Isolation Journal: Week 8 -Abundant Craziness

As for me and my house
We will stay where we at.
– 1st Isolations 24:7
(From SistasinZion on Facebook)

IMG-0608I have no idea what to write at this point. I don’t think this week will go down as a wise, measured, or well-reasoned one in U.S. history (to put it mildly). No one in the country seems to really have a good plan – though I know some very good people are trying to give us one (and then another, and another).  This response to the pandemic is an experiment through and through. Conspiracy theories abound.

Unfortunately, the seeds of deep division in our country – political, racial, economic, gender-related, spiritual – have grown into a thick jungle of thorny weeds. The only response to this mire seems to be wild flailing whacks with a machete.

Any plan is upsetting to one group or the other. Racial hatred is again in the news the past few days with vivid and disturbing tragedy. Our national leader seeks to divide rather than unite and to fan the flames of hatred with every tweet. Behind the scenes ugly values are undoing the foundations of justice at a rapid pace (there does seem to be a plan in place in this area). Ugh.

Some U.S. states are making gradual returns to “normal” by allowing parts of the workforce to return. Some are opening restaurants, beaches, churches, others are still banning such gatherings. Angry people are refusing to wear a mask as a political “right” to liberty, and armed, masked (white) protesters have taken to various capitols to protest stay-at-home orders with very few consequences. Ugh again.

willieHere’s a mildly amusing reality. The good and bored and winter-worn folk in Minnesota plan to hold the well-beloved Fishing Opener (a huge state-wide annual weekend event) this weekend (while schools are still closed and shelter in place orders remain). The governor cancelled the “Governor’s Opener” but most everything else is still in place. Let’s see…pickup trucks and SUV’s hauling boats to lakes and resorts all over the state (resorts whose rental cabins are still closed). Only family groups in each boat (in theory) and round-trip is supposed to use only one tank of gas. Uh huh. In theory also, everyone will be socially distanced as they back their boats into the water at the few boat launches on each lake. Social distancing (and masks?) also when they buy fishing licenses, purchase munchies, bait, and so on. Okay. Then add massive quantities of beer and socially starved individuals to the scenario. No doubt this is going to go smoothly. Ditto in Wisconsin. What could possibly go wrong?

Okay, now, where in the world is the Sacred in the midst of these amusing, wacky, disturbing, and seriously menacing realities? Whew. Luckily, the answer is still: Everywhere.

This week, though, I need to step waaaaaaaaay back from social media and news to see this. Each morning, I have started my day with coffee on the patio as the songs of various birds serenade and Nature goes about her business. Today, a small red bird fluttered overhead, a jack rabbit ran by and two coyotes cleared out the brush as they cruised through in search of a morning snack.

D70AAD99-F9EF-4F1F-A6AB-AACF0FBF1601Joy this week has been found in natural beauty,  humor, friendship, music, Minecraft with my granddaughter, occasional texts from my daughters and friends, video chat with my sisters and sharing the occasional tasty morsel of food. (Yes, one more Chipotle order.) I am still “casting the Net of Light” each morning and night – sending love and light to friends and family near and far, to people who are hurting, to creation, to life.

What ways are you finding to support your soul? What contributions to the world’s light, peace, and love have you been making? Sometimes, the only answer we can come up with is that we’re doing our best to take care of ourselves and to not carry illness to our neighbors. If so, I believe that our best is all that is required.

This week, I’m going to try to incorporate Thich Nhat Hanh’s advice on how to cope with things (especially people) who drive you crazy. He writes, “When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change.”

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can
and wisdom to know the difference.  

Love, grace, humor and blessings to you, – Karen

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Isolation Journal: Week 6 on our “Blue Boat Home”

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you about mine.
Meanwhile, the world goes on….

– Mary Oliver, from “Wild Geese”

IMG-0519This sixth week of social distancing and isolation has gone by rather quickly. Or else I’m just losing track of time altogether. There have been up days, moments of boredom, sadness, and anxiety, but for the most part, this week has been quiet and calm. We have shelter, food, friends, family, health, and a beautiful world outside our door.

It is getting warmish here in our southwestern climate, so we will begin to walk in the morning next week. Tried out the A/C yesterday. This morning, I got up, sat on the patio and listened to the birds, sketched and later water-colored a bit. I listened to music as I painted. Earlier in the week, my birthday present from John – a hand drum – arrived. After I finished water-coloring, I tried drumming along with some of my favorite Kirtan chants. Very fun! I will do that again. There was an eclectic nature to the music I enjoyed today – from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to Andrea Boccelli singing the Lord’s Prayer to a Sufi chant for Ramadan to Kirtan. Well rounded, I’d say.

The morning flew by in this pleasant way – and it didn’t occur to me until Noon that this was Friday – Journal check-in Day.

IMG-0524The political situation is one that triggers still – and I find that I feel agitated when I watch the news. I loved watching the World Health Organization’s press conference. It was a pleasant change to listen to sane and intelligent people who are truly doing their best to solve a crisis of global proportions, focusing on the well-being of human beings everywhere. I learned some things and understood other concepts more clearly. Sad that this is such a novelty.

My spiritual director spent an hour “companioning” me on Monday and that was very helpful. She again nudged me toward being gentle with myself, keeping things simple. A week ago, she sent me a copy of a blog I posted in 2017 and it was actually helpful to me this week to re-read my own advice to “soak in the love” during the April New Moon (which was this week). So that’s what I’ve been doing.

The many Earth Day postings people have shared this week have been great and inspiring. Along with Sharon McErlane’s advice about frequently casting the Net of Light (see her latest video session, below), the week has kept me in touch with Nature and Spirit at a deeper level. It feels calming and centering.

All in all, I am grateful for children and grandchildren who are healthy, a loving companion, the comforts of home, music, movement, beauty, Mother Earth, and the Divine. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all these blessings, Holy One.

Wishing you peace, health, love, and connection,  Karen

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Favorites of the Week:

Second Installment of the Net of Light gatherings with Sharon McErlane.

Imam Jamal Raman’s post for Ramadan – “South Asian Sufi devotional song and Whirling Dervish. Based on a saying by the Prophet Muhammad( pbuh) praising Hazrat Ali. Composed by the sage Amir Khusrao (d.1316 CE).”

Peter Mayer’s Earth Day “Blue Boat Home” – on Facebook and here’s his “Holy Now” (a long-time favorite).

2017 Post from Following the Golden Thread – for the April New Moon

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Be Impeccable

From The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz:

“Agreement One: I am impeccable with my words. I am loving to myself and others – I let go of fear.”

From the Dalai Lama:

“Hard times build determination and inner strength. Through them we can also come to appreciate the uselessness of anger. Instead of getting angry nurture a deep caring and respect for troublemakers because by creating such trying circumstance they provide us with invaluable opportunities to practice tolerance and patience.”

And

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

Do you have other “words from the wise” to add?

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A SPIRITUAL TOOLBOX for TURBULENT TIMES

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive [God] to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.
– Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, 1952.

It is possible to come to each day as grounded, loving people, who are forces for hope even though the world may seem uncentered, unkind or even hateful. Here are seven tools:

candleTool 1: SELF LOVE – When you are thrown off course, listen to the emotions that arise inside you.  Use your anger as a messenger –  listen to it and allow it to tell you what you need at that moment to be whole, to be safe. Do what you need to do. Listen to your fear and adjust your sense of safety by utilizing your own energy and self-love. You can give yourself this gift of wholeness and safety by treating each emotion with loving care and compassion. If you just stuff your feelings down, that isn’t going to work for long. By attending to our inner world, we will be able to be calm observers rather than haters and bring a positive energy to our efforts.

Tool 2: SPIRITUAL SUPPORT – (An obvious one…) Whatever your sense of God, the Sacred, Higher Concept or Higher Power in the Universe, turn to this Source when your perspective becomes lost and you feel rattled (often many times per day). Carry the resources with you that you need to support you in doing this. If you can, start your day with a positive Intention, prayer, or affirmation and end the day with gratitude.

Tool 3: GROUPS – If at all possible, form small groups in which to share your Truth, fears, hopes, brokenness. Find perspective. Then develop your Intentions for positive action. Enjoy this time of community. Enjoy some laughter together, share some food – nourish your hearts and souls.

Tool 4: SELF CARE! Days or hours “off” from saving the world. Have some fun, get out into nature, go shopping, dance, enjoy your favorite movie or people or meal.  Playtime is essential to the Soul.

Tool 5: SMALL STEPS – Do what you can do to be a positive force for change in the world. Hook up with established groups and organizations to be of support. If all you do today to make a difference is offer love, affirmation and support to someone you know who is out there doing things, that is enough.FullSizeRender (9)

Tool 6: CREATIVITY, EXERCISE & MUSIC – Color, paint, write poetry, write stories, create a vision board, dance, walk, run, do yoga or Tai Chi, sing, play an instrument,  listen to or create music. All of these connect us with our Higher Selves and our Source. Share your creations with the world.

Tool 7: ALL IS WELL – It is difficult to remember, but it is the Truth of all faith traditions. There is something more (God, the Sacred, the Universe) that holds us – a spiritual reality that is beyond what we can see today. Remember these words from the Desiderata by Max Ehrmann:

“You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

This is just the beginning. There is a long road ahead. Pace yourself! Take it one joyful, loving step at a time and, remember, as Dame Julian of Norwich once said, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Love & blessings, Karen

Memorial Day: It’s Complicated… 

As I’m doing research on family ancestry, I’m finding a very high percentage of our family’s forebears who served in the Civil War (both north and south); quite a few Revolutionary War veterans, and several WWI AND WWII military. We have a couple of career military relatives who are currently serving who have been brave, earnest and dutiful in their service and we are proud of their sincerity.

I’ve both spoken and written in opposition to various wars and have filled many care packages for those serving overseas. It seems there is rarely “one right way” to view war and peace. I’ve been about speaking against misguided military intervention but honoring and respecting our soldiers. Kind of confusing.

In another case, I feel passionately that it was right to intervene with Hitler’s activities in WWII. But the internment camps for Japanese Americans during the same war was a misguided exercise in fear and racism, not unlike the attitude some hold toward “all Muslims” today (post-9/11 and post-Isis terrorism). And certainly the use of the atomic bomb demonstrated that there clearly are moral limits to the use of indiscriminate force.

On holidays like Memorial Day, I often wish I could just be patriotic or just be completely against it all. It would be simpler, more fun for the moment to feel morally certain.

Unfortunately, we somehow have to keep walking the less popular road of the not-quite-middle-ground. It can be a lonely road in today’s political climate. To live a deeply spiritual life in our complex world means seeing the Sacred in every person and having compassion even for those whose point of view would choose to obliterate our viewpoint. Ugh!

It is easier when I watch birds fly, feel the wind in my face, pray and meditate at sunrise, look out on vast oceans and deserts, see the sunset over the horizon or hike up a tall mountain to view wilderness. It is easier when I let go of “us vs. them” and focus on oneness.

There is so much more to this universe than our own perspective. So I will lift my gratitude today for the triumph of love, unity, respect, diversity, kindness, and courage. I will celebrate the passage of time, moments of healing and reunion, and I will honor ancestors who sought to do their best – whatever their beliefs – and seek compassion and forgiveness for us all.