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Archive for the ‘Women’s Spirituality’ Category

Do you ever have days where everything hits you the wrong way, or nothing seems okay? Where no matter how much you tell yourself to put your big girl panties on and pull them up all the way, your life just seems to suck anyway?

 

I was feeling that way this morning, just as I had been for several days—weeks really—and I finally got tired of it; really, really tired of it. I had to figure out some way to get myself in motion and alleviate the pain, to get past the blues and back on the path to sunny skies. So here’s what I did. . .

 

First of all, I decided I would feel much better if I ate a proper meal. I had been skipping regular meals and subsisting on a less-than-nutritious diet (read junk food), and I figured my body, brain, and spirit could do with something more nourishing. So of course I went to Starbucks. (All natural and better than McDonald’s, right?) And the added benefit of this decision was that it got me out of the house and into the open air. Listening to the birds, watching fluffy, white clouds sailing through the sky, and feeling a soft breeze swirl around me were a good start to lifting a low spirit.

 

Then came the food. I love Starbucks’ Jade Citrus Mint Green Tea, as well as their Bacon-Gouda-Egg Sandwich. (How I came to love this particular combination is a story for another day). By the time I got back home, I was ready to go on to the next step—get my mind occupied with something creative that would leave no room for backsliding into inertia or too much negative self-talk.

 

As I was finishing my meal, I received a timely text from a good friend and mentor. In her message she let me know that she treasured the friendship we share—meaning she also treasured me—and closed her text with this paraphrase: “Go forth and do good in the day the Lord has made.”

 

For some reason, that phrase struck me as surprisingly apropos to my day (ha-ha, what a joke, right? There are no coincidences in life, simply prompts from the Universe). It started me wondering just how I could do good from where I was: alone, housesitting a friend’s home in a city not my own. Just exactly where was I to go forth, and how was I to do good in a place where I knew no one and nothing about? Then I thought about what I like to do and (possibly) have a talent for—in my mind at least—and I decided writing was just the ticket. I had not paid attention to my blog in quite a while, so I thought this might be a good time to get back to it. Maybe I could help even one other person get through her day by something I would say. It did not take long to decide what to write about first!

 

My theory is that the Universe does not tolerate slackers. It will allow a short period for being blue, sad, and/or overwhelmed with emotions, but only a certain amount of leeway is granted. Not that a person has to be perky and upbeat all the time, but we do need to stay tuned in to what Spirit is trying to tell us. This is especially true when we are feeling down, because that is when we tend to turn away and ignore what the Universe is saying. BUT, there is no turning away for long. The Universe will stay on us until we start paying attention again, first with subtle hints and reminders, then with more obvious signs until finally, the Universe nudges us with some pretty strong slaps and flat-out knock-down punches to get our attention. And some of those punches, although necessary, are not pleasant.

 

I have taken a few of these slaps and punches lately, and I will say they have knocked me for a loop. Coming on top of a series of smaller emotional issues to deal with, it seems like I barely stop reeling from one upset when another comes along. It has been hard to see where the lessons are, what the underlying truth is in regard to this uncertain and unsettled time of my life. It has been a struggle to talk to Spirit, much less listen for “the message” I am supposedly receiving. Even now, the urge is to give in to the sadness and anger in a rage against the unfairness of the Universe; to reject and abandon Spirit with my fractured intellect, rather than going to my heart to contemplate quietly, examine the pain and, above all, rest in the gentleness of Spirit within my wholeness.

 

So, I guess I am still a little—or maybe a lot—angry and sad, a little unsettled about some of the ups and downs in my life. However, after putting aside the self-pity, I am now also more ready to sit still, examine the truth of what lies before me, and release the pain and doubt. I can be open to receive the comfort Spirit offers, and accept these new adventures the Universe has presented me.

 

I will close with this message I received a couple of days ago from “The Universe” (Mike Dooley, A Note From the Universe):

 

What do you mean, you can’t see it? You don’t know? You aren’t sure? You’re scared? This is an adventure, you’re an adventurer, uncertainty, fear, and even setbacks happen. Besides, “easy” has never been your style, and just because you can’t see the miracles doesn’t mean they aren’t happening, doesn’t mean you’re alone, and doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong path. . . . Today, you’re exactly where you most need to be.

Many good thoughts and blessings,

This Old Crone

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I recently began a new adventure that I am very excited about. I have enrolled in a two-year Interfaith Seminary Program offered by One Spirit Learning Alliance.  One Spirit Interfaith Seminary (OSIS) offers everyone an opportunity to learn about the world’s great spiritual traditions and deepen one’s own spiritual life while becoming ordained as an Interfaith Minister. OSIS draws from the resources of the great wisdom teachings, both ancient and modern, to increase appreciation for the diversity of life and to nurture a direct experience of the unity that underlies it (taken from the OSIS website).

As part of the assignments for the first year, we are reading a book by Leonard Felder, Ph.D. called The Ten Challenges: Spiritual Lessons from the Ten Commandments for Creating Meaning, Growth, and Richness Every Day of Your Life. Quite a title! Today’s posting is a paper I wrote reflecting on the first chapter.

 

Reflections on The Ten Challenges, Chapter 1  “Discovering the Still Small Voice Within”

So far, I really am enjoying Felder’s book The Ten Challenges. Right on page one he caught my attention by mentioning that many people are asking the same question I am: how do I create a life that is worthwhile for myself while making a difference for others? He went on to add that our souls are yearning for a clearer perspective on what really matters in life. I have never felt like I fit in anywhere, so I understood immediately Felder’s example of Jenny and Bill and their desire for a meaningful source of identity and satisfaction. Finding a sense of meaning and purpose is exactly why I enrolled in the One Spirit Seminary Program.

Felder asks if, on most days, I find myself feeling distant and skeptical about God. YES. Do I feel a desire to learn more, become closer to my sense of God? YES. Become more active in my practice of spirituality? YES. I have been trying for forty plus years to understand God, religion, and spirituality. Is there a God? Who is He, She, It? What is the Universe? How are God and the Universe related? How do I connect with a father God who let his own son suffer? As a parent, that is something I could never even contemplate, much less condone. There must be a significant, earth-shattering, yet inconceivable reason for such an act, but really, your own Son, tortured and crucified?

As I read more and learned less, I just wound up confused, often angry and always overwhelmed with my own lack of understanding. This made me doubt myself; were my questions an indication of a healthy inquisitiveness, or a serious breach of faith? Did figuring it all out really matter anyway? It did not seem like I knew the right prayers or some magic formula to get my life on track. Maybe it would not even make a difference; maybe we are just born, then we live, and finally we die. If some beneficent, loving Supreme Being created us, why is life so crappy and harsh? Why does it take so much pain, heartbreak, and plain hard work just to get through one day?  It seems like if I do not do every little thing the universe requires, and do it just right, the universe punishes me by not only not giving me what I desire, but also by either providing the opposite bad thing or more of what I am already receiving. It is difficult to ask a god I am not sure I believe in for help.

But enough of this whining and these childish questions. Now is the time to sort it all out and acquire an adult sense of both the Divine and my own spirituality. Taking the positive step of joining the One Spirit program has given me a strong sense of relief, like maybe I am finally going to be able to resolve my doubts and confusion.

I will always have questions, but Felder’s challenges are helpful in clarifying what I need to do to find my own answers. I believe the first step is to stop talking and start listening. I am positive I have a calling to be a channel of communication for the Divine. But I will not become that if I am too busy complaining and refuse to attend to the Divine Presence within. The times I do allow this to happen, when I let my mind rest in my heart, I hear the Shekhinah and know her Presence.

Even though I am not sure about the how’s, what’s, and why’s of some issues, I am confident that  I am a Divine Being of Light, connected to a giving and sustaining Power that is at once a part of, yet greater than, the self. I believe spirituality is discovering and maintaining a relationship with that Power, and the depth of the relationship is directly proportional to both the level of my awareness of the sacredness of the universe, and the degree of my interconnectedness with it. When I remind myself of these beliefs, life is not so bewildering. The questions then become those that Felder asks: what is really holding me back, and what is my next step? Because I do want to be partners with the Divine; the One, who lives deep inside me and can be found within every iota of creation. It is more exciting that I can express, and so encouraging, to be reminded that I am carrying a spark of divine light that can actually help heal the world when I simply learn how to ignite it.

Many good thoughts and blessings,

This Old Crone

To learn more about the Interfaith Minister program or other programs offered at One Spirit Learning Alliance, click here: http://www.onespiritinterfaith.org/.

Leonard Felder, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist who has written 12 books on Jewish spirituality and personal growth that have sold over 1 million copies and have been translated into 14 languages.  To learn more about Leonard Felder, Ph.D. click here: http://www.hereiamremedies.com/about-the-author.html

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It’s been way too long since I posted, so I just had to get something on. I really enjoy putting my thoughts “out there” whether they are reflective and hopefully meaningful to others or simply for my own fun and pleasure.

New York to Dallas by J. D. Robb (Sept., 2011)

I recently read J.D. Robb’s newest Eve Dallas adventure, New York to Dallas. This was pure fun, and I try not to miss her books when they come out as she is one of my favorite authors. I have enjoyed this entire series on several levels. Of course, the stories are engaging, and they provide a few hours of escape, fantasy, and wishful thinking. But more than that, the characters come alive, the research and bad-guy profiling is thorough, and imagining our world a few years into the future is entertaining. Robb is sort of a mystery, romance, and sci fi writer all rolled into one.

Nora Roberts aka J.D. Robb

Ms. Robb’s plots are also well-though out, detailed, and if not always plausible at least they are not unbelievably outlandish and even seem entirely possible in the given situations. But I think what I like best is the characters themselves, or maybe I should say the way the author develops them. There is the typical cast of characters, our heroine Eve and hero Roarke, the faithful sidekick Peabody—and in this case, the sidekick’s sidekick Ian, along with a solid cast of friends and family. All of them have been given solid personalities, and although perhaps a little too good to be true, they are the kinds of people we wish we could be and that we’d want in our lives.

I guess what I really like though, is the way Eve Dallas has matured over the years. Always a staunch pillar of justice, she pulls no punches where right and wrong are concerned. She has authority, the respect of her colleagues as both a woman and a cop, and a firm grasp on reality. Lt. Eve Dallas practically defines the word “integrity.” Eve stands for something; in her world, she stands for those who can no longer stand for themselves. She respects the humanity of the dead, no matter who they were. Good, bad, young, old, victim, criminal—when it is all said and done, Eve stands for the powerless.

Yet, the rigid views and rough edges Eve starts out with undergo a tempering process as she works her way through case after case. Eve never wavers in her commitment to the dead, but she begins to acquire a respect and appreciation for the living as well. What makes the difference for Eve is finding the perfect person to support her as she learns how to navigate the ins and outs of life as a responsible grown-up. When she meets future husband Roarke, Eve finds unexpected love. Eve already knows all about death, but it is their love, freely given and received, that enables her to discover what life is all about.

Without going into too much detail—there are after all approximately 33 novels plus short stories—Eve Dallas had a traumatic childhood.  Abused in every way possible, love-deprived, without even a name, Eve made it through the system and into the Police Academy to become the best homicide detective in New York City. Somehow she was able to hold onto her innate sense of fairness, even while chasing down some of the most depraved killers in the city and struggling through vivid, incapacitating nightmares of incest, rape, and starvation at the hands of her father. She is at once capable and efficient on the outside and yet battles fear and insecurity on the inside. Until she finds love. That’s when Eve begins to smooth off the rough edges and develop into a mature, giving, and emotionally present woman. Her story as it unfolds in the pages of the series is the tale of a woman finding her own power even as she restores it to those who can no longer claim it for themselves.

Like many of us, Eve does not feel she can either truly love or be loved. She is afraid of the vulnerability it takes to accept and return genuine love. When she finally acknowledges her love for Roarke, she has to then find the strength to believe that she is deserving of his love. Once she gets past that hurdle, she takes the next step by extending her love to those around her. It is harder to accept their love back, but she grows into it little by little. As she progresses through the books, Eve gradually acquires some stability in her life; only her nightmares remain to keep her off balance, and by the end of the latest book, she is finally coming to grips with those.

Dr. Roger Walsh

Although is sounds terribly cliché-ish to say that love conquers all, this is exactly what happens. In his book Essential Spirituality, Philosopher and psychiatrist Roger Walsh, M.D., Ph.D describes love as “a source of meaning for countless people, a goal for which millions live and die, and a force that shapes countries and cultures.” He goes on to add that mature love is based on sufficiency, wholeness, overflowing fullness, and joy. It is more than physical attraction and infatuation. Romantic love, when deep and true, is like a spiritual love: it “has no desire to get but only to give, no goal except to awaken itself within others, no need except to share itself.” This is the kind of love Eve Dallas discovers and grows into. And I am romantic enough to believe in it and enjoy it both in fiction and real life.

Eve and Roarke fictionally personify the power of real human beings who love unconditionally. As we watch them grow through and with each other, they model a love that all humans can aspire to; a love that is at once profound, boundless, and beneficial (Walsh). They portray love as it is meant to be: the most powerful and important of human emotions and abilities.

“Love has the power to awaken us,” says Walsh.

J.D. Robb says the same thing. That’s why I just love her books.

Many good thoughts and blessings,

This Old Crone

References

– Robb, J.D. New York to Dallas. Penguin Group, In Death Series #33, September 2011.

Essential Spirituality by Roger Walsh, M.D., Ph.D.

– Walsh, Roger. Essential Spirituality: The Seven Central Practices to Awaken Heart and Mind, with a foreword by The Dalai Lama. John Wiley & Sons, 1999, pages 72-75.

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