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.

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