Week 5: Isolation Journal (I carry you in my heart…)

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
– e. e. cummings

IMG_0449I had some intense sadness this week…hurt feelings for a moment put a “crack” into my shell that allowed sadness to well out and spill over. I tended to my hurting heart in gentle ways, but really only set it aside.

Most of the week I’ve been ricocheting off the floors, ceiling and walls in a sort of empty-headed routine (getting very little done, I might add). Best moments include Tuesday’s soul collage session with my friend by phone. I had trouble coming into focus long enough to pick images I resonated with – but eventually got momentum, scissors and glue were employed, and finished cards began to appear in front of me.

Each day this week has included a walk – usually 3-4 miles, one day near 5 miles. Today will be a lazy day to give my heel a short break. The weather is warming so we now go later and later in the day. Soon it will become early and earlier to catch the cool morning air. We are looking forward to the switch but we aren’t quite ready. We have seen deer, lizards, bunnies and quail galore, a few coyotes at home, and the occasional javelina.

I must confess that social distancing with humans while walking is an imperfect art. We are not crowded here by any means, but John and I take the distance rules seriously – and we walk in the bike lane or cross the road as needed. There are spots on the route where this becomes challenging maybe once or twice per walk. I must write this up to, “we’re all doing our best” or else I would complain about my neighbors’ awareness or lack thereof. It has, for the most part, done away with the friendly social component of the neighborhood walk except for a wave here and there. There’s a certain tension one senses even in those speeding by as runners or cruising past at high speeds on bikes.

Wednesday we had a grocery delivery and it was so exciting. I told John that I get a little flutter in my heart seeing fresh raspberries, strawberries, and red bell peppers. He said, “You need to get out more.” Then added, “We all do.” Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the bathing of groceries and gently tucking them each into their places in the pantry, cupboard or refrigerator.

IMG_0460I completely forgot to mention that Sunday was Easter and Monday was my birthday. Monday, I was showered with greetings and attention from beloved family and friends all day long. On Easter, I had spent the day doing church with friends from Colorado (via Zoom). We got to see the Easter happiness of the grandkids during video calls. Easter afternoon included a tasty meal and lots of Minecraft with two granddaughters, and an hour of chit chat with the youngest.

Anyway, on my b-day, my sister sent me a beautiful succulent plant via the florist. Who knew that florists were vital workers? Very cool. Homemade and virtual cards from the grandkids and a special Lord of the Rings birthday card from my daughters now adorn the house and my various “altars.” I hate to say that the highlight of the day from a material celebration standpoint was the delivery of some pizza (gluten and dairy-free for me), but it was like I was on a reality TV survival show and had just found a stash of the most delectable food. I wolfed it down at first, then paused to savor realizing that I might not see this again for some time. It was like a tangible connection to “normal” life for which I was starved.

IMG_0400Anyway, here we are on Friday – feels like two weeks later. In my meditation this morning, as I mentioned earlier, I touched on some real tenderness again, sadness, and heard the word “vulnerability.” Somewhere inside we are processing everything that is going on. Though there is a promise of states returning to more normalcy, we are not all feeling the comfort of this.

There have been moments of clarity this week in which I’ve had an awareness of another source of this vulnerability and pain. As a person whose almost entire female gene pool has in common traits of “control,” “resourcefulness” or (my husband might add) “stubborn individualism.” We don’t have great trust, overall, in other people to direct or protect us. We tend to want to chart our own path. We have reasons for these traits. The people in our lives who were supposed to be adept at protecting and directing did an often questionable (and in some cases downright lousy) job.

In addition to social isolation and upheaval in our lives – right now government leaders in charge of our well-being trigger us all day long. There is a degree of deceit and ineptitude that is overwhelming – especially for those of us who don’t trust others easily to begin with. Sane, grounded leaders shine out like beacons.

It brings me back to vulnerability. No amount of control, resourcefulness, or thinking ourselves out of predicaments is going to protect any one of us individually. Brene Brown writes that “vulnerability is the only bridge to build connection.” So, I’m not going to help you by pretending that I’ve got this all together. We’re not going to connect by demonstrating the big routines we’ve built into our new normal. Maybe we can build a bridge to one another by sharing the tenderness, the tears that overflow now and again when we least expect them. Maybe we can be each other’s Winnie the Pooh and Piglet (or Eeyore) and just hang out and let each other be where we are.

There’s a prayerful ritual that I have learned from Sharon McErlane and my friend, Constance, called, “casting the net of light.” When I have enough presence of mind, I do this in the morning or evening. Here’s how it’s done: Prayerfully and energetically – using our imaginations to assist – we envision the Net of Light which covers our earth, its people, creatures, plants, earth, air, water, everything, and connects us. We find our place on the Net, connect to it, and call in those other lights – friends, family, spiritual guides, angels and ancestors, our spiritual anchors, and we find connection. It was during this deep connection, today, that tears came. In the comforting connection of the Net there was enough security to allow vulnerable places to be held.

In Braving the Wilderness, Brene Brown reminds, “An experience of collective pain does not deliver us from grief or sadness; it is a ministry of presence. These moments remind us that we are not alone in our darkness and that our broken heart is connected to every heart that has known pain since the beginning of time.”

So, friends, my beloveds, I reach out to you. I need your presence on the great Net of Light now. And I hold you – your heart – in my heart.

Love, Karen

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Isolation Journal: Week Four (I think that’s right…maybe….)

Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing.
We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem,
but the truth is that things don’t really get solved.
They come together and they fall apart.
Then they come together again and fall apart again.
It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room
for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.

– Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

Things do seem to have fallen apart and there is still room to fall some more. We feel like we’re on one of those elevators that begins to fall, stops, then falls some more and stops again. We don’t know if we’re at the bottom yet. I look around at this precarious juncture, feel terrified, and think, “Maybe it’s time for a cup of coffee” or “Time for another Hallmark movie or Britcom.”

Often, during this roller coaster ride (yes, mixing metaphors is allowed during lockdowns) it is easier to distract oneself, to find tiny avenues of comfort (coffee, movies, blankets, showers, food, walking) rather than to stop, sit still, and take in this moment’s reality. This week, with the support of some of my favorite people* – online and by telephone – I’ve had the opportunity to sit still and take in the moment. Despite my internal resistance and intense addiction to distraction right now, I’ve had moments of collective stillness and illumination with these folks, moments of deep peace.

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from Sufi Scribe, Facebook

On this day, there is global heaviness unrelated to the pandemic – it is both Good Friday and the third evening of Passover. Humans will take themselves through very painful memories concerning suffering, human failings and cruelty, and will recall those few women and men who found a way to be compassionate and present even during such times.

Moments of illumination, where we can find them, help us to shake off the cosmic heaviness and the “briefings,” “summaries” and alerts coming through the news media. One part of us takes in the data, the news, while the moments of stillness, acceptance, groundedness, and turning toward the Sacred help us to take in something else.

This morning the Friday Summary that popped up in my email was very grim – illness, death tolls, lack of resources, potential food shortages, economic meltdown, political stalemate and so on. As I took my shower following that mental jolt, the phrase that popped into my head was from Byron Katie’s “Four Questions” – “Can you absolutely know that it’s True?”

Katie points to the same reality as Pema Chodron – but she arrives there using a different set of tools. Katie suggests that you identify your stressful thoughts using her “Judge your neighbor” worksheet. Once you’ve written out your fears, stressors, and bald faced complaints, you apply the four questions to what you’ve written. The first question: “Is it true?” The second question sometimes brings one up short, “Can you absolutely know that it’s true?”

For example: If I write, “The world is falling apart. Everything is horrible.” Is it true? Yes. From my perspective, this is true and the news says it’s true. But can I absolutely know it is true? Hmmm…. Well…I suppose not. People are being extraordinarily heroic, sharing resources, sharing their lives and livelihoods. The earth and its creatures are having a IMG-0376hay day. Mountaintops are visible, waters are running more clear. Goats, deer, and sheep (even javelinas) are romping through towns unobstructed by traffic. And actually, now that I think of it and look around, it is a sunny day, flowers are blooming, I have fresh water to drink, I have adequate food, I have shelter, I even have enough TP for the next week or so – and chocolate. So, maybe I can’t absolutely say it is true that everything is horrible. (There are two more questions and interesting turnarounds on the worksheet. Check it out.)

But for the time it took us to write this stuff down, to apply the questions and sit with them, we have held our fears and faced them. We’ve looked at them from one side and another. And we’ve come out in another place. Even in much more dire circumstances, there is some miraculous transformation which can take place as one applies these questions – to any and all situations.

Pema Chodron writes:

“Fear is a universal experience. Even the smallest insect feels it. We wade in the tidal pools and put our finger near the soft, open bodies of sea anemones and they close up. Everything spontaneously does that. It’s not a terrible thing that we feel fear when faced with the unknown. It is part of being alive, something we all share. We react against the possibility of loneliness, of death, of not having anything to hold on to. Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.
“If we commit ourselves to staying right where we are, then our experience becomes very vivid. Things become very clear when there is nowhere to escape.”

So, my summary of Week Four of my journal is that:

  • I’ve had moments of mindlessness – distraction to the point of forgetting which way I was going and why more than once (I also found my measuring tape in a most unlikely place).
  • I’ve had some very low moments of grief. The overwhelming death toll numbers in New York City, illness numbers here in the Navaho Nation, and the death of John Prine was an individual low point – he has been one of the sensitive and accurate narrators of life during my time – and I have just always liked his melodies, humility, hope, humor and grit.
  • IMG-0335I’ve had irrational fears (Do I feel odd? Am I getting sick? Did I remember to bleach the door handle after I washed and bathed the groceries?) including a dream about bugs and worms getting into the house, the food.
  • And I’ve had moments of joy – phone calls from grandkids, kids, friends, and walks with Johnny. I’ve even had some moments of enlightenment – thanks to my favorite shamans, gurus, ministers, and friends.

Several years ago, when I was really grieving and struggling with my sister’s cancer, my daughter sent me this quote from Pema:

Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation
can that which is indestructible be found in us.

I cried and cried and was deeply comforted by this truth. We can’t get to the core of things by floating around carefree. We find the indestructible connection, we find the eternal by coming face to face with our own impermanence.

As a collective, we have the opportunity to face this together. I am so grateful for taking this journey with all of you.

Love,
Karen

P.S. Another unlikely “winner” we’ve noticed during all of this. Trampoline sales appear to be skyrocketing.

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* Some favorites this week (in no particular order):

Contemplative Monk on Facebook (Bob Holmes)

The Four Winds Society (Alberto Villodo) on Facebook – livestream shaman updates

-The Psychology Babes on Facebook

Rumi, Saadi, Hafiz (Poems & Quotes) on Facebook

Netoflight.org (website)and Facebook (Sharon McErlane) – have enjoyed livestream events

Isolation Journal: Week Three (needing some Love)

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from your presence
and take not your holy Spirit from me.

Give me the joy of you saving help again
and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.
–     from Psalm 51

IMG-0220I am in a religious-y mood today, which probably makes sense. In two days it will be Palm Sunday which marks the beginning of Holy Week, the most solemn week in the Christian tradition. Passover begins next Wednesday – the Jewish celebration of the Exodus from slavery in Egypt and God’s sparing of the children of Israel from a deadly plague. It is a religious-y time. Undoubtedly, much will be made of the experience of suffering and the ultimately hopeful messages in these traditions in the week to come and parallels to our current situation will be drawn.

I am no longer tasked, though, with helping to make sense of such things for others (as I was in my ministry). I am, like many others who are now mostly retired, left instead to simply live the experiences life brings me from day to day. Primarily, the task for me now is to find meaning in the rhythms of the day. This is a challenge for those of us who have found our worth in serving others, or just in doing.

IMG-0266Most of this week has been quiet, with moments of true contentment in our sweet little life. We putter around, we clean and cook, we chat, we go for our walk. We had one joyful delivery of food and one mildly frustrating delivery (the frustration lies in the lack of control over things). Spring – nearly summer here in Arizona – brings beauty and new life. John and I are also celebrating 10 years of being back in contact with each other in just over a week – a reunion for which we are grateful each day.

We are all also living under stress and new circumstances – which change somewhat every hour. We have new rules, new routines. We have new challenges and fears. And we are bombarded with numbers, stories, theories, and fears by the dozens. We see people rising to heroics and people hoarding and buying handguns. We wonder where to look for wisdom and leadership.

So, today, I am sad. There’s no one particular reason. Mortality and the exhausting efforts to stay healthy have worn me down a bit. The world’s grief is palpable, loss is palpable. Danger lurks around every turn.

IMG-0248Oddly, I think part of it is also that my birthday is coming up, too. In adulthood, I have often had an emotional “dip” around my birthday. I don’t think I’m sad about getting older at birthday time. It feels like a grief about how life and gifts and things aren’t able to soothe the soul. Grief that stuff like food, presents, activities don’t deliver joy or healing.

When melancholy sets in like this, I’ve found only the most basic steps will help.

  • Being gentle with oneself. Curling up with a blanket and a book or movie, taking a hot bath, having a cry as needed, then a nap. Sometimes writing helps, music helps.
  • Subtle, real nourishment. Comfort food helps only a bit, but real nourishing food – like soup or stew – seems to help the healing along.
  • It helps to tell a friend that you’re feeling blue, feeling low. It especially helps to talk to a friend who won’t try to fix us, who will just walk with us and be with us as we find our way.
  • Words and prayers like the ones in the psalm, above, help me. This psalm has been one I have resonated with since my early 12 Step days. The words recognize that the one speaking them is off kilter – perhaps based on actions, or perhaps based on attitude – but they remind us that the Sacred is waiting, in fact invites us, to reunite and get back on track. Divine Love is waiting for each of us (as needed) with open arms. And I have learned again and again and again that there is nothing (yes, nothing) that can separate us from this Love.

I think we all need to give ourselves a little break right now. A break from high expectations. At least a momentary break from the rigors we are putting ourselves through. Spiritually and emotionally, we each need to be held for a moment in this divine Love and Compassion.

This reality brings to mind a chapter in a beloved book, Traveling Mercies, by Anne Lamott. In this memoir, Anne tells of the death of a beloved friend in her eighties and how it had really brought her to a low point. It was springtime and had been rainy, but her friend, Nashama, suggested that they go for a walk – so they did. Lamott writes:

Suddenly…the ground and vegetation at our feet began to get a little watery, and then we began to hear sucking noises, swampy quicksandy sucking noises, and pretty soon my overpriced walking sandals had been swallowed up by mud…

“Let me help you there, little lady,” I said. “I’ll go up first and then give you a hand.”
        …
“Is this a good idea?” she asked. “Are you braced?”

“Yes,” I insisted, and pulled her toward me, and she lifted up off the ground and moved upward a couple of feet, until I started sliding back down toward her and we both landed noisily on our butts in the mud….

I was laughing so hard that I felt maniacal and not at all sure that I wasn’t about to cry. But I felt like air was bubbling into a place inside me that hadn’t been getting much lately….

Against the sparkly black screen behind my eyes, all these people appeared, like people in a come-as-you-are fashion show, strangers to each but beloved by me. There were all the sick little kids we know, and all the friends who had died…and the old people in my family and church who had grown so suddenly frail.… And I thought to myself, “Well, no wonder you’re this sad.” The silence of the marsh was…profound….

When Neshama and I finally got up to go, I was still sad, but better. This is the most profound spiritual truth I know: that even when we’re most sure that love can’t conquer all, it seems to anyway. It goes down into the rat hole with us, in the guise of our friends, and there it swells and comforts. It gives us second winds, third winds, hundredth winds. It struck me that I have spent so much time trying to pump my way into feeling…solace.… The truth is that your spirits don’t rise until you get way down. Maybe it’s because this – the mud, the bottom – is where it all rises from…. At the marsh, all that mud and one old friend worked like a tenderizing mallet. Where before there had been tough fibers, hardness, and held breath, now there were mud, dirt, water, air, mess – and I felt soft and clean.   (Traveling Mercies, Pantheon Books, NY, 1999, pages 257-265.)

Go easy on yourself and your loved ones right now. We are all raw and hurting. No wonder we are all so sad underneath it all. Life is tough in a big, real way. But love – human or divine – can bring us through. Turn toward love, turn toward the Source of solace, and you will find that you are held.

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Isolation Journal: Week Two

I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long.
If we’re in each other’s dreams,
we can be together all the time.
– A.A. Milne

IMG-0169Last Sunday, I “attended” two full and one partial live-streamed worship. One was more technically successful than the others (must have had someone onboard who knew how to piece these things together – music, written prayers, speaker). The others, as many people discovered, had issues due to the internet capacity on Zoom and FaceBook livestream having overload issues. But they got their points across – their love and care – and all was done with isolation protocols intact.

Another online worship showed a congregation full of mostly elderly people and a regular procession up the center aisle…and it was live. Shocking! I went away making note of that congregation and observing that they apparently live in LaLa Land, not in Tucson.

Later in the week, I listened to pre-recorded meditations and did some chanting, as suggested by a friend. We’ve now got a list of great yoga classes from teachers I know, yoga nidra, gong bath, and other beautiful opportunities coming up – from Brene Brown, David Whyte, Deva Premal, and others. And don’t forget the “happy hour” (and A.A.) invites!

I find that I can only “fit” a few of these online activities in even living in isolation – maybe one or two a day. Then I need time just to be. To putter around and clean, to rest (even napping now and then), to take a break from social media and texting, to put together some nourishing food, hopefully, to exercise or, at minimum, sit in the sun.

Best moments:

  • IMG-0125More Minecraft with my granddaughter (mostly cheerful, but challenging one day – virtually pelting grandma with glass potion bottles) – pretty much like “real” playtime (LOL)
  • A playdate with my friend in which we spent a couple of hours doing soul collage (virtual togetherness)
  • Chatted and shared spiritual direction by phone with another friend twice. Very mentally and spiritually therapeutic
  • Exchanged numerous texts with family and friends encouraging one another – love, humor, support.

Yesterday:

  • Shared an hour, virtually, with church friends via Zoom
  • Picked up groceries from a grocery store parking lot and drove home the long way – the scenic route – which was scope for the imagination and refreshing to the mind (except for irritation at the pack of sweaty adult bicyclists – 10 or more – riding in a non-socially-distanced clump and clumsily crossing the busy roadway)
  • Unloaded the groceries using our special “outside stuff” gloves, I spent half an hour using the grocery sanitizing protocol from the video by Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen while John used his new clippers and cut his own hair on the patio (actually looks great!)
  • To celebrate, I then went wild and ordered lunch from Chipotle. (They had our food here in less time than we would have taken to get there and back – but don’t tell anyone, I don’t want them to be inundated next time we want to order. Also, next time, I will order food that can be zapped in the microwave – which I don’t generally use – before serving to terminate any virus germs in the food.)

IMG-0132We’ve now made it to the two-week mark from when we visited my sister. I’m relieved that none of us are having any illness symptoms – so it looks like we weren’t carriers as we thoughtlessly traveled and ignorantly left germs in our wake.

Yesterday, I watched a couple of movies, one of which was Disney’s “Christopher Robin.” It reminded me of the gift of slowing down and living simply and didn’t ramp up my anxiety.

Self observation:

  • As someone who generally brings a non-anxious presence into the world, I am very aware of moments (hours?) of turbulent anxiety.
  • I’m aware, also, of a cabin fever-type irritation that rears its ugly head, and I’m not as calm and self-possessed as I’d like to be (like wanting to shout, “Idiots!” at the cyclists we encountered)
  • The scope of our activities has really narrowed. We’re nesting to keep ourselves (we’re both in high risk groups) and others (many in our retirement community are in highest risk group) safe.

Basic self-care and self-love is in order! Prayer, meditation, walking, yoga, hot baths or showers, naps, nourishment and more.

We are all doing our best in slightly different ways. The wave of illness is quickly moving into our home states, cities and towns. Keep those lines of loving communication open. Share what is working for you with others. Patience, compassion, and love are the watchwords.

Do what you can to soak in the love and light – then share them where you are able.

Love you!
– Karen

P.S. When all else fails: Serenity Prayer, Psalm 23, Philippians 4:13, Gayatri Mantra,  Om mani padme hum….

 

LOVE AND LIGHT IN THE DESERT

Isolation Journal: Week One

All shall be well,
and all shall be well,
and all manner of thing shall be well.

– Dame Julian of Norwich

I’ve decided to journal experiences and observations of Pandemic of 2020.  The first entry will probably be longer than the next just to get caught up as life shifts suddenly. Feel free to comment with a similar summary of your week!

Today is Friday, March 20. We’ve been home since Monday. We had planned to now be in Minnesota taking care of our grandkids, after visiting my sister and brother-in-law. We visited my sister and her husband last weekend as planned and watched from the great Northland while the world started to shut down.

IMG-0055We brazenly went out to meals, shopped for groceries, etc. I had been very virus-conscious on the airplane – bringing wipes and precious hand sanitizer for our seats and trays – but once I got to my sister’s I didn’t really protect her from us. At the airport, I had wiped down our table for lunch, in the Northland, we didn’t do that. We hugged. We used my sister’s guest restroom, slept in their guest bedroom, sat at their table. I realized in hindsight that I did strip my sheets when we left and set them in her laundry room…but probably should have put them in the washer on “hot” and gotten them going. I wiped down the bathroom sink with a paper towel, but that’s it. I should have disinfected with my famous wipes. Ugh. Pandemic hindsight. My brother-in-law is in his eighties and has diabetes – so we were not thinking this all through yet – we should have been more careful.

We enjoyed our visit with them but gave them their first real glimpse of the pandemic on a trip to Target where they discovered empty shelves (all the typical first empty shelves). They began to worry.

After visiting from Friday to Sunday, we headed south three hours to the airport to drop our rental car where my daughter picked us up. At that point, my daughter and her husband had cancelled their trip to Italy (for obvious reasons) and were going instead to vacation in Hawaii, leaving Tuesday morning. We drove home, walked to the store, shared a meal, played with the kids and chatted. Hmmmm. Things were changing fast.

The college where my son-in-law is employed had decided to send all of the students home early, before break, taking all of their belongings (emptying dorm rooms). My daughter and her husband were now apprehensive about Hawaii plans because travel restrictions and crossing state borders were beginning to be an issue. They didn’t want to be in quarantine somewhere while their kids were there in Minnesota.

NorthfieldWe came up with the somewhat brilliant plan that we could all head to Arizona (on cheap fares), where we live, for a week or two – on spring break. The kids could play in the sun, splash in the hot tub, etc. That was the fledgling plan when we went to bed, but by morning we had all read some sobering math and articles on the exponential spread of the virus. We weren’t going to unnecessarily expose them all to travel risks. My daughter and son-in-law realized that they were staying home and that we needed to get ourselves home to Arizona. We had a nice breakfast and lunch, took a brisk walk around the campus and headed for the airport. It was a bittersweet goodbye. The kids struggled to understand why we were leaving so soon when we’d planned to be there to play for a week and a half.

Our flight was quiet except for those who were calming their nerves with alcohol. We took a non-stop and watched movies on our phones to calm ours. Our shuttle driver (similar to Lyft) had been able to reschedule and pick us up. He was a bit grouchy on this drive, because his life had changed economically in the five days we were gone. His income had been slashed by numerous cancellations. His frustration and anxiety was palpable. We gave him a slightly larger tip and wished him well. We were thrilled to walk into our home sweet (isolated and not contagious or infected) home. Whew!

We headed right to the grocery store though it was 8:30 at night. This was our first real shock – row after row of empty shelves, freezers, refrigerators. We got what we could to bolster supplies at home. We were grateful that we’d been to Costco and Natural Grocers before we had left on our trip and had adequate non-perishable supplies for a couple of weeks…maybe a month. The store had no eggs, little fresh or frozen meat, little dairy, no fresh or frozen veggies or fruits, little bread (and, of course, no TP or sanitizing products). Hmmmmm.

That was Monday night. We have now spent the past several days doing our travel laundry (didn’t think of doing it all in hot water…oh well…), resting, and doing other household chores. Yesterday morning we fortified ourselves with lists and headed once again to the grocery store (online orders were not possible anywhere). We got everything we needed except eggs. We discovered that many of our fussy or odd food preferences helps…everything is gone except for the almond flour or the whole grain unsweetened cereal. So we have what we need for awhile. Does that officially make us hoarders? Our freezer is full, our pantry is full.

We came close to many people (social distancing was not possible). I’ve enjoyed talking to people in check out lines and especially to the grocery store and other store workers each time I’ve gone to a store. They appreciate someone asking how they are doing and all have crazy stories to tell of the world gone mad. I keep repeating the first story we heard in northern Minnesota of the woman shopper who climbed up to the top of the pallets, tore open a TP case and started throwing TP down. The young man in the deli said, “So she could have fallen and died, but the TP was more important? Crazy!”

I was glad, yesterday, to observe the check-out workers who heard a woman speaking in Spanish about her daughter’s inability to find infant formula. Within minutes, four different clerks were telling her how to get what she needed at the store. Apparently, they are rationing these things – but the needed supplies were available. Good! Not as good a story as the checker at Safeway who told me they had at first tried to limit some items to two per customer. When she explained this to a customer trying to buy 25 identical frozen dinners, he threw one at her. She frowned and said, “I told him to throw the mac and cheese, not the good dinners.” We shook our heads in unison.

Maybe commiserating with the grocery clerks is my little assignment during these times. I should find something I can give them each time as a thank you. They are risking themselves for our needs and their necessity.

The most fun so far was yesterday, playing Minecraft online and hanging out with my Colorado granddaughter, who is eight years old. My older granddaughter helped me by phone to get into my game and into the correct world with her sister. I haven’t played Minecraft for a year, so I was pretty bad at just moving around – walking running, flying, swimming – and getting through doorways. This kid flew circles around me and ran me through the woods and the basements of dwellings and long hallways as I struggled to keep up. She has created a huge compound of buildings – kitchens, libraries, greenhouses, living and bedrooms, corrals for animals, fields of flowers and bees, lots of crops, woods, mine shafts leading to well-lit corridors and basements, cellars and supplies. Monsters lurking here and there (but we are in Creative mode, so no worries). She laughed hysterically as she led me though the hallways and I banged into walls, doors, lamps and struggled to fly up through the openings. She raced around in loops for awhile because she was so amused at my struggle to keep up. I was laughing, too. After an hour of virtual play, it felt like we’d actually been playing as we used to in her house when she set the rules and I needed to just participate in the process. Best virtual moment so far. Then she introduced me to the four baby chicks her mom bought when she heard school was cancelled – Sunflower, Blackout, Hiroko, and Copper.

My worst moment so far was last night reading a statistical prediction of the numbers who will become ill. My heart was very heavy for a bit.

Then a friend sent me a worldwide online event* that’s happening this weekend and I spend a little while listening to Deva Premal chant the Gayatri Mantra. That brought me back up. (Yes, I’m praying, too and sending and receiving love and light out there. But this was a connection to a wider community for a moment. That helped.)

I played some Boggle with my Colorado daughter last night online – we’d welcome suggestions for fun apps (without as many ads) of good word games.  She has an Android and I’m on an iPhone. One of my friends and I set a “play date” to do Soul cards together by FaceTime this week. Two of my favorite yoga classes are going online. I just have to set the time aside and do it! How great!

AZ doorwayMy Minnesota daughter says that they are easing into a relaxed home school schedule and looking to plant some spring seeds, etc. Amazon just delivered a 6-part warrior cat series that I’m going to read and discuss with my MN granddaughter. My friend is doing something similar with her grandson.

I guess that’s all for Week One. What was your best moment? Worst moment?

Peace, friends! Love you!

*Deva Premal & Miten online Global Meditation event tomorrow.

 

All hands on deck…

I awoke this morning with these words of wisdom from Clarissa Pinkola Estes on my mind. It is good to re-read them and soak in the reminder:

My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

pexels-photo-1118874I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.

This is such an important bit of wisdom. Estes goes on to say that we must each do what is in front of us to contribute, to share our light in our tiny corner of the world. I remember words from Mother Teresa, Abraham Heschel, Julian of Norwich, Martin Luther King, Jr. and others that would reinforce this. We are not required to solve the world’s problems, but neither are we encouraged to simply give up and remove ourselves completely from responsibility for our small corner of the world.

In these odd days of COVID-19, toilet paper and hand-sanitizer hoarding, and self-isolating, social-distancing, what can we do for one another?

The average person can:

  • be responsible about not sharing or spreading our germs (hand-washing, covering coughs and sneezes, etc., etc.)
  • be loving and caring in our encounters with strangers (service workers, delivery people, grocery clerks, the neighbors we distance ourselves from)
  • send money to those we would typically support – yoga teachers, churches, other charitable organizations and step up our giving to food shelves, shelters, and other organizations like the Red Cross or Salvation Army who will have greater expenses in delivering services right now
  • check on friends and family and offer encouragement and support; help problem-solve or take on a needed task
  • entertain children virtually via Skype, FaceTime, etc., so that their caregivers can take a break or send crafts, books, etc. for their enjoyment.

Another way we can contribute is by:

  • Taking care of our physical and spiritual wellness – continue to meditate and pray; eat as healthily as you can during a time of scarcity; walk, exercise, stretch, do yoga; keep your environment bright, peaceful, and clean
  • Listen to music, be creative, write words of encouragement – for yourself and others, send love to yourself by living with self-compassion
  • Forgive yourself and others as needed, pick yourself up and move on with a fresh start
  • Keep a sense of humor – laugh as much as you can
  • Limit the alcohol, food excess and other substance reliance and focus on connecting with your Source and other people who share concern and provide inspiration for your highest good
  • Share love, love love – for yourself, for family, for neighbor, for strangers. Keep your lamps burning, sisters & brothers
  • Be grateful for the smallest moments of beauty, light, joy, safety, calm
  • Breathe

Pinkola Estes concludes:

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

All aboard, friends. Let’s get those vessels out on the metaphorical sea and share our light as brightly and broadly as we can.

Wherever you are... Rumi

 

God’s Country

I’m reprinting this story, written in January 2009, in honor of my sister, Nancy, and her husband, John, who are celebrating their 50th Anniversary today.

Most of my wandering in the desert I’ve done alone. Not so much from choice as from necessity – I generally prefer to go into places where no one else wants to go. I find that in contemplating the natural world my pleasure is greater if there are not
too many others contemplating it with me, at the same time.”

— Edward Abbey (Desert Solitaire)

I remember my sister, Nancy, and her new husband, John, taking me away for long IMG_7120weekends – to their home in Sacramento, and, once, to John’s hometown in Nevada.

Nancy was fun – laughing a lot and telling stories, playing music. John was funny. He was able to make anything comedic. He was a satirist in his own right – and reminded me of George Carlin. But, as the little sister, it bothered me when he teased Nancy, which he frequently did. She laughed it off and took it in stride.

In Sacramento, I remember John building waterfalls out of driftwood and pipe for their little home. I seem to remember a flood of some sort one weekend I was there – some appliance or waterfall gone wrong. I loved their big dog, “Bear.” He did indeed look like a big black bear – and was the sweetest and most loyal dog I ever knew. John also gave me my first (and last) ride on a motorcycle. It scared the bejezus out of me. I was a tough kid in a lot of ways, but fast car rides and this ride on a motorcycle scared me. But I liked that John took the time for something special like that with me. I think we also floated in inner tubes or a raft down the American River.

John’s sister, Kathy, was a year older than I. A couple of times, John and Nancy arranged for us to be at their house on the same weekend. Kathy was nice to me – and I thought she was very cool. She and I kept planning what we would do when I visited her home in Nevada. At last, we bugged John and Nancy so much that they decided to do it – to take me to Kathy’s for a long weekend.

I had been through Nevada on family vacations – we had driven several times from Reno to Salt Lake City. But no one in my family had ever considered hanging out there or staying there for fun. There was always a great fear that our car would break down somewhere in Nevada and the buzzards would find us later. I thought it was absolutely hilarious that John pretended to prefer Nevada to California. (He must have been pretending, right?) As we drove over the Sierra’s and crossed the border, he shouted, “Look, Karie! God’s country!” He had to be joking.

As we descended from the heights of the Sierras to the Nevada desert, John pointed out the difference in the roads. It was something I, as an eleven-year-old, had never considered: road surfaces. The road did seem blacker and less bumpy. John said it was because of gambling revenue. Nevada had much better roads than California. Okay, I could give him that one.

We left Reno and headed east. John taught me that you could tell what county a Nevada car was from by reading their license plate. He taught me the code for Washoe County, his county. There were lots of cars with those licenses driving around. Soon we were in the desert.

This is God’s country?” I asked. John scowled at me in the rear view mirror and shook his head.

lovelock 1At last we arrived in the small rural town where John had grown up. It was something like a movie set. I could picture Ben Cartwright riding into town. No, we weren’t in the Bay Area anymore. The home where John’s mother, stepfather, sister and brother lived completed the set. To me it was like Big Valley or the Ponderosa. The house seemed rather grand – with French doors leading in to the living room and shelves and windowsills full of antique glass. So, this was Nevada.

John’s mom introduced me to a feral cat living in their garage. I spent my spare moments that weekend attempting to tame it. I always had a special way with cats. I coaxed it into letting me pet it for a moment, but then some movement in the distance spooked it and it was gone in an instant.

John’s mother also took us all on a day of arrowhead hunting. It was fuel for the imagination. We drove out to the middle of nowhere and she said, “Okay, here it is.” I couldn’t imagine anything interesting in this bright white, hard desert. But sure enough, in just minutes we were finding tiny seed beads – real Native American beads. I imagined the people who lived and apparently fought or hunted here. We found arrowheads and parts of arrowheads. It reminded me of hunting for seashells – without the ocean.

Then we had some kind of car problem. A “float in the engine” – whatever that was – was causing us trouble. John’s brother rescued us with his pickup truck. John’s brother was a good looking older teenager. He was nice to me, quite mature, and reminded me of a cowboy.

Late that afternoon, things got exciting after we got home. The bright sunny day became cloudy in an instant and everyone ran through the beautiful house closing windows. I had never experienced a dust storm before. The wind blew black clouds of dust and then the rain came down in huge drops like mud. Nevada weather was more intense than I had experienced. I worried about the cat hiding in rafters of the garage.

In Nevada, I got acquainted with Kathy’s small town world. I knew she was always talking about boys. The boys in my life, who I talked about, were just that: sixth grade boys. The boys in Kathy’s world were something else.

On Saturday night, there was a street dance – something I’d never heard of. The girls in town wore their jeans skin tight. I mean skin tight. Kathy helped me to baste a seam in my baggier pants so that I wouldn’t look so out of place. Kathy was tiny and I could never have fit into her jeans. These were not boot cut jeans, though they did wear boots. I remember she had a technique involving a pencil to get her socks up under the bottom of her jeans. All of the girls at the dance were dressed identically. No we were not in the Bay Area – where we wore peasant blouses and faded, baggy jeans. And these were not boys asking Kathy to dance, these were young men.

There was live music – and the guys checked out the girls. We stood with other girls waiting for someone to come over and ask us to dance. I was out of my comfort zone and felt like a child. I don’t recall all of the details of the evening. I do know I was relieved when we finally got home, later that night. I thought California girls were wild. Nevada girls were wilder.

Rye Patch DamThe next day, we went water-skiing, of all things. We drove for miles through a bleak landscape. But there, sure enough, in the middle of the desert was a huge body of water – Rye Patch Dam. I had experienced my first taste of water-skiing on Lake Leander in Minnesota, where my sister, Martie, now lived. I couldn’t wait to ski again. We skied all day and had a picnic on the rocky beach. But the thing I remember most was “Bear Dog” jumping out of the boat and off of the land, over and over – wanting to save us when we fell. It was the most endearing thing. This dog was fished out of deep water again and again because he was afraid John, Nancy, Kathy or I were going to drown.

At last, we were all packed up and ready to head home. I made one last attempt to befriend the cat. It peeked out from the rafters, but wouldn’t come down to say goodbye. I had a tiny bag full of beads and arrowheads to show everyone at home. I said goodbye to Kathy and promised to write her all summer – which I did. I also went home and mangled two perfectly good pairs of jeans trying to tailor them and wear them the way they did in Nevada.

As we drove out of Reno and over the Sierras, John looked at me in the mirror as we crossed the state line. “Okay Karie, say goodbye to God’s country…and get ready for pollution, crowded highways, and crappy California roads.”

I looked back out the window. The weekend had truly been an adventure – it introduced me to a completely different world. “Hmmm…” I thought, “Maybe Nevada is part of ‘God’s country’ too….” But I’d never give John the satisfaction of admitting it.

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Kathy, my sister, Judy, & me just before Nancy’s wedding.

To be or not to be “Church”

“Human beings may separate things into as many piles as we wish—separating spirit from flesh, sacred from secular, church from world. But we should not be surprised when God does not recognize the distinctions we make between the two. Earth is so thick with divine possibility that it is a wonder we can walk anywhere without cracking our shins on altars.”
― Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith

Barbara & Karen work on Solstice mandalaWhen I was frustrated with my own lack of spiritual “progress” or evidence of growth, a wise guide said to me, “The longing you have is very important – as important as anything. Longing is good.” I have pondered this statement on and off for a year somewhere in the back of my mind.

My version of spring fever – in a climate where we don’t really get lots of new growth until mid-May or June – is spring yearning. I want, I NEED green. I need water, rain, lightening, humidity. All of the stuff that is marketed at Eastertime. Somewhere deep in my soul, I need to see a green shoot pushing up through soft earth and raindrops or dewdrops adorning the leaves, the petals. I think of ocean, fog, daffodils, tulips, almond groves. I know this stuff is out there. This is the curse of growing up in California and relocating. The body knows, the visceral memory knows: Somewhere it is spring.

When I lived in California, though, I had the same condition all times of the year. The yearning, longing for what is not quite here. Often, in some vague form, I’d be wanting connection with others, with community. In my little Central Valley home, I eventually found my Tribes. I found a church that welcomed my quirkiness. I found my sisters and brothers of the Yoga Tribe who provided weekly, sometimes bi- and tri-weekly conversation and connection. In Berkeley, I met my spiritually-questing-Tribe. Such a time! Yearning for community fulfilled!

And then we moved.

I’ve been back in yearning mode much of the time since. But the guidance I received_ACT6304 about “longing being good” turns out to have contained an unexpected wisdom. Longing turns out to be a finely honed navigational system. It overrides the mind’s chatter.

I had begun to craft a spiritual home outside of my long-beloved church, after I left my last ministry position. The other tribes I joined fit me to a “T” for that moment and place. It was a time of expansion and reunion with an even wider spiritual circle.

But after my sister passed away, in the process of grieving, I found myself longing – and actively seeking a spiritual home. I tried everything. Then John and I went to a Railroad History presentation at a small local church. There was absolutely no spiritual content or setting to the event. The talk was to be held in a less-than-beautiful, humble Fellowship Hall in a rural church. But the church members (unbeknownst to us) were offering a soup dinner before the presentation to anyone who wanted it.

I walked through the door and felt as Lucy must have felt when she passed through that wardrobe full of coats into Narnia. It bowled me over. This earthy crowd, this less than mystical group, was family. My husband didn’t want food, but by all that’s holy, I was bound and determined to eat a bowl of that soup – and did so. Heavenly.

After all of that joy, I still didn’t settle on that particular congregation. But – it being a Saturday – as soon as I got home, I looked for a church in that same town. I found the funkiest, most humble little church you can imagine. Its webpage said, “All are welcome. No exceptions.” The next morning, I drove about 8 miles up the highway. Inside, I found a warm welcome – open hearts, open minds (as the saying goes). Home.

My brain has kicked in numerous times since then. “But these people don’t get me.” “I need an Interfaith Tribe of journeyers.” It goes on and on. They don’t use the right hymnal. They use a hymnal. They don’t use the right language about God. They don’t wipe the tables right after coffee hour. They’ve had a lot of problems. I don’t know if there is anything for me to do here. There is way too much to do here.

I’m not sure if this is a church for webcasts or live feed, but perhaps that is why it feels like home. It is cozy and real.

IMG_5680They know how to host an awesome potluck. They show up at Marches and celebrate Pride. With a ragtag group, they know how to make lovely music. They know how to hold each other in prayer and love when times get hard. They forget social niceties, but love children to a fault. As humans go, our fearless leader is as kind and compassionate as I’ve ever known.

Hmmmmm. Not my Tribe? The tribe members call this place home because they love God and Jesus, love their neighbors, they love the mountains, the trees, the earth and they’re fiercely independent. They seek to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.

Sometimes, I think, my many requirements for personhood – and “how to be a good human being” or an authentic spiritual explorer get in the way of connecting. My husband never talks about it, but I know he observes me out there on my perfectionistic quest to find a truly holy Sangha. I don’t think he understands the importance of the high bar I set. (Ha!)

The day I walked into this place, I knew he’d like it. No façade. No airs.

There is this other thing, too. The “spiritual but not religious” voice in me. The part that sees that Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, loving Muslims, Sikhs, Wiccans, Native People, other New Agers – they are generally not the ones out there shouting hateful, racist, woman-hating, immigrant-hating, abusive stuff in our country these days. No, those screaming, fearful ones are my peeps. Those are the voices of Christians. Even though I love Church in a big, deep way, and love Jesus in a bigger, deeper way, there is a longing to be clearly Other than my fellow Christians who don’t have a clue what Jesus was up to (or so it seems from my totally non-judgmental vantage point). It’s easier to feel good about being part of a tribe versus part of a church.

Unfortunately, for those who do have a clue what Jesus was doing, we oh-so-enlightened  (and self proclaimed) ones don’t get to draw that line. We don’t get to be Other. We have to stay in the same boat and figure out how to get along and love folks. Even those who sound so very hateful and who support a guy who…well…it doesn’t really matter. We’ve got to get back to the drawing board and figure out how in the world to love that guy, too. We have to get ourselves ready for understanding to break through between us – for compassion and wisdom to light the way to embracing each other again. (I’m not sure we ever did get there in the past, but it was easier to imagine it – to get glimpses of it anyway.)

We do have to keep longing for Truth and putting ourselves on the line for the well-being of the vulnerable. We have to insist, with love, that all of God’s children are welcome and treated justly.  Luckily, we have little homes, tribes, covens, congregations and sanghas to yearn with us and support us in this effort.

After all of my wandering – and my highly creative Bay Area and south Minneapolis leanings – I thought my Home or my Tribe was going to be way cooler. It was gonna be frickin’ awesome. I thought it would be fancier, more polished, or at least more Feng Shui. For sure, I assumed there would be organic and vegan options. But I guess that’s not what I was really longing for. Here I am: A happy wanderer, home at last.

There is a labyrinth out there behind the weeds, after all. And we do have free-range chicken and duck eggs, and gluten-free options.

Y’all come visit. You’ll be most welcome.

Wichita 2017

New Year’s Blessing

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting; the Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting and cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness, and not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come…

William Wordsworth, c. 1804

This week I had the opportunity to share the gifts of my spiritual journey with my husband and a good friend. We had both deeply spiritual and highly irreverent conversations. We touched on our deepest difficulties and hurts and we laughed until our sides hurt about our current lives and all that confounds us in this world.

Now, it is New Year’s Day. I’m remembering that we are not here to conquer or control life. We are here to open our eyes – to heighten our senses – and be present. If we pay attention, we will witness a series of miracles and moments of grace – of extraordinary moments in a sea of confusingly ordinary and sometimes overwhelming ones. That’s my experience, anyway. Whenever I feel that I have things figured out, the cosmos stirs things up and turns the world upside down, just to keep the process interesting. Laughter and a sense of humor are as essential, as is the ability to ride the ever-changing waves.

At midnight last night, after a quiet evening at home, I came upstairs and discovered my new year’s gift. The moon was shining bright and it had snowed about an eighth of an inch of big elegant flakes – enough to cover our deck and the fields below. The moon reflected like diamonds, making each surface sparkle with light. If you have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a soul that senses – our Source is seeking our awareness.

Let’s see if this year sparkles with that same promise as it continues to unfold. Let’s tell each other about the miracles we experience. Let’s laugh and cry and hold each other in our grief. And in the midst of all that, let’s find out if it is possible to stand in awe and soak in gratitude each and every day.

Valley clouds

Sifting and Seeking Truth

“This above all: to thine own self be true…”
 William Shakespeare, Hamlet

But strive first for the realm of God and God’s righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.

– Jesus’ Teaching, Matthew 6:33

Above Palisades 3How can we talk to each other about what we know to be Sacred? I’m often at a loss for knowing how to connect with others because our spiritual understandings vary so widely.

Perhaps we have a particular tradition in common or spiritual teacher, master, guru, or writer whom we may reference and point towards. We may point to inspirational stories, words that have offered comfort, or a moral guideline which we feel is essential and then we can discuss our similarities and differences, doubts and confusion. More often, though, we have widely varying beliefs and have few people to talk to about these things. The teachings we bump into are all over the map.

Each of us has our own way of “knowing” and understanding, we each have different life experiences, different levels of openness to new thought and differing barriers or obstacles. At a certain point we reach an impasse with, well, everyone – unless we value unquestioning faith and blind trust. There is probably no one person who believes exactly as we do.

My ultimate Guide is an internal one, connected to Spirit. We each are born with a sort of inner GPS which helps us to navigate and find our way. Another metaphor that might be more helpful is that of an “inner filter.”

We take a particular story, lesson, or belief and pass it through the interior filter. For instance, though I have studied religion, philosophy, and spirituality in great depth, all of those classes and each of those teachings have to first pass through this filtration system before any material makes it into my archive of Truth (and truth today is not always truth for tomorrow). Words, beliefs, moral standards must pass through the following filters:

  • Who is telling me this story, experience, belief, or moral teaching? Are they a person of wisdom and integrity? Or innocence and truth? Are they without guile, self-interest or bias? The scriptural phrase that comes to mind is, “By their fruits you shall know them.” Is the source of the information a truly good/wise/truthful one?
  • How does this story, experience, belief, or moral teaching interact with my foundational beliefs? (Beliefs such as, “Love God with your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself.” Or “Do no harm to yourself or others.” Or “Treat others as you would wish to be treated.”) Does it promote goodwill and well-being for all or does it promote harm/oppression/injustice/rigidity/ selfishness/fear (etc.)? Note: Some of our ancient religious teachings don’t meet this standard. Just because it made sense in one time and setting, does not mean it unquestioningly applies today. The Sacred calls us to keep filtering.
  • Then – perhaps the most subjective of filters – does this story, experience, belief, or moral teaching contain an essence of Living Spirit, God, Highest Consciousness or my Higher Power as I define that Power? Does it resonate with my experience of that Spirit/God/Consciousness/Power in my life? Perhaps we are presented with dogma or rules or beliefs that are part of a religious, moral or political tradition that don’t meet the highest values or truth of this same tradition. We must set those inferior or untrue teachings aside. Perhaps there is a layer of truth, but other false teachings have been added to it, then we must sort this out. Does it align with the One we seek prayerful guidance from?

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My mind keeps turning away from spirituality to the world of politics as I’m writing because this filtering process obviously applies there, too. But my primary purpose today is to talk about our spiritual growth process – mine and yours. This bright light of spiritual truth, once filtered, is the beacon we need to shine on social, political, relational situations as we seek the right path.

I don’t know about you, but I am easily distracted from spiritual growth. That’s not a problem though, because if the distraction grows and I ignore my path, I become so miserable that I’m forced to return. This has been the basic road map of my spiritual walk. Hopefully, you’re not as easily set off-course as I am.

Once we are on our path, here are some basics:

  • Spend time connecting to Living Spirit every day, and seek to sustain that connection throughout the day.
  • See everything that comes your way as an avenue of spiritual learning and growth, whether you’re cleaning the kitchen, fixing the car, meditating on a mountaintop, listening to an upsetting political speech, or sitting in a dull meeting.
  • Stay with those deep Truths, the ones that have lifted you again and again from the muck and mire of life. Stay with what you know from your own experience to be true. When it becomes blurry, seek the guidance of Spirit and of trusted friends and mentors.
  • Send everything (including your own beliefs) through the filtration system.
  • Soak in the Love and Light of Spirit as often as you can – through whatever avenues lift you (silence, music, nature, prayer, writing, companionship, play, creativity, and so on).
  • Give thanks for every small or large miracle, gift or grace in your life. Share these stories with yourself and others again and again. Gratitude and joy are close companions.
  • When all else fails, start over with the first step (return to your Source).

P.S. Moving out of the purely spiritual realm and going back to politics – to be clear and not vague: If all of this light, love and filtration is applied to the teachings of Neo-Nazis (or traditional Nazis), or to the teachings of the KKK, obviously these land in the “rejected beliefs” pile. Right??? I’ve been reminded again lately that it is our job to share love and light AND to speak up for others who are the objects of hatred or injustice, even when it seems too obvious to need articulating. To be passive is to passively agree or accept the words of haters. In the process above LOVE WINS everytime!

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