Monday, April 14, 2014

Courage



God is...
From “God Never Hurries,”  God’s living word is in our life’s stories—tell them and write them down.

As I watched Robert Reich’s documentary, “Inequality for All,” I was grateful he chose to tell his story of how he came to be an avid advocate for the fair treatment of workers.  As a child, he said he was frequently bullied because of his very small physical stature, the result of a medical condition.  He had a friend who protected him from bullies.  When his friend grew up he continued to defend the oppressed, advocating for fairness and justice in the Civil Rights movement, which led to his murder.  His friend’s death profoundly affected Reich.  He said it gave him the courage to speak out on behalf of fair treatment of others.  He subsequently became a prolific writer, Secretary of Labor under president Clinton, and taught classes at Berkley on wealth and power.  The eye opening statistics Reich shares in his documentary highlights the flattening of workers’ wages beginning in the 1970’s, and the staggering rise in corporate profits and CEO pay.

Bringing forth gifts from oppression is a specialty of this mysterious God of ours.  I am very aware that my economic status was improved with the passage of Civil Rights legislation with its extension of equal employment opportunity to women in the workplace.  That legislation spawned training opportunities that allowed me to compete for jobs that supported my three children and myself after being widowed in 1975.  I eventually came to manage one of Robert Reich’s, then Secretary of Labor, employment programs for economically disadvantaged elderly while working for the U.S. Forest Service, Eastern Region.  I remember a national meeting I attended for the Senior Community Service Employment Program in Washington, D.C. where Reich spoke.  He then held, and still does hold, my deep respect for his heart, compassion and advocacy for the less fortunate.

What if we each told our story?  Would your story change hearts? 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Indigenous Wisdom

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In my seeking, helpful books have found their way into my life.  One such book was “Seven Arrows” by Hyemeyohsts Storm who told of the native People of the Plains’ spirituality through story.  I think I first read it in the late 1970s after my husband died.  I found comfort in the stories’ steeped in nature.  I recently picked it up again to review the Medicine Wheel that holds the four directions to which I sometimes remember to pray while holding my prayer feathers.  I found deeper meaning in the intervening years from my first reading.

Since my earlier reading of Storm’s work I have taken classes and done some reading on the wisdom of the Enneagram and Carl Jung’s shadow work.  I now see and understand those teachings are also within the Medicine Wheel.  It represents the Universe into which we each enter through a particular direction as a unique self with gifts to share with others along with a balancing need to learn from others’ gifts.  Different totem animals (and people) come to us throughout our life bringing teachings to grow and balance us.  Storm writes:  “The Medicine Power is within all People, and in all the things of the Universe.”  I also reread his telling of the Peace Shields, worn by native women on their belts, and displayed on animal hides by the men, depicting an individual’s gifts along with what they need to learn from others to grow. 

Now when I remember to hold my prayer feathers and pray to each direction, I will give thanksgiving for my gifts and ask to see where I need to grow for balance.  When facing East, the direction of Illumination and the high flying Eagle, I will be mindful of the need to balance farsightedness with the need to stay close to life.  When facing South, the direction of Innocence and the close to the earth Mouse, I will pray for Trust and discernment in the vision of others.  When facing West, the place of Introspection and the hibernating Black Bear, I will be aware of my need to balance reflection with decisive action.  When facing North, the place of Wisdom and the White Buffalo, I will pray for wisdom and the ability to live life with warm feeling and touching others. 

After recently watching the movie, “Twelve Years a Slave,” I became keenly aware of the dominant culture I come from, the utter cruelty of slavery, and past native genocide.  There has been some progress in laws, and some change in hearts, but the continuing unsustainable pursuit of wealth at the expense of others, and the acquisition of stuff, now threatens every culture and the planet itself. 

What if there were no dominant cultures and we valued other’s different gifts.  What if we each thought about the gifts we bring to the Universe and what help we need to grow and stay balanced?  What would your Peace Shield look like?              

Monday, March 31, 2014

Indigenous Self


God is . . . 
In my memoir “God Never Hurries” I wrote:  ...I awoke in the middle of the night.  My room was bright with moonlight.  It called me outside to write.  Downstairs I put on a warm jacket and went out to soak in the heavenly light.  The evergreens were casting deep shadows.  The apple tree and grape vine glowed holy.  I bet I looked pretty good too in that Godly light. 

The air was super still in the cool quiet night.  In the neighbor’s yard a lone cricket found enough warmth to manage a slow chirp.  The barn a couple of blocks away released the smell of cows and hay.  And it seemed I faintly heard traffic on the freeway though it is well over two miles away.

I looked up at my bedroom window and saw Mr. Edison’s incandescent light.  It didn’t look like progress against this holy night.  Early ancestors, and even not so long ago, Native Americans must have had better nourished souls living closer to this Godliness.  I prayed, “Dear God, I know we can’t go back.  So please show us how to nourish our souls in this ever changing world.

Answers to my request on that glorious September night in the late 1990s started coming gradually after I sensed caring for myself was imperative as I struggled with my aging parents care needs.  l began to feel a part of something bigger than myself when on ritual walks in nature where I would find solace in reflection and found answers to some of my troubles.  Those walks helped me sort out what being human means, and to better understand how inextricably life is linked to the many small and big deaths we encounter on our journey.  Our ancestors had hands on experience with so much in nature which must have brought them closer to the living and dying experiences from which our modern, compartmentalized lives, seems to separate us from. 

I made the prayer feathers pictured above at a Women Gathering retreat given through Way of the Willow last August.  (See August 5, 2013 blog post titled “My Spider” and what my totem animal came to teach me.)  On the mornings I remember to hold my feathers and face each of the four directions and pray my day goes so much better.  Facing east, the place of Illumination, I thank the Great Spirit for what has been shown me, and ask for more.  Facing south, the place of Trust, I give gratitude for what trust has taught me and pray for more.  Facing west, the place of Introspection, I am thankful for what reflecting has brought me, and ask to go deeper.  Facing north, the place of Wisdom, I am thankful for what wisdom has come to me over the years, pray for more, and ask that it always be balanced with heart.  I close my prayer at each direction with a request, “Help me know what to let go of today, help me know what to embrace.”  Way of the Willow also just held a day of reflection on the Meaning of Mortality (see link to the program’s opening video, The Meaning of Death).  There I was able to share the annual Pre-funeral Luncheon I wrote about in my January 6, 2014 blog about old friends getting together to share what is important to them and to wink at death.  And then I had a rare opportunity this past weekend when my children, grandchildren and I were all in the van together to tell them about the green burial workshop I attend recently and learned about options for in-home care of the dying and the dead, and a new, even more environmentally sensitive option to cremation, the resomation process.  And I am thinking now, maybe I am becoming a budding indigenous grandma.

What if we all found ways to touch our indigenous selves?                   

Monday, March 24, 2014

Present Moment Clock


God is...

What an oxymoron!  What paradox!  How perfect to describe my life as told in “God Never Hurries,” with a present moment clock!  Picture a flip chart easel with paper and a clock face with the word “NOW” at 12, 3, 6 & 9 o’clock and “now” at 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8 10 and 11 o’clock.  Between each quarter hour, running around the circumference of the clock, instead marks to delineate seconds are the repeating words: ”struggle—growth—transformation—forgiveness.”  I drew such a clock to help me describe the indescribable for my presentation titled, “Does Nature Speak to You?” at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center this past week.  And centered on my clock’s face I wrote:

Reflecting
on
What Is
Accepting It
Touches
God Energy
for
Growth

Underneath my present moment clock I wrote:

Recycling Pain

I continued my presentation by reading from my October 7, 2013 post, “Recycling Pain,” which ponders how this mysterious God, who somehow lives within us, grows us through suffering; and my May 20, 2013 post, “The Paradox of Fear,” which sourced the grace I experienced in nature.  I didn’t know how else I could start telling my story of help and comfort with the tension and pain surrounding my again parents’ care needs.

From there I could relate how the Sun, beaming through the trees brought solace letting me know I was worthy of good self-care.  I could tell of the saplings on a muddy slope letting me know I would need help.  I told of the huge oak tree where I would go for communion and strength; and my Courage Recipe telling me to trust my mind, heart and gut.  I could then relate the curious deer that sparked my curiosity and led me to know I can question everything; and another deer that taught me all is Eucharist.  I could tell about the writer’s block that began with a bumper sticker and its release after I understood and wrote everything is a both/and thing; and how understanding my complicity in abuse was the way out of it.  I could tell of the dead alewives that let me accept the messiness of life, and tall gray herons appearing as a darker color of dense fog letting me feel the seamless world soul.  And finally I told of the power of true forgiveness and coming to know both the struggle and reward of being true to myself.   

What if whenever we look at a clock we could always see it is Now and know if we stay there we will grow?    

Monday, March 17, 2014

In the Flow

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Joy Cardin’s Wisconsin Public Radio, March 12, 2014 morning show, Unlocking "Ultimate" Human Performance, featured Steven Kotler who spoke of the amazing advances athletes are making by being in the flow, a mental state that maximizes human performance as they struggle to attain higher and higher levels of accomplishment.  He also used the word now, interchangeably with flow, and said it can apply to all of us as we go through life.  He cited heightened states of creativity in artists and writers as examples.     

I really appreciated Kotler's tie to non-athletes and how being in the Now relates to our advancement through struggle.  I posted a comment on the show, “Sound's like God energy to me.”  He wrote back, “Thanks Marcia.  Not sure what you mean by God energy, but we do know that there's considerable overlap between the neurobiology of flow states and the neurobiology of so-called mystical experiences.  What that means—hard to say for sure….”  I can relate.

In “God Never Hurries” I wrote: 
Tension was an almost unbearable constant for a year.  How does “the responsible one” care for her aging parents?  I devoured books on spirituality and self-help.  I paid attention to my dreams.  I prayed.  The right questions began to surface from my pain.  My relief was in my pain; my safety was in my questions.

Then at the end of May 1995 I made a promise to God that I would write something about each day for one year.  The drive to write was a lifesaver.  Knowing that I would put something of each day’s struggles, joys and ordinariness on paper focused me more in the present alongside my ache for truth.  And nowhere was I more present than in the natural world.  There the connection and comfort I felt from my surroundings seemed to be an inverse of my tension and pain. 

What if we could all accept our struggles in the Now and know eventually they will lead to growth, transformation, and forgiveness?

Monday, March 10, 2014

God Energy


God is...

After being invited to give a talk at a Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, Spiritual World of Nature program, I remarked, “I will look forward to preparing for it since I always learn so much in the process.”  As the date is now just around the corner I was hoping for some of that past enthusiasm to get me started formatting my upcoming presentation titled, “Does Nature Speak to You?”  The offering description states I will share how I overcame difficulty “… by watching, waiting, and trusting in the healing messages God sends through others and the natural world.”  Reading that description left me feeling flat and uninspired until I understood the critical missing spark.  Every day for three years, during a very difficult time, I sat down and reflected on the joys, sorrows and troubles of that day and briefly wrote them down.  Those words had power.  They put perspective on my troubles, which gave me just a little distance from them so I could be open to God’s healing messages.  Those words formed a holy trinity with others and the natural world where God speaks.   

In my presentation preparation I recalled a quote from my past work life as a Public Affairs Specialist for the USDA Forest Service, by its founder Gifford Pinchot.  I am just a little unsure if this is the exact wording.  I believe he said, “There are only two things important in this world, people and natural resources.”  I goggled quotes by Gifford Pinchot and could not find it among them.  I think it should be.  And I am recalling at the end of my blog post last week titled "Ask, Seek, Find" I related Carolyn Baker’s telling in her book, “Reclaiming the Dark Feminine,” the importance of ritual and how returning to our indigenous selves reclaims our connection to all things and one another.  What could that look like today?  There is no shortage of material for reflection.     

My Audubon presentation description ends with “If nature speaks to you spiritually you will have a chance to share your insights and experiences.”  I look forward to facilitating that sharing for we are all better off when we all share.   

What if we were all open to learning from one another? 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Ask, Seek, Find


God is...

In last week’s post titled Balance I concluded with:  “What if we daily asked our darkness what it wants from us?”  So this past week I tried it and although I may have missed a day or two, I am impressed with how my shadow informed me, made priorities apparent, and smoothed out my week.  I also reviewed my notes from Dr. Philip Sternig’s 1997 class, “The Shadow Knows,” and found good reasons to keep an on-going dialog with my shadow.

Clarifying definitions and quotes from class handouts deepened my understanding.

The Shadow:

-       It is not an entity.  It is more like a quality, a condition, an influencing force, a “coloring” element within the ego.
-       Those elements, feelings, emotions, ideas, beliefs, with which we can’t identify, which are repressed due to education, culture, or value system.
-       Contains psychic energy—constructive and destructive.
-       Edward Whitmont:  “When we can’t see it, it’s time to beware!”
-       It is 90% pure gold.  It keeps the Ego true to the Self.  But when repressed it emerges first in a violent, bizarre, distorted form.       
-       Maintains the essential balance inherent in all that is.

I now better understand the deep struggle I suffered over my aging parent’s care needs was really a struggle with my shadow.  My nightly writing during that difficult time slowly surfaced my real problems and eventually brought the grace to overcome them.  The following from “God Never Hurries” is the dawning of my understanding. 

“ A secret of life is suffering for profit.  The profit in suffering comes in the grace in knowing something inside me needs to die so I can experience new life.  What needs to die is the once easier submissiveness to tyranny.  It is so odd to feel I must learn to do more for myself and die to denial.  It is the opposite of all I’ve been taught.  I should be rejoicing, but so much darkness has been masquerading as light, making this a truly ugly struggle.  But this difficulty with myself I can offer up.”

And I finished re-reading Carolyn Baker’s “Reclaiming the Dark Feminine” where she writes of the importance of ritual and how returning to our indigenous selves reclaims our connection to all things and one another.  I wrote “God Never Hurries” to always remember the sacred ritual times I spent in the natural world where I experienced Oneness.  Baker also writes, “…the transformational process is never finished and the completion of one initiation is organically linked to the beginning of another.”  What’s next? 

What if we could all come to befriend our shadow?