Tag Archives: surrender

Our tomato

In the Buddhist tradition, it is said that suffering is caused by attachment. The truth is that all things change, so if we are addicted to a certain form (the way a relationship has always been for instance) we are going to suffer. We heal ourselves by becoming aware of these addictions or cravings and then applying compassion. We release the addiction to the form and rest in the eternal rather than the changing. The Buddha is eternal. Our own Buddha-nature is eternal. Our physical bodies and the bodies of our affairs (money, relationships, jobs) change.

The summer, we managed to grow a real, live tomato plant. It’s the first time there has been fruit from a plant I planted in this home. I have planted thyme (haven’t tried to harvest anything) and other herbs, but they generally only do okay at best. Mint, which is an invasive weed, I managed to kill. But this year there was a success. Okay, so it’s only one small tomato, but it counts.

How silly would it be to mourn the plant that is fading with the summer instead of focusing on what it has given us (about a bite of tomato each)? I’m not going to roll the planter inside my home to save the plant, because it’s way too heavy and my cats would get into it. I can celebrate what it gave me and release this form, taking with me only the awareness that it is possible in God’s universe for me to participate in growing a plant. I have discovered part of the unchanging reality of my true self, my Buddha nature. I can let go of the form now.

In the same boat

I never liked working in groups in school. I wanted to be in charge of earning my own grades. I didn’t want some other person, who was obviously never going to be as smart as me, messing up my GPA. Yes, I’m talking about elementary school. I had issues.

Most days now, I’m an adult. I recognize the Oneness of all beings and I get that life on this planet is a group project. We sink or swim together. There’s a thing called the Bodhisattva vow that says that souls are innumerable and the Bodhisattva vows to row them all to the distant shore. I don’t vow to row anyone else to shore, but I’ll take an oar and help. If we’re all just walking each other home, as Ram Das says, then I’ll walk next to anyone. I don’t think I do the Universe any favors by thinking I need to carry someone else. After all, that other person is just as much a part of God as I am, right?

Having said that, I’m discovering the joy of working together with other folks who are walking home at the same rate as I am. Yesterday, a group of us went outside after service and weeded the labyrinth. With so many working on the project it went pretty fast and it gave me time to catch up with folks I usually don’t get to have conversation with on Sunday. I also just got back from a gathering of ministers in North Carolina. It’s a beautiful place and the Center there in Asheville is impressive at a lot of levels. My ministry only started being successful once I recognized the power of the group consciousness. I started enjoying ministry when I realized that part of my job was to do lunch with colleagues and share the joys and challenges with them. Those connections make my career possible.

So today I’m up for the group project this teaching Universe has assigned. Today I work with and walk with anyone who sincerely wants to create a world that works for everyone.

 

Duck, Duck, Goose!

The other day I realized that I was getting very anxious. I was anxious because I had so much to do and it wasn’t done yet. I had trouble sitting for more than ten minutes to do spiritual practice because there was so much to do and of course, I was late. Well, I told myself I was late.

You see, in order to fit everything into my week this week, I had a long day on Tuesday, catch up on Wednesday and then leave at 4:15 in the morning on Thursday in order to drive to Phoenix, park the car and get to the airport. I was stressed out in advance. I was stressed out because I was living the whole week at once and feeling like I was already behind… on days that hadn’t happened yet.

One of the metaphors for ministry (and all spiritual life, I think) is that of a duck. We are to glide across the waters of life peacefully and gracefully, never allowing folks to see that our feet are paddling frantically underneath the water. We’re supposed to make it look easy, right? Spiritual people have mastered equanimity. If I’m spiritual then I don’t ever have bad days. Right?

The best spiritual practice I have learned is laughter. Instead of trying to be a duck, I am realizing that I’m a goose. Once I see how silly I’m being, I can laugh and go back to my “to do” list. I can leave God’s “to do” list to God. Oh, and get a hotel in town the night before the flight.

Divine Timing

There’s a thing called Divine Timing. It’s not usually the same as my personal timing, or what I think I want to be my personal timing. It’s the pace at which change happens. When I was a brand new minister, I would get frustrated that folks didn’t catch my vision as quickly as I wanted. I understood the concept of church time – what I live with 24/7/365, the congregation gets for twenty minutes a week. One of my friends put it another way. She said to imagine that we’re all playing crack the whip. I’m the leader. I shift just a few inches over and think it’s no big deal. From where I’m playing, it is a minor change. For the person at the other end, the end of the whip, it’s major. It might send them flying ten feet through the air. That was the fun of crack the whip – to make someone on the end go flying. It was fun when we were kids, but it’s not way to run a Center.

It makes me wonder what God sees from the front of the line. Spirit shifts just a few inches, but my Spirit works in eons and over parsecs of space. So by the time the energy gets to me, it might feel like I’ve been flung from Earth entirely over to Jupiter or Neptune. I make a small change in my thinking, like maybe I don’t want to eat so much sugar anymore. At the other end of that chain is being spared cancer or diabetes for decades of my life. I decide to practice giving real second chances to people and end of going from actively disliking a certain teacher to having a mentor I love and trust. Spirit might have poked a hole in the earth while thinking one day, and now we have the Grand Canyon. Or maybe God got to playing with molecules, created oxygen and how we have a habitable planet.

This is what I know – discounting the small, honest changes I make in my thinking is silly. I don’t know what will roll out at the other end of that whip. Maybe nothing except the memory of a particularly good morning. Maybe everything.

 

Sacred Days

I was at a retreat all week up in Oregon. It was very, very green. It also rained every day except the day it hailed. So what was created was a sense of being all tucked in, with nowhere to go and nothing to do except the deep spiritual work. Now, I had my doubts about this particular teaching for years. For one thing, the materials are in a weird font and there’s an over-abundance of extraneous quotation marks that annoy the crap out of me. However, I have learned to that kind of things aside in order to see what might be of use, so there I was. I know and trust the facilitator Rev. Dr. Penny Macek (check her out at www.newvisioncsl.org) and she wouldn’t work with less-than-stellar people, so I was willing to try.

The first thing that happened was that they started talking about Christ. I’m not a traditional Christian. I understand the Christ in the same way these folks do – it’s the life energy and intelligence that predates any religion, but gets called the God Self, Higher Self, and Buddha nature.  I don’t care what you call it, frankly, as long as there is an understanding that Jesus of Nazareth was one of many Christs that have taken up the work over the ages. I’ve long since left behind the need to talk to Jesus as the one and only. Even he smirks when I talk about it to him, cuz it’s just funny and wrong at the same time. So I had to remind myself as we talked about the Christ over and over that it was my new understanding, not the old one I was raised with. Yes, some of the songs we sang got very traditional, but I looked past that (see how amazingly magnanimous and spiritual I am?).

I will admit – I did trip over the Jesus thing a lot, just like I was tripping over the Mohammed thing earlier in the week. I listened to Mohammed’s biography in the car and got very judgmental over how he went to war and played politics and treated the Jews in Medina. Isn’t it amazing that I can find ways to judge these amazing people? Here are two men that gave their lives to the work in ways I can’t even fathom and I’m looking down my spiritual nose at them. Not that I can channel a holy book or change water into wine (which I admit would make me immensely popular) but I can miraculously find fault with damned near anything.

What will it take for me to see the Christ Being in everyone? What will it take for you to see it? What if it shows up in your mirror, like Bloody Mary at midnight? Then what are we going to do? I’m going to stick with what I learned at the retreat. I’m going to keep going back to www.sacreddays.org to find the music we listened to and the explanations of the exercises. I’m going to keep working on my own inner critic until even that voice is the voice of God (which is female in my heart right now). I’m going to look past punctuation until my consciousness is so clear and strong that I only see God. Period.

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.

Autumn leaves

I saw this great meme on Facebook about how, in the autumn, the trees give us a beautiful example of letting go of what’s dead. This is a statement about surrender.

And here’s the thing; I have a love/hate relationship with that word. Our whole culture has a love/hate relationship with that word. What our philosophy teaches is that Spirit takes on form (this physical world), has some experiences, and then abandons the original form to take on another form. Spirit is good at surrendering that first form and has been doing it for billions of years. Can you imagine if Spirit had refused to let go of the form of dinosaurs? Our daily commute the office would be far more exciting.

On the one hand, surrender means that I lost. It means that I gave up on something. When I got divorced, the hardest thing to do was surrender those wedding vows and all the promises I’d made and dreams I’d dreamed. I thought being married meant I never had to be alone again, that I’d always have the support of my spouse and that I was done with being seen a not-fully-matured as a woman in this society. And I’ll be honest – there’s a certain safety in being married. That wedding ring gets rid of a lot of unwanted attention.

On the other hand, things I believed about marriage and what it all meant needed to be surrendered if I was going to live in the real world. Arguing with what is and trying to force what I believe should be the truth will never lead to happiness. Surrender means freedom from the fight. Surrender means allowing the truth of this reality to be true and to be what I work with. Let me tell you, it was much easier to take on a new “form” in my life once I admitted that the original form was dead.

Ah, but how do I know the difference between time to persevere and time to surrender, you ask. Well, I can’t tell you that. You’ll have your own set of signals. I know that for me, if something is making me miserable and I’m getting myself all tied up in knots around my judgment of what I’m seeing, it’s time to at least temporarily surrender it. I can’t tell you how many times I walked away from writing something because it just wasn’t coming out, only to come back later and have it write itself. In the time in between, I’d been focusing on other things, maybe doing something physical rather than intellectual, and quietly surrendering what I thought needed to be written.

I could have stayed in my marriage. Lucky for me, I’d seen what staying in an unhappy marriage looks like. Because I was willing to surrender, I now work in a career that is my calling as well as my job. He went back and married his old girlfriend and (I’m told) has a happy life and career in the military. I like to believe he and his family are happy in the life that would have made me miserable. I know I’m happy in the life that he would have hated. What has been surrendered is the idea that one of us had to be wrong for each of us to have the life we love.

Surrender has led to some of the most beautiful new growth in my world. And yes, some of the old stuff has claw marks on it, but there will be other opportunities to let go gracefully.