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The Bliss Blog

 

At the end of awesome weekend filled with spiritual sustenance, I am listening to  folk- rock queen- Lucinda Williams belting out Get Right With God in which she goes through a slew of deprivations and painful practices that some feel are requirements of redemption:
“I would risk the serpent’s bite

I would dance around with seven
I would kiss the diamond back
If I knew it would get me to heaven

(Chorus:)
‘Cause I want to get right with God
Yes, you know you got to get right with God

I would burn the soles of my feet
Burn the palms of both my hands
If I could learn and be complete
If I could walk righteously again

I would sleep on a bed of nails
‘Till my back was torn and bleeding
In the deep darkness of Hell
The Damascus of my meeting

I asked God about his plan
To save us all from Satan’s slaughter
If I give up one of my lambs
Will you take me as one of your daughters?”

 

I happen to have a different take. This God-loving, not God-fearing woman sees gratitude as a doorway to the Divine. Friday night found me in a processional of clergy celebrating the installation of two of my friends, Bill Marchiony and Dave Schpok as Spiritual Directors of New Thought Philadelphia which is a Science of Mind community. It is also affiliated with Agape International Spiritual Center in LA; guided by founding minister Rev. Michael Beckwith. These two men are dedicated to love in action. Music and love wafted through the air, powerful words of inspiration and dedication sunk into my willing-to-hear-heart.

Today, I immersed in what I like to call love soup as my friend Cindy Greb, an artist, photographer, healer, minister and writer (also a Beliefnet Blogger who pens Blessings Abound )   made a return visit from her new home in Crestone, Colorado. She spoke at Pebble Hill which is one of my spiritual homes and where we met back in the mid 198o’s.  Today’s theme was A Celebration of Thanksgiving and wasn’t about the upcoming holiday, but an awareness of our daily gifts and graces.

Rather than speaking about gratitude, she told us what she was grateful for in 5 minutes; squeezing 95 of them in. Things like family, friends, food, animals, the mountains in her new home,  health, work that she enjoys…..I found myself nodding as I rattled off my own list in my mind; many in line with hers. Her visit was on my gratitude list.

Photo: Cindy, speaking her gratitude list. I think there were 92 of them.

The other speaker was Kalie Marino, therapist, teacher of A Course In Miracles, minister and author of  Breaking Free From Critical Addiction- Our #1 Social Disease. She shared that appreciation is a core component of any loving relationship and that full presence with who or whatever is before us, is essential. I see it as alchemical and can transform any negative or painful situation into something meaningful and blessed. Kalie knows that of which she speaks, since her son was shot and killed by a police officer a little more than a year ago. When it occurred, she and her husband were able to say “Thank you, God” even in the face of something so horrific and unthinkable and they KNEW that something good would come of it. It did indeed, as greater awareness of the needs of those with mental health diagnoses,  and reform in the police department occurred.  They were able to find a sense of peace and forgiveness with the officer who certainly hadn’t begun his shift contemplating what would transpire by the end of the day.

She used the example of anticipating eating pumpkin pie. Before you do, you can taste it, smell it, imagine it as if you are indulging in it. When it is actually in front of it, are you really enjoying it as fully as possible, or is your focus elsewhere? If you can re-direct your attention to it, how much more would you appreciate it? Moving on, Kalie spoke of a study that was done, to determine the impact of gratitude on quality of life. Three groups were involved. The first journaled about daily life events. The second complained about what was wrong with their lives. The third kept a gratitude list. At the end of the study, (no surprise), those in the third group were more likely to have higher levels of optimism, alertness, productivity and love and lower incidents of depression.

Photo: An attytood of grattytood!

 

She encouraged us to express appreciation to the people in our lives on a daily basis and I add, to ourselves.  With that energy, what couldn’t we transform?

 

 

Photo: Namaste ?

 

When I first saw this quote today, it resonated resoundingly in my heart as Truth with a capital T.  Goosebumps, which are what I call my ‘Truth Barometer’ rose on my arms. There are some who are reading these words who may disagree and yet, to the best of my knowledge, both as an interfaith minister and a human being who has lived on the third rock from the sun for a bit more than 55 years, I have learned that religion is meant to unite and not divide. When people ascribe to the idea that ‘their God is better than’ someone else’s, we are in deep doo doo. All manner of violence, both physical and verbal have ensued as a result. What if, as a collective humanity, we looked at religion as different ways of ‘voting for’ the God of our understanding and lived as if the love that is at the core of all spiritual traditions was who were born to be? If we see ourselves as love incarnate, we could ask ourselves WWLD?  What would love do? I know I have shared that before, but it bears repeating. How would you go through your day to day, knowing that love is never wasted, that everyone with whom you crossed paths was a brother or sister traveler on the journey? What judgments could we release if we knew that we were all, as Ram Dass says “Walking each other home.”?

Too often, people use their interpretation of religious doctrine and dogma as justification for enslaving, abusing or otherwise causing harm to others. One of my favorite songs about this subject was written by singer songwriter John Flynn. It is called Not With My Jesus and it speaks to the idea that no religion has a monopoly on salvation, that a God of love, loves us all equally.

http://youtu.be/birIfEtYsdM Not With My Jesus by John Flynn

www.johnflynn.net

and another musical friend named Billy Jonas offers his deepest heart knowing that God is in all things, even those people and actions we might see as irreverent or sacrilegious.

www.billyjonas.com

http://youtu.be/BKZ82oo-jN0 God is In by Billy Jonas

 

 

Image by Peregrine Blue (from Everystock Photo)

I remember the first time I heard this poem in the form of a song. I was an idealistic teenager with many desires and dreams. A tree-hugging hippie who wanted to trust that the world was a safe place in which I could play as a ‘child of the Universe’.  There was no way I could have known and understood at the time, the impact the words of American poet Max Erhmann would have on me as I matured. His guidance inspired my dedication to peace, interfaith spirituality, aspirations, commitment to integrity and immersion in the beauty of this life.  I see it as both poetry and prayer.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. (It has taken many years, but I have endeavored to dwell in stillness and silence, allowing it to nourish my soul.)

As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. (I interact on a daily basis with some who see eye to eye with me and others with whom I might be tempted to butt heads, and know that peaceful interactions begin within)

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. (There have been times when my petulant little kid kicks up a fuss and demands to know why someone else seems more successful than I am, until I realize that they may have gotten there first and could be a way-shower, shining a light on the path on which I may tread.)

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass. (I see strengths in others who follow their ideals; being in integrity with themselves as I endeavor to do myself. Feigning affection?  Never. When I love someone, they know it. I am learning to let love in.)

Take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. (I have always been encouraged to respect my elders and now, at 55, I actually AM an elder. Imagine that! My spirit is strong and stands as a guardian at the gate, keeping fear at bay.)

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. (Allowing for ease and self-nurturing, being as compassionate with myself as I am with others has opened to the door to wonder. Trusting that Spirit has my back and that the Highest Good prevails)

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. (The God of my understanding has been a serene haven for my sometimes troubled mind)

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. (I see beauty everywhere, because I look for it.)

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy. (Dancing out into the world today with a smile in my heart.)

Max Ehrmann c.1927

http://youtu.be/nuDmNWwzaus  Spock Thoughts (Desiderata) spoken by Leonard Nimoy

 

Photo: Word Porn!

 

I pride myself on knowing lots of words. From the time I was a child, they fascinated me. My mother used to say that I “began speaking at 6 months and haven’t stopped since.”  She was right about that. I would chatter and babble about who knows what. My parents were adamant about not using baby talk with us and as a result, my sister and I have been outspoken in our communication as adults. A friend calls it being a ‘verbivore’ who thrives on scarfing up words, both written and verbal. I really do absorb verbiage and even took 3 years of Latin in Jr. and Sr. High School so I could better understand the origin of some of the words in the English language. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was prepping for becoming a writer; one of my greatest joys and passions.

When I discovered the word ‘quaintrelle’, the delight-receptors in my brain lit up like a Christmas tree. Here was a word that described me to a ‘t’. Colorfully creative in my appearance; I dress in rainbow hues, spike up my hair sometimes, wear glitter on my face,  in the appropriate settings. My closet contains clothes that are various textures and fabrics. Throughout my house, shelves are filled with books that inform my brain and take me on inner and outer adventures. Music wafts through the air as it does now as I am writing this blog entry. Walls and furniture are decorated with eclectic items; many gifts from artistically talented friends. Some are reflective of my fusion spiritual practice. Shabbat candles sit side by side with a  ceramic blue and white Buddha on my kitchen counter, Tibetan prayer flags and an angel guard the window by my front door with a mezuzah on my door post, a Kwan Yin statue on  a living room table, crystals on another table with sage and cards for doing intuitive readings, Goddess imagery and Japa Mala on my altar in my bedroom, butterflies which are highly spiritual to me since they symbolize transformation and resurrection are scattered throughout. They are an ever-present reminder of my mother who passed on November 26th 2010 who before she died, told me that she would come back as a butterfly.

My activities emphasize pleasure as well; dancing, drumming, time in nature, massage, cuddling, singing, making music, indulging in chocolate, being with kindred spirits, playing with children, star gazing and cloud dissolving, sun bathing, lake floating, finger painting, puddle splashing, wild word wrangling among them. My list is ever growing. I immerse in love soup and engage in full sensory living.

As a result, I attract others who choose to engage in this wondrous lifestyle. Are you one of them?