At Home In Yourself

In January 1994, I left my job in church work because my mother’s health had diminished to such a state that she required a great deal of care and I just was unable to handle a job plus attend to her. On February 7, she died. In hind sight I thought perhaps she had set it up just that way to get me to move into a different work and a different life-style.

During that time, I read several books on simplicity that fed my soul and imagination. This is my journal entry for June 20, 1998:

First day of summer. The longest light. I awaken early to hear the first bird. She probably held off as long as possible to let her out her morning chatter. Laying there in her nest like I in my bed, feeling the cool air on my face. Unlike her, I have to close my window in the winter and live with the stuffiness. She goes to warmer places…though some birds stay here where it is cold. I want to learn about birds, and trees and forest berries and small critters.

Janet Luhrs (in her book The Simple Living Guide) writes of inner simplicity that comes when outer clutter is reduced. She asks a woman who lives alone atop a mountain: “With all that stillness, what about your inner demons?” She explains: “The more still your outer environment becomes, the more aware of what is going on inside. No more staying busy and running away from yourself.. There you are.”

As I live simply, and I think I have begun this journey, I am becoming aware of the demons of others. One symptom is talking too much, over-explaining, over-load of opinions. Somehow, as I find peace, I have less need to explain myself. Being happy with my life is becoming enough. I don’t need to convince others or pull them along. As I find inner peace, I feel less need to change. I am happy to be here if others drop in now and then. If I spend time alone, that’s fine, too.

Bernie has said to me recently, “You are quiet today.” It is true. I am getting more quiet. It is good. I have less to say because I am listening – with my ears, my eyes, my touch, my nose…all of me in and out. Jack Kornfield writes: “Stop and listen to the heart, the wind outside, to one another, to the changing patterns of the mysterious life. It comes moment after moment, out of nothing, and disappears into nothing. Live life with less grasping and more appreciation and caring.”

Luhr’s reflection on Jon Kabat Zinn’s book Where You Go,There You Are…”Once you learn to find fulfillment on the inside, you will not have to look outside. You always have ‘you’ with you, and you can  always be ‘at home’ right  inside yourself no matter where you are. This does not mean you shun the world. It simply means that you build a strong foundation within yourself first; then the pleasures of the world are simply adornments, not sustenance. It also means you live with more intimacy in the world. You are fully present and intimate with the things and people around you, rather than passing them by on your way to somewhere  else.”

Changing my view of Jesus – 1997

After a conference that I attended, August 19, 1997, “Who do you say that I am?” I wrote the following in my journal:

The rest of the conference fell flat for me yesterday. I don’t know why the speaker was so likable, but his talks seemed unfocused. Or was I unfocused? Or he wasn’t offering me any challenges. I wanted to come away with a grand new thought, a new directive, an inner banner to carry. As a result I felt a loss, a loss of a good day’s work, a loss of energy. I felt vague – what is it that I am supposed to be communicating to those I serve? Where is Jesus in all this?

I realize, I think, that I have a different relationship with Jesus than all the options the speaker proposed the first night. Jesus said, “I am the way to the Father”. I know this is true for me. For twenty plus years I prayed to Jesus, studied Jesus, worshiped Jesus, walked with Jesus, held him in my heart. Then something changed – like I was in a bubble and it suddenly broke and I was left seeing too  much. My world opened up. Then I seemed to wander for a while. The reality of God lost its concreteness – Jesus is concrete. He has a form, a character, a personality revealed in scripture. Now the God image was no image. Hardly even a feeling. Any time I tried to give image to God, my efforts fizzled. I’d wear out trying. Praying words became strange – like talking to myself. God is so within me; he knows every nook and cranny of me, even my thoughts. Why word it?

Yet I still do, especially to pray for those persons and circumstances outside my family. But I do that for me. When I give word to it, I convince me that I care and can tell those folks out there “I am praying for you.” But I have this sense that God is already there loving them so what is it I am praying about? I am praying for God to be God – as though He forgets sometimes, as though He gets distracted and my prayers get him back on track. How strange that seems. “Lord, look at Laura…don’t forget her, she needs your healing.” But God loves her a million times more than I do and I need to remind him? Rather, God needs to remind me to love Laura.

So there I go – here I am. Prayer has become a reverse conversation. I no longer  – or rarely – feel I have anything to say to God. Rather, I feel a need to stop long enough for God to speak to me. Who is it he wants to pull into my attention? Who should I be loving more?

So where did Jesus go? He carried me to the Father. The Father, the Creator, tender keeper of the world. And here I am. Do I still need Jesus? I don’t pray to him any more. But sometimes he reminds me of the expectations of the Father revealed in Jesus’ life: “Remember the poor.” “Stop and listen to the spiritually hungry.” “Give generously.” “Tend the soil to receive the seed.” “Take time to pray.” “Take time for relationships.” The messages keep coming through the Word. But I don’t feel Jesus as I once did. Rather, the kingdom dream is what I feel his life stories show me how the kingdom comes.

As for the Holy Spirit – the wind – every time someone says to me, “You are so enthusiastic,” I think, “must be the Holy Spirit.” That God in  me that moves and acts that I hardly am aware. God giving me the courage to do things I don’t want to do. Keeping one moving forward. Driving me, like a windmill. Pulling energy from somewhere.

I don’t know the Holy Spirit. I just look at what I am doing and think, “How did I get myself here?” What I think and what I do often seems at odds with one another. I don’t want to go to work – I’d rather refinish furniture. But I go and when good things happen there, I wonder, “How did this happen? With an attitude like mine, it must be the Holy Spirit.”

 

What About the End Times?

A woman asked me recently what my thoughts are on the End Times. I knew she was referring to the Christian belief based on the book of Revelations that the world will end and before it does there were will be a recognizable series of catastrophes. I told her that with the way we have treated the earth there will likely come a time when it can no longer sustain human beings. But not for a while, I added, and I am not going to worry about it.

I was able to fill her in on what scholars have said about prophecies of doom in the Bible, that these were actually grounded in specific moments in ancient history when the Israelites were dealing with evil monarchs an foreign invaders. I told her that I had learned in my studies that the book of Revelations was actually an underground secretly coded text used by an oppressed people. If found with it, they would not be arrested because their oppressors would not understand it.

I can appreciate why people prone to believe these types of fear-mongering scriptural interpretations during this crisis right now. But I think this flies in the face of Jesus’ message. This week we celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection. The most important part of the story is not that he died a physical death. This we will all experience and the coronovirus is here to remind us all of that fact. The miracle was that he rose, death did not conquer him. I am not sure what that means to others, but to me it means that even in the face of death, he never stopped doing what the Father sent him to earth to do…to love. On the cross, he forgave his enemies. There was room yet in his heart for more love. The Romans and his religious enemies may have been able to destroy the flesh and bone, the composite of the man Jesus, but they were unable to destroy the Christ, that of God that dwelt in him throughout his time of incarnation.

Jesus told his disciples that where he goes, they would also go. That place, according to my theology, is the Kingdom of God which is here among us. You see it even in the midst of this awful scourge: in the courage of our health care workers, in the joy our artists bring to us in our isolation, in the ways people reach out to see that their neighbors are fed, in the love teachers are showing toward their students, in the unity expressed collectively by people thanking the many helpers among us.

I won’t concern myself about this idea of the End Times. My body will have an end time sooner or later. I never needed the Bible to tell me of this. But I believe in the redeeming message that, just like Jesus, the Creator asks only one thing of me to do while I wait for that end to come…that one thing is to love.

Regaining a Perspective

A couple of months ago I was in a really good place. I had been reading the work of a particular spiritual teacher, enjoying some quality time alone, and taking care of myself physically. After the coronovirus arrived and we were told to stay home and not interact even with loved ones, I fell into a hole. The thought of the separation lasting several months was difficult to bear. But I am in a much better place today and I believe there are reasons for the return to the light:

  • Having been depressed in the past, I learned that dark times always come to an end just as good times come to an end. Change is inevitable. The serenity I’d been experiencing was fresh in my mind so I knew it was within reach again. I prayed, i talked about it with friends, I read spiritual material that was pertinent to what I was going through.
  • I tried to regroup. I’ve always been a planner and list maker. Being home day after day, I need these skills more than ever. I begin each day with a plan. I may not be gathering with people. but I can make a couple of phone calls to those I would have been seeing.
  • I am taking care of my body – every morning I do my stretching exercises and every afternoon a good walk. I miss going to the health club, but not having to spend driving time means more time to work on other things.
  • I stopped the “poor me” thinking. I pay attention to those who are lonely and afraid and reach out to them if i can. I have two elderly friends that I call each week to check up on to see how they are doing. This situation is a minor inconvenience compared to what our medical people are going through.
  • I work on gratitude. While I am not seeing my kids and grandkids as much a couple of months ago, I am talking to them way more than we ever did, thanks to the phone, Facetime and zoom.
  • I am a member of a 12 step community as well as a spiritual community. These, as well as a group of good friends, are making use of group calls and Zoom so we can stay in touch.
  • I resist fearful thoughts. I may or my not get the virus. If I get it, how it goes one cannot know. My stay on the earth was temporary from the start. The experiences I have or share with others is part of this earthly journey. There is nothing to be afraid of. We all have only this moment in time.

What Lives Under the Porch

Blogging is a difficult task for me right now. Any excuses I used over the years for not get around to  writing, whether my blog, a story for publication, or a book, have fallen by the wayside. I look upon toward day that is almost empty of duties. I take that back: there are the usual routine things one does plus a project or two. What is different is that the interruptions (meetings, gym class, doctor’s appointments, planned visits with friends, ordinary shopping) have all fallen away, leaving hours unaccounted for. At times in my life, I dreamed of days like this. It is what vacations look like except now we are in our homes instead of some exotic place in another location.

The difficult thing is that deep things are going on inside me but I struggle to find words to share these things. If I click “spirituality” in my list of blog categories I would guess over a thousand postings would come up. I would also guess that I felt pretty secure when I wrote them or I wouldn’t have posted them for public viewing. As deeply as I am feeling now, my security level is under the back porch somewhere with the awakening critters.

Some days in the past couple of weeks I have simply chosen to go light, reporting what I am doing as I stay in. It may have to remain that way for a while until I feel safe to come out of the darkness. With that in mind, I will share a couple of not-so-deep things I am noticing:

  • It seems I am communicating with others more than I did when I was mobile…and so is everyone else with me.
  • I am surprised by who are those I tend to miss now that we can’t actually see each other in the flesh.
  • I rather like simplicity. Planning meals and deciding what part of laundry I will do today isn’t nearly as heavy as duties I once had when I could roam about the world.
  • I can expect to get some things done in a timely manner, like making a gift for the birth of a new baby or a wedding.
  • I love that those things I most love can stretch out over more time such as my morning practice.
  • If I open my eyes and ears, I realize how exotic this little corner of the world is where I am vacationing right now.

Whenever I discover this thing, this understating, that is so illusive to me, I will most certainly share it. But for now, it still hides in the dark.

A Post the Day After Yesterday’s Post

One day after writing a post on how unconcerned I am about the Coronovirus, I am starting to feel different. The governor of New York, talking about the first death there, said we need to put things in perspective. The 85 year old woman with compromised lungs would have probably died from the regular flu, he said. I hear his level-headed words, but I can’t deny that I am more anxious today. An event I’d planned to attend today was cancelled and my daughter and I together decided against shopping this afternoon to avoid the crowds at Cosco. Bernie and I can go during the week when crowds are low if we need to. I have another event tomorrow that I am starting to question. The numbers at this gathering usually low, 30 to 40, but it occurs in a fairly small space where distancing is difficult. Another event, later in the week, will involve more people but spans a longer day as people come and go and there is plenty of room for distancing.

My thoughts are shifting from how to avoid getting the virus to how to keep up social contacts so that I, and relatives and friends, keep from getting lonely. I have started a list of people I know who are likely to be shut in so that I can touch base with them. After my knee surgery a couple years back, I got depressed from the isolation.

My husband and I are already talking about how to fill our time at home. There are so many projects to attend to, but with so much time anticipated, for some reason nothing sounds interesting to me. Under other circumstances, I would be thrilled to have a free day. There isn’t much you can do to please this gal, it seems.

I saw on Facebook that the president declared the 15th (tomorrow) to be a National Day of Prayer. I think we already have one but we can always use another. I would suggest every day be a day of prayer, with the world in mind, not just our little American selves. That is something worthwhile to do when stuck at home. It benefits those being prayed for as well as the pray-ers. I like it. I will put it on my list.

 

The Attitude of Hope

As I read my old journals, I see quotes from books I was reading on a particular day as I sat in the quiet of my morning. This quote comes from a student of Henry Nouwen. I was reading Matthew Fox’s “Original Blessing” at the time and it is likely there is where I read it.

“Hope is an attitude where everything stays open before me. Not that I don’t think of my future in those moments, but I think of it in an entirely different way. Daring to stay green to whatever today will offer me, a tomorrow, two months from now or a year from now, that is hope. To go fearlessly into things without knowing how they’ll turn out, to keep on going even when something doesn’t work the first time, to have trust in whatever you are doing.”

This lifts my soul today…as it did thirty years ago.