6 SCANDALOUS PRACTICES I’M USING IN 2015

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 1) Serenity first and foremost. There is nothing and no one on this earth worth sacrificing my own peace of mind. Getting myself in a mental muddle won’t help anyone or make the world any better. I will engage in any practice necessary to preserve my serenity, no matter how unusual or subversive, including the following:

 

2) Brazenness. I simply will not accept shame from anyone, including myself. Shame is a tactic, not a truth. I’m also going to refuse any guilt that I myself haven’t earned.

3) Keeping an open mind. As unlikely as it may seem, there may be a different point of view even from my most dug- in perceptions and beliefs.

As Voltaire said, I’m going to enjoy my ability to make up my own mind and let others enjoy the dignity of making up theirs. How could I ever hope to earn someone’s respect, if I don’t try to respect his or her thinking and beliefs?

Practicing # 3 will inevitably lead down the slippery slope ending in # 4.

4) I might have to utter the dreaded phrase, ” you might be right.”

5) I’m going to re- learn the now seemingly extinct practices of consensus and compromise, and ask myself, “how important is it?” before endeavoring to assist anyone to get back on the side of the Angels. Am I really sure I’m on the right side? A difference of opinion isn’t a personal attack. The more emotional I am about something, the more likely I am to have distorted perceptions, which may lead me away from the solution or resolution I seek.

6) In law school we learned the rule of reasonableness: what would a reasonable man or woman do in the same situation? It’s kind of bizarre that with all the lawyers roaming the earth, I never hear this word. I’m going to attempt to resuscitate this all but extinct practice, and use it as the criterion in my interactions, instead of my feelings and perceptions.

Who knows what will happen? I’ll keep you posted.

In your small way, you can shake the world.”

Gandhi

 

5 PRICELESS GIFTS I HOPE YOU ALREADY HAVE FOR CHRISTMAS & HANUKKAH

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(BOOK EXCERPT)

“ I overheard a conversation recently which was life- changing for me.

The man whom I was pretending not to overhear was giving a definition of integrity that I had never heard: it simply means undiminished. This is the first gift I wish for you for Christmas, Hanukkah and the New Year: that you go through this season and this life with passion and dignity undiminished. Love undiminished. Faith undiminished. Influence and ability to help others undiminished. Joy and lust for life undiminished. Beauty and purpose undiminished.

 

Audacity

I hope you are already audacious enough to realize you are ageless and timeless and to love wildly and unconditionally, especially yourself. I wish you the audacity that provides you the certainty that you were created intentionally for a reason and that your life and your individual experiences will ultimately matter to others, and that makes them not only valuable, but also sacred. May you always have the audacity to question those who judge and question you. May you be audacious enough to ask for answered prayers and even miracles and to expect those answers and miracles to arrive.

 

The Simplicity necessary to actively look for, perceive and receive those answered prayers and miracles with clear sight. May you never second- guess, analyze, or explain a blessing or miracle away, just because it didn’t arrive in the predicted packaging.

 

I wish you Freedom to find and lose and find your authentic self yet again within the safety of a group that provides you the sanctuary to do so without the hindrances of:

Deadlines

Shame

Dogma

Labels or

Limitations”

 

May you have happy, joyous and peace-filled holidays and beyond.

God bless us, every one:)

 

Undamned, My Escape From the Old Testament 

 

PEACE IS INTERSTELLAR

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Each moment has its life and its death; otherwise, existence is impossible.

The Tao.

 

I saw the movie, Interstellar, last night in IMAX and I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s a Sunday morning, and I should be in church, but I am still thinking about this movie instead. I keep thinking about how so many seemingly random and unrelated things in this movie turn out to be inextricably intertwined and, in fact, dependent each upon the other. I keep thinking about the vast number of spiritual parallels to this theme.

The film is almost indescribable in its artistry and overlapping themes, but David Brooks of The New York Times writes a stunningly beautiful review of the movie entitled, Love and Gravity, that is, I think, a work of art in and of itself. In his review Mr. Brooks points to the movie pointing to this interconnection of seemingly mutually exclusive things: science and faith, and science and our love for each other. In fact, they are intertwined, and faith and love become their own field and dimension.

And so it is, I think, with Peace. It can be a super- power, but it is dependent upon and intertwined with so many other things. Like the movie, it is dependent on our attraction to and seeking out of something or someone out there we cannot see, who spans time and space, generations, life and death—a God who is invisible but is still reaching across time and space to be with us. It is impossible to connect with him if we don’t extend ourselves to meet him. That is the cosmic, fun side.

There is also the mundane side of peace– muscle memory. Peace is a practice.

I suffered a brain injury as a result of a car accident about two years ago. I am now ok. Before the accident, I was a fairly accomplished pianist and was in a band singing and learning the guitar. I lost my memory of how to play these instruments. Because I lost the intellectual memory to process these things, I didn’t even try. Because I didn’t even try, I lost the muscle memory. When my intellectual memory of the chords and notes returned, my hands and my voice would not respond to the commands. Once I just started moving my fingers it was terrible at first, but within a couple of weeks, the music began to sound like something a human being would want to hear. I played a tape of a friend singing to teach myself to sing again. I thought that regaining command of my instruments was dependent on my mind but it was dependent on my love for them and their need to be played.

Peace is like this. If I wait for it to just happen to me, I won’t experience it. To have peace I have to surrender to the partnership with my unseen creator, and for that to happen, I have to practice being mindful that there is a partnership It is dependent on my love for my creator, his love for me and my ability to practice this, if only for a few moments a day. Peace, and the lack of it, is related to control, powerlessness and fear, but especially self worth and humility.

I can’t have peace if I am afraid of the future, regret the past, or don’t approve of myself. I can’t get rid of these afflictions unless I practice peace. I can’t cure my mind and it’s ridiculous thought patterns with my mind. Back to the partnership and the eternal dance.

SHOPPING MALLS. ENTRY HALL TO HELL?

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I found this little rhyme I did many years ago:

 

Hell’s Entry Hall

must be a shopping mall.

Vendors try to take from me

my most precious commodities!–

money and time,

while I wander

like a listless lab rat fed too much soda

in an IQ measuring labyrinth ,

the piped -in Christmas music-like sounds of singing slot machines of Vegas quickening my pulse,

urging me to hurry, hurry “ save 50%”

of nothing I would want to buy.

Is there an exit, not blocked with perfume-spraying trolls?

Kudos to those with mall- mastery.

It is above my pay grade, and brings only misery.

If I wake up after death, strolling in a mall,

it means God had no faith in my choices at all.

~~~~~~

I don’t feel this way because I’m virtuous, but because I am completely tasteless.

Right now, I am wearing super low- rise jeans that were in style two years ago. Because of weight loss, they fall in the wrong place and look like the SNL sketch about the repairman unknowingly displaying his butt crack. All that is missing is the tool belt. I don’t care.

I still have sweaters from my college days, which were an official eon ago. I once had an employee tell me I looked like a homeless person, and take me shopping, because to be seen with me embarrassed her. I don’t care.

I will probably always be a little out of date, or as I prefer to call it “ classic”, because the time I don’t spend looking for ways to spend money is time I can spend, writing, creating or making music or spending time with those who do.

Someone said that wealth is discretionary time. To me this is true .It is also freedom. It’s freedom to do what I love to do, measured in minutes hours or days. It’s not how much I can buy or even how much I can buy on sale. I save money in other ways: I tend not to spend it at all. Christmas is the exception and the Wild Card. It is fun shopping for other people, but I’m not going to take out another mortgage on my house on the 50 percent chance the gift I buy is what they really, really want.

For me, biology creates destiny: I am a woman born without the shopping gene. My mom and grandmother were born without it too. Childhood shopping trips usually resulted in tears all around.

Hey, Mall Mastery is an adventure and a challenge. I prefer walking a different type of tightrope– the life of the artist– gathering my creations, going through the painful process of self- editing, assimilating them in some semblance of order or perfect disorder, and standing there naked, daring someone to react. That means, if I do get paid, it is rarely and not much.

The less I buy, the more time I have to engage in this process, and the less pressure I have to put on myself to be a product instead of producing one. I still do, but not as much. So, if you see me on occasion wearing my clothes backwards, kindly tell me:)

 

GUILT. (DON’T SHOULD ON YOURSELF!)

nightwithmoon

 

You don’t have to suffer continual chaos in order to grow.

John C. Lilly

 

It’s so unseemly when we should on ourselves! Yet for almost all of us, except for perhaps those on Capitol Hill, guilt seems to be the Great Common Denominator. We torture ourselves with it, sabotage ourselves with it, spend millions of dollars in therapy because of it, and warp our religious heritage because of it.

I spent more than half my life dragging my own personal Old Testament Tribunal with me everywhere I went: finding myself guilty and choosing my own punishment, until I escaped because I learned I was treating the wrong things reverently.

One day recently, I was watching television. During the holidays, certain commercials play on what seems like a continuous loop. I saw the one showing the abused and neglected kittens and puppies, with the sad, pleading eyes. Only $19.50 a month would save them. “ I should save them!” I thought. I felt like a personal failure for not taking all of them home. Before, I knew it, I was in the middle of a second commercial for the Wounded Warrior Project. Only $19.50 could pay for a caretaker for one of these magnificent warriors. “ I should do this! They fought for my freedom!” Before I could even reach for my check book, a third commercial appeared about becoming the benefactor of a starving child in a far- away country for only $19.50.

By the time the three ads finished running, I was convinced that the Pergo floor my chair rested upon would open up and my immediate descent to Hell would begin. I felt guilty that I was confused as to which charity I could afford to give that money. I felt guilty that I actually assessed my budget and whether it would support this monthly commitment.

Then, I remembered that I am supposed to tithe 10 percent to my church, and if I gave to these charities, I would not be able to do that. The bonus of legalism had crept into the mix in the span of 3 minutes. Guilt had led me down a labyrinthine rabbit-hole to a place where God would be mad at me for giving money to the less fortunate, because to do so, would lessen my tithe. I had should on myself until I couldn’t see straight. I had confused compassion for those who are hurting, with being the source of that pain. Did God send these confused and guilty feelings? No. I generated them in my own spinning little brain in response to a thing created by humans, designed to move other humans to gratitude and compassion.

 

What is the remedy for this dire state of affairs? A little bit of irreverence– enough to gain a fresh perspective.

Guilt is a serious subject because I take myself way too seriously. It stems from the delusional and arrogant belief that I should be perfect and be all things to all people, and when I don’t meet this standard, I fail.I realized that I suffered because I chose to punish myself with guilt. It was an albatross I was voluntarily strapping to my back.

I finally got that guilt is always a choice and that shoulding on myself isn’t ever divine. It is exactly what the expression implies: a decision to denigrate and punish myself for human failings. A loving Creator, who created me to be me, would never give me the near constant message that I was not enough. I no longer believe that God has a smite button he longs to hit whenever I fall short of the mark. I believe I cause most of my own suffering, with my beliefs and attitudes, and that God does not want me to take on his job of judging or punishing. I believe my Higher Power rejoices in my progress and the fact that I am imperfect and fearful enough to constantly seek him and his guidance. He rejoices in forgiving me.

Guilt does not lead to spiritual growth or transformation; it prevents it. It keeps us regretting the past and fearing the future and robs us of peace and the ability to fully give ourselves to others in the present. True remorse and a desire to obtain forgiveness for our wrongs brings us closer to our Creator, while guilt causes us to run and hide from our Creator and those we may have wronged, because we haven’t acknowledged these mistakes and decided to make amends and do better. God’s grace is inexhaustible.

 

For we are his workmanship, created … for good works, which God prepared beforehand. Does this sound like a creature to be should upon?

Ephesians 2:10.

 

 

THANKSGIVING DAY REBELLION?

turkeyblog

 

Thanksgiving Day is everywhere, but it isn’t.

I know this is a frantic time of year, and Commerce is King. But, can it not be king for this one day? Can we have one unadulterated, unaltered holiday? Can retail workers be re- assured of their humanity and value for this one day? They already work through the Christmas Holidays, every holiday, and every weekend. Can that be enough?

We all know it has gotten way out of hand. Forget the 12 days of Christmas! We now have the 60 days of Prozac. There is a daily Holiday Sale, beginning with Halloween.

Christmas ads and merchandise appear simultaneously with the Halloween costumes and candy and we become frantic at that moment without knowing why. None of us are happy to see this Holiday Creep, but it strikes us like a virulent virus, spreading from us to those we are in contact with. The hysteria lasts until every gift is bought and the Christmas turkey is nothing but a picked-clean carcass. During this period, Thanksgiving isn’t even mentioned except in conjunction with Christmas shopping.

Thanksgiving was the holiday that offended no one, except turkeys. Every person could understand the desirability of a day of reflection and Thanksgiving and participate. But, it has been watered- down beyond recognition. We need this one day, for family, food, football and the absence of a frantic frame of mind, to get ourselves ready for the holidays to come.

Can Thanksgiving Day please retain at least some of its original meaning; a day to pause, reflect on our blessings, enjoy our families and give Thanks? Can retailers not dictate the content and timetable for this one day?

~

Here is the thing: True Thanksgiving cannot be achieved while running full tilt. Hurry and competition is the enemy to an attitude of Thanksgiving, which requires calmness and reflection. I for one am sick of it.

Bravo to the brave retailers who are allowing their often underpaid employees to be with their families this one day.

Can we just be content with massive sloth, gluttony, family and football—the things I remember from my childhood Thanksgivings– without feeling compelled to engage in hand – to – hand combat with our neighbors to get Frozen Barbie?

.

I never have nor ever will set foot in a retail establishment on Thanksgiving Day. I may not have many absolute limits, but this is one. I do not for one minute believe that closing for this one day is going to put any retailer in jeopardy, especially, with Black Friday coming the next day. I believe that giving us all – employees, and customers, a day off can only produce blessings. I understand not everyone feels this way. If you care to, join me in the rebellion.

5 SHOCKING THINGS I LEARNED AT MY BOOK SIGNING

5 SHOCKING THINGS I LEARNED AT MY BOOK SIGNING

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1)   In a word, gratitude. Please don’t tune out like I usually do when I hear this word. I don’t like to talk about it because the concept often seems trite and has been done to death. But, gratitude is important because it is the gate through which all blessings and miracles enter. It’s the gateway, because, in order to receive a blessing or miracle, I have to perceive and recognize it. For me, that can’t happen, when I’m living in my intellect. Gratitude only resides in the heart.

 

2)   I learned that I am the luckiest person alive, and 90 percent of the time I am unaware of it. I learned that I have the best friends and family in the world, and that more often than not, the miracles and blessings I’m looking and praying for, are embodied in these people.

 

 

3) I don’t recognize it most of the time, because my intellect is the biggest deterrent to faith and gratitude, and often my worst enemy. Any effort to control, any attempt resist what is actually happening in favor of what I want to happen, is futile and may erect a fence through which the blessing, the miracle, or the divine connection is blocked.

 

4) Success has nothing to do with book sales. Success for me as an artist has evolved to be about who receives my message and carries it on.  The people meant to get it will get it.

~                                      ~

I wrote a book called, Undamned, about a year ago, because I felt called to write it. Commercialism never entered my frame of reference. The result was a book that is hard to classify or “ market” because it is a combination of slam poetry, Spiritual Detox program, and memoir, using my own life as a parable.

For a long time, I couldn’t get a book signing to save my life. Being an ambitious goal-driven sort with a human heart, it was hard for me to process or accept this, until one day, it wasn’t.

That day, I was again unchained. I joyfully started work on my second book, re- acquainting myself with the creative process that gives my life purpose and joy and connects me to my ultimate Source.

Within 72 hours, I received notice that I was to be part of a multi- author signing at my own personal Mecca, Book People. This was the dream I didn’t dare dream for myself.

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Every artist’s nightmare of having an event where no one comes did not happen. I learned that I have the best friends and family anyone could hope for, who showed up in the almost freezing rain, many from some distance, for me.

Blessing—check. Miracle—check.

It couldn’t have been any better. It was fun, stimulating and the other authors are all amazing people I’d like to get to know better, which brings me to lesson # 5:

5) Blessings happen when they happen. Miracles happen every day. But, I have to let them fall, like rain. God has no set office hours. Someone up there consistently has bigger dreams for me than I even dare ponder, and that someone has a wicked sense of humor and timing.

 

 

 

WHAT ” AWESOME” REALLY MEANS

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When I looked up the definition of the word “awesome”, which I use any time I don’t know what else to say, I found this:

 

1) Inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear; causing or inducing awe: an awesome sight.2) showing or characterized by reverence, admiration, or fear; exhibiting or marked by awe.”

 

So, wouldn’t the real definition of awesome  be more like this?

 

“Greater love has no one  than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

 

Something that would inspire awe or reverence would be a person who voluntarily gives his life for a concept – like freedom, or for people he or she doesn’t even know. That person would be a hero. A person, who loves us, his country, so much that he forgets his fears, his own personal interests and lays down his life for us. This kind of love and sacrifice is almost beyond comprehension, like Jesus or Mother Teresa’s example.

 

But, some of you do this every day. You do this for us, despite the fear, awful conditions during combat, and often, when you get home. You do this despite the devastating financial hardships on your families.

Awesome is too small a word. So is Hero.

That is what awesome really is.

 

So, goodbye to my trivial and ridiculous use of the word “ awesome”. I’m retiring it and reserving it for those who truly deserve that moniker – those who are in the military service, now or then, alive or dead- The Greatest generation, the next generation, the gen X generation or this one. Your bravery and sacrifice and that of your loved ones are beyond my comprehension. My gratitude is beyond expression.

You are the true definition of awesome. You deserve so much more than my mere gratitude.

 

 

 

 

 

LET GO OR BE DRAGGED

 

( Why and How to Meditate, If You Can’t Sit Still)

 

All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quiet in a room alone.

Blaise Pascal

 clenched fist

Having the attention span of a gnat, I find traditional meditation practices impossible.

This writing attempts to give a practical real world answer to the two questions most of us with short attentions spans would ask:

1) why should we attempt to martial our million –mile- an- hour- thoughts for even the briefest of time, and 2) how on earth is it even possible?

The answer to question 1 of this conundrum came from a bit of very popular culture, my favorite TV show, Scandal. I heard this sentence and it really got my attention. One of the characters said,

“ True power hides in plain sight. It is subtle and doesn’t’ swagger.”

An arguably evil fictional character spoke these words, but it started me thinking of how true they really are.

Real personal power cannot be acquired by sheer force of will or intellect. In fact, if we are in a mess and don’t seem to be able to get ourselves out, it is our best thinking that landed us here.

True power comes from the Source of all power, and that is never ourselves.

My thoughts can race out of control like a quarter horse on speed, circling around and obsessing about a problem, a goal, an anything, until I’ve made it worse.

It’s time to let go, or I will be dragged. The harder I clench down on a problem and focus solely on it, the more I will be dragged away from any possible solution.

The reason and the method are one in the same:

Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us, and the power to carry it out.

 xenia and palm

It doesn’t say we have to do this perfectly. It says we have to improve. We have to try. It also doesn’t say we have to be a cleric or a mystic to do this. We have to only seek the God of our understanding. He will do the rest.

The simple answer to the question of why is so we can let go of this world just long enough to link up with the divine world and remind ourselves that it and He is there, waiting for us to ask for help. Improve conscious contact….

 

The answer to how? Seek to improve conscious contact. Seek him.

All we have to do is let go of turmoil and questions, unclench, and seek our higher power for a few minutes, long enough to open ourselves to our power source and receive his infinite power, infinite love, wisdom, discernment and everything else that is good.

I have such admiration for those who can place themselves in a meditative trance for an hour, who have prayer closets that they visit regularly, or who write in their journals every day.

But, we don’t have to do that. I can’t do that.

For me, it is enough to go outside, sit in the sunshine, and listen to the wind chimes on my front porch for a few minutes. If the weather is bad, I have a meditation playlist on my iPhone that contains popular songs that inspire me. Some are worship songs. Some are not. It isn’t important what anyone else thinks about what they mean. I get what God is trying to impart to me. By letting go and listening periodically, I can keep his word and his will in my heart.

It is NOT easy, but it is simple and it is worth it. Anything can be a meditation or a prayer. A walk, a song, a journal, a wind chime. They key is finding one that works for you.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN HEAVEN AND EARTH CONVERGE?

cloudsonwater

 

The picture at left was the view from my balcony this weekend. The heavens appear to be literally touching the water, but it’s simply the vivid reflection of the clouds off the ridiculously clear water. Me being me, I immediately began wondering, do heaven and earth collide, and what would it look like if they did? I’m always reaching and looking towards Heaven and squinting really hard to see if I can get even a faint glimpse.

I think I now have a surprising answer. Yes, all the time, and it doesn’t look like what one would think.

I don’t know why I have to travel hundreds of miles away from my life to figure out things in my life, but apparently I do.

Because of my biblical training, steeped in Saints and martyrs, burning bushes and of course, Jesus’s example, I actually had it wrong. I thought a bridge between heaven and earth was huge, rare, probably involved the heavens literally opening and God saying something like, “ Hey, you! I’m right here!”

I now know differently. Heaven and earth collide all the time. All that is necessary is a small bridge between the two. I like to call it a Bridge to Marvel. Something that takes us, if even just for a moment, out of our worries, our fears, and ourselves and seems to direct us to focus towards a Benevolent Father long enough to notice he is there.

There was no cell service in the canyon, so I had 3 days where I was forced to pull my head out of my own purse long enough to see these amazing Bridges to Marvel happening with regularity. The first day without Twitter I was somewhat twitchy, but that sustained period of focus produced a multitude of these beautiful little bridges.

The first was the most annoying monarch butterfly in creation. Every time I got away to myself even for just 30 seconds to sit in the sun and reflect on something a speaker had said, she would show up. Not one for subtlety, it took about 10 times for me to figure it out. She would circle me and then go straight for my face, startling me. Every time. As if to say, “ Hey! I’m right here!”

My second bridge was a public one and everyone in the room at the time, knew it. God appearing in a grand flourish. The last night of the conference, there was a campfire where everyone gathered for friendship, and conversation. There were some great professional musicians there, who blessed us with their gifts. But, these musicians encouraged non- professionals to jump in. They used their considerable gifts to bolster and support people trying to escape their comfort zone. The last song of the night, a non- musician stepped up and started singing an old hymn. The guitarists joined in. Something happened. All of us, every last one of us, were pulled into the song and each other and everyone sang, harmonized, drummed and strummed. We all looked at each other like 6 year olds surveying their Halloween bounty. We could not believe it was happening, but it was. It was magnificent. It was reaching up to God and finding him.

My final bridge to marvel was in the person of my roommate. She was the closest thing to the embodiment of an angel as I’ve ever seen. Of course, she did not look like what I thought she would. She was in her late 70s, walked with great difficulty and was too tired to do the late night campfires. She had the most radiantly happy countenance. One day, she got up to sing a song about her son. In a clear, soft voice she sang of how she knew she would meet him again, for he had died of a brain tumor years ago. She sang it with that same radiant countenance. The next morning, she casually mentioned that the reason she could not join me in many of the conference activities was that she had been diagnosed with cancer for the third time. She supposed that the stress of being at her son’s hospital bedside for months on end and finally watching him die had been the culprit. Then she said, “ I’ve learned that we have to give praise anyway.” Boy, she taught me a thing or two that I still ponder and will for some time. She was a bridge to heaven. “Hey You! I’m right here, looking at you!”

So, for me it appears to be a matter of focus. If I can focus my awareness on seeing these Bridges to Marvel, they are everywhere, and if I can see a bridge, perhaps sometimes, I can be one. The hug I talked myself out of giving, the time I shrunk away from singing, speaking, dancing or loving, might have been someone’s bridge. Sometimes I am so stupid. I know that God works through people, but I try to pre- select whom he will work through. I don’t know much, but I do know that God isn’t looking for perfect people to be his reps. If that were the case, he wouldn’t have much human help would he?