Thursday, February 18, 2021

THE LIFE OF THE RELIGIOUS

I have had a lifelong fascination with nuns.

I was not brought up in the Catholic tradition. My family was deeply ensconced in the Evangelical movement. My mother actually had some inexplicable aversion to all things Catholic. And yet for me there was always an inner draw to that church, to the sacraments, to their Holy sites, and most especially to the Catholic sisters.

My own true confession: I wanted to be a nun.

Judge me as you will. There was and still is something in the weave of my Soul that calls me to that life. To live a life that is totally dedicated to all things God is for me the epitome of a life well lived. To serve, to teach, to counsel, to compassion, to love. While those are not exclusive to those of vowed living, the total immersion in them drew me as a gravitational force that defied reason.

Some of my earliest and sweetest childhood memories are of riding in our family car and going past a convent on the far east side of my hometown. It was surrounded by high iron fences and landscaped by tall, towering maple and oak trees. It had at the center of the property a large and majestic chapel. Several smaller outbuildings completed the campus-like setting. As we would drive by my attention was riveted on this setting. I could see through the iron fences to the nuns walking about reverently. They were at that time still fully habited. As I type these words, I can still sense the primal response to what I was seeing. I secretly longed to not just ride by and see the nuns. I wanted to be one of them. I wanted to spend my life reverently walking those paths. I wanted to pray in that glorious chapel, though at that time I had no idea of what Catholic theology or prayer was about. I mostly wanted to live out of that Godly sense of purpose and mission. I wanted my days to be filled with a calling and the fulfillment of that call. I wanted to serve the God that I had little intellectual knowledge of, and yet a deep embodied passion for. I cannot explain why the call was not to priesthood or to standard ministry. I can only embrace and share how the call upon my life unfolded from the earliest of ages.

The call of all things Catholic has continued to be a major if more symbolic impulse for my life adventure. I have had three significant romantic relations in my life, and all three have been with men who hail (intentional wording) from the Catholic tradition. While celibacy has not been a part of my personal calling, the lack of which has its perspective in my overall journey. The first of those significant others I actually met at a cathedral in Columbus, Ohio where I was playing a priest in a diocese-wide production of the play Murder in The Cathedral. I seriously contemplated converting at that point in my life. Life carried me in a different direction, though my journey through all things religious continued to mark my path of unfoldment.

That convent of my childhood was at the time called St. Mary of the Springs. It was affiliated with the Dominican Order, an order that would continue to play a significant part in the evolution of my life journey. My best friend of twenty-three years was a former Adrian Dominican sister. We traveled together several years ago to the Mother House of that order in Adrian, Michigan. I felt as if in ways I had finally come home. We sat together for hours, praying, and meditating in the magnificent Holy Rosary chapel, the very site where decades prior Mary had made her sacred profession.

I spent many happy and fulfilled years here in Palm beach County praying and serving with the Cenacle sisters at their now closed convent and retreat center near my home. I was a Cenacle auxiliary, the only male internationally to fill that role. The sisters lovingly called me their “Cenacle mister.” I loved my time with those nuns! My longtime spiritual director passed away many years ago, and I have never been able to find anyone to fulfill that role with me. I was crushed when it was decided that the order would have to sell the property. There was a feeling of home there that I deeply miss to this day.

And so, why am I sharing all of this?

Next week I will celebrate my twenty-fifth anniversary of ordination. No, not as a priest. And most assuredly not as a nun. We have not collectively come that far, yet.

I share all of this in recognition that my calling in life was revealed very early on and in a most unusual of ways. There was a pull to that convent, and to that way of life. I now know that the priests and nuns call their vocation “the religious life.” While most who affiliate with New Thought spirituality would never claim to live a religious life, I have no issue with that perspective. Religion for me is simply structure. It gives form to what is formless. While I do not identify with any one religion, I do appreciate the structure it provides and in the broader sense the vocation it gives way to. I still feel the call of my Soul to live God as my very life and purpose. I only call It God for clarities sake. I mostly refer to It as All. I am here to serve the All. To dedicate the whole of my life to prayer, to teaching, to pastoral care, to loving. I think of that convent and I realize that though I do not live in one, I am one. Just this week I had the notion of “conventing.” Of being a sacred space. Of being a conscious holy site where love and compassion abide. Where All truly is my habit and my habitation.

I realized most fully that I am living the religious life that always called to me.

In some ways I am the nun I always wanted to be.

I never aspired to be a platform speaker. The pulpit was never my goal. And here I am twenty-five years later still speaking Sunday after Sunday. Trying to capture and articulate the feeling of St. Mary of the Springs that will fill others with the awe I felt and still feel. I pray to inspire others to dedicate more of more of their own consciousness to All that is sacred, holy, divine. I invite others into my internal heart-temple, where I vow to love, compassion, nurture, uplift, console. Like the many nuns I have known I do it imperfectly. Yet each day I renew that vow and begin again to become more fully what I am called to be.

I do not know how much longer I will continue serving in the form I currently do. I do not concern myself with such things. I only know that I am here to serve in whatever way All calls me to serve. I will continue conventing day after day, as long as I am incarnated. I will live the life of a religious and feel blessed to do so. It has its frustrations for sure. It brings out my imperfections and flaws frequently. Yet it also utilizes the gifts I have been given and the passions I have been bestowed. I know that I am living the life I was called to live. It was a circuitous path for sure. There have been countless Catholics along the way. They have blessed me and helped move me forward for sure. I am grateful and forever indebted.

The life of the religious is my life. It has always been my life. It will always be my life. It is my profession, my vow, my calling, my vocation. I take my place gratefully among the priests, the ministers, the Iman’s, the monks, the shaman, the gurus, the teachers and leaders of all traditions.

And most certainly the nuns.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

UNDERFED

I am feeling underfed.

Not nutritionally. I eat very well.

I am also spiritually full. Prayed up. Tuned in. In synch.

And I am feeling underfed.

Artistically. Creatively. I write a blog called Radical Expression and I can scarcely put two sentences together.

I feel as if I am trying to pour from an empty pitcher.

It has been nearly a year since I have experienced live theatre, dance, symphony, opera, or even art. Watching said on a screen for me just does not cut it. I need the physical proximity. The direct connection. The energy of an audience partaking and communing together. Art meeting hearts and hearts actively appreciating the art.

I have read a number of great books during the past year. I have watched video presentations and have partaken of podcasts galore. I have listened to recorded music and Zoomed several artistic offerings. I enjoyed, and yet I did not feel fully fed.

I miss the stages, the halls, the galleries, the temples of the arts filled with gifted performers joyfully giving their gifts.

Though this may seem to be only a lament, it is really an homage.

It is an homage to the countless gifted performers and artists that have fed me over the decades. You are part of what I do more than perhaps I realized. You feed me and then I have the energy and added inspiration to then feed others.

You are my muses.

So, I am currently feeling underfed. I long for the live communion of artist and audience. I crave the dimming of the lights and the rising of the curtain. The rush of the artistry and the roar of the response. I miss it. I long for it. I need it.

To each of you that I have thrilled to your talent, thank you. Thank you for impressing my senses and for moving my internal experience. I miss you. And I cannot fathom how hard it is for you to not grace the platforms for your artistry.

I am sure you too are underfed.

I know you will return.

Please know I will be there.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

ALL POWER IS GIVEN

I have never considered myself a powerful person.

I still do not.

Yet, I am seeing how that correct perception regarding personal power creates an opening that allows a Power that is not of me to be used in service of something greater than me.

That was a mouthful.

I have long known that my lack of personal confidence has been a gift and not a curse. While I am internally directed in ways that feel intuitively right for me, I do not operate from a place that thinks I know what I am doing. It has and remains odd to me that I have almost always been in positions of leadership throughout my life. I have assumed that leaders are people who know what they are doing and are confident in leading others in those ways. I perceive leaders as being in touch with a power that followers usually are not. I do not resonate with leaders who operate from a perspective of power over others. I believe really good leaders come from a place of power with those they are privileged to lead. Having said that, both come from a place of how power is employed and managed.

And I have never considered myself a powerful person.

The fact that I am not a powerful person is irrelevant in that I know how to access a Power that is greater than my personhood. And as I allow that Power to lead me, I place myself in a position to lead others.

I do so imperfectly. I make frequent mistakes. I have regular power outages. My power signal flickers in the busyness of a day and in reaction to when others are misusing their own power. I feel a vacancy, a subtle weakness. It does not take me long at this point to recognize these symptoms and to know I need to plug back into the Power that is not of me but is always available to me. Not trying to power through my weakness with synthetic control and domination I instead rejoin the inner net that gives me access to the Ultimate Power.

And I do this multiple times a day.

I do this multiple times a day because I know I am not a powerful person.

There is a Power that is given that is within all of us. It is the Power of Source, the Power of all of creation. It is the Power of One. It is the Power of the One. This Power is beyond and bigger than the ego power structure. It is vaster than the power of the separated self. It is a Power that is always seeking to be known and used for the good of the greater whole. It is not self-interested or self-generated. An inalienable aspect of this Power is freedom. As beings of dualistic consciousness, we are free to try and control and thus misuse a limited version of this power. It is akin to power 2.0. Tapping into the true Power of Source is like tapping into Power 7K. We can tell the difference based on how it feels in our bodies and energy systems. We can tell which system we are plugged unto based on how much force we are needing to apply. By how much control we are exerting. How much resistance we are having to slug through. There is a sense of ease when moving with the One Power. There is a sense of struggle when attempting to go it alone.

Mastery is never about impacting power over others or outer situations. Mastery is about learning how to meet circumstances with a sense of personal empowerment. Mastery is about deeply understanding that of ourselves we can do little. Mastery is celebrating that understanding and also knowing that we are never of ourselves. Life is a Power that is within us. We do not make it happen. We cannot control it. We can simply choose to attune to it and cooperate with it. And in the realm of duality, it is a moment-by-moment choice.

Occasionally someone will tap into my lack of personality strength and set out to manipulate or even bully me into getting something they want. They apply their own sense of misconstrued power over me. Then they are surprised to find out I cannot be easily manipulated or bullied. In fact, it is rare that I am manipulated at all. I sense the program that is running, and I tap into my Greater Power Source and then stay true to what feels right for me. I can be thrown off of center, but I do not remain that way for long. I come back online. I open to the Power that is always given. I follow the flow. I do not fight. I do not need to. The Power of the Universe is my Source of strength.

I do not consider myself a powerful person.

I am, however, an empowered person.

There is a Power that is Given, and It is my personal operating system. It is my personal and intimate GPS. As long as I follow It, I am never lost. When I lose touch, I plug back into what is actually never disconnected and I am instantly course-corrected. If I am called to lead I only do so from a place of knowing I am led. I am currently the lead car in a carpool heading Home. If I do not follow my GPS, we could all needlessly detour. When it is time for another driver to lead the pack, I will know it, and my Power will lead me to the next right way of service. It is one thing this unconfident person is greatly confident about.

While I used to long to be confident and strong like so many others I saw I now live in a state of gratitude that I know my sense of powerlessness is actually my super-power. My lack of personal power is an opening for authentic Power to flow through. Whenever I feel weak, I know right where to go for strength. I know how to power-up by tuning in.

There is a Power Greater that is Given, and it is not me.

There is a Power Greater that is Given, and it is indeed within me.