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Lent

First page of the Gospel of Mark, by Sargis Pi...

First page of the Gospel of Mark, by Sargis Pitsak, a Medieval Armenian scribe and miniaturist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Though I’m not a religious person it seems to be a reoccurring theme when I post. I did start Lent with the ashes smudged on my forehead – but it seems that is where my thrill ends. I passionately tried to find meaning through Jesus from Wednesday to Sunday that first week. I waited patiently  for the book “a clearing season” by Sarah Parsons. A very nice reflective book for Lent. More warm and fuzzy than suffer and repent. I will use this book next Lent when I am more serious and know what to expect – 10 years of parochial school and all I still remember was loving getting those ashes! I mean to me I show up for ashes and Lent is a done deal!

This year I tried really hard to do it different. I started a Lenten thread on a forum — all I know is when people get involved the intentions of Jesus goes right out the window. I write in my ‘live and let live’ style; Jesus is love, what is was his passion all about – and whaaa- big huge bible quotes comes out – (do these people really have this stuff memorized?) and then the strict stuff – you know the uncomfortable exegesis I disagree with in the bible. The thing is, quoting the bible out of context and without due diligence of looking at the background of the writer of the ‘book’ (i.e.e Luke) and history of the time gives one a very different message than what I think was intended. But, I’m no theologian or bible scholar, not do I wish to be. I just happen to like God, mostly.

What really made a difference this Lent was my own exploration on keeping the feeling alive of that Christ Consciousness. That feeling that seeps in on rare days when the whole world is love, I find kindness easy, forgiveness gentle and automatic – like stepping into a Kinkade painting; the feeling of warm sun slanting through trees hi-lighting ripples of water running in a crick. My mind thinks in pictures and that’s the one that came up when I started writing about God’s goodness and grace in my heart. But then, it effin sleets cold darts at your face! The world gets shocked back into reality and people are stupid, ignorant twits! But, this year I really wanted it to be different. And honestly, I think it was.

While looking for books I came across “The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You“. From the book review on Amazon: Paramahansa Yogananda takes the reader on a profoundly enriching journey through the four Gospels. Verse by verse, he illumines the universal path to oneness with God taught by Jesus to his immediate disciples but obscured through centuries of misinterpretation: “how to become like Christ, how to resurrect the Eternal Christ within one’s self”.”

Ironically, a book written by a Hindu brought me closer to a more consistent ‘good’ feeling/Christ Consciousness about others than anything I’ve read thus far. But, boy there was a cry of “I didn’t order these” when the two volume set came. They are very thick, big and heavy – somehow I thought $19.47 was buying slim volumes. What a shocker to find my money bought the equivalent of two dictionaries. So far I’ve only read the preface, introduction and first chapter – it’s dense reading, but peaceful, you know? I’ve become a better person – at least for me, even if it is only slightly; any shift is a good thing. And spending time with reading bible versus and this guy’s idea’s of what they truly mean comes a lot closer to my idea of God.

So, I really wasn’t successful on giving anything up for Lent,  – I really wanted to give up television, but that just wasn’t going to work this year for health reasons — don’t laugh! It’s true! And I wasn’t successful leading a group through Lent, but I did try to honor their feelings about Lent – though there was one screw up when I got all know it all after reading “the book”. That seemed a challenge enough. It’s always how I treat the people outside of myself that is the barometer of the health of my Spirit. Lent is not over so there is still time to shift a little more. Wow, can I actually say I focused on the meaning of Lent the whole time?

I keep thinking of all those Cardinals deciding on a new Pope with empty stomachs – I can’t help but think this might effect the outcome adversely!

Advent 2012 12.10

“Perfect fullness is always to come we do not need to demand it now. This keeps the field wide open and especially open to grace and to a future created by God rather than ourselves.” [Richard Rohr “Preparing for Christmas”]

For those of us whose rational mind makes most of the decisions it is enough to know after exploring all these pathways choosing the one that connects us is the answer. It matters not which one. I believe that was the first question. Having chose Catholicism the next question is “now what?” I bring a healthy amount of learning with me – embracing the Catholic religion is no easy feat. There was no burning bush moment that brought me here, only a slow perseverance on a non-linear path.

I very much pleased with the St. Ignatius practice; so simple. Though I like the Benedictine Rule, I think it is something to aspire to. Similar to the Carmelite nuns we have a Benedictine Monastery here with a cloister of nuns. They have a plot of land to garden and a beautiful labyrinth to walk as well as a grotto with the Virgin Mary in which to sit and meditate. It is all very peaceful. Their day is scheduled, they work and give of them selves. Sometimes I believe if I am ever left widowed this is where I would go. They also have oblates – which is a less strict order for the laywoman to join and help.  This brings me to a book that one might enjoy. It is a favorite: “In This House of Brede” – a late 40’s woman leaves her prestigious job and her children, albeit grown, to join a cloister to become a nun. It is her story of adapting, the hours, the difficulty and the rewards.

Thomas Merton’s passage “You will travel in darkness in which you will no longer be concerned with yourself and no longer compare yourself with other men” gave me pause. I don’t think it means that blissful state when we are fine with ourselves. I think it refers to that dark time when a true disaster has struck and you are so blindsided, so grieving that what others say and do matter not, and your first instincts will not be to care for yourself but for those around you.

So, as I have chosen Catholicism, and I think its important to choose, but stay open. The term ‘cafeteria Catholic’ is one used to control and cause guilt about exploring. God has come to us in so many ways. There are words used, actions taken that are the things of man, not God.  But I am choosing so then I must accept I am coming to Jesus.  And of Jesus coming to me. But it is not the man or his deeds, they are manifestations of Gods love that show how to love. The bible shows us a story of the power of Gods love- It has survived over and over again. This power we the beloved are shown through parables and in a way so that a child might understand. The adult me is not so gullible – it is my innocence that allowed me to touch what I try to find now.

Yes, I can approach the bible historically, philosophically, anthropologically – I can learn about creation myths that tell similar stories. I can watch my science shows, but in the end bible and science explain our conception very little. So, then I am left with the small me – silently wanting something bigger than me to embrace me. To lift me up, remove my burdens, give me the gifts of  compassion for all men, to understand deeply, touch bliss, love for myself, encompassing all others. Free from my past shames and judgments – total oneness. This, I believe is what happens when we die. Whether its short lived neurons firing in the brain or something larger doesn’t matter.  The fact remains we have absolutely not control over the end of life and what happens next. None. Zip. Zilch. We can spend a lifetime and a myriad of different practices to attain this enlightenment, but it will not happen. The best we can find is a modicum of peace through serving others in what ever gifts and talents we’ve been given.

I think my “now what” question is answered by showing up – show up to life, show up to mass, show up to gatherings – help out.  I am determined to finish school as a Biology teacher. My gifts lie with my ability to reach children, to write and an analytical mind that bends towards creativeness and nature. This has to benefit someone besides myself. This one life is my opportunity – to squander or fill. I have had property and riches and have lost it all, but I know, absolutely know one thing: God is with me, through me when I write. It is the place I hear God talk to me.

Jesus. The Kingdom of Heaven. To come to Jesus. There are terms I have issues getting past (for whatever reasons). A bucket load of belief is not necessary to begin. I’ve been waiting a long time for that burning bush sign – at some point the “I” of me must persevere: Father, Jesus and the the Holy Spirit are with me always. The saints, the angels, the beings of light emanate through everything; we touch through ritual. All of our senses are engaged. When that happens it is easier for the left and right sides of the brain to interact and there is oneness. All of this is God telling me he is here right now. It is not the semantics of he/she/it. That love of the beloved – to be so loved . . .

Somehow after all this writing there is a quickening of spirit. Just enough to protect the  small fire. You ever notice metaphorically the wood must be dry to feed the fire as the vessel must be empty to fill?

I cannot speak of Advent without Mary. Her womb, the empty vessel that was filled. How this all came about, real or imagined the authors of this storyline were our ancestors. It duplication in its many forms started somewhere in a grain of truth. Our ancestors, the cave people experienced on a different level, they felt, depended on their intuition to survive – not everything they experienced is sheer mythology or propagation of the species. That would be hubris on my part to think so. They were closer to Gods spark physically. Their stories went through many transformations, but there are ribbons through each race of humans that are the same color and can be traced back to the same source. Different words but the same story. This how we know a Christ being was among us. This is how we know it it will come again. This is how I can celebrate the pregnancy of Mary, the miracle of birth – of two parents holding their child – and that child growing up with all the innocence and perfect love of a new born.

Through this miracle, this story we are reminded, sometimes even filled with Gods grace and Glory! Hallelujah! fill our lungs. This story is our innocence incarnate.

I am grappling with peace of heart. Mid-live and recovery; separate yet the same journey.  A woman comes to mid-life with gifts, memories, experience, heart break, and night sweats – and for most some loss of innocence; we’ve been touched by death of someone special by now and have learned to navigate those waters – sometimes with grace, sometimes not, but ultimately realizing that deep pain has come and will most likely come again. We’ve probably survived a divorce or managed through the rocky waters of a long-term relationship, a debilitating/chronic illness or accident that challenged us or a loved one beyond what we thought we could endure or overcome.

The term mid-life does not describe the unsettledness and the introspection of looking at a life half over.  We’ve probably been mothers, daughters and wive’s and in other’s service, and for many tied to a schedule and a clock and appointments. We are also the sandwich generation; taking care of kids and parents, but for most of us the latter end of mid-life is past empty nest. The prospect of what to do with life next is truly a mind maze — there is more to do? More education, follow your heart and give up your job. In a post-depression economy where many of our lives have been changed from what they thought they were going to be. Should I? do I have to? What about retirement? Is it just work and kids and eat right and the myriad of should’s to live longer? Better? And what is worth it, what is this life all about? Is it just a string of putting out fires created by others, the nurturing of others that is so much a part of our nature.

It seems the challenges of a women in her 40’s is different than her 50’s and yet again her 60’s. But drinking changes the dynamic of the growth in these years, we can become stuck at a certain stage and never move on while still drinking, yet when we quit the growth begins again but our disadvantage seems to be now we are late bloomers; face issue’s that  probably would have been lesson’s already learned. Our own judgement of our character is relentlessly unkind. New sobriety, even a few years sober brings awareness to all of our short-comings, and all the incidences that have not yet been dealt with. The mistakes that need to be rectified first slow things down to what seems an interminable crawl. I think growing and living are as important as just being alive to scrap another day.

Sometimes status quo is easiest.  Stability desired – stability to the point of allowing circumstances that should change remain the same. The fear and exhilaration’s of stepping out of our comfort zone does not seem like a peaceful endeavor. Yet to find peace with myself with out being busy, without trying to conquer the next thing to prove I am living my life well — To hear what it is I want yet spend the time on the work of peace of heart, the answer I am left with is God.

I am looking towards religion, but not as a church would have one look at it but from a stand point of, ‘I do not not want to be a church of one,’ with only my own thoughts, and using a buffet of spiritual offerings. A need of a more structured spiritual life not centered around my own thoughts.

I wonder how any one else comes to this, if they do. The idea of religion vs. spirituality is a chasm at times. But contention is not necessary as they speak the same language as Kathleen Norris puts it in her book “The Cloister Walk” about the Benedictine Rule, “Benedict’s voice remains calm – persevere, bear one another’s burdens, be patient with one another’s infirmities of body or behavior. And when the “thorns of contention” arise in daily life, daily forgive, and be willing to accept forgiveness. Remember that you are not the center of the universe but, to use Benedict’s words, “keep death daily before your eyes.”

But my thoughts are hard on myself, my worries and concerns deep about daily affairs, death is fearsome in it’s finality — it is not that I shall go, but I will not leave a trace of me behind.  One person in an evolutionary chain that continues until it is extinct. It is natural to notice death now, one eye has slit open, carefully, not too wide to notice that this life is finite; awake now, this dormant giant that youth allowed to sleep. This knowledge though makes me want to fight for peace of heart, for gentleness of nature. She says, “ peace is not an easy thing, but something that must be struggled for. I don’t want that to be so – it seems by it’s very nature peace should just be peaceful.

A movie I was watching today said something about the dash – it’s how you live that dash — the one between your birth year and your death year on a tombstone.

I guess we all decide on how we want to live that dash — and maybe recovery gives a chance to notice that there is even a dash to be lived. The struggle is not to be feared, but let lap gently on the shores of the soul. The one thing we didn’t know was a gift.

I’m fine in the way a woman usually is when she says FINE — lol — which is good, getting business done and being slightly down in-between. Except now, sober, it doesn’t seem like life or death or even permanent. (or is that just old age and wisdom?)

Exciting news in the form of a 36 gallon fish tank.  Beautiful and has already encouraged hours of meditation. Water falling, several fish from a Sunrise Gourami (Juno) – to a Bali shark (Zoe), a couple rasboras (Detectives Flynn and Provenza after ‘The Closer‘ characters; as they seem to patrol the fish tank) and two pleco’s one I call Jr. because he is so small. And one invertebrate – Jaque lol (‘Finding Nemo’) Also ‘The Dread Pirate Robert’; the one fish that seemed to survive the move, the cat, several unplanned water changes, and chasing some neons to the top so the cat would eat them instead of him  whereby earning him his name, was in a small zen 5 gallon tank. He seems to be well pleased with the new tank and space but took to antagonizing the Bali, who already hit the tank has a nervous nelly. Odd for a poor fish named after a shark — but I have named her Zoe — in the hopes she shall live. There is also another fish of unknown origin that I call A.D.H.D. because she continue’s to dart everywhere, making sudden stops and turns – hyper, aimless and forgetful has all getout — o wait, that’s me.  small chuckle there.

I had already run out of mass, church, whatever you call those nondenominational gatherings that morning. Hey, I don’t mind shaking hands, but seriously when you have us break into groups of three or four my need for community and Spirit is suddenly forgotten and I flee! seriously — soon as we stood up I told husband- out, out out, move, move — pushing a little on his back! I longed for the safety of my Catholic Church —  Though Richard Rohr speaks to how pastors have to dumb down the message and it is difficult for true spiritual transformations to occur. How this segued into a trip to the pet store after breakfast I have no idea.

I have to got to the University to withdraw this week and hopefully they will extend the application until the following semester. (Which causes a great deal of sadness.) I’m confident they will. I’m still working on math online so who knows, I may test into Pre-Calc.   It’s is dogone hot — some say 117 today — though I think more like 113 –  this has been an unusually long hot summer. If it’s global warming I told Mtn Man we need to move — my sis wants me in California, but that is going to fall off into the ocean. But at least my BS in marine science won’t go to waste.

My Jason is due for his weekly visit and we will cook again together. It’s his big effort and then I make one trying to learn or watch a video game.  Also, this is the first week since the beginning of June that I have had 7 sick free days in a row. I’m afraid to say anything. And of course now I don’t want any procedures!

Sometimes, or lately personal circumstances with health and personal relationships are unexpectedly bleak. It feels like I’ve taken figurative punches or rugs have been pulled out from beneath me and then there is blankness my mind goes to: a black, literally black and empty void- it’s muffled and has a vertigo feeling to it.   Literally panic sets in when I can’t escape life, it’s past, it’s present, it’s uncertain future. I can feel my chest well with fear; that cavernous hole paved up with large stones, going deep down in to the ground, once it finds water there is only one thing that can happen to that pressure, it rises in the contained space. It is not yet the cleansing water that frees the soul, it’s heaviness rocks around in the open spaces near your heart closing them and making it hard to breathe.

I’m panicked – with no outlet, and I recognize this fear –and it’s come back — the sequel horror movie with the evil monster slashing and cutting and killing everything around you, but not you, not yet.  It terrorizes the mind, the psyche — and there is absolutely no way to out run it, you have to out maneuver it.  Running is doing, running mentally does nothing except postpone feeling – maybe giving yourself time: the mind time to ameliorate some of the intenseness.  I don’t know, pain is pain. There is a tendency to do something stupid like get a dog, buy clothes, get a new haircut anything to distract from hurting, from the powerlessness life sometimes holds. Go, do, be something, someone else. Unfortunately you can’t out flee trauma or grief or pain. You can only wait for it to subside. You live with it. I wish I knew a way out. Now I know what it means when the say demons live within you.

Yesterday I went to a non- denominational church –  ‘born-again’ as some would call it. I’ve always held this judgmental belief people join these things when they run out of options for dealing with something their mind cannot, when we don’t have back-up in real life; where else is there to turn except the superstitions of a God, the structure of rules, and the comfort of fellowship with one belief. But I have to question, is it “the force be with you,” or an individual, personal God, or neurons that fire off to help you in your time of need. I know for me I never feel closer to a God than when all hell is breaking loose. But when things are going well, it’s easy to forget that old relationship. I feel guilty then for abandoning the one thing that gives peace. I think God loves you no matter what. I don’t see anger as a God emotion, in fact I think God is fairly emotionless.  Some like to think so. The non-dualistic thinkers: “Think all positive and that is what God is.”

But relying on oneself for a Positive God is kind of like trusting an inside straight – it works only sometimes and it’s always a gamble. I don’t think they have it right either. But then again, no one has it right — especially the ones that think they do!! I think that’s what Jesus means when he says those the think they will be first will be last and vice-versa in Matthew19:30 – just learned where that was in the bible so don’t go thinkin’ I can quote scripture. I can’t. One passage is a very small step. But it is a step, one I’m not sure of which direction I’m going. Kind of feel like the Fool depicted on the first card of a Tarot deck; blithely going about, dog nipping at his heals, a knapsack on a stick, about ready to walk off a cliff.

I guess the point of this whole thing today comes back to the question that continues to be asked: Am I believing in God because I need to or because ‘he’s” really there. Reaching for comfort is not a bad thing. I don’t think that God hold’s grudges, or thinks we are innately evil or sinful, I think we are loved in a way we cannot truly comprehend by something bigger than ourselves.

Once Again

Once again I start a blog.

There has been the diet blog on listening to your own intuition. I decided Primal/Paleo was the way to go and hence the blog title PrimalIntuition was born. Had fun with the design. However, counter-intuitively I promptly signed up for delivered foods. The food was gluten free and I thought the answer to many prayers of healing and weight-loss. Then I dutifully photographed and posted what turned out to be many versions of quinoa and sweet potatoes. This eventually put a dent in my enthusiasm.

I also unwisely bought a domain title at WordPress for another blog about healthy eating thinking that would ensure success and started the steep learning curve to figuring out how to Tag and do amazing feats in the blogosphere– clever, but that didn’t work so well. I spent days designing and into the wee hours of the nights researching, then changing the layout until it went from what I liked to what I thought others would like. My inner artist had fun but the writer got all tuckered out.

There was the original mixed-media collage blog; that one lasted almost two years, probably my most successful. – I had fun. Lots of friends in the art blogging world. And one more very brief – maybe four hours long in the excitement of Epiphany (appropriate!) when I am reborn a Catholic; from Christmas to Ash Wednesday — I seem to fizzle during Lent not usually making it to the resurrection. But, I had high hopes; in the anticipation of the devoted servant I was on my way to becoming I started a blog to write about my conversion back to the Catholic faith. Faith is an interesting concept, for another time however. It was short-lived; the blog, not necessarily faith. Spent most of the time figuring out how to size and post the little picture of the lamb and cross in my side bar.

So, once again into the breach. This flavor of the month is ‘normal’. Well, whatever is normal for being on the other side of angst at mid-life (thank god), post empty-nest, semi-settled in the next phase of my life’s purpose and the actual comfort of being old enough to know better, but not yet dead or even heading for the door! (Never noticed how many hyphens are at mid-age!) It’s quite peaceful this empty and mostly clean house. The only reminder of small children is stepping on Lucy the cats’ clear pink rattle toy. It rolls around, and makes noise, and every time I think of the boys when they were wee small and stepping on Lego’s and Ninja Turtle action figures. Now there is a creamy Kwan Yin sitting crossed-legged on the floor and my Gram’s cream round backed Victorian chair with legs and arm rests that make it look like it will get up and walk into Beauty and the Beast, the movie.

 

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