It came to me a few days ago as I was sitting in services at Circle of Miracles that perhaps praying to God is not the same thing as praying with God, since for me, God is not an outside (male) entity sitting on a literal throne somewhere way over yonder. Instead, my take (and I don’t ever tell anyone what to believe spiritually, including my son, since it is a personal and inside job) is that which we call by many different names is an energy that permeates all things and all beings, a creating and sustaining Source. As a minister and therapist, I am often asked why God allows tragic things to happen. My response, after taking a deep breath comes in the form of a few questions: What if God doesn’t make destructive, painful, or otherwise traumatic events occur, but rather is the way we get through it? What if we could see the challenges as a exercise equipment that make us stronger, more flexible and resilient people? How would it be if we made room in our belief systems that we pray along with God for whatever it takes to be resilient thrivers and grand celebrants of whatever we have learned from our experiences? Not always easy to do, I know. I have cared for an ill spouse, was widowed at 40, lost a home in Hurricane Andrew, raised a child solo, had an ectopic pregnancy, became an ‘adult orphan’ in the past 5 years, have worked for 30 years with folks with sometimes severe physical and mental health conditions, addictions, homelessness, abuse and trauma histories. Each time I have been faced with challenges, I have engaged my prayer muscles and moved through the muck and mire and around the boulders that seem sometimes impassable/impossible. It is such a paradox at times, to know how much of my own personal strength to utilize and how much to surrender to an even more enduring power. I have heard that the word EGO is sometime seen as an acronym for Edging God Out. I would prefer to partner with the Divine. What if indeed, we are God’s eyes, hands and heart and God needs our energy, intention and action as much as we need God’s guidance and sustenance and further, what if these things happen so that we can join together as people tend to do in times of crisis? We see it over and over how we humans rise to the occasion during floods, hurricanes and school shootings. What if, rather than waiting and mustering our resources then, we feed the collective soup pot and nourish each other along with the God of our understanding on an daily basis. Perhaps then we won’t need be putting out proverbial fires and feeling lost and alone, bemoaning our fate. Instead, we will be Higher Powered.
This morning as I was prepping to go to work, it occurred to me that I get dressed in the same order every day. Underwear, bra, pants, blouse/shirt/sweater, socks, shoes, jewelry, makeup, coat and gloves (depending on the weather) and then head out the door. I do it unconsciously, repetitively, day after day…sometimes mix it up by wearing a dress or skirt. I grab my keys, check to be sure I have my cell phone and wallet in my purse, pick up my briefcase and sling it over my shoulder. I walk to the Jeep, put my belongings in and drive to the office where I offer counseling for folks in recovery from addiction. This morning, I facilitated a group and on the board wrote the words ROUTINE vs. RITUAL and asked the participants what each meant. We all have routines in which we engage at home, school, work and in social settings. Some serve us and others don’t, but repeat them we do, sometimes out of habit or without realizing we have a choice about changing our patterns. They spoke about the positive and negative aspsects of their routines and about creating new ones that serve them better. It brought to mind an episode of All In The Family in which Archie and Mike (a.k.a. Meathead) got into a to-do over what order to put on socks and shoes. Before I could explain it, one of the group members, in his best Archie Bunker accent, berated ‘Mike’ who put on sock, shoe, sock shoe when Archie thought it should be sock, sock, shoe, shoe. We all laughed and clapped and then he and I launched into the theme song…Those Were The Days and I did MY best Edith Bunker screech, hitting the high notes with playful precision.
We then spoke about ritual and all kinds of images came to mind; of religious upbringing, of the rituals that went into sustaining their addictions, of the use of prayer and meditation, of attending 12 step meetings, of making a daily gratitude list, of being in the flow when exercising, of being in nature, of gardening, of family traditions, some nourishing, some toxic. I shared with them my own daily ritual that includes setting intention each day, saying the Shema (the signature prayer in Judaism) before closing my eyes. It’s been part of my life since childhood and I can’t fall asleep without saying it and then my gratitude list.
Shema Yisrael, Adonai, Elohenu, Adonai Echad translates to “Hear, O Israel, the Lord Our God, the Lord is One”, but one that is closer to my heart is “That which we call God is Oneness Itself.”
What are the rituals and routines that sustain you and enrich your life?
http://youtu.be/ZFuniFSP2fo All In The Family (Sock/Shoe episdode)
http://youtu.be/0d8FTPv955I Those Were The Days
This afternoon I received a group email from Arielle Ford that read Debbie Ford Gets Her Wings. I wondered what brilliant thing Arielle’s younger sister had done to earn them and I made a mental note to read it when I had time. It wasn’t until I was sitting at my desk at my job as an addictions counselor, that I opened it. All of a sudden I wasn’t in Lansdale, PA, but instead whisked cross country to California where Debbie’s family was immersed in their private grief that was simultaneously being shared by thousands of others. Tears flowed as my visceral reaction kicked in. I could only imagine what the journey from a gloomy cancer diagnosis a few years ago to transition last night, was like for Debbie and her loved ones. My guess is that she faced it with what Ram Dass would call ‘fierce grace’. After reading Arielle’s message that directed folks to go to another site that was set up to honor Debbie’s memory, I knew that this blog entry needed to be written.
Like most people, my intro to Debbie was through her writing. I had the joy of interviewing her when her groundbreaking book: The Dark Side of The Light Chasers was released. It was a revelation to this light chaser who was (and still is) a perpetual optimist, refusing at times to look at anything remotely shadowy. I was sorting through back copies of Visions Magazine to locate the one in which it was published before writing this and couldn’t find it , so I will have to go from memory. One thing I recall was a story Debbie shared about being at a personal growth training and the facilitator called her a bitch. At first she was taken aback with what I imagine was a “who me?” reaction; much the same as I might have. And then she recognized the grain of truth in the woman’s perception of her and the ways in which pretending that she wasn’t a bitch ran her life and was her M.O. Of course, there were times when she was bitchy, as are we all. Then she came to understand that being a bitch came in handy at times when otherwise she might have been emotionally pushed around by others and needed to stand her ground. Did that ever ring true for me! I was as if I had permission to be more fully expressed, set boundaries and be assertive rather than remain the starry eyed idealist who was like a dishrag at times and an emotional contortionist who would often bend over backward to please people.
She went on to elaborate that what we most attempt to hide about ourselves, is eventually revealed and can become our greatest strength. These days, while I don’t quite embrace my shadow, at least she and I are on cordial, nodding at each other as we pass by, terms. I learned through Debbie’s work that even though I have what I call ‘cave thoughts and feelings’, judgements and mental ‘nasties’, I am still loveable.
Tonight as those who knew her best both mourn the loss of her physical presence and honor her place in their lives, I offer my heartfelt love and prayers to them and say Kaddish with them.
Rise up on those wings, Debbie and soar~
http://youtu.be/UKYgA2JaufY Om Shree Rama, Fly High-Deva Premal and Miten
This morning, my friend Shaun Stephenson sent me a message in response to an article I had written about sexuality/spirituality. I had told her that I was stretching comfort zones by exploring that realm in writing, not because I have ever been a prude when it comes to physical and emotional intimacy, but because of the environment where I had worked, I had been feeling a bit cautious about being too visible and outspoken about the topic. As a therapist/social worker, I framed my work there, in part as sex education. Since leaving the job last June, I have felt a greater sense of freedom around expressing my thoughts in all areas of my life. I still occasionally look over my shoulder to see if the ‘propriety police’ are watching to be sure I am being a ‘good girl’ and not upsetting the apple cart, making waves or stepping on anyone’s toes…the final throes of co-dependence loosening its grip.
She commented that I was exhaling, which brought to mind the ensemble cast (Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, Lela Rochon, Gregory Hines) movie called Waiting To Exhale. For most of my life, (since I was 4 or so) I had been at the effect of asthma that had me doing just that. Mostly unconsciously, but sometimes with complete awareness, I wouldn’t let an outbreath go completely since there was a fear that I wouldn’t be able to fill back up. Such a powerful symbol for how I lived my life…not letting go totally and not allowing in fully. Getting just enough nourishment in those ways to sustain me but not always have me feeling safe and at ease. It showed up in dysfunctional relationships in which I offered excessive care so as to ‘earn my right to receive’, whether it was praise, love, attention or approval.
Later in the day, I was speaking at an event called Awaken The Love; specially timed for Valentine’s Day weekend. The room at a local Unitarian Church was packed with sweet souls who listened with rapt attention to the presenters and musicians who volunteered our time to the cause. Greg Campisi is the heart and mind behind Awaken. Fabulous musicians Annabella Wood, Ashley Blanco and Eric Labacz made our souls sing and Susan Pie’, Terrie Thomas and Greg gave us grist for the mill.
The purpose is : Assisting Humanity in reaching its fullest potential through the education, empowerment, and acceptance of ourselves and others. Awaken is a Center for Human Evolution (CHE) where individuals and groups will be guided into their brightest, highest, and most beloved selves through the education and practice of empowerment, expression, love and acceptance.
Awaken uses education as its primary tool for empowering people to know, understand, and live their greatest potential. The main catalyst used for empowerment is the expression of emotions and deepest truths within us, creating a space to accept vulnerability in ourselves and in others.
Awaken realizes the importance of helping future generations reach their full potential. This is accomplished both through working with youth, as well as helping current and future parents understand themselves and the needs and potential of their children.
Awaken is dedicated to bringing love and harmony to the hearts of all humankind through education and health. Awaken’s goals include, but are not limited to:
- Love and Acceptance of Self
- Expression of Self
- Love and Acceptance of Others
- Evolution of Mind, Body and Spirit to their full Potential
As I stood in front of the room, I felt waves of love wash over me and watched with awe at the sheer willingness of each person there to surrender their belief that they were not worthy of love. They too, it seems, were holding their breath, holding back, holding off the tidal wave of love that had headed their way throughout their lives. I invited them to allow it to flow over them and through them so that they could absorb it and then, like a sponge, ring it out on those they encountered throughout their lives.
Sandwiched in between services at Circle of Miracles earlier in the day and this event, I had another encounter that had me smiling and shaking my head in astonishment. I like to say that I am amazed, but never surprised when these things occur. I had stopped at Panera Bread for lunch and as I sat at a table next to the fireplace with my salad and bowl of black bean soup, a family (11 people in all) sat at two nearby tables. One member was the delightful white haired matriarch who noticed a book I was reading. It is called 12 Weeks to Self-Healing: Transforming Pain Through Energy Medicine, written by Candess Campbell. She asked “Oh, do you have pain?” I assured her that I didn’t and added that I was a journalist and was reviewing the book. She told me that she does experience pain and that with the guidance of Deepak Chopra’s work, she is able to reframe her thoughts and thus vanquish the pain. How cool is that? Our conversation continued and she asked me about my work. When I told her, she laughed and said “Oh, you do so many things.” She went on to share that she is 79 years old and has a 91 year old boyfriend (good for them both!) and that she wants to live to be 120. When I told her about being widowed many years ago, she asked if I had remarried. I told her I hadn’t and she winked and said, “You should snag a good man, with all that you have to offer.” I winked back and said, he would have to be able to keep up with me and be really special to beckon me out of my single life. Somehow the conversation turned to asking each other our names, she tells me it is Edith and of course I smiled and introduced myself. Edie is her nickname and my birth name. What are the chances? Only 100%. It is that certainty that life shows up in serendipitous ways that has me no longer waiting to exhale, but instead willing to exhale…..ahhhhh~
http://youtu.be/pkAhQBbK-oM Shower The People- James Taylor