basically it says that the sense of self contains the,
worlds of comparing, evaluating and judging.…the cessation of conceit (of self) allows the fruition of empathy, kindness, compassion and awakening.
I re-read the article as many times as I can to remind myself of what compassion looks like. As I said then “I have to be willing to bow to my fellow beings without the intellectual exercise of judging one way or the other.” Fortunately for me I also discovered a Catholic priest by the name of Richard Rohr of the Center for Action and Contemplation, who, curiously, shares that definition of compassion and speaks eloquently to it. Reading his daily meditations also helps me bow. He has said,
The enormous breakthrough is that when you honor and accept the divine image within yourself, you cannot help but see it in everybody else, too, and you know it is just as undeserved and unmerited as it is in you. That is why you stop judging, and that is how you start loving unconditionally and without asking whether someone is worthy or not.
When I first read “The Bow” I was living a “greater than, less than” life in my own home and in my larger circle. I’m blessed to have been able to re-orient myself. Obviously, this blog bears witness to that process. What I didn’t realize until recently is how many others there are that embrace and try to live with that mindset. Now I understand that if it weren’t for the fact that there are so many folks “bowing” to our fellow beings, this world couldn’t possibly continue. Stevie Wonder expressed it best as the song “Love’s In Need of Love Today”. He begs us all to take our love and compassion and “send it in right away” so hate won’t take us out.
So as I attempt to return my practice to the forefront of my everyday life, I’d like to ask you if you have a spiritual practice. If being compassionate is an important part of it, how do you demonstrate it? Does your life allow you to be as loving and compassionate as you’d like to be? Do you find it as hard as I do to “send it in”? Thanks and I bow to you.
(The article “Long Journey To The Bow”: appeared in Tricycle Magazine. It’s on my blog roll. Fr. Richard Rohr’s quote is from his book “The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See”. I’ve added his website to my blog roll. “Love’s in Need of Love Today” is from Stevie Wonder’s album “Songs in the Key of Life”. I’m grateful for all three.)
The Divine One’s Love The Divine One’s mercy Love The love in my heart My kids Olivia The memory of Bill Memories in general The roof over my head Constant affirmation of my sensibility: it really is The One Absurdist humor Humor in general Music, always and forever The music of my roots The big one: hot water on demand London Things that grow in the ground I saw Barack Obama elected president My health My health insurance My safety Each new day I don’t go hungry Good food, of course The ability to say, “I don’t know” My kids grew up safely The sky The ocean Songbirds Nature in general My sibs My friends My cousins Freedom from want The human body heals itself The fact that thoughts are private The human voice The ability to read The ability to write I don’t have fertility issues anymore I’m not poor I don’t live in military state Newport The Internet happened during my lifetime This breathe Springtime Summertime Seasons in general Who am I kidding, I’m so grateful for TV I can afford not to steal My broken ankle didn’t cost me the ability to walk The window at work That I write! (How did this get so far down on the list?) Really good smells Babie’s faces Olivia’s face
I’m so excited about tonight’s full moon. If you read this blog regularly you know that I have what I call “moon mania”. (I’m a moon maniac?) And as you’ve probably heard, this month’s full moon occurs on the perigee side which makes it a super moon! At the bottom of this post is a link to a great article on NASA’s website about it. Anyway, I’ve got my seat and snacks picked out for the viewing. (Who am I kidding, I’d have snacks moon or no moon.) I’ll be there from 7:30pm on to take advantage of the unusual sight.
There’s something special about the moon for me (Please see my other moon posts). Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m a nature lover exactly. I don’t have an affinity for tree hugging, although a hike in the wood would go a long way in trimming off the snacks. No, it’s that I’m a wonder lover. It’s the wonder of the moon that affects me. It makes me mindful and sometimes it’s a struggle for me to be mindful. The moon makes me mindful that we live on a big ball made of elements that are hot and cold and wet and dry and hard and soft. It makes me mindful that the ball that we call our planet shifts and rotates. And that it is moving around with other planets in a largeness and a vastness that I can’t begin to imagine. It makes for a mindful perspective.
So, I hope you’ll join me tonight in mindful meditation on the wonderful moon. Let’s sit in gratitude snacking on Milky Ways and Moon Pies.
Annually, 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.
I’m not perfect and other people aren’t either. When my judgment reflex kicks in, I’d like to flip it to compassion by staying mindful of the state of imperfection in which we all reside. I was taught to compare myself to others in order to judge their shortcomings. But comparison doesn’t have to be criticism; it can serve as the path to compassion for others and myself.
Order isn’t perfection. Sometimes it’s just the opposite and sometimes disorder is perfection. I was watching a piece on TV about Bernard Madoff. In it his daughter-in-law revealed that he is obsessed with order. That man is someone very far from perfection. Then I was reading about one of my favorite CDs “The Goat Rodeo Sessions”. Apparently, the definition of “Goat Rodeo” is basically discordance that becomes a whole. When I’m listening to the CD the music seems ‘pret near perfection. I really like order but I’ve come to realize that it’s not perfection.
To possess is not the same as to value. I may decide in my heart that it’s better to let go of a possession but find it hard because of my perception of it’s value. Maybe it comes down to how I have been defining value. Maybe I’ve been defining it as how anything relate to ME. I almost took a picture of a beautiful tree. I was thinking that when the leaves fell it wouldn’t be as beautiful and that I should take the picture and make it my Facebook profile picture. But, that tree’s beauty doesn’t depend on me or whether it graces my Facebook page. It was itself before I saw it and remained so after I’d walked away. It will be exactly as it is for someone else to see as beautiful when they walk by.
Sometimes the value of something can be intangible. I’ve learned about the value of compassion and imperfect perfection. I think I get it.
I read “The Bow” this morning (please see 1st post 12/25/10) and then went for a walk. I just got back. It was wonderful and I want to share my thoughts without my usual two-day editing process. So here goes…
Starting out with newly downloaded music dictating my stride.”Tinariwen” singing from “Water is Life”.
It’s the kind of July morning I wait for all year. The cloudless blue sky, the sun hot on my shoulders until I wipe them with dew from heavy, ivy leaves that cling to stone walls. What’s Nicki saying? “I’m not lucky, I’m blessed.”
Smiling at the bunny gazing at a front yard garden contemplating “what to have, what to have….? Sharing the bunny smile with passing drivers who smile back. And sharing those smiles with dog walkers who really do look like their dogs. “I’m not lucky, I’m blessed.”
Reaching the cemetery I feel the pain it takes to put loved ones to rest and the love that remains. Grief is the place in our hearts where those loved ones live and it’s good to know where that is. “I’m not lucky, I’m blessed.”
Geese fly low overhead and I suddenly realize, this is Yoga! I’m so grateful for this breathe. I’m grateful for all of it. I’m grateful that I continue the 20 year walk away from my demons. “I’m not lucky, I’m blessed.”
And now a note about the music mentioned in this post. I enjoy exploring “world music”. Among many other great finds, this year I was introduced to the music of the Tuareg people of the Sahara. Tinariwen is a Tuareg band. (There is a song on my “I Saw God” playlist titled “Ansari”. It’s by the group Tartit. They are also a Tuareg band.) I strongly recommend checking the music out. It’s a great genre with a very interesting history. Although I was familiar with the music, I found out about Tinariwen through the organization “Playing for Change”. Their stated mission is “Connecting The World Through Music”. Please check the website, http://playingforchange.com. You’ll be amazed at the music you’ll discover. National Geographic also has a place on their website entirely dedicated to world music. The web address is worldmusic.nationalgeographic.com. Lastly, for those of you who haven’t already figured it out, the Nicki I refer to is Nicki Minaj, rapper extraordinaire, the song , “Moment 4 Life”. The details on both references is on my Music page.