Posts Tagged ‘Quakers’

April 8, 2018

Into the silence of my contemplation this morning, one hen crowed persistently for a full minute, announcing with great pride her performance of a natural body function – producing an egg. She seemed the epitome of egoistic mind, trying to claim credit for the creativity that flows out from Soul in what is essentially a natural function, if only we remove the veils that blind us to the true source of our being.

Mind seeks to be credited with accomplishments. Soul is happy being. My contemplation practice helps me stop trying to accomplish, and start living in the moment. Experience is teaching me that if I fully embrace the present the future will unfold exactly as it should. Memory nags at me (in my father’s voice) to plan ahead, prepare for what may happen so that it can be managed well when the anticipated future arrives – or if it does not because some unanticipated event intervenes. Ego wants to crow its skill at preparing for all possible events. Soul prefers to rest in the certainty that what is meant to be will be, and will be precisely what is needed for my continued growth and learning.

My balancing act as I try to reconcile the pull of these contrasting approaches to my days in turn brings my attention to the importance of finding a middle space, a meeting place in the current broader political environment. It seems truly dire, that only extremism is now acceptable. I see and hear no voice speaking of meeting social needs through compromise, cooperation, or (attention, dirty words coming) pragmatic horse-trading. If a bill in Congress does not cover all 10 demands of one party, then we are harangued to chastise our representatives who voted for the final bill that did include 7 of those demands. We are becoming a society of all or nothing, and the near certain result will be nothing, since a fundamental principle of democracy is compromise – something for everyone, rather than everything for only one group.

I am Caucasian (Anglo in local parlance). I have lived in northern New Mexico for 45 years, more than 25 of those years married to a now deceased Hispanic native of the state. I cook many cuisines including New Mexico/Spanish dishes. I have thought at times that I would like to open a restaurant, offering an eclectic variety of dishes. Now I wonder if I would be “allowed” to do so in our current partisan society, after I read that an Anglo was attacked for “cultural appropriation” when he opened a Mexican restaurant in an East Coast city.

When did appreciation for cultures other than one’s own become a hostile act?

What new societal taboo am I violating, wearing the traditional African dress my  husband brought back for me from his recent trip home to Cameroon?

Where are the voices speaking up for cooperation, coordination, and that all but forgotten Quaker concept of consensus?

At times I feel like a lone voice crying in a wilderness of partisan rants, but I know that feeling comes from a mental assessment of the outer world around me. As soon as I return my attention inward, I hear the warm voice of Soul’s sharing and caring, and know this to be Truth.  My lesson brought from the contemplation is that while partisan egos may crow, I can ignore them as I did the hen, focusing instead on living Truth as fully as I am able.  What is meant to be will be. I just need to do my part here and now.

Hope Less, Be More

November 12, 2017

I’ve been trying to decide if I can write this reflection meaningfully, without first including the whole of Leslie S. King’s latest post, “Give up Hope” on The Inner Adventure. Finally I’m just going to start writing, refer to the lines that are most relevant to me at the moment, and encourage you to read her poem/post in its entirety for the images that may be more salient for you.

I have felt, of late, like the proverbial round peg in a square hole. Inundated with unpleasant, incessant, noisy and noisome news, arrogant attitudes, and pestering financial demands to support every cause that is under attack, every candidate promising to make things different/better for someone, somewhere. Trying vainly to balance quiet reflection and inward focus with the persistent shaming of “we have to resist”, “we have to fight back”, “we cannot afford to be cynical, or tired, or detached” from what is happening in politics and society, on TV and in sports, in all the venues that take place out there in time and space.  

How does one not react to outrageous public events? How achieve living fully in the present, when that present is perceived to be so ugly that one’s only wish is to escape it, shut it out, be other-where?

Enter Leslie’s poem, and the line that has echoed in my mind as the key to reestablishing balance, “When you quit hoping the rain will stop, you pull out your umbrella.” 

Hope entraps the attention into the time track, pushing us into living for a future that, one hopes, will be different and better than the present one is experiencing. Hope immobilizes. When I hope the weather will be fine tomorrow so I can exercise outdoors, I do not seek means to exercise on this damp and windy day, indoors.

Sitting and reading, instead of exercising, I come across another line, this one in the novel The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny, an extraordinarily skilled writer I’ve only recently discovered. “I just sit where I’m put, composed of stone, and wishful thinking.” Two very different sources giving me the same message – wishing and hoping are not the positives they are so often presented as being.

A pessimist, expecting the worst, does not escape the immobilizing effect of seeming to live in an as yet unrealized future. An optimist can appear by contrast to be in a better space – but that is an illusion. Our minds may expect the best, or the worst, but in either case they are ignoring the present, the only moment where Being exists. In Being is freedom, wisdom, love, infinite capacity for anything and everything to manifest, and also an open umbrella, sheltering and protecting from adversity.

Knowing this Truth does not mean I am able to make it my everyday reality. I get caught, distracted, tugged into the noisy flow of mental concepts, wound tight and held fast by hope, anticipation, expectation – choose a word, they all essentially mean being dissatisfied with the present moment. Moment after moment of dissatisfaction turns into a life of regret, broken only rarely by flashes of contentment. Not how I want to perceive my life, whenever the end of it looms imminent and it becomes time to make final assessments.

The standard advice for countering discontent it to count blessings. Quite a fine thing to do, certainly, but still a mental exercise often accompanied by trips into the past and renewed hopes for the future. Back on the time track, no longer present with the moment that is here, now, pure essence without any overlay of mental constructs.

And they are so subtle, those mental constructs! What can be wrong with aspiring to______? (Fill in the blank with any achievement you choose). How conditioned we are, from earliest childhood, to think in future tense. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” we ask of even the smallest of nursery schoolers. Rarely do we say to them, “Are you enjoying what you are doing in this moment, right now, right here?”

The Brutal Telling also quotes Pascal, “Most unhappiness comes from not being able to sit quietly in a room.” Sitting quietly, mind still or focused closely on what is immediately present, is a surprisingly rare skill, at least in the busy West where “doing” is given so much more respect than “being” (Yes, I hear you singing dear friend, doo be doo be doo). Despite the spread of various forms of meditation and Buddhist practice, despite the growing number of participants practicing contemplation on my spiritual program MasterPath, despite the Quakers who do sit silently in a room seeking “that of God within”, the predominant direction of attention in our culture is outward, looking back to learn lessons, forward to aspire for a better life.

I can’t help but feel that we are, collectively, rushing directly toward unhappiness and away from the only place where lasting joy can be found – right here, right now, in this moment. I know what it is to feel the joy of now, I have learned to expand now into what the clock measures as periods of time, but I recognize how limited my skills are, how much I still have to learn if I wish – and I do wish it – to remain permanently in that joy, permanently in now.

The first new skill clearly involves learning to revel in, instead of fear, the instruction to “abandon hope all ye who enter here”. Abandon hope, not because I am doomed but for the positive goal of knowing my Self as divine in this moment, complete and splendid right here, right now. Safe and sheltered whether I am in glowing sun, or serenely under an open, shining, divine umbrella.

People Are Crazy

October 29, 2017

Why is the gap between knowing what to do, and doing it, at times the widest chasm in the world?

Keep your attention on that which you wish to see enlarge in your life, and it will materialize.

If something upsets or displeases you, take your attention off it and it will fade away.

Maybe not grow or fade as fast as one might wish. There may be an appearance of events meeting expectations, but it is only an appearance. A bit of time passing is sufficient to expose the compliant facade.

The poisonous state of public discourse (or lack thereof, replaced by lies, outraged resistance, screaming headlines and moral indignation) has lately infected my inner space, leaving me restless, angry, impatient and stressed to contain those negative feelings and not dump them out inappropriately on those around me. At the same time, I have been actively seeking to shed a lifelong dependence on anger as a motivator, and to replace that useful but difficult emotion with something less hard on my health.

This morning, I woke with a country music refrain echoing in my head. “God is great, beer is good and people are crazy.” In my contemplation, I filled in alternatives to the middle option, not being much of a beer drinker. Wine is good, tea is good, walking is good, friends are good, having an interesting job is good . Essentially the middle option became a counting of my blessings, followed consistently with the completing phrase “and people are crazy” so why should I expect life to go forward the way I would wish it to do?

Lately there have been comparisons to Watergate and the unraveling of the Nixon administration behind too many lies. I think a better comparison with present times lies in the 1950s and this nation’s hysterical fear of the bogeyman COMMUNISM which so infected society that it ruined careers, lives, public discourse and American foreign policy, leading the nation into the state of endless war that continues today. We are supposedly fighting a different foe now (Taliban, radical Islam, Boko Haram) but still basically having our fears exploited and our lives ended, for the profit of a few, and to enable that small group to delude themselves into believing they are powerful.

Santa Fe New Mexico Quakers recently held a gathering to explore feelings about race relations, and how the Meeting might make a positive contribution to the dialog about cultural sensitivity. Four questions were posed, and attendees gathered in groups to discuss their answers. I was not able to participate, but did write out my response to the questions.

1) As a child do you recall your family discussing how the world would treat you differently from your home environment?

2)  What was your first memory of being conscious of race. What happened?

3)  Has there been or what would have been the reaction of your family to an interracial partnership?

4)  How has a relationship or friendship with someone (of either the same race or of a different race) given you a different perspective on race?

My long essay can best be summarized as an exposition of the value of meeting others from a place of curiosity and respect, open to learning and thinking more about “what can I give” than “what can I get” from the encounter. Knowing how best to approach those whom one perceives as “different” does not, however, mean being able to implement that approach. Once again, there is that chasm between know what to do, and doing it.

God it great, mutually respectful dialog is good, and people will nonetheless seem to be crazy.


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