Spirituality

GONE

Posted on May 20, 2012. Filed under: Culture, Musings, Spirituality |

I had gone.
I’d Been before,
one foot out
the door;
the other laden
with burdens
and guilt,
memories, and love.

I had gone.
When you said
we’d better
join our souls
but mine
was not mine
to give.

So much
left to do you
said over cornflakes
Wait.
Just ten minutes
one
hour one
year one
lifetime Just
’til it’s right.

Look. tonight.
A total eclipse
of the sun.
We can share that.
We can share that.
The natural underpinning
of society’s angst.

Sun had gone.
You and I
wait that starstruck
minute.
Always before,
had reappeared.

You were talking
to me
for twenty minutes
before
you realized
I had gone.

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Time to forget? Time to let go?

Posted on September 11, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

 It has been my tradition to post something about the events of September 11, 2001 on the anniversary of that day. This may (I’ll have to see how I feel next year) be the last time. Read on to find out why.

In most time zones, an anniversary of an event that changed the world is here, or has come and gone. We can hardly keep from being aware of all the media and community events surrounding the tenth anniversary of of a terrorist attack on US cities. Before I go any further, I want you to know I do NOT intend this to be a reminiscence, or “where were you when you heard” kind of discussion. That is being done elsewhere.

Instead, I want to ask: “Is it time to let go of these yearly remembrances and media hype? During the past week, I’ve found myself deliberately tuning out when a “special report” came on the news. This surprised me, as during the first few years after the initial attacks, I had produced or otherwise participated in commemorative events. The most profound of these was on the one year anniversary, when feelings were still very tender.

My background is partially Jewish, and I grew up with relatives and friends, parents and grandparents uttering that phrase popular after the Holocaust: “Never Forget”. For my entire life, I’ve watched coverage of “Pearl Harbor Day” in December, commemorating what had been the biggest attack on our shores.

This year, I’ve found I’ve had it. While we have strong feelings about the victims of these horrors, and want to do all we can to prevent them from recurring, perhaps it is time to…if not forget, at least move on. There is something bothersome about “celebrating” these anniversaries every year. I realize I started moving toward this point two years ago, here. Last year, I was already wondering what and/or if I would post on this topic this year, as I am now speculating on next.

This year, I’ve heard things that contribute to this feeling in me. A good friend told me he and his family keep the particular anniversary day “very low key” because they lost someone important to them. I never knew anyone who perished in these attacks, only people who knew people. On that level, I really have no right to speak about this. But, events in May started to change how I thought, too. When the instigator of the plot was killed by US forces, I was embarrassed that the world saw people from my country dancing in the streets. Isn’t that exactly what our so called “enemies” do; the ones we feel so superior to?

Several days after that killing I read articles from reporters that tried, and sometimes succeeded, to interview survivors about how they “felt” about that event. None of the ones that agreed to share had been dancing in the streets. None had rejoiced. A few felt that, perhaps, the world was a bit safer after this person had been removed from it. But none of them celebrated his passing. Some expressed sadness that it had come to this; that our country had to resort to killing in revenge.

In the last few days, when I have listened to media reports, they were from one source: public radio. I listened to the voices of many who were not planning to attend any of the public commemorations. One woman said she and her son would visit her firefighter husband’s grave, and then have a quiet dinner together. Another made sure we knew that he intended to visit a chapel at dusk, with just a few close friends, at a time he knew no one else would be there.

These are the voices of people who actually lost someone that mattered. There is none of the outrage, thirst for revenge, or hatred that “regular Americans” express in conjunction with these sad and misguided attacks.

Perhaps we should take a lesson from them, the ones that have a right to feel the most, and slowly (but as quickly as we reasonably can) let it go. let it go. and live.

THIS is a link to the preview of a radio show I listened to while contemplating this post. Some fascinating perspective there.
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Blessed.

Posted on April 25, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Health, Music, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

 Blessed.

It’s a word.
How does a secular-oriented person reconcile feeling blessed?
But I do.

Blessed. (or Blest): Consecrated.

Consecrate: to make or declare sacred.

Sacred: regarded with reverence

Reverence: a feeling or attitude of deep respect.

Do you see what happens when one tries to go down the semantic road? Of course these are not all the definitions of each word, but they do bring me along a path that is circular; by the time I get to the “deep respect” definition; it describes adequately what I’m feeling.

The word “blessed” tends to be associated with spiritual concepts, but I’m not ready to give it up in secular life. There are times, and situations, when no other word will do.

This time, in my life, is one of those.

Although I have not been writing very much lately for many, many reasons (some of them interesting!) and though I want to share those interesting things with you but somehow have not, I have been blessed by people both on- and off-line, thinking of me and wishing me well.

There have been some occasions to occasion this in recent days. The week just past has been a holiday one for many. Some of my family acknowledged Passover last week, while others of my people celebrated Easter week, culminating in the spring renewal of Easter Sunday.

As I am eclectic spiritually as well as socially, :) my week went something like this: On Tuesday, I experienced a secular passover brunch, featuring my favorite dish of the season, matzah brei. On Saturday, it was, of course ( ;) ) World Tai Chi Day, so I celebrated that by watching wonderful demonstrations of several different forms of Tai Chi at the Chinese Cultural Center, including one I hadn’t seen before using a curved racket and a ball! This was performed by two masters from China who now live here in Arizona. There was good food to be had, and interesting companions. I was surprised how many people do Tai Chi here, and pleased that our local medical community is actively studying it for conditions such as recovery from stroke and heart surgery, and increasing mobility and flexibility in people with arthritis. I know from my own practice that I have better balance and flexibility.

This was all great; and I was having a good weekend, when later that evening I discovered I was being given a surprise birthday party! Orchestrated “behind the scenes” by a dear one, I had no idea; was attending a chat group I help with, and instead of just chatting, we danced, and had cake and champagne! What a lovely unexpected pleasure!

On Sunday I worked; co-facilitating a group. I work at several of these, each scheduled one per month, and the Easter Holiday did not interrupt the schedule. I was curious about the turnout on a holiday that generally has many visiting with family, but we had a very good turnout, and I felt useful to people; always a good thing. :) A potluck dinner followed.

Today is my birthday, and I kept my birthday tradition of brunching here with friends. It was a beautiful spring morning, and the surrounding gardens displayed our desert in bloom. It’s the absolutely best time of year to see desert fauna at it’s best. I was additionally treated to the company of many butterflies as I walked in amongst the splendour.

During the past few days, I’ve received greetings from two cousins I hadn’t communicated with in years, and from two good friends I’ve known since my childhood. I’ve also gotten messages from some blog friends—and this blows my mind and has generated the title of this post—this, after being “absent” from my blog space for quite a while! The fact that I am still thought about and cared for makes my birthday mean more than the passing of another year; it truly is a time of renewal.

Continual happy spring to you!

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Balance in the Spring

Posted on March 21, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Health, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

The wind is howling as is my conscience. A card from a lovely friend reminds me that I have not deposited pixels here on my blog for quite a while. She hopes it’s because I’m having such an amazing time in the rest of my life, that my blog has fallen by the wayside.

That is a nice sentiment—and I thank her for that!—but I wonder… I’ve written some of my best blog posts when my life was full of activity. Lately, things have seemed as if they are closing down.

There are distinct joys in my life; some new windows have opened. But, open windows notwithstanding, I’m still in the same house (literally and figuratively.)

When I first started blogging, the social media site “Facebook” was not as prominent. Many of my blog friends have FB accounts, but I never have had.

I may have lost some of them to it, but they have not lost me.

So why am I lost? I’ve felt inauthentic; disconnected lately. I used to write my truth here; from my heart; from my soul; from my spirit. “My” truth seems elusive, and no one else’s exists!

I could point to “world events”, and indeed they are frightening and uncertain, lately. I have given some little donations to the Red Cross, and I help facilitate a group for people who are disturbed by things. I am disturbed, too.

But, as much as some recent events can make us feel helpless, my recent malaise came along before most of them.

I realize I’m out of balance…that’s the thing!

A friend that’s a coach has a tool she uses; the balance wheel, I think she calls it. She has tried to counsel me using it, but I am stubborn and resistant.

Here it is:

Balance Wheel

Life Wheel - Inner North Coaching

You can rename sections to match the important areas of your life. You may also choose to split one or two sections or add one or two sections of your own. For example, many people prefer to divide “Friends & Family” into two sections.

  1. The center of the wheel is 0, and the outer edge of the wheel as 10. Rank your level of satisfaction with each life area by drawing an arc at the number that represents your level of satisfaction. A 0 means you are not satisfied at all with an area right now; A 10 means everything in that area is absolutely perfect for you right now.
  2. Write the number that the arc represents. For example, if you are 75% satisfied with your career, draw an arc about 3/4 of the way out from the center of the circle in the Career section of the Wheel, and label it 7.5.

As you can see, the task is to rate one’s SATISFACTION in all the areas on the wheel, not necessarily where one feels one does the most good.
However, like many of us, much of my satisfaction comes from at least thinking I’m of some use!
The creator of this wheel also lets us know that we can rename one or more sections…but, I’ve found, through chatting with my friend, and examining the sections, that they are pretty representative for most of us.
Naturally, few if any of us will have a perfectly balanced pie. But it’s a warning sign if, for instance, one has a little sliver of a pie piece for a particular category, and half the pie in another!

I always wonder, with these kinds of graphs, where one puts something like “Spiritual Expression”. Many would say it goes under “Personal Growth”, but that narrows it too much, on the one hand, and jams it in with too many things, on the other.
I prefer to find spiritual expression radiating out from the center point of the chart, as a ninth, but all-encompassing area, as it permeates all else.
(I believe, by the way, that whether one embraces religion, or not, one can engage in spiritual expression. This does not have to involve worship of an outside entity or entities as many imagine, but rather contains that “spark of connection” that keeps us WANTING to be human!)

Many of the “pie pieces” can be expressed through, or at least reported upon, by blogging. I feel I need some work and definition in each of the wedges. I challenge myself (and YOU are a witness) to write about each one, both from a personal viewpoint, and as a universal model in the next few weeks.

If you hadn’t guessed by now…this is my Spring Renewal Project! Several traditions, including some that resonate deeply with me, celebrate a new year, or a start of a new cycle at or about this time.
I am awestruck, once again, at the sight of the huge full moon on this day, and respectful of the natural time known as spring equinox. I want to say “Happy New Year” to those of my blog mates I know are celebrating now:

☼Chinese New Year came quite early this year; starting on Feb. 3…but I always include it in spring renewal as it resides there in my heart.
☼The Spring Equinox is a favorite contemplation, as it’s all about a natural marker in a natural cycle, not about any dogma, or human-imposed beliefs.
☼I respect and honor the Hindu spring festival of colours: Holi, of which I was recently reminded.
☼Persian and Bahai friends celebrate NawRuz, New Year, at this time. This festival predates and informs the next one:
☼My Jewish family members are celebrating Purim, during which Jews are delivered from enemies. Although Jewish New Year is in the fall and not the spring, I like to think of the story from the bible book of Esther as a metaphorical time of renewal as well.
☼Many Muslims celebrate the birth of the prophet Mohammed at this time, and finally…
☼A bittersweet remembrance of the Spring Festival of Japan; the festival of the Cherry Blossoms, or Sakura, which took place some weeks ago, but one I tend to associate with the dawn of Spring. I won’t go into what Japan has or has not to celebrate right now, but I have been gratified to see the few Cherry trees in my desert neighborhood valiantly bursting into bloom. In my native San Francisco we had hundreds of Cherry Trees, and the festival was a huge city-wide event!

I sometimes long for those days when life was as simple as gazing at a flower. Or so it seemed :)  ☼ Happy New Spring to you! ☼

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“Christmas”…”Cheer”…?

Posted on December 18, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Health, HowTo, Music, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

I want to get this down while it’s still fresh in my mind. Today, (and similar days in past Decembers), is one of the more emotionally devastating, yet ultimately satisfying days of my year. I’m exhausted, physically and emotionally, but, I think…in a good way.

I do free-lance administrative work for several arts and cultural organizations. One of them is a chorus I sing in as well. Today, we made our annual “Christmas Caroling” trek. I put that in quotes, as I don’t really know what “Christmas” means…more about that in a minute. I generally grumble and mutter under my breath when the group plans this expedition. Coming up to the time, it seems overly precious and sentimental; not to mention, well, more “religious” than I’m comfortable with. I’m the kind of secularist that, on one level, really doesn’t understand how someone can say something like: “I’m an atheist. But. I really like Christmas!” —what? What does that mean? To me, when I observe the society around me, I can’t define “Christmas” as any one thing. It is a pivotal celebration for some branches of religionists. It’s also associated with Pagan or natural celebrations of solstice; in fact the solstice observances of many cultures have been hijacked by the Christians in order to incorporate already existing holy times into the celebration of their leader’s birth.

The confusing thing to me is that in some countries, Christmas is also a cultural holiday; a time to share gifts and cards, parties and greetings, and perhaps a softer attitude than at other times of the year. Is there something in the darkest time of the year that causes us to slow down and reflect? Something beyond the religiosity of it all?

In times past, I’d tell people I don’t celebrate the holiday, as I’m not a Christian or a Pagan. I’d receive looks ranging from the quizzical to the hostile; from those who’d ask what either of those spiritual paths has to do with it (!) to those who are strictly Christian and don’t like the Pagans or secularists usurping “their” holiday. (Kind of ironic, considering)

So I grumble and complain and say I don’t want to do this “caroling” thing…and yet…I always do. We’re not the kind of carolers that go door-to-door. We visit care facilities such as today’s Alzheimer’s, Hospice, and Chronic Care units. I realize, as I always do, that most of the people who receive the gift of our songs have heard them all their lives, whatever their religious or lack of religious upbringing. These holiday songs are ubiquitous. You’d have to travel somewhere really remote, or never leave your home between November 1st and December 26th to avoid them. This becomes important in the saga of the caroling.

Our first visit was to an Alzheimer’s unit, a nice set of five cottages around a central courtyard. We visited all five cottages. In most, there were a mix of relatively alert, and pretty-much-out-of-it residents, with a few visiting family members thrown in. We never know what kind of reception we are going to get, because with Alzheimer’s patients, the short-term memory is the first to go, and they may not remember their son’s name, for instance, but they sometimes do remember all the words to a Christmas carol. I’ve seen this happen many times. The residents will look around in confusion as we enter their living space. Are they supposed to know who we are? Some of them give us hostile or suspicious looks.

And then: We start to sing. We sing very well, as we are from a semi-professional chorus. Rich, four-part harmony greets the residents as they listen to familiar tunes. Some of them open their eyes, and watch, with rapt expressions. Others keep their eyes closed, but, somehow, mouth the words. Still others wake up, as if from a long sleep, and start to sing along; voices beautiful; moving; emotional.

This is when the magic happens for me. For those few moments, there is no illness; no loss of cognitive function. We all share in these carols we know so well. We sing a mix of purely secular winter songs (Jingle Bells; Frosty the Snowman) Pagan (Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly) to the overtly religious (O Little Town of Bethlehem; Silent Night) and we always end with We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and at that moment, I do; I really do!

As we ended with each group, we went to shake hands with those who were able to do so, and greet them. Two women and one man kissed my hand. :) We were told by their caretakers that they hadn’t seen some of them this animated in a long time. I felt blessed in my ability to share this gift. I was content. It was meaningful. We had another facility, a county nursing home to visit, and then…we had “a thing at the mall”.

“What a contrast”, I thought to myself, “between singing to these lovely folks who can’t get out for a concert, and singing for a lot of mall shoppers trying to get the best deal!”

At the county-run large nursing home facility, I recognized several residents from the prior year. Unlike at the previous venue, there were a variety of ages; many quite young, but profoundly disabled and requiring 24-hour care. The staff member that took us around to three main lounges explained that, although some residents would have their eyes closed, or otherwise appear to “not be all there”, they nevertheless just might be able to take the music into their inner lives. She told us that last year, a resident came out of a coma after we sang! This was the first I’d heard of that. Again, a few audience members sang or mouthed some of the words with us. Others sat still and unblinking with tears running down their cheeks. One man, relatively young, sat with his eyes closed, seemingly oblivious, until, during Jingle Bells, two of the singers actually jingled bells they had brought with them. He opened his eyes and stared and stared at us.

And so, on to the “mall thing”. I will say that, although I don’t frequent malls to begin with, this day is probably the last day I would have chosen to visit any mall. The parking lots, and the mall itself were packed with shoppers, hoping to be inspired just a week before the holiday that causes them to give.

Some, obviously, were enjoying the shopping. Many, however, had “that look” on their faces; the “concentrated; obligatory; let’s get this gift buying over with” sort of expression that makes me question the wisdom of this December Debacle.

I hoped that what we were about to do would ease their pain, if only a little! :)

Inspired by a project born in another state, the Arizona Music Teacher’s Association decided to bring a “Random Act of Culture” to southern Arizona’s busiest mall on the busiest shopping day of the year. Fresh from my lunch of hummus and Greek salad, I wandered over to the large rotunda. There was an organ playing Christmas carols; not a terribly unusual thing in a mall in this season. It seemed there were many onlookers lining the railings from the floor above, and as I and my colleagues merged and mingled with the shoppers, we became aware that it was almost time. The organ stopped. And then it started again, at four times its previous volume. A conductor appeared on the landing between the floors. As the organ completed the introduction, several hundred voices, all mixed in with the shoppers, began to sing. Chills ran up my spine. Although under very different circumstances than in my morning activities, I still felt that I and the others “ministered” to these shoppers, perhaps victims of our consumerist culture; perhaps only trying to bring happiness to their families and friends.

As I contemplate my day, I’ve let go of feeling that any one group was more deserving than another. We’re all in this together, doing the best we can. As I was driving home from the mall (after taking 38 minutes just to be able to leave the mall!) I noticed a bumper sticker on the car ahead of me: “Don’t Postpone Joy”. Indeed.

Here is video from the project that inspired ours. We may make the local evening news with our event; if so, I’ll post an update here. We sang the same music as in the video, and received the same spontaneous applause.
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The other way

Posted on November 23, 2010. Filed under: Health, HowTo, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

This speaks to me as my life has unfolded lately:

No Other Way
by Martha Smock

Could we but see the pattern of our days,
We should discern how devious were the ways
By which we came to this, the present time,
This place in life; and we should see the climb
Our soul has made up through the years.

We should forget the hurts, the wanderings, the fears,
The wastelands of our life, and know
That we could come no other way or grow
Into our good without these steps our feet
Found hard to take, our faith found hard to meet.

The road of life winds on, and we like travelers go
From turn to turn until we come to know
The truth that life is endless and that we
Forever are inhabitants of all eternity.

So many times I’ve said to myself “why can’t this have happened sooner?; why did it have to happen at all?; if I knew then what I knew now; …etc. etc. etc.

The fact is, even if I knew then what I know now, then would have been a different then, and now a different now. I would not be the person that says: “if only…”. The words you read here would be those of someone else!

I’m not sure why, but this, strangely, gives me comfort.

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October, the month of letting go

Posted on October 30, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

I’ve written before about Dia de los Muertos, here and here.

Although not raised with this holiday, I do live near people it’s important to, and it’s become a reflective time for me.

Letting go and acknowledging what I want to release, as we travel into the last part of the year, has become a meaningful ritual. This year, perhaps, I’ve let go of a little too much.

But, perhaps…I shall regain my equilibrium. I welcome the time of embracing; releasing; regaining.

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It hurts me in small ways

Posted on September 17, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Health, HowTo, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

NaBloPoMo September

Continuing on the “Art Month” Theme, I include here a Prose Poem I wrote a while back. The “You” I am addressing is that entity called “Life”


You don’t know what I hear
when you tell me things.
I want you uncensored, and yet…
there are ways I am not like you.

And in those ways that you are—
I imagine myself.
It’s not in my character;
you don’t mean it to be this way;
it is I who am not in synch.

I’ve always felt queer and out of place,
even within the out-of-place culture.
I just go along as best I can
without wanting to conform.

It has brought me peace
and loneliness.
I am not worldly like you.

You say as I am out there
with my trip firmly placed
like to have chosen
from among those on offer;

but they never were; not to me.
My way was not to sample, only taste.
To know that I don’t fit this world of yours
Hurts Me in Small Ways.

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My home state rocks…today!

Posted on August 4, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Health, HowTo, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

“Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples,” the judge wrote in a 136-page ruling that laid out in precise detail why the ban does not pass constitutional muster.

The judge found that the gay marriage ban violates the Constitution’s due process and equal protection clauses.

“Because Proposition 8 disadvantages gays and lesbians without any rational justification, Proposition 8 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” the judge ruled.

Thank you U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker for seeing sense. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog; I’m not terribly politically involved, but human rights are one of my handful of political passions. I know there is a long road ahead, but I shall take time today to feel some elation along it.

Hurrah! :D

Story Here

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A picture of the Universe

Posted on July 12, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Musings, Philosophy, Science, Spirituality |

Space news doesn’t make it into the bigtime news very often. There has to be a shuttle launch or a major issue with the International Space Station to make headlines. So this photo of the aftermath of the big bang (you’d think that’d be pretty bit news!) sort of slipped through the cracks. Here is the photo, and here a newsclip with one of my favorite physicists commenting on it.

I think the photo is astounding; perhaps even consciousness changing. Something that disturbs me, though, is in Dr. Kaku’s commentary. He declares “This is the fireball that created the Universe (emphasis mine)...Genesis, Chapter 1, verse 1 ‘In the beginning’…” I’m not sure why he brings the bible into it. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all about integrating science and spirituality; I’ll get to that in a minute. I’m just wondering if Dr. Kaku and other scientists like him really equate the event known as “the big bang” with the first chapter of Genesis (from the Judeo-Christian scriptures).

Much as I respect some traditional religious teachings, I have never, really, been able to wrap my mind around a religious theory which claims a finite date on the calendar as its start. As in: The world was bad and sinful, and then “the special person” was born, and changed everything, and nothing that came before was any good, and you must embrace this new thing which is now true forever. This doesn’t fly for me, but neither does scientific theory stating that “The Universe” “began” at a certain moment in linear time. Besides the obvious (and a bit testy) question: “What happened before the big bang?” (or, conversely, “What happened before ‘The Word’, or ‘The Way’ from Genesis) the concept of a finite beginning is simply incomprehensible to me.

You can probably guess the primary linear-beginning religion I’m thinking of, but there are others. I’ve stated before on this blog that I’m a Universalist; that doesn’t mean I believe every single thing that each religion teaches, but that all are of equal value. I’ve found life enhancing wisdom in many sacred texts, particularly those of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Taoism (in alphabetical, not priority order).  I’ve studied all these in classes and/or groups, and have lived the teachings as well.

I’ve lately been exploring an even newer, yet ancient, philosophical structure which promises to integrate scientific understanding with mystical wisdom; something I’ve sought for some time.

So, is this picture, amazing though it is, a stop-action photo of a real event in linear time? Or, more likely to me, a moment; a point in the ever-changing landscape of our inquiry?

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