Tag Archives: peace

Plague

I needed a few days to think and pray before responding to the events in Charlottesville. For me, the deeper message seems to come down to two things.

First, I have been a bigot. I’m not talking about participating in the subtle forms of racism that are part of American culture in the 21st Century. I don’t mean the white privilege that permeates my life – that I got well-educated, that I was raised in the upper middle class, that I can walk into a store and not be bothered, that cops are nice to me. I’m aware of the modern day slavery that is our prison industry, but it probably won’t affect me or my family because we are white. What I’m talking about is a period in my life where I was ignorant enough and blind enough to say things that now make me cringe. I know I was offending folks because they tried to rein me in. What they were unaware of is how much pain I was in. The irony of working in a crisis center while suicidal is not lost on me now, but at the time, I was so busy trying to survive, there wasn’t much brain power left to be aware of anything else. That is no excuse, but it was part of the situation at the time. Still, I said and did things that were mean and insensitive. I wonder how painful the lives of the neo-Nazis are to make them act so hatefully. I wonder how scared those white supremacists are that they no longer have cognitive function to see how self-destructive they are. Did you know that when you are really angry or scared, your higher mental function shuts down? We have evidence of that happening in Charlottesville.

Secondly, this neo-Nazi, alt-right, white supremacy thing isn’t new in our country. I remember being warned about it in high school back in the early ‘80’s. It seems to me to be a virus we keep thinking we have beaten, only to find it popping up again because we stopped actively vaccinating against it. Did you know that fleas and ground hogs have been found carrying the actual plague here in Northern Arizona? Seems unreal, right? It’s as real as the plague seen openly in Charlottesville in the past weeks. And yes, it is killing people. It has been killing people all along, although we have ignored it. Vaccination against this plague means awareness, admission of bigotry and having conversations about the subtle and not-so-subtle forms of racism and fear that govern our lives today. For me, it means supporting affirmative action, asking my friends of in minorities how I can use my privilege on their behalf, and refusing to laugh at or make bigoted jokes.

How are you going to vaccinate yourself? Are you willing to look in the mirror and find your own inner bigot? I can tell you from experience, it’s not fun. It’s not pretty. It’s horrifying and painful. And I’d rather do that than explain to the next generation why I hid in my safe house in the midst of this plague.

Snow days

I didn’t realize how much I was looking forward to a snow day until I looked out the window and saw my snowless front lawn. There’s something about being “stuck” in the house that calls to me. I do a lot of reading. I do a lot of thinking. I do an awful lot of napping – and that’s not awful.

I noticed recently that I’m tired a lot. If I go lay down for a few minutes, I wake up two hours later. I’m not doing any more work than normal. I’m sleeping through the night usually. But one thing I’ve learned is to pay attention to what my body wants. Right now, it wants sleep. Or at least, it wants more quiet time. More cuddling with the cats. More deep thinking and reading. Less people-centered activities and more Spirit time.

One of the funny things about the holiday season is that while the rest of nature settles down for a long winters nap, humans in our culture rev up and party hard. Now I’m an introvert, so I party hard by reading a whole series of books in one day. I’m just wild and crazy that way. But my philosophy teaches that if we live according to Natural Laws, which we learn by looking at Nature, we’ll be much happier, more effective and more abundant in general. So why do we crazy folk rev up when Nature is telling us to slow down?

The easy answers include consumerism and materialistic obsessions. It’s almost mandatory to be stressed out by what needs to get done to make a holiday successful. On my umpteenth trip to the grocery story right before Thanksgiving, I realized that I was comforting myself by affirming that the “stress” was part of the fun. WHAT?!!?

What would happen if we slowed down and had a mellow holiday season? I don’t know that I’d get all the shopping done, much less the Christmas cards. But in truth, I’m more interested in investing my money in getting debt free and Christmas cards have never taken all that long to do. Maybe I’m afraid my friends will be hurt if I don’t get everyone the perfect gift. Maybe I’m concerned that my colleagues at the Center will think I’m unprofessional if I don’t get something for everyone (don’t worry, guys, I already took care of you).

And maybe, just maybe, the oath of busyness that we seem to take in this culture is yanking at my chain. There seems to be an oath of obedience (that requires working really hard) that spiritual people take. It goes with the chastity and poverty thing, but that’s another whole set of issues). This holiday season, I’m breaking the oath. I’m going to be mellow, spend no more than what fits comfortably in my budget and let my gift to most folks be something intangible. A smile, a listening ear. Or maybe even just taking the time to nap so that I can be fully awake and functional when it’s time to connect with other humans, so that I can connect in joy.

Do you feel stressed by the holidays? Or by your schedule in general? Please comment about what you do and how it all works for you.

It’s a beautiful morning!

These last few weeks have been absolutely fantastic! You might wonder if I’ve taken leave of my senses – and yes, I have! Thank God! In the last few weeks I’ve dealt with conversations I didn’t want to have, family dynamics I thought I’d left behind, and an election that has a large section of my social media feed in full freak-out mode. All the rational reasoning seems to have been left in the dust, drowned in adrenaline.

So I’m taking leave of my senses in the best possible way. Over all these years of studying and teaching, I’ve learned intellectually that cause is always from within and that I can choose my thinking and thus my experience. These past few weeks, I got to DO it. I got to look at the circumstances around me and refuse the evidence of my senses. It took me a long time, but I guess I’m finally getting the lesson. I won’t bemoan the time it took, because it was all worth it for this result.

The absolute truth is that I live in a friendly universe and, as Emma Curtis Hopkins wrote, “God is my friend.” Every time I think that phrase, I see the big blue genie from Aladdin and hear “You ain’t never had a friend like me!” Okay, so my mental image of God is less dignified but he sure is fun! No matter what is going on in the world, I can relax because underneath and through it all is a force for good. Underneath and through it all is a Being and a Presence that would never let me fall.

Do I ignore or look down on those who are hurting right now? Of course not! I am their ally. James Dillet Freeman once wrote a poem about what it means to minister. In that poem, he writes,

“It means to not merely live a life of prayer, but to turn your prayers into life – more life for you, more life for those to whom you minister.

It means to be God-centered and human hearted, to involve yourself in humanity and to keep your vision on divinity – and so draw from all around you the human form divine

It means to share in the greatest moments of life – in birth and sickness and marriage and death – and at times, whether of crisis or of celebration, to bring comfort and a blessing, and above all a sense of a Presence that sometimes we cannot see and of a Meaning that often we overlook.

That is what it means to be a minister of God and a minister to man.”

Let us all minister to each other. Let us all choose to create a world that works for everyone, leaving the past in the past, allowing ourselves to believe that the Universe is our friend and is conspiring on our behalf.

Give me a break!

I’m on retreat all next week and I can’t wait! For many people, the idea of sitting around, reading non-fiction books, refusing to leave my room (okay, I might go to the pool to read) and generally being alone in the quiet, doesn’t sound all that appealing. What I’ve learned is that all that quiet can be very annoying for the first few hours or even the first day or so. After that, something in me slows down, starts to listen deeply and, if I can stay with it, allows me to hear that little voice that tells me what I really think and feel underneath all the things I do.

I schedule this time away. It’s actually in my contract with the Center that I get 5 business days per year specifically for this. It’s not vacation time – that’s something different. This is dedicated to spiritual practice and not much else. Now, I consider napping and baths spiritual practice if they occur on retreat, but other than that, it’s just the usual stuff you expect a spiritual seeker to do. There’s a part of me that’s still Catholic enough that I wouldn’t be comfortable sneaking out to a movie during retreat time or channel surfing through whatever is on TV these days. Ted talks and documentaries are okay, but no Housewives of Whatever County.

I find that when I don’t make the time to do this slowing down, sometimes the Universe creates it for me. I remember once, long before I understood the concept of the Cosmic Two By Four, I was overdoing it and my car blew a gasket. I couldn’t do my job without a car, so I had to take a break. I was just grateful that it was the car that blew a gasket rather than me. Another time, while in ministerial school and working full time, I discovered myself on a San Diego freeway stuck in overdrive and without brakes. I got the message earlier at that point (and a new car, too!). My point is that if don’t slow down voluntarily, Spirit brings me to a screeching halt.

So what would a retreat look like for you? Would you be willing to try for just a few hours in the silence (awake, I mean) and see how it feels? Are you getting signals from the Universe that some quiet time is in order? Give it a shot and see how you feel. Your soul will thank you. And, maybe, so will your mechanic.

Doing the math

I’ve been learning about a biofeedback technique called HeartMathTM. It’s a biofeedback device and the science behind it is fascinating, but not the point of this post. There’s a little monitor that you attach to your earlobe or finger and an app on your iphone, your computer or, if you’d rather, a little black box with lights on it. You hook yourself up and try to make the little lights (or lines) stay out of the red and reach for the green. You do this with some breathing techniques that closely resemble meditation. Sounds easy, right? Well, once again, I’m reminded that simple and easy are not always synonyms.

Spirituality is another one of those simple but not easy things. I know, we make it complicated, but that’s more religion than spirituality in my mind. In our philosophy, we believe that we create our own reality based on our own thinking and beliefs and if we don’t like what we get we can change it. All we have to do is be in communication with the Divine within ourselves. Simple, right? And yet saints and sages across time and multiple cultures have found that it isn’t always easy.

One of the things I’m becoming more and more aware of is that, in the past, I would assume that each thing that happened in my life had a reason. I was right, but there’s more to it. Each situation might have several reasons, or as we say it here, each effect has multiple causes. I thought if I could just find the one thing that was causing my problems, I could fix it. Sometimes, it’s just not that simple. In many cases, I have to be content to see a correlation between two things, but not know which is causing which. Again, not as easy a “fix” as I thought. I can still shift one thing and see if the other also shifts, but I can’t be absolutely sure, usually. As H.L. Mencken wrote, “Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.”

What I do know, is that it’s more important to keep trying and be gentle while I’m working on the spiritual journey. It’s far more important to stay on the journey, and in the question, than it is to come up with easy answers. I rejoiced the day I realized that as a minister, I don’t actually have to come up with answers. My job is to ask the hard questions and let you figure it out for yourself. The question, the mystery, is what’s important.

So while I won’t even try to explain the science behind HeartMathTM (please check out HeartMath.org), I can in good conscience, keep practicing and become more and more peaceful. I can’t explain why or how the Divine voice speaks in my heart, but I can trust that it is speaking. And, of course, so can you. No explanation needed.

Reconciliation

This week we had a special service at CSLP that we call Taize. It’s based on a reconciliation service that was started in the Burgundy region of France in a town called Taize. It was post-WWII and the town had been torn apart. There were folks from all sides, injuries and heartbreak to spare in everyone. Somehow, the folks in that town had to move on and learn to see each other as people again. There’s lots more history on the web and it’s a fascinating story, but I’m more focused today on how it relates to right here and now.

One of my heroes is Eugene Holden. He’s a practitioner within our movement and the director of our World Ministry of Prayer. He recently wrote, “”Let us not be fooled, we are at war here folks. As evidenced by the events in Dallas, Texas. And let us be clear here, this is a not a battle between white and black or good and evil. It is a battle of consciousness. And this battle is an internal one. Internal to the nation. Internal to ourselves. The phrase jihad was initially longer. It was jihad al nufs, meaning battle of the soul. Yes, this is an inside job.”

I agree that our country is and has been at war. We war on drugs, on poverty and on terror. We see each other as colors, as genders and, worst of all, The Other. So we need to figure out how to see each other as people again. It can be done. Yes, people have died. Yes, there’s centuries of history behind the racism and sexism and many other –isms. But what I see in my world is a lot of people that are willing to do better. I hear people of good conscience talking not just about what’s wrong, but what we can do.

What can we do? I’m in prayer a lot. I’m doing a lot of reality checking about whether things are awful or just feel awful. There’s sometimes a difference between my emotional truth and the verifiable facts. Our Taize service is aimed at helping all of us make that shift together. And how about being the voice of moderation on social media and during casual conversations? When I hear “oh-those-awful” fill in the blank with your choice of group or politician to fear “are-going-to-destroy-this-country,” I know that’s the voice of fear speaking, every single time. I answer it with something that says that while it’s important to face facts, we don’t have to forget that these are not the only facts and that we might not even have true facts.

Now, understand, I said I’ve been trying this stuff. I didn’t say it all worked for me or that I do it 100% of the time. What I love about this spiritual path is that I can just do my best in any given moment and that’s enough. I don’t need to be eligible for sainthood anytime soon (or late, for that matter). In this Center, we run the experiments that are required to find our “best practices”. That’s really all we do – keep trying until we find a few things that work. That’s it.

Please feel free to add what you’re trying or make any other comments.