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Rev. Sharri's blog


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An ongoing series of inspirational musings

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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?

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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?) 

November 21, 2018

I have heard it said that old is when you open your mouth and your mother talks. I'm not old, I'm never going to be old, but what I am about to say reminds me an awful lot of my mother! When I was a little girl, half a century ago, every business in town would pay its  employees overtime to come in at 8:00 pm on Thanksgiving night to decorate the office/bank/store for Christmas.  There were no Christmas sales or ads before Thanksgiving, and only accountants used the term, "Black Friday". 


The reason behind this remarkable practice was that Thanksgiving, the only original American holiday (though the Canadians did follow suit), was more than just the first day of a four-day weekend. It was a time when families, three or four generations at least, came together to share food, memories, news, and gratitude.  Many families started their feast with a trip around the table(s) when each person would say what s/he was grateful for that year. In fact, one of the most famous Norman Rockwell (there's my mom again) paintings was of a multi-generational family sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner.


Then, after dinner, we'd all sit down to watch Miracle of 34th Street or It's a Wonderful LIfe. I miss that sense of universal enoughness - it didn't matter what the "feast" was - hot dogs, turkey, fried rice - it was a feast, and it was a shared feast. The whole weekend was full of enough; enough food, enough help in the kitchen, enough cousins to play football in the yard, enough room at the table.  Imagine what the world would be like if we could borrow a bit from Scrooge and keep the Thanksgiving Spirit alive all year long. The enoughness might just lap over boundaries and oceans and wear down the walls of war, hunger, and separation.


Sometimes, my mother was right. . .


THE Question

November 28, 2018

I think 999 out of every 1,000 American adults will ask a child the same question, not because they really want to know the answer, but because they can't think of anything else to say.  The question? "What do you want to be when you grow up?"


Now that I have begun to grow up, although I refuse to grow old, I believe we are asking the wrong question.  With the significantly extended life expectancy of human beings, I think we should be asking, "What do you want to be while you grow up?" or even, "What's the first thing you want to be while you grow up?" instead.  I'll be 69 in just a few weeks, and I am still growing up.  Many of my contemporaries and colleagues are on their second or third working career, and if we consider parenting, we could say third or fourth career. I worked my way through high school as a waitress in diners and cafes.  When I grew up, I wanted to be a doctor, an Ob/Gyn. Then I got married, had a baby, got divorced, repeated the process, and went to college. I was not yet grown up, but I didn't realize it yet.  I no longer focused on "when I grow up", just on making it through the next semester. I helped to establish the U.M.K.C. Student Learning Center, as I earned a B.S. in Mathematics  (minor in Physics) and tried to figure out what to do with that degree.  Eventually, I went to graduate school so that I could teach college. I thought I had it all figured out, but after 12 years of teaching computer science and math, I got THE CALL. I spent ten years saying, 'Don't be silly, why would God want me to be a minister?!?" before I realized God really did.  Then I spent another seven or eight years stalling until I found the Science of Mind and Spirit teaching. Lo and behold, there was a Sharri-shaped hole in the ministerial school, and it moved right into ministry with me!


What's my point, you may ask? We are all always growing up, physically we eventually stop growing, but intellectually and spiritually, the sky's the limit! It's never too late to start something new, it's never too late to become something more, and anything we can conceive, we can achieve. We should stop asking children what they want to be when, or even while they grow up, and start asking ourselves, "What do I want to grow into today?" EVERY MORNING!

Fair to middlin'

December 5, 2018

What is "fair to middlin'"? Actually, it's a grade of cotton, but in the current context, it's a phrase used in many southern states, and learned by me in Texas.  For years, a couple of decades, in fact, I used this phrase to respond to the frequent question, "How are you?"  One day, about 25 years ago, I realized that it had become my truth - my life WAS fair to middlin'. Every time I greeted someone, I re-established the boundaries of my existence, and the box I built was not, not, NOT big enough!


I decided to experiment to test this "box" theory, so for six months, I answered every "How are you?" with "Excellent!" I began to have a new self-awareness of daily blessings - things I had just taken for granted and basically ignored. As I started celebrating this new awareness, I altered my response to "Wonder-full!", though I think most folks just heard, "Wonderful!" The next thing I knew, I had written a textbook (something I had SWORN Academia would never force me to do) and it was being adopted in the computer industry for in-house training programs. Of course, I decided to up my game again and my response became, "Too wonder-full for words!" I stuck with that one for 15 years, until I met my late husband, Kirk.  When I asked in greeting how he was, he replied, "If I was any better, I'd be twins!" It won't surprise you to know that has been my response ever since.


So what's the point of this cute story? Things we say repeatedly become part of our thought processes, and thoughts are powerful things! New Thought teachers all agree that our thoughts create our experience, and our minds are sponges without filters, so it behooves us to consider what we feed them.  How many times has someone asked how you were only to hear, "I'm here," or "I'm okay,"?  We are heading into one of the most stressful seasons, thanks in large part to our massive media exposure. So what are you going to do about it? Start with something small, simple and easy: change your greeting phrase. Folks in my neck of the woods often say, "Blessed" or "Grateful".  If that's too heavy, why not just start the day by asking yourself what blessings are in store for you this day? Setting the expectation, might just alter your outlook and your response might shift itself. Give it a try - what have you got to lose?

 

Emergency Kit

December 12, 2018

What exactly is an emergency kit? Most folks have two or three of them: one in the trunk of the car, one in the garage, one near the sink, and one in the bathroom. It's the set of tools that will allow you to meet any "emergency", any unexpected breakdown or injury.


Today I am interested in a different kind of emergency, an internal loss or gap or breakdown. This is the kind of emergency that makes some folks shake their fists at the sky and rant, or curl into a ball and cry, or drop to their knees and beg.  It could happen to anyone for any of a multitude of triggers: job loss, death of a loved one, an unexpected bill, and unanticipated task for which the skill seems to be missing, etc. 


I've never known anyone who couldn't identify with this kind of emergency, but you can't go to the local shopping mall and buy the kit to get you through it.  There's no toolbox in the hardware department for fixing broken hearts or wounded egos, or stark terror in the face of the unknown, at any price. That's the "bad" news.


Here's the good news: you don't have to buy it because it's free! You don't have to pack it or carry it because, like the challenges this kit addresses, it's an internal thing.  I suspect anyone who is reading this is familiar with the terms affirmation and mantra. Believe it or not, if you find the one that speaks to your soul (because it is your soul speaking truth to you) you need never be trapped in an internal, emotional, or spiritual breakdown again!


I found mine in meditation one day - it just flowed into my consciousness while I was busy trying to still my mind. I recognized it instantly as the absolute bedrock truth of my consciousness. It's just two short affirmations that absolutely changed my inner life - which is automatically reflected in my outer life.


You are welcome to try them out, and if they resonate with you, consider them my gift. If not, don't stop looking until you have created your own emergency kit. Here they are:


Wherever I am God is.

Whatever God is I am.

 

The Titanium Rule

December 19, 2018

I heard a wonderful this past Sunday that really explains the Titanium Rule and how it came to be. The talk was about spiritual conviction, that sense of knowing the truth of something completely.  The interesting thing to me was that what differentiates conviction from belief is that you can believe a thing and never do a thing about it, but when you have a conviction of a thing you MUST act on that conviction. Here's the real kicker - when you act on the conviction, the conviction grows.  That means spiritual conviction is the force behind conscious evolution!


Now to get to the Titanium Rule, we have to back up a bit and explore a couple of its predecessors, the Golden Rule and the Platinum Rule.  I would guess that just about every person in the Western Hemisphere knows the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  A couple of decades ago, a business psychologist developed the Platinum Rule to be used as an effect management technique: do unto others as they would have you do. It turns out this rule is very useful in a relationship, too.  Later, when I was beginning to manifest One Heart Retreat Center, I developed the Titanium Rule, which is also quite useful in relationships: do unto others as LOVE would do.  


To illustrate the relationship between these three rules and between them and spiritual conviction, an example might be useful.  Suppose you meet and fall in love with another person. Each of you feels the love and a conviction of love between the two of you grows in each of your hearts. Because you have a conviction of love for the other person, you might decide to determine your actions in that relationship by using the Golden Rule, always asking yourself, "What would I most love to have done to/for/with me?" The result is positive, and your conviction of love grows stronger, and you begin to shift your behavior in the relationship to following the Platinum Rule, always asking yourself, "What would s/he most love to have done to/for/with her/him?"

Again the result is positive, and even more so. Naturally your conviction of love grows even more, and again your behavior shifts, this time to the Titanium Rule. You ask only "What would LOVE do now?" and know that the response will always be perfect!


The bonus? As your conviction evolves, so does your consciousness, and your life will never be the same.

Break down your BHAG!

December 27, 2018

After Christmas, as we begin to disassemble the holiday decor, clean up the wrapping paper and boxes, and prepare for the New Year's festivities, many of us also start to examine the past year and decide what we are ready to change. This results in a list of "resolutions" for the new year, but I choose to redefine "resolution" as intention.  Resolutions, most commonly "lose weight", "exercise more", and "get out of debt", are usually abandoned after only a few weeks (or days in some cases), because they are BHAGs, Big Hairy Audacious Goals, which the average person has no idea how to accomplish.  That doesn't mean they can't be accomplished - they just need to be re-defined in less overwhelming terms. 


 For instance, if my resolution were to eat an entire elephant (okay, let's settle for an entire cow), your initial response might be that it's impossible. However, if I redefined my BHAG(about 100 lbs) to be eating 8 ounces of beef , four times each week, I would finish the cow a week before Christmas!  ALERT: this is only an example, and NOT one I or your physician would actually recommend!


The point of this goofy example is that we get to choose how we perceive and define our challenges, our goals, and our successes.  If we redefine "get more exercise" as "walk to work twice a week" or "lose weight" as "limit fast food meals to twice a month", we have broken our BHAG down into manageable, I might even say easy to handle dimensions!


Of course, nothing is as simple or easy (not synonyms) as it sounds.  What makes redefining or re-framing our resolutions into intentions work is that an intention, by definition, requires commitment and determination. Like prayers, intentions need to have feet put on them to work. One way to put feet on your intention is to have an accountability partner who helps you to stay on track by sharing the journey.  Another way is to put a "prize" just beyond the finish line - if the intention is to lose weight, the prize could be a new swimsuit, purchased with the money you didn't spend on fast food; if the intention is to get more exercise, the prize could be a weekend getaway to just loaf. And just in case you are wondering, a BHAG like "learn to meditate" becomes its own prize when you re-frame it as "spend 30 minutes thinking about Spirit 4 days a week".


Happy New Year - and may all your intentions be fulfilled!



Be a tree!

January 3, 2019

Have you ever heard yourself say, or even think, "I am too old for that,"? Well that is simply NOT true.  As a society, we tend to think of "seniors" or retirees as finished with growth, or at least limited to growing old!  I beg to differ.


When I was a sophomore in high school, more than five decades ago, a short, round nun teaching a biology class said something that changed my life, my consciousness, and my future, even though she didn't know it. To this day I believe she did it on purpose, even though I also believe there was no one in the class besides me who actually got what she was saying.  She said that trees are unique because every other living thing on Earth would eventually die of old age, but trees never do. Trees, Sister Ann Margaret said, only die when some outside force caused them to STOP GROWING.  I decided right then and there, that I was going to be a tree!


How, you might wonder, does a person become a tree? It's easier, harder, more work and more fun than you might think.  All it requires is that you refuse to stop learning. That is, you decide that a day on which you learned nothing new was wasted.  You find ways to encounter people who don't think like you do, don't have the same background or education, or work ethic, or even - wait for it - the same opinions that you do. Then you talk to them and, most importantly, listen to them. Every single person on the planet knows something nobody else knows!


Sometimes you learn from social media, or from television or movies, or novels, or newspapers, but you can always find something new to learn. I have actually developed a hobby from this philosophical approach to life: I collect facts and concepts that nobody ever needed to know. For instance, did you know that "okay", which is sometimes spelled "ok", originated in the American Revolutionary war? When the French were smuggling guns to the Americans in Louisiana, the contact person would get off the boat, amble into town, meet his American contact, and say, "Au Quai," which means, "To the dock."  This was the signal that the coast was clear and the men could unload the weapons from the boat!


There is one other, non-trivial benefit to this practice of being a tree:  you tend to age more slowly and grow wiser and more interesting, sort of like a good wine. Don't waste even one day of this new year - go out an be a tree!

Seeds

January 10, 2019

Last week I suggested we should be like trees, a goal I have pursued for over half a century.  Why so long? Because most trees do not spring full-born from the forehead of Zeus, or anyone else for that matter!  Trees start out as seeds, just like change starts out as a seed thought.


Although I am fairly certain none of us would turn our back on a genie offering free wishes, that is not how we usually get things done. We have to start in mind, with an idea of something we want to have, do, or be.  Occasionally, that is where we get stumped. "What do I really want?" can be a very difficult question to answer, primarily because we don't think in words, we think in pictures, and to complicate the situation even more, none of the pictures is isolated - they are all connected! This is a good thing when you are taking an exam, but a real pain when you are trying to clarify your goals or desires.  Since all of our mind pictures are connected, trying to focus on a single idea often results in a chain of "but then"s or "what if"s. For example, if the single goal is achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, the "but then"s could be "no more ice cream" and "I'd have to join a gym" and "none of my clothes will fit"; and the "what if"s could be "I don't have the will-power" or "my friends don't support me".  We have extremely creative minds - we can picture ANYTHING - and we have very clever egos that know how to distract us until we give up - especially if they want ice cream.  So, how do you avoid, or better yet, eliminate the distractions? I like to use visualizations.


When the mind is busy exploring its creativity in a visualization, it doesn't have the time to be distracted. So I create a success movie in my mind (sometimes referred to as a daydream or directed imagery).  I get to be the writer, director, producer and star of this movie, so I get really connected to its plot. First, I decide what success would look like - in the case of healthy weight, I design the look I really want to achieve (no surgery allowed, so some realism is required), then I create the steps that lead to success ( a sensible diet, fun exercise, positive affirmations, measurable goals), then I am ready to write the movie - I might choose to use time-lapse images to show steady progress, then see myself shopping for beautiful new clothes that look better on me than they do on the hanger, whatever success really looks like to me. 


The lovely thing about visualization is that your mind can't tell the difference between an image you created and an event you remember, so it will connect with your emotional body and you will experience the actual feelings of success. Once you are satisfied with your visualization, you might also want to create a vision board, using images from magazines that look like the pictures in your movie. The final step is to act out the movie in your life - write the positive affirmations and post them around your home and office so you will see them every day; talk to your physician or a professional dietitian to develop an appropriate eating plan and time line; set up a schedule for measuring your progress; and don't forget to plan that shopping trip!


This technique is like planting seeds in a garden - you don't just throw them on the ground. You plant them in carefully spaced rows, water and feed them, check regularly for weeds (thoughts that don't serve your intention) and yank them out.  Then, over time, you pick the beautiful flowers and veggies and celebrate your success.  I am happy to say that I have used this practice for everything from college and graduate school exams to job interviews, finding and building my retreat center, and, yes, reaching my healthy weight goal. 


The bonus, for me, is that every time I use visualization and affirmations, it gets easier - easier to do and easier to believe, in the process, and in myself.  


What seeds have you been waiting to plant? What kind of tree do you want to grow up to be?

Multi-tasking or BEING

January 17, 2019

When I was a child, the biggest challenge for parents was finding their kids in the neighborhood - they sent us out to play, and then opened the door and yelled our names at dinner time. When my children were still at home, the challenge was television - I couldn't get them to go outside and play. Today the challenge is called "screen addiction", and the screen in question is either a cell phone, a tablet, or a laptop.  What I find most of concern here is that this addiction is not just something that kids outgrow, it affects an enormous percentage of adults, too.


I recently saw a commercial in which two teenagers and their parents  sat together in their living room, each staring at, and texting on, a cell phone.  They were having a conversation! It seems the digital age has raised to the level of an art the human frailty of doing without being. It's called multi-tasking. The idea is to accomplish as many things as possible at one time. The concept is faulty, since it is only possible to do one thing at a time.


No matter how hard we try, no human can speak two words at the same time or hear two words at the same time.  Unfortunately, our current technology gives us the illusion that we can, as illustrated in the photo above, but at some point, confusion sets in.  Productivity is not all it's cracked up to be, though. In our new digital age, ulcers, anxiety, depression, and isolation are all on the rise - I know a 14-year old who has ulcers - plural!


When we attempt to do several things at once, we always fail, because we have to keep shifting our attention from one task to the other, and it's awfully easy to get lost in the shuffle. What is the solution? It  is a very simple, ancient practice called presence. When you focus all of your attention on a single activity, work or play, it is always easier and less stressful to complete. Focusing all of your attention on a single activity, even when the activity is resting in the silence, is how you practice presence, it is the key to peace of mind, serenity, and grace - being present is BEING in the midst of doing, no matter what you are doing.  Being does not burn energy, cause fatigue, or waste time. In fact, presence is the surest remedy to stress - they are mutually exclusive.  


We become anxious when we try to avoid stress, confrontation, conflict, or fear.  When we allow ourselves to be fully present in a situation, being takes over and stress is calmed, confrontation becomes communication, conflict becomes interaction, and fear dissolves into faith.  So, would you rather frantically multi-task, or focus on BEING? This is always your choice!


DROP. THE. ROCK!

January 24, 2019

Did you know that every human being is born with an invisible appendage? Yup, each of us discovers, at about the same time we begin to walk and talk, that we have an invisible gunny sack hanging from our shoulder.  Its purpose is to hold all of the things we can't release. You know, like old pain, grudges, dislikes, bumps, bruises, ego-burns, and resentments.  


This appears to be a part of the human condition.  I think it is the reason so many people seem to walk with a stoop. Over the years, the load can become overwhelming! It was suggested to me once that I might benefit from examining the bag.  Turned out there were some old, crusty, mud-covered lumps that were really ugly, but had no meaning for me - those were easy to throw away.  My sack got lighter.  Another review was in order, and this time, I found some really polished, shiny, gorgeous rocks - but when I examined them, they had a truly rotten core.  These were leftovers from old relationships that no longer even had a place in my consciousness or my heart. I found myself giving them one more rub, and then out they went! 

It seems like every time I meet a bump in life's road, I have been in the habit of digging up the cause, dusting it off, and stowing it in that blinkin' sack. Now I make it a practice, every so often to empty the sack and take a look.  Some of the rocks make me smile for a moment and realize that the bump had turned into the foundation of something worthwhile - those rocks seemed to just fade to dust and float away.  Some of them embarrass me - those rocks really need to be considered as food for growth, not so much rocks as seeds, and seeds don't weigh much at all. Some of the rocks bring me to my knees  - those rocks become polished gems on my prayer altar.  Some of the rocks turn  out to be turning points, so I make them into signs and plant them where they can be seen. 


Some of us have a sentimental attachment to our old, ugly rocks. Perhaps feeling angry or abused is better than not feeling anything at all? But do you really want to walk with a stoop for the rest of your life? That results in seeing only the ground in front of you, which can be boring at best, and dangerous at worst.  Give it a shot, you can keep any of them you like, even find a use for some of them.  Take the sack off your shoulder and dump it out so you can see the whole collection.  Find the gems and polish them, find the seeds and plant them, find signs and follow them. But, trust me on this, when you find just ugly, drop the rock.  If you drop it and then pick it up and drop it and then pick it up, etc., you need to hold it firmly in your hand, cock your arm back as far as possible an throw that rock-hard memory/pain/resentment as far as you can throw. 


I repeat, DROP. THE. ROCK!

Listen . . .

January 31, 2019

In my younger years, my prayers started like any other conversation, "Listen, God . . ." I wasn't actually asking for anything, except to be heard. A long time later, when I was working on my undergraduate degree, I worked at the Student Learning Center, teaching study skills, note-taking, exam prep, and affective training (exam stress reduction techniques).  Once again, I found myself starting conversations with that same request, "Listen, ..." and I actually studied the difference between hearing and listening.  Hearing is what happens when sound waves hit the ear drum, causing it to vibrate. Listening is what happens when you consciously engage the brain to interpret those vibrations, to give them meaning.


Active listening, it seems to me, is the greatest gift you can give or receive.  The little girl in the photo at the left is fully focused on what she is hearing - and look at how the little boy is smiling!  We are bombarded by sound in today's society, silence is almost impossible to find, and for many people, downright frightening. The problem is that all of that sound becomes a backdrop to our lives, "white noise".  We have to choose where to place our attention in order to actually listen, to convert noise into information, to give it meaning.  That was important, so I will say it again: to give it meaning.


Whether we realize it or not, most of us spend our lives looking for meaning. Unfortunately, we expect other people, books, movies, social media to provide the meaning. For my money, that's like asking someone who has never seen you to provide your wardrobe - the result could be astonishingly inappropriate!  The good news is that we have the ability (not to mention the responsibility) to assign meaning ourselves, to anything, any situation, any thought, any event. All we have to do is LISTEN, pay attention, and then decide what meaning we choose to give it. 


Of course, as simple as this is, it is not always easy. We have so many inputs, coming from every direction, and not always presenting information accurately, that we have to really focus on finding the truth in order to assign meaning. Those lucky ones among us were taught early to listen, by being listened to themselves. Listening isn't just a way to acquire information, it is a way to acquire self-esteem, wisdom, friendship, and respect. Why? Because we tend to listen to people who listen themselves.  We are drawn to those who pay attention to little things and to big things. Then we emulate what attracts us, and voila! we are listening, too.

Thunder and Lightning

February 7, 2019

We had a real tooth-rattler of a thunderstorm last night. This is significant because one of my dogs is a thunder-phobe, and not a quiet one. Since I have always  talked to him like he could understand me (Charlie Brown and Snoopy cartoons not withstanding), I spent a significant amount of time trying to explain that it was only noise and could not hurt us.


Did you ever stop in mid-rant and suddenly hear what you were saying? I think it is a valid distinction, so I will repeat it: thunder is only noise and cannot hurt us.  Furthermore, thunder is only noise that gives notice that a significant and powerful event is over, finished, competed, done. What's the event, you might ask? LIGHTNING! Unlike thunder, lightning is silent, powerful and deadly - it's electricity, for heaven's sake! It is also majestic and beautiful.  


I do have a point - humans, especially U.S. humans, tend to pay a lot more attention to the thunder than to the lightning.  I don't mean just in a stormy night sky, either.  We tend to give our time and attention to the "squeaky wheel", whether it's in nature, in politics, in business, or in our personal relationships. This was demonstrated to me once by a newspaper salesman who came to my home to  encourage me to purchase a subscription.  I told him he could sign me up right then and there on one  condition: that he could guarantee me I would see one, just one, item of good (that is to say, positive) news above the fold on the front page every day.   It took him a while to comprehend my request, and when he did, he was aghast! (I don't think I've ever used that word before, but it's the only one that fits.)  He assured me that would NEVER happen. I asked why he was still standing at my door.


Try for just a moment to imagine what life would be like if we actively looked for lightning - powerful, moving, beautiful people,places, and things - instead of settling for the thunder that tells us we missed the lightning.  Gives you a whole new perspective on storms, no?

Spiritual Duct Tape​

February 14, 2019

There's an old adage that says if you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day, but if you teach him to fish, he will eat for a lifetime. I think the exact same principle applies to spiritual issues:  If you pray for a person's benefit, that benefit often arrives, but if you teach that person how to pray for him/herself, the prayer becomes direct, and its effectiveness is magnified. Likewise if you take a problem into meditation for another person, that person often feels relief, but if you teach that person to meditate, the relief is instantly available.


 I think of meditation as my spiritual duct tape - I can use it to make temporary, semi-permanent, and even permanent repairs to my life.  This is remarkable because for over 30 years I sincerely believed it was impossible for me to meditate.  Clearly, that was untrue, but my misconception was neither rare nor surprising.  You see, I thought there was only one way to meditate: sit in the lotus position, close your eyes, and clear your mind, that is, STOP THINKING.  Turns out about one person in a thousand (on a good day) can actually stop thinking for more than a nanosecond. So, you might wonder, how am I able to meditate now? I have discovered that just like the duct tape in the photo above, meditation comes in a variety of styles and sizes.  Some are silent, still, and focused. Some involve movement, and are therefore called kinetic meditation modalities. Some involve sound, dance, or other activities. What they all have in common is MINDFULNESS.


Mindfulness is pretty much the opposite of "still your mind". It is the mental activity of focusing your attention on a single point, concept or object.  This is the real key to meditation.  The idea is that using the mind like a laser, not blanking it out, but focusing completely, causes all distraction to simply fall away.  The bonus is that you get to choose the focus! It could be a candle, or a mental image of a candle, a line of poetry or scripture, a musical refrain, or a flower.  The more closely you focus your mind on that object, the more your mental "field of vision" narrows and the distractions of physical sensation or mental concern simply dissolve.


One of my favorite meditations is mowing the lawn. There are very few trees to be avoided, so I can start at the outer edge and just keep moving forward as I spiral in to the center of the yard (nice analogy, huh?). My mind is just focused on the grass in front of me and I feel a sense of rightness - like "all's right with the world" rightness - I am in the present moment, present to the Presence of Spirit, and inspiration is the most natural thing in the world.  This is what led me to my enchantment with labyrinths, which are popping up all over the country as if they were a new idea.


I also love to draw/color mandalas, which are usually circular prayers that can have symbolic meaning, or just be pretty, but when I work on one, time does not just get suspended, it disappears - that's what I call focus!  Another favorite is chanting, with or without mala beads. This one can be done sitting still, rocking in a rocker, or walking - indoors or outside.


Sometimes I think I should call mindfulness "one-mindedness", which is another pun, since meditation, which uses mindfulness to reach a state of spiritual awareness, is the same thing as tapping into the One Mind and just hanging out for a while.  


So, what color is your duct tape?



Adult-eration

February 21, 2019

I have long believed that  human beings are born perfect, fully present to the Oneness of Being, and then parents, family, society invade that presence and confuse the situation something fierce!  Babies are just love with skin on it; they have no fear, no judgement, no regrets, not even likes or dislikes.  They just ARE.


Psychologists say newborns do not realize that the world is a place that is separate from their bodies. That's why it is so much fun to watch them discover their fingers and toes.  We love them a lot, so we want to protect them.  Before we can teach them how to be safe in the world, though, we have to teach them to be afraid of it.  We have to teach them about loss. We have to teach them about unhappiness.  We have to teach them about limits.  


We do all of this because we love them and we want to prevent them from pain.  Sometimes it really makes sense, like staying away from a hot stove or a busy street.  That's the sort of thing we teach them on purpose. The trouble is, we also teach them things unintentionally, and some of those things they could really do well without - such as our prejudices, our regrets, our resentments, and our fears.  We are always teaching (unless we are asleep), and children are always learning (perhaps even when they are asleep), and this is the part of the maturation process that I call adult-eration.


With the best of intentions, and with no intention at all, we wrap the perfectly present child in a fog of our own, and society's, past pains (regret) and dreaded future possibilities (fear).  By the time a child reaches adolescence, s/he has lost all sense of presence in the present. It has been replaced by borrowed regrets and fears, but the child doesn't know they are borrowed and not only takes ownership of them, but also responsibility for them.  This keeps psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists and counselors  in business.  Their job, once the person begins to question the circumstances of life, is to help us excavate from the adult-erated self the perfectly present magnificent manifestation of a unique and wonderful idea in the One Mind that has always been there under the layers of fear and regret. 


One of the things on my bucket list it to live long enough to see humanity evolve past adult-eration of its children into a world where Present is the only tense that matters, and presence is the state of every person of any age in any situation.

Getting Grounded

February 28, 2019

"Getting grounded" is one of those expressions that really need context. If you are in an airport, you definitely do NOT want to get grounded!  If you are a teenager, you definitely don NOT want to get grounded. On the other hand, if you are feeling frazzled, getting grounded could really help. 

Have you ever been so frustrated, or so lost, or so totally ticked that you just can't see straight?  Has it happened to you more than once?  Is it part of your "normal"? Wouldn't you like to quit that?!?

As a society, we "average" Americans tend to be very much not present most of the time. We call this multitasking and pretend it is a valuable skill. NOT!  We often try to accomplish some task while thinking about a) the next task, and b) the fight we had this morning, and c) what's for lunch, etc.  The result is that the task takes more time, because not thinking about what you are doing produces mistakes that must be corrected. The next task is late, we are even angrier about the fight, and we have to skip lunch!  In addition, we feel  frustrated, overwhelmed and rushed. 


When we are fully focused, we make fewer mistakes and there is an easy flow to our actions.  As a result, we are happier and more content.  So, how do we get fully focused? We get grounded.


Getting grounded, from a psychological perspective, means being so focused on the current moment that you are unaware of anything else. It means being fully present.  I see being grounded as a spiritual practice with physical effects.  A guru might advise you to get out in nature, away from people and machines and technology. Sit on the ground (hence the term, grounded), feel the vibration of the earth and air around you. RELAX. Pretty soon, you will notice that both your heartbeat and your breathing have slowed and you can actually listen to your pulse. You will probably also notice that you are smiling.


But what if you don't have the time or the availability to get away in nature? You can still get grounded, no matter where you are or who is around you.  If you close your eyes and open your imagination, you can envision that quiet place where you are alone, safe, and comfortable. As you envision being there, you will notice the same slowing of breath and pulse, the same surrounding quiet, and even the same smile.


The wonderful thing about this grounding is that it only takes a few seconds and anyone can do it.  Think how much better your workday would flow if you got grounded as the first task of the day.  Think how much more you might accomplish by focusing on one thing at a time - starting with your own inner consciousness. 

Escape​

March 7, 2019

I suspect every living human being is sometimes in need of escape - from work, family, community, even from pets.  You know the escape I mean:  standing with your feet apart and your arms wide open with a circle around you at least six feet in diameter that has nobody inside it but you.  Sometimes you even need to escape from the committee in your own mind.


For me, for 65+ years, escape has been what I find between the covers of a book. I love a good spy novel, or a sci-fi fantasy with dragons and fairies, or the autobiography of a a role model or favorite celebrity.  I must admit, though, that I can become equally engrossed in a book on some spiritual topic by Ernest Holmes, or Joel Goldsmith, or Marianne Williamson, or the Dalai Lama (I can't put his books down) or any of the dozens of other classical and modern mystics, and I read cookbooks like other people read catalogs.


I am a bibliomaniac (sort of like a bibliophile on steroids), and when I find myself contemplating the possibility of lack, I look and my books and remember how richly abundant this universe is. When my children were small, there was always a Christmas closet in my bedroom, where gifts purchased at various sales throughout the year (who could afford to do all of their shopping in December?) were hidden away until the Sunday after Thanksgiving, when the Christmas tree went up and the Christmas cartoon specials began.  The first thing in the closet every year was a book for one or the other of my kids, followed near the end of summer by a hand-knit gift I had made for each of them.  If there had been nothing else under the tree, they would have been satisfied, and if there had been dozens of other gifts, but not those two from me, they would have been devastated.


The greatest gift anyone can give a child is a love of reading - it guarantees their ability to escape whenever it becomes necessary, it improves their performance in school, it widens their horizons, without their realizing it, reading develops a love of learning, a thirst for knowledge, and  curiosity about the wider world. Like Captain Picard, I love turning the pages of a physical book, and so do my kids and grandkids (thanks to me), but with today's technology, we can give our children (and ourselves) a huge portable library at very little cost.  I actually have a tablet that I carry when I travel and it contains two libraries - one with Nook books and one with Amazon books. 


Did I mention boredom? When I am bored I can escape into an adventure. Frazzled nerves? Escape into a book of poetry or meditation.  Worried (not I, but some folks do)? Escape into a book by the Dalai Lama.  Wondering about something you heard at work or in the gym? Look it up - there are online libraries that don't cost anything. Trying to connect with your kids, read aloud together.   Can't sleep?  Fix a cup of cocoa and open a romance - sweet dreams guaranteed.  Looking for a gift? Give them an escape!

Yeah-but​

March 14, 2019

I keep waiting for this word to make onto the OED's (Oxford English Dictionary's) list of new words.  It's been around forever, and I don't know anyone who doesn't use it:

  • I can't figure out how to . . .
  • Have your considered . . .?
  • Yeah-but . . .

Why would I want to see the OED accept this totally useless excuse for a word? Because then it would quickly fall out of fashion! This is the biggest stall in the English/American language! It can be followed by a plethora of excuses, though none of them are usually valid. Sooner or later, every yeah-but gets knocked down, leaving the speaker holding the bag. The bag holds the issue that needs resolution - it might be "I asked you to clean your room/the kitchen/the garage," or "I need to have the checkbook balanced," or "No TV until your homework is done," or "Isn't it time to take a God break and meditate?" Now the bag has to be emptied and the issue addressed


The worst problem with yeah-butting is that we do it to ourselves unconsciously.  I can't be the only person who has a Saturday morning argument with herself over what to do first: the laundry, cleaning the bathroom, walking the dogs, or finishing a novel (reading, not writing).  I know it all needs doing, and I am the only available doer, but the teeny-bopper in me just wants to goof off. Most of the time, the adult in me, who is running out of clean underwear, wins the debate.


Imagine removing the concept of yeah-but, of stalling, of delaying tactics from your psychological make-up. Go a little further and imagine replacing it with energetic optimism, or enthusiasm, or curiosity.  The new you would get a lot more done, and have fun doing it - or at least have a new experience doing it.  What if you took all of the energy currently invested in yeah-buts and put it into looking for the benefits of the thing being delayed? Or into finding a better way to accomplish the thing being delayed? Or into finding a way to enjoy the thing being delayed?  I look at doing the laundry as a perfect time to sit at the kitchen table with a) a deck of cards, b) a novel, c) a tablet and a pencil, plus a nice cup of tea while I wait for the rinse cycle to begin or the dryer to buzz, for instance.

The best part of losing the yeah-but is that you end up feeling happier and more satisfied with yourself, your day, and even your world. You might even start a new trend!



 A chain saw, a bowling ball, and a raw egg . . .