Monday, November 23, 2015

Reflecting on Instability

The Mystery within
“Yet it is the law of all progress that is made by passing through some stages of instability and that may take a very long time.”  From Trust in the Slow Work of God by Teilhard de Chardin

Instability is with us in dysfunctional politics, families, neighborhoods, and worldwide terrorism.  Each of us has a role in helping stabilize dysfunction and leading us to become more whole human beings.  In my November 18, 2013 blog post titled, “So Who Are We?” I cite a study from the evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson’s book The Neighborhood Project—Using Evolution to Improve My City One Block at a Time.

Wilson cites a first grade teacher who taught for thirty-four years and whose students were followed into adulthood measuring grade of education completed, occupational attainment, and condition of their home.  Sixty-four percent of her students scored in the highest category compared with only 29 percent of students of other teachers.  When the other teachers were asked how this teacher taught they said with a lot of love, confidence in her children, vowing no child would leave her class without being able to read, staying after school to help struggling students, and sharing her lunch with children who forgot theirs.  Wilson says gardeners would understand these stunning results since they “…know that a small difference in how the seedlings are tended can make huge difference in their yield at the end of the season.”

We can’t all be outstanding first grade teachers but we can all be gardeners by reflecting throughout each day on the many ways we can positively react with those who we encounter.  When we bump into unpleasantness, be curious about the other instead of offended.  Work at respecting diversity.  Catch someone doing something right and praise him or her.  Smile more.  Give an inconsiderate driver a pass.  Thank someone for a kindness.  What more can you add to the list?   

What if we began each day asking how can I make someone else’s day?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Fear, Forgiveness and Prayer

The Mystery within...
Fear, forgiveness and prayer have been on my mind with the recent mayhem wrought by the terrorists in France.  Damning talk of revenge has me longing for prayers for the perpetrators of those heinous acts and prayers for the rest of us to accept our anger and fear that can start us on our work to forgive.  I know something of prayer, fear and forgiveness for they threaded throughout my memoir.  Some excerpts from “God Never Hurries:”

I sensed fear was at the heart of my father’s need to control, and his fears undoubtedly were heightened by my mother’s growing dementia and the fact that she had been the center of all things relative to a functioning home. 

…I felt empathy for his fears along with a sense of futility in any attempted dialogue. 

…I was also truly scared.  Scared for my mother’s and my safety. 

…fear is more than fight or flight.  Guile and cleverness are just two of many ways to address fear; and fear keeps the world in check.  [Adapted from “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin De Becker.]

[I attended] …a two day workshop on forgiveness sponsored by a Unitarian church in Milwaukee featuring Robert Enright and Susan Freedman from the International Forgiveness Institute.  I had previously heard them tell of their mission on public radio—to help people gain knowledge about forgiveness and to use that knowledge for personal, group, and societal renewal.

It was comforting to learn that forgiveness is a process; the first step is believing it is a possibility.  We can then look to our Pride, the negative kind, which blocks the process.  Denial of anger was cited as a clue to Pride and an obstacle to forgiveness.  It takes humility to admit being hurt.  It is humbling to admit woundedness.  Therefore, it can be healthy to get angry and Prideful to deny it.  Pride was said to be a formidable foe for we are very unaware of it.  I also learned forgiveness is most needed where things are least safe; and you need to be in a safe place to work on forgiveness.

Forgiveness benefits were many and were said to come from the heart and the head and resulted in emotional control.  It was said true forgiveness is not trivial for it transforms who we are.  Freedom and a more real view of life are its fruits.  Forgiveness is also giving up resentment and coming to view the perpetrator with compassion.

Like Teyve in Fiddler on the Roof, I had many informal conversations with God.  I am called to pray for my enemies out of love--though love does not preclude justice for the wronged--it just makes me more whole.  And I learned to trust God's slow work in me.  

What if we all became more whole by praying for our enemies out of love?

Monday, November 9, 2015


The Mystery within...
From “God Never Hurries:”

…my heart, mind, body and soul were consumed in what the day might hold.  But I was most aware of my soul.  It seemed to be telling me, “Love is courage talking, not long-suffering silence.” 


I helped my mother bathe.  I felt my touch asking for her forgiveness.  I saw it in her eyes.  My heart wanted to stay.  My head said, “Go”; my back said “Hurry”; my soul said; “Leave.” 

During those years of intense learning, as I struggled with my aging parents needs and my own self-care, I began experiencing my mind, heart, body and soul as distinct parts working together on my behalf.  I ached for naturalness and just wanted to blend into the natural world where everything is connected and works to support the whole.  There a deer first led me to know curiosity was the way to go; and finally another deer showed me others do lay down their life in order for me to grow.  Thunder storms, snow falls, sunrises, sunsets, frogs, fox, herons, hummingbirds, black birds, sea gulls, raccoon, and more all came with messages from which I learned. 

So I wasn’t surprised when I heard at Jean Watson’s Caritas Caring Science workshop that there is current science at Heart Math Research studying how the physical heart is more than just a pump but communicates with the brain.  In my experience I would add the body and soul are also in cahoots along with the natural world. 

What if we all became aware of the connections within ourselves, between each other, and the natural world?         

Monday, November 2, 2015

Curiosity Heals

The Mystery within...
From “God Never Hurries:”

…I did know curiosity had become a newly discovered virtue that was keeping my soul supple.  It helped me look for truth.  I don’t ever remember curiosity encouraged in my youth.  A tree of knowledge with a serpent was invented to tell me not to look—and then there is the banning of books.  Did it really kill the cat?  I wished I learned much earlier how best to care for my soul. 

I remembered the above passage from my memoir when one of the panel members at Jean Watson’s Caring Science Institute conference said, “When confronted with trouble, step back and be curious.”  Instantly it made sense to me.  Instead of reacting out of fear, or letting the ego take affront, be curious about the confrontation.

Words Wikipedia associates with curiosity:  from Latin curiosus akin to cura, care;  inquisitive thinking, exploration, investigation, learning, desire to gain knowledge, and force behind human development.  

Creativity is born from curiosity.  When confronted with trouble, I can step back, be curious and creative, and learn how to care about myself and my confronter.

What if we all were curious and creative in uncovering the mysteries of caring?      

Monday, October 26, 2015

An Inside Job

The Mystery within... 

From God Never Hurries:

God is in the sunshine,
God is in the rain.
God is in the wheat field
And in the sky again.

God is in the birds
Who sing to you and me.
God’s also in the puppy that
Plays so gleefully.

God is in the mountains,
God is in the sea.
But best of all, don’t you know
God’s in you and me.

I was privileged to attend a Jean Watson Caring Science Institute conference titled “Weaving a Tapestry of Caritas Through Collaboration and Connection.”  I was privileged to be among people who practice living with grace under pressure.  It all seemed so easy to do when I remembered Divine Love dwells within everything and every one of us; that each and every one of us also has a shadow side, and when I learn to accept my own shadow I can more easily accept the shadow of others.  Remembering I am only a part of the whole is humbling and comforting, and knowing how I respond in the world affects the whole.  I left the conference wanting to overlook much and accept others as they are.  Instilled in me is a true desire to respond from my heart where God and I are one.   

What if we could all want to respond from our heart where God and we are one?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Sharing Grace

The Mystery within...
Last weeks post ended asking, “What if we could all go to our heart when the pressure is on?” since it is in the heart, not the mind or gut, where we learn to live with grace.  So this past week I have been asking myself, “What could help me get to or stay in my heart when pressed?”  The poem titled “New Year’s Resolutions” came to mind.  I put it in my blog’s Comfort Messages section and labeled it Ego Training.

New Year’s Resolutions

People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
 Love them anyway.
If you do good, people may accuse you of selfish motives. 
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you may win false friends and true enemies. 
Succeed anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. 
Be honest and transparent anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. 
Build anyway. 
People who really want help may attack you if you help them.
Help them anyway. 
Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt.
Give the world your best anyway.
The world is full of conflict. 
Chose peace of mind anyway.

Author:  Anonymous

I have also been wondering if you readers have something to share on how to go to or stay in the heart when the pressure is on?

What if we all shared what helps us live with grace?

Monday, October 12, 2015

Grace Under Pressure

From my memoir “God Never Hurries:”

“I found much grace in my trouble.  Because my life was at stake, I became keenly aware of everything.  It was a time of heightened consciousness and vivid dreams.”

* * *

“There was much grace in howling.  It gave voice to my pain.  The deep inhalations and long slow exhalations were good for the body as well as the soul.  It was an instinctive response that helped me understand how the ability to flee is injured when being too nice, and how being too nice normalizes abnormal behavior.”

* * *

“Grace happened frequently on public radio broadcasts.  It was uncanny how things I struggled with would then be featured on my favorite public radio station.”

A ritual of writing about the joys and troubles in each day, and immersing myself in the natural world, tended my grief as I struggled for my mother’s safety in her Alzheimer’s disease, and with my father’s alcoholism.  I came to see God in all things and people.  Time spent in sorrow and solitude somehow nourished me.  Facing my fallibility was freeing.  My soul awakened with outrage.  Neglected and repressed parts of myself learned to speak.  Through vulnerability I came to know the comfort of others’ empathy.  Ever so slowly, God was growing me.  Having gone through all of that I have been puzzling lately how stressed out I have been over less monumental problems.  So in Yoga class this morning, when our instructor asked, “What do people want to work on today?”  I responded, “How about grace under pressure.”  I was grateful my request did not stump him.   

As we lay on our mats doing calming diaphragmatic breathing and heart-opening exercises, our wise instructor said, “One way to combat stress is to be thankful for what we have.”  And I have consciously been working on that.  But then he added, “You also have to get out of your mind and gut and be in your heart.”  Immediately I understood.  When the pressure is on I am nowhere near my heart.  He also said, whatever happens, it is important to know I will be all right.  In the community of my yoga class, with the rapt attention of all, my stress was replaced with a calming anticipation of a more open heart and continued learning.

What if we could all go to our heart when the pressure is on?