Category Archives: "Looking within"

Resistance to Tyranny…

I was raised like a lot of church-going-kids to be obedient to my parents. It seemed like I got a lot of the children-obey-your-parents thing and very little of the command to obey God and not man. Never did I read or hear what author Oswald Chambers cautioned against…that is, playing “amateur providence” in one another’s lives. He says that we are slow to recognize how we are playing God…with our advice, cautions, and this need to have others comply. What I am here to say today, is that I have almost lost my life in countless ways because I was trained to heed the voice of man over the voice of God. My life contains wounds that will not heal because I never understood that I could choose to listen to that still, small voice and defiantly choose another path.

I am not sure if we, as a culture, realize what is happening to us. We listen to the news, read Time Magazine, get advice from John Tesh and Oprah, and consider ourselves informed. Those of us with a little history background might lean on Thomas Jefferson for support of our activities…”Educate and inform the whole mass of the people…they are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” So onward we plunge into the information age, for it will guarantee our freedom…our ability to chart our own course. Right?

But little do we know that without some type of inner consciousness, some kind of source that gives us the power to interpret the plethora of facts, opinions, and data that fill the empty vacuum of our minds, that there is no way to remain at the helm of one’s God-given life. There are too many voices and life becomes this tug-a-war between the loudest of them…and let me be abundantly clear about this, you are the rope. And whether you understand Newtonian physics or not, common sense says that that rope will snap one day.

That is what happened to me. This is not the place for me to describe the loss, humiliation, and pain which were the “out-gassings” of a plastic existence. It was devastating and still is, to some extent. Yet pain processed correctly, by that I mean, not shoved away in the proverbial psyche closet, has a silver lining. I have grown in the vast inward regions of the spirit. I have found that voice that whispers wisdom to me in the quiet places. And I have emerged from what Elie Wiesal called the “Kingdom of the Night” sure that freedom is my birthright and that no one has the power to take that away…unless I let them. For as Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” And to one extent or another, to control another person, the alpha dog has to somehow create a sense of doubt in the self. Perhaps it is a question…not to far from the snake’s query in some garden near the Euphrates eons ago…I can almost hear the hiss now, “Did God really say?….”

Honestly, I don’t know how to express it any stronger…our lives are a gift and freewill is part of that package. I figure if God granted it to us, we should grant it to each other. And I am not saying that we shouldn’t hear what others say to us and at times receive that information as truth. For humility is a travelling companion of truth. But what I am saying is that the voices that influence us must be held up for inspection. Are they good? Do they foster freedom? Or are they merely the ancient snake of control beckoning one into bondage? Sound bites tainted with fear or dire predictions get the red flag right away. I also have a low opinion of statistics too…also another source for control and influence.

I think Walt Whitman had it right. He said he would pause and listen to what others said. This is a spirit of humility, a mark of a truly educated mind. But then, you can almost see him look you in the eye, and say this regarding any idea that would commit him to some kind of slavery…”With undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.” He understood that being taken captive starts in the mind.

Oh, regarding the title “Resistance to tyranny”…the second part is “is obedience to God.” Think about it. Saying “No” can be the most sublime spiritual thing we do. Again a salient piece of wisdom from our friend Thomas. However, I will leave you with this caution…If you are going to free, you will need to educate yourself on the history of your own enslavement, for it is something we do to ourselves. It is true that we inherit most of it, but it is we, who keep the flame alive. Remember tis a gift to be free…


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Harshing My Morning Mellow

A couple of days ago as I was getting everyone out the door, and yes, of course we were late… I stepped up my neurotic-pressured-panicked-oh-my-god-the-world- is-going-to-end-if-we-don’t-get-out-the-door-at-7:20 thing. And after a few minutes of infusing the atmosphere with my freak-out spirit, Harrison, my 15-year-old looked me in the eye and said,” Mom, your harshing my morning mellow.”

I have had one of those weeks. Harshing my mid-morning mellow, harshing my late afternoon mellow…I should read my own blog. No Zen here, no looking at my part, no understanding the other person’s perspective. Ego pulsating, fragile, and weakened by my personal version of The Lord of the Rings or as my husband has called it, “Job Lite,”I have not traversed well on the temporal plane.

So here I am, facing the mess in the soulish kitchen. Lots of dishes in the sink. Chunks of who-knows-what on the floor. Trash overflowing. No morning mellow here. And as I get quiet, the truth is that I am sad.

You know in life we accumulate a lot of unprocessed hurt that gets stored in the linen closets of our lives. I’ve got a bunch. The death of my mom and all the tendrils of pain that came with that long eight months of decline, as well as a plethora of other rather serious assaults that have made me suspicious of humanity have been stuffed, rather carelessly, into psychic suitcases, sat on to close, and then locked. I am sure this is what is meant by “having baggage.”

But I know that can’t be a stopping place. I don’t want to use past hurt as an excuse for not loving and embracing life. And quite honestly, I have spent this week building little walls, little barricades against what I perceived to be hostile enemy activity.  And as delicious as bathing in the oozing attitudes of so-pissed-off-people-are-so-stupid can be, it is a delicacy not digestible to my soul. For you see, I don’t want my mellow harshed and I am ultimately the gate-keeper of my soul.

So what are my steps after this confession? Forgiveness is in order…forgiveness of me and my crazy-assed sensitivity. Secondly, I just have inquire of God, “Just what is this about?” “Why am I having issues here?” Lastly, it is let-it-all-go time with the people I have held hostage, in the spiritual realm, over this week. I don’t know why what I vibed  so darkly with their state-of-being . What I do know is that it was me who had some open portal to receiving and reacting to the incoming message. And that alone, is the only thing I can do anything about.

I am not sure if I could describe myself as achieving anything close to a morning mellow again, for I am quite a piece of work. But I am in a better place to receive some grace to restore me to sanity.

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Filed under "Looking within", "Self Love", Dealing With Sad and Crazy, Pissed Off

A Run-in with the Law

Back, long ago, in what seems like another dimension of time, I was a college freshman, sitting in a single person desk, in an old cement-block kind of building, trying to catch the eye of the beautiful boy sitting in my row, and pretending that I understood what my philosophy 101 professor was saying. I honestly think I barely passed that class. Not that couldn’t have, but I didn’t have the desire to do so.

You see in my life my parents had made their best efforts not to leave anything up to chance. College was always in the works for me. So were a lot of other positive experiences–travel, prep school, dance, and theatre classes. But there was this thing, this law, quite unknown, that had not been obeyed. And you know how the law functions. It does not matter one bit if you are conscious of it or not. Whether you knew of a particular statute or not. It is still enforced. The law I am speaking of is this:  it is what new-agers call the law of attraction.

In a nutshell, it functions quite simply. What you put into life, and I am talking at the heart level here, at that raw-emotions-that-spur-actions place, is what you get out of it. So that negative talk participated in, will, for example, create a dynamic. It first super-charges the environment with disquieting energy and begins to affect human well-being. People start feeling bad. Work, relationships, etcetera, suck. It also alters the trajectory of things. Ideas and attitudes form life as we know it. So even though the news may be filled with all kinds of ominous warnings of bad guys, from terrorists to dental plaque, coming to attack our castle,  it is we that will decide whether those walls of fortification stand or not.

Here’s a story to illustrate my point. I heard this one several years ago and it goes like this. A man meets a woman on the beach. She is new to town. She asks this beach-strolling gentleman this question, “So what are the people like in this place?” To which he queries, “What were they like in your old town?” She quickly replies, “Oh they were awful. They were judgmental, petty, and very class-conscious.” Then the man on the beach said, “That is exactly how people are here.” Okay. People are jerks everywhere, right? There is more to the story. Another beach walk. Another woman. Same scenario. Same inquiry. Different response. When he asks this new sand-stroller what the people were like in her old town, she gushes, “Oh, they were the best people, so warm and real. I was so sad to leave them.”  To which the man replies, “That is exactly how they are here. I think you will be very happy.”

This story illustrates the law. Creation, artistry of life, is happening ALL THE TIME, whether we are aware of it or not. So when things are bad or seem to be sliding down hill, I have to start with myself. I have to ask some questions. These are a few I start with: What is going on with me? What is causing me to feel like complaining? What is the culprit in my poor connections with others? What is behind the constant disrespect I encounter? Why can’t I seem to move ahead?

It has been said that the quality of  life is based on the quality of the questions one asks. The handful listed above, are often beginning points for unlocking the swirling weather pattern of crazy-stuck-not-working-out stuff that has its way with me so often. Sometimes the answers come quickly. Like if I am judgmental and prickly, I usually find myself on the receiving end of another person’s condemnation or at the bare minimum, experiencing some kind disconnect with other human beings. No one wants to listen to my point of view. I feel less-than and I usually blame others for my predicament. However, after a few days of misery, I know its me. I know the world is not perfect. But its lack of perfection has to do with what is put into the ether…the fear, the scarcity, the people-are-idiots attitude, the things-never-work-out-for-me vibe. I have to abandon that stuff, if I want my life to work again.

Sometimes excavation is the order of the day. I have to dig deeper. Ask bigger questions. Sometimes the face of judgment I perceive on my neighbor, is just a reflection of some unresolved issue within me. For example, last night my son was talking about how all his friends like coming over to our house because they feel loved and feel relaxed here. The house is by default, kid friendly. It is dirty, old, and needs lots of repairs. The walkway is lined with surf boards and a sundry of other junk. It’s a little trailer parky. Then my boy said there was one ex-girlfriend of his that found it horrid. My heart hurt. I think I made some nasty comment deriding her character. But then I had to think about my reaction. You see, at the heart of that negative reaction was a sadness at the-just-getting-by nature of our finances and a shame at not being able to take care of most of the material things granted to us–cars, home, our boat project. And once I was able to admit to my inner most self  exactly what was up with my comment about my son’s friend, I was free. I owned my sadness. It was not this girl’s fault. It was my reaction because of an unhealed pain in my heart.

So this is what I did. I told God that I am sorry for always wishing for something that I don’t have, instead of appreciating, loving, relishing in the life I do have. And then I went and looked at the stars and felt better. I have learned that this process is absolutely vital. We have had both sides. I have seen how hurtful words born of scarcity and fear have created a life that has nearly annihilated my family. I am happy to report, the profound affect of the positive, too. Almost every knot of an emotional problem has been untangled through the realization that I have the power to create something different. You see, it is not just making a mantra of things you want to see happen, nor is it restricting yourself to only positive words, whilst seething just beneath the surface. It is understanding that life is trying to get you to resolve the pain that is creating your existence, so that you can think another thought; and in doing so, make something new. For regardless of what you think, thoughts become things.

Just look at the history of this country. A mess of a militia facing the greatest fighting force in the world. A David and Goliath scenario. George Washington realized after receiving pounding after pounding by the British, that he didn’t need to win the war, he just needed not lose. His strategy was to HOLD ON, despite all the evidence bellowing, “Give up.” In fact the new government, the Articles of Confederation, was created after one of the Patriot’s greatest defeats. What an act of faith! When they had no evidence that they would  even get to be a country, they acted as if it had already happened. They were determined to create something. Their focus was not primarily about being against the British, but shinning brightly at the center of their attention was the idea about creating something new, something where equality and freedom could grow. Do you see the difference?

It is not a denial that *bleep* happens, rather it is  a determined change of mind, to make sure that you are not a contributor to any more of the hurt, discouragement, or dysfunction that trips us up and make’s life like a dingy room lit by a single bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. It is suppose to be more like Van Gogh’s Starry Night. It is sublime. It is miraculous. And stuff just works out, if you are aware of this law and you start inquiring within.

Back to Philosophy 101. So this is a class I barely passed…truly because I was unconscious of all that I have talked about today. Yet for some reason, I remembered Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, which, in Cliff-notes brevity is this: A bunch of guys are in a subterranean cave, lit from some unknown-to-them source. Shadows result on the walls. The cave dwellers think that the shadows are reality, when reality is through the hole up in the world where the light is sourced.

This is how I lived. Shadows being what I thought was real. I had to make the tough trek to the opening…to discover what was really going on. I still do. I still think the shadowy feelings I have are informing me of reality. But they are not. I have to ask the right questions to not only get out of my cave, but to make sure I am not adding to the pain of the world around me.

We have a weighty responsibility to obey this law, but isn’t so cool that we can commit to thinking differently, to healing, and in doing so, shift the world.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.” Margaret Mead

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Dinner Theatre or Partying Naked?

In the film, My Dinner with Andre, there is this  interesting exchange about the theater and parties. Wally, an out-of-work-actor and playwright remarks to his friend, Andre: “You know, Debby once said after one of these New York evenings, she thought she’d traveled a greater distance just by journeying from her origins in the suburbs of Chicago to that New York evening, than her grandmother had traveled in making her way from the steppes of Russia to the suburbs of Chicago.” He also that he said that he never understood what was going on at  parties. To which his friend, Andre, responded, “Well, I think that’s right! You know, it may be, Wally, that one of the reasons that we don’t know what’s going on is that when we’re at a party, we’re all too busy performing…You know, that was one of the reason that Grotowsiki gave up the theater. He just felt that people in their lives now were performing so well that performance in the theater was sort of superfluous…”

So my question is why when we are a completely unique form of life on the planet earth, are a walking novel, or strain of beautiful music in the starry night, do we feel the need to be someone else? Why do we feel the pull to pack away the truth and rummage in the costume closet for another identity? Or why do we feel compelled to only submit the well-scrubbed, carefully edited, polished, savvy self  to others? Particularly when, if we are honest, this kind of activity will only guarantee a really boring conversation.

I know the answer. It has been my life’s work to drop the costume in a pile on the floor and emerge in all my fragile psychic nakedness into life. Maybe that is what Jesus meant when he said that you had to be born again. Maybe it is nothing more than being born out of a life of costumed slavery and falseness. Maybe what he meant when he spoke of life abundant was that we could actually live free and true…

This has a lot to do with why our Christmas tree is still up. Just call me rebellious, but I don’t want to do anything without making sure my freewill, my ultimate gift from God, is engaged and active.

Now about the tree. We did not put ornaments on it this year. Martin Luther, who allegedly started the tradition, when out walking one night, came upon  snow-kissed evergreens shimmering against the starry night. So we kept our tree like his primordial vision…green with little lights shining out in the darkness. However, let me be abundantly clear, it is no longer a Christmas tree. It is our winter tree and I keep feeding it water because its fragrance and lights comfort me.

So what’s the thread, you might be asking? Well, it is this. I don’t want to do anything because I think I need to perform for any external dictates anymore. I personally think that listening to that haranguing voice that says stuff like, “You better do such and such…or it’s imperative…or don’t say this or that,” just condemns me to a life of stress and inauthenticity.

You may be wondering if I am just some kind of rebel who leaves her laundry piled high and is at odds with every so-called authority figure or duty at hand. Yes on the laundry…sometimes…because dirty clothes happen, but I don’t go looking for conflict.However, when a hurt, frustration, or reaction to someone or something, arises out of the misty realms of my psyche, I inquire within. What is this about? Why am I feeling this way? Is this some post-traumatic-stress thing poisoning my present moment? And I have to admit, that a lot of the time, it is just that. I, damn it, have played a starring role in my own pain. After the moment of clarity comes from this kind of inquiry-based learning, I usually don’t have a lot of fight left in me. Also, doing my job, being a worker-among-workers thing, is a super essential mindset for me. In all of my uniqueness, there is a sweetness, paradoxically, just being a part of a greater whole. I think it is why I adore storms. Big weather reminds me of how small I am.

Yet let me be clear, if  after such a sifting of my spirit, there remains something that is unequivocally wrong, I will say the truth. I have to or else, by denying the veracity of the throbbing bruise, I will never, ever heal. It will perturb me, like the Princess and that little nuisance, the Pea, and I will have no rest, no restoration, or well-being until I deal with it.

No rulership or enforced authority is my code, which makes me an anarchist of sorts. It’s just that I know that I am made to obey one source, and let me clear, it is not carbon-based. Poet Walt Whitman described human liberty as “loosed of limits and imaginary lines.” It is freedom from those systems of belief about what it means to be human, those false notions that bind me  up at parties, at work, and at life. And frankly, I am saying “No” to that kind of rule in my life.

Dinner theatre…all of life is a stage and we are the actors? I say, “I don’t want to play that game any longer.” I want to be known for the fragility, the lack of education, sometimes the iffy morality, the failings, the humor, the courage, and the rawness that is me. And I want to know that bundle of idiosyncrasies that is you, too.

I don’t care where or if you went, to school. But I would love to know what you learned. I don’t care what your house is like. But I do care about the life, dreams, and joy that has occurred in amidst those walls. I don’t want, really, to hear your plan for keeping the proverbial boogie men out of your life or what massive efforts at controlling others you are mounting at the moment. But rather, I am interested in hearing how you have handled life when those sad, dark things we all wish would never happen, happen. I want to know your journey through pain, for there is no greater, more epic Mount Everest-of- the-soul expedition than to face down the demons that taunt when all the busyness of the day dies down, and all that is left is the four walls of the soft, exposed self.

Now wouldn’t that be a dinner party…a celebration of all the uncostumed reality of the attendees. Gives new meaning to “party naked.”


Filed under "Looking within", "Saying No", "The Journey", "To thine own self be true", Freewill, Healing, Parties, Perspective, Truth

The Wanna-Be OCD

I hate to have my visual field cluttered. I adore neatness.

I longingly look at Simple magazine’s fresh, bright, tidy, well-lit photos of stacks of multicolored sweaters. I relish the sharp images of clean drawers with neat little open-topped boxes holding a bevy of push-pins, paper clips, carefully sharpened pencils, and cleverly designed post-its, all at the ready for the oh-so-organized gal. I have shamelessly poured over Pottery Barn catalogs with their charming linens, plump sofas, and tight little work stations where each late model piece of technology is housed in some charming, yet intelligently designed piece of furniture.

In fact the first time I went to France, what I adored most of all was the sumptuous order. Every Quarter had its Marche with its symmetrical stacks of oranges and apples, where ordinary items some how magically transformed into art. And the boulangeries perfuming the air with the comfort and wellbeing found in an end of warm baguette, well let’s just say, it was a spiritual experience.

I would long to wash my car with all the proper tools as Martha Stewart outlined in her “how-to” meditation on the joys of a  owning a sparkling vehicle. And most of all, I would love to be able to read Suzy Orman’s financial advice and to have actually been smart and saavy enough to be in a place to follow it.

However, this is not my life.

I have a big black Durango that needs a new engine, collecting something way beyond dust, sitting in my carport. It is kept company by a stack of firewood, tools, wetsuits, and surfboards on one side, and on the other, the wood needed to complete the interior of our boat project…some day. Our house tips slightly down the hill and when it rains outside, our living room has precipitation as well. My laundry room, I am not sure that I am emotionally well to talk about my travails in that four by four cell, but let’s just saying is my Saint George and the Dragon experience amongst the suds and dirty underwear. And there are super-sized dust bunnies that appear each night after I swear that I have swept or vacuumed them all into oblivion. Our living situation is a mess. And as much as I have tried to order it, three children, the strain of our unrealized dream, and the work load my husband and I take on to survive, has left little time and absolutely not a cent, to contribute to a finer exterior.

So, where am I taking you with this little journey through my mind and my carport? It is this: it dawned on me, a short while ago, after a long time of being mad, sad, and everything else in between, that my life looked bad on the outside, but like those knobbly geodes, was a glittery splendor within.

Just for starters, I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to heal from many emotional hurts and dysfunctions. I have witnessed my son’s hard fight out of  what we thought would be a perpetual cycle of depression. I have seen two brothers once divided by hurt and hate, facing life as a united front. And then there is this little sparkling star of girl, whose wisdom, grace, and self-effacing humor touch my heart in ways words cannot describe. You know when we were all in the throws of my oldest son’s depression, complete with meds, a shrink, and all, she said, in her eight year old voice, “Mama, he doesn’t need drugs, he needs love.” She was right. We were given the grace to let go and begin to love this prince of a boy for who he was, not who we felt pressed for him to be.

One night when I was almost too overwhelmed to take another step, my 15 year middle son took me by the arm and led me outside to look at the stars and reminded me, with wisdom beyond boyish bracy self, that it was a choice to be happy and a good look at the stars on any given night was a good enough start.

And then there is my sweet noble husband, who has endured so much for being true…for not caving in to the many pressures men undergo on this plant. He is Lord Aragorn in world of Costcos, Starbucks, and televised talking heads. We have learned to be gentle with each other in our weakness and stupidity, while still admiring the grace and wilted beauty of  lives marred from living under siege for so long.

So yes, there is that whisper that wishes for external order and loveliness, but I would not trade a well manicured lawn and freshly painted exterior for the lovely garden cultivated within.

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Resolution Revolution

Every day for the last 10 days or so, a few simple exercises have been added to my morning routine. They take me all of 10 to 15 minutes–leg lifts, toe ups, squats, crunches, and push-ups–and best of all, I can see results.

Okay, let’s let those two words from those two sentences sink in: simple and results.

So my question is this, why have I not done this before?

The answer is easy, but rather esoteric. It is behind  all the things I have wanted to do and have yet to do. I can pretty much guarantee, also, that it will not show up in any  January resolution topic’d magazine article.

So what is this secret?

It is found in an old African proverb:

If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do us no harm.

Are there a few quizzical looks? Raised eye brows?

What would be an enemy within? All I can say is that it is different for each person, but the origin of the enemy, the first cause, is always the same: it starts with a wound that has not healed, and no, I am not talking about a physical wound, I am talking about an emotional one.

And those unattended, invisible wounds have a life of their own. They operate in all sorts of scenarios, exacting their pound of flesh. They are behind every type of failure, in every type of circumstance possible.

So how do you find your wound? I know it sounds lame, but look within. The wound is inside, but so is the guide. Get quiet. Notice pain. Ask, what is this about?

In The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd, via her narrator, Lily, says this:

“Every human being on the face of the earth has a steel plate in his head, but if you lie down now and then and get still as you can, it will slide open like elevator doors, letting in all the secret thoughts that have been standing around so patiently, pushing the button for a ride to the top. The real troubles in life happen when those hidden doors stay closed for too long. But that’s just my opinion.”

About two years ago, I made a slight, but significant alteration in my habit of journaling. I began to transcribe the anatomy of my personal “fall.” That is, I recorded my digression into the hole of  fill-in-the-blank. I wrote down the hurt and the embarrassment as precisely as I could. Then I noticed something, the fill-in-the-blank didn’t have the power it once had over me. I felt a new robust strength that I had not had before: the power to say NO to something that did not have any of my best interest in mind, and YES to something that was good for me…something that would move me forward in my life.

The enemy within was having its cover blown.

So that’s how I have been able to do my calisthenics each morning…but it’s just my opinion.

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