Archives for category: Spirituality

For several weeks now I have been trying to think of the word “focus” whenever I go up or down steps. That must sound like a very strange thing, and you may be wondering what does that mean? I will try to explain. Since about mid-September my leg has been trying to heal from a bad fall that resulted from trying to climb up on the concrete edge of a flower bed that runs the length of my house. I had just awakened and needed to see if my window was damaged from something I heard hit it the night before. I wasn’t fully awake, and just started to climb up to the window’s height like I have always climbed up on things.

This was were “judgment” or “critical thinking” should have stepped in but did not. My body no longer has the balance or strength it used to have, so in trying to climb up I started falling. I had a choice—-I could land on my back on the hard ground or I could stop my fall by hitting the flower bed edge with my left calf. I chose the latter.

I probably escaped a concussion, broken hip, or broken back (I have osteopenia, the pre-cursor to osteoporosis). But what happened instead turned out to be a real nightmare. I hit hard enough that I thought I would look down and find a bad bruise starting to develop. Instead, I found a bad cut that would not stop bleeding. I had discovered that concrete edges can be very sharp.

The bleeding would not stop when I applied pressure so I ended up calling 911. The responders were wonderful, and they got me to the emergency room. They started an IV and measured my vital signs on the way there. My blood pressure was something like 82/64—-weird enough and low enough to scare this retired nurse who usually has hypertension. I realized that I just might be going into shock. The doctor who saw me in the emergency room “sewed me up”—–it took 35 stitches, some of them internal. The doctor said I was very lucky I did not break my leg. The hospital billed me for surgery.

My wound has still not fully healed even though October and November have come and gone…..but it is very close to being so. I’ve had to cushion the wound all this time so that I would not bump something and open it back up. Being a diabetic I am most grateful for the slow healing; the alternative would have been much worse.

So, I have been trying to discover a way to remind myself to “think” before I try to do something that seems relatively easy for the body I used to have and, most importantly, to pay attention to my balance which has emerged as a major culprit in my tendency to fall. I finally thought of the word “focus.” My sister who works with special needs children tells me they teach those who cannot accurately judge where their body is spatially located to “plan their motor.” I tried that. All I could visualize was a motor in a car. That didn’t help.

So I bought a “flower-power” quad cane (see photo) when my doctor told me to start using a cane on a regular basis. I have been using it, but sometimes I do not either because I forget to pick it up or I don’t want to go in a store with it and forget to pick it up before I move on. Now, I try to think “focus” when I recognize and react to anything that might negatively interact with my balance problems (mild vertigo) or my problems with three dimensional perception. I don’t always remember the magic word “focus”—-but it is helping. Hence the title for today’s blog, “Focus, Focus. Hocus Pocus.”

The magic comes with my growing ability to accept myself as I am in the current moment. The “aging challenges” have been difficult for me to accept because my subconscious seems to create a constant self-image of someone who is thirty or more years younger. Oddly enough, this morning’s sermon in church was about the need to transition—– the need to work at accepting change and to realize even the specific change we’ve adapted to can also change instantaneously.

Today’s gospel reading in church was from Luke 21: 25-36 in which Jesus says, among other things, that “Heaven and earth will pass away.” This is the first time I heard that heaven would also pass away. What did that mean? So, on the way out of church I asked my priest. She explained that there is no one answer to that, and that it is an invitation to go within and find out what it means. She further explained that when I have discovered my answer to let go of it and keep searching as things will always be changing.

I have never thought of heaven as passing away even though I have come to belief that heaven is a state within each soul where God, love, and compassion dwell—–and from which our thinking and actions can, with our permission, be guided so that things may be “on earth as in heaven.” Of course, due to my Ozark upbringing, I still tend to think of heaven as a destination as well as a way of being in constant relationship with our Creator. To be honest, no one really knows what “heaven” is, and every one must search out that changing meaning for themselves.

I have thought of myself as an “evolving elder” for quite some time now, and I am just beginning to understand that means both my physical state and my spiritual state. I am focusing at this moment on trying to comprehend that change will always be active both within and outside myself—-as well as throughout the eternity of an ever-changing individually perceived heaven. All the different change theories I taught during my time as a professor have either just taken on new meaning or need to be discarded. The one constant that is, has, and will be is the need to “let go” and accept a change that will, in turn, change. The twelve step concept of “Letting go and Letting God” is not only a lesson for the present but for eternity.

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This is one of those times when I need to write and write fast in order to get my fleeting thoughts typed before they fly away. Twelve Step folks teach us to let go of resentments, and many of us pray to be forgiven as we have forgiven others.
I went to church this morning for the first time in months because I have had multiple physical problems. I have sat through the familiar words of my church’s communion process many times, but this time something different happened in my head. Maybe it was because I’d just heard and felt a sermon about how God loves us and we need to love others. This was accompanied by the statement that our minds have their own “auto-correct” in place that can blind us to what is actually true and real.
As I was praying I suddenly thought, “Oh, My God! I need to forgive God!” Now, I know to some that may sound blasphemous, but perhaps it won’t seem so ridiculous if I explain the “auto-correct” I’ve been wrestling with for decades. I basically view father figures as authoritarian and harsh, and, in fact, I have experienced moderate physical  and non-physical “abuse” as a child and non-physical abuse as an adult in my last marriage. My “auto-correct” has been set on the concept of male-driven abuse for most if not all of my life.
You may be asking yourself, “What does this have to do with needing to forgive God?” The “auto-correct” God I encountered in religion that took root in my heart and mind caused me to view Christ’s crucifixion as a father’s child-abuse of His son. When I considered the crucifixion in terms of the trinity it began to seem like self-abuse and/or suicide. I have had years of trouble reconciling these automatic “mental reflexes” with the God whom I know has been loving, kind, and forgiving to me as well as giving me the gift of multiple miracles.
Fortunately, I have been working on accepting that God and the Trinity gave the gift of Christ’s crucifixion to save people who could not be saved from the darkness of their own self-centered being without such a gift—given much as a kidney donor would give a kidney to save a life. When I am being honest I can even admit I have, in the past, been just such a person with a tendency to return to that level if I do not stay in daily contact with the loving God of my choosing.
The foundation planted in my mind regarding unconditional love and my personal auto-correct allowed my mind to realize I have been viewing the crucifixion through the distorted lens of my perception and personal experience——and that I needed to accept it for what it was. I don’t particularly have to like it, but I do need to accept the gift was love-based and start to accept it with gratitude and humility. To do this, I have to “forgive” the concept of God I have carried with me and to replace it with a more realistic concept. Doing this frees me to humbly accept a gift of love and lets me be more able to share love and compassion.
I realize this “paradigm shift” won’t happen overnight and that it will actually be an ongoing process I will need to work on for the rest of my life. What happened to me during prayer in church this morning allowed me the freedom to forgive my “auto-correct” perception of God as a harsh, authoritarian, and punitive. As I prayed, I looked up at the ceiling into a light that blinded me and thought, “God I forgive you. Thank you for loving and forgiving me.” It felt as if a breath of fresh air flowed through the church and into my heart. I hope I can hang on to that very real and meaningful feeling.

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Photo by K. Farwell

It is 2:10 PM in the afternoon with a heat index of 108.  At approximately 2:00 PM I heard a sound I have never heard in this neighborhood before. It bothered me, and it bothered my dogs. It sounded like the “Hound of Baskerville” baying —you know, the one in that old Sherlock Holmes black and white movie. I opened the blinds to try to locate the source of the racket; no dog could be seen. Then I looked at my watch. My best friend’s funeral had just started at 2:00 PM. The noise stopped, but I feel like howling and baying too. Because of my health, my age, the heat, and the long distance involved, I decided not to drive to my friend’s funeral. I am there in spirit as I type. In a way,  I am relieved not to be attending because it will make it easier to remember my friend alive, vibrant,  and full of spiritual energy.

I do not think the howling, baying dog was a coincidence. My friend spent many years working with rescue dogs and in shelters. I am sure her pets which were put in a no-kill shelter miss her as much as I do, if not more.  She was the “go to person” in my life whenever I had a medical question or a dog question…..and she was the one I could and did talk to about any and everything at least several times a week. For instance, last night I made a memorial donation to Wounded Warriors in her honor (she was a Navy nurse), and  the form I was filling out asked for a family member’s address.  I was stuck—–my friend was always the one I called for information about addresses and birthdays.

I was involved in a long theological discussion at a bible study group last Sunday, We discussed the meaning of resurrection, the importance of one’s body, and the role one’s spirit plays at and after the time of death, etc. I shared I did not believe one’s soul, spirit, or body can be divided into separate entities—-that we are holistic beings created by God in this life and will still be following our death. I probably didn’t say it quite that clearly, but I think my friends in the discussion understood what I was trying to say. My friend is still my friend  whether she is in this world or the next, this universe or a parallel universe, or is in the exact shape she had on this earth or one a bit different once her transition is finished.  The difference is, however,  I cannot see her, have a conversation with her (at least one in which she answers me), touch her, or enjoy her company as I once did. That hasn’t stopped me from talking to her a lot, and at times I can almost hear/feel her answer.

I am writing this for myself as well as to and for my friend. Maybe I just want to get my mind off the funeral, but I think what I really want this writing to accomplish is to make some sort of order out of my jumbled thoughts and bruised emotions…..to let my friend know somehow how much I still love  her and always will.  Today’s photo is a reminder of how much she loved Noah’s Ark and rainbows and God’s promises.  As always, I will close with God bless and keep you…..and with a big thank you to God for keeping and blessing me at this time when I feel like I need it most.

Busy Bee July 2015

Photo by K. Farwell

It is that time of year when everyone is taking a trip of some sort; after all, it is almost August.   I’ve spent several days now trying to figure out another kind of trip that for lack of a better word, I will call life review. I just happened to mention to a friend a couple of days ago that I’ve been having a series of dreams all about traveling through the different times of my life and meeting/dealing with people from my past. Surprisingly, she related she had been having similar dreams.

When I first retired, most of my dreams were about working. Now they seem to be about traveling—–always trying to get others as well as myself somewhere,  either to visit or to find a suitable place to live. Then, too, the setting is often in houses I’ve lived in before at different times in my life.  Sometimes, the setting is a hotel where I am staying for a conference only I never make it to any of the meetings because I am always interacting with  or trying to help others who are with me in the dream. Sometimes I am stuck with friends or family in an airport or on an airplane.

I just realized today all these settings have a common denominator—–and that is my interactions with the people in my dream. The people are mostly from my past, and I think the interactions I have with them is about working out conflicts I still have about those past relationships. For instance, last night I dreamed of being with both my mother and my father at different times in the dream. What stands out about my interaction with my mother is that I found myself hugging her tightly while I told her how much I loved her…..something I never did enough of in reality. My father is usually in the background but last night, he was enjoying a driving/touring trip with me and laughing and joking.

These activities seem simple enough, but my heart feels like I have gotten “closure” from those dream interactions I would not otherwise have gotten. Now I know my mother knows how much I love her, and I know I am beginning to come out of the grieving process I’ve been going through since my father died last October. Other interactions have been with previous spouses or roommates and friends from the past…..interacting with them as I now am rather than as  I was during the time I spent with them. These interactions are rather non-remarkable, and that in itself is a small miracle because in my past I would meet some of  those folks in my dreams and unload pent up angry feelings on them.

Perhaps Maslow was going through a similar aging phenomena late in his career  when he realized there was a stage beyond self-actualization—-the one of *self-transcendence where one transcends self and ego and focuses on serving others. “At the level of self-transcendence, the individual’s own needs are put aside, to a great extent, in favor of service to others and to some higher force or cause conceived as being outside the personal self.”

After reading about this little-known construct of Maslow’s this afternoon, I think these recurrent dreams are allowing me to re-visit past relationships and  life experiences within the context of my newly emerging  self-transcendent perspective.  This is work my soul needs to do. It is a final “cleansing of self” to support my  evolving transcendence . It doesn’t matter that I never ever get anywhere in my dreams, that I am never on time, or that I never seem to finish anything——it is all about the journey and helping one another. God bless and keep you.

* Mark E. Koltko-Rivera, “Rediscovering the Later Version of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Self-Transcendence and Opportunities for Theory, Research, and Unification”, in: Review of General Psychology 10(2006)4, pp. 302-317; quote from pp. 306-7.  (http://academic.udayton.edu/jackbauer/Readings%20595/Koltko-Rivera%2006%20trans%20self-act%20copy.pdf)

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Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

I once heard someone say, “If you work the twelve steps everybody else gets better.” Now, to many that may not make sense. But think about it. Alcoholics Anonymous’ twelve steps are guidelines for living a spiritual life that focuses on bettering one’s attitudes and behaviors.  Often, people learn to stop judging others and to instead focus on changing themselves. In that light, it makes sense that “others get better” as such changes in people often lead to positive changes in those around them.

One aspect of AA’s program focuses on letting go of resentments…..a challenge that may take days, years, or decades.  I recently had something happen that validated my getting better in terms of how I think and react to my ex-husband. What happened was this: During a long drive home from vacation,  I made a rest stop at a rural Wal-Mart. As I got out of my car, I noticed a man in bib overalls bent over the open tailgate of a pickup. He was putting ice into a cooler. He was a dead ringer for my ex—–whom I have not seen or spoken to since our divorce over twelve years ago. Only, if this was really him, he’d gained enough weight to equal that which I’ve lost. I did not want to stare and/or draw attention to myself so I looked the other way and walked by.

My internal dialogue went something like this: “I could speak to him and know for sure if it is him. But then after all this time, what is there left to say? ‘Gee, you’ve gained weight. How are you?’ No, I’ve let go of most of my resentment so I do not need to do that. I could stop and say something friendly about the weather.  On the other hand, I need to take care of myself in this situation and just keep walking.” I kept walking.

It felt good not to act on residual resentment, and it felt even better to take action that protected myself. I do not know if it was really my  ex or,  if it was, if he was really “better” or not. That is not important. What is important is my attitude and action. Without the step work and “resentment work” I’ve done I would have probably reacted differently—–perhaps in a way that triggered a negative response from another human being. I still have resentment work to do, but I am pleased with my progress. Thanks for letting me “free associate” about my Wal-Mart parking lot escapade.

I hope everyone is having a safe and happy fourth of July. My two rescue dogs are in thunder shirts; the sounds of fireworks in the neighborhood are driving them crazy. Sometimes, all that works to calm them is to stack all four of my dogs on top of me in my recliner. We will be happy when the celebrating is over. Alas, I have grown up and lost the sense of fun and magic the fourth of July held for me as a child.  That does not, however, keep me from wanting  others to experience that fun and magic. May God bless and keep you.

Church Earring

Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

I’ve been working this week on practicing making earrings—-a artisan skill two good friends of mine have been trying to teach me. I’m finding my vision, depth perception, and making my fingers work on small, precise tasks quite challenging.   Fine motor skills is something I do not have; I think crocheting is as close as I will get.

Working on practicing making earrings has been a good lesson for me in accepting humility and the fact that I will never make a perfect pair of earrings. It won’t be that hard to leave an intentional glitch in the finished product so that the “Great Spirit” will not be offended.  Through the years I have had lots of experience being forced to realize I am not God, and this is an excellent way to “hammer that message home” to my “wanna be” ego.

I am having the most trouble mastering the technique of wire wrapping—-you know, those coils of wire that go from the top of your “bead” to the place where the earring fastens on to ear wire. Probably because that is precisely the point  in the earring making process where hand and eye coordination are the most important.  My left thumb is full of small puncture wounds from “wire pressing.”  So much so that  I had to take  a break and not try to wire wrap yesterday.

I am fighting allergies and asthma today, so I am not attending church this morning. I decided to try making another pair of earrings. This time what happened was kind of different. I found myself placing the gem stones in an order representative of a church, steeple, and cross. My mind kept remembering how proud I was of myself when I learned how to do the “hand trick” that went with the words, “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open up, and there’s all the people.” You place your hands together with the first, second, and third fingers intertwined  and bent inward  while your thumbs held together at the front become “the door” and your “pinky fingers” stick up and meet at a point to make the steeple.  When you open your hands up, your hidden fingers are the “people” spoken of in the rhyme.

When I was four, things were, for the most part simple. I found joy and pleasure in the smallest of things; there were no digital toys to play with, no television, and no elaborate toys. Pounding piano keys  was fun,  lying on your back in the yard looking up at the shapes made by clouds in the sky was fun, and blowing soap bubbles through a empty wooden thread spool was fun.  The plastic “deep sea divers” that came “free in the cereal boxes” that were fun because if you filled the kitchen sink up with water, packed baking soda into the base of the plastic figures and placed them on the bottom of the sink, the figures “miraculously”  came straight up to the top of the water.

The church game signified what would become the pivotal point of my life. I didn’t know it at the time, but my spiritual evolution would end up strongly anchored in just such a church. Granted, I had to find a church that would accept my liberal way of thinking and living.  Now I spend  part of Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday  at my church doing various things that I hope will make a positive difference.  One of the things I have learned along the way is that “church” is not confined to being inside a building; in fact, in my opinion, “church” is occurring less and less in the confines of a building and, hopefully, more and more in the hearts and actions of people outside the walls of the church.

Enough rambling. Wherever you are I hope you experience love and peace. I hope that you can have a rest from “heavy and deep thinking” so that you can exercise your imagination and find joy in simple things. The good news is we don’t have to be children to do so. All of God’s creation is waiting for you, and you don’t want to miss it. God bless and keep you.

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Ever have one of those days when it seems like things just are not going right? Yesterday, I walked into my house  after being gone for a few hours and was greeted by my dogs with love and affections as per usual. However, all of the sudden there was a different sound in the house. The dogs started barking, and I started walking around trying to locate the sound. It sounded like rushing water at times and at others like a cutting, buzzing sort of sound. It would quiet; then it would start up again.  It was quite loud, and it was loudest in my bathroom. It seemed to be coming from the wall behind my bathroom sink. I checked the faucets—they worked, water flowed. I checked under sink and found no leak. I checked my toilet’s functioning,  and it was fine.  I walked down into the basement to make sure everything there was okay, and there were no leaks dripping down into the basement. In desperation, I finally called a friend who helps me out with hand man jobs around my house and let him listen to the “racket” over my speaker phone. He told me not to worry; that it sounded like calcium was probably blocking the flow of water due to recent rain. I had visions of water damming up behind my bathroom wall ready to explode out and flood everything.

I tried to ignore the noise, and I even worked on fixing an office chair. It had a loose arm-rest that needed screwed on tighter with a small Phillip’s screwdriver. I turned the chair over on its side and tightened up the screw. Then I tried to lift the chair back up on its legs. Of course, I used the arm rest to lift the chair, and the entire arm rest, tightened screws, and all broke off in my hand.  I was halfway ready to entertain the idea of Gremlins running amuck in my house trying to do whatever mischief they could just to irritate me.

The noise continued to be bothersome.  It was like having a dentist’s drill constantly drilling in my bathroom. I tried drowning the noise out with television. That didn’t work. Then, I finally got the great idea of shutting the bathroom door. That made the sound at least bearable, and, lucky for me, the door managed to stay on its hinges.

A friend came over to help me work on setting up my  “Kathy’s Warm Fuzzies” website (https://sites.google.com/site/kathyswarmfuzzies/) where I will be selling items I crochet (shawls, cowls, hats, doilies, mandalas, scarves, afghans, etc.) as well as earrings I make.  We were able to work with the background noise, but when we finished, my friend helped me, once again, to try to find the source of the noise that had been going on for at least three hours by that time.

She found a plastic tray that was up against my bathroom wall, and, in the tray, she found a battery-operated toothbrush I had even forgot I had.  And, yes, it was the toothbrush buzzing away and vibrating everything on the tray up against the wall that was making all the racket. I am pretty sure God got a good laugh out of that one——He and the ghost who turned the toothbrush on in the first place.

What’s the spiritual point of all this? Well, when I feel on edge, and, yes, anxious, and am unable to ascertain the reason, it is important that I “keep on keeping on”—–and that I let friends help me as they can often notice what I don’t. I think that is how God works. When I turn things over to him in prayer, the “solution” to whatever is bothering me, identified or not, occurs. And it usually occurs when I get myself and my stubbornness out of the way and become receptive to help from God and others. Oh, yes, it helps to have a sense of humor too! God bless and keep you.