Become a Follower of the Big Dude!

Meet the divine Dude in this blog. This Dude has had and seen his share of sacred shit. He's not afraid of it or of its language. I can't relate to a god that's been crucified, but I can relate to one whom my government has imprisoned and humiliated. I can relate to one who's been raped by his own holy men. I can relate to one who grew up playing baseball or soccer and who dated the Prom Queen. I can relate to the god who knows the working of corporate conglomerates, pimps, and teen-age girls who are pregnant. I can relate to the god who loves alcoholics and drug addicts just a tad more than wall street hotshots. This Dude thinks all of us are mortal particles in an ocean of sacred shit. This Dude recycles.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Readers, Tell Me What To Do!

What do you do when you're watching someone you love throw away her life? Or, at least, it seems that way. A very young teen whom I love dearly just announced her "engagement" on Facebook to a very young boy (both are under age). How many times in the course of a lifetime do we experience that helpless moment when our blood pressure shoots up, the migraine starts, or the brain goes numb in the face of what looks like a bad choice by a loved one.

Having posed the question, I sit in silence having no easy answer. Prayer comes to mind. Meditation. Letting go. All of these are good things but I'm still stuck at the "she's ruining her life" moment of shock and disbelief.

I'm getting nowhere here. Please, readers, tell me what to do. Roxie

Friday, November 18, 2011

And the Beat Goes On

The Course in Miracles says there are only two basic emotions: love and fear. It further declares that if you're feeling one, you can't be feeling the other. I wonder if that's true. Maybe there are rare moments when we are so fully in the love, that we have no other reality. Maybe there are also moments when we are so fully in the fear, that we see nothing else.

In my own life, there have been such absolutes. When I'm in love with a human, life is transformed. That can also happen when I'm in "the Love" as I experience a sunset or some other natural phenomenon. Likewise I know times when I'm drowning in "the Fear," when having to answer the phone or fill the gas tank makes me quake.

There are manifold paths in and out of these extreme states of bliss and terror. What about the rest of our life when love and fear are intermingled in millions of mutations and permutations, millions of variations on a theme. That comingled dance seems more common in the multiple realities of the human narrative.

The guides and maps in, out, and through the human condition are worth considering. While I am mostly Buddhist in my spiritual outlook, it is infused with my Christian heritage (and, alas, also with my old school Catholic heritage of sin and scrupulosity). Over the years, I've also been influenced by the 12-Step approach to human foibles. I think of this approach as spiritual boot camp, not for the faint of heart!

Recently, I've been attending one such group, more gentle of spirit, more focused on personal growth than on prohibitions. In the process, I've acquired a sponsor with the vigilance of a warrior and the heart of a fellow traveler. I find myself with mixed feelings about the 12-Step process even in such a guise of kindness.

It, like the Course in Miracles, presumes the either/or paradigm. Love or fear. Self-medicating or not. Substance abuse or sobriety. Any other way of looking at things is seen as a rationalization. Call it what you will, I'm not sure that works for me. In this blog and in my life, I presume the human condition means a lot of time in "sacred shit." Sacred shit encompasses both ends of the spectrum and everything between. It includes love and fear exquisitely blended, with hate, compassion, rage, greed, generosity, and loneliness folded in. This is the compost of the human condition. From and through this grows the human, anchored and nourished by the smelly confusion of the earth, reaching outward by some natural internal instinct towards fulfillment and regeneration of its sacred seed.

I'm happy for all the spiritual traditions and guides. I walk as comfortably with a 12-stepper as I do with a Southern Baptist. Both assume a kind of rightness that can too easily slide into righteousness, but both also have inspiration and common sense within their guidebooks. I'll take the hand of anyone who offers it in a spirit of fellowship and kindness. While I doubt any clarity that can neatly divide the human experience into this OR that, I embrace the questing human soul struggling to assert meaning as it flounders through the sacred shit of this oh-so-physical spiritual life.

I'm hoping that love AND fear embrace and teach each other. I'm hoping that no part of us goes without blessing, even when we slide into an addiction or curl up in mortal terror. I stand with the Buddhists in thinking neither loving thoughts nor fearful thoughts are better or worse. They slide in and out of us at quantum speeds and all we can do is be aware of the inner commotion. Enlightenment, may it be so, stands with all the elements and from this rooted spot is unfolding in ways we can't imagine or find words to say. Such is the rhythm as I feel it. Roxie

Thursday, October 27, 2011

And Then There Was Light

Dawn. Rosy hued inklings heralding something wonderful. Ah. The birth of light each morning as the sun and the horizon cross. It's true what they say: The night is darkest just before dawn.

As you know, I've been in and out of dark places for quite some time as life took its toll on me, body and soul. This night, buried in the surprise of an October snow, came gently upon me and befriended me before I could say no.

It came in the form of my students. The topic of the day was social capital, civic virtue, and social networks (based on Putnam's book, Bowling Alone. As part of the lecture, I showed a clip from the movie Pay It Forward; most of the students had not seen it. I shared that this was a kind of karmic social capital, not the quid pro quo of the Golden Rule, but the idea that you give your social capital to someone or to society and it goes forward instead of coming back to you.

My students ate the lecture and the video as if it were food. Then, I divided each class in half and sent them into separate rooms. Each group had to "give" something generous to the other group. We reconvened 20 minutes later. One group had trekked out in the snow and come back with a cup of hot chocolate for each person on the other team. Another group wrote something praiseworthy about each member of the other team. Another group went online and read the other team's blogs, leaving generous comments about their work. The mood shifted in the room as we did all this. People were laughing and helping each other, saying nice things to each other. I could feel a "lightness" of Being in the room. Everyone left with an understanding that they were to pay the gifts they received forward to three people.

After class, one young man stayed on and while he was zipping his jacket, his face wreathed in smiles, he said, "You're a wonderful person."

Moved, I said, "Wow! Thank you."

"I'm not just saying it or paying it forward. I've been thinking it for awhile. You're a great teacher and you're a great person."

I drove home in the freshly fallen snow, street lights synergized by the coming of such unexpected brightness. The world seemed to glow. The contagion of my students' young idealism and energy blessed me, paying forward from whatever love they carry with them. "The light of God surrounds me . . . and all is well." Roxie

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Anger and the Soul

I bought a sweatshirt that says: Pretending to be pleasant all day exhausts me. I collect sweatshirts with "sayings" on them and I buy them intuitively. I had, for example, no idea that I was "pretending to be pleasant" until I saw that sweatshirt. I wore it for two days and during that time, not surprisingly, I discovered how angry I am.

How is it that a person who purports to be spiritual (maybe the sweatshirt should say: Pretending to be spiritually enlightened all day . . . )can find herself filled with mind-numbing, gut-wrenching, shrieking rage? If we are spiritual beings in a physical world as some would opine, then it's hopeless to pretend that we can escape any of the trappings of this world replete with unrequited passion, career failures, bodily weaknesses, financial blunders, crime and compassion. And, yes, anger.

As much as we like to equate intelligence with spirit, we can't negate that it's soul more than spirit that bridges the chasm between the aforementioned physical being and the spiritual world. Soul is a messy thing. It's full of preludes and punk, sweat and sweetness, birth and murder.

So, I feel anger and now I know it. It's bad enough to feel anger but what if it's at the person who, or so you thought, most loved you, the one who kept you from failure-to-thrive syndrome, your "good" parent. In my case, my dad.

My dad died several years ago by his own choice. He chose to stop eating and he wasted away. At the time, it seemed a perfectly reasonable decision for an old man to make and I did nothing to oppose his choice. Why, then, am I suddenly (aging myself) furious with him?

I don't know the answers, just the question at this point. I know I HATE the way he died. I hate that he chose to leave before his time. I hate that he left me when he didn't have to. That's a lot of hate towards the man I adored all my life.

I don't understand exactly what's happening but I do know that I've been catapulted into some serious sacred shit. Soul work stretches out ahead of me like a dark, ancient road. If you, my fellow travelers, have any road maps or lights to illuminate the next leg of my journey, please share in the comments section. Blessings, Roxie

Saturday, October 15, 2011

In the Moment

Did you ever look ahead with fear? Did you ever run an inner monologue that goes something like this? OMG I have to be at work early tomorrow and then there's a school meeting at night; I need to get my nails done and rake the leaves by Wednesday because friends are coming over. Or, I can't do it. I have chemo tomorrow and what if it doesn't work and I get all sick and lose my hair and then die anyhow.

That kind of future dread is a part of the human condition and most of us experience it on a regular basis. The other day I became aware of the reverse condition--memory overload. This is when you add up all the bad things that have happened to you over the last few days, weeks, years, or even over a lifetime and conclude that the Big Dude must not like you (or some other such frightening judgment).

Recently, I've been in memory overload. I fell on my hands and knees and injured my knee. Tests show nothing but I have debilitating pain everyday and am forced to walk with a cane or a crutch. On its own, this is difficult but it becomes catastrophic when I surround it with memory overload. I repeatedly think in this sequence: I've had too much to deal with in the last five years--I lost my job, lost my boyfriend, had hip replacement surgery, had a heart attack, and now I can't walk. Really, Big Dude? What terrible karmic retribution is this?

We can get "stuck" in either the future or the past and our minds run their tapes. Most of us are techno-savvy enough to know that when a tape is running in a continuous loop, we need to interrupt it. Turn off the electronic device if nothing else works. In the case of our thoughts, Buddhists would advocate that we stop and take several deep breaths.

Specifically, Pema Chodron, bless her, shows us her struggles with memory overload and futurizing. She suggests three deep breaths several times a day paying attention for that brief time only to the breath. Of all the Buddhist writers, she seems the most human to me. I am comforted by her descriptions of herself flinging a rock after her husband announces he is leaving her for another woman, by her story of being afraid to walk down a certain road because a scary dog lives down that way.

After we breathe and come into awareness, it's nice to be aware that we breathe within a community of humans all of whom share our struggles, all of whom have future dread and memory overload at various times. Each one of us has to stop and breathe on our own; no one can do that for us. Once we do it, however, there is room for awareness that shared breath is not unlike shared Spirit. In the moment, in this moment, we are never alone. Roxie

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Welcome New Souls!

Just a word about the growth of followers. I am so moved and blessed to have 54 wonderful people following this blog. I wish you all the Buddhist blessing: May you each receive the blessing that you need. Roxie

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Early Morning God

Some people find themselves very close to that spiritual awareness you could call God in the early morning hours. These are people who rise early and greet the earth before it awakens. Perhaps the lightening sky is especially clear with stars still visible. Perhaps there is a touch of pink just visible on the horizon. It is incredibly quiet and, wherever you are, the primordial universe seems to enshrine you.

That person, alas, is not me. I am tossing and turning in bed in those early hours feeling small and alone, wondering if the Big Dude has forgotten me. Wondering if he exists at all. Sometimes, I breathe my way through it until I see daylight crack through behind my curtains. Sometimes, I turn on the TV and watch the earliest news of the day.

Such a tiny space between me in my bedroom and the early morning outside. Why is it so hard to find spiritual connection inside my dwelling and so easy to find it if I stepped just 10 feet into the cathedral below the sky?

Inside my dwelling in the small hours, I worry about the day and maybe the weeks and months ahead. So much to accomplish and I so fragile it seems. Under the dawning sky, I am one with all of creation, in the moment, free of shackles and shoulds.

I am reminded of the Unity Church prayer:
The light of God surrounds me
The love of God enfolds me
The power of God protects me
The presence of God watches over me
Wherever I am, God is and all is well.

Big Dude, please remind me of this prayer and of your habitat just outside my window tomorrow in the wee hours when I feel so alone. Roxie

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mist

I stepped out the sliding doors into my tiny back yard early this morning. My garden was shrouded in mist. Immediately I was brought into the moment, into my body, into awareness. Last night, as I was driving home from work, mist was materializing, softening the strip malls and industrial sites into mysterious, ancient ruins.

What is it about mist that so captures us and reframes our perspective? Perhaps we are so accustomed to the landscape around us and to our place within it that we stop seeing it altogether. We don't notice that the magnolia tree has produced a rare, purple fall blossom. We don't notice the enormous oaks and maples in the park slowly losing their leaves. We don't notice the massive fall clouds gathering above us. We don't notice the familiar. And, even the changing seasons are familiar after awhile.

Mist changes everything. It moves in unexpectedly and creates ghosts and medieval scenes from the ordinary. My neighbor's house becomes a castle. My garden becomes a silken shroud. The trees become silent giants watching over us.

And, mist moves. It's never the same from one moment to the next. It makes the landscape come alive. Mist is a shape changer, a messenger from the Big Dude and the ancient gods. It says, "Take notice. Be awake. I am here."

I love the mist. I love the mist at the edge of the ocean, the mist rising endlessly over Kentucky's hills, the mist sweeping in from the Great Lakes. It softens the sharp edges of what we think is reality; it softens our own edges. It invites us to merge into the landscape, to join the gods, the progression of history, the ruins and the castles. It makes us mythic for a moment. It's a kind of grace, a second sight, isn't it? Roxie

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Power of Very Much

So, I've come to realize that the great spiritual writers aren't kidding when they say "love yourself." Did you ever wonder how the heck you do that? It seems to me if you're trying to love yourself or if the need to do that even arises within, then you might not have a true understanding of love. In short, maybe you've not FELT the love of another.

This was brought home to me last week when I was talking to my shrink. I realized that I was cynical about love and praise. "People who say they love me WANT something from me," I told her. She said, "How about your dad?" At that moment, I couldn't remember loving words or acts from him. "How about your son?" she asked. "He wants something; he needs me," I said bitterly. "How about when you had your heart attack and he slept next to you for five days in the hospital? He didn't have to do that," she said.

I couldn't open to the specifics she was talking about but I did open to the possibility that I was CLOSED to the gifts and words of others. This week, I began stopping everytime anyone said something positive to me. I put my hand over my heart whenever this happened and tried to savor it.

That night, a student who had taken me previously said to the other students in one of my classes, "I LOVE Anne." Pause. Take it in. I had dinner with a good friend and I shared what was going on. She reached over to take my hand. Pause. Take that in. This morning I was video chatting with my son and he said, "I love you. I love you VERY MUCH."

Tears. Pause. I'm taking it in.

The other side of self-love is still the attitude we have within. I was watching "Days of Our Lives" and the female doctor in rehab was talking with her therapist. Her therapist said to her, "I'm hearing your children say the've forgiven you and they love you. You're not hearing it though." It was a big "aha" for me and I decided in that moment that not only was I going to "hear" and take the positive words of others at face value, but I was going to pause each time I felt distress of any kind and ask myself, "What would feel loving to me right now?"

I knew that I had found a path to self-love. Forget about tallying up how many "good" acts vs how many less good acts I did in a given day. Forget about gratitude journals, twelve-step programs, making enough money, having a clean enough house, being a good enough mom or teacher. Forget about everything, I said to myself. I will focus on only one thing--love right now. What nurtures me and touches me and heals me RIGHT NOW?

I didn't realize how VERY MUCH was being given to me and how I was totally discounting it. You taught a great class today! Big deal. Anyone can do that! (Stop. Seriously? Anyone? Taking it in.) I'm so pissed off at my dog (Stop. What would nurture you in this moment? I'm not walking the dog--I'm walking my heart so I don't have another heart attack. Taking it in--this commitment is to myself).

Nobody HAS to say anything positive to us. Nobody HAS to take our hand or hug us. Nobody HAS to help us out when we're down. Nobody HAS to say you did something well or that they appreciate something. We don't HAVE to say those thing to our self. But, we CAN!! It's time for this Thomas-the-Doubter to notice and, for the moment, accept the love of others. It's also time to pause and love myself through positive self-talk (as they say) or reframing or just by stroking my own soft face.

Mom, I love you. I love you VERY MUCH. (Stop. Did he say "very much"? He didn't have to say that. Taking it in.) With praise to the Big Dude for this grace, Roxie.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Yes, and No, Hell No!

So, my mind is awhirl with a spiritual book I'm reading and the sound of Train singing on the Today Show. The line from "Save Me San Francisco" which titles this blog sums it up. Yes AND no, hell no! That's life, isn't it?

The book I'm reading is Spiritual Longing and although it IS making me think about the sorry state of my soul, it is also totally exhausting me. There's NO WAY I can live up to even one of the four principles he claims Jesus says are non-negotiable (I'm pretty sure Jesus doesn't talk like that!).

I don't remember all four of these buggers, but I do remember the last two: mellowness of spirit (don't worry; be happy--my translation) and the requirement that you actively belong to a church, preferably a Roman Catholic one. I know I don't have a mellow spirit--it's a tangled web of doubt, fear, and occasional laughter (usually ironic!). But, to my amazement, I know it when I see it (and when I occasionally experience it). My son's mentor is a woman of seventy with the most delighted heart I've ever encountered. Although she has a fierce and relentless intelligence, she has a lightness of being that touches me every time. Interestingly, she posts a lot of haiku type statements on Facebook and I read them and "like" them regularly. Even mediated by technology, her mellowness of soul comes through. Thank you, Mariah!

I remember the last "principle" because I hate it!! It's so old-school Catholic--yeah, we're tolerant of all faiths and catholic really means universal so we're ok. NOT!!! I don't mean Catholic people are not ok. I mean the reqirement that we all must join a church is not ok. And then, according to this guy, what we must DO in that church is overwhelming! Truthfully, the only element I seek for myself is mellowness of soul (making me immediately suspect in the author's scheme of things).

That said, the guy made me think! The entire time I was walking the dog yesterday, I was reflecting on what I see as imbalance in my spirituality. I DO need/want to meditate/pray/read more (hence, my reading of this book for a couple of hours yesterday!). I DO need to impose some kind of discipline on the ever-encroaching chaos of things (just look at my kitchen--time to clean up!). If I had a discipled structure to my life, I wouldn't have as much encroaching choas, right? That's what I'm thinking.

I decided to try to establish discipline around playing slots. In the boredom of my summer,I've been doing that more than usual. I said to myself: "Self, what if you held to a structure of going out one night a week to play slots?" That seems reasonable. Dateless, I like to go out on Friday or Saturday nights--have a glass of wine, eat dinner, and play slots for a few hours. What a good idea, right?

Well, as I pulled up to the casino a few hours later, I decided to start that plan once I'm back in the academic groove a few weeks from now (LOL). Oddly, the universe gave me several gifts that night at the casino. I walked in and went to my favorite game and there was a guy sitting there who looked familiar. I played for awhile and then gingerly I said, "Chris?" He looked at me and said, "Yeah. Are you . . .?"

"I'm Anne," I said back. We both started laughing. We had met at this same machine a couple of months ago and, although he's half my age, we hit it off and had such a good time that we exchanged names and work addresses. I felt really blessed to see Chris again as something about him touches my heart. We played and talked at a deeper level this time and when he left, he hugged me and said, "Same time next week?" Yes, hell yes!

I don't know but I'm thinking God or the universe or the Big Dude works in REALLY mysterious ways, defying the intellectual categories that Spiritual Longing and other books have tried to impose. Despite that, I'm grateful for the reflection this book annoyed me into!!! So, "Yes, and no, hell no!" Roxie

Friday, August 19, 2011

What's Your Relationship Status?

What's our relationship status when it comes to the Big Dude, God, or the universal power? If there were a divine Facebook and you put up your profile, would you list yourself as single, it's complicated, or in a relationship? I woke up at 5:30 this morning and it hit me: Of course, I'm in a relationship with the Big Dude!

Think about it. I live in the context of this relationship. Sometimes, I bask in oneness with the universe; sometimes I wonder if we have any connection at all. Sometimes I'm yelling at god; sometimes I'm begging for attention. Sometimes I fight him for the remote (if you think about it)! Doesn't this sound like relationships you know?

It's exactly like it. Not only that, it's the longest relationship I've had, possibly stretching over seveal lifetimes. I ignore it; I hate it; I miss it; I long for it. Sometimes, I forget that I have a partner--that's how familiar and intimate it is.

I really can't imagine my socio/cultural fabric without the concept of a diving being. Whether I'm feeling agnostic or atheistic, theistic, or pagan on a given day, the concept of God is fundamental to my identity.

Happening at 5:30 a.m., this "aha" was literally a wake-up moment. This god that I like to call my "big dude" lives in and around me. How do you think of/feel about your god? What do you call him/her/it? What's YOUR relationship status with the divine? Think about it and write something in the comments box. What you say might touch someone forever. Roxie

Monday, July 25, 2011

Finding the Center When the Edges Are Frayed

Life is such a rush! How do you find that still, quiet center amidst the onslaught of social media, TV, email, relationships, pets, messy kitchens, and gardens that must be maintained despite droughts.

I like that last metaphor. How do I maintain my spiritual garden when I don't feel like it (drought) or when I'm overwhelmed by the onslaughts of physical life? The Bible addresses this in the story of the person who built a home on sand (and other things). To apply that story to our inner garden, think about this.

If your garden has too much sand, the water you pour on it will run right through it and your plants won't be sustained. If your garden has too little sand, then the water will be maintained so much that plant roots will rot. So, you need to keep working on the soil in order to maintain a spiritual garden. Yes, you need to plant and fertilize and weed, but most of all you need to take a long-term view and consider the soil.

What IS spiritual soil? It's the inner gunk (the sacred shit)--the compost of life events, the soil you inherited (is it littered with rocks, clay, sandy, what?) in the spiritual practices you were taught, and the little bit of effort you put in everyday to enrich and stabilize the dirt. Every morning, I get up early and water my lawn and garden. Every night, I do the same. Every year, I add some fresh soil and nutrients. These are the daily and long-term efforts that create and sustain strong soil over time.

To sustain and create my spiritual soil, I should get up and meditate for a few moments; I should do the same at night. At least once a year, I should take stock of my spiritual status and see what the overall sacred shit needs. Maybe I need to go to a workshop or retreat. Maybe I need to read or study a spiritual work.

If I did that work regularly, it wouldn't take much. With a rich, well-balanced soil full of nutrients, the garden would maintain itself despite multiple onslaughts. In the spiritual world, if I maintain my center in little and regular ways, the times when frayed edges are eating away at me won't have as much effect. And so it is. Roxie

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Our Fathers

Father is a word fraught with political and spiritual peril. For most of human history, patriarchal cultures idolized the term. We spoke of God the Father, Zeus (the father of all gods), forefathers, Father Time. Civil and human property passed through the father's line (with some exceptions in the Judaic tradition). Women were owned by their fathers and then their husbands. We, feminists of old, fought hard to contain the powers of the patriarchy. To a large extent, we were successful.

So, perhaps we need to move away from the word "father" and move towards Dad. Dad is an intimate term, generally a loving one. It means the man who raised me. It includes step-dads, today's absent dads, caretaker dads, and sometimes biological dads. While "father" is more of a political and spiritual concept, "dad" is a title we choose to bestow. How moving it is when a child calls this man who tosses him in the air and sometimes changes his diaper, da-da! How special it is when a son-in-law stops calling his father-in-law Mr. So and So and one day calls him "dad." Dad is an earned name, a name given by not just a family, but by each individual in the family.

Father is a concept. Dad is a choice. I remember when one of my sons was angry with his dad and spent three month refusing to call himself by his dad's surname. He wasn't rejecting the concept of father; he was temporarily rejecting his dad.

With that said, I had a good dad. He loved and nurtured me. He taught me survival skills and how to navigate the larger world. He also taught me to clean a kitchen and mow a lawn. He was the one who noticed my feelings and had the perfect words to comfort me. When I was in high school, I was taller than the boys and came home from a dance crying because no one danced with me. My dad listened and then put his hand on my knee. He said quietly, "I like my women tall." Another time, it was the first Christmas after my divorce. My children were with their dad. My dad called and, hearing the tears in my voice, said, "What's wrong?" I told him and he invited me to jump in the car and come home for Christmas. I told him that I was too upset. He paused and said, "Yes, you always were a bit of a wolf. Even as a little girl, you would go off by yourself and lick your wounds." That feedback helped me put my experience in a life-long context.

So, here's to Dads. I like to think that the divine spark is more dad than father. Roxie

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Vessel of Clay

It's amazing to think that this human frame can serve as a chalice for the divine inspiration that transcends time as well as the numbness that fritters away our human days.

Case in point. Last weekend, I was at the northern Atlantic sitting on jagged rocks and watching powerful, rhythmic waves wash over them. At the edge of my consciousness were the foghorn from Portland headlight and the sounds of sea birds. Watching the ocean come and go, I felt in tune with the heartbeat of the universe. I felt serene bliss. God.

The next day I went to a casino and played slot machines. Divine inspiration and frittering numbness. Both within this vessel of clay we call human life.

The voice of our humanity speaks loudly, calling us to both extremes of our reality. That voice asks us to love the gambler and sloth in ourselves as much as we love the poet and the god. They are different faces of the same child. In loving all of ourselves and the tension between our extremes, we grow into our wisdom and maybe our divinity.

Roxie

Friday, May 27, 2011

Wisdom Bytes

About two weeks ago, I was feeling bleak and I demanded a miracle from the Big Dude. I didn't ask in supplication or meekness; I was seriously pissed with his failure to right the terrible natural events occuring in the world and the minor losses occuring in mine.

Let me recount the big and small events and words that appeared after I made my demand.

EVENTS

I fell apart with a trusted friend and surfaced frightening and sorrowful feelings. It was as if my heart broke open and spilled allowing room for the series of mini-miracles that followed. At the end of our conversation, the friend said to me, "You need to spend time with people who love you."

My little sister through BBBS is one such person so we got together, baked a pizza, and watched a movie while snuggling under my down throw with the dog. Afterwards, this little "Goth" person with her heavily blackened eyeliner and piercings asked me what I thought about God. That precipitated a half hour conversation about black holes, creation, heaven, faith, and the end of the world. She shared her fear of not being. All I can say is that I was channeling my dad in this interaction. I remembered having these kinds of conversations with him, sharing my fears with him. He was always calm and rational in his responses making me feel that such thoughts and feelings were natural and normal. I had the privilege of passing that gift along to my sis and also of re-experiencing those moments with Dad.

Then, I broke my toe the day before my birthday. People who loved me flocked to help me. Friends almost carried me to a restaurant. My housemate returned early from a trip. The neighbor children walked my dog. I sat with my foot elevated on an ice pack and watched the Ophrah Winfrey final shows. In her last episode, she spoke words from the Unity Church services and songs--"Be Still and Know That I Am" and "To God Be the Glory." As a former choir member and pianist at the Unity Church, I hear these words in music--the words of two of my favorite songs. I was struck by her use of Unity phrases and felt a oneness with her. I would never have watched if I hadn't broken my toe.

WORDS

That brings me to the wisdom bytes I've come across in odd places. You could say that the coversation with my sister was one such place. I heard myself say to her, "I don't think faith is believing in god so much as it's accepting life as you find it and believing it is good that way." Those words were as new to me as they were to her. They "came" to me.

Oprah's invoking of Unity principles sounded another chord of wisdom that resonates in my soul and has done since the first time I heard a Unity Church service on television thirty years ago. I have had the tenets of the Unity Church clipped to my refrigerator every since, following me through 6 different houses since then. "Be still and know that I am [God]." Those words summarize my hope of spirituality--to be able to do just that would be enough and everything.

At 7:15 a.m. on my birthday, my younger son called from Germany and sang "Happy Birthday" to me on the phone. Since our contact is always by video chat, I was completely surprised and burst into tears. In that precious conversation, he shared that "everydayness is what we have." He said, "It's what we have to work with." Wisdom byte.

My international student mentee emailed me and said, "I listened to you and I respected my mother. You were right that I needed to respect her as I'm forming a relationship with a girlfriend." Wisdom byte bouncing back to me.

On a conference call with work colleagues, the speaker opened by saying, "Some things that can be counted don't matter, and some things that matter can't be counted." The call was about institutional evaluation and such a phrase was the last thing I expected. It's so true though. Love, wisdom, joy, hope can't be counted but they matter.

Perhaps I wouldn't have been able to recognize or receive the miracles coming to me if my heart hadn't broken first. When we're in a dark night of the soul, it's good to remember that we're composting the sacred shit so the dahlias and peonies can shoot up through the ground and burst into riotous bloom.

Wisdom bytes are in the most unlikely places. Roxie

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Saved!

Walking the dog just now, I realized that I am saved--one way or another, I'm saved, ok, acceptable, just fine. You might imagine that I write this blog because I know that, because I know something about spirituality. On the contrary, I write this blog because I don't know that.

Earlier in the day, for example, my mind was running its tapes about how I'm to blame for my husband's bad decisions, for my mom's lack of love, for anything that my kids have done badly, even for my dog being off her feed today. Then, out of the blue, as I was walking outside, I remembered, "I'm saved." I'm saved even if I could be blamed for anything I named. I'm saved even if I have done far worse things.

What does that mean: saved. Perhaps it means forgiven as Christians believe, or perhaps it means acceptably unfolding in a more Buddhist interpretation. I read an essay today by Eric Wilson called "The Miracle in Melancholia" (something like that). It claims that we, Americans, are addicted to happiness and that we've forgotten that the greatest gifts and miracles come from our darkest moments.

That's a truth that I know. My best writing, best blogs, most creative moments come from going into the darkness (Wendell Berry). Wilson wasn't saying that happiness doesn't bring any gifts just that in only wanting THOSE gifts, we miss the miracles composting within all the shit (the sacred shit, remember?).

So, I'm remembering the voluminous creativity of being in love. Love poems fall from the soul, pour onto the page. Both sides of our experiences, in would seem, yield enormous crops even if some seem more bitter than sweet.

The salvation of today is about being at neither extreme. Sometimes we're on automatic pilot, sleep-walking, numb. At those times, the muses and miracles seem far away. Isn't it strange to think of being in the middle as "sleep walking?" Isn't "in the middle" where we are most of the time? We're not usually in chaos or in bliss; we're in the relentless routine of everyday. That's when we may most need saving. Roxie

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hit the Pause Button

The pause button on our technology puts the drama in a holding pattern enabling us to take a break--walk the dog, answer the phone, get a bite to eat. It's a great invention and the metaphor applies to the spiritual domain as well. When life comes at us fast and hard, sometimes we need to hit the pause button.

Life can come at us hard externally. Death and taxes, as the saying goes. Also, love lost, physical aches and pains, hurricanes and disasters, crime, divorce, and all the hurts of a full life. Don't you wonder as you think about your own hurts or watch the devestation of others play out on television what the Big Dude is thinking as HE watches the dramas of earth play on? Perhaps he hit the pause button long ago and is off wandering in some eternal galaxy with his version of a dog.

Life can also come at us hard internally. We mess with ourselves. If we really were living in the moment, things might not be too bad, but our mind is reeling out catastrophic thoughts or bad memories or worries about the future. And so, we drink or gamble or read voraciously. We watch TV, play video games or golf. We try to numb the endless thoughts that threaten to bury our creativity and optimism.

So, here's where the pause button comes to the rescue. We can stop, take a breath, and bring our attention to a focal point. The last few days, when outside walking the dog or gardening, I've tried this. I've stopped physical movement, taken a breath and looked at the tree tops framing the sky. I experienced a sacred moment. Everything seemed to pause. Colors seemed brighter, shapes seemed both sharper and more muted at the same time.

I wonder if the Big Dude gave US the pause button and we haven't yet become comfortable or familiar with that spiritual technology. You've probably heard the saying that we're spiritual beings in a physical world. So, we have to live our our physical nature; it's our task in this realm of existence. I'm thinking the Big Dude didn't want us to forget our spiritual essence and he engineered us with the capacity to reconnect in an instant by halting all the physical/psychological shit. That's all we have to do, really. Just halt it, hit pause. Then, there's room for the sacred hush of grace to show its face. Just for that moment, we remember what's real.

Turn off the technology of our humab condition or at least pause it. Oh, there you are, Big D. Roxie

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mother

To mother is to give birth. This can be physically growing and bringing a baby into the world from the womb. As amazing as that transitional moment is for the mothering one and the one being born into a new existence, it's just the beginning of the mothering act. Countless moments birth the personality and the spirit of the other.

While most religions encourage us to love ourselves and, in that sense, to birth ourselves, we can't do it alone. An infant, a puppy, a plant, even a star must be taken in to a loving world for it to survive much less to thrive. In vain do we try to love ourselves if someone, usually many someones, hasn't loved us along the way.

The ideal mother is personified in Mary, the mother of Jesus. She carried and birthed a mysterious life. She protected and loved it. Ultimately, she gave it back to the world. She realized she was a caretaker with a life on loan to her for the good of all.

This ideal of "mother" lives in all of us, men and women alike. We all have opportunities when we are called to carry a life and help it develop into its potential. We do this more or less gracefully. Even the most heinous criminal may have moments when he or she does carry and help someone become better than they are. We don't necessarily hear about those moments when someone commits a vicious action. Too often, we let the vicious action(s) define one of our brothers or sisters instead of looking at the whole of this person's existence. We are capable of murdering one person and generously loving another.

This ideal of "mother" sets the bar really high and most of us don't have one mother who reaches that level of perfection; likewise, most of us don't achieve that level of perfection in moments when we are called to be a mother. We have to look at the whole when we look at who mothered us and who we are as mothers.

In my case, for example, my biological mother fed and clothed me well. She nursed me when I was sick. She was incapable of birthing my spiritual and emotional well-being. My father did those things with the help of many others--Aunt Agnes, Sister Michaelene, Sister Amadeus, Winky and Emma, Aunt Rosy, Grandma Kolarik, Tom K., Mrs. Finn, and my best friend, Joan. It took a village of men and women to birth me. If we're honest, it takes that many mothers to birth and raise all of us.

As mothers, it's important that we welcome other mothers into the lives of our children. Step-mothers, aunts, grandmothers, fathers, teachers, and mentors contribute to the development of the lives put in our care by the universe. Our children need endless mothers.

I'm grateful to the ideal of mothering and to the many mothers who contributed to my well-being. This blog is for my mothers and the mother in all of us. Roxie

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Darkest Night

As humans, we go through dark times, the "dark night of the soul" it's been called. It can feel a bit like quicksand, like the harder we try to get out of this painful place, the worse it gets. We feel stuck and unhappy, maybe even afraid.

So, I'm sitting here today and it's a dark night for me. I'm not fooled by the blue sky and puffy clouds outside the window, the lilac bushes about to burst into bloom, and the "gold" of "nature's first green" as Robert Frost would say. The spectacular visuals around me don't touch the feeling inside that the Big Dude is a figment of my imagination just like every other god before him.

What if there IS no god as many people (mostly sociologists and philosophers) suspect? What if? When you're in a dark night of the soul, you join ranks with rational humanists and sociologists and there IS no god for that moment. You don't just doubt it; you don't believe it. There's a difference.

Doubt means you're waffling between various options one of which IS the existence of god. Not believing means you've given up on god. You accept that god is just another concept created by the needs of the human mind (with apologies to Marx).

The terrible thing about a true dark night is that you have temporarily, at least, accepted the latter as truth. You don't believe there is a god. You have no contact. You don't feel in touch. You feel isolated from the richness that you have experienced at other times. Even nature doesn't move the blindness that fills your soul.

I don't mean to be sacriligious or to make light of this terrible state of mind, but when I'm in this state, I bake! I read somewhere that when you can't figure things out and nothing feels meaningful, you need to engage a different part of your brain--make a list, the article said. Buddhists often say things like "don't just do something, stand there!" My mother used to say the rosary over and over.

What all of these suggestions imply is that this, too, shall pass. In the meantime, you might as well distract yourself by consciously moving yourself in a completely different direction. Prayer, baking, meditation, or shooting a round of golf. The first thing you have to do to get out of a dark night, it seems, is to "forget about it." Stop thinking about it. Engage another part of your being.

So, I'm going to bake a cherry pie. Roxie

Friday, April 22, 2011

What? The Devil?

So, a mother drove her car into the Hudson River killing herself and three of her four small children. War in the Middle East results in innumerable deaths and atrocities every day. Earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes are ravaging the earth's people.

We are seeing or actually experiencing record-setting disasters. In addition, life's smaller hurts eat away at us. A friend seems to snub us, a child grows up and moves away, our spouse has an affair. Heroes fail us. Tiger Woods was a case in point.

Last night, when it was time for my daily gratitude reflection, I couldn't think of anything I was grateful for. I was overwhelmed by the pain and suffering of my brothers and sisters around the globe. I was angry at the smaller pains in my little life.

I railed at the Big Dude and asked the age-old question, "Why do these bad things happen to just regular people?" Why? Why do people kill each other? Why do we reject and hurt each other? Is the Big Dude asleep at the switch? How CAN I have faith in the face of so much evidence that no gracious or even neutral Being is watching over the creation? Last night, I couldn't.

This morning, I wonder if faith is a process rather than a decision. Perhaps, it's just getting up in the morning and walking the dog, making the coffee, brushing the teeth. The little things that make up a life. With that in mind, I turn off the news. Suddenly there are no tsunami's or hurricanes in my life. That which we see on the news, after all, is only real to those who are experiencing it. Perhaps faith is a daily decision not to react to news as if it's happening to us. There's too much of it. Our faith, such as it is, can't take these assaults.

As I sit here quietly, peace washes over me. I return to living this moment, feeling the keyboard beneath my fingers, the pillow behind my back. I listen to the breathing of my dog. Life slows and I'm at home within my body.

I don't understand the state of the world and the Big Dude's relationship to it. Not burdened by knowing only through faith, perhaps even he has turned off earth's news and is holding a billion quiet moments in his hands. Perhaps he, too, seeks occasional refuge from the havoc of humans even as he accepts and loves them. To bring it home, I seek refuge from the humans in my life at times even as I love them. I even seek refuge from myself.

The fact that he doesn't rise up like Thor and in one made moment strike out at the universe is itself testimony to his restraint if not his love. Personally, sick of it all, I yelled at the dog last night. Perhaps faith is ongoing reflection and the courage to go about each day. Wailing, kicking, and lashing out in the face of frustration, I shouldn't cast the first stone. Roxie

Friday, April 15, 2011

Displaced to Develop

So, I'm sitting on the sofa with my faux attack dog, Emma Jane, completely surrounded by stacks of insulation, sheetrock, buzz saws, electrical cords, buckets and random containers. The water is turned off. Tall men with giant tool belts and baseball caps are wandering around. My ceiling and walls are bare with insulation partially installed. Genial guys, they are letting me stay in the corner of the living room so I can work online grading papers and, of course, blogging.

Despite their genial ways, I feel displaced. For several days, I've been sitting outside with the dog to avoid the noise and mess. I invent errands to take me out of the house. Right now, my hair is wrapped in a towel as I managed to wash my hair before the water got axed.

Sometimes to make things better, you have to first be willing to accept them getting worse. You may have a vision that's drawing you forward but nothing prepares you for the kinds of obstacles and disasters you encounter en route to that ideal. Joseph Campbell writes about the hero's journey, stepping off the everyday path into the unknown. You may think you know where you're going, but you don't. The minute you take a step off the trail, you enter an unfamiliar world. The rules you have lived by are suspended and you learn to cope minute-by-minute with the misadventures that arise.

So it is with each new phase of life. You go off to college and, wham, displacement and adventure. You fall in love and same deal. You have children, get a job, join the military, and before you know it, you're facing midlife challenges. And, of course, it's all preparatory for the greatest adventure of all--aging. Yesterday, Paul Simon was on the Today Show, he said, "I'm afraid of dying." A few minutes later, he admitted that his music is getting better as he ages. Displacement and development.

Those of us who are sixtysomething are in Paul Simon's generation; we matured along with his music. We still see him as a poetic genius masterfully expressing the paradoxes of life.

It was reassuring to hear this icon say he was afraid of dying, the ultimate displacement. It was equally stunning to realize that he is still writing his profound music, even more wise from the weird displacement of aging.

It's how I feel at sixtysomething. The rules of the road that I've lived by don't work anymore. I'm clearly on a different path altogether. I have hopes and visions of what might come of this phase of life, but, like Simon, I'm afraid of death. I'm hoping it's a worm hole into the next phase of consciousness. I can't know that, however. There's nothing to do except embrace the hero's journey. Step off the known path and let events, monsters, mentors, and new maps be my guide.

Let's hope, the little displacement and development taking place in my house preview bigger, scarier displacements to come. Let's hope it all leads to an even better home for the errant human spirit. Roxie

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How Do You Feel About Lovin' Yourself?

So, the spiritual path seems to say we need to love ourselves as a primal condition of enlightenment or spiritual wisdom. Dude! What the heck does that mean? Since the Big Dude is probably not going to answer directly, I pose the questions to you, my readers. What do you think it means? Are you able to experience this? How do you approach it?

The biggest question in my mind is this: Is self-love a feeling? Sometimes, lately, little feelings of self-respect have swept over me. Is that it? I'll take it. It feels good. But, I'm thinking it's more than that. Otherwise, what do you do with all the multiple moments when you don't particularly respect yourself, when you know you've messed up? There's a person you interact with regularly that you feel dead towards or, worse, you feel confused and untrusting towards. What about that? You drink too much or ignore your spiritual practice. You're petty in human interactions or you enjoy a good gossip a bit more than you should. What about that?

I'm guessing that self-love is a kind of abiding forgiveness of our slip-ups, boundless compassion for the humanity in us. Yes?

Beyond even that, it must be a sense of connection and oneness with all creatures. Long pause here. That's where I know I have a long way to go. And yet, and yet, so do they and you! There it is, the oneness. We are equal screw-ups in the Big Dude's laughing eyes. This may sound silly but, honestly, it rings true to me. Stumbling through life together, grabbing a stranger's hand. Love. Self and other.

Hoping that each of you will share your sense of self-love, I'm grateful for the self-respect I'm feeling today. Roxie

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Like the First Morning

Some mornings, there's a hush in the atmosphere. We can feel it. The earth seems a quiet place, home seems a sacred haven. This is such a morning. As I came down the stairs, it was as if I was seeing things for the first time. My footsteps seemed lighter. The act of making breakfast became a ritual with each movement graced by some inner awareness, that sacred hush.

Life has been a whirlwind of visitors and travel. A new housemate and her pets have moved in as well. Today, well, today I'm alone in a house made more beautiful by the knick knacks artfully placed by my housemate while I was gone. Maybe this is why I'm seeing anew, "like the first morning," if you will.

Or, maybe it's because my heart is full from the travel and the people. I spent my travel time in Reno, not usually the most spiritual mecca. Oddly, this time it was. The cab drivers were friendly wanderers telling fervently tales of the old days in Reno. Strangers reached out to lift my baggage. The sun was shining on the old, amazing mountains in the near distance.

My younger son greeted me with a warm hug and we chattered until all misunderstandings and misadventures were shared and healed. I saw him through my third eye and my earth eyes. I gobbled him up with my eyes in the way that Gwendolyn Brooks says mothers do. I also saw his struggles and his moral victories. We spent a week side-by-side laughing our souls into happiness.

And then there were the high desert mountains. Everywhere you looked, there was a breathtaking vista. To the south were endless brown mountains where the sun had melted the snow. To the north, ah, the north, were snow capped mountains sharply outlined against the sky, sprinkled with evergreens and sage brush. We drove up a dirt road on a sunny day ritualistically stopping to open and close each gate as we progressed. We lurched and labored our way until we turned a corner and came to what they call the Irish valley where two mountains see to be facing each other over a sheer drop. Everything was covered with snow and utterly silent. The sacred hush.

When we arrived at our destination, the mountain top, we were greeted by six enormous dogs not one of which weighed less than 70 pounds. Like cowboys coming home, we faced doggie love and a pot of stew simmering on the back of the wood stove. Another kind of sacrament.

This morning's holy silence, that moment when another world seemed to open up in and around me, maybe extended the many benedictions of the last week or so. Is that how it is? Sometimes we see through the glass clearly in a series of synergistic events that tumble us into the looking glass; sometimes it's just grace. Maybe it's always grace. Roxie

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Namaste

Welcome to all the kindred souls who are following this blog. Something tells me things are going to get lively in this place, soon. This is a week of contemplation. I'm on vacation and having many rich and helpful conversations and experiences.

I've reached a decision that I need to revise the way I live my life to be more intentional. That decision relates to blogging, exercise, and meditation. I'm in Nevada where the mountains are snow covered all the way to the horizon and the ravines drop to the middle of the earth. It's heart-stoppingly beautiful. I'm grateful for the drama of northwestern nature. It doesn't do damage; it just stands there so varied and beautiful that you can look at it forever.

Thinking about forever, we went to see a show about Black Holes at the local planetarium. Dude, what ARE these terrifying natural occurances? How can it be that matter sucks in on itself so intensely that it swallows itself and disintegrates. It's like bad science fiction. Everything we know regenerates into something else. Can there BE something like a black hole that doesn't regenerate, that goes into nothingness and doesn't return? The spiritual loop hole is the "worm hole" concept. Maybe, there is a tunnel of sorts from the black hole to a white something or other in another plane that is generating life.

My son and I sat at a picnic table in the sun and said simultaneously, "I can't wrap my mind around black holes."

On the other hand, Big Dude, how amazing that there exists something so magnificent, something generating its own laws and forces, something that we CAN'T understand or even approach. Poet Wendell Berry celebrates the darkness and the unknown for the humility and awe these generate in us. That's how I feel about the Nevada landscape and the dark places in space. They leave our minds floundering and our spirits bowed. Roxie

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Chaos, Comfort, and Compost: Welcome to the Human Condition

Sometimes a series of external events mirrors a stirring in our soul, unrecognizable in its early stages. Perhaps we find ourselves excessively angry with our children. Perhaps we deplore the helplessness we see in a friend or family member. Perhaps we are overwhelmed by what seem like chaotic happenings in our life. The trouble with "soul messages" is that they rarely come to us directly. Perhaps they don't want to be ambushed and taken hostage by our minds.

This month, I've been plagued by chaotic happenings over which I experience little control. From a leaking roof and little springs of water gushing from various places in the ceiling and walls to an outrageous income tax bill, life suddenly came at me from so many unexpected directions that I felt helpless and out of control.

This wicked earthquake of events culminated in two instances when I acted impulsively and without my normal filters and caution. In both cases, I said something I wished I hadn't. Upon reflection, I realize that the external chaos had moved within. I lost touch with my loving center and began taking cheap and quick shots at others.

Why is it that we sometimes are more inclined to think ill of others than well? Almost certainly it is because we are actually thinking ill of ourselves. I don't know how to fix that kind of chaos. I don't know how to make up for a negative balance in the self-love column. It seems like a vicious circle. I don't love myself and so I don't attract love. That's a universal law of life, isn't it? What a terrible law! Who most needs love? The one who doesn't feel loved, right? In my minimally damaging sniping at others, am I not asking if not begging not to be sniped at in return. Am I not asking for love?

I think about Shakespeare's Shylock crying out, "If you scratch me, do I not bleed?" In the laws of the land, Shylock had to forfeit a "pound of flesh" for his offence. But the ruler of that Shakespearean land lived more by mercy than justice; he forgave the debt. That makes me think about the soft heart of the good shepherd looking for a lost sheep in the night.

I eventually figured out how to manage the leaky ceiling and the overwhelming tax bill. External crises I can handle. I have no idea how to fix the leaks in my soul, the heavy spiritual bills that are coming due. Why is that? Maybe I can't fix them. Maybe I have to wait to be forgiven my debt, for the shepherd to find me.

So, I light a candle and sit quietly watching my mind pick at my spirit. Watching gushers of self-doubt erupt within me. I watch my mind impose its inexorable judgments upon my soul and the fines that it levies seem too heavy to bear. I am awash in despair.

Big Dude, why is it sometimes so hard to find our way to you? Like some dark warlord, you just seem to melt into the darkness leaving us without comfort or grace. Why do our souls just seep out from under us sometimes? What's up with all this inner and outer chaos? Stop! Don't give me any holy crap about how you created life itself out of just such a messy kind of darkness. I'm not buying the creation myth today. I'm not buying it.

I am sitting here with a candle just barely smelling the yeasty, incubating dark hope of the human condition.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow and Water and Rain, Oh My!

I've been sitting here listening to the dripping of water from the leaks in my ceiling, watching the snow grow deeper and deeper. How complacent we who have homes become even in the face of natural disasters!

Most of the US is experiencing one of its biggest, widest, and most fierce snow storms. All life outside of the home is cancelled--no work, no school, sometimes no roads or power. I am awash with gratitude for my home even with its leaky ceiling.

Do you ever wonder about the cycle of the seasons, however they occur where you live? The obvious connection is to the human life cycle. Egocentric, we think most things are here to teach us about human life. And that's probably true, but it's not all.

Although there's probably meaning in the rhythm of all this, it could be random. It also could be quantum--having an order that we don't comprehend at all. Not logical or symmetrical for those are concepts that we invented to make manageable meaning out of mysteries.

Did you ever think that there are far more unexplained phenomena than explained ones? That there are mysterious healings and remissions for no known reason? That there are heart attacks without cause, randomly attributed to stress or adrenaline? Lost, we create names and purposes and causal relationships in the face of the most overwhelming and chaotic natural occurances.

So, I'm thinking about all this snow. It defies the limits of my reason to imagine that it actually will melt. I used to run a children's camp in the middle of rural Michigan. The children got trapped at the camp one year because a terrible blizzard completely isolated it from the outside world. We had no power, the snow drifts were over the buildings and to the tree tops. Sara, age 10, was crying and I went over to her. "What's wrong?" I asked. She said, "I'm thinking it's the coming of an ice age and I'll never see my parents again."

I reassured her that it was just a storm and it would pass. Of course, it did pass and the children eventually were restored to their families.

Young and glib, I believed my own words that it would pass. Today, I wonder if her instincts were right. Maybe something bigger than my mind can imagine is at work, manifesting in catastrophic weather patterns and natural disasters. I'm not denying the cycle of the seasons. I'm wondering if that's a small cycle within a much bigger, unrecognizable pattern.

Like the heart attack for no known reason, is the overload of snow, water, and eventually rain more than it seems? My Buddhist self says, "It is what it is, breathe." I'm not so sure. I'm not so sure.

Sometime, imprisoned in our lodgings, we are as much at risk as those who are out battling the storms. We are a risk of a failure of imagination, of a failure of heart and nerve. Living behind walls and seeing out of windows is truly viewing the Divine itself "through a glass darkly." We like to think of the Divine as a person, a bigger human, someone who thinks and feels as we do only more so, maybe better. It's comforting to think there is a lovingly cranky Being watching over this natural world and its creatures. Hemingway's novel, The Sun Also Rises ends with the line "Isn't it pretty to think so?" It is pretty and comforting to think everything will be alright.

The trouble is that when I reassured that child and when we reassure ourselves, we are hoping for a good outcome on human terms. We hope the storm will pass, we'll survive the heart attack, and we'll be safe and well. I do think we'll be alright (I can't help it!) but I'm pretty sure that I don't know what that means in real terms. Clearly, we're all going to die and, in some sense, this is not alright. I can't help believing,however, that it's also going to be alright, right in a sense that reason can't help me with.

My favorite way to think of meaning uses the particle and the wave from physics. If I'm thinking of myself as a particle, then I think of myself as a separate entity and I fear my demise, the loss of my sense of self, the loss of what I experience as my existence. If I'm thinking of myself as a wave, then I know that I sometimes and briefly get to raise up out of the water and look around. As a wave, I know that human life is just looking around.

As a wave, I know I'm made up of water and I don't fear subsiding back into the ocean. Sitting on the couch listening to the water dripping watching the snow bury my car and windowsills, I'm trying to remember I'm a wave. I'm water and snow and rain. Oh my.