This is an inner journey. A journey of the spiritual and mundane and about being human. An imperfect journey. My journey.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Where Was God?

Where was God when children and adults were being injured and killed in Connecticut and China?

The question always arises after one of these tragedies occurs and makes worldwide news.

" Where was God? Doesn't God care?"

Where  was God? Where were you? Where was I? Where were WE when funding for healthcare that covered mental illness was being cut? Where were WE when legislation was being passed that allowed assault weapons to be placed in the hands of ordinary citizens?

Stop blaming Deity for the foibles and failures of humans. WE need to take responsibility for not providing proper healthcare for the mentally ill. WE need to take responsibility for passing laws that allow excessive freewill to those who cannot make rational decisions which results in them harming themselves and others. WE need to to stop using the cop-out that allows dangerous individuals free reign in our society because they have a 'right' to self determination. WE need to reexamine the distribution of firearms in this country and realistically come to grips with exactly why anyone believes assault weapons should be allowed to be in the hands of anyone other than the military or the police... Which leads to a much deeper question, one I'm pretty certain Americans aren't ready to face but must come to terms with:our fear of The Other., because we have permitted special interest groups to play on our righteous corporate ( as in unified, not business ) paranoid after 9/11.

WE need to stand up to political bullies and lobbyists who force legislation, not because they necessarily believe in it, but because someone has crossed their palms with silver.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Placing Blame

Yesterday, twenty-seven people were savagely butchered in an elementary school in Connecticut at the hands of a someone suffering from a severe mental illness. The details of the incident are sketchy, but as they leak out, the very prominent fact that this atrocity was visited upon innocent children and their adult caretakers due to a failure of our society is undeniable.

While others are mourning the loss of lives, I am angry at the inadequacy of our mental health care system. I am furious at politicians who have chipped away at funds earmarked for the diagnosis and treatment of the mentally ill. I am beyond frustrated by constantly having to justify mental illness as a physical illness which requires medical treatment. I am literally sickened by the inexcusable attitude of healthcare practitioners who are undereducated or lack education altogether about the myriad forms of a legitimate disease that is swept under society's carpet...just as it was over a century ago. Some forms of mental illness kills; not only through suicide by the individual, but by other means which makes it a matter of public health. Pretending that someone else is "okay" when it is clear they aren't is nothing short of criminal negligence.

I am tired of those in the "helping" professions which are supposedly responsible for the oversight and welfare of those who are the least able among us to care for themselves begging off with," What do you want us to do?" Grow some fucking cojones, step up and be responsible, that's what I want you to do. That includes families who choose to use the worn cop-out, " We can't make choices for him".

Let me tell you something: When your troubled 'loved one' or client becomes the next  Adam Lanza, or Jared  Loughner, or James Holmes or  Eric Harris or Dylan Klebold, and all you have done is thrown your hands up in frustration, those hands will have just as much blood on them as the one who loaded the bullets into the gun. Or maybe you'll just be the first of many to die.

You wouldn't let frustration with the healthcare or the court system get in your way if the one you cared about were suffering from a 'tangible disease' such as cancer and was mentally unstable and unable to make realistic decisions about their personal welfare. The fact is that an individual's right to self -determination ends when his/her behavior and choices become a dangerous threat to their own welfare and that of the public. Lack of responsibility for proper mental healthcare is a public health issue, period...and we had better become accountable before the next tragedy occurs.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

O Come, O Come....

If you stick with with this blog long enough,from time to time you will hear me refer to The Place of Deep Indwelling. It is difficult to describe, but when we are there we instantly recognize it. It is the place where we are most ourselves, where we are the most comfortable simply being. It is the place where we live without the pretension of a mask; we are unafraid to be who we are here, rather than who we feel we have to be in society. I love this place, and it is there in the winter months you will find me hunkered down in the evening, either reading or writing a journal, often just by candlelight. When you have been there, you know what I'm talking about.

There is something very holy about the light of a candle's flickering flame, something very simple yet elegant. The Jewish Sabbath begins with the lighting of candles which sets the tone for winding down from the week. It signals that our life should become calm and we should rest. I have always thought that Advent is a lot like that: a season of restful calm which restores the soul. Many who have a spiritual practice and follow a liturgical calendar are actively preparing for the birth of a Divine Child at Yule or Christmas,others, like the Jews, are celebrating a miracle from so long ago that kept the lamp in the Temple burning. It is a season of Light. Both are places where our spirit thrives and grows.

I was introduced to the idea of Advent in a Christian context, the wreath with four candles, being lit after dinner and accompanied by a time of devotion and prayers. It is a quaint tradition, and I like it. In the past few years, I haven't actually had a wreath; I've laid some cut greens around the edge of an old silver tray in a circle and put the four candles among them. Each Sunday has a particular aspect: Hope, Love, Joy and Peace. I usually meditate on each aspect on its day, thinking about what those words mean to me.

It has been years since I participated in a proper Advent service in a church. Those prayers and hymns in that particular form ended for me with the last note played by the organ....except one, which I hold particularly dear, O Come, O Come Emmanuel. There is something that sounds very ancient and wondrously strange in that music, and the words of entreaty, and they have stuck with me over the years, particularly when it is sung in Latin, the sacred language of the soul. There is a yearning and a promise woven in the music which transcends Christianity, because I believe we are still searching for something we know will eventually come to us. Seek and find: walk the path with Hope and all the rest-Love, Joy and Peace will come to us.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanks Living

I have not shopped on Black Friday for years. A stint of working retail on Black Friday several years in a row was a real eye opener as to how cruel and selfish people can be to one another in the frenzy of greed and mob mentality...considering especially it's happening less than 24 hours after a day supposedly set aside for being thankful and targeted for a day celebrating the birth of 'the Prince of Peace' ? It shows just how insidiously selfish society has really become.

Stay home with your family on Thanksgiving and be grateful you have a family, a home, warmth, food for the table. Live and breathe thankfulness for just one day without the intrusion of the outside world....And please, reconsider giving your money to the 'big box' chains and staying out of the malls on Black Friday. Who needs the crowds, the pushing, shoving or angry vibes to start the celebration of a season of the birth of a child who ultimately stood for peacefulness and the renewal of life? Go to a farmer's market and check out the handicrafts, or a church crafts fair, or the shop of a local artisan...or make something yourself.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

From "Um" to "Om"

I purchased a "Chicken Soup for the Soul" date book refill fifty percent off because it was already two months into the current year. All I needed was something that fit into my DayTimer because I'd begun a new job the week before and I knew I would need to start writing things down because they were about to get hectic. The pages were small and the whole thing fit nicely in my favorite purse. It was perfect for my soon-to-be-busy life. It also had an inspirational quote printed at the top of each page, lots of space for scheduling and notes, and at the very bottom, a section to write ten things for which you were thankful everyday. About every ten pages there was a short, spiritually inspired story edited by the engaging Jack Canfield, most of them a cross between A Reader's Digest 'every day heroes' story and the sermonettes in Forward Day By Day. They were syrupy and cloying, but I found I couldn't stop reading them because I wanted to see how each situation ended. I always was a sap for a good mystery story, and these helped pass the time on the commute to the office. Yes, I read a head.

The bus usually got me to work about 15 minutes before my shift, so I would sit in the park across the street and get myself grounded and my head into a work space. Although I loved the job- 15 years after I earned my BFA and I was working toward my Master's, I was finally employed in the external affairs and marketing department of a respected Mid-Atlantic museum, and I loved going to work everyday, but to be truthful, there were times when I wanted just to sit on the marble bench next to the life-size statue of Samuel Banncroft and soak in the warm, gentle breezes and enjoy the flowers blooming in the manicured yards of the homes which faced the museum.

It was on one of those mornings,when I realized that I'd finally read all of the stories in my organizer, that I began to seriously pay attention to to the quote at the top of the page and my eyes drifted down to the section where you were supposed to fill in the lines with things for which you were thankful. I stared at the lines, glanced at my watch, and decided to go to work a few minutes early. I found myself doing the same thing the next morning,and the next. I would go over my daily schedule, make a few notes, and glance down at the ten blank lines at the bottom of the page. There truly were things I was grateful for, and I knew what they were, but I wasn't sure there were ten of them significant enough to warrant being written down. Hastily I scrawled down three or four things and went off to work.

This went on for a few weeks. Everyday, I'd find something else to add, and eventually it became easy to think of many more things than there were lines. I began scribbling them in the margins of the page. They weren't major, earth-shattering things: " Today I am grateful for the roast beef sandwich I brought for lunch" ( the implication being that I was grateful for the fact that I was making enough money to buy a roast of beef, and to have leftovers for lunch)." Today I am grateful for having a job I love ", "Today I am grateful for the unconditional love of  my cat."

The thing about writing your blessings down is that they become concrete, and you can more easily define and clarify them: "Today I am grateful for the unconditional love of  my cat. What a blessing it is to have an animal companion." My ten little lines eventually grew into my first gratitude journal, which i often filled not only with my blessings, but noted what got me through the day, moments that made me happy, and things that made me content. I filled my first gratitude journal in two months with blessings, memorable moments, and everyday events, not  all of which were bright and shiny, but all of which gave me insight of the challenges of my life. Writing all this down gave me a sense of not only control, but mastery over what I was grateful for, what gave me joy, and a sense of how truly blessed I was with what I had. It wasn't the fabled 'a-ha' moment you read about in the self-help books, it was more of  turning an indecisive "Um" into the "Om" of contentment.

Friday, November 2, 2012

New Eyes

This is an inner journey.
My motto is quite simply: " Believe". The past several years have provided me with the opportunity to look more deeply within myself that I have ever done before, and I know myself better now than ever before. I thought I knew who I was and what my beliefs were...and then Life took a fork in the road I would have never have thought of taking.

 This  a journey of the spiritual and mundane.
Each  of us have a unique understanding of our own spirituality. Mine is that the spiritual and mundane are intertwined and one cannot exist without the other for me.

This is a human journey.
Being human is a contradictory concept. Since you and I have never been anything other than humans, you would think we had a better handle on it...But I am learning everyday about my humanity and humility...and the experience is at once exhilarating, satisfying, frustrating, and depressing.

This is an imperfect journey. I try to be mindful and authentic in all my actions.Things don't always go smoothly despite the best intentions. Life gets prickly and interactions-no matter how genuine-can get sticky.

But this is my journey.
I walk this path to the best of my ability, and I confess now that sometimes I get side tracked and lost.Okay, not just sometimes...all the time...because even though I may have my heart set on a destination, it's how I get there that's the most important expression of who I am.

What this journey requires is the belief that comes from knowing that comes from going to the place of deep indwelling where my spirit exists and my soul lives. It's a matter of faith...inner faith, the faith that comes from within, the well of desire that keeps me going.