Friday, December 23, 2011

God 301 Intensive

The move is complete, I am settling into a beautiful new home and I am grateful. Most of the boxes are unpacked and I am slipping into a new routine. I look out the window at the mist sinking down onto the mountain, my Christmas tree is nestled into the bay window and a water fountain adds some soothing noise. This is where God has led me, I had been scared to leave my old place, scared that I would miss the beauty of the backyard and pond, but I have slipped into a space that suits me and everything I love. The brain shoots right back to fear though and I could be admiring the view and the creamy colored walls and want more from God. I can zero in on what my life lacks right now, and the only thing my ego thinks it lacks is a full time "real" job, a constant source of income, guaranteed with health insurance to boot. I am currently in an on call position which requires constant surrender. I need to surrender my schedule and my paycheck to my Higher Source. I don't know from day to day if I will work and that is scary. But as I sit here today I realize that I have always had enough, no matter what I take home via payroll. I always have a home, food and heat, somehow these details are taken care of, but with vigilance on my part. I have to surrender my fears and my will and my life over to God, on a daily basis. It feels as if I am trudging my way through a 300 level class at college. But as with the class, if I do the work, keep up with the course load and go easy on myself, I end up making it through. I won't be in this financial position forever, I did the leg work, got the degree, I search the job boards and I understand that I will receive exactly it is I need to receive, and usually the gifts are greater than I ever could have imagined. I know that as fact when I look around my living room and curl up with a book and blanket.  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Moving...

I haven't written much lately as I have been getting ready to move after Thanksgiving. It hasn't been altogether that difficult however, because I had started the process of purging after my son left for college. My empty nest syndrome manifested in a psychotic obsessive need to get rid of everything I haven't been using. I went through closets, tossing Easter cards from the 80's along with other useless articles. I purged old files, burning tax returns and bills that had long since been paid off. I donated clothes and left extra furniture on the side of the room for passersby. The payoff for this fall cleaning is a simpler move for me. And so I enter another transition period.  This time I am allowing God to help. Although I love the apartment I am in, I have been lead to my new living quarters, which are closer to my partner. This seems like a big step for me, I am feeling a wee bit tender although I usually don't have a problem forging ahead in relationship. That is my problem, forging ahead, a sort of compulsive doing. I am either full steam ahead or crashed on the couch. This relationship has been growing steadily for the past five years. So it now keeps growing. This morning a great blue heron flew over the road in front of me, landing in the adjoining woods. I caught his picture standing there and watched for minutes as he just was, turning his head from time to time, I am sure wondering what that blue hunk of steel was beside the guardrail. I soon became impatient with our meditation and got out of the car to try to get a better look (and picture.) Needless to say he flew away. There is a time for everything, a time to move, a time to sit and pray. What becomes of this process when I am patient with God, when I move when it is time instead of forging ahead? The results are miraculous. I will be leaving one beautiful home on a nature preserve and moving into a more beautiful home with views of the Berkshire Hills, in close proximity to my loved ones. Today I am moving toward instead of away from. And that type of movement is best done slowly. I am not running today, forging ahead. Because when I slow down I have the space to see the heron, sitting by the side of the road. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

A brilliant man said today, "there is always a light at the end of every tunnel." So many times I forget as I am experiencing strife, that I always come out of that difficulty and into the light. However I can always choose to stay in the tunnel, to stay in the darkness or the problem. The light is scary sometimes, it is bright and many times it is an unknown. I believe I have made it to the other side of a period in my life that I have perceived to be difficult. After graduating from college I was plunged into unemployment, without the check. I was without an identity and an income. I wrote about it (on this blog), I shared it, I prayed, I read and I learned (slowly mind you) to slow down and savor each moment. I realized that I don't necessarily need to thrive in a fast-paced, workaholic environment. It is possible that the pace I held for years, ever since I began working at fourteen,was masking the woman I am, or the woman I want to be. We live in a productivity based culture, the more you do, the more you make, the more you achieve, the more you are esteemed. If I were to say to you, "I spent three hours meditating today," you might think, "ok, whatever." If I were to say, "I spent three hours at work today and invented the antidote for warts," you might congratulate me. Doing is valued. Being is not. But this summer I was forced to Be. I was forced to sit back, after I had done the footwork (action is required), and allow my Higher Power to take over. Forcing solutions backfired. Quiet contemplation prevailed. Today I am choosing to leave the tunnel and to walk out with my friends and my God. The light is bright and my eyes haven't quite adjusted, but I have faith that soon I will know which way to turn.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Oh no, I'm a control freak

but I am horrible at it, in much the same way as a dog does not make a good cat, sorbet just doesn't cut it as ice cream or mosquitoes do not make loving house pets. I love order from chaos, but I tend to control that which is not in my power to control. Much like standing in front of a dam after hurricane Irene, there are those things that I am not meant to manage, like nearly everything. But I try to do so anyways. And it never works out, go figure. Wouldn't life be amazing if I could just sit back with a remote control, put in my orders and watch as things miraculously fell into place? Probably not. It seems when I give up the battle to constantly try and force a round peg into a triangular hole, I always find the round hole, or turn into a triangular peg. It just works when I give up the battle. So I have quiet time, time to sit and be with myself, not a fun filled activity, but it has been enlightening. Wouldn't it be wonderful if I could just create the story line that my life was to follow? Probably not, because I am not aware of all the possibilities out there that are available to me. My human sized brain cannot comprehend the immensity that is God. I am told just to turn it over, but how exactly does one do that? Today I made a list of the things I could do, and I did them. I also asked that my will be aligned with God's Will. That for me is the act of turning it over, actually asking for help and when that help arrives, accepting it. This life stuff gets tricky sometimes. 

And they appeared, as if by magic

Autumn has slipped in, the leaves are already changing here in the Berkshires. This morning I took to the Appalachian Trail for the first time in a few weeks, and it was like slipping into a different world. Birch leaves covered the trail, roots seemed to have sprung (my feet had forgotten where they were.) It even sounded different, songbirds no longer called, here and there a word or two; instead the air was filled with the rustling of falling leaves. Light filtered through already bare patches where evergreens were absent. The woods smelled like wet dog in certain places, others, damp moss. Fungi grew, popping up overnight it seemed, bright red, brilliant white, round and bumpy, the mushrooms hinting at a world invisible to the eye that waits to explode when we aren't looking. I stopped at the stream to pray, the water rushing from our overabundance of precipitation these last few weeks. Cattails had started to brown. As I stood on the rock that crosses the brook I started to see spider webs appear, as if by magic. They hung from birch branches and spanned the distance between cattails and other tall grasses. The longer I stood, the more came into view. I have been forced to slow down recently, this morning was no exception. No calls to work were received, so I have a day, a brilliant autumn day to run and read and try to listen for answers. What is the next step? The spider weaves a web and waits. Has my web been woven? What is the proper mixture of work and meditation? I know that when I force situations to occur, the end result is less than desirable (I still regret the grammatically flawed resumes sent by the dozens.) Nature has her season of work and her season of rest. Now she is cleaning up, purging and preparing for a little quiet before the rebirth. Today the leaves fall, without any real effort, they are no longer needed to make sugar for food. The songbirds do not need to attract a mate. Today the webs come into focus, as long as I am quiet and pay attention. Is it my season to slow down, sit back and allow, or do I need to go out and grab for what I need, gathering nuts for a long winter? I am not sure. But I do know that if I take care of what needs to be done today, exercise, prayer, meditation, writing and a little grocery shopping, the next steps will appear, as the webs did, as the sunlight hit the morning dew. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Taking Flight

This morning I set out for a run, choosing the trail behind my apartment which weaves through rolling fields, past a pond, over a brook and by some pine woods. I hadn't been running in a few days and my lungs felt it,  and my legs were a little shaky, but I ventured on, determined to add five miles to my running tally. As I passed the pond a Great Blue Heron took flight, he was invisible to my eyes until he made his move. It jarred me from my meditation. Herons transition between water, land and air, and although it appears that their bodies may be heavy as they take off, once they are airborne, their flight is smooth. It occurred to me that over the last few months I have been considering myself to be in a transition period, graduating from college, and waiting for the next adventure to begin, that new job or writing project. I have been focusing on getting someplace, finding that source of income, making a contribution to society. When that didn't happen this summer, my first instinct was to run away, to start over in a new place, because maybe just maybe I would actually get somewhere then. But today as my lungs reminded me to stay present and the heron reminded me to pay attention, I realized that I haven't been in a transitional limbo. This is a necessary part of life. Just as winter isn't the transitional period between autumn and spring, the last few months haven't been the transition between school and employment. Winter is essential. Without it there would be no opportunity for new life to sprout. Life is cyclical, each day is necessary, not just another 24 hours to get through in order to get to the good stuff. As westerners I think we value the active life, the workaholism, the doing doing doing. Meditation and quiet seem unnecessary in the scheme of life, because nothing gets done. But watch a heron as it stands completely still in the water. In that stillness is action, without it the fish would never be spied. When the time comes I will be called to action just as the heron will move to spear its prey, but just for today this stillness, this so called "transition" period is exactly what I need to be experiencing. When I ran this morning, what mattered wasn't my starting point (my house,) or my ending point (my house,) but the grass, the mud, the cattails and heron between the two points. That is the journey, that is the point.

Friday, September 16, 2011

It just might be time for a nap...

I have been putting off writing this post for a few weeks now, resistance is a powerful force, and is futile, as the Borg say. But what I resist is what I know I need to look at. On September 1, my son went off to college, leaving a very quiet, empty home. I am also no longer a student and at present have no job title. And this is exactly where I need to be at the moment. My person has been stripped of cultural markers, labels and identities. I am no longer a single working mom or a student and I am no longer (insert job title here.) What is left when we strip away the external words that identify us as legitimate members of society? I have had much quiet time lately, time to think (not always a productive way to spend time,) write, meditate and be with God. I am not alone and I am whole because I am spirit, but it is hard to force my way past the voices (don't worry now) that tell me I should be doing more, that I am not worth anything unless I am actively contributing to society. But when I force life to happen (such as sending out 40 resumes with spelling errors or frantically texting my child) God has a way of gently coercing me down a different trail, usually toward quiet, unplanned solitude. I have to allow life to unfold while taking the next right action. What does it feel like to be, without a purpose? Pretty scary to this workaholic, but that is what needs to happen. I need to sit in the unknown, without any answers and learn to feel comfortable there. My soul needs to just hang out, without my ego expecting her to perform, to do, to hustle through the day. Who am I without, labels? The question seems cliche, but is relevant because I don't know the answer. I have a feeling though, that if I just make peace with the quiet, some knowledge might come. And if it doesn't, at least I will have gotten a lot of use out of my hammock. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Looking at Myself

Today is a day of remembrance for all who died on September 11, ten years ago. I wonder though, if we could remember all who have died, period. Yes, violence was directed at us, but what about those we kill? Are they somehow not worthy of our prayers and love? What about the millions of people killed in senseless war, even the Native Americans we killed, either through malice and greed or via the introduction of illness? Can I look at the violence I put out into the world, the anger, the jealousy, the fear? Where have I contributed to the violence that seeps our beloved planet? Am I senselessly using more than my fair share of resources? Am I purchasing products that support repression of peoples? Am I eating food that has been treated inhumanely? Am I tailgating the driver in front of me? There are many ways in which I contribute to this already violent world. Just for today, can I suspend all forms of violence and send prayers to all who have died and acknowledge all the harm that I have done, either knowingly or in ignorance. Perhaps I can continue this ritual tomorrow as well.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Fly...no wait, come back

I delivered my son safely to college this past Thursday and immediately plunged into an uncomfortable emotional experience. There is a phenomenon out there known by psychologists as empty nest syndrome. It is not actually an illness, but rather a certain set of feelings that accompany this transition period. Where once one's life is consumed by raising a child, now the parent must discover what it is like to be an unencumbered adult. After getting my fledgling settled into a room half the size of my bathroom (which he will share with two other teenage boys) I drove home, with a stop at the grocery store for the ever-consoling pint of Ben and Jerry's. I ran into another empty nester in the store and realized that I no longer had to buy three bags of chips so that I could guarantee that I would be able to eat six. I could put the chocolate milk back in the cooler, and one brick of cheese would suffice. My attitude was less than chipper and I spent hours lamenting the fact that I was a single mom, no longer a mom, just a single lady alone in the world. I had an empty nest. Thank God someone told me it was time to spread my wings and fly. And thank Goddess that I had friends that surrounded me, reminding me that although I do now have this empty nest, I have a full life. I will always be a parent, but I need to learn how to let my child learn to be an adult. And in order to do that I need to spread my wings, and show him how to leap. The Ben and Jerry's helped as did the nachos and Haagen Daaz (I am an equal opportunity ice cream eater, although read more on gelato in my other blog.) A healthy dose of gratitude was what lessened the symptoms of ENS, I have an amazing life and an amazing child that I will miss dearly. I will get to see him soon, and when I do he will be soaring without me. Isn't that, after all, the point?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ok so...

life is going to unravel exactly the way it is supposed to...God will handle it, without my hand reaching into the cookie jar. So why not just allow it? Why is it so scary to actually turn my will and life over to my Creator? Am I really that arrogant as to think that I can come up with better solutions? Or do I not trust in times of anticipation? The questions I need to ask: What is in my survival kit? What is in my spiritual tool kit? My survival kit involves the desire to manipulate or control my surroundings and closed hands. My spiritual tool kit contains prayer, meditation, gratitude, acceptance, my God box, and open hands. Yesterday I made the proclamation that God was going to do whatever the $%^& He wanted anyway, so I might as well surrender. I think I actually did. I surrendered and then I got to work, cleaning my sock drawer, where I found the money I had lost 6 months ago. Surrender + Action + Faith = Grace. The leaves are beginning to change on my favorite old oak tree that I can see as I sit here in front of the window in my apartment. I don't know how long I will be able to stay here, I haven't been able to pay rent. But I know that my Higher Power will guide me as long as I can give up my control, as long as I can just allow Grace to enter, to allow a little space in my head for the answers. So today I will finish this post, I will keep my appointment with someone at a local college who will give me some much needed career advice, I will open the study guide to the GRE exam and I will be ok...so...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Eyes Have It

The other day I day I drove past a hiker who had just emerged from a segment of the Appalachian Trail. For the briefest of moments I caught his eye, or he caught mine. I will never see this gentleman again, I don't even remember what he looked like, but I do remember connecting with him through that glance. Call me crazy (you won't be the first) but connection is possible, even for seconds, as we pass our fellow travelers on this journey we might call life. We hear that the eyes are the window to the soul or that some guy or gal caught your eye. There is something about looking someone directly in the eye (don't try this with dogs or just-released convicts however.) G.K. Chesterton said, "There is a road from the eye to heart that does not go through the intellect." We consult our third eye, we create in our mind's eyes and we live in a visual culture, a culture that champions what can be seen, or what can be proved. Even what cannot be seen, has to be translated into a picture, a God with flowing white beard, Krishna with a flute or Buddha with a belly. We even relate our Selves with our eyes. Our ego, the "I" in English is a homonym of this gateway to the soul. In Italian, "I" or "Io" is found at the end of the word for eye, "occhio." Yes that argument is a little far reaching and no I am not going to hang out with Google translate all day to prove a point (is there a point at all?) There is the eye of the beholder, the eye of the tiger, or an eye for detail. We have a vision for our futures and we look back on our past. The ayes have it, "aye aye Captain," look that problem straight in the eye. So I looked, or rather glanced at that hiker, right in the eye, I connected for that moment with someone, who knows what would happen if I did that more in my daily life. What would it look like, if I, say looked at the cashier as I said thank you? Would it mean more than an automatic polite response? Or am I inviting trouble? As James Hetfield said, "It's all fun and games 'till someone loses an eye, then it's just fun you can't see." Made no sense? Well I will try to end this short essay with another quote by Wordsworth. "With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things." May your day be filled with harmony, joy and beautiful things. Take time to pay attention to the beauty and connect with another, after all, there is more to life than meets the eye.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Dog's Life

The Partnership for Animal Welfare defined temperament as "the general attitude a dog displays towards people and other animals; it is the combined inherited and acquired physical and mental traits that influence the dog's behavior." Temperament is hereditary, but behavior is the result of the upbringing and external situations in which the dog was exposed. While we might not be able to change the temperament of a dog, we can influence its behavior. I worked at an area Humane Society years ago and was able to observe the temperament testing that each new shelter dog had to undergo. Once the dog's natural drives were identified we were then able to work to amend the dog's behavior, to help him to unlearn reactions to situations, whether social or drive related. Dogs 4 Life, a training center, wrote that there are three social temperaments in dogs; social, neutral and unsocial. The social is just how it sounds, dog greets you with a nice friendly wag of the tail, perhaps a slurpy kiss. The unsocial reacts with either fight (aggression) or flight (hiding or fear). Now I know I am not a dog, and perhaps some might find it offensive to be compared to an animal (we are mammals, part of the animal kingdom whether we like it or not) but I think there is something here. What is my temperament versus my behavior. What is my ingrained response to the world, hereditary perhaps (you do know that this is the one post my parents will stumble upon), versus how I react to the world. If I can pinpoint that, say in my social response, maybe I can understand why fear is such a driving force for me today. I could consider my temperament to be that of an unsocial dog. And according to Dogs 4 Life, "The unsocial dog needs a program of counter-conditioning the fight/flight response, through classical conditioning and removing the reward for the aggression." When I am in fear, as I am now, stewing in my lack of earning potential, I either lash out at the world, blaming everyone else for my problems or I retreat into a cave, hiding and removing myself from life. I either want to throw a rock or step in front of a moving vehicle. I slip into the deep subconscious and react without thinking. What would be my counter-conditioning program? As an unsocial creature perhaps the answer is the end to self-imposed isolation. I don't suppose that anyone will drop treats in front of me as a counter conditioning tool, but I do get "rewards" each time I try a new behavior. For instance, when I ask for a help, something counter intuitive, I receive the reward, providing I ask from someone equipped to actually help. When I call about a job opening, working against my ingrained tendencies to run and hide, I am rewarded with the satisfaction of working outside of my comfort zone. Today I will attempt to react to fear in a new way, and like my dog who gets a biscuit when she sits, I will gain the satisfaction of moving beyond my temperament, my base fears. I still want the cookie though...I would be happy with shoes as well. 


Resources:
http://www.dogs4life.com/Temperment_and_Pet_Train.html

Sunday, July 31, 2011

How Can I Serve God?

The actual process of looking for a "job"  in a way  severs the connection with my God. I am seeking a way to make money, to gain a reward and when I think of it in these terms I lose track of the real reason why I need to work. I need to serve God. I need to use what skills I have in order to make a difference in the world, in order to spread compassion and dispel fear. How best can I do that, and what is my purpose on this orbiting sphere. You would think that at 38 I would be clear about my future. I have the Liberal Arts degree in hand and goals, plenty of goals. I do however remember watching Good Will Hunting and lamenting the fact that I don't have a clear genius, that I am an average gal, I write well sometimes, I am told I am friendly and put people at ease, I read voraciously, but even as a child I didn't have the genius for one particular area, I wasn't a star. I am not Meryl Streep or Bill Gates. I didn't always dream of becoming a lawyer, firefighter or podiatrist. I love books, I love reading, I love writing, I love creating and looking at really old, beautifully decorated books. I want to die in the Beineke Library at Yale University. I love Dante and Chaucer and Boccacio and the way the Italian language rolls off my tongue. I love the sound of the keys when I type and I hold a notebook as a security blanket. This all doesn't translate into a rent-paying career. Or does it? I have my motives mixed up, I have been coming from a place of fear, fear of losing my apartment and car, fear of asking for help and fear of not knowing what the next step is. I think I know, but then I find out I don't. The key word here being "I." Dear God, please help me to know how best to live in accordance with your will for me. Help me to get out of my own way, help me to stop trying to work toward the end result and savor the process of discovering the person I am. Amen. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

That where there is despair, I may bring hope, part 2

Warning, this is a rant and only a rant, you have the right to stop reading, if you choose to keep reading you will be responsible for your own reactions.
The facts: I am between school and gainful employment. I have been actively looking for a job and receiving rejection after rejection. I have not paid my bills in many months. The following is a representation of a conversation that takes place frequently now that I have graduated.
Person: So you just graduated, what are you doing now?
Me: I am looking for a job, preferably in the education field, I would love to teach while I write.
Person: Jobs are so hard to find, especially teaching jobs, I know so many people are out of work right now, it is so hard, these economic times are tough.
Please, please, please. I am almost 100% sure that anyone looking for work, or that is underemployed is well aware that it is a hard time to look for a job. Please oh please offer hope. I know that y'all want to be realists, but when someone is taking a cold shower because oil costs over 4$ a gallon, or they pay for groceries with food stamps, I am pretty sure that they are aware of reality. What is needed is hope. I have been accused of not being in touch with the "harsh reality" of the world every time I set a goal that is high, I go for that job I might not be completely qualified for, or I dream of  working at this place or publishing that piece. Let me set a high goal, encourage me to believe that this too shall pass. Because it will. I know that people mean well, I know they like to commiserate, but the offer of hope and gentle encouragement will work miracles. I need daily reminders that God is there, saving me from inappropriate situations. I need to notice the miracles, I need to feel hope and gratitude, even when the rejections pile up. I need to have cheerleaders surrounding me rather than naysayers. Hope goes a long way. Maybe I need to change my answer to: I am working for God, I am spending quiet days in prayer, I am absorbing sun and flowers and love. Miracles happen, all the time. There, now I feel better.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

That where there is despair, I may bring hope


This is my third time sitting to write this post. Blogger has decided to edit my writing, in its entirety. Maybe this happens for a reason, the original post was about an experience I had being tailgated this morning, the fear that came up and my reactions to that fear. I have power over my actions and reactions, I don't have power over the world at large or the cruelty of humanity.  I was scared this morning as this enormous red truck came barreling up behind me, flashing lights and inching closer as my dogs played in the back. I chose to slow down rather than pull over. I was responsible at the moment of contributing to the despair of the planet. I can control that much. Today I am powerless over Blogger, over mass murderers and tailgaters. But I do have the power to control my negative reactions and not bring more despair and anger into a world already saturated with it. I will now cut this post and paste it into a Word document, to keep my own frustration at bay. The labels belong with the first post. Maybe the act of writing this three times has softened my words, I hope it has.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Separation Anxiety

I took care of a little dog this weekend that exhibited the symptoms of separation anxiety, scratching at the door, barking and peeing when left alone. I could relate to that little canine (minus the peeing), whenever I become separate from my Higher Source I become a little crazy too. My symptoms are slightly different, but I do get anxious, irritable, and tend to display a little bark, snapping at those around me. My separation anxiety can be eased simply, just by connecting with others; when I connect with people I connect with God. When my self-imposed isolation ends, the anxiety diminishes. Just as when I returned home to the little dog, his barking stopped and he happily followed me around the house. I learn much from my furry companions, how to meditate, relax and enjoy every moment of the day. My dog Grace can entertain herself for hours with a library book (expensive habit) or a good mud puddle. Today I will connect with others, I will ask for help and I will find a mud puddle. Life is supposed to be joyous, and it is if I allow myself to take it like a dog.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

When life hands us lemons

we are supposed to make lemonade, right? Have you ever had lemonade made merely from lemons? Pretty disgusting. If I am going to make lemonade, or the best of a situation, I need two additional ingredients for a stellar brew, sugar (gratitude) and water (God). If I have a daily spiritual practice which involves God and gratitude I won't be complaining about lemons, but as I tend to forget solutions that are gentle, I need to know how to whip up a batch of lemonade. Unemployment is not merely a scary time when rent and bills go unpaid, a little sugar and prayer turns this transitional period in my life into weeks finding out all the many fun facts about my personality, one of which is a strong desire to be of service to my community (the other is I hate to be bored and watch way too much tv). It is also a time to write, or to log in extra miles and really train for an upcoming race rather than wing it. It is a time when I can say yes to my partner who wants to head up to Vermont for a few days, and moments of spending hours by myself, in silence with my Creator. It is a beautiful scary time for which I am extremely grateful. How about them lemons?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

That where there is doubt, I may bring faith

I doubt, I always doubt. I am standing on the edge of a cliff, fog rolling in, the sounds of waves crashing against rock in the distance. Do I take a step? My doubt comes out of fear, fear is the root of all I do, or do not attempt. I am currently unemployed without the safety net of unemployment insurance. I have no source of income. So I doubt because I am afraid, I am terrified of losing my shelter, my car, my possessions. But I also have a list of all of the ways that my Creator has taken care of me in the past. I have, on numerous occasions, stepped off the cliff only to land on a feather bed, with lavender scented silk sheets. I could have never imagined as I took the terrifying step that I would fall on plush comfort. That was faith. Today I go to my past, to the instances where God has guided me down dark alleys and helped navigate through uncharted waters. In order to bring faith however, I need to get quiet, the swirling thoughts do nothing to guide me, they contribute to my fear and worry. It is in the stillness, as I stand on the side of the road during a five mile run watching a great blue heron silently wait for its lunch, that I know the next step, even if it is to take a step away from the edge, back up and readjust. The answers always come, piecemeal yes, but they come in the intuitions that prompt me to send another email or call this friend, or reach out for help. The faith comes in the stillness, in meditation, in the present moment. When there is doubt, may I shut up and listen. Faith comes to me when I am not frantically reaching for it. Today I will shut up, I will watch for the heron, I will thank God for this beautiful day and I will know what the next step will be.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Spirituality of Play

Remember what it was like to be a kid, pumping legs, the swing going higher and higher, until that feeling...hair trailing through dirt. The merry-go-round, being dizzy as a friend pushed harder and harder, finally jumping on when the legs couldn't go any faster. Freeze tag, toilet tag, redlight greenlight... As a child most of our everyday stress was released on the playground, hanging upside down on the monkey bars. What happens when we hit that magic age, the stress of high school weighs heavy? We lose our release, our escape from reality, or maybe we just gain access to that part in us that is free and unrestrained, that can allow pleasure just for pleasure's sake. As adults we eat and smoke and drink and work and rage. As children, we play. As children we allow. As adults we restrain. I think we need a return to play as a tool to deal with our lives. Balance must be struck, yes bills need to be paid, but we must also allow ourselves the release of a good play. Yogis will tell you that hanging upside down recirculates blood, I tell you that crossing the monkey bars builds upper body strength, and swinging...swinging is just plain fun.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

McDreamy Revisited

I admit it, I am now completely powerless over "Grey's Anatomy" and my life has become unmanageable. At least I waited to watch this series until after I completed my final semester of school. The most dangerous words as of late are "next episode." Thank you Netflix for being my pusher. What sucks me into a series? Drama, love and relationships, characters "getting together. " I remember, sitting in front of the computer screen, watching episode after episode of "Gilmore Girls," waiting ever so impatiently for Lorelai and Luke to finally hook up, and I won't tell you the rest. Seven seasons later I was in the Optometrist's office getting my eyes adjusted. I have dabbled in series since then, was disappointed when NBC pulled the plug on "Lipstick Jungle" and got a little bored after a few seasons of "Monarch of the Glenn." Which leads me to today, GG was my gateway drug, and I now am pondering how long it will take to write this post, as I need to find out what happens with Meredith and McDreamy. Television is a perfect release from reality, writers create a world in which problems are solved in thirty minutes as opposed to my three month stint with unemployment. Time is compressed and reality is two dimensional. I live vicariously through my favorite characters, experiencing on the screen what it must be like to be the girlfriend of a beautiful surgeon with amazing floppy hair. Although in this dream, I have completed years of medical school, working on becoming a doctor, a career I am not at all suited for. I have a house and roommates who are there for me, and a beautiful boyfriend who breaks my heart and puts it back together. I am living a comfortable life although working hard, a Stanford graduate maybe, I can't remember as I slowly drift back to reality, to the words on the screen, the sound of my fingers on the keys, to my life that is, although not glamorous and filled with internal organs, filled with all I could ever dream of having, a partner who loves me, a beautiful son and apartment with a fireplace. I have a newly printed degree and a family that supports my endeavors. I have a vast network of amazing friends and a relationship with God, cats that wake me in the morning and dogs that are always happy to see me (if I have been gone for over an hour). McDreamy be damned, I am grateful. I can go another few hours without finding out what happened to Denny or Burke.

That where there is error, I may bring truth

Tricky, especially since I am always right, but just who am I to say that there is an error? Where there is error within me, then and only then can I bring truth, and only internally. There is nothing that gets my juices flowing more than a good debate, especially with fundamentalists. The problem with this adrenaline high is that there is no give and take. I don't believe what they do or say and it is highly unlikely that I will change my mind, even though I am the devil incarnate and will be roasting over open flames for eternity. As long as Satan has chocolate and graham crackers I think I am fine with that. But who is to say that what they preach isn't truth? When it comes to answers about God, there is no hard truth, that is where Faith comes in. What do I believe as the Truth, my truth. Maybe there are many different truths and we all just have to muddle through and find our own personalized version. Maybe there is a higher Truth written on stone tablets by a guy with a beard, I don't know. I think the game is about the processe of finding what rings true. Today my path is narrower than it was even a year ago. Things I used to do are no longer ok, I am growing each time I reach out and invite my Creator in, each time my truth changes. Maybe I will save the error for the math equations, lots of wrong to be fixed in that department, and just allow myself to look for the truth, my truth. After all, 2 + 3 can always equal 4. Ask any Philosophy Major.

Monday, June 20, 2011

That where there is discord, I may bring harmony

The other translated line of this prayer reads "unity" instead of harmony. I will stick with the version of the prayer I have been using until this point. The word "discord" has multiple meanings according to the dictionary, a lack of agreement between people or ideas, quarreling, or in musical terns, dissonance, or lack of harmony. This English major loves it when phrases are open for interpretation, people are unique, what's wrong with individual interpretations of literature? To digress for a moment with a story, I had an English Professor that insisted that his interpretation of a short story to be the author's intended meaning. I had another reading and was curious, so I wrote the writer, who answered me promptly. The professor was wrong. Which brings me to my concept of internal discord. Why, years later, do I delight in the fact that this pompous man was wrong? Clearly I have a wee bit of internal discord. See a previous entry for my attempts at forgiveness. Saint Francis, 1182 - 1226, was a monk who founded the order of Franciscans, and whose basilica stands today at Assisi, in Umbria Italy. For a great book on the life of Saint Francis, read Valerie Martin's Salvation: Scenes from the Life of St. Francis. He is believed to have studied with the Troubadours (a composer and performer of Occitan lyric poetry in the High Middle Ages.) Saint Francis loved to sing and it is fitting that one of the most famous images of the monk is a scene of the Preaching to the Birds. In musical terms the prayer might ask for harmony where one finds dissonance. This might be the answer to a complex issue, that of, how can we as individuals bring harmony to a world filled with chaos, cruelty and abuse? I cannot end world hunger, stop wars, or cure disease. It is hard for me to hold my temper during high volume traffic let alone bring peace to warn torn countries. Maybe the answer is to add a little music to one's life, a little harmony, something to uplift the spirit. Certain studies have shown that certain types of music actually alter the cells in our bodies, making them healthier, music such as Pachelbel Canon in D for instance. Stop, breathe, listen, and bring harmony where there has been discord, just for today, just for you.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

That where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness

Forgiveness is hard. Period. I don't think that it is something I can think my way into either, it needs to come from the heart. I am good at lying to myself, and when I just think I am over a "wrong" done to me, the resentment will pop up someplace else in my life. It is tourist season here in the Berkshires, a good time to flex my forgiveness muscles as I attempt to drive through my little town on the weekend. Instantly forgiving the New Jersey Lexus driver for almost killing me in the crosswalk is a good place to start. That happened last year, and I need to get over it, let it go. Just how does one "let it go?" Prayer helps, but I find that I also have to physically move the resentment out of my body, either through intense activity (my well - used punching bag) or writing it down on a post-it and placing it in my God box. I also need to practice compassion toward all tourists that invade my little hometown, even those SUVs that take up two lanes and attempt to parallel park on Main Street. These are little things, just a daily practice to prepare me for the bigger areas of life, the friend who lets me down, the ex who pops up, the person who has physically or emotionally harmed me. If I can't forgive Mr. Wealthy New Jersey, how can I let go of serious infractions from my past? Forgiveness comes from the heart, and in order to access my heart I need to be in contact with my Creator, God, Higher Power or Self. I need to realize that I am connected to Mr. Wealthy New Jersey whether I like it or not. We are a part of the whole, and in order to forgive myself I need to be able to forgive others. Tall order, but I might just be up for the challenge. Just for today, I'll start with 5lbs.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

That where there is hatred, I may bring love

Easier said than done. Hatred seems a strong word; irritation, dislike, animosity, loathing, disgust and abhorrence are the synonyms though, and I can see myself indulging in any one of those. St. Francis held a high standard, but it came a sense of peace that those around him felt. I ask myself: am I a maniac when I try to drive through town in the middle of the high season? Just how loving am I toward those with NY or NJ plates, driving slowly as I, the most important person in the Universe, am trying to get to Dunkin before my caffeine high wears off? That is why this prayer is an ideal, with values that we can work toward with practice. We have very few role models for this spiritual practice, Mother Theresa, Jesus, the Dalai Lama to name a few. Many times in our culture, hatred is glorified, patriotic. I was abhorred (yes, not exactly a loving emotion) when my fellow citizens cheered the death of Osama Bin Laden. Now I know the guy isn't the most loving himself, he was brutal, a murderer. But reveling in his death brought us as a nation down to his depth. We were imitating him. We were him, with our hatred in tact, flaunting it as we cheered. Jimi Hendrix said, "When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace." When I am sitting in traffic, powerless over movement, when I read about people who have raped or killed, I am powerless. But the hatred becomes a power to be reckoned with. It takes my body and stuffs me down, until it has a life of its own. If I choose to love the person, rather than the act, I stand a chance of not becoming a victim of my own anger. Saint Francis set the bar high. Maybe I will start with the next out of state license plate and try to practice compassion there. I can move on to bigger things once I have mastered  that difficult. task.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lord, make me a channel of thy peace

What does it mean to become a channel of peace? It sounds as if it could be a wee bit new ageish. I think, writing in the 13th century however, Saint Francis wasn't going for the psychic medium angle. In order to become a channel one must first clear away the debris, the violent thoughts and actions that clutter my day, in order to allow a sense of peace to enter. I am proud to say that I don't watch the news or read papers online or in print. I am not aware of much of the violence that pervades the world these days. That might be and has been considered to be ignorant and selfish on my part, but I know that I need to stay within my community, help those in need in my area. The world is a huge place and our primate brains might not be ready to know all that happens on the planet. We were meant, during cave person days, to tend to our villages. cave girls did not surf the web and look at pictures of bombed areas. There is so much information, messages and media bombarding the human psyche today. I wonder if the increase in addictions might stem from the fact that our bodies just cannot handle all of this information? I digress. Our little area was hit by major storms this past week, trees down all over the place, and a little tornado had touched down in a neighboring town. Clean up crews have been working over the last week to clear the wreckage. Fast forward to last night. I was on the couch as my boyfriend's daughter watched a movie, the earth was dying, tornadoes, ice, screaming, noise, and death. My senses were overloaded. I know it is a movie, but I was aware of my body's reaction to the stimuli. "Make me a channel of thy peace." Not while watching that movie, or reading the newspaper, or discussing politics or religion with others. Today I am making a pact with myself. I want to experience peace and I know that in order to do so I must take my news diet a little farther. I need to ignore political messages on Facebook. Even when I am joking I get pulled into an argument where I want to be right. My irritation spikes and I am not peaceful. I turn into a lunatic bitch. Well maybe not that bad, but I don't like myself when I get into the fight. For today I will pay attention to my local politics, I will meditate and pray for peace, and I will abstain from negative media. I will in hopes of becoming a channel of peace. Or at least a commercial break.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Prayer of Saint Francis


Lord, make me a channel of thy peace;
that where there is hatred, I may bring love;
that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;
that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
that where there is error, I may bring truth;
that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;
that where there is despair, I may bring hope;
that where there are shadows, I may bring light;
that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted;
to understand, than to be understood;
to love, than to be loved.
For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.
Amen.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Spiritual Anorexia


I gave myself a gift the other day and went to Kripalu Yoga Center for their Retreat and Renewal Program. One day, one luxurious stress-free day filled with healthy vegetarian food, yoga, meditation and writing. As I sat writing in the sun room overlooking the Berkshire Hills and Stockbridge Bowl, I realized that although I have regular contact with my Creator, taking time to pray everyday, I really only allow myself the bare minimum of what God can offer. A sort of spiritual anorexia, so to speak. I had been starving my soul of much needed quiet reflection, and had been starving my creative self of the tactile experience of writing on paper, notebook and pen meeting in the quiet, the room devoid of the click of computer keys and the jumble of icons and excess stuff.

My life has become crowded with stuff, an inbox filled with old emails, dog hair, empty soda bottles, books, and files, just stuff that lurks in the background, creating noise. Rarely have I time to meditate, to absorb the quiet and the emptiness which is really where I find my God. So I took my first Vinyasa yoga class in over two years and felt my muscles burn and my body sweat. I sat in the dining room alone and ate my food without conversation.  My body was starving and I inhaled the rhythmic pattern of my footsteps as I walked the labyrinth. On this flower - lined path I turned within, the way twisting and turning. Just when you think you are close to the center a twist in the path leads to to the outside, seemingly losing ground, but closer to the center with every step. Once you have arrived it is easier to find the way back to the beginning, one is no longer advancing to get someplace, one is just walking. Experience is a teacher in the labyrinth.

I finished the day with a gentle yoga class, feeling all aches and pains I had been ignoring for the last few years. I allowed myself to feel compassion for a body that wasn't as limber as a few years before, that held large amounts of stress and anxiety deep within the tissue, a body that really wanted to be pushing for the moderate class and elevated heart rate, a body that just really needed noise to hide what was. The present is always the hardest place to be. I think that is why I fill my life with noise, with clutter, chemicals and with technology. Being connected to Source brings peace. I need to feed my anorexic soul, not by binging, but by gently adding a few nurturing practices to my day. Unemployment is a perfect time to begin. I could pick up my old practice of morning journaling as I listen to the songbird symphony outside my window. I might allow myself the gift of a weekly yoga class. I could spend brief moments throughout the day finding silence and listening. I can feed myself and let it be ok. I'll let you know how it goes, my email is calling me!


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Eclipsed by the Knight

The knight in shining armor, dream of many a small girl, and many a full grown girl. We yearn for the fairy tale, the glass slipper, the beast that turns handsome, or Richard Gere climbing a fire escape to whisk us from a life of poverty. A few nights ago I watched the latest Twilight movie, Eclipse. In this movie, for those of you who don't know, Edward and Jake are both fighting for the attentions of beautiful Bella. Both men, although one a vampire and one a werewolf, have only Bella's well being in mind (possibly some other things too!) They both want to protect her from other bloodthirsty vampires that are out to kill her. As preposterous as it may sound, being courted by a dog and the undead, all Twilight  fans have their own opinion, and join team Edward or team Jake. Is it culturally ingrained that we of the female persuasion (I do not speak for all, but if there is a market there must be a problem) must crave a man for protection and support? I will be the first to proclaim myself a feminist, but I also dream of the one kneed proposal, the man whisking me away, saving me from myself and my outlandish rent payments. The dichotomy is strong. I can support myself, I am a strong, independent woman, putting myself through a challenging college while raising a teenager without child support. But I grow giddy when Edward saves Bella from the dastardly vampire Victoria (sorry, team Edward here.) I root for wealthy Richard as he climbs the fire escape to ask Vivian, a prostitute to marry him. Disney and Hollywood perpetuate the myth, but it really started long ago in France. Chr├ętien de Troyes first introduced us to the character of Lancelot in the 12th century in "Erec and Enide." At this time in Medieval France knights were young unmarried men who would terrorize the countryside, raping and pillaging. The knight in Shining Armor was created as a marketing ploy. And a very good one at that. I have fallen for it.  I don't think I am the only one. Twilight grossed 392 million dollars worldwide.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Let the Mosquitoes Be Your Guide



I needed quiet time with God today. I also needed a long run, so I dropped my car off to get my snow tires removed (I think it's safe) and headed South on the Appalachian Trail. I wasn't sure what to expect as I entered a field that abuts Route 7. I turned off my music, sure that it would robe me of the total effect. Good choice. I arrived into a magical world, filled with lush grasses and maple trees, pine needle strewn floors and swamps. I traveled from the cool of a grove of trees to the mucky algal water of swampland. My feet were wet within minutes as I wondered just what the eel- like creature I had startled, was. I began to pray. The mosquitoes guided me across the terrain and I gave up on the practice of Ahimsa, wiping my sweaty arms, smearing the bodies as I went. I emerged from a grassy path onto a side road and continued through a field, the only sound was my breathing, sneakers hitting earth and songbirds. Traffic was a distant murmur. I was alone. Not really alone though. I know I was with God and probably a host of other creatures that watched me run by, the heavy footfall a contributor to hip problems and waking every field mouse in the vicinity. Each turn of the trail brought a new world, the only constant were my guides the mosquitoes, their unceasing loyalty to me made me feel important, needed, wanted, loved. The funny thing was, in the quiet, I wasn't scared. I entered the path with a clear mission, to spend time with my Creator. Field, swamp, forest, and on and on. I reached a point where I might have hit the road and continued to my final destination, my partner's house, where I would wait for my car to be ready for pick-up but I chose a different path, I continued along the Appie, unaware of what would meet me up the road, and unprepared, but armed with curiosity and naivete. The trail should lead in the direction of my destination right? More of the same terrain, right? I looked up at the rocky cliff in front of me, a mile from the turn off, my mouth parched and deer fly in tow. It was too late to turn back, or was it? If I had a map I would have known, so I forged ahead and proceeded to climb to the miraculous view shown in the above photographs. Turkey vultures flew overhead, close enough to jump up and reach, I was sure they were waiting for me to fall into the ravine, tired and dehydrated. I forged on, contacting my father for direction once I could text, amazed when he had, that day purchased a book on the trail, which he proceeded to share with me. Three miles until the turnoff that would lead me to my destination, three more mini peaks to go, Mountain Laurel waiting to bloom, Goosefoot Maple, relaying my altitude. Frustration, uncertainty and fear cropped up. Emotions I am familiar with, having indulged in fear cocktail daily for the last few weeks. But I was ok, I wasn't mauled by a bear or fed on by vultures. I reached the intersecting trail three hours and forty five minutes after I had left that morning. Maybe I traveled ten miles in all, many of those however were scaling cliff. But I was supported the entire time, almost four hours with only the sound of my breath and footstep, the rustle of trees and plop of a toad. I survived being the only human traveler, although my buzzing friends do get credit for their tenacity and devotion. I found what I was looking for, a sense of peace and space withing a fear-filled world. I was brought into the land, cradled, rocked and spit back out on the other side, reaching the faucet and plastic cup right in the nick of time.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Markings

My son let it slip the other day that my father did not approve of the tattoos I have gotten over the last decade, and said that I was poisoning myself. Typical comment from a concerned parent and I might feel the same way if my own child walked in the door decorated. What my dad doesn't know however, is that each of the marks I have permanently placed on my body have spiritual significance. The practice of marking the skin is not a recent phenomena. The oldest tattoo that has been identified carbon dates to 5,200 years ago. Tattoos have served many functions over the last 5,200 years, according to the Smithsonian, as amulets, status symbols, declarations of love, signs of religious beliefs, adornments and forms of punishment. My reasons vary from design to design, but it comes down to one word, "connection." Connection to the past and my heritage (Celtic knot work,) connection to significant life experiences (the water lily,) and connection to God. The latter, is represented well! A Triskell adorns my arm, representing the Celtic female trilogy, and Great Blue Heron fly up my leg, bringing me into physical contact with the bird that represents my spirituality. This bird lives within all of the elements, water, air, land and, represented by its brilliant orange beak, fire. Last autumn I realized just how much I was connected to these magnificent birds when I felt their migration as a physical loss and they are now with me wherever I go. Today I join 40% of Americans between the age of 26 and 40 who have chosen to get a tattoo, and with that decision comes a connection to history and the Divine.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

What's in a Name?

Mother's Day 2011. Happy day to all who are mothers, all who have mothered, and all who wish to do so. Giving birth to a child, an idea, or yourself, these actions, they all seem to blend. I know that labor is painful, I do remember those 20 hours it took on a cold December day, 18 years ago. But I also know that the creation process, whether it be a work of art, thesis, business plan or any other project that uses blood, metaphorical blood, is birth. The expectation, the fear, the excitement leading up to the fact - the pain and  release during birth, and the emptiness one experiences after. I sit here on a beautiful May Mother's day, just having completed three years work of intense undergraduate work, my baby heading off to college in a few short months, and I feel the emptiness, the after birth. Cardinals are singing, the dogs are groaning in their sleep, and I am in the midst of a transition period. A very scary transition period. When you peel away the identities, the names, the labels, mother, student, employee etc, who do you become? When the job of raising a child is over, when the work is completed, when you are left in front of the computer screen, who are you? I think this, can you call it, existential crisis, has me befuddled.

I am about to become officially divorced, and for the last year have been going back and forth about my name. Am I my husband's name, I was married for 13 years, it is the name on my child's birth certificate. Or am I the woman I was before marriage? What does a name signify? Who do I become if I take on a different name completely? Who do I become if I earn that degree? Names and Labels. What is in a name? My last name and my graduation, in the same post. Are they connected in some way? I trust that they are, just as I trust that I will know the answers to all the above questions, when I am ready and open to receive those answers. Right now I am questioning, I am thinking my way through when it might just be ok to sit back and watch the birds. They, after all, don't seem to be upset with their names. Crows and Ravens never quabble, and Great Blue Herons seem to take it in stride. So maybe for today I will be grateful, grateful for my mother, grateful to be a mother (it really was the best Christmas present ever) and grateful to be sitting here, in front of the computer screen, listening to the birds and pondering my name.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Random Acts of Kindness

My weekend ritual includes a trip to my local Dunkin, for a very large super caffeinated coffee. This morning, the young woman manning the drive through told me that she is very happy to see me pull up because I am always so kind, and usually people aren't. This comment made my day, I felt amazing, pulling out and heading home (not because of the lack of kind people out there). The simple act of kindness, of connecting with strangers, is divinity in action. I cherish the "relationships" I have with local workers, the folks who greet me by name at the turnpike exit everyday, and the stories of their lives that I receive, bit by bit, add dimension to my day. I refuse to get an easy pass because it would mean that I wouldn't find out where someone went for their four day weekend, and no one would ask me when my next race was. I was disturbed recently to find that a large grocery store was handing out self scanners. You scan your own groceries before placing them into a bag. This conveniently eliminates the need to converse with anyone while shopping. I enjoy asking cashiers how their day is going, and then listening as they tell me that their grandson is sick or that they have a doctors appointment coming up. I feel as if I am part of a community, I am a thread within the divine web. Technology has both created more and cut many existing connections we have with our fellow man. We are available 24 hours a day to receive phone calls or emails, but we lose the face to face conversations that bring us in contact with other people. So for today I am saying no to easy pass, to hand held scanners and to self checkouts. I cherish the connections I have with people out in the community. I enjoy being someone who makes others smile, it is a gift that is returned to me tenfold. Try it, you might like it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Worshipping at the Altar of Technology

I have been fascinated with new technology recently, ipads, Kindle, Smartphones and other shiny new expensive items that gently lure in unsuspecting victims. This is a new phenomenon for me however. I was the last in my family to get a cellphone, pleading ignorance and standing tall and proud among the 27 people (and my dog) left without one. What is it about constantly connecting with the outside world, with cyber space, with information? Why do I need to have access to my email, Facebook and library 24 hours a day, wherever I am? Is technology slowly replacing a Spiritual connection that Man has extricated himself from? For all its bells and whistles, or actually, beeps and flashing lights, technology can sometimes create larger problems in the communications arena. We now have to practice restraint of tongue and pen, as well as email and texting. How many stories have you heard lately of drunken texts on a Saturday night? Now the evidence is there, for replay or display. No longer can you tell your good buddy that she was imagining your slurred diatribe, because buddy has it right there, on her cellphone. I made the mistake of spouting off via text a few weeks ago and my relationship paid the price. Words are powerful, and when written and sent, the receiver has no access to inflection of voice or any explanation. They are left with five angry sentences, or are they tearful sentences? Or was it a joke? It is up to the receiver to interpret. Interpersonal communication is normally a two way street. Technology has made it one way, and without the sign to warn you not to enter. Crashes do occur. So I did indulge and bought the cell phone and I am happily downloading Boethius and Boccaccio for free (I guess they aren't that popular these days.) My relationship survived the evil text, but only after an hour of face to face conversation. Maybe there can be a compromise. All I know is that I just got a text, gotta run.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tolerance and Pity, oh my

A few weeks ago I reacted strongly to a statement made by someone in my spiritual discussion group. As I am still stewing and chewing, I thought it best to explore why two words can set my blood a boil. The two offending words, "tolerance" and "pity." As a writer I am amazed at the power words have, they initiate world movements, hurt and also heal. I started to play around in the dictionary, flipping the pages with my self righteous indignation. How can someone say they pity another? Yes, she said that she pitied the other sick people out there. It may seem harmless and possibly even compassionate, but pity seems to be a feeling that is removed from the object or person to which it is directed. If I pity you, I am in effect in a better position than you, maybe I am not as sick as you so feel pity for your condition.  The same goes with tolerance, it suggests a separation between tolerator and toleratee (not exactly a word but stay with me here.) The Bhagavad Gita says, "They live in wisdom who see themselves in all and all in them, who have renounced every selfish desire and sense craving tormenting the heart" (2: 55). I am the person I pity, I tolerate or I anger toward. I am that woman who pities others, I am the woman who feels anger at the use of a condescending word. Now what to do with it? Do I have to be right? Well, kind of, but then if I were to say, go to God and just ask for a little, what, empathy? We are all connected. I see in others, I react to the things others do and say, things that I still have inside. My reaction tells me that I need to look at my own life, my own spiritual practice and see where I have been sliding. Have I been meditating? No. Journaling? No. Today freezing rains pelts the Berkshires and I am tucked safely in my apartment, a fire in the fireplace, teenager listening to music, quiet music, and all is well. I can take this time, this time without the hustle of my busy overfilled life and quiet down, breathe and pray. I can journal and maybe even meditate, the very things that bring balance and serenity back in. I can feel empathy, and I can let go of something said over fourteen days ago. Maybe. Progress not perfection right?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fighting with God: Round Two, Tea Time

I had a dream last night, where I sat in front of a machine that doled out coins, one at a time, in a slow methodical fashion. I sometimes feel that the Universe does this to me, doling out what I need, one thing at a time, never an outpouring, just a coin here and a coin there. Of course this is not the way the Universe works. There is an infinite abundance out there waiting for me, infinite love, security, laughter, and as Mike Dooley would say, possibilities. The problem dear reader is what is always is, me. M. E. Somehow, at some point I convinced myself that I was only worthy of just a little, a trickle, so that is what I receive. And when I ask for help, I only ask for just enough, just a bit. Now I have done enough work on myself to know that I am a child of God, that I am worthy of plugging into the power of the Universe. But today I overslept, I forgot to eat until 2pm and was unable to take my stress relieving six mile run per usual. It is freezing rain outside and I am "trapped" at home with me, myself and I (and a surly teenager). I have no boyfriend next to me to reassure me that I am worthy, I am a grown up so my parents aren't going to come into my room with milk and cookies and kind words. It is just us, me, myself and God. God, the one who I am mad at, again, although today the anger has softened at the edges. I have seven cents in my pocket and an almost empty oil tank. I have one semester of school to go until I am employable. If I am to pull through this I better have God, because, I know, from past experiences that when I turn my will and life over to my God, the pieces of my life fall into place. I just happen to be trying to jam the wrong piece into a jigsaw and getting frustrated when it doesn't fit. Again I need to out down the boxing gloves and do the next right thing. I will email, yet again the woman at the fuel assistance office. I will write another blog post, start my homework, peek at my resume and scrape off my car. I will fill my belly with food and light a fire in the fireplace, and I will connect with God. I will steep myself in God's love, I will leave the teabag in, just for today, because I am worth it. And tomorrow I will set my alarm and start again.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Great Expectations

I have always harbored a negative connotation for the word "expectation" and I am not sure why. Some folks say that expectations are premeditated resentments. This can be true, although an expectation is awaiting a future event, but I seem to place expectations on people as well. I expect that so and so will do this, or act in such a way. I believe that I set the bar extremely high so that when one does not live up to my ideal I will have an excuse to a) feel sorry for myself or b) feel superior. What is missing is a positive expectation, such as "I expect that this day will be amazing, fantastic and filled with wonder." Why does my human brain go right into a fear- based attitude? Am I devolving? Am I returning to my cave girl roots when I needed to be prepared for hungry T-Rex s, or rather saber - toothed tigers? I somehow need to train my brain to expect positive outcomes rather than heading straight to fear. Life isn't meant to be difficult, it is meant to be filled with love. I usually place expectations on those that are closest to me, and rather than ask for what I need in a relationship I expect the other person to read my mind and provide me with whatever it is that they supposedly should be providing me with. This is not fair to others. It also leaves my Higher Power standing there, ready to provide me with what I actually need rather than what I think I need. So my expectations are one more thing that keep me from a full and loving relationship with God. Plain and simple. Today I am choosing to turn over my expectations to my God. I know that in doing so I will have an amazing love-filled day. As long as I remember that whatever happens in this day is for my highest good. I don't plan on meeting any hungry extinct creatures and should stop planning for their arrival. Instead I look forward to a day brimming with light and love. There, that's not so scary is it?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Surfacing

I recently went through a dark period, where I was oozing negativity and self pity. I believe that I hit a bottom of sorts, like diving into a pool and touching the floor. Instead of staying underwater and holding my breath, I chose to push myself back to the surface. This resurfacing has been an exhilarating process, mostly because I gave myself a hard push, I didn't wait to float slowly. I placed my feet on the bottom and used all of my strength to push. This push came from a daily practice of radical gratitude and love. I listened to an inspirational CD about the power of attraction and love to escape my thinking and started to repeat the words "thank you" over and over. I told each driver that passed me that "I love you." I started to stay present for short periods of time (ten seconds or so.) I allowed my Higher Power back into my life. Fear and poverty consciousness has a way of debilitating me, pushing me underwater where I forget to breathe and feel the weight of the world pressing in. Allowing for gratitude forces me to see miracles, to experience miracles and remember that I am never alone, ever. This time it wasn't enough to ask my God for help, I had to actively take the help by forcing myself to see the world as a blessing. I had to do the work first and then God took over. Today I watched my Siberian huskies romp in the two feet of snow that fell overnight. I ran behind them feeling the joy that is available to me if I only get out of my own way. Thank you for this glorious day.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Gratitude

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Of Paper Towels, Purple Shoes and Miracles

This past week has been an interesting one to say the least. I have been observing my reactions to life's challenges, and although the patterns haven't quite gelled, the mixed metaphors are aplenty. Observation number 1: I am like a paper towel, capable of extreme self - absorption. Just call me the quicker picker upper. Observation number 2: Not only do I absorb, but I drink in negativity and fear. It is a party here, pour me another please and make it extra weepy with a few shots of rage. I am like an addict getting drunk on fear, anger and self justification. It hasn't been easy hanging out with me for the last few days, it is actually kind of a drag. But but but, I want to scream. Maybe it is time to make up with God, because when I separate myself from the Divine, I become a real pain in the ass.  This morning I started to say thank you, over and over again, because when I am in fear I am not in gratitude. I will take this week's experience with poverty and I will use it in my writing. I can understand why folks get tired and cranky when their pantries hold no food. I can understand how hard it is to ask for help, how shame creeps in when one has to ask for help just to survive. I can understand what it feels like to be cold because oil is just too expensive. Great, I have learned those lessons. Now I can get out of it, ask God for help, and start looking at the amazing miracle my life is. I live in the most beautiful apartment, have a fabulous son, animals that wake me up in the morning, friends overflowing, and I have purple shoes. I have enough food for today, enough oil for today, enough gas in the car for today, and the more I say thank you, the less power the negativity has over me. I put down the paper towels and print out a resume. I pour out the glass and write this entry. I put on a warm fluffy sweatshirt, thank God for my life and wake up to miracles.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Fighting with God: Round One


God and I are fighting. Rather, I am throwing a temper tantrum and God is the target. When I am fighting with God I am forgetting all that I receive in a daily basis. I am not practicing gratitude. I still am ticked, and tired and scared, and I know that my Higher Power is the only one I can yell at, curse, and still be loved unconditionally. So yesterday I screamed, I ranted, I raved and God loved and loved and loved, and told me quietly to get my resume in order. This morning I moaned and groaned and wallowed. And God told me gently to write. So my well isn't working, my heat isn't working and my pantry is almost empty and I moan and cry and pray. And God is there, taking the blows until I calm down, breathe and acknowledge what I have, amazing gifts, friends, family, laughter, and joy. Because when it really comes down to it, I am not actually fighting with God, I am fighting with myself. I am the one that made the choices that inevitably brought me to the present situation. And I am also close to accomplishing two major goals, graduating from college and obtaining a divorce. When I come close to making life easier for myself I seem to end up creating a wee bit of chaos, just to shake things up a bit. Because as much as I am afraid of failing, of falling on my face and losing what I have and of not making it, I am petrified of succeeding. I am like a boxer in the ring, waiting to be knocked out so I don't have to have my hand raised high with a referee shouting "winner." That pesky little fear is at it again, this time it snuck in the backdoor when I was feeling connected to Spirit. So just for today I am going to put the gloves down, because when I am fighting it, God cannot help me. Today no one wins, but today I surrender.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Survival Means Forgetting God

This is my brain, well, maybe it is a representation of my brain. Right there in the Pons and Medulla is where my primal instincts reside, instincts that have been firing lately, that have been literally kicking my butt. These instincts tell me to collect, to hold, to keep everything I have and not let go because my survival is at stake. I know for a fact that whenever I turn my will and my life to my God and let go, miraculous things happen, my world opens up and opportunities fall at my feet. I am in survival mode however, stuck in the brain stem. Being a full time student I have been living on a drastically reduced income. This is my third year of doing so, and I know that the ends always get met, that I always manage to muddle through. Lately however I feel that a primal part of me has taken over, and that primal part is tired of getting calls from bill collectors, is tired of waking up in the middle of the night wondering how to pay my car insurance and is tired of wondering just how I am going to provide enough food for a teenage boy to live on. Usually when I get into this mode I can turn to my spirituality, but I am tired and I am scared and I am afraid and exhausted. I want the degree so that I will be employable, I just have to make it another four months. The answer, blah, blech, I know the answer. It is gratitude, it is prayer and meditation, it is looking at the world with wonder and it is allowing others to help me, it is asking for help and it is knowing that God will provide. Today, just for today as I sit in front of the fire place, waiting for my fuel assistance to finally go through, I can be grateful for how much I do have, health, family and friends, shelter, food enough for today, a car, and the ability to run. I am rich, I have a full magnificent life, I just need to stay away from the fear that takes over when I go into survival mode. Pesky little Medulla.

New Years

Happy New Year everyone. A few days ago we celebrated the beginning  of 2011  and the time of year when we set goals for the upcoming 365 days. One notices an increase in fellow folk at the gym and a decrease in the packs of cigarettes sold per day. For me however, a year is too large a chunk of time to plan for and my goals become unmanageable. I go for the "lose 20 pounds" instead of "eat healthier." All I have is today, all I can handle is today. My New Years Resolutions this year? Not to make a resolution and stay in the day, remain in the moment and set small doable goals for myself. Today I will remember that every day is a fresh start, I don't have to radically change my life on January 1, I can make small changes throughout the year. That feels doable.