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February 8 2014 001

Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

Reality Bite

Well, today is turning out to be a bit different than the routine Monday I expected. First, I paid mid-month bills, and read, yet again, the reminder that my car’s license tags needed to be renewed. So, I decided to be different this year and get all that “stuff” done early rather than at the last minute. For a change, I was able to find proof of having paid county property tax for the past two years. That meant all I had to do was get a vehicle inspection done. So, off I went to get the inspection. As inspections go, it was relatively quick and painless.

So, I found myself standing in line and get my license plate renewed. While I am waiting, I decided I’d better check my driver’s license while I was there. Sure enough, in a couple of months it was due to expire. I decided to get my driver’s license renewed while I was there.  That meant I got to stand in another line. I am “vision challenged” so I always try to listen to those standing in front of me “reading the letters” for the eye exam. I don’t think of it as cheating. I rationalize that I am “studying for my exam.”

I have another trick I always use when having my eyes tested by the state. Since my eyes do not like to work together and my right eye is my “good eye” I always shut my left eye and take the test with my right eye. To my dismay, that didn’t work this time. I read the line I saw, and was asked to read the letters in the column on the far left. I said there was a column at the far left with numbers in it, and the person testing me said, “No, the column to the right of that.” I said that column was blank. She said, “No, it is not blank.” So I said a quick prayer and  opened my left eye. Magically, letters appeared in the column that had been blank,  and I had no trouble reading them with both eyes open.  Thankfully, they decided I could see well enough to drive .

Next,  I got to have my photo taken. I had not planned on having my photo taken when I left the house, so I was dressed in jeans and a tee-shirt—-and I hadn’t combed my hair since I got up.  I had washed my face, but I had done nothing to enhance my appearance makeup wise.

I posed for my “photo, ”  and the camera  flash “went off” early—at the count of two rather than three. Consequently,  I knew this photo would be one I would not like because I would look a bit startled. But that expectation did not prepare me for the shock I got when I looked at the copy of the photo that would be on my new driver’s license. They had handed me a picture of my mother. I wanted to give it back to them and tell them they’d made a mistake.

I am trying to consider this morning as an excursion into “reality therapy.” My program of recovery tells me acceptance is the answer. I need to accept I look exactly like my mother looked at this age, and, yes, I am “that age.”  I need to be grateful that I am alive. My ego needs to get over itself. I always think of myself as an evolving elder——and today I realized my mind has emphasized the word evolving and neglected to acknowledge and accept the “elder” part. Hopefully, today I have made progress in combating my character defect of “procrastination” and in acknowledging my character defect  of false pride. God bless and keep you.

005

Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

All of the sudden I feel driven to write. I have been involved in caring for my father these past two weeks, and multiple thoughts are racing through my mind trying to erupt. I find now that I am home I am perceiving things differently. Things I once took for granted seem unnecessary to me or at least somewhat strange and irritating. I just saw an interview of a person who is working on developing a robot programmed to think/become/be like a loved one so that death is “conquered.” I found it a bit creepy. The robotic voice would never remind me of a loved one—-and I will never believe a soul can be programmed into anything. God creates souls, and I believe we will be worse than those who tried to build the tower of Babylon if we try to infuse a soul into an inanimate object by programming it to respond “like a human.”  I also believe it is ludicrous to think a programmed robot can overcome death. That, too, is in God’s hands.

Now, on a more personal level, since I have been gone so long I have distanced myself from technology—-and, when I tried to connect my new I-Phone to my Wi-Fi, I typed in a password when it asked for a password. Come to find out,  AT&T requires a 10 digit number for that password and will accept nothing else no matter how many times you change your “password.”  Not knowing that, I entered my “link all your AT&T” stuff password, and it, of course, was the wrong one. Now I am denied access and the only choice I am being given is “dismiss.” I spent about an hour on an AT&T call to internet tech support, and I followed their final best advice at the end of that conversation and turned off my I-Phone and “re-booted” it. Of course it didn’t work, so I guess I’m off to the nearest AT&T store to see what they can do. During my call to  AT&T, I was told my address wasn’t in their system, and I had to remind them they sent my bills to my address—-this is just an example of the wonderful dialogue I got to enjoy during my wasted hour on the phone. I will take a bill with me to the AT&T store.

Oh, and the new I-Phone I have? It was a “forced-buy.” The old one stopped working—-literally went dead—- during the week I took care of my father in the hospital.  I needed the phone to keep everyone informed about his progress. The contract still had six months to go. AT&T sold me my first one for $1.50. The lowest “new one” I could buy at the AT&T store was around $500. I’ve worked in addictions for over forty-four years, and I know pushers give or sell the first addictive drug sample to the first time buyer for next to nothing and, once they are hooked, then the price goes up and up. I now consider AT&T to be the “pusher in the sky”—-they control my phone and my internet.

Well, I’ve vented. I feel better. Now I can go visit the AT&T store to see if someone there can fix my I-Phone so it will allow me to have another chance at entering a password—–without letting my anger erupt there.  I will be  just another tech addict visiting my local dealer.  May God bless and keep us all.

 

Stained Glass Window

Image courtesy of artur84w,/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sunday, sitting in church, a bit of wisdom being read from the bible flew straight into my heart as if it had been launched on an arrow meant only for me. It was from the fourth chapter of John, and the reading was about when Jesus had been given water by a woman who was drawing water from a well, and he, in turn, offered her the water of eternal life. I was familiar with that part of the scripture, but what caught my attention was what Jesus said to his apostles after the woman went to tell her neighbors about her encounter with the Messiah.
With the brief transition of “Meanwhile,” John next describes how the disciples urged Jesus to eat. The answers Jesus gave them astounded me: “I have food to eat you do not know about……My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.”
There it was. Words in black and white. Ancient words. Words full of wisdom. The words I need just now, just this moment to energize my efforts to eat only that which is healthy for me to eat. I have spent sixty years, give or take a few spent indulging my addiction without restraint, on one diet or another. The words describing my efforts at healthy eating may have changed over time from diet to food plan or from calories to ounces, but I have learned the only ingredient that gives these tools life and makes them effective is when I turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand him.
So, when people offer me something to eat, always with the best of intentions and with caring hospitality, and I decline their offer, I will probably say, “No, thank you, I’m a diabetic and I can’t eat sugar or flour” or just “No, thank you”—–but I will, I hope, think to myself, “I have food to eat you do not know about.” And, if I am spiritually fit that day, my thoughts will add that the focus of my life is doing God’s will.
When I allow myself to feel the love of God within and around me and quiet my thoughts so that my ego surrenders to that love, I am never hungry. To be honest, when I am practicing contemplative prayer, my stomach may growl or I may have a fleeting craving for one food or another, but those thoughts are allowed to immediately “float by” and are quickly replaced by my link to God’s love. And, as they say, that is “Priceless.”

Red Door

Image courtesy of  Pixomar/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today at a centering prayer meeting a question came up about why a particular church is often referred to as the “red door church.” The answer was that the women who often attend twelve step meetings there started referring to it as the “red door church” because it was easier to say than “Christ Episcopal Church.” From there, the conversation turned to the historical symbolism of “red door.” It was mentioned that historically, in England where Episcopal churches originated, a red door meant the building you were in was marked with red blood over the doorway to protect those within—–as when the angel of death spared a home during Passover. It was also mentioned that a red door is a sign of welcome in England and that perhaps in the United States this may have been misconstrued as also designating a house of “ill repute.” I searched the Internet for symbolism of a red door, and found out it meant “welcome,” sanctuary, good luck, and marked by the blood of Christ.

Obviously, depending on the culture, place, and time in which a “red door” is observed, the meaning can be varied. However, a common denominator seems to be it is a place where you are welcome and safe. So, today, my blog topic is “red door.” For me, I enter a place of welcome and safety whenever I go within to my “secret place” of spirituality—–that place where I meet God and consent to allowing his love to envelop  me. So, it makes sense that in that internal space I would feel welcomed and safe, and near to God. Symbolically speaking, I do not visualize entering a red door when I retreat into my spiritual core; however, I do often see pulsating patterns of varying shades of purple. I do not know why, but that has always been a symbol to me of entering “my spiritual space.”

Perhaps the entrance into one’s spiritual place, and particularly the color of the entrance,  is not what should be important to us. Instead, what should be of most importance to us is the fact that we are consenting to enter that spiritual space.  Period. Entering there, going there, being there, allowing love, wisdom, peace, and serenity to permeate our being———and realizing those qualities are always there in our inner being even when we “leave” that safe place and venture back into the reality of our external world is important. Once I am able to accept that, I am able to relate to my entire existence in a more spiritual manner. It becomes easier to see God in all that is around me and to react in a consenting manner that allows God’s love to exist, hopefully in a way that allows others to experience the love of God.

I hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful “spring day” and that the memory of it will carry you through tomorrow when we once again are supposed to experience “snow”——which I heard referred to as the new “four letter word” this morning. God bless and keep you.

February 8 2014 001

Photograph by K. Farwell

I got to try out my cleats this afternoon in a parking lot that was one solid sheet of ice…and, they worked! I took them off to go into the store, and stopped to replace them once I was outside and ready to work my way across the parking lot back to my car after I was through shopping. As I was replacing them, a man called out from the driver’s seat of his idling pickup, “Now that’s what I call a good idea!” I replied, “Yes, especially for clumsy folks like me….these are kind of like snow tires for ‘old ladies.'”

The surprise contained in that last paragraph is the way I implied I was an old lady; the phrase rolled off my lips without a moment’s hesitation. Back in the day,  any man that introduced me as his “old lady” was in for a stern reprimand from me. I did not consider myself “old,” and I was certain I did not belong to another human being. I had an even stronger negative reaction to being called “chick.”

Now that I’ll be 65 next week, I have had to accept that I am joining the “officially old” population in just a few days. I am viewing being “old” differently now; probably out of necessity. Now it is almost like an honor to have reached recognizable “elder hood.” Ah, in that term, lies the essence of my new found comfort. To me, being an elder means being a respected citizen venerated as a source of wisdom gained from having lived a full life. Turning 65 represents hitting a milestone—a time to celebrate all that I enjoyed  and survived along the way.  My comfort level with being an elder is based on the insight that real wisdom lies in my willingness to continue to evolve, learn, love and grow. Nothing has to stop—-except those things I have always needed to stop.

So, in a few days I will officially consider myself an elder. Yes, there will be “older moments”—-the kind I still don’t enjoy; most of those are an effect of physical aging. My human body is wearing out one day at a time. This thought makes me chuckle because I realize my body has been doing that one day at a time for my entire life. I am sure that even as a toddler and small child I had cells in my body that were wearing out and being replaced by new cells. This aging process is different though. It is not just about losing cells, it is about losing abilities, or at least partially doing so—-abilities that I have taken for granted up until now. I gratefully realize, however, that I have come out on the “winning side” of the bargain;  I have gained so much more than I could ever possibly lose in this experience called life. So what if I don’t move as fast or as gracefully as I once did? So what if I have periodic bouts of pain? My “lifetime of experience”  has certainly been worth the price. I even welcome the wrinkles that are becoming more pronounced on my face; to me they are mapping out the emotions I have experienced during my life time, and I am happy  most of my wrinkles are “smile wrinkles.”

Enough. I had no idea I’d end up writing today about my thoughts as I approach the age of 65. No telling where my mind will wander when I let it! Thanks for wandering with me. God bless and keep you.

Prescription

Image courtesy of  voraorn/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A frequently occurring mantra in my head this morning is, “Take a deep breath, relax. This too shall pass.”  I am in one of those moods where every little thing is irritating me. Actually, I am allowing it to do so. I have to consciously redirect my thoughts to what really matters—– that God is in control. Period. It does not matter that my television carrier stopped carrying the Weather Channel overnight. It does not matter that the university’s web-page generating program is tedious, onerous, and just about every other “bad adjective” I can think to attach to it. It doesn’t matter that I made a trip to the pharmacy last night for a medication that was promised to be phoned in and ready to be picked up by 6 PM last night yet was not there when I arrived to purchase it.

Now, looking at that list of grievances, I realize the things I have allowed to bother me are trivial. The bible verses I chose to post on my church’s Facebook page this morning for the daily bible reading say it all: “It was you who opened up springs and streams; you dried up the ever flowing rivers. The day is yours, and yours also the night; you established the sun and moon” (PSALM 74: 15– 16 NIV). I need to just relax and trust God. Just because things are not going my way does not mean God has abandoned me or anyone else or thing he created. Just because things don’t happen how or when I want them to doesn’t mean God is not in control—–or that he should have done things my way instead of his. Sometimes my psyche is like that of a demanding 2 year old. I don’t like that part of myself. Luckily, God loves all of me regardless of whether I am demanding or in a good mood or not.

Prior to working a twelve step program I would have used this “free floating irritability” triggered by my inability to control everything in my life exactly the way I want to as an excuse to indulge in one or several addictions. Now I know better. I don’t reach for a drink, drug, or sugar. I love myself too much to use my irritation as an excuse to hurt myself. Now I am forced to feel what I am feeling instead of numbing my feelings. I am learning to be that “witness” contemplative prayer is teaching me to be—–to practice a type of detachment so that I can observe what happens and my reaction without getting caught up in the drama of it. I can say to myself, “Well, you’re upset because you didn’t get the medication you need when you  need it. Live with it. Going without it a bit longer will not kill you. Get over yourself.”

And, today, that is my best advice to myself—“get over yourself!” It is not all about me or how I think or need things to be. What I can change is how I react to life. Sometimes it is about accepting my reaction, noting it, and getting on with the business of living, and, if I am lucky, I can even begin to realize that living is a gift and not a business at all. God bless and keep you.

Neon Looking Cross

Photograph compliments of Joshua  Burgard

Today a small personal miracle occurred. I found my “sacred word”—–one that is very powerful for me and one I will only use within the context of centering prayer (CP). Just thinking this word brings me almost instant relaxation and a sense of well being—-of being safe in oneness with Creator. I am not saying this word will always do that, but today it did. I am grateful.

This morning when I used this word in our 11th Step Centering Prayer group it felt like I had found my way home and God was there greeting me with a big bear hug full of unspeakable love. It wasn’t an “aha” moment  or even an epiphany. It was, however, a wonderful gift to have finally found  my own personal shortcut to feeling intimately loved in the present presence of God.

To speak about my experience in too much detail detracts from its magic and the depth of its meaning, so I will stop trying to explain. Instead of wondering how and why, I choose to accept this gift with the faith of a child. This gift of relationship with Creator in the present moment just is.

Santa

Image courtesy of vectorolie/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It is like waiting up on Christmas Eve hoping to finally catch a glimpse of Santa Claus and  finally encountering him for real 61 years later. I have had previous “moments of encounter” before, but they were not initiated by my  intentional voluntarily consent,  surrender, and acceptance. One was drug initiated back in the 60s, and the others have been crisis initiated.   Those encounters were just as real, and they were also awe-inspiring.  But knowing that I now have a way to let myself be caught up in the magic whenever I want without having to experience a crisis or swallow a hallucinogen is a very exciting discovery.

Enough blathering. I tend to do that when I am excited about something. I hope this Saturday is being good to you. May God bless and keep you.

candle

Image courtesy of foto76/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Meditation is a way to go within myself to a place that is both sacred and safe.  I would like to be able to easily access that sacred, safe space. I know it is there; I have been there—-but I can’t get there quickly. I still get tied up in the “how to” and sometimes miss my destination as a consequence. I know there is supposedly no wrong way, so why do I get bogged down in wanting to do it right?

I must, of course, not let “why” prevent me from “doing.”  One of my problems has been knowing what word to use as a sacred word to anchor my consciousness so that my mind doesn’t runaway with itself. I’ve tried bible phrases, names for God, and silly “password” type words. I think, in the terms of meditation rather than centering prayer, I am looking for a personal mantra that is custom made for my soul. Am I once again letting false pride and a self-centered need for perfection get in the way of me “letting go and letting God” accompany me in my attempts to quiet my mind so I can be in closer relationship with Creator?

I think the answer to that last question is probably, “Yes.” At times I have rebelled and tried to think of a “password” I can use to shock me out of my need for obsessing about attaining perfect prayerful centeredness. I have even jokingly told others a safe word can be as ordinary as the word “cheesecake.” This comment trivialized a sacred concept to the point that it was meaningless and no longer sacred. Sadly, my attempt at humor may have instead impeded a friend’s finding what supports her finding her own safe, sacred space.

I need to get off this perfection or nothing distraction. I don’t need it. I release it. I found something today that at least puts into words what I think I am searching for in my own “sacred word.”

I realize what  I want  is the kind of mantra described by Ram Dass (accessed 12/12/13 at: http://www.ramdass.org/mantras-2/) :

” Inside of me there’s a mantra going on that reminds me of who I am. It’s that place inside – that niche in the wall where the candle flame never flickers. Always bringing me right to my heart where we dwell eternally…… In Buddhism, the word mantra means “mind protecting”. A mantra protects the mind by preventing it from going into its’ usual mechanics, which often are not our desired or optimal conscious perspective. Mantra is a powerful spiritual practice for centering, and for letting go of strong emotions such as fear, anxiety and anger. The more you practice mantra the more it becomes a part of you. When you need it on the psychological level – for example when you feel afraid, using your witness, you notice the fear and replace the fear with your mantra. This will occur naturally once mantra becomes an established practice. Mantra is a daily reminder of the presence of the Divine within ourselves and all beings.”

Perhaps I’ve found a stepping stone that will lead me inward. Thank you for letting me ramble this morning. Please comment and share any thoughts my rambling may have triggered in your mind. I hope today will be a beautiful, blessed day for you. May God bless and keep you.

Potter Earth

Image courtesy of  dan/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mud on the Floor

Today’s quote:

“The early Native Americans did not believe in an afterlife, at least not in the Christian sense of souls living eternally in heaven or hell. However, they did believe strongly in immortality. When we die, they believed, our souls leave our bodies and enter a spirit world where they freely communicate with the spirits of other living things that have died throughout the history of the universe, plants and animals included. The only way souls could enter this spirit world was to become part of the earth, the ultimate place of origin. In Listen to the Drum, Robert Blackwolf Jones writes: “We are all born from Mother Earth and return to Mother Earth. The next time you get mud on your carpet, therefore, don’t panic. You’re just looking at yourself in the mirror before your time.”

Shimer, Porter (2004-09-01). Healing Secrets of the Native Americans: Herbs, Remedies, and Practices That Restore the Body, Refresh the Mind, and Rebuild the Spirit (pp. 28-29). Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Yes, that is mud on the potter’s hands in the photo. Perhaps it is all the mess my dogs have  tracked in  today every time they come back in from being out in all this snow, but today’s quote about mud being a reflection of ourselves really caught my eye.

Native American spiritual beliefs have always resonated with my soul. The above quote, however,  would have triggered a bit of anxiety in me were I to have read it in the past when I was younger and clinging desperately to the fundamental Christian beliefs I heard preached from the pulpit every Sunday.

During my spiritual journey of the past thirty years, I have come to believe in a “spiritual reality” which co-exists simultaneously as a parallel reality with physical reality. When I free my mind from the confines of physical reality by meditating, participating in centering prayer, or participating in a Native American sweat lodge, my mind directly connects with spiritual reality. I have learned that reality is always there;  I just need to be still, turn my “busy mind” off, and open up to an awareness of it. I am learning in centering prayer that the spirit of God is within me as well as surrounding me, and when I am able to focus my mind on consenting to that loving presence, I willingly enter God’s spiritual reality.

I believe all religions have their own way of knowing and seeking God—and of experiencing spiritual reality.  Somehow I find comfort in the humor of Blackwolf Jones; it is amusing to realize when I look at mud I am looking at a mirror-like reflection of myself from a different point on the continuum of time. The study of contemplative prayer is teaching me that God has no concept of time. God is “I am”…now, not yesterday, and not tomorrow, but eternally. I doubt God would have any trouble at all recognizing me in any form, be it mud or flesh and blood,  because I know it is my spirit that shares God’s eternity with him and not the package that houses my spirit.

Enough. You probably think by now being snowed in by the “winter storm of 2013” has gotten to my mind and caused all coherent thought to flee. Maybe it has. Leaving the confines of reality as I’ve known it so I can more consciously connect with God’s spiritual reality doesn’t scare me anymore. I have an eternal place in God’s spiritual reality—-one that is independent of the boundaries of time, space, and shape.

Please comment and share your thoughts about your experience of spiritual reality. Stay safe and warm. May God bless and keep you.

Why

Image courtesy of  Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Asking Why

“Don’t let your will roar when your power only whispers.”

—– Thomas Fuller

(accessed on 12/5/13 at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/t/thomasfull151926.html)

That quote brought an uneasy chuckle to my lips and had me shaking my head more than once. I hate it when some quote hits me between the eyes like this one did. It means I need to listen. I need to pay attention.

This one made me think about all the times I’ve wasted in my life being willful and repeatedly trying to do or fix something  all by myself when I actually had no power to do so. I’d like to think I’ve “grown out” of this character defect, but the truth is I still can get caught up in my own stubborn self-will more often than I like to admit.

In two meetings I’ve participated in this past week, the topic of “asking why” was a topic of discussion. I often enjoy asking why and trying to figure out what makes something do what it is doing. And, yes, I can use asking why as a smoke screen to keep myself from focusing on what I’m going to do about a problem rather than wasting my time analyzing it to death.

Somehow understanding something gives me a sense of control, of being “safe,” if you will. If I understand the answer to why, maybe I can avoid encountering the same problem or situation again in the future. This line of reasoning, comes from my upbringing because I always wanted to know why I was getting in trouble and why what I was doing was wrong. I was scolded for “talking back” when I would ask why, so now, being the emancipated elder adult that I am—–I still love having the freedom to ask why. Actually, when I was a small child, my “why question” may have been the safest way for me to disagree or rebel. So when I ask why in the present sometimes I can get caught up in asking why because of my allergy to authority.

That last sentence brings me back to today’s quote—–when I feel my power is threatened  (especially by an “authority” outside myself) I often  explode in “self will run riot”. My response is very much like whistling in the dark with my “roaring will” to cover up and/or hide from myself the fact that I am feeling powerless threatened. I know in my soul God uses my feeling powerless to make me teachable and right-sized. It can force acceptance and initiate healing.  But knowing this can, for me,  be far removed from actually letting God do His magic. I have to focus on “feeding my willingness” to surrender, let go, and let God. One of the ways I do this is by reminding myself of something I’ve been telling clients for years—-“knowing why is not as important as figuring out what you are going to do about it.” Real wisdom comes with the realization that “what I’m going to do about it” is turn it over to God so he and I can work on it together.

I am slowly learning to trust God rather than getting bogged down in intellectualizing, asking why, and otherwise rebelling. I am learning to trust what God is creating in me when I am willing to release a character defect—-which, in this case, is my willingness to stop rebelling against my lack of control/power, to willingly ask God for help, and to accept that help. I am learning to trust that when I give up something has always been one of my problematic ways of reacting to life God will create something better to take its place. When I can practice surrender and acceptance rather than rebellion, worry, and fear it is amazing how much more easy and peaceful my life is!

I hope all these meandering words will make sense to my readers. I hope some of you will comment about the role “asking why” plays in your life. May God bless and keep you.