Friday, August 30, 2013

Wacky Sunday

"It’s not impermanence per se, or even knowing we’re going to die, that is the cause of our suffering, the Buddha taught. Rather, it’s our resistance to the fundamental uncertainty of our situation. Our discomfort arises from all of our efforts to put ground under our feet, to realize our dream of constant okayness. When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But when we can completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment, or awakening to our true nature, to our fundamental goodness. Another word for that is freedom—freedom from struggling against the fundamental ambiguity of being human." --Pema Chodron

When I started to write this post it was never a question of WHO I was going to quote, it had to be Pema. If Wacky Sunday were an official holiday, Pema Chodron would be its Patron Saint.

So what is Wacky Sunday, you ask?

It's a day in which everything one as a human being does, or sets out to do, goes sideways. Its a day in which up is down, black is white, right is wrong, and you realize - in a very clear and concrete way - that there are no rules and there is no ground. That this groundlessness of which Pema speaks is not hypothetical or true only for other people. It is true for all of us. It is true for you. It is true for ME.

Especially, it seemed, on Sunday.

I woke up on Sunday morning with a plan. My husband was taking the kids camping and I was going to have some "alone time." A whole day and night, and part of the next day, to do whatever I wanted, completely uninterrupted.

Except, not so much.

Turns out, my husband had to work and he was not going to be able to take the kids camping AND he needed to go into the office. Okay. Not what I was hoping for, but okay. He said would try to make it up to me later in the week by taking a day off.

I struggled. It was hard to come to terms, but come to terms I did and while my husband went to church I sat down to meditate. And, as often happens during meditation, I came up with a plan. (I know, I know, this is NOT what meditating is about, but sometimes it just happens!)

I would get ready and go to my church as soon as he got home and then take the kids to the pool later while he went to work. We'd have a relaxing day in the sun and then all have dinner together later.

I got up from my meditation feeling pretty pleased with myself and looking forward to our day. Then my husband came home.

He was all excited about his church service and wanted to tell me all about it. Uh-oh. I was "supposed" to be taking a shower and getting cleaned up and putting on my favorite dress and getting to church early so I could be relaxed and not rushed. I didn't have time for this. This was not in the plan!

But I didn't say that, I just listened, uncomfortably, to his story. And then, the kicker. He had decided that they WERE going camping after all. Time with his sons was more important than work (isn't this just what every mother wants to hear from the father of her children?) and they were going.

Uh, what?

Immediately my relaxing pool day is down the drain and I am now spending the day getting them ready to go camping. Packing the bags and the food and finding the flash lights and sleeping bags.....

And I am so pissed. How could he do this TO ME? How could he change the plan AGAIN? And I just wilted.

So we talked it through and he made it clear he didn't expect me to help and he was a little bit confused because he thought I would be happy they were leaving after all and now I was running late for church and had to go.

So I threw on my clothes and rushed out the door.

Driving to church I was looking forward to saying Hello to Michael, who sells the homeless newspaper on the highway off ramp near my church. I pulled up to the light at the off ramp and Michael wasn't there. He's always there. It's his spot. Where was Michael?

At the next light, I had not just the green light, but the green light AND the green arrow, nonetheless four pedestrians ambled across the street right in front of me as if I didn't even exist. Didn't they KNOW I had the right of way? (Despite my driver's ed instructors' admonitions that "the right of way is not something you have, it's something you yield," I still feel that sometimes I HAVE the right of way.)

At church I was talking to the usher outside the sanctuary, before the service started and someone shushed me. And when I went to walk to my car I walked the wrong way, despite parking in basically the same place every week.

By the time I got home, I was starting to realize that something strange was going on.

I walked in the door thinking no one was at home (my husband had called to say the kids' were at the neighbors and he was heading to the office to get a bit of work done before going camping) and I started relaxing in my head. I'd make lunch and have a cup of tea.....

Seconds later my older son comes up from the basement in tears. "Dad's making us go camping even though we don't want to and there's nothing we can do!"

I talk him through this, including two phone calls to his dad, two trips to the neighbors to talk to his brother, and a decision to once again bail on the camping trip and go to a baseball game instead. So I get online to buy tickets, and the internet stalls.

My husband comes home and says they'll just get tickets at the stadium. Can I drive them there?

Realizing I still haven't had lunch, I grab a snack and get in the car. I drop them off and then head home. Time seems to be standing still. I am hungry and just want to be home eating lunch and then collapse on the couch.

I start to think about the day and how it has gone and I can feel the resistance in my gut. Nothing has gone to plan today. Everything is just a mess. And I start to work with this idea. To try and turn it on its head.

If I am really living in the moment, really "going with the flow" then none of this matters because I have no expectations. But even when I try not to have expectations, I have expectations. I sit with this and I struggle against it. This is not the way I WANT things to be. This is not the way I want LIFE to be.

My gut is churning and wrenching at the thought of this. It's like I have been tased and I am lying on the ground, writhing in pain, trying to get away from the electrical current that is running through my body, but I can't escape it, it's in every atom and molecule of my being. This is how intensely I try and fight the reality of this day.

Nothing is how I want it to be or expect it to be today. White IS black. Up IS down. Right IS wrong. And that's just the way it is. I can choose to struggle against it, or I can choose acceptance. I can choose enlightenment. I can choose freedom.

And so I did.

When I got home instead of making lunch or a cup of tea and trying to get something done, I went into the bedroom, laid down on the bed and surrendered to the upside down nature of Wacky Sunday. I just let it be.

As soon as I did, the spell was broken. Wacky Sunday went back to being just another Sunday. I got up, made some lunch and ate it. All without being interrupted. I sat down to watch some television, and the internet worked.  White was white. Up was up. Right was right.

And I was grateful.

Grateful that Wacky Sunday was over and also, funnily enough, that it happened. Without Wacky Sunday I wouldn't have learned this: In the search for true enlightenment, we've got to change not only our thinking, but our language. No "shoulds," no "supposed tos", not even an "I'm going to."

WE don't know, we just don't know what's going to happen. And we've got to get comfortably - no, intimately - familiar with this basic truth if we want to have any hope of living a truly enlightened life.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wisdom from MLK, Jr

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, here are some of my favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes:

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." I think this is my favorite one, but the rest are pretty great....

"The means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek." If only every CEO in America lived by this rule....

"Whatever affects me directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the inter-related structure of reality." That's the Oneness, baby.....

And a new favorite from the radio coverage of the event today:

"Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service... You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love

Monday, August 26, 2013

Wisdom from Vera Aleith Galbreath

"Have you ever felt as if you just didn't want to live anymore? Everything seemed to go wrong and you felt sort of mistreated and abused. Good luck just wasn't meant for you. Well that's the time to take a walk. It is amazing what walking can do to a depressed spirit. You just walk it away so slowly, ever so slowly. You don't realize it is disappearing until finally you discover it is gone. Yes, gone, and oh, life is so wonderful." --Vera Aleith Galbreath

In the mail on Friday we received a program from the memorial service for Vera Aleith Galbreath. I knew as soon as I saw the envelope what it was, and I was grateful. Grateful that someone had taken the time to let us know of Vera's passing. (Or, more likely, that Vera had arranged for this.)

Vera wasn't a relative. Not really a friend. Or a neighbor exactly. But she was a presence in our lives ever since we bought our first house.

It was a small house, just off of a busy street, about a mile or so from an urban lake. Both my husband and I would run down and around the lake a few times a week. Right past Vera's house.

One day my husband saw her working outside and asked if she needed any help. As it turned out, she needed someone to make a dump run for her, and so we did. And that was the beginning. My husband gave her his number and told her to give him a call whenever she needed help.

She didn't call very often, but when she did we'd head over and lift or haul or move whatever needed lifting or hauling or moving.

After I had my first baby she would cut out interesting articles for me about parenting and send them in the mail, or hand them to me if we ran into each other on the street, as we often did.

When we moved from the neighborhood we kept in touch mostly by Christmas card and she called upon us for help less and less often over the years.

Eventually we stopped sending Christmas cards (not just to her, but pretty much at all) and the time between our contacts became longer and longer.

Every once in awhile though we'd receive a letter or - even more rarely - a call just to check in. And sometimes we'd see her, out walking, as we drove through the old neighborhood.

Walking and walking and walking.

She walked everyday. She walked everywhere. She walked all the time.

Once we saw her at eleven o'clock at night walking back from the lake over the freeway overpass. It startled us. She was far too old to be out all alone walking at night we thought. So we stopped to ask her if she wanted a ride, but she just kept on walking. Now I know why.

Here's another quote from her essay on the benefits of walking: "As you walk [at night] don't think of fearful and frightening things. Have a sense that nothing wrong could exist in such a peaceful atmosphere and that no harm can ever touch you, for there is no such thing." 

It doesn't surprise me that Vera knew this, knowing her, but it does surprise me a bit that she knew it as a young woman and that she lived it all her life. She didn't let age or darkness or distance scare her or keep her from doing what she wanted to do, what she knew she needed to do to be happy.

Goodbye Vera. We'll miss knowing that you are out there somewhere. Walking.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wisdom from Charles Fillmore

"All causes are essentially mental, and whosoever comes into daily contact with a high order of thinking must take on some of it." --Charles Fillmore

A little follow-up to Tuesday's post and another reason to meditate!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Other 1%

"The Ego needs 100% participation, if you use conscious awareness you can break the Ego's grip." --David Pond, speaking at East West Bookshop

We have heard a lot of talk about "the one percent," the wealthiest of the wealthy who often pay no taxes and enjoy privileges many of us don't even know to dream of. Friday night I heard about another one percent, a one percent that interests me a lot more, and that may even help some of us deal with the wealthy one percent, or at least our reactions to them.

This one percent is one percent consciousness, which, according to astrologer and metaphysical counselor David Pond, is all it takes to break the Ego's grip.

Think about it, in those moments where we are overcome by emotions of the Ego - greed, pride, lust, anger, despair, etc. - if we can just hang onto one percent of our consciousness, one percent of our positive thoughts, one percent of our connection to our Source, one percent of our presence - we can beat the Ego at its own game and save ourselves a lot of pain,

This talk was particularly appropriate for me because just a few nights prior I had been in the throes of a full Ego attack in a fight with my husband.

We had just started an elimination diet recommended by his ND so we were both a little hungry and suffering from withdrawal from wheat, caffeine, sugar, and dairy. I had been at home all day with the kids and was exhausted; he had been at work all day and was the same.

So he came home from work, said a perfunctory hello and went straight to bed for a two hour nap.

This kind of thing makes me angry on a normal day, but on this particular day I was livid. How dare he? Doesn't he think I am tired too? Doesn't he realize I am detoxing too? Doesn't he care that I made all the "special" meals for us today? Aren't we supposed to be doing this together?

I could go on...and on....and on....but you get the idea. I was MAD.

And instead of going into the bedroom and waking him up and asking him any one of these questions in a calm and kind voice, I went on the attack. It was a rant of epic proportions. And then I went to the guest room and slept by myself so I could rant some more alone in my head.

When I woke up in the morning we had a long talk and sorted it all out, but what I find really interesting is that when I was listening to David Pond's talk all I could think about was this night and my experience of it.

All night long I kept feeling that one percent of my consciousness fighting my Ego.

In my head it looks something like this: I am moving towards my husband with aggression and there is a little swoosh of energy trailing behind my head, trying to disconnect, trying to get my attention, trying to stay conscious. And then all of a sudden - WOOSH! - my Ego sucks it up and I am gone. Done. Cooked. Enraged. And it's all over for my conscious self at that moment.

Luckily for me years of meditation means that it comes back a lot sooner than it used to. In the middle of the night, towards early down I began to be aware of it again. Little thoughts like, "Maybe I could have...." or "If only I'd...." began to trickle in as I started to look at my part in our little domestic drama.

I know that I was trying that night to stay away from shame and blame and recrimination, but I just couldn't keep the Ego from taking over. I couldn't hold onto the one percent that night. Maybe next time I can. I know if I keep trying, eventually I will.

I leave you with one final quote from David Pond that might have helped me that night and that I hope will help you next time you are fighting with your Ego:

"Don't believe a thing your shameless mind comes up with when you are in a funky place." 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Wisdom from Ashleigh Brilliant

I have no idea who Ashleigh Brilliant is, but I like her style.

The urgency of fall is upon me. I am starting to feel the pressure of all that needs to be done. Lazy summer days by the pool are numbered and the truth of this is seeping in...

So I post this today to remind myself - and perhaps you as well - to slow down, take rest, and breathe. 

Sometimes it's the most urgent thing to do.

UPDATE: So, Ashleigh Brilliant is a man. You can find out more about HIS work and life here.

And, one of my favorite card readers, Lee-Anne Peters couldn't agree more. This week is all about the urgency of a complete rest.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wisdom from Karen Lindvig

"When we are present to our loved ones, LOVE shows up." --Karen Lindvig

Trying to be present in every moment with my sons this summer. It isn't always easy. There are many distractions, but I do so want LOVE to show up. So I keep on trying.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Wisdom from Thomas Merton

"The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them." --Thomas 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Going UNconscious

"Wherever you are, be all there." --Jim Elliott on

One of the things that came up for me when I started this 40-day meditation challenge was TV, one of the primary ways I go unconscious.

After a long day or a busy day or a large group social event I just need to relax my mind and unwind with something totally mindless. Sometimes a book will do the trick, but most often this is when I start to jones for some bad TV.

I know it's a problem (and also one of the reasons why I struggle so much with my kids' need for screen time - gotta love those mirrors!) because it is the primary way I escape from what is really going on. From my fears and my hurts, my frustrations and insecurities. I use TV, and to some extent books, to go unconscious, to black out and to escape my reality.

So I half-heartedly committed to "no TV" during these same 40 days. I lasted about 36 hours.

On Tuesday afternoon, my son asked me to watch something with him and I thought, "Well that would be okay. We'd be doing it together...." and the next thing I knew I was knee-deep in a new addiction (My Boys).

Last night, after our block party, the boys were watching a baseball game and I sat down to watch "just one episode."

An hour later I was sending my husband downstairs to do bedtime so I could watch "just one more."

Two hours later I was still watching.

At midnight I finally finished the series and turned the TV off.

Sitting in front of my computer contemplating my husband's 5:00 AM alarm I felt sick. And then I remembered Family Meditation.

I had completely blown off family meditation time! Sickness turned into shame and I realized just how unconscious I had gone.

So, here I am today with my screen time hangover - not all that unlike an alcohol hangover - I am exhausted, my eyes are puffy and I feel regretful of my actions last night.

What if, instead of diving into a show I had come home and spent 30 minutes in meditation? What if I had sat with my feelings of exhaustion and social anxiety and need to go unconscious instead of escaping them?  

So TV is obviously the next thing for me to work on. My next demon to put to rest, my next dragon to slay.

I am recommitting myself to "no TV" during these 40 days and I am going to try and use the time I am not zoning out to stay present, to stay conscious to my feelings, whatever they may be.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Signs, signs, everywhere signs

I love to look for signs - that I am on the right track, that the Universe is watching out for me, that I am loved.

Last week on our camping trip I found this sign at a restaurant we ate at. It's a straw wrapper, lying on the floor near our table, in the shape of a heart.

I took it as a sign that we were exactly where we needed to be and that the Universe was taking care of us. 

What signs do you see today?

Wisdom from Raul Julia

"...[L]ife itself is a meditation." --Raul

I have always loved Raul Julia, since I first saw him as the sensitive married man having sexual tension with Susan Sarandon while solving a murder in "Compromising Positions" (the cast of which also included the always entertaining Judith Ivey - I love her voice and demeanor so much I think I could watch her in anything).

He went on to play defense attorney Sandy Stern in "Presumed Innocent" and of course the beloved patriarch Gomez Addams in "The Addams Family." 

His was one the first celebrity deaths - in 1994 - to really effect me. He always seemed to have an undefinably quiet strength and grace. I get it now - he saw his life as a meditation - and that makes all the difference. 

I hope someday to be remembered for my quiet grace and thanks to Raul I have one more clue about how to do that. Thanks Raul. For everything.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Gift of Meditation

"Meditation is a gift that you give to yourself." --Rev Karen Lindvig and Sada Simran

This month, starting yesterday, our whole congregation at Seattle Unity is entering into 40 days of meditation.  Won't you join us? Commit to just 10 or 20 minutes a day of whatever meditation best suits you. Do it, then see what happens! Give this gift to yourself!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Wisdom from The Universe via Gregory Martin

"Expectations are premeditated resentments." --Unknown (as quoted in "Stories for Boys" by Gregory Martin)