Monday, December 26, 2011

Memories of the Good Old Days

You remember the “good old days” don’t you?  Those were the days we always think back upon when we feel like today isn’t so good.  There is probably a 50/50 chance that those days were as good as it gets and since then it has all been downhill.  I remember old times and activities that are different from my current experiences.  There were the holidays when all of our extended family members got together for great dinners, music and games!  I remember when my dad or mom would sit down at the piano and play the songs everyone knew (the music of the 1930’s and early ‘40’s).  Often dad would play one of his several guitars.  One I was particularly fond of was the steel guitar. There were a lot of the big band songs, patriotic songs from the First World War and, of course, popular ballads of the time.  Sometimes we would play the old 78 RPM records—the Mills Brothers, Glenn Miller, and a lot of artists you probably never heard of.  Yes, THOSE were the good times!

Oh, come on!  Get over it!  The other 50 % of the time things were rotten!  People didn’t treat each other well, siblings weren’t always nice to each other.  And sometimes we just didn’t feel like singing, well, maybe the blues!  Depending on the era during which you made your entry to this world of wonders, you were stressed by the Great Depression (most likely it was your parents who were stressed and you “inherited” it).  Or maybe it was the hostility of a world war.  You could have come along later when nothing seem to matter—the 50’s “Beatnik” generation.  Whenever it was that you showed up, it was what it was.  Whether you ever got over it or not was up to you.  And it still is!

Sometime, sooner or later, we need to “flush” the negativity that has become our memory of those “good old days.”  Maybe the memory of the activities the family engaged in really does feel like the better times, the “home” place in your heart where what you did then represented the most important times of your life.  My image of family gatherings in early 1940’s are among the strongest I have.  Of course, I get sentimental about the home we lived in, the neighborhood and neighbors (all of whom knew each other back then).  But I also remember the neighborhood bully who ripped my Christmas Teddy Bear out of my hands and threw it in a mud puddle.  It was never quite the same after that, but I kept it for years. 

We have to be somewhat careful about how we remember the past.  There is certainly nothing wrong with having the memories, but if we tend toward thinking of them as the good that will never be in our life again, we are doomed to regress and withdraw from our current reality.  When a place where we used to live is more important to us than where we are living, we may not be really living at all in terms of benefiting from our present experience.

Christmas for 2011 is now over.  The presents have been opened and enjoyed.  For many the family has gathered, broken bread and shared in the love of being together.  For those living far apart, as most families seem to today, modern technology has made it possible to share directly through phone or Internet.  It is almost like being there, but not quite.  Whatever our experience, we have set in motion thoughts and feelings that will forever be a part of our memories.  How we choose to characterize our experience will tend to be how it influences us down the road.  It is not really what the event was like that is important.  It is how we remember it from now on.

As we look forward to the New Year and new adventures, new growth, and even new challenges, we will be making a choice as to how we face life, and thus how the events influence our future memories.    It is possible to adopt the attitude that the best is yet to be.  We can cherish the wonder of today and defuse whatever negative charge still exists in our memories by realizing that all that has gone before has made us who and what we are today.  And it is likely that we are better, richer and more blessed than we think. The New Year will be what it is.  How we choose to experience it is up to us.  It is our choice.

May you choose the best that can be!  May you make this the best year ever!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday Morning

The look out the window this morning presented me with my excuse for not walking today.  Yes, today it is raining.  And yes, sometimes it doesn’t take much to discourage me from doing something I know is good for me.  But enough of that.  This morning I am going to share breakfast with you.  We’ll take the walk another day.

When I was just a pre-teen kid I learned to make biscuits and pancakes from scratch.  No pre-mixed stuff.  Get the flour, the baking powder, the shortening, etc. and mix it up.  Seems to me my chin was not much above the drain board at the time.  I credit my dad with my early lessons in cooking, since he was often the first one up.  His early rising most likely came from his days as a postal carrier when you had to get there early to sort the mail and get out on the route.  In those days the carriers made twice-daily deliveries.  (Can you imagine that?  Now they are talking about getting rid of Saturday deliveries and closing post offices.)

In the years since my early biscuit and pancake making days, Bisquick and other premixes for biscuits and pancakes came out in the stores.  Well, I was not about to give in to the lazy man’s way to cook!  Shortly after getting married, I started mixing up my own batches of biscuit mix and storing it for use through the weeks.  I think, obviously, that my mixes were every bit as good as the premixes.  Many years later I finally gave up and started using them.

Now that you have my personal cooking background, it’s time for breakfast.  Here is what was on the table this morning:  Special pancakes (recipe follows), two eggs and lots of coffee.  While I admit to starting my pancakes with a premix like Bisquick, it is all original after that.  Here goes . . .

           1 egg
           Chopped walnuts
           All bran
           Raw oatmeal
           Milk (powdered or fresh)

Beat the egg, add all bran, oatmeal, cran-raisins, walnuts, sugar, milk, and vanilla and mix well.  Then add the biscuit mix and gently mix.  If you have to ask what portions of the ingredients to use, just forget it and go back to reading the morning paper.  I’ll finish getting breakfast!  I am an intuitive cook.  The upside is always a surprise.  The down side is that it is often difficult to get it as good the next time.  (I could tell you many stories about experiments.)  But, hey, that’s what is fun about cooking.

Oh, by the way, if you eat as many pancakes as I do, you are making a mistake!  But they are so good and the pain doesn’t last forever!  Pancake mix just isn’t good as a left over no matter what anybody says, and I don’t like waste (so I add waist instead!).

Bon appetite!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Saturday Morning

Oh, I just did not want to do it!

But as I sat at my computer getting ready to catch up on the overnight news feeds and any mail that might have come in (rare for me on Friday night/Saturday morning), I glanced out of my window and saw that the morning clouds were beginning to break.  Spots of blue sky and sun began showing up.  Instead of the rain I hoped would give me an excuse for staying in my comfy chair listening to music and reading the news, I had to get going.

So I put on my shoes, layered my shirt and hoodie and headed out into the 56-degree morning for my regular walk in Greenway Park.  For the first ten minutes or so my body protested.  Tendons tightened, muscles didn’t want to flex and my feet hurt!  What the heck am I doing out here?  Then, as magically as turning a corner, my body relaxed into the pace and a whole new world of sensation opened up for me.

The trails in Greenway Park that wander in part along Fanno Creek were rich this morning in brilliant greens.  The sun highlighted the dew on the grass.  The squirrels scurried around gathering their winter stores.  The big crows, ever present, were picking whatever they could from the grounds.  Then came the freshness of the morning air into my nostrils.  There is nothing like an Oregon morning after the rain.

We had an unusually dry summer so I have walked these trails every morning.  There are certain folks I see every morning and though we don’t break our walks to stop and speak, it feels like we have developed a camaraderie as we greet each other.

By the time I have reached my two to three miles, depending on the course I follow, I am ready to head home.  Coat comes off, hat in hand so the perspiration can evaporate helping to cool me down.  I have to admit it gets harder all the time to climb the stairs to my second floor apartment after the walk, but oh my, does it ever feel good once I have!

I plan to take my camera for my next walks.  The trees will be turning soon and a whole new beauty will grace my path.  Hope to share them with you later.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

In Memorium--Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs Commencement Address at Stanford (A Must Read)

I originally posted this on June 17, 2009.

With appreciation to the folks at “The View From Outside My Tiny Window” blog, who brought this item to the attention of their readers, I am also recommending this address. Not only is it an insightful look into the life of Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Corporation, but it is also a compelling story marking a path for success in business and in life. If you are a graduate or know one, I urge the reading of this address. Click the URL below or cut and paste it into the address line of your browser.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bike Paths and Walkways

This post is a little different from my usual subject matter, but given the popularity of cycling today I think it is an important consideration.

I am a retired senior who takes daily morning walks of two to three miles along the Greenway Park bike/pedestrian trails in Beaverton.  It is a lovely area that serves the neighborhood well and is a safe way for bicycle riders to commute to their workplaces.  Unfortunately, the majority of those riders have not learned to use rider etiquette of announcing when they are passing a walker from behind.  Courtesy suggests ringing a bell or announcing, “Passing on your left.”  This allows the walker to safely stay to one side.  My gait is not always as straight as it used to be and from time to time I stumble to the right or left.  This has caused me to narrowly escape injury more than once from a speeding cyclist passing at the same time as I waver.

One morning this week as I walked along I met another walker coming toward me.  Just as we reached the same spot a cyclist whizzed in between us without notice.  The other walker could see him coming, but I could not and also could not hear him coming.  The path is barely five feet wide so perhaps you can guess how close the encounter was.

Before returning to Oregon and my current home after retirement I lived in the Seattle/Bellevue metro area and often rode my bicycle or walked along the Sammamish River Trail.  It goes for a number of miles between Lake Sammamish and Lake Washington.  Seldom when I walked was I passed by a rider who did not announce he/she was passing from behind.  Both the metro eastside area of Bellevue and Redmond and the Portland metro area are considered bike riding capitals.  They offer great places to ride (and walk) because of the well planned and paved pathways.  Being used to this courtesy (and safety) announcement and using it myself when I ride, I have been disappointed by the lack of this behavior, at least in Greenway Park.

So for any of you readers anywhere who may also be cyclists, I hope you will consider the safe riding behavior of announcing yourself to walkers on your path.  Pass the thought on to other riders you know.  Thanks!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Travelers

I awoke at 4:24 AM PDT without benefit of alarm.  I wanted to share in the 9-11 memorial ceremonies in New York, Washington, DC and Shanksville, Pennsylvania along with the millions of others taking time to remember one of the most challenging days in our history as a nation.  I did not know as I began listening to the CBS TV presentation of the ceremonies that I would be writing these words.   However, it soon struck me that I was experiencing a deeply personal connection with those whose lives were lost on 9-11 and with their families and friends.  I did not personally know any of the people whose lives we were commemorating in these services, but as the coverage ended, I realized I do now know them and care about them as though they were members of my own family.

As the names were being read I realized, as I am sure you did as well, that every ethnic, cultural, religious and national heritage was represented.  How many times the words were repeated:  “We will never forget you.”  The photos accompanying the names listed the span of ages.  We are a special people in many ways, probably due to the manner by which our country came into being and the steps we have taken through the years to improve our understanding of each other, our likenesses and differences, and to honor each other for the contributions we make to our society.  We honor the living and we respect the lives of those who have gone on before us.

The gentle, reverent touch of the bronzed names of their loved ones and the tracing of those names onto the memorial program gave expression to how we care and how we share our love.  Many were shown embracing one another or simply touching an arm or shoulder in a moment of shared knowing.   Every form of relationship was represented—mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, partners and lovers and friends.   I was reminded that, “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning.”  While the surviving families have experienced an individual loss, they have gained the oneness of spirit with all of us.

We are all travelers on the journey through life.  May these words, penned many years ago by my mentor and my friend as he experienced his own personal loss, enfold and comfort us all in that journey.

The Traveler
By James Dillet Freeman
They have put on invisibility.
Dear Lord, we cannot see--
But this we know, although the road ascends
And passes from our sight;
That there will be no night;
That You will take them gently by the hand
And lead them on
Along the road of life that never ends,
And they will find it is not death but dawn.
I do not doubt that You are there as here,
And You will hold them dear.

Our life did not begin with birth,
It is not of the earth;
And this that we call death, it is no more
Than the opening and closing of a door--
And in Your house how many rooms must be
Beyond this one where we rest momently.

Dear Lord, we thank You for the faith that frees,
The love that knows it cannot lose its own;
The love that, looking through the shadows, sees
That You and they and we are ever one.

As Bob Schieffer reflected so clearly at the end of the broadcast, “We saw America at its very best.”

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Back To School--Remembered

As I started my morning walk around 7:30 AM I passed by Greenway Elementary School and suddenly found myself thinking, “Boy, am I glad I am not heading to my first day of school!”  I watched the teachers arriving early to get the final preparations of the classrooms done before the onslaught of students.  It wasn’t just that I was glad I was not starting school as a student, but also glad I was not a teacher facing perhaps the toughest year yet in their careers due to the cutbacks on spending for education.  No wonder I felt like I didn’t want to be there!

The interesting thing for me is that I always liked school.  I was born literally next door to Vestal School on 82nd street in Portland.  I started kindergarten there before our family moved to the Rose City school district.  I remember walking to school alone when I was in the second or third grade.  It was probably about a mile and no one was afraid of child molesters or other dangers that seem ever present for children today.  I was free to walk along, partly watching the houses and other physical sites, but even more I was able to walk along my imaginary paths (much more interesting and exciting).

By the time I was in the fourth grade we had moved “way out in the country” just off Walker Road in Beaverton.  We bought two and a half acres of tree covered land with a small two room unfinished house.  I walked daily to Barnes School, then a two-room school about a mile from home.  At one point two sisters were the teachers.  They lived in a mobile home behind the school.  Sometimes my dog would follow me to school no matter how hard I tried to stop him.  One day at recess I was sitting on the front step, Patsy, my mutt friend was sitting beside me.  My teacher came out and asked if it was my dog.  I said, “Yes.”  Then the teacher said Patsy could come in and sit by my desk.  You think that could happen today?

Today along that stretch of Walker Road the Nike Company has taken over what used to be a horse farm and much more of the surrounding land.

I had so many wonderful adventures while living there.  My dad finished the house, which became a three-bedroom home with an indoor bathroom!  It only had a two-seater outhouse when we moved in, and the bedroom my sister and I shared was a separate outbuilding.  The house is still there and is the only one in the neighborhood that looks pretty much like it did when we lived there.

After my parents divorced the family moved back to NE Portland where I attended Ockley Green grade school.  I went from a two-room school to the largest grade school in Portland at the time with about 1000 students.

My high school days began in Astoria, Oregon.  My mother had remarried and my stepfather was working a dredging job on the Columbia River at that time.  Days at Astoria high school were something else.  Strict “rules” applied to freshmen with harsh consequences for failure to comply.  One “rule” meant that freshmen could not wear corduroy pants.  Unfortunately, washday didn’t come soon enough and instead of wearing jeans, I had to wear my cords.  The punishment was being ushered into the boy’s restroom and given a few whacks with a paddle!  I shouldn’t even mention my “sports” activity there.  It consisted of freshman football. I was on the field for two plays.  Unfortunately, I was supposed to be on offense and I played as though on defense.  Oh, and my mom who had come to watch the game didn’t know the school colors so rooted for the other team!  You get the picture, I’m sure.

Things improved dramatically after leaving Astoria in the middle of my freshman year.  I entered the freshman class at Tigard Union High School, the old school on Main Street.  (A MacDonald’s stands there now.)  I was literally the last person to graduate from that school.  As senior class president, I presented the graduating class.

Many of these thoughts passed through my mind as I completed my morning walk.  I chronicle them here as a reminder to myself of the educational journey I began in Oregon and that continued in other schools in other states.  Also, I offer this story in appreciation for the friends I joined along the way.  Most of them are in other places doing other things now, all continuing their experiences, as have I.  My last connection with my 1953 graduating class was our 50th reunion.  Of course, a few of us have reconnected on Facebook.


So, it’s back to school for all the children of today.  I hope they have even half of the joy I had in school!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

My God Is So Good To Me

This handwritten note was found in a Unity booklet entitled, “Oneness With God.”  The booklet was printed in 1921 when Unity School of Christianity was still located on Tracy Avenue in Kansas City, MO.  This booklet was part of the library of Cordelia B. Lane that her family gave to me after her passing in 1960.  I discovered it just the other day as I was sorting through my own library in an effort to begin releasing my treasures and lightening my load.  I share it with you hoping it blesses you as it has me.

My God is so good to me.

The same God of all good who worked so-called miracles through His beloved Son Jesus is the same God of all good who just as willingly works in beauty and truth and love through you and me today.  The Master Jesus was continually aware of His God, His Father and Creator of all, and that is the requirement for you and me now, to be aware of, to recognize, to acknowledge, and to accept, good only.  Our aware(ness) of good awakens through prayer, through our putting our thoughts and hands to good and constructive use.

It is then, dear friend, “that unto every one that hath” this growing faith in and awareness of the dominant power of good, shall indeed “be given, and he shall have abundance.”  (Matthew 13:12)  Then our loving Father shall be heard speaking from within our heart saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.  Thou has been faithful over a few things; I will set thee over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.  (Matthew 25:21)

In thy presence is fullness of joy; In thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11)

The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul.  The testimony of Jehovah is sure, making wise the simple.  The precepts of Jehovah are right, rejoicing the heart. (Psalm 19:7, 8)

(Healing prayer:  Weekly Unity, May 31st 1953.)

God’s life, a river of healing, flows through me, and I realize that I am renewed, refreshed, restored.

When I received these treasures from Cordelia Lane’s estate I could never have known that fifty-eight years later I would be reading this beautiful note from a wonderful woman who believed so deeply in the presence of God blessing her life.  I am sure I did not notice the note when I received the booklet those many years ago at my first ministry.  It wasn’t until I actually started typing them for this posting today that I realized they were meant for me at just this time!  I looked up the biblical references and added them to her original note.

I am so blessed to have had many wonderful experiences through the years.  Sometimes a few simple words will send our attention back in wonder to times that have enriched our souls.  In remembrance shall my strength be renewed and my joy made full once again, today!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

And Now About Social Engagement

As soon as I posted the quotes on solitude I knew I was going to have to balance those ideas with thoughts about how we engage socially with each other.  Below are just a very few of the thoughts that great minds have shared.  Enjoy both sides of the story!

Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency. Man is a social being.
Mohandas Gandhi

I have Social Disease. I have to go out every night. If I stay home one night I start spreading rumors to my dogs.
Andy Warhol

Nobody can write the life of a man but those who have eat and drunk and lived in social intercourse with him. 
Samuel Johnson

A man has as many social selves as there are individuals who recognize him.
William James

You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you..  You have to go to them sometimes. 
Winnie the Pooh

Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained.
Helen Keller

This is the way we want to interact with everyone. . . .That’s always our goal.  The more that we can interact on a positive level, the better, . . . We are out there stressing cooperation and building positive relationships. 
Chief Joseph

If one by one we counted people out For the least sin, it wouldn't take us long To get so we had no one left to live with. For to be social is to be forgiving.
Robert Frost

The concept of randomness and coincidence will be obsolete when people can finally define a formulation of patterned interaction between all things within the universe. 
Toba Beta

(And just for the heck of it--)
I was too old for a paper route, too young for Social Security and too tired for an affair.  
Erma Bombeck

Monday, August 8, 2011

Wise Words About Solitude

Many great thinkers have found solitude to be the best company.

The best of all is to be alone to experience one's soul in Silence. To be nakedly alone, unseen, is better than anything in the world, a relief like death. To be -- alone -- is one of life's greatest delights.
-- Sunyata

To find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time.  To be in company even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating.  I love to be alone.
-- Henry D. Thoreau

Many teachers praise love as the highest of virtues; I, however, place solitude higher than love.
-- Meister Eckhart

The man who makes everything that leads to happiness depends upon himself, and not upon other men, has adopted the very best plan for living happily.
-- Plato

The greatest saints avoided the company of men as much as possible, and chose to live with God in secret.
-- Thomas a’ Kempis

The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.
-- Aldous Huxley

The happiest of all lives is a busy solitude.
-- Voltaire

A man can be himself only so long as he is alone, and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom, for it is only when he is alone that he is really free.
--  Arthur Schopenhauer

Settle yourself in solitude, and you will come upon God in yourself.
-- Teresa of Avila

(Excerpted from “Spirituality For Dummies”)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bridges, Trails and Trees

For my morning walk I returned to one of my favorite places, the Tualatin Hills Nature Park, where I go several times a year during different seasons.  At this time of year the environment is still very much like early spring due to our late arrival of spring and summer.  Never the less, it is a rewarding experience to walk the trails, some of which are paved and the side trails that are more natural.

Every time I enter the deepening forest I am humbled by the natural beauty of trees, some well over 100 years old, wild brush, the occasional wild flower and when summer is in full bloom, there are even a few berries (if you get there first).  But what I am even more grateful for are the wonderful people in local government and volunteers who care about maintaining these areas for all of us.  Today there were at least three groups of school-age children on nature walks, a number of runners and even a biker or two.  The stillness of the forests absorbs all that might otherwise distract from the naturalness of the trails so their presence melted into the background.
I have taken photos every time I have gone to the park.  Each time a new story unfolds in my awareness.  The intricate boardwalks that bridge the swampy areas always impress me.  I see them as a metaphor for the bridges we construct in our consciousness that take us across the bogs of challenges we sometimes face in our daily life.  Someone had to see the problem and devise a pathway through.  In our efforts to meet challenges we often find that others have been there before us and they made our traverse easier by the bridges they built.  Teachers, ministers, friends and confidants provide us with a range of opportunities to cross hazards successfully.

The paths that wind before me in the Park also bring to mind the many wonderful people whose paths I have crossed, or with whom I have walked for a time.  Each has brought me something of value, something I can look back upon with deep appreciation.  I have always felt that the people in my life are not there by chance.  No matter how we might describe our coming together, or how long that closeness remains, I am convinced by my experience that there is purpose and meaning to be found in the connection.  So I relish the memories as I move through my present paths that I know are leading into new opportunities to connect with others.
In many respects I lead a solitary life and I am mostly satisfied by that choice.  On occasion, however, I am reminded of the broader world around me.  That world is filled with wonderful experiences, past, present and even in the future!  I choose to be aware of the trails before me and to welcome all that I find along the way.  I seek to more clearly understand the bridges that will take me through my self-conceived limitations into new opportunities for long lasting satisfaction.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

More About “What If I Die . . .?”

Too often it is easy to dismiss the questions others have about life because we are not in their shoes.  Though we may want to “help,” our shoes seldom fit them.  Additionally, because we may not understand where the question is coming from in the context of their life, our dismissal of the question, intended or not, appears to dismiss the person as well.

Being able to muster great personal “truths” from our own experiences does not necessarily mean it is the truth for another person.  In the end every experience is personal.  Our efforts to be of assistance is admirable as long as in offering it we are not inadvertently knocking down what little support the person may currently think they have.  It is simply not good enough to reduce them to rubble in order for them to begin to rebuild.  I have never really accepted this form of psychological assistance.

When a person is in a place of uncertainty, especially about who they “really” are and what may lie beyond their current physical expression, it is not helpful to moralize.  At that point, talking about pop-psychology solutions, or even professionally accepted psychological principles might only appear like a spaghetti-bowl of confusion.  It may be true that all things work for some people, but I do not believe it is true that all things work for all people.  Sometimes our solution may not work for anyone else.

It may be that all a person wants or needs is to be heard!  They are neither asking for nor desirous of a cure-all process to heal them.  Just listen honestly without judgment or the urge to say the right thing. 

Really, sometimes I just want to be heard! Is the message.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What If I Die Without Ever Knowing Who I Am?

The source of many of my essays on LifeCentering come from email exchanges with friends who often ask questions or offer answers to my own.  Such is again the case with this item.

My friend and I have exchanged many emails searching for answers to questions I think many of us wonder about from time to time.  She sent me a course on healing techniques that had been helpful to her.  As I responded after getting started with the program we exchanged our skepticism about such highly hyped courses that seemed to promise “too good to be true” results if you would just give it a try.  In one of her emails she posed the following thought-provoking questions.

What if a person dies without ever knowing who he really is, once all the lifetime "labels" no longer apply, and not knowing absolutely that there is a supreme being and some form of continuing life?  Karma, reincarnation, God etc. are nothing more than words to me that may or may not be real. I want to think there is more to come in my life, but right now I'm clueless. Just a little light food for thought...or not.

A most intriguing series of life questions I thought.  I would like to think that whether or not we come to some understanding of the answers to those questions, Life will continue as "intended" and that essential part of us--call it spirit or soul--that somehow is imprinted with the reality of our purpose will continue to seek its fullest expression.  Admittedly this is a "statement of faith" more than an "understood" Truth, but it works for me.  I guess I remain impressed with the philosophy of Kierkegaard and his "leap of faith" proposition.  Ultimately, life requires that we take that leap if we are to proceed in understanding.  Here are a few of his thoughts on this subject gleaned from Web sources (and my memory of a college paper I wrote about his work).

What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know, except insofar as knowledge must precede every act. What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die. [1]

Most people are subjective toward themselves and objective toward others, frightfully objective sometimes—but the task is precisely to be objective toward oneself and subjective toward all others.[2]

For Kierkegaard, his belief in the ultimate need for the “leap of faith” has to do with his commitment to the reorientation of the self and acceptance of personal demands that go beyond what he generally knows.  While the phrase is often seen as taking a risk, for him it is meant in a specific way.

An objective uncertainty, held fast through appropriation with the most passionate inwardness, is the truth, the highest truth there is for an existing person.[3]

There comes a point in time, it seems to me, that after gathering all the knowledge and insight that appears to be available to us, we must decide, “What now?”  We ask that question because our searching outwardly has not provided a satisfying answer.  It is now we must take our own leap of faith as it were, believing absolutely that we will land on solid ground.  My personal vision of this process was one of a person literally stepping off the edge of a cliff with no sight of a landing to be seen anywhere.  Through the years this vision encouraged me to trust that while I may not know how things were going to work out, I knew they would.  It was not necessary for me to be able to “see” the landing, only to take the step forward.  There were times, though, that I could not take the step.  That meant a kind of inertia immobilized me until I regained my commitment to the leap of faith.  You might liken the process to recharging your battery.  I looked upon the healing course given to me as one of those opportunities to recharge my batteries.

For those who hold no truck with the notion of faith, particularly in the religious sense, there may be no urge to care about wanting answers to questions they are not asking.  But for those of us for whom our belief has led us this far, we recognize our need to keep on keeping on with our search.  Continuing to seek inevitably leads to finding our greater truths. 

And because others have said similar things in ways, perhaps better than I, I share these two quotes from the same friend who started this whole notion of questioning “What if. . .?”

Sometimes it's hard to believe there's a God--to have faith in an unseen power--
To know there's a force you can call on for help in your darkest, most desperate hour.
I know it's not easy--I've been there myself, though our problems are not just the same.
I know how it feels when no one is there--when "God" is no more than a name.
But I'll tell you a secret: I pray anyway to something I can't hear or see.
I pray to the darkness. I pray to the night, or to what may be holy in me.
And sometimes--not always--there comes a deep change.
I feel peaceful, set free, and made whole. Is it God? Is it me?
Has some power of the universe helped me to heal my own soul?
I don't have the answers. I can't say for sure that what I believe in is true.
So I say: I believe...and I do.
--Author unknown
And from a novel, Out of the Shadows  by Kay Hooper. A character (scientist) with "no belief in a deity" offers this on something of us that survives death:

To me, that's not a religious thing--not a question of faith or belief, or any notion that surviving death is some kind of reward for a life well lived. It's a certainty. It's like knowing a tree sheds its leaves year after year, cultivating a new set each spring of its cycle. The tree grows and sinks its roots deeper and deeper, and wears a new set of leaves each spring, until it finally grows as large as it can, reaches the end of its life, and dies.

Our bodies are the...leaves of our soul?

Why not?...We tend to think what's real and lasting is only what we can see, but that doesn't mean we're right. Maybe our skin and bones and the faces we see in the mirror are really the most transitory things about us. Maybe we just wear our bodies the way that a tree wears its leaves, our physical selves being born and maturing and dying over and over while inside our spirits grow and learn.

Perhaps the greater truth will be discovered in wondering if we ever will know the full extent of our reality.  Is there a “culmination” to life?  If there is such a point, what must it be like?  If there is no end, then . . .?

Some things each of us must discover for ourselves.  There may be as many “answers” as there are people asking the questions!

[1]   Journal entry, Gilleleie (1 August 1835) Journals 1A
[2]   Works of love
[3]   Concluding Unscientific Postscript

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Passive Aggressive Behavior

Growing up in a home where I seldom witnessed the expression of anger, I was taught by example and more directly that a person should not express negativity.  “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” was the household mantra.  Seems to make sense to a fresh young mind that has not yet been filled with the countless choices for responding to the behavior of others not brought up under the same set of rules.  I was taught that a person should use reason in arguments rather than emotion.  Again, that seemed a sensible alternative to getting the living daylights beat out of me by the neighborhood bully.  “Turn the other cheek” definitely did not work out too well for me!

As I grew older and more observant of what went on around me, I recognized that the anger in my home had simply been visibly suppressed for the most part.  It was still there and there were occasions where I did witness angry verbal exchanges.  Fortunately, there was no physical abuse in my home among any of the family members that I knew of.  Sadly, many families with anger issues cannot make that claim.  I learned by anecdote that my brother was subject to some corporal punishment.  He was the first born and arrived at a time of severe economic stress to young parents probably ill fitted for marriage.  (This is a conclusion I came to as an adult long after my parents ended their twenty-five plus years of marriage.)

So, here I am today, a person who almost without exception refuses to fight with others.  In some cases that even means “I don’t want to talk about it.”  This behavior is considered passive-aggressive.   Those who DO like to fight because that is how they learned to get their anger out of their physical bodies have applied that label to me on occasion.  I don’t like labels especially when they are used in a dismissive manner.  To me that is no better than assumed passive-aggressive behavior.  I literally wilt and become immobilized by hateful verbal attacks.  When faced with such behavior, I find that I have not developed the proper tools to engage in successful resolution.  I tend to withdraw and try to gather some more positive sense of myself.  I have discovered this only make the other person even angrier!  It is a “lose/lose” situation.

It isn’t that I have not attempted to learn how to “fight fairly” when confronted with verbal attacks, often directed at me as a person rather than at my perceived behavior.  I have come to an “interim” conclusion that I cannot effectively communicate with someone playing by a different set of rules.  If rage is what was learned, then rage tends to become the manner by which differences are confronted.  To those of us brought up under rules of non-aggressive behavior, we will lose every time unless we learn how to engage others in some middle ground of agreement.

I wish I could tell you that my long years of experience in working with others who had many types of problems has taught me how to better handle my own.  Of course, I have learned many positive ways of dealing with my issues, but I have not yet learned to effectively deal with the rage of others directed toward me.  I can only say that I am glad such cases are very few and far between.

You may have noticed the absence of any mention of the part love plays in resolving issues between persons.  That is partly due to the fact that it is a subject worthy of its own essay.  That said, love is an all-important part of any process of resolution.  Without love there can be no recognition of the intrinsic value of the other human being with whom there is some inharmony.  It is through the eyes of love that we see through the discord to the real person who is currently feeling hurt or unloved.  That is the starting point, I believe, for wanting to work things out, to want peace and good will.  There may be things no two people will agree on, but that does not mean love has to be absent from the relationship.

Finally, as to the subject of passive-aggressive behavior, my research has shown that few people can escape this label at some point in their lives.  So much for the “label.”  Time to get on about developing patience, forgiveness, acceptance and love, all of which are necessary for harmony to exist.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Asking The Right Questions

This morning, as I reviewed the "hits" to this blog, I discovered that someone had made a Google search for: "asking the right questions." The number one item in the responses to this request was the article below that I first posted in May 2009.  As a reread it, I found myself in a similar quandary as the article addresses.  I am posting it again with the thought that it may also be applicable to other readers at this time.  I have often recognized that life seems to run in cycles.  As we become more aware of them and seek further understanding of them, our growth into our fuller, richer True Self may be realized.  I am continuing the process!

When I wrote that I was going to take a sabbatical in order to consider some “new” questions about my life and my purpose I didn’t know at the time just what the “new” questions were going to be.  I think I expected them to simply be a rehash of questions I have asked myself most of my life.  That is the way the journey began, but it is not how it turned out.

It seems there are points in the lives of each of us where we feel a greater need for introspection, meditation, or contemplation because we feel a bit like a boat without a rudder.  A boat without a rudder may sail along just fine, unless you want to go somewhere specific.  Then you discover that without the rudder you aimlessly drift along with little satisfaction or sense of accomplishment.

I have come to points like this several times in my life.  These plateaus where we find it necessary to take a break for a while are not necessarily negative events nor do they indicate a lack of life value.  They are simply places where we have the opportunity to review our priorities and consider altering our direction.

This time around, my questions seem to center on getting a better understanding of my feminine nature.  I wanted to better understand my feelings, my empathetic nature and why deep emotions seem to surface so dramatically for me at times.
Asking the proper question is the central action of transformation—in fairy tales, in analysis, and in individuation.  The key question causes germination of consciousness.  The properly shaped question always emanates from an essential curiosity about what stands behind.  Questions are the keys that cause the secret doors of the psyche to swing open.[1]
Somewhere within me there is an aching, a longing that has been expressing itself more and more often as deep feelings of connection with some of my fellow human beings, not necessarily anyone I know personally.  The feelings surge up when I see others hurting or feeling alone without the company of others who might be supportive in their time of need.  I may see this in a television drama, the evening news, and the newspaper or just about anywhere one hears about others and their difficulties.  It also wells up in me when I become aware of significant help someone extends to another, a random act of kindness.  Both negative and positive stories attract my sense of empathy.

The curiosity that stands behind the questions I ask myself about why I have these feelings and what I am supposed to do with them hopefully will open more widely the secret doors of my own psyche.

Often the creative life is slowed or stopped because something in the psyche has a very low opinion of us, and we are down there groveling at its feet instead of bopping it over the head and running free. In many cases what is required to aright the situation is that we take ourselves, our ideas, our art, far more seriously than we have done before. [2]

I find this notion particularly interesting.  Realizing that the blocks I might feel in my creative life could be an inner low self-image certainly is not a new notion, but seeing it in print gave me the opportunity to look at that issue again, perhaps opening the “secret doors” of my psyche.  For the most part I feel I am aware of the self-image limitations I have placed upon myself, so my questions were to get at how to handle the empathetic emotions that overwhelm me at times.  What is their productive use?  (My pragmatism and logic at work, which takes me away from the feelings and into my masculine mind.)

The larger questions to be considered are: What/who am I really?  What is my work in this life?  What do I hunger for?  What do I long for?  Additionally, I think I must come to terms with whether I believe in my ability to do what my life experiences require of me in order to enter into transformation.  Am I simply sitting on the sidelines because it is comfortable there and there is less to challenge my status quo?  Or, is my apparent sideline sitting really just an opportunity to consider new ventures and to find ways to utilize the skills and belief systems I have developed through the years?

As you can see, I have not finished my quest (and I don’t think we are designed to “finish” our quest anyway!).  However, I have gained some new insights that I plan to share in later postings, so stay tuned.

[1] Women Who Run With the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD, page 52
[2] Ibid, Page 70

Monday, May 9, 2011

What Goes Around . . .

In the Hindu society emphasis is placed on the cycles of life, death and reincarnation.  Simply stated this is the process of working through the varieties of conditions one faces as growth opportunities are presented to us.  The goal is to “get off the wheel” of life and death and experience the purity of a life lived without stain of discord, hatred or injury to others.  This is karma, or to put it another way, “What goes around, comes around!”

I could not help but think about karma in this somewhat humorous manner as I was exchanging emails with a long-time friend.  We were each sharing particulars of some life events and I automatically tried to see links in what I had experienced with something I had done to cause the event.  I first encountered the concept of karma while in seminary at Unity School in the middle 1950s.  James Dillet Freeman, then director of Unity’s ministerial school, was tutoring me in philosophy and religion.  We had extended discussions of the concept of reincarnation and I readily accepted the idea of having as many opportunities as one might need to come to a full expression of his/her true spiritual nature.  At that point one would be free of the cycle.

Through the years I have continued to develop my beliefs about the subject and of how karma works in my life.  As I was thinking about it today, it seemed almost humorous in how the concept is used to both accept and explain away a sense of current responsibility.  We can blithely comment “oh, it’s just karma,” when something happens in our life or in the life of a friend.  By that statement we are commenting, perhaps too casually, that a person is just getting paid back for something they did, usually in a previous life.  Thus, the notion, “What goes around, comes around.” 

Actually, there is much more to understand about how it works.  In the physical world, including our human experience, there seem to be “causes” and “effects” in everything.  When good things come about in our lives, we like to think we earned them through good karma.  However, it is often more difficult to think we deserve things that are less likeable in our experience.

It is about at this point in the discussion that I always realize I may have bitten off more than I can chew!  The subject does not lend itself to easy explanation, nor are the “unbelievers” likely to be convinced of my arguments!  So, I think to myself, why in the world did I start this essay?  I can only say that because I accept the principle of cause and effect in the world in which I live, I am always eager to understand how I can set into motion better causes and reap better results.  In the worst of times I just want to “get off the wheel!”  In the best of times I hope that perhaps this is the last time around.  Who really knows?

Lacking a more thorough consideration of the subject I accept that what goes around comes around!  (And I enjoy a good laugh at life’s foibles!)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Does Love Conquer All?

The Bible is filled with the notion that love abides with us and comforts us in all circumstances.  Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (I Cor. 13) is one of the most treasured treatises on the subject.  Used in countless wedding ceremonies, the couple is encouraged to believe that no matter what may come up within their relationship, Love never fails. (Verse 8)  In his letter to the Romans Paul assures us that nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:38,39).

Even with these assurances most of us, at one time or another, feel desperately unloved, uncared for and alone.  Families are the first line of support for most of us.  Our closest friends often provide a back up when it is difficult to find that support at home.  Of course we expect to be there for our loved ones and friends when they need someone to remind them that they are loved.  And we hope they will be there for us.  However, there are still times we will feel there is no one, no way, to recover from whatever it is that causes us to feel helpless or devoid of love.

The darkness that surrounds us at those times of despair is no less frightening and overwhelming than what the disciples of Jesus surely felt on that awesome Friday at his crucifixion.  Can you imagine the sense of loss they were feeling?  Even though He assured them, I am with you always, (Mat. 28:20) they could only see the loss.  Three days later, early in the morning, the sun shone in a new sky as Mary and others approached the tomb where they fully expected to find the body of Jesus. He was not in the tomb.  Now their despair was even deeper.  They could not even prepare his body for burial.  Then Mary turned and saw a person she assumed was the gardener.  It was Jesus!  They could not fully understand what was happening but within their hearts they somehow knew that all was well.

This story we celebrate at Easter is, among other things, the story of the absolute power of love to transcend loss and grief, despair and loneliness.  It is the story of hope and reassurance that regardless of appearances love abides, love transcends all limitation. This is, of course, a religious story.  It is one that has parallels in every major religion.  This might lead us to consider that the principle embedded within the story is something more than myth or legend.  Perhaps if we can find a way to believe there are answers, we will find them.  One thing seems certain to me.  Having even a remote hope is better than the downward cycle of despair that comes from not believing in the ultimate power of love.

I have been in that emotional, personal wasteland.  I have felt that deep despair that would seem to indicate there is no way out of the gloom.  It isn’t a pretty picture, is it?   I am so fortunate to have dear friends who, when all else failed, were there to assure me that I would get through those times.  These friends offered a variety of possibilities, mostly from their own experience in overcoming, but sometimes simply out of their own sense of also being alone.  Together we moved forward on the path. 

If you are feeling down right now, if you feel unloved and overwhelmed and alone, let me offer to be there for you.  I believe in the power of love to lift you, to change the path you are on that seems to be leading nowhere.  Let me assure you that even though fear may seem impossible to overcome, love never fails.  I love you!  The love within me is from an unconquerable Source and I give it all to you.  Take it into your heart.  You are not alone.  Even if you do not know me, even if you just happened to somehow find this blog article, there are no coincidences.  You are here because you are ready to experience the transforming power of love.  Be well, my friends!  Be well!

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers. nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God . . .
Romans 8:38, 39

Monday, March 28, 2011

There’s A Message Here Somewhere!

In 1973 the group, Pink Floyd, released a monumental album, Dark Side Of the Moon.  There was something about their music that I discovered in the early days of the Whole Life Learning Center.  It was part of what I thought of as message music similar to so much of the music in the 1960’s.  The lyrics of the song, Time, deal with Roger Waters's realization that life was not about preparing yourself for what happens next, but about grabbing control of your own destiny.

Here are the lyrics to “Time,” from that album.  It is the only song credited to all members of the band.

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
And you are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it's sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you're older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say

Home, home again
I like to be here when I can
And when I come home cold and tired
It’s good to warm my bones beside the fire
Far away across the field
The tolling of the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees
To hear the softly spoken magic spells.

So you may be wondering why I am writing about this song.  If not, I’ll tell you anyway!  In the last week Pink Floyd has come to my attention from three different sources all totally independent of each other.  That is more than coincidence!  There’s a message in here somewhere.  Time is always important to most of us, at least occasionally.  Our attitude about time and how we “spend” our allotment greatly determines the value we find in life. 

I am so grateful that early on in my adult life I came to realize the personal relativity of time.  Time is NOT same for everybody.  Time is an individual experience.  One person will say, “My, time has just flown by!” while another moans, “Why is the day just dragging along?”  Same day, same clock, different experience.  It may be an over-simplification to say time is ours to use in any way we choose, but I believe it to be so.  I do not always make the best use of my time, but that is a choice, wisely made or not.

As we age in this temporal body we inhabit on this earth plane, the effects of time march inexorably on, seemingly beyond our control.  Yet even here we are aware of how some of us age more gracefully than others.  Is understanding the reasons for this difference part of the message we might find in the words of the song?

The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say

Let it not be said of me that I wasted my time here.  Who can judge that but me?  I echo the words of William Ernest Henley in his poem, “Invictus:”

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.