Little Book – Big Value

I am pleased to have heard from several of my old blog subscribers that they received notification about my blog after my son fixed the problem. That inspires me to get back to work.

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This may not seem especially interesting but I discovered yesterday that a humble paper-back booklet given to me by my cousin a few years ago is very valueable. The booklet is Your Owner’s Manual, self-published by Burt Hotchkiss. When I say self-published, I mean it looks like he took copies of his manuscript to the local printer and had multiple copies made, folded and stapled. I love the little book.

Burt Hotchkiss and his wife were trained in the Course in Miracles. The little booklet is his sharing the message of the Course in a much more understandable way. He uses real-life examples including from his own life. This is how I like learning about spirituality and philosophy. I call it incarnation, ideas packaged in human reality. In fact, if a spiritual or philosophical idea can’t shown to be applicable, which means helping one to live their life in a more meaningful way, I have no time for it. Hot air. Pillow fluff.

The price printed on the little paper book is $4.95. I thought I’d get a few copies that I can share with friends I think would appreciate it. When I tried to get to the web page Hotchkiss had on the back cover, it took me to Amazon where the book is for sale, used only. The price variation was between $75 and $135. I thought “I don’t know if I have a friend I like that much.” I suppose I could loan the book to someone, but at that value, I don’t know if I trust them to return it. Maybe I should insure it.

I wonder if my book will ever explode in value like this one.  If you have a copy of The Memorial of Jesus, hang onto it. You never know. If you don’t have one, better hurry up, there are only 300 copies left.

Perfectionism and New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t make them anymore. I don’t recall when resolutions and I parted ways. I just know that there came a time when I realized the futility. Resolutions were just setting myself up for failure.

Some people prefer the idea of setting goals rather than making resolutions. I am not clear on the difference, but goal does sound less foreboding, even a bit positive. It makes one seem to have a certain amount of control over life. But for a perfectionist, either word is lethal. Goal lists for a perfectionist are worse than Santa’s naughty list.

I have had to reevaluate this idea of perfectionism. Who ever thought it was a good idea to begin with? Plato? Socrates? Jesus? I think Jesus did say something about being perfect like he and the Father are perfect, but was I think he has been totally misunderstood. I am not sure exactly what he meant, to tell you the truth, but he also said that we should love ourselves and I can’t seem to love self and seek perfection at the same time.

So, I have decided to give up on perfection totally. And, folks, I am feeling really free right now. I no longer ponder about the outcome of anything I do. And after the fact, if something turns out to be a flop, I smile and go onto the next thing. A better philosophy for me is simply to do the next right thing. The next right thing is whatever is on my list. Yes I still make lists, but those just help me remember.

No goals, no resolutions. If today is Tuesday and I have on my list to go to swim at 2:30, I will pack my swimsuit and towel and set it by the door. But if I the toilet gets clogged up and I have to stay home and wait for the plumber, I just choose a different next right thing. Call my cousin Franny. Then I move onto the next right thing.

I can’t imagine that Jesus would be disappointed in me. He understands that I don’t understand what he meant about being perfect. Maybe the translators of the Bible got confused and mixed up his words. Perhaps he really said, “Perfectly be just as the Father and I are being.”

Merry Christmas to All

I have been away for some time due to technical difficulties…my own as well as the cite itself. But things look good for the future, though this page upon which I write my blog for today looks strange indeed. The opening page for the blog looks unfamiliar to me and it is bereft of fanciness, perhaps a sign of my life to come. Just words. No fluff. Simple.

Christmas is upon us. My own family celebrates tomorrow. Our Thanksgiving included most of my son’s family from Colorado. They won’t be with us for Christmas but as the day comes near, a couple of the Minnesota family members may be absent. One Grandson headed out to spend Christmas in Colorado…a first real adventure on his own…my thoughts are with you, Charlie. One grandson is just getting over a week of the flu but his mother is showing signs of getting sick herself. God knows who in the end will show up tomorrow. Those who are supposed to be here, if my spiritual calculations are working.

What matters is where our hearts are. Today my heart is with my loved ones everywhere. We span the world from Boston to Australia, Colorado to St. Louis and here in Minnesota. Friends are in my heart today, too. One whose father went home to his Heavenly Father this past week, another who reached the ripe old age of 89, and all those who journey with me on the spiritual path toward awakening. God is pleased with all, no matter where we are in our journeys.

Christmas for me is about Jesus’ message of Peace. Jesus’ idea of peace was so much more than just quietness of heart. It was about relationships that are vulnerable to see the truth about ourselves and to see “that of God” in others. It is about seeing everyone upon the earth as our Brothers and Sisters, equal creations of the Creator who takes delight in each.

Merry Christmas, dear ones.

Loving Kindness Meditation – Part 2

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about the practice of Loving Kindness Meditation. I wanted to demonstrate its importance as a tool for changing one’s own self and even changing the world. Here I would like to share the steps involved in the meditation. It is slightly different than the way I was taught in that it keeps returning to love for one’s self. I made only a few changes to the meditation as described by Newberg and Waldman.

Step One: Sit and slowly repeat the following prayer ten times, out loud or silently to yourself:

May I be happy.
May I be well.
May I be filled with kindness and peace.

Step Two: Now turn your attention to someone you love such as a friend or even a pet.

May you be happy.
May you be well.
May you be filled with kindness and peace.

Step Three: Now turn your attention to the person you like/love the most. Smile as you visualize his or her face and repeat the prayer above. Then return the love to yourself as in step one.

Step Four: Now move on to another person, not so much in this inner circle such as another relative or friend, someone who comes to mind because you happen to have a concern about them or recently encountered them. As you pray the prayer of loving kindness, notice how your feelings change with each person.

Step Five: Keep enlarging your circle to include as many different people as you can: colleagues, neighbors, the mail carrier, etc. Again, notice your changes in mood.

Step Six: Now extend your prayer to include people you may have difficulty with or whom you find it difficult to forgive. As you pray, think to send loving thoughts to those persons who may have hurt you in the past. If you feel resistance, don’t fight it. If you feel resistance, just acknowledge it and come back to loving yourself.

Step Seven: Pick One person whom you may find especially difficult to forgive. Look for one small quality that you may like in that person and focus your attention on that one trait. Hold any positive thoughts that might come to your mind. Pray the prayer for them. Do you feel any less angry toward that person? Less hurt? Even the slightest decrease in anger is beneficial to your brain. Each time you do this exercise pray for this person again. Give the prayer time to soften your heart.

Step Eight: Finally, extend your loving kindness to the world:

May everyone be happy.
May everyone be well.
May everyone be filled with kindness and peace.

Hold a vision in your mind of all the different people in the world, all cultures, all colors, all religions, and all political groups. Imagine everyone getting along with each other and living together in peace.

 

Loving Kindness Meditation Part 1.

I am reading a book by Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman, How God Changes Your Brain. Because it has been the case for myself, I agree with the authors who maintain the importance of meditation in achieving changes in one’s brain. These scientists share the technicalities of actual changes that occur in the brain when one meditates. Fear and anger can be transformed into serenity and love for those who regularly practice meditation. I have been practicing meditation for years and I can assure you that the person who interacts with the world is far different than she was before she began.

The meditation I read about this morning is especially powerful and I would like to share it as background before I share how to do the practice which I first knew as the Loving Kindness Meditation. These authors entitle the section “Sending Kindness and Forgiveness to Others”. They suggest a person use this meditation when one is feeling dislike or hate toward another person. The people in my life that fall into this category are few these days, but when I get outside my own circle there are individuals that fit. Today, politicians are for sure on my list. I will start by saying that hatred for particular political leaders or people who disagree with us politically is an epidemic today and a real danger to the future of the human race. Let me be clear. It isn’t the differences between people that are dangerous, but their hatred. Hatred goes beyond discomfort and dislike in that one wishes harm to come to the one hated. When hate occurs in masses, it can lead to war and genocides. This is why the authors suggest that Loving Kindness meditation may be the most important, yet the most difficult, form of meditation. When we practice Loving Kindness meditation we are changing the world.

The meditation is the most difficult, not because it is so complex, but because of what it demands. It is the cornerstone of every religious tradition – the golden rule, loving your neighbor as yourself. But Jesus and the Buddha went one step further. They taught that we should love our enemies as well. This is where the difficulty lies.

Ghandi once counseled a Hindu whose child was killed during a religious war suggesting that the man adopt an orphan, but he was to raise the child as Muslim. He knew that this would eventually alleviate the man’s religious hatred.

What the meditation helps with is forgiveness. Forgiveness improves family relationships, decreases depressive symptoms while enhancing empathy and life satisfaction. Even the act of choosing to replace an unforgiving attitude with a forgiving one affects the peripheral and central nervous systems in ways that promote physical and psychological health. 

The authors suggest that we take a moment to think about a person we hate and imagine sending him or her love. I once set out to pray for each person serving in the U.S. Congress in this way. I completed the Senate but was unable to get through all of the members of the House. I found some politicians easy to think of kindly, but others, I struggled with. I was able to give my words, but my heart was resistant.

If you are one who hates a particular person or political party, or ethnic or racial group, imagine the difference your achieving a change of heart does for world peace. This was the teaching of Peace Pilgrim who inspired this blog.

In my next blog, I will share with you the meditation.

Showing up and Priming the Pump

Yesterday, I met a woman who just had her memoir published. I am always wanting to support writers, so I bought it and began reading it this morning. The author is close to my own age and I marveled at the work she has done. I wondered where she found the time and energy in her mid 70’s. She is also a blogger…more time spent writing. Thoughts about her accomplishment made me feel a bit guilty.

When I started my blog, I made a commitment to post something every day for a year and I succeeded. In the process, I learned that the best way to become a better writer is to write. I also learned that life offers lots of things to write about if one is paying attention.  It was during that first year that I began writing the stories that later became my book, The Memorial of Jesus. Seemingly, the process of forcing myself to sit down to write, driven by my commitment, was like priming a pump. This aspect of daily writing is one I didn’t realize until now. I can honestly say that I haven’t written anything of substance in at least a year, probably because I have failed to show up in the first place.

I have already learned this important lesson in other aspects of my life. I have a daily exercise routine and rarely have miss a day. It consists of about 20 minutes of movements and stretches I learned from yoga, exercise classes, and physical therapy, I can’t do all of the moves that i could in my younger days, but I am convinced that the osteoarthritis that now makes itself known in my body would be far worse if  not for my morning practice.

The same is true for my meditation practice. When I began, I was still working and managing a house and family and I could not imagine taking time for what seemed like a pretty meaningless activity. Yet those who I most admired in the world were almost all people who had a meditation practice. So, I started. I set a timer for 5 minutes and struggled to silence my thoughts as best I could. Those five minutes seemed an eternity and the volume of thoughts that could march through my mind was amazing. But I kept at it until I reached a point where I was surprised when the chime announced the end of 5 minutes. At some point I was able to move on to 10 minutes. Now I set the timer for 20 minutes and meet with a contemplative body for an hour of meditation each week.

I have applied the same principle to other things. I managed to complete the process of going through old family pictures neither dated nor labeled with names and organize them committing to 1/2 hour per day. It took me months to complete the task. Again, I showed up, set a timer, and often worked far longer once I got into the task. I have gotten organizing “stuff”, sewing projects and seasonal cleaning in the same way.

Whenever I talk to someone wanting to begin a new practice of exercise or meditation or anything, really, I tell them that starting is half the battle. Make the commitment to start, put it on your task list, start small, but start, even if your have to argue with yourself and moan and groan as you get up off the couch.

Okay, so here I am, on the cusp of a new adventure. Self, this is my first day of showing up once again, priming the pump that I hope is connected to well of ideas and inspiration out of which the writer’s ideas flow.

Why I argue on Facebook

I am reading Love Your Enemies by Arthur C. Brooks. It is the first book I have read by a person on the conservative right that I can get excited about. Read it, especially if you are a liberal.

The subtitle is “How Decent People Can Save America From the Culture of Contempt”. I wish Brooks were sitting with me on my back porch as I read so I could throw out my ideas. I throw them out anyway even though he is not here. Sometimes I bring them onto Facebook or into my blog where at least someone is listening. I hope to do some writing about his ideas. Actually I have, though not in reference to Brooks’ book.

The title of this blog is “My Thoughts on Peace”. It was inspired by Peace Pilgrim, a woman who walked across the United States on foot carrying only a tooth brush, a comb, a pencil and pad of paper, stamps and envelopes, and two documents: a message to the United Nations and another to the United States Congress. As she traveled, she stopped and spoke wherever she was invited and she collected signatures for her documents. This is what she did for peace. I use my blog to share a message of peace.

My belief in peace is grounded in my Christian faith. Jesus’ words are my foundation, just as they were for Peace. I am not alone in my convictions. Quakers are pacifists, for example. Among their ranks have been conscientious objectors and people who served as medics in the military because they believed in the cause of their country but cannot support killing.

Quakers also believe in equality. They have been beheaded for refusing to bow down to the king because, in their belief, the king is just another equal human being with a job to do. Their basic belief is that we are all equally children of a loving God which forms the bases of their non-violence as well. They believe that there is “that of God” in everyone.

Simplicity is another of their values. I aspire to simplicity to the point of annoyance to friends and family. It is okay. I annoy myself, as well.

I try to promote peace here on my blog but also in other media such as Facebook. If I read an attack by a person with my own political views upon someone with an opposing view, I attack the attack. Everyone has a right, even a responsibility, to express their opinion about issues. We all see things from a different perspective and as we talk and listen, we become more aware of the limitations of our own perspective. At the same time, we are influencing another. But this exchange can only happen in a spirit of mutuality. When we attack another or attack their group, we put up walls instead of tearing them down. We accomplish nothing except contempt and broken relationships.

Mothers Day began when a woman in America took a stand for peace, Julia Ward Howe, who served as a nurse during the Civil War. She wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation” calling all mothers to work toward world peace. Ann Jarvice, another Civil War activist, organized “Mother’s Friendship Day” to foster reconciliation between Union and Confederate soldiers. The work of these and other women led to the official declaration by Congress establishing Mother’s Day as a national holiday.

Over the years, Mother’s Day has been redirected to honor mothers, but I have not forgotten its origins. I have chosen to unite myself with its original intent: to promote peace in the world.

I think Arthur Brooks’ book Love Your Enemies will go far in promoting peace, especially in our own nation. His principles can help families and sectors of our society find peace, as well. I am delighted to share the book with you. I am delighted to be hearing his words from a conservative. It really pokes a hole in the demonizing that comes from the political left. Good! A step toward peace!