Wednesday, August 31, 2016
If you want to let go of the ego, that is, stop being led by your own self-centeredness, and personal agenda, then think of the ego as a "cramp." If you have a cramp in your leg, you do not exert yourself, or the muscle. You try to relax the muscle. You let go. You try to be still and wait. This is why we meditate. We want to let go of those things, ego cramps, that get in the way of us becoming all we are meant to be. Ego driven people are never really happy, are they? If we want to run to the fulness of life, we have to keep from cramping. Meditation is part of the training program.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
I was reading about wake up calls in hotels when traveling. Prayer is a wake up call. Wake up to the present moment of reality, not the past or the future, neither of which exist outside of my mind and imagination. I wake up from sleep. My mind can go into all kinds of places, none of which have to do with what is important or real. So I try for mediation sooner rather than later in my waking hour. God and me only relate in the now. Everything else is story, my story, going on in the imagination, thinking away. I cannot relate to anyone in my imagination. I can judge them, imagine them, whine to them or try to get them on board for my personal plans for happiness that day. This is low level to no level relationship. Meditation, I ignore my mind and be. Breathe. Be still. Wait. Sometimes, I have a cup of coffee beside me. Well, no one is perfect.
Monday, August 29, 2016
It is August. Summer. I am wearing gloves. I am in San Francisco. I see people in shorts, tee shirts, no coats, but I am wearing gloves, ski cap and warm jacket. I am comfortable. This is a challenge, to remain in the present moment. My mind wants to drift. What do people think of me when they see me walking down the street? Is there something wrong with me? Why am I not like others in this town? And so on. The present moment without the inner dialogue, can just be me, comfortable me, looking at the scenery, stores, not judging myself or comparing myself to others. I am not wrongly made, or deficient in some way. I am just me, so I adjust to being me. If I try to be like others I see, then I will be needlessly uncomfortable, and cold. Be yourself. Maybe someone on the street wishes they had gloves?
Sunday, August 28, 2016
Last summer, I became retired as a monastery ranch worker and hay farmer. It happens. Irrigation work was being done by machine. A local rancher was coming in to take the hay. It was a transition for which I was not prepared. I tried to read, study, research and prepare for future teachings, but I missed the ranch. I stayed only seven weeks. This year, I was ready to be "retired" from physical labor. I brought plenty of books, did lots of research and preparation for future teachings, and taught more at the monastery and in town than ever before. It was a wonderful summer. I told the Abbot that someday I may forget to leave. He seemed fine with that. I know that I do not have what it takes to be a monk in a monastery full time. But I also know that God is at work, and more will be revealed.
Saturday, August 27, 2016
I wrote about transitions a few blogs ago. I just returned to Boulder from my summer in the monastery and the light has gone on for me. I am in some transition. Boulder was seen for years as "home." That is, when I went somewhere, Boulder seemed like the coming back home place. No matter who lived there, it was my home. The monastery, San Francisco and Vero Beach were home too, but Boulder seemed to be unique. There are people in Boulder who I have known the longest. My running buddies are here. Now I realize that this has all been slowly changing over the last several years. I just realized it now. I do not live in my home. I live in the house of someone else's home. I have a room, but otherwise, all things around me have been changing with new people coming to live there. From time to time, someone has offered for me to live in their home while I work here. I never felt I wanted to do that. I am experiencing it now. I am not angry or disappointed. Things change. In some sense I have always been a "guest" in the house. So I am in a transition, and will stay open to what it means and to where I may be led in the future.
Friday, August 26, 2016
I attended my first "Solemn Vows" ceremony of a Monk. These are the vows the monk takes when he is going to become a full member of the monastery, like a marriage. Up until then, it is the engagement time. The monk generally lives with a particular monastic community for eight to ten years before the community and the monk agree to bond. Why does it take so long? Well, it has nothing much to do with the lifestyle. Things are the same from one day to the next. After a couple of years the monk realizes this and knows if he likes this way of daily living. The extended time beyond these first couple of years, is so that the monk can look at his insides, his shortcomings, bad habits and attitudes that might make for a struggle to grow in the spiritual life. He has to be well on his way to dealing with these, so that he can see the lifestyle of the monastery and his trying to grow as a person, to be in sync. The Community of monks needs to see this too, as they vote on whether or not to allow him to make his final, solemn vows. In your own life, if you are in a relationship, does it help you to grow or maybe not? Your career, your job, your lifestyle? The monastery does not look for the perfect monk. It looks for a good fit.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
The 1700s were a great time of letter writing in this country. The letters were very well thought out, and some could be several pages. Why? Well, the sender did not pay the postage. The one receiving the letter paid the postage. People did not want to write shallow, poorly written, trivial and dull letters if they cared about the person who would be receiving the letter. If you got the reputation for writing badly, people would cringe at the sight of the letter. Today, when I write someone I try to make it something that I hope is well thought out, personal, and worth reading. I am not so sure this goes on in the world of the internet. As for snail mail, it is going the way of the dinosaur.
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
"Felling Better" can have its own problems. At times I may be having a problem with something such as diet, exercise, work pattern. I look around, ask for advice, experiment and come up with a solution to my issue at that time. The solution works. I begin to feel better. But now I have lost the impetus to keep with the solution, to discipline myself. The unpleasantness of my problem was what got me to change. Unpleasantness gone, I drop the solution and go back to old behavior. With exercise, I feel that when I can run, I am simply between injuries. I have to practice a daily dose of solution, and not wait for pain. Maybe I am the problem? What about you?
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
What changes for a person who is an addict practicing a spiritual program of recovery? Everything! I meet these people in my work, since churches seem to have lots of meetings for these people. On many levels, financial, relational, spiritual, and physical, they are so much better, more whole. What changes for such a person when they stop practicing their spiritual program? Their sobriety date changes, and sometimes they die before they get a new sobriety date. These people are my teachers. My prayer life has no shelf time. My meditation practice for today, does not seem to carry over through the next day. I need to practice each day. The excuse, "I have no time," is just that, an excuse. Whenever I want to practice bad behavior I seem to have all the time in the world for that. A little quiet desperation is not such a bad thing.
Monday, August 22, 2016
If we are growing, not stagnating, then life will be a series of transitions. This is not the same as Geographic Solutions to our misery, that is, moving somewhere else because I am unhappy. You might be in a quite wonderful situation, place, job, income, but something gnaws at you inside. If you are growing in an interior or spiritual sense, this gnaw is a good thing. It is telling you that you are drawing to the end of this part of your life, this manner of living. The present was good for your development. It has done its job. Now you are feeling a call to move on to the "next." A physical move is not always part of this transition. One can live in the same place, but one will begin to live in a different manner. Each person is different, but growth always has transitions. It is like a child who is physically growing. The child cannot continue to wear the same clothes forever. It would become a bad fit. So it is with life. From time to time, we outgrow a good fit. At times, I ask myself, "What's next!" Where and how I live and what I do might be a good fit for now. But even with that I find myself changing in the way and manner and content of what I do. I do not see myself "retiring" as in not doing anything anymore. People who retire well are people who transition from one way to another way that is growth. A full life is not a series of lateral moves, at least not in the long term. So, what is next for you?
Sunday, August 21, 2016
People who think that suicide might be a solution often are into balancing out living versus being dead depending on the pain level for one or the other. Which might hurt worse? If a person believes that being dead would not hurt but that being alive hurts a whole lot, then they are in a very difficult spot. We sometimes say, "How could they do that to themselves?" as if their suicide, slow or fast, was a whole lot worse than their staying alive. That is an opinion, a belief, a teaching about the wrong of suicide. I suspect that many a person who was against suicide, got very fuzzy about it when living began to hurt to the point where their judgment, their upbringing, their beliefs in the value of their life got real fuzzy. I try to have compassion. Then I ask what their death can each me about how I need to take care of the life that I still have in this body. And then I pray for gratitude.
Saturday, August 20, 2016
I read where a person spoke about thoughts this way: "Squirrels running around in my head before I could get a leash on them." This is a wonderful metaphor for thoughts that come to us when we are trying to have a quiet mind, as in meditation. You cannot control thoughts any more than you can control squirrels with a leash. Let squirrels be squirrels and thoughts be thoughts. In meditation, what we try to do is ignore thoughts, not give them any focus or attention. We are aware of them, but we don't follow them around and see where they are going to end up. We let them wander around in the mind. This is the point of a breathing or mantra technique. Some people might even use soft music to fill the background of their mind. Squirrels seem to multiply if left alone. Thoughts seem to just drift away into the background of life when we ignore them in meditation.
Friday, August 19, 2016
A friend of mine once said, "I am only having one drink. See, I am not an alcoholic." I said, "Oh?" She had more to say. To her, an alcoholic was someone who drank too much, which of course she was not going to do this evening at dinner. I pointed to my broccoli. I said, "See this broccoli? I don't look at it and think that I am only going to have three pieces and no more. I don't think about it at all. I am not thinking about more broccoli now or later tonight." She look puzzled. So I explained to her that normal drinkers don't think about how many or few drinks they are going to have. A little wine to add to the flavor of a meal, or relax with a friend, but nothing more is thought about the wine. Alcoholics think about their drinking. They are going to prove they are not alcoholics by not drinking or by drinking only one drink. They are going to prove that they do not drink too much, or can control it...this time. I have never been accused of eating too much broccoli. The inevitable time comes, soon enough, too soon, when the controlling drinker has one too many and then whines about how no one loves them, no one cares, the world is a mess, and so on. I don't end up that way with broccoli. I don't need broccoli to whine! Maureen, pray for me.
Thursday, August 18, 2016
If Margo liked you, trusted that you were basically a good person who was about to make a not so good decision she would say something like, "Don't be a jerk." I liked this type of phrase because it does not accuse you of being a jerk. It is not judgmental. It says that you are not yet a jerk, but if you go down a certain path, that is the path of jerkiness. You are a good person with options. Of course, me being somewhat dull, I would have to ask her what she would recommend. She would give a solution and then give the reasons why she would choose this particular solution. So I would have a chance to learn something as well. If you tell someone to their face that you think them a jerk, then they will resist any change. They will not listen to you. Beware of the bruised ego. It has trouble changing course.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
The "Inevitable Next Time," is not a good solution to life problems. It is a solution of choice for many people because it seems to bring some short term gain or relief. Then you realize that the solution has its own problems. So now you have two problems, your original life problems, and now your solution, "The inevitable next time." You vow you will stop this solution. You use knowledge and will power. Phooey! You fail. That is why the solution is inevitable. It keeps coming back to hurt you. An example: running makes you feel better. You run 10 miles three days in a row, hard. You get injured. You have to stop running. You say, "Now I know I cannot run three hard days at 10 miles per day." Injury heals. You start up running again. You feel better. You like feeling better, and would like "more" better. So you up milage and days running, and boom, you get injured and now the injury is worse, maybe chronic. And so on. I know. I have been there. So what to do? Talk to someone who knows about my inevitable next time solution. I find someone with experience who can coach me, show me a better way. With help, I solve my solution problem, on a day to day basis, and now I can go on to find a healthier way, to work on my life problems. There are coaches, counsellors and sponsors for that too.
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
A women once said that she had a bad habit, a vice. She said that, "She had trouble not starting." That phase caught me. In between "starts" she would pledge to stop for good. No good. She would simply start up again. She wanted to distance herself, or numb herself, to her emotions, which I guess were pretty ongoing. The problem with this solution to her emotions was that she felt even worse than before. Her solution made her feel worse. How to survive? Then the light went on for her. This is what I call Grace. She suddenly realized that she had to learn how to live, not just how to survive. With the help of others, she found a solution to living on a daily basis. There are other groups, like the military, or medicine that will show you how to survive, but that is so you can "live," have a life. Solutions to survival alone will not give you a life. But then, this is just my experience.
Monday, August 15, 2016
"I am happy. I'm myself, and I want to be myself." This is a quote from a fellow who knew that people were coming soon to kill him. He happened to be a missionary working in Peru. The Shining Path people had him on their hit list. The missionary did not ask to be spared for a long life, or for "more" of anything. So many times we tend to focus on stuff that is much less significant than being who God made us to be. It can take a long time to find out who we are, but if we don't even have it as our goal, than most likely we never find out. We spend our time chasing after substitutes, the "more," to fill up that seemingly empty space within us. The most important person who needs to like who you really are, is yourself. If other people don't like that, it might be because they want you to be someone else for them, to fill up their inner hunger. We can be charitable, kind and compassionate, but it is not our job to make someone else happy. Find you, and be happy.
Sunday, August 14, 2016
It only took one person, Noah, to save the world from extinction, so the story goes of the Great Flood in the Bible. Noah might have said, "Well, no one else seems to be concerned, why should I do anything." But he went against the grain and a lot of people thought that he was quaint, eccentric or just crazy. What a bother, to build that ark and gather up all those animals. Noah believed that things were going to get bad, but no one else paid attention. Then the floods came. There was a warning, as the story goes, but only Noah listened. So, recycle, even if you think you are the only one doing it. It might seem to be a bother, but then so was building an ark. As the Bible says, it only takes one person to save the planet. Why not it be you?
Saturday, August 13, 2016
What does all this stuff about "Oneness with God," mean? Here is a story. Once upon a time, I was in love. I came to the door of my lover's room and knocked. "Who is it?" she called out. "It is I," I said through the closed door. No response from my lover. I knocked again. Silence. I tried to open the door on my own power. I could not. "Let me in," I pleaded. "Go away," replied my lover. Distraught, I went away. Alone, in solitude, I longed for my lover. Everything around me reminded me of her. Everywhere I went I seemed to see her. My heart ached. Suddenly, the light went on for me. I went back to her room and knocked on the door. "Who is it?" she asked from within. "It is you," I replied. The door flew open and I was welcomed in with love. "There is not enough room in here for two I s," she whispered. Rumi, the poet helped me with this one.
Friday, August 12, 2016
The student comes to the sufi master and tells the master what a bad person he, the student, is. The master tells him that we are all tethered to God by a rope. Every time we sin, we cut the rope. Every time we repent, God takes the two ends of the rope and ties them together in a knot. Sin, repent, sin, repent, and so on. Soon enough, the rope has become very short, from all those knots, and you are now closer to God than the perfect person. My sister, Maureen, told me I was going to burn. I wish she had read the sufi mystics.
Thursday, August 11, 2016
"What you see, is what you get," is a phrase we hear now and again. It has to do with "judgment." All of us have imperfections, but we have the possibility of goodness too. If a person has messed up in some way, but you see good in them, and ignore criticism of the mess, they will act better. They will respond with good behavior because of your belief in their potential for good. People can be brought up in a ghetto of crime and rage, but turn out quite loving and productive because of someone who saw good in them and encouraged it by that attitude. If people are told they are no good, why would you expect them to act well? God sees the good. We often say that love is blind. So maybe God is blind? But loves.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
In the last century when I worked on the parish staff in our San Francisco church, there was a woman named Margo who helped us priests in our work. Margo had a rare combination. She was brilliant and kind. I am occasionally kind. When something had to be decided, Margo would ask, What do you think?" to me or one of the other priests. She genuinely seemed to want to know our ideas. We would tell her what we thought. Margo would go, "Humm." Then she would say, "Well, what if we did it this way, or did this?" Her idea was better, but she would give us time to digest it, and get over ego damage. She would do this by giving her reasons why she would do something in a certain way. I admired her approach. Sometimes when several of us priests were bickering back and forth, getting nowhere on a solution, Margo would save us from ourselves, by saying, "Look guys, here is what we will do." She sensed we were all tired and frustrated with one another, getting nowhere. She knew when to use the direct approach. Even though she was smarter than all of us clerics, and put up with a lot of our ineptitude, she stayed in the church and we were very successful in our mission while she was there. Behind every successful Catholic parish, is a good woman.
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Living in a monastery, at 8,000 feet up in the mountains, I am a star gazer. The Pleiades is a seven star cluster quite visible in the night sky at this time of the year. If I look directly at the cluster, I cannot "see" the seven stars. I have to look to one side or the other. Why? I find out that we have a blind spot in the center of our eye for night vision. If we look directly at something at night we do not see it all. I try to remember this when I tend to "judge" people, counting all their bad points as I see them. Maybe, I don't see everything about them when I look directly at them in front of me. I will say, "So and so is despicable, thoroughly bad." Then I find out that someone loves them, or admires them. I think these other people are blind. But maybe it is me who just does not see of a person with my limited experience and view of them. You hate your boss? Co-worker? Someone you interact with each day? Do any of us really see all there is by direct encounter? If someone judges you badly, do you not defend yourself, at least to yourself, that there is more to you than they see in their limited encounters with you? "Judge not, lest you be judged." OK, Maureen, your kids loved you. Though they might be delusional, it might be I do not see all there is. Big sisters are also Moms and Lovers.
Monday, August 8, 2016
I am not at the whim of fate, or habit. I like the idea that I am yet a story to be written, in progress. This gives me the sense that the future, however long or short, is not decided beforehand. I keep my plans on the level of preference, but I try to stay open to other possibilities. Mediation keeps self-centeredness rather small. It is always there, but not so controlling. A diary is one way to examine how the story is going along. A daily examine of the day shows me if habit won out more than inspiration, courage, and openness. The unreflective life can become a rut. A little wilderness time in silence and solitude, can show me a different story on the horizon.
Sunday, August 7, 2016
I like the turtle. Unlike me, the turtle does not have to think about getting from where it is now, A, to its destination, B. The turtle can just be in the now moment. Why? The turtle is always at home, because it carries its home on its back. It can be in the moment, rather than focus on getting somewhere. When I am on a journey, there is always the destination to which the journey is taking me. For the mystic though, and the turtle, the journey is the destination. The mystic is always at home in themselves. Yes, the mystic and the turtle need to get to food and water, but not in some fearful sense of preoccupation. They can seek some basic needs, while staying in the moment. The turtle moves slowly, not frantic about what is missing in its life. Its very nature is to not be a hurry. Deep prayer takes stillness. Maybe this blog will help you to gear down to turtle pace within your heart.
Saturday, August 6, 2016
If Jesus is God, and he is hanging on a cross, what is the meaning of that? To me, it means that God loves me in my pain and suffering, especially when it is pain I don't think I did anything to deserve. Most of the time when any of us are in pain, physical, psychological, or emotional, we think that God has abandoned us or else does not care, or does not even exist. We feel like victims of cruelty we cannot control. The cross says God is with us and loving us in our pain. But God fails. Why? Because we do not believe God is there or here with our pain, loving us. God loves but we don't know it. OK. You are Jewish. God's covenant people are wandering in the desert, or sent off to exile, their land desolate, destroyed. God is loving them but they do not know it. We humans think that pain and suffering means there is no God or no God who is loving us at that time. Divorce? Job loss? Economic insecurity? Addiction miseries? Rejection? Death of child? So God fails to reveal love in all these circumstances. But God does not stop loving. It seems to me that God would rather love and fail than not love at all. How about you? Will you love and fail? You could just isolate, resent, put up walls to protect yourself. But even there you will not be alone. God will love you even if invisible to you.
Friday, August 5, 2016
When I was a bachelor in San Francisco, I lived on Union Street, in the Cow Hollow section of the City. One of my favorite days was when I was home and it rained, not poured, just a steady rain. I used to go walking along my street. On a bright tourist sunny, warm day, or any night, my street was crowded with visitors, shoppers, and fun searching people. But Californians don't walk in the rain unless they have somewhere to go, like work or theatre. My street was empty. I put on my London Fog long coat, my water proof walking shoes, brimmed hat and meandered. The shops were open, though all the front doors were closed, and they were empty of customers. Like a nature forest, nothing was going on, unless you knew how to look. The surprise moments happen that way in the City. I stopped to look at one wood-framed store. The wood was once a tree in the forest where it was born and grew up. Then it was uprooted, handled by modern technology, and molded into the frame of this store, pained yellow. It now provides the store with warmth and dryness inside. But is it still a tree? What about me? I am uprooted too, from my Bronx home. Technology, education, corporate America, relationships all have molded me in some way. Some ways the tree and I have changed, at least in how we look and function. But somethings don't change, if we know how to look.
Woodiness makes a tree.
Terryiness makes me.
Give yourself a hug. Oops! Starting to cry. Gotta go.
Woodiness makes a tree.
Terryiness makes me.
Give yourself a hug. Oops! Starting to cry. Gotta go.
Thursday, August 4, 2016
Time began with creation. Before creation, there was no time, right? Well, if there was this "no time" does it still exist? Did it just go away with creation? I suspect maybe not. An inkling of this can be seen in the way people talk about "what happens after we die." Christians talk about purgatory, where my sister Maureen was until recently, when no one seems to know what happened to her. Does purgatory have a "recent" or a time as a clock and calendar. No. I never hear of afterlife talked about by those who believe in it, as having a calendar and clock. So maybe this "no time" is how we exist after we die, no calendars, clocks, schedules with future appointments. If so, Maureen is living in "no time." But if "no time" was not cancelled out by creation, then time and no time exist together, intermingled. God is in both maybe. I think so. Mystical prayer is living in the "no time" now and again in our prayer time, or just awareness of something that is timeless. Could be my big sister is close to me yet. And at large. Yikes!
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
Albert Einstein said, "Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind." Some people think that they have nothing to do with one another. Science cannot know everything completely. That is why it is science. It inquires. It asks questions. Beyond experiments, scientists need to be able to wonder, to muse, to live with the unknown. A religious sense is what a scientist needs. Maybe see it as spiritual, but religion embodies the spiritual, in spite of institutional flaws. The world of religion mused, wondered, asked questions of "why." Many of our best scientists have religious backgrounds, a spiritual searching background. Religion on the other hand needs science. Religion becomes blind when it thinks that it has the final answers, the definitive definition of "The Holy." Theology is ongoing. Creeds are our best thinking at the moment. Religion developed as story, poetry, and the mystical. We are all one world. Keep the wonder. Go look at the stars.
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
There are baptized parents who have decided not to raise their children with any talk about Jesus and Christianity. Seems strange. Why? Well, for one, Jesus did exist. So did the Buddha. They both were geniuses in the art of living. Isn't that something worth knowing about? Christianity founded hospitals, programs for helping the destitute, great schools of learning. Christianity supported the arts, music, theatre and science. Yes, science. Why would you ignore all that. Maybe what parents want to avoid is all the bad stuff about Christianity, the wars and hypocrisy, and power plays. Welcome to history. You want to skip that too? You think there is none of that in studying business, science and engineering? That there are no charlatans and politics in all that? Instead of ignoring the god that you don't like, and probably does not even exist, except in bad Sunday school teaching, why nog talk about creation, cosmos, unifying principles and what might be behind them? In other words, pose questions, the Socratic method. Let the child think, wonder, read poetry. I doubt you will find any of this in your STEM schools.
Monday, August 1, 2016
Whenever I have a thought about God, my thought is not God. Thoughts are limited. Thoughts are about duel thinking, which is how we think. There is me who is thinking and there is the "other," whatever I am thinking about. God and me are separate. Meditation that pays no attention to thoughts, is an attempt to enter into non-duel thinking. In meditation, I don't ask for anything from this "other" God. I simply sit, ignore thoughts, and wait in the silence and solitude. If I grab onto a thought I notice my breathing, for two or three breaths, so as to let go a bit of clinging onto the thought that is distracting me. At time, I become aware of a simple presence, without images. This presence is near, very near, and peaceful. I sense this presence is all around and through me. When I eventually open my eyes, I might sense that this presence is everywhere I go. This insight can pass very quickly, in too brief a moment. While in this awareness, I sense a lot of peace, love, trust and energy. This is all much more beneficial to me than whatever my agenda or plans for God are. I may not get what self-focused me wants, but I sense I get what I need. Works for me.