Wednesday, October 23, 2013

She-devil sisters

I'd like you to know my best friend, Kathie. Today is HER day as she defends her dissertation. We've lived through thick and thin together, mostly thick. And I haven't liked watching this so-called process make one of the most brilliant people I know feel less than. She teasingly calls it hazing; I call it ridiculous.

She'll sail through, perhaps a bit bruised, but she'll find and learn the lesson in it all, just as she always does.

So often she has to remind me of her humble Eastern Kentucky origin. She calls herself a boarder-crosser of her foray into higher education. One of her longtime mentors wonders what statistics there are for first-generation Ph.D candidates. I'm sure she defies them.

We met almost 15 years ago and bonded when we were both pregnant: me with my second and her, with her only. The summer after our babies were born, we were out and about all season toting infants and props to all manner of festivals. Her son is my "other child" and my daughters call her their "other mother." I was there through her separation and divorce. She picked me up off the floor when medication withdrawal made me suicidal. She always cooks with my food allergies in mind; I've been privileged enough to read and share some of the dissertation process with her.

At face value, we look very different: single mom, 11 years younger about to get Ph.D and, hopefully, faculty position. Longtime married mom of teens pursuing ministry, writing and art with the only schooling beyond a bachelor's, and the only that appealed to me, from something called "School of the Spirit."

And yet we always seem to be on some spectrum of the same path. She's completing a long educational process and looking at next steps. I am discerning my call to ministry, the balance of life, fibromyalgia and career.

We're both pleasers and helpers. We love to cook and entertain. She's an extravert and I'm an introvert, yet we cross over into the other's zone. She impresses my teens with her musical tastes; I'm musically illiterate. Yet we both LOVE horror movies, which we discovered many years into the friendship quite by accident. One October, we went to the local theater's showing of low-grade horror flicks and giggled our way through titles like Last Woman on Earth and She-Devils. Not long after, I came across perfect she-devil costumes: slitted pseudo-seude skirts, bone collars, fake-fur arm bands, and skull headpieces. She busted up when I came in with them and coerced her into trying one on. I don't think I've ever laughed that hard.

We annually take a Grailville retreat together, sneaking in movies like Mama Mia and Sametime Next Year to balance the solemnity. Our immediate families trek to Pike Lake State Park together, always share Christmas breakfast of bagels, lox, capers and mimosas and split trick-or-treating. Her street gets hundreds of kids, mine only a handful, so I lock up after an hour, take my leftovers and head to her busy corner of the world. Always there's a cold beer and soup waiting.

Can't tell you how many late-night trips down the alley I've taken, much like last Saturday, when she had a choice of hot soups and red wine after a full-day retreat for me. The moon was so full and bright as I walked back, stuffed with food and companionship, grateful for this wonderful sister. She accepts me for who I am, however I am, wherever I am. We call ourselves "The family we choose." Last year for Christmas, I had soft, red robes embroidered with that phrase for all of our little family. Through the years, we've talked about communal living with a handful of people of all ages and, of course, us and our families.

I just can't fathom her being more than down the alley or around the corner.

Congratulations, Kathie, on earning your doctorate AND being such a wonderful friend. Thank you. Always.

• Who has my back?
• When does a friendship graduate to family?
• How has Spirit steered particular people into my path?
• What has friendship taught me?
• When have I felt l unconditionally loved or accepted?

as new mothers,
we bumbled together

and through her
and mine

always mirroring
the way for
one another

no matter
the separation
or difference

cheers to
the sisterly
of the world

Listen to this post:

Friday, October 18, 2013

Why do I resist?

Centering amidst the torrent, that's my present goal. Present being a key word.

Life right now is a challenge for many of us. Personally, mine is fraught with uncertainty, anxiety and a lack of clarity. I can hardly fathom my own plate, let alone everything else happening in the world.

Yet, somehow we must.

After floating with a spiritual practice, this torrent has pushed me toward daily centering prayer and a contemplative reading. It's so wonderfully opening that I wonder why, before, I felt as if it were a chore. I can carve out 20 minutes a day for this. I need to.

Even so, by mid-afternoon, I can begin to feel unglued and off-course like I did yesterday. So, I posted feeling so on Facebook, asking others how they center and the response was heartfelt and interesting:
• You get a hug from your husband 
• And then play candy crush to induce general lethargy. 
• Sit in stillness.... 
• Not easy but I think our spiritual centers, even though tested, are what gives us the strength to get through the difficult times. 
• I like to sit and think about all my good fortune in life.... health, family, love, job and how I have more on my plate that makes me happy than most people do. A LOT of people have life a lot more difficult than I do. I just try to be more thankful for the goodies that my life has in it. All the hard things seem to melt away. 
• Silent dwelling with God. 
  Play at being with people that give you energy. Do some things that get you out of your head. I also lay prostrate on the floor and surrender everything to God. 
• It seems to me it is the work of life to create interior space big enough to hold my own struggle and the larger struggles of others, my own joy and the joys of others. Not diminishing other struggles and joys, and also not diminishing my own. So how do I find my center in that place of spaciousness? For me, there is an element of surrender, what I have is enough, even if what I have right now is hard. And that place of surrender comes in fits and starts and all in the truth that the center is God's goodness.
• Listen to whatever music makes you feel good. I recommend Paul McCartney's "Red Rose Speedway."
• Talk to God one-on-one, read His word, ask Him to show me the path He wants me to follow. Wait...and listen...

I have some pretty wise Facebook friends. They seem to focus on love, gratitude, stillness,  playfulness, creativity, prayer and surrender. ALL of those resonate with me.

As a result, before bed, I pulled out my notebook and made two lists. One for all that I was grateful that day and, the other, naming the things I was surrendering to God. And then I 
slept. Well.

This morning, I continued with the centering prayer and felt God's hands on my back, neck, head and shoulders as loving energy filled my body. Then Spirit, without words, nudged me to direct it to my mother at the Cleveland Clinic this morning completing testing before a double-heart-valve replacement later this month.

A trip to yoga and then, today, I am surrendering into the joy of preparing for a daylong 
retreat I lead tomorrow on naming gifts. Lucky, grateful me!

• How do I  keep my spiritual center when things are hard and take their toll?
• What role does trust play?
• What spiritual practices support that trust?
• What about prayer  and how does it change during these times?
• Where do I find God in all of this?

the words today,
as they have been
all week, were
just right

exactly what my
heart and head
needed to hear

something about
uncluttering the
space and coming
to Spirit with no

simply being
there, open
and receiving

that's ALL
God ever asks

so, why do
I resist?

Listen to this post:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Nothingness of Love

I don't recall whether the first time I was sitting or laying, meditating in some fashion. Either way, my guide quietly arrived as if from nowhere and gently took my hand. I didn't question; there was no need. My instructions were wordless and did not originate in my brain. They were heartfelt.

We entered through the roots: thick, rich, deep and ancient. Through mud and silt, frothy loam and insects. This gnarled, substantive infrastructure had been planted eons ago and never budged, just hunkered down father reaching somewhere distant and unknown. 

Up we glided through spaces only crawl-able to a boundary-less elevator that, without seeming to move, whisked my guide and me up and past rows and rows of glistening hospital-like basinettes. Clean, but certainly not sterile. Protected, but not unapproachable. Millions of them, jammed inside this tree trunk, with an exterior I could only imagine. As we rose, the tree grew thinner, so slender I was certain we were headed for oblivion. Then we stopped, exited and I was directed to one specific, unmarked cradle. In fact all of the beds were unmarked and unattended. Something told me there were well tended though. 

Some being, the only other besides me and my guide, reached in and down, picked up a blanket bundle and handed it to me, motioning me to open it. A gift, I assumed. I was too stunned to open it initially, but, sans words, knew I must. Gingerly, I peeled back the cloth layers and almost dropped the package. It was like nothing I had ever seen: a primal embryo, shining. At first glance, I was repulsed. I had expected a human infant, my ridiculously human response. 

Yet, as I held this entity, a deep understanding swelled in me – one of those brief and rare glimmers of Truth. I was being handed my own soul, unmarked in all of its naked beauty, oozing only love. This was me! And I had been given a precious journey inside the tree of life.

Today, the second incident arrived during centering prayer, bursting in with no guide. I was in the tree again, rising toward the top with no memory of entering through the roots. Just plopped there, rising higher and higher as the tree grew narrower and, eventually into a thin line, the line graying to nothing.

Nothing. That's the beginning and end. The place of Spirit, our birthplace. It is the nothingness of love. The higher up one travels within the tree, the less formed the beings in basinettes become. The less formed they are, the more pure they are as they approach the Nothingness of Love. This is our origin. The nothingness is magical and like the ether, ether[ial]. Not even a place, but a way void of emotion and thinking. This Nothingness of Love is pure being.

I'm not sure how or why I arrived here, just grateful that I did. I had a poolside conversation earlier about how our only purpose in life is to love and life is not about reacting, but responding ... responding in love. An hour-and-a-half later, I opened my "Daily Reader for Contemplative Living" with: 
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.                     – Mark 12:30

Yes, I agreed during centering prayer, I do love you with all of my heart and soul. Please, teach me how to do so with my mind, which wanders and worries, and with all of my strength – what does that even mean? I had used the word love as my entrance to prayer today. And, without warning, I was inside the tree, again.

• What is my understanding of love?
• Of God's love?
• Of human love?
• Self love?
• What do I believe is the origin of love?

in the torrent
of life 

all of its
demands and

my friend
a swirling 
pool, where
she is thrashing

also the
shore above

and the
to pull herself

Listen to this post:

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

At odds with God

As I clean up my studio from summer chaos and prepare for a new Artsy Fartsy session and a new group, I wonder if this is for one of the near to last times. So much is unknown right now. Funding, support, my energy and enthusiasm. Don’t get me wrong, I have tons of ideas that I would love to implement with these kids.

But I have other, pressing needs calling that go unfilled while so much of my attention is drawn to this arts exploration for at-risk kids. I wonder if I am spending more time and energy mentoring others’ children than my own. It’s been wonderful to involve my daughters; they are naturals. It’s good for them to get to know people from all walks of life and respect them no matter where they are, who they are.

With two teens, I see that a second income is a necessity and am uncertain if Artsy Fartsy can supply one. I’m awaiting news on a grant that could fund some salary, a first. I know of another that may fund a portion and there exists a third possibility. If I am successful, those wouldn’t be released until January. I’m working on a fundraising letter because I haven’t asked for financial support. So much effort to, maybe, earn a modest salary. The grant writing process is extremely time consuming. Getting the grant seems easy compared to keeping detailed track of expenses and reporting on those and whether they matched what was proposed. As compared to the two hours I spend Saturdays monthly with the kids, there are a myriad more planning, recruiting, coordinating, phoning, researching, grant hunting and applying.

And, now, Reality has reared its ugly head and I must re-evaluate. This week I just don’t have the drive. Other family crises have called me. Is the fatigue talking? What happens to this studio if I drop the program in favor of work? What about my dream to write and do more workshops and classes here?

God, I am blaring, what am I supposed to do right now?

For Pete’s sake, I’ve been discerning your message from June asking me to surrender. I can’t even be clear on that with the help of a clearness committee. First it seemed I was to give up the rigidity of the fibromyalgia. I thought that was working until I hit the 15th anniversary of the accident which caused it and I got worse, not better. And in this time, I have discovered healing energy at work in my hands, even consciously used them on another. Now I understand my propensity to touch someone when they are hurting in any way like I did in the sauna at the gym today. Do I surrender to this?

Next I thought it was about direction and vocation. Now it seems more about finance and livelihood. I keep reading about the path of descent making one holier and more pure. I tire of that path. I don’t know anyone else on it. It’s lonely and painful.

Then an interesting job possibility pops up – ok, I did do some looking – after I have fervently prayed that if it’s what I am supposed to do, to make it obvious.

I’ve been re-listening to a January astrology reading that clearly says:
• I must chart my own course;
• Not go by my high standards, which are not God’s;
• Trust, but also show up and use my talents;
• I seek adventure beyond the status quo and into the Mystery of the Divine;
• Fulfillment comes from penetrating the depth of my hidden psyche and mastering the shadow;
• Creativity brings prosperity;
• I know what’s right for myself and can answer my own questions with intuition and wisdom.

Where, exactly, is that intuition and wisdom right now? I am so close to chucking it all and looking for a job to rescue me. What’s the lesson right now? The answer? Last night a faithful spiritual friend told me to be patient and trust. Can I?

• What happens when my spark(le) dulls?
• How do I make a decision when I have been following Spirit and everything shifts?
• What am I trying to cast off?
• Where do I find God in all of this?
• How do I remain patient and attentive?

one step
at a time


then a

that I am
trying to

and the

makes sense

my intuition is
at odds
with my

my heart

Listen to this post: