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Rev. Sharri's blog


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An ongoing series of inspirational musings

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 Oh, no!

November 29, 2021

I am a creature of patterns – not necessarily habits, but definitely patterns. This was brought home to me this past Saturday morning in my prayer room. When I noticed the date on my Science of Mind Daily Guide, I realized that I should have received my December issue, but it was not in its accustomed spot! I grumbled for a minute, then looked up the customer service number (which I called, even though I knew they are closed on the weekends), and then settled down to wait for this morning to request a replacement copy. Then I started to giggle. You see, the accustomed spot for the upcoming issue of Science of Mind is on the top shelf of a bookcase loaded down with devotional and daily reading books. I am always using 8 or 9 of them, but there are a couple of dozen of them, so how much trouble could it be to find a temporary replacement for one? I was just rattled because my pattern had been disturbed.


This being the holiday season, I was reminded of my Grandma DeVoy’s cookie -baking marathons. Grandma would make a list of cookies and then line up the ingredients and dive in. I loved helping because I got to wear one of her fancy aprons and test every batch! Grandma was the queen of improvisation – if we ran out of pecans, she would substitute walnuts, if we ran out of walnuts, she would substitute coconut. We never baked the same cookies two years in a row, but they were ALWAYS great. Years later, with my own children and grandchildren, I tried to replicate some of those variations on a theme – with unpredictable results. Oddly enough, the cookies and the devotional readings had this in common – the variations were never a disappointment; each one became a treasured enhancement. Another commonality was that there was always a favorite in the variations that became a classic in itself.


I know it’s easy to fall into a routine during the hectic holidays, so here’s my invitation, my holiday gift to you: relax, improvise, smile, and have fun – everything else with take care of itself.

Thanksgiving

November 22, 2021

                                                           Take

                                                           Heart

                                                           As

                                                           Nature                                                            

                                                           Keeps

                                                           Showing

                                                           God’s

                                                           Infinite               

                                                           Variety

                                                          Issuing

                                                           Never-ending

                                                          Grace

I have long believed this to be the most important and deepest reaching holiday we have. Meister Eckhart said, “If the only prayer you ever say is, ‘Thank you,’ it will have been enough.” Why do you suppose that is? I believe it’s because giving thanks opens the door to continuous circulation of infinite good. I suspect that’s why in some languages (Japanese and ASL, for instance), “Thank you” and “You’re welcome” are the same words – they open the same doors in our hearts. Take a deep breath and then read slowly through the acronym above – can you imagine anything that feels better than that? Me, neither!

The Upward Spiral

November 8, 2021

A popular metaphor for evolution in New Thought is the upward spiral. It makes so many ideas easier to understand:

  •  When we keep running into the same challenge, we can see that we are not in the same place as last time – and neither is the challenge. We have grown and are now perceiving the challenge from a higher perspective. As we continue up the spiral, we outgrow the challenge and release it.
  • When we feel ‘stuck’, we can see that the slope may have leveled out for a while, but we are still making upward progress.
  • When a challenge seems overwhelming, we can recognize that we might be just a bit too close to the issue to see all of its aspects, and we can choose to keep moving up and out until it becomes clear.
  • When we need to gain perspective on our own growth, we can look in and down and see every bit of progress we have made (especially the small increments of change that are so difficult to notice as they occur).
  • When we feel the need for rest, we can just allow ourselves to take a breather, acknowledging that the spiral isn’t going anywhere without us and we get to choose our own pace.

I doubt that any of this is news, but I did have a bit of an “AHA!” moment about this upward spiral recently that really changed my perspective. I have always pictured the spiral shaped like a Christmas tree – wide at the bottom and narrowing as it rose, with me trudging up the steep outer trail– but as I sat in meditation a few days ago, I realized I had it upside down and inside out. The spiral of my conscious, spiritual evolution starts in my own heart as a tiny spot of awareness and rises up around me, expanding as it goes, expanding as I grow. It never narrows or ends. It is as infinite as Spirit because it is my connection, my bridge of Oneness with the Divine. I can’t fall off or slide back because it cradles me in unconditional Love and guides me with infinite Wisdom. How cool is that?

Goodbye. Hello. Oh, my!

November 1, 2021

One week ago, my dearest friend, mentor, colleague and sister of my soul, made her transition. I was blessed to be able to spend time with her during her last few days on Earth. When I received the message of her passing, I was very sad for myself, for her husband, for her congregation (she was a Unity minister). At the exact same time, I was thrilled and excited – and just a tad envious – for her, because she is now completely absorbed in and by God. Her body is no longer here, but SHE is everywhere at once; she knows everything there is to know and feels the imagination of God creating as it happens! She said, “Goodbye,” to this physical existence and “Hello,” to perfect Oneness, experienced and expressed, which I am absolutely certain resulted in “Oh, my!”


I share this because it has been a blessing to me to see her transition from this perspective – there are still tears, yes, and they are tears of sadness and loss, but they are accompanied by tears of joy and celebration for her freedom, her infinite divinity, and her constant Presence. I am so grateful for the gift of her presence in my life and for the continuation of that presence now!

Enough

October 18, 2021

Enough - it seems to me we generally miss the tremendous power and value of this word. There are three common uses in our culture: time to stop (ENOUGH!), satisfaction of a perceived need, and accomplishment of a requirement. These are both common and pretty much unconscious.


The first one is self-evident and requires no explanation from me. Satisfaction of a perceived need, though, that one is open to a lot of interpretation. Did you get enough – sleep, dinner, affection, money? Not only does this use of enough vary from person to person and culture to culture, but it varies from instance to instance for each individual person. Enough is a very personal concept – enough sleep might mean the minimum required to function; enough dinner might mean anything from “no longer starving” to “stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey”; enough affection depends on the source of the affection, the moment in time, and the emotional state of the individual; enough money – that one depends entirely on the context - and these variations are for one individual person. To complicate the issue, what is enough at one time might not be enough at another time, even if all other conditions are the same. The closest analogy I can give is the idea of “a pinch” in cooking, sometimes it’s 1/8 of a teaspoon, and sometime it’s three grains, depending on the dish, the cook, and the day.


Accomplishment of a requirement is also very flexible. In fact, it’s even more flexible, because at least two people are involved in determining whether or not enough has been accomplished – the assigner and the doer. Each of them might have a different idea of what’s enough. Sometimes it’s determined by an agreed-upon contract, in which case, it’s easy to determine. Sometimes it’s determined by a casual suggestion, which is not as clear, but also not as critical. The tough one is when the assigner and the doer are the same person. In that case the human mind has to contend with the inner or higher self to determine when the effort has been satisfactorily completed – enough done. This can be complicated by the fact that the effort being measured might not be a one-time thing; it could be ongoing (like expanding spiritual awareness) or repetitive (like forgiving your brother-in-law). Enough is flexible, powerful, and open to interpretation from both directions.


Enough said?

The 18-inch Journey

October 11, 2021

I have noticed that when someone asks for guidance or moral/spiritual support, the almost universal response to whatever is offered is, “yes, I know . . .” in a sort of “What else do you have?” tone of voice. This seems to happen whether I am the asker or the answerer, and I don’t doubt its veracity for a moment, since there really are a finite number of ways to share the Truth. Most of us, as we grow into adulthood, pick up some spiritual wisdom and some common sense. We store it in our mental files for easy reference, and pull it out when a question is asked of us. The answers usually have some validity and sound familiar (hence the “I know” response), but somehow, they just don’t seem to satisfy the yearning for comfort, solace, or healing.


Long before I started Ministerial school, I had this experience for myself, and I asked one more question: if I already know that, and I recognize it as Truth, why doesn’t it help? A very wise minister gave me a clear, concise, and challenging answer: because you have to move the knowing from your head (intellect) to your heart (conscious awareness), and that 18-inch journey is fraught with resistance, ego, and fear. We can “wrap our head around” almost any external fact because it IS external. Spiritual growth, on the other hand, involves emotional connection with the facts in question. We have to personally interact with the event or person and engage our higher consciousness to allow the growth or healing to occur. For me, this has often felt like I was dragging my ego, kicking and screaming, into the Presence of Love.


Of course, I didn’t realize it was Love – it looked a lot more like loss or sacrifice or (oh my!) change. The moment I realized that I was trying to open a gift (awakening) without untying the ribbon (ego), it got a lot easier – well, simpler is probably more accurate – to let go of the illusion of control and let God be God in the situation. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean the pain vanishes, but it does become manageable, and the light does start to show around the edges. That’s the good news. The interesting news is that this is not a one-time journey. We have to keep making it in order to keep releasing limitations and expanding our spiritual awareness. This is where the old song lyric comes back to me every time: it’s got to be the going, not the getting there that’s good. Yup, the joy is in the journey and it is always worth it.

Priming the pump . . .

October 4, 2021

There is a lot of emphasis on manifesting our desires in both commercial and spiritual circles today. The methods vary greatly: commercial manifestation is based on hard work, connections, and luck while spiritual manifestation is based on internal work, connection and vision. I don’t much care about commercial manifestation, but I believe we are all engaged in spiritual manifestation – whether we realize it or not – all of the time. Manifestation, after all is the principal activity of the Universe, and as expressions of Divine Mind, we are tools of that manifestation.


What we appear to lack is the understanding of how that manifestation happens. Here’s my take on it: when we perceive a lack in our lives (always an illusion), we focus on the lack and it is intensified. Eventually we wake up and realize that we need to change our focus away from lack and towards manifestation. So far, so good. The next step is somewhat counter-intuitive – in order to shift the focus away from lack, we need to unblock the flow of manifestation and the best way to do that is to give whatever it is we think we lack. Yup, we have to prime the pump just like the pioneering farmers did. The good news is that this is definitely an inside job, that’s why I called it SPIRITUAL manifestation – first we connect with our innate divinity, then we establish the vision of what we desire – which is very rarely a physical object. When we turn inward to explore our perceived need, what we usually discover is that that car/piano/job/relationship is really just a symbol for a desired feeling. We don’t need a car/piano/job/relationship, we need the feeling that we believe having that car/piano/job/relationship would provide. So the internal work part of manifestation begins with identifying the feeling we desire. A car might represent the feeling of freedom of movement; a piano might represent a feeling of artistic creativity; a job might represent a feeling of productivity and abundance; a relationship might represent a feeling of love and affection. Once we have recognized the feeling behind the desire, the next step is to activate that feeling, which is where the giving comes into play. When we can allow that feeling to flow through our own consciousness, by giving it to another, the experience associated with that feeling flows through our lives.


So the basic technique is: if you desire love, be loving; if you desire presence, be present; if you desire abundance, share your abundance; if you desire freedom, acknowledge the freedom of others; if you desire compassion, be compassionate. In each case, be/give/know the desired feeling for yourself and for those you love and for those you need to love, and for all people, and for all life. The pump primed in this way, will not just flow, it will gush!

Donut Holes

September 20, 2021

The idea of donut holes has always tickled me. They are just so cute! However, there are all kinds of issues with this little blob of sweetness. First off, the thing itself started out as a throw-away. Secondly, it’s not the hole, it’s the dough that was removed to make the hole. Then there’s the dietary aspect: how could a hole, which is by definition, nothing, do you any harm? That perspective results in a person eating the equivalent of half a dozen donuts in a single sitting, one hole at a time! Portion control is completely non-existent.


Of course, this silliness is really just a metaphor for stinkin’ thinking. Most of us, myself for sure, have a box of donut holes tucked away in our minds. These are ideas and thoughts we have nibbled away at until only the center of the issue is still there, but we have never gotten around to finishing off that center. It might look like an unreleased resentment, an unforgiven grudge, an unacknowledged bias, or an unhealed hurt. Every now and again, we haul it out, take a taste, spend a little time considering how little value it has in our life, and then – this is the challenge – we just tuck it back away for future reference. Nobody believes it’s necessary to keep, but we somehow don’t work up the spiritual gumption to just let it go. Just as overdosing on donut holes can spoil your appetite for heathy and nourishing food, holding onto that hidden stinkin’ thinking can block your realization of the grace, peace, love, and compassion that are waiting on the other side of that release. 


 Let go of all those stale donut holes and bulk up on true nutrition – I guarantee the result will be a blessing that lasts longer than a sugar glaze! 

Tithing

September 13, 2021

This is not a popular subject – and I believe that’s because we have mis-defined the word TITHE. This concept appears in every faith tradition and every culture. The definition is usually pretty close, regardless of the language, culture, or tradition: give back to God in gratitude for the infinite blessings we receive. The problem with this definition, is two-fold: a) it makes tithing an obligation, in essence, it becomes the bill we pay to God; b) God does not need or require either our gratitude or our money!


I’ll bet that made you sit up and pay attention, didn’t it? I am not being flip or irreverent – I am just taking a New Thought look at this essential practice. We will address problem (b) first: we live in an infinitely abundant Universe, created by God out of God’s own substance, so it is not possible for God to need anything. Spirit is, after all, all there is! Spirit is also infinite and UNCONDITIONAL Love, so it requires nothing from us except to experience life in through and as each individual creation.


Now for problem (a): at the risk of redundancy, we live in an infinitely abundant Universe, so lack is always an illusion. Why is that important? It’s important because we ignore that abundance on a daily, hourly, minutely basis and focus on fear of lack instead. We (all human beings) know God’s giving nature is unlimited, and yet here we stand, under Niagara Falls, holding out a thimble! We experience lack because that’s what we anticipate, what we plan for, and what we believe.


I prefer to think of tithing as opening up the floodgates, priming the pump, allowing the Infinite Good to flow through me. In fact, I want it to flow in a torrent, and absolute white-water cataract of good that lifts me up and moves me forward, that supports me and brings me joy. Because I take this approach, tithing is my favorite part of payday – the first check(s) I write as I allow the Good to be distributed through my checking account and my life. I get a big kick out of deciding where each month’s tithe will go, who will experience the cataract of Good this month. Oddly enough, not only has tithing ceased to be an obligation, it has become a treasured privilege. In fact, it’s really FUN! 


 Jump in, the water’s fine and the ride’s a hoot!

TRUST

September 6, 2021

Most New Thought folks are familiar with the phrase, “treat and move your feet”, but sometimes the movement is really hard to pin down. There have been many times when I could pray with my whole heart, but had no idea at all what my “part of the bargain” might be. That’s where TRUST comes into play. TRUST is my acronym for:


                                                                        Tranquilly

                                                                        Rest

                                                                        Until

                                                                        Spirit

                                                                        Transforms


Are you wondering what on Earth that means? It means WAIT, without fidgeting, without fussing, and DEFINITELY without worrying. Once the situation is turned over to Spirit, my part of the bargain is to leave it in Spirit’s keeping, remember that God is NOT wearing my wristwatch, and remember that there is o problem too big (or too small, for that matter) for Spirit to resolve.


So far, I probably haven’t said anything you haven’t heard before – heck, I probably haven’t said anything I haven’t said before – so what’s my point? Well, it turns out that ego really cares about what other people think, and to lots of folks on the outside of a situation, exercising TRUST can look like being irresponsible, lazy, or disconnected from the facts. None of that is true, by the way. If we truly act from Faith, we cannot honestly worry. If we aren’t going to worry, and we are really listening, but not yet hearing guidance as to the next step to be taken, then what is there to do but TRUST? TRUST is the training wheels for Faith.


I have also noticed that it is MUCH easier to receive/perceive guidance from a quiet, trusting heart, than from the middle of the ego’s “HURRY UP!!!” tantrum. It is usually easier to accept and act on guidance from a place of calmness, too, because from that place, we can see the sense of it (God never does/advises anything that doesn’t make sense!).


This reminds me of that little poem by the ever-popular Anonymous,


“Broken Dreams”


As children bring their broken toys

With tears for us to mend,

I took my broken dreams to God

Because God is my friend.

But then instead of leaving God

In peace to work alone,

I hung around and tried to help

In ways that were my own.

At last, I snatched them back and cried,

“How can you be so slow?!?”

“My child,” God said, “what could I do –

You never did let go!”


What are you holding onto that you could turn over to God  with TRUST?

GRACE

August 30, 2021

I love this word! It is so versatile, so simple, so magical – AND it’s my favorite name for a baby girl. Grace is both a noun and a verb. Grace is universal – it appears in every language, every culture, and every faith tradition.


Grace as a noun means a blessing unearned and unexpected. It also means beauty of form and expression, like Princess Grace of Monaco, or Michelangelo’s Pieta, or a swan on a lake, or a gazelle on the run, or a ballet, or a soaring orchestral strain . It also means a prayer of gratitude, usually before meals.


Grace as a verb means to bless with one’s presence, influence, or patronage, with no expectation of return – and without inducement, simply for the sake of blessing. It means to act from love and with love without any motive at all. It means to endow joy, beauty, peace, and compassion for their own sake.


Most often, in spiritual circles, we hear/speak of the Grace of God or Spiritual Grace. The amazing and wonderful thing about this Grace is that it is constant. It is the atmosphere of the Universe. Divine Grace is the substance of which all creation is composed. It is the entirety of God’s vocabulary: a deep, resounding, forever, “YES!!!” The most important aspect of God’s Grace is that it is unearned, it is God’s “normal”. We don’t need to “deserve” grace, because it is like the electricity that runs through the walls of our homes – already and always there and ready, just waiting for us to flip the switch.


So why do we think we lack grace? Because we are ignoring (or perhaps ignorant of) it. We live inside our human minds, walled in by doubt, lack, fear, and the illusion of separation, but these are only human mental constructs. All we have to do is open up our hearts and our consciousness and Grace floods in. It only needs the smallest opening; no major transformation is required to allow Grace into your life. 


 Watch out, though, Grace almost always brings a major transformation along . . .

Anticipation

August 23, 2021

I have written before about my aversion to waiting, which is probably not unique to me. As I was drifting off to sleep last night, a phrase popped into my mind and I couldn’t get to sleep until I sat up, turned on the light, and wrote it down: Watchful Awareness Incubating Transformation. This gives “wait” a whole new meaning for me. In fact, it transforms (see what I did there?) waiting into anticipation.


This morning, sitting in the rocker in front of my prayer altar, I noticed the continuing ripening of the berries on the sumac trees in my Cardinal Park. The berries look like miniature grape clusters and they start out pale green, then slowly ripen to dark red, almost black. When they are fully ripe, I harvest all I can reach and freeze most of them – saving out just enough to make a batch of sumac tea. Sumac tea is loaded with antioxidants and vitamins, and it is both delicious and caffeine-free! It’s very tart, so I add stevia to reduce the pucker-power. That said, back to anticipation.


It takes about three months for the berries to ripen, but even though I see them every morning and notice the slow progression, I never get anxious or impatient with the process – I know the tea is worth the wait. This is the point I want to make – most of the things we have to wait for ARE worth the wait, yet we tap our toes, frown and fret, demanding immediate satisfaction. Since there is no way to alter the speed, why not transform our frustration into anticipation? How do we go about it? Well, according to my experience and the musicians, philosophers and chefs I have consulted, there are just three steps:


  •  Living in the question – that is, allowing the frustration to turn your attention

      inwards, maybe it’s trying to tell you something about a possible point of growth?


  •  Exploring the process – maybe there are things that need to be done, that are

      essential to the achievement of the goal. Making a really good cup of tea or batch 

      of perfect applesauce always requires time to steep or thicken.


  •  Appreciating the journey – as Harry Chapin noted, “It's got to be the going, not the

     getting there, that's good.” Consider all of the things we miss along the way when

     we allow ourselves to fall into tunnel-vision as we move towards a goal.


You might have noticed that all three of these say the same thing: God’s not wearing your wrist-watch, so just relax and enjoy the ride!

Kinetic Meditation - Knitting

August 17, 2021

I love to knit! I am very good at it, after 60+ years of practice. The only challenge is that it is very repetitive. You see, I knit on circular needles, so there are no seams in my garments. That means I mostly knit tubes of various sizes, and once the pattern (which determines the texture) is set, my hands pretty much go on auto-pilot.


You might wonder why that is a challenge? As most of you are aware, I think a lot – in fact, my mind just about never shuts up, so meditation was a tough nut for me to crack. Turns out, the same issue arises when I am knitting. This is not a problem when I have someone to talk with – my Bluetooth is really handy for this – or if there is something entertaining/engaging on television or a DVD. Knitting only uses a little bit of mind power once the pattern is set, and watching a movie or TV show similarly, uses only a tad bit of mental engagement, as a rule, so the combination creates a nice, gentle balance. So, what’s the challenge? There is very little on television in the regular season that I find entertaining – violence, gossip, “reality” shows, these all bore me to tears at best and bring out the inner judge at worst. What’s more, right now it’s rerun season and there’s not a blinking thing to watch!


The solution is in the title of this blog:  meditation. Once the pattern is set, I can just soften my gaze and let Spirit play in my mind. Sometimes, the result is an amazing sense of presence and balance; sometimes, it’s inspiration for a project or a class or a retreat; every now and again, it’s the experience of Oneness, when I realize that twining yarn around a couple of pointed sticks to create beautiful fabric is just a tiny example of the infinite creativity of the Divine, and I am part of it! Who knew?


I suspect almost any talent that reaches the level of skill has the potential to become a kinetic meditation, as do many hum-drum tasks of daily life. Imagine allowing yourself to wash the dishes or fold the laundry on auto-pilot – it would be like taking a mini-meditation in the middle of the day. Approached from this perspective, instead of “who has dish-duty tonight?” dinner might end with “who gets to pray at the sink tonight?” followed by a chorus of “Me! Me! Me!” Well, that might be stretching it just a bit, but you never know.


Do you suppose this is what is meant by “pray without ceasing”?

Perfect Timing

August 9, 2021

I used to remind myself on a regular basis that “God is NOT wearing my wristwatch!” This phrase became part of my life about 30 years ago, when in a moment of utter insanity, I asked God to teach me patience. It only took about one nanosecond for me to realize my error and try to withdraw the request – and God/Spirit/the Universe is still laughing.

This morning, one of my daily readings reminded me that time, and therefore both punctuality and tardiness, exist only in the mind of humankind. We invented it/them. There is no concept of time in the mind of God, because God exists only in the infinite and eternal NOW.


As I started to relax into that reading, I realized that, while I still claim only the ability to emulate patience with a reasonable degree of accuracy, I no longer tap my foot and frown as I await a desired event. I am choosing to call that progress! I also noticed that I no longer wear a watch at all (though I still have several in my jewelry chest). The idea of punctuality and its late brother, tardiness, has also been waning in my consciousness. I suspect this is, at least in part, due to my living in the South, where urgency is an alien concept altogether. This got me to reflecting on the energy and aggravation I could have conserved by simply realizing that EVERYTHING happens with perfect timing – at least at the spiritual level. When I noticed that the answer to “When?!?” is “When Spirit is good and ready!”, I was briefly miffed. Then I started to laugh – if I have learned nothing else from COVID, I have learned that waiting can be either dread or anticipation, and I’m with Carly Simon on that one!


Letting God determine the schedule takes a huge load off of my shoulders. This is especially true when I think about self-care – God never puts self-care at the bottom of the priority list, and I am soooo grateful. I have also noticed that from God’s perspective, self-care can be simple and effortless – maybe just a Sunday afternoon spent in the rocking chair watching old movies and knitting. No preparation required, no measuring effort, effect, or appropriateness, just being.


This reminds me of those old good news/bad news jokes – the “good” and “bad” are all in the eye of the beholder, and timing (did you ever notice this?) almost always determines which way an event is viewed. Since I believe life is an upward spiral of growth, I am claiming this new knowledge: all timing is perfect, especially when viewed in retrospect. Relax, take off your watch, and let God drive the bus – your arrival is guaranteed to be right on time!



S I L E N T ~> L I S T E N

August 2, 2021

S I  L  E  N  T         ~~~~~~~>            L  I  S  T  E  N

_  I  L  E  N  T        Seek                       _  _ S  _   _   _

_  _ L  E  N  T        Inner                      _  I  S  _   _   _

_  _  _  E  N T        Luminance          L  I  S  _   _   _

_   _  _  _ N T        Expressing           L  I  S  _  E   _

_  _  _  _  _  T       Never-ending      L  I  S  _  E  N

_  _  _  _  _  _       Truth                        L  I  S  T  E  N

T his transformation came to me while I was practicing a mindful breathing meditation. I realized that the only time I can really listen is when I am silent and then I can hear my own heartbeat. Somehow, when I am silent, especially if I also close my eyes, I seem to be able to easily release the illusion of separation – from Spirit, from other people, from wholeness, from peace. The simple process of breathing in for a count of five, holding (gently) for a count of five, breathing out for a count of five, and holding for a count of five, repeated for just ten or fifteen minutes is as calming and as refreshing as a good night’s sleep. Who knew?!? You can even do this for just a few iterations to prevent an outburst of “inappropriate” behavior or speech. I sincerely recommend this practice, as a meditation, as a stress release, or as a lullaby – it never fails me. Why not give it a try?



The GOD Hug

July 26, 2021

Three years ago, when my husband was in his final illness, my little sister came to visit. She brought toys for the pets and a very special gift for me. My gift was a hooded throw, with pockets and buttons. It was made of some amazingly soft material – that has retained its softness through years of washing and drying. It’s a cream color on the outside and ivory on the inside, but somehow it never really looks dirty. It lives on the rocking chair in front of my prayer altar. I call it my GOD hug, because for all this time, even at the very beginning of my widowhood, I have been able to wrap it around me and feel the presence of love. When I couldn’t stop crying, the GOD hug reminded me that I was not alone. When I looked out the window to the beauty of my little Cardinal Park, the GOD hug reminded me that beauty is part of every moment. When I sat in meditation, chanting “I’m sorry; please forgive me; I love you; thank you,” over and over, the GOD hug reminded me that I am always cradled in the arms of unconditional love, peace, and compassion.


Then COVID hit, and suddenly the whole world was as isolated and lonely as I was. I wrapped myself in my GOD hug, snuggled down, and remembered that, even when we cannot hug with our arms, we can always hug, and be hugged by, our hearts. So my invitation to each of you is that you give yourselves, and anyone you love (whether you know them or not) a big GOD hug – it doesn’t HAVE to be a physical garment, you can just use your heart. Don’t forget to include yourself!


I wonder if this is why we give hand-made blankets to newborns and newlyweds?


The Daisy Chain​

July 19, 2021

When I was a little girl, we made daisy chains to wear in our hair . Of course, they were really clover chains, but the same principle applies. Many years later, I learned that the concept of a daisy chain had become part of two major industries - information technology and medicine. 


In information technology, the daisy chain, a series of linked processors, became the predecessor of both the supercomputer  (a VERY large processor) and the multiprocessor (a collection of connected processors in one box) - and I thought I was clever making a chain of extension cords to get all of my Christmas lights lit! The same idea became the basis of smooth programming logic using subroutines and distributed processing which became "The Cloud"! Now an online daisy chain is called "going viral".


In medicine, the concept is used with transplant surgery.  Since rejection is such a critical issue, close family members are not always able to donate an organ, so some very conscious and compassionate person figured out the way to let everyone benefit from a daisy chain. Here's how it works: person A needs a kidney, but nobody in that family is a type match. Person B need a liver, but again, no familial match. Same for person C's liver and person D's lung. However, person A's cousin is a match for person B and person B's brother is a match for person C and person C's Dad is a match for person D, and person D's nephew is a match for person A! It requires coordination, organization, compassion and grace, but EVERYBODY wins.


I don't have any family or friends in need of a transplant, but I do have another application for the daisy chain. Suppose each of us expanded our idea of citizenship just a tad - say to include the entire planet. Then it wouldn't matter where that shirt was made, because purchasing it would still feed a one of your countryfolk. It wouldn't matter where the wheat was shipped, it would still be feeding your people. It wouldn't matter where the factory was, it would still be employing members of your nation. Now let's take it a step further and expand our definition of family just a tad - to include the entire human race. It no longer matters where anyone is born, they are all our family. It no longer matters where the children live, our family needs education. It no longer matters how far we have to send the food, the clothing, the doctors, the scientists, the teachers - we are all just taking care of our family.  


I have always taught my children and my grandchildren that blood makes relatives and love makes family - maybe it's time to expand the reach of that idea. Care to join the family?



Practicing what I preach . . .

July 12, 2021

Last Thursday my littlest dog, Penny, went missing.  I wasn't too concerned when she didn't come in at bedtime, since she occasionally like to sleep on the front porch, but when I woke up at 3 am and went to the door, she still wasn't there.  I went back to bed and tried to sleep, without success.  I prayed for her safe return and my faith in said safe return, but I was praying from fear and I knew it.  There's an old saying that if you are worrying, you aren't praying and if you are praying, you aren't worrying, but I felt like I was definitely doing both. My vivid imagination drew Cruella DeVille and her minions right to my gate! I kept reciting my mantra: she has a collar, with a giant rabies tag and a brass name tag - with her name and address and my name and phone number - how could anyone fail to call me when they found her?!?


I posted a plea on Facebook and all of the Arkansas lost and found pet sites. Then I worried and prayed and worried and prayed.  I just knew someone had picked her up and, recognizing how absolutely adorable she is, decided to ignore the tags and keep her.  I cried and ranted about the unkindness of strangers and thanked the dozens of folks who responded to my Facebook post with words of encouragement and prayers. After 24 hours, I was praying that Spirit would either send her back to me or grant me the strength to release her.  I was ticked at Spirit and at myself for being ticked at Spirit.  


Then some friends called on Saturday afternoon to say they were stopping by to look at a cabinet in my barn.  Shortly after they arrived, I got another call from them, asking if I had guests in the retreat house (I did) and whether they had brought a little dog with them (they hadn't).  It seems they heard barking coming from the retreat house garage.  When I asked them to open it, Penny dashed out! Somehow she had gotten into the garage and the door got lowered before she could get back out.  The garage is about 3 city blocks from my house and at least 2 from my admin building, so I never heard the barking.  We agreed that Spirit had sent them to the barn so they could rescue Penny.


So what did I learn? I learned that Divine Order is not a myth, that my neighbors do not include Cruella DeVille, and that even when my prayers feel like whining, they are still affecting my world. I also learned that absolutely nothing feels better than gratitude! Of course, I also realized that applying my own advice is often a whole lot harder than giving it - the effect of emotion and attachment to the desired outcome.


Probably the most practical thing I learned is that the next time I can't find Penny, I will head straight for the garage! 




Meditation Mythbusting

June 28, 2021

I spent 30 years trying to learn to meditate and believing I had failed miserably. I had grown up in the Catholic tradition, where rote prayer was the norm and no instruction at all was given in meditation - although we were encouraged to meditate. My mind was chock full of misinformation:

  • meditation means sitting absolutely still
  • meditation means absolute silence, inner and outer
  • meditation is the highest form of prayer, therefore not optional
  • meditation is simple, therefore easy
  • meditation is effortless
  • anyone who is spiritual can meditate instinctively
  • to meditate, one must first still one's mind


There was more, but you get the idea, and I suspect some of you are nodding your heads ruefully.  


The challenge for me​​ was the only statement above that appeared in every book or class I could find about meditation, the last one about "stilling" the mind. I mean, SERIOUSLY, who can do that in the blink of an eye? That's not a step, it's a process! Unfortunately, I couldn't find anyone who could explain that process to me.  I felt completely defeated and inadequate. 


Then I took a class on mandalas. Imagine my astonishment when the facilitator defined "mandala" as a kinetic meditation.  I thought that was an oxymoron! That was almost 20 years ago and it was an absolutely life-changing event.  I discovered that when I was creating a mandala, I didn't have to still my mind. What's more, when I was working on a mandala, time didn't stop - it ceased to exist. Thinking, especially puppy-mind thinking, requires time, so my mind simply stilled itself - while I wasn't looking.  Turns out, my body didn't need to be still, just focused, and the focus was near-as-makes-no-never-mind to automatic. I have created dozens of mandalas since then, for myself and as gifts for loved ones. One hangs beside my prayer altar and another on my office wall.


Next, I discovered a  ginormous mandala that had already been created called a labyrinth.  Once again I found myself amazed and delighted to realize I could walk the labyrinth in absolute peace and solitude, no matter how many other people were walking at the same time. The process of equally balanced left and right turns spiraling into a central point of silence and Presence was miraculous to me. This is still my most favorite form of meditation, and I will eventually have a 100' wide rose labyrinth , with a 4' wide path (for wheel-chair accessibility) and 11 circuits at my  retreat center.


I also found several wonderful CDs of guided meditations, which lead the listener into stillness gently and genuinely without effort. I especially enjoy the 21-day programs by Deepak Chopra and the great variety of offerings from Insight Timer, all of which are free! I think of guided meditations as a spiritual bus ride - all I have to do is sit there and be.


The capstone miracle of meditation for me was a book by Eknath Easwaran, in which he gave not one, but two different algorithms for stilling the mind in preparation for silent sitting meditation.  I am so grateful that I never gave up on this option, because sometimes it's too cold or rainy to walk a labyrinth (though I do have a couple of very nice finger labyrinths), and sometimes I really NEED to just sit still. Not only have I lost that  fear of failure, but I sometimes find myself actually experiencing the state of bliss all of the meditators in my past promised me.


My last note (the last myth to be busted) is that simple, which is true of all of these meditation practices, is NOT a synonym for easy, but once I stopped struggling with the angel, it did bless me and easy just came naturally. If you have found meditation daunting, I promise you that one or more of these busted myths with fit and bless you, too.  



Universal Communication

June 21, 2021

I am learning ASL, American Sign Language, and it has made me think about languages in general. Almost any thought can be translated from one language to any other language, although idioms sometimes bring a challenge.  I have studied Latin, French, and Japanese in the past and I discovered that EVERY language adopts words or phrases from other languages when the concept to be conveyed is alien to the adopting language. For example, in English we might say, "Just a scosh" instead of "Just a tiny bit" or "Je ne sais quoi" instead of "I can't explain it" or "in loco parentis" instead of "parental authority".  Each of these examples has a parallel in the donor language, though I suspect few of us think of these things as foreign terms. 


There is one language, however, that can express ANY concept from ANY other language without words - and it is not ASL, it is music.  I think the challenge in translating concepts from language to language is that people think not in words, but in pictures, and there is no way to convey the desired picture reliably. Music, on the other hand is a language of emotion, and emotions, though they are described in a multitude of ways in different languages, are universal.  


There really is no picture for LOVE, but every heart can feel it in Pachelbel's Canon. There is no picture for loyalty, yet every heart feels it in a national anthem - any national anthem.  Music is independent of geography or instruments or culture, although each of these can identify a style of music.  The magic of music is that, no matter who wrote it or played it or heard it, the emotion is clear and pure and unmistakable. I think that's why one of the oldest forms of music, world-wide, is spiritual music. I also think dance is body music, and that is why when we pray with words, we pray once; and when we pray with music, we pray twice; and when we pray with dance, we pray three times - with our whole body.


Circling back to the beginning of this blog, I am learning ASL because it is a beautiful artform, like music and dance. It allows us to communicate and pray with our whole selves - body, mind, and spirit!

​​


Armadillo Soup

June 14, 2021

My daughter will be 47 in ten days, so this is an old story. When she was ten years old, she went to the Brown's School in San Marcos, TX. We lived in Louisburg, KS at the time, and every six weeks, the whole family had to drive down to San Marcos for family counseling.  We amused ourselves on the drive by counting the armadillos we saw on I35. We reached double digits more than a few times. So when she brought me a brightly wrapped package of Armadillo Soup Mix for Christmas, we all had a good laugh.  When I opened the package and read the recipe/instructions, we laughed even more:


Ingredients -

 1.  This package of beans (17 bean mix)
 2.  One ham hock (substitute 1 tsp liquid smoke + 1 tsp minced garlic for vegetarian

        version)

 3.  One bunch green onions

 4.  One large (or 2 small) carrot

 5.  One celery heart

 6.  One bay leaf

 7.  One armadillo


Directions:  

Rinse beans and soak overnight. In the morning, drain beans, retaining 2 cups of water. Put beans and retained water in crock pot with ham hock and bay leaf. Cook 3 hours or until beans are just tender. While cooking, thinly slice vegetables. Let the armadillo watch - work fascinates him. When beans are tender, remove bay leaf and add vegetables. Cook 30 more minutes then serve with homemade bread and butter.  If the armadillo is still there, give him a bowl, he loves the stuff!


This became such a favorite that I have kept 17 bean mix on hand ever since. The soup, with or without the ham, is delicious, and the memory of that long-ago Christmas is guaranteed to bring a smile to my face and my heart, every time I make or eat this dish. There are lots of these "heart-dish" recipes in most homes, even those where there were never children and those, like mine, where only one person is left in the house.  Some of them, like armadillo soup, involve food. Some of them are simply memories of special, sacred events from the past. The blessing is that they don't have to be from the distant past, or even from your own past. They can be scenes from favorite movies or books or even somebody else's story that was shared with you. So the next time you are feeling a bit blue or lonesome, get out the "heart recipe" box and take a stroll down memory lane - a smile will be the result every time!


Presence

June 7, 2021

WARNING - THIS IS A LOOOONG BLOG, BUT I THINK IT'S WORTH THE READ!


I have a prayer room in my little cabin, and I start my day there every day of the world. When I realized I needed to practice some self-care in my life, I turned there. Divine order is always in operation, so when I set up my prayer altar, I put it under an un-curtained window that overlooks a tiny park on my property. There are a multitude of birds (including Cardinals, after whom the park is named) plus armadillos, racoons, and squirrels in this little park (not quite half of a city block in size) and as I sit in meditation, their movement (together with the infamous Arkansas winds) drew my attention away from my own aloneness and into the beauty of Nature. Looking out this window reminded me that I am clearly NOT alone – in addition to dogs (increased over the past year to 3) and a cat, I live with birds, wildlife, and the cows who live just on the other side of the park. That was the first gift of my grieving, the first of my Presence presents. As I allowed myself to feel the beauty around me, I began to have a glimmer of the beauty within me. My prayer practice went from one hour to two hours, and they flew by every morning. Good morning prayers, followed by reading from 8 or 9 books/booklets (including the Daily Guides from SOM magazine and Unity’s Daily Word), then 15 – 30 minutes of meditation – this routine gave me such a feeling of numinous presence around me that I just naturally allowed a spring of presence to well up within me, too. I didn’t so much get used to the idea of isolation as allow it to fade from my awareness as a negative thing. Aloneness was transformed from isolation to solitude.


My altar also has a collection of votive candles that represent attributes of divinity I want to embody, such as love, life, wisdom, guidance, joy and inspiration. About a year ago, a guest at my retreat center left behind a frosted glass candle-holder with the word “Gratitude” etched on it together with a little picture of a gift. This second present of presence has joined the collection on my prayer altar. I believe the attitude of gratitude is what makes focus possible. Actually, that attitude is what directs the focus inward and upward, which is all that is required to move from observation to presence. It turns out, at least in my experience, that presence is absolutely focused – on (or in) the present moment. It is not possible to be present in the past – not even the immediate past moment – nor in the future, not even the next breath you take. So how is gratitude connected to presence? We absolutely can be grateful for gifts received in the past and also for gifts anticipated in the future! However, we FEEL the gratitude only in the present moment, gratitude requires presence. In fact, feeling anything at all requires presence because feeling happens when we are focused in the current moment, and it requires our full attention. Oddly enough, at least for me, presence also requires gratitude, because it feels so immense, so divine, so beyond separation and into Oneness. Because I have learned to value the time with myself spent recognizing and experiencing Oneness – feeling the joy of knowing I can never actually be alone, much less abandoned.


I am absolutely passionate about presence! I KNOW it is the solution to every problem facing me or us or the planet today. Can you imagine how it would be to live in that feeling? Now expand that imagining to include the entire human race. If you can imagine the entire human race experiencing the oneness of presence, then you know that is within the realm of possibility, so let’s adopt that imagining as our vision for the world. Do you see that in a world where everyone stayed present in the presence, disease, hunger, lack, violence, racism, homelessness, discrimination of any kind, even war would simply not be possible? Consider this aspect of our vision: if we were all present in every moment, we would be living in constant awareness of our connection with divine Mind. That would put us firmly in the infinite flow of divine inspiration and guidance. We would have eliminated the concept of unreachable goals.


So how do we start? We can begin with baby steps. Determine that you will bring yourself into the presence of the present moment as you fall asleep tonight, and do so with the intention of waking up present in the morning. Give yourself the gift of self-care by setting an intention to spend the first two minutes of every hour you are awake focusing your attention on being present. Just two minutes. After a week, add another two minutes this time noticing the Presence of the Divine as it is expressing in your life each hour that you are awake.


I know that if you follow this experiment, you, too, will thrive, whether you live in the middle of a rural area or in the middle of an urban setting, no matter what your path is, without ever feeling isolated, abandoned, or alone. What do you have to lose - stress, lack, fear, loneliness?  


Miracles

May 31, 2021

Einstein famously said, "Either everything is a miracle, or nothing is!"  I vote for everything. I do, however, define "miracle" a bit differently from the dictionary. I can't believe in a deity who would make rules, which we call Laws of Nature, and then break those rules because some human begged nicely or made a burnt sacrifice. This just doesn't make sense.  An omnipotent being, who is also omniscient and all-good, would simply not make laws that could be broken, or consider suspending them as a favor to a mortal who asked nicely. 


So what is a miracle? Clearly, wonderful things we cannot explain have happened in the past and we called them miracles, so what's the story? Here's my take on the concept of miracles:  miracles are the physical outworking of a universal law of Nature (aka God, Spirit, Allah, the Divine, First Cause, Yahweh, etc.) the mechanics of which humankind has yet to discern. Some examples that would have been considered miracles three hundred years ago are penicillin, telephones, manned space flight, chocolate, and heart transplants.  Three hundred years ago, of these examples, only chocolate had been realized, and it might have been considered a miracle even then. Einstein was right - if God can do anything, then everything is a miracle, blessings await our scientific enquiry, and human perception converts miracles into everyday occurrences.

F.R.O.G.

May 24, 2021

When I was in Ministerial School, we had two retreats each year. I always looked for some little memento to take home to my husband. One year I learned that F.R.O.G. is an acronym for Fully Rely On God, so when I found this little green metal frog, not quite an inch long, I had to buy it for my husband's desk. He loved it and it remained on his desk until he made his transition three years ago.  It's been sitting on the base of my computer monitor since then. 


About a week ago, I noticed that every morning when I got to my office, the little frog was on my desktop, in front of the monitor.  Each day, I picked it up and returned it to its position on the base of the monitor.  After three or four days, I began to wonder what was going on here. My office is in the Admin building, so it couldn't have been my cat, Bandit, rearranging things. We haven't had any earthquakes. The spring deluge hasn't caused the building to settle. So, what's up?


I finally decided that this is answered prayer - what my first RScP, Judy Whitcraft, would call a "God-wink". I had been praying for a partner for about 18 months, and then I realized that what I was really praying for was to stop feeling so alonely (a term my late son created when he was 7 - it means lonely - on steroids). About the time my frog started dancing, I decided to change my prayer request - to let Spirit be in charge of my companionship/contentment level. Perhaps, I have decided, either my late spouse or my eternal Source is having fun with me - winking, if you will, to remind me that F.R.O.G. is always the best approach!

Fishbowl​

May 17, 2021

Looking at my smart phone's app screen, I realized this morning that we have allowed social media to turn our society into a collection of fishbowls. Think about it - our Bluetooth generation has no concept of privacy or boundaries. Every moment of the day is posted online without consideration for the  interests of the people involved. Gossip has acquired a whole new dimension - it's now permanent. 


I believe one of the unfortunate side-effects of moving communication into the palm of the hand is that it bypasses both the mind and the heart, so that neither compassion nor courtesy are included in the message. Oral gossip could be contained, or at least minimized by geography, but social media is geographically unlimited and instantaneous.  That multiplies the reach of online gossip exponentially.  


So here's my plan: I am choosing to use my phone to communicate with people I know or need to know. Period. End of sentence.  It is not a toy. It is not a weapon. It is a tool that allows me to communicate with others directly. If you want to know what I ate for breakfast, call and ask me during the daylight hours - or text me, directly. When I have time, I will be happy to share. If something wonderful happens, or you need my help, the same rule applies.  


I no longer choose to live in a 360-degree glass house. I no longer choose to peek into other 360-degree glass houses (unless they actually contain goldfish). I choose to experience the world first-hand and interact with it one-on-one. The journey should prove interesting, and there are still some seats open, if you're game!

The Yardstick

May 10, 2021

This time of upheaval, perhaps I should say this era of upheaval, has caused me to stretch very wide, very deep, very slowly and very, very intentionally. Every time I turn on the television, my pc or my phone, I am bombarded (there’s no other word to describe the media onslaught!) by opportunities to grow. I don’t think even a rock could just stay the same in the midst of COVID, rabid racism, blind nationalism, economic upheaval, and oh, yes, let us not forget war. What has surprised me is the level of emotional trauma I personally am experiencing. I live in 2-hours-from-everything, Arkansas – there are no protests within driving distance of my home, so I cannot actually participate or be personally injured by the huge events that are happening in this country right now – and have been, loudly, for the past 18 months at least. Nonetheless, I am feeling embarrassed by and ashamed of the actions being taken in the name of society, power or money.

I have been forced to ask myself, over and over again, “What do I REALLY believe and what am I willing to do about it?” I grew up believing I lived in a country where everyone had equal rights and could expect to be treated equally under the law. It turns out this is SSSSSOOOOO far from the truth! So I am sharing my process of discovery with all of you. Today, I am explaining my personal yardstick, that is, the assessment tool I use internally to decide what I think about a person (myself or somebody else). First, though, I share the truth I KNOW: every human being has EXACTLY the same value, each is a perfect physical expression of a unique and wonderful idea in the mind of the Divine. This is undeniably true.

What I am talking about now is how my opinion/assessment works in day-to-day life. I will start with the details that are, to me (and should be to all people, countries and legal systems) irrelevant. These details have zero bearing on the personal worth of ANY human being: sexual orientation, gender identification, skin color, national origin, body size/type/ability, and faith tradition. This list is probably not comprehensive, but it’s enough to move me forward. Now for the metrics that DO belong on my personal yardstick: empathy, compassion, honesty, integrity, reliability, commitment, non-judgment, balance, a loving nature, generosity, humor, wisdom and kindness. Again, the list is not comprehensive, but it’s enough to move me forward.

If you are not already tired of my re-statement of what we have all experienced (though many more deeply than others), give yourself the gift of imagining a society where my yardstick was the only one that existed. If you like what you see, you can start to make it happen by adopting it yourself – and applying it to yourself before anyone else. This is not the easy path, there’s nothing easy about it – but I believe it IS the natural path, the path of human nature, and I am determined to walk it exclusively, starting now. Join me?

ZOO

May 3, 2021

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


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


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

INSPIRATION!

April 26, 2021

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


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


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

Patience

April 19, 2021

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


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


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

Enemy Mine

April 12, 2021

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


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


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


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


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

Skunk!

April 5, 2021

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


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


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


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


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

WISHBONES

March 29, 2021

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


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


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


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

BOING! BOING! Bunny

March 22, 2021

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


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


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


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


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

The Superpower

March 15, 2021

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

 Prayer is my super power!

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


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


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


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


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


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

 

Adulteration II

March 8, 2021

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


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


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


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


Eyedroppers​

March 1, 2021

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


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


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


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


My eyedropper's loaded, care to join me?

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!