Tuesday, December 31, 2019
Well, it is the last day of this fast moving year. What have I learned? I think of the Christmas Cactus. It is supposed to bloom at Christmas. I had one. It has a mind of its own. It blooms when it wants to, and pays no attention to my plans for blooming. A metaphor for my plans and people, places and situations. They all have their own plans and do not consult me. I don’t always get what I plan for, what I want. So for the coming year, 2020, I make plans with a pencil not a pen. My plans might be erased or need to be erased by what actually happens over which I have no control. So I will have preferences but remain open to lessons to be learned, usually hard lessons, for 2020. Hope you are sober and safe today. Lots of amateur drinkers on the road today.
Monday, December 30, 2019
When someone dies, those close to them or admirers try to keep something of the dead person’s stuff or even a lock of hair. Why? Well the word for relic means “remains, leavings.” When a body dies it might be seen as a relic. It is what the deceased leaves behind. That may be why some people visit graves. It is all about remembering the deceased and the goodness of them. But I think it is more. I think the things that people touch, such as teddy bears, diaries, favorite toys, pet rock and so forth, all carry some of the goodness of that person. Touch is important to heal grief and give us some of the power of the deceased person. I have an angel stone from when my mother died. I have her rosary and my Dad’s wedding band. I am still hoping the power of their goodness will rub off. Some say it has...a little.
Sunday, December 29, 2019
Sometimes a loss leads to a greater gain, or a more important gain, but there might be suffering in between the loss and the gain. Maria Catherine Moes is an example. She was a 19th century immigrant. She founded a new religious order of nuns in Joliet, IL area and opened a school for girls. This was the frontier and Chicagoans today might say Joliet is still the frontier! Anyhow, she wants to expand the school, but her bishop says no. He then orders her to be expelled from the order she founded. Off she goes to Minnesota. A bishop there welcomes her and her companions from her old order. She founds yet another order of sisters. After a terribly destructive tornado in Rochester in 1883 she joins with a doctor there to assist the injured. Together they opened St. Mary’s Hospital in 1889. The doctor’s name? William Mayo. Heard of the Mayo Clinic? So when you get kicked around by authority, rejected, fired, it may not be the end for you. Grace is everywhere.
Saturday, December 28, 2019
I fell November 19 in San Francisco. I continue to deal with it. The one foot long cut on my forearm was healing quite nicely, I thought. There was one discolored round area with a bit of a bump but no leakage. I come to LA and boom, that area opens up and stuff comes out. Grows red. Off to Urgent Care in LA again. This stuff always seems to happen when I am away from Boulder doctors. “A Non-Healing Wound” is what I have. The doctor squeezed all the mess out of it. Ouch! So now I am back to bandage wrap and anti-biopics. Good News? Yes, I was pro-active. I did not put it off until I got back to Boulder. I now have specific wound care instructions as to when to do what and wrap when and so on. I like a plan and not one of my own making in areas where I may know little, like medicine and wounds. It is important to know when we are in over our head and self-care is not the answer. In a sense, I am into wound recovery. Again! Put me on your prayer list, if you are praying.
Friday, December 27, 2019
What is a cracked ego? It is where something opens up the ego to let out self-centeredness, resentment, know-it-all attitude, judgments, and false pride. They ooze out and with them goes their power to hurt us and others. What cracks it open? We read or hear something that is so true, honest, and humble, that it strikes to the core of the ego, and breaks it open. I think this is what spiritual recovery is about, and religion, scripture at its best. A spiritual solution rushes into the empty space, but it seems not to be able to empower for long. If the spiritual path is not pursued again and again on a daily basis, the ego closes up quickly enough and suffocates that spiritual life. This is why we are encouraged to pray daily, read our scriptures and wisdom books daily, talk to others on the path daily, and try and practice a less ego-centered life on a daily basis. I call this love, the verb.
Thursday, December 26, 2019
Tchaikovsky’s music in “Swan Lake” ballet is about outside anxiety and pain hiding an inner light. The swan outer appearance is really inside a beautiful princess under the spell of evil, jealousy and hate. The music, the young man who dances with her, is about love, light trying to release all the inner beauty to overcome the darkness. What a metaphor for our life. Sometimes a darkness of culture, persons, systems put our inner light under a spell of darkness and the best of ourselves cannot be released until we are accepted, and loved in spite of outward appearances. The addict knows this when they enter recovery and the 12 steps of fellowship. Sometimes a religious community or a religion, before it is institutionalized, can do this. Finding someone who loves us as we are can do this. Next time you see Swan Lake, and I hope there is a next time, think about this. How loving and accepting are you? Do you try to swan dance your inner light each day? Why does dancing make so many people feel better?
Wednesday, December 25, 2019
I have not traveled on Christmas Day in 17 years when my parents were still alive in Florida and I lived in Knoxville, TN. I hear that it is a good day to travel. We will see. I am going to visit my LA sister, Jane and her family. We will have Christmas, dinner, and then a week of football on TV and Oscar possible movies to see. LA has all the movies. I have this silly thought that while I am away, no one will miss me. I will come back after a week, and people will say, “Oh, you were away?” Silly as it is, and hopefully not true, it has a positive side. I have friends and so I hope my friends will miss me. If you have no friends, then you would not expect anyone to miss you, right? So on this day, I celebrate the special gift of friends who are in my life. I know that I will miss them while I am away. It is what friends do on these special times of peace and love. Merry Christmas.
Tuesday, December 24, 2019
Christmas Eve is a very busy afternoon for churches. People prefer now to go to a service on Christmas Eve rather than on Christmas Day. Most of those persons who go once a year prefer Christmas Eve service. It is a time for church, then eat, then presents. Christmas Day is for relaxing, and travel to see other relatives or friends for dinner. Christmas is about light in the darkness, so you need some darkness. Christmas Eve, in the Norther Hemisphere provides darkness. My questions, doubts, fears, sadness are all the darkness part. The candles, the flowers, the tree lights are all part of the light. Then of course there is the baby Jesus. Much more warm fuzzy then torture on a cross. I am fortunate to have a few people who are glad that I am around them this time of year. For those of you who feel a bit disconnected, you might drop in on one of these services of light and sit among many other people who are going over their own profound or nostalgic thoughts this time of year. Who knows? You might be the next miracle on 34th street.
Monday, December 23, 2019
I hear in recovery circles, that people are told they have to read their manual, the Big Book, and do lots of service work and go to lots of meetings. Hmmm. It seems to me that the first couple of drunks that got sober in AA had no big book or service structure. It was really two people talking fact to face, honestly about being alcoholics, its patterns, wherein were found similarities that bonded one person to another on the road to happy destiny. Everyday that I talk to a recovering drunk about the process and shortcoming roadblocks, is a better day for me. The other stuff is important, but one on one encounters are still central. To sit isolated at a meeting of recovering people won't cut it. Nor will memorizing the manuals.
Sunday, December 22, 2019
With Christmas coming up soon, and lots of talk about Mary and her womb wherein lies the Christ ready to be born into this world, I think of AA as similar to Mary! What, you shout? Well, when someone first comes into AA the group is like a womb that protects them while they gestate for a while until they can grow enough to go out and be of some use to others. A parish should be a womb, protecting and helping people to grow enough so they can reach out, more fully developed spiritually, to be of service to the parish and the world around them. Too many people want to stay in the womb and be taken care of. A Christian parish should be a place for a person to grow up, mature spiritually so that they can become a womb for their Christ. So you Christians, are you a womb for Christ, the Prince of Peace, to be born into your world this Christmas, or are you just frantically running around trying to celebrate the "Holidays?" Only three shopping day left!
Saturday, December 21, 2019
I sense that many a priest, for the first twenty years or so, and for some longer, they suffer a common ailment. It is two-pronged. Low self-esteem and fragile ego. Usually they enter the seminary having accomplished little in their life beyond navigating higher education. The seminary tells them how special they will be as priests, and this bandages the fragile ego and the self-esteem. But it is still there under the "theology" of priesthood. So what happens? The priest spends years trying to deal with "his demons," by doing outside stuff. His prayers are mostly words and thoughts. He fixes up the church, changes the liturgy, rituals, buys new church or office things, hires new people and so on. And he does not like any priest around who might be more center stage than him. So he likes being pastor. All outside stuff. But he does not do enough inner work that would tell him, his happiness and fulfillment comes from within. If he ever discovers a more contemplative life, then there is hope that "more will be revealed," and he will cease to focus on all the outside stuff. How would I know any of this? Well, I am an example. Now I am nobody, doing stuff most of my church would find very secondary. I am content, as long as I listen to the still, small silence within.
Friday, December 20, 2019
When you have something broken that you want to fix, and you are not quite sure what to do, it seems a good idea to look at the repair manual. It saves me lots of time. When I think I know what I am doing, or just don’t want to take the time to look at the manual, I usually waste a lot of time. Things don’t get fixed properly. So too, the spiritual life has a repair manual depending on what path you are on and what needs fixing. I often need fixing, and everyday need a spiritual tuneup. I have my Bible and Big Book as two of my repair manuals. If I use them on a regular basis, I usually stay tuned up and don’t need a lot of major maintenance, and don’t completely break down. My spiritual machine is quite fragile and defects of character can muck things up. Maybe you are put together better than I and have less need of a daily repair manual. Must be nice?
Thursday, December 19, 2019
When believers in a God begin to waver it is often because they had a setback. Something happened and God did not bring down blessings. You expected a blessing and did not get one. Someone told me that when you don’t get a blessing, maybe you are getting a lesson. So I have begun to look at situations that are not going according my plan or my plan for God’s action, to see if maybe there is a lesson to be learned. I am surprised by the number of lessons I get each day. The lessons are trying to teach me something about myself, something that might need a second look, a more mature or balanced approach than what I had been doing. My lessons are enlightenment moments. So in a way they are blessings, but not in the way I expected. My expectations are often problematic.
Wednesday, December 18, 2019
I was talking to the Grandmother/Godmother of a young woman who took her life. Grandma said, “I know she is in heaven because she was such a good girl. Suicide is not right, but I know she is with God.” What Grandma is focused on is how her granddaughter lived rather than how she died. So often I hear people ask me, “How did so and so die?” Rarely do they ask, “How did so and so live?” I tend toward belief in a God and an afterlife. I believe that we continue to live beyond death as we lived during this life in the flesh. If we are loving, compassionate, considerate, kind and thoughtful of others then I believe all this goes with us into a good interaction with the Cosmic God of All. It may be befuddling, but I find that more often than not, the persons in my life who commit suicide were rather good and loving persons. Though there was something that they could not overcome, they were loving people more frequently than many other people. When I was growing up only bad people took their life. I have not found it so as an adult. But I know only a little on my spiritual path.
Tuesday, December 17, 2019
Helping another person to become their better selves is a bit like building a snow person in winter. You give the snow person eyes so that it can see. So too, you help another person to see the world as filled with a wonderful variety of persons instead of good and bad depending on judgments about skin, ethnicity, orientation, language, economic status. You give the snow person arms so it can hold something, just as you encourage another person to be open to embracing life rather than fending it off. You give the snow person a smile mouth just as you help another person to become more approachable instead of anxiously frowning on life and the stranger. Finally, you give the snow person a carrot nose. That is for the reindeer who come by looking for something to eat!
Monday, December 16, 2019
Parent used to be a noun. I had a parent. Now is a verb. People parent. In my experience with my parent, the noun was less involved than was the verb of today. Today, many a child has their daily life planned out by the parent. The child has some say, that is a choice between this or that, but there is always a this or that. Parent as a noun says, “Figure it out.” Example: I get up and my Mom has no plan for me beyond some chores. She would not say, “What do you want to do?” She had her own life as a parent, the noun. She did not see her job as figuring out my day or my life. I got care and love yes, but not activities or events or new skills. If I wanted to do something, then go do it and be home at thus and so. If I wanted to go and learn something she would have taken me and paid for it, but I would first have to figure it out. My Mom was not worried about me living in the basement when I was 30. And when I called home a continent away and wanted to come home at 27, she said, “No.” Go figure it out. Grow up. And I did figure it out eventually, which is what my parents had taught me to do. I am still figuring it out. It makes life interesting and engrossing.
Sunday, December 15, 2019
One thing I notice about revered religious figures is that they seem willing to listen and talk to anyone. In other words, they never met a stranger. Jesus is one such person with whom I am most familiar. When he encounters someone whom he has never met, does not know, isn’t of his tribe, he seems to listen and accept them as they are. For instance, a soldier from the conquering Roman army comes up to Jesus and says his servant is quite ill and suffering dreadfully. Jesus simply says, “OK. I will come and cure him.” Jesus did not give the soldier silence, which could be a judgment or indifference. How often are we silently indifferent or judgmental without saying a word to a stranger in our midst? If Jesus has problems with anyone, I think it is the self-righteous religious authorities he encounters, such as are so concerned about rules and regulations and not so much about individual people and their needs. See how you do the next time you encounter a stranger in your daily life?
Saturday, December 14, 2019
There are two places that have “tables of confusion.” One is Catholic elementary schools and the other is AA meetings. Religion class starts too soon with Catechism and never with the question, “Why are you here.” The child is rarely there because they want to be there in religion class. Nor do they connect the catechism with any need that they have at the moment. They endure, learn answers, get a bit enthused here and there, and when school is done, they leave the practice of that religion. They enter confused. They know little or nothing when they begin classes, and anywhere they sit is “a table of confusion.” In AA wherever a newcomer sits, is probably a table of confusion. But if they come there out of desperation, and wanting to escape misery and have a better life, they of course will understand little. But others in the room simply tell them to come back. If the newcomer keeps coming back, the fog will lift. They will be in the same seat or at the same table but it will no longer be a table of confusion. The light will shine in the darkness. But you have to know you are in the darkness. Religion does not wait until the student is ready. AA does. God/Higher Power are both very patient. My blogs are for people who are ready. Others think me a bit of an idiot. Which is also too true.
Friday, December 13, 2019
Often I feel anonymous. When I live in Boulder, Colorado I think that most of the people around my church don’t know who I am. It is OK, but now and again I get a surprise from one of the parishioners. They will pass me and say, “Hello, Fr. Terry.” Then they will say something about me or something I said that only a blog reader would know. I ask, “Are you one of my fans?” “Yes, I read your blog,” they say. As I walk on, I realize that in the anonymity of writing my blogs and Facebooking my blogs, people around me are reading what I write. And they are positively affected. It makes for a better life for them. So think about just doing the best you can with whatever your talent or interest is, and don’t worry about anonymity. You may be affecting someone you don’t even know is out there, and in a positive way. You do your best and it spreads to others to do their best. Some power makes this happen. Not to worry. Just do the action. Of course, on those days when I get hardly any “likes” or “hearts” emoji stuff, I think it is time for silence in the hermitage.
Thursday, December 12, 2019
I once had what is called “Bottle Flu.” It is when you call in and say you are sick on a Monday morning and won’t be in. In fact you had a hangover or were just out real late with some drinking and a lot of carousing. You can get fired for bottle flu. I did. My life was suddenly such a mess. Why was that? I had no clue. It never occurred to me that lifestyle was an issue that needed to be addressed. It would seem obvious to a mature adult why I was fired. I was not a mature adult. Even that did not occur to me. I was clueless about being clueless. Eventually, I had to do two things. One was an attitude and the other was action. First, I had to admit that I did not want to live like this any longer. That step can take a great while of messiness for an immature person. But that brought me to only one knee. People commit suicide when on only one knee. The second knee was when I said I was will to do anything to live a better life. Wanting and doing had to go together for me. I know people who want a fuller life, but are not willing to do the work, take action. By the way, being on both knees, that is kinda like prayer. Must of been some other power that got me to that point and beyond. Way beyond.
Wednesday, December 11, 2019
Did you ever do a kind or loving act for someone and then send them the bill? You did something for someone but then expected something in return. I act thus and so with you, so you now have to act thus and so with me. One of the ways to simply be kind and loving with no expectations or resentments is to act with gratitude. Say what? Be grateful that you can do any good at all. Be grateful that you have a power to be helpful. It could be worse, a lot worse, since you could be selfish, self-imploded, or not even with the power to do some good for another person or situation. I have enough health to be helpful. I have sufficient resources to be helpful. People think well enough of me to ask me to be helpful. There was a time when I could not even help myself and could not get out of my own self-pitying way. So, yeah, I have a lot for gratitude. I try not to “send the bill.”
Tuesday, December 10, 2019
There is such a thing as physical spirituality. It is where you physically take your body someplace but don’t do the inner work necessary to change for the better. Example: someone goes to church on a regular basis, attends the ritual, but does not do any inner work where they might discover the parts of themselves that need attention if they are to change to become a better person. They are not very good examples of their religion. People see them going to church but still being selfish, judgmental, gossipy and resentful for instance, whereas they think the world needs to change for them to do better. It is the same with recovery. There is physical recovery where a person goes to meetings but does nothing else that would address inner work. No steps, sponsor, service or reading the material recommended. For addicts, they soon fall out and get into trouble. For religion worshippers, unfortunately, they can go a lifetime and stay mediocre. They never hit desperation. Most truly recovering addicts reach that place, and never forget it.
Monday, December 9, 2019
At one point in history, the 18th century, Joseph Pignatelli was the only Jesuit in Italy. Italy was a rather Catholic country and Jesuits are Catholic priests. But the Jesuits were tossed out of Europe for political reasons. But Joe did not leave. Here is this guy, surrounded by people who are uncomfortable with him there, who want him to go away, and he stays. He has no communal support around him, where he lives and works. Even the Pope does not want him around. Think of him whenever you find yourself as the singular figure in a space filled with people who are all acting the same but different from you. Your first instinct may be to leave, but what if you stay? You might be an influence for positive change. You are sober in a room full of drinkers. Maybe they are uncomfortable with you there. You are a parent in a school gathering of parents, maybe in a parking lot or coffee klatch, and they are all gossiping in a negative fashion. You don't participate in the tear down. They are uncomfortable with you in their space, but you stay when your instinct is to leave. Be like Joseph. Be the singular figure. Who knows what change can take place down the road. Eventually, the Jesuits got reinstated in Europe. Joseph did not live long enough to see this. But I think he made a little bit of difference along the way. So can you.
Sunday, December 8, 2019
Too often we tend to decide how we are doing by what others say or seem to think about us. Think of the “widow’s mite.” In comparison with what others were giving, her two cents did not seem like much. If she were comparing and contrasting herself with others, then she might think she is not giving much and therefore is not much. But as the story goes, she is giving all that she has. She is giving from a heart of trust and hope. She is not looking good to those around her, if they even noticed her. But if she ignores public opinion, or communal opinion, she may feel she is doing quite well. So it is with us. Do what we can do. Age, illness, economics, tragedy are just some of the things which affect our limits, our abilities. So don’t compare and contrast. Doing a little may not be so little after all.
Saturday, December 7, 2019
In the Story, “A Christmas Carol,” Jacob Marley tells Ebenezer Scrooge to “save yourself.” This is a popular notion in our culture. Take care of number one: you. Don’t wait around for someone else to do it. Having “more” is safer than giving away. Who knows what tomorrow may bring. The emphasis is on the self, me. Now Christianity is supposed to be about giving yourself away as with its symbol of the cross. But now that it is an institution it is less what it says it is. It is more about preserving the past, holding onto power and control. But in essence, its founding, it is still about the cross, someone who gave himself away even though he could have avoided it. That man on the cross was made fun of by the crowd to “save yourself” but he did not. This is why I like recovery programs such as AA. A person comes in desperate to save themself. They want to get something, sobriety, freedom from addiction. In time they learn that the only way to save themselves is to “give it away,” that is be of service to another struggling addict. Share the solution of the steps and fellowship. Listen. Be with. Give up your time and energy and sometimes money for the sake of another suffering person. Unless you are all in, you will most likely be all out and back into addiction. And AA is willing to change to meet the modern world and modern drunk while holding onto its core, the 12 steps. Women, gays, lesbians are most welcome. AA could teach institutional religion a lot. But lets give thanks that a lot of AA meetings are taking place in church rooms. So close to one another and yet so far away.
Friday, December 6, 2019
Having stuff, or materialism, is not bad on any spiritual journey. So don’t beat yourself up about how much stuff you have. Rather, ask yourself what is your motive for it? Is it greed? Is your mantra, “More?” In any spiritual practice we get to reflect here and there on our material stuff, the reputation we are fostering, the manner in which we judge others in wealth. The solution is not to become mendicants unless you feel called to be a St. Francis of Assisi. But just not let ourselves lie to ourselves about why we have all our stuff. Honesty is an essential virtue in any interior growth. Things are not evil in themselves. The world is good as Genesis seems to believe. Just make sure that you do not put a notice on the door of your heart that says, “No admittance for the Spirit, or the Really Real.”
Thursday, December 5, 2019
If God is so good then why are there things getting in the way of my being comfortable? I mean, just when I feel comfortable, something crops up that makes me uncomfortable. Doesn’t my God, this Power, want me to be comfortable? Well maybe not. What if the goal is not so much “constant comfort” as it is “growth.” Do I grow when I am comfortable? Generally not. I kick back and try to float along with little effort. I slacken off whatever helped me feel comfortable. I stop growing. So I have begun to look at things that bother me as possible means to growth. I go back to my toolbox kit of things and practices that helped me to feel comfortable in the past. Often, I find that the cause of the discomfort is fixable. It is in me. Outside issues can be troublesome, no doubt. How I respond to them is what I call my side of the street. My God will help me there. I need fixin’ and I cannot do it alone. The world may need fixing too, but if I am not in a good space, I will become part of the problem. Obstacles? Here I come, and I do not come alone.
Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Think of a sculptor who chisels away at a block of stone. The Artist knows what potential the stone has to become something of beauty and grandeur. The sculptor knows and the stone does not. This is a great metaphor for prayerful meditation. I am the block of stone who is clueless as to where this meditation is going or to what I will become. But each day that I meditate, God the sculptor is chiseling away at me, bit by bit, removing whatever gets in the path of me becoming all I am meant to be. I don’t ever have to know where my meditation is going. I just have to do it each day. Over time, as the bronze block becomes a work of art, I will become all the inner beauty my Creator made me to be. I try not to be a blockhead.
Tuesday, December 3, 2019
I often don’t think that something is a problem until it becomes my problem. I have been reading about accessibility for people who cannot hear, see or walk unaided, for instance. I never really think about stairs or narrow doorways or Braille books or sign language when someone is talking. Such problems for others ought to be my problem too, if I want to be a person of service. Start with compassion. Can a deaf person attend one of my talks? How about stairs and the width of doorways, much less how easy is it to open a door. Since I am in the church business with its buildings I have begun to consider these things. Buildings and presentations can become barriers. But I am also reminded by these same persons that they never let any limitations get in the way of their drinking. They are good teachers for me.
Monday, December 2, 2019
One of the results of being on a spiritual path or recovery is that you begin to "feel better." I don't mean that you always feel good, because that is fantasy land. What I mean is that you begin to feel your feelings better with the know how of what to do with them. For instance, you might feel anger, rejection, loneliness, and sadness. You can identify the feeling, and know how to respond to it. With anger or rejection you will not necessarily strike back, an eye for an eye, which you have found in past behavior, only made you and matters worse. You realize that you don't always have the emotional stuff to endure certain responses, so you don't go there. You let some things simply go. You learn how to ask the right question of another who might be going through their own stuff at the moment. You become a better listener. And you listen better to yourself, your best self. And you will feel better more often even amid tough times.
Sunday, December 1, 2019
Did you or do you ever feel excluded? And especially when you were once seemingly in the center, and then put out to pasture, so to speak, or even felt “dumped.” Someone who develops a physical limitation, maybe hearing, seeing, or walking, can find that places they went no longer are accessible to them because of their hearing seeing, wheel chair, etc. But then there are those for whom nothing physically changed in them, but a new boss came along. The new boss had different ideas about who would be central and who would be “not so much.” You ended up the “not so much.” You felt married to your work or ministry, and someone took it pretty much away. Well, this is not foreign to me. Now I could whine, complain, talk behind someone’s back, criticize, but the situation would stay the same, but I would be in a negative mood and emotionally out of balance. Not good for me. So what I do is try to think of other people who are feeling or being excluded for whatever reason. How can I be of some service to make them feel more included and important? Senior persons would be a place where I could be of service, so this I try to do. I feel better and find that I have a whole new world of usefulness open up to me. It is a bit of “do unto others as I would have them do unto me.” Anyhow, it keeps me out of trouble.
Saturday, November 30, 2019
Did you ever find yourself responding to another person in a way to please them, but it is not really you. Your response is not authentic. Kya did this with a guy. She laughed at something he said though she did not think it was funny. Girls can tend to do this. Why? Not being a girl, I am not sure, but the author of the book says it is "giving away a piece of yourself" each time yo do it. You don't want to be lonely or you do want to belong to someone. These were two reason that Kya laughed. It got me to thinking that each time I do this in my own interactions with people, am I giving away a piece of myself? And if I do it often, then will there be no more me, authentic me, but only a fake me? A spiritual path is one that helps us to discover our true self and live it out. It takes courage and determination on a day to day basis, and sometimes can pay a price. I keep this in mind when I think of a response or reaction to what someone else says, does or wants. Oh, and if you figured out the mystery of Chase's demise, you are a better detective than I was. I thought I knew but really had no clue. There were clues but that is for another blog! Read the book.
Friday, November 29, 2019
In San Francisco we have some persons who are very happy and some who are very sad. Sometimes, it is the same person. They get very happy with substances, since they cannot find happiness otherwise. Without the substances, they can get very sad, even suicidal in solutions to unhappiness. Something does not go their way, or they don't get their plans fulfilled that day. They get resentful, self-pitying, judgmental, blaming, so they decide to "take it to the bridge." We have beautiful bridges in San Francisco, such as Golden Gate. This bridge has a walkway for pedestrians and suicide attempts. The Bay beneath is cold with terrible currents. Though pretty to look at, it will pretty much do the job of ending your life just with the fall into the Bay. I find that the best way to deal with this solution to unhappiness is to talk about it to someone who might understand and not judge you. They might have a second opinion about what to do that is healthier. Since I have a fear of heights, the bridge has never been my solution. Thank you HP for phobias! Take a step over the bridge is a solution. But I have found there are 12 other steps that solve suicidal thinking.
Thursday, November 28, 2019
Happy Thanksgiving! And if it is not happy as you read this it might get a bit better with some reflection and/or action. If you are unhappy because you lost someone you love who made for past Happy Thanksgivings, then your sadness is in part because this was a wonderful person in your life. We are sad when we lose the gift or a living relationship, but we did have this wonderful person in our life at one time. We lost a gift, but it was nonetheless a gift. For some of us, we are not with family or friends we love on this day. When this happens to me, I try to plan for being of service to others who might be struggling this day. I remember getting together with other single persons who were away from family and making a Thanksgiving together at one of our apartments. In other words you don't have to be alone and lonely. For some of us, our solutions for loneliness are very self-destructive. In San Francisco, we call it "Taking It To The Bridge."
Wednesday, November 27, 2019
Well the arm is not healing. It is getting infected. So I am now in LA with my sister and she agreed that we should do something. She knew about a UCLA urgent Care nearby that is very good. So we went there, twice. The first time it was not opened. We went back at the opening and got in with little wait after I filled out forms. The doctor and nurses were very good and clear. Anti-biotics, bandages that do not stick to the wound, unlike the one I had on, antiseptic solutions on the parts of wound that were leaking or “angry.” My sister listened to the instructions because I don’t always get it right being somewhat fear based with my wounds. So now we have a plan. It is good to be with my sister who knows what to do. Two heads are better than one, especially since one head is not working too well. That would be mine. Jane goes to heaven. Me maybe not. I have to see my doctor when I get back to Boulder, but he does not know that since his office is not coming to work in the Thanksgiving Blizzard. One day at a time.
Tuesday, November 26, 2019
Some days I get the notion that my spiritual path is all about losing myself. Say what? Well, instead of focusing so much on me and my wants or expectations, I let go of my "getting" agenda, and just "be" for a few moments. I let go of the thinking about me. It is not easy but when I can do it for snippets of time, I seems to get found by some power or energy or reality that is always within and around me, but ignored or avoided. This is a positive power of goodness, love, compassion, acceptance and service, which is ignored by selfish, self-centered, fear-based persons like I can be. Do you sometimes feel that the normal you is just bad, a mess? Think of it as an opinion or a temporary phase that can be changed by "letting go" for a few minutes. The purpose of my meditation, my spiritual practice, is to be "found." So I lose myself. You cannot be found if you are not lost.
Monday, November 25, 2019
Some days I just have to scrape together pieces of love. I am scattered, as we say. At these times I find loving to be defuse. It is not concentrated enough to overcome bondage to self and a whining attitude. I have plenty of that on such days. What to do? I try prayer, meditation, some focus reading on the spiritual path. They act like magnets, pulling together the pieces of love spread apart in my heart. Loving becomes a bigger part of my attitude and actions. Love concentrates into a power that overcomes the darkness, the moodiness, fears, laziness, and I can become a more positive force in the world around me. Prayer as a magnet! I am blessed whenever I feel pulled in the direction of love.
Sunday, November 24, 2019
I have found that one way to keep a relationship intact, is to start losing fights and arguments. We all get into disagreements. Sometimes you both go back to your corners and await another round to pick up the battle. It has been a hard lesson to learn, but I have started losing arguments about how things should be. I guess this is surrender. Resentments, judgments, anger, whining, and bondage to self all seem to slip away. So I did not get my way, but I feel better and am still connected with the other person in some tranquility. I cannot help being right all the time! It is my cross. And a lot of needless suffering goes with this cross. I have become a more contented loser. Hmmm.
Saturday, November 23, 2019
When you might walk through a field or area that has green, healthy grass, you might come across a dry patch. You are standing in it and have not the foggiest notion why this patch is dry, surrounded by green grass. Prayer is like that. We sometimes end up in a dry patch and we don’t know why. We think maybe we have done something wrong. It is our fault that the patch is dry. But maybe it is just a dry patch and we move on. A spiritual way is a moving on. There are days or moments of prayer when we are in a dry patch. If you keep to your practice, it is not your fault. It is just part of the journey through the fields of deepening growth. We all have spiritual dry patches. You are not in a wrong place, but just a place. No blame. Just trudge along. Some days you will be like Julie Andrews singing and dancing in a green mountain field, as in what movie? This is a test.
Friday, November 22, 2019
Nineteen years ago yesterday, Big Daddy died. He was Fr. Ed Lyons, CSP. He liked to drink, smoke, eat unhealthy foods, had a big pot belly, and I thought him a mess. How wrong I was. I judged him because I was a mess, too immature to see the mentor who he was. He taught me a lot and I only realized this years later. He had a real love and compassion for people who were hurting and down on themselves. He put up with me whereas I thought I was some gift in his life. He was the gift in my life. He saw something in me that was good, a potential, beyond the dumb, selfish, egocentric things I did. I am still a priest and a better one because of Big Daddy. So when I see someone acting like a jerk, I will ask myself, “What would Big Daddy do?” Maybe this person has some potential and I need to be patient and be a teacher even if the student is not ready. Maybe when I am gone, I will have left some light behind for whenever people grow up to turn on the switch. So try not to judge, but rather to model a better behavior. Don’t worry about the results. They may take more time than you will be given to see.
Thursday, November 21, 2019
There are days when I watch only one TV station. It is channel “Terry TV.” I know others who do the same in their own lives. My channel is about me and it gets boring, but I watch anyway. No service or usefulness to anyone. My channel’s themes are self-pity, victimhood, blaming anyone and anything but me, and happy endings if people would cooperate instead of be the problem. Lots of reruns. I am trying not to make today one of these Terry TV days. I will soon turn off the TV and meditate, then go for a walk, read a good book, ask other people how they are doing, even though my arm is falling off from gashing it last night in a fall. A bad mood or Terry TV is not going to make me heal. Wound care, patience, and some rest will do a better job. And chocolate. It should be a part of all first aide kits and we are without!
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
I took a really bad fall last evening. I was bringing food-filled trays into the house for the priests and fell down some stairs in the car port. No one heard my shouts for help. Food and blood all over the place. We had next to nothing in the house for wound care. A parishioner took me by Uber to the Emergency Room at the local hospital. Fortunately, they were not having a busy night. I had a Cat Scan for my head and X-ray for my wrist. One arm was cut from elbow to wrist. They had to put some kind of skin onto my skin and them wrap my arm all up. I was quite scared. No broken bones but a lot of soreness. My head is OK. Nice to know that, after all these years. Since I dropped the dinner for all the priests on the ground, I had no food while in the ER. For some reason I was not hungry. I left the hospital walking quite slowly. I hope by the time you get this, I will be sleeping. Right now I am grateful. So when something bad happens, sometimes it could be worse. No showers for a day or two. Hoping I am on the mend. Prayers if you are so inclined. I have no chocolate in my room. I am unprepared for trauma.
Tuesday, November 19, 2019
In the movie, "The Parasites" there is a conversation in which the family who is poor, agrees that they would be "nice" if they had all the advantages of the rich family they are using for their own ends. They have this conversation as they sit in the home of a rich family, who are away, and eat all the food and drink they want while in this lap of luxury. But they do not become nice. They do not help those who ask for it. They think only of themselves. They think the rich wife is nice only because she has all the material things needed to make niceness. Maybe her niceness does not come from money. As we see in the movie, miserable, unhappy people spread their misery around. So when I say I am unhappy because I lack some material conmfort, some work success, or plans unfulfilled, I might need to be reminded that my unhappiness probably comes from within.
Monday, November 18, 2019
I hear people say, “In the end things will all work out.” I say no. They are not working out at all. Things, whatever things are, seem to be in disarray. I am restless, irritable, discontented, and whining because life is a mess right now. You know what I hear back when I say all this? I hear, “Then it is not the end yet.” Which means what for me? It means that I have to keep trudging along with hope, trust, faith and do the work. Most of all, do the work, regardless of how I feel. If I only prayed, been useful to others, did my job, when I wanted or felt fired up, I would do little or at least a let less work than I do now. Being an adult, growing up, is hard work. Well, at least it is for me.
Sunday, November 17, 2019
As someone said, anxiety about something tomorrow won’t prevent the pain of tomorrow. Anxiety cannot change the future. But anxiety can take away our happiness for today. Anxiety has power in the present moment, but not in future moments. I try to keep this in mind when I find myself worrying about the future, as if my worry could change the future. I might switch the energy of anxiety to doing something positive today, that might effect a better tomorrow, and make today a better day. Action in the now, the present, has power. Anxiety is the now, the present moment, has power only to mess up my happiness today.
Saturday, November 16, 2019
I go to meetings that help my spiritual and emotional life to grow. If I stop going to these meetings there is one thing I am sure to miss. What? I will miss finding out what happens to people who stop going to meetings, because I won’t be there for those who come back after their stoppage. By being consistent in my attendance, I find out that a lot of messy things go on for the people who say, “I am bored. I don’t need these meetings anymore.” Their life, from the ones who come back, gets a lot worse by non-attendance. Boredom, I have found, is not a singular base upon which to make decisions. I tend to avoid boredom by trying to see how I can be helpful to others. Boredom is all about me not getting something for me. Spiritual and emotional growth means that life is no longer all about me. So don’t stop reading these blogs simply because you get bored. There may be other reasons!
Friday, November 15, 2019
Yesterday, I finally got around to cleaning my room. I had been away on holiday for a couple of weeks in California so my room in San Francisco had been 'Untended" for that duration. It pretty much took all morning. There were sheets and towels to be washed and fresh linens and bed making. Then there was my clothes laundry to be done. Then there was the gathering of cleaning products from our basement six stories below my room, including the vacuum cleaner. Empty the full waste baskets which went to trash bins two floors below where I live. I found a lot of dirt and dust in the bathroom and bedroom. I thought the whole process would be easier but it was not. Why? Because I had put off the project. I was away. I think of the spiritual journey being like cleaning my room/bathroom. Put off the daily spiritual practice and what happens? It becomes a lot of work to get back to it. Only the mess of one's life will get many of us to start cleaning up the interior sludge. Now that my room is clean, I work on keeping it clean each day, so that when I go back to changing bedding and laundry and trash, it will not be such a monstrous chore. I try to do the same with prayer and spiritual practice in my daily life. Make it daily, and the interior housekeeping will not be such a chore. Delay has a cost.
Thursday, November 14, 2019
If someone who is doing too much of something and cannot stop doing it on their own, don’t bother to ask them if they want to stop. They might very well say yes, but this yes will only be short-term. They just want to stop until they feel better. Then they will go back to old behavior in their over-indulgence. They are not yet finished. A better question to ask is, “Have you had enough?” If they have had enough, then they are ready to give it up. They are filled up with enough misery. I have tried to stop things in the past in my own life, but I could not because I still had a capacity for “MORE.” When I was finally asked if I had had enough I thought about it and said yes. I was ready to give it up. I had hit my capacity for misery. Now I am no fortune teller, so I cannot predict the future, but I have learned how to make today a good prep for tomorrow, so that my “enough” stays in the past.
Wednesday, November 13, 2019
“Happiness does not depend on where you are,” so says Mary Clarke. Who is she? Well, she fascinates me. She voluntarily lived in a women’s prison for nearly 30 years. She was known as the “Prison Angel.” She had a Beverly Hills lifestyle, two divorces, raised seven kids. She did some small prison visiting ministry in Tijuana. But she felt called to do more in service to Jesus. No religious order would accept a 50 year old divorced woman, so she sews her own habit, makes private vows to herself and her God, gets permission to live in a prison cell and walk among some serious felons. For 30 years! So I guess she was happy. She said she was never depressed there. She had found “a reason for living.” So if you cannot find a reason for living in your present situation maybe a drastic change is in order. Anyhow, Mary Clarke is an example of someone who did it.
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
It is one thing to say “I am sorry,” for some past behavior. It is a good thing to do when we find ourselves in the wrong. But there is more to an amends than a one time, “I am sorry.” It is called a Living Amends. This means that we change our life. We stop the behavior for which we needed to apologize. Otherwise, we develop a bad habit and continue to hurt people. As a priest, I have people come to confession and say what they did and that they are sorry. Nice apology to their God. Then they go out and do the same stuff all over again. Bad habits are not broken by apologizes. Often, the apology is simply to make yourself feel better. One’s life begins to change for the better when they begin to have compassion for the people they hurt. This is because they are beginning to connect and bond with other people. Before, it was all about themselves, a selfish focus. I have an obligation to others, that after an apology, I have to act in a more loving and caring manner toward them. That is the hard part. I wish growing up were easier, but it is not.
Monday, November 11, 2019
For some people, there are times when they simply cannot turn off their brain. What? Well, they get into a critical or negative frame of mind, resentment energy quickly builds up, they talk to to themselves about how bad someone or something is. They might know this is a bad direction, but even so, they cannot turn off the brain or the committee that is in their head. This is why I believe that something like Centering Prayer can be helpful. Centering Prayer is an example of the practice of letting go of thoughts, feelings and ideas as they crop up during the meditation. It is not about having spiritual experiences of feeling good. It is simply a prayer that learns to withdraw attention from one’s thoughts. The prayer has other parts to it and you can read up on it, but for people who cannot tun off the brain, it is a good practice. I do it myself and I find it helpful. You don’t need to believe in a God. Besides, whatever your belief is, you let that go to. It gives me an off button for my monkey mind.
Sunday, November 10, 2019
If you pay attention to a child out of guilt, such as “I should spend more time with this child,” they will often pick it up. They know a faker. It is best to spend time with the child out of love. They will spot the difference. So when I am going to spend time with children, I make sure that I have gotten any whining, or “poor me” out of my system. I do a kind of spot inventory of character defects and emotional instability, if any be hanging around. I won’t connect with the child or children if I am “doing my job,” or “putting in the time.” They will pick it up. They know faker priests. I seem to connect with children because I am interested in them. I look them in the eye and listen. I try to make a point or teaching in a simple and short fashion. And of course, I like to perform. Tap dancing is a winner. OK. I have a big ego, but I am having fun and so are they. Fear is useless. What is needed is...Pizzazz! Did I just say that?
Saturday, November 9, 2019
A little girl said, “Truth may hurt for a short time, but a lie hurts all the time.” A little bit of guilt can go a long way to making us better persons. Some people lie and it does not seem to bother them at all, but we don’t really know what is going on inside of them, and its consequences over the long haul. A lie fixes an immediate situation. A lie’s energy might come from fear, and fear is never eradicated by a lie. Fear stays with us and has long term consequences. I have found that facing the truth, telling it to someone, can have short term pain. But it is short term and most often leads to a better outcome down the road. I think of all the people who have benefited from telling the truth in a personal inventory or in making an amends. They often find the outcomes much better than they feared. When people ask me, “Are you a good priest?” I say, “No. I am mediocre.” Though it may be true, often some nice consequences and surprises comes out of that. To say that I am no good would be a lie, or that I am a ten on the scale would be a lie. Mediocre fits. But I have some good days too! And some good blogs here and there.
Friday, November 8, 2019
A true spiritual path or any recovery process that has any hope of success, growth and maturity requires two surrenders. The first surrender is to the fact that you need help. Some people join religious groups for other reasons, and they don’t really improve much. But when you know that you are not going to improve or get your life together left to your own will, then you have that chance to surrender to “I need help.” People then seek out a spiritual path or some steps to take in progression. But the second surrender is to do the work. You cannot just join or sign up or say you are a member of something or some group. I see people who say that they need and want help. Help is offered but they do not do the work. They read nothing, get no advisor, and don’t work the spiritual path offered to them. Without the second surrender, life continues downhill. I have found it so.
Thursday, November 7, 2019
It is always a good day for me when I learn something new. I always wonder why the person doing the sign language (ASL) was so close to the speaker. It seemed distracting to me. Well, what do I know! It seems that there are varying degrees of hearing impairment and some deaf people can read lips and SNL. So they want the SNL person to be close enough to the speaker so that the deaf person can pick up by eye, two different sources of communication. Duh! I never did think of that. Because it is not my issue, I had a very narrow view of hearing impaired communications. I notice now that when a government official is giving a disaster report, such as about a fire, flood, storm warning, the SNL person is also on the TV screen. This is so that hearing impaired people, who will be impacted by the issue, will have the best chance to get all the information available in the TV report. Now, don’t you feel good that you learned something from a narrow-minded person like me?
Wednesday, November 6, 2019
Some people say that I am a “lightweight” in my preaching and blogs. But I say, “Why burden people with things that are really complicated, or beyond their interest, or simply beyond them? Would you tell a blind man who you are guiding, to turn left or right by simply pointing in whichever direction? No. The blind person cannot see. So why point? Simply say, “Left” or “Right.” Sometimes I hear people speak about something and I say, “This is not helpful to me,” or “I don’t get it.” A lot of people read my blogs, I hope, and they come from all different backgrounds and interests. So I try to keep things somewhat simple. Maybe I am simple, but so what. Maybe God made me simple, to help simple people. Anyhow, when you are trying to communicate something to someone, don’t talk over their heads, beyond their interest, or to show off how much you know. Be brief. Make your point. Give an example. Sum it up. Shut up. Welcome to my Spiritual Stuff!
Tuesday, November 5, 2019
I saw my first Christmas ad on TV last night, November 3. Of course it is not a “Christmas” ad. It is “Holiday.” What we want is less of religion, to be replaced with more of buying and consuming stuff. But what do we do with all the stuff we already have? If we buy more stuff that we want or think someone else wants, but does not need or won’t satisfy, where do we put the old stuff? We have limited amount of space, do we not. Does it all go into the garbage bin, or the garage, attic, cellar, to be discarded later when we move or die? I see people living on the streets who have to struggle to push, carry, store all their stuff. Are we trying to love others through buying and giving stuff? What if you told your Gen Z child, the “OK Boomer” generation, that there would be lots of love but no presents this holiday season because they have enough stuff? Ok, that would be a bit draconian. They might have outgrown clothes or worn out some clothes. So I am thinking about less rather than none as a first step. And I will still celebrate “Christmas.”
Monday, November 4, 2019
In the Catholic tradition, a person who dies but is not yet transformed into their best possible self, goes to “Purgatory.” This is a place that has fire which burns. It signifies that the person is suffering, paying dues, for a not so good life before death. I take issue with this idea and will give one of the reasons. For me, God is Love, a verb. God is always loving. People having their souls fried is not Love in action. So what is the fire about? First, it does not burn anyone. The fire is the very God I believe in. God is on fire with Love. The purgatorial person is surrounded, and breathing in Love. So what is the suffering? The suffering is that you realize that you spent your whole life missing out on all this love, because you had other priorities, or else no one told you about such a Love in a way that attracted you. What good is a teaching that says God loves you, but if you don’t shape up or get enough indulgences, you will burn? So this might make me a bad Catholic for not holding to the party line. If I am wrong about my theology then I guess I will burn. Ouch!
Sunday, November 3, 2019
I have been coming to Sea Ranch every Fall since 1988. I come with my sister Jane. We have missed two Falls in all that time. You ask where it is? I won’t tell you. One of its charms is that it has so few people. It is a place with few people and nothing much to do. No Art museums, movies, events or such. Sea Ranch is all about doing little in a quiet isolated place. It has ocean shore cliff trails for walking and jogging. Ocean views from our rental. Only a sheep pasture separates us from the ocean. Nearby, the town has an excellent butcher for fish and meats. We like to cook. We are neat and do not leave clothes on the floor or kitchen messy, like priests and children do. We both like sports and watch events on TV. There is a community swimming pool nearby for more exercise. We stay for eight days now. It is wonderful for our temperament. People who cannot stand to be with themselves, or need lots of distractions would be miserable. Just in case, you are not invited.
Saturday, November 2, 2019
I used to say, “Tomorrow will be better.” But I have come to realize that today was yesterday’s tomorrow. What did I do to make yesterday a better day? Action, positive action today most often does make my tomorrow better. I stopped waiting for tomorrow to get better. I do the action today that seems to improve my present situation. Inaction today leaves me with vain hope for a better tomorrow. I try not to “do a step or go to a meeting or pray tomorrow.” That is my fantasy world. Do nothing today, but have plans for tomorrow and all will be well. Life has gotten better since I stopped doing nothing today with hopes that tomorrow will be better. All I have is today.
Friday, November 1, 2019
In some circles today is a celebration of all those saintly, good people we admire, who have died. They are in “The Good Place.” Some circles would call this heaven. Now yesterday was Halloween. That is the day for the the witches to come out. When my big Sis, Maureen, was alive, that was her day. She was a witch. Then she died way too young for my taste, and her new day became today. Now I cannot figure out how someone can go from a witch to saint and the Good Place, so bingo. If there is a Gatekeeper, a God or Power, then it does not think, or see, or judge as I do. I would think witches have to burn, which would make tomorrow, All Souls Day, my sister’s day. But the gatekeeper does not think like me because I just know that Maureen is in the Good Place. Her four kids and her friends tell me so. It also means that God sees in ways that I do not see. I know this because I see in a way that is full of complaints, and resentments. Short on gratitude and long on grumpiness. So today, I will pray to Saint Maureen to ask the Power Greater Than Myself, to give me new eyes, with less grumpiness and more gratitude.
Thursday, October 31, 2019
I hear people say that they did not do any bad actions a particular day. Their examination of conscience, a Step 10 for some, tells them they did not do bad that day. Well, this is good and probably an improvement on old behavior. But don’t pat yourself on the back too soon. After I say, “I did not do anything bad today, no bad behavior,” I then have to ask myself, “Did I do anything good today?” If not, or if I had a chance to do good and passed it by, they I have committed what has been called a “sin of omission.” Some days I find that though I did not do anything bad I also did nothing good and had chances to do good. In some circles this doing good is called being of service. It is one thing to try and avoid acting out your old vices. It is another thing to be on a spiritual path. The spiritual path will make you happier and also everyone around you. I have found it so.
Wednesday, October 30, 2019
For those of you who have been freezing and dealing with October snow, I have also been in a bit of a mess since a fire broke out last Saturday. I have been in Northern California. We have had no power, no lights. Cooking on two stove burners gave us some food choices. We have an ice chest and ice from town when available to keep things cool. So blogging is a bit of a challenge. Now the power has gone back on, for how long, we do not know. But I can get this out to you all. There is still some smoke in the air and I wear a mask when walking. No jogging or heavy exercise. I am at the ocean about 115 miles North from San Francisco. We are safe, but not going anywhere fo now. People have been trying to call me probably to do things, thinking I am either in Colorado or able to get there quickly. Hope your weather problems are manageable.
There is a wisdom saying, “Every kingdom divided against itself will not stand.” I have found that if I am only half into something then I am also half out of it. If I sort of exercise I will not get fit. Exercise one day and then do next to nothing for several days, busy with other things, I will not get fit. No one is able to run a marathon who exercises but twice a week for a half hour. You are either all in or you are really all out. I hear people talk about their drinking or eating or porno stuff. The drinker talked about praying some on a day, and then not drinking for a day and then debauching for a day or two. They are “sort of sober” as the person said to me. They are divided against themselves. If you are going to stay recovered from an addiction you are going to have to be all in with the recommended steps handed on by those who are all in. Divided kingdoms never make it. If you read my blog only occasionally how will you ever get wise? Oops! Pride before the fall.
Tuesday, October 29, 2019
Gratitude is the product of hope plus action. A farmer prays for rain. He has hope that it will come and then takes action with prayer. He realizes he is powerless to make rain come. So when it comes, he is grateful. You may say his prayer has nothing to do with rain. It was just good timing. But the farmer is nonetheless grateful. Sobriety is hope plus action. You hope to stay sober or get sober and then you take action. You get into a spiritual solution of fellowship, steps, service. This is the action that follows the hope. Without action, all you have is a brief and unhappy period of dryness. No sober person ever said it was just a fluke that they did something and got sober. They all know they have no more power to get sober and stay sober than a farmer has of making rain come. They are forever grateful. Whenever I hoped for something but did nothing, no action, all I got was “nothing.”
Monday, October 28, 2019
I know some people don’t bother with Facebook comments. But I go onto Facebook a couple of times a week to be of some service. Say What? Well, I figure that some people post things that are important to them. What if no one made a comment? As if their life were going along unnoticed. I can usually tell if something is rather significant, such as a wedding anniversary, or a place, event from a past in their life or maybe a significant trip, not just a vacation or a medical/health issue. So I will make a supportive comment to let them know that they are being noticed. It may be a small thing on my part, but it at least gets me out of myself.
Sunday, October 27, 2019
I was walking into a meeting one morning, being my unnoticed self, and a young lady was passing me by. She stopped and smiled at me. She said that my blog was very helpful to her. I did not know her. Wow! I guess someone is reading my stuff and being helped. I felt useful, a nice thing to feel. Then at the end of the meeting, a fellow introduced himself to me and said that I had given a homily on divorce 25 years ago and it had been very helpful to him. Wow! A second shot of being useful, and memorable to boot. I think this stuff, little moments of light, happen just often enough to keep me at trying to be useful in whatever it is I do. It makes me think, “OK. I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. Don’t retire.”
Saturday, October 26, 2019
Did you ever have the desire to be on fire about something, such as a job, activity, spiritual journey, recovery, relationship and such? I hear people say, "I am on fire about ...". I admire that, but for me many days I am only on fire about resolutions. I am on fire to accomplish something, but then don't do the work or put in the time. What happened? Stuff happens that diverts my attention. Or discipline evades me. Or the resolution is simply a fantasy to make me feel better about what I will do. I find that I need a plan to go along with my resolution. I need steps and I need to ask, "Is this possible?" Keep my ego intact. And I need to be open to the unexpected happening that demands attention now, such as someone getting sick and needing my help. At the end of the day I can examine myself and how I did with "resolutions." Right now all California appears to be on fire, so I am trying to avoid fire and smoke. If I am on fire to go jogging, it could be the end of me.
Friday, October 25, 2019
I like to know the origin of phrases that we commonly use. Well here are two of them I found out about: “One for the road,” and “On the wagon.” They come from 18th Century England. When a fellow was condemned to be executed he was taken in a wagon to the place of execution. On the way, the cohort of guards stopped at a tavern so he could get a last drink. This became known as “One for the road.” Now all the guards had a drink too, except the fellow who was driving the wagon. He did not drink because he “Was on the wagon.” If you have any others let me know.
Thursday, October 24, 2019
Someone said that when they first drank they understood the word "serenity." They knew peace. Alcohol did for them what they could not do for themselves. It gave them escape from self-centered fear. I can relate. Many of us find early on solutions to feelings and life difficulties. But then this same person said that the spiritual experience of alcohol began to lessen and eventually it was overtaken by raw compulsion and obsession. The early on solution had diminishing returns. So I try to find solutions to life's difficulties in things that continue to grow and strengthen me. Eat right, exercise a little regularly, meditation, gather with others on the journey, and be of service. And I read about solutions that work and don't work for others. Why reinvent the wheel? Lots of wisdom out there. Solutions that will kill us are generally discovered all by ourselves. We can be our worst guides.
Wednesday, October 23, 2019
SAD stands for Social Anxiety Disorder. Indeed this is a "sad" state of being. It can result from a feeling of not fitting in, not belonging, being an outsider to a group. One of the reasons for SAD is that we try to fit in as we think people want us to be. But it makes us uncomfortable inside our own skin. Why? Maybe because we are not being our truer self, not being who we are made to be. We are trying to be who someone else wants us to be. Or we are simply being excluded because other people judge us as not worthy, not following their rules of behavior. I tend to avoid groups where I am uncomfortable because I don't believe they accept me as I am. It has taken me a long time to accept me as I am, as worthy and able to contribute to society. I am far less "sad" when I am being more my true self. Whenever I try to do something that is simply not me, I am uncomfortable. It tells me that I am trying to be something I am not. There may be times when we have to step up and do some things that are good but not who we are. Just don't make it an all day habit, or else you will be SAD. Be your own SAD: Sober And Devine.
Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Very often, before a person decides to kill themselves, they have isolated. Isolation is a door to suicide. Either you think no one cares, or you think that someone cares, but would be better off without you. Suicide loses its force as a solution to misery, if you know that someone needs you, and will be much better off if you stay around, even as the loser you think yourself to be. You being something to them counters your belief that you are no good for anyone. This means that the world, your world, would not be better off with you dead. For me, I have found that people from time to time tell me how important I am to them or their community. There was a time when I did feel isolated, so long ago, but that has stayed long ago. I must have done something right because I do feel needed in the life of others. I think it comes from trying to be helpful, or to answering successfully the question in my life, "Why am I here?" I think that it includes being here for others, though not needing to be the center of attention. Think about that as a spiritual journey for yourself when you have that "cut off" feeling of isolation.
Monday, October 21, 2019
I hear some people say that Jesus had a problem with people being rich. I don't think so. His issue was with how the rich used their wealth for the community in which they lived. Some people just have a knack for making money. Jesus might question a rich person if they made their wealth by cheating others. He would want to know how they took care of the poor, orphan, widow, lame. It was the job of the rich to take care of the poor in Jesus' time. There was no welfare state. In some developing countries today where there is no government aide, or little of it, those with wealth are to take care of the poor. They have it in their religious books as a teaching. In Jesus' time the rich do not question why someone is poor, homeless, lame, without family. Just help them and don't look for results. I try and ask myself how I am doing or not doing in this area of my life. I can be caring or judgmental, ignore or pay attention. It is not about having some things, but rather how you use them.
Sunday, October 20, 2019
Some people pray with formula word prayers or church service prayers and songs/hymns. They often find great comfort there. It is their “Prayer Comfort Zone.” I find in me that such prayers have a subtle form of control. “If I say or do this, I will get or avoid that,” is how it might go. So when I try and brooch the subject of “contemplative” prayer, of silence, no focus on words or thoughts, many people become afflicted. Someone might say that I afflict the comfortable. They avoid the discomfort by dismissing me and my methods or my talk about union and non-duality. On the other hand, some people see themselves as undernourished by the prayers and rituals taught to them. When I introduce meditation they light up with interest. So there I would be comforting the afflicted. Overall, I am ignored by many and help a few. Not to equate myself, but Buddha and Jesus probably could say the same thing. Except they afflicted many more people than I do.
Saturday, October 19, 2019
I used to choose relief whenever I felt in a yucky mood or feelings I wanted to escape. It never worked. Short term relief and then worse misery. So now, instead of relief, I seek improvement of my spiritual and emotional condition. This improvement focus does bring some relief, maybe not so instantaneous, but certainly with less side effects and the results are usually more long lasting. In prayer, I am not alone, and contacting someone also takes me out of myself. Often I get some very good advice from my contacts with friends. I want to improve the way I live my emotional and spiritual life rather than change a mood with mood altering stuff. I know that chemically prescribed stuff can be a help to some people, but I have not gone in that direction. We are all different with different issues, so I just say what has worked for me.
Friday, October 18, 2019
I find it a a bit arrogant when people try to tell others what to do in any spiritual practice. To me it seems like a form of control, or a narrowness of what is “right and correct.” I am not God. I do not have full knowledge, but I do have some experience. So I tend to share with someone what worked for me. I share my experience and hope that my life reflects some positive growth coming from my practice. There are certain basics. You have to do the “work” in trying to improve your life, or salvage a life from some past wreckage. And if people are following a certain way or program or wisdom tradition, I will ask how that has helped to move them into a fuller life, or at least a less crazy one, in the beginning. When someone says to me, “I try to do this or that but I don’t have time or get around to it,” I tell them I did that behavior too and my life just got worse over time. Sometimes desperation is all that will get a person to drop excuses and do the work.
Thursday, October 17, 2019
No matter who is President of our country I hear complaints. “How did this person ever get elected?” Well, I found out that our current president was elected by 27.7% of eligible voters. It is not much better whichever party won. Barack Obama in his first term received only 32.6% of eligible votes. It is worse for first term elections all the way back to Richard Nixon. So when people complain I ask,”Did you vote?” And did you encourage others to vote. I find that many people complain about something, but don’t do anything themselves to try and make it whatever they think is “better.” If I want to make things better as I might see it, I have to start with me. I have to make myself a better and more responsible person, who complains less and participates more. If I sit on my couch with a bottle, drinking myself into oblivion while I complain about the state of the nation, I am not the solution. I am part of the problem. Local elections are in a few weeks.
Wednesday, October 16, 2019
I have heard people say, “I don’t drink anymore.” Oh! These are very special people because they can predict the future. I am just an ordinary person. The best I can say is, “I don’t drink today.” I have to work at even this. If I knew that I was never going to drink again, I probably would stop doing whatever has kept me sober. Why work at something if it is guaranteed anyway? I have no guarantees. Each day, when I get up, I begin again whatever I did right yesterday to not have a drink. If I worked at staying sober yesterday, then there is a good chance that today will be better than if I did nothing yesterday. But not always, There are no guarantees. Life shows up and does not ask me what I want. Besides, what I want may not always be good for me. I need inside and outside help. Even if you have no addictions, you might find this a good way to live. Work on today, the now that you have.
Tuesday, October 15, 2019
In the movie, “Judy” there is a line where Judy says, “For one hour a day, I am Judy Garland. The rest of the time I am a mother with a family that wants what is best for her children.” In other words, treat me like a person and not like a super star you admire or adulate. She was quite stressed with the dual role of being Judy Garland and being ordinary. I have found that a bit in my own life. I cannot be Terry Ryan to the people who know me from my teaching and church. I will always be “Father” with all that goes into their ideas of Priest. Believe me, it is not always praise and adulation. But I just want to be me, a person, without a title sometimes, and so I find people who don’t care that I am this or that. They treat me just like anyone else in the room. It is nice to be able to fit in to the ordinary. I am fine with being a priest and its role, but have found a need to be just ordinary flawed me and be called, ‘Friend.” It is OK if my blog readers worship me! 😃
Monday, October 14, 2019
I bake bread. I follow a recipe each time. It is sequential, with adding this to that and then to something else. Wait. Then do the next step in the recipe. And so on. Eventually, I get bread. It is not always exactly the same, but it is always nourishing and tasty fresh baked bread. It is the same with recovery or any spiritual process that has some steps or sequence of actions. Do the first step first, the second step second and so on. If you follow the recipe for the recovery, you get recovery and it too is very nourishing. It is not always exactly the same for each person, but it is all recovery. People who try to “do it on their own” either baking or spiritual growth, usually end up with a bit of a mess. Or worse, they think the results are fine, and then wonder why no one seems impressed. I once made bread with sand. I did not follow the recipe. My ego said, “I know what I am doing.” No one would eat the bread. It was a big mistake. Had to throw it all out. I had put a lot of work into doing it the wrong way, my way. Follow the winners.
Sunday, October 13, 2019
I hear people say that addictive diseases like alcoholism is progressive, that is, the more you do, the longer you do it, the worse you get, never better. Well, I think that recovery and any spiritual program/path is progressive too. The more you do, the more you practice, the better you become, the deeper the transformation. So if someone drinks everyday and their life is falling apart, then why not have a prayer practice and be of service everyday, and your life will get better. I find that each day builds on all the past days. Spiritual growth and recovery is accumulative. So I never try to judge any one day and how prayer or practice went. I just show up and do my practice. Over time I see some difference for the better. Or at least I don’t get worse, or go back to bad behavior.
Saturday, October 12, 2019
Do you ever have that time when you are feeling so lonely, the blues, going through a bad patch, and think to call a friend, but then say, “Oh, she is so busy with so many responsibilities, I don’t want to burden her.” Then you say the same things about other friends, and end up reaching out to no one? You try to gut it out alone, “thinking of the burden” you would be to others. This is usually when we do the most damage to ourselves. We are not built to get over tough stuff by ourselves. We need friends, or a tribe for support. So I have decided that I will work on trying to show people that I have plenty of time for them. I will try to not act so stressful and whiny about all the things I have to do. That way, no one can use the excuse that I am too busy for them. If I want help, I need to be help.
Friday, October 11, 2019
Sometimes I say, “I feel grateful,” or “I am full of gratitude.” And then what? Nothing. I don’t necessarily do anything. I just feel grateful. But someone said, “Gratitude is a verb.” Duh! That is so true. What am I doing that is gratitude in action? So I am trying to do something for someone or for some situation to be helpful as a way to show my gratitude. When I escape the insanity of an emotional binge, that is the time for me to reach out and be helpful to someone else who might be going through a rough patch. When I am not doing well, however, I sometimes think that I should avoid my friends so as to not make myself a burden. This would be a way to show gratitude that I have friends at all, and not drag them down with me. Something tells me that’s insane. Maybe I am on the receiving end for gratitude?
Thursday, October 10, 2019
Many of us who want to grow spiritually ask, "What do I still lack?" The reality for many is that "lack" is not the issue. The issue is "too much" as in too much stuff. So this young guy, a good person, who keeps all the commandments and laws, comes and asks Jesus what he "lacks." Jesus, a good wisdom figure, spiritually evolved, says, "Oh you want to be perfect? Get rid of your stuff. Then follow me." I meet many Christians who say they follow or want to follow Jesus better. They ask me what they should do, awaiting some profound answer from me. I say to many of them, "Check your garage." In other words, if your car is parked outside in the driveway because you have a garage full of stuff, that could be an issue. Or it could be your walk in closet, basement, storage bins you rent. It is tough to be on a spiritual path when you have lots of "stuff" to clutter your life. I look around my room. Oops! Condemned by the Gospel.
Wednesday, October 9, 2019
I like what someone said about when we go off on some negative rant or mood. It is called a "Spiritual Cold." What do you do for a cold? Medicine, rest, and drink plenty of water are good for healing. The medicine for this spiritual cold might be taking a look at your own defects of character and faults, which might bring you to some compassion and even identify with others. Then you rest in meditation and then pray for those "bad" people that good things will come their way. And drink plenty of water. Many people solved their spiritual colds with plenty of liquid and it was not water or soda pop or tea. A short term solution with long term problems. I get such colds from time to time. Try tap dancing! "Singin' in the rain!" Oh I digress to Gene Kelly and a happy movie!
Tuesday, October 8, 2019
I like to spend some time each day focusing on my bad habits and shortcomings. Someone might say, "Oh no!" They say such things depress them. It might me too, but I have never found that depression was a doorway to sanity or a better life. The avoidance of personal pain, only made me say to myself, "Oh, I am not so bad." No change ever came from a mediocre life as I knew it. I focus on my bad habits, ones I cannot overcome by my own power and it brings me not to depression but to a sort of "bottom" from which I find the source of energy to actually do something to make a change for the better. I seek inside myself and outside myself guidance and power. Left to my own devices I won't change for the better. This is why a bad habit is called a "habit." You cannot change it by yourself. So if you think that things are not so bad, and you do nothing to change for the better, things will only get worse. May you live long enough to hit your bottom, the crisis point.
Monday, October 7, 2019
One of the reasons for an intensifying search for a God connection or spiritual connection is not so much because a person is particularly virtuous, but rather because they were not. Their lives were on a self-destructive path, and then they were somehow rescued, not by their own power or will, but by something else they cannot name. It all seems like a mystery, which is as good a name for God as any. As they recover from the edge of disaster, they are filled with gratitude to whatever did it for them. In time, they get more comfortable being in their own skin, and then being with their insides, so that the suggestion of meditation seems like something they could try. From there they move onto becoming quite helpful to others, a change from their self-imploded and self-centered life before. It is said that "great sinners often become hidden saints." Anyhow, daily effort adds up. And we don't do it alone.
Sunday, October 6, 2019
Church is about In-ness but God is about One-ness. Many people go to a certain church or connect with a particular religion because they feel that they are “in” the right place that will get them some good things here, or avoid bad things, and get to heaven. Their church is the church that has the true belief in God. Everyone else is, well, at least less correct, less in. God, on the other hand, is more about One-ness, as in God is a metaphor that goes beyond any language, thought or idea we can have about the Mystery. We can talk about the Mystery. It is real, but it is beyond our God talk. Dogmas and religions point to it, call it what you will, but the Mystery goes deeper than any God-talk. The One-ness idea is a way of saying that this Mystery unites us all and if we could Go deeper than our minds, into the Heart center of ourselves, we might stop hurting, competing, and abusing one another, treating other people as “other” and not as part of myself. Jesus connected to the Mystery, was One with it and called it “Love.” The followers over the centuries have done a lot a destruction in the name of “Christian.”
Saturday, October 5, 2019
If you say you want to be involved in a spiritual path because you think you need it, there is a good chance you won't go far or deep into it. I have heard any number of people say to me, "I really need to go to church more," or, "I really need to pray more." The same is for those who really need to exercise more, or really need to stop drinking. "Need" won't get you anywhere. The spiritual path and all the other examples are for those who "do it." The only chance for success is in the daily grind or disciplined work of doing a practice everyday. Some days you won't desire to do a practice or work a program, but you do it anyway. Somedays you think you don't need it. But you do it anyway. This is how I have found any success in a spiritual path or any path that was healthy. Good intentions are strongest the night before. Tomorrow looks really good the night before. But then comes the morning. You get up. The good intentions stay in bed.
Friday, October 4, 2019
Many of us think that we are supposed to feel God’s presence in order for it to be real. So our prayer becomes one of trying to change our feelings, more a control type prayer. But this works no better than a drink changes our feelings, or for some, many drinks. We think that feelings have to do with faith. If I feel God’s presence then God is in fact real. My feelings tell me so. A drink or drug or exercise high or music or painting can work on feelings and tell you something but it may not be any more real. “I am so happy, feel so connected, so full,” you say, and a while later, not so much. It all stayed on the feelings level. Faith, on the other hand, or a friendship with God, if you will, is not about feeling God. Faith and relationship, friendship is about changing the heart, which is not all about emotions. The heart is changed by letting go of trying to change the heart, say in prayer or relationship. It is counter intuitive. Let go of your agenda and trust/hope. This is faith at work. My love for someone grows as I let go of ego agenda and practice “being with,” compassion, listening, honesty without blame. Selfless? Yes. The meditation of letting go in prayer is when you take care of you. Your friends, family, even the clerks in stores are not there to fix you or make you feel better. If you are unhappy in an interaction and you say,” I am unhappy because you do not give me what I want” it is going to be a long and miserable day. I drank over that!
Thursday, October 3, 2019
Intention matters in prayer. Many of us have been taught in our Western tradition to pray with attention and concentration. We have our prayer books, daily reflection manuals in recovery, walk in the garden and concentrate on nature, and so on. But these are all things that are part of the “prayer of control.” We are the directors of this prayer with some idea of a “feeling” an emotion we would like to conjure. Then we start our day of activity and forget all we “conjured” if anything, as emotions, judgments, old tapes takes over in our reactive response to our plans not working out. Intention, on the other hand, seeks nothing but to let go of whatever comes to mind in prayer. It has no spiritual books, or meditation journals. It is the practice of letting go and letting a Power, beyond our imaginings to do as it pleases in our prayer. Let the Presence be the Presence without trying to engage it in thought or agenda. Then enter into the active part of your day. Stuff will happen, of course. The world can be chaos, but instead of responding with active anger, judgment, avoidance, resentment, or self-pity, we simply “let go,” which we practiced in our prayer. The Power is at work if we allow it to flow through the heart and not the head.
Wednesday, October 2, 2019
Humility is not something you do. It is rather a basic stance or view of life. You may do things or not do things because of humility, but the action is not "humbling." Two things would go into humility. One, the world is not all about you. Two, you let go of the need to be special or have things focused on you. When I did the "Mama Mia" theme evening last week of dinner, stories, tap dancing, songs, it was very much focused on me. I was not being humble. I loved it. Maybe I am a bad priest. But now I can go back to being outside the center of attention. Return to being unimportant and unnecessary in the lives of others. I can be helpful, be of service, useful, kind, but not be the center or the focus. What I try for is to not "need" to be the focus. On rare occasions I will be the focus and maybe for a good cause. But if I must be the center of attention, then my life will be filled with disappointments. At times it is good to be nothing. I am still loved by friends, and maybe blog readers? Maybe?
Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Tomorrow, October 2, is the Feast of the Guardian Angels. You don't believe in Guardian Angels? Hey, life is hard enough. Get all the help you can. You think it is nonsense? Maybe you are right, but what if you are wrong and you have had this Angel looking out for you all your life and you don't even give it a shout out. I believe in a Guardian Angel and it is part of my daily prayers. Now the Angel is supposed to be looking out for me and has done a good job. I mean I am sober and healthy with a few brain cells left. So I say a lot of "hello" and "thank you" prayers to my angel. Like most people, I am kind of "damaged goods" so I need help to stay out of my own way at times. So I am going to celebrate tomorrow, Guardian Angels Day, baking bread, tap dancing, and quiet meditation. If you stay out of trouble tomorrow, and even have a good day, it just might be your Angel at work.
If you ever get the chance, sit at a window or on a porch or yard in the predawn dark. Watch and see how slowly the darkness gives way to the dawn light. It takes a while. I can see this at the monastery. So consider the lesson we can learn from this in the spiritual journey. The growth will be slow. It takes a practice with patience. The spiritual light will come if you give it time. The same goes for growing up into a sober maturity. It takes time. We just have to plug away. Growth, like the dawn, comes if we keep working at it. Don't give up. Getting into running shape is the same process though at this time I am in the running darkness, jogging along on hope!
Monday, September 30, 2019
If you have seen the movie, "Billy Elliot" then you know something about what I feel like when I dance. A few nights ago I did a fundraiser for our local church school. About 70 people came. I said I would tap dance for them. No one had ever seen me tap or perform dancing of any kind. People asked me, "Are you ready?" and "Are you nervous?" I was ready and not nervous. I don't have fear when I dance. My body just dances. Billy Elliot called it "electricity" as in something flows through him. All other life issues, thoughts and such just fade away. Talk about "letting go." You sort of surrender to the moment, the music, and you go. Practice of course is important. But practice will not make a dancer. That comes from within and connects to all the muscles in the body. You dance as One or you don't dance. Divided, you just do exercises, and steps. Swan Lake ballet is a perfect metaphor for Billy Elliot, a miner's son. For most hours of the day, in the story, a girl is under a spell and she is a swan. But for a few hours each day, she can be herself. When Billy dances he is who he is supposed to be, though those around him try to keep him from being himself. When I said I wanted to be a tap dancer at my "mature" age, people asked why. They saw me only through their eyes and probably their needs. But I saw me, as they could not. So if dancing or whatever you think you want to do makes you one with yourself, and at ease within, then do it and stop being a swan. I hope the church wants to do another fundraiser, because I have only just begun. Pride? No. Electric.
Sunday, September 29, 2019
If you are falling apart, at a jumping off place, it is not necessary to find a group or persons to help you who are your age on the outsides. Find a group that is your age on the insides. Many a young person beat themselves up with a hard lifestyle of bad stuff, but get the grace or desperation to seek help while they are still relatively young, say under 30, or a teenager. On the outside, biologically, they may have some youth, but they have grown old on the insides. They have quite a bit in common with a person in their 40s-60s in terms of the insides. And is it not the insides that need to be changed? These young people tried to get well, sober, sane, healthier by exercise and food diets and organized religion. But that did not change their destructive habits that kept bringing them down and down to the jumping off place. Many a fit young person, aged on the insides has found quite a bit of help from "old people." The insides match up. I hear that young people read my blogs. True?