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Friday, October 20, 2017

Getting Real

Risk & Responsibility

Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing...Change the changeable, accept the unchangeable and remove yourself from the unacceptable.”
Denis Waitley

Life is risky business. Especially now, or so it seems. We sit on the edge of our seats every single day wondering what will happen next. Here in America, we're reeling from storms and fires, from lunatics shooting up crowds of people, and from complete chaos in our government. It's hard to feel secure with all these things going on. I thank God for people like Sen. John McCain who, even though he is battling brain cancer, marshals his energy and proclaims what he, and we, stand for in the world. He doesn't pull punches or mince words—he calls stupid, stupid without hesitation. He, and others like him, are doing what they can do to change an unacceptable situation.

We may think, “yes, but he's a Senator; he has great power to persuade,” and we are correct in that assessment. But we all have power in our little corner of the world; we all have the ability and the responsibility to speak our truth. I don't want to see us shut down our borders, pull out of our treaties and trade pacts, and goad other countries into nuclear war. I don't want to see us at war, period. So, I have a responsibility to speak that truth. I have a responsibility to say to whomever is listening that, whatever the problem, war is not the answer. It may be that my words will not make a difference, that I do not have the position or the power to move hearts and minds, but that's not the point. The point is that I don't have the option of doing nothing, and the something I can and must do is speak my own truth.

More and more people are realizing this. We must speak up; and not only speak up, but change what is changeable. It is heartening to see former Presidents, Bush and Obama, speaking out about the unacceptability of racism, misogyny, casual cruelty and religious intolerance in our public discourse. It is an important moment for us to take a good look at what is happening in our country and the world, and ask, “Is this how I want the world to be? Is this the world I want to hand down to my children and grandchildren? There is nothing happening that cannot be changed. What can I do, however small and powerless I may be, to bring about the change I want to see?

Life is risky. But, the greatest risk we run is not doing our part to make it better—for ourselves and for those who will come after us. Doing nothing is not an option. I hope that today, you will speak your heart's truth to at least one other person.

                                                                   In the Spirit,

                                                                      Jane

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Follow Your Soul Work

Soul Healing

The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind.”
Caroline Myss

As follow up to yesterday's blog, I want to say that I am doing well; back to walking Liza at least once a day, and feel my energy returning a little more each day. When I think about the difficulties of the last few weeks, I have to say, my soul has been actively engaged—both through my body, and through dreams. I hope you follow your dreams. They have always been, and always will be, one of the ways that Spirit speaks directly to us. My dreams have been very active and clearly focused on the task at hand. I have been, in my day-life, obsessed with creating—have made many, many fabric creations, both large and small. Have no idea what I will do with all of them, but that doesn't seem to be the important part—creating them is what matters.

All of us have soul work that keeps us glued together and grounded. When we're going through a crisis, if we can step outside the clamoring mind, the anxious “what-ifs” and worst case scenarios, we will discover the healing work that the soul is guiding us toward. That work may or may not heal our bodies, but it will go a long way toward making the journey strong and meaningful. Our fretting minds are willful and potent, and will carry the day if we let them. One of the very best ways to silence anxious thoughts is meditation in whatever form works for you—I prefer moving meditation, such as long walks in nature. Another is to spend stretches of time in creative endeavors—painting, drawing, sewing, or meditative chores such as ironing, sweeping and cooking. Do whatever you love doing that quiets and focuses your mind on positive outcomes.

Silencing the “monkey mind” is no easy chore, but to the extent we are able to do that, we open a channel to our soul's own song. Here is an example of soul work—my son, Ian, often wakes in the middle of the night with poems running through his head. He's learned to write down enough to pull the thread back in the morning. Here is last night's poem, by Ian Philips:

If I was asked
by God on high,
'What is truth?'
I would reply,
Life is short,
Time is pressing,
But I know Love.
The rest is window dressing.”

I concur! Hope your day is blessed with soul healing.

                                                           In the Spirit,


                                                                Jane

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Learning to Surrender

Being Human

The human body experiences a powerful gravitational pull in the direction of hope. That is why the patient's hopes are the physician's hidden ingredient in any prescription.”
Norman Cousins

You may have noticed that I didn't post yesterday. That is because I had a minor surgery that required me to be at the hospital at 6 a.m. My friend, Isie, came and took me and stayed until I was released around noon. She brought me to the home of my friends, Ann and Ellen, who tucked me into bed and treated me like a queen for the next 12 hours. I am fine; sore, but fine. The experience of going into a modern hospital for surgery is akin to the mythical trip to the underworld.

Everyone, without exception, was fabulous to me—very kind, very gentle, and at the same time concise and efficient. The new protocols placed on doctors and nurses by HIPPA and the insurance companies are, to my mind, repetitive and unnecessary, but apparently they reduce complications and provide measurably better outcomes. I must have been asked one hundred times for my name and birth date, what sort of surgery I was having, what day it was, where I was, and when I had last eaten. I was also asked questions about my mental health—had I ever seen a psychiatrist and for what reason. I answered all these questions honestly, and patiently—even the ones that seemed to have nothing whatsoever to do with the procedure I was there to have.

The ride on a gurney, from pre-op to the operating room was truly the labyrinthine trip to the underworld—through multiple corridors, around many corners, onto elevators and through locked doors. We're rarely lying on our backs while moving through hallways—at least I'm not—so it felt surreal. The operating room had five or six gigantic round lights attached to the ceiling. Each one had a long proboscis pointing toward the exceptionally narrow operating table. Everyone in the room, there were about a dozen people, was gowned, hatted, masked, gloved and booted—I could see only their eyes. What flashed through my mind was the science fiction pictures of alien's curiously examining a “specimen human.” Don't get me wrong—every one was exceptionally kind to me. It's just the experience of being completely at the mercy of others—something I'm unaccustomed to being—that had my blood pressure higher than it's ever been.

In spite of this other-worldly experience, I feel exceptionally hopeful—maybe the business of putting one's life into the hands of total strangers means that all you have left is hope and trust. It truly requires absolute surrender, which is always part of the spiritual journey. On the way out, my wheelchair was pushed by a beautiful young African American woman, mother of two young sons, who engaged me in a deep dive about the difficulties she has faced coming to Alabama from elsewhere. I told her it had been a difficult place for me, too. We talked about sons and the perils of raising them. We seemed to bond at the heart chakra in just the ten minutes or so that we talked. Her husband is in the military, and their next post is to be Hawaii. She is excited, as anyone would be. When she put me in the car, she said, “I enjoyed you.” It seemed like a holy encounter—one I could not have predicted or orchestrated. I have to believe that surrender has its own blessings, and that trust opens the heart so that something absolutely magical can come in. Thanks be to God.

                                                               In the Spirit,

                                                                   Jane

Monday, October 16, 2017

Join the Revolution!

Spiritual Evolution

Spirituality is about personal experience—the deep realization that dirt is good, water is holy, and the sky holds wonder; that we are part of a great web of life, our home is in God, and our moral life is entwined with our neighbor.”
Diana Butler Bass (Grounded: Finding God in the World—A Spiritual Revolution)

Diana Butler Bass, in her book, Grounded: Finding God in the World, writes that experiencing the divine in immediate, personal ways has heretofore been the province of mystics in all the world's religions. Once, she says, mysticism was the “minor chord” of faith. Now, however, it is becoming the dominant means of accessing the sacred. This is why our places of worship are declining. It is not that we have strayed away from God; it is that we are finding other, more intimate ways of experiencing God.

Naturally, people are concerned about this, thinking that churches, temples, and mosques losing members means that people no longer believe in God. Not so. People have lost faith in the hierarchy of authority that organized religion has become—there was a time for a pyramid, top-down approach to faith, but that time has passed. Diana Butler Bass writes, “The spiritual revolution is a protest movement against forms of religion that have lost the binding vision of peace, wisdom, and equanimity here on earth.” This spiritual revolution has been growing in momentum for decades, but the rise of fundamentalism has caused it to speed up exponentially. Whether we are talking about hard-right Christians, Jews, Muslims, or Buddhists, the proponents have become war-like and hateful. They feel entitled to kill and maim those who do not believe as they do. That is unacceptable to the vast majority of human beings whose faith leads them toward peace and freedom.

Ironically, the spiritual revolution is leading us, in many ways, back toward the religions of our original people—those who understood that we are part of the earth, related to the plants and animals with whom we share it, and dependent upon the sun, moon, rain and snow for our very lives. As we see the dramatic effects of degradation of the planet, we are expanding our awareness of the interdependence of all life. I don't see this change—away from hierarchical thinking about God, toward the inclusive, cohesive, and sacred union of all things—as walking away from belief in God. It is actually walking more deeply into it. We are taking our place in the communion of life, which is to say, we are moving closer to that which we call God. Spiritual evolution is happening before our very eyes.

                                                          In the Spirit,

                                                              Jane

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sabbath Reflection

Revolutionary Jesus

Jesus is much more concerned about shaking your foundations, giving you an utterly alternative self-image, and thus reframing your entire identity.”
Richard Rohr

On my Facebook page, there is a constant stream of folks telling the world what Jesus stood for. Some seem to believe they're honoring him when they go into church on Sunday and condemn homosexuals as an abomination—as though Jesus would have agreed. Some churches are still teaching and preaching that mental illness is demonic possession, and that all that's needed is to accept Jesus into your heart and you will be healed. Some have the notion that the he approves and even protects their right to carry guns. There is a dictate in some religious circles that the man is always head of the household and must, therefore, be obeyed, even if he's brutal, feral and obscene. Others feel that women should not even speak in the church, much less from the pulpit—and somehow, they just know that Jesus would think as they do. Folks are free to believe whatever they want to believe, I guess.

I'll say this about Jesus—according to scripture, he always stood with the outcast and the poor. He represented peace and pacifism. “Peace be unto you. My peace I give you.” He practiced hospitality by feeding all comers. He provided healing for free and for anyone who showed up, regardless of their state of purity. He put his hands on prostitutes and lepers, went into the catacombs to heal a mad man, and blessed women as well as men. He said, “Let the little children come to me,” without parsing them into groups of boys and girls, clean and unclean, believers and unbelievers. Nowhere in the scriptures did he condemn anyone—except those who rejected the “least of these,” and believed that they knew the mind of God better than he. Those he called vipers.

Jesus was a revolutionary of the heart. He wanted to shake people awake, to change hearts from exclusion to inclusion, from cold and hard, to warm and yielding. He wanted to overturn the laws that bound people in ways they could not possibly overcome. We must not misrepresent Jesus' ministry by wrapping it in our own prejudices and narrow definitions. He does not belong to one religion or one nation; he is not wrapped in the stars and stripes and armed to the teeth, nor is he honored by our condemnation of anyone. He came to change our hearts by breaking them open so that light might shine into our darkness. May it be so.

                                                                  In the Spirit,
                                                                      Jane



Saturday, October 14, 2017

Overcoming Our Ape-ness

Genetically Hopeful

Wherever my story takes me, however dark and difficult the theme, there is always hope and redemption, not because readers like a happy ending, but because I am an optimist at heart. I know the sun will rise in the morning, that there is light at the end of every tunnel.”
Michael Morpurgo

I don't know about you, but I don't like sad endings. I went to see the movie, Victoria and Abdul, last night, and walked out of the theater sad. Life sometimes does not end happily, especially where vengeance and greed are involved. I guess I've now seen enough films about monarchs, and read enough accounts of their lives, to know that wealth and power are not always a blessing. The shining beacon in that true story was Victoria's love and appreciation for Abdul, and his genuine love and loyalty to her. Notice here how love is the beacon of hope. Those two things, love and hope, are hand-in-glove. One does not have to go far in today's world to run into these two opposing forces—love and hate. They are pulling against each other in a cosmic tug of war to see which will win. My money is on love. I'm an eternal optimist, too.

I heard an interview with Jane Goodall on Science Friday yesterday. The interviewer asked if her lifetime of studies with chimpanzees, our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, had taught her much about human behavior. She commented on the dominance play of chimps, which could be rough but not usually violent, but also said that chimps are, without doubt, capable of brutal violence. They will kill other chimps in an organized way, (“coalition warfare”) as a group against an individual, or against a smaller group. This appears to be based on competition for resources, or extending the range of their home turf. Richard Wrangham reported this same finding, but said that chimps in his study had “an appetite for hunting and killing,” paving the way for human beings to be genetically predisposed toward violence.

Fortunately, there is a glimmer of hope here. Wrangham also said that human beings may be “cursed with a demonic temperament, but we are also blessed with an intelligence that can, through acquisition of wisdom, draw us away from the five-million-year stain of our ape past.” Further, we are capable of “self-control, empathy and reason,” and we have cultivated moral norms. Whew! Now, we just need to tip the scales toward the hopeful end of the gene pool. I have great hope that this will happen.
The sooner the better.

                                                   In the Spirit,
                                                      Jane



Friday, October 13, 2017

Play Ball!

Making It to Second

Faith is so rare—and religion so common—because no one wants to live between first and second base. Faith is the in-between space where you're not sure you'll make it to second base. You've let go of one thing and haven't yet latched into another. Most of us choose the security of first base.”
Richard Rohr

Richard Rohr is a theologian who loves to shake things up. He's one of those guys who likes to move the cheese just when you're about to take a big old bite. I love that! It keeps us on our toes, and that's the whole idea. Religion is a rut that's dug itself so deep, you can't even stick your nose over the top to breathe. As Rohr says, “Religion is one of the safest places to hide from God.”

Living in the space between first and second base—between safety and free-fall, between known and unknown—is so uncomfortable that most of us dive back to first even though we know there's no way to get home from there. Falling back on mumbling the rote prayers and affirmations we leaned in confirmation class, is like going back to sucking your thumb when you could have had a filet mignon. Escaping to the safety of the familiar at the first twinge of spiritual uncertainty may calm the nervous system, but it is not faith.

Faith is a leap into the abyss. Faith is knowing that that which we call God is all that there is, and therefore, we cannot lose our connection no matter how hard we try. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God...” (Romans 8:38-39) No matter how many times we fall, fail or forget, no matter how far we stray from the rut of whatever religion we're indoctrinated in, we are still connected to the universal source of life. Richard Rohr says it this way: “Failings are the foundation for growth. Those who have fallen, failed or 'gone down' are the only ones who understand up.” When you look up, God will still be there—within and without. Run, full steam ahead, for second base.

                                                           In the Spirit,

                                                              Jane