Thursday, March 31, 2011

Letting Go

"Leaving Hawley II"*

          There is a wonderful article from that came to mind this last week as I went through some difficult situations and dealt with the detritus of moving my home as well. The name of the article is “We have to let you go” and is available by clicking here. Allen Cohen, the author, uses the image of a stem of tomatoes, of different sizes. One is perfect, ready to be picked. The stem says to the tomato, “We have to let you go.” 
            It’s a great image. Although the title of the original illustration is “Plant closings,” it refers to many, many intersections in our lives. When we are at a certain point in our growth, when we are in situations or dealing with issues that no longer serve us, we have to let go - or be let go - in order to fulfill our ultimate destiny. The tomato stem is not the right place for a ripe tomato, nor is the relationship, job, situation or habit that we find ourselves in from time to time. Sometimes its not voluntary; the loss of a partner, a job, a home, or some desired outcome, however devastating, can be a signal for us to look around and see what our options really are. 
            This can be a tricky intersection. Particularly if the change is thrust upon us, rather than our choice, we may blame others, or outside situations for what has happened. We often resist the change that is obvious or thrust upon us. We wallow in pity, seeing ourselves as victims. And we mourn.
            Mourning can be appropriate, but there also comes a time where we have to get up off the couch and realize the truth that our life is our responsibility. We can’t change others, only ourselves. With that in mind, as Gary Simmons says in “Eye of the Storm,” there is nothing and no one really against us. Only ourselves.  I agree this is not an easy understanding to reach, but eventually we have to, or wind up perpetual victims. I’m not ready to go there. Are you?
            I have some particular tools for dealing with reshaping my future, but without realizing the truths in that last paragraph, I find my efforts not up to the job. However, if I am conscious of having God as my essential self, even if I just screwed up, I know, down to the bottom of my gut, that I can change my life, not by dwelling in the past, but by making the past irrelevant to my future course. It can be a challenge, but after all, if I’m of God, expressing God, why not?
            When we accept responsibility and move forward into new choices, strengthened by the knowledge of what we are inside, we have true freedom to shape our own lives.  After all, our path in life is more than just a reflection what happens to us. We have come here to be the very best we can be, but its up to us how we handle it. We are the architects, good or bad, of our destiny.
            That’s simply the way it is.

*From time to time I will post photos of my own paintings. Many are available from my Joyous Lake Gallery website. Readers of this blog are eligible for discounts.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thoughts on Lent

            “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice in it!” That line, from Psalm 118, signals the start of yet another splendid day in the White Mountains. Sunshine abounds, the first robins have arrived, and many of us are thinking of getting out and digging in the garden.  But the business of winter isn’t quite over yet here in the high country, and putting tender young things into the soil at this point is an exercise in futility. Its OK to dig, but not to plant.
            So it is with the season of Lent, as we dig and weed and plow in the soil of our thoughts. Lent is traditionally our spiritual preparation for the glory of Easter. Often marked by giving up certain foods, it is the season of repentence, of giving up, in commemoration of the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness rejecting temptation before his final trip into Jerusalem and his ultimate fate. 
          What if instead of giving up meat, chocolate (my favorite), or other physical things, we choose instead to let go of negative thoughts and lack of forgiveness towards ourselves and others so that we may walk in a path of renewal? Isn't that a great way to honor Jesus' Forty Days in the Wilderness and at the same time set our own stage for a new life?  I give to you the wonderful prayer offered by the Daily Word for Ash Wednesday:      
            Lord, help me walk a path of renewal.
            I lift up my old life for purification, confident a new life rises from those ashes.
            I release every limitation I believe is true about my worth and power, my beauty and creativity.
            I sweep away every debt I believe anyone owes me.
            I cast off every condemnation I carry.
            I pray with an open heart, releasing limits, pain and false beliefs with ease.
            I accept new wisdom, understanding and peace with grace.
            For the gifts of my journey of purification and renewal, I am grateful.

         What a powerful way to renew ourselves!  I lift up my old life for purification, confident a new life rises from those ashes! This is such a perfect message that in our household we are reading it to each other every morning, a way to set our intention for sweeping away any spiritual and emotional debris we have carried from the past. 
            You will notice that nowhere in this wonderful set of denials and affirmations does it say “because I am a sinner to have thought/felt/acted that way in the first place.” No, we were doing the best we could, even in our imperfection. Forgiving isn’t condoning, but more a way of setting aside negative feelings so we can choose differently, so we can love. Our old ways served a purpose for us, and now it is time to let them go so we can move forward.  Only by forgiving ourselves – and others - can we get to a place where we will be successful in reaching for a new life. 
          Yes, the Lenten practice is solidly based on forgiveness - and love. 

“Your past has brought you where you are, and yet it does not dictate where you can now go. Make the choice to point all of your life in the direction of your dreams.” Ralph Marston


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Looking for answers

          For the past few days, I have been occupied with hospitals, motels, and travel. I am thrilled to say my son has made a full recovery, and is now contemplating an exercise program perhaps a bit less than the 12 to 14 miles jogging three times a week he did before. The challenge, of course, is that we still don’t know why it happened and therefore are unsure how to prevent it from happening again, although he does now carry a state-of-the-art defibrillator within his chest.
            In the process of this very chaotic time, I have been traveling myself through places I grew up, with special memories. A visit to a dear friend sixty miles south took not one or two freeways, but five, four of which I had never been on before, probably because they weren’t built the last time I was in the area. Even sleepy Hwy 101 had morphed from the four-lane highway I remember into a strapping ten lanes, five each way, filling the employment needs of the Silicon Valley. 
            I’m not sad about these massive freeways, even as I gasp at the speed people travel on them. The travelers on them go to real jobs, real means to fulfill their dreams. What they have done has changed our lives, to my mind mostly for the better. Each life style carries its own price tag, of course, and so we become subject to viruses, scams, and the horror of watching the tragedy in Japan as it occurred, news of which would have taken several days to reach us 100 years ago, and not in such graphic detail.
            As much as this world has changed, as much as we know, there is still so very much to learn. We don’t know why my son’s heart virtually stopped in the middle of jogging. We don’t know how to predict earthquakes or tsunami’s enough in advance to save everybody. We don’t know why God’s laws, expressed in the laws of nature, would allow for the deaths of so many people, good people living their lives as best they knew how. 
            One explanation is that God is both principle and personal, i.e., the principle that if the sea floor slips, it will release a tidal wave capable of killing thousands of people; and personal in that we are all a part of God, like the wave is of the ocean. We feel God intimately within us. There are probably thousands of stories of grace, escape, and love, in Japan, not to mention those souls which did not survive this event and were brought back into their purely spiritual state that is Spirit, God itself. After Chris’ near-death and rescue, I have faith that grace exists, and hopefully it did for many of those in Japan as well.
            What do we really know? Only that we don’t, and we keep trying to find out. There are as many different views of the Supreme Being as there are people who think. Christianity itself includes a staggering range of belief, and always has, right from the earliest days after Jesus’ crucifixion. The rest of the world contains more and different brands of belief, consistent only in thinking they are right. Even those who engineered 9/11 thought they were expressing God’s will, to our horror. 
           I have come to believe that the brand of religion or belief system we choose to follow says something about ourselves and what resonates within us, rather than who is ultimately correct. Hopefully, we have gone beyond thinking that anyone who doesn’t think like us is evil, unwashed, wrong…not always, I know, but I think there are more who believe in the inherent goodness of man and life than those who don’t.
            How do we get more people to join us in this faith? Through prayer, worldwide prayer and love. Through being the activity of God, doing not what we want, but that which we should for the benefit of those around us.
            I “know” for myself, that we are all of God, God’s expression in this world, tempered by our free will. I feel it, I live with the glow of this knowledge within me. Am I right?  Who knows? But I will pursue living, loving, and giving to the very best of my abilities because that is what resonates within me. That is how God manifests through me, and many others like me who believe in the innate goodness of God’s creation.
            And so it is. Amen.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Life and living

Its been an unusual time; surreal, scary, and illuminating. Last Tuesday, I got a call that my son was gravely ill. He had been jogging, when his heart stopped.  A fellow jogger caught him as he stumbled and fell, summoned help, two people pitched in on the CPR, someone stood by with the 911 call, directing the ambulance – which happened to be two minutes away, no more, and he was taken to the best heart hospital in the area, which they happened to be near. Messages of grace that made it possible for him to recover. Angels, doing God’s work as simple expressions of care.
I don’t think anything can prepare you to hear your child is on life support. Even if it is for a good reason, your mind stops functioning. Calm deserts you for a while, and if you can get it back, its not true calm, but the trying-not-to-be-anxious funneling of prayers, love, and support from yourself and everyone you know – and collaring every doctor to pummel him or her for answers…I tried to remember to stay centered in Spirit, but it was intermittent.
We hear that we are spiritual beings having a physical existence. I feel lucky that there are those who address our physical existence with such dedication and intelligence! Modern science can be a wonderful blessing, God’s work in another guise. He had the benefit of vast improvements in care science to protect his brain and heart, and space-age diagnostic tools to chase down the cause. Some of those tools are so sophisticated and new that he will have to be transferred to Silicon Valley to take advantage of them. Maybe in the end we will know the physical reason a 42-year-old man in excellent health will experience sudden cardiac arrest. Judging from the news, we aren’t the only ones who are interested.
The spiritual side – ah, he had wonderful support there. The word went out over several networks, and he had worldwide prayer, reiki, and loving support. By his side, I could feel the energy from those prayers thrumming through my fingers…I can’t thank you enough for them. God didn’t need them, but we all did.
I was also fortunate. My son had been adopted by another couple as a small child, and we had been in contact over the years. His adopted mother is a wise woman, had been open about letting me into his life, and had called me right away when this happened. Other than somewhat unusual explanations about my presence there, the nursing staff and doctors were fabulous, supporting the entire family on my son’s behalf.
So we are wonderfully blessed. Blessed by his amazing rescue and recovery. Blessed by God’s grace in the fullness of Spiritual expression. Blessed by friends, loved ones, and the incredible kindness of strangers. We are deeply grateful.
And so it is.  Amen.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Lessons from Sports

Larry and I were reading the local newspaper the other day – he had bought the paper this time, so he got first crack at the front section, and I got the sports, not usually my favorite, but this time the front stories were riveting.
The first thing I noticed was the photos - now, mind you, high school sports in this remote section of Arizona is fiercely competitive, and, to give credit to the photographer, the photos of the players show how intensely they focus on the ball. They don’t ignore the other players, but their total objective was getting the ball to its appointed target. It reminded me of something mentioned by Doug Krug, in his Enlightened Leadership Program, where he spoke of Tiger Woods and his legendary power to focus. He observed that if Tiger made a mistake, he didn’t focus on correcting the mistake, he remained focused on making the ball get to its target. These high school players seemed to understand that concept. Those photos are as exciting as those from any professional game. The players who have this type of focus are going to go far, with or without professional sports as their next goal.
The second observation came from reading a couple of articles further down the page. The first had quotes from coaches that were not only complimentary, but specific in analyzing the young men or women’s strong points, and encouraging about their future in and out of the game. The other article was about a losing local team, where the coach observed that in the first half, the players didn’t really go out to play the game. The coach was trying to hold back, but it was obvious he was disappointed in his team. And he said it to a reporter, where it could be put into print.
Want to bet who had the best chance for future success? The ones that were praised, or the ones who had their faults pointed out in print?
It is a matter of different teaching techniques, but I submit to you that if someone has the opportunity to build on their strengths, they have a better chance than the person who must concentrate on mistakes. When you concentrate on mistakes, even on correcting them, you tend to program the mind to repeat them.
The same goes for focus. If you focus on what went wrong so you can correct it, you won’t get as far as the person who never takes his focus off of his ultimate goal. It doesn’t matter if you believe in Enlightened Leadership, Power of Positive Thinking, or the What If Up! Concept I’ve talked about before, if your lessons can come from the strength within you, that God-Spirit within you, rather than where you failed, you will shine.
And you will. You will shine.