So I have been thinking about practical ways to practice meaning in our everyday lives. One of my sources of inspiration this month came from one of the women who was at our anniversary celebration. She suggested we have a wall in our kitchen/gathering area where people could write inspirational words or phrases. This got me thinking what if we all did this. What if we create a wall or a mural of proverbs? They could come from one faith tradition, or in our space, a myriad of faith traditions. They could come from the Book of Proverbs in the Hebrew Bible or one of numerous other collections of proverbs. Here is a list of three of my favorite collections of proverbs:
- Like a Yeti Catching Marmots: A Little Treasury of Tibetan Proverbs·
- Soul Would Have No Rainbow if the Eyes Had No Tears and Other Native American Proverbs·
- African Proverbs, Parables and Wise Sayings
Do you have one you would like to share? Read More
So this month we have been talking about meaning as a spiritual practice. I have shared with you the writings of the Dalai Lama about how life is like driving a car and talked about the meanings I have gotten from the sculptures of George Segal. This week though I wanted to just write about life. A dear friend of mine is going through a challenging time health wise and it has made me stop and thinking about the meaning of life. As I was praying about my friend’s situation, I was drawn to the book we are reading in the book club called Inside the Miracle by Mark Nepo. The first section of the book is called, Upon Seeking Tufu as a Guide. Nepo wrote:
And so I asked him, how is it God is everywhere and nowhere? He circled me like a self I couldn't reach. "Because humans refuse to live their lives." i was confused. He continued, "You hover rather then enter." I was still confused. He spoke in my ear, "God is only visible within your moment entered like a burning lake." I grew frightened. He laughed. "Even now, you peer at me as if what you see and hear are not a part of you." I grew angry. He ignored me. "You peer at the edge of your life, so frantic to know, so unwilling to believe." Indeed, I was frantic He was in my face. "And now that you have cancer, you ask to be spared." I grew depressed. He took my shoulder. "For God's sake! enter your own life! Enter!" Read More
I have become intrigued recently by the work of sculptor George Segal. Segal used orthopedic bandages dipped in plaster to construct some of the most haunting and memorable figurative art of the twentieth century. He created life-sized models based on his body and those of friends, family, and neighbors. The models are seated at lunch counters, poised on street corners, or waiting in train stations. These figures inhabit everyday spaces, however, because they are sculptures, they are also three dimensional. Looking at them is like looking at a moment frozen in time. Looking at them you wonder what they were thinking about in that very moment that they were captured. His sculptures give us the opportunity to step outside our fast-paced world in order to take a different look at how we function within our world. What does the presence of these individuals mean to us? If we were to walk around and see them from differing perspectives, would the meaning we ascribe to them change. Read More
Recently I read an excerpt from a book by Venerable Master Hsing Yuncalled Keys to Living Well. In it he talks about how life is like driving a car. I loved how he saw the spiritual meaning in this everyday action of driving a car. Rather then try to capture the essence of what he said, which i am not sure I could, I am just copying the excerpt here. I know what it means to me and hope that each of you will find your own meaning in this reflection.
"In order to live safely in the world, our conduct must be lawful and orderly like cars having to observe traffic regulations on the road. In this sense, life is like driving a car. The following are five analogies:
"1. To avoid speeding, one must observe proper limits. We all know that speeding can be hazardous, and if we are not vigilant with respect to our own limits in life, it would be as dangerous as exceeding the speed limit on the road. In contrast, if we all abide by our own place and limits, not only will we observe the traffic regulations, but we will also not transgress in our conduct. Each and every car that observes the traffic regulations ensures the smooth flow of traffic and safety on the road. Likewise, when we abide by our proper limits in life, we will be safe in our place and dutiful in shouldering our responsibilities. When we abide by proper limits, we can ensure a happy and safe life. Read More
I had been sitting here all week thinking about what to write about love and then my friend Eileen Hooper McConville posted something on Facebook that took me back to a song about love that has lived in my heart for about 14 years. I remember the first day I heard this song. I was sitting at home curled up in front of my television, well actually a friends, watching an episode of Touched by an Angel. It was an episode where a young boy Petey was working through his bucket list so that he could die in peace. The last thing on his list was a wish that his mother finish a song she had started when he was born. In the episode, she called it Psalm 151. Avalon, who recorded it, called it Testify to Love.
Here are the lyrics and the video to the song Read More
Mother Teresa tells this story about a young child called Teacher of Love. "I will never forget one day in Venezuela when I went to visit a family who had given us a lamb. I went to thank them and there I found out that they had a badly crippled child. I asked the mother, "What is the child's name?" The mother gave me a most beautiful answer. "We call him 'Teacher of Love,' because he keeps on teaching us how to love. Everything we do for him is our love for God in action."
My son Nick is my Teacher of Love. He came into my life when he was 10 and he has been teaching me how to love ever since. Everything I do for or say to him is about demonstrating my love for the Ultimate in action. My son came into my life from a severely dysfunctional and abusive household. When I first met him he was in restraints 80% of the school day in a psychoeducational facility. Twenty-three years later he is living in a group home and restraint free. He is a living reminder for me of the transformative power of God’s love. Read More
In Native American culture, they have what they call Talking Circles. They come together in group to discuss things. However, there are rules they abide by. They are not written anywhere, they are just known. They are rules one is raised with. I have been told that one of the foremost rules is about listening. It is said you can tell a lot about a person by how well they listen.
In these Talking Circles they openly discuss problems, they seek solutions, share feelings and experiences. It is believed that listening to one another honors the Divine within each person. So when a speaker it is interrupted, it is an act of dishonoring. It brings dishonor to the person and reflects poorly on how they were raised. As a result, it also brings dishonor to the family, Tribe, Clan, and Nation. Read More
I am not sure how many of you watch reality shows like America or Britain’s Got Talent or any of the other talent reality shows. Not having a television anymore, I only watch the videos that are on YouTube. This week, however, I have become fascinated by watching tapes of The Voice. What has fascinated me is how focused the judges are on listening to the contestants.
They were so actively listening. Not being a vocal coach or knowing much about music at all, I have been fascinated watching how actively they listen to every note, to every breath, to every intonation in the contestants voices. It made me wonder how it feels as the contestants are singing their hearts out to know that they are so actively listening to them. Read More
While I would like to thank I am a good listener, I am mindful that at times I am not as good a listener as I would like to be. I am sure that is pretty sure for most people. How often do we feel as if we are giving people our undivided attention? How often when we are talking are we thinking about what we are going to say in response to what the other person is saying, instead of just listening?
I can’t speak for anyone else, but my greatest fear has been that if I just sat and listened and gave another person my undivided attention that I would not know what to say. Read More
For our Metaphysical and Spirituality Book club I have been reading a book called The community of kindness by Rabbi Harold Kushner, who is author of a book many people have heard of called When Bad Things Happen to Good People. It is one of those books that is small in size, but large in understanding. While I am not done with the book yet, I have been struck by a very loving and gentle reminder that kindness builds community.
Sometimes kindness is simple. It is about saying I am sorry or thank you or you’re welcome. So let me being this week by seeking kindness as I apologize for not writing last week and not letting you know I would not be writing last week. That was not kind of me and so I am seeking your forgiveness. I was being kind to myself by allowing myself to focus on the piles of grading I had before me, but in doing so I had forgotten to practice kindness with this community and let you know I was taking a week off. I hope you will find it in your hearts to forgive me. Read More
Kindness does not to be anything huge. Sometimes it is the most simplistic of things which have life changing effects. This really hit home for me while reading an excerpt from a book called Essential Sufism, by editors James Fadiman and Robert Frager. They present a story about being kind to an ant.
"Service does not have to be great or dramatic. Years ago, the mother of one of the Ottoman sultans was devoted to charity. She built mosques and a great hospital and had public wells dug in parts of Istanbul that were without water. One day, she went to watch the construction of the hospital she was having built, and she saw an ant fall into the wet concrete of the foundation. She lifted the ant out of the concrete and set it on the ground. Read More
A friend of mine asked me for 10 reasons to be kind. I thought that was a great way to start this month off. In the process of thinking about and researching this, I found a pre-existing site. So let's start with these reasons as to why be kind Read More
Kindness is encouraged by every major religion, by leaders as diverse as the Dalai Lama to Richard Carlson, the popular author of the Don't Sweat the Small Stuff series. These books are really about kindness. I did an analysis of the 100 strategies listed in the first book of the Don't Sweat series. 85 of the 100 strategies listed related either to ways to be kind to yourself or others. The title of the series is even the result of a kind act!
It is hard to talk about justice without talking about the activist work, intentionally or accidentally, which is needed to bring change in our world. While there are things that are going well and are worthy of being celebrated in the ongoing fight for human rights and justice, there are also numerous crises facing our world including extreme poverty, environmental destruction and depletion, emotional, mental and relationship disconnects in life. In efforts to bring about systemic and structural change, activists often feel discouraged and doubt their ability to make a difference. Building on the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Harvey offers an approach known as sacred activism, which engages compassion and love. Harvey offers eleven practices which we can do to engage in sacred activism in our daily lives. These practices call on us deepen and nourish our personal connection with spirit and then to use this deeper connection in our actions to transform this world.
1. Be Grateful. Harvey suggests that each day we write down one thing which make you feel grateful to be alive.
As I have listened to people talk about who their Presidential candidates are and why, I have come to realize that we live in a world where technology is allowing for the spread of information which has the potential to dismantle the structure of inherited power. It is clear that how things are has failed to solve society’s problems. We see grassroots organizations of all kinds forming again seeking to bring about change or to maintain the status quo. What I have come to realize is that it is easier to speak up and out when one has some form of privileged status in one’s life. How do we help those who have been made to feel completely helpless by these systems to feel their needs are being heard as well? How do we give voice to those who feel completely voiceless and have forgotten how to hope, dream, and are just moving through life waiting to die. Read More
Every once in a while someone asks me a question that makes me stop and think. The question asked of me was whether or not Inspiritual is a social justice organization. I have always said that Inspiritual is a space for spiritual evolution and transformation, but I had never thought about whether we are a social justice organization. So this question has had me in a state of reflection all week. Rather than share my response with the person who asked it, I thought I would make that the focus of my blog for this week.
As I thought about this question, I had to begin by defining what social justice meant to me and to Inspiritual. Read More
There are numerous ways to bring attention to injustice in the world. Some of the most powerful pieces I have read about justice and/or injustice have been poetry. As Audre Lorde once said, poetry is not a luxury. So today, I thought I would share a few pieces of my favorite justice poems including one of my own. Read More
A few months ago, I was invited to give my first public talk since I stopped pastoring. There are so many things about public speaking, which make me nervous. It is not that I cannot speak publicly, it was that for the longest time I took others response to my sermons or talks as an evaluation of my message. It was as if I was giving others the power to tell me when I was doing a good job and when I was not. I struggled with my response to others applause and comments, or lack thereof. I was intentionally working on moving to the place where my self-evaluation was unrelated to the evaluation of others, albeit positive or negative. There were times people would clap wildly, jump to their feet, yell out “you betta say that Pastor” or some other expression. I struggled with how much value I placed on their reaction. Read More
This past Tuesday my spiritual granddaughter passed away on her 43rd birthday after a long struggle with kidney disease. It was a day of mixed feelings and emotions. There was the expected feeling of loss, grieving, numbness, sadness accompanied by feelings of regret, compassion, and a whole host of feelings. Then there was joy; joy that she was no longer suffering. Joy that she got to celebrate her birthday with her mother, who had transitioned a few years earlier. Joy I had been able to know her and joy I could grieve her passing.
As I moved through my feelings, I began to realize that joy is a simple state. When I am practicing joy, I am happy, light, and at peace. The grieving and the sadness were complicated. Read More
There are so many ways to practice creating joy in our lives. This weekend I was watching a CNN report of a group of Muslims who brought 1000 doughnuts to a Donald Trump rally. In the midst of people saying derogatory things to them, they came from a space of love and kept offering doughnuts, passing out over 300 to people who had seconds before shouted hateful words about them. A doughnut became the vehicle, which might have a longer lasting effect, then one may realize. Read More
The other day I was having a conversation with someone about flashmobs and the first one that came to my mind was the one we do each year at SUNY Brockport, where I teach part time, in March as part of the One Billion Rising movement. While I was searching online for examples of flashmobs to share with my friend, I came across this one, which captured my heart and reminded me to fill my moment with joy.
It has been a while since I have listened to the final of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125. I had forgotten how it fills my heart and soul with joy just to listen to it. Read More