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Avanoo

God Fearing …

“I’ve never feared God, Because I know my God.”

We hear Christians talk about God fearing, but do most of them really know what that phrase means? Probably not, because the God of the evangelical faith is one if judgment and literation and punishment for all the ills and evils of this world like sin, homosexuality and adultery, just to name a few.

I’ve more than once found myself on the receiving end of one or another’s Christian God’s condemnation and eternal damnation saying that I should fear God because I am a homosexual and I have AIDS, so God is surely punishing me for my sins.

Never has a Christian ever asked me HOW I was infected, but they tell me that God is punishing me and that I should fear that God because when I die I will surely meet my doom in the pit of hell. I feared death, more than I have ever feared God. And I’ve faced my death and therefore I know God better than a mere mortal Christian.

One comes to know God much closer when he is faced with his own mortality. When one is faced with the finality of death, one begins to converse with God in ways that no mere mortal can do or will do until they face the same predicament.

I have a healthy respect for my God, because He continues to give me life and puts air in my lungs and prayers in my heart. I have spent a lifetime getting to know my God. I listen for his voice and I follow his path.

It also helps that I have had a near death experience and I have sat in the garden and I have worked over the last 12 years to try and decipher whether or not I brought back answers to questions that I asked while I was over there, before they sent me back.

I enjoy the belief that I walk with my God and I have a healthy respect for my God, and enough humility to know for sure that I am not God, and I don’t have all the answers. I also have a healthy fear of God as well. Healthy fear reminds me that I am human, because too much fear would paralyze me.

Sobriety offers me another way to get to know my God through the vehicle of faith and coming to know a Power Greater than myself, an entity that I define as God. And I am sober today, by the grace of that very same God.

I did not grow up in a church that taught fear of God, we were taught to respect God and to Love God and by that same love, love others. Each generation of Christian I have met, known, and have spoken to has their own definition of God and in that definition only they can tell you about if or why they fear God.

I am no more damned than he who casts the first stone.

I’ve studied God, in his many incarnations. I have worshiped in many houses of prayer, I think one of the most moving moments was when I spent passover a few years ago at a shul here in Montreal. It was a truly remarkable time in my university career.

I believe that in order to have a healthy relationship with God, we must know our God. We must have a balance of all those things that are part of any relationship, fear, love, humility, faith, trust, solemnity, adoration, respect – all in good measure.

I don’t know a punishing God. When people speak about fear of God one usually speaks about suffering, that those who suffer, suffer because of God’s judgment or punishment, so I add this take on suffering:

For me as a Christian, I have faced my own suffering with courage and it is by my faith that I continue to hold on to this mortal coil because it strengthens me and makes me whole. It defined who I was early on, and made me the man I am today.

Here I will quote from the late pontiff John Paul II from his book, Rise let us be on our way, where he speaks about suffering.

“I have always been conscious of the fundamental importance of what the suffering contributes to the life of the church. I remember that at the beginning the sick initiated me. I needed a lot of courage to stand before a sick person and enter, so to speak, into his physical and spiritual pain, not to betray discomfort, and to show at least a little loving compassion.

Only later did I begin to grasp the profound meaning of the mystery of human suffering. In the weakness of the sick, I saw emerging ever more clearly a new strength – the strength of mercy. In a sense, the sick provoke mercy. Through their prayers and sacrifices, they not only ask for mercy but create a “space for mercy,” or better open up spaces for mercy. By their illness and suffering they call forth acts of mercy and create the possibility for accomplishing them.”

I don’t know what it feels like to know a God that instills fear in his people, unless of course you belong to some evangelical branches of Christianity. And that is a fact.

I have never feared God, because I know my God. Because I seek his face, and I listen for his voice, and I am still alive, which means that I must be on good terms with My God, because there is grateful air in my lungs…


Freedom …

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This notion of freedom is something that I have not thought about but I guess I can write about it. What is freedom? Growing up in middle America I lived under the protective shadow of my parents, and as a young person I wasn’t so free that I could know the people I wanted to know and have the friends I wanted to have. My parents had their prejudices and issues. So I had to mask reality with a layer of ‘pleasing’ so that I would not rock the proverbial social boat.

The social and family gospel of the times was no blacks, no gays, no opinionated friends and surely not a boy-friend. I kept that model to please my family until I had decided to move out on  my own. That was  my first taste of freedom, so I thought.

True as it was, I was a slave to the bottle. I was a slave to image, I was a slave to social pressure. So with that I wasn’t really free was I? I was a slave to what I thought was reality, in my warped young mind. I did not have the street smarts to know the difference. I surely did not know what the right path was, because no one pointed it out to me. All the young men I knew were walking one certain path and I was surely following them. Which led to many mistakes, heartaches and problems.

In the 90’s when I met my then partner, and he subsequently committed suicide after learning he was sick, I met a man who began my education on being free. I think this was the first time that I felt totally free. I could explore my sexuality in all its carnality, and I was wrapped in a blanket of safety by my Master at the time.

Living within the community of leather men, I was protected, I was safe and I could ask my questions and get my answers from men who would not lie to me nor abuse me, because my Master deemed me special above the other boys he knew.

When I was diagnosed with AIDS in 1994, I have written about this before, that blanket of protection got a little tighter. Humans became animals, adults became monsters, Christians became sinners to the highest degree. Men were dying, my friends were sick and they too died alone and on the street, left out in the cold by people who were supposed to love them and care for them.

In my little leather world I was free, I put down the bottle for the first time and I started to live. I stopped counting the days until I would eventually die, as I was told, and I lived. I had a life outside my job, and that life was to take care of myself – I had a lot of help, my Master saw to my every need, medical, financial and practical.

I went to work and when I crossed the threshold into the building, which was a bar at that time, I left that world outside, outside. In that womb of safety I did whatever I was told. I did not question any chore I was asked to perform, although I did. I could be whomever I wanted to be, in that sense I was free.

But always, my Master’s eyes were always upon me. I was untouchable and that was the rule of the day. It was the most freeing time of my life, to give my life over to the care of another human being in all senses of the word. I wanted for nothing, I needed nothing, I was loved and protected in ways today do not exist. I gave my trust to one man and his community and they never let me down.

There was sacred life in the community of the profane. There was sacred love in the realm of the profane. To the outsider we were the strange and the demented, we were other and we were strange, they used to say that we were abusive and profane. How could we be human and live the way we were all living. I can tell you that in those years I never felt so free in my life to be who I wanted to be, because nobody told me otherwise. In my Masters house I was free…

When he departed my life, that freedom disappeared. I had to reenter the social world of what they told me was normal. I was sick, I was alone, but I was also sober… I never felt so much pain as I did in those intervening years emotionally, physically and mentally.

That cocoon of protection and freedom was gone, and I had to relearn what it meant to live in the ‘straight world.’ I became a slave to social norms. I was bound to the life I was handed by the community I lived in. All those things I took for granted in that other world were shackles that held me to the ground. I was no longer free…

I moved from one location to another, I fought the system of medical care that only wanted me to die rather than pay out to help care for me as a citizen of the United States, and a resident of where I was living. I was not free, I was chained to a life that did not want me to survive.

I tried a geographic cure to try and settle myself somewhere and I fell into the trap of addiction once again. I was a slave to cannabis, I was a slave to the bottle and I was a slave to whatever drug ended up on the coffee table. Eighteen months later I had been physically beaten up so badly by the one I was with that I was unrecognizable and ended up in a safe house thousands of miles from where I had been, because someone know where I was and he saved me from imminent death.

I was free again…

After a month in that safe house I risked my life by reentering the world, and I returned to the only place I knew life. I returned to that life that had me chained to one spot, playing the system for all that is was worth. I became a cast iron bitch in order to save my life. I did things that I had to do, I was crazy because of the circus of medical care that kept me always on the edge of a nervous breakdown. I was surely not free…

A warning to parents… Never lie to your children, because one day they will seek the truth to those lies. I guess that at some point for some reason I had chatted with someone who got me to ask the right question at the right time. A well spoken and protected lie became the key to real freedom.

**********

I got sober again, I put down the drugs, the bottle and the life that chained me to the ground and I began to be free, again…

I got on a plane and sought sanctuary. I paid the price I had to pay in order to make it all right and above board. I left all that I knew, for a land that promised me freedom beyond anything that I had ever experienced. I got off the plane and entered a life that was miles from where I had been, and I began to learn what it meant to be free.

I found a place to live, I found a meeting to attend and to root to. I met people who would help me build a home, find medical care and I entered a social system of well placed people in all the right places.

Sobriety is a freeing experience. I put down all those ways that I had always clung to. I turned my back on the life I hated. I worked the program because they told me that if i truly wanted to be free, I had to get rid of the wreckage of my past, give freely of what I had and I had to suit up and show up every day of my life. I started to learn how to be totally free and a year would pass before I learned how to stay in my day…

I met a boy, I fell in love, and I started building a home for both of us. Surely two sober people walking the same path could not go wrong, right???

A year into my sobriety, I started a university career at age 34. What did I know about going back to school? I was much older than the other students. But they told me that I would always have help. I met a man who became my mentor, my father, my friend and closest adviser.

Two years into my new life, I was learning what it meant to be really free. The war in Iraq was looming and people were marching in the streets. Sew Canadian flags to your backpacks and never mention that you were an American. I followed that direction. I marched like everyone else marched against the war. I was free…

I hit a wall during that time, because I did not know where I was socially and politically. I had one foot still planted there and one foot firmly planted here. I was divided and conflicted. I sat with my mentor one afternoon and I told him that I did not know how to feel, what to think or where to go next.

Wiser advice was never so important to me than what he told me. He said “if you don’t know where you are going, stop and sit down where you are, look around for the signs, get comfortable with your feelings and learn about them. Find comfort in what you are feeling until it feels natural and free. Because if you don’t learn about what you are feeling how can you move forward? When you are ready, consult your map, ask your questions and then take a few steps, one after the other, and soon you will be on your way.”

I chose the Maple leaf, I walked away from my paternal heritage and history. I embraced my maternal heritage and I never looked back. I will tell you that I never felt such freedom in my life. From that day forward I lived to be free, I lived to be me.

The days, months and years that would follow that decision posed very harsh and painful experiences. Life became tragically painful as my then boyfriend was diagnosed Bi-Polar and he fell into the pit of hell and sat there for ten months and I had to care for both of us.

There was a cost that came with my freedom, because I chose to settle down with my partner and we were building a life together and I was the sole care taker for our home. I made my choice, now I had to learn how to grow up. Not that I wasn’t grown up, but I learned a very valuable lesson in maturity. I put the needs of my partner before my own and learned how to truly care for another because it was the right thing to do, and as God as my witness, I never felt so much freedom in my life, although I would not see that until I sit here and write out the words.

Thank god for my sober community and the advisers who helped me and the doctors who cared for my partner, and the system that made it possible for us to live. The longer I stayed sober, the freer I became. Sobriety frees one of the past, and gives one the ability to move forward in life.

In the society that I live in today we are free. If I don’t agree with political leaders I can protest. If I don’t agree with my government I can vote and make a difference. With an education I can do anything, with a degree I have knowledge, and with specialization I can do what I love to do.

**********

Living abroad, watching the world from above the Northern border, I have perspective. And I can tell you that living in the United States was a lesson in following the leader. We were taught certain lessons, we were told certain truths, my father beat into me love for the flag and my country, he taught me never to question the leaders of government and God forbid never question the wisdom of the president.

Keep your mouth shut and do as you are told. Learn the history as it was written and follow the example set out by your parents, and never ever question your place in the grand scheme of things…

I watched the pre-war riots in the streets of my city. I watched protesters march day after day after day. I got angry and I started to disagree with all that I had known. I had “spit in the face of my father” by leaving the country because I wanted to be free…

I say to my friends and people who live below the Northern Border,

“You want to be free, pack up your family, and leave the comfort of your lazy boys and your beer and sofas, and live somewhere else for one year, and watch the world go by from another location, other than the one you look at it go by in today, see how the world looks from where we are and think hard upon the ways you know, because after that year abroad you will never see your world quite the same way ever again…”

You will never feel as free as I feel free today…

Freedom is a choice… I choose to be free… I am free …


Snow White, Serenity …

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I stayed up all night, watching the snow fall on the city. It was beautiful, it was sacred. I thought about the poem I wrote her not long ago.

Oh, beauty of beauty,
Come to me quietly
and be still my beating heart
and quiet my soul.

I have longed for your face
for your body and your soul
I call to you now, harken my call
and appear before me,
in all of your beauty, come…

Speak to me of the silence
fill me with the joy of your presence
give to me that which I have been waiting
fill me and make me one with you
in the silence of this night

I wait for you, like I have waited for no other
Come, let us dance, for the night calls us to be united
Ave Maria, the goddess of beauty
the Mother of the universe
we await your arrival with glad hearts
and quiet serenity…

We danced all night, you would have loved to join us. It was such a wonderful night of nights, the peaceful quiet, the falling snow, beauty at my side, in her gown of sacred white.

This day I suited up and put on my snow boots and ventured out into the cold, to see for myself what she had brought the city. There is nothing more sacred than making first steps in a bank of freshly fallen snow.

There is a hush in the city, the sound muted by piled up snow. This is when all gets quiet, the hustle and bustle becomes methodical well placed steps and careful navigation. One must not rush through the white, care must be taken to avoid slips and scrapes.

I remember how we used to go to the park and lay down in the snow, making snow angels in the virgin snow. I meditate on the hopes that you did that today as well.

It was hard going for awhile to find my footing in the deep snow, how steady your hand was at guiding me through the drifts. I miss that hand today. And i wonder, did you offer that hand to someone else?

The day is beautiful the snow is still falling as I look out my window across the square. I hope you took some time to dance with her and that your day was as beautiful as mine.


"Gloria in Excelsis Deo"

I went to the nursery the other day to pick out a tree because I love the smell of fresh pine, the bringing of nature into my home. But you weren’t there to share in the event.

The little old man who works there offered to clean cut the tree and wrap it so that I could carry it home through the underground tunnel I often walk through when it is too cold outside to travel overland. It is snowing today and it is a gray day out and more snow is on its way, the perfect weather to bring home a tree to decorate.

The doorman greeted me when I reached the building and held open the door for me because, really, my hands were full. There were people bustling out of the elevator, so I did not have to wait for a car.

Finally, we are home and I take to tree out to the portico and I remove the netting and push open the branches and attach the tree base and I tightly screw them in, the tree is ready to take its place in front of the picture window that looks out over the city from on high.

On the divan lies my favorite blanket, my favorite holiday books rest on the coffee table and there is light streaming in the windows casting an odd light in my living room. Cassie is up on the sofa watching me with her tail swinging here and there. She knows that empty boxes will be ready for her to play in once I start decorating.

I open the flume and lay a few logs in the fireplace and I wad paper up and push it beneath the logs and I strike a match and I set fire to paper, the sparks fly and the logs take light. There is nothing like a roaring fire to set the stage to holiday decorations.

I saunter over to the stereo and I flip a switch and music begins to swirl around me bouncing off one wall and then the other. The stage is set, I can begin. Holly, we must have holly on the mantle piece and candles lit on the side tables and on the shelves.

Memories of the family gathered to decorate the tree in an almost ritual like fashion. Each ornament taken out of its protective wrap holds a particular story of how it was made, or for what occasion it was given, and to whom it was given to. But not any more, you are not here to tell me the stories of the holiday.

I take each ornament and add a hook, and as I reach for a branch I offer my meditation on that ornament. I take note of its shape and color and I know where it came from and why I bought it, but the ritual is not the same because you are not here with me to share in the event.

Multicolored lights are wound up and down the tree hidden amongst the branches as if to hang effortlessly in the air between the branches of pine. Strings of beads in shades of silver and gold are sitting in the box next to me as I unwind them like strings of extravagant pearls.

Over the next hour I add each ornament in a specific location on the tree, there is something to be said about ritual. We just don’t hang an ornament wildly and without thought. There was a reason we hung this ornament here and that ornament there. Because you thought that it looked right to put them where they ended up. I kept that tradition over the last few years. Sad, you aren’t here to see them.

I ventured out a few weeks ago to the Christmas shop to buy some new ornaments frilly decorated and in day glow colors. They are quite nice, a departure from the classic ornament in red, gold or blue. They add quite a spark of light to the tree, a bit of whimsy.

In that old box is my creche that you bought me many years ago, and the angel that sits atop the tree that we picked out together, how beautiful she is in her red gown of Christmas red and white.

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining…

Twilight is upon us, the shadows are stalking across the city and through the windows come the shadows of the condo next door, so I light the candles to shed light along with the fireplace a wonderful golden light bathes the condo. At the bottom of that big box is the skirt that you sewed for me. How many years has it been that I have used that same wonderful skirt. Oh the memories of Christmas wrapped in that piece of fabric.

I set the creche beneath the tree, all the characters in their right place, the wise men to the North, and the shepherds to the South, and the angels above all proclaiming,

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest,and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

I look across the city from my picture window across the city and I notice, as night falls, the other trees in the many windows that surround the square I live in, it is Christmas, there are lit trees in many of the windows and decorations on many balconies this year. The neighborhood seems to be in a particularly festive spirit unlike other years. I am sure that my neighbors are looking out their windows to see my tree that adds to the view in the square.

It is too bad that you are not here with me tonight to celebrate the day with me, but I pray that you remember me when you put up your tree, how wonderful it must look. Well, night has fallen and I sit here on the divan with Cassie wrapped up in my favorite blanket watching the fire burn brightly. The Christmas music is playing and all is well in the world.

“Gloria in Excelsis Deo”


“Gloria in Excelsis Deo”

I went to the nursery the other day to pick out a tree because I love the smell of fresh pine, the bringing of nature into my home. But you weren’t there to share in the event.

The little old man who works there offered to clean cut the tree and wrap it so that I could carry it home through the underground tunnel I often walk through when it is too cold outside to travel overland. It is snowing today and it is a gray day out and more snow is on its way, the perfect weather to bring home a tree to decorate.

The doorman greeted me when I reached the building and held open the door for me because, really, my hands were full. There were people bustling out of the elevator, so I did not have to wait for a car.

Finally, we are home and I take to tree out to the portico and I remove the netting and push open the branches and attach the tree base and I tightly screw them in, the tree is ready to take its place in front of the picture window that looks out over the city from on high.

On the divan lies my favorite blanket, my favorite holiday books rest on the coffee table and there is light streaming in the windows casting an odd light in my living room. Cassie is up on the sofa watching me with her tail swinging here and there. She knows that empty boxes will be ready for her to play in once I start decorating.

I open the flume and lay a few logs in the fireplace and I wad paper up and push it beneath the logs and I strike a match and I set fire to paper, the sparks fly and the logs take light. There is nothing like a roaring fire to set the stage to holiday decorations.

I saunter over to the stereo and I flip a switch and music begins to swirl around me bouncing off one wall and then the other. The stage is set, I can begin. Holly, we must have holly on the mantle piece and candles lit on the side tables and on the shelves.

Memories of the family gathered to decorate the tree in an almost ritual like fashion. Each ornament taken out of its protective wrap holds a particular story of how it was made, or for what occasion it was given, and to whom it was given to. But not any more, you are not here to tell me the stories of the holiday.

I take each ornament and add a hook, and as I reach for a branch I offer my meditation on that ornament. I take note of its shape and color and I know where it came from and why I bought it, but the ritual is not the same because you are not here with me to share in the event.

Multicolored lights are wound up and down the tree hidden amongst the branches as if to hang effortlessly in the air between the branches of pine. Strings of beads in shades of silver and gold are sitting in the box next to me as I unwind them like strings of extravagant pearls.

Over the next hour I add each ornament in a specific location on the tree, there is something to be said about ritual. We just don’t hang an ornament wildly and without thought. There was a reason we hung this ornament here and that ornament there. Because you thought that it looked right to put them where they ended up. I kept that tradition over the last few years. Sad, you aren’t here to see them.

I ventured out a few weeks ago to the Christmas shop to buy some new ornaments frilly decorated and in day glow colors. They are quite nice, a departure from the classic ornament in red, gold or blue. They add quite a spark of light to the tree, a bit of whimsy.

In that old box is my creche that you bought me many years ago, and the angel that sits atop the tree that we picked out together, how beautiful she is in her red gown of Christmas red and white.

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining…

Twilight is upon us, the shadows are stalking across the city and through the windows come the shadows of the condo next door, so I light the candles to shed light along with the fireplace a wonderful golden light bathes the condo. At the bottom of that big box is the skirt that you sewed for me. How many years has it been that I have used that same wonderful skirt. Oh the memories of Christmas wrapped in that piece of fabric.

I set the creche beneath the tree, all the characters in their right place, the wise men to the North, and the shepherds to the South, and the angels above all proclaiming,

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest,and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

I look across the city from my picture window across the city and I notice, as night falls, the other trees in the many windows that surround the square I live in, it is Christmas, there are lit trees in many of the windows and decorations on many balconies this year. The neighborhood seems to be in a particularly festive spirit unlike other years. I am sure that my neighbors are looking out their windows to see my tree that adds to the view in the square.

It is too bad that you are not here with me tonight to celebrate the day with me, but I pray that you remember me when you put up your tree, how wonderful it must look. Well, night has fallen and I sit here on the divan with Cassie wrapped up in my favorite blanket watching the fire burn brightly. The Christmas music is playing and all is well in the world.

“Gloria in Excelsis Deo”


Hiding Place

There is a crawl space underneath the house where I have stored newspapers and books and I find myself wiggling myself into that space to get away from it all. I am surrounded with old news print and old musty volumes of books I haven’t read in ages, yet I need to have my library around me.

There are people around that have been trying to gain access to my hiding place, trying to coax me out of hiding, and yet I persist in my desire not to be found. It is a comfy place to be, where I can sit and listen to my heart beat, the papers drown out all sound from the outside, which is a distraction to my meditations.

I have been having nightmares as of late and I find myself retreating into my cubby hole for safety, the emotional roller coaster is speeding down the track and it is all I can do to hold on and stay in my seat.

******

“Chase dreams often stem from feelings of anxiety in your walking life. The way we respond to anxiety and pressure in real life is typically manifested as a chase dream. Running is an instinctive response to physical threats in our environment. Often in these dream scenarios, you are being pursued by some attacker, who wants to hurt or possibly kill you.

You are running away, hiding, or trying to outwit your pursuer. Chase dreams may represent your way of coping with fears, stress or various situations in your waking life. Instead of confronting the situation, you are running away and avoiding it.�Ask yourself who is the one chasing you and you may gain some understanding and insight on the source of your fears and pressure.”

******

I don’t feel like I am running from anything, but I’ve been feeling terribly hormonal as of late, I spent the evening yesterday searching information on adoptions – just a look see. I’ve received some good feedback from friends I have spoken to about my desire to have children.

I know we are in no way or shape economically or logistically ready to bring another life under our roof at this time, and that this desire is going to be a long term goal, but I must admit that with my medical history, I am not a very good candidate, although we shall see.

******
I am a jumbled mess of emotions and I am unsettled and my brain in running in ten different directions at once, and for the life of me I cannot figure out what has triggered this reaction in me.

I mean, seriously, do you know that they are playing Christmas music in stores here in the city! The weather is miserably cold and rainy and once again, there is snow in the forecast for Friday, let us pray.

I’ve been working on my meditations, well,  I don’t call working, “working” but I spend ample time each day trying to still my soul and remember to breathe. I have to repeat the stay in my day mantra:

roof over my head – food in the fridge – bed to sleep in – all is well
roof over my head – food in the fridge – bed to seep in – all is well

Breathe in – and exhale, Breathe in – and exhale …

******
I can feel a change coming on, life is about to make a sharp shift in some way, I am searching out the possibilities, new opportunities, and places to live. I am wanting to uproot myself from where I am and move to somewhere I think I need to be, and that is not a usual feeling for me. I am having that “the grass is greener in another pasture” feeling… and I know I should pay attention to it and I don’t have to entertain it perse, but it is there.

Along with my chase dreams, they also include death and this is what my dictionary says about that:

“To dream of your own death, indicates a transitional phase in your life. You are becoming more enlightened or spiritual. Alternatively, you are trying desperately to escape the demands of your daily life.

To dream that you die in your dream, symbolizes inner changes, transformation, self-discovery and positive development that is happening within you or in your life. Although such a dreams may bring about feelings of fear and anxiety, it is no cause for alarm and is often considered a positive symbol.

******

Dreams of experiencing your own death usually means that big changes are ahead for you. You are moving on to new beginnings and leaving the past behind. These changes does not necessarily imply a negative turn of events. Metaphorically, dying can be seen as an end or a termination to your old ways and habits. So, dying does not always mean a physical death, but an ending of something.”

So I am correct in saying that I feel a transition is on the horizon, I even threw down my cards to try and figure out what was going on and they spoke the same as well. I know that listening to that psychic voice inside of me is very useful, because it usually is never wrong.

I think I am bored of school, and I am longing for an adventure in a new location, a change of scenery, I think it boils down to the fact that as of late I have been entertaining the thought of

“What about me???”

It is a very selfish thought in some cases, and it is something that helped define for me what it meant to become a man, I had to put the needs of another before my own and stop asking “what about me.” As of late, I am tired of putting everybody first in my life and doing the next right thing. I want to sit in “what about me” for as long as I like, but I am not sure that that is really the right thing to do.

The holidays are coming quickly here in our city. The hustle and bustle has begun, and November has not even ended yet. God help us all.

The good thing about this holiday is that I will be working on Christmas night and new years night, which will be sweet. That is a change I am looking forward to. School is winding down and in a few weeks it will all be over for this semester. Thank God for small miracles.

That’s where I am today…

Sometimes I think it is good to be unsettled because I can feel the myriad of emotions that are coursing through my veins, and I know that

“This too shall pass…”


The Ashram

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They have said that as long as people are talking about you, then you are in good shape. It’s when they stop talking that you have to worry!

I find it odd that you people can complain about me behind my back, yet none of you have the balls to say things to my face, at least something I have written here has made you stop, think and maybe get angry, THAT is a sign of a good writer, that I at least make you feel something, that of which you have a position, yet you choose to whine to others instead of to the author of said writing.

******

When I was diagnosed with AIDS in 1994, they gave me 18 months to live, I was surely going to die. I had to learn how to live, there was no time to stop and wait to die. My Master kept me on a very short leash, in those days.

I had to keep my anger at bay, I had to mind my actions and my thoughts. I had to stay one step ahead of the wave of death that was marching across Ft. Lauderdale at that time.

I was going to meetings and I was staying sober. I was learning how to pray, and to meditate. All these things paid off in spades for me because I was surviving, while my bretheren were dying left and right and it took a long time to learn how to focus my prayers and to learn now to meditate.

I counted the 18 months, one day at a time…

Funny, I lived and 162 men I knew died in that time period…

*******

Needless to say I was angry at God. I had not learned the blessing of gratitude, what was gratitude? How was I going to find that when I was in dire straits for so long?

I had issues of abandonment, from my family and friends, who all walked away and turned their backs on me. One night I was watching tv and an interview show was on and this sainted woman was there in chairs talking to the presenter and she was shaking a vial of ashes in the face of a pair of parents saying “How could you abandon your son in his most important hour of need?”

This woman, became a lightening rod for the AIDS cause. She was our champion. She said things we dared not say to people because if we did we would be burning further bridges in front of us by complaining.

Yet she wanted to know how parents could abandon their children when they got sick, and eventually died. I had to know this woman, because I was as angry as she was. Over the next year I waited for the teacher to appear. I listened to people talk around me and over the course of that year I learned that she was coming to speak on the island.

They came by the droves. The sick, the dying, the healthy and the wealthy. They came from all over because MA was coming to minister to the masses. This story does not have a great ending but I will share with you my experience.

The carried in a couch covered in finest silken blankets and pillows. And I heard them chanting in the hall, a group of musicians were singing the praises of divinity. Women in saris and men in their caftans, I was simply dressed and I sat and I chanted with them as the energy in the room rose by the minute. She would soon be in our presence, and she would talk to us about life.

Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati… A New York Jew gone Hindu…

She was the woman of the day. She had wild hair and painted nails and tatoos and earings and dangly bracelets running up her arms, the one thing that I knew in that moment is that she loved us all in her own special way. She fought the good fight for those who could not.

Paul Monette speaks about her in his memoirs “Last watch of the Night.” I read every book he wrote before his own timely death from AIDS, in fact his ashes were interred on the lake on the Ashram where I would end up, months from now.

She ran two Ashrams, one in L.A. and one in Florida. She came and she spoke to us about life, and death. She told us the story of the Ganges river and her trip to India to bathe in the river. She even wrote a book called “The River.”

She was an angry woman, and I liked that about her, because she was not only angry at institution she was angry because we were all dying sickly painful deaths, and many of us were alone. I was no longer alone.

I sat and listened. I had written her a letter that must have been twenty pages. That afternoon she called people up on the stage and she laid hands on us and she prayed with us, and it was on that day she gave me my name. I would be called “Shiva Das.” That was my name.

I was just a boy – who was going to his death and she was going to make it as quietly beautiful as she could, because I knew that I did not want to die the way I watched my friends die. It was the most horrible time of my life.

She hugged me to her breast and she wept for me because she knew the pain that was in my heart. I had poured it out page after page. I wanted her to chastise my parents like she chastised others. Alas, I knew for myself, that she was praying for them too…

It came time for her to leave us after so many hours with us, and I wanted to know more, I had to see this Ashram for myself. It came that a few weeks later, before Christmas one year I was invited to the Ashram for some time. The first visit, I spent two weeks, I was lodged in a house on the ashram and I was guided in my meditations and prayers and I participated in the community as it was. I did not see anything that made me afraid.

There were several temples to Ganesh and Hanuman, and there was a bamboo garden for Jesus and a fire pit for Puja. The main temple was indoors in the main house with a temple to Kali, the black goddess with he standing on the skulls below her.

I spent hours each day meditating, and I spent hours a day writing. We all would write Ma, as she was a world ambassador for the AIDS movement around the world. She had an office that handled mail by the pound, faxes by the hundreds, letters by the person. During these times on the Ashram, she would read our letters and when she would meet with us, she would talk to each of us though her ‘talks.’ We each knew when she was addressing something that we each had written to her on that particular day.

Did you know Ma played roller hockey???

The goal of the visit was to find inner peace. I think for me I had to find peace with my imminent death. I did not want to die in a hospital alone, I wanted to die on the Ashram. I wanted my ashes to be poured into the lake behind the main house. I wanted to be with my own.

Over the next year I would spend weeks at a time on the Ashram, doing odd jobs and studying my texts and writing. There was a school for children and ministry work for the adults. The one thing each of us longed to hear was Ma say “I love you.” One day I was sitting on the side of the roller rink where Ma was playing hockey with the kids and she filed past me and she looked into my eyes and said

I Love You Shiva Das…

That simple acknowledgment was the most important moment during my entire visit. To know that at that very moment, after all that I had been through over the last year, was for her to stop and look at me, just me and in those words she filled me with enough love to fight to stay alive.

******

I did not stay on the Ashram, for in the future, controversy would surround her and people would paint a very grim picture of Ma, and words like cult and kidnapping and injustice and the law were thrown around like candy.

Had I stayed on the Ashram, like I had asked to be earlier, might I have been embroiled in this drama too? All I can tell you is that Ma changed my life. She gave me the fire that I needed to fight to live, she taught me how to use my anger to fight to stay alive, this lesson was lost on many people who died before me because they had not found a spiritual path to help them.

Many of us thought that God had abandon us, that He did not hear the cry of the poor, but we know “The Lord hears the cry of the poor, blessed be the Lord…”

******

Over the last 14 years I have investigated, studied and read about probably every spiritual path that exists. I went to university to hone my skills at religious education, I have meditated on Ashrams, I have been to church after church. I have listened to every medium I could meet with to learn about what was on the other side.

I have a library of books that would confound even the learned.

But it all comes down to three things,
1. The heart,
2. The breath and
3. The body.

If you do not listen to your heart, then you will forget to breathe and if you forget to breathe you will surely die.

I do not write to hear myself talk. And I surely have not elevated anyone to the position of deity. But when a fellow in my community starts the journey up the mountain, I sure am going to write about them in any way I choose, because I know about the spiritual journey.

And you all may find me arrogant, petulant and opinionated, and I know in recovery that “What YOU think about ME is NONE of my business.” I wrote about Dan, and it made him uncomfortable and it made some of you uncomfortable, big deal…

How many of you have had the need [read:desire] to explore spirituality for anything other that for personal gain [read:for fun],
did you have a specific reason to seek spiritual truth?
Did you face a crisis of faith?
Have any of you faced death as I have? – and I might add that four times in the past my doctor has looked me dead in the face and told me that I was going to die…

Tell me about spiritual practice and criticize me when I write…

I write because I want you to know what it is like to live in my body and to know what I know and to see what I have seen. So that when you get those words “YOU are going to DIE, you will know what to do and you will know how to go to your death with courage and honor.”

Let us hear Ma speak just for today…

Words that can soothe, waters that can heal
The river flows through my breast
I have become my Mother and her song

I watch as the beggar and the king swim
in my Mother’s waters side by side

The guru teaching Tantra in the moonlit night
The father sending the corpse of his dead baby afloat
on the water’s surface
The bloated dead water buffalo floating
in the River’s stream
Charas coming from the old sadhu’s pipe,
giving him a River dream

I cry out as I sit on th River’s bank,
Mother Kali with the disheveled hair
know my children are here!
Her black form merges with my soul
I am happy in my River life, happy just to be

Kali’s name is nectar to my heart
Here in Kashi on the banks of the River Ganga
Kali is the goddess worshipped by the River child
Kali, the terrifying; Kali the wild.

Children come play in the waters of the sacred Ganga
take hold of the Black One’s hand
Be free even in your desire for truth
Sadhu, as you stay on my River’s edge, think of the
Dark One and how she bled

Children, as you gather your years
Gather not the worlds poison or fears
Sink into the well of Kali’s destiny
Sink into to River’s whirlpool of life
All must be children at the breast of Ganga
Kali shall destroy all dangers as you sit with legs crossed
on the banks of the river
Jai Gange! Victory to the River and her children!
By the River we are all her sons and daughters

His being has touched my own
We two sit by the Ganga always at home
Those who come to our water’s edge
find moksha from within…

Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati
“The River” pg. 13-14


The Return from the Mountain

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The mountain is ringed by clouds high up
we cannot see the summit, but we know
it is there, somewhere up there.

He has been gone so long
up there on the mountain,
Do you think he’s seen the face of God?

The people in the valley wait upon his arrival
with glad hearts and open minds
waiting, waiting as if it is the only important thing

The sun is setting on another day
as darkness falls on the mountain I wonder
what sunset he sees from way up there
What secrets have been revealed,
What truth has he learned for humanity
What message will he bring us that will
Change us in ways not expected?

Soon the sage will step off the summit
and begin his return to humanity
Will we be ready to welcome him
Will we not judge him nor bicker about his wisdom
Will we respect that he has been on the mountain
for so long…

I long to see his face, to see the shadow of God
upon it, to know that he has been deep inside
and I long to know what that was like
to know the secrets of the silence and of
the universe

What does He want of us and what should we do
What is important and what do we need to let go of
and where should we focus our energies to help
others climbing that mountain themselves…

Sagarmatha is a high mountain and only those
who have made peace with the mountain and
respected her creation and her customs
can climb with success
A mountain knows all and if we climb
with pride or arrogance we shall fail
at attaining the summit

He will descend to us and bring us a message
will we have ears to hear and eyes to see
the blessing of God upon his face

I for one will be ready to receive him…


Sitting in the Silence…

Sleep is a necessity and dreams are most welcomed because that tells me that my brain is working overtime. Over the past few days I have worked my way into the silence. I find it comfortable to sit and ponder my thoughts without the accompaniment of background noise.

So I sit here in the silence of my room and I ponder and I wait for something inspiring to write, as it seems of late, that I haven’t been able to write for some strange reason. Not that I don’t have anything to write about – but my topics don’t seem, to me, to be very interesting.

There are dark clouds rolling in over the city from the North, they say it might snow again tonight, which would be the second time this week that we have seen the white stuff – so unlike last year when it did not snow until Valentines day here.

There are some young men I read daily who are going through the pains of growing up, so there is enough to read and comment on, and within my comments to them, I can see the wisdom of progress – not perfection. I guess I have the benefit of years of life experience to offer people, and I have answers for queries across the divide of blog space.

I’ve been working on my meditations and my prayer time as of late as well, my young friend Scott encourages us to pray deeply and expect miracles, and to believe strongly in a God that we worship.

I have finished writing my first term paper of the academic year on the topic of ‘Gnosis’ that is special knowledge based on the lives of Mary Magdalene, Paul the Apostle and Judas Iscariot. I think that the paper is one of my finest academic papers I have written in as many years. My prof has allowed me to publish this paper in its entirety because there is a seven page limit for the other students.

Living a spiritual life means that one has to cultivate those attributes which enable one to become spiritual to each their own in the quest to divine what the universe is trying to tell us. Sometimes I find it difficult being a solitary ‘being’ sitting in my garden by myself, alone with my God. It is sometimes daunting to think that he really sits and listens to my prayers and moderates my meditations.

Sometimes it is better to sit with others in a group setting to know that there are others doing the same thing, and that gives me peace to know that I am not alone. I have trouble at times being a solitary practitioner of spiritual practice, but that is what many of the desert fathers and mothers did in early Christian times.

I don’t fancy myself a solitary monk, setting off for a foreign land to share the gospel with the worldly. But I guess that’s what I am feeling as of late. So I have been forced to get quiet within myself and to know that it is ok, to be in the silence by myself because I am really not alone, as long as God is present and I know that there are others on the same road, just in different locations.

I sit here and imagine what it has been like for Dan to spend so many days sitting in the silence, and ponder what it is that he has learned and what he will bring forth for the rest of us. So I have been on this journey of personal self discovery and meditative reflection and I have devoted time each day to the practice of meditation and prayer to attempt to reach a place of serenity and to know that divinity that can be found there in the silence.

My spiritual director is apt to say that unless I get quiet, I will get lost in all the noise. If I don’t still my mind, I will walk around in the insanity of my head, which is some place that angels fear to tread on their own. As a person in recovery, I know the dangers of sitting inside ones head without proper meditative direction.

I have found as of late that my mind wanders on these fantastical trips to visual places in my past, when I am still and quiet. I have found myself in a vehicle that drives familiar roads and explores familiar streets and locations. And these visions come all on their own, I am not recalling them from memory it feels as if my brain is on visual auto pilot.

My inner juke box plays a selection of music every time I sit down and get still, I find that happens more often when I am in transit, in rising from and settling into bed, and even in the bathroom. I get into the shower and I hear music playing in my mind, familiar tunes that I have sung before. The bathroom is the best place to get quiet and have these musical and visual experiences. Which some might find strange, that just happens to be the one place where I am totally quiet.

I sit here in the silence and watch the lights on my Christmas tree change colors on a slow fade program. That’s kinda what my brain is doing at the same time, moving from one thought to the next in slow fade motion.

I had a dream about snakes yesterday. According to sources it is a bad omen to see snakes in ones dreams, I have also been crossing a bridge as of late as well, which signifies a change in circumstances and I should not make any changes in my life at the moment. hmm…

I don’t feel very prolific at the moment, my brain is a jumbled mess of little topics and doesn’t make much sense I am sure for you my reader. I have seen snakes, bridges, crossing bridges that are in good shape, I have been on exploration trips with others, and just this afternoon, I was on this science mission on a research ship with other people, it looked very Russian to me, in the dream, and the dream did not last, yet I can recall it right now.

So there you go, a mess of things to think about and discuss. I can’t wait for the return of Dan, I am sure he will have things for us to talk about, meditate over and think about.

We await the snow in Montreal…


Serenity…

The wind is blowing, the temperature has dropped drastically in the last few hours, the sky is beginning to cloud over. Pray, God, they say it might snow tonight.

I am courting the goddess of the silence tonight, I whisper her name, I court her with my kindest words, I beckon her to my side, I call to her in my silent meditation.

She is beautiful, lithe in body, slender in face, and she walks with finest beauty and poise. It is on nights like this that I seek her face amid the crowd, knowing full well, that she will only present herself when the moment is right, when the spirits allow for her coming.

I stand at my window and look out over all that I survey and I call to her quietly. Oh Goddess, please grant my supplication, please quench my desire to see you, come to me, I have waited so long to greet you.

But she waits for the most beautiful moment. When all is quiet and I am alone in my thoughts, then she will join me, and we will dance the dance that has waited for so long. I shall wrap my arms around her slender body and I will take her hand in mine and we will dance.

The music will rise on the breeze and float through the trees as it settles over the land here and there, to and fro. And the dance will be unlike any other dance, because she is like no other woman. She is the goddess of white, the goddess of the silence, the goddess of the incarnate universe.

She will whisper her secrets to me about the places she has seen and the people she has danced with before, she will sing to me her song of silence. I will drink it all in like the finest wine, the nectar of the gods.

I pen notes to her, I write sonnets about her, I offer my Ode to the silence because she is so beautiful. Is it only me that waits on her, that I am the only one to celebrate her coming, to beckon her visage, the delight in her face, the only one to call to her from my castle high in the sky?

Oh, beauty of beauty,
Come to me quietly
and be still my beating heart
and quiet my soul.

I have longed for your face
for your body and your soul
I call to you now, harken my call
and appear before me,
in all of your beauty, come…

Speak to me of the silence
fill me with the joy of your presence
give to me that which I have been waiting
fill me and make me one with you
in the silence of this night

I wait for you, like I have waited for no other
Come, let us dance, for the night calls us to be united
Ave Maria, the goddess of beauty
the Mother of the universe
we await your arrival with glad hearts
and quiet serenity…


Words Like Fresh Fruit

This afternoon between classes, I laid down for a nap, and proceeded to have one of the most exhausting nightmares in recent memory. I woke up and I was visibly shaken and disoriented. It took me an hour to return to my body. I was that upset.

Through Spiritual Desolation:

Desolation can appear in another form. There are people who have a great need to be affirmed and easily attribute small spiritual results to their own merits, They think that, since they have always been good at everything, they must be doing well even in this, and even more the results they see in their spiritual lives must be a result of their own efforts. The risk is that we could lock ourselves up in our egos and base our spiritual lives on feelings. It is then that the Lord can leave us in solitude, in emptiness, so that we realize that it is God’s grace that enflames our hearts and that only through the gift of love can we reach the taste of love…

Discernment, Acquiring the Heart of God…

I am at a stopping point in my studies until I can work through this next portion of text with my mentor and teacher. It is difficult at times to think that I am on a solitary journey with my God, yet I crave for that connection to another, and it seems, in the quiet hours of the night, when all is still and calm, that my heart is wanting to beat out of my chest. I sat in this space last night during my meditation and for a few moments I had lost my mind, was it because I was unsure of myself, was I unsure of my prayers or that I had not measured up to some standard written about in some book?

The Rule of Ignatius is a tough path, and I am trying to digest it as if I am eating an elephant, one piece at a time. I know that now I must stop and reflect more on the reading and seek insight for the teaching. Because my heart seems nervous, and my soul is not at rest. Seeing that today I am having nightmares again…

******

Pain as Awakener

All of us face physical, mental, and emotional pain in the course of our daily lives. Physical pain confronts us in obvious forms. Mental pain manifests as worries, regrets, contradiction, and confusion. Emotional pain comes as some variation of fear, sorrow, or anger. Whatever the form, pain generates the impulse to change, and serves to wake us sleepers from our dreams.

Pain is the most heeded of doctors;
to goodness and wisdom
we only make promises;
we obey pain…
Marcel Proust

Pain of any kind gives us feedback about something that needs our attention – about our physical habits, about our beliefs, about our emotions. Adversity can be a gift, because it offers us two clear choices: Suffer the consequences of stagnation, or face the challenge of change.

I admire those who can smile in times of trouble,
who can gather strength from distress
and who grow brave by reflection.
Thomas Paine

We can tolerate pain for a long time. Fearing the unknown territory of transformation, we may choose familiar suffering for years. We may continue to cope with dysfunctional relationships, numbing or dehumanizing work, or other life denying situations.

Though Spirit has compassion and patience, life is a stern teacher; pain, if unattended or masked continues to grow, until change or madness become our only choices.

At that crisis point, when there’s no other option but futile resistance, if we choose the warriors path, we go through the pain, like a dark bank of clouds, and emerge in a place of clarity; we come out from our hiding place and find the will to heal our lives. Most of all, we never give up.

******

Understanding Suffering

Spirit guides us in ways that our conscious self can’t always understand or accept. for example, some people are challenged with physical ailments that send them on a long search to heal themselves. Only later do they realize that what seemed like pure adversity at the time really offered precisely the education they needed to become a resource for others, and to live out their purpose as healers.

Sometimes our suffering enables us to understand the suffering of others. Along with the pain of illness or injuries comes the blessing of compassion. I’ve always found a gift hidden in every adversity. That doesn’t make adversity any easier; it only makes it more meaningful.

Sometimes a health issue can be cured; other times, it will not improve much, for God’s own reasons, and we can only practice acceptance, and make this challenge part of our training.

Pain, whether in body, mind, or emotions, is a fire storm that purifies all in its path, clearing old karmas and teaching new lessons. Don’t seek pain, but when it comes, the path out of the fire reveals hard-earned wisdom. Giving birth involves labor pains, even when we are the ones being reborn.

What is to give light must endure burning
Viktor Frankl

Suffering happens, but it doesn’t last forever, and every pain endured contains a lesson to be learned. A warrior’s perspective can help us to understand and accept the natural cycle of good times and bad times, and to appreciate the uses of both.

But when the going gets tough, we want to feel better, to stop hurting; we want life to get easier. When we’re struggling in the quicksand, we don’t want encouraging words – we want a tree branch or a rope! Sometimes, however, a word, or a phrase, or an uplifting idea are all we have to hang onto…


Rules for Being Human …

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Dan once told me that I brought ‘meaning’ to this community. Which was a huge compliment to my abilities as a human being. With that said, I will continue to write here.

Rules for Being Human:

1. We only get one body. We may like it or not, but its the only thing we are guaranteed to keep for a lifetime.
2. We will learn lessons. Since earth is a full-time school, every person or incident is our teacher.
3. Lessons often appear as “mistakes” or “failures.” The only real “mistake” is not learning the lesson.
4. A lesson is repeated until learned. It will appear in various forms until we learn it. If we are still here, we still have lessons to learn.
5. If we don’t learn the easy lessons, they get harder. Pain is one way the universe gets our attention.
6. We’ll know we’ve learned a lesson when our actions change. Only action turns knowledge into wisdom.
7. We will tend to forget these rules.
8. We can remember any time we wish.

Cherie Carter-Scott via Dan Millman, No Ordinary Moments…

You cannot stay on the summit forever;
you have to come down again.
So why bother in the first place?
Because what is below does not know what is above,
but what is above knows what is below.
One climbs, one sees.
One descends, one sees no longer,
but one has seen.
There is an art of conducting oneself
in the lower regions
by the memory of what one saw higher up.
When one can no longer see,
one can at least still know.

Mt. Analogue


Silent Joy …

It is silent and humble. It is like water gushing from the earth. All at once we realize we are filled with joy. We don’t know where it came from but it is there.

It could happen that we are going along and all at once we feel serene, the faces we encounter appear beautiful, the way seems easy, and no evil thought darkens our minds. Even more, we feel more good-hearted towards others.

Usually, we cannot precisely determine the origin of such joy. It is very difficult to connect it to something external, because deep down we know that this silent joy depends on nothing outside itself for existence.

It could be awakened by something around us, but it is not dependent on it. What triggers it does not give it birth. Instead, this joy seems to belong to us, to be carried deep within us. It gushes forth unexpectedly and cannot be controlled or commanded. Unpredictably, it makes itself felt.

When we communicate under the influence of this joy, we speak as if we have been entrusted with something precious. Our tone of voice changes as when we are truly praying. We speak with attentiveness so as not to destroy what is so fragile and precious, not to encroach upon the other who is present and to whom we want to give attention.

Silent joy urges us to a greater respect for others and ourselves. Thoughts born of authentic joy are respectful and optimistic.

The philokalic Fathers called this “sobriety”: being sober and vigilant, staying focused on realities that are already tasted and secure moving from there, seeking traces of this joy in whatever we encounter. In a certain sense, this joy can be safeguarded. We do not have to return to precise experiences or special places to feel it. We carry it within ourselves, and it belongs to us.

*****

In my meditation time last night, I tried to focus in on this ‘silent joy’ to attempt to remember what it felt like as if recalling an old friend, a place where I had felt this joy, and what ‘silent joy’ felt like.

There were times in the past when ‘silent joy’ rose within me, and bubbled up from the surface, like water out of the earth. Like walking upon a spring just bursting from the rock, in the middle of the desert or a mountain-scape.

When is it that I feel this ‘silent joy?’ Silent joy is not connected to a ‘place’ but maybe a time. I can separate myself from bubbly joy that is connected to a place. Joy is something that comes to me when I least expect it. But I am not consciously aware of joy all the time, and sometimes it escapes me and I forget to connect with it during my day.

Being ‘sober’ for me is a way of life. As written above:

“The philokalic Fathers called this “sobriety”: being sober and vigilant, staying focused on realities that are already tasted and secure moving from there, seeking traces of this joy in whatever we encounter. In a certain sense, this joy can be safeguarded. We do not have to return to precise experiences or special places to feel it. We carry it within ourselves, and it belongs to us.”

I live in my sober space in my daily life. I work to be vigilant in what I do, what I see and what I say to others. But also I am vigilant of others who cross my path at any given moment.

Each day I have an opportunity to feel joy, but for the most part, I fall short of feeling this joy, in reading these passages I am reminded of it. And I think of times when ‘silent joy’ creeps up on me like water rising from the ground around me…

I return in my mind to times in life when I have felt this joy, like a comfortable blanket wrapped around me, it is familiar and cozy. I can identify those moments and remember them as if they were here in the present moment.

Today, I reflect in my meditation the occurrence of ‘silent joy’ and I can share with you moments of silent joy. My home group is a place of joy, because that is where I give myself most freely to anyone and everyone. To see people come each week, brings joy. To see my friends walking their sober journey brings me joy. To know that in my own little way, I create for them a place to feel joy within themselves, brings me joy.

Sometimes joy rises on my face when I see people in the metro, I feel their life force and see their auras, that brief intermingling of spirits brings a sense of joy. It is infectious at times. And in some instances I can’t help myself but to smile and feel that tingle of presence within my body.

Each journey is different for each of us. We all have our burdens to bear and no one journey can be judged, but understood out of compassion and love. I do not take for granted where I am in my journey, because I have fought long and hard to get where I am today, and within that journey over years and decades, I can tap moments of ‘joy’ as they happened.

That ‘bank of joy’ is available to me at a moments recall. Living soberly reminds me that I must stay in my day and be vigilant at all times, and sometimes I slip into old behavior and old patterns, but not often. I have learned over the years how to stay pretty centered on the present moment. Staying in that moment takes work, and nobody is perfect, yet we work to be mindful of the present moment.

In keeping the mind focused we learn how to remain calm and to breathe, because for the most part, I forget to focus on my breathing. And I return to that moment in my meditation to encounter the sacred, the fount of all life, the breath and the heartbeat.

I walk the path of the Buddha. I work every day to bring peace to my life and peace to the lives of others, taking nothing for granted I do my best at avoiding negativity and doing harm. I have learned how to stay out of negative thoughts and situations that would cause me pain, or cause others pain. I choose not to battle others, I choose not to engage in painful thought or action, because that blocks the ability to feel that ‘silent joy.’

I spend time each night reading sacred texts and I pray to my God and then I get quiet and I steady myself to sit and listen. Prayer is the action of speaking and meditating is the action of listening. If I make time to speak my words to the universe, I should give ample time to listen for the answers, as they would come to me as the universe sees fit to give me.

Answers come when we least expect them, because the universe knows all and sees all. Be careful what you ask from the universe because IF the universe thinks you are ready for the answer you seek, it will be given to you and sometimes the answer is immediate, and appears right in front of you in one form or another. Be aware that an answer might come from someone other than yourself, so be vigilant to those around you, because you never know when something someone might say is directed to you for your benefit.

And sometimes the answer comes simply – NO.

I relate a story about staying in my day…

Once upon a time I was petulant and self centered. I was arrogant and prideful. I took for granted the air in my lungs and the gifts that I had been given. Early sobriety for me is littered with situations and lessons learned, which included the wreckage of who I was then.

I was new to the group, that is now my home group and I had plans. I had plans, I had maintained that so I stayed sober so I was supposed to granted ten wishes [read expectations] from God. Week after week I showed up at the hall with my ready list in hand, not so much as begging God for results but taunting God with my list of things I thought were important at that time.

I was missing some things in my life like patience, willingness and even joy. I wanted what I wanted and I wasn’t going to take NO for an answer. I was prideful and arrogant. Some say that I am still arrogant, and maybe I am, but that is one of my shortcomings.

Each week I presented my list to the universe, waiting for answers and they told me ‘keep coming back’ and to ‘stay in my day.’ I did not know how to do that. Until one day a teacher rose to my challenge and said to me three questions that I have shared about here in previous writings…

1. Do you have a roof over your head?
2. Is there food in your belly?
3. Do you have a warm bed to sleep in?

This was a lesson in patience, willingness and gratitude. I was sure that I needed more than I was given, I even went so far as to think that I was entitled to my life being fulfilled because I was staying sober, and that staying sober was all about ME.

There was no joy in my heart…

It took me a year to learn this lesson. Day after day, I pissed and moaned about not being given what I thought I wanted, but daily, I was being given what I needed. I did not see the forest for the trees. And that was my burden to see past.

Day after day, week after week, month after month people were patient with me and they taught me these lessons, the universe would conspire to help me, and one by one the universe ticked off my little list, No, No, Rethink the question, Maybe tomorrow, Not right now, and finally Definitely NOT…

The universe was speaking to me through the actions of others to help me become a better person. And the more they showed up the more I showed up, and I began to see that showing up was just as important for you as it was for me. It was no longer all about me. I was involved in too much drama, I wasn’t paying attention to the road signs and the universal signs. Over that first year I began to change.

My prayer became words of thanks and gratitude. My needs became less and less because I learned how to be ok with what I had, and I learned not to expect more from the universe than what I was due on a daily basis. As these lessons were learned I found joy. I found peace, I found love.

I began to serve others like they served me. I began to learn the lesson of compassion and I cultivated a heart of mercy and of forgiveness. I learned to “LET GO.” The more I let go, the more joy I was able to feel. Letting Go is not a one off occurrence. It is a continual lesson in willingness to change.

We are all a fantastic gems that come into being rough, dirty and sloppy. We have wants and we have needs, and we have expectations of others and of ourselves.

The world teaches us that we must take care of ourselves without taking notice of others around us, that life is a dog eat dog ritual of taking, using and corrupting. But in order to take care of others, we must first take care of ourselves. We cannot teach others, unless we are taught first. And we cannot love another, until we learn to love ourselves first, and finally we cannot offer wisdom to another, until we learn that wisdom for ourselves…

Each day that gem is offered to the universe to be cut, fashioned and polished. The more we resist the gem makers wheel the harder our lives will be. We will exist – but we will not live.

Letting Go under the auspice of sobriety offers the individual the ability to be polished. Life throws us people, places, and situations that for the most part we engaged, we chose to take part in and even situations that were not our making. We grow up in families that might have been toxic and painful, and we carry that baggage around with us for the rest of our lives.

But now, I offer you an out. A way to Let Go of that rock, as Kate has spoken of. The more rocks we collect along the way, the heavier the burden until one day we become immovable. We become stuck where we are unable to move forwards. We then have a choice, to stay where we are and remain hurt, emotional and resentful expecting that what we want is better than what we need or we let go of those rocks, we put them down and we walk way from them and we live as the universe wants us to.

Now, just because we have lain these rocks down and walked away from them, the residual energy still remains. Every memory we carry forward contains residual energy. And even though we desired to let go of that issue, to grow further, we find that the residual energy tends to rise within us that cause us momentary shifts in our breathing, acting and living. It causes us to react again, as if we were in that moment once again, reliving it over and over.

The universal gem polisher turns the gem ever so slightly on that wheel to clean an edge to cut another facet, to give us the opportunity to see that situation and/or pain from a different perspective. The original response to that old issue becomes less painful, we can look at it from another point of view. And we can begin to see the wisdom in the lesson and not the pain it might have once caused.

As we walk through life, issues pop up, and as they do, each time, we look at the memory and we see it for what it is. The residual pain that the memory used to trigger is no more. We learn over the years how to move past the past, and not allow the past to affect us in the present, because the past is the past, it can only affect you if you give it power. The less power you give to the past, the easier your life becomes. And what a powerful lesson this is for the masses.

Over the years as I practice the art of letting go, I have found that the past has become but a memory. I can recall both the good and the bad, and I can take from them new wisdom as I need it, as I grow as a universal being. And when I realized that this was possible I learned what joy was.

Water bubbling up from the earth …

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That universal shift was necessary for me to grow, because the universe conspires to help us grow into precious gems that are constantly being shaped, polished and refined.

Then one day real joy came to me. I remember it as if it were yesterday, a woman I know was getting sober, and she was obstinate and petulant, and she fought the gem makers wheel. She used to come to meetings heavy laden with burdens and pains, and she would cry day after day, “God, I wish this day would end already!!!”

She uttered this prayer for almost a years time.

When one suffers we all suffer, until one day she walked into the meeting and the neon sign above her was dark, her arms fell to her side and I saw it, that silent joy… She was finished suffering, she had come to the end of her trial, and she said it…”Oh God, there are not enough hours in the day, could you please give me a few more hours?”

When one feels joy, we all feel JOY…

Water bubbling up from the earth…


The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation

Vipassana Site Here: 

Everyone seeks peace and harmony, because these are what we lack in our lives. From time to time we all experience agitation, irritation, disharmony, suffering; and when one suffers from agitation, one does not keep this misery limited to oneself. One keeps distributing it to others as well. The agitation permeates the atmosphere around the miserable person. Everyone who comes into contact with him also becomes irritated, agitated. Certainly this is not the proper way to live.

One ought to live at peace with oneself, and at peace with all others. After all, a human being is a social being. He has to live in society–to live and deal with others. How are we to live peacefully? How are we to remain harmonious with ourselves, and to maintain peace and harmony around us, so that others can also live peacefully and harmoniously?

One is agitated. To come out of the agitation, one has to know the basic reason for it, the cause of the suffering. If one investigates the problem, it will become clear that whenever one starts generating any negativity or defilement in the mind, one is bound to become agitated. A negativity in the mind, a mental defilement or impurity, cannot exist with peace and harmony.

How does one start generating negativity? Again, by investigating, it becomes clear. I become very unhappy when I find someone behaving in a way which I don’t like, when I find something happening which I don’t like. Unwanted things happen and I create tension within myself. Wanted things do not happen, some obstacles come in the way, and again I create tension within myself; I start tying knots within myself. And throughout life, unwanted things keep on happening, wanted things may or may not happen, and this process or reaction, of tying knots–Gordian knots–makes the entire mental and physical structure so tense, so full of negativity, that life becomes miserable.

Now one way to solve the problem is to arrange that nothing unwanted happens in my life and that everything keeps on happening exactly as I desire. i must develop such power, or somebody else must have the power and must come to my aid when I request him, that unwanted things do not happen and that everything I want happens. But this is not possible. There is no one in the world whose desires are always fulfilled, in whose life everything happens according to his wishes, without anything unwanted happening. Things keep on occurring that are contrary to our desires and wishes. So the question arises, how am I not to react blindly in the face of these things which I don’t like? How not to create tension? How to remain peaceful and harmonious?

In India as well as in other countries, wise saintly persons of the past studied this problem–the problem of human suffering–and found a solution: if something unwanted happens and one starts to react by generating anger, fear or any negativity, then as soon as possible one should divert one’s attention to something else. For example, get up, take a glass of water, start drinking–your anger will not multiply and you’ll be coming out of anger. Or start counting: one, two, three, four. Or start repeating a word, or a phrase, or some mantra, perhaps the name of a deity or saintly person in whom you have devotion; the mind is diverted, and to some extent, you’ll be out of the negativity, out of anger.

This solution was helpful: it worked. It still works. Practicing this, the mind feels free from agitation. In fact, however, the solution works only at the conscious level. Actually, by diverting the attention, one pushes the negativity deep into the unconscious, and on this level one continues to generate and multiply the same defilements. At the surface level there is a layer of peace and harmony, but in the depths of the mind there is a sleeping volcano of suppressed negativity which sooner or later will explode in violent eruption.

Other explorers of inner truth went still further in their search; and by experiencing the reality of mind and matter within themselves they recognized that diverting the attention is only running away from the problem. Escape is no solution: one must face the problem. Whenever a negativity arises in the mind, just observe it, face it. As soon as one starts observing any mental defilement, it begins to lose strength. Slowly it withers away and is uprooted.

A good solution: it avoids both extremes–suppression and free license. Keeping the negativity in the unconscious will not eradicate it; and allowing it to manifest in physical or vocal action will only create more problems. But if one just observes, then the defilement passes away, and one has eradicated that negativity, one is freed from the defilement.

This sounds wonderful, but is it really practical? For an average person, is it easy to face the defilement? When anger arises, it overpowers us so quickly that we don’t even notice. Then overpowered by anger, we commit certain actions physically or vocally which are harmful to us and to others. Later, when the anger has passed, we start crying and repenting, begging pardon from this or that person or from God: ‘Oh, I made a mistake, please excuse me!’ But the next time we are in a similar situation, we again react in the same way. All that repenting does not help at all.

The difficulty is that I am not aware when a defilement starts. It begins deep in the unconscious level of the mind, and by the time it reaches the conscious level, it has gained so much strength that it overwhelms me, and I cannot observe it.

Then I must keep a private secretary with me, so that whenever anger starts, he says, ‘Look master, anger is starting!’ Since I cannot know when this anger will start, I must have three private secretaries for three shifts, around the clock! Suppose I can afford that, and the anger starts to arise. At once my secretary tells me, ‘Oh, master, look–anger has started!’ The first thing I will do is slap and abuse him: ‘You fool! Do you think you are paid to teach me?’ I am so overpowered by anger that no good advise will help.

Even supposing wisdom prevails and I do not slap him. Instead I say, ‘Thank you very much. Now I must sit down and observe my anger.’ Yet it is possible? As soon as I close my eyes and try to observe the anger, immediately the object of anger come into my mind–the person or incident because of which I become angry. Then I am not observing the anger itself. I am merely observing the external stimulus of the emotion. This will only serve to multiply the anger; this is no solution. It is very difficult to observe any abstract negativity, abstract emotion, divorced from the external object which aroused it.

However, one who reached the ultimate truth found a real solution. He discovered that whenever any defilement arises in the mind, simultaneously two things start happening at the physical level. One is that the breath loses its normal rhythm. We start breathing hard whenever a negativity comes into the mind. This is easy to observe. At subtler level, some kind of biochemical reaction starts within the body–some sensation. Every defilement will generate one sensation or another inside, in one part of the body or another.

This is a practical solution. An ordinary person cannot observe abstract defilements of the mind–abstract fear, anger, or passion. But with proper training and practice, it is very easy to observe respiration and bodily sensations–both of which are directly related to the mental defilements.

Respiration and sensation will help me in two ways. Firstly, they will be like my private secretaries. As soon as a defilement starts in my mind, my breath will lose its normality; it will start shouting, ‘Look, something has gone wrong!’ I cannot slap my breath; I have to accept the warning. Similarly the sensations tell me that something has gone wrong. Then having been warned, I start observing my respiration, my sensation, and I find very quickly that the defilement passes away.

This mental-physical phenomenon is like a coin with two sides. On the one side are whatever thoughts or emotions are arising in the mind. One the other side are the respiration and sensations in the body. Any thought or emotion, any mental defilement, manifests itself in the breath and the sensation of that moment. Thus, by observing the respiration or the sensation, I am in fact observing the mental defilement. Instead of running away from the problem, I am facing reality as it is. Then I shall find that the defilement loses its strength: it can no longer overpower me as it did in the past. If I persist, the defilement eventually disappears altogether, and I remain peaceful and happy.

In this way, the techniques of self-observation shows us reality in its two aspects, inner and outer. Previously, one always looked with open eyes, missing the inner truth. I always looked outside for the cause of my unhappiness; I always blamed and tried to change the reality outside. Being ignorant of the inner reality, I never understood that the cause of suffering lies within, in my own blind reactions toward pleasant and unpleasant sensations.

Now, with training, I can see the other side of the coin. I can be aware of my breathing and also of what is happening inside me. Whatever it is, breath or sensation, I learn just to observe it, without losing the balance of the mind. I stop reacting, stop multiplying my misery. Instead, I allow the defilement to manifest and pass away.

The more one practices this technique, the more quickly one will find one will come out of negativity. Gradually the mind becomes freed of the defilements; it becomes pure. A pure mind is always full of love–selfless love for all others; full of compassion for the failings and sufferings of others; full of joy at their success and happiness; full of equanimity in the face of any situation.

When one reaches this stage, the entire pattern of one’s life starts changing. It is no longer possible to do anything vocally or physically which will disturb the peace and happiness of others. Instead, the balanced mind not only becomes peaceful in itself, but it helps others also to become peaceful. The atmosphere surrounding such a person will become permeated with peace and harmony, and this will start affecting others too.

By learning to remain balanced in the face of everything one experiences inside, one develops detachment towards all that one encounters in external situations as well. However, this detachment is not escapism or indifference to the problems of the world. A Vipassana meditator becomes more sensitive to the sufferings of others, and does his utmost to relieve their suffering in whatever way he can–not with any agitation but with a mind full of love, compassion and equanimity. He learns holy indifference–how to be fully committed, fully involved in helping others, while at the same time maintaining the balance of his mind. In this way he remains peaceful and happy, while working for the peace and happiness of others.

This is what the Buddha taught; an art of living. He never established or taught any religion, any ‘ism’. He never instructed his followers to practice any rites or rituals, any blind or empty formalities. Instead, he taught just to observe nature as it is, by observing reality inside. Out of ignorance, one keeps reacting in a way which is harmful to oneself and to others. But when wisdom arises–the wisdom of observing the reality as it is–one come out of this habit of reaction. When one ceases to react blindly, then one is capable of real action–action proceeding from a balanced mind, a mind which sees and understands the truth. Such action can only be positive, creative, helpful to oneself and to others.

What is necessary, then, is to ‘know thyself’–advice which every wise person has given. One must know oneself not just at the intellectual level, the level of ideas and theories. Nor does this mean to know just at the emotional or devotional level, simply accepting blindly what one has heard or read. Such knowledge is not enough. Rather one must know realty at the actual level. One must experience directly the reality of this mental-physical phenomenon. This alone is what will help us to come out of defilements, out of suffering.

This direct experience of one’s own reality, this techniques of self-observation, is what is called ‘Vipassana’ meditation. In the language of India in the time of the Buddha, passana meant seeing with open eyes, in the ordinary way; but Vipassana is observing things as they really are, not just as they seem to be. Apparent truth has to be penetrated, until one reaches the ultimate truth of the entire mental and physical structure. When one experiences this truth, then one learns to stop reacting blindly, to stop creating defilements–and naturally the old defilements gradually are eradicated. One come out of all the misery and experiences happiness.

There are three steps to the training which is given in a Vipassana meditation course Firstly, one must abstain from any action, physical or vocal, which disturbs the peace and harmony of others. One cannot work to liberate oneself from defilements in the mind while at the same time one continues to perform deeds of body and speech which only multiply those defilements. Therefore, a code of morality is the essential first step of the practice. One undertakes not to kill, not to steal, not to commit sexual misconduct, not to tell lies, and not to use intoxicants. By abstaining from such action, one allows the mind to quiet down sufficiently so that it can proceed with the task at hand.

The next step is to develop some mastery over this wild mind, by training it to remain fixed on a single object: the breath. One tries to keep one’s attention for as long as possible on the respiration. This is not a breathing exercise: one does not regulate the breath. Instead one observes natural respiration as it is, as it comes in, as it goes out. In this way one further calms the mind so that it is no longer overpowered by violent negativities. At the same time, one is concentrating the mind, making it sharp and penetrating, capable of the work of insight.

These first two steps of living a moral life and controlling the mind are very necessary and beneficial in themselves; but they will lead to self-repression, unless one takes the third step – purifying the mind of defilements by developing insight into one’s own nature. This is Vipassana: experiencing one’s own reality, by the systematic and dispassionate observation of the ever-changing mind-matter phenomenon manifesting itself as sensation within oneself. This is the culmination of the teaching of the Buddha: self-purification by self-observation.

This can be practiced by one and all. Everyone faces the problem of suffering. it is a universal disease which requires a universal remedy–not a sectarian one. When one suffers from anger, it is not a Buddhist anger, Hindu anger, or Christian anger. Anger is anger. When one become agitated as a result of this anger, this agitation is not Christian, or Hindu, or Buddhist. The malady is universal. The remedy must also be universal.

Vipassana is such a remedy. No one will object to a code of living which respects the peace and harmony of others. No one will object to developing control over the mind. No one will object to developing insight into one’s own reality, by which it is possible to free the mind of negativities. Vipassana is a universal path.

Observing reality as it is by observing the truth inside–this is knowing oneself at the actual, experiential level. As one practices, one keeps coming out of the misery of defilements. From the gross, external, apparent truth, one penetrates to the ultimate truth of mind and matter. Then one transcends that, and experiences a truth which is beyond mind and matter, beyond time and space, beyond the conditioned field of relativity: the truth of total liberation from all defilements, all impurities, all suffering. Whatever name one gives this ultimate truth, is irrelevant; it is the final goal of everyone.

May you all experience this ultimate truth. May all people come out of their defilements, their misery. May they enjoy real happiness, real peace, real harmony.

MAY ALL BEINGS BE HAPPY


Discernment …

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While Dan is away meditating, I think about him daily and in my own way I seek a spiritual experience, maybe to be one with the teacher or maybe one with my friend.

I know a young man who is in ministry who inspires me to be more than I am even if I am a sinner, and forever un-forgiven by God in some eyes. I can’t fully join the Christian movement of being saved because of what I am in certain circles. But I am no less for desiring to be ‘in communion’ just for a moment.

Live the Word and Breathe Prayer is his motto.

It is a call to action, a call to be, a call to rise up from where we are to look upon where we could be, if we Live the Word and Breathe Prayer. I find myself wanting community and I find myself lacking in that here in my life.

I find myself missing ‘people’ and ‘community.’ Although I am part of this huge virtual community spread out over the land, it is the physical connection I long to have.

I started reading a new book called “Discernment – Acquiring the heart of God.” Within my theological studies, academically, I also have my spiritual studies that flow from my spiritual director. I don’t know quite what I am looking for exactly, but I listen for that still small voice that speaks from the heavens.

I spent a few hours last night reading a bit, and I remembered this thought that I wanted to share with you. The Ladder of the Monks:

“Reading is the careful (respectful) study of the scriptures, concentrating all one’s power on it. Meditation is the busy application of the mind to seek with help of ones own reason for knowledge of hidden truth. Prayer is the hearts devoted turning to God to drive away evil and obtain what is good. Contemplation is when the mind is in some sort lifted up to God and held above itself, so that it tastes the joys of everlasting sweetness.”

“Reading without meditation is sterile, meditation without reading is liable to error, prayer without meditation is lukewarm, meditation without prayer is unfruitful, prayer when it is fervent wins contemplation but to obtain it without prayer would be rare, even miraculous.”

Today some practitioners of lectio divina add a fifth step – to put into action their faith…

  • Reading scripture or sacred writings is important
  • Prayer is the conscious “speaking concerns to God”
  • Meditation is the active “listening for God’s voice”
  • Contemplation is the act of “thoughtful reflection”
  • and finally – action through faith …

Practices that strengthen the capacity for concentration or attention play a role in most great religious traditions. The importance of developing attention is most readily seen in the great traditions that arose in India, namely Hinduism and Buddhism.

From the Upanisadic seers down to the present day, there is in India an unbroken tradition of man’s attempt to yoke his self (body and mind) to ultimate reality.

Yoga takes many forms, but its essential psychological form is the practice of one pointed attention or concentration. Whether by fixing the attention on a mantra or on the flow of the breath or on some other object, the attempt to quiet the automatized activities of the mind through concentrated attention is the first step and continuing theme of Hindu psychological yoga.

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Our soul is not something we have, it is more something we are.

A healthy soul, therefore, must do two things for us. First, it must put some fire in our veins, keep us energized, vibrant, living with zest, and full of hope as we sense that life is, ultimately, beautiful and worth living.

Whenever this breaks down in us, something is wrong with our souls. When cynicism, despair, bitterness, or depression paralyze our energy, part of the soul is hurting.

Second, e healthy soul has to keep us fixed together. It has to continually give us a sense of who we are, where we came from, where we are going, and what sense there is is all of this. When we stand looking at ourselves, confusedly, in a mirror and ask ourselves what sense, if any, there is to our lives, it is this other part of the soul, our principle of integration, that is limping.

In a matter of speaking, the soul has a principle of chaos and a principle of order within it and its health depends upon giving each its due. Too much order and you die of suffocation, to omuch chaos and you die of dissipation.

Every healthy spirituality, therefore, will have to worship at two shrines, the shrines of the God of chaos and the God of order. One God will keep us energized, the other will keep us joined together. These two functions of the soul are always in creative tension.

We have in us spirit, soul, and what we do with that soul is our spirituality. At a very basic level, long before anything explicitly religious need be mentioned, it is true to say that if we do things which keep us energized and integrated, on fire and yet glued together, we have a healthy spirituality.

From Ron Rolheiser, “What is Spirituality” – The Holy Longing.

I’m thinking about Dan, and I am thinking about You!!!