Friday, November 28, 2014

Be Creative


We trap ourselves in expectations and conformity to convention especially during this time of year. We want our Thanksgiving Day and Christmas to be a certain way, usually according to false images of family gatherings, stuffed turkeys, elaborately decorated trees, brightly wrapped gifts.

So often this pursuit of false images leads to stress and frustration. For those without a family, it can mean loneliness and sorrow.

Every day is what you want it to be. A simple meal on Thanksgiving can have meaning if done with the right spirit. A family is the people you love and share with throughout the year. And, the real gift of Christmas is an awakened heart.

Yesterday, we prepared a nice traditional meal, which we normally don't do but it was to mark a milestone in our community. It is rare when all three of us have a full day together and so we celebrated how our paths lead us to each other, how we encourage and support each other's growth both spiritually and in the world.

The joy was not in the food, but how we shared in the tasks to make it a memorable day; everything from preparing the food to washing the dishes. 

Afterwards, we sat in meditation and gave thanks for each other and for those saints and angels who are so much a part of our lives.

Make these Holy Days to come what you want them to be. Don't follow convention but follow your heart.



Monday, November 24, 2014

Challenging myself




It's official. I will be a small part of the Tucson Book Festival on March 15, 2015.

It's a small challenge to put myself out there in the public (if anyone notices me among the crowd of authors, publishers, editors and circus clowns LOL)

I am, however, using that date as a deadline to finish my novel about Saint Francis.

My previous life as a journalist has trained me to work well with deadlines. Knowing it must be completed--writing, editing, design and production--in the next few months gives me incentive, as well as not agonizing over every word.

So, if I am not blogging, facebook-ing, etc for awhile, it's because I am facing my self-imposed deadline. It's a mind game I play on myself, but it works and that's what matters. Much better than some of the other mind games people play. LOL




Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Reflection

I don't plan on what I will write until the blank space appears. Then I just jot down my thoughts and feelings. As I am doing now.

Not much happens to me, as far as daily life. I can't imagine anyone being interested in the mundane activities of my day. I'm not all that interested.

This is a quiet time for me, a time of reflection. Few people take time for self examination. I suppose not many are willing to be honest with themselves, to take even a moment to wonder what is working in their lives and what needs to be discarded - well, until it's too late to actually do something about it.

For me, it's constantly walking this path, knowing there is more to discover, knowing there is more to life and more within me than I have ever imagined.

Tears are shed as I take the next step. I wave goodbye to what used to be. I take my pilgrim staff. One step then another into the unknown. I feel fear but I also feel a deep faith.

We do not have to wait for Death's call. We let go of the world while living in the world. All that once was so important is just so much straw to be burned.


And when the smoke has cleared, something new emerges nurtured by the ashes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Born Again


I die.

I shed the past like an old skin. The mask falls from my face and I see the eternal visage of an old friend I almost forgot.

Every year of my life feels like a shackle to be broken. Every challenge, every failure and every victory are far behind me.


Friends of the past are distant echoes. I have no family, never did. Around me, people move through space like planets, some closer than others. 

While some might find this sad, I feel detached. I speak with ancient saints and enjoy the company of angel wings.

What more can I want? 


You've come into this life through the womb. I've left it by way of an inner sanctuary, a hidden hermit's cave with a view of the universe. To come to know your true self is to be born again.  


Am I mad to be this way?

A man walking past an insane asylum saw one of the patients sitting by a window.

The man shouted to him, "Hey, you! How many crazy people live in there?"


The man in the window shouted back, "First you tell me how many sane people live out there?"

Saturday, November 15, 2014

TIME


Tomorrow is unknown. If you think about it, the next few minutes are unknown. We have expectations or assume the next minute will be like the last but it can all change.

It's changing as you read this. Unknown forces, maybe an event happening a thousand of miles away, is already shifting the energy in your direction. For instance, a sudden snowstorm in Chicago delays departures and arrivals at the airport. You wait impatiently in Atlanta for a flight to Florida. The trip you planned months ago has suddenly been altered. You had no idea when making reservations that forces were already in motion that would cause a snowstorm to shut down the Chicago airport.

I can't control time or the events of life. I can only be aware of the moment.




Friday, November 14, 2014

Silent Morning, quiet mourning


I am awake at 4 in the morning waiting for the dawn. The house is quiet. The others are asleep. 

I had fallen asleep earlier than usual while reading Chinese Buddhist poetry and so, of course, I am sitting here writing earlier than usual. 

The posts on this blog may at times seem like sermons but the message is always for me. Writing helps me reach a deeper wisdom and I am often surprised at the result. It aids in giving clarity and direction to whatever is going on in my life. 

(I sometimes wonder if anyone else reads this but it doesn't really matter.)

After a series of unplanned and unexpected events during the summer, now as the dust settles and I have time to reflect, I feel so many inner shifts: peace and restlessness, determination and fear, strength and weakness. Nothing lasts long but flicker on and off until I find myself in quiet emptiness.

I am releasing and healing. The "emptiness" is the result and I welcome it, though at times it gets uncomfortable for someone like me who tries to keep busy with one thing or another.

Yet, within me I yearn to be like those hermit poets of ancient China, like the one who wrote:
I follow my impulsive feet wherever they go
my body is a pine tree surrounded by snow
sometimes I simply stand beside a flowing stream
sometimes I chase a drifting cloud past another peak

But for now I am stuck in a house I did not want with furnishings bought for someone else's comfort, a place filled with sad memories of a woman's loneliness and death.

I wait for the time when I too can follow a drifting cloud.

Until then, this part of the journey is just keeping still.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Alone, not lonely


People are social animals. We are formed by family dynamics, social interactions and, conscious or not, accepted or rejected, the tenets of religion. 

Without those parameters, we wander in madness. We stumble along an unseen road. Logic is discarded. Definitions become meaningless. We discover we've worn a mask not of our own making. We learn a new language.


Fears arise. Confusion is a rite of passage. There is always the temptation to turn back. 

But a greater force than family, society and religion exists and it pushes us onward.

That force is the power of the soul seeking union with God. 

To do so it must first cross the bridge of loneliness. Then walk in the valley of uncertainty. Each step takes us further from the limited reality we've been taught. A sudden storm cleanses and purifies. We stumble on. 

We enter the land of the unknown but in the distance there is a mountain. Upon that peak shrouded in white clouds, a light glows like a beacon urging us to come.


We spread our wings and fly. 


Yes, "we" fly together. Even in solitude, you are never alone.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Dare to Defy


Cutting ties, breaking chains, struggling within yourself and fighting the opposition is an essential component of transformation.

You reach a point when you don't recognize yourself. Old ways of doing things seem meaningless. Even the people around you seem strange. Old definitions of what is family, what is a friend, what is God shatter and disperse so a new vision can emerge.


There is a deep yearning within me; a cry, a prayer, an awareness that there is so much more to experience.


I get angry at those who try to distract me and furious at myself for allowing it. It's like a fire blazing from my heart to burn away all that is dying and give a brighter light in order to see clearly.

I have always said, I judge no one. People can do whatever they want except for one thing.

I won't allow anyone to get in my way.

Even those who walk the spiritual path must, at times, be ruthless. Otherwise, they will be caught in the quicksand of worldly insanity. 



By perseverance 
the snail reached the ark.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Balance

art work by Trudi Simmonds

Equanimity (Latin√¶quanimitas having an even mind; aequus even animus mind/soul) is a state of psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed by experience of or exposure to emotions, pain, or other phenomena that may cause others to lose the balance of their mind. 

Some people thrive on conflict. It gives false meaning to their lives, supports the illusion that they have power and are in control. Until, of course, circumstances prove otherwise, as they inevitably will do. To some, this is seen as Karma - basically, what you create becomes your reality, a magnetic pull of similarities. In other words, Light attracts Light and Dark attracts Dark. 

Spiritual practices, such as prayer and meditation help to "be in the world but not of the world." It's easy to be thrown off balance by the actions of others and the day-to-day struggle of life on earth. Spirituality does not prevent such things from happening. The Path of Light just gives you more to work with.

Seeing beyond this world helps maintain balance, to have 
equanimity and peace of mind and heart, knowing that "this too shall pass."

Monday, November 10, 2014

The barren fig tree



Apart from its value as a food tree, it was regarded as sacred by many people. The ancient Hebrews looked upon the fig tree as a symbol of peace and plenty. Mohammed’s followers called it the "Tree of Heaven."

Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” 

Immediately the tree withered. 

Just as there are trees that should but do not bear fruit, so are there people who deplete resources but give nothing in return. Eventually, like a cursed tree, they too will whither and lose what little they once had. 

A life of lies and delusions is like a tree growing in rocky soil; it's roots are shallow and when the wind shifts it will topple. A life of anger and jealousy is like a tree that never sees the sun; its trunk is stunted, its branches spindly. The smallest spark of light will turn it into firewood. 

(I am grateful for events in my life that inspire me to contemplate and write reflections on Christ's teachings - it adds to my knowledge not through study but by experience.) 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

So Blind

Oil Paintings by Sandra Yagi

How sad when a person is so blinded by anger and self-deception, that he or she cannot see where their course of action will lead.

Everything around them is disintegrating but they avoid the truth so blindly they are unaware of what is happening under their own roof. 

If one can only see things according to one's own belief system, one is destined to become virtually deaf, dumb, and blind.

They cling so desperately to falsehood, their entire lives become a lie. I have to believe that some small part of them knows. I also understand that to face the truth is just too painful for them (or so they think, only to realize when it is too late that walking in blindness will cause greater harm to their souls when life on earth becomes a life of darkness and ignorance). 

Hate and mistrust are the children of blindness.



Friday, November 7, 2014

Distant Voices Still Echo


The Way of the Monk


"We do not walk to God with the feet of our body, nor would wings, if we had them, carry us to Him, but we go to Him by the affections of our soul."
-- Saint Augustine

"Spirituality is not learned by fleeing from the world, by running away from things or by remaining solitary and removed from the world. Instead, you must develop an inner solitude wherever you are, no matter who is with you. You must learn to look deeper and find God everywhere."
-- Meister Eckhart

“We have within us deeply rooted weaknesses, passions, and defects. This cannot all be cut out with one sharp motion, but patience, persistence, care and attention. The path leading to perfection is long. Pray to God so that he will strengthen you. Patiently accept your falls and, having stood up, immediately run to God, not remaining in that place where you have fallen. Do not despair if you keep falling into your old sins. Many of them are strong because they have received the force of habit. Only with the passage of time and with fervor will they be conquered. Don't let anything deprive you of hope.” 
-- St. Nectarios of Aegina

"To reach something good it is very useful to have gone astray, and thus acquire experience." 
-- St Teresa of Avila

"Lord, lock me up in the deepest depths of your heart; Hold me there, burn me, purify me, set me on fire, sublimate me till I become utterly what you would have me be. . ."
-- Pierre Teilhard De Chardin

"If you are what you should be you will set the whole world ablaze." - St. Catherine of Siena


"Go forth, and set the world on fire." 
- St. Ignatius of Loyola

"Solitude, prayer, love and abstinence are the four wheels of the vehicle that carries our sprit heavenward."
-- Saint Seraphim of Sarov



the Way of the Monk in everyday life

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Faithful fool - an excerpt

Who is able to really know
the life of another person?

Look at a stranger,
a family member, a companion of many years.

You see only a few pieces 
of an intricate puzzle,
a glimpse at a fragile portrait;
one that can change dramatically in an instant.

Yet each life 
reflects the collective truth
of human existence;
a mirror of emotions and desires:
love, lust, hunger, strength, weakness
and sometimes abiding Grace.

Look closer into the life of another
and see a portrait of yourself.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

no more distractions


Before the unexpected happened and my life took a new direction, I was working on this manuscript which has since been gathering dust but is now nagging at me. It's time to blow away the dust and ignore the distractions.

Whenever I am writing, it's a struggle but also a joy when words fall beautifully into place. Writing is an art; images arise, take on color and form. In this particular work, it feels as if I've entered another world where I "watch" what is happening and "hear" the voices of the characters. Francis of Assisi becomes a friend who shares the joy and struggles of his life, his inner thoughts and feelings.


The message of the book is an intimate look at the struggle of any soul in this world reaching out for something greater than what the world has to offer.

Something I understand all too well.


And so, I wonder why I allow myself to be distracted by trivialities and deny myself something that brings so much joy.