Letting Go

A time of transformation

Of centering, looking within

Letting go of the familiar

To regroup and reanalyze.

Like the peeling of an onion

Where am I still playing nice?

Dropping out not of  apathy

But like a toddler

In a wide based gait

Saying No to all

Before my walk is more stable

So my hands lower and open

To welcome my true self out

Building Muscle

Why is it so hard to keep up a healthy routine of diet and exercise?  When I’m consistent, I know how I feel; more energy, walking on air with a generalized feeling of strength.  And of course, that feeling of being “in shape”, with less wiggle and squish, fitting into everything you put on, and feeling proud when you look in the mirror.  So why is it so damn hard to be consistent?

Cuz, it’s hard work, dammit!  It should be that the memory of those good feelings overrides the sweat and ache and sacrifice, but maybe I’ve never consistent enough to have that constant memory.

Too, isn’t it frustrating how quickly you backslide?  I just had a full 4 day weekend of social activity where I’d allowed myself a bite of this or that, a drink here and there.  My jeans are now cutting in at my waistline when I sit down for any length of time and the scale read 4 lbs heavier.  Really?  A lb a day for each day I slacked?  It wasn’t that much!!

Add in our psychological regimen.  Don’t we feel better if we spend the recommended amount of time in meditation each day?  If we actively mark out moments each day to decompress, spending those parts in solitude and quiet.  Time to write or in reflection or gratitude.   Or for me, time spent in creative activity.   I know how good I feel when I’m consistent.  I know how much my day unfolds with less turmoil and emotional jigsaw puzzles.  Can you imagine if there was a scale for measuring your peacefulness?  Mine would be fluctuating all over the place!

O Creator, help me to be consistent with what I know is healthy.  Help me to remember the gifts it brings to my body and soul.  I’ve proved over and over that I can’t do this one on my own.  Help me to push past the road blocks in my mind that make this harder than it needs to be.  Remind me of the peace within your grace.   Help me to honor this body and mind you’ve created by treating it with the utmost care!

Meeting Myself Again for the First Time

Years ago, I was sent by my mentor to a therapist who’d test my personality type with the MBTI, the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Inventory.  She’d appeared gung ho to send me to this woman, feeling that it’d reveal vital secrets about myself and open up a wealth of understanding.  Honestly, I rolled my eyes inwardly at the thought of this; I’d taken personality type quizzes all my life.  Being the navel gazer that I knew myself to be; no magazine questionaire or online personality quiz went unmarked, I knew myself pretty darn well! 

Pat Wyman, a noted psychotherapist and author of the book, Three Keys to 
Self-Understanding: MBTI, Enneagram, and Inner Child,
  said she’d type-casted me as an INFP even before I filled in the numerous small circles.  Uncanny, given that my understanding of myself, outward personality and dress fit more closely to my Enneagram type 3- A Performer.  The INFP is a dreamer, highly sensitive and spiritual, whose life is about finding meaning and purpose.  She’s very creative, sees the full potential in others, and is more concerned with the whole context rather than its details.  An Enneagram 3 personality is motivated by achievement and approval, needing a sense of productiveness, who dresses for success as “image is everything”, are enthusiastic, busy, charming, and appear self confident.  Yes, I could readily acknowledge myself in that latter description, and somewhat more shadowy, I could also recognize that figure in the INFP – but that person wasn’t as highly valued.  Like the ugly duckling in the common nursery story, I felt unvalued in those feathers while those around me were Type A achievers.  The young child that sat underneath the willow tree reading her books in the afternoon shade of a summer day was not productive.  I was reduced to tears to hear from Pat that my personality type would have been the “shamans” of ancient tribes were I to have lived in that age.  “Spiritually gifted and highly sensitive”, she underlined.  “Not religious.”  Always knowing a deep internal spiritual sense to myself yet grating in disharmony with religion over the years, I cried in the unexpected reunion and instant knowing I felt in meeting myself for the first time in 45 years.  Pat holds strongly to a theory that our MBTI is our core self, the one we’re born with, yet all of us – no matter our upbringing – creates an outer shell of defenses to deal with the messages we endure growing up that creates our Enneagram.  Growing up in an immediate and extended family (as well as a Western cultural ideal) that exuded a certain level of achievement, and expectation of the same for its offspring, I became the dutiful daughter chasing after affirmation and success.  Yet finding little without a sense of meaning and purpose, feeling that much more out of my pond when immersed in a society that was so achievement driven.  Leaving her office that day, still overwhelmed and sniffling, she thrust business cards in my hand of local Reike specialists, massage therapists, and what I’d instantly termed some “lezbo, Birkenstock wearing” Woman’s group newsletter.  I looked at her questioningly, saying “Why would I go to see any of these people?”  I’m certainly not some woowoo type who would go for any of that sort of thing!  Her recommendations to me still haunt me.  “You need to find your home.  Your pond.  Surround yourself with like people.  You’ve felt so uncomfortable about who you are because there’s so few of you.  A small percentage.  Find them in alternative sources.  And there, you will find yourself.”

Pfffft, yea right!  I’m not going to do that.  Sure, I’ve always been drawn to alternative spiritual practices and beliefs; the occult, crystals, the hippie culture, reincarnation, ESP and other psychic abilities…but those people were downright weird.  I’m certainly not going to associate with those kinds of people!  They weren’t even really accepted by normal society.  Frowned upon by the medical community in which I lived in, having both a degree in Occupational Therapy and an MD husband.  I envisioned my friends who, though irreverent or bold in one way or another, had outwardly acceptable images.  Respectable jobs.  Attractive appearances.  There’s no way I’d switch up that association.

I chuckle to myself.  Fast forward my picture down the road 5 years in the future.  And here I stand, not among the strangelings that I’d envisioned with nose piercings, tattoos, dreadlocks, living on the outskirts of society, but among women that speak in poetry and dreams, walk in joy, with amazing insight, wisdom and creativity.   And I’m the one sporting a beautiful diamond at the side of my nose, though I can’t readily recall any others that do.  Nor tatoos or dreadlocks.   They’ve brought me along a pathway I’d never envisioned, bringing me to such a deep sense of acceptance and wonder and curiosity so that I’ve never in my life been this inspired.  Like immersing myself underwater to scuba dive – another activity I greatly resisted – I still feel that occasional moment of panic, looking around saying, “What the HELL are you DOING here?!”  And then I recognize that familiar feeling of peace, of meeting myself once again, and feel this deep internal sigh of relief that says………ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, that’s why.  You’re home.

Now that I recognize myself, embracing that inner self closely, I find that I’m leaning on the characteristics I’ve always kept hidden and more accepting of personality traits I usually battle.  I love my alone time, to think, daydream, analyze, fighting those inner voices to be more sociable.  Though as a youngster, it was a valued trait to be outgoing and popular, I can accept my more quiet side, enjoying the freedom in not having to be *on* all the time.  I find myself involved in women’s spirituality and writing groups,  participated in drummings, have opened my eyes to honoring the Goddess, Mother Earth and the Divine Feminine, and am actively seeking out non-traditional churches that speak more truly to my heart.  As I await the arrival of new friend from one of those groups, I acknowledge with a knowing soft smile my intuitiveness of seeing a like soul and finding immediate connection.  Allowing her inside my heart like a long lost friend to walk today in the park, despite only having met her twice before.

I still struggle with that Performer side of me, but when I can acknowledge my core attributes within the fog, I grab hold with a vengeance.   Perhaps, in being human, that Performer will always be a part of me.  Certainly, she’s no one to sneeze at.  I’ve lived in her shoes for most of my life, shining them to a perfection that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.  There are days that those skills come in handy.  Day by day, arm in arm with both my selves, I’m getting closer to what the Divine intended….and oh, what a joyous adventure!

Flying

Air travel has always been an exciting adventure for me.  I love to people watch in the terminals, watching the small groupings of people:  families with small children that seemingly have a major fraction of their entire household over their shoulders, their eyes bloodshot and half lidded as they follow their toddler through the chairs of people, business men and women dressed in their fitted black suits, pressed and efficient, their travelling down to a science and a small neat bag, young children with fear in their eyes and a plastic unaccompanied envelope around their neck, sitting close to the gangway and the comfort of the airline staff, young love either newly married or recently so, their hands, lips and attention directednentirely on the other, oblivious to their surroundings, the young adult in college gear, his backpack full in the seat beside him, a textbook on his lap as his eyes wander in bored attention to the distractions around him.  My husband and I play a guessing game, attempting to identify the scenario of travel in the groupings that pass.

Yet it’s not always fun and exciting.  The long waits in security lines, groupings with far less travel experience than you that stumble through the line, needing direction for every liquid, personal computer, and shoe that needs to be removed to set on the conveyor belt.  Passengers that have a stick up their butt, complaining about every proposed inconvenience; their coat that is squashed by another’s bag in the overhead compartment, a seat that doesn’t fully recline, a stranger’s leg that inadvertently touches them in the tight surroundings.  It never fails that our gate is the very last on a long hallway, most often when we’re running late, which we usually are.  Or that we’re seated next to a very large individual that spills over the arms of her seat, whose shower has been out of service for weeks, and considers you her long lost best friend.  Or just when she’s decided to take a nap, and you’ve sighed into solitude and your current favorite book, the baby four rows back begins an ear splitting wail that can’t be comforted.  Coming in for a landing, thankfully and surprisingly early, yet the plane ahead of you is still in your gate, leaving you trapped in cramped, stale air.  Minutes tick by feeling like hours as your bladder fills and the stewardesses transform into prison guards to keep you buckled in your seats.

I’m not an aerodynamic scientist, nor have I studied it much so I really don’t understand the science behind airplanes.  It’s always been a miracle to me that these huge planes, especially those made for international travel, can rise into the air, much less stay aloft suspended in flight.  I’ve never worried about it too much, but I’ve seen many who do.  One woman was seated next to me as we sat in the gate, pleasantly talking about this and that until the plane was pushed back.  Then she grabbed my forearm in a death grip, asking me to “Just talk to me!  Tell me about your children!  Tell me what they like, what they’re doing.  Just DISTRACT ME!”  Her face drained of all color in her fear, as I racked my brain for details of my children to tell this stranger.  No sooner were we airborn, flying in more of a horizontal plane that my arm was released and she carried on her discussion as if no time, or panic, had occurred.  Some people are strange like that; they fear the worst in their ignorance, needing a person to squeeze or strangle to ease their worry.

I find religion and spirituality a bit like flying.  We all travel it a bit differently.  There are those that bring every piece of baggage and woe, reading every ounce of religious material, trying to devour its meaning and recipe for healing as if religion were a process to be DONE rather than experienced.  Others who seemingly have it all under their belt; they can quote you quotes and give you pat answers for questions and doubts.  Their religion is neat and tidy without room for uncertainties.  Individuals that wear their religion like a monogrammed Tshirt, issuing forth Amens and Allelujahs, their mantra of “What Would Jesus Do” a spoken and unspoken code of conduct for themselves and others – willling or not.  Personally, I’ve become one of those that travel light, open to possibility, as if looking at the possible destinations and heading towards a site that looks appealing and trusting in those that will help take me there.

But it’s not as if the travel to peace and enlightenment is without its air turbulence.  People that infuriate you for their hypocrisy and meanness, as they proclaim love and Christianity.  Questions that plague us with pat answers that don’t seem to fill the holes.  People that want to show you The Path, as if its the only acceptable travel route and destination, believing what’s right for them is right for all.  Feelings of doubt, worry, and a sense of aloneness, truly finding ourselves as “unaccompanied minors” on our spiritual paths.  Those that strangle or consume their pastor with questions that are imbedded in fear of the unknown, wanting recipes for assurance in the afterlife, begging for distraction from the ongoing doubt and anxiety in their mind.  Tell me stories of the Bible!  Tell me what Jesus said!  Distract me!!

Yet, oh, if we just allow ourselves to trust.  Sit back without the need to understand the mechanics, knowing fully that the Great Pilot will take us to where we need to go.  The sights we see if we die to ourselves, letting go of the need for certainties, the dogmaticism, the DOING to find peace, we’re brought to destinations beyond our imagination.  Destinations we’d probably not ever dreamed of being.  Seeing sights beyond our comprehension.

Find your own way to fly, whatever makes you comfortable.  Don’t allow others to dictate your travel.  Even if you hate flying, there’s the bus or train.  It’s slower, more sights on the way….what’s the hurry?

Happy travels. 🙂

Create in Me

…..a clean heart, O God

and renew a right spirit within me

Cast me not away from Thy presence

And take not Thy holy spirit from me

Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation

And renew a right spirit within me.

I’ve always loved this song sung in church – so much that I made it my screen name, the name coming to me in a dream when I’d wanted something to reflect something about me.  At the time, it was not only the song I loved, but it also reflected the creative soul I have within.

It’s strange that I love this song so much because the words have always rubbed me the wrong way!  It sends the message that I hear from the traditional church pews that says “You are a sinful being!” “You need a savior to absolve you from your wickedness!”  Surely, I have made some mistakes in my life, as we all have, but I believe with every ounce of my being that we are created as Good.

So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.~ Genesis 1:27

A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God ~1 Corr 11:7

…and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. ~ Eph 4:24

So this focus on being sinful, bad, wicked has always sent fingernails down the chalkboard of my soul.  Even the message on Ash Wednesday “You are dust and dust you shall return,” seems to suggest you are nothing and are doomed to nothing without the saving grace of Jesus as your personal savior.  Perhaps it’s a message to keep us connected to the church; that we need saving from our core wickedness and are therefore dependent on attending and supporting.

What if we knew instead that we are One in the Spirit, the entire creation, not just us as humans, who are interconnected with one another on various micro and macro levels.  This is what emergent quantum scientists tell us.  We share the same molecules with all; all through our seen world and into the cosmos.  Indeed, that we are made of stardust!  One in the creator, in the spirit.  What hope! What a sense of eternal community and power that is present always. Not just when we repent our sinfulness and come crawling back to the Father for forgiveness with our tail between our legs.

Certainly, there are times in our life for that.  Sin, however, has come to mean to me a focus away from what is in harmony with your spirit – or God or Shekinah or Higher power.  It’s the rat wheel of life, our racing around each day to fill it up, our egos that tell us we need to have more, be more, the activities we choose to stuff in the cracks that are spilling out pain, insecurity, stress.  And surely, when unaware of what we are doing, when our eyes are turned away from our Spirit, it can cause us to do some appalling acts.  But that is not who we ARE.  We are not wicked people.  We are made in the Creator’s image.  We are human.  Which means that our egos and self centeredness get in the way all the time, until we awaken, open our eyes once again, and turn to our center.  Our spirit.  Further, the Eternal does not “cast us away” or take our spirit from us – we do!  When, in being human, we jump back on the busy wheel of life.

So this song, this song I love so much that I was given the name in a dream to depict my creative soul now says to me:  Keep my eyes turned to the Eternal so that I may be awakened again from my blindness in human living.  Help me keep seeing You, refocusing my sight so that I may be restored in the fullness of Your creation!  Help me to remember I am One with You.  Indeed, made of stardust….and returning to stardust every time I turn my focus to my center in You.

Mirrors

As I age, I notice that I either spend obsessive time in front of the mirror grieving over the changes I see, or racing past them in my attempt to hide from the jiggles and rolls that I can’t possibly accept.  It doesn’t take me long to widen that into my psyche, noting my personality being the type that tends to navel gaze and analyze to a point close to narcissism (hence, the blog!) and others, I’ll hide my eyes in denial of the shadowy characteristics I can’t possibly accept within.  Isn’t the Universe grand for bringing your self smack dab in a mirror image of yourself while in angst over the behaviors of others?

My husband and I just took a “romantic” trip away together over Valentine’s Day weekend, and ended up with the stomach flu.  What was intended to be a sensual time away with loving moments in bed, ended us in sharing the bed, yes…but running back and forth to the toilet, hoping the need didn’t arise at the same time between us!

Though being sick in luxurious surroundings of a Ritz Carlton on the cliffed coastline of California is a first-class substitute, although it’s toilet paper pricey, it’s nothing like the comforts of home.  I just wanted to get home, hopefully without the need to race and wait within the plane’s washroom line, but just get me home.   Home to my comfy bed, to my puppies, even to my aloof teenage daughter, feeling a sense of missing her like I don’t normally in our trips away.  In retrospect, I can see that it’s wrapped up in that feeling of “needing your mommy” when you feel so poorly, and God bless my daughter, she had no idea the shoes she had to fill upon our return.

Walking into the house, she was engaged in a television show, so her back was facing me.  I wrapped my arms around the back of her chair, giving her a warm hug hello telling her how much I missed her.

“Fine.  I missed you too, now please go away.  I don’t want to get sick.”

“My head is turned away from you,” I respond, holding on a bit longer than I know she’s comfortable.

“OK!  Please, go away!”  Not once did she turn around from her show to ask how we were.  Acknowledge our return.  Or even in her self-centered teenage mode, turn to tell us about what had happened in her week away from us.  Nothing.

I was so hurt.  Angry, frustrated with her damning teenage self, and oh so hurt.  I needed her in that moment and she failed to the task.  I have enough understanding that I could justify it away by acknowledging that this might be lodged in her own anger at us for abandoning her once again to travel when we’d so recently been gone.  Or that it might have had nothing at all to do with us; that she’d had a horrible day, or that she is still dealing with the recent on again/off again break-up with a boyfriend.  But I was still sooo terribly hurt.

I connected it to feelings as a child towards my mother in what I felt to be a lack of true appreciation/acknowledgement in me.  I was the paramount good girl and yet it never seemed to be good enough for her.  I was always criticized in one way or another; she never gave me the response I needed that I felt to be genuine and true and loving.  And here, in my agonizing daughter, I find as a mother I jump through hoops for her.  Bend over backwards to be the understanding and loving mother my own was not, and she doesn’t appreciate it.  She doesn’t SEE me.  I would LOVE me as a mom.  I am not reactionary, judgemental, controlling.

And BOOM…..it occurred to me how reactionary, judgemental and controlling I was being with this personality that I just couldn’t accept.  Here, in my jumping through hoops, I was trying to make her into the daughter I wanted and needed.  My mother too, doing all I could to control her into the mother I needed.  And not accepting of who she was – maybe not permanently, but who she was in the moment.  Ugh.

Not a pretty sight, but OH so enlightening.  Perhaps my daughter doesn’t feel accepted for who she is today, that I’m doing EXACTLY as my mother did in ways that are so tightly covered in my psyche I’m not even aware until pushed to my brink.

It’s in those times, well in retrospect anyway <shy grin> that we can be thankful for the lessons they bring.  And thankful that Shekinah, my God within, keeps me aware so that I can be awakened once again.  Dammit.  Hello mirror.

Strength

Today I’m thinking of the phrase, “It’s always greener on the other side of the fence” but is it?  As I look across my fence, I see a lot of deadened gardens; friends or family that are suffering or in pain.  Watching a child suffer from mental illness and dealing with the behavioral backlash on a daily basis, being an athlete then losing your physical abilities to illness, losing a child shortly after birth, or the death of a young husband.  As I sit listening to their stories, on the surface I feel blessed for my own life, seeing that my struggles are just pebbles in my shoe.  But even moreso, I am entirely amazed with their power to overcome. The news comes on, and I hear worse tragedies of a child being raped by a family member, incomprehensible accounts of abuse to women and children or tales of villages being ransacked by soldiers leaving children as orphans without homes.  It is unfathomable to me how these people live through this pain and suffering, wondering if in the same shoes I’d ever be able to survive it.   How they can possibly move through it day to day and rise above it.  Personally they might not be progressing in a manner that they’d hope, but they steadfastly move forward all the same.

And then I look back at some of my own struggles in the past, though merely a mouse in comparison to their monsters, and I see that somehow we *do* rise to what life calls forth to break us.  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthen me.” ~Phillipians 4:13.  I’ve always loved this quote as I believe it with all my heart, but now I’d also include through   Budda, or the Universe, or Mother Earth, or even if you have no namable God, leaning on the strength you recognize in a friend – as I believe God exists in us all.  One thing I truly believe with all my heart, is that if we lean or reach out to this Higher Power, all will be well in the end.  “And if it’s not well, it’s not the end!”

In others’ stories, I hear their shame for their tears or anguish or curses.  For some strange reason, while experiencing pain we’d like to think that we can do it without complaining, or crying out, or just being downright flippin’ angry.  Or when we’re faced with the monster, that we won’t feel petrified, shaking in our boots as we shoot our arrows.  But I’ve come to accept that feelings are a normal and healthy process in the journey; it doesn’t define our strength or bravery.  Our actions, our ability to move forward despite the doom, is a more accurate defining moment.

They say we’re only given what we can handle – which again, has me quivering in my skivvies in fear of what I might be thrown.  But I emphatically believe we rise up to meet what we have to.  We all have the power, the resilence if we look to that Source.  Learning and gaining much on the way.  We really don’t know our own power….it’s there when we ask for it, if only for that moment or the day.  It’s there.

Yes, our cup runneth over; sometimes overwhelmingly so.  Doesn’t it seem sometimes like ALL the shit hits the fan at once?  Like you can’t possibly handle it all at once, never good enough with it all coming at you like an automatic air gun?  I trust that you catch what you’re supposed to catch at the time; the remainder will come back around if you need to address it later.

So I say a prayer of gratitude and also a prayer of awareness to my dear friends who are in pain — you don’t realize your own strength.  You have power beyond measure.  Keep leaning.  You can do all things through the Holy One who strengthens YOU.

I have faith in us.

Housework

This morning in a writing group we were asked to jot a few lines about housework. I wrote:

Housework-  Bleh.  Tedious, empty, mundane, boring time!  I hate it!  Oh, the delight of a nice clean house, everything in its place with a clean mountainy scent.  But no, I don’t want to do it – let the cleaning fairies come in and whisk their magic wand.  Or on a less mystical view – pay the glorious housekeepers who value this work and say a prayer of blessing that you CAN!  No, I’d much rather be dreaming, playing, writing, convening with nature than to stagnate myself with the emptiness of empty drudgery.  They call me a homemaker?  Beh – no!  Making a home for *me* is so much more than the physical chores of the house.

On further reflection, I wonder what makes me so against it.  My attitude about it seems to suggest that I’m somehow *above* it all, that my life is about something more weighty than the dreary routine of chores.  My life needs to have a deep sense of purpose and meaning to all that I do!   Housework only brings me back to my childhood in which I remember a mother that held her thumb to my hide to enforce my responsibilities of making my bed, cleaning the kitchen, ironing the sheets (really? the SHEETS?!)  It makes me realize that this really is a fight for control and my freedom.  A freedom to BE who I BE who is not about details and order and organization (though I can admit I function better in that mode).  Don’t pin me down to this!  This time of my life is a cry out in support of my damaged masked little girl of yesterday that bowed to others’ expectations of me, and I will not, will NOT, succumb to what I consider to be something I’m not.

Ha.  How’s that for control, even though I’d beg your pardon that I’m sincerely NOT a controlling person! <shy grin>  With humble acknowledgement,  I realize that this is all about discipline – something I’m not so good at.   I’m not good at persistence and follow-though.  I have many great ideas that start with a gusto then peter out in the forgotten dust and boredom with yesterdays dreams.  Honestly it’s one of the fears that I have in starting this public blog -that I’ll not follow through and write each day.  That I’ll not have anything wise or pithy or humorous to share.  That I’ll somehow end up disappointing myself or another in my writings.  Discipline, the backbone of any new challenge is something I resist on the tails of my butterfly wings flitting off with the rush of the wind.

And perhaps that’s where I need to work in this Lenten season.  To recognize my gifts, yes, but also to cultivate my weaknesses.   Certainly not in an effort to make myself into someone I’m not destined to become but to honor the gift in our opposites as well. That journey, to prod and knead the unrisen bread of those struggles, are a gift in itself if I remain open to it.   I’ll never become more disciplined by loudly claiming like an angry toddler stomping her foot that I’m NOT.  Perhaps leaning on that Power Beyond to help me through this struggle can help me realize a stronger, more fuller sense of who I’m meant to be.

It won’t push me to make my bed today, but it is keeping my fingers to the keyboard.  At least for today.

Lent

What’s it mean to you?

Growing up, Lent was never a meaningful time in my life despite being a Presbyterian-church-going family.  And despite Lent being a Christian tradition, I don’t recall much discussion about it within the Lutheran church either.  Basically, it’s been a food/drink challenge: forgo eating some sweet enticement or alcohol for the 6 weeks before Easter, at which time you again can act like a glutton.   Sort of like a short duration New Year’s resolution that you might be able to actually attain because of a definite start/stop line.  But no real focus on anything lasting; just a challenge on giving up some temptation.  Why?  Well, I’m not sure that’s ever been talked about in church, Christian though it may be – if anything, it might be a remembrance to Jesus’ fasting for 40 days in the desert and the sacrifices he gave before his resurrection celebrated at Easter.  A remembrance to Jesus’ actions….not really focused on us at all – or at least not in my understanding within the church pews.  Again, I remind you, it’s never really talked about specifically.

It wasn’t until last year – probably half way through Lent – that it occurred to me how much time I waste in empty activities that distract me from spiritual wholeness.  Namely, my time on Facebook, but I could also point out my hours in front of the TV every evening watching reality TV.  I could easily justify my Facebook time as a way of staying in contact with childhood friends and Canadian relatives as I’d never be able to do without.  I could also argue that the 5-6 simultaneous games of Words with Friends keep my brain active and healthy.  I could also pardon my delight in reality TV as nothing more than a genuine love for others’ successes, or finding value in the ongoing life lessons that outrageous behavior some reality shows offer.  But really, who am I kidding?  I’m the great escape artist when feeling boredom or stress or any other uncomfortable feeling.  Despite being  a person who is drawn to activities that promote spiritual awareness and wholeness more than most of my friends, I’m still preoccupied by long hours of meaningless activity during my day.  Perhaps it’s a need for balance, because I do have this depth of intensity to my personality, there’s also a demand for decompression.

Yet, it’s this time away from this empty filler time or daily distractions that is so vital to solitude.  To gain that awareness, understanding and closeness with your Higher Power, God, or deeper wiser self.   Anne Morrow Lindbergh in Gift from the Sea suggests that simplicity = grace , not in the religious sense per se, but meaning”internal and external harmony”.  She suggests that the gifts of a beach vacation, the simplicity demanded of beach living creates an unexpected treasure of solitude that we need to instill in our daily lives. In fact, that’s not a new theory – all the spiritual gurus, yogis, and religious leaders throughout the centuries would say the same thing.  Simplicity, stillness = peace.  And yet our western culture still pushes us to do, do, do.  Time is money.  “What do YOU do?”  Time spent in stillness is not profitable.  It’s considered wasted time so that we’re feeling guilty if we didn’t do anything productive during the day.  I know that I feel my best when I’ve actually made a list (atypical for me) with the added bonus of managing to cross everything off by the end of the day.  To do….nothing, possibly having whittled it away playing in my craft room, though quite enjoyable, makes me feel a bit of guilt for having done….”nothing”.   And yet, there’s such a sense of peaceful solitude and pure joy that I can’t create while involved in anything on those reluctant lists.

The simplicity of an earlier time draws me.  I remember an old episode of Oprah in which she and Gayle joined volunteers on a reality show that simulated Pioneer Life.  While comical, I loved the demand for more communal living; for the family to help each other and spend more time together in shared, social activity.  I felt that same draw when watching her recent interview of a Hassidic Jewish family that eschew all modern modes of technology on The Next Chapter.  I can see how much our culture, in our ever widening circles of communication and connection has not served us in becoming closer……it’s made us more and more fragmented.  And interestingly, though I stubbornly hold strong to the value of individuality and  independence, as well as having the modern choices and opportunities that encourage the same, I can admit that it instigates feeling more…….alone.

I also love the idea of a vision quest or even a contemplative retreat.  Certainly, the thought scares me at the same time….what would I do with all that time?  Left alone to our own thoughts, without the distraction of TV, radio, friends, family, parental responsibility, what might enter our minds?  I feel I know myself pretty well, but what might emerge?  I’m so used to having every convenience on hand to ease my discomforts, what might I do if I had to sit with some emptiness, discomfort, or pain?  Yet I long for some drawn out time away from all distractions to gain a deeper, higher understanding and awareness, somehow feeling that the pain would be worth the gain.

I believe that’s what Lent is about – that wee bit of forced simplicity that creates a tiny simulated bit of suffering to help me draw on the strength and wisdom of God.   (At this point, I can only tackle a pull away from Facebook for 6 weeks, not reality TV, or the computer altogether!) Unfortunately, I think it’s the human condition that makes our ego feel we’re independently powerful and so we turn away from God when all is well.  It takes a bit of suffering and quiet for our relationship to grow.  For us to dig deeper.  Look within.  Seek.   To help me remain cognizant of that growth, it’s my intention again this year to write daily about my spiritual struggles and insights.

This has so much more meaning to me than giving up some random delight in remembrance of Jesus’ last days in sacrifice to the human race.  It brings me in fuller contact with the idea of the cocoon, weaving myself into a womb of solitude and reflection so that I can emerge at Easter with a deeper and more colorful, more God centered self.  I have such gratitude for the wisdom I’ve been shown and guided towards to have this understanding….even as I shake in the wake of giving up my beloved Facebook for 6 weeks.  Perhaps next year, I can work up to giving up TV at night!  Ack!