Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. Anyone can go to a church and get ashes on the forehead. You don't have to believe in God or be a baptized person or in the state of grace. Anyone can get ashes. Such a deal. Now if you are going to get ashes tomorrow, don't wear white. See, the person who gives ashes does it only one time a year. So they make mistakes, plus sometimes the ashes are too dry and the result of all this is that you get ashes on the forehead and down your front, including your nose. So don't be the first on line. Let someone else suffer the early learning curve of the minister. Next, don't wear bangs. Then the ash giver either moves your hair around or just puts the ashes on the bangs. Yucky. Next, after you get ashes, don't wash it off. Let it stay on as an advertisement that today is Ash Wednesday for others who don't have a clue, but who might want to get ashes. Now, I will be giving ashes out in Vero Beach, Florida. I decided to suffer Lent in warm sunshine and near the Atlantic Ocean. But I always get some ashes on people's nose and front. It happens. Offer it up.
It is not that meditation is the only way to reach that stage of an experience of oneness and unity with God, the world around you. It simply is the quicker way because it has less obstacles. Other prayer ways, such as Scripture meditation, novenas, rosaries, worship and sacraments can get you there too, but meditation has less speaking and words on your part. You talk less, focus on thoughts less, use the imagination less, and so you are better able to listen to something or someone deeper that your thoughts, images and words. All forms of prayer are useful, but it helps if you have some idea in mind as to why you are praying at all.
Monday, February 27, 2017
Next time I screw up in talking to an audience, I will simply call it my "Oscar Moment." We all make mistakes, so lets not be too harsh on Bonnie and Clyde. Though now Warren and Faye will be remembered by the millennials more for their Oscar Award announcement than for all the wonderful movies they made. I guess it goes to show that we are only as good in the public's eye as our latest mistake.
If God does really exist, but you have trouble believing in God, why not try talking to God even if you don't know or believe. If God exists, let God do the heavy lifting. Seem strange? Strange can be a good concept in the beginning. You and God are strangers at this point. We are strangers with people when we first meet them, but for some reason we want to get on better with such person. Friendship takes time, and some effort on our part. Show up each day and talk to the your strange God. How is this all going to work out to become a relationship, a friendship? Don't fret. That is God's job, as long as you show up. God will become who God wants to be for you. It does not have to be religious or universal or anything but your God. If God wants to connect you to some long established path, that is between you and God. Don't get ahead of yourself. Show up and chat. In time you may even decide to be quiet and listen. That is friendship evolving.
Sunday, February 26, 2017
There is a saying that when you plan revenge, first dig two graves. What? Well, the anger energy behind revenge will hinder your spiritual development. You will be hurting yourself as you plot and enact your revenge plan. Though you may feel your anger justified, you might be paying a heavy price. You will definitely hurt yourself. What your efforts do to your neighbor you are not so sure. So it is with fear. Lots of self-damage. Fear keeps reliving events, real or imagined, that change us for the worse, but effect the event not at all. With old resentments you may never forget the events, but you need not relive them. The memory can hold lots of things, but spiritual paths keep them as past events that do not effect our present moment. The present moment is a gift. Why waste it on the past.
Saturday, February 25, 2017
It was pointed out to me that God did not give Noah any instructions for a sail or a rudder for the ark. Noah might be in charge of keeping safe and dry, survival, but he was not going to be in charge of destination or direction. Follow instructions but don't be concerned about where you are going. God will lead you, is what Noah needed to know and trust. So I try to ask God to help me to keep safe, that is, to keep my head above water. But I try to let God lead me through the day. God is going to be my rudder and sail. I have my plans, but they are just my plans hatched from my self-will, and my judgment about what is best. Left to my own self-will, my life will go around in circles or go two ways at once. I barely survived living a riotous life of self-will. God will direct my day if I am open.
Friday, February 24, 2017
Someone said that prayer does not work. I did not know that prayer was supposed to "work." I thought it was a dialogue between God and the person, which means that there is supposed to be some listening. The idea of prayer as something that works seems to be about asking for something and then expecting to get what we ask for, without our working much at all beyond the asking. I may ask God to help me find my way around the public transport system in New York City, but then I do something. I ask others for help. I read signs. I look for an app on city transport. I don't just stand there and do nothing. I want God to assist me, that is, help me in my efforts. I don't know anyone who ever go sober by simply asking God, "Make me sober." Prayer does not work if I don't work. Wake up. Say thank you. Ask for assistance and then put on your face and get going on the day ahead of you. It seems to work for me. Doing nothing for me is to drown in fear.
Thursday, February 23, 2017
When I preach I try to avoid telling people what to do. None of my friends like to be told what to do. Instead of telling other people what to do about a particular situation or shortcoming in our lives, I tell people what I do or try to do. I talk about the difficulty in trying to do what I want to do. I am honest about my own imperfections and struggles. Some people seem to find this helpful for their own life. Most people say nothing, so I never know the overall effect of my preaching. But I do know that I seem to benefit from my honesty. When I was younger I did not benefit from my big sister Maureen's honesty about my shortcomings. Youth finds honesty too uncomfortable. We are defending our turf, building our egos, competing for acceptance. Childhood is the time for lies. But it does not work if we are going to mature and grow in some spiritual dimension.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
I was jogging one morning and whining about how my knee was sore, not so sore that I could not jog, but sore enough for whining. I have a low threshold for whining. As I jogged I came upon a school bus that had stopped and was lifting a boy in his wheelchair into the bus. The boy could not walk. Grace: the unexpected event in my life to help me take a good look at myself. Where is my gratitude that I can jog? No gratitude. The boy in the wheelchair has special needs. I have no special needs, but you would not know it from my lack of gratitude that morning. If you think you are going to have a bad day, look at the things you take for granted that you still have in your life.
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
If I present to others a "false front" as in hiding what is really going on with me, I will not have good friends. I may have admirers, or fans, or people with whom I share some common interest, such as sports. I fear two things: one is that if I tell them what is really going on, they will not like me, or be my friend, and two: the pressure of always remembering which false front I presented to whom. So I try not to present a false front that makes things better than they are. But I do tend to present a false front that makes things worse than they are, maybe for sympathy. I say such things as, "My life is in ruins." "I am a failure." "I am so stupid." "I have no friends." "The world hates me." "No one cares." Don't many of us present ourselves as better or worse than reality? Do we want to bypass what we are really feeling? Do we even know? As long as I have some spiritual connection, however I get it, I will tend to stay in the "Real." My blog is my way of trying to stay honest and real on a daily basis. Someone called me, "Your Realness." I like that!
Monday, February 20, 2017
What is normal for me? When I say my day is "normal" what does this mean? I have come to realize it means my day has in it only those things I can control. it seems I allow into my life on a regular basis, only those things that are under my control. If I cannot control something, then it is not going to get into my life on any regular basis. The things that bring fear, anxiety, anger, resentment, whining and so on, are "beyond normal." They are abnormal and judged as such. OMG! I am a control freak. I get stressed at the thought, much less the actual event, of something new or unusual. I may really enjoy the new, when it occurs, but I go into it with apprehension. My thinking is, "If it is not the norm, something will go wrong." The madness of Love and falling in love, is what gets us to go in new direction with a new person. Marriage? Yikes! You have to be in love to do that. Sometimes, when we look back on something that we did, we say, "What was I thinking?" Not much, I suspect. It was feelings that energized you to take a leap. On the other hand, if you are fear based like me, too much thinking will only get you stuck. For me, feelings have a place. Some of the best things I did were when I said, "It just feels right." It works for me when I have a spiritual connection. My brain is somewhat more broken than my heart. But I am an Aries. Fire sign.
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Someone talked about having "Cadillac Problems," that is, a higher quality of problems than they used to have. I can relate. My problems now are in part because I have a job, a place to live and keep up, health sufficient to exercise, healthy supportive relationships and discretionary funds. It was not always like that. I remember being unemployable, or looking for work and not finding any, or working for very low subsistence pay, having a place to live that I could no longer afford and health issues due to bad diet. What changed? I think it is me. I found a spiritual way/program/guides that gradually changed my problems from serious to ordinary. If I can remember the bad times, I will be in a better mood and acceptance of the "Cadillac Problems" I have today. My new way found a God who loved me even when I did not quite so love myself. A rocky past can keep the present in a good balance.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
What do old friends talk about? Bowl movements! OMG. You know you are old and have a really good long time friend when this is the topic you can discuss. Right now this would be a serious topic for us old folks. On the other hand, we seem to laugh at what we thought were serious problems when we were younger, such as leaving a purse or wallet in a restaurant or store. The point? Serious, anxiety-ridden, frightening problems most often become laughable years later. Rarely do current serious problems stay either current or serious. So why let your current serious problem get you all twisted up? If you can let go a bit from your own "disasters" you might have energy to be of service to someone with a real ongoing problem.
Friday, February 17, 2017
In the movie, "Fences," Troy is very defensive about his taking care of his family with food, shelter, a steady job, and being home every night. He lets everyone else know that, though in his own angry fashion. He feels unappreciated in his Herculean success. Some people, from other cultures, would look at this and say what is the big deal? Isn't this what is expected of a husband/father? Not in Troy's world. In his world he is special and unique. The culture he grew up in, men did not make good fathers or husbands. Even Troy has three children by three different women. He cheated on his present wife. But to him it all makes some sense because he did so much more than African American men he has known. Though he thinks he is better than others he is a bitter man. He never abandons his children, though he might make them know they owe him something for his being physically and economically there for them. Emotionally, not so much. Don't we all need to let go of slights, hurts, prejudices lest we give all our emotions over to our wounds and have nothing for others? Fortunately, in the end, Troy was not judged by God, as it is intimated in the movie that Troy got lifted up after death. God is always forgiving and compassionate. Those are two things to practice if you want to free up some emotional energy from a twisted past.
Thursday, February 16, 2017
In the movie, "La La Land," each of the main characters, in love with one another, are unable to make a total commitment to their relationship, because they make a total commitment to their career goals. They succeed in reaching their career goals, their dreams for personal success, using their gifts and talents. But at what price? What is the loss? Mia says, before she goes off to Paris for her big break in movie acting, "I will love you always." I suspect she is right about her feelings. Did you ever give up a great love, for work, career, dream or geographic? Mia and Sabastian did. In the world's eye they are both very successful and fulfilled. They have that. I ask myself, "What is my great love?" "Who is my great love?" I think I know my who and what. When I get up in the morning I need to attend to my heart early on in my priorities. The heart holds my truth. This truth need not be a dream I pursue, but a gift I have discovered. Love is gift. For me it has always been a person. For me, prayer is always a kiss.
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
I hope you had a Happy Valentine's Day yesterday or at least were not miserable because of it. If you had expectations and they were not met, remember they are your expectations. And God loves you. If you don't believe in God, then remember I love you. Thank you for reading my blogs so faithfully, though they can be strange at times, like the mind that writes them. If you did not read them, I would not write them and all these thoughts I have would have no place to go. 😇 I am on an airplane to New York City today to talk about prayer of quiet and stillness. God has my back, so I will not get lost...Right God?
In the movie, "Hidden Figures" you notice that the black community has big picnics outside church after services and when they dance, it is in homes. Restaurants did not want these African Americans, nor were there dance halls available for them. The after church picnic also served as a way for boy to meet girl in a safe environment, daylight and no drinking. In the workplace, the genius mathematician was a woman and had black skin. Her colleague and immediate supervisor, did not like that she was there for both those reasons. He was white and male. But another problem, and one that he could change was that he did not just want to do his work. He wanted to be the best at it, not his best but THEE best. A black skin woman just shattered his need to be the best. I think that I try to be the best I can be, but don't worry about being the best of everyone. So I don't mind when I hear a person who is a better preacher than I am. Or someone who is better versed on a subject that I study and teach. I only need to be the best I can be, and these other people may have something to teach me that will help me to improve me. This way I think that everyone else gets the chance to be their best and does not end up a "hidden figure." There really is a better preacher than me? Quiet ego!
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Some people seem to think of God' creation of each one of us like a factory making a car. Once the car is put together (creation) it is sent out the door and is on its way, and on its own. Goodbye lfacory and manufacturer. When the car needs servicing, it returns to the shop (prayer, reading, worship) and gets fixed up. But this is not how creation is. Even mystics speak of having Ultimate Reality, God, The Source, imprinted within. We always have the maker with us. We are never alone. We just think we are. Spiritual hunger is the desire to have this sense of presence. We do not creat it. Re discover it.
Monday, February 13, 2017
When people first try for meditation, such as practicing a Twelve Step Program of Recovery from some addiction, or people think meditation is a way to feel better, the initial energy for doing this is to escape some feeling such as fear or anxiety. For Recovery people by the time they get to the Eleventh Step which is mediation, they are often slackening off. They feel better from working the first ten steps and go to less meetings, are less available to newly recovering people, are of less service, and so the fear issue begins to come up again. Meditation makes them feel less fearful, but it is momentary. Daily practice plus the other steps and meetings, service are all necessary to keep fear away. For people wanting to feel better it is much the same thing. They need to keep at it or the good feelings will dissipate readily. The hardest part of mediation for these people is when they practice, but do not feel better or less fearful. It happens. Don't give up. It is normal. We are never in control of the spiritual world. Control is one of the things we will let go of if we are going to continue with meditation. Addicts love control almost as much as the stuff they used to ingest. I am sitting on a plane going nowhere due to fog in LA. Been on for two hours. Time for more mediation. Hope I get to LA someday!
Sunday, February 12, 2017
What is mystical? The image of a mystical experience that I have is when you get to the edges of things as separate and different, and then fall off or beyond that edge to where you are beyond seeing things at all. Then, from that space you look back on the world of differences, and see that all is one. This experience, at first, gives way to things as separate and different when you come out of the mystical experience and return to the daily life of this and that. But over time, with enough of these you will have a more ongoing experience of the oneness of all. Separateness will be reflected upon as an illusion. Then you will love yourself and be able to love your neighbor as yourself and even love all creation. Maybe the survival of our world will depend upon mystics. We have a big job!
Saturday, February 11, 2017
What do you hope for, if anything? More money? Someone to love? A job/career? Good health for self or others? These to me are all peripherals. They may be part of something that I hope for, but they are not the center of my hope. My hope is for purpose and meaning in my life. We are all surrounded by the finite. I am finite from the day I am conceived. A career may wane as energy sifts away and age grows in length of time. Money income may vary. Death can claim loved ones. But meaning and purpose can go on even though it may change given circumstances of our life. I think we recover from the grief of loss by finding meaning and purpose in our lives that may very well connect with our loss. I know people who have lost seemingly everything but breath due to addiction. They recovered by finding meaning and purpose in their life beyond all their losses. Even the scars of addiction have become part of their new meaning and purpose. Read, "When Breath Becomes Air" and you will see how Paul Kalanithi found meaning and purpose in his dying from cancer in the midst of a brilliant career. So, what is the meaning and purpose of your life? What is your hope? Today.
Friday, February 10, 2017
What allows us to be deeply in love? I ask this about the God relationship, but think of it in terms of persons or even work. I find that being grateful is the path to deep love. I love friends, God, work because I am grateful for them, or it in my life. What good is it to get rid of some bad behavior, addiction, dead end life, if you are not going to fall in love and find fulfillment that feeds your deepest self? People get sober, enter into meditation, eat better, exercise better, sleep better, but then what or for what? I believe it is so that we can have some relationship(s) that we call being "deeply in love. " I am so grateful for friends, work and the God I have found in my "healthier" and saner life. If each day, I can early on remember to be grateful for all that I have in my life, I will have a better, that is, more loving day. It will not matter how many people attend my talks or how much money I make, as that I am grateful for the opportunity to do something that gives meaning to me. My morning awakening prayer does not begin with "give me, give me," but with "thank you for my many gifts." My sister, Maureen was a gift too. Wow. Revelation!
Thursday, February 9, 2017
Paul Kalanithi said, " Putting lifestyle first is how you find a job---not a calling." Lifestyle would include, pay, hours, work environment and might include city where you live. I had all of that at one time. I lived in a popular city, with good hours, environment and pay and housing. But I did not feel called to the work. Moreover, I was looking for a calling even if I could not use use that word. Some people use the word, "Vocation," but for me that is too churchy or religious. Calling can be something that a broad range of people seek. I would ask questions such as, "What is the meaning of my life?" "Why am I here at this time in this place?" People who seemed satisfied with lifestyle were not asking this question. Some might have been stuck in situations due to previous decisions. I think that I have found my calling, at least for the now, which is all I have. I make little money, have little control over my living situation, own a 25 year old car, but seem to feel that I am doing what is my calling, teaching about contemplative prayer to a small audience who seek me in their spiritual search. And I write this blog daily too. I am in San Francisco now where I just finished teaching two sessions, one with eight people and the other with four. Maybe I am delusional about my calling in my field of teaching. Ever hopeful! I have no regrets about giving up lifestyle. Well, some regrets about the 25 year old car.
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Are not most of us displaced persons, refugees in search of a spiritual homeland? Union with Ultimate Reality, the Source of Life is when we will be "at home." If the Divine, the Real is Love, then there are no laws to keep us out of our true home, no immigration laws. The maimed, the mentally unbalanced, the elderly, the unemployable are not excluded from the Land of Ultimate and unconditional Love. Every day that I meditate and then do selfless action, cleansed of egocentricity, I am moving closer if not experiencing my homeland. To be selfish, unkind, judgmental and prideful is to wander about in exile and loneliness. I have found it so.
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
This is not so much about football or sports. It is about giving up or making judgments before all the info is in. I do both. In the recent Super Bowl, the one with that Gaga good Catholic girl from New Jersey, the game seemed over by halftime, before Lady Gaga did her halftime entertainment. One team led by a lot of points. The other team had few points and seemed to be going nowhere. I judged the losing team as inept, old, washed up, yesterday's news. The evidence was in, no? No. The game goes for two halves, not one. The so called "losers" came back in the second half and won the game in overtime. I looked at all the texts messages with my friends. We all seemed to have the game over by halftime. We all judged based upon "evidence." The truth is, we only know a little about anyone and most things. Our delusion is that we know all, kind of like God. We are not God, we who write people off and judge them as losers. I can look at the first half of my life, well, the first three quarters, and say, "What a mess, such a loser!" But I still have today, that is, time. God is not judging, but rather rooting for me. Be positive. The past is just that. It is done. History. You have today. The New England Patriot football team never gave up. That is why we call their feat, "Uplifting."
Monday, February 6, 2017
Continuing with yesterday's blog thoughts, I can also have lots of miscommunications with God in prayer and expectations. Then I tend then to get upset. I would not get upset if I thought God did not exist, or that God was powerful but did not care. So why get upset and then maybe ignore God and prayer? Because I am in love with God, tepid, lukewarm, or passionate, depending on me. It is the same reason I got upset that Carol did not pay attention to me on what I thought was a get together at the beginning of our relationship. I was in love. If I am going to relate to God as Love, and love God, there will be pain. It comes with love. There will be miscommunication, plus God has plans too. I am not the center of anyone's universe even if we are in love. Love does not feed my self-centeredness or need to be special, or control another person. If I want a God with no pain, I will need to find another god. My God is Love. I try not to worship persons or put then on pedestals. No sane person wants that, nor can love exist in such an environment. Even God does not want to be on a pedestal which is why my God seems to show up in very ordinary and anonymous situations.
Sunday, February 5, 2017
I first saw her as she was coming down the escalator into the car showroom of the Ford Pavilion. It was the 1964 World's Fair, in New York City. Until that moment I was showing people the new Ford Mustang or talking about other cars on display or just watching people. But once I saw her I was in love. I did not know I was in love. I knew I was wondering if I would ever get to meet her, or where was she in the room. Suddenly, she was here in front of me. I was 21, a college Junior, Jesuit educated, an English Major, and I was making a terrible mess of introducing myself through talking about the Ford Mustang. Her name was Carol. She worked at a nearby pavilion. We made plans to meet, I thought. It went badly. I felt ignored. I ignored back and the summer pretty much went by without Carol in my life, though she had space in my heart. Then there was an apartment party with various World's Fair workers. Carol was there. I ignored her, but I always seemed to know where she was. Out of the blue, said, "Terry, could you help me to find my coat." She remembered my name? Girls are mysterious. That led to walking around the block in Manhattan over and over again that night as we found out there had been a miscomunication earlier in the summer. Why do people do this to one another? In matters of the heart nothing is simple and feelings run deep. We think one thing, and act accordingly, while the reality is quite different. We kissed for the first time at the end of the night. The first kiss, when in love, is memorable, never forgotten. Eventually, my heart would be broken. It is a price that is sometimes paid for a deep love. But such love feeds the soul. The Real was peeking at me through Carol. She has left, though etched in my heart. The Real, the Divine, my God has stayed, to teach me love through the pain and joy of relationship, mystical and physical. For me, deep prayer is the kiss of the Spirit. Friendship is the way I daily try and live out this inner touch. On my falling in love days with God I think God thoughts much of the day. Just like I did with Carol. Right now I guess I am having Carol thoughts. Move over God! Oops! That would be bad.
Saturday, February 4, 2017
Some of the things that make elderly people become isolated is: lose a spouse, give up driver's license, lose/give up a job. Middle school children can be a great service to these people. How? Well, the young student can teach the older person how to use a computer to make new connections with the outside world. Plus, the young person gives an elderly person a chance to act out some grand parenting, and thus be of service too. Especially a church school like the one across the street from me in Boulder, the community can find ways to transport senior citizens to school events to which their computer tutor invites them, such as graduation from one grade to the next in school. The middle schooler might have grandparents who live far away and are seen only periodically. Now the youth gets to have an elderly buddy. Everyone benefits in the local community from this service. STEM could come to mean Service Toward Emotional Maturity, instead of simply Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
Friday, February 3, 2017
I have heard people talk about love and tolerance for others. I would expand that to love and tolerance for oneself. We are imperfect, wounded by past events and people, have physical and mental limits and emotional feelings, inappropriate to the circumstances. This list is for when we are sane. We need to accept ourselves, both the good and the not so good. We are not mass murderers and bank robbers. We have the faults of the human condition. Beating ourselves up over them won't heal or change much for the better. What does an emotional binge over some shortcoming acted out do to make things better? Acceptance, followed by simply trying to do what is feasible will be less damaging to ourselves and others. Maybe a prayer for self-tolerance too. A simple example: my back hurts. Rather than continue to run and make it worse, I stop running until things settle down. I don't beat myself up saying, "I should not hurt, be old, or imperfect." Stuff happens. Accept and be grateful for what I have. One more example: I leave the house and forget something that was on my list of things to take with me. An explosion over my forgetfulness will not get that forgotten thing into my hands or pocket. Some days are harder than others to love me, but I try. Friends help.
Thursday, February 2, 2017
I used to complain in my blogs about my church and what should change. Lots of disgruntled people read those blogs. Ego massaged. Then I realized that none of us changed, especially me, by complaining about religion. So I became less focused on such churchy topics. I seemed to have morphed into talking honestly, maybe too honestly, about spiritual stuff in my own life. I figured that readership would drop to my loyal sisters and my friend Jessica in Atlanta, with all this honesty. That would be three readers. Ego crushed? Who cares. It seems that such blogs are helping me! But something strange seems to be happening. Lots of readers and Facebook friend requests are coming into my blog. Don't people want gurus who are faultless? Wisdom untainted by darkness? Painless happiness? Apparently, not my readers. Even the teachers at our local Catholic school are not changing the locks on the doors after reading a blog. Or have you changed the locks but didn't send me the memo? Gotta go, see if my key still fits.
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Do you sometimes think of suicide? Think you are abnormal and crazy? You are not. Lots of people have the "suicide" thought come up at one time or another. Children, teenagers, college students, dumped lovers, dumped from a job, divorce, bankrupt finances, senior citizens, widows and widowers and addicts are at least a partial list. So if all these people might have a suicide thought, why do you think it is abnormal? What is normal? You don't really know, because few people will be that honest with you about things that embarrass them or for which they feel some shame. Thoughts don't kill us. Just don't stay alone with the thought. Call someone. Meet with someone who you trust won't judge you, like a friend, and tell what you were thinking. Suicide thought lose a lot of power when revealed to someone who accepts us. It is good to have a list of people who accept us no matter what. We are not alone in our thoughts and we need not be alone with our thoughts.