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Healing Touch   Leave a comment

I had my first experience with “Healing Touch” yesterday. I lay down on the massage table that the practitioner brought to my home. She covered me completely with a blanket and made sure I was comfortable. She brought a music CD with her and started that softly. I closed my eyes. She instructed that I relax completely and suggested that I envision a warm summer day, sitting under a maple tree with the breeze on my face, a cat by my side. In my mind, I immediately went to this place and thought of Katie by my side. The tears slipped from my eyes. I stayed with this scene for quite a while and then moved on to others: a sunset over Lake Superior while I sat on the shore, a quiet visit in a Japanese garden by a koi pond, sunlight glimmering through the tall forest trees, lying on the dock on Penobscot Bay (Maine) one July morning, greeting the dawn. When my thoughts would wander to something unsettling — which they frequently do — I’d bring my thoughts back to the maple tree with Katie by my side. The tears flowed off and on throughout the 45 minutes of this session.

The overwhelming feeling I had and the words that went through my mind during this time is, “I have everything I need to be all that I am.” I am a child of the moon, the sun, the stars. I am connected to all those things, a part of it all. The Universe has supported life in all its forms for millions of years. I trust that it has given me what I need. I just need to be still and realize that.

I have no idea what the practitioner was doing during this time. I never opened my eyes. I felt her presence as she walked around the table. She occasionally touched me. Beyond that… I don’t know.

I can’t say at this point whether I do believe or don’t believe in the powers of energy therapy. I know that I went to a place in my mind that I’ve never gone before for that long of a time. It was healing and restorative. Perhaps the session gave me permission to meditate, to go to that place where all is calm and appreciate all that is inside me. I felt like I had truly gone to some other place than my TV room during the session.

The end of the session was signaled by Mia jumping up on me and bringing me “home.” What a fitting awakening!

Will I do this again? Yes. I do believe that the mind has great powers to heal.

Posted February 10, 2013 by StPaulieGrrl in health, Mental Health, spirituality

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Liberty for All   Leave a comment

“I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO THE FLAG OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND TO THE REPUBLIC FOR WHICH IT STANDS, ONE NATION, UNDER GOD, INDIVISIBLE, WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL! MY GENERATION GREW UP RECITING THIS EVERY MORNING IN SCHOOL WITH MY HAND ON MY HEART. THEY NO LONGER DO THAT FOR FEAR OF OFFENDING SOMEONE! LET’S SEE HOW MANY AMERICANS WILL RE-POST THIS AND NOT CARE ABOUT OFFENDING SOMEONE.”

I’ve been seeing this go around on Facebook, as it does from time to time. As a Baby Boomer child, I stood in a classroom every morning, placed my hand over my heart, and recited these words to the U.S. flag in the corner of the classroom. We all did it. To not do it would have caused disciplinary action, I’m sure, if any of us had been gutsy enough to refuse to do it.

But what if a person doesn’t go along with some part of this creed, whether it be the part about God (some of us don’t believe in monotheism), or the parts about this country offering liberty and justice for all, which some folks know it doesn’t? If a student were to say, “I’m not going to recite that,” and opt out of participation, there would be ridicule and bullying by other classmates and life would be hell for that student. That certainly makes a hypocrisy out of the words “liberty…for all,” doesn’t it?

The solution was to stop pressuring students to do this. It seems like the only sensible option when “liberty for all” is at stake, when it comes to upholding what those words really mean. To do anything else suggests that a student is accepted only when he or she conforms to the ideals set force by the majority, and that is the antithesis of “liberty and justice for all.”

Flower Communion   2 comments

I participated in my first Flower Communion this morning at White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church, which coincides in our congregation with New Member Sunday.  On New Member Sunday, the new members who have joined since the previous summer are invited to come as a group to the front of the church and be formally introduced to the congregation, receiving a public welcome in return.

I didn’t really understand fully about this “flower communion” but knew that we were all asked to bring flowers we had bought, flowers we had picked from our gardens, or flowers we had plucked from alongside the road.  These were to be put in communal vases at the front of the church.  I told Dale before he left on his trip to China that I wanted to bring some peonies from our bush in the front yard.  That bush was from Dale’s mother’s peony bush in Hibbing and has fared well in our front yard in St. Paul.   Dale remarked, “Mom would like that.”  I took two red blossoms and one pink blossom to the service this morning (the white ones were dropping all their petals) and placed them with all the other flowers that people had brought.

In essence, Reverend Victoria explained the tradition of Flower Communion today.  She paraphrased these sentiments:

Flower Communion is usually held in the spring. Each member of the congregation is asked to bring a fresh flower to the service, which they place it in a large vase upon arriving. The flowers are consecrated by the minister during the service. Upon leaving the church, each person takes a flower other than the one they had brought.

Flower Communion was created by Norbert Capek (1870-1942), who founded the Unitarian Church in Czechoslovakia, and was first celebrated in 1923. The symbolic meaning of the ritual is generally understood as follows (though individuals are, of course, free to find their own meaning in it.

The significance of the flower communion is that as no two flowers are alike, so no two people are alike, yet each has a contribution to make. Together the different flowers form a beautiful bouquet. Our common bouquet would not be the same without the unique addition of each individual flower, and thus it is with our church community, it would not be the same without each and every one of us. Thus this service is a statement of our community.

By exchanging flowers, we show our willingness to walk together in our Search for truth, disregarding all that might divide us. Each person takes home a flower brought by someone else – thus symbolizing our shared celebration in community. This communion of sharing is essential to a free people of a free religion.  (http://www.uua.org/documents/zottolireginald/flowercommunion.pdf)

Just before the end of the service, we all formed a circle at the perimeter of the room.  Reverend Victoria and a handful of volunteers took flowers at random and gave them to each person in the circle.  I was given quite a fistful that included some “crazy dasies” in bright hues of purple and green.  My friend, Miranda, was gifted with a perfect small pink rose as part of her flowers.  There were folks in the circle who went home with Mom’s peonies today.  I coveted Miranda’s small pink rose, and once out in the parking lot, she gave it to me and asked for some wild green “crazy daisies” in return.  It made me smile.

I stopped and bought a bouquet of bright flowers on the way home to replace the wilted ones in the vase by Katie’s wall portrait.  Those bright blossoms mirror the joy she brought to my heart and my life during her almost-17 years on Earth.

Symbolism is just that, not a thing unto itself but a gentle reminder in our lives of the ideals we hold and the people we cherish.  As I appreciate those flowers in my home this week, I will be drawn back to the concept of community, of sharing, and how we all come together to create something beautiful in this world.

Posted June 12, 2011 by StPaulieGrrl in spirituality

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Spirit House   Leave a comment

It started out as what has often been a usual Sunday morning for me.  I slept in until 9:30, got up, fed the cat (the one who eats the “gooshy” food), made the coffee, and sat down at my computer.  I was feeling pretty groggy.  A sudden headache came over me late yesterday afternoon, and during the course of the evening, I took three Extra Strength Tylenols and four ibuprofen tablets, all with only minimal relief of the discomfort.  I did sleep well, but I was getting off to a slow start this morning.  Any other Sunday morning, I might have just sat here in my jammies, drank some more coffee, and played around on Facebook for an hour or two.

I sat here in my jammies for awhile and finished most of my mug of coffee.  It was 10:20 a.m.  I was restless.  I didn’t want to sit here in my jammies, frittering away time on Facebook.  All week long, I had planned on going to church this morning.  The topic of the service was the soul.  The announcement about today’s service on Facebook earlier in the week said, “‘The Soul Sits Down’ is the focus for Rev. Victoria Safford’s sermon 1.9.11. ‘Soul’ is a spiritual concept understood differently person to person in UU circles such as WBUUC. Anticipate insights. Music by the adult choir at both 9 and 11.” Now, the concept of “soul” is something that holds a great deal of interest to me.  I think about that a lot and ponder the implications.  I wanted to hear what this intelligent and dynamic woman would say about the invisible entity known to some people as “the soul.”

How fast could I pull myself together and out the door?  It turns out that I can do that pretty fast if and when the spirit moves me.  I decided to light a fire under my butt, brushed my teeth, wetted down my bangs, and put on some clothes. I grabbed my purse, threw on my coat, and slipped into a pair of shoes.  It was 10:35.  I made it to the church in Mahtomedi on the dot of 11:00, moments before the start of the service.  I had done it!  I got up and got out the door, even though I had started out moving a little slow and not feeling very together.

It was worth it.  Of course, Reverend Safford’s sermon was inspirational, thought-provoking and motivational — not to mention enjoyable!  They always are!  I am anxious for this one to be published on the website because I want to hear this one again and share it with others who were not there.  (I’m not ashamed to admit it; I hang on her every word!  I could do a lot worse.)

I also experienced a deep delight in this poem by Billy Collins, U. S. Poet Laureate from 2001-2003,  that was read it its entirety earlier in the service:

The Night House

Every day the body works in the fields of the world

Mending a stone wall

Or swinging a sickle through the tall grass-

The grass of civics, the grass of money-

And every night the body curls around itself

And listens for the soft bells of sleep.

But the heart is restless and rises

From the body in the middle of the night,

Leaves the trapezoidal bedroom

With its thick, pictureless walls

To sit by herself at the kitchen table

And heat some milk in a pan.

 

And the mind gets up too, puts on a robe

And goes downstairs, lights a cigarette,

And opens a book on engineering.

Even the conscience awakens

And roams from room to room in the dark,

Darting away from every mirror like a strange fish.

And the soul is up on the roof

In her nightdress, straddling the ridge,

Singing a song about the wildness of the sea

Until the first rip of pink appears in the sky.

Then, they all will return to the sleeping body

The way a flock of birds settles back into a tree,

Resuming their daily colloquy,

Talking to each other or themselves

Even through the heat of the long afternoons.

Which is why the body-the house of voices-

Sometimes puts down its metal tongs, its needle, or its pen

To stare into the distance,

To listen to all its names being called

Before bending again to its labor.

I can just envision this, all these unseen parts of a human being, getting up in the night to roam the house, visit the roof, take their leave of the body and its duties and ponder the world, unencumbered by daily tasks and rituals.  I know intuitively that those parts of the human being exist.  I can’t see them.  I have no proof that they truly exist.  But yet I know that they do and that it’s the vital part that defines me and connects me to the web of life, to all living things through all time.  It’s the part of me who knows who I am called to be, who knows my name even though that name is unknown in the physical world.

I’m glad I pushed myself a little and got out that door.  That is a part of me that I haven’t seen in a long, long time.

 

Posted January 9, 2011 by StPaulieGrrl in spirituality

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The Gift of an Ordinary Day   5 comments

Something is different inside me lately.  Something has shaken loose, allowing colors to come back into my life and emotion to fill my heart.

I began to notice this even a month ago.  I recall the feeling of my heart feeling full, a gratefulness of being in the right place at the right time, as I considered whether or not to sign the membership book on that last evening of my three-part class at the Mahtomedi church I had chosen to attend.  The path of my life had brought me to that place, and already I had met some wonderful people who felt like they were meant to travel with me for a ways on my journey.  I signed the book that evening, deciding then and there that I had nothing to fear but fear itself.  As Reverend Victoria Safford hugged me, I could have wept.  Crying is an emotional expression that has become quite alien to me as the years have gone on.  I welcomed that emotion as I welcomed the next segment of my life’s journey.

Days later, I did shed tears at Sunday’s sermon about grief entitled, “Now is  The Eternal Life.”  I thought about my loved ones who have passed on, holding them close in my heart.  I felt the connection with all those around me who have felt a similar sense of loss.  I was part of that community of humanity.  I was alone with my memories and my grief — but so NOT alone!  My tears were tears of gratefulness.

Yesterday, after I had published, “My Alternate Lifestyle,” I got an email from the friend who had posed the question, “How does Bonnie cope when Dale is gone?”  He wanted me to know that he and his wife were there for me.  It was a simple thing, really, but when he said, “Should a heavy snow visit us in his absence (and hopefully the snowblower is repaired) you can count on me to slip over and clear the driveway. Period.”  Just….period.  End of story.  You need me, I’m there. This is a man who knew my husband back when they were in college together and they had no contact for close to 40 years.  We reconnected with him and his wife just recently, and the depth and the sincerity of the friendship amongst all four people involved has just been beautiful, a real blessing.  I was profoundly moved that a friend would make this offer when my own neighbors have never asked, “Do you need help?”  I felt joy in my heart and knew that I am indeed blessed.

I’ve been feeling it in the little things: holding my husband’s hand under a cold, moonlit sky, grateful for his companionship and devotion, grateful that he brought me home to Minnesota 34 years ago to build a life here.  I am grateful for the sunrises that herald a new day.  I am glad I have a job to go to, a profession that lends meaning to my life.

I feel blessed to feel! I’ve just been putting one foot in front of the other for so long now. Getting by.  Doing okay.  Kind of faking it, not really making it.

Something is changing.

I’m embracing the change.

Posted November 20, 2010 by StPaulieGrrl in Mental Health, spirituality

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Excuse Me, I Have Work To Do   Leave a comment

Anyone who knows me almost to any degree knows that I am posting this article, published this week in The Onion, with all the tongue-in-cheek attitude it deserves.   I fully support and uphold the beliefs that all human beings are worthy of certain basic rights.  I believe that compassion and empathy, the ability to appreciate and learn from our human differences, are exemplary qualities that make the world and its societies a more beautiful and enriching place to be.  If I believed in the omnipotent deity that so many in our culture do, I imagine a loving deity would be pleased and honored with this attitude. 

People like the ones characterized in this essay have crossed my path in life.  I think that most of us have encountered those who do not see the least amount of satire in an essay such as this.  They consider the attitude “if God had wanted me to have compassion for gays, He would have given it to me” to make perfect sense.  Responsibility and accountability for one’s actions and behavior is often in conflict with “God’s will” in their eyes.  It’s saddens my heart to know that there are those who accept hatred and scorn as the way it should be and use God to justify their predjudice.

However, the irony and satire of this piece profoundly amuses me.  It expresses my feelings in a way that a less satirical piece simply couldn’t.  

Here for your reading pleasure as well is:

If God Had Wanted Me To Be Accepting Of Gays,

He Would Have Given Me The Warmth And Compassion To Do So

By Jane Kendricks

I don’t question God. The Lord is my Shepherd and I shall put none above Him. Which is why I know that if it were part of God’s plan for me to stop viciously condemning others based solely on their sexual preference, He would have seen fit—in His infinite wisdom and all—to have given me the tiniest bit of human empathy necessary to do so.

It’s a simple matter of logic, really. God made me who I am, and who I am is a cold, anti-gay zealot. Thus, I abhor gay people because God made me that way. Why is that so hard to understand?

Here, let’s start with the basic facts: I hate and fear gay people. The way they feel is different from how I feel, and that causes me a lot of confusion and anger. Everyone knows God is all-powerful. He could easily have given me the capacity to investigate what’s behind those feelings rather than tell strangers in the park they’re going to hell for holding hands. But God clearly has another path for me. And who am I to question His divine will?

Compassion, tolerance, understanding, basic decency, the ability to put myself in another person’s position: God could have endowed me with any of those traits and yet—here is the crucial part—He didn’t. Why? Because the Creator of the Universe wants me to demonize homosexuals in an effort to strip them of their fundamental human rights.

I’m sorry, but you can’t possibly ask me to explain everything God does. He works in mysterious ways, remember?

Try to understand. If I were capable of thinking and acting any other way, then I’m sure I would, but God seems to be quite adamant about this one. He’s just not budging at all. So unless our almighty Lord and Savior decides to change His mind about my ability to empathize on even the most basic level—which I find highly unlikely—then everyone is just going to have to accept the fact that I’m going to keep on hating homosexuals. And I know that He will fill me with the strength to remain mindless and hurtful in the face of adversity.

Which isn’t to say that my faith hasn’t been tested. Believe me, there have been times when I’ve drifted from the bitter and terrified life God has chosen for me. When my younger brother told me he was gay, it shook my faith to its very core. But here I am, 27 years later, still refusing to take his calls. Just the way God intended.

It’s actually pretty astonishing how many complaints to the school board you can make regarding the new band teacher you’ve never met when you are filled with the Light of Christ and devoid of any real kindness or mercy toward His other children.

At the end of the day, I’m just trying to lead a good Christian life. That means going to church on Sunday, following the Ten Commandments, and fighting what I believe to be a sexual abomination through a series of petty actions and bitter comments made under my breath. Sure, I sometimes wish God would just reach into my heart and give me the ability to treat all people with, at the very least, the decency and respect they deserve as human beings. But unfortunately for that new couple who moved in three houses down, He hasn’t yet.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have God’s work to do.