Poetry in Four Episodes

I am itching to get back into the habit of blogging. When I first started, I committed to daily writing. I can blame my book, of course, since that was about all I could handle for a good while. But now she is published and I have failed to pick up the old commitment. Yesterday began the Easter Season. The Lord has risen and so must I.

In October of 2017, I wrote in my journal of a number of mini-spiritual awakenings. I had just come off of a recovery retreat which I myself hosted. I had also signed a contract with a publisher and the work to do the final editing on my book was before me. Here are the entries in my journal, poetry in four episodes:

October 1
Connecting – we are One – all is One – all is Now – I am Here – I walk and my Here changes but Here is where God is. Here – so close – Herein. I Am.

October 19
I feel a glow – I thought it as a break in the clouds, or my opening up to this higher place. Like bobbing my head above after swimming under the lily pads for so long. Breathe. Inhale. Exhale.

October 27 
My soul is healing from the last two years of darkness. I am beginning to experience slip-slides. Moments when it seems the planets are aligned or I am sliding on black ice…it is time!!! All is well – wood is in – a fire is burning.

October 30
This is how I operate – I water the flowers and ignore the weeds.

Me and the Iranian lady

My granddaughter gave me my second work by photographer Brandon Stanton. The first Humans of New York was given to me by my daughter and now this, simply Humans  It fills my soul to read the brief stories and look at poignant pictures of people on the streets of wherever in the world Stanton wanders with his camera. There is always something to relate to: stories of joy, fears, dreams, pain and recovery. Ages, races and cultures do not matter…all are human. I am human. I relate.

Here is one story I saw a few days ago, the same day I was reading an old journal from 2016.

From Humans, a woman from Rasht, Iran, says: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.

I, at 72, December 2, 2016 write: “I can’t not read and write in the morning. What would I do if I were kidnapped and whoever took me didn’t grab my books, paper and pens? Solitary confinement? Just me and walls. I mean, am I even a real person without my stuff?”

Self-Care

“Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on this earth to offer to others.” (Parker Palmer)

In my journal of October 24, 2014, I reflected on this quote and wrote: “All I have to give the world is me. This is what God gave me the vessel for – to transport me from one place to another. No matter where I am, that is where I am meant to be with my cargo. Like a lunch wagon.”

Be yourself. Care for the vessel and the soul that is in it. You are God’s gift to the world.

Courage to Push the Button

There are many things that make me feel alone, but even in my aloneness, I often find a person or a community that shares that certain something with me. It could even be the fact that I often feel alone. Meeting someone who feels that way at times, makes me feel less alone. I suspect you have had the same experience at one time or another.

I will share here what makes me feel alone currently. In the summer of 2019, I was reading books by David Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D. Hawkins found a way to measure the level of consciousness in people as well as communities. I won’t go into how he did this. It seems a bit weird to me. But once I got past his method, his chart on the stages of consciousness was more than intriguing. It led me to read 6 of his books as I tried to grasp this idea of levels of consciousness.

When I was younger, I was introduced to levels of intellectual, spiritual, and emotional maturity. In each case, I judged myself to be high up there on whatever scale was offered. It made me feel good about myself, though I suspect my ego was running the show. But placing myself on Hawkin’s scale was different. I happened to be reading his books at a time when I was concerned for a dear friend who was struggling internally with a problem that she couldn’t seem to shake. She could see causes and solutions, but she couldn’t move forward. it baffled me. Hawkins helped me to understand that what she needed was courage. The fact that I could see what she couldn’t meant that I was further along on the path than she was. All I could do was listen and share whatever insights I had, knowing full well I didn’t have any power. I learned from Hawkins that this, too, is a factor in higher consciousness – powerlessness. Hawkins suggested that people who have themselves overcome a block, such as an addiction, often move from a lower to a higher consciousness. I qualified, again.

What am I getting at? I started out talking about what it feels like to be alone. One reason for aloneness might be the feeling that one feels different from others. The problems is that suggesting one has a higher level of consciousness is a pretty vulnerable thing to do. I may think twice before I publish this post. But if I don’t, I will stay where I have been that last 18 months.

When Hawkins talks about those of the highest levels of consciousness, he suggests that aloneness is common. It is a contradiction to say this, but he also points to a sense of unity that one feels with the world. This unity relates to something above, something a person may be aware of but unable to articulate. It is a oneness with all persons and things, all of creation. Oneness and aloneness? Crazy, huh!

I don’t know where to go with this. I will hit the publish button. Hawkins suggests that the move from a lower consciousness where a person drains energy from the world and a higher one where a person gives energy to the world is courage. Courage for me always means risk or it wouldn’t be courage. There has to be an unknown, a possible consequence that might be unpleasant. We shall see.

A Reason for Hope

With all that has happened in our country it feels good to read something hopeful. I had the opportunity to meet Jan Phillips a few years ago when my daughter Heidi invited her to offer a retreat for artists. I was lucky enough to be the transportation to her next gig. It allowed me to get to know her in a more intimate way, I should say, it allowed her to get to me in a more intimate way. I think she is a bit of a no nonsense, no excuses person when in the role of prodding artists to make their marks in the world.

The Art of Original Thinking by Phillips is the new selection for my book club. It is a wordy piece. I can only take a few pages at a time. What I find so encouraging is that Phillips lists multiple organizations and businesses that have taken on a new way of acting in the world by putting service and care for the environment before profit. Compassion, rather than competition, is what inspires their workers to do their best. Meanwhile, their ultraism is paying off in their profits and in the enthusiasm of their workforce. I would call this changing the world from the bottom up, grass roots activism, a step forward in the consciousness of the world.

I would like to spread a bit of her optimism and hope by sharing some of the quotes she uses in her text. I hope it brightens your days ahead.

“You can’t have a world where 50 percent of the people are dieting and 50 percent of the people are starving if you want stability.” John Shelby Spong

“By reinventing capitalism and injecting our own souls into the machine, you and I can raise the bar of human possibility.” Howard Bloom

“Whoever saves on life, saves world entire.” The Talmud.

“Almost everything we do is religious act, from the time we get up to the time we go to sleep.” Hopi elder.

“Those who do original work in any field do so because they mine themselves deeply and bring up what is personal.” Ralph Steiner

“The physics of one era is the metaphysics of the next…The belief that there is only one truth and that oneself is in possession of it seems to me the deepest root of all the evil that is in the world.” Max Born

“Perhaps the ultimate enterprise of the twenty-first century will be the establishment of a tranquility base, not on the moon, but within mankind.” Kenneth R. Pelletier

It is my hope that there is reason for Phillips optimism. We need a tipping point, where good beings to win over evil, love silences hate, and justice becomes the norm.

 

Conspiracy Theories

I am reading a book by Brene’ Brown, Rising Strong, and this morning, she addresses why people believe conspiracy stories. Quoting Johnathan Gottschall, she observes that conspiratorial thinking “is not limited to the stupid, the ignorant, or the crazy. It is a reflex of the storytelling mind’s compulsive need for meaningful experience.” He says that conspiracy theories are used to explain why bad things happen. “To the conspiratorial mind, shit never just happens, and the complexities of human life are reduced to produce theories that “are always consoling in their simplicity.”

This makes a lot of sense to me. How difficult it is to realize that the causes of a particular problem, like violence in one’s neighborhood, is due to a whole list of coexisting problems, from racial attitudes, too many guns among the populace, violence in the media, too few police officers, joblessness, alcohol and drug abuse…the list goes on. The problem with realizing the complexity of problems is that it makes one feel helpless, vulnerable and even hopeless. If one can reduce causes to one explanation then the solution seems manageable – just get the bad guys and all will be well.

There seems to be no solution to the above reflection. Understanding why people are quick to latch on to conspiracy theories helps me not to judge and prods me to try to calm a person’s fears. “All will be well,” I want to say. Yet I am not sure I myself believe that all will be well. I do know that for me, realizing that problems are complex and have many contributing causes is actually empowering. I can look at the list and simply pick one to work on. Violence in the media, for example. As a parent I can control the media my children partake in. Raising kids not prone to violence is one step, one small piece to solving a much large problem.

As for the bigger problem, helping those who are deeply afraid because of conspiracy theories, I do not know. Nor do I know what to do about those who deliberately spread such theories in order to achieve sinister ends. I just try to trust that my small contributions effect the whole and eventually conspiracy theories will lose their power

 

 

 

Finding Hope at Three in the Morning

I had hoped that after the election, my mind and heart would rest, but alas, there is still a trembling in me. Awake about 2, I am up at 3, the first time in a while since my sleep was so disturbed.

I had hoped that after the election, the news would be less frightening, but alas, it is more so. I had hoped that the hateful, divisive rhetoric would fade. But it seems that the former president doesn’t have a corner on hate and divisiveness. We are hearing it from the top of the heap, from those who crave to lead rather than to serve.

I had hoped my fear that there could be a civil war would prove to be silly nonsense, overreaction, naïve, but alas, each day I see and hear things that support the possibility. Those who would choose to fight such a war are well armed. Those of us whom they would want to defeat tend not to be.

I had hoped that my government could return to the path of “forming a more perfect union”, but alas, it is disunity that becomes glaring. It seems almost like some get a high on hate and disunity. Having an enemy makes one feel stronger. I have not doubt that to some, I would be the enemy.

Where is hope? My heroes are those who treasure life, who speak of a language of non-violence, of listening and cooperation. Some of these are Jesus of Nazareth, Mahatma Gandhi, Peace Pilgrim, Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King. There are heroes among us today. I have found some of them and I eat their words like honey on warm toast. Comfort food for my soul.

I thought to share a favorite passage from the sacred scriptures as I seek hope on this early winter morning. May it stir hope in you today:

I may be able to speak the languages of men and even of angels,
but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell.
I may have the gift of inspired preaching:

I may have all knowledge and understanding all secrets:
I may have all the faith needed to move mountains-
but if I have no love, I am nothing.
I may give away everything I have,
and even give up my body to be burned-
but if I have no love, this does me no good.

Love is patient and kind;
it is not jealous or conceited or proud;
love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable;
love does not keep a record of wrongs;
love is not happy with evil, 
but is happy with the truth.
Love never gives up: and its faith, hope, and patience never fail.

Love is eternal.
There are inspired messages, 

but they are temporary:
there are gifts of speaking in strange languages,
but these will cease;
there is knowledge, but it will pass.
For our gifts of knowledge and of inspired messages are only partial;
but when what is perfect comes, 
then what is partial will disappear.

When I was a child,
my speech, feelings and thinking were all those of a child;
now that I am a man, 
I have no more use for childish ways.
What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror;
then we shall see face-to-face.
What I know now is only partial:
then it will be complete-
as complete as God’s knowledge of me.

Meanwhile, these three remain:
faith, hope and love;
and the greatest of these is love.

I Corinthians 13