Tuesday, May 26, 2015

When Someone We Love Dies

"They whom we love and lose are no longer where they were  before.  They are now wherever we are."  
                                           St.John Chrysostom

When someone we love dies, there is no denying the profound sense of loss, sadness and sometimes actual physical pain we feel. Whether the passing is quite sudden…and therefore shocking…or expected through what sociologists call “anticipatory grieving,” the experience itself always seems to bring with it a thud of finality that is surprising. There is a question we sometimes ask: Could this really be happening? But, of course, it is, and what is left to us is making our peace with it.


If our loved one is someone we lived with or saw every day, we will be faced with the task of re-gearing our entire daily lives. If he or she lived at a distance, there will be the ache of knowing we will not see them again. A warm, loving presence is gone, and it is the memory of him or her that will have to fill the void.

Love...that binds...

If we practice a spiritual belief system, we may be blessed with the eventual sense of connection we share with our beloved, however that unfolds. It can’t take the place of breathing flesh, but it erases the waste of oblivion. I personally have always believed that it is love and not blood that binds us together anyway.

Small thoughts...

Obviously we do gather up the threads of our lives and go forward, and I do think that, with the healing passage of time, we will really come to know how very much those we love have added to our lives. How much less might we have been without them, whether our time together was short or many years? I offer these small thoughts, not mine, and unfortunately, anonymous. They are not sentimental but I think they carry great and varied meanings.

"Goodbyes are sad things"...

“Goodbyes are sad things. We leave behind the dreams that we’ve worked to make real, friends that we suffered with and grown to love, and sometimes a quiet security that was built with what seems to be half a lifetime. In life everywhere we move along and leave our efforts behind us in the dust, knowing deep inside that we will never find them exactly the same again…Life teaches us to accept goodbyes as a part of saying hello to things that are newer. It teaches us also that what was lost was loved and what was learned in the past can never be lost.”

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You might also enjoy "On Compassion"

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

On a New Baby

Our family will be welcoming a new baby in a few weeks. My husband and I are anticipating a second great granddaughter, and her five-year-old sister is very busy participating in the search for a new name. Like her sister, this newest peep will be Chinese and Caucasian, and once again I am entranced by imagining how she will look. Will she have her father’s sloe eyes, or will they be mitigated by a more rounded dome contributed by her blue-eyed mother? Will she have her father’s deep, black eyes or the more sparkling, brandy-colored eyes of her sister? These two little girls are our family’s entry into a blended racial culture…none too soon as far as I am concerned…and I am endlessly fascinated by the composed looks of new world children.

Unvarnished possibilities...

Even more, I am fascinated by the unvarnished possibilities that all new babies carry. I do believe that unborn children are not a complete tabula rasa. Like some people, I think that unborn babies are subject to the atmosphere of the mother and her surroundings, for good or ill. Maybe that old wives’ tale about singing to the child in the womb isn’t such a wives’ tale after all. But eventually the new babe has its life to live and its ideas to shape. Could we just civilize it a little…we all must get along after all…and give it some eternal values, but then leave it as unbent as possible? What a gift that would be!

Ultra newness...

There is ultra newness in a new baby that is to be nurtured, protected and cherished. We all know this, but have we forgotten about the newness that comes with every breath we take? Every new idea we entertain is given a birth home in us. The paradox is that at the same time we are growing older, we are also growing new again as well.

First time...

I want to remind myself of this when I look for the first time into the eyes of our newest family member.

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You might also enjoy "On Growing Brilliance"

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

On Princes, Palaces and Parking Places

Years ago when we were students of metaphysics doing our spiritual practices, we coined a term for what all of us wanted to achieve. We wanted “princes, palaces and parking places,” the last one being a little mind trick we all played with. Whenever we drove anywhere we opened our minds to finding just the right place to park! Don’t laugh. It was big stuff years ago when we were learning about the breadth of mental power and what we had within us.

A Universality...

Of course we wanted good things and situations, and we often wanted people to do our biddings. Prayer and practices were the way to go, and we could shape up all kinds of circumstances. Nothing the matter with wanting to live better lives, except that there was so much more at our fingertips than we knew. Many times we actually did find good relationships and wonderful jobs, but if we hung in long enough, we discovered that we had much larger lives to live. Once we solved a few problems, we found a universality that underlaid everything. We began to discover what it meant to believe in something greater than ourselves, and maybe, best of all, we began to discover that we all really do belong together in a kind of shared Oneness. We found a god that was God, one we could really all live with, one that had our backs and allowed us to make the choices only we could make.

Continuous change...

This takes genuine, life-long openness to Good. It often means giving up what we think we know about ourselves to become more of who we really are, and by extension, who others are as well. It means finding that we can’t control everything but that all of us are part of continuous change. It means growing into the “within the within-ness,” and knowing without always understanding why we know or how.

Mind stretchers...

Don’t get me wrong. The princes, palaces and parking places were wonderful. Still are. To this day whenever I am driving, a little light goes on in my mind that says,” just the right spot.” These were the first mind stretchers, but they are just the tip of the iceberg.

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You might also enjoy "On Grace"

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

On Spirit as Flow, Spirit as Form


I believe that one of the biggest mistakes we tend to make in trying to live more spiritual lives is the attempt to divorce ourselves from forms and conditions. Somehow we have tended to see these as “unspiritual,” and this, I believe, is counterproductive thinking. How can essential Spirit find a means of expression if It cannot use a form through which to express? And would we want to think of forms and conditions as if they were really devoid of Spirit? This would make them all second rate and unlovely. Who would want to think of a sunrise as less than inspiring? Or a work of art as less than admirable? Or an excellent achievement as not worthy of relevance? What would be the pleasure of living on earth?

Stand before our own burning bush...

It may be so that some spiritual revelations are ineffable. They unfold within us; they bring a light to the mind, and we, like Moses, may stand before our own burning bush, which we stumble to interpret. Nevertheless eventually all our lights to the mind make their ways into visible, sometimes tactile, means of expression if we are to apprehend them at all. And one person’s light can be ushered through many means so that other lives may be touched by it. How often have we seen this?

All is Spirit and nothing is not...

Perhaps we are just splitting hairs when we quarrel over what is spiritual and what is not. Perhaps we are more correct when we realize that all is Spirit and nothing is not. It may be true that we allow some conditions to be made from ignorance and malice, but self correction is an option. Always was, always is. When we understand the flow of Spirit within us, we will naturally give It the means to create better, more beautiful, forms.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

On Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary People


From time to time when well-known people who have done extraordinary things in their lives die, I will include them in a blog. I don’t normally do this when I am personally close to a person but today I make an exception, for I am reminded that sometimes extraordinary people live simply in ordinary lives. I am thinking of Joel who died very unexpectedly in a climbing accident recently. He was in the age range of our sons and so the thought rushes up, “Wait! He’s not supposed to die before we do.” Of course we know it doesn’t always work that way, but it should. Because of our sons’ associations with him from boyhood on, we have known Joel for over thirty years, which is a big chunk in a lifetime.

Absolutely remarkable...

Joel was a landscape gardener and sometimes for his friends, he was a simple gardener. I smile when I remember that he just snuck us some cuttings from one of his yards, so we can think of their plantings as “Joel’s place.” Funny what we will do sometimes to keep those we love in sight. Joel was simply Joel; he was not like anyone else nor did he try to be, and he was as unselfconscious as anyone I have ever known. He wore his life like a Badge of Honor, as if it were a magnificent bequest.  True, he lived an ordinary life, but how he lived it made his place absolutely remarkable. The thought of the loss of his presence seems at times almost unbearable. Not to hear him booming a greeting to me while working on the yard next door seems unthinkable. Soon we will celebrate his life…outdoors, of course, where he loved to be.

Extraordinary passion...

Over time we will all make our peace with the absence of Joel’s presence in our own ways. We may never get over his passing, but we will get used to it, and perhaps we can live our lives with more extraordinary passion, much as Joel did, in honor of his having come our way.

An old song flits up from my memory, and, like the singer, I feel like crying a river, but I won’t. I think Joel would feel a bit embarrassed.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

On Rituals

When it comes to the world of institutionalized rituals, it doesn’t get any better than Catholicism. With the vestments, bells, gongs, candles, incense and the choir, if the believer is following the ways of the rituals, he is engaging in the “the step before devotion,” as a friend once called it. It’s true. If the participant is really involved in the ritualistic calls, she cannot fail to be drawn inward to inner contemplation. The Muslims aren’t too far behind either. The charismatic call of the muezzin brings the worshippers to their knees five times a day in prayer, all so that the believers may turn to Allah.

Any number of small, sweet rituals...

But if we’re not into formalized rituals, don’t think that it does not play a part in our lives. There are any number of small, sweet rituals that get us out of bed in the mornings. Families follow certain rituals as they arise so that they may get the day going. Those who quietly meditate often do so at the same time of day, and mind and body prepare for it. Even the church I ministered to, as devoid of formal ritual as it was, had an order that people could count on, and I noticed that some people did not arrive at the start of the service; they arrived at the place in the service that they was important to them, and they knew when it would take place.

Small "salvations" to be found...

I think there are actually some small “salvations” to be found in daily rituals. If a sudden shock comes along or a great sense of loss, our inclination to turn to the next order helps to stabilize us so that we can regain our footings. I have watched people fight to be able to do this.

They are to be cherished...

And then, there are private rituals that are dear only to us…the piece of chocolate after breakfast (or maybe before), the wearing of a favorite scarf when we are doing something important, reading the paper in the morning (if we still handle paper!). I think these are little touches that help us find ourselves during the day…and they are to be cherished.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ode to Roxanne

As I write this blog I am looking at my great, green plant as it hangs from a ceiling hook in front of my bay window. Actually I should say that she hangs from a hook because my great green is a female. Named Roxanne. She is an oak leaf ivy with spreading, many-fingered leaves that are now beginning to cascade downward toward the floor. When I saw Roxanne at the nursery a few months ago, I knew she was female, neat, tidy, newly planted, and she silently sighed, “Buy me.” So I did, and I also did something I've never done before, at least not in the world of green things. I gave her a name. Roxanne seemed just right for such a youthful, well-formed little thing.

Bring on the good stuff...

At this point Roxanne has grown to three times her original size. Who wouldn’t with so much ambient light and loving care? Any other kind of female would be upset at such a rapid increase in fatness, but not Roxanne. She just keeps silently commanding, “Bring on the good stuff.” We have become good buddies, Roxanne and I. I talk to her every day, tell her how beautiful she is, and she just smiles…and grows.

They will thrive on our bossy care...

The reader might well ask: Is there any practical or even subtle value to this blog? Maybe not, but on the other hand, it does let those of us devoted to control know that there are some living things we can absolutely have our way with...green plants, for one thing.  Green plants will not give us any flack, no matter what we do. They will not get all upset because we are "in their space."  They will not have a hissy fit because we are smothering them.  Actually if we really know what we are doing, they will positively thrive on our bossy care on their behalves. They resist nothing and reward all and who else will do that? (Roxanne, by the way, is a who, not a what.)

Conrol freaks, take heart!

So…control freaks, take heart! There are some things we can utterly control without leaving behind a trail of broken bodies. Just ask Roxanne.

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