Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Piece of God's Candy


When it was made known that Mother Teresa had a 40-year long crisis of faith, there was an uproar. I am rather comforted by this knowledge. In a letter, Mother Teresa wrote, "...the silence and emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear. The tongue moves in prayer but does not speak. The letter was written just a few weeks before she received the Nobel Peace Prize for her charitable work.


More than 40 other letters, many of which she had asked to be destroyed in her will, show her fighting off feelings of "darkness" and torture." During that time period, Mother Teresa did not feel God "in her heart or in the eucharist."


"Lord, my God, you have thrown me away as unwanted - unloved. I call, I cling, I want, and there is no one to answer, no, no one. Alone. Where is my faith? Even deep down right in there, there is nothing. I have no faith. I dare not utter the words and thoughts that crowd in my heart."


She added: "I am told God loves me, and yet the reality of the darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?"


She even compared her problems to hell and admitted that she had begun to doubt the existence of heaven and God.


"The smile," she wrote, "is a mask or a cloak that covers everything. I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God, a tender personal love. If you were there you would have said, 'What hypocrisy'." 


Feeling the absense of God is a lot more common in the spiritual tradition than an abiding, non-wavering belief. The poet and Benedictine monk, Kilian McDonnell writes of the common experience of those who, as he puts it, "remember the early days when prayer was sometimes filled with delight," but now feel as if they are "dying in the Sahara, no longer thirsty for God." Still, he adds, they "faithfully search for God, still pray, while wondering if there is anyone out there. Not a piece of God's candy for years." The wonder is in the waiting, which is not passive, but watchful: at its core is an invincible hope.


The waiting. The hope. Bits of candy along the way. Thrown out from a passing clown in a parade? I wonder if there is a way to encourage the candy-throwing. My concept of God is still not well-formed, but I am definitely on a path of discovery and candy-catching.



Twenty-two years ago I started keeping a little notebook of gratitude which provided 'sweet' awareness of continued blessings. Here are some of the entries:


May 18 - Thank you for the blue skirt, green pants, shorts, blouse. Such abundance, comfort (I can't imagine being comforted by green pants today).


May 19 - Thank you for the visit from Columb last night. Kindred spirit - spiritual break-through. Thank you for guiding me to wonderful books. 


May 20 - Thank you for the insight into the physical world I had today. Every action involving something material is symbolic. We live in the world. The earth makes us dirty. We sweat. When we bathe, we remove the things of the world. We are cleansed. I'm going to try to see the meaning daily of removing the stains of my life.


May 22 - Thank you for the Woman's Conference and especially the guided meditation. New ideas. Great possibilities. Choices. Adventures.


May 25 - Got shoes for all three children. Casually mentioned there should be a group discount and the salesman gave it to me. Thank you.


June 8 - Started my period. Thank you.


That was 1988. I think in 2010 I am going to make a conscious effort to see and eat God's candy through gratitude. Already, I am grateful I have an income and excellant health and wonderful friends. There's so much more, I'll have to get another little green notebook.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Taste Of Contentment


Blogging friend, 'Standing' asked me to describe what in my life feeds me.  I don't know if it's my age, or the psychological and spiritual work I've done, but I suddenly find that I'm content in a way I never imagined I would be.  So I guess I would have to say, "my contentment feeds me." That's not to say that I can't get riled over injustice - say, watching people waste things or witnessing co-workers go into denial about the need to be green. But these moments of angry arousal pale in comparison to how obsessive I was around certain issues in the past.


There are two particular books that I always turn to when I start to lose my grip on the kind of sanity I want to maintain. The author is Vernon Howard. He has a nice way of compiling a lot of esoteric authors' quotes into what he calls, "The Power of Your Supermind" and "The Mystic Path to Cosmic Power." I know. I hate those titles too. I was so embarrassed to carry these book around that I made  covers for each out of old sacks. I even started going through them and crossing out 'super'  and 'mystic' because I thought these words couldn't describe how I want to see the truth. But the more I read Vernon Howard, I don't care what words he uses. These truths do bring inner peace. I guess it is pretty super and mystical to arrive at a happier place.


In these books, Howard quotes many others like William James, Arthur Schopenhauer, Erich Fromm and Thoreau. He also quotes and paraphrases The Tao. The Tao is a personal favorite of mine. If I am anything, I am a Taoist. The Tao teaches that life is a series of natural and spontaeous changes. We shouldn't resist them or wish things were different. That only creates sorrow. Go along. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. Be like a pebble carried effortlessly along the stream of life. 


The consuming need to acquire riches, fame or power is explained as empty desires. With Tao, you have genuine wealth that never fades away.  And you don't need to shout it around. If you have a pocketful of gold, it is just as valuable whether others know about it or not.


Here is a favorite quote from "The Mystic Path To Cosmic Power."  - 


"Place total living before intellectual gymnastics. That solves everything. Deep within, you know how to live fully; you have always known. You knew it in childhood before hypnotized people misled you. Whenever you don't understand life, dismiss your mind and live without straining to understand. Total living is understanding, just as you understand an apple by handling, tasting, eating. Why ask about an apple? Just eat it. It is for health and enjoyment. And so is life. We learn what life is all about when we dare to live simply, directly, without needing to know anything. This is not a paradox; it is a beautiful state."


For more: www.anewlife.org

Friday, December 4, 2009

Deirdre Blomfield-Brown


                                                      
I really like this picture. I wonder if anyone who happens to read this knows who Deirdre Blomfield-Brown is. I know who Deirdre has become in the 40+ years since that picture was taken. I've never met her, but like millions and millions of people around the world, have followed her through her books and CDs.

In this picture I see a young, very attractive woman. Married, intelligent (she has a bachelors and masters degree), outgoing, playful, happy, and with a look in her eyes that says she could be, in her mischievous moments, even a bit flirtatious. I see someone who, at one point in her life might have thought she had life by the tail. In this picture she looks like the girl next door, like the woman making copies at the copy machine at the end of the hall, like the woman standing in front of you at the check out counter in the grocery store, with one kid tugging on her sleeve and the other slung over a hip. She just looks like one of us.

But, according to her bio, her life fell apart. After picking up the pieces and putting it back together again, ... it fell apart again.

This time, rather than following the same patterns and rebuilding yet another life with the same drawings and plans, which apparently weren't working anyway, she decided to look inside and see what wasn't working with herself. To see what was broken in here, instead of out there.

Over the course of the years since that time, Deirdre has become Pema Chodron, one of the most loved and highly respected Buddhist teachers in the world — and, if anything, I am under-exaggerating here.

Like Kūkai a millennium before her, she chose the hard road over the easy, continue life as everyone expects you to, continue to live a "don't rock the boat and you may not sink," "don't open the outhouse door and you won't notice the smell," "just smile a lot and pretend and all will be well" kind of life. And, like Kūkai, she found that the hard road actually awakened her to a better way of life.

Aurobindo, in his Essays On The Gita talks about the "acceptance of the necessity in Nature for such vehement crises." Not the 'possible occurance,' but the 'neccessity.' Pema says, in her wonderful book When Things Fall Apart, "We can use a difficult situation to encourage ourselves to take a leap, to step out into that ambiguity. This teaching applies to even the most horrendous situations life can dish out. ... That is why it can be said that whatever occurs can be regarded as the path and that all things, not just some things, are workable. This teaching is a fearless proclamation of what's possible for ordinary people like you and me."

Shunryu Suzuki, in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, also tells us, "Without accepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure." And the person who could be my favorite contemporary teacher, Daido Loori of Zen Mountain Monastery, says in one of his talks, "She called [silence] an evasion of truth. In a sense we can say that silence is just one side of the duality of speech and silence. So, how could silence be the entry of the nondual gate? What does non-dual mean, anyway? Is nondual the opposite of dual? That is just another duality. How do we transcend all dualities?"

The way forward isn't silently accepting that life isn't working as is. The way forward isn't to bury our heads in the sand and hope that the good-luck fairies will make everything OK. The way forward isn't to try and sweep every crisis under the rug and hope someone else will come by to clean it up later.

The way forward is to run right up to that gate leading out of our worries and troubles, plant our nose right in the middle of the gate so that we are forced to deal with its existence, and then work very, very hard to see that there really is no gate there at all — we are free to walk through whenever we want; and that process begins when we start with Daido's question, "How do we transcend all dualities?"

And this is why I love the picture so much.  In that one picture I can see the beginning of the path and the path after it has been walked from here to the horizon, and that gives me hope that if I keep pushing until my nose is raw, maybe someday I can see what Pema has seen.



Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Orion The Hunter


I found you floating in the night sky,
Sword-belted, gleaming above the farm;
A star man hunting wild stars,
Noticeable most when the moon is hidden.
When people like us look up to the stars,
They cannot tell what being is down
At their feet, what gives or is given,
What suffering shape may crouch there.
The Hunter drops his eyes to follow the tracks
Of his dogs, who follow the hare. But we,
Preferring - rightly - to know the stars do not
See the shape that dies to feed us.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Angels In My Life




Dear readers, lest you think I am more advanced than I actually am:
I got in a fight with my best friend the other day. We were walking around the park with another friend and this friend announced that her daughter was marrying the man with whom she had been having an affair. I tried to encourage Mary to accept her daughter and the new situation because I think people can change and I don't think it is true that every cheater is always a cheater. I say this because I have been a cheater and I've changed. The other friend, Carol, lapsed into a tirade about how permanent this character flaw is and that once someone has made a choice to cheat, that has determined what kind of person they are FOREVER. Of course, her husband cheated on her and she has never gotten over it. I tried not to take this latest tirade personally, but it's the third or fourth time she has really labeled me and indirectly assumed I should feel shame for the rest of my life.


What hurts is that she has been there for me through the whole process of trying to extricate myself from a very manipulative, narcissistic predator - actually a stalker. It has been the hardest thing in my life and she has listened and encouraged me all the way (interspersed with projections of her own pain: identifying with my lover's wife - even though she moved out of their bedroom and essentially out of his life YEARS ago - I know, that's no excuse for my behavior). The last thing she said in the conversation was, "...but YOU think it's all right to sleep with a married man." Yes, my behavior said that for a number of years, but that's in the past, but obviously, not for her. I was pretty upset at this point, so I said, "I'm going home now."


As I walked away I said, "I don't think we can be friends." It just came out. I think I meant it. Why would I want to hang out with someone who thinks my character is permanently flawed?
(And yet, I sort of think this is true for John Edwards - but then, I think if he has a classic Narcissistic Personaltiy Disorder, there is NO hope for change- big challenge in my life - looking at narcissists through Taoist eyes).


This incident has led me to more self-examination (on that count, Socrates, my life must be very well worth living). My self-examination usually involves some angels in my life that I refer to often.  They are: Pema Chödrön, Elizabeth Lesser, June Spencer and Clarissa Pinkola Estés. What I have gleaned:


From Clarissa in Women Who Run With the Wolves: "Tears are a river that take you somewhere.  Weeping creates a river around the boat that carries your soul-life.  Tears lift your boat off the rocks, off dry ground, carrying it downriver to someplace new, someplace better.  For most women with stories associated with shame, these secret stories are embedded, not like jewels in a crown, but like black gravel under the skin of the soul...The majority of women's secrets revolve around having violated some social or moral code of their culture, religion, or personal value system...Some of these acts, events, and choices, particularly those related to women's freedom in any and all arenas of life, were often held out by the culture as being shamefully wrong for women, but not for men. 


The problem of secret stories surrounded by shame is that they cut a woman off from her instinctive nature, which is in the main, joyous and free....A woman who carries a secret is an exhausted woman...So, it is usually a matter of time before a woman calls up her courage from the soul bones, cuts herself a golden reed, and plays the secret in her own strong voice."


From June in No Bad Feelings!: "Relationships are the primary playground for the game of validation/invalidation. Those of us with an aversion to invalidation or an addiction to our separate identification will have difficutly with relationships.  We will invalidate ourselves by accepting the blame for another's feelings, or invalidate and blame another for our feelings.  The tendency to put responsibility on or take responsibility for another can be the single greatest roadblock in the path of a beautiful relationship. One of the most difficult rules to remember in any relationship is the need to put responsibility on, or take responsibility for another, is in direct proportion to the inability to take responsibility for one's self.


Reminder: Connecting and disconnecting are of vital importance...Once we eliminate the mental barrier between the two, we recognize that we must disconnect in order to connect. We perform this ritual of connecting and disconnecting literally billions of times each day. It's only when we attempt to avoid disconnecting that we bring the ritual's natural cycle to a screaming halt. It's our avoidance, not the disconnection that causes our discomfort."


From Elizabeth Lesser's Broken Open - How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow: This whole book cannot be quoted here. It IS me - broken open- transformed (still in the process). From this book, I know that I was meant to experience the rapture of being alive, even at the cost of breaking the rules.


From Pema in The Wisdom Of No Escape (from a 'letting go' meditation): "...say to yourself, "Thinking," and as you're saying that, basically what you are doing is letting go of those thoughts. You don't repress the thought. You acknowledge them as "thinking" very clearly and kindly, but then you let them go.  Once you begin to get the hang of this, it's incredibly powerful that you could be completely obsessed with hope and fear and all kinds of other thoughts and you could realize what you've been doing - without criticizing it - and you could let it go. This is probably one of the most amazing tools that you could be given, the ability to just let things go, not to be caught in the grip of your own angry thoughts or passionate thoughts or worried thoughts or depressed thoughts."


Thank you, angels.
Namaste


नमस्ते

Friday, November 13, 2009



We're all darting about
like streaks of light,
weaving impressions,
trying to project a perspective
that's lasting,
but we miss each other
and a lot of love
by tightly holding
to the shredded edges
of our arguments;
hanging on for
a life
that's no longer
dear.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Have you ever been swimming in the ocean and had the frantic feeling you were being carried away? There is nothing to hold onto and if you behave as you would on dry land, you will drown. Water is an amazing thing. It can be so frightening, and yet so comforting. The entire universe is like water; it is fluid, it is transient, it is changing. When swimming in the ocean, if you try to catch hold of it, you drown. This is like the waters of modern philosophy, where God is dead, and there is really nothing to hang onto because we are all just falling apart. The only way to survive under these circumstances is to learn how to swim; you relax, you let go, and you give yourself to the water. You have to know how to breathe in the right way, but then you find that the water holds you up, and in a certain way, you become the water.

It really comes down to this: in this universe there is one great energy, and we have no name for it. We try. People have tried God, Brahman, Tao, suchness, vastness..  We are all just different 'playings out' of the same delightful energy....
...and Blake said, "Energy is eternal delight."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Letting Go


I have been trying to defy the normal arrangement of life for a while now. I am getting better at surrendering to 'what is.' It makes some people uncomfortable. They think letting go means they will melt and become completely liquid, because there is nothing to hold onto, but this is not so.
Do not pursue the past.
Do not lose yourself in the future.
The past no longer is.
The future has not yet come.
Looking deeply at life as it is
in the very here and now,
the practitioner dwells
in stability and freedom.
We must be diligent today.
To wait until tomorrow is too late.
BUDDHA

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What Do You See?


Is this a bird or a question mark? If you could look at it upside down, it would look like a seal juggling a ball on its nose. What does this say about how you look at things? How you look at your life?

In a workshop I attended last week, we were discussing the big questions in our life. We were asked:
1 - What kind of character are you in the drama of your own life?
2 - How do you relate to the other characters?
3 - What kind of "script" are you acting out?
4 - What is the story of the culture within which you live?
5 - What do you expect to happen next?

I have been thinking about these questions all week. How have my "stories" been fundamental to my thinking? Can I shape the stories by which I live?

It's the dream we carry in secret
that something miraculous will happen,
that it must happen
that time will open
that the heart will open
that doors will open
that the rockface will open
that spring will gush
that the dream will open,
that one morning we will glide into
some little harbor we didn't know was there.
Olav H. Hauge

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Art Of Forgiveness


I came across something I read years ago called, "The Process of Forgiveness." Forgiveness is not just a "do it once and it's over" proposition. It's something that requires time, thoughtfulness, finesse, and an unusual amount of effort. It's a three step program that is complicated by the fact that some of the steps require the cooperation of more than one party.
Step 1 is the actual act of forgiveness. This is a unilateral step, which means that it only takes one person to forgive. So, this means that you alone are responsible for forgiving or accepting forgiveness. This is the easy part...right? You forgive, you forget, everything is rosy. But, what about the next time you think of the hurtful incident? What about that negative feeling of resentment that creeps back in, just when you thought you'd mastered it? And, hey, what if you just don't get those warm, fuzzy forgiveness feelings? You know the saying, "what comes around, goes around?"

Like the any skill or craft, forgiveness must be practiced to be perfected. The great writer, C. S. Lewis, says this: "There is no use in talking as if forgiveness were easy. We all know the old joke, "You've given up smoking once; I've given it up a dozen times." In the same way I could say of a certain man, "Have I forgiven him for what he did that day? I've forgiven him more times that I can count." For we find that the work of forgiveness has to be done over and over again."
Step 2 is reconciliation and is bilateral...meaning, it goes both ways. It involves repentance, restitution and change. Both parties must be sorry, try to remedy the situation and make a change in behavior. So, here's where it gets a little tricky because one party cannot necessarily make the other party do any of these things. You can do it on your side, but you'll be dancing alone!
Again, C.S. Lewis (such a smart man!): "Forgiveness needs to be accepted as well as offered if it is to be complete: and a man who admits no guilt can accept no forgiveness."
It's hard to forgive someone who isn't sorry and it's hard to reconcile with someone who won't accept an apology. And, it doesn't count to just say "I'm sorry you feel that way." This is a faux- fession...a head fake kind of thing...a mock "my bad."
Step 3 is another bilateral action: restoration. If forgiveness and reconciliation are the "kiss," restoration is the "make up." This is the new beginning and renewal of trust...the part where the relationship truly begins to be healed. You can see why step three takes both parties.
Any number of things can get in the way of the three step program...pride, anger, emotion...human nature. The process can partially or totally break down at any given moment. That's why it's not easy. That's why it's something that has to be worked at...every day.
Practice, practice, practice...

Monday, September 14, 2009

I STILL BELIEVE IN MIRACLES

I had a head-thunking-kind-of
"a-ha"-
moment
today as I was sitting at the keyboard. I was listening to beautiful music and randomly clicking the "next blog" button, hoping I could find a blog I lost track of that was quite inspirational. The feeling that swept over me as I was listening to music and thinking about this was this overwhelming assurance that EVERYTHING WILL BE RECONCILED SOME DAY - all the relations with loved ones that are complicated - all the feelings we think we can't deal with. And picturing this far-off, blissful, pie (boat)-in-the-sky-time put me in that place RIGHT NOW.

I had a very abusive childhood and marriage. I made choices that further complicated my relationships. Even though I have no religion in my life, I still feel spiritual - I kind of shudder at that word - wish I could think of a new one. There are moments when I can look back on my relationship with my ex-husband and feel only the love. Maybe it's because I don't have to actually be in the same room with him, but I think it's more. I think that whatever God is, He can only feel love. He fails to recognize anything else. It doesn't compute. He has no frame of reference for hate. I know this doesn't coincide with Old Testament teachings, but I think people put the wrath stuff in there.

I have a favorite Aunt that embodies my idea of what God is. Most of the family thinks she is kind of simple. She is the last one to sense that someone is laughing at her for being such a Pollyanna. She just doesn't recognize this type of projection. She is my big, fluffy, full-of-love Aunt Margaret.

What's so great about being all deep and intellectual if we block the love?

It's a challenge to cut out negativity. I tried it for one day. So many of my conversations with friends were lists of complaints. When I tried to mention positive things as one friend went on a tirade about her ex, she kept saying, "Yes, but he did...(this) or "he did...(that)..." Sure, we can kvetch about irritating people and situations, but doesn't it just emphasize problems when we rehearse them over and over again? No wonder so many people in my family think Aunt Margaret is simple. She is. She's not complicated. She just loves.

Sometimes when painful things happen in to our friends or someone in our family, we think we need to stand up for someone that has been hurt, by taking a side against the person that hurt them. We think it would be disloyal if we only saw the good and tried to just love the offending person. I guess that's when silence is golden. There are enough other people willing to tear someone down - why add to it?

Failure in this instance is a good thing.
I want to fail to see the imperfections in others.
I want blinders.
I only want to see love.

Thank you, Aunt Margaret.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Over the Rainbow


The anthem to elsewhere,
Where our dreams come true.

"There's no place like home."
but home is not a place
especially if you can't go back there.
Home is something you create.

In the sequel to "The Wizard,"
Dorothy takes Auntie Em and Uncle Henry
back to Oz and they live there.

Wouldn't it be great?
If we could tell the family we love
our dream,
and they would want to go there
with us?