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Faith is reason grown courageous. 

Sherwood Eddy

I have always struggled with my faith. I struggle with the very idea of faith – much less putting faith into my life as a practice. I was raised to believe that God helps those who help themselves – and I come from a family of hard-working, do-it-yourselfers, to whom asking for help is anathema.

I remember in college, reading about Dorothy Day – a socialist reformer turned devout Catholic. I really connected with her story, because at one point in her narrative she says, “I could not go to God on my knees.” She could not conceive of surrender – the idea that she must do for herself, that she was the only one on whom she could reliably depend, was too ingrained. She struggled, and eventually she came to a point where she was able to have faith.

To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.
St. Thomas Aquinas

I remember that one sentence, out of all of the things that we had to read for that class. I could not go to God on my knees: I could not arrive in supplication; I could not allow myself to rely on that which was outside of myself; I could not have faith.

In recent years, this struggle has come to the forefront for me. I do believe in God – one who is loving, forgiving, patient, etc., etc. I do believe in mystical experiences, I do believe in miracles. I do believe that God has the power to and the ability to intercede in people’s lives. I guess the problem might be that I have a hard time conceiving of that God ever noticing me enough to intercede in mine?

Whatever my hang-ups, of late, I have been presented time and again with situations that demand my faith, first – and then what I long for materializes. Maybe that doesn’t sound difficult, but it is for me. And, I find it ties into what I am facing on my path to mastery: if you have faith, you do not worry; if you have faith, you can honor others; if you have faith, you have no need for anger. Aack.

In honesty, I long to have the kind of faith that would leave me with the certainty and security of knowing that, like the lilies of the field, I will be provided for. I long to have the sensation and knowing that I am held in the palm of God’s hand – safe, loved, and protected…treasured.

I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching about this. I am trying to discover how to bend, to trust, to allow – instead of being so stubborn, so myopic, so determined to do it my way. Especially since when I do let go of the need to control, things FLOW – things go perfectly, and I am cared for – things materialize, and I have to struggle so much less than when I try to do it all on my own.

Faith is not trying to believe something regardless of the evidence; faith is daring something regardless of the consequences.
Sherwood Eddy

It seems like such a small cost, doesn’t it? Just have a little faith, and invest that faith. For me, that is like asking me to hand over limbs. It’s so safe here, behind my intellect and reason – so safe trusting in only me; no one can disappoint you if you never give them the opportunity to do anything for you. It’s also a very lonely and isolating way to live. One of my refrains is that “I am tired of feeling like Atlas – I am tired of holding up the world.” It’s exhausting to never trust anyone enough to allow them to do things for you – it’s bone-wearying to try to be the God force of your own life.

Along with the soul searching, I have been trying to put my faith into action in my life. I actually used to be rather good at this, but I also used to be very optimistic, and kind of naive. Then, I went through a divorce, and all of that changed for me. I became much more skeptical and cynical – much more negative, and so unwilling to allow people into my sphere, my trust, enough to disappoint me. At that time in my life, I just couldn’t take anymore disappointment. I would have rather been driven to my knees by the sheer weight of the world, rather than bend them willingly in faith.

If I purport to be actively walking on a path to mastery, then I cannot allow myself to continue this faithlessness with consciousness, and I recognize the need for a shift. The question is how? How to willingly bend, how to let go control? How to master the fear that relinquishing control creates? How to have faith that I can allow it all to fall out of my hands, and into God’s?

I have been presented with some very strong lessons in this in the past year (a kind of wonderful-terrifying, fabulous-frightening year). Situations kept coming to the forefront. On the one side, I stood there, with a white-knuckled grip on things, and deeply unhappy. In order to obtain the things I deeply wanted, I came to see that the only way to get from here to there was to have faith, and to take a leap – a nigh impossible task. The fact that I did it at all is due to the fact that I cannot stand the idea of being a hypocrite (I’m always telling people to take risks and really live their lives – how can I do less?) and that the potential happy outcomes were beyond enticing.

Faith is courage; it is creative while despair is always destructive. 

David S. Muzzey

The most confounding part of all of it is that I have had burning bush moments – times in my life when I knew without a doubt that I walked with the Divine, that God was a presence and active force in my life. I have seen the joys born out of having faith in that Divine wisdom and will and power, and experienced them firsthand. So, why is it so hard to bend to that faith time and again?

All of my questioning, all of my soul-scouring searching, all of this struggle . . . and at the end of the day, I must face the fact that I already know what I must do – get out of my own way, get out of God’s way, and allow. To stand in the knowledge that faith has moved mountains in my life – and that if I can relinquish control long enough, my entire reality could shift.

Namaste,

One Seeking Faith

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Aaah, family.

There is simply nothing like the bond that you have with the folks you happen to be attached to by birth to make you absolutely lose your mind. My family? I call it the Gaar Family Circus. I tend to hesitate to bring new people around, especially if they have “tender sensibilities.”

My mother and father are still married, which I realize makes them a bit of an oddity. I am the oldest child, and following me are one sister – Kate, and a brother – Dave (a.k.a. “the boy”). The sole grandchild – Abby – is my sister’s daughter and my goddaughter, and puts the twinkle in my parents’ eyes.

The majority of my extended family lives within an hour’s driving distance. My people are totally “settlers.” Our predecessors got off the boat, got to Wisconsin, and here they stayed. Here we’ve all stayed to the present day.

There have been plenty of times in my life when I have definitely felt completely stymied by the seeming unchanging nature of this group of people. By the embedded traditions, and the expectations that accompany them. By the sheer weight and force of all of these people.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and we gathered at my parents’ house. I have a little joke with my folks, now that I live elsewhere – an elsewhere that manages to be pretty quiet and peaceful most of the time. When the circus starts up, I walk into the glass-fronted pantry, and close the door behind me, and every single time, my dad starts giggling.

My parents do strange things, now that I don’t live there. They bicker and tease one another. They have a different and cool relationship – they have their own secrets and stories again – ones that don’t include us. It’s pretty neat, actually.

My sister is a Gemini. That should explain everything. I always say that her picture should be featured in the dictionary next to “A.D.D.” – she doesn’t really have it, but having a conversation with the “two” people inside her head is maddening. First, you have to realize that as the Sign of the Twins, she can’t help it – there are two people having a conversation with you. Second, you have to learn to play both sides of the issue with her, and know that in each moment there is a part of her that is in complete opposition to what’s coming out of her mouth (hint: that’s the part that talks next). Kate is also incredibly irreverent, and hilarious.

The boy is taciturn and amusing by turns. He’s the youngest and the only boy. He had a hard time of it with us girls – a team and a force to be reckoned with – but he’s relatively well adjusted.

These people have shared moments with me that have made me cringe with embarrassment, grit my teeth with rage, cry with pain or joy. They have watched me walk through some of the darkest moments of my life, and they have seen me shine at my best. We have dealt one another some of the worst blows we’ve ever faced, and provided the strongest support any of us has ever received.

And yesterday, we sat down at a table together and broke bread. All of the drama melted away for just a little while. The three-ring circus emptied, the lights came down, and we just enjoyed one another.

My mother said it best, “I am grateful for my family. I am grateful that we are all here to eat this meal together today.”

Simple words, powerful words.

I am grateful for my family.

Happy Thanksgiving World.

 

Ahh, Mother,

I walked awash in your light,

gently enshrouded

tenderly kissed

all of the nights of my life.

 

A silent witness

to every howl, sob and sigh

to each time I’ve stood –

as solitary as yourself –

and stretched my arms wide

spun circles in dewy glades

closed my eyes

and rejoiced,

knew what it meant to feel blessed.

 

And hail their queen, fair regent of the night.

Erasmus Darwin

 

I should have spent today in bed.

Today was a day to spend ensconced in creamy white sheets – the cotton ones my mother bought for me, the ones that feel deliciously smooth on my bare legs.

Today was a day to spend propped up on pillows clad in my favorite pillowcases – the ones my great-grandmother embroidered with the blue thread that remind me of crisp, clear fall skies.

 

To lie there,

lissome, languid,

And contemplate.

To stare at the ceiling without even seeing it.

 

To think.

To push aside plans, and release clocks and schedules.

To open my heart to dreaming,

To drop slowly, stone after stone, ideas, forms, thoughts,

subtle meanderings

Into the stillness inside me.

 

To get nothing done.

To be away.

To let everything take care of itself for one day,

To let the phone go unanswered,

The mailbox go unchecked,

The to-do lists go undone;

to just be.

 

To respect the cozy haze

To allow myself to ensorcelled by my own energy

To be mellow.

 

Today, even books (my weakness) would have felt intrusive.

I wanted to sit,

Allowing silence to press in

To circle round,

To embrace me –

To transport me.

 

To be contemplative.

To feel prayerful –

With each breath,

Each movement of my fingers along the embroidery –

To read the Braille of those stitches and divine meaning.

 

To revel in a state of happy-aloneness,

Knowing the comfort of never being alone.

To commune with myself,

With God.

 

To honor my own body and mind

To allow respite,

To enjoy rest, and the act of resting.

 

To enjoy my quiet heart,

To not speak, and not need to speak.

To listen, instead.

 

To be prayerful –

To praise on each breath

And honor with each movement.

 

To be prayerful –

To think about the things for which I have no words –

The things that need to be felt to be experienced.

 

To be prayerful –

To have a peaceful heart

A quiet mind

A resting body

A listening spirit.

Calm_by_Stefano83

 

This morning did not start out well. On my way to go pick up my cousin for school, I had the insistent and persistent sense that my ferrying services would not be needed today. Every single time I have had this feeling (the “I don’t know why you’re even bothering leaving. That boy is not going to school today” feeling), I have been enroute, and gotten a text message telling me not to come. Again today, I got that feeling, and again today the boy did not need me to take him to school. Only today, I discovered this after I’d been sitting outside his house for fifteen minutes. He and my uncle were both very sorry, but to be honest, that was totally beside the point.

Hot on the heels of this little annoyance, I call my sister only to discover that she has invited a virus into her computer much in the same way one might invite a vampire into their home. My sister, the inexperienced computer user (obviously), doubted that there was anything to be so concerned about. I spent about twenty minutes calling and waking my poor fiancé to get his take on things, calling her back with information and instructions, and calling him back to apologize for harassing him so early in the morning. Finally able to convince her that this was serious – call the bank, don’t even touch your computer serious – I got off the phone, heaved a deep sigh, and continued my long morning commute.

The day was not off to an auspicious start.

I arrived at Three Sisters, and I had about an hour and a half to myself to kind of decompress and invite calm back into my sphere. I also chose to turn off my phone. Dani and I had a great day (I always do when I’m there – love it, love it, love it) – very productive, busy, and fun. So productive, busy and fun, we didn’t have time to eat, and since I was having so much fun, I didn’t really notice how hungry I was until I left.

So, I called my fiancé to get the scoop on tonight’s victuals, and he (per my earlier instructions) had already eaten. Great. Hmmmm. I was flying solo, super tired, and super hungry – and I couldn’t really decide what would be the most economical and least pain in the rear…. I realize that this shouldn’t have been a major decision, but my brain had atrophied by this point, and it sure felt major.

I called Rosati’s pizza in the Falls, deciding that, since I only have to please me, I’ll get the pizza I like, which no one else does – the Chicago style deep dish, all goooey and delicious with cheese and a buttery flaky crust and rich, chunky tomato sauce smothering all of the cheese and toppings…YUM. I call to order this delectable dish fit for the gods (or at least fit for me) only to hear, “I’m sorry ma’am, we’re all out of deep dish crust.” I literally said, “You make me sad.” I have no idea what the poor man thought of this, but he was very accommodating as I attempted to make another selection. I must have sounded as disappointed as I felt.

I arrive at the pizza joint, ready to dart inside and retrieve my pizza at the exact nanosecond he said it’d be ready, only to be told that it would be another ten minutes or so. At this point, I am tired, and so hungry that I feel dizzy and have a headache blooming across my forehead. I call Wittler (my fiancé) to tell him (or warn him, depending upon whose perspective you’re viewing this through…) that I was on my way home. Poor man. He sounded somewhat alarmed and not a little bit scared, even though I told him I wasn’t gunning for him.

The entire ride home, my poor little car made the whirring, spinney, rattling noise that my uncle (the mechanic) warned me was the harbinger of doom and my car’s imminent demise. Drat, drat, and double drat. So with the annoying and anxiety-producing whirring in the background, and the litany of the day’s issues running doggedly through my head, and the issues of the past weeks thrumming along nicely just for rhythm, I drove home.

With the exception of the middle of my day (while I was at Three Sisters’), this had not been the best day.

Wittler was very solicitous when I walked in the door, dutifully oohing and aahing over the scarves I bought out of the new shipment at the shop, and keeping his distance the way you would from a dog you’d just met and didn’t want to bite you.

To survive, we must begin to know sacredness. The pace at which most of live prevents this.

                                                                                — Chrystos

For a long time now, I have kept up a punishing pace. I am very hard on myself, and more demanding of me than others would be. I am a hard and exacting taskmaster. And, I’ve decided I am too damn nice. I need to learn to say no sometimes. Even to myself.

As I trudged into the front room with the pizza and Practical Magic, and the announcement that I planned to do whatever I liked this evening without interference, I realized that I don’t do that nearly often enough.

Before the age of cell phones, which I am thankfully old enough to remember and appreciate, I used to go off the map. Get lost for a while, have an adventure, do whatever the heck I pleased, for just a little while. I don’t do that anymore – and today, I realized just what that is costing me.

Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.

                                                                                — Joseph Campbell

Where are my sacred spaces now? I used to have favorite and secret haunts that soothed me and fed my soul. I have starved myself of the sacred, and withheld the opportunity to replenish myself, and I feel it.

I do too much for other people. I say yes to things far too quickly. I have “dutied” myself out of the pleasure I found in just being with myself.

So, tonight I told Wittler that soon – very, very soon – I’d be taking a day just for me. That I would hold it sacred, and that I wouldn’t be answering the phone, or telling anyone where I was, and that everyone would just have to somehow manage without me for one bloody day. Dani does this for herself, and in hearing her talk about it, despite my obstinacy, the Universe finally found a way to creep through the cracks of my stubbornness and get that seed in there.

I cannot remember the last time I even took a few hours for myself that did not involve going to visit with someone or weren’t simultaneous to doing the laundry at my folks’ house. 

 

I have not been honoring my need to be alone with myself.

I have not been honoring my need for silence.

I have not been honoring my need to explore my world, to explore myself.

I have not been honoring myself.

 

Live your life as you see fit. That’s not selfish. Selfish is to demand that others live their lives as you see fit.

                                                                                — Anthony DeMello

For the course of my entire life, I have been led to believe that in order to be good, I should find ways to be unselfish (which I’ve apparently translated to mean selfless). In order to be good, I needed to find ways to be of service to others. That is not in itself an untruth, or a bad thing. It should have been prefaced, though, by the idea that in order to be of service to others, I need to first serve myself. I need to take care of me, first. I need to love me, first. I need to serve me, first. Then, I can take the fullness and breadth of my whole and healthy being, and serve others.

The wonderful irony of the Universe is that I have said this very thing to at least three people in the past few weeks. It wasn’t until today, that I could see it with new eyes and hear it with new ears, and take it into my being, where it most needed to be.

So, my lovelies, I am going to indulge in watching one of my favorite movies, and I am not going to empty the blasted dishwasher, I am not going to answer my phone. And Wittler, since he is smart and knows me so well and loves me so well, will steer clear of the front room so I can have the me time I so desperately need. And, most importantly, I am going to start scheduling time for myself, before I schedule time for everyone else.

lotus_by_semihardjo

 

I’m always happily mystified by the way the Universe works – how it seems to place in my way the idea or the words or the person or experience that I need most at just the right time. My befuddlement is totally understandable, since I cannot begin to comprehend the vastness or omniscience of God, of the Universe… and I am always kind of amused that I am bemused (if that makes any sense at all).

Today, my brother took our niece trick-or-treating, and they went all by themselves. Her excitement was nearly tangible, and the festival atmosphere carried over to the rest of the adults. We revisit our own innocence watching her experience and revel in these rites of passage, and everything slows down, becomes simpler, if only for a moment.

Then when I got home, I read an email from one of my cousins, which brought my focus back to that simplicity and innocence. In the email, children were asked what love meant, and one little boy said, “When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.” When you love me…my name, my essence in sound, is made safe on your breath… that boy is a pint-sized mystic. Children can take the intangible and bring it into the tangible, the accessible. Spending time with them brings me back to that sense of the simple, the innocent, the pure.

I guess the reason that these two things were so important for me to encounter today, is because I’ve been going through so many changes lately. All of the changes surround things I want in my life, that I have been trying to draw into or create in my life, but they are still changes.

One is never afraid of the unknown; one is afraid of the known coming to an end.

                                                                — Krishnamurti

I am learning to move past that fear, to live in the moment, and allow things to unfold. Notice I didn’t say that learning this was going well, or that it was easy… I am a planner and a what-if-er, and I play those little mind games to try to control outcomes, and to work out all of the conceivable options so that I can create the illusion of safety, and security.

Don’t seek for truth. Just drop your illusions.

                                                                — Zen Saying

I am better at noticing the ways I steal my own joy. When I what-if and scheme and plan everything to death, I keep myself from enjoying the journey. I keep myself in a state of focusing on worry and lack, and rob myself of the unfettered joy that comes in trusting the Universe to bring to me the things I need in the time and space that I need them.

And so, as I ask for these changes in my life, and they start to manifest, I am getting better at stopping that internal monologue, and bringing myself into the moment – into enjoying that sense of the possible and the potential, instead of slipping into anxiety. I am better at looking into each moment, and seeing the “treat” instead of searching for the “trick.”

 I am getting better at living “Just for today, I will not worry.”

Come have a look through my kaleidoscope eyes. Come walk with me, as I make my way down the Path of Mastery (complete with fits and starts and pitstops and potholes). Our very impermanence is what makes us burn so brightly, and struggle so valiantly, and feel so deeply – it’s what makes us seize the day, and the moment. Come in, settle in, share a moment with me.

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"Who are YOU?" said the Caterpillar. This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, "I--I hardly know, sir, just at present-- at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then." (Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 5)