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Spiritual Musings

October 16, 2010

I have a new feeling about those who dare say they don’t believe. My new feeling comes after my own near death adventures, and was instantly there after the first one. It has not changed.

It takes a tremendous amount of faith in the goodness of whatever it is that animates all life, that holds the stars in the sky, that sparks creation itself, not to fear it enough to dare to say you have no belief. Even a tiny bit of fear would cause one to profess belief in something. Perhaps the most faithful believers are those that call themselves atheists.

August 10, 2010

There is a very thin line between denial and a positive attitude. For many years, I taught what is sometimes called, “new thought.” It’s a catch all phrase for some non mainstream religions, churches and ways of thinking, interacting and looking at the world and our lives. If you have read or heard Wayne Dyer, Depak Chopra, Maryann Williamson, even Joel Osteen, they all teach their own brand of “new thought.”

Even the mega seller, “The Secret” was all about this new way of thinking. There are differences in the theology behind how it is taught, but essentially it teaches that our thoughts and feelings are creative. It’s like positive thinking on steroids, where one is urged to monitor their thoughts religiously and even adjust their feeling nature to match whatever it is you are actually wanting in your life.

Of course, having nice thoughts and affirming pleasant things is great and can contribute mightily to a happy and contented life. For many, many years, this thinking, teaching and way of living worked well for me. I taught it with absolute conviction and total belief in the power of positive living to change ones life.

Then, I got sick, very sick. After I had a triple bypass and subsequent graft failure, stents, angioplasty and such, I was asked many times if I had any sort of near death experience or profound revelation during any of my near death adventures. I said no and could in fact recall nothing, absolutely nothing any time I had been unconscious.

Yet, something had changed. The way I thought, the beliefs that motivated and guided me were at once vastly different than before. While a large part of my life had been spent as a spiritual seeker, I suddenly and completely had no desire to seek anything of  a spiritual nature.

My thoughts about my previous thinking had changed as well, though I was reluctant to admit it, thinking it was a temporary reaction to the trauma. Well, it has been eighteen months and the changes have only intensified. They have grown so strong I want to shout them from the rooftops, preaching not what I taught before, but the perils thereof.

You see, like any belief, it can be misused. Instead of bringing hope and encouragement, it can be used to shame and do harm. Instead of inspiring and uplifting, it can degrade and mask the truth. This masking, can lead to denial and thus can cover up to the point of death.

I’m talking about something so simple and benign as positive thinking itself. We encourage each other to keep our chins up and hang in there. We look on the bright side and feel grateful for the slightest kindness or act of mercy.

We urge each other to hope for the best and not dwell in worry, knowing full well in our hearts that while we might speak differently or even act differently, we will emerge from despair in our own time, on our own terms. To do so any other way, is a lie and an act.

For years, I ignored symptoms that almost killed me, living that lie. I believed that wearing that happy smile and saying yes to life and everyone living it was the path to success and fulfillment. I also assumed that every ailment, be it financial, physical, emotional, relational, familial or mental, was a product of my own thinking and way of being.

On these steroids of belief, I had turned thinking positively, into positively shaming myself. Even a cold was seen as a failure. We can fake it till we make it until we are the guest of honor at a funeral.

I still belief there is the right time to pull ourselves up out of the muck and start living again. I believe there is great power in assuming the best of everyone and every circumstance.

But now, I believe there is equal power in feeling all the hurt, allowing the fear to be felt in all its overwhelming torment. We cannot heal from something we cannot feel.

Maybe, just maybe, allowing ourselves to be failures, not just successes, sad instead of happy, angry instead of peaceful is healing in itself, and even the grand prize. To own and claim who and what we are, in all our littleness and brokenness  and love ourselves anyway could be our greatest life purpose.

We can deny what our bodies are telling us right into a grave. It’s okay if we are wrong. I’ll say that again. It is okay if we are wrong.

To think we are sick and find out we are well, what a wonderful surprise! On the other hand, to deny what we feel both in our bodies and our guts, and think we are well, only to find we are sick, well that stinks. What stinks even more is finding out that had we not lived in such a state of positive denial, we wouldn’t be near as sick as we now are.

There was one thing I knew when I woke up. Love is real. It’s the only spiritual thing I know that I know. I admit that what I could interpret as disbelief could simply be completion.

We can water love down until it’s not much of anything. I want the concentrated version. The whole thing. That’s what I want to give myself. That’s what I want to receive from others. That’s what I want to give those I love.

Forgive me for mouthing off. And please don’t try to save me. I’ve had enough grand heroics. I just want to love.

Before Resigning

I have serious doubts that I have anything to offer as a minister now. Even more serious are my doubts that I want to spend my limited energy in that way. To stand before a group of people and profess to know “the truth” seems ludicrous and outright egoic lunacy. Add to that, a group of people who believe that anothers truth is somehow more valid than their own seems just as foolish. Yet, for years I filled both roles. Now, thankfully, I can ease in and out of that role as my body, mind and heart allow. I do feel there are those who could enhance their lives if they could share some of the clarity I have arrived at these past few months. Yet, how often do the insights of another actually change our thoughts, ideas, beliefs, much less our actions?

This blog contains much of my own process and that process includes my own struggle as a minister. Soon, I will announce a decision. In the meantime, these are my thoughts as I have shared them with the ministry. They are buffered, softened in places, as much for my benefit as theirs. My new truth, like my new state of normal, comes slowly, in stages, tiny bites to chew and swallow. I am far more sure of what I do not know, than of what I now know. I am more confident in what I no longer believe that what I do. This journey with heart disease has changed every area of my life. While the journey has been incredibly painful, I grow in gratitude for every tiny speck of clarity that comes. Before this, my life was far more illusion than reality, more lie than truth. Under the illusion and the lies is a simplicity I dared not seek before. I dare not not now.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

“What’s On Your Bucket List?”

This is my first lesson in five months. Some folks have said to me that you can’t wait to hear of the insights that have come from this experience. Well, me too. So far, what I’ve gleaned from near death adventures hasn’t really been anything new to any of us. At best, it’s been a fine tuning which perhaps sadly, has meant a paring down of meaning.

Some of the principles I believed were most important, really don’t matter to me very much right now. Thinking about whether or not I‘m thinking the right thoughts or feeling the right things or praying the right way or spending enough time in meditation or keeping up with the latest new thought wonder treatment or path to enlightenment really doesn’t much matter to me right now. Maybe it will again later, but for now, my concerns are simplified and of a much more basic nature.

Did you see the movie “Bucket List?” Well, I’ve been surprised that I haven’t really had a Bucket List experience. Other than doing more of my favorite things, like going to the beach, eating seafood, I haven’t had any great desires to visit exotic places or jump from airplanes or get a tattoo. Well, except a tiny hint of coveting the tattoo of a woman in the online support group for women with heart disease I’ve joined. This lovely scar down the middle of our chests is sometimes affectionately called a zipper. This woman has an open zipper tattooed on her chest exposing the tattoo of a heart, not the little valentine heart, but a human heart with brilliant colors and amazing graphic accuracy.

Anyway, I’ve wondered a bit why I haven’t had any great aspirations, especially since I had no real interest in any deep spiritual study. I’ve been a little surprised that some long forgotten dream hasn’t surfaced and demanded to be fulfilled. Wasn’t there something that I would feel I absolutely had to accomplish? Wasn’t there that one place I wanted to go, or that one adventure I just had to have?…Nope.

Then, Jacob and Zachary asked us to play Monopoly with them. Now growing up, my parents never played anything with us, except for the occasional game of Monopoly. Since a family game was so rare, it was very special. A huge event. And I never, not once, won…not that Monopoly games are often really won…they seem to go on for hours, then abandoned when two or more players fall asleep. Over the years, I’ve played Monopoly with my children. Again, I was never the winner of a game that actually was completed. So, we all sat down to play Monopoly. I realized Winning at Monopoly might be a good thing to have on my Bucket List.

This could be it. This could be the thing on my bucket list. To finally win at Monopoly!  I acquired property right away and had the edge of more experience. I added houses and hotels to my real estate holdings and I was the only one with a monopoly. The excitement grew inside as I anticipated winning after 52 years. As we neared the four hour mark, interest began to fade in my fellow players. The majority wanted to go one more round, each of us having one more turn, then add up our respective holdings and determine a winner. Just as I’d acquired those hotels! Just as I was ready to clean house, kick butt and take names! Alas, I came in second. We played again later when more family could join us. Again I lost. And that was fine with me, after all.

But there are things on my Bucket List, that list of things that are now vitally important to me, but winning at a board game isn’t on it. Playing with my family obviously is.

Now, before I go further, I’ll clarify that I don’t need a Bucket List. I have no death sentence I’m trying to outrun. These past several months have been very sobering however. Like it or not, whatever we want to believe about the nature of our being, I do inhabit a physical body, and so do each or you, and it’s not going to last forever. I’ve had to accept that I better take care of mine and listen to it and honor it if I want to stay in it.

How long any of us will be here is unknown. This could be the last day in this particular physical experience for any of us. I just happen to now have a diagnosis that reminds of the reality of that statement. And I’ve had experiences these past few months that brought me very close to that end more than once. I’m not taking today for granted. It is that knowing and experience that brings up the Bucket List.

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman at their finest. Maybe we’d all be better off if we lived with a Bucket List. Not so much to pick what want on it, as to not allow other things on there. Not to take up space in our hearts and heads, not to mention our valuable time, with things that have no business on a Bucket List. If you didn’t see the movie, it’s about two men who are dying. They each write a bucket list, a list of things they always wanted to do before they kick the bucket. The spend several months doing outrageous things, before finally finding peace in the love of their families.

I guess we all have a bucket list. We’re all living a bucket list. We’re doing the things that we’ll do before we leave this physical experience. We’re with who we’re going to be with. We’re  loving the way we are going to love. We’re spending our time on what we’re going to spend this very limited amount of time on. The difference is, I got this wonderful reminder that I was living my bucket list. And with that reminder, I got the invitation to add some things, and more importantly for me, take some things off.

I assumed, like I guess most of us do, that there was plenty of time. That my allotment of time was so abundant that I could do all this stuff I really had no love of, or passion for, or that served no real purpose in adding any joy to my life or anyone else’s and still have time for what I did love and what was important to me. I lived somehow taking for granted each day; allowing pointless demands to throw me off track; petty concerns to take up valuable space in my head; and even to allow myself to be mistreated at times. I spent a lot of time not wanting to let anyone down, letting myself down in the process.

Now, in the haze of busy-ness it would have been impossible for me to figure out what to take off the list. It seemed impossible to me to discern what I had to do because it was expected and appropriate. But the funny thing about having your arteries of your heart blocked, is that it took very little to cause serious life threatening cardiac symptoms.

You know that feeling when someone pulls out in front of you and you have to slam on the brakes and barely miss having a major accident? I realized that that feeling constricted my arteries which were already compromised. I’d always heard how stress affected our hearts, but never quite put it all together. But, that feeling and all the various variations of that feeling we experience, actually constricts our blood vessels. Now, when your blood vessels are already constricted, blocked, not fully opened and I add that feeling which constricts them even more, they constrict enough to cause all sorts of symptoms, which meant my heart was not getting enough blood, enough oxygen from my lungs, was slowly, each time experiencing the very action that could cause its death.

The amazing thing was, with this new stress barometer, so to speak, I realized I experienced this feeling and constriction probably hundreds of times each day in varying degrees. I was shocked at how often I felt that way. I pretty much lived in a state of anxiety. Add to that a genetic predisposition, insane cholesterol levels and it’s no wonder my heart screamed, “enough!”

Now, not all of us have hearts and arteries that are so profoundly affected by our response to stress.  But I think that’s beside the point. We all spend our precious life time scratching off items from our bucket list that really don’t matter to us. We even can spend far more energy and time fretting and worrying and fixing and creating things that instead of enriching our lives, actually shorten our lives and diminish our enjoyment of life. What’s on your Bucket List?

I haven’t added a lot of things to my list. But I’ve certainly taken a lot of things off. Not for lack of time or health or energy. But you might call it going green. I don’t want to waste my precious resources. I don’t want to leave a muddy footprint. I want to focus on what really matters to me. And like it or not, that has to include taking care of me far better than I ever have.

After a triple bypass operation, three cardiac catheterizations, I still have two blockages. Two demanding reminders that my living will not tolerate the misuse of my life time. Two noisy alarms that go off when I’ve put myself in a situation or even a thought pattern which isn’t beneficial to me. It can come as nausea, pain, weakness, but it says to me, keep it up and you’re about to get hit head on or heart on. I can’t physically do what I could do before, but trust I can do all that really matters to me and all that is truly mine to do.

I’m discovering what exactly those things are. My new barometer will guide me. Like yesterday, Lisa spilled a giant glass of iced tea. It was this mega mug they give you in the hospital. That in itself is hysterical to me. Here I had open heart surgery. I couldn’t lift a feather with my arms, and what they have given me to drink out of weighs at least three pounds. I still have to use both hands to lift a gallon. Anyway, Lisa spilled this mug. It went everywhere. She started on the kitchen cabinets while I went for the mop. Slowly, gingerly, I mopped up the tea. But after a point, I knew I’d had enough. No guilt, no remorse, no apology. That was simply all I could do. For this reminder, I can be grateful.

Now sometimes, these symptoms come with no warning, when I’m perfectly relaxed. These times remind me of the mystery of it all. None of us know, not really. We all have our ideas, our theories, our dogma we lean towards. What is God? Who am I? What happens when we die? Reincarnation? All the certainty I’ve claimed evaporates like a fog in the sunlight. Leaving only a humbling mystery.

In that humbled state of not knowing, I’ve wondered what on earth I could talk with you about. What do I know for sure right now I can share with you. I can only share my state of not knowing. My ego’s need to know, to be right, to have a plan, to fulfill a big purpose has evaporated. All I really know right now is more about what I don’t know than what I do. More about what I need to take off the bucket list and not do than what I or we should do. Life seems a lot simpler and much less complicated. I had gotten really good at making it hard.

Jesus said to love our neighbor as ourselves. I think sometimes in our desire to be of service, we put the cart before the horse. We mistakenly believe we can adequately love our neighbors without learning how to first love ourselves.

We went out to eat the other night, both my daughters, their significant others, two grandsons, me and Lisa. Now already, I’m choosing to eat differently. Not to the extreme, just a bit more aware and avoiding the obvious artery clogging culprits. Having ordered a safe veggie plate minus any gravy or fried item, I thought I’d perform a little experiment. I was going to try to go one hour without mentioning my heart. I had started to notice this glazed over look that happened to certain family members whenever a conversation took that inevitable heart talk turn.

Anyway, even though at first, I could resist the urge to say the heart talk out loud, I was still thinking it.

Would you like to try a bite of my country fried steak?

“Just a taste please.” (thinking, “One bite couldn’t clog an artery could it?”)

Would you like one of these fried green tomatoes?

“Not a whole one, just a bite.”(thinking, “You’d think all this grease would lubricate arteries.”)

Finally, when my daughter tried to pass me the salt shaker, I couldn’t take it anymore. I put up both hands to block the forbidden salt and cried, “No! No added salt!”

I’d gone a mere 18 minutes. It is what it is.

I went and had my hair done on Friday. I hadn’t been since before the last hospital visit and round of procedures. The fellow who does my hair said to me, “You’ve gotten a lot more tender-headed in the past few weeks.” I told him I thought I’d developed an allergy to pain. I’ve had enough. That pretty much sums it up. No pain on the Bucket List!

What’s on your list. If it hurts, if it feels like a car just pulled out in front of you, maybe it needs to come off. It’s your precious life time. Time of physical life. I’d much rather be happy than be right. Saying No more often, might just be the best way to say Yes to life.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

All My Children

These titles, the one for today and the ones coming up were chosen a bit in jest. At that moment I felt it was a huge long shot that I’d be able to speak once a month. I also have spent more than a fair share of time watching daytime television. I’ve gotten quite close now to all the morning show hosts and frequently quote Hoda and Kathi Lee. I have a love/hate relationship with the girls of The View and frankly, can’t wait for that obnoxious Elizabeth to have her baby and be on maternity leave. When the soaps come on I generally mute the tv, but not always. I’ve left them  on enough to realize that I can still keep up, having not missed that much since I watched them as a teenager over thirty years ago. Same characters, they’ve just aged a bit better than I have. Finally, I believe we can’t really learn anything, at least not to the level that we can apply it and live it, unless we can identify with the teaching on a very deep and personal level through experience. If that theory is true, then my daytime tv time should be usable as a life lesson, a powerful spiritual invitation to self discovery.

Before I continue, I have to take a humor break. My beloved Lisa who is delivering this message, usually teaches from a less abstract angle. This is probably less like her than a lesson can possibly be. She will be tempted to skip whole pages, at least whole paragraphs, seeking to get to some semblance of a solid point. She will ache for a Biblical reference and probably put punctuation where there is none in an effort to make a point where non exists. In her more masculine left brain inclination, this rambling and nonsensical musing may lose some of its meandering nature through her reading of it, but may also gain a more definitive conclusion that I had been able to glean. Therefore, I release and let go all attachment to both delivery and reception, entertainment and meaning. Now, if you will all take a deep breath and make a loud noise on the exhale, releasing with me all expectation. Now, a hearty Ha Ha Ha, that’s right, laugh. Now. There. Here we go.

All My Children could be about my relationship to the four living children I have, the one stillborn child I had, the in law children I have acquired and the ones I lost through divorce, the grandchildren I have and perhaps someday will have and even the great grands I would love to live to see. I could write about Lisa’s beloved Levi or about how easy it is to love another’s child.  I could write about the stillborn son and the living grandson I believe are the same soul. Or the challenge of loving an adult child who is an active alcoholic or a son who is and has been for years, angry with me. I could write about the joys of motherhood and how sweet the relationship with an adult daughter can be. I could but instead, I want to talk about children as creations, or co-creations.

The words of Gibran say, “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.” Yet , in most cultures and even religions, children are viewed as globs of clay we give birth to and are then responsible for forming into something at least slightly useful and productive and most importantly, that is like, the same as, what is considered normal and acceptable in that particular culture and/or religion. The theory there is that the child is without form pretty much at birth and it’s up to the parents and society to make it into something useful. Like a lump of clay to be formed. There are lovely songs about that, implying that we are the clay and God is the potter.

But not all believe that theory. Our children’s curriculum’s are written based on the theory that children are born whole and complete, useful and innately productive. It’s our job to merely help draw out that wholeness through questions and stories and games and self expression.

Yet, we “New Thought” parents and even non parents, have a difficult time putting that theory into practice. Just as many folks continue to believe in the basics of fundamental Christianity “just in case,” we have a hard time abandoning our sense of responsibility of molding our children “just in case” they aren’t really whole, or complete or useful or have a purpose just the way they are. “Just in case,” we throw in a bit of fear and guilt and shame. “Just in case,” we buy into the grafts and percentiles of standardized testing. “Just in case,” we were wrong when we first looked into their eyes and saw absolute love and perfection. “Just in case,” what we saw wasn’t God, we jumped on the fix it bandwagon of our own cultural norm, molding and making children who will fit in and look like everyone else. Thank God they are whole despite us.

But we don’t all have children and before you relax in righteousness, let’s talk about all the other things in our lives we consider our creations. All those events and circumstances, experiences, relationships, happenings we consider at our control. All those things we feel responsible for. These too are our children and we are just as likely to treat them unfairly “just in case” they too are incomplete and faulty, worthless without constant vigilant attention and work.

So, let’s take another deep breath. Now, another Ha Ha Ha.

What exactly are you trying to fix right now? Is it a child? A spouse? A job? A career? A home?  Your health? Your yard? How bout a parent? A sibling? A friend?  Maybe it’s your body? Maybe your spouse’s body? Let’s see…maybe it’s more abstract than that…your life. Maybe it’s more focused…your closet.

Perhaps we could take a “just in case” break.

Maybe we could take a break from the responsibility of holding up the whole world.

Maybe we could take a break from fixing and molding and forming and even creating. Maybe we could, for just a minute, let it all be.

Let our children be, both the ones we physically gave birth to, adopted, were surrogates for and the ones we call other things like jobs, homes, careers, financial portfolios, relationships, families, cars and closets. Let them all be.

Byron Katie calls this letting be, “The Work.” Loving what is. Accepting what it. The ultimate state of nonresistance. Jesus might have called it “peace”  or “The Kingdom of God.” A Course in Miracles calls all these children, illusions.

We call these children important and our responsibility.

A few weeks ago, your Board went to a Board and leadership training on Appreciative Inquiry. The purpose of Appreciative Inquiry is to get out of the “Just in case” mentality. It’s about focusing on what is good and strong and loving. It’s about planning for the future based on the success instead of the failure of the past.

I’m active on an on-line support group called Womenheart for women with heart disease. Appreciation was chosen as the subject for the month to be written about by one of the women there. She reminded me,

“Mother Theresa once said that ‘There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.’ Appreciation is like looking through a wide-angle lens that lets you see the entire forest, not just the one tree limb you walked up on.
The word “appreciation” means to be thankful and express admiration, approval, or gratitude. It also means to grow or appreciate in value. As you appreciate life, you become more valuable—both to yourself and others.” Lidia

If we want to save the world, wipe out world hunger, we could begin with appreciating our lives, just the way they are. We could begin by not trying to change anything, for just a little while. We could begin by loving all our children, loving what is, loving all our creations, loving our jobs, our homes, our bodies, our health, our families, our relationships, our closets, our cars, our bank accounts, our hair, our skin, our face, our touch, our voice.

Appreciative Inquiry is about discovering our strengths and the wholeness that already exists. It’s like a grown up curriculum for business and for life.

Some have called this “the secret.” Knowing that what we focus on expands, we focus on the goodness, the positive from a place of appreciation and love.

There is more hunger for love and appreciation in the world than for bread. Which of your children is hungry, starving for your love and appreciation? What part of you and your life is longing for your smile of acceptance, your hug of approval, your words of encouragement, the warmth of your love. Imagine the drop of your shoulders when they no longer carry the burden of a hungry world, your world starving for your appreciation and love. Imagine the sigh of relief when you no longer have to fix anything. You can just let it be.

Yes, we are divine. Yes, we are powerful creators. Yes, we are God’s only begotten. But we are not the totality of God. We are not the All of God. Thank God. The world still spins without our spinning.

I remember when I was working as a nurse. I worked 8-12 hours and had a combined morning and afternoon commute of almost four hours. I came home to a dirty house, piles of laundry and hungry children who usually hadn’t yet done their homework, several last minutes items for projects due the next day, bickering and fighting among them, family dramas and demands, more bills than income, house maintenance always behind. The glass always seemed half empty. Instead of feeling appreciation, I felt mostly hungry. Instead of telling my children what I appreciated about them, I often pointed out all the ways they fell short. Instead of noticing all the wonders my life held, I only noticed what I felt was missing. Lack of appreciation does that. It feels like hunger. That’s what a lack of self love feels like- hunger.

I make it a point not to look at my grand-kids standardized test results. One of the joys of grand parenthood is that I don’t even need to pretend I care about percentiles. I get to relish in the bliss of cultural ignorance. I can appreciate and love them in all their wholeness and perfection, unclouded by public opinion or expert  analysis.

We went on vacation week before last. It was incredibly easy to focus on what was wonderful. The water was crystal clear and calm. I was able to walk out way into the ocean, then float along with the current (and then be pulled to shore by Lisa). With the help of a rented beach wheelchair scooter, Lisa and I could go for a stroll on the beach. With my own wheelchair, I was able to go and watch the grandkids ride go carts and park three blocks from a restaurant. I read three books from the balcony overlooking the sea and enjoyed my morning coffee there each day. I found I could swim the width of the pool using only my arms. I felt like I had learned to swim all over again. And the entire family appreciated my new handicapped placard hanging from the rear-view mirror allowing us front row parking most places.

It was easy to appreciate life while on vacation when all was so right with the world.

But last week, we had another type of vacation. We spent the night at the hospital, a harsh reminder of why I have that placard and wheelchair. I went home with orders for new medications, one of which I had a horrible reaction to in the night.

Which week was better? I won’t pretend I wouldn’t rather be at the beach! I won’t pretend the beach week was more fun. I won’t pretend if I had to choose one of the two to do over, I’d choose the beach week, hands down!

But I have no less appreciation for this past week. I appreciate Lisa and Holly who never left. I appreciate Hannah who wanted to be there. I appreciate the lack of traffic on the way and the valet who parked the car. The nurse who whisked me back and who had me hooked up to an EKG machine before our car was even parked. I appreciate the nurse who got my IV going with only one try and the lab tech who didn’t. I appreciate the tests and the meds and the kind words of staff members and the joy of going home. I appreciate the hard floor Holly slept on and the chair Lisa couldn’t sleep in. I appreciate their love and concern, their care and attention again and again and again. Mostly, I appreciate another day. Some days, everything is funny. The things that might have irritated me in the past, just make me laugh today. Humor or maybe sadness. When someone blows the horn at us in their hurried state of impatience, I want to shake them and tell them how precious this moment is. Slow down, enjoy it. Look at it. Taste it. Feel it. Smell it. Relish it. Nothing is worth that much irritation. Appreciate it. Look around instead. Look at the sky, feel the breeze, the warmth of the sun. Listen to that bird singing. But mostly, feel the love around you. Not just the people who love you, the people you love. Feel the joy of loving.

Another thing I appreciate about today is how easy it is to simply watch now. There are a lot of things I can’t do now. But I enjoy them just as much by watching. It’s different when you’re watching as a possible participant and when you are watching just as an observer. That part of you that is planning is inactive. Have you ever had a conversation with someone but didn’t really hear what the other person was saying because you were thinking about what you were going to say next? Being an active observer is sort of like that. You are watching, but not paying complete attention because you are also planning. Being an observer without being a participant takes that planning element out. You can just watch. You can pay complete attention. You can fully enjoy watching. You can watch all the facial expressions and feel the excitement the other feels. You can really be present in a way it is hard to be when you are waiting your turn.

I hope you never have this kind of illness, but I do hope you can appreciate living in a way I never did before I got sick.

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.” All my children, all your children, all our creations, all our lives hunger for our love and appreciation. Feed the hungry. Save your world. It’s worth appreciating, just the way it is.

I know that for everyone, this isn’t the big lesson of the day. Maybe it sounds like a line of a cheesy soap opera. I know being in the moment, seizing the day, loving what is, never had quite the meaning for me before that it does for me now.

And while I take this one moment more seriously, much of life I take with far less of a serious stance. In fact, the most ominous is now the most comical. And on that note, I will end with this closing thought, from my cyber friend Lidia off the Womenheart site,

When I die, I want to go peacefully like my Grandmother did, in her sleep — not screaming, like the passengers in her car.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I Had It All the Time

This is Lisa’s title, Lisa’s message, but I have thoughts on this subject. So, this begins as putting in my two cents worth.

This year has brought many changes to my life and living. Most feel more as if they have happened to me rather than changes I have consciously and deliberately made. Some have been incredibly hard, not just on me, but on my family and even on you. In many ways, I mourn and grieve much. I’ve felt my share of anger over no longer having the life I had. There are of course, the big things, the good health I thought I had the ability to go and do whatever I wanted the freedom to react and be stressed without concern over such basic things as heart beat, plus all the changes to my body and the way it looks when I look in the mirror.  There are also the little things. Most days, it is these little things that push me into a pity pot. Little things like fried chicken or French fries, chocolate for dinner. I never have a glass of wine anymore. It’s just not worth the effort to figure out drug interactions. That brings up an entirely different realm of changes, both to our finances and our daily living. Even with insurance, medications cost several hundred dollars each month. As insurance pays a portion only for thirty days at a time and these meds were prescribed or adjusted one at a time, that thirty day mark hits at different days throughout each month. That means that we make several trips each month to the pharmacy. On an upside, we are now friends with all the pharmacists there. Another financial change has been the adding up of co-pays each month. Some months, that alone was several hundred as well. Before this started, my credit score was very important to me. Now with my portion after insurance in the tens of thousands, much of it long since turned over to collections, out of necessity, I no longer care about that precious score.

All these changes happened. They simply are what they are. But there have been other changes, wonderful changes. It has felt as if they are new found or hard earned. With these changes has come a new way of being. In truth though, I had it all the time.

I use to preach about being authentic. I use to preach about following one’s heart. I use to preach about love and self love. I use to preach about acceptance and looking for the best in others. I use to preach about how love could transform any situation and how believing and affirming could create anything. Maybe all those words are still true, but how I interpret those words is now vastly different.

I guess that all such discoveries of truth have that one element in common. We don’t discover some new truth; we just become aware of a greater level of truth. What makes it a greater level is our own personal experience. It’s no wonder truth is illusive. We each try to borrow another’s and make it our own, giving us at best an intelligent and empathetic superficial understanding. The gift of preaching, if there is one, is that spark of recognition, when what I say finds that same word in your own story, your own experience.

So where is truth and clarity when we don’t have it (or when we think we do but don’t)? It has to still be there, but where? It’s hidden under stuff. It’s hidden under all the supposed to’s and have to’s and ought to’s and got to’s. It’s hidden under all the confusion we call complexity. It’s hidden under all the illusions and misconceptions and misunderstandings.  I think I’ll call it clutter. Under all the clutter, I had it all the time. I got rid of a lot of clutter.

Maybe there is no end to the clutter, at least not in this earthly journey. I imagine that even as I get rid of clutter exposing some glimpse of truth, I accumulate more in the process. I would guess we all do.

But for now, I’ve cleaned up some clutter, or it’s been cleaned up for me. Either way, I like it. Despite all the grieving and mourning, despite the pity parties and meltdowns, I like it. Despite the bare look and sometimes minimalist feel, I like it.

Here’s a few of the things I found when the clutter cleared.

–         Love that lasts. Real love anyway. It doesn’t depend on doing. It doesn’t keep score or track. It doesn’t require equality. It has no obligations or even expectations. It just is and it lasts. Under all the clutter I had it all the time.

–         Laughter. I found humor in lots of things, most things in fact. Commercials, magazines, TV shows, family, animals, people and especially myself. Under all the clutter of having to be a certain way, I found I was very entertaining. There seems to be no limit to my ability to amuse myself. My thoughts are hysterical. Crying about things gets boring. Laughing on the other hand is the gift that keeps on giving, feeding on itself. Under the clutter, life was funny.

–         It shouldn’t be hard. All my life I’d worked at relationships that were, well, work. I could never do enough or be enough. I seemed to always be doing something wrong, somehow harming these relationships. Being in these relationships I wanted to think was good for me, fed me, and made me a better person. I felt I had to be in them. It was my obligation. In truth though, those relationships always just made me feel like I wasn’t enough. Some felt like a service, like I had to be a part of them to do my part. I thought this feeling was my doing, my creation. In my attempt to be a good new thought-er, I thought accepting responsibility for everything in my life was the “right” thing to do. But under the clutter, I found that relationships that feed and support and enhanced my life are not hard. They are easy. I’m always enough. They are always enough. It’s like I finally hit the easy button of relationships.

–         Even though some of my family has been right there with me through all this, as I mentioned earlier, unless it’s a personal experience, it’s not your truth. While my life has been delightfully de-cluttered, their lives are still delightfully cluttered. While I am void of all ambition other than to love and live, they are still anticipating very busy lives full of success and busy-ness. That time of just enjoying being, enjoying living without having to jump through society’s hoops is still far in the future for them. While they see the gift of simplicity for me, it is a foreign and alien concept for them. But for me, under the clutter it is calm and still.

–         Now, the biggest revelation of what I actually had all the time, yet could not see has been the most difficult in coming. There’ is an Indigo Girls song called, ‘The least complicated.” “The hardest to learn was the least complicated.”  It was too easy to see. It seemed too selfish to see. It didn’t need years of classes or libraries of books or months of meditation to understand. It took doing all the right things and having it all go wrong.

This reluctance to accept this revelation has been because it is in direct opposition to much of what I have believed and sadly, taught these past dozen years or so. It doesn’t quite fit. It doesn’t fit with the fundamental Baptist beliefs of my childhood either. Perhaps it is close to a Buddhist persuasion, yet I don’t think I’d go so far as to label myself as such. And part of the revelation is that I have no desire for any such label. Gone is the need to have it match or fit or conform or be validated. It’s mine, at least for today. And like the rest of me, warts, scars, disease and all, is quite enough.  And shock of all shocks, the earth just might tremble now; I really don’t care if anyone agrees with me. I guess that takes us right back to the beginning about being authentic. Can one be truly authentic and care if another validates their being, or belief or idea or action? I’m guessing- no.

So, what is this grand revelation? You might not like it. You probably won’t. Before I unveil it, there is another Indigo Girls song called “Galileo.” It’s about the 16th century astronomer Einstein called “The Father of Modern Science.” He’s also been called The Father of Physics. The song is about his fall from grace in the Catholic Church, which was the government at the time, because he wrote a book about the sun being the center of the universe, rather than the earth. His book, though he didn’t mean it to, poked a bit of fun at the pope. He was sentenced to house arrest for the rest of his life. Hey, now that I write that, maybe I’ve been cosmically sentenced to house arrest. Just kidding. Anyway, the song is also about reincarnation and cosmic debt, karma, and finally about the idea of letting our selves off the hook. The chorus of the song asks if we ever get it right, if we ever reach the point of light.

My revelation is that no, we don’t. That, in fact, to get it right, to do it right, is not the goal; at least as far as being human goes. Accepting that has involved a great deal of reconciliation. I’ve had to reconcile both this blatant state of humanity with an equally blatant, albeit, more illusive state of divinity. Reconciling those too is perhaps the basis of all New Thought teaching tools and teachings in fact. The revelation is that perhaps the two cannot be reconciled. To be in human form, means simply that we in physical form, live within boundaries, within a set of limitations that prevents one’s state of divinity from being dominate. Maybe this sounds a bit like original sin, yet the idea of original divinity could be called nothing more than the flip side of the same coin.

What if our time here, in this frail and faulty human form, is to simply be the best human we can be? What if we could let ourselves off the hook as far as living up to the Christ ideal? That wouldn’t mean not aspiring to be loving, but would absolve us this entire insane notion that our mere thoughts, even if you call those thoughts love, can change the behavior of others. Or that altering one’s thoughts could heal terminal illnesses or raise dead bodies or move mountains. Then those very rare events would be returned to their much more comforting miracle position, letting all us New Though-ers off the hook for our ailments which include everything from the common cold to heart disease to cancer, to mental illness to financial disaster to losing one’s job, to sadness in love to anger at another, the list is endless.

What if enough, as far as being human goes, is just being the best you can be at any moment and includes grace for all those times you aren’t your best or even close? What if loving our imperfect human selves, accepting our selves in all our shortcomings and failures, is the goal of this human experience? What if it has nothing to do with pretending others are nice and divine when they are mean and nasty? What if it has nothing to do with martyrdom and everything to do with freedom? What if it has more to do with laughing than praying?  What if it really is about following your heart, no matter what?

When my life had come down to perhaps minutes, I didn’t give a thought to whether I’d fulfilled some grand cosmic purpose or cleared up some major cosmic debt or was about to know once and for all what comes after this life. Instead, I was only concerned about making the most of the last physical moments I had. And that meant being with those I loved so much. It meant smiling at them. Holding them. Telling them again how much I loved them. Nothing else mattered. The idea of being non attached was ludicrous. The notion that I could perhaps change fate seemed insane. I had no desire to pray. I trusted whatever power was in charge to handle the details. And I knew it didn’t matter that if it meant I was about to leave, I was definitely not happy about it. Being human, meant I didn’t have to be. Living in this physical world, means we are the center of our universe, like it or not.

Without these bodies, perhaps we have a far greater and more cosmic view, but to deny we don’t see everything first from our own central vantage point means we are in denial or in martyrdom and neither of these are healthy to these physical bodies. In fact, I can say with a great deal of certainty that allowing yourself to be mistreated and accepting personal responsibility for that mistreatment, even in the name of Jesus or the Christ within or seeing the best or affirming the positive or even ‘The Secret” will destroy a physical heart. If it feels like it hurts your heart, guess what? It does. Now our divine selves might not need a physical heart. But our human selves do.

In truth, the Sun is the center of the universe, not the earth. In trust we are innately divine. Yet, the Biblical writers weren’t really wrong when they wrote of the sun rising and setting and the earth being unmoved. From an earthly, or physical, or human stance, the earth does stand still, the sun does rise and set around us. We can know the greater truth, but we still live the lesser one. At least for now. And it’s a wonderful one.

So, my big revelation might be disappointing. Eight months ago, I foolishly trusted the world to turn out good in the end. I still believe that, but before, I thought that meant trusting humanity by trusting the divinity within the humanity. Foolish. Look again at Jesus’ life. Read again his words. He wasn’t foolishly pretending the humanity wasn’t there or wasn’t even front and center- the center of how people showed up. He knew the divinity was there, but his eyes were wide open to the reality of his situation.

I still believe in the divine nature of every single person. I still believe in the eternality of life. I still believe in faith and the power of affirmative prayer. But I also believe in humanity and accept its very nature. Like accepting gravity after dreaming I could fly, I know I will fly one day, unencumbered by these physical limitations and personal focus, but for now, I accept that I live within the laws of gravity and to stay in human form for any length of time, I better continue to do so.

While this state perhaps seems a bit sad and morbid, it is in fact, happy and free. Gone is the need, the drive, the desire, the responsibility to see things and people so differently from how my intuition informs me or actions show me. Gone is the compulsion to deny reality. Gone is the guilt and shame for failing to feel love for those intending me harm. I am now free to follow my heart and protect it. It’s about time. My heart needed me. I had the ability, I just ignored it. I had the freedom, the joy, the power, the wisdom, the knowledge, the guidance all the time. I can love it all now. Maybe finding what I had all the time was my karma.

And a thought not shared, Monday, August 24, 2009

When we New Thought-ers say, I love the Christ in you, are we not saying much the same as the devout Christian saying they love Jesus and expecting they are then absolved of all guilt of wrong doing, having no further debt to pay or wrong to right. The New Thought believer, much as the born again Christian, is then free to hate and judge and mistreat as much as is desired, so long as they continue to love the Christ within (while hating the humanity of and every little thing about someone). Salvation is so often used as license to hate. We unity folks are no different. It must be the unwritten law, that though one professes to love others, what is meant is they love only the “Christ within” and has nothing to do in truth to actually loving the one standing before you. I somehow missed this is all my Unity classes.

I really loved them. The real them. The whole of them. I had no idea they didn’t really love me and in fact had never even meant to pretend such. The word meant something entirely different to them. Silly me.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. MaryLG permalink
    July 31, 2010 12:40 pm

    All My Children. Uh, 1968 or so? Check. Galileo? Check.
    Did a woman named Eleanor give birth to you?
    As Oprah, one thing I know for sure ~ you’re a MUCH better writer than I. You do know how to see the theme through. I hope we get to meet sometime.
    Love, Mary

  2. New Allie permalink*
    July 31, 2010 3:23 pm

    1968 exactly, Luke and Laura- the beginning…me too! Love, Allie

  3. October 20, 2010 2:27 pm

    Ditto to what Mary said about your writing. I think you would be an exceptional Spiritual Director!

  4. JamaicanMeNuts permalink
    August 29, 2011 10:16 am

    Hi Allie
    I sometimes turn to your writing when I feel when I am frazzled over trivial things. This message in particular centers me.
    I haven’t seen a post in a while; I hope you are well.

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