Thursday, May 6, 2021

GROWING UP

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“Grown up.”

This was an actual exchange that happened for me a few decades ago, yet in my adulthood. It was a somewhat sarcastically asked question met with what for me was a sincere answer.

Grown up.

Familial circumstances demanded that I grow up at an early age. My father was diagnosed with early onset dementia when I was still in elementary school. In junior high I added care for me father, my sister, the house to my school and church responsibilities. Though I did not know enough to frame it thusly at the time, childhood abruptly ended, and I was propelled into some very grown-up activities at an age when other kids were playing and mostly carefree.

I truly am not complaining. I am actually grateful.

There was a period of time in my early adulthood that I thought I would reclaim my lost youth and refuse to live as a grown up regardless the consequences. If someone would have asked what I wanted to be I would have declared “anything but grown up.”

That did not last for long.

There will likely always be a part of me that is playful and even adventurous. Freedom is without a doubt my most cherished value. The scripturally referenced childlikeness is alive and well inside of me. I am committed to never losing my sense of awe and wonder

And I have become more grown up than ever.

What I am referring to when I speak of being grown up is a mature sense of being a responsible part of the whole. To be a grown up is to know that there are important things than personal preference. It is to know and to embrace that every choice that is made has consequences that affect others as well as yourself. It is to live in an active sense that life is not about just the individual. To be grown up is to live consciously, wakefully, responsively. It is to be autonomous, yet also deeply connected.

To be the grown up in the room is not always easy and it is often uncomfortable. There is a wounded child in all of us. That wounded child gets triggered by the wounded child in others. It goes into defense when it is frightened and provoked. The ways in which it reacts are age appropriate to the wounding. It is not uncommon to watch biologically adult people in full out tantrum when not getting their way. They may use very adult language (though that is questionable) but the behaviors and attitudes are things that they once employed on the playground.

Wounded children wound other children.

Bullied children bully others.

Growing up means doing the mature work of healing and integrating these early wounds. It means reparenting ourselves in very real and practical ways. It means being an adult authority when the internal kid wants to throw a reactive tantrum. It means making an unequitable decision that regardless of what anyone does around us we are going to choose to be the grown up in every situation.

I find this to be especially important in regard to my spiritual expression.

We are in what I believe to be one of if not the most crucial places in the evolution of the collective consciousness. We are literally in a “do or die” scenario. While we often hear the ideal that “we are all in this together” there is not enough evidence of that to make it of comfort. We need more grown ups in the rooms. More people to place the whole before the wants of the self. More people to consider that every choice affects all who live and breathe.

My spirituality is not about getting what I want. I do not turn Source into an ATM or a Cosmic concierge. My spirituality is about letting myself be literally grown UP. It is about allowing myself to be spiraled forward. It is about letting myself and my consciousness by used on behalf of something greater than myself. I live for what I may contribute, not for what I think I want to achieve.

This has never felt truer than during the time of Covid.

This time of pandemic has provided for me a container in which to look deeply into the further most aspects of my consciousness. It has confronted my preferences and busted my limits. I daily have felt forced to choose between what I want to do, and what I know I am called to do. I have examined my choices and excavated my underlying motivations. I have been expanded beyond my personal desires in the name of the collective betterment.

I have been deeply and irrevocably changed.

My questions have changed in terms of what drives me. I am not governed by what I feel like doing. I am not propelled by what I think I want. There is undeniably less of “me” than there was when this quarantine began. And the result is that I feel like so much more.

I still have work to do for sure. It well may be that I will never be a fully ripened grown up. But I am moving in that direction for sure. I am grounding in what feel like grown up choices that are beneficial to the whole of humanity. I am taking responsibility for the fact that I am still here. I am claiming authority over what happens in here, regardless of what happens out there. I intend to remain steadfast in a deeper Truth that how I show up matters. Whether I react or respond matters. When I go into tantrum or center in a place of stability matters.

Being a grown-up matters.

When enough of us grownups are more interested in what we can give than what we can get the world will change.

When enough of us adults are more interested in the we than the me the tide will rise.

When enough of us respond to the question of what we want to be with a solid and unshakable answer of grown up a quantum shift will occur.

Emotional fluency. Uncompromising integrity. Spiritual maturity. Collective congruency.

Growing up. And grateful to be.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

URGENCY

I always thought getting older would be the worst thing possible.

I now know it is not.

Flipping another digit has deepened my knowing that the once dreaded aging monster comes bearing unexpected gifts.

Urgency is among the greatest of those gifts.

As a former dancer and performing artist aging once meant the ending of a career. I distinctly remember crying on my twenty-first birthday because I thought it was the beginning of the end. As silly as that may sound it was not silly at the time. I began to lie about my age before I turned thirty. I heard fellow performers decades my senior tell me they hoped I would never grow old.

It took me decades to really hear what that was saying.

As someone who once relied almost solely on physicality, I did not learn much about my greater depth until my physical state began to “decline.” My looks no longer opened doors. I became less castable, less a marketable commodity. I could no longer move as easily and gracefully as I once did. High-definition technology was in its infancy, yet it seemed to spell the end of my viability.

What I thought then was the ending was an incredible and unforeseen beginning.

I am now older than I ever thought I would be. If that is not enough of a surprise, I am also finding that I like it.

Having aged out of physical viability I am finding myself at a place of spiritual maturity that I would not trade for anything.

A big piece of that maturity is a growing urgency in terms of giving the gifts I came to this earth to give. I feel a welcomed and intensifying urgency about living my days in service to Something Greater than me. I find less urgency linked to goals and personal dreams, and more urgency being poured into how I show up and how I respond to what happens around me. I feel an intensity about my conscious becoming. About transforming the energy that emanates from me. I explore every evening what it was I did that day for others. Even if that doing was a simple prayer or a conscious blessing.

Aging has liberated me from the fixation on me.

Having been blessed with the usually maligned experiences of cancer and heart disease I am under no illusion that I have unlimited time. I have seen my expiration date more than once. As I still apparently have some shelf life, I am using that time to not stay on the shelf. I am using my remaining days to be all that I can be for the benefit of all living beings. That is my highest priority. That is my remaining aspiration. That is my most intense intention.

I still like to look my best, though I am no longer identified with it. I choose when to engage it, mostly because it pleases me. I do not try to look nice thinking it will open doors or get me some advantage. I actually enjoy being free of those notions. I no longer turn heads, and I could not be less concerned by that. Rather than turning heads I seek to open hearts. That is what is important to me now. That is what is vital. I can appreciate compliments without being devastated by the lack of them. I relate to my physicality in a far more wakeful way, and it has set me free.

My urgency has shifted from what I can get to what I can give.

My urgency has shifted from being accepted and loved to accepting and loving myself and others.

My urgency has shifted from being seen and approved of to deeply seeing and approving of others as a way of gracing and blessing.

Knowing my days are fewer colors my world with an intensity that, though I have less life left, has me feeling more intensely alive.

I surely do not look like I used to.

I surely do not move like I used to.

Doors do not open to me as quickly as they used to. That is likely a good thing as it takes me longer to walk through them.

Older does not always equate too wiser. And I pray that it might be true for me. With a less polished veneer I am focusing more and more on depth. On what I may give from that depth. On how I may serve with whatever I have left.

I have come to know that my age is none of my business. What I do with it is.

And in that my urgency lies.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

BLACK AND BLUE

Black lives matter.

Blue lives matter.

All lives matter.

Not all lives know they matter.

Not all black lives know that they matter.

Not all blue lives know that black lives matter equally.

Not all black lives have reason to trust blue lives.

There are black lives that are also blue.

There are blue lives for whom black lives matter greatly.

For all of this to matter and to matter equally many of us are feeling bruised.

Many of us are feeling black and blue.

Until all lives know that they matter, and that they matter equally, I dedicate myself to letting black lives know that they matter to me.

I dedicate myself to letting blue lives know that they matter to me.

I dedicate myself to letting black lives know that it matters to me how they are treated by blue lives.

I dedicate myself to letting all lives know that they are a part of the one life, and hence they matter.

Black, blue, all. You matter.

It matters to me that you know it matters to me.

And so I am feeling a bit black and blue right now.

And I am okay with that.

It is a result of letting all life matter to me.

It is a result of watching black and blue collide. Of watching blue killing black and black berating blue and even blue careening against blue.

It all leaves me feeling bumped and bewildered and bruised.

It is a welcomed cost of living in an internal reality in which black lives matter. In which blue lives matter. In which all lives matter.

Until all lives know that they matter I will continue to say it. Write it. Shout it. Vote it. Demonstrate it in every way I can.

Black lives matter.

Blue lives matter.

All lives matter.

If you are reading these words you matter.

Whether you know it or not, you matter.

It is important to me that you know that.

You matter.

To me.

All the time.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

BEYOND GOD

Calling God, God, is a control mechanism.

Years ago, I was sitting in a twelve-step meeting when a rather surly older man began his sharing with “my higher power, whom I choose to call God… well, because that’s his f------name…”

There was a stunned silence in the room as he droned on about something that no one even heard. The silence was followed by a cacophonous roar of laughter that continued for several minutes. All these years later I do not remember this man’s name, what he looked like, or not an inkling of what he shared. I vividly, however, remember what he chose to call God. And why he called it that.

The only time I ever use the term God is when I need to for vocational clarity. I do not concur that God is a f------ name for what I might call Source. My favorite term for this pervading Oneness is ALL. The name God falls flat from my head down into my solar plexus. ALL resounds in my heart, throughout my body, and radiates out to touch, well, all.

I personally feel that the term God turns Allness into a controllable object in our minds. It names a concept that, by labeling in this way, we keep at mostly at bay. By centuries of collective agreement God is up above us in the sky. It is beyond and apart. We beseech it to come down and clean up our messes when our other control devices have failed. The unconscious problem with that beckoning is that “God” as a concept is at the root of the messes we are making.

You have your God and I have my God. Those Gods are sometimes in agreement, and mostly are not. My God is better than your God. My God is the way, and yours is not. My God has a favored religion, a political affiliation, a favorite sports team, and hates all of the same people that I do. God, if we are honest, has a personality disorder and is in severe need of anger management.

God needs therapy.

Or perhaps we need therapy as a result of what we have made of God.

In the words of the Hebrew God “oy vey.”

The problem with that theology is that we in fact made God in our image and likeness.

And then we call it truth.

The God of our image and likeness gives us license to judge, belittle, dehumanize, and send to hell those with whom we disagree. We damn those who dare to have a different God than we do. Those who may not use the name God. F------ or otherwise.

The audacity.

God as a super-object in the sky has little to do with our reality down here. We set it up that way. Then we get to do all the heinous things we want and then scream up and out to God to save us.

We get to pick and choose what is God and what is not.

You do not have that luxury if instead of God you have ALL.

If ALL is ALL, then everything is indeed the image becoming the likeness.

If ALL is ALL, then every encounter is a relating within the ALL.

If ALL is ALL, then creation and all beings are permeated with and ever-within IT.

If ALL is ALL, then we each are called to become ALL in how we show up, pray, and relate. We are responsible to the ALLNESS that is within us. No screeching up and out to God. No using God to cop out of what we are ourselves are required to become and transform. No using God as an excuse for denigrating and dehumanizing those “Godless” others.

And perhaps scariest of all we must give up the control that comes from limiting ALL to just God.

If ALL is ALL, then there is something beyond this God thing. And it cannot be controlled.

Beyond God, there is ALL. ,br>
Carl Jung said to label something is to limit it.

German mystic Meister Eckhart prayed “God, rid me of thy name.”

For me ALL is transcendent of a label and rids me of a name that has been polluted for centuries with dualistic theology.

Now, clearly you get to call Source whatever name or term works for you. I only offer these ideas as my response to what happened for me when I dropped God and opened to ALL.

A radical, mystical, monumental, miraculous, and uncontrollable experience of ALL happening not in my head but in my heart and body.

Releasing the name of God opened me to the experience of It.

I found that beyond God and the concepts relative to it was a whole new experience of Something far vaster and greater than any name could ever capture. By attuning and tapping into ALL my consciousness expanded and literally burst the boundaries I didn’t know I had built to keep that God away.

And I found that I did in fact want to keep THAT God away. The one that drowns Egyptians and murders the only begotten. The one that favors a party and sends hurricanes to a different coast. The one that creates eternal punishment schemes and sends the few and righteous to an eternal glory, you guessed it, up and out of here.

When I had the courage to go beyond God I found ALL.

Maybe that is what is really meant by the great beyond.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

MELTING

MELTING I believe that my melting is finally complete.

I am typing these words on the precipice of a second Easter spent mostly in lockdown. As I do so I am contemplating my favorite symbol of this holiday season.

No, it is not a cross.

It is not a tomb with a stone rolled away from its entrance.

It is not white trumpet-like lilies, and it is most certainly not sugary peeps or chocolate eggs.

As I am typing these words an embodiment of this symbol just literally and synchronistically fluttered by my office window.

My long favorite symbol of this holiday season is a butterfly.

When I say that my favorite symbol of this holiday season is a butterfly, I actually do not mean so much the finished flying form. I am referring to the butterfly as a process of becoming. From caterpillar to chrysalis to emergence to flight. And integral to this process is an unavoidable melting.

Did I mention that I believe my melting is finally complete?

I was born on an Easter Sunday at White Cross hospital with a Grand Cross in my astrological chart. Though it has been decades since I identified with the Christian religion the symbolism has remained a map for my sacred journey upon this planet. My personal adventure has been one of repeated crucifixions and resurrections. I have hung upon many crosses of my own making. I have died repeated deaths. I have risen from the graves of my own faulty self-images over and over again. In so many ways everyday has been for me an Easter day. And in these latter years of this incarnation the patterns and the transcendence of those patterns have never been clearer.

And now I find that my cross these days has butterflies all around it.

I deeply appreciate that for all we think we collectively and individually know science does not fully comprehend the process by which a caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly. The worm-like creature spins a chrysalis from within and around itself, a cocoon that appears to be its tomb. Once encased it melts into a goo-like substance that contains what are called imaginal cells. These cells are independent of what the caterpillar physically was. Yet what those cells are is what the butterfly is becoming. This developing creature forms out of the melting, eventually growing wings that beat against the walls of the cocoon until they are strong enough to begin to crack the encasement away. This needed strength that breaks away the tomb is also what is necessary to allow the being to then take flight.

I so relate.

As an extreme introvert I have always deeply valued my time in solitude. I need cocoon time. It is not a preference. It is necessary for my sanity and my serenity. Too much stimulation exhausts me quickly. Crawling around in the external realm quickly leads me to an impulse to spin a chrysalis around me, and to tuck into some always precious quiet time. I got over the fear of melting and going to goo a long time ago. I know that allowing the inexplainable process that happens for me in beingness time always leads to nourishment and renewed strength. I always recognize when my wings are ready to fly once more. I feel it. It is unmistakable.

So, as I face the second Easter in semi-isolation, I feel a renewed and renewing appreciation of what I have gleaned from an extended time in my personal chrysalis. I admit that even for this extreme introvert this pandemic distancing has pushed my edges. I have been blessed from the beginning of this global crisis to see it as symbolically as I have literally. I have known all along that we the earthly family have been prompted and beseeched to go into our private cocoons and to let a melting happen in terms of the unsustainable ways we had been living. We have been cosmically called to go to goo. Some have heeded this call. Many have not.

I for have one have heeded the call.

So, as I honor the Grand Cross pattern of my incarnation, I do so as I let the butterfly process continue to happen within me. One name for this butterfly process is resurrection.

And I do believe my melting is complete.

I feel the imaginal cells of my True nature stirring inside of me. I am gently yet steadily beating my emerging wings against the confines of my earthly nature. I feel my strength gathering, and I know that soon a transformation will be completing. I will be ready to fly forth at higher levels of consciousness. I will still be able to land when I choose. It will not be the end of my ongoing Soul emergence. Yet I will be a new kind of creature not from changing myself but from letting myself be changed.

By letting myself go to goo.

As tomorrows dawn awakens me to Easter Day, I am grateful for the patterns and pathways that have led me from White Cross hospital to Evangelical Christianity to New Thought spirituality to the chrysalis of my own inner being. A great melting has taken place. A welcomed if painstaking metamorphosis has in many ways rendered me unrecognizable.

Resurrection is occurring.

I honor those who will look tomorrow upon an empty tomb and who will choose to worship a risen Lord. I truly do embrace all paths to the Awakening we are each called to.

As for me I will be gazing upon butterflies and knowing that their splendid and mysterious trajectory is my own destiny.

And it all began the day I decided to let myself melt.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

THE SECRET TO MY SUCCESS

I cannot separate success or accomplishment from the context in which they occur.

While it is always true, I am writing this piece solely for myself. Please feel free to scroll past, delete, or otherwise ignore.

For those of you remaining…

The past several years has in many ways been the most difficult of my life. Without outlining specifics there have been major personal, familial, professional, and health challenges. There have been losses sustained that are still in the process of being integrated. I share this not in service of complaining, eliciting pity, or in justifying some of the ways these challenges have affected me. Please remember I am writing these words primarily for myself.

With what have felt like epic challenges these past years they have occurred during a time when I have most needed my energy, clarity, stability, and steadfastness to do what I have been called to do. The pinnacle of my vocation has been occurring during the most trying times of my life. While I do not understand why these two things would coincide, I also embrace that in my Soul there are no accidents. My questions have not been about why problematic things are happening during a time when I most need to directly channel my energy into what I have been about professionally. My questions have been centered around what I need to become in the wake of these problems, and how I may use the dark times in service of shining more light.

I have listened intently and responded imperfectly.

Looking back over these years I cannot help but momentarily lament that I have not been able to accomplish more. If I allowed myself to self-evaluate based on the surface effects, I would say that I have not been successful in what I have been about. I could then justify that evaluation based on what has been happening behind the scenes.

I am choosing that it be only a momentary lament.

When I expand my heart to include the context in which I have been living and serving and responding, yet not using it as a tool of evaluation, a whole new lens becomes available. These trying external times have slowly and admittedly painfully strengthened my internal resolve and increased the fortitude necessary to do what I have felt led to do. My compassion has increased even as my boundaries have become clearer. My merciful responding has more often than not flowed forth from the tender places I would often prefer to defend. The harder things have gotten the stronger I have become. These years have served as a gym membership I would have preferred to cancel.

And yet I have more spiritual muscle to show for it.

I am clear today that I am at choice as to how I frame what has occurred for me during these profound and trying times. I am at choice as to what metrics I use to evaluate what I have or have not accomplished. I get to call it as to whether I have been successful or not, and what I deem to be accomplishment or failure. Others will weigh in. That is what we humans tend to do to each other. And ultimately it is all up to me.

That is the secret to my success.

Ultimately it is up to me.

So, back to context.

It is true for me that I cannot separate context from what I accomplish or deem to be a success. I could frame these past years in terms of “look what I was able to do even though all of things were happening.”

And that would be valid at a certain level.

I will not use the context, however, as a justification for what I feel I was not able to do. I will not use the context-success prescription to tell myself I did not do enough. Doing so would give authority to circumstances and will disempower me every time I am called to do things when circumstances in my life are rough. Without denying what has occurred or fact checking what I perceive I could have accomplished if my seas had been calm, I expand my view to bring the bigger picture into focus.

I do not deny that I wish I could have done more. Fact.

In the bigger picture I know I did my best, especially from the context from which I was doing.

That is not for me justification. It is realization. It is evidence of a lesson I have meant to learn. It, too, is a fact.

What I was experiencing is not separate from what I was accomplishing. How I chose to handle my personal challenges directly fueled the impact of my vocational choices. I demonstrated that no matter how many times life knocks me down I can always get back up and serve the something greater within me that is more powerful than the circumstances around me.

There is always something greater than me.

Knowing deeply and relying completely in and on this power is how I do what I am called to do. Knowing that everything that happens is somehow in service of my Soul softens my self-judgments and disengages me from metrics that dishearten and disempower.

I know that I have done the absolute best I could during these challenging and strengthening years. I have placed my personal problems behind the collective good. I have accomplished what I accomplished, and I really do not take personal credit for it. There have been supports around me, and a Great Power within me.

Do I wish I had done more?

Yep.

Do I trust I did enough?

You bet.

And that is the secret to my success.

It is that I continue to show up to the best of my ability regardless of what is happening around me. And then I loosen the evaluations around what that looks like at the level of circumstance.

The secret to my success is that I get to choose what that is for me.

So, today I celebrate what a success I have been, and will continue to be. Wherever and however I am expressing.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

NONE-YA

“None-ya!”

“What?”

“None-ya!”

“I don’t get it.”

“None of your business.”

“Oh.”

Ouch.

What a tremendous and hard-earned lesson.

This interaction happened in my late teens. I have always been an intensely curious person. I had asked this person a question that I now view as slightly intrusive I will admit. It did not seem that way at the time. This person was more than an acquaintance, if not yet a friend. Though “none-ya” landed with a thud at the time, I now see it as a gift. It has continued to unfold with greater application in the many years since it was introduced. While I adopted it verbally for a time, now I use it as a silent form of reminder within myself.

It continues to amaze me how often I can become disturbed when I insert myself into someone else’s business. This almost always happens on the internal plane. I watch the shenanigans people engage in, and I always have an opinion. I have come to know that having an opinion is not a problem. Believing the opinion is where the disturbance kicks in. From an over-identified opinion, I then decide how people should resolve their drama’s, fix their problems, and resolve their issues. Recognizing that I am caught in this dynamic, I can then step back and give myself some very freeing advice:

None-ya.

Works like a charm. When I choose to engage it. And I do so with ever-increasing frequency.

I have been in a helping-vocation for more than three decades now. It still humbles me that people frequently come to me for assistance with their patterns, issues, problems. It can be seductive to think that I somehow know something that can help. When I notice that seduction kicking in, I remind myself that I am gifted with a keen intuition, and I am particularly good at asking questions. When I counsel, I am drawing forth the wisdom in those I am blessed to work with. While I am being invited into someone’s business, it is still theirs. I may offer suggestions, yet I do so in the clear awareness that what they do with those suggestions is completely up to them.

Outside of my vocation I seek to be clear about what is my business and what is not.

My business is my business, and yours is not.

It is far easier to type those words than to apply them.

It is a lifelong pattern for me that other people feel free to verbally and emphatically define me. I guess it is what we humans do at some level. It has felt extreme to me, though, in terms of my personal experience of this. It used to trigger me, and to send me into extended periods of angry reaction. I not only wanted to say “none-ya,” I wanted to scream it. That has softened considerably, and in the softening, I have gleaned a great gift from it.

As a result of this pattern, I am far less likely to define others. It is far easier to detach when I find myself in someone else’s business. Knowing the pain of having others insert themselves into my business, I commit to not inflicting that pain onto others. I am fairly quick about saying to myself “none-ya,” and to tending to what is really my business:

Me.

It is beyond liberating, I promise you.

It is not your business to define me. I apply that by being sure I don’t try and to define you.

Now, do not hear that I am claiming to never get into anyone else’s business. That is an ongoing practice that I have far from perfected. I do, however, increasingly move in that direction. The payoff is that I have far fewer problems and disturbing issues. That is because I am not taking on the problems I perceive in others, and I am not engaged in seeking to resolve what are others disturbing issues. I now have abundant life-force to use for good because it is not misdirected into other people’s business.

So, I sum this up solely for my benefit.

What you think of me is none of my business.

What I think of you is none of my business.

Your attempts at defining me are none of my business.

My attempts at defining you are indeed my business in one way: I will not.

None-ya is a great boundary setter for sure. It keeps my focus where it needs to be: on what is in fact my business. When my focus is externally directed it is focused as blessing, not on getting into your business. When I allow none-ya to direct my attention to blessing there is no greater gift I can give.

You will likely never hear me say none-ya regardless of what you might ask. You may see a slight smile and a feel a spacious pause. You will know if you are paying attention that you have crossed uninvited into territory that is personal domain.

No harm. No foul.

I am clear about what is my business whether or not you are. In that clarity there is no anger necessary. Just a simple, peaceful inner knowing.

None-ya.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

DISCERNMENT

Discernment is judgment with space around it.

I have judged judgment from my earliest recollections.

I think it is a church thing.

I remember being told in Sunday school “judge not.” Yet overriding that admonition the church was filled to capacity with blatant judgments. Perhaps the most obvious and insidious judgment was the judgment of judgment. It is inherent in the admonition. Which makes it a snare that is not easily escaped.

I also heard “judge by righteous judgment.”

Now, hold on just a minute.

Which is it?

Judge not, or judge by righteous judgment?

I have come to know that it is both.

However, or even if you pay attention to sacred writings from any tradition, they all contain relative leanings that point to an Absolute Reality. They point us in the direction of mystical perspectives that we are invited to embody and to then use to navigate this earthly realm. We do so imperfectly. And I for one have become quite friendly with that imperfection. Life in this sphere is an unfolding, a process. It is a relationship. We are not meant to be perfect. We are meant to be whole. Whole. That means our imperfections are meant to be accepted. Included. Embraced. And to whatever degree is possible, not judged.

And, human beings judge.

Beyond the perspective and the admonitions of scripture and sacred teachings the reality is that we judge. We all judge. We are wired to judge. The more we try not to judge the more locked into judgment we become. To “judge not” requires a level of judgment. It is just the way of it.

Which is where my potentially tricky little friend discernment comes in.

I recall in high school when I felt compelled to share with one of friends that what they were sharing with me was a judgment. Which of course meant that I was judging what they were sharing, and then mirroring it back as their shortcoming. My friend sharply retorted they it was not a judgment. It was discernment.

Truth be told I had to look up discernment later in a dictionary to be sure I knew what it really meant. Awe, the pre-Google days.

I do not recall exactly what Webster had to offer as a definition. I do remember the feeling. It occurred to me then what I share with you now: discernment is judgment with space around it.

While higher teaching informs me to judge not, I do. I simply do. I seem wired, programmed somehow to do so. While judgment does not seem to be optional in this human experience, believing my judgments is. Identifying with my judgements is indeed optional. Acting out on my judgments is a choice. To not do so is a choice that requires persistent practice and conviction. But it is a choice.

When I find myself judging something or someone, I step back from the mental screen on which my judgments occur. I take a pause, a conscious breath. I question as to whether or not I will choose to believe the judgment. I ponder whether or not I am identified with the judgment. I ask myself if I really want to act out from the judgment. These questions put some space around the judgment.

A name for that space is discernment.

In that space of discernment is the opportunity to “judge by righteous judgment.”

Completely friendly with the fact that all humans judge I give myself some space. Some breathing room. Some non-resistance. I judge, and I do not have to judge the fact that I find myself in judgment. It is for me a gamechanger.

In a world that looks like ours there are many things I find to judge on a daily basis. Injustice, corruption, bigotry, dishonesty, hypocrisy just to name a few. These things go against my value system and all that I hold sacred. I have been around long enough to know that if there is a deep charge around these things then they are a part of my own consciousness. In the broadest context of Oneness everything that is in the whole is in each part. So when I judge I am really always judging myself. That is the absolute Truth.

And then there is the relative.

When I work with the energetic charge of my judgments, I bring space to them. They soften, even if only slightly. In that softening space of relating, the judgment takes on a different quality. There is a bit of distance between me and that which I am judging. Adding into the experience the friendliness with the fact that I am judging brings even more interior space.

A name for that space is discernment.

This has brought increased peace to my days and expanded awareness to my moments. I know longer think I should not judge. As a result, I am not doing battle with my judgments. I bring some space to them, and that space is discernment. An added bonus to this is, is that I fear other people’s judgments far less. I know that I will be judged. I do not choose to judge you for judging me. I don’t need to go to war over the given that people are always at some level judging each other. If I do not make it a problem, it is not a problem.

It has become discernment at a practical impactful level.

And so, I complete this blog with the awareness that I always have around my writings, lectures, classes, public expressions: this will be judged.

If you take a risk to put it out there, then the out there will undoubtedly judge what you put out. It is just the way it is. It is inherent in the choose to express. Because I do not think that it should not be so the judgments do not have authority over me. I am free.

However you choose to judge my words consider putting some space around it. And know that discernment is judgment with space around it.

And in that space you will be judging righteously your judgment.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

LEANING INTO

One of the greatest paradoxes of spiritual awakening is that we must develop the courage to lean into what we do not want to experience.

Right?

Well, who wants to do that?

If someone is timid and speaks very softly you do not move further away to hear them better. You move closer. You listen more intently. You lean in. You let them know you care enough to want to hear what they are seeking to communicate.

This is exactly the approach we must take in order to heal our woundedness. Our wounds begin by speaking softly. They are afraid to be speak, as part of our brokenness is rejection, aversion, and shaming. These emotional bruises need to be carefully and consistently attended to. They need to be listened to. Integration cannot happen when notions of positive thinking are slapped over them. What we deny or deaden cannot give way to new life. When we seek to rid ourselves of our wounds they cannot be healed. They must be listened to carefully, compassionately, patiently. Rather than pullback or push away we are in a very literal way called to lean into and to listen and to feel.

Scary stuff, eh?

Not nearly as scary as being bound for life by what we will not acknowledge or mindfully process.

When I came to what is termed New Thought spirituality more than thirty years ago, I had no idea what a tumultuous journey it would become. I initially thought that it was the perfect way to rid myself of all that I loathed about myself and also get what I wanted in the physical realm. I thought I had come across the perfect way to escape the pain I had lived in for almost all of my life. I was finally going to be able to control my life and the circumstances happening around me. A few magic affirmations, a vision board, and voila! I would be the Land of Oz.

Not how it turned out.

My journey has been about going to and dealing directly with that often-overwhelming self-loathing. Pulling back from it only made it grow louder. As much as I tried to self-medicate it the pain only grew. The louder I shouted my affirmations the more of a roar the pain became.

While I was able to manifest some of the external things I thought I wanted I quickly learned they did not compensate for the toxic atmosphere that was simmering inside of me. I was shown fairly quickly that I could not and was not meant to control the externals of my life experience. I could not and was not meant to control others or their behaviors toward me. It took longer but I finally got down deep inside that control is the greatest illusion of all. The distinction between control and cooperation began to create more and more internal freedom, and from that freedom, choice. That choice was once again dependent on my leaning into the feelings associated with not being in control.

When I really, truly listened I learned.

I wish I could report that these lessons were easily leaned and that I learned them once and for all.

Not so.

As a child I was not listened to. I was not allowed to have my own opinions or use my own voice. I was not heard. I did not feel seen. When I was seen it was largely through a lens of scrutiny and evaluation. Part of my adult excavation revealed that I adopted that same way of dealing with my own inner being. I did not really listen to myself. I did not allow myself to have my own ideas, opinions, perspectives. I tried to take on the perceptions of others so I would not be rejected. I lived in constant scrutiny, evaluation. It was and sometimes is tormenting. I tried to get rid of those imprints without ever really stopping and listening to them. I recoiled. I fought. I denied, I suppressed. I kept moving and doing. I pretended and I defended. I leaned as far away as I could.

And it did not assuage the pain.

That pain, those bruises, the imprinting needed to be heard. They needed to be accepted. Included. Embraced. I had to stop leaning away and lean into what needed to be heard and felt and loved.

Heard and felt and loved.

As a result of my own inner experience and ever-increasing freedom I share often with others that the only way to heal is to lean into what is arising.

And most of those with whom I share lean far away from me.

When they do, I softly smile within. I know that what is right for me is not right for everyone. Or at least it may well be that the time is not yet right for them. I note that almost universally the volume of their voices drop as they look incredulously at me and question “lean into?”

And then I get the chance to give back what life has so generously given to me.

I deliberately move toward them as I softly exclaim “lean into.”

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.