Too Great a Burden

by maureen

mlklovehate

 

The other day I was reflecting on just how easy it is to hate, and how very difficult, how much work it can be to love. This was a few days before the holiday in which we remember Martin Luther King, Jr., so subsequently I’ve seen some of his quotes, including the one above, posted on Facebook. It re-energized my reflections about love and hate. I asked myself if I was strong enough to “stick with Love” and send Hate on its way.

 

I have to admit to doing some serious hating lately. I hate much of what has been happening in our country – and in our world. I hate to see Hate becoming almost a religion for so many people. I sometimes find myself on the verge of joining that congregation: hating certain people who, in my judgment, are too filled with hate to be tolerated. They’re beyond redemption, I tell myself. They are unlovable, I think, self-righteously. (Of course, at saner moments I also believe no one is unlovable; we are all children of Love.) Why can’t they see the world through the lens of Love, crystal_rainbow_window_splashscattering little rainbows all around like sunlight shining through a prism? I like to think I do that, but that always brings me up short and I realize how often I surrender to the short-term self-satisfying desire to hate.

 

Do I feel guilty about it? Most of the time. I truly believe hate is an unhealthy emotion. It’s like a cancer festering within our souls, making us smaller, meaner, sicker people. It affects our brain and blinds us to anything that could possibly be good about the object of our hate. And yes, I feel guilty and weak and small when I feel that powerful emotion entering into my own thinking.

 

I thought we were at the dawning of the Age of Aquarius “when peace will guide the planet and love will steer the stars.” Apparently Hate wasn’t ready to leave, at least not without a huge fight. It’s certainly managed to suck me in more times than I like to admit. It almost feels contagious. I’ve come to the conclusion that too many people in our country have been seduced, overcome, warped by the hate and false information coming from people of power, certain people with access to pulpits in churches or over airwaves or in blogs and podcasts and other on-line sources. Millions of people are being misled at best, brainwashed at worst.

 

But Love is also contagious, I believe. If we can practice letting go of anger and hate or disgust at other people, while still working for justice, that can begin to change the dynamic. If we can understand that people have been frightened by the lies they constantly hear, spewed by people who really care nothing about their audience but only about their own power and control and greed, perhaps we can replace our anger and disdain, yes even our tendency to hate, with a little sympathy. And if we can come from a place of Love and compassion, understanding their humanity, if we understand nothing else, then perhaps we can find bits of common ground. Love can grow out of the shallowest ground.

 

love-is-the-heart-of-creationI have an irregular practice of Centering Prayer, in which I try to sit in silence daily for 20 minutes or half an hour. When random thoughts come, I try to let them pass by focusing on a sacred word or phrase. I’ve been working with exhaling the word Love and inhaling the word Mercy, breathing Love out into the universe where it can spread and grow, breathing Mercy into myself, reminding myself that in spite of all my failures, I am worthy of Mercy. Research shows that focusing on positive things, like Love, breathed or prayed out into the universe can actually have an impact, can change the environment. So I try to contribute to the healing of our world by breathing Love out into it. And I try to focus on what might be lovable about certainly people I find difficult, people I am tempted to hate. I pray for the evolution of and awakening of our world so that more and more people decide to stick with Love. Because Hate is too great a burden to bear.

 

 

 

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Christmas Blues

by maureen

 

What kind of Christmas did you experience as a child?victorian-christmas

 

Were your Christmases filled with joy or stress? Were they big, noisy affairs with lots of presents, Christmas carols, family, or were they more quiet, reflective times? If you were raised Jewish or some other faith, it’s possible Christmas has little meaning for you. Perhaps there are other holidays more important, more filled with memories and emotions.

 

Christmas can be one of those stressful, emotional times that can trigger our complexes. Complexes, if I understand them correctly, are our unconscious reactions to events based on early childhood experiences and memories. Last night, Christmas Eve eve, with a little help from a couple glasses of wine, I found myself in the throes of a complex that brought me to tears. Angry tears. Sad tears. It was a pity party all out of proportion to the reality of my life. Helped no doubt by the dark, grey winter in Western Oregon which can be depressive.

 

I grew up in a large family–six children–of which I was the second oldest. My grandparents and one aunt lived in the town I grew up in so we always had Christmas there. In later years, as my grandparents passed on, I celebrated Christmas Eve with my husband’s large family, often followed by Midnight Mass. We sometimes spent Christmas day with his extended family numbering more than 50 people. Most of the time Christmas morning was in my parents’ cozy living room with a big Christmas tree, a fire in their fireplace, tons of presents, coffee with Irish cream, lots of laughter from brothers and sisters, and squeals of delight from the grandchildren. That’s the kind of Christmas I grew up with. Noisy, busy, chaotic, filled with love. It’s the kind of Christmas that set a high bar, creating expectations of what Christmas SHOULD be like. My mother was a huge fan of Christmas so it was always a Big Deal! When she lay dying in August of 1996 we gathered in her hospital room and sang Christmas carols to her. And I knew Christmas wouldn’t be the same. My life as a child and young adult wasn’t perfect, but Christmas was always filled with family. I was never alone.

 

In early October, 2003, my husband was killed suddenly and unexpectedly in an accident. My dad died the following October. I spent the first few Christmases after that in sunny, warm Mexico, escaping the cold, dreary winter, and the alone-ness I felt. Often one of my two sisters, sometimes both, would join me. Once my daughter and her husband came with me. But mostly I abandoned my adult children, left them to their own devices because I found it too difficult to deal with Christmas. Perhaps, in retrospect, that was selfish and cruel, but it was what I thought I needed then.

 

Now both of my children are married: my daughter has no children; my son has a son and married a woman with a young daughter. Saturday the children, 10 and 8, came to my house and we made and decorated Christmas cookies. We went shopping and each bought a gift for their parent, and then wrapped it. We had a nice time and the kids got along really well. They will spend Christmas day with my daughter-in-law’s family. My daughter and her husband have been traveling outside of the country and return today but will spend a week with his family in Denver. Both my sisters are in California, two brothers are in Washington state with their families. So the ranks of family for this Christmas are growing quite thin. One brother and a nephew will come over Christmas afternoon. It will be a very casual affair; nothing at all like the big, noisy, joyful Christmas of my childhood and my children’s childhoods. And the thought of that, of what has been lost, left me feeling very alone and sad. And yes, angry.

 

Clearly it triggered a complex: growing up in the midst of so much chaos and stress of a large family I sometimes felt lost, overlooked. Like I didn’t really matter very much. And now that I will be spending most of Christmas and Christmas Eve alone, I feel that way again. Of all the Christmas cards I sent out, I received three. I lay in bed last night, brooding about how little I matter to anyone. I wondered what I had done that has made me so easy to forget, to overlook, to ignore. And my complex was very happy to lead me down a painful memory lane of all the times people had been cruel or thoughtless or in any way hurt my precious self.

 

I got up and went to my computer – maybe to disconnect from Facebook and all the people who never like or comment on anything I post: today’s measure of value, I guess. And I noticed I had an email from my daughter, whom I hadn’t heard from in a couple weeks, just checking in and telling me she loves me. And I thought about my warm home, my golden retriever Jameson, and two kitties who live with me and love me . . . in their own way. I thought about new friends I have made since moving out to this small town. They have welcomed me with generosity and love. And suddenly the pity became gratitude for all that I DO have and empathy for others who are alone and lonely this Christmas. Or whenever they feel alone and lonely.

 

So I did go onto Facebook. And I posted a note encouraging people to reach out to those who might be alone and lonely this Christmas. It could save a life. Maybe others will see it and “like” it or comment; or maybe many will ignore it like they do for all my posts. But if ONE person is motivated to reach out to ONE other person who might be in pain, perhaps that will have transformed my pain into redemptive suffering. Something we’re all called to do, I think.

 

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas, filled with joy, peace, empathy and lots of love.

 

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Time Ticking Away: The Joys and Challenges of The Seventies

by Cari

UnknownWhen Maureen and I began to write this blog several years ago, my intent was to offer to other women and men on this Life journey some observations and guidance as we encounter joys and sorrows along the way. And, to invite participation and comments. I have a diverse background which touches and often delves deeply into the areas of psycho-spirituality,  grief, the law profession, business, and health care—especially how all of these aspects of life intersect. It has been my hope that sharing reflections on life events will be helpful to others.

There has been a gap in my writing which coincides fullsizeoutput_198bwith the acquisition of a sweet Havanese puppy named Pace`, a Franciscan reference to “peace.”  She has been an unexpected joy in my Life.  As she has matured into a 10-month old adolescent, I have continued to move deeper into my mid-seventies and the challenges and joys of this period of life.

One such challenge occurred during annual well visits with my PCP.  Although I have managed to reach this point in life with only occasional use of prescription drugs like antibiotics and excellent physical and mental health, I am a firm believer in preventative care, routine tests and lab work. Twice in the last several years, I have felt humiliated when unsolicited, my PCP’s office performed memory tests involving my retrieving three unrelated words said earlier in the visit by the health care provider. Part of this humiliation included a request to draw an image of a clock at 11:00.  I was tempted to draw the image digitally rather than as the face of a clock with hands and numbers!  At a time in my life when I intentionally enter into contemplative meditation and practice letting go, I felt like I was being graded on my ability to remain linear and dualistic to please government (Medicare) and health care professionals. I doubt if the health care provider understood that I felt like a fungible commodity instead of a human being.

Putting this into perspective, I understand that tests for dementia can be a necessary and good thing, but I wonder if the health care provider considers the context of the patient before launching into such tests.  For example, the first time this test was administered, I had been in throes of grief over multiple significant losses (this happens frequently as we grow older) and was experiencing disorientation and detachment from the dualism of this world. I was in no frame of mind to remember three unrelated words and I felt that having to draw a clock with the big hand on 12 and the little hand on 11 was demeaning and counterproductive. In fact, it compounded my losses and my grief.  Am I losing my mind too? Am I just some thing to be charted rather than a mature woman with feelings?

Ah, but the joys of life at this stage!  Balance is the most important aspect of our lives as we age. Although I continue to work—see and Unknown-1counsel clients— and volunteer, it is done with utmost concern for balance and my priorities which facilitate my journey to wholeness:: contemplation, spending time with close friends and family, enjoying my  furry friend, reading, and working out at the gym.  I have become more acutely aware of the clock that is ticking away and ironically and interestingly, it has given me more peace of mind and focus knowing what I thought I knew all along: that my time here is limited.

I marvel as I reflect upon a long journey from a small town Ohio Valley high school girl of seventeen whose then highest aspirations was to be a secretary and housewife to multiple and diverse careers and paths to where I am now in my mid-seventies contentment.  I hear the clock ticking like a heartbeat.  It’s a good reminder to live in the present, to see the beauty in Life, to taste, touch and feel it, to grieve losses and know it is all good.

Cari D. Dawson, MTS, MA, JD, www.transitionscelebrant.com

CREATION AND DESTRUCTION: Keep Holding the Tension of Opposites

by Cari

I was reminded recently by some wise women with whom I share a Jungian dream group about the times in our lives when we feel bleak, somber, melancholy, somewhat immobilized and helpless. It seems like nothing is happening internally and spiritually.  In spiritual direction we call these “dry” periods, times when we feel dried out spiritually and emotionally, dark times without motivation or any apparent consolation. Mystics and saints write about them and have struggled with them. Teresa of Avila, a 16th century mystic, wrote about  moments of rapture and ecstasy, yet admitted to a year-long dry period when she could not even pray.  And, she was a nun! Mystics encourage us to go into that apparent darkness and void as a fertile womb where growth occurs, to embrace the place of emptiness and stillness. Not easy then; not easy now, especially in an ego-driven culture which seems very dark, desolate and depraved at this particular time in our history. 

 

saint-teresa-of-avilaTeresa of Avila lived in the turbulent middle ages. She was a reformer of the Carmelite order and authored several books, including Interior Castle, a metaphor for the soul. In it, she delineates the stages of spiritual growth into Oneness. She befriended a Carmelite friar, John of the Cross, another mystic who helped in the Order’s reformation, for which efforts he was imprisoned and tortured by his own religious order. Yet, he grew from this dark, desolate place of emptiness, despite (or because of) what we in the 21st century think of as extreme, unreasonable, barbaric and pretty darned crazy.  

 

Jung-MandalaIn the early 20th century, Carl Jung, using himself in a psychospiritual study, intentionally and freely went into a dark place where he discovered shadowy aspects of humans, what has been called an extended psychotic period in his life.  In his book Memories, Dreams, Reflections, he wrote: “I knew that I had to let myself plummet down into them.” According to one review, Jung  “found himself in a liminal place, as full of creative abundance as it was of potential ruin, believing it to be the same borderlands traveled by both lunatics and great artists.” 

 

Mystics like these are some of my models and companions as I walk through a dark time in history which seems to be impacting me personally, buoyed only by the ability to episodically zoom out of my personal desolation and look at the bigger picture.   “I survived the 60’s and 70’s,” I tell myself. In fact, I was inspired and energized by the revolution. I grew. I was amazed and proud when a country came together against a dishonest president forcing him to resign. I cried and marched against war in the aftermath of 9/11 just as I did with Vietnam; didn’t change things, but I got through it.  Darkness/light, good/evil, creation/destruction. We hold the tension of opposites and keep on keeping on, discontent about the darkness of erratic leaders but hoping the checks and balances instilled in our system of government and in our culture work to get us through a very dark night of the collective soul.  This mental maneuvering of mine provides some solace, yet I remain curious about what has been described as alpha narcissism. Recalling Gilda Radner’s character, Roseanna Roseanna Danna, I muse, “It’s always something.” 

 

In a paper I encountered a few years ago by West and Dougherty called “The Palette of Anselm Kiefer: Witnessing our Imperiled World,” the authors explore the artistic work of Kiefer, born in Germany just as WWII was coming to an end. He was thrust into a context in history where the Nazi leader of his country was the ultimate symbol of destruction. Kiefer’s art work reflects the context into which he was born, including the “unimaginable violence and decimation of the Holocaust,” in vivid detail.  Yet, all of Kiefer’s work clearly exhibits both the archetype of destruction and the archetype of creation.   As I re-read this piece, I breathe a sigh of relief, then come to what I remember as a ominous warning by the authors: 

 

“It has been said in many places that we are a culture of narcissism, arrested in our development with youthful traits that are characteristic of adolescence; bold, brash and inventive as well as self-centered and self-indulgent, and lacking in empathy. ‘(Lasch, 1991). We are suggesting that presently we are, as a country, in the grip of dynamics we call Alpha Narcissism. In this particular expression of narcissism, omnipotence and exhibitionism are fueled by aggression rooted in the archetype of destruction.”

 

I search for hope in the desolation, I practice patience with the process, my own and the collective. I draw upon the examples of the mystics, bringing Jung’s teachings and Kiefer’s art into my living narrative, believing as Jung did and as Kiefer illustrated that consciousness—both personal and collective—will emerge from the chaotic darkness and dryness, that the precarious adolescent era will mature to the point where  the archetypal potentiality of creation-destruction, the “polarized opposites that Jung saw…as the essential potentiality for individuation and wholeness” will birth a third transcendent way into light as we continue to hold the tension of opposites. As West and Dougherty conclude: “This, we imagine, is as true for a nation as for an individual.”   

shulamith-14A17F950BA3B7CCF48

Enter a Shulamith 1983.  Anselm Kiefer..In this very large painting, it’s as if we stand at the entrance of an enormous, terrifying but fascinating – or fascinatingly terrifying – room. It is architecturally like a tomb…speaks of a massive Nazi construction, yet is is more like an underground cave, crypt, or basilica…a chamber of very dark horror at the same time that it is somehow a sacred space. Note: Shulamith was a magnificent woman of black and comely beauty, appearing in the sacred Biblical text “Song of Songs” in  the Old Testament, a poem that rests deeply in the heart of the Jewish soul. We hear the words “Your ashen hair Shulamith” and we feel the rich, black hair of Shulamith and her gift of beauty to Jewish women while we also feel the shudder of its transformation into ash in the engulfing flames of the Holocaust ovens. (West and Dougherty)

 


On Being Comfortable

by maureen

 

There is a “meme” on Facebook that several of my friends have posted in the last couple of months. It goes something like this:

Sheltered-little-cottage-to-spend-holidays-in-1-1The older you get, the more you realize you have no desire for drama, conflict, or any kind of intensity.

You just want a cozy home, good food on the table and surrounded by lovely people who make you happy.

It’s a nice dream, isn’t it? And it’s not that I don’t long for a life like that, but my heart rebels every time I see it. NO!!! I want to scream! I haven’t been put on this earth to be safe and cozy and avoid conflict. The experiences of my 66-plus years haven’t led me to the dead-end of being comfortable. That is not why I am here, at this time and place. The challenges life has presented to me have not been overcome so I can rest on my laurels, so I can just sit around and be complacent. (Not to mention my disgust at the fallacy that “lovely people” can “make you happy.” Only YOU can make you happy.)

I find it especially troubling to think that I should enjoy good food on the table and a cozy home when there are so many who go to bed hungry at night, and may not have a home at all, much less a cozy one. This has hit very close to home for me recently when I learned that a child I love dearly has been shuttling between homeless shelters and “couch surfing” because the cost of renting a permanent “cozy home” is just too much for his family.

Why should I be surrounded by “lovely people who make me happy” when so many are hurting in so many ways? When our very democracy, our freedoms, are under threat? When people can be jailed for laughing, when people can be shot for being black, when families are ripped apart by heartless laws and politicians, when the ill are deprived of the right to medical help because of pre-existing conditions . . . Being human is a pre-existing condition. We will all die at some point, and many of us will suffer in the process of dying. How can our country’s leaders be so lacking in compassion for others? What is this horrible sickness that has taken root in our Capitol? Is this evil a “pre-existing” condition? Is it something that can be healed?

As this year continues to play out with our country seeming to find more and more ways to punish those already overwhelmed with challenges, I find I cannot just go with the flow and accept the status quo that has been forced down our throats. This is not the time to “retire” to some peaceful, quiet life with no drama. Maybe for some people, but not for me.

But with the wisdom gained from growing older, I am finding my path is not so much one of direct conflict but rather one of creating change where I can, in small steps, making a difference where I can to counter the negativity and fear and hatred that seem to have taken over our country, our world. Oh, yes, I will continue to study candidates and issues, support those I believe in, and vote. I will continue to work for change, sign petitions and make phone calls and share information. I may even march for various causes; the solidarity felt from such marches is probably the biggest achievement — they likely won’t convince anyone to act more compassionately.

Franciscan Father Richard Rohr offers great guidance in his book Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. In the second half of life, you let go of the ego’s need to be right, to seek vengeance, to be in control; instead “you learn to positively ignore and withdraw your energy from evil or stupid things rather than fight them directly.”

buy localMy small efforts in this include trying to support local, small vendors/suppliers rather than the Big Box stores that often flood our politicians with cash. I recently joined an organic CSA here in Yamhill County, buy grass-feed organic beef from a local producer, eggs and other produce from local farmers, do all my banking at small local credit unions instead of the Big Banks, and have joined wine clubs from small local vineyards. (Sometimes a good glass of wine goes a long way in helping me be less anxious and angry.) On-line shopping is easy and cheap but it continues to concentrate money into the hands of a few who have way too much power already, so I’m trying to stay local as much as possible. I am supporting public radio and several reliable national newspapers, as well as the ACLU and conservation organizations – these are not things I have traditionally done, but it is well past time to put money behind my beliefs and support those organizations who will fight for justice.

I recently had 36 solar collectors installed to reduce the amount of energy my household uses. (A big plus is the 30% federal tax credit that means I won’t be contributing much to this current administration.) This wasn’t cheap; it means I won’t be spending that money on other things, but living simply is becoming a key to my happiness.

Perhaps the biggest thing I can do, though, is put more love out into the world to help counteract the hatred. It’s so easy to fall into anger and want to punish those who have brought about this ruinous administration and Congress. But that just puts more negativity out there; I will try to focus on being positive, loving, forgiving. I try to recognize and be kind to individuals I encounter, no matter who they are or their station in life; I try to smile, to be friendly and appreciative, courteous and helpful. I try to speak up when it’s appropriate, and provide alternative information to counter falsehoods or narrow perspectives, whether I’m listened to or not. And I try to listen to others with diverging viewpoints and make an effort to understand them, even if I disagree. That can take great courage and strength. These are small things, but small acts of love add up. I think it’s how we eventually can change hearts.

While I refuse to accept cozy and safe and comfortable, I have every intention of being happy, fulfilled, and true to my purpose of being human, even if sometimes that means discomfort and drama and intensity. But I also take time to be amazed: to listen to the birds, watch the clouds, plant flowers, create and find beauty and quiet when and where I can, and practice gratitude for the abundance of creation given to us all by our Divine Lover who longs for us all to learn to love too.

flowers and clouds

Aging: Serendipities, Challenges & Change

By Cari

“How did I get here?” my dear mother often said when she had arrived into her late eighties and nineties.  Now, as her first-born grandchild, my brother’s eldest daughter, approaches her 60th birthday, I’m beginning to ponder that question too.  I try to embrace with joy and curiosity this very interesting stage of life, fdb658be513798ddcd63e6675f4d9a7f

despite my  chagrin at times when I pass a mirror and wonder,  “Who is that old lady?”  There is joy that accompanies that wonder. At this time of my life,  my focus has shifted. I have more time now to move slowly into the day, engage in physical activities, create new recipes, do volunteer work, read and share at book club meetings, meet with a small number of clients for life counseling and dream work, spend time with friends, and visit and text with my adult grandchildren. Overall, I’m grateful for my Life, the opportunity to be introspective, and for supportive friends.

The busyness of earlier years when I was focused and driven, goal-oriented and devilishly detailed has transformed into a more free flowing way of being. Yet, those old skills kick in periodically when I need them, albeit painfully at times.  Like my most recent unanticipated adventure of purchasing a condo after 16 years of renting.  When I sold my house in Miami in 2001 to embark upon the study of theology in California, I vowed never to own a home again, and I honored that vow until, in recent years, the rents in my chosen geography, Portland, became unwieldy. It made sense to move back to Florida where my son and grandchildren live…but, my increasing intolerance to the escalating global warming of an already hot and humid area precluded that move. Having discerned the impracticability of that alternative, the hunt for an affordable housing purchase was on!  I had focus and a goal.

I established a relationship with a realtor, enlisted the help of my astute friend, Hillary, explored Redfin and Zillow, viewed properties, and honed my home-searching skills. I Unknownevolved  and defined my parameters, i.e., my list  of needs and wants. My mind felt as sharp as a tack, much like my lawyering days—some good, some not so good. The constant grinding of gears made me grow weary of the search and disappointments. I saw my annual trip to Florida as an opportunity to take a break, attend my granddaughter’s graduation and enjoy the Christmas holidays with my family.  I intended much diminished connection to the internet. Besides, who buys and sells real estate during the Christmas holidays?

The real estate-promoting sites are just not humane: they do not take a break for holidays. Once signed into them, the listings continue to show up until you unsubscribe, and one such listing advertised as a “Christmas Special” appeared on my computer screen one day. It was in a neighborhood where I had looked previously at a condo, a geography that was high on my desirability list.  And, here I was 3,000 miles away.  I contacted my realtor and my trusted friend, and they reported back to me after viewing the property: location good, condition (needs some work). I made an offer that was devised by my very smart realtor to escalate to counter what we all knew were going to be multiple offers exceeding the asking price.

By Christmas day, I had a purchase contract and had sent my earnest money to the escrow agent, then enjoyed the rest of my family visit, returning home for a winter like none I had ever seen in Portland!  Snow and bitter cold, ice storms, school closings. And in the midst of this with my cortisol surging, I retrieved more organizational and survival skills from my aging brain and psyche. I carefully hired contractors for painting, floor coverings and window blinds, made purchases of appliances and fixtures, measured and ordered cabinet doors, and deep cleaned all the crevices of a sorely neglected condo space.  Simultaneously, I packed up my personal possessions, made numerous donation trips to Goodwill, hired movers, and cleaned the apartment I was leaving, while attending to my daily workouts at the gym.  Working hard labor, 12-hour days with minimal sleep at night, I lost weight I could not afford to lose, but through it all, I seemed to remain healthy. This was validated by recent blood work revealing, not surprisingly, higher than usual cholesterol but otherwise good health.

As I sit here in my renovated space, I am wondering as my mother once did, “How did I fullsizeoutput_1824get here?”  How did I muster the energy and intellectual resources to rise to the occasion in my golden years? How did I get this accomplished? Certainly all of us have our repertoire of training, education and skills  that we have mastered over our lifetimes.  And our various motivators. What I am most grateful for, however, is to have nurtured and maintained my community of friends. I called upon my long-time friend, Jill, in tears multiple times when I felt myself going out on the metaphorical ledge. My friend, Hillary, came to the rescue with workers when I had a meltdown after discovering water leaking onto my newly installed carpet. My realtor friend, Lynn, referred a handyman, Bruce, who just gets the job done—whatever it is—quickly and competently,  a pleasant surprise after my dismay when one contractor I found on Angie’s List said that replacing six ceiling light fixtures would take 8 to 10 hours. Bruce did it in a fraction of that time, on the way home from his day-time job working for a non-profit organization!  That’s how I got things done: it takes a village.

It’s been less than two months since my move-in, and I have returned to a slower pace allowing me to see clients for spiritual direction, life counseling and dream work  to enjoy cooking and hiking and reading again without too many items on my To Do List in the morning. As I have become more serene and comfortable in my new space, I have also begun work as a volunteer for the local version of the Villages concept called Viva Village*, the existence of which was a significant factor in my choosing to be in this locale. The concept, begun in the Boston Beacon Hills area by baby boomers in 2002 who proactively took action, decided that they wanted to remain in their homes as they age, has grown to nearly 205 villages nationwide.  It is volunteer powered; I’ve become part of that. Although I am not an official service-receiving member yet, I intend to take advantage of this opportunity in the future, knowing that although I presently can tap into the many skills, tools and experiences of my lifetime  when necessary, I may need increasing support as I further ripen in this aging process. For now, I am enjoying the camaraderie and insights of other volunteers  and members as I expand my village of friends and family.  And, like my mother, I’m in awe of the journey.

*Footnote: vivavillage.org\

The Light Shines in the Darkness

by maureen

sunrise-in-cloud

I have watched with fear and trembling these lasts few weeks – and especially the last two weeks — as it has become sickeningly clear the ugly course our country has embarked on. I cringed throughout the campaign as the rhetoric was ratcheted up and we all became more divisive, more intolerant of each other. I prayed that people would be reasonable and not be swayed by hatred and fear, the dark emotions that were the ammunition of the Republican candidate and his White Supremacist supporters. I prayed that voters would think of our country, our future, our children and grandchildren and consider the possible (probable?) unraveling of years of work to make our world better instead of voting for political power and control or personal enrichment. I prayed that our country would be its better self, not revert to its bigoted, hateful, violent past. But whether it was hatred, fear, willing blindness or just plain ignorance, too many voters in our country have chosen someone who could well destroy us all, and the rest of the world, as well.

Since the election I have read numerous articles, trying to understand why what happened happened, trying to see this from the eyes of those who brought about this reality. Articles explaining how so many in our country have felt left out, how they fear the loss of their livelihoods and lifestyles – and need someone to blame that on. They chose the “liberal elites” on the east and west coasts and the immigrants and refugees, people of color, people with different sexualities – people who are . . . different from them. Maybe they’ve lived sheltered lives in Middle America and never met a Muslim, or a Latino or a gay person. (More likely they know someone who is LGBTQ but is afraid to come out of the closet.) Maybe they disagree with some of the racist rhetoric but felt it was less important than exporting immigrants and bringing back jobs that likely were replaced by technology, not other people. They believed the man who promised to save them from all their fears of change. But he will not. They were lied to. And I feel badly for them that they trusted someone who is so completely dishonest and untrustworthy. I fear they will pay dearly for that; we all will.

So I’ve been in a pretty dark place the last couple of weeks. Mourning, really, the loss of illusion that I lived in a just and loving and fair country that was moving away from fear and hatred. Somehow I imagined we could be that Beacon of Hope, the land of liberty that welcomed the stranger, cared for the widow and orphan, the marginalized, the broken. The election was really a clarion call to me and so many others: the ugly shadow has emerged. The scary monsters have escaped from under the bed. Trump will not save us from them; he’s the one who set them free and encouraged them in their violent ways.

I’ve been trying to deal with this very depressing turn of events by trusting that our Creator can use everything for good. Maybe this is a way to finally exorcise those demons that we can now see in the daylight. They’ve been exposed; we know they exist; now we can banish them to the nether world they belong to. This is what I keep telling myself. Myself is having a difficult time with this trust.

This morning on the way to my Centering Prayer gathering, off in the edges of the world, in the southeast corner, wedging its way through thick dark clouds, was a golden shaft of light. The sun was rising yet again. And it felt like a sign. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John 1:15). That little shaft of light forcing itself into the world gave me joy and hope. And reminded me that we are all the light; because we are of God, we carry the light that darkness will not destroy.

As I drove I remembered some of my reading and studies on the work by the Heart Math Institute and Global Coherence Initiative that looks at how our emotions – which as energy work with the earth’s magnetic field – can actually impact the emotions of others https://www.heartmath.org/gci/. In fact their research shows that “the heart’s magnetic field radiates outside the body and can affect other people . . . People’s heart rhythms could become synchronized to each other and with rhythms in Earth’s magnetic field environment. This study, titled the Global HRV Synchronization study, included groups of participants in five locations around the globe. . . . . This study confirmed that the synchronization between participants and Earth is occurring globally.” What does this mean? It means that emotions – especially strong emotions – can be “contagious.” The more negative energy that is expressed, the more those negative feelings spread throughout the world. We see this in all the violence here and abroad. But the more loving, positive feelings are sent out into the world, the more negative, violent emotions actually diminish. There are also studies that show that the magnetic fields of the earth and sun can impact our human nervous systems. Truly makes me wonder if some of the ugliness we see in our world right now is a result of the earth crying out as we continue to abuse it and take it for granted.

We truly are all connected; more deeply than most of us realize. So I’m trying to hold onto the image of that ray of weak sunlight. I will spend less time in worry, in fear, in anger and send out as much love and positive emotion into the world as I can, in whatever ways I can. Just a little more loving kindness to all of creation. I will not sit back and let hatred and fear rule me, and I will not capitulate or accept or normalize it. I will stand up to hatred and injustice whenever I can, in as loving a way as I can. I will try to spend time each day focusing on loving thoughts, gratitude, joy and laughter. The more I can spend on these ways of thinking, the less the darkness can control me. And if we can all focus on this positive response, on doing what we can where we can to make our country and world better, perhaps we can put enough loving positive energy into the world to  help heal it.

May your Thanksgiving be a reminder of the many blessings and gifts we have all received, including the science that shows us how just how deeply connected we are to each other and to all of creation.

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