Golden Calves

Anyone can observe the Sabbath, but making it holy surely takes the rest of the week. — Alice Walker

The wisdom traditions say that whatever or whoever annoys you is your teacher.

But I refuse to think that in that there’s a sit-down and stay in your desk until you learn this thing you need to learn subtext: you’re free to change your degree program, transfer schools, or be like Steve Jobs and say . . . I’m dropping out and moving on, and doing and thinking different.

You can love people, but consider most of their beliefs and behaviors fundamentally toxic.

For those of us who needed more than anything  to overcome poverty and ignorance, while living in creative awareness, God realization, mystical enlightenment, seeing the splendor of everything in a grain of sand, and for whom these things mattered more than other people’s opinions, more than the home, more than the vows, more than life itself, because we risked it all in one dislocating crap shot after another, there’s no nobility in hanging with folks who don’t want to learn.

No need to hang in or hang on.

I make a lot of mistakes, and for all my professed passions, I’ve been a slow learner.  One of the mistakes I made over and over is thinking that people want to learn, they want to grow, and they want to transcend the limits that other people tell them are true.

When I ask — when I pray to the Great Mystery — why am I in the stix of Maine in the middle of an economic and cultural abyss, I need to make meaning out of my life’s messiness.  I’m asking beyond the many practical and long-term reasons; I wouldn’t have been able to garden as I have on rental property in many places.

There’s the incomparable gift of nature, my view of the falls, the sound of the river and crickets and frogs at 2 am.

I’ve created a little spiritual oasis, a sanctuary, and an Eden from nothing, a miracle machine in a destitute area.

But after another exasperating day among the faithful, I am asking, yet again, why this community?

I assume that my light and energy and creativity can change the area and even ignorance’s spiritual tenor.

Well, my life can and does shine a light, but I make a lot of assumptions about other people, and it’s an assumption that I make too often.

Why am I here, what am I learning?

I’m learning that people don’t want to change, and they’d rather have their metaphors be as hard as metal, and that they build their metal metaphors to reinforce a collapsing belief system.

They would rather have their Golden Calf.

Instead of looking to Moses in the mountains, where the epiphany of immanence and transcendence took place, the “Children Of Israel” danced around a cast metal metaphor wrought from bygone days — the beliefs of Egypt.  

I thought about this last night, and it occurred to me that the “Children Of Israel” wandering in the desert surely didn’t have a lot, and what gold resources they had they quickly gave up to secure a safe identity when they “didn’t know.”

When uncertainty invited them to deep trust and grace, they chose fear, safety in their known beliefs.

The Golden Calf wasn’t the worship of money or materiality, given their limited resources, it was a retreat into the familiar, the known, the sure, the form of an old religion, and not Spirit waiting for their awareness.

The story is one of progress and liberation from old forms, and a call to approach every day expecting miracles, epiphanies, synchronicities . . .  creative awareness.

The trek from Egypt and its lessons wasn’t a story of national or religious identity, the story’s trek offered metaphors that pointedly resisted literalist readings.

Jewish interpretive tradition recognizes this.

Modern evangelicals don’t.

The current Christian faith in rural parts and on the national stage is one of comforting ideas and beliefs that have zero grounding in what history, theology, science, the mystics, and the artists give us.

Change threatens, and the folks who hold these stories will never revise them because of habit and comfort and fear: any loss of the psycho-social identity, the great path to unlearning and awakening, the collective ego guards against like a pack of hungry and taunted junkyard dogs.

The answer to change?  Get louder and more defensive, play the victim, be more vigilant against the stories that may cause you to question your literal interpretations of Sunday School narratives.

Stories written for children, not adults.

One woman told me,  and this was a breathtaking, raw honesty worthy of respect: “I guess I never questioned my beliefs because I was afraid that my world would fall apart.”

So I had to write this entry to see what I’ve always known, but had to dig deeper into, as I’ve always made big assumptions, and I’ve always taken on inappropriate responsibility:

The conservative Christians (and most folks) in this area don’t want to learn and don’t want to hear the voice of Spirit beyond their comfort zone.  

Beliefs stand-in for awakening practices, blankets of psychological ideas for experiences of immanence and transcendence.

This does not make them bad people; in fact, most are damn fine people with enormous hearts: they are generous, caring, thoughtful, and diligent.

(The political left will never see this, it’s too busy labeling them.)

On the other side, those who veer toward a mental, pseudo-intellectual approach (the rural bourgeois) have so flatlined their spirit that they live from a different set of comfy habits: social posturing and pretense.

I described the cultural split to a friend like this: the ones with the bad ideas have the big hearts, the ones with the good ideas have no spiritual awareness.

“The best lack all conviction, the worst are full of passionate intensity,” (Yeats) he replied.

This is much of what I see, simplified to make sense, and I am as of today not returning to a community of folks who  I love dearly, because it’s more work than it’s worth when I spend too much mental energy navigating around well-intentioned ignorance.

Extend love, peaceably move on.

Life is precious, make the changes quick and smooth.

What did I learn?

I am no longer responsible for a chronically sick mother and either rebelling against or meeting the expectations of her ignorant faith (see how we play these things out?), and there’s no reason to expect that people want to live life deep and rich and bountiful beyond what they know.

Giving up and digging in rules.

I’m here, and if they want to share fine, no need to assume beyond that — and there’s a deep peace in accepting other people’s path.

The Bible and Christian radio and muzak seem enough to meet their needs.

It’s not my responsibility to care for them (like I once did with many clients) in the name of service because I’m was raised to be a caretaker, and I’m a woman of a generation for whom that training runs too deep.

This is the stuff that writers and poets and prophets and mystics care about — life’s complexities:  the unlearning is all.

Seeing allows us to let go more quickly, without regret or second-guessing.

It’s the heart — courage — of sinking into one’s life, while letting old forms pass away.

She who would lose her life a hundred times over will find it a thousand times ten.

Letting go.

 

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Two Years Ago, Today

July 26, 2016.

What a magnificent night.

I was proud to be a HRC state delegate through a series of inexplicable quirks.

I hadn’t even lived in Maine for a year.  I applied for an absentee ballot.  I never received it.  The morning of our caucus, I wrote a Facebook post on why I was casting my primary ballot for Clinton, a candidate I once vowed I’d never vote for.

The day of the caucus, a few Clinton supporters were surrounded by Bernie supporters.

I’d had my fill of my fellow citizens who supported Bernie, especially the lecturing I had received from white males on what real feminism looked liked.  I was tired of the Johnny One Note finger waving prophet, because of magical unicorns and sexism and the swilling of what was even then obviously Russian trolling, if you were paying attention.

I went to caucus because my absentee ballot never arrived.  Our Sanders supporting precinct members pontificated and grandstanded on the Greatest Good.  The Clinton supporters were hesitant and shamed.  I listened to the same misinformation about HRC and the white Savior ideological fantasies about Sanders that had dominated my Facebook feed for months.

After listening to the populist narratives, the stories that weren’t fact-checked because “internet,” and the toned down Hillary bashing because we were face to face, I felt myself shaking and frustrated and angry.  I couldn’t be quiet.  Because no one had done their homework well, and it was obvious that the vagina was still inferior to the glorious Apollonian penis in these parts.

“Any other comments before we vote,” our caucus leader asked.

I don’t like public speaking, so I asked everyone if they’d mind if I read what I wrote on Facebook that morning.

It was a polite group.  We weren’t on the internet.

We were dealing human to human again, so everyone said sure, this is why we’re here.

I took out my iPhone, read my Facebook post, probably similar in tone to this, and I received a generous round of applause and nods and agreement.

The caucus leader took the vote and happily proclaimed that all our delegates would be for Sanders.  An honest Sanders supporter said, “wait, I think you’ve miscalculated.”

The Sanders supporting caucus leader recalculated twice, and according to the rules, no doubt about it,. by .01 percentage points, Clinton was allowed a delegate from our precinct.

After my little speech, I was unanimously chosen to be the Hillary delegate.  So through the strangest of circumstances, including the extraordinarily democratic and civil if flawed caucus system, in a state I’d only lived in 9 months, for a candidate I never thought I’d vote for, in a county whose deep, unquestioned socialized racism and sexism are far from any reality I’ve ever known, I represented Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Maine State Democratic convention.

And after caucus, folks came up to me, talked, told me they agreed with a lot of what I said, but they needed to send “a message.”

Well, that was certainly part of it — but not all of it.

Representing Hillary at the state convention was a singular life experience for a woman raised by women, my mother a self-proclaimed Kennedy Democrat, and my grandmother a Nixon loving “he did what they all do, he only got caught” Republican.  A family of women and their political stories, high pitched disagreements, political memories, narratives running back to the Civil War and my mother’s family’s vigorous support of Lincoln, a farm family that proudly worked their own land and never owned slaves, and the Huguenot legacy.

The political stories handed down to me gained another.

At the state convention, I stood proudly behind HRC with that .01 percentage point, with my mother, my grandmother, and the women whose Pantsuit stories unfolded during that trek into November two years ago; a season when change seemed probable, however flawed,  and progress shimmered.

Proud, hopeful, .01 percentage point.

Two years ago today, we watched HRC accept the nomination for many who believed in possibility, not religious purity or political perfection, and we watched her take our mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers and great-great grandmothers with her, wearing a white pantsuit.

Two years ago today, I felt myself to be a part of history.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony never saw the ratification of the 19th amendment.

“Not for ourselves, but for our children.”

 

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A Modest Practice

Everyday write down three things for which you are grateful.

So say the self-help folks, creatives, going strong entrepreneurs, and positive psychologists.

It’s a powerful practice, with research and science backing it.  (Shawn Achor and Martin Seligman come to mind.)

The idea is that focusing on the positive and writing while focused strengthens your neural pathways, a cognitive exercise that builds the mind’s ability to see beyond its constructed walls and limitations, allows you to open into possibility.

Gratitude opens imaginative doors, and memory and writing are gratitude’s empowering exercise.

I’ve practiced this off and on during my years of journal keeping, but I’ve only felt a conscious shift the past few years.

Way back when, I practiced gratitude for five minutes a day in my journal, yet fretted most of the remaining 23.95 hours.  Not consciously, but habitually.

I’m finally getting it.  It’s about taking your gratitude with you, seeing each new day through a supple world view imaginatively reborn, not relegating your “gratitude” to five minutes a day while never removing your anxiety blanket.

But five minutes a day is an important start, and no doubt those five minutes everyday helped me get closer to a better pace.

***

Sometime in January, maybe February, I listened to an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert (hyperlink to her TED talk, not the podcast I heard) and she described her gratitude jar.  Every day, she writes down three or more things for which she is grateful on a slip of paper, then puts them in the jar.  Come the New Year, she has a ritual around reading and remembering the year’s many gifts and joys.

Every January, she begins again.

After listening to Gilbert, I grabbed two mason jars — one for fears and worries, one for joys and gratitudes.

I decided to experiment with the fears jar.  Though I haven’t read much on this practice — I think it’s important to name fear, label the gnarly monsters, write them down, and shove them in a jar.

I’m not yet consistent with this practice, but it’s good for now, and getting better.

What I’ve discovered is that by writing down my fears, and putting them in the jar, I’m symbolically giving them to my higher power, even if that Power is my imagination. Some days I refuse all fear and boldly write: NONE!

By writing down incidents, people and things for which I’m grateful, I’m documenting what I otherwise forget, no matter how small or big, small and large ultimately being arbitrary distinctions.

I try to include things otherwise invisible, to go deeper into my daily experience, try to ferret out the things I take for granted.

For example: a random encounter that shifted my mood, allowed me to be a better person after someone else’s kindness.

A couple of times I’ve accidentally seen older entries from the jars, slips of paper falling out and waiting for my eyes.  I’ve noticed a trend:

1) the same fears tend to rumble about, and they rarely happen;

2) I quickly forget how many beautiful surprises fill my life everyday.  Experiences, circumstances, people that turned a day, a week, a month around, happenings too quickly swallowed by life’s activity.

My life deserves better than fear, and it deserves better than for me obscure its Beauty with necessity.

So I have two large mason jars sitting on my living room floor — one filled with some psychic chaos and rumblings, and the other with beautiful memories and everyday happenings.

Life is an art, this is now one of my modest practices sustaining that art.

I look forward to my first New Year’s ritual this year, unfolding slips of paper wearing my unfounded fears, and rediscovering the wonderful moments that I too quickly forgot.

 

 

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Eclipse

Image copyrighted.  All rights reserved.

 

 

We’re all golden sunflowers inside.” — Allen Ginsberg

 

A friend took a woman

thirty-five years younger than himself

to see the eclipse.

 

He made sure to tell me

that her small frame had

huge titties.  Because that’s

what he needs,

a young woman

with a small frame

and big tits.  Wanting

to impress the titties,

he rented a luxury motor-home,

parked in Wyoming’s wilds,

then he and the tits sat

in the eclipse’s

path of totality.

 

My friend never talks of beauty

or wisdom or poetry or

immanence or transcendence;

he has no regard for nature,

as he’s been so long married to work, money,

and titties.

 

When he returned from Wyoming,

he told me the eclipse changed him;

he felt connected to something larger,

an experience he’d never had before.

 

I did not see the eclipse

in its path of totality, didn’t

firsthand experience the best eclipse view

money could buy.

 

Rather, the eclipse

happily grabbed me

a few days after,

in a sunflower’s center,

a moment again

connecting me

to life’s mystery,

in a single, magnificent  bloom.

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Taking The Knee

Our local Methodist Church has an American flag standing parallel to the alter.

Not only is this flag an eye-sore, neon-light like in a small church decorated with sweet stained glass, and simple Protestant decor, it’s wrong theologically and wrong in our Constitutional Republic.

Our congregation doesn’t worship America — or at least I don’t, nor do I believe any Methodist worth their salt would so worship.  And I suspect I am not “worshipping” as many of theses folks, for I use imagination to shape and bend the words to my meaning, while not alienating the community.  It’s a practice.

The most mportant thing about this flag is that it smells of nationalism, and there’s a little thing called the wall separating church and state.

The wall that the theocrats are always trying to tear down.

Truth be told, it’s the only wall conservatives don’t like, the one between church and state.  Every other wall, they love, but the one between church and state: “Tear it down!  Tear it down!”

A few months ago, our pastor made a few veiled swipes at Obama, but he’s moved away from that.  I’d like to think that my vocal influence helped.

But apparently, muddying the boundaries flies in theses parts.  Given that we’re hearing so much about respect and flags as strong people of good conscience put themselves in the line of fire for the greater good, my mind was dazzled with an idea this morning:

Take the knee this Sunday, during prayers.  As I always sit in the front, and nearly opposite the flag, it would be an easy move.  If the church has the audacity (or unmitigated gall) to bring the state into its walls, than as one devoted to love’s justice, I should take the knee in solidarity with my sisters and brothers who need me, wherever I am.

It’s a small act, but certainly if we’re going to get all messy with our boundaries, then messy boundaries are to be embraced and used.

Moments of rebellion, here in rural Maine.

 

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Pears


(Image copyrighted)

You like soil,

barn smells, and

making music.

 

When you put

your fingers to keys,

heart and soul

find beauty

in your skill.

 

You love God,

your faith is literal,

and your love is strong and

wise enough to feel my heart,

no matter how its faith

differs from yours.

 

This week you played piano,

we sang old Appalachian spirituals,

I danced and clapped,

and we made holy merriment

from our hearts.

 

Late Sunday afternoon,

you delivered fresh, succulent pears

to my front door, picked from your trees,

because you learned that

pears are my favorite.

 

A basket of friendship,

peace and joy given

in juicy, sweet, fresh pears,

the gift of of an overflowing heart,

where all things are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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9/11, Revisited

My mother called me that morning and said “Turn on the news, they are blowing up those towers!  Those towers in New York!  Turn it on now!” I then owned a television, a 13-inch in the living room.

Mom always woke early, but given the three-hour time difference between California and Cambridge, her call meant she’d not slept well, and she had too early turned on to the morning news.

It was a little before 9:00 in Cambridge.  I was in the hallway when the phone rang.

I picked up the cordless sitting in a bookcase.  With Mom on the phone, I walked to the living room and turned on CNN.

Within a few minutes, we saw the second plane go in.

Mom had talked about an impending terrorist attack for a few years, believed one was coming, and that morning she preached about what we saw together, 3,000 miles apart, and before any information was known.

Terrorism, no question. She invariably voted Democrat — and loathed Cheney in particular for being “a liar from hell” — but that morning she blamed what we watched on CNN as resulting from lax national security policies during the Clinton years. “The Democrats got lazy, they didn’t pay attention to national security. I knew this was going to happen, I knew it.”

(I later pointed out that the attack happened on Bush’s watch.  She somewhat revised her opinion, given her hatred of Cheney & Co.)

Terrorism. She knew it with the first plane, and she unconsciously knew that more than one tower would be hit, her use of “towers” when she called me was clairvoyance not simply sloppy speech habits.

After we hung up, I stayed glued to the television the rest of the day, hypnotized by the unfolding that poured through 13 inches, a reality larger than any screen could hold.

***

Classes started that week. I was numb, a stupor exacerbated by hypnotizing news scrolls, and cable television’s drama pandering.

I showed up for the first day of one class as it ended, something I’d never done.  I obsessed about my class schedules, book buying, supplies, and all the rest two months ahead of the first week.  But in that week’s daze, I showed up for this one class as it ended.  I  apologized to the professor, offering her only my lame 9/11 excuse, “I’m sorry, this has never happened before. I guess I’m shell-shocked from everything.”

When I write “I was numb” to describe my stupor, this does not mean I mourned lost American innocence.

We’ve never been innocent.  Ignorant, yes.  Innocent, no.

In those days, I held an unpopular narrative: I believed that American imperialism dictated we had this coming. Wasn’t a professor somewhere fired for saying that?

Our collective hubris, greed, and violence meant that karma waited patiently for us to change, to do better by others and the world.

Even at Harvard, or perhaps especially at Harvard, calling out American hubris meant knowing your audience well.  I rarely spoke so, because A-M-E-R-I-C-A. As socially awkward and defiant as I am, even I knew better than to speak this criticism to many, especially those in collective grief.

America, a deity unto itself, the Great God who bears consumerism’s gifts, the safe salvation of dogma, and all wrapped in the comforts of white, capitalist Christianity.  We still burn heretics in this country, but not with fire.  We oust them from universities, or diminish their right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness by ostracizing them.  At the very least.

The great God of Christian American Exceptionalism must be serviced like a Golden Bull.

I never understood, nor do I understand now, the need to fetishize the tragedies of 9/11.  I’ve never understood the need to trot out this day every year, wear our victimhood like a shiny ornament, and decorate it in crying eagles, waving flags, and Jesus memes.

I’ve noticed that many folks who rarely do politics as public service coupled to policy and governance always manage to show up to “Never Forget.”

This does not honor those who died, it validates the victim narrative of those who need their nationalism served rare with a hot side of Christian values, while stoking Islamophobia.

Victimhood, a privilege.  A source of extremism, with The Book beside.

This victimhood has nothing to do with those who actually lost partners, parents, children, friends.

Many of these folks actually started projects to create interfaith dialogues on community healing and outreach, September 11 Families For Peaceful Tomorrows being one of the most inspiring.  Their motto comes from Dr. King, who wrote, “Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.”

9/11

I remember.  And it’s possible to recognize one’s privileges, and still be stupefied when horror and fragility bombard you through 13 inches of televised narrative. Our shared existential fragility shone clear to me that day and in the weeks following, perhaps because I owned no blanket embroidered with Exceptional Eagles or Easy Christian Morals.

I believe that life’s preciousness is not meant to breed fear or loathing.  It’s a call to deeper living, and creates a drive to carve respect and understanding from ashes.

Fear or love.

Too many chose fear; many who lost more than they believed possible chose love.

***

I no longer believe we had 9/11 coming.  But actions create ripples, and America resists looking at the many demons lurking in her closets.  In last year’s powerful essay, “The Falling Man,” Tom Junod discusses the iconic photo by Richard Drew:

 

Junod offers us another unspeakable crime:

” . . . the pictures that came out of the death camps of Europe were treated as essential acts of witness, without particular regard to the sensitivities of those who appeared in them or the surviving families of the dead. . . . They were shown as the photograph of the little Vietnamese girl running naked after a napalm attack was shown. They were shown as the photograph of Father Mychal Judge, graphically and unmistakably dead, was shown, and accepted as a kind of testament. They were shown as everything is shown, for, like the lens of a camera, history is a force that does not discriminate. What distinguishes the pictures of the jumpers from the pictures that have come before is that we—we Americans—are being asked to discriminate on their behalf. What distinguishes them, historically, is that we, as patriotic Americans, have agreed not to look at them. Dozens, scores, maybe hundreds of people died by leaping from a burning building, and we have somehow taken it upon ourselves to deem their deaths unworthy of witness—because we have somehow deemed the act of witness, in this one regard, unworthy of us.” [bold added]

We refuse to look at what would most teach us.

The falling man could hold us in his surrender to fragility as a powerful spiritual testament.

But we refuse to look, and we refuse to see.

If the terrorists hated us, it’s not because of our freedoms, it’s because U.S policies in the Middle East dictated by Saudi oil inevitably spawned a hatred born of poverty and ignorance.  It takes little leadership to join fear and ignorance into violence, as we should rightly know.

But we refuse to look, we refuse to see.

***

Many years ago, I had a class at Harvard Divinity with James Lawson.  A Methodist minister, after receiving his Ph.D., he went to India, trained on Gandhi’s ashram, came back to the states, and then accidentally met Dr. King in a coffee shop (a too easy summary).  They talked, and King told Lawson he needed him in the movement.

Lawson ended up leading King’s civil rights nonviolent resistance training.

(It was a privilege to study with Dr. Lawson, and visit him during office hours.)

Lawson once said to us during a lecture, “America is addicted to violence.  And it will never get over that addiction until it confesses and repents its original sins of genocide and slavery.”

Perhaps that’s what we’re witnessing now with the horrifying drunk uncle sitting at America’s helm, this grotesque caricature of our worst selves televised and tweeting in our faces 24/7.  At some point the addict must admit her addiction, must look in the mirror.  Perhaps we’re dealing on deep levels with our privileged stupor, facing our collective functioning alcoholic in the drunk-uncle-in-chief’s face.

But will we look?  Will we finally see that we have arrived at our United States of The Lost Weekend?

I don’t know if we’re at a defining crossroads.  I doubt it.  Change isn’t that easy, rarely comes in tidy packages.  But the unmitigated violence of Screeching Eagles and white Christian racist misogyny cannot hold.

Will we look, will we see?  Like “Families For Peaceful Tomorrows,” will we remember better?

 

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Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme

Autumn arrives too early, after a mild Maine summer.

Here and there a dead maple leaf finds its way into the still ripening tomato plants, a stray littering promising the death of all green.

I harvested parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme from the garden today.  My fingers were soaked in their fragrance, a jubilant olfactory mix testifying to my garden’s opulence — an ebullient patchwork of herbs and flowers and vegetables.

What quiet joys these marigolds and petunias and eggplants offer the world.  They ask for nothing, and give freely to bees and wasps and all kinds of critters whose worlds exist in their leaves, petals, roots.

I brought my harvest up the stairs, then chopped the herbs, added a peppery olive oil, and bottled a few oil infusions.

The scent of olive oil, thyme, and sage caressed the moment, kissed it in olfactory passion.

A singular delight in an increasingly fragile world.

I surrendered myself this afternoon to parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, affirming life as change again swallows green, as change swallows a transforming planet.

 

 

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Mauna

A mauna is a practice of silence.

A fast of words, no utterances, no speaking.

According to Wiki:

In Hindu philosophy, Mauna (Silence), which has a voice of its own, refers to peace of mind, inner quietude, Samadhi and the Absolute Reality. The Hindu texts insist upon proper understanding of silence by experiencing it through control of speech and practice.

I read about this practice in Gandhi’s My Experiments with Truth following my nervous break down — in my case, breakdown is best understood as a necessary dissolution that allowed a new understanding to emerge.

Gandhi practiced a weekly mauna. One day every week he wouldn’t speak, and anything that he needed to communicate he wrote on a piece of paper or blackboard (as I remember from the book).

I decided to do the same, though I am not certain why.  Perhaps it had to do with the work, feeling I needed silence after listening to so much during the week.  But I vaguely remember thinking that a mauna was something I could and wanted to try, without expecting anything other than silence.

Not understanding the power or efficacy of this decision, it surprises me that I chose such an odd practice — but it seemed the thing to do.  No retreat, no getaway.  Every Friday, sometimes Thursday, I turned off the phones, changed the business voicemail to say I was out, and took a day to read and meditate and practice being with not a word spoken.

Makeshift monasticism, you might call it.

It was easy, like drinking water.  I now believe the practice facilitated a psychic healing, and managed my mood in a way that the obscene surplus of medications never could.

Those days of silence healed, but they also stabilized me while living and working in the single room of a Cambridge boarding house.

I practiced the weekly mauna for a year, maybe two, until I returned to classes, and a new life chapter began.

I’m reminded of that practice these days.

The world becomes noisier, even in technology’s soundless spaces, it’s filled with voices growing louder and louder.   “Hear me!  Look at them!  Horrible!  Guilty!”

Screaming voices that distract, and we too often give our power away when joining the chorus.

In the U.S., both political sides, and those who claim no side, fear that we have lost our way, or never had one worthy, and that fear pushes deep against love.

Radical love.  Real love.  Not love wrapped in emojis, but the love emerging from dignity, worth, and practices connecting us to our awareness.

The purpose of fear is to create more fear, and fear is an adroit creature, ever happy to keep us occupied and diverted.

In Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, there’s a scene in which a Hindu man confronts Gandhi, and he tells the Mahatma that he’s going to hell because he killed a little boy by smashing the child’s head against a wall.

Gandhi, pained, asks the man, “Why?’

The Hindu answers, “They killed my son, they killed my boy.  The Muslims killed my son!”

“I know a way out of hell,” Gandhi advises, “Find a little boy, and raise him as your own.  Only be sure that he is Muslim.  And make sure that you raise as one.”  (Paraphrased.)

The scene is stunning storytelling.  Powerful. redemptive, piercing in its human and spiritual implications.

I have no idea if it’s true, though it’s consistent with the public life and ethos of Gandhi. And its historic veracity is less important than Attenborough catching this luminous wisdom and letting it shine through Kingsley’s Gandhi.

In our fractured political atmosphere, reactivity oozes from our fears and uncertainties, and this scene gives me an important reminder: be centered in your strength and dignity and love, it’s more powerful than the “facts,” because facts don’t change people’s minds as the research constantly shows.

Imagination is more important than facts in healing and creating the world.

For this reason, the Gandhi inspired advice on how to transform hell into heaven is timeless: it’s heart wisdom.

Creative, humane, coming from our brightest, most radiant self.

In these [relatively speaking] uncertain times, there’s an ancient mystical teaching getting traction again.  Ancient truth, modern teachers.  Some might call it the next evolution of the Christ Consciousness, or the awakening of awareness, or whatever name the teacher assigns to it.  Its core remains consistent.  It teaches that our presence in Love is enough to shift the world, and that holding our inner spaciousness [Kingdom of Heaven within] and connection to the source of wisdom, understanding, and enlightenment is the world’s transformative vehicle.

Not what you say, but holding a lived experience of faith in who you are and what you do.

Beyond belief into deepening awareness.

That’s why silence matters.

The more you practice it, the more you take yourself with you, and the more fear, its stories, and its distractions fall

Although a regular meditator, I’ve only practiced a full day of mauna a few times over the years.

Now may be a good time to revisit it, a day of silence as vital and transformative as political activism, or a word’s currency in the world.

At one time, Gandhi also stayed away from all newspapers and radios for over three years, because they took him away from his inner peace.

Three years.  No information. No opinions. No commentary.

Yet he led a rebellion that overthrew British rule with a force more powerful than guns, bombs, and warfare.

Another idea worth considering.

 

 

 

 

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Sermons and Sex

“When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field, I’ll meet you there.”  —  Rumi.

 

The Methodist church in our rural village recently voted out a young, [celibate] lesbian, political progressive with a strong commitment to service and community.

The new pastor is an older, white Evangelical male.

It took me months to show up again, after our Brené Brown quoting, Bible is not infallible, meaning inspired, hell is a modern construction, loving all and excluding none female was ousted.

(One afternoon I visited during her office hours, we enjoyed a long talk, I told her about my work, and she empathized without flinching and said, “there must be a lot of stigma you must deal with.”)

Here’s an important back story to this entry: a childhood friend is a rabid evangelical, and her conspiracy laden, 45 loving world view is dismal to say the least.

Apocalyptic, to be precise.

Years ago, she attended a church in Manhattan, where she now lives, and she mellowed and found supportive connections, until the message included upending the status of same-sex partnerships.

She left the congregation, and her spiral into extremism and conspiracies has escalated.

She’s a victim, a persecuted Christian.

So I hold her as a great teacher: the ego loves being right, it relishes victimhood, and works hard to create stories that have little to do with anything.

I don’t want to be that person.

Love binds.  Ego separates.

I don’t want to be someone who is never wrong, for whom my opinions matter more than my Presence.

This challenges my well-developed ideas of right and wrong.  After several stubborn months, I took the situation in my local church as my invitation to re-examine where I am, what I am doing, and to excavate possibilities, instead of closing doors.

Much as I have done under the regime of 45 — an invitation to dig deeper into a more authentic identity, the Self’s limitlessness, letting Presence and awareness flow through me as the change we need.

Closing doors, usually the ego and stasis.  Opening possibilities, almost always growth and insight.

So I returned to the congregation, and I was welcomed with an overflow of “oh we missed you so much,” as well as hugs and kisses.

Last week’s sermon was palatable: I made a conscious effort to lift the myopic dogmatism into metaphor.

Yesterday’s message was egregious in most ways.  I found myself simply going within and smiling as I often do when dealing with clients carrying pretty heinous imaginative depravity.

Not all clients, but a few, and I am sparing readers the details.

Banality and ugliness: evangelical sermons and aspects of phone sex work, usually two sides of the same imaginative coin: banal and bereft of intimacy’s possibilities, a rat wheel of empty mind chatter that self-satisfies.

There’s no misnomer to say that both are masturbatory, in the word’s most pejorative sense.

(I use the word lightly, because like whore, it assumes connotations that are socially conditioned.)

As I have written before, be careful about asking for wisdom, you’ll become a sex worker, at least for a short period.

For one navigates ambiguities that few are comfortable with but are necessary if one is to break our cultural myths and find a deeper well of Being.

Similarly, be guarded in asking to serve.  Sunday morning, I’m listening to a well-meaning old white man who really seems to care, but is ignorant and short-sighted, probably a 45 supporter, spew what are essentially Jesus or hell, turn or burn theologies wrapped in faux Methodist intellectual humility.

He kept telling our small congregation that he was simplifying “very complex ideas” (thanks, that’s a problem for me), and all I can think about is the morning meditation reading I did which talked about complexity being the ego’s favorite playground.

Life is a choice between fear or love, in any given moment.

That’s pretty much it.

Life is simple — “consider the lilies of the field.”

The complexities we create are usually less about our real circumstances than the beliefs given to us, and into we’ve situated ourselves and our source of identity.

I smiled and nodded.

Because my showing up isn’t about the church or this pastor.  It’s about keeping my heart and mind supple and open as I practice awareness, love, authenticity, and Presence.

Yes, it would have been nice to have a young, progressive female with a strong, sharp mind and huge heart.

But I have already learned more about myself and my path under these less than ideal pastoral conditions.  I said “no” to being right.  Don’t know where this community relationship will lead or for how long. But I did what I needed to do, because I am a heretical mystic, breaking down the seen and discovering the Beautiful unseen.

That requires letting go of ideas of right and wrong in service to Love.

What struck me vividly and intensely as I sat in the pew and shifted my focus from the words being said to my inner light was: “You take your miracles with you.”

Indeed.

 

 

 

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