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.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

And He Will Raise Me Up

Sometimes, our higher power or greater good comes through in unexpected ways.  We can choose to recognize those moments of grace or we can sleep walk through our days.  It's hard to see those unexpected and often tiny "ways" as miracles, but what if they are?

I've had such moments in the last few days and I've noticed them.  I was in Maine with family for the holidays.  I slept well every night.  Miracle.  It wasn't always easy.  Sometimes, I had to ask for divine intervention to keep all the inner demons in check. 

What does it mean to ask for divine intervention?  As I read somewhere, it's unlikely that the Big Dude or greater good is going to help your football team win, for example.  But it might help you or me have a gentler attitude when we watch that game.  Here's how I think of my higher being.  It's a "he" today.  He raises me up.  I rise to meet him.  Together, we become my higher power or greatest good.  That entity sees and accomplishes miracles.

That entity faces its less-than-helpful behaviors and tries something different.  Driving home from my brother's home in Maine, it was dark and there were predictions of a terrible storm the next day.  It occurred to me that I might get snowbound in my hotel where there was no restaurant.  Procrastination is one of my personal challenges.  My  higher self took charge.  It drove me into a convenience store where I filled my gas tank, bought bottles of water, granola bars, and yogurt.

The next day I was snowbound.  I was prepared and unafraid.  My higher power had seen to it that I had food and water.  Yesterday, the snow stopped and I went out to my car.  Snowplows had piled snow up all around it.  I took a deep breath and borrowed a shovel.  I shoveled for an hour.  When I was finished, my heart was pounding and I was shaking.  I wanted to go back in my room and not face the five hour drive home.  Truly a higher being took charge again.  Step-by-step, I carried my luggage through the snow to the car. 

Where are the miracles?  Two months ago, I would have worried all night about whether I should drive home and so I wouldn't have slept.  I wouldn't have filled the tank or gotten supplies.  I would have churned with guilt because I didn't go out to my brother's that day.  I would have blamed myself for everything and railed at the gods as well.

Instead, it was all in sync.  I was serene and living only this moment's challenges.  I did what needed to be done to be safe.  And, I was happy and grateful.  On the way home, I sang:  "And he will raise me up on eagle's wings."  That's how I felt.  How is that not a miracle?  Roxie

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Trailing Clouds of Glory

Last night, I dreamed that one of the first people to love me unconditionally died.  I woke up with a sense of urgency.  I wanted to contact this beautiful, evolved, spiritual man to thank him.  Upon further reflection, I realized that there have been several of these "spirit guides," if you will, who have come into my life.  I'm certain they come into all of our lives in various ways.

We start our journey as spiritual beings in a physical world slightly before we are born.  The poet, Wordsworth, suggested that as children we are still "trailing clouds of glory," bearing some memory of another, spiritual origin.  My childhood, as did so many childhoods, left me ravaged by loneliness, lack of love, and terror.  My child's understanding was that parents were supposed to love their children.  I believed for most of my life that my parents did love me; I deduced that what I received from them was love.  I lived my life with the understanding that "love" was defined by loneliness and terror.

In my home, there were occasional bright spots that I now think of as sent by a higher good.  There was my next door neighbor, a little girl named Terri, with whom I spent every free hour. She gave me the gift of imagination as we played out innumerable myths and fairy tales of our invention in the nearby woods. There was my grandmother who lived with us briefly. She taught me not to take my mother too seriously and that I was an angel.  There was Aunt Helen.  She taught me to ward off the threats of my brothers by ignoring them. There was Aunt Agnes, whom we affectionately called "Anya," who taught me that I was beautiful and had gifts and talents to give the world.  She taught me to appreciate the beauty of nature and she loved me unconditionally.  Finally, there was my dad, a workaholic for sure, who loved me as best he could and, over time, confirmed my perception that my mother did not love me.  "It's not you," he used to say.  "It's her.  She can't love."  This did help although it also sealed the coffin of my growing understanding that, for some reason, the gods had bequeathed a paranoid depressed mother upon me who played out her fantasies and delusions on my little psyche from the moment I was born until she died.

In high school, there were more such guides in the form of enlightened teachers and friends.  My best friend and lifetime ally, Joan, entered my life in a deeper way and we overtly explored new avenues of spirit life.  Two teachers, Dominican nuns, really showed me new paths.  Sister Michaelene, the math teacher, gave me two amazing elixirs.  She told her classes that evolution and creation were not mutually exclusive and she explained both scientifically and spiritually how they could easily co-exist.  That tool enlightens my journey to this day.  She also demonstrated to me my teaching gift.  I was failing Algebra II and she called me in and said, "Don't tell me you can't learn this stuff.  I know you better than that.  Here's the thing.  I have to have surgery and I'll be gone for three weeks.  You're going to teach the class.  We're going into negative numbers; go home and catch up and be ready to take my place on Monday."  This was a miraculous intervention.  What teacher does this?  I taught my peers Algebra II for three weeks, everyday.  I became a teacher because of her.

The other nun, Sister Amadeus, gave me the gift of creativity.  She was my senior English teacher, a young, passionate, rule-breaker, who forced us to write poetry.  I remember a poem I wrote for her called "Toast."  She showed me how it was a really good poem and made me see that I had the gift.

And then, in college, I met the man I dreamed about last night.  He was a priest of great influence and prestige in the Detroit arch-diocese.  I had a major crusth on him like every other girl I knew. There was only one difference.  He blew up my fantasy crush by actually falling in love with me.  For several months, I walked on air.  No one had ever loved me, ME, so completely before.  He would leave the priesthood, he said.  We would marry.  I dreamed of dark-haired babies with big eyes.  And then, I lost my nerve.  The memories of my mother's curses, her belief that I was evil, that I should not have been born rose up and I found myself, quite simply, suddenly and terribly unable to sleep at all and then ill.  I began losing weight and eventually I told this amazing man that I would die if I continued the relationship.  He knew it was true although neither of us really understood why.  I left him. His wisdom and love never left me.  He launched me on the next phase of my spiritual quest.

There are moments when we see our life in all its dimensions--its good and evil, its strenth and weakness, its love and hate.  This is such a moment.  A moment when I know I can hold within me the human condition and still be aware of my spiritual nature.  I came into the world trailing those "clouds of glory," as do we all.  Now and then, we catch another glimpse of them in later life.  They leave us warmed and shaken.  With thanks to my friend, Father Tom H.  Roxie

Friday, December 14, 2012

Enough!

Probably we're all having different feelings about the murder of 20 elementary school children and six adults today.  I'm a bit numb and maybe I need to be restarted.  I'm furious and despairing, sad, and despairing, despairing.  It's too much!  I know that the US has had fewer massacres than other countries.  I know that we are privileged to live in a relatively peaceful country.  And I know it's not good enough.

In recovery, they would say that life has become unmanageable and we need to surrender to a higher power.  I agree that life has become unmanageable but I'm thinking the higher powers that be, the Big Dude, whoever, are doing a terrible job!!!!  What bottom does the human race have to hit before we get rid of guns and begin teaching peace in our schools and our families?

You can say it's not guns and blah, blah, blah.  It IS guns.  It is guns everytime in the U.S.  I cannot bear another minute in which we foster a culture that kills the weak and the marginalized.  It has to stop. 

I'm thinking of the song, "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me."  It comes back to the tiny drop in the bucket that is each of us and making peace with ourselves and with each person who comes our way.  This is my pledge:

I'm going to hug the next 26 people I interact with. 

Roxie

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Happiness vs the Other Shoe Dropping

Sometimes, happiness sneaks up on you.  And don't kid yourself, happiness is a spiritual quality.  Happiness is being aware of yourself doing well in the midst of circumstances beyond your control.  It's essentially noticing.  As the hero says in Joe and the Volcano: "99% of people are asleep and the other 1% are amazed!"

I've used that quote before in my blogs but it always bears repeating.  If we're on a spiritual journey, we want to be in that one percent, right?  We want to be awake and amazed.  That's happiness and beyond.

So, how do we become awake.  The first answer is yada-yada always meditation.  I'm not going to say that today.  I think the first answer is conscious choice for your own well being.  So often, we are on auto-pilot, zinging along and remembering our selves only when life catches us up short.  For me, that usually means that something painful happens.  Why is that?  Well, I tend to doubt the good things coming my way, to wait for the other shoe to drop.  Probably, I won't find myself in happiness while my eyes are on pending disasters.

All of this was brought home to me last week when I made a difficult, conscious choice not to act on an impulse.  I literally had to slam my computer shut and go to bed in order to make the right and good choice in that moment.  I did it.  The next day, I found myself really happy.  I talked with my son unexpectedly and with a lightness of being that surprised me.  I noticed my happiness at Thanksgiving dinner.  I caught myself trying to prolong it, trying to engage and participate.  I realized that, for once, I wanted to be where I was instead of rushing off to my hotel room.  The people around me seemed like blessings.  Instead of draining me, they were filling me up.

I believe it was the conscious choice of the night before that paved the way for me to be awake and amazed at dinner that day.  I confess that I have since been cringing occasionally as I slip back into waiting for the old shoe to come crashing down.  But, I'm aware that it doesn't have to and even IF it does, I don't have to be crushed by it.  I wouldn't say I'm exactly happy today but the groundwork is prepped, the bread is rising, and I'm waiting, not for the shoe to drop, but for happiness.  Wait, is that it?  Ahhhhh.  Roxie
 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Toast and Jam or Why Is the World So Fucked Up:

It's so hard to believe in the Big Dude or the Good God or even a Spirit of the Universe when it seems like they're such fuck-ups!  Child molestation alone can put me off such beliefs forever.  If you or I ran the universe, would we allow this?  And then there's rape and murder, wife beating, drugs, terrorism, and all the rest.  Finally, there's just your average lonely life, the "quiet desperation" that Thoreau speaks of.  A nun I used to know once said, "It's not the big things; it's the terrible dailiness of every day."  It's all those things that put me off God now and then.

And then, my great-nephew races to meet me in the mall and jumps into my arms.  Ahhhh.  Maybe there is a God.  Or, I'm driving through the Berkshires on the Mass Pike and my heart stops at the beauty.  Or a leaf is floating late from a tree, carried hither and yon on invisible currents of air.  And there's always the night sky when you're desperate.  One look at a clear sky opens those chakras right up. 

Which brings me to a spiritual dilemma:  Does God live in the whim of the moment?  Or, is the Great Spirit truly beyond time and comprehension?  If God lives in the moment, then I control him or her by my state of mind.  Check that one off.  That can't be true.  So, that leaves (a) no God or (b) the timeless, incomprehensible one.  I guess I like the latter option.

That means I do (alas) need to work at spiritual development.  The great traditions seem to agree that it's about loving yourself and your neighbor, doing good works, and being present.  The rest is some kind of grace or gift over which we have no control.  I've been sloughing off on my spiritual practice again.  Why is it so HARD to make myself do this?  Why don't I joyfully sit in meditation every day for as long as possible?  How can I NOT want as much contact as possible with the Great Spirit?  I think I do want that.

The problem is I'm a lazy-ass human.  I'd rather God came to me in a more whimsical way.  I'd rather he fixed world hunger and child abuse directly.  I don't want to have to do the hard work of opening to God and THEN do the hard work of making life a better place.  No wonder the world is so fucked up.  It's on us.  It's only as good as we collectively make it.  We're TOAST!  Well, and jam, maybe.  Roxie

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gratitude: A Derivative of Grace

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the US.  I love this holiday.  It's so American.  It brings us together.  You don't have to think about being politically correct in your expressions; you can say "Happy Thanksgiving" to everyone you meet.  Granted, there may be Native Americans who don't relate to this day, but if that's true, they graciously go their own way without making anyone feel guilty about it.  Maybe we can all relate to gratitude.

Gratitude should be a derivative of grace if it isn't already.  When I am in a moment of grace, I don't have to think about what I'm grateful for; it pours through me and out of me.  It transforms everything.

Well, that makes me think.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if we all were simultaneously in a state of grace?  Surely that is the alpha and omega of the spiritual life.  The Buddhists would say:  No one is fully enlightened until everyone is enlightened.  I love that.  It makes me feel connected to all the rest of you and it makes my sacred journey a shared one.

How little we know when we're in our rational minds!  How easy it is when we are in grace.  May Thanksgiving Day be a day of grace.  Gratitude will be at the table.  Roxie

Monday, November 12, 2012

Isn't It Pretty to Think So?

What if there really is a God?  I know. I know.  I have created this character called the Big Dude and another one called the Good God (aka GG) and, more recently, have been caught up in the idea of a Higher Power.  But, what if there really is a God, God.  Beyond my mind.  Directly infused into my spirit.

Today I was meditating as usual, my mind flinging itself back and forth between the class I have to teach shortly, the squabbling of the birds at the bird feeder outside the window, and the various dramas that have been going on in and around me.  All of a sudden, my third eye was filled with a clear white space.  The words, "Be still and know that I am God" filled me. 

I don't know if that was really a communication from the One or a figment of my imagination, but it raised a question:  What if there really is a God?  Just the question overwhelmed me.  I was filled with what I can only call humility and reduced to a lump of clay just by the question.  It's as if the question immediately presupposed the answer.  The question called forth the God. 

So, does faith itself call forth the God?  Is that it?  Is faith a kind of communion of my admittedly pitiful outreach and the God's powerful response?  I wrote once that to access the internet, you had to turn it on at your own control panel.  Maybe that's how it is with God.  He/She/It is always hovering, present in everything but each of us has to turn the switch to receive the waves or rays or grace of it.

I don't "know" the answer in my rational self.  I sometimes experience strange goings-on that seem too individualized to be coincidental.  Over and over again, people in recovery have affirmed: If you tune into a higher power, even someone else's higher power if you can't find your own, thngs start to align and fall in place.

Why am I so afraid to believe?  I'm afraid.  Afraid it's a trick.  Afraid, as with love, that I'll give my faith only to have it rejected.  Afraid in the moment of death, I'll hear "a fly buzz" and know with Emily Dickinson that it was all for naught. 

I guess, faith is a "so what!"  in the face of the rational mind's doubts.  So what if the old fly buzzes.  So what if it's all for naught.  So what. So what.  Isn't it the HUMAN condition to reach for the stars, to forge on in the midst of great desperation.  What fuels that human optimism, resilience?  Maybe it's a kind of faith that says I CHOOSE to believe otherwise.  Saying with Hemingway, "Isn't it pretty to think so."  Yes, it is.  Roxie

 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Attachment Goes Not Gently Away

Great religions and spiritual traditions speak of detachment--letting go of the things of the world for spiritual purposes.  Did you ever try it?  It's so hard!  I first noticed my penchant to cling to the things of the world. Like Dylan Thomas, I am one to "go not gently into that good night."  I cling to my best friend, to my son, to my opinions, to my unique family and history.  Recently, I realized I even cling to my faults and my problems.

Such a problem is my lifetime battle with insomnia.  That started when I was a tiny person.  I would get up and go to the bathroom during the night and then be afraid to go back to bed.  I would sit on the toilet all night waiting for some sound from my parents' room indicating they were awake. At the same time, I was afraid to flush for fear I would wake my Dad and he would be angry with me.  I was awake and terrified until daylight.  I still am sometimes. 

Insomnia shapes my life.  I don't like to travel because it affects my sleep patterns.  I won't stay at other people's houses.  I won't stay anywhere unless I have a bathroom connected to my bedroom.  Naturally, I also won't sleep in the same room or bed with anyone lest I have to use the bathroom or lest I can't sleep all night.  What will they think of me?  Will they love me less because I am not the strong woman they know in the daytime? I have turned down jobs, opportunities to fly to foreign lands on private jets, and even marriage proposals because of my insomnia.

I was reading something about detachment this morning (after a rough night) and the author suggested that detachment doesn't just relate to people but also to problems that you obsess over.  I immediately realized that I obsess over sleep or the lack thereof. What would happen if I turned sleep gently over to the Big D, my higher power.  I envision myself wrapping it gently in gossamer threads, a lumpy package with defiant tendrils trying to escape and come back to me.  I stand before my higher power and, as if pledging my troth, close my eyes and hand over the shapeless mass.  I feel it fall from my hands but I don't know if it was taken lovingly or whether I am imagining my relief.

I don't suppose it will be so simple as giving it over to the higher forces, but recovery and all spiritual guides suggest we "let go."  If you think about it, clinging to anything of the earth is a pointless activity.  Either there is gravity holding us or there isn't.  All the clinging and clutching in the world doesn't make us more securely attached; it just means we can't move about the beautiful earth as easily. I'm letting go, lettting go already.  More to come,  Roxie

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Spiritual not Religious!

Well, spirituality today trumps religion, so says a recent poll. Is it laziness or lack of willingness to commit? Is it free thinking? Why are so many of us claiming to be spiritual while not having a religious affiliation? Is it because so many religions have screwed up so badly? Think religious wars, abuse of women and children by religious leaders. Think of hoarded wealth and freely distributed righteousness. So, there's a lot of reasons why folks may be choosing not to be spiritual. There's another side to the story though. Alternative spiritualities and practices are on the rise. Many of us have turned to Zen Buddhism, for example.

What really fascinates me, however, is the rise of the 12-Step movement. Widely thought of as a kind of cure for various addictions, 12-Step groups are also highly spiritual and intentionally not religious. The idea of a "higher power" of each person's understanding permeates all 12-Step work. When you think of the millions of people who participate in one such recovery group or another, we are looking at possibly the largest source of those who might well claim to be spiritual and not religious in the polls.

I am one such person. Being a bit of a Buddhist, an occasional Unitarian, a member of the alternative Unity Church (bringing all spiritual practice together, baby), I've recently become a member of the recovery community. I bow my head in shock and awe at the spiritual power of these groups. My membership in recovery is actually why I haven't posted for so long. I was reluctant to include what is a new and powerful growth process in this alternative spirituality blog. I didn't want to dump the Big Dude. I was afraid I would lose my readers if I truly shared what I'm finding to be a powerful, transformative spirituality. My intellectual self rejects the idea and I worry that yours will too.

Deep breath. When I first went into recovery, it was to help a friend. I was skeptical, doubtful, and sarcastic in my attitude. I didn't want to be there. As time went on, I began to catch glimpses of a different reality. I saw that I was not who I'd always thought I was. I was both far worse and far better. I can't really explain what happened but I will try to speak the spiritual truth I'm observing and experiencing in the recovery rooms.

For starters, take the idea that each person has his/her own higher power, unshared with and untapped by other humans. Kind of like the "guardian angel" concept of some other religions. In a way, it is a kinder, friendlier Big Dude--my own Big D. I can selfishly ask for help or comfort without worrying about the abuse and starvation of other humans who might need the services of a God with broader responsibilities! More to follow. Roxie

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sacred Shit

In each of us dwells the whole human story. We are filled with enough characters, impulses and counter-impulses to populate a planet. The task of our sacred self is to manage the internal landscape of our being. Allied with the Divine, the higher self brings our parts together for the good of the whole.

This is not an easy task. Think about it. We have wounds and joys. Those wounds and joys live within us as voices with deep, deep feeings attached to them. To further complicate the situation, voice and feelings are attached to a narrative. We have stories of what happened to us, what our mother did or didn't do in a particular moment. What our father was like. And those voices are different in memories from different periods of our life.

For example, the voice of my six-year-old period is sad, shocked, and afraid. My six-year-old lived through a moment when her mother showed her true colors, showed that whatever happened to the six year old girl was only valuable to the extent it hurt or reflected well upon the mother. Another, happier voice is that of the three year old. "I want to go," it says confidently, running towards the lake, towards people, towards the woods, towards friends, Confident, laughing, this little girl owns the world and knows nothing can hurt her ever. A third voice is the voice of the adolescent. This young woman is embarassed to smile, afraid to flirt, immensely intellectual, a geekish, awkward thing. She has no mother to teach her or model for her how to grow up. She has begun having menstrual cycles without any idea of what's happening. She thinks maybe the blood means she's dying. She hides a rage big enough to blow up a building.

And then there is what has come to be known as the Adult-Child. The adult body that houses all these memories and voices. That A-C goes to work, to job interviews, gets married, has children, and grows old. It just never grows up. It has six, and three, and 15 year old reactions to adult situations. Chaos lives within the Adult-Child.

This is the essence of sacred shit. Many of us never know life beyond it. Many of us never know that sacred shit is compost and makes things grow better than anything else. It is the job of the higher self, the uber gardener, to work the shit into compost and plant the seeds of our spiritual natures.

Sometimes, the voice of the higher self is compromised or drowned out by the clamoring of old memories, of excruciating feelings that are walled away within those memories. The higher self has to excavate, journey into the underworld, find those children, pull them into the light of day. Bring those memories into reality, open up the feelings and let them flow out bringing the caged creativity of the soul with them.

There are two hard questons here: (1) How do we develop the higher self; and (2) How do we get at the underworld, the sacred shit rotting away, barren?

The higher self emerges when we are silent and waiting for it. As part of spiritual practice, we need to make silent times when we simply wait, empty ourselves of all the voices and shit and see what comes to us. Another way to help it emerge is to give it a name and ask a question. When I started this blog, my higher self was called the "Big Dude;" today, I call it "GG" which is short for "Good God" as opposed to the punitive god that was forced upon me as a child. Sometime I sit and say something like, "GG, why do I feel so miserable in the early morning?" I wait and GG replies either with a kind of parable or with a therapeutic question like: "Tell me more about that misery stuff." Often, that surfaces one of the children inside and unlocks some of the hidden feelings.

Either way, I strengthen the voice of the higher self every time I practice with it. Remember that the higher self is that part of you or me that is allied with the Divine. It sees a bigger picture for me or you and sets things in motion with that in mind.

And, if we seem to fail, and live forever mired in our own sacred shit, remember this. The higher self and the Divine live in us whether we notice it or not. They love us whether we feel it or not. We cannot really fail. We cannot really fail. All of our voices and impulses, all of the sacred shit, the memories and stored feelings are of God, graces waiting to be released. A dance awaiting the music. We cannot fail. We can feel miserable every morning. Sacred shit, that's all it is. Roxie

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Alpha and the Emma Jane

Once upon a time, there was a terrier mutt roaming the streets of Atlanta. She ate out of garbage bags that landed next to dumpsters and slept under bushes in the park. She fought other dogs that tried to take her food. She slunk away from humans who might kick her or throw stones. She lost chunks of her hair from worry and, truth be told, from fighting. You could say that her life had become unmanageable . . .

One day, as she was sniffing around some dumpsters, she heard a kind voice say, "Here, doggie. Come, sweetie."

She turned to look and as quick as that, she found herself wrapped in a net and placed in the back of a truck. She was inside a small box with bars and there were other dogs also in boxes. She was in that small box for many days with occasional times when the person with the kind voice would come, attach her to a leash, and walk her around so she could pee and poop. When they would get back, there was some food and water in her cage.

At last, they seemed to come to the end of the journey. The truck stopped and this time, a big man lifted her cage with her in it and brought her into a building where there were hundreds of other animals. Emma Jane was afraid. Would she be in this cage forever? Who would take care of her? What if the other animals got loose and came after her?

The very next day, the woman with the kind voice came and picked her right up out of her cage. She was brought into a room with really bright lights and the next thing she knew she was back in her cage with things wrapped around her and a soft blanket under her. She tried to stand up but she couldn't. She fell asleep. When she woke up, someone was putting water next to her nose, so she lapped some up. She hurt all over.

That day, another person came and picked her up out of her cage, whisked her out of the buildng and placed her in another cage in the back of a car. They drove awhile and then came to a pretty house. The woman carried her, cage and all into a big room where there was another dog running loose. Immediately, Emma Jane was afraid. The woman put her cage down and opened the door. The other dog came over and sniffed. Emma Jane was shakng and looking away.

But, that turned out OK. The other dog was friendly and as Emma Jane healed from her surgery, she began to come out of her cage and inspect her environment. She thought she might be safe here. There was food and water. There was another dog to play with and there were little people who came out and petted her, taking her for long walks in a place where there were SQUIRRELS. Emma Jane pulled on her leash, shot forward to chase those critters, but was pulled back by the little people. This all went on for quite awhile and Emma Jane, the hyper vigilant stray, was starting to relax.

All too soon, the woman came out one day and put Emma back in her cage, lifted the cage and put it into her car. She took her to a big building where there were lots of animals in cages and people roaming around. There were big dogs barking and growling, cats reaching their paws through the bars as far as they could. Emma Jane turned her back on it all and curled up alone. She was very afraid.

After awhile, a strange woman said, "Let me see that one." The woman with the kind voice was there and she opened the cage and put a leash on Emma Jane, handing the leash to the stranger. They walked over to a place in the corner where the woman sat on the floor and began to pet Emma Jane. Emma Jane crawled in her lap and began to lick her face thinking maybe this is the one. All of her hair fell out, coating the stranger's clothing. The stranger took her outside for a walk and Emma Jane saw a good place to go to the bathroom. Soon, she found herself sitting in the stranger's lap in another car and finally she came to another strange house.

Would this moving around never end? Emma Jane felt totally powerless over all the things happening around her.

She was in a nice place. Her cage had a soft bed in it. She had a special place where the stranger put her food and water twice a day. She got to sit on really soft furniture right next to the stranger. Other people came to visit but they didn't take her away. One woman came in with, oh, oh, two yappy little dogs. Emma Jane backed away as far as she could, cringing next to the stranger on the sofa. One of the yappy dogs jumped right up next to the stranger and, without thinking, Emma Jane went for her throat. The stranger got really upset with her and the lady with the dogs left. The stranger put her in her cage.

Time went on and Emma Jane began to feel such a stirring of love for the stranger that it scared her. What if this woman, too, sent her away? Emma Jane became afraid of abandonment. She didn't know what to do. The next day, the woman with the yappy dogs came again but this time they were outside in the little yard where Emma Jane got to chase the squirrels. One of the yappy dogs jumped up on the stranger and HER stranger began to pet the yappy dog. Emma Jane, not knowing what jealousy or protectiveness she was feeling, lunged for the other dog's throat and this time, she held on fiercely.

The stranger pried her jaws open and then made her be prone on the ground. She put the yappy dog on a table nearby and put her foot on Emma Jane's head. This was Emma Jane's first encounter with boundaries. She knew that the dog on the table was supposed to be the Big Dog, he who must be obeyed. Eventually the woman with the yappy dogs left, but there began for Emma Jane a rigorous program of obedience training. Every day, her mistress made her sit, made her follow behind when she walked out the door, made her walk on a short leash without tugging, made her ignore the squirrels! She began to understand that her mistress was the one, She Who Must Be Obeyed.

Ever vigilant Emma Jane became serene. All she had to do to be happy was please She Who Must Be Obeyed. Now, when they went on walks, Emma Jane looked up at the woman to see what she was supposed to do. All worries vanished. She had her Alpha. She was home.

[I wrote this story after a walk with Emma Jane. I had been meditating on my own higher power and struggling with letting go and trusting the Big Dude would protect me. On this walk, I let Emma Jane off the leash and she happily took off after a squirrel. Then, she stopped, looked back at me and came back on the path. She walked along, looking at me every few minutes. When we got back to the public part of the path, I called her to me and she came with such a happy look on her face. Her tale was wagging as if being back on the leash with me was the best thing in the world. It was like she was saying, "I belong to you. I'm so glad you're my Alpha." Everything fell into place for me. Emma Jane taught me that having a higher power to tell me what to do i

s a happy place to be. She gave me a taste of serenity. Namaste, Emma Jane.) Roxie

Friday, July 20, 2012

Aurora CO and Deep Sorrow

At the midnight premiere of the new Batman movie, a shooter fired into the audience and so-far we know 15 young people are dead and 35 more are injured. This movie attracts teens, especially at the midnight launching. The shooter is in custody.

This is roughly what the press is reporting as I write this. Words like "audience" and even "shooter" make this a palatable event. Cops will tell you that one of the first things they do to emotionally handle a situation like his is to give less human titles to the individuals involved. So, we have words like victims, perpetrators, collateral damage, the body, terrorists, innocent others, and so on.

Right after I posted my condolences and prayers on Facebook, I saw a posting from Buddhagrove.com stating:

May I be the doctor
and the medicine

and may I be the nurse
for all sick beings in the world.

Whenever something horrific happens, I make an effort to remember that each person in the event no matter what his or her category is on a spiritual journey and is a child of the universe. Like so many, I am of two minds: I'm furious and want to punish the "shooter" and I'm sorrowful for the human condition and I want to make the world a better place.

I always wonder how many of us are carrying rage and anger in our hearts creating the critical mass underlying those individuals who themselves are victims of individual and collective cultural rage. Those who carry the hidden and expressed rage of the multitude sometimes become the perpetrators of unspeakable acts against others. What do I carry, hidden, in the disquiet of my heart, that contributes to the violent fabric of our nation and the world? Peace. Roxie

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Walking the Dog as Spiritual Practice

Supposedly, it's good to do two things a day that you don't want to do. This builds your spiritual muscle. With an aching knee, walking the dog fits into that category for me. So, I set off with a spiritual mindset instead of my usual resentful one. "This is for my spiritual growth," say I.

I put my sweet but intense terrier on its leash, slipping her a treat as I do so ensuring that she will sit nicely instead of leaping up and taking skin off my bare legs with her doggy-clawed enthusiasm. We set off into the enormous field next to my home. The field being empty, I let her off the leash and she immediately tears off in the wrong direction. Staying spiritual, I look at the path and the trees and the sky. I feel the heat of the morning beginning to rise. Eventually, I look back and there is the doggie chomping on something she found in the grass. I call her nicely. I call her less nicely. I clap my hands several times. She looks up laconically, perceives there might be a treat in the offing and races towards me, her feet barely touching the ground. She gets to me and immediately sits as she's trained to do and looks at me all innocent and dewy-eyed, "Aren't I the best dog?" her eyes say. I give her a treat.

She tears away again, ripping towards a big tree in the middle of the field. Lots of good smells there. Do you see what an amazing spiritual practice this dog is having during this walk? She's totally in the moment. She's using all her senses to take in the scene. I, on the other hand, am in in for the spiritual discipline, right? I'm limping along. Step, pain, step, pain. I'm worrying that I'll have to have my knee replaced.

We get around the field to a "road less travelled" and I decide to go that way which, as Frost says, makes all the difference. Suddenly, I notice a swarm of butterflies. I see purple clover blossoms lining the trail. OMG, there's a buttercup straight from my childhood ramblings in the woods. Sumac stands straight as sentinels and nameless flowers grace my way.

I forget about my knee. I'm in the moment with Nature, my personal higher power. Hmph! Roxie

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Who or What is "God"?

Who or what is your god? This is a question that has plagued humans from earliest recorded history. God-ness seems to be an experience as well as a concept. Some of us experience god as having a human face, some as a kind of wind, some as the lifting of a veil, some as a sudden awareness of the immediate moment, and some find god in multiple situations.

What is the experience behind the concept or name that we give divine moments? Skeptics like Karl Marx believe that we would invent god if we didn't already believe; he believes the human race needs the idea of a god almost as we need medication for pain. The Buddhists have an interesting take. They start with the idea that life is intrinsically suffering. We only see beyond our suffering through enlightenment, a kind of waking up. Christians see god in the face of Christ.

I wonder what draws ninety readers to a blog that names god a "Big Dude"? Share, if you would, in the comments field why you're here and what your concept of god or spirituality looks like. I'd be so interested.

In my own case, I have struggled since I was young with the god question. I couldn't believe in a god who invented hell so I parted with my parents' Catholic faith at about age 20. Since then, I've reinvented my concept of god hundreds of times.

This week, I was meditating and after several minutes of silent breathing, I raised my eyes and saw the trees and woods behind my house. Just like that I knew the face of my higher power or spiritual being: nature. Even as a pre-schooler, I spent hours and even entire days in the woods behind my house. I would look up at the trees making a "green cathedral" above me and I felt comfort and inspiration. I stumble over "god" at the ocean, in the mountains, in the feeling of wind on my face, in the night sky, and in the tops of trees. I can't comprehend the force or being behind the various forms that come to humans. It's my belief that the Big Dude comes to each of us in the form that we can most receive whether that is an organized religion, a newborn, a sudden hush, or the wind in the trees.

I am so grateful for the voice of the great spirit that comes to me as a wash of peace usually when I am close to nature. How does "god" come to you? Roxie

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Child of the Universe

You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars. You have a right to be here. This quote by Max Ehrmann often used by Gestalt psychologist, Fritz Perls in the early 70s can help us feel worthy. For those of us who were not accepted or even wanted as chilren, this affirmation can be an antidote.

If our childhood foundations were solid, the chances are we have a loving parental voice inside of us. That loving voice sometimes becomes the basis for our image of God as an adult. When we don't have that loving parent and, indeed, have a very hostile or rejecting parental voice inside us, then we need some kind of magic to undo that negative spell. Hence, we need an antidote, an elixir like the statement above.

When self-criticism is running rampant inside of me, I've taken to saying: "I am a chld of the universe." Who can debate that? Not even my mother or brothers. On the quest for self-love, I recommend frequent doses of this powerful, gentle statement. I AM a child of the universe. Roxie

Sunday, July 8, 2012

As Myself

Why is it so hard to love ourselves? The great spiritual traditions all insist that we love and accept ourselves almost as a prerequisite to "entering the kingdom" or achieving enlightenment. Psychologists concur that self-love is pretty much the root of all goodness. Twelve-step literature believes that self-love is the primary task of recovery.

So, if we "know" that self-love is the answer, why is it so impossible to achieve? I heard someone say the other night: "It takes 100 positive encounters or thoughts to unseat a single negative one." Certainly, that appears to be true. If someone slights us or appears to slight us, we ruminate on that slight for a long time and increase its power over us. Seriously, how many of us go straight to a mirror and say to our own image, "You're good enough! You're beautiful and smart."

A question that I'm trying to ask myself when I feel slighted or discouraged is: What would I say or do for a child that I know if he/she was feeling this way? I had an experience this week where a three-year-old came up to me and seemed a little downcast. I asked what was wrong and he said something happened at preschool. I pursued it and he told me a girl had told him to "Go away." I told him that wasn't very nice. He went on to say that she said it in a mean tone. I asked him how that made him feel. In the end, the girl apologized to him. He understood that she apologized and yet the sting of that "mean" tone and the words "go away" were with him. I hugged him and told him I'd never tell him to go away.

How interesting that he took the negative from the exchange and fretted over it! How true for grown-ups as well! If I have an intense exchange with someone, I hear the point in the exchange where that person called me a name and I don't think about all the problems we solved in the conversation. I don't think about the time we both took to spend with each other and talk this through. I think about the one moment where the person slipped and acted like a three-year old calling names.

Self-love, if I follow the example of the little boy, would tell a friend the feelings and seek comfort. It's that simple and that difficult. If it takes a hundred postives to undo at one hurt, then the first step is to share the burden with someone else. I can talk to myself positively as well, but I once was a little girl who was hurt and had no one to share the hurt with. Today, I need to practice sharing that hurt with a friend and with the Big Dude.

It's been four days since I was hurt and I haven't shared it with one person. I have a lot to learn. If I'm going to love my neighbor "as myself," I'd better get cracking. Roxie

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sprituality and Jerry Sandusky

All the great ones forgive. They forgive everyone. How can that be? Who can forgive Jerry Sandusky? or Hitler? Who can forgive everyone?

Perhaps it's not about forgiveness. If we think of forgiveness as an action that we have to take, almost against our own judgement and will, then it's tough. Maybe the spiritual equivalent of forgivess is actually moving ourselves to a higher plane where the actions and choices of others are just that: actions and choices. Maybe we get to a place where they're not BAD actions or BAD choices, just the choices of a fellow human.

I'm not there yet but I did find myself oddly conflicted about Jerry Sandusky. I was outraged during his trial feeling that he was a monster and needed to be locked up forever. On the one hand, I still think that. On the other hand, I hear the voice of Jesus saying, "Visit the imprisoned."

Now that he is safely locked away and I know no more children will be hurt by him, I feel compassion. He is, after all, just a lost dog in a way. A happy-go-lucky pit bull who thirsted for children. As a culture, we didn't restrain him. I didn't know him to be able to intervene personally.

Whom DO I know? Who lives in my world unrestrained and doing damage while I turn a blind eye? Me! What parts of me fly out and hurt others while I deny them and the damage they do? When I respond impulsively to another person or situation, without reflection, I risk doing damage. Freud said we, humans, have an Id capable of great creativity and great destruction. Our task is to use spiritual pratice to guide this impulsive force towards the greater good.

When asked if he was sexually attracted to young boys, Sandusky said, "I enjoy their company. I like to be with them." This positive impulse created a camp for children. Unrestrained, buoyed up by status and power and admiration from the community, this boyish enthusiasm turned into destruction and perversion.

The ancients knew too much enthusiasm and too much power would destroy us. Icarus with youthful imagination and drive flew too close to the sun and fell to his death. Shakespeare alludes to the wheel of fortune whereby those who rise to the top of the wheel surely shall also sink to the bottom.

In 12-Step terminology, addiction to any substance or action that keeps us from facing our true and spiritual nature will eventually bring about our destruction. So, turn off electronic devices, stop drinking or using, stop gambling or indulging your sexual impulses. Invoke a higher power and a higher vision. Forgiveness becomes moot.

Jerry Sandusky and all of us are on a spiritual journey. Maybe he has to be locked up all his life so that he can take the next step. (Let us hope that some higher being is protecting and guiding the children he harmed.) Maybe I have to be chained to an aging body that doesn't work so well so that I can take that step. Maybe we have to lose jobs, have heart attacks, get cancer, lose children, and face death before we see our own deadly sins and let them go.

It's easy to be spiritual on the ocean or in the mountains. We feel a larger presence. We also need to see the spirituality in the fall, when the wheel of fortune throws us down. Roxie

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mea Culpa and My Higher Power!

It's been awhile since I've posted. The Big Dude seems to have his back to me, arms folded, attention going elsewhere. Or, maybe that's me standing with my back turned, arms folded, and looking elsewhere.

Spirituality has been coming to me from 12-step rooms. My higher power has been knocking on the door and I confess I'm leaning against the door some of the time trying not to let it in. Why is that?

A higher power is probably the most appealing of all spiritual concepts. First of all, it's more like a guardian angel than a god. Each of us, they say, has a higher power of our own. I think of it as me rising to my highest self, joining with a power or energy greater than myself. This higher force is in touch with a vision and design beyond what I can see. That's such a reasonable, mystical essence. It's the best of both worlds. A human mind devoting itself to the best development of humans hand-in-hand with a guiding light that is leading the human to its greatest potential.

How bad can that be? Well, it is kind of scary. Part of the deal is that you surrender your will. Yes, it's reassuring to be joined with a higher good. And it's terrifying. In this form of spirituality, the emphasis isn't on free will or choosing the good. The emphasis is on surrender, giving your will, your WILL over to an unknown force.

Most of us have fought hard to grow up and survive. It took a lot of character and will to get where we are. Granted, where we are is not always that great, but still giving up what little control I have over my own destiny scares me. How about you? Can we all surrender our wills to a higher being despite our doubts that such a being exists or has our best interests at heart?

Can we accept that our personal best interest, what we would choose for ourself, might not be in the greater vision? That's hard and yet I think it IS the path embedded in almost every spiritual tradition. So, I've been busy working my way through the 12 Steps and finding comfort in the infamous fellowship rooms.

Those rooms are incredibly spiritual. There's something about 30 people sitting together speaking their truths and their struggles. Listening to each other. Saying the Serenity Prayer together. Agreeing not to interrupt each other or to judge each other. Agreeing not to share anything about the people who are there. Agreeing that the most recent newcomer is as important as the most seasoned veteran (the last shall be first?) or even more important. There emerges a quiet and a serenity that surprises me. Roxie

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Word Made Flesh

"Just call out my name and you know wherever I am, I'll come running (dum, dum, dum) to see you again." Sometimes it's like that with the Big Dude or our Higher Power or the Universal Force (choose one). The other night I was feeling lonely and missing my children and family of origin. I asked for help (begged) and then I went out to walk my dog in the dark. A car stopped alongside me as I was walking on the edge of the road. The driver powered down the window and a woman I used to know called out, "Are you ok? I heard you were ill and, hey, just call me and I can come over and help, walk your dog or whatever." Hmmmm. The next morning, I went out again to walk my dog in a nearby field and I let her off leash so she could play. A woman entered the other end of the field and let her dog off the leash as well. Our dogs raced towards each other and we, the owners, waved at each other from afar and started wending our way towards each other. It was another old friend. We stood and talked for several minutes. She shared that her relationship had broken up and she'd been through a challenging time while our dogs raced around the field. I returned home energized and feeling "in touch" with my neighbors. I could add that last night I went out late at night and there was the same woman with her dog and we walked for 30 minutes or so catching up on everything that had happened in the last few years. I came in and checked email to find that my family of origin was going to play bridge online this Sunday. It's hard not to connect the dots. I felt lonely. I begged for help. Immediately, people appeared and events happened that invited into the human family. Sometmes God comes to us in human form to give us the comfort or help we need. Word made flesh, I'll come running (dum, dum, dum). And so it is. Roxie

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hope Springs Eternal

I've heard people say: Just when you think things can't get any worse, they DO. Sometimes. Sometimes, though, they get better! A check arrives that you weren't expecting, a stranger strikes up a conversation that changes the way you see things, your errant teen shows up with a dandelion the way he used to do when he was six.

Could it be that it's not entirely random? Could it be in the hope or lack thereof that the next event arises. If I'm thinking things can't get any worse, the subtext of that message is that they will get worse. If, instead, I say to myself: "Well, things are really crappy right now. I'd better ask the Big Dude or his equivalent to step in" The subtext of that message is that a miracle could happen.

So, why not go for the gusto and get up every morning saying: A miracle could happen today! Why don't we all try this as an experiment and let each other know what happens? Post your results as comments.

Here's Roxie's prediction: Miracles WILL happen. Miracles are always happening but you have to notice them, engage with them. If Jesus said to that guy who couldn't walk, "Hey, you, get up and walk." The guy could be thinking: "Well, that's not going to happen and so, he doesn't try." Or, maybe he's so engrossed in his own victim drama that he doesn't even hear the invitation. When you start the day believing a miracle COULD happen, you're looking for miracles. You're acknowledging that your life is bigger than your little story.

Me? I'm sitting here with a little vase waiting for that dandelion! Roxie

Monday, March 26, 2012

Will and Dry Soil in the Spring Wind

Sometime the inner voice, the Higher Self, the Universal Wisdom seems silent. The spiritual soil is dry or frozen. Nothing's coming up. I think of the line, "To everything there is a season." Right now, I'm in a season of spiritual aridity and darkness.

I re-read my last few postings and I honor myself for TRYING, trying to make wisdom or find meaning. Alas, that doesn't work. The only thing that works is finding stillness and waiting. I think about blog followers and how the statistics show that if you don't post frequently, you will lose them. I worry. Don't go. Hang in there with me, please.

This morning, I was meditating in my wicker rocker staring out at the unusually early spring that has come to the northeast. The grass is greening up and the lilacs are almost ready to bloom. A strong wind is bending the birch tree towards the ground. I am riveted by the scene. It changes every second as the wind gusts and swirls or calms briefly. I realized that I am drawn to change, to drama, to movement. These things seem to inspire me or, at least, make me FEEL in this dry spell.

As I closed my eyes and released the view from my mind, focusing on the breath, the words of an old hymn came to mind, "Be still and know that I am God." Be still. How much I want to create and shape meaning, how little I want to stop and let meaning come to me.

Am I afraid I will be bored with silence? Am I afraid that if I clear my mind of its thoughts as interesting as they are, I will find an unbearable emptiness? This seems to be the spiritual journey, the elixir, the requirement of enlightenment. To surrender the will. To surrender that part that creates and shapes. I'm so attached to MY meanings, my visions and metaphors, my little life, that it seems impossible to surrender all that to a higher process.

What if there's nothing? As a friend said last night, "Each day, I begin by asking a higher power to take my will." I was so moved by that, and then he added with a grin, "I spend the rest of the day trying to get it back!" So many of us imagine, despite the chaos of the realities we've created, that our wills are the only thing keeping us safe and worthy. It's terrifying to hand over what seems like our last weapon or even our last grace. What will become of us?

What "unbearable lightness of being" may arrive? There's such a paradox in the spiritual journey. The more we surrender, the more we attain. The more we lay down our defenses, the more we are protected. The more we empty our minds, the more we are filled. Or, so the great spiritual traditions say.

Roxie

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Self-Love Revisited

Did you ever notice how easy it is to love every single cell of a two-year-old? Even with arms folded and a stubborn "no" pouring from a frowning face, that little person evokes a smile. Could it be that way with self-love as well? Since it seems that love of self is foundational for loving others and even the gods, we've got to keep at it and figure it out.

I've tried loving myself in one big gulp and that seems too theoretical. It hit me, loving a two-year-old, that it's every single PART of such a little one evoking love in me. What if I tried loving every single part of me?

Here's what it might be like to love ourselves, part-by-part.

I do love my toes and feet. They haven't aged and still look and smell prime, hot with their pink pedicure. It gets harder as I go upward. My ankles are a bit thicker than they used to be. They still hold me up, swivel, and let me walk though. LOVE them! My calves and knees have lost their incredibly great proportions--I had great legs. They, too, are still working and when I shave them and tan them up a bit, they'll do. LOVE them.

A great lesson came from the recent recovery of my hamstrings which froze up after a fall. Suddenly, I couldn't put weight on my leg. After months of physical therapy, I can step out, walk, pivot, climb stairs, balance, and land on my legs. I learned the importance of the invisible hamstring component. No trouble loving that part of me!

Then, we've got all those smelly orifices (sorry, readers, TMI?) that allow us to eat, drink, excrete, and make love. Basically, they help us be connected to the earth and its products, to other humans as well. LOVE them.

The flabby abs that house the intestines and lots of other fairly gross organs have a lot of incisions in them. Childbirth and appendicitis have taken their toll. Housing those organs is important work, more important than looking great in a bikini. Love them too.

The breasts are sagging, admittedly, but they still rock and can pass when encased in a good bra. They've served me well and are one of the few pain-free areas of my particular body. Have always loved them.

The arms and shoulders have born too many burdens and still carry too much worry and stress. I feel compassion for them, torn rotator and all. I have to tell you that the hands and fingers can still play a mean guitar. LOVE them, baby.

The back and spine hold us up. Though no longer as fluid and loose as the squirmy two year old's, they still bend and straighten, lifting our weight and our spirits. Nestled in front of them is the heart. Having survived a heart-attack, I have no trouble loving my heart. It's still beating and it seems, at least metaphorically, to be the seat of all this love. LOVE it.

The neck and throat are still long and elegant. They speak my truth and hold my face and head erect. Yes, of course, love them. My face is beautiful. It's virtually unlined and has always been transparent and expressive. The eyes are big and blue, wide-set. There's kindness in the face and the rapid flash of intelligence in the eyes. There's LIFE in the face. MY LIFE. Maybe, all life. I am in love with my face (and faces).

My hair is a gift. It remains thick, with body and shape. Oh, no doubt, it's white under the expensively streaked blonde that I've kept it for the last twenty years. I like my cosmetics, and I LOVE my hair.

Running quickly through this list, I think of the chakras. In each part of my trunk and head are metaphysical realities housing various spiritual challenges and graces. We are, after all, spiritual beings in this physical frame. Ultimately, as Yeats says, we are "sailing to Byzantium" where the spirit thrives in the bodies of the elders.

Which brings me, finally, to the mind and emotions. Our mind is a great asset at its best, allowing us to comprehend the physical world and reach for what's beyond. It also is a trickster, contributing to our confusion and doubt as we try to make meaning of all this. Our emotions generally follow what the mind is telling us altough sometimes they seem to take great leaps and go beyond the mind's capacities. They are what we see in each other's face and eyes and bodies. The sorrow and hurt, joy and passion, anger and fear sweep through our mortal frame telling it like it is to others, pushing them away and inviting them in.

Hot damn! I really do love myself. Roxie

Monday, March 19, 2012

Anger

Sometimes I can't stand people. I don't mind being around them but I don't want anything to do with them, if you catch my drift. Today's one of those days. I've been foraging on, doing the next right thing and the next right thing only to find myself slamming the grocery cart into its stall, jumping into the car and slamming the door. I realized I was angry, furious, in a rage. I coud be the author of that Puritan tome: "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." Only I don't know how I'd cast myself--as the sinner or the angry god.

It built slowly, this anger. It started with me growling at other drivers and even at the Liberty Tax woman in her Statue of Liberty costume by the side of the road. Pretty soon, I was screaming as I drove. I could see my poor dog cocking her head at me curiously out of the corner of my eye. Another scream from me.

That's when I started to wonder about the insomnia I've been experiencing lately. Could it be that all this spirituality, this turning things over to a divine force, this effort I've been exerting to be a better person, is just another sign that I don't love my self? or God? or you? or my poor dog? or anyone at all for that matter?

I don't know. What I do know is that it's time to kick rocks, to metaphorically slash and burn. It would be the day to go to the firing range if there were any way to do that in New York State. Ka-boom!

It's probably no coincidence that I've been engaging with life more in recent times, making new friends, visiting old ones, joining family events. It's too much. It's so much EFFORT to be growing spiritually or whatever you want to call it. I don't want to do it today. Not with people. I want to roll in the grass, sink into deep water, light a fire against the night and sit by it. Alone. By myself.

I DON'T want to go to meetings, teach my classes, dine with friends, answer the phone, or pass the time of day. I don't want to pray. I'm sure this too will pass but, please God, not just yet. I'm sick of folks and I'm ok with that. Roxie

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Surviving Not Thriving?

Do you sometimes think you're trapped in a kind of "rat race" just trying to meet the bills, stay reasonably healthy, and keep your family out of trouble? If so, like me, you're so busy surviving that you don't really consider the possibility of thriving in this life. When you think about it, would we have been placed in existence just to make it through to death? Like lemmings, are we just to scurry along until we hit the cliff and fall over? Doesn't it make more sense that we were placed here for a larger purpose?

There are so many excuses that keep us believing that we must survive, aren't there? The economy tops the list. We've lost our job or may lose our job. Our health and the specter of decline and death plays a big role as well. Do we have health insurance? Finally, the needs and problems of our children and families slide into third. Aging parents, pregnant teens, learning disabled children! No wonder we don't sleep well or drink too much! Guess what? We don't control any of these things. We may lose our job despite our best efforts. Our health will decline and we WILL die. No point worrying about that one. Our families, as good as they may be, WILL let us down. We can't control or even protect them very much. Why waste our time worrying and working, surviving, when ultimately it's not our destiny to control our own life or the lives of those around us, whether we like it or not?

Consider the possibility that all these things, important as they may seem, are not the real work of this life, that they are distractions, red herrings, excuses. Consider the possibility that we are here to thrive, to shine, to live out an inner essence that trumps all the hardships of the everyday. What if it's true that we are spiritual beings on a mission in this physical world?

That changes everything. In that spirit, we know that the job issued us within the economy is not essential. In that spirit, we know that the state of our health is irrelevant. In that spirit, we love our families and let them go, not compelled to protect them from their own particular journies. In that spirit, our purpose is to be aware, enlightened, in love with who we are and what we have. The possibility that we are spiritual beings encased in a physical frame and a seemingly physical universe means that we need to stop and notice the "road less travelled," the spiritual journey home.

What does that mean in real terms? I'm clear about what it's NOT, but less clear about what it is. Here's some thoughts though. Be in this moment. Breathe. Slow everything down. Use the senses given to smell, taste, hear, and feel the details of this physical experience. Use the mind for awareness more than judgment. Accept. Change only what we can change for the greater good. Do no harm. Take daily doses of nature. As the song says, "Stand in the place where you live." Finally, forgive. Roxie

Friday, March 2, 2012

Do No Harm, Baby

Driving down a busy highway, the SUV in front of me stopped suddenly. I skidded to a halt behind it barely registering the near-accident experience, for I was far away contemplating possible FUTURE catastrophes. The sudden braking slide brought me back to the moment. Inexplicably, the words "do no harm" floated through my mind.

Many of us try to live out the Dali Lama's tenet in our dealings with others. We mean them well. I don't know about you, but I find it easy to practice "no harm" to others and virtually impossible to practice that same tenet for myself. I began to imagine what it would be like to "do no harm" to myself.

It was like my brain locked up. I had nothing. Loving myself being out of reach, it seemed like I SHOULD be able to at least not foist dark thoughts or unheathy actions upon myself. I found myself, alas, immediately criticizing myself for not being able to practice the simplest mode of thought--mapping an idea from one situation over into another. I couldn't see how the very same kindness and harm-free zone I generate towards others could be pulled back to surround me.

Man, this spiritual stuff is not easy; it's sometimes impossibly difficult. Still, we have to give it the old college try. So, here goes. Here's Roxie's list of ways to protect yourself from your own harmful thoughts and actions:

1) Notice the dark thoughts and let them go.
2) Notice the dark thoughts and let them go.
3) Ditto.
4) OK, when they've finally subsided, direct your mind towards the good.
5) Good things you've accomplished in life (had that baby and raised it, got an education, rescued a dog, those kinds of things).
6) Good intentions you have (want peace in the world, want hunger and sickness eradicated, want to comfort those in need).
7) Good contributions you make to your community (having a little sister, working the domestic violence hotline, singing in the choir)
8) Good actions you've taken to be a better person (told the truth to your boss, got up everyday and did your work despite lack of sleep).
9) Talk to a friend about the feelings that block you from self-care (I feel so alone at 4 in the morning, I'm so scared that I won't be able to care for myself as I age, I'm so angry that life has dealt me a tough hand).
10) Meditate.
11) Do something physical.
12) Eat a green vegetable (ugh).
13) Tell yourself once every hour that you're doing a good job.
14) Be still and know that you ARE the God, that you don't have to do anything except be.
15) Pray.
15) If none of this works, blog! (So, here I am, blogging away.)

Seriously, girl-friend, why is it that it's so hard to hold ourselves harmless much less wish ourselves well or LOVE ourselves? I can see the Big Dude scratching his head (so to speak) because HE loves us.

If I'm willing to go there, I know that others taught me that I WASN'T good, that I was a bad girl, that I was dumb or lazy, that I was ugly and unwanted. At best, I learned that I wasn't ever good enough. You'd think I'd know better by now, that I'd have dumped those childhood messages Sorry. That's not how it works. We grow up and marry someone who sends those same messages. We get promoted to jobs that leave us scrambling and never quite reaching "good enough." In short, we keep reliving those old messages while the Big Dude sends us brilliant sunsets, starry nights, and good friends in hopes we'll see that HE holds us harmless and, possibly, loved.

I'm learning the only way out of the harmful thoughts and messages that I carry is through them. Am I feeling grim? What's going on inside, what's been triggered? Parts of me are screaming: "I'm not good enough! I'm not good enough!" On a clear day, I can say, "Good enough for what?" Or, WTF does that mean? Or, who says?

Hey! Thanks for listening! Leave a comment with your dilemmas or suggestions regarding self-love. Roxie

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Winter Wondering

In the death throes of a strange winter, it can be hard to find your spiritual center. There is no snow, but no one told the grass or trees. The grass is brown and matted down. The trees are naked of leaves. It's seems strangely ominous to see nature uncovered by snow yet in repose. She seems vulnerable, exposed. No way to hide her bare limbs and dark grasses.

Each day as the temperature rises into the 40s or 50s, buds swell only to shrink back into themselves when night brings frost or at least cold back again. For we, pantheists, it's hard to connect with "the god of our understanding" at times like these. Occasionally, we are wonder struck by a night sky in high definition with stars and planets seeming close enough to touch. More often, we find only crumbs of hope in the activity of birds at the neighbor's feeder.

Mostly, though, northeastern folk deprived of our snow, also lack our winter inspiration. Where is the brightness permeating through bedroom windows when the moon reflects off the snow. The fresh energy within as we shovel our way through new-fallen, clean and lovely snow. The impact of freezing wind on nose and red cheeks. The mad scramble of the body to adjust from the wild elements to the civilized warmth of houses.

In this unnatural winter, body and spirit get bored. There's no good way to contact the god in nature. We are thrown back on our own resources, too much in our houses and cars, starved for beauty and elemental danger. Roxie

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Get Off the Couch--For My Brother

I know "getting off the couch" doesn't sound like a spiritual topic. It sounds like weight-watching or health. Well, it can also be a spiritual choice.

We all have a safe harbor where we retreat or relax and try to avoid one thing or another. Our Cheers-type bar, our bathroom tub or throne, our kitchen, office, gymn, or our car. When these things serve as R'n R to get us ready for another foray into life, they can be very helpful. When we get too attached to these safe places, maybe it's time to reflect on what's out there in the rest of life that scares us.

I've been overly attached to my couch in recent times. I didn't think too much about it as I've had a lot of health challenges, plus I work online from home a lot. It's been bothering me lately though. I've been feeling restless and bored with the couch, uneasy about my time on it.

Last Sunday morning, there I was on my couch, checking email, sipping coffee, and asking for some spiritual guidance about the couch situation.

Here's how that went down:

Anne--Sick of this. Sick of being on the couch. What should I do with myself? What? What? I need some help here . . .
Voice--GET OFF THE COUCH!!!
Anne--What? But, what should I do then? What should I . . .
Voice--Just get the hell off the couch.

OooooKaaaaayyyy. I got up and within seconds I knew I wanted to go to the mall and find a pair of curtains for the French doors. So, I got dressed and called a friend to see if she wanted to meet me for lunch. She did.

I got the curtains, rods, some birthday presents, and groceries, arriving at Panera's just in time for lunch. While sitting at Panera's, I told my friend some of the things I had been worrying about--stuff at work, my brother's health, an up-coming meeting with my supervisor. As I spoke, I realized that I was feeling really nervous, anxious, even chaotic. I felt afraid and made an excuse to leave and go back home to my couch.

I didn't let myself escape though. I began to read and journal about what was going on. I remembered painful moments throughout life when a meeting with my dad, a teacher, or a boss had meant devestating feelings of fear and shame. I knew I was on the right track but it still wasn't adding up. I continued to share my ideas and feelings about all this with trusted friends and my trusty journal.

Eureka! This morning, sitting on the couch, I realized that I didn't want to go to work. I totally got it! I didn't want to face the meeting I have to face. Sitting on the couch protects me from the slings and arrows of life. Alas, it also keeps me from the love and warmth as well.

Sometimes, too many slings and arrows can send us into retreat. We go to our safe place. If what we've experienced has been bad enough, we want to stay in that place--in the bar, the car, the gymn. Drinking too much, medicating, eating, gambling, carousing. Anything to keep ourselves safe, safe from our feelings, dude, from our feelings.

The way off the couch, the way to our Higher Self/God/the Big Dude, is through our feelings. Feelings can block our awareness that life is still full of possibilities and grace.

This entry is dedicated to my brother who is facing hard times. Reflecting and praying about his situation is helping me face my own. Blessings. Anne

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gratitude

Gratitude seems like a feeling, right? Our heart swells with joy and we have a sense of a cup so full it spills over. This feeling is just that, a rich, powerful, humbling feeling. It gets our attention and changes our attitudes and, who knows?, maybe our DNA. It's that strong.

Here's the thing. Gratitude as a feeling is like the weather. It sweeps in like a storm and changes everything in its path, causing plants to grow, leaves to fall, leaving both birth and death in its wake.

What do we do when we don't FEEL gratitude? When we think life pretty much sucks and can't think of a single thing that deserves a nod much less a thank you. What then? Maybe we need to think of gratitude as an essential state of mind, something we need, a discipline that has to be practiced. This is not a swelling of the heart situation. It's practicing such deep awareness that we notice on a cellular level the status of our being.

For me, this means sitting quietly until my breathing overshadows my thoughts, until that moment when a truly deep and unplanned breath cleanses my psyche and I'm still. A shift sometimes occurs then. Planted securely in this place, breathing in this breath, I notice tiny things. My hamstrings are relaxed. My heart is beating steadily. My third eye seems to open. On one occasion, I felt the physical sensation of pores and orifices opening as if ocean waves were flowing in an out of me. In this practice, gratitude flows in with that first deep breath. I try to practice this daily so that my awareness of gratitude as an abiding state of mind can be tapped into at will.

This practice of the gratitude discipline sustains us when everything seems to hurt, when fear overwhelms us, during that heart attack, while family members melt down, during rejection, when our job is cut, when we don't want to get out of bed. Get up and do this practice. Sit until the breathing slows and we come into an awareness that flows over, under, and through the day-to-day troubles of life.

Bringing us to the truth about gratitude. Gratitude is part of our essential being. It's a force that births us and sustains us. What makes a seed grow into a tree or a human, for that matter. The force of gratitude. Gratitude channels divine energy into form. It's the spilling over of universal or divine gratitude.

Best of all, it's a renewable energy. It fuels creation, ours and the gods'-- Anne

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors: Boundaries

Did you ever wonder what it's like to have healthy boundaries? Maybe you're nodding and agreeing that boundaries are a challenge in your life. However, you're probably also saying: How is this a spiritual topic? Boundaries, to my own surprise, are profoundly spiritual. The dilemma of what constitutes good boundaries is bound up more in "love thy neighbor as thyself" than in Robert Frost's "good fences make good neighbors."

Meditating this morning, I asked my higher self to speak to me of boundaries. Breathing somewhat erratically, I confess, I noticed the flurry of birds at the feeder outside my sliders. Amidst the many grey and brown creatures, I was startled to see the flash of a bright yellow bird and then the calm landing of a crimson cardinal in the branches of the maple tree. The cardinal's radiance stood out against the snow and his less brilliant friends.

I realize that I am drawn to brilliance; perhaps we all are. When in the presence of a charasmatic personality, like Icarus to the sun, I draw too near and begin to forget the flash of color that is my own. I lose my sense of self and not in a good way. Hence, my question about boundaries this morning.

A charismatic personality, the king cardinal, is not in itself a threat to boundaries. It is only if this bright light shines itself excessively in our direction, and we find ourselves being drawn inevitably into its thrall, that it becomes dangerous. If we saw this in nature, we would be alarmed. Had all the grey birds and the quivering yellow bird grouped themselves around the cardinal, we would be shocked and consider that a threat to the natural order.

So it is in human order. If we find ourselves irresistably drawn to another, excessively concerned about another, or overwhelmingly wanting the notice and approval of another, we have a boundary problem. When groups of people are drawn to one individual (Jim Jones,say), we can see the danger. Sometimes, however, when it's just our little self being drawn to someone else whom we perceive as better, stronger, or more beautiful in some way, we may not recognize the risk.

This excessive attraction or need for another is also a spiritual dilemma. If my will is being seduced by another human, however wondrous, it is not resting where it belongs, within the higher self, with the God of my understanding.

When I posed the dilemma of boundaries, my higher self responded in simple terms: "Come home to your breath." The Holy Spirit, God, the Big Dude, Cara, the Buddha are manifested uniquely in each human. In the breath, the visible sign of our vitality. It is to inner goodness and grace, symbolized by the breath, that we need to turn when challenged by a person who tests our boundaries.

It's a life-long struggle for me to find the balance between good fences and loving my neighbor. Recently, the universe is sending me situations that rock my world and are hard to see as learning oportunities. One person I love deeply is detaching, not to reject me but to become more healthy. Intellectually, I know this but it feels like a sword to my heart. Another person is coming and going, one moment too close and one moment gone. In each case, I am tearing my hair and rending my clothing (so to speak). Like Charlie Brown, I cry "aaarrrgghhh" to the universe! And, I sit in meditation begging for help with my own boundaries.

When I am thinking of the machinations of another, worrying about losing the love of another, skeptical of the intrusions of another, I am not centered in my own life, in this day, in this moment of my own experience. Maybe I am the cardinal myself, but I wouldn't notice it because I am skirmishing on the ground with my feathered friends to get the best bird seed, never noticing the view from the branches which reveals an abundance sufficient for all. Having boundaries means seeing the vista from my own eyes and knowing it's the right and good for me.

And so it is. Anne

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The "Gift" of Sleep

My question to Cara, the higher self, this morning was: Speak to me of sleep. After several fitful nights, I don't find myself spiritually inclined. I want to read a good book and drift away the day. Alas, the day is filled with activities

Sitting in my white wicker rocker with my legs crossed in my aging version of a meditation pose, I still my mind and watch the wind move leaves and even trees around as it will. I remember that my meditation coach suggested each of us create a sanctuary and I know at once that nature is and has always been my sanctuary. And so I continue watching for signs of the wind through my living room sliders.

Cara says, "Sleep is a gift from the gods and a mystery to the ego."

I feel relief. When sleepless, I am inclined to feel at fault as though with more effort, I could make it happen. I need to ask the gods for sleep as I would for anything else when desperate. Not my fault. Not my fault, I whisper joyfully.

But Cara's not finished; she speaks again, "Sleeplessness may also be a gift." Hmmm. I don't always like the higher self OR the gods. But, so it is. Anne

Monday, January 16, 2012

Boundaries

I learned this morning that soul energy doesn't need boundaries. Sitting in meditation, my little local energy was frittering off in multiple directions. Towards the dog, other people in the house, and towards the future. I felt surrounded by vampires who were sucking the life out of me.

I often feel that the energy of others immediately begins to deplete my energy. Like a shapeshifter, I fit myself around the attractions and disactions around me.

So, I have established artificial boundaries to protect myself. I won't sleep at anyone's house. I protect my physical space fiercely; it feels like a matter of life and death to my ego, alas.

The insight that soul energy doesn't need boundaries rocked my world. I see that standing in the soul's energy field, I am safe no matter what the needs of strong personalities around me. Looking out, I notice the house across the way is bathed in the glow of winter sun, muted into a matte finish. Kind of like soul glow, natural, effortless, barely noticeable. Transformative, though. Anne

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Speak to Me of Mothering

The meditation format I encountered at a workshop last week brings spiritual practice into a venue I can use on a daily basis. It consists of sitting in meditation and writing down a question or topic, then focusing on the breath until you feel moved to write a response. It's a form of channeling. Then, there's a twist. You write back to the higher energy or being that sent you the response.

In my case, I've dubbed this higher being, Cara (beloved in Italian). For many years, I thought of Cara as a kind of spirit guide or guardian angel. I find, today, that she's within me, possibly my higher self.

The first time I posed a question in this meditation format, it felt fake until I wrote the words "Speak to me of . . ." I want to honor the book, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran from which this phrase comes. I haven't thought of it in years but I find that I have almost memorized most of the entries as I speak my questions.

This morning I asked Cara to speak to me of children; after breathing for awhile, I changed it to: Speak to me of mothering. After some time, the answer came, "Mothering is an illusion of perfection. Think bigger."

Filled with gratitude, I recognize my standard for my own mothering is perfection, a standard much in question. My standard for my mother was perfection as well. Mothers, clearly, should be perfect in my limited concept. Bigger, she said. My standard for how life SHOULD treat me is perfection.

I see the error of my ways. Expectations mean that no one and nothing can be enough. Nor can I.

The Prophet wrote of children: "Your children are not your children; they are the sons and daughters of life. They come through you but are not of you." Mothering is taking care of someone who temporarily can't take care of itself. That's all. And so it is. Anne

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Oh the Pain!

Often, physical life throws us curve balls. We get cancer or have a heart attack, we break a bone, or we experience chronic pain. What is a spiritual response to these physical realities?

Well, let's start with our regular, human response. We may be shocked, enraged, terrified! We may feel isolated and alone with our situation and our feelings. Prayer or meditation may be small comforts when we feel this way. It's ok to have these human reactions. We ARE human!

Eventually, though, if we want to go on and make meaning out of what seems like a travesty or even like a personal attack from a vengeful god, we begin to try other ways to cope.

Maybe we DO pray or meditate. Maybe we read something inspirational. Maybe we talk to others who have survived our situation. Maybe we find a support group online. Just taking an action is the first step.

I struggle with many physical challenges; this morning I awoke from a sleep made restless by my chronic pain. I sat down to meditate and found myself really resistant. I was avoiding acceptance, even awareness, of my pain. As is my habit, I posed a question to my higher self as a way to anchor my meditation. I wrote: Speak to me of loneliness. I breathed for a few moments and then scratched out "loneliness" and wrote the real word on my mind, "pain." Speak to me about pain.

Ahhhh. That felt right. Snow blew and danced around the edges of my house. A crow floated around the sky. A squirrel was picking at seeds that scattered the ground. Cara, my higher self, said, "They are focused on this task, this day."

Deep breath. On this one day, I can do my tasks. I read somewhere that detachment is doing the next thing and not worrying about outcomes. I'm going to bake an apple pie, Cara. And so it is. Anne

Friday, January 13, 2012

Lineage

Morning after a restless night. I go to my meditation chair and settle in for the first time in many months. I pose a question to my Higher Self. "Cara," I say, "Speak to me about fear."

After many minutes of focus on the breath and awareness of many thoughts swirling in and out of my mind, Cara speaks.

"The ego fears. The 'local self' speaks of death, and failure and the fading of the body."

Because this is part of a workshop that I am taking, I then write back to Cara.

"Cara,
Thank you for reminding me. If I am going to be soooo fond of my local self, I am going to feel fear often. Help me to let your voice and your lineage shape my body, mind and soul. And so it is. Anne"

The word lineage takes hold of me. The idea that my higher self, Cara, has a lineage more powerful and as real as my local self melts my heart. I envision the spiritual entities unfolding over many dimensions into my Cara, all these spiritual ancestors in a sacred circle around the instantiation of this local self, this ego, this physical classroom and its inhabitant, named Anne.

In my physical lineage, I experience in my own body and mind, the manifestation that is Lucille, my physical mother. She, too, suffered from chronic, debilitating pain. She, too, suffered from emotional intensity so painful at times that she lost the bonds of reality, and her local self rejected mine. For a moment, I felt Lucille inside of me along with Cara. My psycho/physical heritage and my psycho/spiritual one together.

And so it is. Anne