Sunday, September 30, 2018
Emily Dickinson, the poet, said, “The possible’s slow fuse is lit by imagination.” Imagination is the engine, the beginning of possibilities. It does not begin in the thinking mind. So don’t go to catechism to begin any God-searches. If God is the ultimate possibility, then begin with how you imagine God. Let your imagination explode with possibilities. This will give rise to your questions, your personal search. Since God may be no one thing, God can be all and anything to each person. The imagination is not just about fantasy, and fairy tales, though there is much truth in fairy tales. Unbelief resides in the reasoning mind. I am not sure that God hangs out there very much for people like me. Don’t bother to think the possible. Imagine it. Most great discoveries came about from the power of imagination as the starter engine.
Saturday, September 29, 2018
I hear people talk about faith focused on its credibility. I am more interested in the liveability of a faith. Does your faith change your life so that you are more aware of the wonder within each person, and all around you? If I can see the Graced Presence, the inner beauty of a person, see the wonder all around me that opens me beyond myself, then I will be less depressed, less resentful, angry, whinnie, and selfish. This would be a good faith. Many people have a doctrine-focused faith that appeals to the mind, but does not affect the heart too much to become transformed, to open to the beauty all around them. Yes, people have faults, imperfections, can disappoint us, but they also have a beauty that is hidden within them, invisible to them in their worst moments. But if we can see it and act out of that in-sight, then we might be able to help them to get out of themselves. That takes a lot of faith! I am living at 8,000 feet altitude and this dark morning had a very clear sky. I went outside. Yes, it was freezing. But I looked up and saw all these stars filling the heavens, and thought, “The one who made all this, is in all this, loves little me.” Awe is my faith boost.
Friday, September 28, 2018
Someone suggested, “Throw away the magnifying glass.” What? Well, put a magnifying glass close to a page of text. What happens? Some words will stand out quite large and other words will seem quite small in comparison. But in reality, all the words on the page are the same size. The point? We sometimes live our life through a magnifying glass. We make some things, such as problems, as we see them, much bigger than they are, and put everything else of value into the background. We have no time for love, because we have this “HUGE” problem or situation that must be dealt with or solved. Or we make “falling in love,” such a big deal that we have no time for other things. We miss out on some of the wonder and awe of life, by magnifying other things. So, right size problems lest you miss some gifts waiting for your attention. Throw away the magnifying glass.
Thursday, September 27, 2018
In the monastery, I live on the "Margins of Inclusion." While I am here I am not included in the other places I live with the events and friends I have there. People's lives go on without me. I am not completely forgotten. That is why I live on the margin of inclusion. Whenever you step aside, silence or turn off your cell phone, iPad, Android or whatever, and sit in silence and solitude, you are going to the margins of inclusion. You are just outside of where people can connect with you. But this is where you want to be in meditation so that you have no rivals, or busyness that gets in the way of you and the Presence that seems to reveal itself when you rest beyond the margins of inclusion. For many people who say they do not believe, I suggest that God is still with them, beyond the margins of their including God in their life. God does not go away simply because someone says they do not believe. Just because someone does not believe in love nor that anyone loves them, does not prevent someone from loving them. I believe that my friends love me and have not forgotten me. They are just having fun and a full life without me. It keeps me humble, being on the margins of inclusion. Hello out there!
Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Fred died recently. He was a challenge for me. At one time he was my sister Maureen's husband. I did not quite take to him when I first met him. But I thought marrying Maureen would be punishment enough for any shortcomings he might possess. When I visited them as a married couple, Fred and I would drink some together and I would like him. But then I liked most everyone when I drank. But then he and my sister got divorced. She had four kids to raise. So I did not like him again. Years past and he would come to children's weddings. I met him at some of these events and he seemed OK. Maybe we had mellowed. I think he came to Maureen's funeral. I was crying and so distraught at her dying at age 64, that I don't really remember. But there was a wedding event after that and he was there. I think that he had found Christ in his life, and I had come into more acceptance of him. As I aged and saw my own shortcomings nibbling at me, I found more compassion and forgiveness for the past. But it was work and a long process. He got to live 14 more years than my big Sis Maureen. It is God's world and I am not in charge though I wish she had those fourteen years. But I don't have to make my wishes, hopes, desires, and disappointments control my attitude toward people in my life. So I pray for Fred. I hope someone is praying for me when my time comes. So I had better be nice and make amends where I have been the source of chaos.
Tuesday, September 25, 2018
My Mom died on this date 15 years ago. I remember looking at her still and dead body and thinking, among other things, "This body gave me life." It brought a "Thank you," to my lips, in the midst of my grief and loss. I was an amateur care-giver at the time, on the job training and my parents were my lab experiments. They did not die from lack of my care. At least that was not given as the cause of death. To this day, of all the good things my Mom did for me, a bozo for quite a bit of my middle years, I am most grateful for the fact that she gave me life. Her body brought me into this world and loved me, even when I did not so much love myself. So this is a good day too. It is a reminder to be grateful. And for whom am I life-giving, with kindness, compassion, forgiveness, patience and acceptance today? How about you?
Monday, September 24, 2018
Today would have been my Dad's birthday. I was with him when he took his laugh breath. It is a blessing, and the luck of good timing to be with someone you love when they take their last breath. They are going on an important journey from this way of life to a new way of life and it is good to have someone there to say goodbye and I love you and thank you for your life. These many years later, I still ask my Dad to pray for me in the gift of life I have on this side of my last breath.
I run outdoors a couple of days a week, but there is a daily run I also do. The daily run is to "outrun my demons." Say what? The inner demon tells me that I am useless. Aging can be ripe for this demonic message. Or when we think we have failed at something or not done a good enough job as in "I am a bad parent, worker, friend." We get that sense of being useless. It is a lie which is why I call it demonic. It wants to keep us from getting up and doing some kindness, being of service, overcoming our isolation. Giving is a way out. Being of service to another person, place or situation is a way out of feeling useless. Writing a blog, even if it gets no "like" hits, is one way that I outrun my demons. Take out the trash. Empty a dishwasher. And try to say "yes" when someone wants to talk with me. Absolutely no "like" hits for a blog? Well, that might be a time when the demon wins!
Sunday, September 23, 2018
Ann Voskamp uses the phrase, "Avalanche of grace" in reference to what happens when you do an act of kindness. It can quake another heart, move that heart to give also. One action can move another. Call it a tremor of kindness. When you know it is safe, smile at someone and see what happens. Your recognition of them in this way, might be a singular moment in that day when they feel recognized. There is so much loneliness and isolation in the world, and we may feel it too here and there. A way out is to begin the avalanche of grace, with a kind act. The world needs more tremors of love.
Saturday, September 22, 2018
On page 145 of the Big Book of Alcoholic Anonymous it says: "The greatest enemies of us alcoholics are resentment, jealousy, envy, frustration and fear." You might say, "Doesn't everyone have those enemies or issues some more than others?" Maybe so, but alcoholics will either find a way to deal with these enemies or they will drink, and for them to drink is to die. Maybe on the way to dying will be two other "Ds" debt and divorce. They will leave a lot of destruction of relationships as they on on the way out. Normal drinkers don't have that steep a decline I suppose. But the important thing for all of us is we need to find a solution for the emotional enemies in our life. AA has it for alcoholics. My humble opinion is that whatever the solution it will have some spiritual dimension. Knowledge about your issues, the triggers that inflame them, and so on, will not be enough. Inside help is what will add a most important ingredient to our recovery from emotional binges or our prevention from letting them tyrannize us.
Friday, September 21, 2018
Why did the religious sisters who taught me in Catholic grammar school change their names? They dropped their baptismal names and took on a saint's name. I thought it was because they wanted to emulate that particular saint. But there was another and maybe deeper reason that grabs me. They took on new names to "forget the self." Let go of the self that entered the novitiate by dropping the name that is connected to you, that identifies you. I was the beneficiary of that attitude. The sisters were so giving to us kids who might not have appreciated it at the time, but it left a mark. It is a challenge today to "forget the self" in terms of "my" agenda, wants, programs for happiness, and open myself to being of service to others. Nothing gets me out of myself better than trying to be helpful to others. All other attempts seemed to be so many escapes from the prison of self-implosion.
Thursday, September 20, 2018
Do you take sunrise for granted? You don't feel an urge to go out and watch it even if you are able? I bet you then take everyday daily life for granted too. We do that. We think there will always be another sunrise. I will catch it in some future date or when I am on vacation at the beach. So what to do? Besides maybe watching a sunrise, we might think of the day's events before us as being worthy of awe. We might pray to be open to the unknown, the surprise in our day, even if it is a flat tire. The unknown can at times be beautiful, but never if we are into control and tasks, and self. If you are a believer, who know what God might want to send your way? Morning mediation helps me to get my focus right. If you have a choice of reading this blog or going out to watch a sunrise, I suggest, this once, go for the sunrise. The blog will still be here when you come back.
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Feelings fib. They don't tell us the truth about what is going on in our prayer life. In prayer, you are not alone. If you think you are alone, well, I guess you are talking to yourself. I have experienced talking to myself, but thinking I am talking to someone else. You know, carrying on a conversation mentally, or even verbally, but you are the only one in the room. But away from weirdness and back to prayer. In prayer, we are not alone. There is Someone or some Presence involved. Prayer is relational. So this Other, Power, God, Force, Energy can respond as it sees fit. God, in my case, is not tied into my agenda to "feel" something. So sometimes I get boredom. Prayer seems so dry and uneventful, or empty. "Hello! Anybody in there or out there?" Why does God do me like that sometimes? Maybe, to remind me who is in charge. This shrinks my ego for sure. And it might keep me from trying to control the prayer relationship. Me, a control person? A little humility might pop up in my life like a crocus in the winter of my discontent. So if I feel bored or alone in prayer, it does not mean that transformation is not going on. The only mistake to make in prayer, is to not do it.
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
What is the "Prism of the Self?" It is when you are turned in upon yourself, your own self-importance and comfort. Religion would call this "sin." It is missing the mark of what fulfills us. We are filled up by self-emptying. Say what? Be helpful to someone else. You will see that it makes you lose your grip on your unfulfiled desires and self-preoccupation. You will find that you feel better about yourself. Forgiveness is a way to be helpful, especially if it is someone who has interfered with your own programs for happiness. Self-emptying means that we are helpful to people without asking, "How is going to effect me?" We can start out being helpful because it makes us feel better. This is a start. It is like a train engine that is pulling lots of cars. The train starts slowly. We start being helpful as we drag our own baggage along. Eventually, we let go of self and find joy in simply being useful without worrying about how it will turn out. The results are not up to us. Mediation helps me to get "Right-Selfed."
Monday, September 17, 2018
If people define you by your past, they will not be part of your efforts at change and renewal. With some people, they cannot forgive you for your past and how it affected them. With some people it is judgement of you that is final and etched in concrete. And if people say, "Oh you were not so bad," that is not too helpful either. You were bad! So how do we help people to keep the bad in the past and help them to a new life, if they want it? Forgiveness is one thing we can offer. If you won't forgive someone who in fact is changing for the better, you are not part of the solution. What about offering hope to someone who is changing for the better.? Forgiveness and hope are too good things to offer to a person who is trying to straighten out their life. To show that you mean what you say, to put action to words, break bread with the person. Invite them out or over to share a meal. A meal is a good way to allow people to speak honestly about their life, and then to remind them that the past behavior can remain in the past. You may even get an apology. That is almost as good as chocolate cake. I am always a better person with chocolate!
Sunday, September 16, 2018
Am I really a Catholic because bishops and priests are holy, bette than me, and the pope is infallible? Please. I would have left a long time ago if that was my criterion. Who put these people on a pedestal, saying they are better than the "laity?" The Vatican did that over time. They became princes of the church and the pope a kind of king. Well, we got rid of royalty a long time ago except in some symbolic sense such as the Queen of England. When people decided that their Royalty was not so royal, wise, knowing, and caring, the people did not leave the country or decide not to be French, English, or Italian. So I am first of all Catholic and it does not depend on the holiness or goodness and wisdom of ordained people. My relationship and bond begins with the God of my interior life. I nourish this with Sacrament and community. I worship with people together, and try to be useful to them and others as the result of all this. I am not perfect, so why should ordination make someone else perfect? It is not magic. Did you become perfect when you go married, also a sacrament in my church? Some hierarchs are more criminal than the laity. But do you stop shopping at a grocery store because the clerk is such and such? Why is it only in institutional religion that management has to be better than you? You buy lots of products from businesses that are disreputable in other areas, treat employees badly, invest in murderous dictatorial countries that prop up the bad government. Maybe what is going on in the Catholic Church is what is needed to make long overdue changes. I am putting my faith in the Spirit.
Saturday, September 15, 2018
There is the story of ten virgins, five wise and practical, five not so wise. They are supposed to be waiting for a wedding to start, but it is delayed. In this case it is the groom who is tardy, not the bride. The wise virgins bring extra oil. The "foolish" as they are called bring no extra oil. They expect things to happen on time. So when the wedding is finally going to start, the foolish have run out of oil in their lamps and want the wise ones to lend them some. The wise say no, not our problem. Go to town and buy some yourself. By the time the virgins return from town, the doors are locked and no one will let them in. The moral? Stay awake. You know not the hour. Really? I am with the foolish ones, as they are labeled. I am not waiting for the second coming. I am not thinking about it. I expect things to happen on time. Why should I be punished if other people screw up? But it happens. And I would lend if someone had none and I had some of something. The ones with the extra oil might be "wise" but they are fearful too, and so they hoard. My Jesus was the physician for the sick, and the ones who are lost. Besides, isn't the cross kind of foolish for a God to be on? So pray, not so much for wisdom as for kindness and trust that God loves you.
Friday, September 14, 2018
If we focus only on the negative we might tend not to notice the positive, or what I call Grace, in the world around us. You don't have to believe in God to take time to see and experience the positive and good things around you. If I wake from a problematic dream, it means two good things, or graced things. One, the dream is not my real life and two, I was getting some good REM sleep. What about the health you do have? Not the aches, and pains, but also the fact that you have a working mind to read this blog, to meditate or even exercise in some moderate fashion. You might be sober whereas in the past you were hung over. You are not sleeping under a bridge and so on. I wake up and thank God for certain things before I get out of bed. I ask to be of service to others and not become selfish and self-will run riot. What are your first things? Then put them first in your day. Whining often leads to delay and procrastination. I have found it so.
Thursday, September 13, 2018
St. Augustine in his “Confessions” said that he did not want to live his life by halves. I think of “half-hearted” and “half-assed” and I don’t want that for today. I only have today. What will I do so that I give my best to what unfolds this day? Prayerful reflection. For one, I might have revealed to me some character defect that I need to watch, lest it get in the way of my giving my best. My best may not be all that perfect, but it will the best of me at the moment when I need to step up. If I strive for perfection, it may result in false pride, or worse, the self-nagging of “why can’t I do or be better?” What a lousy day that will be! Instead, I try to stay out of my own way, be aware of my shortcomings, or tiredness, or sadness, and not let their energy control my response to the world. I can even practice honesty, and tell someone, “I am a bit tired right now,” rather than whine, complain or ignore. Sometimes a lesser response is better than a nasty response. A full life need not be a perfect one.
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
You know that you are on a spiritual path when you are happy while doing useful things. There are people who are useful to others, helpful, industrious, but with grumbling, murmuring, self-pity that what they are doing is beneath them, or should be done by someone else, or is just a pain in the neck. Such people, if not reflective of their feelings in these situations are not on a spiritual path. Now you might say that you do things with joy or happiness but you don’t pray much. Prayer does not make you a person of useful happiness as if by magic. I know people that pray and whine. But you might be on a spiritual path if you are aware of your grumbling while doing tasks. You know you are falling short of a goal of useful happiness. This is where I often find myself. Progress not perfection gives me hope as I trudge along.
Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Prayer at its best, is “unselfing,” as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks reminds us. In the best of prayer, the relentless “I” becomes silent as we realize we are not the center of the universe. Children pray to get things, but then children are always the center of their universe. They are children. Mature prayer is more into transformation. Meditation drops words, plans, desires, and sits in silence simply to be with the “Other” who is so near as to be within the self. The prayer agenda is one of bonding relationship such that we can go into our world to be of service to others, to situations, to make the world a better place for Love to flourish. Ask yourself, “What kind of prayer have I done today?”
Monday, September 10, 2018
Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of AA. It is in the title. So what? Well, anonymity is the spiritual foundation of ageing too. Get used to it or prepare for it. As you get older, you become more anonymous, less the center of people’s lives. If you have a job, you are less wanted at it. Being squeezed out maybe? You are less able physically to do some things, so you lose center stage in “getting things done.” Family and friends, they move away and get on with their lives. Old friends die and it is harder to make new ones. Your world gets smaller. But there is one who never forgets, for whom you are always a favorite, and that one is God, however you understand that. Maybe that is why some people get “spiritual” when they get older. They have more time for it, and more of a need. If some people criticize you for this, they might be the same people that pretty much ignore your existence now. Some people won’t even have the time or interest to spend an hour at your funeral. But God will be there.
Sunday, September 9, 2018
The principle upon which AA is based is one that all of us, addicts or not might consider. This principle is that addicted persons are beyond human aide. The rest of the AA program and its steps are all based upon this principle. There are other methods for addicts to recover that are focused on human aide. These might be drying out places, psychotherapy, exercise routines, white-knuckle will power, counseling and such. But AA believes in the spiritual solution that comes from some power beyond human aide. So if you have some issue in your life with which you unsuccessfully struggle, you might ask yourself if you are beyond human aide? This includes your own will-power, plans and programs for happiness. You got a divorce, you changed careers, jobs, moved to a new location, do yoga, eat vegan, and you are still somewhat restless, irritable and discontented, you might look to the steps of AA. There are twelve of them. Try them in order, and do it with a companion on the journey to a new happiness. Trying to fill the hole in yourself, alone, that is really hard. I could never do it.
Saturday, September 8, 2018
Whenever I am feeling a resentment, it is all about me. I am not getting my way. My plans are being thwarted. My life is not working out and it is someone else’s fault. I am not getting enough love, attention, praise. And on it goes. Bondage to self. I used to try to fix things, people, and situations, so that I would feel better. It did not occur to me that I might be the problem and I might be what needs fixing. Each day, in the morning, and again later in the day or evening I mediatate. That is, I sit with the problem, me. I let God do the fixing. I am somewhat powerless to fix the deep down part of me that is the source of so much discontent. So the next time you are feeling resentful, irritable discontented, you might ask yourself how is your spiritual condition?
Friday, September 7, 2018
When I hear people talk about God, they often say, “I am right” in so many words. That is, everyone who is not of their persuasion is wrong. But are not all words about God inadequate? God is beyond all words to describe God. God is beyond concepts and images. So say the Contemplatives. I like to think of myself growing in the “Knowledge” of God as becoming “less wrong.” I start out knowing nothing and over time I become less wrong. It keeps me a bit humble and opens to me listen to others who have different ideas or paths, because we are all somewhat wrong, so maybe they can help me to become less wrong by their spiritual experience. This is good for interfaith dialogue, for sure. It might keep us from condemning and killing one another. I have heard people in recovery programs say that “I have this program all figured out.” Humility, where art thou? I think that having things all figured out is a mask for fear. I don’t have things all figured out, but I am trying to become less wrong.
Thursday, September 6, 2018
“Natch” refers to doing something natural and sober. I remember when I was a young man and would go to a social occasion or dance where I did not know many people, or maybe I did know many people. I would walk in nervous and somewhat fearful. The thoughts flow: “I am being ignored.” I just got there! “They won’t like me.” I cannot ask anyone to dance, or even carry on a conversation until I have some “help” and that would be a drink, or two. The room may be loud, so you have to shout, but that is good because then you don’t have to talk much to a partner. It goes on like that. I was anything but “natch” in those days. Now, I may still have some fears or anxiety about going into a room full of people, unless I am the center of attention! But I don’t do any stimulants. Instead, I have improved my spiritual condition, such that, fear does not rule me. I decide to talk to one person at a time and ask them about themselves. Listen. If it is a dinner/lunch I talk to whoever is next to me. Maybe they are nervous too? Never thought of that in the long ago past. It is a nice way to be of service and cut into loneliness, mine or other’s.
Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Live as if you are dying. This is not the same as killing yourself behavior. If you have some spiritual connection you live with the idea that you have time as a gift, and it will not last forever. So you try to live today to the fullest, in how you treat yourself and those around you, both friends and strangers. To live as if you are killing yourself is different. People in recovery tell me that is the way they used to live. They were trying to live to the fullest through alcohol, drugs, food, work, internet, sex, and they were just killing themselves. They had insufficient spiritual connection to escape such a lifestyle. But anyone can live life “killing themselves” by trying to do too many “good” things in a day. I have heard people tell me, “I am killing myself” as they recount all they are trying to fit into a day. Both our time allotted, and our energy are precious, but finite. Superman and Wonderwoman are comic book people. Easy does it.
Tuesday, September 4, 2018
I read a quote, "The only trouble with trouble is that it starts out as fun." When I am not in a fit spiritual condition I have found this to be so. My mind fools me to think that what I am doing is fine, or good, or sensible. My will tells me that I am in control. Hogwash! I am most weak when I rely only on mind and will to decide what to do. I so need some deeper relation to soul or spirit to get the truth about perils that could await me. For instance, I could go to a party, or social gathering, and say that I will do only this and not that. But if I have not faced my shortcomings and bad social habits that have wrecked me in the past, I will end up going from "fun to trouble." If you have an eating disorder, or computer addiction, you think you will do just a "little" and it goes from fun to trouble. I have found it so.
Monday, September 3, 2018
Happy Labor Day, I hope. God is at work today. How so? Well, say you are aging. Your body is decaying. This can be a good thing. God likes decaying bodies! Why? Think of the seed that must fall to the ground and “die” in order for food or plants to grow. The seed literally decays so that it opens for nutrients from the soil to interact with the decaying seed to produce something new and nourishing for others. The seed does not do much but decay. Your body is decaying just like the seed. God’s Grace is like the soil. It interacts with the decaying body. God does all the work while you just age. This grace is divine, creative energy that is special for decaying people. Have hope that as a senior person you still have some gifts, new ones, to offer to the community around you. So enjoying a day of restful decaying. God is at work. I did a workout this morning. I am definitely decaying. I hope God has some plans for me.
Sunday, September 2, 2018
Detachment and attachment go together. How? Well, you might feel an attachment to someone(s) and you want your shortcomings to not get in the way of the relationship. So you detach for mediation, so that you can attach in a healthy and life-sustaining way with the other(s). Mediation is a great way to keep your faults in check. You will not be ambushed by them during the day, but rather see them coming and not let them rule the moment. E.G. you feel resentment welling up but you don't act on it. You act more constructively, more in the attachment mode, and resentment is allowed to pass. Adolescents, teens and college students tend not to meditate, but they do tend to form attachments to persons, places and things. Lots of broken hearts and disappointments that might have been avoided. Some of the scar tissue of growing up comes from attachment without detachment. Would my first girlfriend have broken my heart if I had been a meditator? Life's conundrums.
Saturday, September 1, 2018
If you are at all a teacher, such as a parent for a child, a teacher for a student(s), or an elder for a younger, a goal that I like is "the common good." Is what I am doing going to work for the common good of all? Now I teach about mediation. You might think that is pretty insular and isolated. No. It is your spiritual gym exercise so that when you get up and go out, you will be working for the common good instead of selfish, self-centered motives, judgments, whining and self-pity, all with attached resentments and fears. So you don't simply teach a skill or a subject, but rather explain to the student/learner/neophyte how this might impact the common good. This keeps us connected with a world beyond our small personal, private and sometimes gated world. You can go to a very private school, such as "The Seven Sisters" and come out being of service to the larger world, the common good. It is all how a vision is presented to you. Now who can name the Seven Sister schools? Doesn't the Boston Marathon go by one of them? Quiz time!