Tuesday, October 21, 2014

On Crossing the Rubicon

History buffs will remember an epic decision made by Julius Caesar during the struggle for power in the early Roman Empire. In the year 49 B.C.E., while Caesar was Governor of Gaul, he chose to move his army across a small river named the Rubicon, which was on the border of Gaul and Italy. At that time it was against Roman law for him to move out of his territory. In fact it was treasonous and certain to cause bloodshed between Caesar’s factions and his rival, Pompey’s. Nevertheless, after much thought, he made the choice; the die was cast, and the advance of the Roman Empire was forever changed.

...no going back...

Today’s history has given this episode great metaphoric meaning for us. Today when we “cross the Rubicon,” it means that we have made a decision where there is no going back. We are at the point of no return. To be sure, many crossings are no big deal, and we make thousands of little ones all through our lives. There is a point of no return when we choose to turn right against a red light. There is a point of no return when we choose to drive across a busy bridge. We never think much of the implications of such decisions, and we don’t have to. They normally don’t make that big an impact.

You cannot become an un-parent...

However, we will cross some Rubicons that really are life changing and have great impacts. People who emigrate to another country enter into a great unknown. People who decide to get married and carry through the act are changing their lives forever, even if the marriage does not prevail. People who become parents, either through choice or carelessness, have crossed a Rubicon where there is no going back. You cannot become an un-parent, even if you release the child to others. This is an act and a memory that always leaves its mark.

a Rubicon worth thinking about...

We know there are many acts, choices and moves that are negligible. Their results do not matter much, but when we bring an entire piece of ourselves into a choice that will alter the flow of life as we know it, this is a Rubicon worth thinking about. Will we be willing to take on what we have set in motion?

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

On M.S. U.

I have enjoyed some wonderful opportunities to hear the delightful Edwene Gaines, consistent prosperity presenter and great adherent of a life of commitment and purpose. I remember a delicious occasion when she charmed an audience by saying that we all have letters after our names. Whether we have B.A. Degrees, M.A. Degrees…or none of these…we all carry the invisible letters, M. S. U….Makes Stuff Up!  Of course we all laughed, but we got the point as well. In other words we are not only busy living our lives, we are also inventing them! We tell stories on a regular basis, sometimes about others, but more often about ourselves. Not only do we shape the ways in which we want to be perceived, we can also have a very poor perception of ourselves to begin with, and this does not bode well for a spiritual being trying to inhabit a healthy, human life. How can a person be confident or at ease with himself if he thinks he is broken at the start? We may not be living so firmly under St. Augustine’s doctrine of original sin any more, but somehow many people have come to see themselves as unworthy.

Most damaging of stories...

In my mind a sense of unworthiness is one of the biggest and most damaging of stories anyone could ever make up about him or herself. Sometimes we have help, if not through church canon, then certainly through the misguided messages we get from people with authority over us…parents sometimes, teachers, bosses, people we think know more than we do…people who cannot know us because they are not who we are.

No one and nothing is left out...

If the belief in Universal Integrity and Wholeness means anything, it must mean that nothing and no one is left out of the pristineness of the Creative Process…and this means us. If somewhere along the way we have whipped ourselves over some phony flaw, we need some good healing, and we need it now. Let no more time be spent dribbling away our precious spiritual gifts through self-invented short circuiting.

No more M. S. U...

Talk it away; pray it away; let it become the no-thing it always was. No more M. S. U.!

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

On Wonderful Me

One recent morning when my mind was in neutral, a cute little patter song from the 1950’s floated up from memory… first recorded by Nat King Cole… that went like this:

     I was walkin’ along, mindin’ my business
     When out of an orange-colored sky,
     Flash! Bam! Alakazam!
     Wonderful you came by…

Imagine this with one of the 50's bouncy tunes, and you’ve got a winner. And as you know, once silliness gets started, it gets contagious, so pretty soon these incautious words came to me:

     I was standin’ around, checkin’ the mirror
     When to my own image I was steered.
     Flash! Bam! Alakazam!
     Wonderful me appeared!

And why not? Why not sing to ourselves the beauty of our own spirit? Not long ago Religious Scientists were enjoying their own little song:

     I love myself the way I am.
     There’s nothing I need to change.
     I’m beautiful and capable.
     There’s nothing to re-arrange.

Shouldn’t we be singing and humming these little ditties to ourselves regularly? Shouldn’t we be pulling the threads of lightness and joy from our spirit and letting them spill out in front of us? Most news can be pretty negative unless we search for stories of people who are bringing their gifts to the world…caring for others, creating good tech programs that assist people in better living, bringing a cheerful greeting to people we meet, as simple as that may seem. Our outflow of love as smiles, words of encouragement and deeds is the consistent gift we can bring to a sometimes very sorry world by our simple choices to do so. There are so many unique things, small and large, that the wonderful me has to offer.

The mirror doesn’t lie.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

On Change

These days when I hear the word, change, I almost want to run and hide. Actually sometimes I do; I hang out in a favorite old book…not too serious…and enjoy familiar words for a while. But change is always there to meet me when my nose comes up for air. Bombs, bullets and ballistics crown the headlines; the newest technologies fill advertisement space; people die without our permission, and the thing I felt sure about yesterday may not greet me with today’s dawn.

Has it really come to this?...

I don’t resist change. That would be foolish. I would just like it to be a little more measured, a little more moderate. I would rather see a house remodeled than demolished by a gigantic earth mover gouging it to pieces. Charles Darwin once wrote that “it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent…It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” Has it really come to this? Does our species survival or simply our own integral sense of self depend on how much we embrace change and how little we resist it?  Perhaps.

The recognition that love heals...

I would like to think, though, that there are certain obvious spiritual qualities that can persist through all the shuffling of forms: The recognition that love heals, that kindness attracts and does not repel, that times of calm contemplation still bring out inner wisdoms more than fiddling with the newest gadget.

More than a quarter-inch thick...

Change is necessary to keep up and also to advance, no doubt, but bypassing the grand strokes that the past has taught is a waste of the foundations on which we stand. If we are to be more than a quarter-inch thick in spiritual integrity, we should remember that we contain great depths as well as surface brilliance.

The newest door down a long haul...

Change, yes, but along with the remembrance that it is just the newest door down a long hall of experiences and honed perceptions.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

On Caregiving

Giving care to a loved one is maybe not what we planned on, but more times than imagined, it is what we find ourselves doing. I have recently found myself in that position because of my beloved Victor’s structural needs and lessening mobility, and in some ways I found that I knew more than I thought I did and less than I thought I did. 

"as best I am able"

There are a few ways that we become caregivers: 1) We train for it as professionals, 2) We come into a personal relationship knowing in advance of special needs, 3) It develops over time when a once-hale person becomes physically compromised. I suspect for many of us it is #3 that applies as something we didn’t figure on, but here we are. For me, it was helpful that I attended a caregivers’ conference and discovered, among other things, a very important idea: It is just what it is, and I can only do “as best I am able,” as the conference leader taught us.

When approval is not forthcoming...

It is always encouraging when the person we care for gives approval, and I am blessed with this. No matter how out of sorts Victor may be, he gives unfailing thanks to me and to others who are on hand. This is not always the case, of course, and when approval is not forthcoming, we have to find other reasons for hanging in there. Love for and understanding the needs of the recipient help, as well as remembering that we are on hand to assist in, not take away, the experience that our loved one is engaged in. It is simply not ours to take on what someone is experiencing, and feeling guilty because we’re not taking away the pain or anguish will be self defeating. Actually the spiritually-minded person can include the situation as a spiritual practice by inviting a broadening of ourselves that lets us become aware of the depth of love we possess…more than we may know.

...Carve out patience...

What are the important things for the caregiver to remember? I think that, pragmatically speaking, self care should be high on the list. If the caregiver burns him or herself to ashes trying to do things completely and perfectly, they themselves can become ill. Times away so that we may set an inner "reset button" to keep frustrations from escalating are very important.  Otherwise what we do can become a slog, no matter how loving the participation.  And whatever we can do to carve out patience, do it! Borrow it; buy it; steal it; grow it through lots of consistent prayer and rest. These are some of the best gifts the caregiver can give the self.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

On Courage

Lately I have noticed some courageous deeds done by some unlikely folks, kids, as a matter of fact. The TV news recently told us of a nine-year-old who drove his snowmobile alone to find help for his injured father. And then there was a seventeen-year-old who pulled two people out of a dangerous surf. Noble, of course, and unexpected as such deeds are. No one expects to be called on suddenly to save a life, and maybe risk one’s own to do so.

Courage...comes in many guises...

Courage, though, comes in many guises, and some of the most important…and often the toughest…are the instances that arise within ourselves. Would it be considered brave, does it take courage to do some of the things we must do for ourselves, the things others may not know about? I think so. Certainly it takes a lot of heart fluttering to speak up for what we believe in, knowing we’ll get some push back.

Addicted to being right...

Then there is dealing with those things to which we are addicted, and I’m not just talking about substance abuse. Yes, there is that, which eventually becomes an obvious problem. But I’m thinking of the behaviors we form over time to protect us from ever looking inward. How many of us are addicted to being right all the time? How many of us throw up unsocial behaviors so others will not see how unsure we are? How many of us disrupt everything we don’t like by reacting in anger? Or blaming others? Or refusing to listen? How many of us can respond with equanimity when impending death faces us or someone we love? Some of these situations we can only put off but not avoid.

Life is basically good...

I really do believe that life is basically good, but no one ever said that living it would be easy.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

On Thinking Clearly

Turns out there is a whole lot more to thinking than just letting our minds throw up thoughts to us in a scattered manner that can beset us without rhyme or reason. Prof. Mark Muesse, teacher of Religious and Asian Studies at Rhodes College, during a course on meditation, made a distinction between what he called “skilled and unskilled” thinking. He suggested we have something to say about the kinds of thoughts we will work with. During the course of our lives, we have the ability to determine the ways in which we shall think about ourselves, others and the events of our lives. There are many questions we should ask in these regards: How shall I think about what is before me? Shall I get all upset and jump right into the confusion? Shall I resist? Shall I get angry? Shall I hold still a moment and observe rather than mindlessly act?

I can't help how I feel...

Some will say…I can’t help how I feel. Well, yes and no. We may have an immediate feeling that comes into the mind, but we do not have to continue with that feeling unless we allow ourselves to get lost in its sway. People who engage in mental/spiritual practices learn quickly that they can take charge of their thinking. They do not have to be torn to pieces by thoughts and feelings that just “run on.” They can slow down a train of thought; they can bring focus to areas of interest, and they can make a place for times of quiet, restful considerations…ideas that aren’t consumed with getting but simply being.

We do not need to leap...

There is a pragmatic flow to Buddhist thought that knows we are to be active in this world, and there is also the flow that allows for quiet acceptances and observation of the passing stream. Things come to pass, they might say, and we do not need to leap into everything before us all the time.

Clear thinking…focused, heightened, guided...lets us know when to leap and when to take a pass.

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