Category Archives: 2013 Blog Thoughts

Back in the saddle again

I took last week off kind of by necessity as our building including my office was all packed up. We got new flooring – and it’s absolutely beautiful.  On Saturday a bunch of folks put everything back and I am happily sitting in my office, back in the saddle and ready to go.

My sister was/is an equestrian. She did dressage and competed in cross country stuff. What I learned from her boils down to which direction to face while mounted on a horse, but life has taught me that getting back in the saddle, especially after a fall is important. I hear people talk about “less than active time” as down time. I often hear folks talk about just sitting around and doing nothing as if it were a waste of time. I hear myself talk about not having time to take breaks, having too much to do. What a load of horse….. you know.

What happened as a result of not being in the office this week? I got some down time and let my brain rest. I got some visits with shut-ins done on Valentine’s Day that would otherwise have felt rushed. I read some books and contemplated the vision for this Center. I did some dream-weaving around what I’d love to see happen here over the next few years. I took the time to get to an appointment that will help with my allergies.

While I “did nothing”, the building was beautified and dusty old carpet was removed (so my allergies might even be better). My office is now set up again – and much better organized. I don’t have a lot of the clutter because who puts that back? I finally looked at all the books I inherited seven years ago and decided which ones I’d actually keep here. I got the sanctuary chairs set up in the way I like, with a definite aisle down the center that is straight.

How often have I told myself that it was important not to stop and take downtime? And how often have I taught that “downtime” is another word for spiritual practice? After all, I’ve defined meditation as sitting and waiting for nothing to happen.

I’m back in the saddle, but I’m going to remember this time that it’s important to climb down and wander around every so often. And I’m going to remember that it’s been the horse that carried me when I was in the saddle. I don’t need to make things happen. I don’t have to carry the saddle OR the horse. Stopping long enough to contemplate, slowing down long enough to actually look at my life and my calling and being willing to be in the stillness… that is the essence of the spiritual life and my work. I’m so glad that Spirit found a way to make me do it.

Mercury in Retrograde

I tried to come to work on Saturday, I really did. I woke up not feeling like doing anything, but I figured once I got here the energy might kick in. I got here and there was a praying mantis balanced perfectly on the doorknob. I didn’t want to knock him off, so I went around the building to go in another door. Then I spent about half an hour trying to get my computer to turn on. It thought it was on and all the lights were lit, but I had nothing on the screen. So I decided to go back home and use my own computer to write my talk. I couldn’t get the printer to print. After much prayer (well, I said God a lot) and a trip out for ink, I figured it out. And then I remembered that Mercury is retrograde right now, so of course I was having trouble.

Except that’s not why I think I was having so much trouble. I had decided that I had no energy to do work and so I created all sorts of obstacles for myself. I wanted to want to write, both my Sunday talk and this blog post, but in truth I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my day. Since I was sending mixed signals to the Universe, I got mixed signals back. I was able to eventually get things done and even use the technology available to me. Still, it was a struggle. And I knew I was creating it.

Sometimes I am smart enough to remember what I teach. I’ve taught over and over again that beating ourselves up for whatever we’ve created is a waste of time. It’s far faster to skip the guilt and just create something else. I learned when I was in school that if a paper wasn’t ready to be written, it wasn’t going to write. Or I’d force the issue and end up with something highly delete-able. I finally figured out to walk away and do something else, then sit down again later and let the paper write itself. Shaming myself for not having it all together when the calendar says I’m scheduled to be creative is something I do less and less. I’m generally smart enough to wait for the Universe to write talks and blog posts. So here I am, Sunday morning, with a talk that wrote itself last night and blog post that is flowing this morning.

Mercury can retrograde all it wants to. Spirit and I have this covered.

Friends with the Minister

In ministerial school, and in conversations with other ministers, I’ve often heard the phrase “the minister is friendly with everyone and friends with no one.” The first several hundred times I heard this phrase, it sounded lonely, elitist and exclusionary. I’m hearing it differently now – and maybe not for the reason you think.

Think about who you see as a spiritual leader. Mother Theresa? Ghandi? His Holiness the Pope or the Dalai Lama? When you think of these people, do you think of them drinking just a little too much with friends or downing a gallon of ice cream all at one sitting? Do you think of them in their oldest sweat pants, lazing around their home, or even spending a whole day just sprawled in bed or on a chaise lounge, sunbathing? Doing laundry and cleaning their bathroom? Neither do I. I think of them as calm and centered, spouting words of wisdom from a place of deep compassion. I think of them being quoted, studied by spiritual seekers and interviewed by serious journalists.

Kick it down a notch. Never mind spiritual leaders, what does a regular spiritual person look like? Is that someone who gently pokes fun at him- or herself while sharing their authentic (but resolved) struggles? I think of someone who tells funny stories and might even put in some profanity, but still has an aura of peace and stability about them all the time. They never yell at their kids, fight with their partner or bounce a check because they miscalculated their bank balance. They would never consider standing over the sink and eating Lucky Charms for dinner. Sometimes, spiritual people are those folks who always wear loose and flowing clothing, who speak in a wispy, high voice and use all the catch phrases instead of regular words (and never swear!). These are the perky, affected, fake folks that we secretly poke fun at and try not to be caught in a car with on a long trip. I judge them as scared, inauthentic and very likely to annoy me eventually.

This is why that opening phrase – a minister is friendly with everyone and friends with no one—has changed its meaning for me. It’s a statement about good boundaries, but it’s more than that. “A minister” is a role, a career and even a calling. It’s an edited version of the whole person who is actually committed to ministering to people. As a minister, it’s appropriate that I carefully consider what I say and how I say it. As a minister, I’m less likely to share personal opinions about other people’s foibles. In my role as minister, it’s appropriate to listen with the ear of counselor so as to discern what the prayer will be at the end of the conversation. It’s appropriate to refrain from profanity or politics, especially from the pulpit.

Now substitute the words “spiritual person” for the word minister. Or even just “person”.

As a person, I’m in sweats and downing Triple Caramel Chunk (and, no, I won’t share). As a person, I have strong and sometimes offensive opinions about the state of the world and the folks in it. I eat meat, even veal, and non-organic fruit. I am judgmental. I swear, inventively and loudly, when I’m truly angry. Of course, that’s an edited version of me, too. I’m a person who likes to keep a budget and who loves her cats and her family. I’m a person with a favorite color (blue or green) and a particular taste in entertainment (reading scifi or fantasy, or watching British TV).

To be all of who we are, and call that spiritual, is a better way of looking at it. The highest virtue becomes acceptance of what is, rather than striving for perfection. I get to be whole, instead of perfect. I can be a real person, who sometimes steps into the role of minister, and likes doing that. I have no need for you to maintain a façade, because I see you as a whole person, too. The same can be said about anyone who is a spiritual seeker. Your spirituality  is a beautiful part of who you are, and no other part of you cancels out your spiritual side. Which means I can see you as a whole, perfect and complete child of God….and still not share my ice cream with you.

 

Sept 11th

Today many people are recalling where they were when the planes hit the towers in New York. Many people repeat the slogan “We will never forget” and honor, in their own ways, those who died twelve years ago. I feel strongly that the best way to honor those who died is to live as fully and authentically as possible.
For me, that means refusing to live in fear of someone else’s disapproval or of being hurt as a consequence of living fully. Wayne Dyer speaks of being independent of the good opinion of others. So, if someone out there projects their pain on me, I don’t need to take that personally. That’s true whether I’m thinking about a terrorist or the person behind me in line at the grocery store.

So let this be a day of remembrance. Let us remember to live fully, for our own sakes and on behalf of those that died. Let us remember to reject being defined by others in negative ways, as the “infidel” or any other derogatory label. Let us remember our own Buddha nature, our Christ Consciousness and our Indwelling God. Let us remember that we can be defined by our greatness. Let us remember our bold visions rather than our nightmares.

I am reminded of my favorite Hafiz poem, and so I’ll leave you with this:

MY BRILLIANT IMAGE

One day the sun admitted,
I am just a shadow.
I wish I could show you
The Infinite Incandescence
That cast my brilliant image!
I wish I could show you,
When you are lonely or in darkness,
The Astonishing Light Of your own Being!

De-cluttering

Today I got inspired to clean my office. Sometimes it just comes over me; the need to go into a cleaning frenzy. Okay, rarely, but it does happen. I find that when my work space is cluttered, my brain feels cluttered. I need to be able to see the actual desk top in order to feel like I’ve accomplished anything at the end of a day and it’s been a while since I communed with mine.

The process of going through belongings says a lot about what I value. I find that I can live without old business cards and empty CD cases. Pictures now get organized and put away – I used to just dispose of them since I didn’t want to have to schlep the boxes around the country with me. Books are sacred – they come home and go on shelves where I can visit them anytime.

I guess that means I value knowledge and wisdom first. I value memories, too, but it’s important to me to find a balance between cherishing what has been and living in the past. Anything that doesn’t really serve a purpose in my life, I discard one way or another. It gets too heavy dragging that stuff around. And my friends will only carry it so many times and so far

Being who I am, all of this seems like a metaphor to me. Old, dusty beliefs are constantly being evaluated – have I used this in the past six months? Have I reached the expiration date on a belief or practice, so that what once nourished me is now making me sick?

It begs the question: what parts of your life or your mind could use some de-cluttering? Where are you behaving and thinking as if nothing has changed, when the reasons for the behavior or thought are long past?

Trust in the Universe

Blog entry – Trust in the Universe.

Four words. Trust in the Universe. Sometimes when I hear myself say that, it sounds trite, as if whoever first suggested it never faced bills or illness or a broken heart. Whoever said it first sounds stunningly naïve.
But I’ve been meditating on this concept for a long time. What sounds naïve at first actually sounds profound and brave when I sit with it. Given all the ways humans can be betrayed over the course of a lifetime, the decision to trust is courageous. More than that, we are choosing to trust something we can’t see or hold. We can’t email the Universe to “remind” it that we need something. We can’t fill out a complaint form if something doesn’t work out the way we think it needs to. We are deciding, by trusting in the Universe, to rely on something invisible and intangible. That requires some serious guts.
Going deeper, I realize that if I am choosing to trust the Universe, then I am acknowledging that there is an Intelligence behind everything that has ever come into being. That Intelligence also created me and we are co-creating my life in this very moment. We are co-creating the experience of God-as-me, as my particular personality with all my strengths and weaknesses, and all my secret hopes and deepest fears. If the Universe that I’ve chosen to trust is one I believe to be Intelligent, then really trusting the Universe means I must breathe through the challenging times, trusting that Something has my back. Really trusting the Universe means that even the ugly, petty and mean parts of me can be faced and embraced. Those are the parts of me I most need to embrace, because judging them hasn’t worked. I just get more ashamed and try harder to squash them. If I truly trust the Universe, then there is no monster hiding in my psyche. I can sit with those parts of me and let them speak. When I do this, what I generally find is a reasonable need that is going unfulfilled, or a belief that is not reasonable at all. Rather than being ugly, that part of me was just trying to get my attention. Trust in the Universe means trusting that that part of me is necessary and good, just like every other part of me.
The word “in” captures my attention, too. We are immersed in the Universe right now. There’s really no place else to be. So while we are here, feeling safe and loved is going to be important. I need to know that the world I move around in is rooting for me, setting me up to succeed rather than fail and not trying to trick me into hurting myself. In this philosophy we believe that there is a vast Intelligence that permeates the Universe and that this Intelligence is the essence of Good. So we are surrounded by, and living IN an Intelligence that is supportive. No matter where we go and no matter what is going on in our lives, we always have access to that Friend who can love us through it.