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The Bliss Blog

Nothing justifies saying silent when I see injustice being done.

These words came to me on the eve of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King. Seems like something he would have gotten behind. A come clean here: there were times in my life when I didn’t voice my opinion for fear of rocking the boat, making waves, alienating or otherwise risking rejection or pushback from people whose approval I sought.  Not my proudest moments when I look back; cringe-worthy, in fact. These days, almost nothing prevents me from expressing opinions; filters still intact, and avoiding name calling when I disagree with what others express on social media about the current political climate. My Facebook page is generally a place of positivity with words and images of inspiration. People can visit to share their thoughts and feelings as well; a safe haven. On rare occasions, over-zealous folks on all sides of the political spectrum will express their outrage, using language that flies in the face of my peacenik sensibilities. Can I understand their vehemence? Of course. Many’s the time I have wanted to spew impulsively but held back. Instead, I have thought it through and asked myself what outcome I wanted to see. Mostly, it was for the purpose of changing someone’s perspective. Did it work?  I may never know.

Yesterday I was visiting the page of a family member and read in horror, some of the responses to something she posted. I attempted to insert a sense of logic and pacifism that many were simply not having as they lambasted the attempts and dismissed them as fake news, liberal nonsense. (I am being polite here.)

I made the mistake of visiting the page of one of the posters, who is an avid supporter of the current occupant of the Oval Office and found a meme that compared the situation of children who are considered ‘Dreamers’ to be the same as parents who snuck their kids into Disneyland and expected them to be able to stay and enjoy the park for free. How cruel can people be?  Even if someone disagrees with policies rendered by previous administrations, can they not consider the implications of attempts to undermine simply for (according to those in government) the purpose of un-doing?

After exposing myself to a bit more of this; and I still wonder why…perhaps it is like an accident scene you can’t turn away from, I retreated back to my “nice sunshiny page.” There was a palpable sense of relief. It also has me questioning how judgmental I truly am. I can’t fathom how people who claim to be loving, can hate those of a different skin tone, culture, religion, gender or sexual orientation. I don’t hate or name call. My parents taught me better than that. Still not sure how to bridge the chasm between what I see and feel and what I can do to effect positive change. Progress feels slow, especially in the face of dire consequences from inaction. I can’t and won’t stand by and watch the world experience devastation. As a spiritual being who was called to be an Interfaith Minister, I feel called to make this part of my ministry. Granted the gift of wordsmithing, I invite readers to peace and reconciliation, but also walking in the steps of MLK and Gandhi, to engaged spirituality. I will be putting my marching feet to good use this coming weekend at two marches- one in Philadelphia and the other in my hometown of Doylestown, PA. Following my experience at last year’s march, I penned this for the Bliss Blog.

“I am learning to accept the current reality while working to change what I can. I know that this event today was not a one and done deal. It needs to be a case of being vigilant and outspoken. It feels like a holy obligation.

I made an observation toward the end of the rally that I want to share with you. It was overcast and foggy all day. The mist hovered above the buildings. It mirrored what I had been feeling since the election; a looming and ominous presence. Although the sun didn’t peek out all day, it felt like the collective energy of those gathered kept the fog aloft.”

Please grant me the serenity and the filters to prevent me from REACTING to posts justifying, excusing, or otherwise deflecting about the words and actions of the current occupant of the Oval Office. Many’s the time, I thought, I need to say something and then ask myself if it is worth the aggravation of going head to head with someone who is not likely to change their mind. Instead, I do my best to go heart to heart and attempt to understand where they may be coming from. It doesn’t mean I accept their beliefs as my own. It means that if I lived their life and had their experience, I might feel the same way and say the same things. There are certainly some that I RESPOND to as best I can in measured tones, asking them how they came to hold the beliefs and values they do. That feels better in my body. It can be exhausting to be in hypervigilance mode.

 

One of the things I love about Facebook is that it reminds me of events that my middle-aged (now in my 6th decade) mind sometimes allows to slip through the cracks. I call them my ‘wise woman moments,’ since the older we get, the wiser we can become. I smile with delight at the daily gifts of memes, videos, photos, and articles that folks had sent to me or I had discovered via random meandering. What I particularly enjoy are the blast from the past articles that I have penned. Not an ego thing, but rather a stunning refresher of history that I have lived through. I tell my therapy clients that we have all survived everything that has ever occurred in our lives, because we are here to tell about it.

Many’s the time I have perused articles and blog posts I have written and thought, “Wow, this is good! Who wrote this?” Then I consider others who have read the words that often pour forth without conscious thought, unedited until my fingers lift from the keyboard to rest a spell. Rare writers’ block here; mostly what I call writers’ runs. Perhaps, they too have loved and lost (husband, both parents and a dear friend who became my son’s father figure, among them). Maybe they have survived serious illness (shingles, heart attack and kidney stones here). How about financial challenges, job changes, loss of a home to a natural disaster? Could be that they are learning to love the person in the mirror in the face of human frailty? What if they, like me, realized that the time was NOW to show up, stand up and speak out about what matters most to them, even if they attract disapproval? We all have so much in common.

I am grateful that I was born hardwired to creatively express myself. Reading was a fun activity as I was immersed in words. My parents read to me often and the library up the street was a home away from home as I carted home books each week. Story hour was an anticipated activity as the ‘libary lady’ as I called her when I was young, read to the kids who sat on the carpet at her feet eager to take adventures through the pages she turned.

I began writing in childhood with short stories starting me out and assignments in classes solidifying my skills.  I began journaling in my pre-teens and I still have the dog-eared pages from college days. I fondly look back on the scribbled words, remembering the idealistic young woman I was and sometimes cringing at her choices. Good to know I survived them all too.

These days, my writing is as much for others as it is for me. It is heartening to know that my thoughts are helpful and healing and inspiring to readers. Daily wordsmithing is part of my practice. It is one way I support myself financially and emotionally. It is one thing ‘I can’t NOT do.’ It remains one of my greatest joys and nourishes my soul.

What does that for you?

 

Happy-New-Year-2018-Images-4-300x166

 

How did you see in the New Year? I was with friends at a meditation and party…not exactly a wild and rowdy night. It was held at the home of a long time friend who I think of as a grounded mystic. Yanni Maniates’  work is both metaphysical and mainstream, having implications for sustaining life on the planet. Many of those who sat on comfy couches and chairs, in the cozy basement of the home he shares with his wife Jaime, herself a Kundalini Yoga teacher, were kindred spirits who I have known for many years. I was delighted to be spending the waning hours of 2017 with these folks whose commitment to peace and social justice is exemplary.

The focus of the evening was being the light that could quite likely heal the rifts on the planet and call people together in the spirit of reconciliation and harmony. I’m all for that. In one of the meditations, Yanni invoked the idea of release of suffering and all beings happy and at peace. Easy to send out to those we love and with whom we feel in alignment. My challenge and necessary call to action was to beam it at someone whose values are polar opposite mine and whose words and actions are divisive and dangerous. In order for someone who acts as he does, there must be tremendous inner turmoil, wounding and suffering. He clearly needs peace to heal.

Jaime shared with us a mantra from the tradition from which Kundalini Yoga emerges.  Ek Ong Kar (The Creator and the creation-We Are One) Sat Gur Prasad (This truth comes as a gift through Divine grace), each repeated twice.  As I offered it, I felt myself being immersed in sound and bliss. I will use it throughout my day to remind myself of my Divine connection.

When the clock struck midnight, we watched the ball drop in frigid Times Square and I felt grateful to be in a warm home, surrounded by love. Hugs and shouts of Happy New Year permeated the house.

I see the turning of the calendar page from one year to the next, to be a time of transition, rich with possibility. I have no clue of events that await on the other side, but I know I have both the freedom and responsibility of co-creating the work of art that it can become. My intention and prayer is that 2018 be a year of positive change for the world. It won’t happen on its own. We need all of us to feed the collective soup pot. What will you bring to the next 12 months? I plan to bring my A game. Call me on it, if I don’t. Happy and Healthy New Year to you all!

Christmas Eve morning found me at Circle of Miracles which is an interfaith community that has been a spiritual home for me since I walked through the door of Hannelore and Bob Goodwin’s home in Wycombe, PA in 2001. Many changes have occurred in the past 16 years; among them, moving the location and the poignant passing of the loving couple who created this welcoming place for people of all traditions and beliefs. I miss them dearly and feel their presence from time to time; these two who felt like parents to me.

Among my family of choice, I experienced a sense of healing as Sharon Cristofalo went from person to person, bestowing us with hands-on blessings. The amps on this energy were raised by the sonic sweetness offered by Sharon Kachel as she played Tibetan bowls and chimes. Deep peace permeated the space.

One aspect of our service is a presentation by a ‘speaker/spark’ and today that was Sharon Cristofalo. Her topic was Mary, Did You Know?  It was based on the lyrics of this perennial Christmas song.

Mary, did you know that your baby boy will someday walk on water?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you
Mary, did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God
Oh, Mary did you know
The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb
Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am
Songwriters: Buddy Greene / Mark Lowry
Mary Did You Know lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Capitol Christian Music Group
Each time I have heard the song, it has come wrapped up in goosebumps since it is the story of the One who is celebrated on December 24th; even though it is not likely He was born on that date, as indicated by the alignment of the stars and season when events were said to have occurred and more likely that it was a counter response to the Pagan celebration of Solstice on December 21st.
Sharon shared her perspective that these questions call us to examine our own trajectory and legacy. At our birth, did we have a clue how our lives would unfold?  Perhaps on a spiritual level, we signed up for certain experiences. Not always conscious of the path my life has taken. It is far easier to gaze back down the timeline and collect the crumbs from the Hansel and Gretel Breadcrumb Trail. What if I had known about the love and loss I would experience? Would I have made different choices?  Would I still be the me who is typing these words without having gone through those times?  Much of what shaped my values included being confronted with shadow and regret. If I had the opportunity to revisit certain pivotal moments, would I make different choices?  In some cases, I would like to think so. And then again, I wonder what the outcome would be.
She then asked, “Do we only know our legacy when our eulogy is being read?” I hope not. When I interviewed His Holiness the Dalai Lama back in 2008, he had this to say when I asked about his legacy.
“No, no, no. Many years ago, a New York Times journalist asked me that question. I told her, as a Buddhist practitioner, not allowed. If I take serious my legacy, that means self-centered. So, I answer that and then again that lady asked a second time and I answered same way and then a third time and then I lost my temper. If you ask, I may lose my temper. ( Laughter followed.) Your motivation should be sincere and your life should be of benefit to some people. That is the main thing. Don’t care after my death.”
For me, it isn’t about how I will be remembered, but rather, what example I can set now. How can I walk my talk, clean up my side of the street and leave the campground better than I found it? I also consider the example I set for my son who is now happily married to the love of his life and doing work that he enjoys. He is surrounded by many friends. There was a time when I questioned whether he would be living this life, although I did have a precognitive dream when he was a pre-teen that things would turn out wonderfully. The doubting mother can give herself at least a mild pat on the back for seeing him through.
Back to the story of Mary and Jesus….  according to a few articles I read about the song that were critical of it and claimed it was not biblically sound (who said it was supposed to be since it is a work of art?), she DID know who she was raising, since an angel told her so. What she was not aware of was that her precious son would be murdered. What if she had known?  Would she have discouraged him from teaching and preaching and keeping under her watchful eye? I also recall the conversation between Jesus and God in the Garden of Gethsemane during which Jesus said he didn’t want to die, but if God said he should, then he would. Is that an exercise of free will or a playing out of what was scripted long before his birth?

That has me questioning how much of my own life is ‘beshert’ (Hebrew for ‘meant to be’) and how much random. I have come to regard it to a blend of both. What I do know for sure is that I have the choice in any moment, to bring my A game to the table, plant seeds and see how they grow.