Many years ago, in the land of San Diego, I was home with my sister’s dog, Mali. Mali was one of my favorite people. She was cute, she was smart and she was cuddly. Not a small dog, more medium, and by smart I mean that when Kelly lived on a farm, she could have Mali fetch a particular horse out of the pasture and bring said horse into the barn. So we loved Mali. She did have one flaw. She loved chasing skunks. On this particular day, she caught one. I thought she’d escaped and I pet her as I was bringing her into the house. BIG mistake. Now we both smelled like skunk. I had no car, no phone and a gag reflex that was working full time. I had to take a bus (my abject apologies to the other passengers) to get to a pay phone to call a friend for help. The friend was sympathetic and told me to call if I needed anything before she hung up. I was flabbergasted. I thought that’s what I had done. I bought tomato juice and walked home. I was not allowed to come to work for almost a week because the smell was so bad. The person I carpooled with didn’t want me in her car and I was car-less at the time.
Fast forward to last night. My sister’s dog Ben is wonderful. He’s very handsome, silly and smart. He has one flaw. And last night, the skunk got him. Kelly can’t smell skunk so she brought him in. It took me a minute for the stench to actually process. Gag reflex fully engaged, I told her to get him out of the house. Now, it’s winter so Ben can’t spend the whole night outside. He was locked in Kelly’s room. I brought out the essential oil diffuser and used what I had to save the living room. And then I put myself to bed.
Why am I telling these two stories, other than to garner sympathy for my skunk-y plight and/or throw my sister and her skunk chasing dogs under the proverbial bus? Because while the two stories start the same way, they ended very differently. My tools for handling the crisis were very different. I didn’t take ownership of this problem; I gleefully (well, as gleeful as I can be while gagging) left it to Kelly to handle. I am at work the following morning, stench free (as far as I can tell). My home is no longer a small apartment so I was able to get away from the worst of it in order to sleep. It doesn’t even smell bad in the living room this morning. Kelly had some kind of deodorant for the dog that allowed me to pet him this morning without additional gagging.
This is the difference between a life with some spiritual tools (which often translate into physical resources) and without. This is the difference between victim-hood and victory; between feeling skunked and feeling serene. I could beat this metaphor into the ground, but you get the idea.
I remember a sign my mother kept on her dresser. It said, “If you have built your castles in the air you work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” That’s a Henry David Thoreau quotation. The same sign sits in my office on my altar. What I see is that we tend to do one or the other. We dream-weave about what we’d like to see happen (or if we are serious spiritual people, we call it visioning) or we race around and “do” until we’ve pounded our foundation into the ground. Often we pound a few of our loved ones into the ground right along with it.
I spent the weekend working with a Center that is about to be “between ministers”. The current senior minister is retiring at the end of the month and the assistant minister will be stepping up. That means the rest of the leadership will also be stepping up, and many of the congregants will need to step into greater ownership of their Center. I’m excited for all of them! We spent some time looking at the consciousness of the Center, then got clear on what was theirs to do and what should be left to God and finally put definite goals in place that reflect only the human “to-do” list.
How many times have I forgotten to split up the chores list before I started? Well, that skipped step defined my college years, from my very first class right through two masters’ degrees. It wasn’t really my job to make sure the right teachers were hired, but I worried about it. It wasn’t even mine to worry about the money – I showed up, earned as much as I could and the rest just showed up on its own. Of course, I had to fill out some forms, but there’s another example of knowing what’s on my list to do and what’s not. My job was to study, mostly, and to support myself as I did that. My job was to do the assignments and not skip class. My job was to trust that Spirit had my back, had filled Fort Knox and therefore could pay my tuition somehow.
These days, my job is to show up to facilitate the work being done in each person’s consciousness. I teach the tools. I show folks where to plug into the Source of these Power Tools, metaphorically speaking. It really is none of my business what they do with the tools after that, although I will admit to loving the chance to watch folks play and succeed and build magnificent lives. I teach and then cheer. I pray. Everything else is on Spirit’s list.
I have begun a practice of reading in bed before I get up (well, getting back in bed after starting the coffee). Right now I’m all about Emma Curtis Hopkins, possibly because I finished a class recently that opened my eyes to her awesome writings. At the best of times, her writing can require a dictionary. The wording is outdated and complex. Her writing also references a lot of knowledge I don’t have about Hinduism, Hebrew and Latin references, mythology and ancient Greek philosophy. And all of that is before I even get to her encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible.
Here’s what I’m learning – it’s not the words or the references I need to notice. It’s those glimmering bits of wisdom that shine just for me. When Emma tells me “look up” or that “Facing Thee, there is no evil in my path”, what I get out of it is a reminder that by focusing on the Spirit Within Me, all my so-called problems melt away. She reminds me that asthma is not the boss of me –my physical lungs heal when I rely on a power greater than myself and if that seems pie-in-the-sky, well, it’s not. She lists over and over the examples throughout history of when allowing Spirit to lead not only worked, it worked miracles.
It’s jarring to go from that kind of consciousness to needing to get on with my day. What would Emma say about Facebook? What would she say about the minutia of ministry – writing the reports, noting the attendance numbers, making sure the Christmas decorations are put away and ready for next year? What would she say about keeping up with email and visits? Not much probably. I think she’d look at all that and remind me – Facing Thee, there is no evil in my path. Spirit isn’t tied to time or limited by a data plan.
These things that worked for the prophets of Israel also worked for yogis and the Brahmans. Focusing on the Divine Self worked for Druids in what became Ireland and the United Kingdom. It worked for the priests of Huitzilopochtli in the Aztec Empire and the seekers of the three-faced Goddess Hecate. It doesn’t matter what the details of the story are – Spirit is timeless, ageless and without limit. So…. With a nod to Emma….
Dude – facing Thee, It’s all Good!
So this week I got to experience a cosmic two by four. The end result of ignoring self-care was a nasty case of walking pneumonia exacerbated by acute asthma. In case you were wondering why I haven’t posted in so long…. I was ignoring the cold, then the bronchitis that lead up to the other stuff. I’m not going to pretend there wasn’t a good reason (hello, minister at Christmas?) and I’m really not going to pretend there wasn’t a great breakthrough and blessing from it all.
In the midst of the experience, with the side effect of high anxiety from the medication that was keeping my lungs open, I realized that most of my anxiety came from not being at work. How would I have any worth if I wasn’t producing? I would get fired. My sister would have no reason to speak to me ever again because I’d lose the house. People would hate me for not being there during the crisis that came up while I was down for the count. What kind of horrible person takes a nap while others are suffering and responsibilities are being ignored? Remember please, that I was heavily medicated with a stimulant known to cause anxiety. What sounds ridiculous in the light of day had to get very real for me in the moment of darkness for me to hear it.Maybe I had to get that far out of my own mind to hear the whispers from my subconscious, but hear it I did. And of course it shocked me back into rationality (thank God!).
For many of us, it’s not the things we think we believe that get us into trouble. It’s the little assumptions and underlying, completely unconscious beliefs that are at work behind the scenes that create havoc in our lives. I know I’m hyper-responsible and that’s probably not something I should beat myself up over not having resolved yet. I can put the brakes on that though by being conscious of when I’m doing it, when that “work= worth” belief is at work in my life and is guiding my behavior.
Now… this is a short post but it’s also my first day back. I’m going to go home and take another nap.