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Rev. Sharri's blog


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An ongoing series of inspirational musings

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ZOO

May 3, 2021

This past weekend I attended a fascinating workshop about a personality analysis tool called the Enneagram.  The workshop lasted all day and hardly scratched the surface of this ancient and compelling tool, so I won't try to explain it all to you - just enough to make sense of what I learned about myself.  Of course, if I learned it about myself, I might very well have learned it about you, too!


According to this system, all people fall into one of nine personality types: the bee, the dog, the peacock, the cat, the owl, the deer, the monkey, the bull, or the whale.  You are born into whatever type is yours and you remain that type for life. The curious thing for me was that as we explored each type, I could see myself in all of the assets and most, if not all, of the challenges (who wants to adopt challenges, anyway, right?)  The presenters kept telling me to be patient, one of the types would really speak to me by the end of the day. I really wanted to believe them, but I just kept seeing myself in every type. At the end of the day I said, "I am exhausted - and I appear to be a zoo!"  Everybody laughed, then we took a 144-question assessment quiz and I was informed that I am primarily a puppy, with strong peacock and bull tendencies. It really was a great workshop and I would definitely be interested in learning more about the Enneagram, however . . .


This whole process got me to thinking about other types of analyses, assessments, and categorizations, everything from fashion sense to cooking styles, to sexual orientation, gender identification and spiritual paths.  Variety is an essential part of a happy life for me - and I suspect for most folks! Even in the midst of COVID we have found all kinds of creative ways to avoid feeling "stuck in a rut".  I have decided that I LIKE being a zoo, it's a lot like the "open-at-the-top" philosophy of the Science of Mind. In fact, I think being a zoo is really just a metaphor for being who I really am, wherever I am and whenever I am there! So some days I will be a puppy, some days I will be a peacock, some days I will be a bull, and some days, I might just try out bee-ness or deer-ness or whale-ness. Think about it - you might enjoy living in the zoo!

INSPIRATION!

April 26, 2021

As I sat in meditation this morning, I was listening, as I do every Monday morning, for inspiration for my blog. All at once, I felt my soul smile, because the inspiration for today was , "INSPIRATION!" I love words and word origins - I collect pieces of information nobody ever really NEEDED to know, it's a hobby - and the origin of inspiration is one of my favorites.  It comes from the Latin, inspirare, which means, "to breathe in" and that seems out of sync with its modern meaning until you link it to a philosophy that recognizes the allness of the Divine. 


The modern meaning of inspiration is an idea received from another source, an expert, a book, music, art or Spirit, that is, from something outside one's own mind.  However, I believe we are all connected to Divine Mind, and to human consciousness, which means we all have access to all ideas. I also believe we are all surrounded and suffused by Divine Presence, so when we breathe in, what we breathe in is that Presence. One more "I believe": God NEVER shuts up; God is always spewing wisdom, creativity, brilliance into the universe, so when we just allow ourselves to quiet the ego and just BE in that Presence, we can breathe in and absorb all of that wisdom, creativity and brilliance.  We can be inspired!


So my intention, and my invitation to y'all, is - next time I need inspiration - to take a nice, deep breath in and listen with my whole self to the Presence of Spirit, fully expecting a brilliant response!

Patience

April 19, 2021

I used to think that the folks who visit a doctor's office were called "patients" because they always have to wait a long time to actually see the doctor. Not true, but intuitively sound.  Common wisdom says patience is like wisdom, it comes with age. This is not necessarily so - I know some extremely patient toddlers and some extraordinarily impatient elders.


 It seems to me one of the most important requirements for the development of patience is presence. I most often find myself in need of patience when I am avoiding presence, that is, when I would most like to be anywhere else but where I am.  As a general rule, I am stuck wherever I am, so I have two choices:  I can grumble and snarl about the situation, or I can allow myself to just be fully present in it.  The former is no fun at all and generally tends to increase my discontent. The latter, on the other hand, has an almost magical effect in that it forces me to release any attachment to past issues (regret) or future problems (fear).  What remains in my consciousness is a clear awareness that in the current moment I am just fine.  I can scan my body to see that every system is working as it was designed to do.  When I look around me, there is no danger. If I shift my outlook just a smidge, I can recognize the current moment as a perfect opportunity to just be. This might evolve into meditation or observation or gratitude, all because I let myself relax into the present moment.  This can even become a habit! 


I used to say, "Waiting has never been numbered amongst my skill set!" Now I realize that when I stopped defining waiting as "wasting time" and redefined it as "giving myself a breather" I was adopting patience as an attribute.  This is one of my most precious reframings, because it helped me to release the negative judgment of impatience - my own or anyone else's. So the next time you reach the corner just as the light turns red, take a nice, easy breathe and just be with it. You never know, it might just grow on you!

Enemy Mine

April 12, 2021

I  have been contemplating enemies lately. Oddly enough, the topic came up in my morning meditation yesterday. A person who has been the occasion of significant stress and drama in my life recently popped into my mind and wouldn't go away.  My first response was to Ho'oponopono the living daylights out of the person, which led me to call to mind every single person I could think of to forgive.  Ho'oponopono, by the way, is a wonderful Hawaiian forgiveness ritual  that has been shown to bring healing at a deep level to both the forgiver and the forgiven. I love it because it reminds me that I am only injured when I perceive myself to be injured, regardless of the intent of the "offender".


That made think of the whole concept of enemy.  What exactly is an enemy? There are lots of dictionary definitions, but to me they all boil down to the same core element: an enemy (of mine) is a person whom I choose not to love.  That means I determine who is my enemy - not the other person, it is definitely an inside job.  When another person intends me harm, that might make that person believe s/he is my enemy, but only I can make that identification. 


This is really important because, believing, as I do, that there is really only One Life, living an infinite number of individual experiences, if I choose to make even one person my enemy, I condemn myself, too.  If we are all part of the same life, then if I choose to withhold love from even one person, I am withholding it from all people, including myself. I become my own enemy - hardly a new concept, but a new way for me to think about it!


This is even more challenging than holding a grudge, which I liken to clutching a porcupine to my chest with the quills pointed towards me. If I choose to have an enemy, I have reduced the love I can give to myself or anyone else. I have created a leak in my heart space like a tire with a nail in it - and just like that tire's air, my love is being lost.  The solution is quite easy, though, and the heart space can be repaired without a patch, unlike the tire, because I can always choose again.  This is one of those times when simple really is a synonym for easy - all I have to do is choose to love, universally and unconditionally.  Okay, the choosing is the easy part, but the loving is also easy if you remember that love is our nature and only ego makes sharing it difficult.


So, like Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett, Jr., in "Enemy Mine", I choose to make my enemies into friends by denying anyone the right to stop my loving them. I love you all - every single one of you, regardless of what you say or do or think or believe, regardless of who you are or want to be, regardless of where you are or want to be, regardless of any circumstance or condition, I absolutely refuse to stop loving you. So, there!

Skunk!

April 5, 2021

My puppy, Penny, had an encounter with a skunk yesterday.  Penny didn't mind so much, until she came in the house and nobody - not me, not Shadow, not Dusty Rose, NOBODY would have anything to do with her.  I got her cleaned up and de-stunk the house with a lavish application of Febreze  Air, grumbling the whole time. Of course, as almost always (thank You, Spirit) happens when I go on a grumble fest, I started to wonder what the blessin' in this particular lesson was.


I realized that the reason we humans have such a challenge with undesirable aromas is that our sense of smell is pretty much unavoidable.  We can close our eyes to avoid what we'd rather not see, we can plug our ears to avoid what we'd rather not hear, we can wear rubber gloves to avoid what we'd rather not touch, we can just not eat what we'd rather not taste, but in order to keep breathing - a necessary activity - we cannot turn off our noses. This leaves us, as always, at choice.


What choice, you might wonder? Well, our choice is to remove the offending odor, cover it up, or learn to live with it.  And you reply, "Well, duh, that's our choice in every situation!" To which my rejoinder is, "EXACTLY! Life is a chain of choices, and it's up to each individual to determine which ones are skunks and which one are lilacs (my favorite scent).  


One of my most effective tools for making that determination is Presence, frequently assisted by laughter.  When I can be fully present in a moment, I have no sense of negativity or loss or anger. This is at least in part because being fully present eliminates time - another way of saying I realize that "this", too, shall pass - no matter what "this" is.  Presence also makes it easier to see the humor in a situation - Penny really was funny chasing us all around - which made it easier to hold my breath while I cleaned her up and wielded the Febreze Air.


I know we can't laugh our way out of every challenge, but I also know that being fully present in any challenge increases both the acceptance and the overcoming of it. So the next time you find yourself in a big, stinky challenge, just think of Penny, grab your Febreze, and remember, Presence can handle this!

WISHBONES

March 29, 2021

The sculpture at the left is made out of wishbones.  It is much more elaborate and beautiful than the collection of wishbones in my kitchen window, but it is an excellent representation of the reason they are there.  You see,  at some point in my childhood I realized that wishbones are the perfect symbol for unlimited potential. If I weren't a vegetarian, I would campaign to change the logo for CSL (Centers for Spiritual Living, my faith tradition) to a wishbone, since infinite potential is one of our most deeply held principles.


Just in case you came from a vegetarian or vegan background, I will explain the tradition of the wishbone.  When two people hold opposite sides of the wishbone and pull until it breaks, each having first made a silent and secret wish, the one who ends up with the larger piece gets his/her wish fulfilled.  It might not be filled instantaneously, by sooner or later, the theory goes, it gets fulfilled. 


I am the eldest of five daughters, so there was lots of competition for the wishbone at the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.  Whenever I got the wishbone, there was dismay because I refused to break it.  I was way ahead of quantum physics, you see, since I recognized that the unbroken wishbone represented infinite possibility, while the broken wishbone had been collapsed into a definite choice.  Mind you, this was years before I had even heard of the field of infinite possibility.  It just seemed to me that if I saved those wishbones, I was banking my possibilities, and the more of them I had (there are about a dozen in my kitchen window, collected over a couple of decades since my kids grew up and left home), the more possibilities I could realize. 


Oddly enough, I never came to a place in my life where I was "desperate enough" to break any of them. Some other option always showed up to answer the challenges of life.  Over time, I realized that keeping the wishbones unbroken was my affirmation of Divine support.  I knew I could count on my infinite Creator to meet any upset or difficulty that might arise, so I just kept those wishbones on the windowsill. When I feel challenged or daunted, or a little afraid, I just look at my symbols of infinite potential and thank God for answered prayer, certain as I can be that it is happening even as I speak.

BOING! BOING! Bunny

March 22, 2021

Almost 30 years ago, when my first (and at that time, only) grandson was almost three years old, I did a very GRANDMA thing for w​hich his mother has probably still not forgiven me. I sent him a BOING! BOING! Bunny for Easter.  As you might infer from the name, whenever this bunny was shaken, a very loud BOING! BOING! sounded. Alex loved it, as did his cousins and friends - his parents, not so much.  I still have a photo of him holding it.


This is not about goofy grandma gifts (say THAT fast three times!), however. It's about the fact that there are no "goofy grandma" gifts.  You see, while that BOINGer lasted way too long for Alex's mama, it wore out way too soon for him. That's because Alex didn't hear "BOING! BOING!"  He heard, "Grandma loves me!"   


I have discovered that what makes grandma gifts (or any gift with the same amount of heart) so wonderful and precious is that the person who receives the gift knows instantly that the person who gave it was thinking only of that specific recipient when choosing the gift.  When that happens, whether the gift makes a noise or not, the person who receives it  always hears, "I love you!" whenever that gift is seen or held, or even when it pops to mind.


This is probably not a new idea to you, I'd like to invite you to squint at it just a little bit and see if it won't stretch into a new application. Suppose  we chose to think of our words a gifts. We give them away, they cannot be retrieved or  rescinded, returned or unsaid, and we have all suffered through the endless repetition of something we wish we had either not heard or not said.  Imagine how much kinder, gentler, happier, healthier and more peaceful this world would be if every remembered word were as welcome and as comforting as a favorite childhood gift.


Easter is still a couple of weeks away, so maybe we could do some shopping - for bunnies, and blessings, for prayers and friendship. . .  

The Superpower

March 15, 2021

Did you know that EVERYONE has a superpower? It's true! We all love the idea, yet most of us don't believe it is even possible, let alone true.  I saw a t-shirt yesterday with the this slogan printed on it:

 Prayer is my super power!

 This is actually not just true, but the Truth of every single one of us.


I can see you rolling your eyes and saying, "yeah, but...", so I will explain.  Prayer is our super power because it does not change our circumstances, our facts, it changes our Self, and when we change our Self, we change our world. Great news, right? But wait, there's more!  Not only is prayer a super power, but it is very easy to use.  We have all heard or read beautiful prayers. Some were poems or songs, some were long and some were short. Some were in languages we didn't understand, and yet we felt the deep emotional impact they made.  


The most important part of a prayer is the feeling behind, beyond, within it.  So far, this is all old news, right?  Here's the part you might not realize:  every thought is a prayer, and the Universe is ALWAYS listening...


It doesn't matter what language or location or volume or tone you use, it only matters what you feel when you pray. And since we are always praying, we need to pay attention to what we are feeling all of the time! This brings me to the Superprayer , the one each of us prays hundreds of times every day: I AM. 


What makes this a superprayer is that whatever comes after it becomes our belief, and therefore becomes our experience. I'm serious - try it right now:  say, "I am tired," and check how you feel; say "I am energized," is there a difference in how you feel? Which feels better, "I am strong," or "I am beaten?" How about "I am afraid," or "I am safe?"


Let's dig deeper: "I am loved," then "I am loving," and "I am valuable," and "I am compassionate," and just keep going.  I invite you to consider considering what you are saying every single time you use this superprayer, and be sure it is something you really want to bring into expression in your world.

 

Adulteration

March 8, 2021

I am of the firm belief that all babies are born knowing everything they will ever need to know. They come straight from the mind of God, so how could there be anything they don't know? Well, for starters, since they can't yet talk, they don't know how to tell us what they know. Parents, siblings, teachers, and of course, the media, tend to seriously exacerbate this situation.


With the best of intentions and purely loving hearts, we plaster a very thick coat (in some cases many coats) of confusion, doubt, insecurity, fear, and HUGE expectations (mostly unreasonable ones) over the perfectly designed consciousness of these little ones and call it education, socialization, protection, or "growing up". This is what I call adult-eration.  We don't mean any harm - we just don't know any better, because we have forgotten what it  was like to be fresh-from-Spirit beings.


At some point, once we have left the nest of our parents' home, we start to remember, very faintly, the Truth of who we are. That little tickle of unconditional acceptance feels really good, so we start to study, searching for the origin of the tickle, and we spend the rest of our lives peeling away those layers of illusion that make us feel separate and alone.  The more we learn, the more excited and delighted we become. That's because removing the adulteration also removes the sense of not-enough-ness, of self-doubt, and of loveless aloneness.


I have thought about this a lot, and never figured out how it began.  I am fairly certain, though, that we can choose to stop adult-erating our children and, by recognizing and honoring their inherent divinity from day one (as soon as we become aware of their impending arrival), shift the consciousness of the entire human race up beyond fear, war, violence, prejudice, and inequity. In fact, I think this is one really powerful way to begin building a world that works for all.


Eyedroppers​

March 1, 2021

Somebody once asked me, in a conversation about world peace, what one person all alone could do.  He thought he was shutting down the conversation, but that was not the case.  I told him to be an eyedropper.  Well, there was a vision to go with the eyedropper - imagine that we are, the entire human race, arrayed around a vast lake of very dirty water. Each person has an eyedropper and a bottomless barrel of crystal clear water. If each person fills the dropper from the barrel and empties it into the lake, on a regular basis, the lake would eventually - how long depends on the frequency of the dropper releases - be flushed clean.


This is, of course, another metaphor.  There really is a race mind. It contains every thought that has ever occurred to a human being, the beautiful, the the ugly, the hateful and the loving, for all of time. That mind is the lake, and war and hatred, and prejudice and cruelty and selfishness and greed have made it very muddy indeed. 


We are, however, the creations of infinite and unconditional Love through the eternal and unlimited Mind of the Divine.  Therefore, we are possessed of infinite love and unlimited wisdom and intelligence.  That's our barrel.


Our wonderful creator also blessed us with free will, which is, of course, our eyedropper.  Everybody has an eyedropper. Everybody has a barrel, which is bottomless.  We can,  in fact, we must, therefore, flush the mud away, replacing it with love, wisdom, compassion, and Truth.  When that happens,  all conflict, greed, lack, and inequity will vanish and Peace will be no longer our secret nature, but our experience of Life.


My eyedropper's loaded, care to join me?

Eyedroppers​

March 1, 2021

Somebody once asked me, in a conversation about world peace, what one person all alone could do.  He thought he was shutting down the conversation, but that was not the case.  I told him to be an eyedropper.  Well, there was a vision to go with the eyedropper - imagine that we are, the entire human race, arrayed around a vast lake of very dirty water. Each person has an eyedropper and a bottomless barrel of crystal clear water. If each person fills the dropper from the barrel and empties it into the lake, on a regular basis, the lake would eventually - how long depends on the frequency of the dropper releases - be flushed clean.


This is, of course, another metaphor.  There really is a race mind. It contains every thought that has ever occurred to a human being, the beautiful, the the ugly, the hateful and the loving, for all of time. That mind is the lake, and war and hatred, and prejudice and cruelty and selfishness and greed have made it very muddy indeed. 


We are, however, the creations of infinite and unconditional Love through the eternal and unlimited Mind of the Divine.  Therefore, we are possessed of infinite love and unlimited wisdom and intelligence.  That's our barrel.


Our wonderful creator also blessed us with free will, which is, of course, our eyedropper.  Everybody has an eyedropper. Everybody has a barrel, which is bottomless.  We can,  in fact, we must, therefore, flush the mud away, replacing it with love, wisdom, compassion, and Truth.  When that happens,  all conflict, greed, lack, and inequity will vanish and Peace will be no longer our secret nature, but our experience of Life.


My eyedropper's loaded, care to join me?

COURAGE

February 22, 2021

The interesting thing about courage, for me is that it is rarely, if ever, intentional. I have never down anything that made me feel courageous, yet I know that courage is one of my attributes, and I know I have exhibited it. In my experience, courage is something instinctive, something I don't notice until the occasion  of expressing it is over and complete. 


For example, when I recognize  imminent danger for another person, or an animal, I don't consider whether or not I have the courage to save that "other", I just jump to protect it/him/them.  I am absolutely certain this is not a characteristic unique to me.  I don't think firefighters or nurses or military personnel go to work every day thinking, "I hope I am brave enough for this."  I think courage, as an innate part of our nature causes us to choose actions, and sometimes whole careers, that put the welfare of others ahead of our own.  That's courage.  


Another wondrous aspect of courage is that it does not have to be huge.  Walking up to the new kid in school and asking, "Do you want to sit with me for lunch?" is risky, so it takes courage.  Speaking up when someone you don't know is mistreated takes courage.  Wearing a dress you designed and made yourself takes courage.  Writing a poem for a contest takes courage.  Almost every day, almost everyone  exhibits at least a little bit of courage. Sometimes it is recognized and acknowledged, sometimes we don't even recognize it in ourselves.


I think courage is really just allowing our inner Self to express the truth of our oneness - we are all part of the same life, so when we feel that oneness, courage just happens.  It's as natural as breathing.  The most important thing, to me, about courage is that it isn't optional any more than breathing is. It's part of our humanity and bringing it back into our conscious awareness is one of the greatest gifts of 2020.  It seems to me courage has pulled us back from the edge of extinction and helped us to see that there is another path available to us as a species - we can choose the rainbow instead of the thundercloud. 

Watercolor or mosaic?

February 15, 2021

There is ice on the inside of the windows in my house this morning - the temperature is 2 degrees, feels like -12 degrees, and it's snowing. It's the tiny, soft flake kind of snow and the prediction is for 4 - 8 inches before it stops.  Are you wondering why that would make me think of watercolors and mosaics? Well, it's the beauty of the visual contrasted with frozen water pipes and space heaters.  Still puzzled? Okay, I admit it, the point is really another pass at perspective.


I have always loved watercolors, and looking out a window at Mother Nature's snowscapes is a lot like seeing a watercolor painting.  The colors are subtle and soft, and the curves of the brush strokes create motion and stillness at the same time.  The water, the colors, and the brush all blend together to create something new and beautiful - and they disappear into that new creation. That's pretty much what our society, from its very inception, has tried to do. We have welcomed new cultures and languages and then demanded, sometimes subtly and sometimes brashly, that they dissolve themselves into the existing culture to create what we have called a melting pot.  It hasn't worked very well, as evidenced by the cultural, racial (I really HATE that word, but it's the only one that works here), religious, and sexual conflict, inequity, and bigotry that have never been genuinely recognized or resolved, much less healed.


Now consider a different metaphor:  the mosaic.  Mosaics can be ginormous or microscopic. They are also remarkable in their nature because from the intended perspective, all of the pieces blend into a distinct picture, but as your gaze narrows and the perspective shifts from the whole to the individual, no identity is lost, or even altered.  Each individual tile in a mosaic stands whole and complete by itself. Yet when they are connected together in a specific arrangement that appreciates the individuals and their attributes, the result it definitely synergistic - MUCH more than the sum of the parts with no loss of individual identity.  That sounds to me like a positively Utopian society. It also sounds possible as a direction for conscious evolution to create. 


I'm in - how about y'all?

Curiosity

February 8, 2021

Perspective is a powerful concept. It can literally make or break a day, a mood, or a life. It really doesn't matter what the subject is, the way you experience it is ENTIRELY up to you.  It's that simple. If that sounds too good to be true, it might be because you are confusing "simple" with "easy". These are so NOT synonyms!


Simple means capable of description with a few clear phrases. Easy means capable of being accomplished with very little effort.  Even here, what you see depends on how you look at it.  


I have been looking at a couple of situations in my life that do not bring me joy.  I can choose to take the perspective of problem-solving or I can take the perspective of risk-avoidance, or I can take the perspective of character-building, or . . . or, having exhausted all of the techniques and self-help practices that may (or may not) have worked in the past, I can take the perspective of curiosity.


Why would I choose curiosity? Because it sets aside judgement, at least temporarily, in favor of discovery.  This approach is simple, and on occasion easy, but that's just part of the process.  It could be challenging, but curiosity trumps challenge. It could be scary, but curiosity overpowers fright. It could be a stretch, but curiosity leads to growth. It could be daunting, but curiosity fosters courage.  It could be tiring, but curiosity builds tenacity and tenacity builds strength.  In the end, curiosity stretches and builds a wider perspective, and that multiplies the possibilities into infinity.  Curiosity is not a solution, but  it's the most  interesting way to find one, just ask George!


Valleys

February 1, 2021

I have been exploring the idea of valleys lately. Some of my valleys are geographical - my retreat center is in a high valley in the Ozarks and one of my favorite places on Earth is a valley in Ireland by Lady Bantree's Lookout.  Some of my valleys are financial - COVID created a lot of that! Some of my valleys are emotional - because of cold weather and isolation. Some of my valleys are spiritual, too.


The interesting thing about valleys is that they have so many perspectives, and the view is different from every single one. When I am sitting on the floor of the valley, usually in sadness or spiritual conflict, the ground seems barren and unfriendly. The longer I sit there, the emptier it seems.  Eventually, though, my butt gets tired of the rocks and I stand up. Metaphorically, that might be called Spiritual indigestion. The view changes as I lift my face from the sadness or confusion.  Still rocky, but I can see where a trail might offer a change, or at least the potential for change. Maybe I am not yet ready to leave, but now I see that possibility.  


Even though the valley might be very deep, I can see light and I can hear a faint voice calling me.  Too faint to understand, but enough to remind me that I am not alone. Now I notice that not far above the rocks there is grass and beyond the grass trees.  Metaphorically that might be Grace calling me to prayer and possibility. So I start to climb, slowly and without clear direction, but definitely up. Naturally my face turns up to the sides of the valley stretching into the distance. I know it will be a long climb, but I can see the slope and it is well within my capabilities. Metaphorically, that might be Faith reminding me that I have resources.  Whoa, look, there's a path - crooked and rugged, but it leads to higher reaches of the valley, and it looks like other feet have trod it, too.


I look back and realize I am halfway to the top of the ridge - there is a much wider view, and I can see the beauty of the valley from  here.  Now I begin to see more life in the valley and the sadness and fear are abating. Metaphorically, that might be Spiritual awareness bubbling to the surface of my consciousness. Now my upward view includes the summit and the sky, so I keep climbing.


Eventually I reach the top of the hill/mountain/challenge and I realize that the climb was growth, that I am more than I was on the floor of the valley, stronger, and wiser.  When I have rested awhile at the summit, I relax, I feel happy and whole, and I think about how boring flat ground would be. I look down from the mountains and marvel at how far I have come. 


I am ready for the next valley, whatever it might bring.

WHY?

January 25, 2021

The most asked question in the history of mankind is, "WHY?" Sometimes we ask it in the name of discovery - hence gravity, electricity, television, smart phones, space travel, the internet, etc. Sometimes we ask to gain understanding - of events, relationships, community, or even our own emotions. Sometimes we ask to stall, usually, but not always, when we are children.  In that case, it's a ploy to either avoid what we don't want to do or be, or to acquire what we want.


The biggest "WHY?" for me is probably also the oldest one: why are we here? It seems to me this is a really multi-level question:  

  • what is our origin as a species?  
  • what is our function in the environment? (Why does Earth need us?)
  • why do we need other people?
  • why do we think? (more specifically, why do we ask questions?)
  • why do we reach inward and upward to a higher power/consciousness/intelligence?

I let the anthropologists handle our origin as a species and I think the environmentalists have shown that, while Earth may not have needed us before we started destroying her resources, she sure needs us now to clean up the mess we've made. The most obvious answer to why we need other people is procreation, but I am convinced that there's more to it than that. I believe we need other people to help us discover our own potential and our own talents. We need other people to allow us a target for the love that is our most fundamental characteristic. We need other people so that we can share and expand our experience.  We need other people because we think, and thinking requires expression, which requires communication, which requires someone with whom to communicate. I believe we think because we are outlets of the infinite intelligence of Spirit/God/First Cause, and thought is the creative impulse of that intelligence. We ask questions in order to experience that creative impulse. The deepest level of this "WHY" is the essence of what we are:  physical manifestations of Divine Thought. It is our nature to reach for expansion of  consciousness, of expression, of love, of Oneness, so we reach inward to that point of connection where we realize our identity and unity. We reach upward in consciousness seeking the fullest experience of our own divinity.


Why is the question that brings us closest to understanding the concept of infinity. So, why not ask, "WHY?"

to manifest the Dream

January 18, 2021

Almost sixty years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave us a dream. I was 13. Today I have a great-grandson who is almost 13. That's three generations of spiritual evolution. It is time we stop dreaming and manifest the vision Dr. King delivered. Surely the consciousness of our society can be stretched up and out to encompass the Truth of equity, justice, true democracy, and oneness.  We have repeated his words for decades, we have heard them echo. Let us now bring them into manifestation as we become the nation we deserve, the nation we need, the nation we are destined to create.  Let us choose to become the leaders of a world that works for all by becoming the citizens, teachers, legislators, and families of a nation that puts equity and justice before money and might.  


We ARE the ones we have been waiting for - wait no more, act! Act now. Act with dignity, honor, and integrity to offer those same qualities to every human being, for until they are experienced by all, they are not truly experienced by any.


Donkey Kong

January 11, 2021

I have come to an interesting discovery:  life, done right, is  a spiritual game of Donkey Kong!  It starts out easy, and then we start to walk and talk and bump up against challenge after challenge after challenge, and when we master the biggest, toughest, highest challenge? We open a door and find, not a fancy prize or a big title, or tons of money, but rather, a whole new level of challenge! 


Now, the process HAS allowed us to develop skills and acquire tools and knowledge, which is why we are both able and willing to open the door and cross through into the new challenges. It's important to recognize that the person entering the next level is NOT the same person who entered the previous level.  This recognition gives us confidence and courage.  It should also give us pause - for rest, for inner exploration, for preparation and the setting of intentions and goals.  After all, the player with a game plan usually comes out ahead.


There was a singer in the 1970's, I think, whose lyric became a personal motto for me:  It's got to be the going, not the getting there, that's good.  This is not a new idea, life IS a journey. There is a new twist, though,  we can choose to direct the journey, instead of stumbling blindly down the road.  We can lean into change and experience conscious evolution, spiritual expansion, and creative exploration.  I like the idea of being more today than I was yesterday, more wise, more compassionate, more expressive, just . . . MORE - God is infinite, creation is infinite, why should we settle for a finite expression?  "Not I," said the little red donkey kong!


Small increments of change

January 4, 2021

A shrink once told me that my biggest problem was an inability to recognize and appreciate small increments of change. I was not amused. In later years, however, especially 2020, I have come to realize the wisdom of her recommendation.


It's the beginning of a new year and the year just ended was a doozie!  Now is the time to take stock of what has changed - for the better, for the not-so-great, intentional, and unintentional.   Even while we have been sheltering in grace, shopping and studying online from home, attending church/synagogue/mosque via Zoom and Facebook live, we have been changing.  We have grown! 


How, you might ask? Well, some of us have developed technical skills we never dreamed we would need.  Some of us have learned how to ask for help with things we have always done for ourselves. Some of us have learned how to accept the "personality quirks" of the folks who live with us, and even to understand them a little better. Some of us have learned what it means to be neighborly. Some of us have learned how to expand the limits of our tolerance for  work, for fatigue, for challenges, for loss. Some of us have learned how important those invisible "essential" workers are, and have always been: the truckers, nurses, doctors, cleaners, and clerks without whom life comes to a screaming halt.


And there's more:  some of us have learned about hidden history, abject poverty inside our own borders and around the world, the origins of prejudice,  the need for true justice and equity.  Some of us have learned that truth, while it may not be pleasant, is ALWAYS better than lies and love, while it may not be easy, is ALWAYS the antidote to fear. We have learned these things in spite of ourselves, as much as we have learned then intentionally.  We have learned them through gritted teeth and clenched fists . . . and we have learned them through open hearts and blown kisses.  WE HAVE LEARNED THEM, AND THEY WILL NOT BE UNLEARNED.


We learned second by second, tear by tear, and smile by smile. Small increments of change have made all the difference, so keep it up - and try to notice, acknowledge, and appreciate them.


Clean-up Week

December 28, 2020

For as long as I can remember, the week between Christmas and New Year's Day was set aside for cleaning - cleaning anything that  stood still long enough, and a few things that didn't.  The house, garage, car, yard, closets, basement, and attic all get a thorough cleaning, scrubbing, and organizing so that we start the new year at our best. Then mom would buy a new broom and sew a tiny pillowcase with the new year embroidered on it to ensure against lack. Then and only then were we ready for New Year's celebrations.


I have come to realize that my little house doesn't take long to clean and organize - and that gives me plenty of time for the REAL cleaning.  Now my week is devoted to cleaning up my act - internally, spiritually, attitudinally. Yup, this is my week for intensive personal inventory - and I try to use the same process as when I swap out my closets twice a year: everything (thoughts, ideas, prejudices, opinions, likes, dislikes) goes into one of three piles. For the closets, the first pile is for stuff I really love and use; the second is for stuff I haven't used in a long time, but can't bring myself to part with yet; the last pile is the donate pile - give it to someone who can use (or sell) it.  For my personal spiritual year-end cleanup, the piles are similar: one is for recognizing assets, blessings, and growth experienced in the past year (keep); the next is for recognizing "opportunities for evolution" or "growing edges" (these become my New Year's Intentions); the last is for characteristics, practices, and habits that just don't belong in my life (the pitch pile).


Some years I have to dig deep to find the growth and blessings, but this year of COVID has brought lots of both:  deeper compassion, a stronger sense of community, resilient faith.   The growth list is usually longer than I want it to be, but I still keep hacking away at it:  listen more, talk less; DON'T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY, even when it is meant that way;  forgive more, judge less, and on and on.  The pitch pile is the toughest one to empty, but also the most satisfying: let go of old hurts, resentments, and disappointments; drop SNARKY from both thoughts and speech; stop expecting people to read my mind. None of these lists is comprehensive, but you get the idea. 


Clean-up week is not easy, and nobody would call it fun, but it sure provides a clear window for facing the New Year!


Blue Christmas

December 21, 2020

This is the third Christmas since my husband, the professional Santa, made his transition and I hung up my elf-shoes. It is my first blue Christmas - the other two were just ordinary, colorless days.  This year, however, somehow - even in the midst of COVID isolation - I seem to have come to a small smidgen of Christmas spirit.  I am not yet jolly, but neither am I morose.  I have a small, sparsely decorated tree in my living room, and I took my Christmas sweatshirts, vests, and turtlenecks out of the storage closet - I am wearing them, with Christmas jewelry and a somewhat nostalgic smile.


This is not a plea for sympathy, or even empathy. It is a celebration of the resilience of the human heart! So many have lost so much this remarkable year, and yet there are still Christmas specials on television and virtual Christmas concerts over the Internet for a multitude of churches. I suspect a large part of my revival of spirit is due to the tremendous drawing together of families that has happened all over the country, all over the world, because we have been forced to shelter in grace. The commercials I see are about baking cookies together and making cards and presents by hand - about the kind of giving my grandmother advocated when she told me that a gift you made was more valuable than any gift you could buy - because it contains a part of your Self.


So here's my Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa wish for each of you:  may you give the deepest part of your Self to those you love, and receive the same in return - and may you love and be loved by the whole world.

The List -  Part III

December 14, 2020

This third list comes from an Interfaith meeting I attend each month.  We met yesterday, and one of the topics for discussion was what a world that works for everyone, a world without racism, would look like, and how would we know when we had achieved it.  My answer is this list:

  • nobody goes hungry
  • nobody goes homeless
  • nobody lives in fear
  • nobody is without a formal education
  • nobody feels alone
  • nobody feels unheard
  • no talent is unrecognized
  • nobody lacks adequate medical care
  • no violence is endured
  • no skill is wasted
  • no spiritual path is denied
  • no joy is withheld
  • no love is restricted

How will we know when we get there? Nobody needs to ask this question any more.  This is the new normal I envision.  This is the goal of my every thought, prayer, action.  This is the truth of our nature - what say we return to it?

The List -  Part II

December 7, 2020

A few years ago, a movie called "The Bucket List" came out and became an instant classic. The concept of a bucket list - a list of activities to be completed before one dies (kicks the bucket) - became a part of our cultural vocabulary overnight.  People started writing down (okay, typing into a word processing document) all of the things they didn't want to miss. Many lists included visits to foreign countries, finishing a degree, building a business, writing a book, painting a masterpiece, etc.  Mostly, folks started out with lofty goals, sort of like those resolutions that dribble away by the middle of January. 


I found myself looking at the idea from the other direction - what do I want to have people saying about me at my memorial picnic? (I am not having a funeral) I want them to say their lives were better because they knew me. So, what do I need to do to make that true? Not such an easy question to answer. I gave myself a serious headache trying to quantify the requirements.  Finally, I realized the only real requirement is that I be the best version of me that is possible.   I ended up with something I call my "Honey, be" list:


BE compassionate (which morphed into BE COMPASSION)

BE truthful

BE in integrity

BE loving (which morphed into BE LOVE)

BE kind

BE responsible (I call this one accomplished, since I served jury duty, 

                                   and I ALWAYS vote)

BE humane

BE reliable

BE present (which morphed into BE PRESENCE)

BE aware of oneness (which morphed into BE IN ONENESS)

BE receptive

BE respectful

BE transparent


To each of these could be added " - to everyone!"

 

Like a bucket list, this list starts with "B", but I think this list will lead me to higher peaks and greater vistas.  Maybe you could consider creating your own BE list?

The List -  Part I

November 30, 2020

Once, when I was a little girl, I asked my grandmother if I could have something when she died - I don't remember what the something was, but I sure remember my mother's reaction! I was informed, in no uncertain terms, that such a request was very rude, and implied a wish for my grandma's demise! After that, I just asked her to leave me things in her will - a minor improvement for a decidedly tact-challenged child.


While I am still somewhat tact-challenged, I have changed my approach to, "When you get tired of that (fill in the blank), just call me and I will come fetch it - you won't even have to bring it to me!"  This is frequently followed by, "Put that on the list! (of things I am willing to fetch)".  One of my most treasured mementos is a result of this silly practice.  When I left Asheville, NC, I also left my post as office manager of the Western North Carolina AIDS Project - and they threw me a goodbye party.  Never having had such an event before, I was tickled pink! I was, if you can imagine it, also struck dumb by the gifts I was presented: a beautiful hand-made wooden Paul Rhudy bowl and, you guessed it - The List!


Each volunteer, staff member, client, and friend had written, on a seven-foot long sheet of butcher paper, below the title, "The List", each of the items they  had on their lists, and then signed them.  I carried that list with me everywhere I moved from then on (and this was in 1993). It got rumpled, torn, and taped, and when I made the penultimate move to Nebraska, it got lost, but it will always be in my heart, connecting me to those beloved and compassionate friends! Whenever I see a list of any type, I think of The List and I feel the love and comfort of that moment.


Over the next couple of weeks, I will write about some of the other lists that I carry in my heart.  Perhaps some of them will be familiar to you!

Thanksgiving prayer​

November 23, 2020

Meister Eckhart said that if the only prayer you ever said was, "Thank You," it would have been enough.  That has always been my favorite prayer, and it is the beginning of my prayer practice every morning and every night.  Recently, however, I have discovered that there are a million ways to say it, to pray it, to experience it.  


This morning, as I looked out the window above my prayer altar, just before dawn, I saw a thick pearly fog, glowing in the pre-dawn dark.  My heart swelled up, my mouth spread into a huge grin, and I whispered, "WOW!"  That's the same prayer.  Sitting in my rocker, reading a Mitch Albom book, with a puppy in my lap and a 14-year old dog across my feet, I noticed the comfort and warmth, the absolute peace of that moment. My lips turned up, my shoulders dropped down, my soul danced. That's the same prayer. Sitting at breakfast with my prayer partner, who is visiting from out of state, I realized I was not hurrying to finish. Instead I was relaxed and happy. She smiled and said, "Mmmmm!" as she tasted her French toast made with raisin bread and brown eggs.  That is the same prayer. I think "Thank you!" is what we feel when our heart is hugged, and I am delighted to see, in these "interesting times", how often my heart is hugged and how often I can see another heart being hugged - usually on television or over the internet because of COVID -  spontaneously and joyfully, and independent of age, color, creed, or political philosophy.  


So, in this Thanksgiving week of 2020, I invite you all to let your heart be hugged, let it hug other hearts, let it be filled to overflowing with the feeling of "Thank You".  We are still all in this together ('this' being LIFE), and we are up to our eyes in blessings. Happy Thanksgiving from my heart to yours!

LISTEN . . .

November 16, 2020

My late husband loved to observe me conversing with my younger sister - once he figured out what we were doing. The first time, though, he was completely overwhelmed. You see, Paula Jo (pronounced Pawjo) and I both talk at the same time, and we both hear at the same time, so an uninformed observer might find it hard to believe that any communication occurs at all. He watched us, wide-eyed and incredulous, as we chattered away, catching up on everything that had happened in our lives since last we were together - convinced that neither of us could have heard anything under the noise.  Then he turned to me and said, "What did she say?" and I repeated her part of the conversation verbatim. He was surprised, but not astonished, because he knew me so well, but when he asked her the same question and she repeated my part of the conversation verbatim, he was struck dumb!  Why do I share this? Because it is an example of where I used to be and how far I have come - and one I think applies to much of our society today.


Spending most of this year alone because of the pandemic, has left me much less enamored of the sound of my own voice, and much more conscious of how I use it. So, when I sat down to write this blog, I couldn't think of anything important enough to say out loud.  My go-to in such situations is Spirit, so I asked, "What should I talk about today?" and the answer stopped me in my tracks: "Don't talk. Listen."


Well, since guidance isn't worth much if I don't follow it, I decided to give it a try.  Did you know that, if you listen very gently, in absolute silence, you can hear your own heartbeat? Try just focusing on your breathing for a while, not forcing it, just watching it go in and out. After a while, you start to heart a very quiet thump, thump, thump. It's like centering all of your attention inside your own heart. There's no effort, no fear, no confusion, no doubt - just wonder and peace and awe.

Wow, is that cool . . .

LEAVES!

November 9, 2020

Apparently, we had a very strong wind last night at One Heart. When I went out this morning there was no grass to be seen anywhere, but boy, oh boy, do we have leaves! Gold, brown, orange and red - every where I looked the leaves were ankle-deep.  All of a sudden I was six years old and only the cast on my broken left ankle kept me from skipping, jumping and rolling in the amazing carpet before me.  My dogs had no such limitations, and I really enjoyed watching them enjoy Mother Nature's sense of humor.  


Many of the trees are naked now, but not all of them, and I noticed that I felt no sense of ending as I scanned their bare branches reaching into the wind.  Rather, I saw a mirror of their counter-balancing roots preparing to dig even deeper in the coming months, and the warm fires made possible by the fallen wood.  Autumn, for me is a time to snuggle in and get comfortable, to enjoy the smell of wood smoke and the amazing variety of colors here in the Ozark mountains, to watch the deer and squirrels nesting into the woods, and to soak up those last few days of one-layered clothing.


In just a few days, we'll be baking for Thanksgiving and starting the Holiday season, so now is the time to just relax a bit and recognize all we have survived and accomplished during this challenging, exciting, difficult and creative year.  I feel like I have been running full-tilt since last winter, and at the same time, COVID has forced us to stand still, shift our perspective, and consciously evolve.  WOW, just look at all of the changes we have experienced - maybe it really is the case that what does not kill us makes us stronger?  We have lost much and many, but we have grown deeper and stronger and learned a very great deal about ourselves and our species. There will be more challenges, and more surprises, some fun, some not. Just now, though, I don't feel the need to guess what's coming next - it's Autumn, so for the moment I choose to emulate Mother Nature and just be for a while.  


Care to join me?

Our MOST important right!

November 2, 2020

My father only gave me three pieces of good advice in my whole life, and he gave them all on the day before he died. I didn't know it was the day before he would die, but I think he did, so pay attention, please!


1.  Don't  ever go to sleep angry. It's okay to go to bed angry, but don't go to sleep

       angry - it will give you ulcers.


2.  If you ever wake up and say, "Oh, God, I don't want to go to work!" you need to 

      find a new job! You will do what you do to earn a living more than everything 

      else you do in your life, so be sure it is something you love, something you     

      would do for free, hell, something you would pay to be allowed to do!


3.  Here's the big one:  if you don't vote, you don't have the right to B***H, and 

      THAT  if the right we need to protect above all others, so whether you vote for

      somebody or against somebody, make damn good and sure you VOTE!


'nuff said . . .

Michelangelo's Mistake

October 19, 2020

It has long been my contention that Michelangelo really blew it with the Sistine ceiling when he failed to give any of his angels a flute! Many years ago, when I first heard James Galway play Pachelbel's Canon in D, I learned what it means to be transported by music - and it was only a recording.  I'm not sure I could survive hearing him play it live.  That liquid silver sound was just overwhelmingly beautiful and it has been my go-to refuge whenever I know I need to be reminded, in an irrefutable manner, that the Divine lives in and through me.  When I listen to a flute's notes, no matter what the tune or tempo, my whole self resonates with it. 


At least a decade after I first discovered the classical flute, I was introduced to the Native American flute.  The two instruments are vastly different in tone and yet they produce exactly the same response in me - AWE!  I was blessed to be taking my Practitioner panels at Asilomar in 2013 and just happened to wake up early enough to attend the morning Spiritual Practice on the day that Christy Snow was the presenter.  She played such stunning piano music that I wanted to dance, but when she stood up and unleashed her Native American flute? I heard angels sing, and my whole self sang with them!


Now, I am certainly aware that not everyone resonates with these two instruments as I do, but I am also aware that everyone resonates with SOMETHING the way I resonate with flutes.  My prayer for everyone who reads this, and for everyone who doesn't, is that you find your own flute, whatever it is, because that is the greatest gift you can give yourself - it is your shortest path to experiencing Oneness.  Mind you, it does not have to be music - it can be art or literature or nature or perfect, deep silence.  Whatever it is, go find it and claim it with your heart. It will show you how powerful, how perfect, and how sacred you are, and it will remind you any time you ask!

Brain BURP!

October 13, 2020

Yesterday I had an unanticipated Hospice visit (I volunteer with the local Hospice organization), and somehow that one extra event pushed  me over the schedule limit.  I can normally keep one day's schedule in my mind and stay on track without actually crossing things off my calendar.  Yesterday that was not the case.  Maybe it was because it was Monday? Maybe it was because my visit required me to leave the house before the time the alarm usually rings? Maybe it was the pearly fog between my house and my patient's house? I may never know the why of it, but I am still laughing about the what of it - I forgot to write my blog!


I spent the whole day going over what was left to be done and mentally checking things off, but still with that nagging feeling that something was not right . . . I had this sense of being out of sync, almost like playing hooky, but what I did not do, the one thing that would have solved my dilemma, was look at my calendar.  I just relied on my memory and relaxed into the fog.  The dogs loved it because I was home with them when I would normally have been in my office.  I had a long chat with an old friend who expected to leave a message.  I watched Jeopardy!  live, instead of DVR. I ate lunch early.  NONE of these things usually happen, but the inner alarm just didn't ring. 


I rather enjoyed the sense of laziness, that little voice was just too quiet to get me back on track.  Then, when I got to my office this morning, there was the Reminder:  Write and post blog.  Picture me slapping my forehead.  I giggled with my Prayer Partner, who reminded me that nobody holds me responsible for a Monday blog but me - everyone else will be content with a Tuesday blog.  


So here's my Tuesday blog, with my thanks for your forbearance. Anyone who reads this and does not recognize the experience wins a free night at One Heart! Just be sure to call and get on the schedule. . .


Lose vs. Loose

October 5, 2020

Lose is an interesting word.  It is rarely something to which we aspire and it is usually not a permanent thing. Consider the idea of losing weight - over half of our population is engaged in this never-ending,  miserable battle! Why is it never-ending? Because most folks think the weight is in charge of the contest! This is just one example of failure based on attempts to "lose" a "bad" habit. The worst part about it is is that whatever we lose, eventually finds us again.  


I think this is because we act like losing something is just a really intense form of ignoring it - as in, "ignore it and it will go away!"  The trouble with ignoring an issue is that you are really just hiding from it, like the little girl who covers her eyes so we can't see her. This is especially significant when we recognize that what we are ignoring is a part of us.  


There is a better option, though. We can embrace the thing we want to change, recognize it as part of our past, and then release it. That is, we can give is a hug (O) to change "lose" into "loose". In this way, we stop ignoring, we stop hiding, we stop chasing ourselves in circles and just let go of what no longer serves us.


Like the girl in the picture above? She was losing air, just by breathing, but when she hugged it with a little soap as she released it, she got to watch beautiful, iridescent bubbles float away! 

No longer an option . . .

September 28, 2020

This cute little picture caused me years of confusion! Okay, it wasn't actually this picture, it was a sign on a bookstore wall that made me think of this picture, and that caused the confusion.  The sign just said, "No longer an option."  


Why, I wondered, would you want to advertise what you no longer considered possible? Wouldn't that be rather like being stuck in the past, or in regret, or in victimhood?  Clearly, in the first picture, whatever is on the "No longer an option" path is to be avoided.


Then I began to wonder what happened to the rest of the picture.  Why would I want to remove any experience from my field of possibility? Well, negative things, like loss, disease, war, loneliness, etc. could be eliminated, but I wouldn't choose those things anyway.  I mulled over this for a while and  the picture started to shift.  It occurred to me that "no longer and option" might not mean not possible, but rather, not optional!


There are ideas, experiences, and philosophical truths that are so important to me, so vital to my sense of self, that they are absolutely NOT optional. Things like love, oneness, justice, wholeness, and compassion are essential to me. This realization brought me up short! The longer my "No longer an option" list gets, the deeper and richer my life becomes.   The trick seems to be looking inward to infinity, rather than outward to limitation.  What's on your list?

Sympathy vs. Empathy

September 21, 2020

I have been thinking a lot lately about the difference between sympathy and empathy, and I have come to believe that they are not two different concepts, but rather two different points on the emotional evolutionary scale.  Gosh, that sounds complicated, doesn't it?  The idea is really simple (which is NOT a synonym for easy).  Both are emotional responses to the thinning of the border between self and other.  Sympathy is what we feel when something, some event or experience, perceived as negative, happens to somebody else.  It could be a total stranger we hear about on the news or it could be someone really close to us, a friend or family member. Sympathy is a sadness that we feel for somebody else's unhappiness, sorrow, or challenge.  It might move us to action to try to help, but it is still not our own experience.


Empathy is sympathy that has evolved a little further on the you/me scale.  It recognizes that what hurts those we love also hurts us, so the sadness becomes personal to a degree.  Empathy wants to address the cause of the pain, to ease  our own discomfort by soothing the other person's, but at the same time, it recognizes that we cannot truly share that experience.  


When empathy continues to evolve, we feel compassion. This is evolving from you/me to we.  Compassion moves us from feeling sorrow for another to recognizing that there is no other.  It recognizes that, while I am me, and you are you, and the person on the other side of the planet is part of a different culture, we are all part of the same species. We live on the same planet. We use the same resources: air, water, land, love, life, energy.  The continuum of sympathy/empathy/compassion leads to the greatest experience of all: ONENESS. 


For me, that was a major AHA! moment - this continuum is really a metaphor for the spiritual journey of the individual back to the One.  Cool, huh?

Labor Day?

September 7, 2020

I am the oldest of five stair-step daughters, so growing up, I thought Labor Day was the day before Mom and Dad brought home a new baby. As I got older, I realized that, as much work at it had been for Mom to do that, it was not the source of the holiday.  It is a great metaphor, though.


Think about it: everything we have is the result of labor - lots of different kinds of labor.  I saw a bumper snicker once that said, "If you have it, a trucker brought it".  That's actually true in most cases, and the amazing thing is that the trucker's labor was just the last step.  First, somebody had to have the idea (probably someone working in a think-tank); then, somebody had to design it; someone had to figure out how to implement the design; someone had to order the materials; someone had to assemble the product; someone had to test it for quality and safety; someone had to package it - all BEFORE the trucker could load it up and deliver it to the store where you bought it.  


Suddenly, the idea of celebrating the nameless, faceless people who do all of the things necessary to keep us healthy, happy, and safe makes a lot more sense.  Isn't it lovely that this idea preceded COVID?  I suspect the current circumstances of our world have increased our awareness somewhat, but it certainly warms my heart to know that there were people in the US and Canada who recognized the contributions of ordinary, everyday people to the comfort and safety of our lives  and considered it worth celebrating when things were 'normal'.


The next thing we need to do, in my humble opinion, is find a way to let all of the essential workers have a three-day weekend to celebrate themselves. This presents a logistical nightmare, I grant you, since we cannot guarantee a weekend without illness, accidents, fires, or crime, but I have faith in us - we can figure it out, even if we have to just let them all take turns being celebrated. You know, I rather like the idea of building appreciation and celebration into our daily routine,  making it part of our new 'normal'. What do you think?



Rainy-day green . . .

August 31, 2020

In the midst of  the hurricane (who'd have thought a landlocked state could be affected by a hurricane?), I found myself thinking about something that really puzzled me when I was a child.  In fact, I wondered if I was just imagining it, and it wasn't until I went to college and took a class in optics (required for a minor in physics) that I discovered that colors really do change when it rains.  Well, the colors don't actually change, but how we see them does.


I noticed that on a rainy day, although the skies were definitely dull and grey, the grass and trees were an amazing, vibrant, gorgeous green. What's more, the rain was silver, the flowers actually seemed to glow, and every color looked deeper, more intense, more THERE somehow.  My optics instructor explained the physics of rainy day colors - the water in the air changes the wavelengths we see by bending the light.  I really didn't care how it happened, I was just grateful to know I hadn't imagined it.


Then I thought, "So what if I had imagined it?"  Would that have made my enjoyment of the colors any less valid? Would the rain have been any less silver, the air any less glowing, the world any less alive?  NOPE!


That was how I discovered the metaphysics behind the optics.  How we look determines what we see.  When we look for vibrant life, we see brighter colors. When we look with appreciation, we see beauty in everyday, 'ordinary' things.  This is true whether or not it is raining. This is true whether it's daylight or night.

This is even true when you look in a mirror.


BTW, my favorite color is rainy-day green . . . (just sayin')

Mind full?

August 24, 2020

Have you ever had a day when your mind was full, not just full, but FFUUULLLL?  I found myself this past weekend with one of those days. It was not pretty.  I was not pretty.  I was grouchy, glum, ticked and touchy!  I did not enjoy it.  


One of the blessings of living in two-hours-from-everything, Arkansas is that there's nobody around to observe my behavior on such a day.  One of the disadvantages of living here is that there's nobody around to notice when I am having one of those days. Having somebody else point it out is not fun, but it sure can shorten the duration of the explosion. 


This is a beautiful spot, though, and it finally dawned on me that if my mind was full to overflowing with stuff to do, consider, decide, select, evaluate, or accept, nobody could have made it that way except me.  Yup, I stuffed it all in there. I didn't notice how full it was getting because I was not paying attention to my mind, I was just collecting pictures, thoughts, ideas, concepts, and possibilities randomly.


Then I got another idea, but my mind was FULL, what could I do with this new idea? Clearly I had to let go of some of the junk that was taking up space in my head without paying any rent.  How does one go about cleaning out this overstuffed mind? Well, there is only one way that is guaranteed to succeed - you have to approach it mindfully.


For me, that means letting go of any sense of urgency, cranking up the faith muscles, and sitting still to explore my mind, one picture, thought, idea, concept or possibility at a time.  The process cannot be rushed, it just has to flow, gently, consciously, and with intention.  If we start with our breath - just watch it going in and out, we can calm the roiling mind enough to see what's floating on top, what's  ready for release, what's calling for growth, and what's deep, clear inspiration.


By allowing the breath to lead the way - it's automatic and gentle - we ease into that state of mindful presence that can be in the flow without overwhelm.  We can let the storm settle and see the direction we need to go. We can stop frenetic doing and start serene being.  Who doesn't love that?


The cure for a full mind is to be mindful . . .

Dog years

August 17 2020

My heart is sad today, because I just learned that a dear friend has made her transition from this planet.  Her name was Mali, and she was a mixed breed terrier who was all heart.  She did all kinds of tricks, but her favorite was to be in the middle of a prayer circle, down on her belly, nose firmly planted on her paws, bathing in the blessing.  It didn't matter how long the prayer lasted, Mali wouldn't move until she heard, "Amen."  


Not long ago, Mali's mama, who is one of my soul's siblings, was telling me about "dog years". She said dog years are not longer than human years, it's just that dogs (and cats and horses, for that matter) live much faster than we people do, so they can cram 7 years of people stuff into one dog year.  I thought how much we can learn from animals who can be absolutely still, completely present, and yet be accomplishing everything they need to do in perfect peace and right on time.  I started to think about the fact that dogs always have time to play or to take a nap or to dig a hole that really needs digging.  I'm pretty sure they don't debate the wisdom of taking a break to sniff something interesting (smell the roses, get it?) or consider the virtue of skipping a snack, or worry that they might run out of trees to mark or grass to roll in or balls to chase.


I think it's not that they live faster, but that they live more completely, savoring every moment, every pat on the head, every butterfly on the nose, every squeaky toy. So I invite you to join me in this experiment:  for the next week, live every moment with your whole self, working, playing, praying or sleeping; maybe we'll decide to live in dog years and get more out of life!

A wasted day . . .

August 10, 2020

What, exactly, is a wasted day? Is it a day when you don't make any money? Is it a day when you don't make any friends? Is it a day when nothing on your to-do list got done?  


It's all in how you look at it, really. Maybe you didn't make any money because you were helping a neighbor load a moving van.  Maybe you didn't make any friends because you were contemplating nature from the back porch.  Maybe every single item on your to-do list is still to be completed, but every single item is also begun, in progress, or delegated to somebody else. 


For me, a wasted day is one when I did not learn anything new.  It doesn't have to be something big. It doesn't have to be something necessary. It doesn't even have to be something useful.  It just has to be something I didn't know before.  For instance, one day last week when I actually had NOTHING on my to-do list, I discovered a dragonfly resting on my car's antenna - it made me think of angels dancing on the head of a pin - and whenever I reached for it, the dragonfly would lift and hover until the antenna was clear, then settle right back onto its chosen perch. I can't imagine there is anyone on Earth who  can't live without knowing a dragonfly can balance on a car antenna, but it really tickled me!


I think this is probably the deepest reason for my fascination with Jeopardy! (My students were not allowed to call for help during this show.) I have never failed to learn something while watching it.  Sometimes it's a new fact for my beloved trivia store, and sometimes it's a new aspect of my own internal landscape that appears in response to one of the answers or questions. Either way, my mind gets stretched.  In other words, either way, I grow. What's not to love about that?

My cup of tea . . .

August 3, 2020

I love the smell of coffee, but I have never learned to enjoy the taste.  I am a tea drinker. There are a lot of reasons, stretching back to my childhood, when Grandma's answer to crisis was a cup of Constant Comment tea and a slice of cinnamon raisin toast. There are many varieties of tea, from all over the world, and many have genuine health benefits.  Licorice root, for instance, makes a tea that is both delicious (sort of sweet and chocolatey) and delightfully soothing to a sore or froggy throat.  Peppermint tea soothes an upset stomach. Tazo's Zen tea, a combination of lemongrass and spearmint, as its name suggests produces a calm, peaceful state of mind.  I could go on (as any herbalist would tell you), but I think you get the idea.


Another reason I love tea is that it is as much a process as a drink. Really good tea has to be steeped. Steeping is a lovely process: pour boiling water over whatever tea blend you prefer, and then just wait.  I like to smell the steam, as it deepens like the tint of the brew.  It's soothing, comforting, calming and slow.  Can you feel the metaphor coming? 


Human consciousness is like a teapot, always filled with boiling water, and all we have to do to produce growth is toss in the ideas, concepts, possibilities we want to embody and then allow them to steep. It's a good idea to stay conscious of the steam as the image in consciousness takes shape, becomes solid, and takes form - after all, it is our own growth and we do get to choose how it occurs. It is a wonderful feeling to realize that actual, conscious growth is happening, by your own intention.


Here's my invitation: let's choose a new consciousness to steep into the collective consciousness of the human race.  I suggest compassion, with a touch of courage, a dollop of love, and a whole lot of willingness to grow.  Care to join me for a cup?

Family of Choice

July 27, 2020

This is a fairly new phrase, Family of Choice, and it has become precious to me. I an a boomer, a product of the 50's and 60's.  I grew up with four younger siblings and two parents - traveling all over the country for my father's work. My mother's favorite lament was that we could not put down roots. I didn't understand her dismay because I had no idea what roots she was missing. Looking back, I remember thinking we were all of us orphans, even our parents.  The seven of us lived in one house (most of the time), but we had very little in common, there were times (way too many of them) when I don't think we even liked each other very much.


Then, as a young adult in the 70's, a single parent working my way through an undergraduate degree, and not at all alone in that situation, I heard an old expression, "You can pick your friends, but you can't pick your family," but I heard it from a new perspective and it morphed into the form I have use/lived by ever since, "You can't pick your relatives, but you CAN pick your family!" This was the time when Gay Pride and PFLAG (parents and families of lesbians and gays) and PWP (parents without partners) started building communities, actually families, of choice. We all needed the emotional, spiritual,and  moral support this new tradition provided and we latched onto it with both hands, both feet and all of our teeth. It made us stronger, more confident, more compassionate and more powerful people.


Today, I still have four siblings, though I am only in close contact with the youngest (figures, huh?), but I have a very large, far-flung family of sisters-from-another-mister and brothers-from-another-mother. They are  each of them the siblings of my heart and blessings to my life.  In the midst of the current turmoil - social, political, pandemical - we all need family. In fact, we all need to be family.  My prayer, my intention, my invitation to you all is that we choose to be the human family, warts and all, bonded by love.


Free TUIT

July 20, 2020

This is my gift to each person reading this week's blog, a free TUIT.  I can't imagine that there is anyone among you who is not familiar with the idea of a TUIT.  Nobody knows who made the first one, and they come in many styles and colors - I have a wooden one with the letters burned into it sitting on my printer.


Oddly enough, TUITs seem to be available only as gifts - I don't know anyone who has ever created their own. Likewise, I don't know anyone who would not find a spare TUIT handy.  This happens to be a round TUIT, probably the most popular variety, which creates opportunities or time, as in, "when I get around to it ..." or "as soon as I get around to it."


I know it's a really old joke, but like most old jokes, it has a grain of wisdom in it.  The TUIT is the only known remedy for procrastination. It eliminates excuses and delays and replaces them with intention and action.  They are especially useful in these days of COVID lockdown, since we really NEED something to do to keep ourselves sane while self-isolating at home.  This particular TUIT was designed to be reusable, so you can just start at the top of your "Someday, I'll . . ." list and knock off those projects, researches, tasks, and chores one by one.


It's amazing how much satisfaction comes from changing a TUIT into a DUNIT (just sound it out).  Sometimes, it's even fun, like learning to knit or re-arranging the living room furniture.  It also frequently involves discovery - of things thought lost, new ideas, or unimagined talent. Give it a shot. What do you have to lose? After all, the TUIT is free!

SOMEBODY

July 13, 2020

I am the eldest of five daughters, and for most of my childhood/adolescence I wondered whether my name (even though it said SHARON on my birth certificate) might really be SOMEBODY. You know, as in "Somebody clean the kitchen", "Somebody take the trash out", "Somebody get the phone" or "Somebody make a pot of coffee."  Maybe it was just an eldest child thing, but somehow it seemed to have turned me into the family fixer, the solution finder, the creativity source.


Over the decades, as I grew into my own self and constructed a life, that seemed to subside. Then 2020 came and all H*** broke loose! This time it's different, though.  I follow the safety protocols for COVID, but I don't feel responsible for finding a cure, though I do feel called to hold it in prayer at the top of my list. The big issue now, for me, is RACISM. Yup, this skinny, white, red-headed, straight widow is up to her eyeballs in "Somebody has to do something about this mess!" 


There's that blinking SOMEBODY call again - and I can't ignore it any more now than I could 50 years ago, when I was in the third grade and discovered that there were people who thought people who didn't look like me were somehow lesser, or beneath, or inferior to them.  It never stopped bothering me, but I never realized there was anything I could do about it. 


I know I didn't create racism. The people who did died centuries ago. They can't clean up the mess they made, and the human race can't live with it anymore, so SOMEBODY HAS TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!


The good news is that I am not the only SOMEBODY in this mess, there are millions of us. The better news is that we actually recognize the situation and are willing to dig into our own minds, consciousness, and upbringing to figure out how and what to change. And we are not just going to change the name of the problem or put a bandaid over it - we are going to change how we think, how we act, how we live.  And we are not just going to make changes that are comfortable and easy - we are ready to tackle the tough stuff:  White Fragility, White Superiority, White Exceptionalism, and the biggie: WHITE PRIVILEGE.


It won't be easy, fast, painless or simple, but it WILL be successful, because we simply have no other options if we want to survive as a species.  There is only one race, the HUMAN race, and we have to recognize, celebrate, and live from that truth.  It's a big mess, but we have finally reached the point where we have pulled our our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual brooms and shovels to clean it up. We can do this. We will do this. We ARE doing this. Join the (r)evolution!

AMAZING!

July 6, 2020

I made the most amazing discovery recently - right in the middle of shelter-in-place COVID! I was feeling sorry for myself, sitting here all alone on 7.2 acres with nobody to talk to and no activity that doesn't feel like busy work, and the phone rang.  It was the volunteer coordinator of the local Hospice organization.  Since hospice volunteers are not considered "essential" workers, I haven't been able to visit "my" patients and their families, do I was not expecting the call, and wasn't sure what it would mean. 


Imagine my delight when he asked if I would be willing to make phone visits.  Turns out that just having somebody call you once or twice a week really lifts the feeling of isolation and loneliness. I guess it reminds us that there still is life on the other side of our front door.  There's no travel time or gas expense, no need to dress professionally or put on make-up (or even comb my hair!), and the folks who are spending their days in the repetitive tasks of caring for a loved one in what might be their final illness get a little boost of cheerful or funny, or compassionate listening, or even an occasional poem or prayer. 


 I am now able to volunteer with hospice patients and their families without even leaving my home - how cool is that?!? Oddly enough, it really lifts my spirits, too.  So here are my suggestions:

  1. Call someone you love and haven't heard from for a while,  then just listen to what they have to say.
  2. Call your spiritual center's leader and ask if there are any folks in the congregation who live alone and might appreciate a phone visit.
  3. Find a group of folks who might enjoy a "coffee klatch by phone" and set up a weekly conference call.
  4. If you are computer savvy, set up a video chat group to discuss a book you are reading, or a movie you have all seen.
  5. Call your local hospital's volunteer coordinator and see if there are any patients who might enjoy a phone visit,  if they only want to listen, you could read them the newspaper or a book.
  6. Call your local Hospice organization and ask if they can use your time, you won't be sorry.

Stupid mistakes

June 29, 2020

My father used to say that the only stupid mistake was one you repeated, because that meant you hadn't learned anything the first time. For most of my adult life, I thought that was absolute truth. I even told my students, in my "Burden of Learning" speech on the first day of each class, that we never learn from our successes, only from our mistakes, so they should hope to make many mistakes.


I used this concept to examine my own actions and to look for the "blessin' in every lesson".  I taught it to my children and to their children. I shared it with pretty much anyone who would listen. Then came the moment of my awakening.  I don't even remember what the "stupid mistake" was, but during my morning meditation one day last week I was really scolding myself for it when I had a burst of inspiration, a vision. 


I remembered my personal metaphor for life - an ascending and ever-expanding spiral, on which only forward movement is possible.  It's analogous to that old saying that one cannot step in the same river twice, and for the same reason:  having stepped in it once (or climbed even one step upward), both the person and the river (or spiral path) have changed. It is not possible to make the same mistake twice, because making it the first time changes the person and the situation. 


We all keep climbing the spiral path, and the situations we encounter, which are inside the spiral, keep changing , too. Each time we encounter an "old" challenge, we perceive it from higher on the path, that is, from a higher consciousness, a different perspective.  That means THERE ARE NO STUPID MISTAKES!  We always learn something, even though it occasionally takes several stops along the path to finally get the whole lesson.  Is that cool or what? 

ITCH!

June 22, 2020

My daughter and I spent a large part of the weekend working in the little park that is part of my retreat center. We both got into some hidden poison ivy, so it should not have been a surprise when I asked Spirit what to blog about and the answer was, "ITCH!" My first response was, "Who would want to hear about my itch?" and the answer was, "WHICH itch?"


Amused by Spirit's unfailing sense of humor, I thought: cheek? chin? forearms? forehead? belly? back? NOPE. The itch in question is internal, not physical, and immune to creams and lotions. It is sometimes referred to as "spiritual indigestion", but I think it is a soul-deep consciousness itch.  What's more, I think we, as a species, even as a biosphere, ALL have this same itch.  We have ignored it as long as we could.  Some of us still haven't noticed it. We have tried to remove it via drugs, alcohol, work, even legislation, but not one of those remedies was more than partial and temporary.


What we need now is to address that which causes the itch: inequality, unfairness, bias, prejudice, selfishness, and social injustice.  Nobody is immune to these factors in our world.  Some folks feel "safe" because of their wealth, influence, or position in society, but we ALL suffer when a child goes hungry, we all suffer when a life is lost through violence, disease, ignorance, or neglect.  Nobody will ever be warm while anyone is cold. Nobody will ever be healthy as long as anyone experiences disease. Nobody will ever by safely sheltered as long as anyone is homeless. Nobody will be civilized as long as anyone lacks clean water, clean air, safe shelter, broad education, satisfying work, or simple respect.


Are you nodding your head in agreement? Are you squirming at the depth of the itch? Are you thinking this is somebody else's problem?  THERE IS NOBODY ELSE! We, as a species, made this mess, and it is our responsibility to clean it up.  We, as individuals might (with an extreme squint or stretch of imagination) be innocent of harming another person, animal, or the environment, but that doesn't matter.  If the folks who "made this mess" are gone, or even if they are just unwilling to help, we must stand up and work to clean it up - or it will get infinitely worse.


The question is not "Am I responsible?" but rather "What is my part to play?" None of us is capable of fixing everything, but every single one of us can fix something - remember the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike? Or Rosa Parks? Or Nelson Mandela? They were ordinary people who stood up and did what was theirs to do.  I intend to join them, how about you?


Hurry up and wait . . .

June 15, 2020

Today I borrow an expression from the military: hurry up and wait.  There is considerable excitement about the re-opening of our society.  Folks are tired of staying home, wearing masks and gloves, social distancing, and all the rest of the patience-teaching tools of COVID-19. I get it. I do. AND I beg you to reconsider, in the name of prudence, safety, and common sense.


Even Noah, who was in lock-down a lot longer than three months, didn't jump off the boat as soon as it landed on Ararat.  First he sent out birds to check the conditions, not once, not twice, but three times - and then only after his own experience said the rain had stopped.  He didn't rush out into the drastically changed world he found at the end of the flood, and I think we should follow his example - ease back on the shelter-in-place, go slow,  let the work force rebuild itself gradually and safely.  Remember,  waiting is NOT doing nothing, it's just aligning your timing with God's watch rather than your own, bearing in mind that God sees the whole picture.


We have made it through so much together, let's take a breath, relax the tension, and hang on until we get a solid "All Clear!" from the CDC.  If I sound like your grandma, that's okay - she is pretty bright, after all. Maybe you should just bake some cookies and think it over a while . . .



A purring cat . . .

June 8, 2020


I have a beautiful black cat - well, almost black, he has a round white spot at the base of his throat, but the rest of him is black. His name is Bandit, and being his person (people have dogs, but cats have people) is a spiritual practice. This morning when I sat down to meditate, I just couldn't get my puppy-mind to settle and I was getting frustrated with the "task" of stilling my mind. Then Bandit, all 18 pounds of him, leapt up into my lap and curled up on my chest, purring to beat the band. While I was a bit startled, it took only a few seconds for that purring to settle into my heart and the puppy-mind just conked out.  My morning prayer time was peaceful and joyful, needless to say, and I found myself once again in a state of rampant gratitude.  


One does not listen to a purr, one feels it, vibrates with it, snuggles into it, and when that happens there is a blissful sense of Oneness. Oneness is the most fundamental, essential, grounding experience of the Presence I have ever had.  I always struggled to get there, impatient for the process, and suddenly I discover, God is in the purr.  No wonder cats are icons of cool, calm, serenity!  They are just naturally present 24/7.  Who knew, my Bandit could just as easily teach meditation as breathe - and he teaches conscious breathing pretty well, too. I have become his ardent student.


So here's my wish for everyone: may you be adopted and embraced by a purring cat, and may you become a purring cat to someone else.


One

June 1, 2020

There's an awful lot of chaos happening in the US right now, and I am done with it - I am angry; I am hurt; I am ashamed; I am saddened; and I am not going to put up with it any more!!


My mother was raised in a family and a time when racial prejudice was the norm. She had no sense of self-worth or dignity, but she KNEW that prejudice was wrong. She determined that, however she might fail, one place where she would succeed was in raising her children without prejudice. What I learned from her was that there is only one race, and it is HUMAN. There are hundreds, thousands of languages, cultures, skin/hair/eye colors, but we ALL have the same set of bones, holding in the same set of organs, wrapped in the same muscles, tendons, and ligaments. WE ARE ALL HUMANS. ONE RACE. PERIOD. What covers the muscles, etc., is what gives us individuality, diversity, depth, and variety, as does what resides in our hearts and minds. It wasn't until I was fully grown that I came to understand that we are also all one life. (Spirituality wasn't my mother's strong suit.)


On top of that, even though I grew up moving to 35 different schools in 35 different states, somehow I lived through the Equal Rights movement without any personal experience of rioting, protests, violence, or even unfairness.  I was a teenager in the 60's, so I heard about what was happening all over the country, but it wasn't REAL to me, somehow.  Then I went to ministerial school, and one of the classes in the curriculum was about White Privilege. Imagine my astonishment when I discovered my relatively peaceful childhood and adolescence had not been the norm; that it had been denied to fellow citizens because of the color of their skin.  


History is a BEAR! I realize now that there are centuries of abuse and inequality bearing fruit in this country, right here and right now. We, the human race, at least the white western hemisphere part of it, have made an amazing mess of our societies - we have broken away from the very principles that were our foundation, (the Ten Commandments, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights)from the very moment of our revolution!  We NEVER have given equal rights to most of our citizens. The entire world is now embroiled in racism and violence, murder and mayhem.  We made this mess; we have to clean it up. I don't know how, but I do know it is within our capabilities - it is the reason we were born in this place at this time.


What I am saying is that we have to agree to stop the abuse, the privilege, the violence and the dis-empowerment of anyone, anywhere, any when. We have to remember, if we have forgotten, and realize, if we never have, that there is only one Life, One Creative Force, and we are ALL it! We must release the illusions of "us vs. them" and realize it has always been us vs. us. We are not our brothers' keeper - we are our brothers. THERE IS ONLY ONE RACE - AND IT IS HUMAN.




BREATHE!

May 25, 2020

When I was younger I was always in a hurry, especially when hurry was, at best, unwise, and at worst, impossible. Sometimes I would be in the midst of hurrying and suddenly heave a huge sigh - why? Because I had forgotten to breathe - actually, literally forgotten to breathe! This happened for a few decades before I noticed and began to wonder about it.


I once worked for a large communications company (which shall remain nameless), in a call center.  Eventually I became the trainer of new representatives, but first I had to learn how to be an effective and productive representative.  During my own training the instructor repeatedly exhorted us to "not take anything personally", but there really wasn't anything happening during training that I was tempted to take personally, so I pretty much let that go.  Once I was out on the floor, however, I discovered the meaning and importance of her advice! While still a probie, I had the misfortune to take (via autodial, not intentionally) a service call from an elderly couple in a very large eastern city (which shall also remain nameless).  This couple had an extension phone (remember those?), so it felt like I had one of them yelling in each ear - and neither knew a single word of more than four letters.  I was raised to be respectful, and my corporate training firmly reinforce that upbringing, so I was astonished to find myself being royally cursed at by two different people at the same time.  I couldn't get a word in edgewise (I will stop for a moment here so that those of you who know me can get over the shock of such an occurrence), and was nearly in tears trying to calm them both down enough to listen to my explanation. 


Suddenly, one of the managers in my department - I never did find out who - stepped up behind my chair, placed her hands on my shoulders and whispered, "Breathe in, breathe out. This, too, SHALL pass." It was like a thunderbolt. All at once I heard the trainer saying not to take anything personally, and I had a vision of myself, at my desk, headset in place, elderly couple cursing at the top of their lungs, but this time, instead of my own head, sitting on my shoulders between the earphones was the globe that was the logo of my employer, and I got it! They were cursing at my employer through my ears.


Our current global experience is like that.  We have done everything we can to address it, we are safe in our homes or behind masks and gloves and we are all reminding one another that we can get through this together.  But how blinking long are we going to do this?!?  As long as it takes.  This is one of those situations where the only way out is through, so we hunker down, breathe in, breathe out, and remember, "This, too, SHALL pass."


And someday, decades in the future, we will talk about all of the things that got us through COVID; a lot more than the challenges, we will remember the growth.

Lost in the grass . . .

May 18, 2020

Did you ever think you had worked out a perfect plan and then some unforeseeable event made it blow up in your face?  I have been experiencing a lot of that lately. For example, when health challenges required my groundskeeper to leave, one of my Board members came up with a plan to offer room, board, and tuition assistance to a college student in return for groundskeeping. Then COVID hit and the plan dried up.  No problem, we thought, COVID can't last forever, and I can drive the zero-turn lawnmower. Then the zero-turn quit working and the person who would normally fix it got called to Florida to help his mom.  Not a problem, my neighboring farmer thought - he could harvest my five acres of grass and clover to feed his pigs, rabbits, and chickens. Now that's about as perfect as it gets . . . until Mother Nature joined the party.  


For the past six weeks, we have had no more than two days in a row without rain. As a result, the ground has been too wet to mow.  It's two feet tall now, which is not too tall for the tractor (if the ground weren't so mushy), but yesterday, I lost both of my dogs - one a small Shih Tsu mix and the other a larger half-Cocker Spaniel, half- Yorkie mix) in the front yard! The view is beautiful, but the dogs are NOT happy!  They don't like to be where they cannot see me, and when they can't see over the grass, they can't see me!


This seems like a pretty obvious metaphor for the global situation right now.  We are up to our eyeballs in high grass - COVID, war, racism, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, economic meltdown - and we are finding it challenging to find a perspective that lets us see past the grass.  If it weren't for the media, we might think we were in a hopeless situation.  Happily, I can acknowledge that the media are reporting on the up-side of the COVID shutdowns:  pollution is significantly reduced world-wide, in the air and in the water. 


That tells me that like my dogs, who didn't panic because they knew I was at the other end of the leash, we also have a lifeline.  It's called conscious awareness.  That means that if we can tell the grass is too high, we can also remember the ladder on the porch.  We have a way to get above the challenge, and find the possibilities for solution.  We have the intelligence, the ability, the equipment (mostly in labs, right now) to find ways to come out of quarantine without 'feeding the grass.' 


 We can find alternate power sources that don't damage the environment. We can find alternate modes of transportation that don't pollute the air.  We can find alternate philosophies of society and government and international trade that don't require losers in order to establish winners.  We can work together for the common good.  That's a very old idea, pretty much abandoned by the people of Earth, and definitely ready to be taken up and lived again.


I'm in, how about you?

Elastic time . . .

May 11, 2020

One of the things I have noticed during this time of global isolation is that time is definitely elastic. People have talked about the flexibility and unpredictability of time for as long as we have used the concept of time. Eight hours is an eternity spent at a job you dislike.  Eight hours is a finger-snap spent with someone you love.  One hour is an eternity spent crying alone. One hour is the blink of an eye spent watching a sunset.  Nobody has enough time to do everything they want to do. Everybody feels the endlessness of waiting - for something desired or for something dreaded.  Of course, time doesn't change - one minute is still sixty seconds, one hour is still sixty minutes, and one day is still 24 hours.  I could go on,  but you get the point.  


Our perception of the passage of time is absolutely dependent upon what we are doing, experiencing, or being during that passage - that's what makes it elastic.  Before COVID-19 arrived, weekends flew by at light speed. During shelter-at-home isolation,  everything has slowed down amazingly.  Between working in our pajamas and sleeping without an alarm clock, time has become a much less tightly managed commodity.  Our attention is not so focused on completing as many tasks as possible, but rather, on getting the most satisfaction out of each moment.  


I think this is a very good shift of perception/intention.  I no longer "steal" an afternoon to read a novel or gobble my lunch so that I can get back to work more quickly.  Relaxing into each activity has actually expanded my focus and the time seems to stretch to fit whatever I choose to do with it.  Sort of the temporal version of one-size-fits-all, but with a twist:  size doesn't matter any more; the concept is not relevant.  It's not that I have more time, or even that I value it more, it's that my attention is on the activity, not on the time that passes during that activity.  


Wow, I just realized that elastic time is the key to presence! What a blessing, especially if we can maintain the same focus/intention/attention after we are no longer sheltering in place.  What do you think? 



Reflections . . .

May 4, 2020

Ever since I began to explore my inner landscape, my consciousness, many decades ago, I have heard and read repeatedly that whenever something bothers, upsets, disturbs, or offends me in another person, it is actually the awareness at some level that that same characteristic or trait exists in me, a reflection in myself, that is causing my reaction.  And it is definitely a reaction, not a response. Reactions feel automatic because we don't filter them as we do our responses.  We don't check them for origin or accuracy, and we don't consider their possible outcomes. 


For the most part, I think reactions say a lot about what we consider to be our truth. or even the truth.  The challenge is that we don't always own them.  Sure, we are the ones reacting, but where did the reaction start? Perhaps with my mom, or my grandfather, or the kids at school, or the television show I watched last night, who knows? If we did stop to examine the reaction before expressing it, we might find answers to that question - and the only reactions we should express are the ones we actually can explain through our own beliefs - not mom's, dad's, grandma's, my classmate's, or even my culture's beliefs - just our own.  Of course that process of filtering turns reactions into conscious responses, which is a good thing in itself.


I spent a lot of time denying that I could possibly be as judgmental, arrogant, selfish, or rude as the people who offended me before I realized that my denial was judgmental, arrogant, selfish, and often rude. So as I grew in self-awareness, I worked hard to release the habits of thought and action that I found unacceptable in others, including the habit of finding things unacceptable in others. I began to catch myself asking what was in my herstory that was causing me to react, and I really started to clean up my act.


When I stopped being offended all the time, I got a real shock; the folks I encountered had cleaned up their acts, too. I started finding things to admire in those I had been judging.  Yesterday it hit me - admiration is also a reaction. That really got me thinking. Perhaps admiration is also the result of a reflection? Could it be that releasing negativity allows positivity to expand? Might this be the silver lining to my cloud of resistance?  


My grandma used to say, "Everything you do, good, bad or indifferent comes back to roost on your doorstep." Was she actually stating a metaphysical truth? Is it possible that there is something about myself in everything I see in another? Holy cow, that sounds like Oneness!



AWESOME!

April 27, 2020

I don't use the word 'awesome' very often, because in my lexicon, it means "numinous; having great spiritual impact', and that's not usually what I encounter. Just now, however, it seems the only word that works.


I have a confession to make:  I am not suffering from isolation.  You see, I live on a retreat center out in the country - it's ten miles to the nearest town.  I live here with two dogs and a cat.  I have been here for two and a half years, and for two years of that time, it's been just me, the dogs and the cat.  I have almost all of my human interaction via Facebook, Zoom, and the Internet.  Because it didn't change my personal life much, I didn't have to adjust to isolation the way most of our society has been forced to do.  


Instead, since I have already learned to enjoy solitude and seek social contact over the 'net, I have found myself really examining my inner landscape.  I have discovered in myself what I am seeing in my society on television - compassion, honesty, integrity, generosity, gratitude and kindness.  I actually watch television just to see the "We're All In This Together" commercials; they make my heart sing.  Those commercials remind me that I am not really alone, I am just physically separated - and right now, so is everyone else, so kindness, compassion, and generosity are big news now.  Isn't that just AWESOME?!?


I am grateful to the front-line workers, who keep the rest of us safe, sheltered, fed, and in touch with the world. I am also grateful for the just plain ordinary folks who post signs and balloons and flowers to say, "Thank you!"  I believe we, the human race, as a species, are shifting our consciousness away from our tiny little viewpoints of me/my/mine and towards we/us/our. I believe we are doing this in little ways and in big ways, and I believe the changes will be permanent. 


I see the current situation as a kind of forced, but conscious evolutionary event, as I have said before, and I believe we are becoming what we were always meant to be:  love, compassion, generosity, gratitude and joy - with feet on it! So I just wanted to say, "Y'all are doing a great job! Hang in there, we will grow through this, TOGETHER."


We will be more and better after this than we have ever been before!

Book it!

April 20, 2020

It's been a few weeks now that we are sheltering in place, staying home, being safe.  I suspect the challenge is starting to feel intense for many of us who don't normally say at home, or those of us who live alone.  I have a proposal. Why not book it?  


For over six decades now, I have taken refuge in books.  There has never been anything I could hide from between the covers of a book! That makes self-isolation entirely tolerable for me.  But what about the folks who never had that option? Maybe you don't like to read because it's difficult - or because your vision is not up to the task, or because you don't know what you want to read about?  I have always been my family's 'fixer' - whatever's broken, call Sis, Aunt, Grandma, Professor, prayer pal Sharri.  So naturally I am wondering how I can help in this situation.  But how?


Well, I have written some books, but they weren't novels (two and a quarter prayer primers and one computer science text).  Those aren't what most folks read.   Well, then what do they read? What do I read? Truthfully, I read anything with words when I am desperate - and these certainly look like desperate times.  What I really enjoy, though are historical novels, biographies, and autobiographies.  Hmmmm, there might be an answer there . . . 


So here's my proposal:  since we all have families, or had families, or would like to have a family, and families definitely have stories, why not write yours? If you live alone, you could write your own autobiography, or write the autobiography you would like to have.  If you live with family members, why not write down all of those funny stories the "old folks" tell at Christmas and Thanksgiving and at reunions?  Make it a family project, and if you have an artist among you, you could even illustrate it. Pick one person to be the scribe (or use a recorder and then transcribe the recordings), then start telling the stories of your lives, your triumphs, tragedies, romances, challenges, and creations. 


Just think, you could wind up with the concept for a great drama or sitcom series! You might discover a natural storyteller in the household who could become a blogger or a novelist or a stand-up comic when the crisis has passed.  You might learn something about the folks who live in your house, or the ones who lived in it before you.  You might even learn something about yourself. you might even, maybe, perhaps, start a new family tradition.


Give it a shot, after all, how much TV/video game screen time can you stand?



Evolve!

April 13, 2020

What we are experiencing right now, around the globe, is nothing less than an evolutionary leap.  The main difference between this leap  and all of the ones that preceded it is that we know what is happening this time.  Because we are aware of this evolution, we can take charge of it, we can make it conscious by choosing how to evolve.  We lost our tails because we didn't need them.  Our appendixes shriveled because they no longer served us. We shed our fur when it was no longer necessary. So, how do we want to evolve now?


I don't think we really need more hands or bigger brains. I think we have bodies that do their job pretty well on the whole.  What I want to grow is all in consciousness:  I want to become massively compassionate; I want to become stridently honest; I want to become completely trustworthy; I want to become unconditionally loving; I want to become devoid of prejudice; I want to release all fear; I want to adopt empathy and I want to eliminate violence.


Wait, let me restate that: I choose to become massively compassionate; I choose to become stridently honest; I choose to become completely trustworthy; I choose to become unconditionally loving; I choose to become devoid of prejudice; I choose to release all fear; I choose to adopt empathy and I choose to eliminate violence. Yes, that's more what I mean.


One more refinement, and I think it will be right: I am determined to become massively compassionate; I am determined to become stridently honest; I am determined to become completely trustworthy; I am determined to become unconditionally loving; I am determine to become devoid of prejudice; I am determine to release all fear; I am determined to adopt empathy and I am determined to eliminate violence.


Care to join me in this conscious evolution? We could eliminate, lack, hunger, war, and poverty! We can choose to grow through this event and come out the other side much, MUCH better than we were before.





Masks!

April 6, 2020

There is currently a video travelling around Facebook with a very cute young woman from the Czech Republic encouraging EVERYONE who leaves their home to wear a face mask. Her country is the only one (according to the video) to have been able to contain the spread of COVID 19, and they did it by ensuring that every single person has and wears a face mask.  This, like many things, got me to thinking.


While there is a severe shortage of personal safety equipment being announced in the US, there is also a plethora (isn't that a fun word?) of videos on Facebook and YouTube showing how to create your own masks. It's easy, it's creative, it's fun, and almost anyone can do it! All you need is cloth, needles, thread, scissors, and time.  I know we cannot run out for fabric, but I doubt very much that I am the only person who has old pajamas, pillow cases, and craft cloth laying around the sewing room, closets, and dressers of my house.  Make it a family project, recycle those old fabrics into new face masks - they are washable, and therefore reusable, they are easy to sanitize, and one or two sizes fit everyone in the household! Make a set for each family member - one for each day of the week (in fact, you could stretch it into a week-long project by just making one for each person every day this week).  


The bonus is that while the family is enjoying the creative challenge of making their own masks, you are also helping to make the world safer in this time of evolutionary change! I am making mine out of bandannas that my dog doesn't wear anymore. Don't think of them as masks, think of them as fashion accessories that protect you from viruses. Personalize the daylights out of them, then wear them with pride! You could even give them away as gifts to the Postal Person and the truck driver who delivers your Amazon orders.  You could mail some to a friend (they fit nicely inside a greeting card) or to your grandma. Send a box of them to the Police Department, the Fire Department, the Health Department - and don't forget your grocery store. 


This could be the new national pastime - saving lives!



Serenity

March 30, 2020

The current global situation has basically been met with one of two responses: PANIC!!! or Serenity. All I need say about PANIC!!! is that it is unhealthy and counterproductive - and produces a seriously skewed vision of life.

Serenity, on the other hand, as any dedicated 12-stepper will tell you, puts you in control of your experience.  Serenity is NOT rose-colored glasses. It is also not victimhood, blame, shame, fear, head-in-the-sand ignorance or (you guessed it) PANIC!!! What we have here and now is an opportunity to stop for a minute, take a breath, and look around.

What do we see? Well, those of us under Shelter in Place orders see our families, pets, and home. Unless we turn on the television, computer or smart phone, there's probably nothing scare in your immediate environment. Oddly enough, if you look out the window, the sky is probably clearer than it was a month ago, and you hear a lot more birdsong. Those are just two of the positive results of taking a pause from frenetic industry.  Maybe we could just take a step back, relax our PANIC!!! muscles and look for the blessin' in this lesson.

Since we are compelled to stay home, why not take advantage of this "staycation"? Here's an idea - I call it the Perk You UP project:

  1. make a list of people you care about who are alone or don't have access to the internet (maybe even no television)
  2. divide the list among your family members
  3. for each name, create a Perk You UP card or gift, using only materials already in your house. 
  4. clip them to your mailbox so the postal person can pick them up and get them delivered. 
  5. If you don't have access to stamps, choose one adult to make deliveries around the neighborhood (wearing face mask and gloves), using the "ring the doorbell, drop the card on the porch, and run away" method.
This is fun, entertaining, makes you and the people on the list smile, and gives everyone in the family a creative outlet.  You could even adapt it to member of the household - just put all the names in a hat, everybody choose one, then do something to perk up the person whose name you draw. 


An oar . . . or a lifesaver

March 23, 2020

There's an expression I used to use (a lot) that really fits the current global situation:


      "I feel like I'm treading water as fast as I can, and every time I break 

         surface, some bleeper in a rowboat hits me over the head with an oar!"


You can probably see the connection, right? But here's the thing - I don't use that expression any more.  It turns out the guy in the rowboat was trying to save my life. He knew that If I kept treading water so fast, I would get tired and drown. What I thought was an oar was really a lifesaver. It hit me because he couldn't reach me quickly, and he knew I needed to slow down - which I could do, once I let go of my panic and grabbed onto his lifesaver, so he had to throw it at me (his aim was a little off).  Then he was able to row over and fish me out of the water.


That is , of course, a metaphor. I don't swim where there are rowboats in the water. So how does this still apply to the "global pandemic"?  Well, the lake is the environment, the swimmer is humankind, and the  rower with the lifesaver? That's Mother Nature.  We have been disrespecting, disregarding, and just plain destroying our planet for a couple of centuries now.  We have been so busy treading water (inventing new ways to use up natural resources without replenishing them) that we really didn't notice the harm we were doing.  But Mother Nature (also one of God's creations/laws) stepped in to try to slow us down. She sent earthquakes, tsunamis, global warming.  We finally noticed.  A large number of people and nations realized we needed to do something to repair the damage, but . . . once again we were too busy running after more stuff, which meant building more factories, digging more mines, polluting more rivers, and burning a BBIIGG hole in the ozone, to really pay attention.


Instead, we created committees and commissions that spent endless hours arguing about what, where, when and how to fix the mess, and especially, who was going to foot the bill.  The result? More natural disasters than you could shake a stick at - and we still didn't step up to take responsibility for our destructive behavior.  What was left for Mother Nature to do but unleash something so small we couldn't see it and so deadly we couldn't survive it? Now people all over the world are "sheltering in place", staying at least six feet apart, staying off the roads and in their homes, trying to isolate and outlast this nasty little bug.  Pretty much what you'd expect, right? 


But wait, there's more! Two weeks of sheltering in place has cleared the air and water in Venice so much that the dolphins have returned to Italy.  The levels of smog and greenhouse gases are steadily decreasing.  People are actually using their telephones to TALK to each other.


The scientists are hard at work, and everyone I know is praying every hour on the hour for a vaccine.  It will be found.  This will pass. And when it does, we will realize that our self-isolation, our deceleration of industry and travel, have caused us to grow more compassionate, more gentle, more wise, more generous.  We, as a species, are evolving through this crisis and evolution is a one-way street, so we will continue to grow even after it passes. We will be better people, better nations, and a better world.


All we have to do is remember that PANIC, even though it starts with the same three letters as pandemic, is only one of our options. Peace, cooperation, and compassion offer us a different result.


Now, here's a safe hug you can share with anyone (including yourself - I recommend at least three times a day):


1.  Put your left hand on your right shoulder

2.  Put your right hand on your left shoulder

(notice that you have crossed your heart, including it in the hug)

3.  SQUEEEEEEEZE!


The Prism Proof

March 16, 2020

One of the most common metaphors for God is white light.  This appears in almost every spiritual tradition around the globe in one form or another.  Most people think of white as the absence of color, but it is actually (according to the science of optics) the combination of all colors. We can see this using a prism, which breaks a beam of light down into its constituent wavelengths. Each wavelength by itself produces a different color, and it is only the accumulated effect of ALL POSSIBLE WAVELENGTHS that will produce white light.  What that means in practical terms is that if one were to remove a single wavelength from the incoming beam, not only would the rainbow disappear, but so would the white light. In other words, if you want white light, every single wavelength is absolutely essential - none are optional.


Are you wondering where I am going with this? Well, I have been thinking a lot about diversity and inclusion.  This is a hot topic in sociological, ethical, and spiritual circles currently. In fact, before the global pandemic arose, I think it was probably in the top five topics under discussion in those groups and many others. I think this analogy of white light is highly applicable in this issue, since God/Spirit/First Cause created all of humanity (and everything else) out of Its own substance.  What else could It have used, since God/Spirit/First Cause was all alone before It created our universe, our world, and us?


How does it apply, you might ask? Well, I believe it proves that diversity (the rainbow) and inclusion (the white light) are not options, they are absolute, scientific, ethical, philosophical, and spiritual mandates! Here's the structure of my proof:


1. God is all there is, so God made all that is our of itself.

2. This means the universe and all it contains is the white light.

3. That means everything, every single person, place or thing, is essential to the

      existence of the universe.

4.  Therefore, no color, no ethnicity, no sexual orientation, no gender identity, 

      no age group, no spiritual path or physical capability is optional - if we 

      eliminate even one tiny little specimen, the universe collapses.


As they say in mathematics, Q.E.D.


IN LIKE A LION . . .​

March 9, 2020

March, it is said, comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. I am not sure about the lamb, yet, but the lion is definitely here! There are three dozen golden daffodils outside my kitchen window, and a ginormous forsythia bush bursting with buds by my front gate - certainly these qualify as harbingers of Spring - but just to make sure we have the idea, Mother Nature is treating us to gentle, steady rain. How is that a lion, you might ask? Well, it's her delivery system - wind that makes the trees dance above my house. I love watching the branches waving, in three directions at once, it seems, without breaking. I love watching the birds play tag with those dancing branches. I absolutely ADORE the smell of spring showers, even when they come before the April warmth starts creeping in, and the free car wash is appreciated, too.


It would be nice, however, if the weather could check my schedule before sending the blowing showers that sneak . . . no, they just barge right in . . . under my umbrella and inside my boots. I could have sworn I was walking - strolling, even, across to my office, but once the wind got hold of me and my umbrella, it was a sprint! Watching the rain in the trees through my window is delightful; impersonating them, not so much.


That said, in the Springtime, Spring is my favorite season - green is, after all, my favorite color. I can hardly wait to find birds' nests in the bushes by my front porch, and I have a 35-pound bag of bird seed waiting in the front closet of the retreat house. The temperatures remain above 40. The dreaded Daylight Savings Time has begun (and I have adjusted to the lost hour of sleep). The grass, the trees, the flowers are all sprouting green leaves and soaking up the showers - but the grass is not yet tall enough (or dry enough) to need mowing. How perfect is that?


Now, where's that lamb?

BLOGS


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Faith and Fear

September 7, 2018

These two words represent two of the most powerful concepts in spirituality - and they have many different meanings.  Most folks would say FAITH is a positive idea and FEAR a negative idea. I disagree. Both can be positive aspects of one's spiritual nature. FEAR can be a call for FAITH, and FAITH can always conquer fearful feelings.

Dictionary.com has nine definitions for faith; the one I like best is: belief not based on proof. The same site has 14 definitions for fear; the one I think is probably the most commonly accepted is:  anticipation of the possibility that something unpleasant will occur. According to psychologists, the interesting  relationship between these two ideas is that they cannot coexist in one person's consciousness - if I am in fear, I am not practicing faith and if I AM practicing faith, I cannot experience fear. That is, faith is positive and fear is negative - but I have already disagreed with this assessment!

So here is my mnemonic (memory trick) to keep them both positive:

FAITH: Forging Ahead In Trusting Heart-full-ness

FEAR: Faith Evoking Amazing Results

I hope you find this useful!

God SOUP

September 12, 2018

I have often thought about the mystery of grace - how can it be explained? How can it be understood? This concept is as old as spiritual seeking, and yet has never been fully apprehended.  Most traditions agree that grace is a gift from the Divine, one that cannot be earned, nor can it be denied.  Why not? Because it is the Presence of God in action and we all know there is no spot where God is not, so the Presence is inescapable; we don't need to ask for it because we are surrounded by it, suffused by it, created out of it.  The universe is full of God and each of us, though unique, is a part of the universe and therefore, full of God.  Here's my favorite analogy for grace: the universe is a giant, enormous, humongous vat of God SOUP (Souls Of Unlimited Potential), and we (the SOULS) are the veggies in the soup. Some of us are peas and carrots, potatoes and onions, celery and mushrooms, corn and beans ( I could go on and on, but you get the idea); what connects us all, blends our individual flavors into an amazing taste, a whole greater than the sum of its parts, is grace - grace is the broth in God SOUP!  The soup requires each of the veggies, and the broth provides and environment where each one can both express its uniqueness and contribute to the whole. All we have to do is recognize the Presence and soak it up!

Evolutionary Prayer

September 19, 2018

I love using Mala beads and mantras in my spiritual practice, and not long ago I noticed something interesting about the way I use them. When I have a challenge, physical, mental, emotional or spiritual, I sit in front of my prayer altar with the set of Mala beads I made at a student retreat during my ministerial training, and compose a mantra to change how I perceive the challenge.  The interesting thing is that my mantra seems to evolve as the way I perceive the challenge changes.  For instance, a few weeks ago  I was tempted to worry about the finances of One Heart.  I went almost immediately (I admit, I cried a little first) to my prayer altar and picked up my Mala beads. My mantra was, "I live in gratitude and faith, knowing God's perfect vision for my life is made manifest."  A couple of weeks later, it morphed into, "I live in gratitude and faith cooperating with God's perfect vision for my life and it manifests."  Finally, at the beginning of this week, it became, "I live in gratitude and faith co-creating God's perfect vision for my live as it manifests."


 The remarkable and comforting part for me is that this evolving mantra demonstrates my own evolving consciousness.  Why not give it a try? Choose a challenge in your life and create a prayer of recognition (my first mantra was actually just that, recognition of the challenge and of the possibility of solving it). Pray your affirmation multiple times each day until you are inspired to alter it a bit. A full set of Mala beads is 108, but I also have a Mala bracelet that is only 12 beads.  Either one, or just your fingers would work. When you have altered your affirmation, you will notice that it seems more active, as though you are becoming part of the solution ("cooperating" in my second mantra). Repeat this process until either the challenge is resolved, or your affirmation seems complete.


You might also choose to use all of the affirmations in a group.  I find this very powerful, too:

I live in gratitude and faith, knowing God's perfect vision for my life is made manifest.

I live in gratitude and faith, cooperating  with God's perfect vision for my life , and it manifests.

I live in gratitude and faith, co-creating God's perfect vision for my life as it manifests.


You may, of course, use these mantras, to get the hang of it, however, using your own words is usually the most effective way to pray.

Anything you can do . . .

September 26, 2018

As I sat in meditation this morning (always an adventure), I suddenly heard Ethel Merman singing in my head - "Anything you can do, I can do better. I can do anything better than you!"  My first response was to scold myself for letting my mind wander and tell it to settle down.  Then, left-brain wonderer that I am, I started to examine why that particular distraction had occurred. I mean, I never heard a Broadway musical in my mind during meditation before, why now? Was this one of Spirit's clever wake-up calls?


So I decided to look at it for a bit and then I imagined myself, singing the same song, in front of a mirror. Looking and listening, I slowly realized that the me doing the singing, the one looking into the mirror, was ego-based, but the one on the other side of the looking glass was my real Self. In just a moment or two, the mirror began to reflect not just the image, but also the music. I was in a musical duel with mySelf! At least, that's what it looked like. At first. But... the mirror Self was winning, not by out-singing the ego-self, but rather by transforming her.  Faith, sometimes known as self-confidence, plus inner truth and authenticity revealed the power of a spiritual being to choose to release ego-training and embrace the power of innate divinity, instead of denying it. 


Look at it this way:  what can ego do that Spirit cannot do better? Anything? Even a tiny thing?  I haven't found it, but looking reminded me of the definition of surrender given to me by my first Religious Science Practitioner,  Judy Whitcomb:  surrender is moving over to (or choosing) the winning side. To me, this affirms that transformation of ego-motivation to Self-motivation, which is very frequently referred to as "surrendering the ego", really IS winning. 


You might consider spending some time looking for the lion in your own mirror, like the kitten in the photo above, you might find more than you expect!

 

A bump in the road?

October 3, 2018

A musician friend of mine, named Greg Tamblyn,  wrote a very funny song about writer's block.  The gist of it was that by continuing to look at a situation, and observing our emotional reactions to it, we can transform any challenge into a road to success, in other words, into a blessing.  This is not a new idea, in fact, I cannot imagine anyone reading this blog who has not heard it before, if not said it before.  


However, not being new does not equal not being valid, wise, useful or true.  When you come to a bump in the road, there are choices available: stop, turn around, take a break, grumble, go around it, climb over it, or if the bump is really big, dig a tunnel through it. I don't know about anybody else, but I have found myself spending a lot more time in the "grumble" stage than was actually needed for any of the successful options. Why do you suppose that is? I have come to the conclusion that grumbling was my way of looking at the bump from every possible angle, weighing the various options, and choosing the "best" one for me. That led me to examine my grumbling more closely. It seems to have stages:  stage 1 was genuine *[email protected]%>-.~~ whining;stage 2 was accepting that the bump was there and I needed to get past it; stage 3 was where things got interesting, because that's where I stopped seeing a bump and started seeing a puzzle; stage 4 was where the real transformation began - I stopped seeing a puzzle and started seeing an opportunity. 


At that point, there was not even a whiff of grumble left, my professorial pride was engaged in finding the quickest/smoothest/most elegant solution and co-creativity was engaged. Like my comical friend, I found humor in reflecting on the stages and discovered that it is actually possible, by shifting my perspective ever so slightly, to skip stages 1 -3 and dive right into stage 4!


So here's my invitation to you: next time you encounter a bump, take another look at it (you might have to squint just a little) and see if you can find the opportunity inside the bump!

Gratitude - a list, a prayer, a blessing

October 10, 2018

This blog was accidentally deleted.

"Please wait ..."

October 17, 2018

"Please wait ..." This is just about the most dreaded expression in our culture, whether it appears on the screen or we hear it on the phone - nobody wants to wait. Why do you suppose that is?


I was a natural-born multitasker, at least before my husband's unexpected passing. I could literally knit a sweater and read a book at the same time. I looked at a waiting period as a challenge - what can I do to fill up this time? It was amazing what I could accomplish in the doctor's waiting room - read a chapter, knit a sleeve, etc. I was soooo proud of my productivity!


Then came a major bump in the road - the business person half of my partnership was suddenly gone, and there were things that needed doing that I did not know how to do. Tears didn't help, whining didn't help, screaming at the heavens didn't help. I prayed a lot and the whining and screaming abated. However, there were still things that needed doing before One Heart could move forward, and they were outside my skill set. I found professionals who could help me, but they had their own schedules - and nowhere near my sense of urgency! So I had to wait.


I couldn't knit right away, because my left hand was still recovering from thumb joint replacement surgery. There was nothing on television. I could only sit and read for so long before my back got sore. So I walked around the property. And around and around. Sometimes I took the dogs and sometimes I went "alone".


One day when I was walking solo, I started talking to God. I asked what I was supposed to do with all this "externally imposed" wait time. I admit, I whined a bit. But finally I just listened, and I heard the most amazing sentence: WAITING IS NOT DOING NOTHING!


Holy cow - the answer was just wait, breathe, rest, be. Wow. Who'd a thunk it?

So I took a deep breath, sat down, and breathed in the quiet of 12 acres with nobody on it but me, two dogs, and a cat (and assorted rabbits, squirrels, deer, and an armadillo). After a little while, I realized that waiting really ISN'T doing nothing and that just breathing and being is a very nice meditation, a gift we can give ourselves any time a few minutes present themselves to us.


I no longer growl at the words, "Please wait..." I don't celebrate, but I don't frown. When I get better at it, I will probably say, "Thank you." It's a goal.

"NOT my job . . ."

October 24, 2018

Have you ever noticed that sometimes life crosses your boundaries? Not by inches, but by just barging across as if they weren't there? And always at the worst possible time and by surprise?


Boundaries are there for a reason! Self-protection, wisdom, and common sense all argue for strong, valid, and (sorry, but it's true) flexible boundaries. The problem is that we, as human beings, tend to outgrow our own, self-defined boundaries. Even worse, we don't always notice, and we don't usually get to pick the time, either.  We just find ourselves suddenly up against the wire, forced to stretch, mend, re-define the line.


An example might help:  when my husband and I met, it quickly became "our" vision to open a retreat center. He had over 40 years experience managing hotels and restaurants, so he was a natural for the "business" side, and I was up to my ears in training for the "Spirit" side. 


Suddenly, after we sold everything and moved to Arkansas, he was diagnosed with a serious illness, and in four weeks it was all different. I was no longer a "Spirit" person with a "business" person for a partner. Overnight, I became "the" person. Grieving was eased by lots of work to be done. I had an 18-month schedule of classes and retreats in no time. Got the website up, Facebook page ready, flyers prepared.  I was chugging right along.


Then that boundary issue popped up - who's going to do the marketing, bookkeeping, grant search? That was sooooo not my job.  I wasted a good week whining about how unfair it was, how unprepared I was, how (here's the biggie) "unfair" it was . . .


Then, I realized that, without any intention on my part, the boundaries had been rearranged. I guess a better way to say it is that my boundaries had stretched out to include new territory that I had not selected. . . NOT MY JOB!!! That last whine was a doozy, but then I started to look at the issues that were facing me and realized I had taken a lot of it in stride. I didn't even think about the bills, the flyers, the spreadsheets, the website - they were familiar territory, so they didn't scare me. Holy cow, I allowed all of those boundaries to expand gently and smoothly, because they DIDN'T scare me.


Once I saw that it wasn't really a boundary issue, I was able to look at that big, scary grant search and see it as a puzzle to be solved, or if you prefer, an elephant to be eaten, and I know how to do that! I LOVE puzzles, and elephants are probably tasty, if you cook them right.


It turns out that "NOT my job . . ." is sometimes just a way to signal the need to expand the boundaries, and that can often be accomplished by recognizing what you know and how to apply it to the "job", that is, by changing how you look at it.


Is there anything on your plate today that fits this description? Maybe you could save yourself the agony of a long, drawn-out whine by squinting a little as you look at the elephant - perhaps a shift in perspective could turn it into a cow? Steaks, anyone?

Fighting Fire With Fire

October 31, 2018

Last week an event occurred in Pennsylvania that literally rocked the nation.  As I sat alone in "two hours from anywhere, Arkansas" trying to come to grips with the shock, I realized that most of America was trying to fight fire with fire.  Everything broadcast over the media was saturated with incendiary language: the crime was "heinous", "horrible", "unthinkable", and "HATE-FULL".  Every quote I heard was couched in this language - EXCEPT the words of the Rabbi of Tree of Life Temple, who spoke very quietly and firmly said, "We will rebuild. We will not let hate conquer us."


I understand the very human reaction of shock and anger - I felt it, too.  It really bothered me to see that many people felt the best way to address the anger was to feed it. So, I decided to explore my own reaction. . . wait a minute, that's the problem, reaction is not the same thing as response. There is plenty of emotion in reaction, but not much thought at all.  Response, on the other hand, recognizes the emotion, honors its honesty, and works to correct the cause to produce a more affirmative emotion.


So how do we convert reaction into response? There is only one way - we must change the way we perceive the situation.  Luckily, there are lots of tools to help us do that. My go-to tool is called reframing. Just as a new frame can change the way we see an old painting, changing the way we approach a situation can change the way we feel about it.  For me, words are very powerful tools, so that's what I use to reframe a situation.  Instead of fighting fire with fire, I try to cool it down by changing my adjectives.  "Horrible" becomes "unexpected", "heinous" becomes "difficult to understand", "unthinkable" becomes "saddening" and "HATE-FULL" becomes "ignorant" (which is NOT a synonym for "stupid")


Softening my language usually calms my fear and frustration, which can lead to positive action by converting "How can we get even?" or "How can we punish the perpetrator?" to "How can we help?" When I reach this point, I may not have found the forgiveness in my heart yet, but I have unclenched my fists, and folded my hands.  From there, it's only a short step to prayer, which leads to peace, which leads to forgiveness. This is not a solution to crime of any kind, but it is a technique that could help us find clear heads and then maybe a solution.


I know these are not new thoughts, Jesus, Buddha, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi all said the same thing. Perhaps it's time to start taking the advice we were all given as children and "Think before we speak", even to ourselves.


Marking time . . .

November 7, 2018

Did you ever feel like you were just marking time, not making any progress, not accomplishing anything? Happens to me every year when the leaves start to drop, the ground gets mushy and then really hard, and the WIND becomes radical.  It seems like the world slows down around me and I can't get anything done, mostly because I try not to slow down with it.


This year it snuck up on me - I happened to see something that had been on the "to do" list for a while because I kept re-prioritizing it, but I realized I couldn't push it back any more. Its time had come.  Being a person who sometimes indulges in introspection as a delaying tactic, I started to wonder why I had been resisting the task.  I couldn't find any reason other than I just didn't want to do it. 


Oddly enough, when I finally sat down to begin, I realized that I hadn't been resisting at all, I had been waiting until I was ready.  I don't mean emotionally ready, I mean ready as in prepared to succeed.  I wasn't stalling, I wasn't stewing, I wasn't avoiding, I was steeping, strengthening, developing the necessary skill and attitude. Wow! I had been acting like a tree in late autumn or even winter.  Turns out, it wasn't the task's time that had come, it was my time; I was ready.  Maybe marking time is not avoidance, but rather making a careful approach.  Maybe marking time is really allowing time for the optimum outcome?


By the way, there is another meaning for the term. In music, marking time means establishing the beat, the rhythm, the flow . . .

My Left Foot

November 14, 2018

I believe this is a universal experience, something everyone feels at least once:  I'm standing on one foot, surrounded by dense fog, struggling for balance, frightened, lost, alone, tears running down my face and desperate to know, "Where do I put my left foot now?!?"  The answer is, "Forward and down."  The amazing thing is not how simple the answer is, but that I have finally surrendered enough to ask for it.


I don't know why it is, but at least half of the people I have ever known, myself definitely included, seem to operate under the ridiculous Idea that we have to do it, whatever "it" is, on our own.  We believe, in a fiercely deep way, that each of us is alone, disconnected, and totally responsible for solving every crisis.  The goofiest part, to my mind, is that even when we finally reach a place where there is not even one idea left in our mind, even when we give up and scream for help, we don't realize that we are calling out to God, Spirit, Infinite Mind.  


I know we don't realize it, because, if we did, we would know that no screaming is necessary - because we are ALWAYS right in the middle of the source of the help we seek, and it is always right in the middle of us.  Our sense of aloneness, what my son called "being alonely", is not the result of our having been abandoned - it's the result of our having abandoned our Self. It in coming to recognize this truth that we begin to release the illusion of control and accept our unbreakable connection to all that is - not just to the Divine, as immanent presence, but to the One transcendent life from which all life proceeds.  This is when we start to understand that there is not a you, a me, a him, a her, a them, and a God. This place of feeling utterly abandoned is where we find the truth of infinite connection.


There is a parable about three little old ladies who were arguing about the nature of enlightenment. Since they could not come to a consensus, they consulted the wisest person they knew, who happened to be a silversmith. He showed them the furnace he used to melt silver, which had a little window in the top. He said, "Enlightenment is not gained, it is what remains when all illusion is released. Just like this silver, God's light is revealed when all impurities are burned away." They asked how they could know that had happened and he told them that they could not know, that only God would know. That really puzzled them, so they persisted in questioning him, and the silversmith explained, "God is like a silversmith watching the window in the furnace; He knows the silver is ready when He can see His own face reflected in it."


For my money, that dense fog we create be convincing ourselves we are alone is the furnace, our surrender is the moment when we realize there is no place where we end and God begins, and THAT is when we see the face of the divine, seeing us as we see Oneness. Did I mention that as soon as we ask the question, the fog lifts?

Thanksgiving (What else?)