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Archive for June, 2018

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Make your heart sing.

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The light within…

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IMG_0286The rhythmic sound of the ventilator combined with the steady beep of the monitors was hypnotic. Sounds that had become much too familiar as I slept in the room next to his.

‘He can’t understand you,” the doctors had said apologetically when they saw me speaking to him attempting to pour the endless stream of love I felt upon him.   I read him stories of healing, letters I had written to him in the sleepless nights, and sang softly in his ear.  “He is unresponsive,” they would say as they rubbed their knuckle into his sternum.

“They know so much,” I thought, “And yet so very little.”   After all that had happened leading up to this I still didn’t quite understand how others could not hear what I heard and feel what I could feel.  This man, this now frail and tiny man was communicating with me more clearly than I had ever known.  I could feel his presence within me and a peace in him that the appearance would belie.

Looking down at this tiny, impossibly frail body swaddled in hospital blankets, I mused that nobody would ever believe the harshness his voice once had, or the terror he would strike in the hearts of his three youngest children each night when we saw the headlights of his car from the picture window. We would sound the alert that he was home.  Each of us would scamper, checking that things were in order hoping we hadn’t forgotten anything that might set him off. We knew the later it was the more alcohol he had poured down his throat.  We would try greeting him in a sweet tone, hoping we could assuage the unpredictable outbursts of anger that might erupt at any moment and for any reason.

Dad was a harsh man and a hard worker. The depression era had instilled in him that stern, matter-of-fact view of life that comes from deep struggle. His hands were hands that were accustomed to hard labor and his words seldom suggested that love was behind them. He attempted to assuage his deep pain with a steady stream of alcohol each night and was expert at criticism and blaming his six children for his troubles. I spent many years in anger and felt a seething hatred for him for both all that he wasn’t and for all that he was.

He could have split us up after mom died–six children, five of them still at home, the youngest only seven. He had never done a load of laundry or cooked a meal. I don’t even remember his presence much prior to her passing; he was just the man who yelled at night and threw things…including our mother. I was often told that he was having a bad diabetic reaction. “What a terrible disease that must be,” I would think with my young, trusting mind. He didn’t get much better through my teen years and would often throw my things out on the lawn in reaction to just about anything.  He kicked me out at sixteen.  I lived in a basement rented room while working at McDonald’s but I was eventually allowed back.

I left dad’s house as soon as I could but the deep wounds went with me. I managed to put myself through college while drinking, doing drugs, and living wherever I could find a floor, but never staying long enough to get too close to anyone. I clung to the tiniest hope for a different experience. I looked in education, in men, in status and money, but the emptiness, the gaping hole and hunger within was not to be satiated by my many attempts.

I knew nothing of a spiritual approach to life and categorically rejected the Judeo-Christian perspective of my upbringing; I saw religion merely as a means to control the masses and the beliefs held by adherents as pure myth at best. God and that Jesus guy were judgmental figures somewhere “out there” that were pointing a finger at me and not a source of comfort in the least.

At one point I finally began to search in the one place, and I do mean probably the only place that I hadn’t tried…within. This new inward journey offered the first glimmer of hope in my young and torturous life and immediately showed promise where all other efforts had failed. I clung to it as an infant to her mother’s breast contentedly drinking of the sublime nectar. I did not know that I had begun the only journey that has meaning in the world. I did not know that my life would soon never be the same. I had no idea that everything that I had ever experienced was leading me to this. And I did not know that very soon the world was going to unzip and lay open for me to see beyond her façade; that I would see with new eyes and hear with new ears and that those things that I once struggled to understand would soon feel more natural than breathing.

A day came that seemed like any other day but by day’s end everything changed.  Everything changed as a light beyond words found it’s way through a tiny crack in my mind.  This light had always been patiently waiting for me to let it in.  In a moment I came to see inexplicable things and I understood that all those that I thought had failed me by not being what I thought I needed them to be, were not responsible for my emptiness. I saw that these many people, these many things, could not ever give me what I longed for and neither did they need to—they could not because what I was looking for had been within me all along. I had simply not known where to look. I had been fishing in fields believing that I could be fed. My hunger pains were silenced as I was led to the water and it was always in the only place it ever is…within.

After this day I lived in a place, a state that simply cannot be described. It is an awareness of things that the world is blind to but that is all around. It is a state of nearly constant wonder, amazement and deep peace. I saw everything differently and began to see dad through kinder, gentler eyes as well. I actually began to enjoy him.  But even in this new light dad’s house was still not a place I ever wanted to live again. God had other plans.

I am able to hear a very clear Voice of sorts that often leads me very specifically. I refer to it as a voice for lack of a better word but it’s more like deep inner impressions that are very clear, unmistakable, and that come with a sense of conviction and understanding. Although I was often able to hear this Voice guiding me, sometimes we are not as open to this kind of direct guidance and circumstances must squeeze us in the direction we are to follow.  I began to be squeezed. I found myself with no where to live and not one door open but dad’s house. I would not have ever “voluntarily” lived with him again, but without another option, there I was.

One day, as I sat on his sofa, I whispered to myself in confusion, “Why am I here?” The Voice that I had come to recognize and trust responded instantly, “You are here for a reason.” With that I felt a peace and calm come over me; a confidence found only in the Divine and thought, “Well, that’s all I need to know.”

Dad and I baked cookies together and decorated cakes. I redecorated his house over the next months from top to bottom while he looked over my shoulder teasing me. One day, as he stood in the doorway to the living room playfully joked with me, I looked up at him and I knew he would be leaving soon. Not long after he was in the hospital taking his last breath while I spoke softly in his ear.

In those last months I came to utterly and completely ADORE him! I had seen the truth of him during this time and our relationship was wholly transformed. His inestimable value was so evident to me it literally took my breath away. Everybody saw that something had occurred between us and even while lying in the hospital seemingly no longer able to communicate, he spoke to me of many things, including when he would pass. He became this peaceful presence that even others remarked about in amazement.

Dad thought success was found in making money and having things…things that he never had. He didn’t understand why I didn’t find these things important or why I was interested in spirituality. The morning after his transition I awoke to him singing within me; he was a man of few words and when he spoke it was usually harsh and critical so it took me a moment to make the connection between what I was hearing within that morning and dad. It was him but not the man I had known; the presence was sweet and kind and came with gentle laughter.

“My beloved daughter, friend and spiritual sister,” he said, “you helped me more than you can comprehend right now when I did not know. You are doing the only thing that has any importance, and now I am here to help you.”

A deep sense of grief descended upon me after he passed even though he often made his presence known to me. Still quite young, I felt utterly orphaned in the world. I had seen such beauty in my father, the man that I had detested, and now he was gone. There was a black hole of grief that I thought I might never see through.

The darkness continued for a long time but then one day the heavy grief that I thought might never be healed was lifted from me like a feather.  I realized that day as I sat looking at the portrait I painted of him that there is not one thing in this world that is permanent…not one. All form ends. The purpose was never to have form last forever but to raise our thoughts to what does last forever. It is to bring us to the place where we walk in the conscious awareness of what lies beyond all form and is forever safe and does live forever. I could see that right now we–dad and I and all–are forever enveloped in Love. We simply cannot be apart. It is just impossible.

I would not change one thing. I would not change one of the thousands of tears I’ve shed. I would not, for they were the elevator to Everything.

(Note: The image is a picture of the portrait I painted of my dad after he passed.  One of the many things that happened after I began having profound spiritual experiences is that I found I could paint just about anything.)

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Words are symbols, letters strung together in a particular language with some sort of agreement about their meaning. They are never the thing itself but act as means to point to some thing, idea or concept. The word “blue” is not the color blue itself. Not only is “blue” not the color itself but there are also over 7,000 living languages in the world today, so you can imagine how many different ways there are to point to what is understood as the color blue.

Why am I even writing about this? I find it interesting when I write something and others feel the need to translate it into religious terminology. That is fine but what’s interesting is when people feel the need to do this with an angry tone complete with all caps and several exclamation points. I am dumbfounded every time I see it and wanted to write a little about how I’ve found it helpful NOT to limit myself to particular terms or words for things.

I am going to share a particular experience that I’m sure will make some of you want to go all caps and exclamation points on me but I’m going to ask you to reserve them as they will be wasted on me. I know what I experience and have experienced and I trust this more than anyone’s opinion.

Many years ago during a time of quiet and meditation I began to think about the word God. The word or idea of God had come to mean so much to me resulting from many profound and inexplicable experiences but I also knew in my heart that my view of this idea of God was still colored by my human understanding of things as well as many religious ideas that have been expressed since time immemorial. I’ve always approached things from a more scientific perspective and from that perspective, I challenge things, turn them over and upside down, questioning assumptions and premises.

When I get quiet and go within I try to approach it as a child would. A child knows it doesn’t already know and so she will ask and listen. A child is open and humble and doesn’t ask a question thinking she already knows the answer. She is not just looking for something or someone to assure her that what she already thinks she knows is correct; she is willing to be mistaken and corrected. As I sat this day asking about the idea of “God” I simply asked what this really means. I also asked if there was another word or words that might help me to more fully experience what this is rather than what I might  think it means. 

The gentle Voice within me that I’ve heard for many years replied with two words…”The Everything.”

There’s something that I’ve always found puzzling. I have studied many religions and beliefs ranging from small villages in Africa and elsewhere (both historically and contemporaneously), to the major religions of the world. One thing that many of them share is how vehemently people defend their religion and their beliefs. Even here when I post something I often get angry, exclamation point comments such as “That’s the Holy Spirit!” “That’s Jesus!” or “God is love!” “Jesus is the way!” I will never understand how someone can believe that yelling that “God is love” in an angry tone might be helpful to anyone. It’s so unbelievably incongruent with what Love is that if it weren’t so sad, it would be funny.

If I look up at the sky right now, I am pretty sure that the agreed upon color of the sky is blue. It is a fact. It is true. If someone started to tell me that the sky color right now is pink with yellow polka dots, I can’t imagine that I would start screaming that it’s blue no matter how many times they might suggest it’s not. I KNOW. I am confident and trust my own experience. I don’t need for them to agree with me and I know that however much they might even believe it’s not blue, it doesn’t change that it’s blue for instant.

Rather than argue about the validity of a particular word or idea, I find it more helpful is to have the inner Spirit (by whatever name) translate for me and teach me. What happens when I do this, is that I’m able to see beyond the words used to what someone is trying to point to with the words, and often see that the other is really trying to say the same thing as I am. With this we are joined and no longer separate, we are no longer at odds. And what is Love but that which joins us?

I might use words like fairy dust, hearts, rainbows, and twinkle, but what is behind these words is something far more profound than one might see at first glance. But don’t take my “word” for it. The only way is let our own inner Spirit lead each of us in the direction of Love…In the direction of unity and let our own experience show us that this is what we truly want rather than clenching to differences. In this place of oneness and unity we find treasures that no words can ever describe.

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Follow your heart…

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I’m not referring to the romantic, sentimental idea of “heart” here but to our inner compass, gut, intuition, higher knowing–whatever you’d like to call it. xo

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