Thursday, September 13, 2018

What is Spirituality Anyway…and How to Find Yours


As a minister’s daughter who moved away from organized religion, finding my spiritual path has been the most important goal of my life. One of the many ways people define themselves is by their belief systems or lack thereof. One might say they are religious, spiritual but not religious, spiritual, atheist, agnostic, or somewhere in-between. Our spiritual lives are formed out of the human desire to understand ourselves in the context of a changing and oftentimes chaotic world.

“Religious” is clear; you subscribe to a set of predetermined precepts or dogma as prescribed by one of thousands of structured religions. There is usually a God or gods and goddesses in the equation and most include the characteristics of faith, belief, worship, and creed. At their conception different people in different parts of the world formed religious beliefs and codes from their own views of the world and the cosmos, and often from their fears. Though religions vary, many share common guidelines for moral behavior. None are wrong and at the same time many try to force others to believe the precepts or dogmas of a single structure. That’s not cool in my book and the failure rate is high. Trust me, I knocked on plenty of doors passing out Bibles in my early days and learned that people will believe what they want to believe.

“Spiritual but not religious” can take many forms depending on what you grew up with and how you have processed the difference between what you were taught and what you now believe. You may have gained new insights, departed from your religion of origin and yet, still cling to certain religious ideologies.

“Spiritual” can also take many forms as in “religious and spiritual” or “spiritual but not religious” but tends to move further away from strictly what you have been taught and closer to mature recognition of universal themes among religions, mutual respect, interdependence, and mindfulness of natural laws – those indisputable commandments provided by Mother Earth and our environment. What we do to ourselves we do to the earth and what we do to the earth we do to ourselves.

An atheist is defined as someone who lacks belief in a God or being higher than oneself. An agnostic is someone who disbelieves in any kind of God or gods and also rejects the idea of anything existing beyond what they can see with their mortal eyes, though either may sit in wonder at a sunset or the vastness of an ocean. It seems to me that an atheist or an agnostic might still define themselves as spiritual if they pass their choices through the heart and do no harm to others, similar to a degree to the original intent of most religious and spiritual practices.

I have often been defined by others as being “SO spiritual” and the sentiment feels off-putting, as though I am in some way above the ordinary. To me the word “spiritual” is simply one more way to label a person when it is used in that way. When we label we separate ourselves from each other. The word “spirituality” on the other hand is something we can claim as our own chosen path that strives to make us better humans. If I am a spiritual person, you too are a spiritual person if our mutual aim is to make the lives of ourselves AND the lives of others of equal higher caliber with respect and compassion, though our “rules” may be different. When we claim our own spirituality there is no need to reject others for not thinking and feeling the way we do. We can talk about our own path and what works for us and it is okay for others to follow a dissimilar path.

The crossroads where we fall away from the spiritual path onto a rocky road is when we start telling others that our spirituality is the only way and they are wrong for theirs. The road gets even rockier when we are hypocritical. By veering away from the dogma we say we believe make us better humans, doing the very things our religion or practice instructs us NOT to do, we taint our spiritual lives with lies. Spirituality is a very personal thing and to that end there are easily as many spiritual paths as there are people! Perhaps it was meant that way, for us to each have different experiences, that we might share our individual experiences with each other and grow from the sharing instead of being at odds and arguing over who is right.

How spiritual are we if our religion teaches us the Golden Rule – a maxim taught by many religions and cultures – and we treat others as lesser beings based on race, gender identity, political affiliation, or other petty grounds? How spiritual are we if we ignore the fact that even within one religion, using Christianity as an example, there are a multitude of translations of sacred text? The Holy Bible has been translated into 636 languages and within those languages there are nuances that can change meaning from one language to the next. There are over one hundred versions of the Bible in the English language alone and many of the translations conflict. The majority of these translations leave out several of the original books, removed from public access at the Council of Nicea where, under the leadership of Roman Emperor Constantine, a relatively small group of men decided what to keep and what to hide away in an archive. Those who did not agree with certain portions of included text were exiled and/or excommunicated. From this perspective we can see that the idea of one and only one true spiritual way is created in the mind, rather than in the heart.

We are all on different levels of learning in this earth school as well as having had varied learning experiences. If forced to define my spiritual path I would call myself a mystic. I don’t take things at face value, nor do I believe everything I read, hear, or am told because there are too many conflicting ideas. I ask questions, LOTS of questions and process the answers through my heart and soul. Though I was raised in a Christian belief system, certain things did not make sense and too many variables of belief existed from church to church within the same religion. At the same time, I have come to appreciate my early religious training and that of others and can now walk into any place of worship and feel comfortable without having to change who I am. I am my own spiritual experiment and I base my path on personal experiences which often include things of a paranormal nature. Personal experience is not belief, it is knowing truth as it is offered to you as one cell in a greater whole.

The mystical path is not for those who seek a predictable universe because trusting your personal mystical experiences will most likely lead you away from dogma and into realms that offer no promise, explanation, or proof. Mysticism is the way of the unknown and can leave you with more questions than answers. It is a way of resurrecting your innate intuition and finding your place as one small piece of nature. Mysticism’s only requirement is personal responsibility and deep respect for all living things. It invites you to realize the original source of your views and feelings so you can heal the recurring circumstances, reactions, or beliefs that keep you stuck in your personal life and your life as a world citizen. The way of the mystic points inward and does not rely on outward dictates. It is a way of awe, wonder, and uncovering the wisdom and magic that life holds. It is a way to remember who you were before society shaped and molded you and the way of mystics does not usually fit into any organized system or group. Though it sounds like an austere way of life, mystics are often playful, imaginative, and fun to be around.

How to Find Your Spirituality

If spiritual status quo is no longer fulfilling, if you are skeptical or something just doesn’t feel right about your current spiritual path, trust that feeling. A wise Christian elder told me to drive around my neighborhood and stop in front of churches, sit there for a few minutes, and see how I felt. I am certain her vision was for me to only visit different Christian denominations until I found one that felt right, rather than including temples, mosques, and ashrams, but it was a step in the right direction. A wise Native American once told me to try many religions and experience different traditions so when an unfamiliar tradition appeared on my path I steered toward it to learn and discern.

Finding your personal spiritual path can be a lonely journey since a majority of people wish to keep things status quo and there will be those who reject anything else. You will be led to people who accept and love you for who you are, though they may also hold alternate views. You will find you can be in the company of people of different traditions and can listen to their views without needing to impose or enforce your own. You will use “I” statements as you tell others about your path.

No matter what path you follow, people will see what they will see in you, based on their own level of openness, understanding, and compassion. No one I have ever met has beaten life’s emotional ups and downs in total. Many hide behind their belief system as a way of pointing fingers at others, a wheel spinning practice that imprisons them in turmoil.

Once you have healed any obstacles to a more expansive perspective and sampled a variety of traditions you can decide which path is the best one for you. As you grow your views may change and evolve. I’ve known a few who came full circle and made a relaxed re-entry into their original religion with an attitude of acceptance and “To each his own” toward other religions and traditions. As long as you are in relationship to others and this earth, life gets easier as you formulate your own spiritual life and allow others to do the same.

Ultimately spirituality is a compass that helps us navigate life and in my view we are all heading toward the same place. I keep a small symbol in my mind to remind me of this, a whirlwind contained in a circle like a wheel with curvy spokes. If viewed from the side this appears as many paths leading up the side of a mountain. Considering the vast diversity of human spiritual ideals, the best we can strive for is to walk beside each other and help each other up when we stumble. Choose your spoke and one day we will meet at the top.

Many Blessings,

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Return to What is Real

Dear Friends,
I hope you’ve enjoyed your holidays and are happily beginning the fresh new year stretched out
before you! An extended vacation I chose to take from social media helped me discover a few things, or I should say “rediscover.”

I found much more time to work on the creative endeavors that usually get pushed to the end of the day. I painted, and sketched, and played with words for my upcoming e-book. I read books and leafed through magazines for uplifting articles. I tried out new recipes and stirred up some old favorites. I tried out a new craft – wool felting – and finished a long forgotten counted cross-stitch project. More room for meditation and daydreaming – that oh-so-important method for stirring up the imagination – crept into the latter hours when my energy shifts into low gear. I walked outdoors until the deep freeze settled into my tiny township.

The days seemed longer in a good way and allowed lots of space for good conversation. I listened and occasionally stepped up on my soapbox to say what calls to me as important when some random comment sparks a thought. For the most part I avoided all the bad news. Much of the “news” we read or watch can’t truly be trusted anyway and at best is biased according to who writes or reports it. On social media we are essentially preaching to a choir of our own design so I’m not sure to what degree sharing on social media actually rallies any new support or mobilizes a solution for our particular cherished cause.

Then, coincidentally, I was privileged to read the concerns of an eight-year-old child – not on the internet but written in pencil with all the heart and depth and misspelled words on lined paper of a living, breathing child that I have the honor to know.

The child asked why people are “always on their technology but no longer talk to each other.” “People are addicted to their cell phones,” dared this brave young voice of wisdom. “Am I the only one who knows this?” asked the youngster. Thankfully the child shared these words with a caring mom who, by sharing the notebook with me and a few others, has awakened awareness for a few.

My phone is archaic with no internet connection, yet I am guilty of too much internet time. My goal is to become less involved online, the way it used to be before technology invaded our lives with its promise of making life simpler. I’ve not found technology to make life simpler but rather to have traded the old headaches for new, more infuriating ones. And most significant, computer time has taken time from those I love and the activities that feed my soul. Social media only gives the illusion of connection and I’ve heard from reliable sources that teens are actually afraid to talk to each other in person because they don’t know how! Now that is tragic.

On that note, I am giving up “the scroll” on social media which tends to turn my intention to look at “just a few posts” into an endless maze where I lose precious minutes and my mind turns mushy. From now on look for one post I will share from my RobinHeartStories page and maybe an occasional extra per day.

I care what is going on for you and if you’re local, let’s set aside some time to get together one to one with no distractions, where we can be unedited and real, not a polished-up version of ourselves. Local or otherwise, if you’d like to have a heart to heart on the phone please message or email me with your number or ask for mine and we’ll chat like in the old days, strumming our vocal chords with the latest in captured dreams and creative imaginings. Or maybe we’ll be a compassionate ear for each other’s hurt or recently suffered disappointment. Whatever it is, live, minute by minute contact will bring us closer together and provide a future a child will be proud to be part of.

Let’s make it a Happy New Year for everyone!

Many Blessings,

Monday, December 18, 2017

Happy Conscious Holiday!

Tis the season, they say, for good will and peace on earth. Though it doesn’t always appear those
sentiments are carried out in some corners of the world, you and I can be the ones who follow through. We can wish each other “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy Holidays!” and really mean it. We can sing “Let There Be Peace on Earth” and BE the peace we wish to see. It’s easy. That is if we vow to remain conscious during the holidays and all the rest of the year.

How do you remain conscious? At the holiday dinner, maybe a family member says something that sets the hair on the back of your neck to prickling. Maybe a friend forgets an important date. Maybe, just maybe, things don’t go the way you’d hoped and your holiday doesn’t look Norman Rockwell perfect, not even close. Your family members and friends begin, in your estimation, to resemble Jacob Marley or the Abominable Snow Monster. When those touchy, ticklish moments show up and you’re tempted to react to someone in a not-so jolly way, recognize the source of your discomfort which is usually very old, unresolved hurts from your childhood.

The source of your prickling, your sudden Grinchy mood, is most often a sensitive spot that settled into place in your psyche a very long time ago. Perhaps your cousin has just pushed your hot button asking you to lower your voice and that makes you feel embarrassed. Your embarrassment originated when a clumsy parent yelled at you for your three-year-old exuberant loudness in a restaurant. You were just being like most three-year-old children, innocent and joyful mirth cut short by an embarrassed adult. Here in the present you overreact and are suddenly spitting out venom toward your cousin. Not the warm, fuzzy atmosphere you hoped to feel at the end of your sleigh ride to Grandma’s house.

There is another way to handle it. Recognize the feeling when it comes up. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that your cousin probably had good reason for her request – the baby is sleeping, she has a headache, she is rattled and can’t focus when too many people are talking at once. Whatever the reason, you can maintain your inner peace by becoming aware of the things that upset you. Here are a couple of examples of UN-conscious scenes from my long-ago holidays…

Once upon a time I traveled seven hours with my, then, husband to visit family in Buffalo, NY for a week between each Christmas and New Year’s. From the time we married we always left the day after Christmas reserving Christmas Day for our own exchange of gifts and a relaxing afternoon before the tiring drive. Our tenth year together we broke tradition last minute and surprised our families by calling to say we had decided to drive up on Christmas Eve. We arrived at my mother’s house after midnight, flopped into bed, and visions of sugar plums dissolved quickly into blissful sleep.

The plan had been laid out over the phone the day before: Christmas morning and lunch at my mom’s. Christmas late afternoon and dinner at his parents. Bright and early Christmas morning, my mother was already pushing the start of “lunch” into the latter hours and speaking as though we would be there all day. When I reiterated the plan she turned on the guilt and soon tears were flying around her living room. She tried to manipulate with suggestions that I stay and he go on to his parent’s house without me.

“Mom, I’m married now. I need to divide my time. We’re here for a week and we’ll see each other a lot,” I soothed.

“BUT IT’S CHRISTMAS!” she whined, wiping away the flood gushing from her wide-open ducts.

“Mom, the WHOLE WEEK is Christmas!” I pleaded, “Until yesterday you weren’t expecting us until tomorrow.” Things degenerated from there faster than Dasher racing Dancer across the Milky Way. Before you know it, we were opening gifts with red eyes, fake smiles, and an atmosphere far from holly jolly. It all could have been avoided if my mother had been able to pull herself out of her emotional stupor. In her mind I’m sure she dreamed of the postcard holiday she never had as a child, but I couldn’t fill that void or change her past. The gaping hole of her want was so huge that it negated logic and any sense of how her tantrum affected me and my husband. There was no room, in the midst of her troubled need, to think how his family would feel if I neglected them or to consider that I wanted to be with my husband’s family too. It wasn’t enough that we had divided the day into equal halves down to the minute in hopes that she would enjoy the time we did have with peace and grace. It wasn’t enough for her to know I’d be back to sleep there and eat breakfast there and have several excursions with her and my stepfather during the week. She’d gone into an emotional trance and our holiday time was tense for the rest of our stay.

On another occasion I poured out my heart in a letter to my hometown girlfriend. The trips back home were exhausting I said, not only from the long drive, but everyone we knew planned lunches and dinners and gift exchanges and activities that my husband and I wanted to attend. Every day we ran from activity to activity with no time to just relax and chill out on our “vacation.”

I shared in my letter that for several years I tried to keep up the pace. I had usually set aside an afternoon or two to do something with this girlfriend, just the two of us, and consequently added to my hectic schedule, but also missed time with other people I loved. I wrote my letter with a loving plea for understanding that something had to change so I could enjoy my time in Buffalo instead of dreading all the running around. I said how much I wanted to see her and how much I valued our friendship. I asked if she would consider coming to the place where we were staying, at either my mom’s or his parent’s. She could visit and stay as long as she wanted. Other people might be there too and we could steal some time in a quiet room if she wanted to. This would save me the strain of trying to coordinate with my husband’s schedule to see who needed the car when, and it allowed me to stay in one place to catch my breath. My mother even agreed to attend a few meals at my in-laws during the visits when it was their turn to host us.

My girlfriend flat-out refused the compromise. “I miss you. I want you all to myself.” If our time together couldn’t be us alone at her place, then it wouldn’t happen. Then she too tried to manipulate, her voice colored with gloom, “Well, maybe you can come to my family party this summer.” So, in reality it wasn’t that she wanted me there with no other people around, but rather that she wanted things her way to ease some long ago emptiness. I knew the family history: her siblings were favored over her. I had given her my undivided attention for many years and she didn’t want to give that up. Again, I could no longer fill that void and stay sane. In spite of my sincere explanation of how torn in pieces I felt having to divide myself among so many loved ones, she wanted things to be the way they once were. It became more about the picture in her mind of how she envisioned us together and much less about the fact that we could still see each other on slightly different terms. I could no longer trust that she cared about my physical and mental well-being.

My mother and my friend could not access enough consciousness to realize we had a wonderful opportunity to celebrate together albeit in a different form. Instead emotions got in the way and what could have been a chance to make more beautiful memories together turned into a hurtful stain on our history. Though my mom was my mom and we managed to limp through our trials, my husband and I never risked Christmas Day in Buffalo again. My friend and I drifted apart. If she couldn’t have me the way she wanted me, she wouldn’t have me at all and a twenty-year relationship turned to dust, a very sad and unnecessary ending.  

This holiday and anytime for that matter, when you feel that certain annoyance that sometimes comes with relationships, please take a deep breath, step back, and hold your reaction in check. When you can be alone see if you can trace the annoyed feelings to an earlier time where you felt abandoned, humiliated, ignored, unloved, or any other negative feeling. Chances are you have felt those feelings again and again throughout your life depending on who you feel annoyed with at the moment.

Now realize that most people don’t stay up nights thinking of ways to hurt you. Your friends and family may have really good reasons for doing and saying what they do and say. Also, you have no idea how someone may be struggling inside and most are doing the best they can. Maybe they are in their own trance of unconsciousness. Whatever is going on is not worth ruining a relationship over at holiday time or ever. Always keep in mind that the person you love and are tempted to aim your anger at could be at any moment swept from this life forever. If you can genuinely identify that the person is deliberately choosing to say hurtful things or disrespect you, then, by all means, ask to speak to them about it in private when you are both calm and in a mindset where you can really hear what the other is saying. Remember that hearts are tender. Speak with love and not with intention to manipulate, seek revenge, or punish.

From the bottom of my heart I wish you the gifts of conscious living; love without unreasonable conditions, charitable conversations, open-minded compromise, lots of hugs, smiles, and all the warmth that gathering with family and friends can bring this holiday season and the whole year through.

Much Love,

(Photo by Pixabay)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

For the Love of Santa

My mother had her share of lucid moments here and there during the thirteen years of her illness. While the rest of the year she remained confined to bed, at holiday time she did her best to rally for a day or two to show me the beautiful woman beneath all the surface strife.

One of her shining moments was the day she told me the truth about Santa Claus. We were in the
living room at 16 Wilbury Place in Buffalo, New York. The stockings still hung over the brick fireplace and a Douglas Fir tree glistened in the front alcove with too many strands of silver tinsel tossed in random fashion by my own ambitious hands. The tree proudly displayed our old handed down glass ornaments that glowed in the light of an old-fashioned string of screw-in colored light bulbs. Douglas Firs were the cheapest tree at that time, but boy did they smell good!

A handful of my friends considered themselves on the cusp of adulthood, too grown up to deal in childish ways of years past while I still maintained a relationship with my dear conspirator in the occupation of love, Santa Claus. I’d captured him in my heart and he would have to be wrangled away or remain there forever.

Several of those so-called friends elevated themselves by making fun of the fact that I had written to the Man in Red, asked for and received yet another doll from the Jolly Old Elf at the vulnerable age of thirteen. Well aimed hits on my personhood, such as “Only babies ask Santa for dolls,” plagued my sense of self-esteem and I did not appreciate the accusations. Peyton Place had nothing over the scandal on Wilbury Place.

Wise woman to her core, Mom felt my rising angst on the topic of Santa and she knew I would no sooner give up dolls than say goodbye to the benevolent elf of the North Pole. Dolls were my family, my only siblings, and my practice children and I loved them dearly. Looking forward to my correspondence with Santa each year got me through the long days of my mother’s illness. In spite of her condition, Mom desperately wanted to relieve the pain of my transition from child to pre-adult, no easy task and she wasn't about to take Santa away from me.

I imagine she intuited that I was dealing with Santa’s existence in my own way, that I already knew in my heart of hearts that our chimney would never see one black boot or red velvet suit or beard white as snow. Mom prevailed. She sat down in the rocker nearest the tree where I sat on the floor studying the disarray of unwrapped gifts displayed at its base a few days after Christmas.

“Robin, you know what your friend’s say about babies being the only ones to ask Santa for dolls?” she asked.

“Yes.” I answered, half expecting her to say the day had come for me to grow up.

“Well, first of all if they’re referring to YOU, they’re wrong. You are NOT a baby!”

My ears were open.

“You are my beautiful daughter and I’m so proud of you and everything you do.  And…I know how much you love your dolls.”

Her words pricked holes in my tear ducts with the knowledge that she felt guilty for not having produced a sibling for me to grow up with.

“You know who Santa is don’t you?”

I sat frozen in silence, staring down at the new Penny Brite doll among Christmas boxes of shirts, slippers, and games, my gaze blurred with tears.

“Santa isn’t a person,” she said. “Santa is the Spirit of Christmas. He represents generosity. He is everything good and kind and loving that lives inside of you and all who open their hearts to know him. Santa is something you can believe in for the rest of your life and I hope you do.”

A couple of tears escaped and I scrambled up to wrap my arms around her, my sensitive, thoughtful Santa Mom.

“One more thing,” she said. Mom got up and disappeared around the corner to my Dad’s study for a few seconds. She returned with a shoebox-sized box wrapped in candy-stripe paper topped with a big red bow and handed it to me. “I know Christmas was a few days ago but this is special from me to you.”

True to the little perfectionist I was fast becoming, I unwrapped the package as if lightening would strike if I tore one tiny corner of the paper. My chest swelled with sunshine when I saw the sweet baby doll swaddled in a white lacy “Christening” dress, matching bonnet, and booties.

“I picked this one because she’s soft and looks like a real baby. I wish I could give you a brother or sister but it’s not happening. For now, she can be your baby sister.”

The doll was more than special. Yes, she had the soft look of a just born infant and she smelled delicious like all new dolls just out of the box, but much more astonishing was the fact that my mother had gotten out of bed and had gone to a store to pick out the doll herself. Mom hadn’t done trips to stores for anything in years.

“I love her Mom. I’ll take good care of her.  And I love you!”

The baby doll wore the proper sacramental attire, but I’d been the one baptized into a new phase of life by someone whose wisdom was never fully recognized. Mom’s Santa bore little resemblance to the Santa of magazine advertisements and department stores. Her adaptation might have held a vague shadow of similarity to the early St. Nicholas or Thomas Nast’s Santa, the saint’s namesake, but in truth this spirit was my mother’s construct born out of her love for me.

As a rookie teen I could have been angry about the whole charade; the milk and cookies for the big guy and carrots for Rudolph, the trips to department store Santas, the letters “To Santa,” the elves, flying reindeer, and presents “From Santa,” the collusion with other Santa espousing parents. But I wasn’t angry. It was impossible. I loved the ritual that began every year with an advent calendar on December first.

By telling me her version of Santa, Mom trusted I would sort through the whole thing and sort I did. What would I do without a long string that stretches back in time and connects me to my childhood wonder - wonder that is palpable in the children’s stories I write and the fascination I have with Nature? Where would I be without a jolly “Ho, ho, ho” once in a while far beyond the season of Santa? Where would any of us be without Santa’s good humor? Imagination. No one can tap into imagination if you don’t carry an image in your mind of reindeer that can fly and elves that build millions of toys by hand, on request, in less than a year. Imagination will fail you if men in red suits with bellies like bowls of jelly can’t slip easily down slender chimneys or drive a sleigh through the starlit sky and deliver those millions of elf-built toys to children around the world in one night in all kinds of weather.

Mom knew I would need all of what I gained from the childhood fantasy that is Santa Claus as I entered the oftentimes too serious journey toward what we call adult. She knew I would need the hope and the laughter that Santa provides so I could endure the days when things don’t go the way I want them to. She knew the importance of embodying wonder, the miracles, and suspension of disbelief that Santa’s spirit offers. For all Mom’s wisdom and the beauty she rendered by asking me to BELIEVE as a tiny tot and a budding adult, I am grateful.

From a heart that still holds tight to the magic of Santa, may you capture your own Spirit of Christmas and never ever let it go. Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,
It’s not your birthday or mine, no special anniversary to remember you by. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry tears of joy at the light bulb that just came on today.
There were things I was afraid to see. I didn’t get it then, but I get it now. Why you, my peace-loving, gentle mother, in later years started saying, “The next person who crosses me, I’m gonna hit ‘em with my purse!” – a bit of wisdom borrowed from Ruth Buzzy of the Laugh-In TV show. I know you wouldn’t have really hit anyone, but you were fed up even though you laughed at the prospect. Tired of being taken advantage of for who you were, far too many times.
With Jessica Fletcher style (Murder She Wrote) you chased down the UPS man and met him at his next delivery stop to yell at him for cutting you off in a near- miss that could have ended badly for you both (but especially for you). You told off your boss, a married man who solicited you, and quit your job. “It was a joke” he said, but you knew better. You also confronted your minister in a private meeting when he told his congregation “The Bible says you must submit to a husband no matter how you are treated.” You told him exactly how that was not true and he apologized to the whole congregation from the pulpit. You single-handedly ran after thieves who pilfered things from your section of Sibley’s Department Store and helped security head them off outside.
At the time, I worried for your safety as an older middle-aged woman, donning your cape, grabbing your mighty purse, and rushing out the door to fight a never-ending battle for love, justice, and kindness. But now I see how you turned yourself into a fiercer version of the Wonder Woman you always were and never dared show. You had held back your Lioness spirit in hopes that others would meet you halfway. From your gentle place you tried to speak your #MeToo in a subtler manner until that voice got stuffed under the weight of oppression and your broken heart…but only for a while.
Then suddenly, there you were R-O-A-R-I-N-G back - for all your stolen dreams, your exploited generosity and loyalty, for all the Jokers who weren’t joking, and the Riddlers who riddled your heart with pain.
Now I get it Mom. Thank you, a million times over. Now where is that cape of mine? The next person who crosses me, I’m gonna hit ‘em with my purse!  View Ruth Buzzy and Artie Johnson in that famous skit here:

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Worldwide Day of Giving

Today is "Worldwide Day of Giving" and I want to give you something.
  On the occasion of my wedding, a very long time ago, my Dad gave me the greatest wisdom that still holds true. To add emphasis to the sincerity and sacredness of our last one-on-one meeting before my life transition, he drove 45 minutes to join me on my work lunch break one week before the big day. Even before he uttered a word I remember feeling so touched and I sensed something coming that I knew I’d cherish for a lifetime.
  As was his style, he wanted to provide the most beautiful setting to deliver the message he wanted to get across to my still maturing spirit. He drove me to the town park and there on a park bench, surrounded by tall oak sentinels and the bright hues of annual and perennial plantings, he talked about the importance of communication and how to do it effectively. A light breeze whispered around us, enfolding us in a magical bubble, and Dad concluded with, “Always communicate. Good communication is the key to a good life. Good relationship.” We stood to face each other. He kissed me on the forehead, hugged me in such a way that I can still feel it. He stood back with his hands on my shoulders and looked into my eyes, my soul. “See you next Saturday.”
  The following week I sat wearing a long white dress clinging to a bouquet of silk flowers that quivered with my nervousness. My Dad walked into the room full to the brim with stoic emotion that might have spilled over into tears if he said too much. In silence, he sat down and removed the white ballet slipper from my foot, dropped a penny inside. “For good fortune,” he managed to push out between his trembling lips. In Cinderella-like fashion, he tucked my foot back into the slipper.
  He stared into my eyes with such love I felt it rush through my body and travel to the farthest reaches of my being. He took my hands in his, cradling them and holding the gaze. A tear stood ready to fall in the corner of each of both his and my eyes and once more he urged “Communicate.”
  Sixteen years later that marriage broke into irreparable pieces due to dysfunctional, often non-existent communication. A few shards still stick here and there in the scars that formed in my heart from that loss. I imagine that your heart bears similar scars. Scars that resulted from communication that missed its mark or silence that kept you or a loved one from fully expressing a hurt or a need or a question left simmering in your mind. Scars that formed as a result of being misunderstood with no door left open, no recourse for a conversation that might have healed the rift.
  The only thing that stands between you and me and a healing is fear. Fear of vulnerability. Fear of emoting. Fear of being rejected. Fear of being in the wrong. Fear of further misunderstanding. Fear – a senseless wall and an illusion.
  Here on the internet we try and sometimes manage to hit the bulls-eye. Other times we try and miss, try and fail every day via social media, email, and whatever other means keeps us from looking each other in the eyes and feeling the presence of each other. We want that communication with the desperation of a desert wanderer in search of water. We are parched, longing to be understood and loved and not quite getting there.
  So, on this "Worldwide Day of Giving" I give you communication and my vulnerability. But I can only give it to you if you receive it and give it back. If you have ever or will ever feel misunderstood by me, please let me know. If you think I have hurt you in some way, tell me and let’s talk about it in person over a cup of something warm and soothing. Even in face to face conversation two people can misunderstand each other. We make up stories and judgments in our heads about others hundreds of times a week, much based on our own personal history.
  The secret is in leaving fear behind and dropping down into your vulnerable heart and saying, “I didn’t quite get that. Could you explain further?” or “I really want to understand you. Please tell me more.” Realize that I may have misspoken because I’m a fumbling human and leave room for apology and forgiveness. Or you may have projected onto me the hurt you still unconsciously feel from an old childhood wound. I’ve been there and understand and will do my very best to listen.
  Most of our misunderstandings are big huge ginormous mistakes that can be made right. Stick with me through the dark night and I’ll stick with you. May we come to a completion where we can give each other a hug in the light of day, having moved toward an even deeper, more intimate relationship.

Much Love,

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Road to Sacred Activism

We're All in This Together
  Over the course of the past two years as tensions rose during the Presidential campaign, election, and subsequent results, I’ve been in a place of observation and meditation to figure where I want to be in all this as a woman and as a concerned citizen. I’ve watched rising movements to save the planet and an upsurge of feminism. Something needs to be done on many counts and I’m feeling that the approach of these movements could benefit from some shifts in attitude. 
  Subsequent marches on Washington appear to have been peaceful overall. People standing up for what they believe in. At the same time I read comments displayed beneath pertinent articles on social media and there is clearly a lot of anger, often aimed at either the author or other commenters. The mindset of “Us vs. Them” prevails in those comments and on social media when in truth there is no either/or, black or white, clear-cut way to divide anything or anyone. Goodness and evil reside in every single human being. There are good women and conniving women, upstanding men and twisted men, believers in God who judge and condemn and atheists who practice humanitarianism like a religion, Republicans with Liberal leanings, Democrats with a touch of Green Party, and Conservatives who would rather go fishing and forget it all.  
Divine Feminine Masculine
I understand anger. I healed my anger and you can too. I’ve been there, especially when I see my beautiful country road strewn with trash or when it’s too obvious I’m being taken advantage of because I’m a woman or because I’m kind – defined as “nice,” “patient,” “peaceful.” I learned, in 14 years of introspective therapy, that underneath the fiery mantel of anger is sadness. I processed a fair amount of anger over time until I could see the offending aspects of my transgressors in my shadow self – the parts of me that I deny or hide. Only then could I transform anger and sadness into forgiveness. I also learned it is possible to have compassion for my oppressors and opponents - to feel relief from the angst inside myself, yes, and to find better, more effective, balanced ways of dealing with those whose actions tweak my sensibilities. At that point I was introduced to the ways of the Divine Feminine and Masculine.
  We hold people like Malala Yousafzai, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. in high esteem for their non-violent methods of inspiring change. These women and their male counterparts were successful in creating societal and world advancement because they each tuned in to their Divine Feminine/Masculine traits. Collectively these renowned individuals endured extremes of racism, bigotry, war, violence, oppression, poverty, and insurmountable odds, yet they maintained non-violence, inner balance, and unerring focus on their goals. Could I do the same? I was sure going to give it a go.
  Malala who was shot by the Taliban in 2012 and lived to share her views with the world says she had no desire for revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. “I do not even hate the Talib who shot me,” Malala said. “Even if there was a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me, I would not shoot him…The extremists were and they are afraid of books and pens; the power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women, the power of the voice of women frightens them and that is why they killed 14 innocent students in Quetta [Pakistan]." I imagine the "Me Too" phenomenon stimulated quite a bit of fear as it raced through media channels. 
After years of working toward understanding how to attain the Divine balance within myself and applying what I learned to personal situations, I realized something. When I meet a person or situation with the same unbridled anger, aggression, sarcasm, and bitterness as my opponent uses on me, nothing is accomplished but more of the same. Female or male, these means are what we resort to when we react without taking a breath, without knowing we have great power that goes beyond emotional outburst, without knowing the balanced Divine Feminine/Masculine aspects of ourselves.
Every time women meet men or groups meet opposing groups with the same attitudes and methods that have been used by patriarchal societies to oppress, those attitudes and methods are reinforced as the one and only way of doing things. In other words, if a woman confronts anger, aggression, sarcasm, and domination with more of the same, instead of resurrecting and accessing the innate feminine powers within her, she is telling her oppressors that there is more power in the way it has always been done. The abused becomes the abuser. Overarching patriarchy - unbalanced masculine without so much as a bow to the feminine - not only remains but grows stronger. The patriarchal ways of war, “us against them,” winners and losers, oppression, force, and aggression are therefore validated and strengthened. An interesting irony isn’t it?

Who We Are Really
 I see too many people asking why things don’t change, why they – “the other” – don’t change when it is each of US that needs to change. If we continue to do things the way they’ve always been done, ongoing issues that plague society have little chance of transforming. As a society we have long forgotten what it is to integrate the Divine Feminine with the Masculine. Many women have lost their sense of true femininity in the quest to become man-like in a man’s world. Many men wander through life with no sense of the Divine Feminine qualities that lay buried within their own being. Though we might say we are all for women’s rights or protecting the environment, we continue to “fight for or against” rushing here and there with fists clenched, arms swinging in search of a target. How many of us even know what the power of the Divine Feminine is or how to access it? What would society look like if we transformed what we have into something that accommodates a balance of feminine and masculine?
The Cure
We must start by taking a good hard look at ourselves and be brutally honest. Remove the stigma attached to therapy and accept it as a necessary life tool. Stop labeling and categorizing each other according to preference, belief, size, shape, color, and all the other diminishments we toss around with abandon. If we are against war, have we as individuals learned non-violent communication and have we delved into the sources of the things that trigger anger and war within us? Where in our lives do we support the things we say we are against? If we say we want a clean environment, do we do everything in our power to keep the environment of our own bodies healthy, make our earthly footprint green, and let our dollars speak for us? If we say we support women in being whole, healthy, and equal do we simultaneously support things that degrade, cheapen, and weaken women? As women and men, where do we degrade, cheapen, and weaken ourselves? If we say we want equality for all humans and an end to bigotry (defined as “intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself”) where do we still draw lines of separation? If we want our leaders to be trustworthy, emotionally stable, and have integrity and loyalty to us, have we ourselves attained an unyielding strength of character, fidelity in our relationships, and emotional maturity? If we expect “them” to be honest and open, to stop keeping secrets and scheming behind closed doors, we must make sure we are doing the same down to the smallest measure of our lives. We are simply this: a microcosm of the things we see going on around us in the macrocosm.  
  No form of activism is effective if we only look outside ourselves at the things that are wrong out there. Activism is not supported by finger pointing and blaming. Equality is not women turning into men and men becoming wimps. It’s not about one person or group giving something up and the other gaining unreasonable influence. True equality is about discovering the best qualities of feminine and masculine that are possible, honing them and integrating them into ourselves. In quiet meditation we can familiarize ourselves and cultivate what is innate in us and work toward attainment of the qualities we were not born with until we reach a peaceful balance. We can start now.
Sacred Activism
Sacred potent Activism is not about fighting and waving fists and crushing our (perceived) opponents with cruel words, or worse, the subtle put downs and mockery of the “other” that tear at the fabric of our one and only human race. These are the tactics of unseasoned male teens battling throes of testosterone flush. Though our beliefs may be different we must remember we are dealing with fellow humans who have hearts and their own history that has brought them to their personal beliefs.  All humans experience the same universal feelings as you do – love, joy, sadness, despair, fear. Sacred Activism is about activating the power that can only be accessed by finding a peaceful balance within. Once the balance is set in place, nothing can destroy it and everything good and rightful and positive CAN be achieved both personally and globally. We must learn to listen to and understand each other. Every time we forget to pass our thoughts and words through our hearts before speaking or acting, we have stepped backwards. We either choose to evolve together or destroy ourselves and each other together.

Horses Can Show Us the Way
  Understanding horses offers great insight into how Divine Feminine/Masculine balance works. Horses are tuned in to their surroundings with a razor’s edge, on constant alert to sights, scents, sounds, movement, and the slightest sensations of physical and energetic nuance. “Under her Alastar pawed the ground. He’d pursue (a wolf they’d encountered on the path), she realized—longed to. To calm him, she had to calm herself (from Dark Witch by Nora Roberts).”
  I’ve experienced empathic horse behavior on many occasions. Once I walked to a horse paddock with a heart full of sadness. I walked up to the fence with tears running down my face staring at the horse I’d visited numerous times who had never given me the time of day. On this day however, the horse sauntered over and pressed his nose to my heart. Boom! A healing took place and I felt heard, understood.
  On another occasion, I was at a retreat working with horses who were total strangers. I was told to offer no physical or verbal cues as to what I wanted the horse to do. “Just THINK about him doing what you want.” You can imagine my confusion. How would a horse know what I wanted just by my thinking it? I mounted the creature and settled onto the gray speckled back, the quivering muscle and alive nerves beneath me – a horse still filled with the sensitivity born in him. My mind gently formed the thought “Go!” The horse stepped forward and stopped as he felt my disbelief. I thought “Go!” and this time trusted the feeling of it to work. The horse moved forward again and I thought “Turn left.” As I turned my head the tiniest bit to the left the horse turned left in sync; the magic of fine-tuned senses and the perfect demonstration of the blending of feminine (non-violent request) and masculine (action). Here was rider and mount operating as a unit in total trust and cooperation. No tugging. No force. No coercion.
  Later that day I had my first lunging lesson. Lunging is where you stand in the center of a ring or open area holding one end of a rope that is attached at the other end to the bridle of a horse about ten feet away. You encourage the horse to run circles around you for exercise and as a way to further ensure alliance and cooperation with each other. Again, I was told to think my request of the horse with one added component, “Feel your power!” My body no longer physically touched the horse so I had to make the connection another way. I knew what the teacher meant but because I wasn’t feeling it, the horse stood still. “FEEL your POWER!” the teacher urged me again and she patted her own solar plexus down to her lower abdomen, the center of our being where power lives. This time I took a deep breath, asked the power to grow inside me, and felt my gentle request. The horse started to move and then trot. Magic again. But not magic, just an attunement of feminine and masculine in perfect alignment. 
  Somewhere in our busy lives we forgot what we learned in grade school: we ARE animals! Just as horses do, we have valuable senses and feelings at our disposal when we don’t let our supercharged brains override the subtleties. We need to understand that we can't hide, can't find peace or justice anywhere unless we find it inside ourselves. We need to calm ourselves, refine ourselves, in order to reach the entities that seek to do harm to us and the greater whole. How we behave physically, mentally, and energetically makes all the difference. It takes practice to exercise those unused muscles but we CAN do it. "It's a lot like nuts and bolts – if the rider's nuts, the horse bolts!"– Nicholas Evans
When we identify and heal old patterned ways of response we connect more intimately with our inner world where real power and strength reside. We can then access compassion, unconditional love, forgiveness, and benevolence over animosity, hatred, and cruelty. Gentleness, kindness, patience, and composure can have great influence on those ruled by anxiety, anger, and intolerance. Empathy, seasoned wisdom, and understanding overshadow fear, suspicion, and discrimination. When we are steadfast in reverence and respect for ALL life we begin to listen more, talk less, and allow our intuition to guide us toward right interventions. And I must add, if you or anyone you know is being physically abused, all bets are whatever you can to find help!
  We are all cells in the larger body of all life and the Earth. Only when we cultivate within us what we want to see in the world, do we earn the right to disapprove of others in their transgressions. Let’s continue opening our arms and hearts together.

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