St. Augustine of Hippo

I read a book last week that may or may not count as cheating on the whole “giving up self-help books” thing.  The book is Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and I’ll just call it a memoir.  In one of the last chapters she included this quote, which I loved and took as validation  for my bleeding heart.

“Tend your sick ones, O Lord Jesus Christ;

rest your weary ones; bless your dying ones;

soothe your suffering ones; pity your afflicted ones;

shield your joyous ones.

And all for your love’s sake.”

The prayer was attributed to Saint Augustine of Hippo.

Politics Screw With Love

Almost everything that pokes at me and sends me out of my comfort zone these days originates from Facebook.  I think this window we’ve created for ourselves into the lives of people we know, but don’t really know forces us pull our heads out of the sand and admit that there are all kinds of other viewpoints out there.  If we can’t embrace each others’ differences, we at least have to learn to accept them because they exist and denying the existence doesn’t change that fact.

For me the button that is most often pressed is the one in charge of my politics.  I know that I am not the only one that could admit this.  Today a friend posted something that was so very true, yet left me feeling a mixture of angry, sad, and fearful.  I’ll try to paraphrase what she said:

Do you ever notice how when you find out someone’s political beliefs your opinion of them instantly changes and you no longer feel the same about them? It’s interesting that that happens.

Reading that made me sad because, after two years of being her Facebook friend, I know her political views and they are not the same as mine.  It was a reminder that the instant I am open about being liberal there are people who will think less of me and perhaps even write me off.  The comment made me angry because it means that all the respect and love that brings us to a relationship in the first place can be torn apart in one moment of categorizing ourselves.  Finally it made me fearful because, like I said before, it was a very true (for probably most people) statement.

I’ve been in both situations before.  I’ve been in the place where you’re hanging out with a new friend, you like them and see the potential for a great relationship and then the subject of politics come up.  They say something that lets you know their on your team and suddenly you feel those warm fuzzies.  In your mind you’re running through a field of daisies with some sweet song playing.  In one instant an alliance has been made, and yes, you like this person more than you did the moment before.  I’ve also been in the moment where the new friend expresses a political opinion opposite yours and the sound of a record scratch resonates in your head.  How could this be?  She/He can’t possibly be one of them!  And just like that, you’re not so sure you could ever find common ground with this right-wing/left-wing crazy (gotta love how our ego exaggerates)!

If there is something I want to transform about myself it is this reaction.  I want to see myself have these snap judgments and be able to take a time-out to pray for God to heal my thoughts and help me see what’s real.  In reality we all just want the same basic things.  We want to feel safe and loved.  It doesn’t matter what your political party affiliation is.  The negative reactions about our differences come from fear and that fear is used so well in politics to divide us, even from those we respect and love.

More and more these days I am finding friends on the other side of the fence whom I have so much in common with.  I am better for having them in my life and hope that in the future my political allegiances never keep me from connecting with people like these smart and loving ones I already know!

*A note to my FB friend if she is reading*

I hope I didn’t offend you by paraphrasing you here.  Thank you for inspiring me to look within at my own reactions.

Caren’s Click

I met Caren through the Owning Pink Posse and more specifically through Megan Harner’s “Journey to Health” blog.  We connected and cheered each other on in our spiritual and healthful paths.  In the following Caren shares how her “sexy journey” led to a big realization about what she really wants out of relationships and life. You can read more from Caren at her website The Perceptive Woman.

A Different Kind of Sexual Awakening

I don’t remember when I first discovered I was a sexual person perhaps it goes so far back that my forty-six year old brain has tucked it away for safe keeping. Suffice to say, I learned at an early age how to use my looks and sexuality to get what I wanted, or so I thought. I have been defining myself by my sexuality for years. Never really looking for love but more for the relationship or encounter of the moment was how I lived my life. I dated but the ultimate result ended up being a very hot sexual relationship more than a meaningful, mindful one.

I can remember being on an airplane in my late thirties and reading a book with a political subject and having a man look at me and say, “YOU are reading that book?” As if to assume that me; with my big breasts, perfectly manicured toes, perfect hair and makeup, could not have a brain. At the time, I thought it was funny, giving me more reason to look at men as a game rather than a partnership.

I didn’t realize this was what I had been doing until, I saw something about an ex boyfriend on the internet. He and I had dated and could have gotten married. But he broke my heart and I never fully recovered. It was in that moment that I used my insecurities to give way to a lifestyle without love but filled with plenty of physical contact.

No longer was I looking for a relationship, that idea left me in my late twenties, I was more about casual dating. No man was going to get the best of me. I was not going to be hurt again. But it was the underlying current of the past that I finally realized why I was using sex as a means to find love. I let myself be defined by my circumstances at the ripe old age of twenty-one. My pattern went on for years and then as easily as it began, it stopped for a while. I was in a self imposed sexual drought. I put on weight so that no one would want me. I became best friends in the gay community and set out on a sexless road. That lifestyle came to a crashing halt several years ago when I met one of my latest ex-boyfriends.

He was a catalyst for me to be sexy and sexual again, but the reality was the pattern was about to repeat itself. After he and I dated for a short time, we decided to just be friends with benefits and so it went for another year. I finally had enough of him and embarked on internet dating, where I went on countless dates. I met so many men, but they just wanted to take me home. I didn’t go. I finally met someone online and embarked on a relationship that was not all about the sex. There were real feelings there.

So fast forward about two years and I have finally realized how much I allowed my sexuality to not be sacred. I put myself into that box and am now climbing out of it slowly. I no longer want to be seen as a sexual being, but a woman, with beauty and brains. I cringe at the men that look me up and down. I know men will be men and they are visual creatures but I have yet to come to terms with it.

What I have come to terms with, is me. I am a vibrant, beautiful, and yes, sexy woman. I am smart. Beauty, brains, and sexy all rolled into one. I have been fighting the system and not dressing the part of the sexy woman, going so far as to not do my hair or makeup, all in the name of hiding. But what I am realizing is that I am hiding from me. I am re-learning that sexy is about confidence not just sex. I can be sexy and smart and still be respected, not just by men, but by myself. It has been a re-birth of sorts for me to awaken to a new kind of sensual and sexiness. The kind of sexiness that is just for me and whomever I feel like sharing it with. I share it because I want to, not because I have a need to prove anything. I find my validation in other ways. Life is so much sweeter when you find what you have been searching for all along is inside you. I want that version of me to emerge. I will now only engage in the physical when it is for me and my partner. No hidden agenda, just love. This sexy woman is now looking for love in all the right places.

I Am The Way

The following post is written in response to a request from a friend.

I think that at our core we all have the same purpose in this life.  We know we have a purpose and we think it’s a number of things.  We go to school, get training or education, we find jobs, get into relationships and marry or co-habitat with those partners, we have children, we buy houses and cars, travel and take up causes.  Sometimes we are lucky enough to do everything we wanted to do and yet we find ourselves still feeling like we haven’t achieved our purpose.  That’s because we probably haven’t.  What I believe we were put here to do is to know and experience God, which is the underlying love and order behind everything in this world.

That brings me to the title of this post.  Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”  Where does that statement fit in with my belief that we were all put here to experience God (again as the underlying love and order behind everything).  I know a lot of people who would say that they are experiencing God by accepting Jesus as their savior and worshiping him.  To me that’s just a less devious way of breaking the first commandment.  Jesus was a son of God just as I am a daughter of God.  He was not God, but he did what most of us will never do and that is came to fully know and experience God.

All true mystics and spiritual teachers, no matter what religion they label themselves, will agree that Jesus was one of the most God realized individuals.  He reached the level where he was living from that place within himself that is Divine.  The human Jesus was cast aside when he reached enlightenment.  So there are two ideas as to what he meant when he said “I am the way.”

The first is that he was speaking not as Jesus, but as the Christ.  Perhaps he had his hand over his heart as he spoke and was emphasizing that the path to God is found within the heart.  Maybe if we’d been seated at his feet he would have reached down and touched our hearts.  I imagine Jesus as a very humble man, I can’t imagine him standing on a pedestal and insisting that the only way to meet God is to come to him first.

The other idea which was presented in Paul Ferrini’s series is that Jesus wasn’t saying come to me, but instead he was saying to follow my lead.  Do as I do, live the way you see me living, practice forgiveness, keep an open heart, and love even your enemies.  The more you live from that heart space, where love and forgiveness preside, the more you are living as God.  The “way” is not to come to Jesus and hope that he will do something for you, but allow his actions and words to lead you to do something for yourself.

My spiritual journey is all about seeking the God experience.  And to me that experience is felt as love and comfort.  When I can shift an angry reaction to a loving one, I am connecting with God.  Jesus paved a pathway that I can walk along.  I can seek his guidance through books and meditation.  I can do the same with other mystics and spiritual teachers that are no longer here in human form.

Ultimately it is all about what makes each of us individually experience the love (God) which is present in us and all around us all the time.  If believing Jesus is God allows that love to fill you up than that is your truth and your way.  For me, I am comforted to know that following the example Jesus set will bring me closer to knowing God from the inside out.

Why Are We Doing This Anyway?

Mandy's Chapel at Camp Weed where the Uniteen retreat was heldThe first weekend of October, I went on a Uniteen retreat.  Uniteens is the program for middle-schoolers in Unity churches.  My church just got our Uniteen program started up again and I am one of the leaders.  I must admit I had doubts about going on the retreat.  I have been and will be traveling a lot more than I usually do and this trip at moments felt like too much.  I ended up going though and it was AMAZING!!

From the moment we broke out into our “family groups” and I got to know some of these kids I was just in awe.  These kids were the most open, respectful, fun, confident, compassionate, and well-adjusted people (I said people, not kids) that I’d ever encountered.   The weekend was absolutely joyous!  Out of about 70 kids I only noticed a handful that were not completely with the program (which is all about love) and even those few kids had moments of being loving.

When I think back on my own church experience in middle school, I don’t remember this kind of loving atmosphere.  I remember never quite fitting in and moments of wanting to crawl under a rock or out of my skin.  On this retreat, even the kids who “didn’t quite fit in” were thrilled to be there and seemed to love every minute of it.

In Unity we stress the power of making time for meditation and silence.  We also encourage looking for God everywhere and in everyone.  Kids are introduced to meditation in the Unikids program and those practices continue.  With that being said, of course meditation was part of the retreat.  On Saturday night we did something called a Night Walk.  We were instructed to link hands and walk the path through the woods in complete darkness and silence to the chapel.  I was thrilled by this.  I just knew it would be such a powerful spiritual experience.  Instead, I had three kids behind me who just wouldn’t stop chatting.  I shhhed them 3 times before giving up.  I wasn’t going to break my silence to actually talk to them.

As we neared the end of our walk one of them said “why are we doing this anyway?”  It was then that I realized I hadn’t been spending the weekend with miniature enlightened souls, but kids.  The fact is kids are kids and they just want life to be as fun and easy as possible.  True spiritual understanding doesn’t typically come until you’ve been in the game for a very long time.  We can’t expect our children to receive divine revelations during meditation or to even understand the true meaning of scripture.  But we can give them tools that can help them navigate life and perhaps lead to spiritual growth later on.

What I love about Unity kids is that the tools they have been given seem to make them better able to take responsibility for their lives and choose positive ways of living and being.  They carry no guilt, shame or burdens from being told they are miserable sinners.  What they do carry is a divine light within them that they are well aware of.  They know that what they put out into the world comes back to them.  It seems they at least shoot for putting out love.  They know that their thoughts matter and they seem to think in a positive manner.

I often wonder about the relevance of church and Unity in my daughters’ lives.  My girls love to go to church, but is it really necessary?  After attending the retreat, I realized I should and will make it a priority for them.  Mark pointed out that maybe the kids were good because they come from good families (Unity people are pretty awesome).  That is true too.  I could teach all of this stuff to my girls at home but there is something really powerful about being with a group that proves this kind of love, acceptance and positivity really does exist!

None of us Really Know…Do We?

I just finished reading the book Silence of the Heart by Paul Ferrini.  It talked a lot, like most of the spiritual books I read, about the inward journey being the place where you find your truth.  All of the outward stuff just forces us, if we wise up, to ask those inward questions.  When we bump up against something and it makes us go “OWIEEEEE!” we ought to ask ourselves why.  That is where we get real answers.  That is how we move forward on our unique path to enlightenment.

I went to my grandmother’s funeral a few weeks ago.  She was a wonderful woman, who lived a long life and had a lot of experiences.  I went to the service hoping to cry and laugh at the stories told about her.   But I also knew since she attended a baptist church the sermon would go hand in hand with the celebration of her life.

It’s been a long time since I’ve attended a church like that.  I got bumped…big time.  In a way I thought maybe I’d conjured up and exaggerated the message, that maybe it was bitterness that caused me to remember only one particular aspect.  But no.  The only message I took a way from Mema’s funeral sermon was:

If people don’t ask Jesus into their hearts they are doomed to Hell.  It doesn’t matter how good they are, all that matters is they allow Jesus to save them.  All the other religions are wrong…end of discussion.  And since Mema had Jesus in her heart, the only way to see her again is to take Jesus into your heart.

I was squirming in my seat.  My stomach was doing flips.  A lump was forming in my throat.  I wanted to scream.  I wanted to run.  That is how I felt as I listened to the minister speak.  That is what I felt as I was supposed to be honoring my grandmother’s life.

So why did it bug me?  Why does this particular bump hurt so badly time and time again?  First off, this is my family’s religion.  This is their way of life.  For a girl who did her best to be pleasing (although I’m sure some might argue this), it really sucks to know that your family’s religion and beliefs tell them over and over that all the good I’ve done amounts to nothing.  I can spend years teaching inner city school children and serving food at the homeless shelter but I’m still going to burn in Hell with the worst of them.  In the end it only really matters that I’m on the right team.  And I’m not.  In ways I wish I could go back but I would be deceiving everyone if I did.

Which brings me to my next point.  There are so many people I want to shake and say “don’t you see how much of this life, this moment, this world you are missing out on by living a dream.”  We build up walls between us and our brothers and our sisters, so that we can stake claim to some plot of land in the afterlife that may or may not exist.  I am as convinced that they are wrong as the minister and his congregants are convinced they are right.  So I have built my own walls.  I have chosen to love my brothers and sisters less.  I’ve been prideful and smug.  I’m no different than the man that smiled and told a roomful of mourners that unless they followed his ideas they would suffer in a fiery Hell forever.

The truth is we don’t know.  None of us actually know what happens when we die.  We don’t actually know if there is a God.  We take it by faith.  We look at our own personal life experience and if we see something that appears as God there we make a choice to believe.  The books we read are all just experiences shared by other people just like us.  It is not my place to tell you where or how you should find God.  It is not my place to tell you that your God is not the right God.  I should simply love you for having the courage to seek at all.  And I hope to be loved for those reasons as well.

Maria’s Click

Maria found my blog during the break.   Like me, she is also a fan of the teachings of Joel S. Goldsmith.  She sent me the following story of an amazing healing in her life.  She told me in her email that since writing out her story she has lost twelve pounds.  I really believe that miracles can happen when we seek to heal starting with our thoughts and feelings towards ourselves.  Maria’s story is evidence of that.  You can find Maria here and here.

This summer we remodeled our bathroom and we got a full length framed mirror for over the vanity for free.  Since we already had one there, we decided to use it vertically in our bedroom.  I haven’t had a full length mirror for many years.  I was so excited as we mounted it on the wall and I saw the reflection from the window right across and the effect of brightness and openness it was giving to the room!  But the next morning, when I rolled out of the bed and started getting ready for work, I stood in front of the mirror and was so disappointed by seeing a figure I could hardly recognize.  The twelve or so extra pounds immediately snapped at me, my grays stuck out, fluffy arms out of tone, a “life saver” of belly fat, some orange peel on my thighs, blotches on my legs and a height loss (I swear I was taller before)!

A few thoughts ran quickly through my mind.  I haven’t had a professional facial in over fifteen years.  I have no time for working out.  I wish I had money to join one of those weight loss programs.  Oh, I don’t even know what to do to look better-no wonder why I don’t get compliments anymore! As those thoughts and more downfalls like them were spinning in my head, I decided to sit down in prayer and visit my only source of beauty-Soul’s Beauty Salon-for an extreme makeover.

I quieted down, started taking a few breaths, and as I did that I thought, I come to Thee for inspiration.  And as I was “inspiring”, the thought came to me that I invite in the Spirit of Truth that purifies and rejuvenates all things in me.  A sense of peace instantly took over and a flow of refreshing thoughts started occupying me.

“Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest though?”

“Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.”

In that state, I dived into the “FOREVER 23” anti-aging formula:

“The Lord IS my Shepard I shall not want!”

“He restoreth my soul!”

“He annointed my head with oil.”

Right then, I felt I was sitting in Christ’s clinic for a complete and permanent makeover.  I felt mother Love, gently combing my full of strength hair.  I felt my body was full of brightness and grace.  I felt strong, light, and radiant.

“Love restoreth my soul!”

Then the thought about fat reduction came to me.  In the question “what is fat?”  Instantly the thought False Assuming Thoughts or Fake Appearing Thoughts came to me.

There I understood that all belief about fat was an illusion and it was up to me to reduce and eliminate it.  In the thought about extra weight I started thinking what extra weight can mean and then I realized all the “extras” I was carrying for a long time:  thoughts that people have wronged me, thoughts that people have hurt me, self-justification about this that happened 30, 20, 10 years ago or yesterday, guilt and blame.

Right there, as I was sitting in the makeover room, I felt I stood in front of a “burning bush” and mentally threw all the weights I was ignorantly carrying for years.  I saw forgiving every person that abused me since I was a baby, letting go of every sad memory, forgetting all history of me, releasing all resistance for being new and ageless, erasing my story-whater that might be, burning the past and pausing the agony of the future.

I threw in my complaints about the government, the pollution, the dogma, the economy, the war, the pain.  I felt I was doing this for me and for the world.  And as I was doing it for the world, I was doing it for me.  The fire became stronger and stronger as I was throwing more and more things of mortal history and collective thought, but strangely enough the atmosphere felt clearer and clearer, brighter and brighter and me and my body lighter and lighter.  There I knew I was standing on holy ground.

Then I felt going through an exfoliating process, a sense of getting rid of layers and layers of erroneous, heavy thinking concerning all mankind.  That moment I had a glimpse of Jesus transfiguration experience, the understanding of what might mean to be transfigured in the light of Christ Truth.  My figure felt a slim and thin silhouette dancing in the glow of the brightest light.  I felt shaped up in perfection by Soul and sizzled in holiness by Love.  The feeling of beauty was overwhelming.  The sense of grace was un-measurable.  The actual form of me was meaning-less but never the less quiet beautiful and ever refreshed, standing in different heights.

When I went to work that day, I was astounded when the very first question I was asked was “Have you lost weight?”  Somebody else looked at my flat heels and questioned why I looked taller.  And somebody else said “Gee, you look gorgeous today, did you have a makeover or something?”