Higher Calling

Have you ever noticed how religions and belief systems are often divisive and promote dualistic thinking? Somehow, we think we’ve got the answer, or we’re on the right team and the ‘other’ is on the wrong team. We think we’re God’s favorite and God is on our side. Or perhaps we think God is passé and embrace a more humanistic philosophy. But underlying all of this we may find some common ground allowing the walls that divide us to come down, finding an expansive, more inclusive way to be, and watching our tribe grow to embrace Life itself.

Underlying so many religious and spiritual traditions is a desire to live a more authentic life that operates from a more authentic place within us. This thing, this place is hard to describe and cannot be captured with our finite vocabulary. It’s that part of ourselves that is beyond our primitive mind where fear resides. It’s beyond our thinking mind where we can reason and analyze. It’s in the back of beyond, a place of knowing, where love and compassion reside. It’s hard to find often hidden by the walls we’ve constructed and the traumas we’ve endured. We have to look for it and really listen, and that often means quieting the fear of our primitive brains, quieting the incessant thoughts of our own understanding, letting it all go so we can hear the still small voice within us. Often times it’s silent, but sometimes, if we’re lucky, we get a glimpse, and we know it when we hear it. We may sense the deep abiding joy, or the peace that passes understanding, or we get clarity and have an aha moment.

This inner wisdom and compassion is within all of us, maybe lying dormant, just hoping we knock on the door of our hearts to wake it up, but everyone has it. Everyone. It does not matter whether we believe it or not. It’s there, within us. We don’t have to belong to a certain group, or believe in a certain way, and it doesn’t matter what we call it. Here are some ways this thing is described: Inner wisdom. The Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christ. The Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of Heaven. That place of knowing. The awakened mind. Intuition. The heart space. The spirit. Higher consciousness. The place beyond reason. Wise mind. The heart of compassion. Where love resides. Our essence. The enlightened mind. The Buddha. Where the divine resides. The Holy Ghost. The super ego. Higher consciousness. Whatever we call it, we sense it’s beyond our understanding and our words often fail to do it justice. We know we’ve tapped in when our heart expands with compassion leading to right action.

May we all grow in awareness of this deep and abiding love and may we allow it to transform us to be a light to the world. We shall be known by our love for one another, for life itself.

I’m Back: Down with FB rants and Up with Back of Beyond

Bus stop for work commute. A precious moment.

I’ve fallen down on my commitment to myself to post on at least a monthly basis. I beat myself up a bit, but now I’m back. Admittedly, since the election of Donald Trump for POTUS, I’ve become a FB junkie posting provovactive articles, devouring and commenting on news articles, and using FB to satisfy my desire to write. I fear I’ve done this to the point of terribly offending friends and family who only want to use FB to stay in touch and watch the kids grow, and all of that other sweet stuff. I have to tell you, before FB became a medium for political rantings, I found it rather depressed me. I’d look at FB and feel like I didn’t have a life. Everyone else’s life seemed so perfect and fascinating compared to mine. That was of course until Chris and I started our travels…then, I could keep up with the Jone’s. Now I had a life. Ha! In all seriousness, FB did serve the purpose to help me stay in touch with friends and family while Chris and I were traveling. But the truth is, I’ve never been much of a small talker and FB to me often feels like a bunch of small talk. That is, until DT. Then, FB became this wonderful place for deep discourse, posting of in depth provocative articles, connecting with like minded people, and discourse that goes beyond how cute the kids are (though I do like the kid picures), but instead, gets into what people really think and feel about life. And yes, even beyond policital persuasion, FB has become a medium for me to explore religious and spiritual concepts. My FB feeds me daily doses of  Richard Rohr and  Jack Kornfield. Christian and Buddhist persuasions respectively. I’ve devoured articles and blogs of how the “Christian Right” has played into the election of DT and I’ve discovered the Christian Left. So yes, I’ve been diverted from our Back of Beyond Journey Blog and used FB instead. I’ve also again become gainfully employed, requiring me to devote a third of my days to the work my employer has hired me to do and not to my musings. And yes, my external travels have stopped for now, but not my inward journey. If I’ve learned anything from the 8 months of freedom from “a job” where I have to show up everyday and traveling to remote parts of the USA, it is, that, “wherever I go there I am.” I’ve always said this after reading the book from Jon Kabat-Zinn with the same title, but it became much more real for me.   I know where ever I may find myself on this great place we call earth I can grow right where I am. I love traveling and find I yearn to be back on the road and in the high desert in the Back of Beyond. But there is a time and place for everything and now my place is back in the Burgh with my awesome husband, my great new job, and learning to live in a new reality with fake news and alternative facts with Donald Trump as president. So moving forward I suspect my posts will be more political. They will reflect my inner journey as I contemplate and digest all that is. I can’t guarantee I’ll stop my FB rants, but for the sake of my dear family and friends who want to like me, but find they can’t because they feel they cannot escape my constant barrage and differing world views, I hope to bring it down a notch on FB and use this as my medium. I end today’s post with a quote I read this morning at the end of a yoga session I followed from this great site called DoYogaWithMe. “Live, Love, Laugh, Learn. Be Good to One Another.”

Until next time ~ Diane

Trump’s Campaign of Bigotry: How to Move Forward

My friend recently posted a challenge on social media asking for perspectives on the content of Jamelle Bouie’s article in Slate and  this is my response as I try to navigate through the fog.

Racism and other forms of  bigotry (a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance) exist and for many of us our blinders have been torn off and we see the depth and breadth of its ugly existence. My heart can’t stop hurting and I feel a sense of shame for not fighting harder for the victims of bigotry. The constant micro aggressions they encounter on a daily basis cannot be comprehended by someone like me with white privilege. Read here for an interesting perspective on how a woman came to terms with her white privilege. If bigotry didn’t exist, we would not need so many laws protecting citizens of its ugly presence in our society. (Civil rights, fair housing, voting rights, equal credit-just to name a few). However, I bet if the economy were stronger and white middle America perceived they were prospering, we would not be facing Donald Trump as our next POTUS. It’s the economy stupid. And when people are suffering, they want to blame someone, and DT gave people someone to blame. Let’s blame muslims, blacks, women, gays, democrats. Let’s blame the other for interrupting my way of life. How dare they? I had it good until (you name it) came along and took it all away. When people hurt and feel powerless they scream loud and look for someone to blame. “If only the world would be different, then I would be happy” is the internal mantra. This is a common theme amongst us human beings and we need not look any further than ourselves to see we may have bought into this mantra from time to time. It’s a victim mentality. This is not to say there are not victims and when we know a person or group has been victimized we need to fight and do right by them. There are many victims who do not adopt a victim mentality and there are many that have a victim mentality who have not been victims. I recently asked the question, since when did ‘Christians’ develop such a victim mentality and what responsibility do church leaders take in strengthening this mindset. It is an opposite mindset of the independent spirit, “we pick ourselves up by our own bootstraps” or “we are over comers in Christ” just to paraphrase a few of the phrases I often hear from the right and certain groups of evangelicals.

So, as I consider how we should move forward in a world with Donald Trump as POTUS, I’m conflicted. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and other democrats are willing to work with DT. Said Sanders:

“If the president-elect is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families, I’m going to present some very real opportunities for him to earn my support.” Said Warren: “When President-elect Trump wants to take on these issues, when his goal is to increase the economic security of the middle-class families, then count me in.” If Trump embraces the bigotry and hatred of his campaign, however, both Sanders and Warren promise to fight him without compromise. “We will not give an inch on this,” said Warren. Read the full article here.

I agree with Warren’s and Sander’s position. I believe this is the most effective mindset if we wish to move forward. Whether we like it or not, DT is our president-elect. We have no time to waste to work on behalf of all Americans. I think they see the wounded that mistakenly blame the “other” for their wounds and because they’ve incorrectly identified the problem, they think they’ve found their solution in DT. So yes, I think we must go deep below the surface and have compassion for those that supported Trump, some from their own ignorance and pain and sorrow. Remember, many of these people are fed constant propaganda by right wing media such as Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh, and The Christian Right espousing the authority of their version of God and preach a brand of Christianity based on legalism and political authority similar to the Sadducees and Pharisees (sects of Judaism that were part of the religious establishment at the time of Jesus). It’s a brand of religion that promotes bigotry. Just drive through any rural area and all you hear is this kind of inflammatory rhetoric. There is no NPR or BBC, or anything that closely resembles fair and balanced news. There is only Christian talk shows that have a very right-leaning view of Christianity. Jesus was in constant conflict with the religious establishment of his time and he railed against them while at the same time having tremendous compassion for the common man, the ‘victims’, of the establishment. His teachings freed them from the bondage of legalism and oppression and he helped his followers to embrace the spirit of Judaism and not the oppressive law, which was very threatening to the religious establishment. James A. Fowler says in an article “Jesus Confronts Religion”:

“Jesus Christ did not come to found another religion. He came that we might have His life, and experience such in abundant human expression (John 10:10). The Christian gospel is the presence and dynamic of the life of the risen Lord Jesus being manifested in the behavior of receptive believers to the glory of God.

Such freedom of life and worship was alien and foreign to the strictures and structures of Jewish religion that existed in the first century. It can be reasonably argued that Judaism in the first century was representative of religious perversion at its worst. Every form of legalism, exclusivism, moralism, etc. was rampant in their religion. This provided, though, a perfect environment to exhibit the radical antithesis and ultimate contrast to what Jesus came to reveal in Himself, the “good news” of Christianity.”

So, yes…I think we look below the surface of the cries of the people, and look at the pain in their hearts and begin to address it with the things that will again make them feel they have meaningful and prosperous lives. We win the hearts and minds of the misguided Trump supporters with true compassion and love. I applaud Sanders and Warren for having a heart big enough to embrace these misguided souls. They understand the spirit to “forgive them for they know not what they do.”

According to Jamelle Bouie, in his article in Slate the concern with taking this position is that it obscures the racism, bigotry, and white tribalism of Trumps appeal. “It matters that Warren and Sanders (and, it seems, the likely chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison) have made a choice to obscure the fundamental tribalism of Trump’s appeal. It matters that they’ve cast the bigotry of Trump’s movement as an element to oppose if it comes, and not an essential part of the whole. To take that step is to sanction white nationalism as a legitimate political appeal, thus rewarding the fight against liberal pluralist democracy.” This is a scary outcome. And I mostly agree with Sen. Harry Reid when he says:

“If this is going to be a time of healing, we must first put the responsibility for healing where it belongs: at the feet of Donald Trump, a sexual predator who lost the popular vote and fueled his campaign with bigotry and hate. Winning the electoral college does not absolve Trump of the grave sins he committed against millions of Americans. Donald Trump may not possess the capacity to assuage those fears, but he owes it to this nation to try.”

My concern is that it will be an exercise in futility to expect DT to do this before we agree to work with him to benefit all Americans. It will strengthen the gridlock that has hampered this nation for too long. It will deepen the entrenchment of rigidly held beliefs on both sides.

So what can we do? What must we do? We must stay vigilant and pounce on anything that may threaten anyone’s civil liberties. We must fight harder than ever to protect, uphold, and strengthen the civil rights of those that DT marginalized in his hateful campaign rhetoric. We must be a loud and consistent voice demanding that DT repudiate himself from his hateful and bigoted rhetoric. We must use the tools available to us to remove a white nationalism agenda. Let’s support the Southern Poverty Law Center and ACLU
and others that fight against hatred and bigotry. Let’s befriend those who are victimized by bigotry. Let’s make sure our voices are heard when we vote in two years. Healing can take place if we humble ourselves and put our love into action and remember that all Life is precious. I close with a quote I heard on the PBS news hour from the late Gwen Ifill that so closely reflects my sentiments:

“Cynics thinks that they know all the answers already, and then they stop listening.

Skeptics always have more questions to ask, but we are willing to be persuaded to the honesty of an alternate point of view, even if we don’t share it.

Is it possible to be skeptical and optimistic and ambitious, open, excited to possibility and willing to change the world as well? I think so.”

Namaste – Diane

Denial to Acceptance and Everything In Between

I notice my anxiety rise as I watch the results of our presidential election numbers come in. I sip on my  wine. PA shows Hillary far ahead at 10:30 last evening, I breathe easier. Chris not so much.  I’m troubled by how close the numbers are in so many other states. But they’re always red states. No worries.  This can’t be. I’m in denial. I say something stupid to Chris in an effort to comfort, something to the effect “Don’t worry, there’s no way he can win” and I notice Chris give me the “get real” hairy eyeball. Chris and I made a concerted effort to be back in PA by this date for the sole purpose to cast our vote in this historic election. We’ve had countless conversations trying to overcome our befuddlement of how Trump had so much support. How can we in America support a man that has over and over again demonstrated his lack of moral character, his immature tempermaent, his divisive and hate filled language? We don’t get it. We cannot wrap our heads around it. And though we knew that even those that saw Trump as unfit still planned to vote for him for POTUS, I denied it would actually happen. There’s no way. I have more faith in the American people. I want to believe in our integrity. I want to believe in America. I could not and would not accept another result. I went to bed, like an ostrich with it’s head in the sand.

I awoke this morning anxious to see the results and celebrate a Clinton victory with my Mornin’ Joe. I prepare to savor the moment. I brew my coffee. I go to set the timer on my phone when I notice a text from a friend from last night. I’m reluctant to read it. I don’t want to learn the results this way. But I open it. She says she’s on the “edge of her seat”. She reveals nothing. Yes. I’m so tempted to find out. I resist. I do some gentle yoga for about 15 minutes, working out the kink in my troublesome right hip. I feel better, more serene, more relaxed. I circle and sway my loosened hips as I prepare my coffee. I sit down with my steaming cup. I open my IPad and look at the news. This is what Isee. Donald Trump wins the presidency in stunning upset over Clinton. I’m sure it’s a joke. I look at the author to see what sitiracle journalist wrote this. I’m wondering why this satire would be the first thing to pop up on my news feed. I’m in total denial. But I feel my heart sink and a knowing in my gut. This can’t be. I turn on the tv to the CBS morning news. And there it is. Trump won. I’m in shock. I cry. I text my friend back. I say over and over “oh my God, oh my God, OH MY GOD!”. I’m speechless. I cry some more. I get on social media and see everyone’s stunned response. How did this happen? I learn that Trump won PA. OMG! It sinks in. Trump is president. I learn that the Canadian immigration website crashed. OMG! I see so many people already moving to problem solving, what’s next? What do we do? I see how people are moving to acceptance and to “higher ground”, tapping into their wisdom and goodness innate within all of us. I know I have to sit with this for awhile. I have to write about it. I have to get to the place of acceptance. It’s my daughter’s birthday today. I remove myself from my shock and begin perusing pictures of my precious daughter that I can embarass her with. I find myself smiling as I look through so many beautiful pictures of my family and friends. I’m okay. This moment is now better. It’ll be okay. We will become stronger. Our eyes will be opened. We will see a spiritual revival as we’ve never seen before. We will come to realize the narrow and restrictive interpretation that we have of Christ is not Christian. We will embrace the Cosmic Christ  and envelope the world and all of life with love and acceptance.

My husband awakes and walks into the living room and sees the headlines on the tv that Trump has won the presidency. And my heart hurts for him as I watch him come to grips.


Coming out of the Shadows

I fell asleep last night with views through my window of the star filled night and a bright crescent moon on the Western Horizon. I wake to the orange glow of the mountains as they are set on fire by the rising sun. It’s cool, almost cold. I hurry to make my coffee and wrap myself in a blanket and make my way outside of our cabin here in the ‘Back of Beyond’. I’m mesmerized by the quiet that envelopes this town as the sun begins to warm the earth. The silence is broken by the cooing doves, cawing ravens, and clucking quails. I savor these moments to be alone in this stillness. I mindfully observe the dove on the wire. She does not move, and at first I cannot tell she’s a dove, for she’s in shadow. She is still. She begins to glow golden as the morning sun finds her. She seems to soak it up. She’s watching me. I wonder what she’s thinking. I watch the jack rabbits make their entrance to my domain, their long twitching ears glowing in the sun, looking for some greenery they can devour. The quail family scurries down the road. The wildlife owns this sleepy little ghost town in the ‘Back of Beyond’. Life is indeed precious and I notice my deep sense of contentment as I watch the morning sun bring light to all that is in shadow.

I take time to reflect on the fight that Chris and I had yesterday and I realize I am in the wrong, for I uncovered him. I revealed something about him that I had no business revealing. Furthermore, I painted a picture of him that was far from accurate. I violated his trust. Yes, it was unintentional, but still it hurt him. We talked about it, and made our peace, but it makes me think of this ‘uncovering’ that people do to each other.

I think we know innately to ‘cover’ the nakedness of our spouse, literally and figuratively. And even for those we are not in intimate relationship with, common decency prevents us from revealing things about others we think may embarrass them. My grandsons of course think nothing is embarrassing and are quick to point out things like my soft upper arms that can serve as wings so I can fly when we play make believe. Oh, out of the mouth of babes. Good thing I can laugh about my wings. Ha!

But seriously, when someone does reveal their nakedness to us, are we inclined to keep it to ourselves, recognizing the gift that has been entrusted to us, or do we yell it from the rooftops perhaps to get a good laugh? Or maybe we just ‘share’ another person’s story to make ourselves look better or sound interesting not realizing we may be uncovering the other person? I hope it’s not the latter. Have we lost the sense of common decency in this age of reality tv and doing all that we can to catch someone with their pants down? I sometimes wonder. I often feel embarrassed for the individuals who reveal their most outrageous and embarrassing behaviors for millions of viewers to see. Do we encourage this by our voyeurism? As a psychiatric nurse I worked with individuals who often lacked insight into how much or how little they should reveal about themselves and to whom. I saw both ends of the spectrum. Some were so guarded they wouldn’t even tell you their name. Others were so open, they told anybody and everybody every intimate detail of their lives. I believe both extremes are desperate attempts of broken people trying to affirm themselves when no one else will. Are we exploiting people like this for our own amusement with some of the reality tv? Are we complicit in a further unraveling of their already fragile sense of self? “Until we learn to love others as ourselves, it’s difficult to blame broken people who desperately try to affirm themselves when no one else will.” ― Richard Rohr,  Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

But am I not doing the same thing? As I write my blog, I’m revealing parts of my most intimate self. But here’s the big difference. I am doing it with compassionate awareness. This inner journey of self exploration provides me an avenue to discover and let go of my false self, my shadow self, so that I can live a more authentic life.  It’s scary to put myself out there. I’m by nature more of a closed book. Fear of criticism, judgment, and ultimately rejection are legitimate fears, and my ego, my shadow self as described by Richard Rohr, simply wants to protect me, but it keeps me down. It keeps me from growing. It keeps me from experienceing the joy that can only be found by going deep. So it’s a fear I’m willing to confront because I believe by revealing my shadow self to the light the chains of bondage to my ego are broken. My ego does not like it. I can feel it kicking and screaming. I reassure it and say “it’ll be okay”. My ego is not evil, but it likes the status quo and resists diving deeper. I am learning to treat this ego self with compassion, for it is part of me. I am learning that the most important gift I can give myself is to be my own best friend which was one of the profound lessons I learned with this free online MBSR course. So when I look deeply into the mirror and see things I do not like, I am learning to be compassionate and nonjudgmental with myself. Blogging for me is very much part of the process of my growth and maturation, it is part of my intentional uncovering. I may only have one follower, me, but I’m putting it out there. This uncovering is humbling and hard to do but it is part of my journey to “know thyself”. I know how important it is for me to practice gentleness and compassion. Each of us has our own life’s journey. Some may choose to live an examined life, some may not. But life itself has a way of teaching us humility and sometimes when we see the truth of ourselves, it hurts.

I found it hard to acknowledge that I hurt Chris, and I initially denied it, and instead blamed him. I did not want to see myself as a hurtful person. I felt vulnerable and fearful of abandonment and my ego defenses were simply trying to protect me from further pain. Things like denial and anger and blaming feel so much better than vulnerability and abandonment. But when I owned it and humbly acknowledged my hurtful behavior, it allowed for healing and growth for both of us.

So yes, it is true that when my nakedness is revealed, I feel vulnerable and alone, and my ego defenses go up, but when enveloped with love and compassion and acceptance, my defenses dissolve and I feel free and authentic and relieved. And if I really pay attention, I notice an expansion of my heart space. Until next time – Diane