Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Experiment in Loving

I was touched by the idea of paradox from Sunday's worship. The concept was already percolating after recently reading a passage from Henri Nouwen's Spiritual Direction:
"Without solitude, it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life. Yet we cannot live our spiritual lives alone. Although we need solitude to know God, we require a faith community to hold us accountable. We need to learn how to listen to the word of God, ever present within our hearts. We need disciplines of study and spiritual practice to discern the word of God in words and scripture. We need a church or faith community that provides opportunities for worshipping and sharing, engaging in mutual correction and bearing of burdens, confessing faults, offering forgiveness and celebrating life. We also need guides: spiritual friends, a spiritual director, or a spiritual accountability group that can function for is as a safe place to bear our souls."
This morning, in another meditation, I read that releasing our woundedness means surrendering the idea that our wound can be healed. Powerful stuff, even if it seems contrary ... perhaps because it does.

In worship, I wondered about when I feel most free. When I am  most unencumbered, I thought. Surrender, I am learning, is doing exclusively what Spirit asks, not grasping, holding or clutching. And when I asked God what she wishes from me, I heard:
• Releasing your worries to me.
• Tapping the creativity of your heart; and
• Loving as the basis for living.

It's that last little thing that got me. I don't live that way and probably haven't since I was a carefree kid. There is always another agenda: proving myself, presenting myself in a particular way, being someone else for someone else, avoiding who I really am.

That's not living or loving, so what's it look like to love as the basis for living? Well, I think it may be something I call Experiment in Loving and this is what it could look like:
1) WAKE UP with a prayer of gratitude, gentle stretch and naming three things for which I   
     am thankful.
2) EMBRACE the first person I encounter.
3) HONOR my body with joyful, loving and prayerful exercise.
4) Set an INTENTION for the day
5) Approach each meal with REVERENCE:
    – Savor its nourishment
    – Bless its origin as well as its way into my body
    – Say thank-you
    – Make wise choices, filling my tank with care, not junk
6) Spend some time during some part of the day with meditative reading, prayer or
     spiritual PRACTICE.
7) LIGHTa candle of intention (physically or metaphorically) as I begin my work
    – Pray to discover God's guidance for the day even as I create my to-do list
8) Spell myself while working by breathing, stretching, keeping PRESENT and God
      nearby in my mind.
    – Take a break with water or tea as refreshment of spirit.
9) Work JOYFULLY, attentively and intentionally.
10) At the conclusion of work, express thanks and use the EXAMEN as a check-in to
      see who and how I touched spiritually as well as how I was touched.
11) Transition to HOME, expectant of family energy and demands:
    – Pray to stay grounded in Spirit, preventing work tensions from erupting at home.
    – Be present to the preciousness of children, spouse, parents, pets and neighbors.     
     Remember what gifts they are in my life.
12) Joyfully prepare the meal as if holy, an intimate act of SERVICE.
    – Bless the food.
    – Bless the preparation and the preparer if not me.
13) Hold a collective BLESSING, silent or otherwise.
14) Honor a time for each person to SHARE their day.
   – Take a walk or meditate together.
15) Give thanks for the day and its blessings, enter sleep at PEACE

I'm attempting this, probably feebly. Anyone want to join me?

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Hooray for little ways

I feel very little. Puny, as my husband calls it. 

This is a 15-year trend, since a car accident twisted my body, opening it to fibromyalgia, and also twisting my beliefs. I have been punishing myself ever since for what I have not accomplished. No big career or paycheck. Still living in the first house we bought. Driving simple cars almost to death. Too busy raising kids, following a spiritual calling and making art/writing to invest time in a well-manicured property. The only formal education beyond a bachelor's degree [as if that is nothing] I possess is a minute of ministry from a two-year School of the Spirit program. I joined the first faith community I visited and have been Quaker ever since.

Not quite the American Dream.
St. Theresa of Lisieux

Then, I read about St. Therese of Lisieux (san Tuh-RAYZ deh Liz-YEW), her "Little Way," and how the path to God is one of descent not ascent. I am, as a result, re-evaluating my littleness as a blessing, not a curse, and what I riches I have:
– Almost 27 years of marriage to a wonderful man who still makes me laugh, even if I don't want to; 
– Two beautiful, teen daughters who make me grit my teeth, tear my heart out and have taught me the true depth of love;
– Never straying too far from family so our extension is lovely, large and close by;
– An eclectic and loving collection of friends of all ages and persuasions, who give so much joy;
– A small faith community that supports me even when I can't seem to support myself;
– A solid, Victorian farmhouse painted periwinkle, pumpkin and garden green, where I feel safe, warm and comforted;
– A neighborhood with so many good-hearted people it would be hard to fathom moving;
– Opportunities to write professionally and also, regularly, from the heart;
– Time and space to make art, which makes my heart sing;
– A parade of furry creatures, who have taught me patience and how to slow down;
– A way of being faithful that resonates deeply in my soul;
– Time to care for my body and spirit;
– Continual companionship;
– A ministry of writing, teaching and creativity for other seekers and the poorest kids in my neighborhood. The gift of their presence is incalculable.

Narrow, perhaps, but deep. Coping with a chronic condition requires time, which I have often disparaged, but am learning to see as a gift. Time to tend myself in all ways, including the most important, introspectively

I had lunch yesterday with a somewhat new friend, although our souls appear connected outside of time. She said it's been her goal in life since she was 19 to figure out who she is, be that person and follow her path. Wow, she echoed my secrets. This is big work, major work not to be taken lightly. It may not be the work of the American Dream, but is it where Spirit calls some of us. In that moment, in that comment, I understood the bigness of the little ways and the descent ... into ourselves.

Therese's life proves that. The youngest and somewhat spoiled, she had a spiritual conversion and entered the Carmelite convent at 15, bent on living a hidden, simple life of prayer. Through sickness, dark nights, doubt and fear, she remained faithful, living that "what matters in life is not great deeds, but great love." Hers was a spirituality of doing the ordinary with extraordinary love. She traced God's love to the seasons and adored flowers, being one among the garden of many. Her mission was "to make God loved [and] will begin after my death. I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses," which have been described and experienced as her signature. She died in 1897 at 24.

My last name before marriage, now my middle name, is Rose. I may be closer to her little ways than I thought.

Hooray for little ways; they move us toward Spirit.

• How do I experience littleness?
• Where have those little ways led?
• How can I discard the barometer of the American Dream?
• For what can I express gratitude?
• What wisdom from St. Therese of Lisieux can I employ in my life?

we're deluged in
bigness from an
early age

mythical heroes
and American

and yet

there's the message
of Jesus

the radical way,
the path lesser known

quieter, darker,

a journey inside
to discover
that of God within

one little
step at a time

for that's
all we can handle

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

LOVE: Ego's antidote

I experienced God inside out yesterday as teacher/writer Richard Rohr, with Cincinnati roots, writes in today's meditation:

I hadn't quite thought about it in those terms. In fact, I hadn't quite thought about it all. I am savoring the residue of asking my shaman to facilitate me feeling Spirit's love in every cell of my body and receiving that very request.

My intention hadn't coalesced until morning yoga, although I knew it would merge three strands:
– An earlier message from Spirit to surrender;
– A notation that this week has been 15 years since the car accident that triggered my fibromyalgia;
– Recognition that I have a gift of healing energy.

Dormant, but not forgotten/pastel and paint on paper
While relaxing at the end of the hour of breathing and stretching, it struck: I must surrender to love, complete, unconditional love available only from God. And that I must know this as deeply as possible, in every cell in my body. 

My shaman LOVED the intention. I trust him. When I entered his massage room it was as if I had never been there, even though I have been visiting him for 15 years. Yes, he's been with me every step of this pain journey. I noticed the drum skin tacked to the wall and decorated with a beautiful turtle. How long's that been there? I asked.  A couple of years, he replied. As he went to fetch me a cup of tea – I almost hollered you don't have to serve me, which sparked a dream I'd had the night before of a slave being freed – I walked around the room with new eyes, reading his practitioner certificates, noting books and objects on the desk. Things I had previously overlooked. When I mentioned the strangeness of the room, he responded that the world had shifted 11 degrees. Hum....

We always talk first and he shared his view that surrender isn't something we do. Whew, I thought, maybe I won't have to work through this as well. Often, he said it's relaxing and a surrendering of the ego. Then I understood that the previous night's dream was freeing me from the enslavement of ego.

That freedom hunkered into me slowly, with deliberate guided breathing, as I forgot who I was, lost my thoughts and was invited to reside in my sacrum by Spirit. I accepted and totally surrendered myself and body to her. Every cell did, indeed, feel God's love and I felt that cord of ego that props me up severed.

In June, just before God asked me to physically surrender myself on a pew in worship, she said I needed no props.  Now I see she meant ego, that was propping me up. Humming with love, sans any pain, I hesitated to move from the massage table or even open my eyes. Spirit whispered it would be okay. As I sat, I melted back into the table, recognizing and rejoicing that my puppet string had vanished!

Last night was rough as my body felt tingly with healing at work. Today, I plan to rest and just be with this newness.

• When have I been asked to surrender?
• Under what circumstance?
• How was I being asked to cut the strings of ego?
• How was I able to experience healing or wholeness?
• How do I continue to feel God's love working in and through me?

run over and down
for years,
giving up myself
into the fog

letting ego
hold court

and also
Spirit in
an unknown,
kind of way

that Spirit
never left me,
more deeply,
more (w)holy

so, eventually,

every cell
in my body

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Finding myself in the heavens

Inner child/pastel and paint on paper
I posted on Facebook the other day how much I enjoy my archetypal astrology group and one friend commented by leaving a question mark. I wasn't sure how to respond, because the name I gave doesn't begin to describe how deeply this gathering has touched my soul, confirmed things I only sensed in myself and taught me how much my individual life is reflected in the great heavens.

Tuesday we continued to discuss Saturn's influence, which figures prominently in my natal chart, a snapshot of where and how the planets were aligned at the moment of birth.

My preconception, held by many, was of the heaviness and negativity associated with Saturn. Our wise guide decided we all needed a new look. She even quoted from Liz Green's Saturn: A New Look at an Old Devil. It was astounding. Each of us gathered felt as if the lesson had been specifically and personally tailored.

Saturn's cycles, Char began, represent the defense system, our skin; it draws boundaries and protects us. It's how history, personal and collective, conditions us, but does not define our future. The middle point, she read, is the ceaseless present where our creative power resides. Saturn works in cycles as we experience transformation from pain and are able to cross the rainbow bridge of Chiron, the wounded-healer archetype, into the freedom of Uranus and wholeness.

That may sound like gibberish to some, but to me it describes where I have been, where I am and where I am capable of traveling. It speaks for all on the spiritual path. Boiled down, it means that, although our past may be troubled – and, yes, we will encounter pain if we are to grow – we are always offered the present moment and the creative possibility for positive change to shape the future and ourselves into eventual wholeness, integration and freedom.

Char couched Saturn's transformative powers in alchemy terms. The planet's chemical element is lead (Pb on the Periodic Chart, which I had, only hours before, studied with my oldest; talk about synchronicity). Not a pretty picture: dark and dense, yet the base material early alchemists desired because of its hidden property: the spark of volatility and ability to burn into gold – the blackening before white purification.

This process is so symbolic: with its boundaries, Saturn grounds us in body, mind and soul with the opportunity to delve deep to find the creative fire, burn off the imperfections by letting them go and converting to gold or wholeness.

Resurrection. Char said and I was already thinking. The word has been on my heart for  a number of weeks as I translate its personal meaning. She called Saturn the God of the mutilated people and also the creative and artistic. The alchemy of lead makes that clear. One of Saturn's lesson, she said, is when we feel depressed to go even deeper to locate that creative spark; it's waiting. Lead is the lowest of the metals, but is respected as it carries everything necessary to complete the transformation to gold. Such a metaphor for the spiritual journey.

Somewhere in my notes, Char's handouts or my reading, I came across two rules for living under Saturn that seems so personally directed:
1) Know thyself
2) Everything in moderation

Between my expanding astrological knowledge and inward work, I am uncovering some important truths and secrets, namely: 

– Understanding that Jesus' mystical experience of resurrection works in my life;
– Knowing myself and not wavering from that knowledge;
– Honoring the pace and rhythm necessary for my mind, body and spirit to connect;
– Seeing there is more light in me than dark;
– Keeping the busyness and exterior focus of the outside/secular world at bay because it    does not hold my Truth and engaging, when called, with love and confidence;
– Remembering to play.

It's fascinatingly true that the great, expansive heavens reflect my single life and in that I find great comfort and joy.

• How have I connected my life to something greater, such as the heavens?
• What sources help me in self discovery along the spiritual path?
• How can looking outside of my faith's tradition enrich my understanding of the Divine?
• What is currently opening truth in me?
• What is my prayer for the current or next part of the journey?

in a teary mood,
emotional and

I flipped through
the scrapbook
of my baby pictures,

lovingly compiled
by my mother,


gazing at the
sweet innocence,
detached and

what, dear God,
did you have
in mind for
this sweet,
tender soul?

am I anywhere
near living
into that?

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