Nature’s Wisdom

2 Jul

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I sometimes work with people who provide health care in rural environments. They often mention that individuals in their regions struggle with substance dependence and depression because they are so removed from the stimulation and opportunities of a big city. While part of me understands this phenomenon, part of me is always a little bewildered and saddened by it, for I always feel a profound sense of peace in nature.

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What are we missing in our lives that causes us to feel despair or emptiness? What creates a void in our hearts and souls? And how can we fill it? I find that if I but listen to the wind in the trees and feel the sun or rain on my face, I am not alone. I am in fact very much a part of things. How do we stay connected to the now and the mystery? This is after all, all we have and within it is magic. Deep, profound magic.

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I am no more sage than anyone else. I stumble and fall; suffer and cause others to suffer. Yet I know that when I stop trying to interfere with life and instead simply start embracing it, life is much more generous and gracious.

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There is deep beauty in the moment and the moment is all there is. In this moment is life and it contains all that came before and all that is to evolve. My deepest life lesson is to be here now. To not play God. And instead to enjoy what God has placed before me. I must take nothing for granted for it is all a gift.

At the end of the day, no man or woman is an island. We are all part of this beautiful world. Even in life’s most trying or tragic moments, there is healing and there is grace.

 

 

Litany of Lies

24 Jun

“Could it be SATAN?” Dana Carvey used to ask as Church Lady on “Church Chat”, the hilarious SNL skit that ran in the late 80’s. Satan was attributed to every evil conceivable and Carvey played the kind of Christian that pointed fingers at anyone and everyone committing sins.

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Yet when it comes to the litany of lies we tell about ourselves, others, and the world at large, evil really does have its day. When we distort the truth and buy into negativity, the havoc wrecked is far from Godly.

“I’m not good enough.” “I’ll never find love.” “There will never be enough.” “I fucked up. I always fuck things up.” “I’m fat.” “I’m stupid.” “Why try? It never works out anyway.” “There are no jobs.” The economy is terrible.” “This field is dead.” “The world isn’t safe.” “There will never be peace.” “There will never be change.” “Why bother?” And the chorus goes on and on. I’ve heard these phrases from people all around me, and I recognize some of the statements coming from my own mouth. We all have different scripts but whatever ones are ours, they are hard to re-write.

Many of us have a litany of lies as firmly ensconced as the weekly liturgy. Indeed, many of us recite these untruths with the zombie like quality of someone doing religion by rote.

This doctrine, if not rooted in Satan, stems from thought distortions, which are in essence evil. These usually arise from traumas, causing us to formulate specific beliefs about ourselves and the world based on what has happened to us and what we’ve observed in life. Sadly, distorted thoughts often cause history to repeat itself over and over again.

Thought forms carry energy, which makes them even more complicated and powerful.

Yes, many of us were initially victims in our lives, but if we buy into the lies formed at the time of horrific events, we victimize ourselves. We keep ourselves stuck. We buy into the same damn stories and contribute to them over and over again.

One of the hardest things in the world is to look in the mirror and see how we’re involved in our own narratives. While we don’t have control over people, places, or things, we certainly have control over what we do, what we believe, and our attitudes. This can be extremely sobering.

How then do we change these limiting belief systems?

Very carefully.

It’s hard to create something new because we often can’t envision a different outcome. If we’ve only known disappointment in a given area, why expect anything different? It’s simply easier to cling to the old beliefs because to hope for new outcomes is just too scary, right? Yes, it might work out differently, but if it doesn’t, it will hurt like hell. AGAIN. So why be an idiot and hope for anything more? It’s easier just to give up on having any dreams for a more positive future and life. And if we do cling to any sort of hope, we’ll have to feel the loneliness and pain of desires that might not ever be fulfilled. So wouldn’t it be easier to just eat a bag of potato chips, turn on a video, and shut out the world? And wouldn’t it be easier to just surrender in the face of injustice and never speak up, never vote, never defend others, never write editorials, or lay down our lives for others?

Could this be SATAN? YES! That is Satan.

It’s so easy to recognize the litany of lies when we hear it coming from the mouths of others. It’s harder to recognize it when heresy comes from our own mouths. Yet when we start to recognize crap thinking for what it is, this doesn’t mean that it’s easy to “catch it, check it, change it.” Sometimes change feels impossible.

Here are a few things I think are valuable when trying to change distorted belief systems:

Be patient with yourself; Beliefs that have been ensconced for years may take some time to change

Grieve – Feel the pain behind the narrative for there is always a wound beneath it

Pray – Ask God to remove the blocks and to help co-create the new narrative

Seek support from others. People can hold hope as a ray of light when you don’t have a candle or a match while in the dark.

Forgive – yourself and others. We are all a work in process. Progress not perfection.

Imagine – this is a huge element in creating change. Then act. Imagination + action = new creation.

Eliminate the words “always” and “never” from your vocabulary. Start saying, “might”, “may”, and “could” instead.

Try new experiences. They help eradicate and/or integrate the previous ones.

Read stories of people who have overcome similar obstacles.

Seek expertise in the area in which you feel challenged. Educate yourself about that subject matter whether it be in love, relationships, health, finance, fashion, etc. Take a class on it, read books about it, join groups on it.

Realize no dreams are realized overnight. Luck doesn’t just happen. It occurs after much groundwork has been laid.

Momentum: When The Tide Quickly Changes

23 Jun

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The other morning I went surfing. As is typical of summer, the waves weren’t doing much. The sets were coming slow and when a wave did break, it had little gusto. I had to paddle hard to catch it and when I did, the wave’s momentum often just petered out, leaving me standing on my board like a gymnast on a balance-beam poised for dismount.

Summer surfing can be frustrating when you have too many mornings like this. After all, the whole point of surfing is to catch a wave and feel the rush as you ride it all the way to shore. There is nothing on the planet like it.

Sometimes, I don’t mind the slowness. It’s nice to be out in the water and have days where I can simply sit on my board and think (or not think) while the gentle lull of the sea rocks me back and forth. It’s nice to feel like a baby in the cradle with God looking down from above. However, sometimes this lack of action irritates. I don’t want to sit around waiting, or to feel the initial thrill of catching a wave, only to have it take me absolutely nowhere. Then I think, “Why didn’t I go to Pilates this morning? It would have been better for my back.”

Yet yesterday morning took me by surprise. As I positioned myself for a wave I felt certain wouldn’t break well, I found myself shocked into awareness that the tide had changed. This wave had speed. Its momentum took me by surprise and ended up knocking me off my board after I caught a bit of its buzz. As I tumbled in the surf, I could feel its foam rage above me. This wave was going forward whether I was prepared or not.

Surfing is a crapshoot. So is life. You never know what you’re going to get. You can get a mushy, little wimpy wave that does nothing for you or one that almost drowns you. Sometimes you get one that is perfect and takes you all the way in. The best are the ones that excite you without throwing off your balance and that have no one else riding it. Then there is just the right degree of safety, comfort, delight, and edge. Those are the cowabunga days where you thank your lucky stars you got off your lazy ass and put on that damn seal suit.

Surfing reminds me that there is nothing more important than suiting up and getting in the water. If you stay on the shore, you will never catch a wave. Yes, surfing can kill you, but I’d rather die playing than never playing at all.

Shoot the Dying Animal

21 Jun

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Years ago a psychic told me that once I got over my longing for a traditional nuclear family complete with white picket fence, I would be truly content. I was recently thinking about her words.

The American obsession with romance and marriage paradoxically kills any beauty left in these institutions. I believe in both, yet the way our culture distorts and abuses these, makes me realize how hard it is to sustain love,  marriage, and happiness. How then do we embrace well-being and union, for these are deeply human needs.

When I think about the best moments in my life they have always come when I have surrendered any attachment to outcomes. Instead, happiness has come from stepping out of my comfort zone and simply connecting with life, no matter how it is presenting itself to me. These moments are subtle. They don’t include the contrived glamour of being handed a rose. They don’t always include passionate love either. More often than not, happiness results from connection with friends, neighbors, strangers, pets, and work.

These moments come like waves rolling into shore. They are the ones unfolding in the here and now. These are the moments to nurture, not the fairy tale notions of happily ever after.

This is the happily ever after. Right here. Right now.

We Can’t All Go to Disneyland

17 Jun

A little boy told a schoolmate that he was going to Disneyland for his birthday. The other little boy, distressed and jealous that he wasn’t going to the “happiest kingdom on earth” punched the other kid in the face.

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We can’t all go to Disneyland. Some kids never get there while others have annual passes and go all the time.

Can the deepest desires of our hearts be fulfilled and if not, how do we watch other people’s good fortune without growing bitter and resentful? Why do some people get to go to Disneyland and others have to stay home?

I remember when my friends started to marry and have babies. It was such a joyous happy time for them. I was a bridesmaid many times. Despite my longing to be the princess for the day, spiritually, I was asked to be a queen. It was necessary to grow up and bless those around me even though the desires of my heart went unfulfilled. When the babies started arriving it was a little harder. Perhaps I always wanted to be a mother even more than a wife. I remember one baby shower where every woman there was pregnant but me. They all talked about their pregnancies and basically ignored me, as if being single and childless was a disease they might catch if they got too close to me. I remember making small talk about Sesame Street and children’s developmental stages because I actually knew of these things, but because I hadn’t given birth myself, somehow my comments were irrelevant.

They say the first cut is the deepest but it isn’t. The more accumulation of hurt and disappointment in our lives, the deeper the gouge gets. The wound doesn’t necessarily scar over. Instead, a knife drives the cut in more profoundly and the spiritual tests get greater. Observing the happiness of others when your own was eclipsed can knock the wind out of you. Yet you have to stand up, put on that crown, and with head held high, embrace the dignity of the queen.

Disneyland is filled with fairy princesses. And not many nice queens. But in real life, we have to step into the role of Good Queen, if we are to do the real Kingdom work. We must bless the blessings of others in order to experience our own. We also start to question why the attraction to Disneyland in the first place? Is not the Kingdom right here, filled with magic no matter what the situation? And are there not lots of kids who need more than Mickey Mouse in their lives? Maybe it’s time to stop sitting around waiting for the kingdom to come but to start reaching out to those in need in the kingdom.

 

I Found God in an Airport Bathroom Stall

16 Jun

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Instead of finding God on the corner of First and Amistad, I found Him in an airport bathroom stall. Yes, an airport bathroom stall. Or at least as I came out of one.

I’d been crying. Sitting on a toilet with my hands in my face. It had been a year of crying in airports or wherever else my damn psyche wanted to let loose. I had no shame anymore. If the grief was waving through, I found somewhere to sit and let the emotions have their way.

As I came out of the stall, I noticed myself in the mirror. I looked like a drowned rat with puffy eyes. All the beauty and vitality were washed away like the mascara that had come off my face.

I thought I was all alone yet I wasn’t. I sensed her presence. A young woman approached me. She too had no shame. “Do you need a hug?” she asked. I simply nodded. I’d learned long ago that when someone offers kindness, you don’t refute it.

The young woman put her arms around me and I started convulsing with sobs. The kind that make you sound like a dying animal. She simply stroked my back like I was her baby that needed soothing. Oh, how I needed soothing. She didn’t flinch or pull away. She waited a full five minutes until the wailing subsided.  When I pulled away, I saw that she was crying too.

They say that God cries when we cry. Perhaps that is true because the angel that touched my heart cried tears of compassion and anguish too even though I didn’t say a word.

Resurrection comes in funny places. Even in airport bathroom stalls.

 

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

14 Jun

I’m not a fan of cacti but I find them a phenomenal metaphor for life. As with roses, where there are thorns, there can also be great beauty. How we preserve and protect ourselves can be a part of God’s design. It’s funny that even in the most prickly places of our being, we can blossom. We must learn to love the good, bad, and the ugly because it’s all a part of the same DNA.

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I’m also intrigued at how things that are beautiful can wither, die, and then bloom again. If we are but patient with the cycles of life and our own growth.

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