Rural Angels

Yesterday, I was on a long trip.  Stopping at a gas station for personal body fuel and to give my engine a rest, I opened the hood of my little truck to check the coolant level.  We have been nursing a slow leak somewhere in the system.  Night had just finished closing the shade on the very last rays of the sun, so I had to rely on the gas station’s eerie green lamps to verify liquid levels.

Releasing the hood’s latch in the cab, I walked around the truck to lift the hood to check things.  Everything looked good. Pulling the hood down to the point where I could let it drop and close with the aid of its own weight, I stepped around to the side of my little truck when a much larger pick-up pulled up directly behind my parked vehicle.

Through her open window on the passenger’s side, a woman turned her head to face me, asking, “Do y’all need any help?” It was the voice of angelic assistance.

“Oh, no.  But, thank you for stopping to ask.  I’m nursing a slow leak in the cooling system.  Everything looks good,” I replied in way of explanation.

“Well, okay–then.  We just wanted to make sure you were all right.”  Her window rolled up, as I watched the large truck glide through the station and onto the access road.

“I love rural people,” I thought.  (This had not been the first time aid had been offered to me on a road trip through a rural area.)

There is something about country folks; they remember (and, I am concerned city folks in their numbers have almost forgotten) the life maxim:  We are here to help one another.

Is Your Pain So Great?

Sitting across from the banker, he chats easily with me while taking down some new contact information.  The subject of dogs comes up.

We talk about dog adoption as a major commitment.  Living with a dog is like having a perennially inquisitive child who is a lot of fun–an instant party really–and who is also capable of some serious mischief (read: potential object destruction).

“I had a friend who lost a dog recently,” the banker continues. “She’d had the dog for fifteen years and, after the dog’s passing, vowed she would never get another dog because the pain of losing the first was too great.”  The banker pauses here looking to me for a response.

I cannot think of anything appropriate to say, so I refrain from speaking.

“Is that your experience?”  he asks me more directly.  The subject of our recently losing a dog had come up.

“No…,” I work on collecting my thoughts.  “I think of relationships in terms of refuge.  Consider how many dogs one person is capable of granting refuge to in the context of one human lifetime.  Four?  Five?  Or more, if the person has the means, time and space.  Think about how many animals we could save from being euthanized.”

“Yes, I hadn’t thought of it that way,” he responds with new consideration.

With our business concluded, I move out of his office, through the building and into the sunshine, thinking to myself, “People is your attatchment to your pain so great that you could not consider giving a fellow creature in need a place of refuge?”  The walk home is long and sweet–though I would prefer to be sharing it with a four-legged friend.

*Notes on dog adoption.  Animal adoption is a major commitment.  On the plus side, dogs can grant us incredible companionship, devotion, loyalty and comfort with the added bonus of our having an “in-home personal trainer” in the form of a consistent walking companion.  On the serious-considerations side, dogs present a major time and training commitment, with expenses for appropriate care, food, kenneling, extra space requirements, as well as cleaning obligations.

Spiritual Perspective: Dandelions

I.  According to my most recent reading, dandelion seeds first appeared purposefully on the North American continent at the request of a Scandinavian immigrant, who wrote home asking that seeds be sent because she could find no other curative and reliable, fresh-greens, nor a comparable medicinal herb.

II.  Very late for class one spring day, after a long winter, a foreign-exchange student was seen by her high-school peers, frolicking through a full field of bright, spring blossoms.  Her speech class and teacher watched as she progressed through the expansive field of  flowers reveling, stopping, dropping and picking blossoms–until she dropped out of sight only to burst into her first-hour class, breathless and powdered with fine yellow dust.

“Why are we in school today?” she blurted out.  “Why are we not on holiday, celebrating the beautiful field of spring blossoms?”  Her throat pulsed from all of her racing and cavorting.

“You mean the dandelions?” the teacher asked.

“The beautiful field of flowers,” she responded emphatically.

Then, another student said, “Those are weeds.”

III.  Although this last narrative is not a story of my personal witness, I share it because I trust the teller, the tale and the lesson:  perspective.

The next time you sit down with someone, check-in with that person about what he is seeing, hearing, feeling and experiencing–before making any assumptions, judgments or conclusions.  Just because you now share the same proximity and circumstance does not mean you share the same perspective on events and the environment around you.

Affluence

Generally, when we think of affluence, we conceive of a person or an organization of fiscal means.  And, there can be a tremendous sense of freedom and choice associated with pecuniary affluence.  Yet, sometimes, what happens in cases of more substantial, fiscal affluence is an ungrounding of Spirit, where the fiscally “independent” loses sight of life’s natural web and cycles, as well as the potential wealth behind a healthy, functioning social whole.

If we were to rework our definition of affluence to include considerations for the ways in which we can assist one another–without harming Spirit in ourselves or another–along our personal and professional paths and with a respectful and inclusive eye toward the gift of our place in the world, we would begin to behave quite differently.  Profit would be measured in terms of the extention of assistance. And, we might begin metering biological and social health instead of concerning ourselves with the numbers associated with our fiscal holdings.  Our sense of freedom and choice would change to include considerations about how we are spending our time with regard to life-affirming pursuits.

Thus, toward a new definition of affluence, we are granted the gift of a full relationship with Spirit grounded in the whole and a sense of unlimited time and infinite possibilities–so unlike the ideas of limits and scarcity pervading the worldview around affluence now.

Spiritual Intimacy

So much is made of intimacy in the West.  We fatasize and romanticize about finding the “one” who will understand us, help lift us up when we are down and hold us physically as we explore what it means to be embodied.

But, the real, rarified intimacy we so crave only comes about when we learn how to hold ourselves.  We must come to know how to hold the cares of our heart with tenderness, to attend to our physical needs with the same fastidiousness of a consistently loving grandparent and become capable of talking ourselves up (or down) in stressful situations.

When was the last time you made yourself a full breakfast to enjoy in bed on a weekend morning?  Drew yourself an extra hot bath?  Or, simply sat through and listened to a full album of music with no other distractions tugging on your mind?

Pursue the workings of your sacred heart with the same passionate ardor you would apply to a new relationship.  You just might find yourself falling in love.

A Place of Stillness

Coming into stillness to discern the path of our highest Light can prove challenging in the context of family life.  We push and pull on ourselves and one another out of habit, expectation and in old, reactionary patterns–so often that the patient murmur of our heart’s true wishes often go unheard and unheeded.

Spirituality: Mudra for Clarity

When a consideration is on the table, it is best for us, as individuals, to take some time apart from family to connect and listen to the priorities of our deepest, internal concern.

Sometimes we find, in our silence, that there is a need to become the fish who breaks away to swim upstream.  And, there are many instances and situations in which coordinating our personal actions with “the school” of family action is the best for all involved.

Whatever the case may be, sitting in receptive silence and away from the group consciousness of our physical home becomes critical for our continued, independent growth and spiritual Being.  So, there you have it.  Find that special place in nature, a new group meditation experience or another situation away from domesticity; and, call to your Self–to seat into the body and return home.

Grace

Grace is something flowing in and around us at all times. Grace, if it could be solidified, is that nugget of wisdom helping us affirm our own lives, as well as the lives of others–when we listen and allow.

Spirituality: Garden of Grace

Grace is natural generosity, mercy and compassion.  Grace removes the harsh strictures from our hearts when we will to forgive and choose to move forward in the face of our own or another’s non-life-affirming behavior.

Listening and allowing, initially, take consistent practice, committed intention and attentive effort.  Quite often, we must participate in our own behavioral “retooling” to learn the way of Grace.  And, yet, the path need not be difficult. Let go.

Love will begin to fill the spaces of your days with Light

Suffer the Little Children…

A man has come to sit and talk with me in a church where I am visiting.  We are talking about finding that sweet space in the heart where Peace resides.

Spirituality: In the Garden of a Child’s Delight

“If they are growing up in a supportive environment, I think children ages three to six know who they are.  Who were you when you were that age?  What did you enjoy doing?” I offer him these questions.  “In my experience, if we access this place in our hearts, then, we can move forward in joy.  It nourishes the soul to be spontaneous, creative and genuinely–uniquely ourselves.  We are at our most authentic during our early, formative years.”

Abundance

Whether I am participating in a program among New-Thought (New-Age) circles or visiting a more conservative Christian pulpit, I bump up against the same interpretation and reasoning around the concept of abundance.  It sounds something like this:

Christian version:  If you embrace God’s will for your life, God will bless you with material prosperity.  (i.e. You will get rich.)

New-Thought version:  If you come into alignment with Universal principles, you will be able to manifest material wealth beyond your wildest dreams.   (i.e. You will get rich.)

To my Christian friends, I would say this:   When Jesus spoke of abundance, he was talking about honoring life, the Spirit of All life,  with a shared respect and joie de vivre for our mutual positions in the Kingdom, because we are all part of the same Body.

Abundance: Hosta Blossoms

Why not take a materialistic reading on abundance?  When Jesus gathered his disciples, he did not wait for anyone to pack a bag.  He also exemplified the Eastern spiritual principle of non-attachment, where one gives freely and receives freely in accordance with Universal abundance.  Thus, those who are truly free and walking in their highest Light do not hold many personal belongings, but rely upon providing and being provided for by the Divine hand.

And, lest we forget, a materialistic reading on the issue of abundance leads us down the path of at least three of the Seven Deadly Sins:  greed, lust and gluttony.

To my New-Thought friends:  If you come into alignment with Universal principles, your desire for personal, material wealth will dissolve and be supplanted by a sincere desire on the part of your cleansed, connected and unified heart to serve.  (You will want energy to flow out of you instead of attempting to call energy into yourself by collecting more stuff.)  And, if “wealth” comes to you, you will want nothing more than to share it.  Thus, abundance will transform itself into generosity.

Abundance is about sharing what we have, our gifts, health, joy, good humor and abilities.

It’s God’s Party

Late one Saturday afternoon, having finished my errands on my bicycle, I approach a favorite location of quiet contemplation.  It is adjacent to a Roman Catholic Church, where a beautiful white, marble statue of the Virgin Mary stands behind a fountain in a small garden setting.

Sometimes, I stop to sit here and collect myself, or realign myself with the Light before moving on.  Traveling, as I prefer to do—by bike or on foot, gives me enough time to respond to the leadings that govern my best days.  Sometimes I simply walk or bike past this location, but today, I receive a clear nudge to enter the Church, where a Saturday Mass is already in progress.

The Church is amazingly bright and cheerful inside, decorated in light blue with white accents and statuary—with an immense amount of light streaming in through the stained-glass windows from the late afternoon sun.  Two hard strumming guitars join us together to form the musical heart of the mass,  as one elderly, clearly limping Priest leads us through the forms of worship.  The atmosphere is one of gracious ease.

“You may be seated,” the elderly Priest nods his head as he prepares to deliver the homily.

“I was in my study the other day when I looked up to see the baby Jesus, and we had a moment there—Jesus and I—a quiet moment of Peace,” he opens with no notes and speaking in a very genuine and comfortingly direct tone.  “There is Jesus, God—the Father, Mother Mary, Saint Joseph and a whole complement of Holy Saints.  So, get there.  Find someone you feel comfortable praying to, and get to that place of Peace.”

It is a patiently firm affirmation of faith.

“Oh, yes.  The reading.  The prodigal son.  A difficult reading for some.  Well, it’s God’s party.”

In some ways, I feel like I have intruded on a family dinner.  This man and his flock are comfortable with one another and capable of communicating subtleties without a lot of extra words.

Spirituality: God’s Party

“You know, I was ordained over fifty years ago, and my parents were so excited that they wanted to throw a big party—rented the local VFW hall.  I am from a small farming community.  Everyone knows everyone else.  So, there were going to be people at that party in their best bib-overalls and some in ties and suit coats.

“The Millers, Baptists, asked my folks about giving me an appropriate gift.  They wanted to give me a necktie.  My folks told them I would never wear a necktie (he pulls gently on his clerical collar), but they were welcome to come and no gift was necessary.

“Everyone came.  Everyone came to wish me well.  There were neighbors—some Methodists, Baptists, a few Lutherans, our own people.  And, of course the Millers, good upstanding people that they were, brought me a necktie in a gold-foil box.  So, you see, it’s God’s party.  Remember that.  Look around to your neighbors.  Everyone is invited.

“So, after the party, I sent the Millers a thank-you for the tie because they were doing what was right for them, celebrating in their way.  The gift was respectful.  And, of course Mr. Hanson came in his best, pressed pair of overalls, because it was his way of showing respect.

“Now, I have been serving for over fifty years, and I have had one trip to Rome—a few years back now.  Do you know what I saw?  (He gestures with his hand bouncing just below shoulder height.) Little tiny nuns from Asia—Southeast Asia.  They were everywhere.  And, of course, our South American brothers and sisters.  Do you know what Rome actually smells like at the Vatican?  It smells like—what’s that yellow spice called?”

“Curry,” a parishioner pipes up from the pews.

“Yes, curry!  Rome smells like curry.  Yet, we are all neighbors; we are all family.  Ask after your neighbors’ health, their children, their parents, even if they don’t look like you.  Love your family.  Love your neighbors.

“Remember, it’s God’s party.  Oh, and pray for me, I have my knee surgery soon.”