Wednesday, November 7, 2012

McKenzie River Lessons in Gratitude

I find myself in profound gratitude today for the little gifts of life.
For the scent of autumn teasing my nose
For the breeze that carries pine needles like rain across the view in front of me
For the delight of waking in the middle of the night and, used to the light pollution and overcast skies of the city, being caught unawares by the brilliance of the night stars through the window
For the sight and sound of two amazing red-headed woodpeckers landing on broad trunk of the evergreen tree outside my deck and bedazzling me with their presence
For the warmth of the sun and the cool of the air on my skin at the same exact time
For the apparently limitless source of this river, that allows it to keep flowing, day and night, year after year, and what that tells me about Source Itself

For the ability to see and hear and touch and smell the beauty that is all around me 
- and, most especially
For taking the time to experience it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy Comes to the Guest House

As I looked at the photos and videos of the devastation caused by Hurricane/Storm Sandy, I was appalled at the destruction. Especially in Queens, where people thought they were preparing for a wet storm and found close to 100 homes in a firestorm that leveled blocks. It looked like something from a war zone, where a bomb had dropped and just wiped out everything.
As I contemplated the destruction, I could not help but recall the Rumi poem, The Guest House... 

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

I don't know if any of these families can look at their lost homes, lost possessions, and find a gift in the "crowd of sorrows who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture." Every moment of every day, we are asked to say "yes" to what shows up, even when we don't remember EVER inviting such a thing into our lives.

Years ago, Rev. Dr. Kennedy Shultz was doing a Master Series at the Annual Conference on the Asilomar Conference Grounds. Someone asked about becoming sufficiently "enlightened" or good enough at prayer so that bad things quit happening to them. He smiled and offered "Being a Religious Scientist does not mean that bad things stop happening. It simply means that when they do, you have developed the tools to cope with them."

I have carried that idea ever since. Studying this teaching just means I have developed the tools to cope. In fact, I actually do find a lot fewer "crises" as well, and when nature says it is moving, as it did this week, we move with it. 

Would I have the courage to simply be with what happened? To be with the loss? To be with the pain? Would I have the courage to step away from "Why? Why this? Why me?" Could I stand in the pain and open my arms to welcome it in?

I don't know. None of us do until the moment comes. I would like to think that, having studied this teaching for as many years as I have... Having taught it for as many years - that I would move with some form of grace through the shock. I would like to think that I could find solace in my faith. 

I know the people going through this now - the loss of loved ones, of health, of property - are the most courageous people. They are stronger than I can imagine, and I honor them. I know there is a Divine Space in each of them that knows they are bigger than the experience they are having now. I know that for them, even when they can't. And perhaps, in my knowing, they waken to the Truth. 

Until then, we throw open the doors and welcome life, in all its shapes and guises. And we hold one another up. And we love one another. It's what we do.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Free Beer Tomorrow

There is a story about a fellow who is new to the neighborhood and drops into the local tavern one evening for a drink. The place is clean, the people are friendly, the prices reasonable, so he thinks he may have found a good "hang-out" for himself, within walking distance of his home. 
He is really delighted when he notes a sign behind the bar that says "Free Beer Tomorrow." Boy, he thinks, this is my kind of place. So he has a couple drafts, tips the bartender, and heads for home, planning to return tomorrow for the free beer he read about.
As he worked during the day, his mind kept going to the free beer that would be his at the end of the day. When he finally got to the bar, he went in, sat down at a vacant stool and smiled at the bartender, saying "I'll have one of those free beers!"
The bartender smiled and pointed at the sign and said, "Ah, Mate... that's tomorrow!"
- - -
Okay, it IS a bit of a shaggy dog story, but it points out a truth of which we need to be aware. Our word is our power, and what we think - as well as what we say - becomes our experience. If I am forever 'futurizing' my good, it will always be tomorrow.
How many times in a day do I say "I'm going to" do something? How often do I say "It will be" a certain way. As long as "I am going to" do anything, I am not doing it... I am planning it, I am intending it, I am wishing it, but I am NOT doing it. And I am giving the Universe that message. This is not something that is mine... it is something that "will be" mine. Down the road. Around the bend. One of these days. When the time is right. 
In the philosophy I teach, we say our word is our power. What we believe creates our reality. We point out that what we focus on grows and what we resist persists. And all of these can be shown to be the case. The point I would make is, when we speak of an idea as happening in the future, then no matter how much we believe in its possibility, no matter how much we accept it as our good, no matter how positive we are, we are claiming it "tomorrow," like our friend and his "Free Beer."
So I make it a point, in the here and now, to know that good is right here for me. My day is going beautifully. Everything IS working out. Life is unfolding perfectly. Today. In this moment, everything I require is here and available..

Monday, July 30, 2012

Teenage Truths, Revisited

Friday is my birthday. I will be 63. That doesn’t seem remotely possible. 50 years ago, I was in 8th grade, and there are ways in which that seems like yesterday; the wonderful lessons I learned from teachers Kay Nietzsche and Sara Jane Moore, the ways my mind and heart opened to new ways of thinking - new possibilities.

I remember walking home one day with friends Karraine Ann and Karen and we were having such a deep discussion about communism and fascism (which we were studying in Mrs. Nietzsche’s class) that we could not end it. When we got to the point where our paths were to diverge, we sat down on a stranger’s lawn and continued our conversation at least another hour.

That girl, with her passion and her clear sense of right and wrong still lives inside me. Fifty years later, her sensibilities guide me. Perhaps on this 50th anniversary that is coming up, I need to resurrect her life force. I need to re-awaken to the deep Truths I knew unequivocally then.

That is the girl who, a year or so later, realized the Truth being spoken in the first few verses of the book of John. I want - no - I claim that curiosity, that energy, that passionate focus again in my life.

I had not given my birthday much focus as I moved through preparation for the Asilomar Conference I attend each year. This morning, I realize that this birthday is the 50th anniversary of my becoming a teenager.  My!

I can never underestimate the power of young people, because I still have such clear energy and memory around what it was to be one. I am ready to spend the next 30-40 years exploring what it is to be fully and completely alive.

It has been said that, as much as we profess to be afraid of dying, in truth, we appear to be afraid of living - of fully committing to the life that is ours right now. I choose to enter into this birthday and this week with the passion of a zealot. Life is awaiting my commitment. I shall not leave it wanting!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Finding My Way from Fear to Love

In my understanding of Life, there are two emotions, two motivating factors, two ways of living. One is Love - which I consider to be the creative power, the expanding energy, the nurturing source of all that I call comfortable and good. The other is fear, which is at the root of all lack, limitation and resistance - those emotions and activities which I consider to be negative in nature.

In Reality, there is actually only Love - for just as darkness is not a force of itself, but merely the absence of light and cold is simply the absence of heat, fear is what happens when I believe in the absence of Love. Fear, and all of its attendant emotions of anger, jealousy, mistrust, helplessness, hopelessness and the like, can only exist when one is disconnected from a sense that there is Love, wholeness, truth in the world.

We live in a world where fear and mistrust are everywhere around us. From commercials on television to articles on the internet, we are told there is something wrong with us, there is something wrong with everyone around us, and anyone unlike “us” is the enemy. Love seems to be the farthest thing from anyone’s mind, and it is the only thing that can bring us back to sanity.

What causes an individual to move so deeply into fear that they become a danger to people around them - and to themselves? “Why” is really a crazy-making question, because there is never one, easy, direct cause to any situation. Everything is complex in nature - and still we cannot look at fear and try to fix it with more fear, anymore than we can fight a fire by adding more fuel to it.

There is a Biblical quote that affirms “perfect Love casts out fear.” It does not say more fear or bigger fear casts out fear. It does not say punishment casts out fear. It does not say hatred casts out fear. Only love has the power to do that, and still we want to get the last word - to make sure that everyone gets justice - but what we mean by justice is often simply retribution.

The great teacher of 2000 years ago said “they will know you are my followers because you love one another.” I think we need to remember that injunction to love. Now, more than ever, Love is the answer. Even when it makes no sense. Especially when it makes no sense. So, slowly but surely, I am finding my way from fear, to Love - I am finding my way to wholeness as I survey the world around me and see past the experience to its essence, which has always been Love - though often cleverly disguised.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Growth on the Journey

I feel a bit like Dorothy as she prepared for her return from Oz - "There's no place like home! There's no place like home" - Except my 'ruby slipper' was actually an Amtrak train. What a delightful experience train travel is - I have traveled by train since I was a child, and feel it is highly undervalued for the amazing means of transportation that it is.

But this is not about trains - or even Oz... though Seattle has been known as the Emerald City. This is about the willingness to be a life-long learner. Perhaps it is the process of aging, or wising up - or just the normal way of things, but I am finding that there is always more to learn, more to understand, more expansion of horizons that needs to happen in my life.

I am never so "there" that I couldn't use a bit more input to enhance my experience of life. In fact, the more I teach, the more I become aware of how much I have to learn. This thing called life involves an incredible amount of stretching!

The late Dr. David Walker gave a talk once wherein he said that you really can't ever honestly say "This is as good as it gets," because the Universe is infinite in Its capacity to provide. So, no matter how good it is, there is always room for it to be better.

I arrived home yesterday from an Ongoing Education Conference geared to Ministers. Twenty five of us gathered for the better part of a week with four stalwart guides to help us expand upon our ministries. We had to open up and share and allow ourselves to be opened to greater ideas of ourselves and our spiritual communities.

The beautiful part was our willingness to be vulnerable with one another, and our instructors modeled that humility for us beautifully. No one has ever grown into leadership without some stumbling points along the way, and our teachers were truly humble in sharing their own experiences with us.

Where does all this go? All I can say with any degree of surety is that I find my role in the coming years is more of receptive student. Even as I teach, I am learning what I need to learn to teach what is coming before me. And that excites me.