Tuesday, March 24, 2015

No Words Yet

The Mystery within...
My ears perked up when I heard Berkley law professor, john a. powell, an internationally recognized expert on civil rights, civil liberties, structural racism, ethnicity, housing, poverty, and democracy say we do not yet have the words to speak what needs to be said about race relations in America today.  As one who searches for right words I found that fascinating and challenging.  Powell spoke to Krista Tippet in a Live Video:  A Civil Conversation with john a powell on how we might open up our anguished race conversation into the spiritual work of self and belonging.  He said language is never quite right but we do need language.    

Powell said:  We need a language of belonging for the human condition is about belonging. When we interact with each other we both change.  He asked how do we come together and learn together?  How can we make belonging infectious?  He acknowledged that the mind categorizes, and asked how do we become aware of our categories and have fun with them?  He said we need a caring economy to be in relationship with others.  Powell sees the culture of whiteness as the hard nut.  Slavery is about America.  How do we help whites find a new identity and believe in something other than ourselves?  We need to become aware of our unconscious signs of bias and work to overcome them.  The Civil Rights movement is as much for the white soul as it is for the freedom of blacks. We need to trust we will be shown the way.

What if we all searched for the right words to guide us in right relationships with one another and our planet?           

Monday, March 16, 2015


The Mystery within...
Unchurched is a word I have been hearing lately used to describe people who are no longer card carrying, dues paying members of a religious sect.  I don’t much like that word used to describe those of us who have left formal religion.  During a discussion between Arthur Zajonc, a physicist and contemplative, and Michael McCullough, a professor of psychology, on Krista Tippet’s On-Being Program, Mind and Morality:  A Dialogue, it was said of people who have left formal religion they have stepped out of the little church of virtues and have stepped into the virtues of the big church.  I really like that analogy. 

I love the big church’s virtues.  Knowing that all of creation, everything and everyone in it, is holy, helps me look for the Divine Mystery everyday.  Knowing that all of creation, everything and everyone in it, is connected, gives me pause to reflect on how my actions affect everything and everyone.  I love the freedom to be curious and to question everything.  I’ve become comfortable with knowing that answers only raise more questions to be explored.  I love the challenge of reflection and looking beyond trouble and hurtfulness.  I love knowing I belong to the big church.               

Other points that touched me in the discussion between Zajonc and McCullough were: we need to allow for differences and to explore them in safety, with respect; morality is our relationship to others and the world; empathy and compassion activates moral progress; there is no good argument for treating people differently; the fact that we can choose to separate ourselves from one another, and live and learn in a monoculture, is absolutely poisonous; education should teach us how we are going to be together as a human community; and we need to use our attention wisely.  

What if the little church of virtues and the virtues of the big church got together?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Spirit Animals

The Mystery within...
My August 5, 2013 blog titled “My Spider” told of how I came to know, and be grateful for my totem spider that appeared to me while on a “Women Gathering” retreat.  I wasn’t at all sure I wanted this spider spirit until I began to understand what it was asking me to suspend:  judgment of others and myself; anxiety for things undone; and the need to be perfect or right.  And after I learned that my spider is the keeper of the primordial alphabet, and teaches one how to write with power and creativity, I was in love with it.

Two more spirit animals have now recently showed up very unexpectedly in my life in the forms of a golden Palomino and a black horse.  They appeared on the first thawing day of this winter’s frigid grip while I walked in a wood not far from my house with my yellow Lab, Oliver.  Oliver stopped and stood transfixed with something among the bare trees deep in the snow-covered woods.  I followed his gaze and there stood a yellow horse!  My disbelief doubled when a black horse soon joined it.  We all just stood watching one another until finally the horses snorted, and then Oliver gave one bark, at which the pair turned and ran north into a grove of pines. 

This little 17-acre wood, bounded by private residences, a bike trail, and the Milwaukee River is home to squirrels, birds, chipmunks and deer.  Not horses.  I figured they probably escaped from their paddock somewhere and were enjoying a little spring fling.  I thought somebody should know where they were so when I got to the bike trail I asked a couple walking there if they had a cell phone so I could alert authorities of the horses whereabouts.  Later that night I called the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s dispatch to see if anyone reported a missing black and Palomino horse.  The dispatcher said no and they sent two deputies there and found nothing. 

I looked on-line for the spiritual attributes of horses and found Horse Journeys.  I learned horses are symbols of freedom and will awaken and discover my own freedom and power.  They teach fear kills creativity and can lead me to trust my own inner wealth of knowledge making me aware all things are possible.  Horses can reconnect me with the natural world, encourage me to be in the moment, and inspire a heightened sense of awareness.  Some of the goodness horses possess leads to a balanced social order because of their heightened sensory awareness, self-responsibility, and support of the greater good for the whole community.  These spirit guides can help me claim my authentic heart so what I say, do, think and feel comes from love.  I also found a golden horse signifies the coming of a spiritual manifestation and action; and a black horse is symbolic of death and rebirth.  I am thrilled to accept these new spirit animals in my life and welcome their mentoring.

What if we all became aware of our spirit animals with messages for our life?  

Monday, March 2, 2015

Presidential Attributes

The Mystery within...
Listening to some of the presidential hopefuls test the waters this past week made me want to make a list of the human qualities I want my next president to have.  So far I have listed: 1) is emotionally intelligent; 2) is reflective in decision making; 3) knows our children are the future for our country; 4) has empathy and compassion for those struggling; 5) understands the pursuit of wealth for wealth alone will destroy us all.

I have recently finished reading, “The Body Keeps the Score:  Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma" by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.  He says there are choices to be made for a healthy society for which we all have a role.  He cites northern European countries successes with lower health care costs, guaranteed minimum wage, parental leave for both parents after a child is born, and high-quality childcare for all working mothers.  Outcomes from these countries are reflected in his following statistics: 

“Could this approach to public health have something do with the fact that the incarceration rate in Norway is 71/100,000, in the Netherlands 81/100,000, and the US 781/100,000, while the crime rate in those countries is much lower than in ours, and the cost of medical care about half?  …The United States spends $84 billion per year to incarcerate people at approximately $44,000 per prisoner; the northern European countries a fraction of that amount.  Instead, they invest in helping parents to raise their children in safe and predictable surroundings.  Their academic test scores and crime rates seem to reflect the success of those investments.“

From October 28 – December 16, 2013 I blogged my way through the evolutionary biologist and anthropologist, David Sloan Wilson’s book, “The Neighborhood Project—Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time.”  My closing question for each blog read:

“What if we all focused on ways to apply the laws of nature to improving our lives?”
“What if we all bumped into the more paternal and maternal among us more often?”
“What if we all learned the right questions to ask that lead us to become more healthy and productive citizens?”
“What if we all belonged to a trusted small helping group and reflected each day on our struggles?”
“What if we could all stop and reflect when bumping into unpleasantness?”
“What if each day we challenged our self to catch someone doing something right, praising him or her, and smiling more?”
“What if we all looked with evolutionary eyes that go beyond self-interest; eyes that respect and highlight diversity, and search for ways to end global poverty?”
“What if we all understood the role we play in each other’s evolutionary process?”

What if you made a list of the human qualities you would like to see in our next president?  What would it look like?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Taming Terrorists

The Mystery within...
The reign of terror in our world today, whether homegrown or abroad, has been on my mind of late along with many questions such as what forms a terrorist?  What part does society, of which I am a part, contribute to terrorism?  And what part do I have in the formation of a peaceful world?  My questioning sprung from this quote from Marriane Williamson’s book, “EverydayGrace,” …”only love has the power to dismantle hate from which terrorism emerges.”  Williamson also writes that the next step in our evolutionary process will be learning how to love our enemies.  She suggests, “Think of the news as humanity’s prayer list.”    

I would like to know if there are specific studies today that seek to understand what leads people into terrorism.  Could the media then include such conjecture along with their reporting of the horrific details of torture, murder and destruction?  What turns an ego, in either a terrorist or anyone of us, into an infallible, “I am right and you are wrong” dogmatic believer?  Since I had been denied a voice throughout much of my life, I truly believe in freedom of speech.  But I don’t believe freedom of speech gives me, or anyone else, the right to poke a stick at a damaged ego.

As individuals, and as a society, what do we need to do in order to love our enemies?  Williamson writes:  “When we allow ourselves to feel the fear and sadness that lie behind our anger, our judgments undergo an extraordinary transformation and our fury turns into compassion.” 

What if in taming ourselves we also tame terrorists?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Learning Presence

The Mystery within...
Cathy Gawlik’s Facebook page  featured the Mark West message imposed on the Jhourey May Weeham Smo’s winter photo.  It astounded me when I saw it because it made me very aware that each moment in time presents me with a choice as to how I react to and interact with others, my surroundings, and myself.  West’s words recalled these lines for me from my memoir when I was presented an opportunity to retire early. 

“I stood stunned in the early spring sunlight that was streaming through the office window.
Time and choice had never seemed to exist for me until then.”

Now Mark West tells me, “In every moment we get to choose…”  I did choose early retirement back then and soon came face to face with the toughest decisions of my life in caring for my aging parents.  Answers, and the courage to make tough decisions, slowly came from everyday experiences and were growth filled and life affirming--like choosing good self-care over abuse.  During those difficult years, the gift of fear heightened my presence to everything and everyone around me.  Since then I have longed for that heightened sense, but without the attending turmoil. West’s words now give me some insight and hope for that return. 

My December 29, 2014 blog, One Word, told of the challenge I accepted to choose just one word that would represent growth for me in 2015.  I wrestled with words like listening, courage, freedom, justice and equality but finally declared my one word for 2015 to be Presence.  This past week I have been keenly aware that it is up to me to choose how I react to whomever and whatever shows up in my day.  I know Presence resides within me, in all others, and everything.  I am beginning to trust I can once again return to awareness of that gift, and maybe even without tumult.  Or perhaps the gift will again be disguised in chaos.

What if we all were keenly aware that in every moment we get to choose how we react to whatever and whomever shows up in our life?      

Monday, February 9, 2015

Sacred Meal

The Mystery within...
I felt uniquely blessed being remembered and thanked by Sisters Sylvia and Mary Alyce with a home cooked meal at their home. Last year I helped a friend throw a party to celebrate Sister Sylvia’s 60th anniversary of her vows as a School Sister of Notre Dame. She and Mary Alyce promised the two of us a thank you dinner. They honored me when they acknowledged my request many months earlier to please keep it simple. I now realize simple is sacred and sacred is simple.

We began with some red wine that Sister Sylvia made and a tiny plate of cheese and crackers so as not to spoil our appetite. Though I don’t drink alcohol anymore I made an exception and had a little of her wine. I wanted to compare it to my late husband homemade wine. It was delicious and felt sacramental. I wondered what awaited the plain white plates on the wooden dining table. It was mouthwatering to watch pork ribs, slow cooked in homemade sour kraut, being spooned onto our plates to which we added mashed potatoes, homemade applesauce and a roll. There was mention of dessert and I could hardly wait to find out what it would be—pineapple upside down cake, baked in a cast iron pan, topped with whipped cream and cherries soaked in whiskey. You could feel, and almost taste, the love that went into the preparation of our thank you dinner.

It doesn’t get much better than sharing a lovingly prepared simple meal with friends. It makes me wonder what else I could simplify in my life to more easily realize the sacred.

What if we could all know the sacred in the simple and the simple in the sacred?