Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

Repelled by Richard Dawkins, drawn to Julia Cameron

1585421464It was  one of the irrational experiences that drive Richard Dawkins crazy.

Several years ago, before I started this blog but when the idea for it percolated in my brain, Dawkins published a book: The God Delusion. I don’t care for his writing—I find he adopts a condescending “I’m smarter than you are” tone—but the subject of his book related to topics I pondered then, so I resolved to buy his book and get through it.

Like a dose of Buckley’s cough syrup.

I made a trip to the book store. I saw the silver glint of the book face-out in the “New Arrivals” section. I couldn’t get close to it. Something about that book repelled me. I had a little talk with myself. “Now, Arlene,” I said. “You came all the way to the store. You’ve got the money in your pocket. Don’t be ridiculous.” Intellectually and rationally, I knew I needed to read Dawkins’ arguments. But I couldn’t take that step closer. A force pushed me away from the shelf.

After some mental back-and-forth talking, I turned away. “I’m going to a friendlier section,” I told myself. I wandered around for a while until I landed in “Art and Architecture.” I saw The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. I had the opposite experience with this book. I felt drawn to it. I couldn’t keep my hand from picking it up.

I used the money in my pocket to buy that book instead, and the ideas in Julia Cameron’s book transformed my life. The stories in this blog come through the morning pages I write every day. The ideas for my fictional creative writing come through the same process.

I borrowed Dawkins’ book from the library later and read it, and, yes, I bristled at the “I’m smarter than you are” tone. He worked hard to convince his readers that there is no God separate and apart from us, and some believe he succeeded. But he didn’t manage to convince me that there is no God-ness. I experienced that while buying, or rather not buying, his book. It was one of the irrational experiences that drive Richard Dawkins crazy.

Life overflows with them.

A tale of three blankets, or accepting spiritual differences

I’m going to show you three blankets.

When my children were born—first my daughter, then my son—I made them each a blanket. Here is my daughter’s blanket now:

well-loved-blankie

Do you think she used this blanket a lot? Do you think it’s been washed a few times? Yep.

My daughter loved her blankie. It went with her everywhere. She slept holding it and dragged it around when she walked. When she started to kindergarten, she tucked into the bottom of her backpack everyday. When she got older and started going on Brownie and Girl Guide camping trips, she didn’t want the other girls to make fun of her for wanting a blankie, so she tucked it into the bottom of her sleeping bag. She felt it as she slept, but her friends didn’t know it was there.

Eventually she stopped sleeping with it. It didn’t go to school anymore. It stayed at home during camping trips.

One day years later when I was leading children’s time at my church I decided to tell this story to the kids. I wanted to take my daughter’s blanket with me to show everyone. When I asked her where it was, she didn’t have to think for a second. “It’s right beside my bed,” she said. She didn’t use it every day anymore, but she knew exactly where it was.

Now I’m going to show you my son’s blanket:

boy-baby-blanket

Do you think he used his blanket much? Nope.

My son barely glanced at his blanket. He never slept with it. He rarely picked it up. It never went to school or on any camping trips.

I had made this blanket for my son, and I was a little hurt that he had no interest in it. I wanted him to love it. Why didn’t he need a blanket in the same way his sister did? Sometimes I even tried to push him to use it. When he couldn’t sleep, I’d tuck it in beside him, sure that it would help. He tossed it on the floor. If he fell and scraped a knee, I wrapped him up in it. He shrugged it off. Eventually I was the one who had to adapt. I had to accept that he was going to have his own kind of relationship with his blanket.

But you know what’s really interesting? When I asked him where it was, he didn’t have to think for a second. “It’s right beside my bed,”  he said. He never needed it, but it was a gift of love from me, so he kept it close.

Now, let me show you a third blanket:

baby-blanket

This one I made for my daughter when she was about 7 years old when it became clear that the original one was disintegrating. It’s a new and improved version of the first. I thought she would love it.

She would have nothing to do with it. She wanted the comfort of the original, thank you very much, even if it was battered and torn and no longer serve a real function.

I shared this story with the kids at church because I think my kids’ blankets give us an insight into how we need to accept different approaches to faith.

  • Some people need to hold their faith close, sleep with it and touch it daily.
  • Some people’s needs change over time. When they are younger, they need a strong faith relationship, but when they get older they let it go. Or, some people don’t want faith in their youth, but when they get older or suffer a crisis, they seek it more.
  • Some people know right where it’s kept but don’t need it very often.
  • If we make fun of other people’s needs, they’ll tuck them away, but it won’t change anything.
  • We can’t make people let go of something until they are ready.
  • Just because something is new, doesn’t mean it’s better.
  • Just because something is old, doesn’t make it right for everyone.
  • If something is given with love, people will value it even if they don’t need it every day
  • We give our children a gift if they never have to think for a second to know where to find their faith.
  • One thing is for sure, we can’t force other people to have the kind of relationship with faith that we want them to have. It’s very personal. Even if we hand-make it for them or hand it down generation to generation, people have to forge their own relationships with faith.

Buddha Board: Live each moment to the fullest

The past is over.
The future may never be.
The present is all that exists.
Live each moment to the fullest.

buddha-boardThose words came with my Mother’s Day present from my daughter: a Buddha Board.

Based on the age-old Zen “Be Here Now” or “Power of Now” principle, the board’s surface holds the water you paint on it, for a short time, and then it dissipates. The user lives in the present, values it, and then lets it go.

I love that it allows me to be creative. I love that if I make a mistake, I watch it disappear into the ether. I love that when I paint something beautiful, I cherish it even more while it’s there, because I know it won’t last.

I put it on my family room end table beside Ganesh. (We are an ecumenical household.) Perhaps using it, or just the sight of it, will help me to live each moment to the fullest.

__________

Visit the Buddha Board site at http://www.buddhaboard.com/

Don’t skip the intro. It’s beautiful, and the background sound soothes. I had the site open while writing this post, and the audio makes me want to leave it open all day . . .

moving-finger

Easter Saturday: overlooked but, oh, so important

hummingbird-of-hopeOne of the most memorable Easter sermons I ever heard preached had nothing with Good Friday and the complexities of who killed Jesus and why. It didn’t mention the empty tomb or celebrate the renewed presence of Jesus on Easter morning. It didn’t really have much to do with Jesus at all. It was about Easter Saturday and what the people did in the time in between.

Really, it was about us, and what we do with the overlooked but, oh, so important time in between tragedy and triumph.

Easter Saturday: the metaphorical day after loss. The day when the pain is raw and fresh, and we don’t know yet about the joy to come. During the time in between we can’t see joy. We can’t see how it will take form in our lives. We look to the future and see more of the same.

The preacher of this sermon urged us to remember the Easter story during difficult times. When we survive the initial shock and turmoil and find ourselves in the desert of grief that follows, we can keep the flicker of hope alive.

Be watchful. Look for it. Joy will come with the dawn some Easter morning.

Intutition and rationality at Easter

triumph-and-disaster“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
Albert Einstein

Is there a time of year when our rational mind battles more with our intuition than at Easter? The Easter stories often make people turn away from faith. Their rational minds can’t accept something they see as supernatural mumbo-jumbo, so they toss out the whole enterprise. They don’t even give sacred intuition a chance.

So many things to puzzle through. An empty grave. Jesus appearing to people after he died. How, on earth, can we rationally deal with it all? We can’t, so I guess we have to float above the earth a little and open the sacred gift of our intuition.

The moderator of the United Church of Canada, Rev. Gary Paterson, addresses this in his Easter message. He refers to people in the Easter story who meet Jesus in some way after he has died, but they don’t recognize him. Mary thinks he’s a gardener, and other men spend an entire afternoon in conversation with him, but they see him as an ordinary Joe.

It’s a recurring theme, this unrecognized Jesus. Only later, when these people share sacred moments with him, do they see things differently.

Rev. Paterson suggests that perhaps we can choose to use “resurrection glasses” to see the ordinary events, and all those ordinary people, in our lives through the lens of sacred intuition gifts. Without them, we see gardeners and ordinary Joes; with them, we see the sacred in everyone.

The resurrection glasses are readily available to us, we just have to choose to put them on.  Just for fun, try putting on those resurrection glasses this Easter, and see what gifts your sacred intuition brings to you.

Answer your own prayers: Pray in present tense

Some years ago I read a valuable piece of advice: frame your prayers in the present tense.

You wouldn`t believe the difference it makes.

Six years ago doctors diagnosed my friend, Lynn, with terminal cancer. She was 41 years old with two young children. The news shocked her, and her family and friends. Prayers bubbled up from all of us, because in circumstances like that, prayers just happen. They can`t be helped.

My first prayer was for Lynn to live. Then, when I read the present tense advice, the prayer changed to “Lynn lives.” With a shock I realized that my prayer was already answered! No matter what happened the next week, or the next month, or the next year, at that moment, Lynn lived. My prayer changed from a plea of desperation to a celebration of gratitude, a “seize the day” motivational expression of wow. It took me out of the victim role, passively waiting for an outside force to act, and put me in the active role of celebrant. It encouraged me to savour every moment with my friend.

So many prayers come out of on-our-knees times of desperation. “Powers that be, please give me the strength to get through this,” we pray. But if we change that to “I have the strength to get through this,” instead of feeling helpless and overwhelmed, suddenly the strength we seek infuses us, and we rise from our knees renewed.

Now, I can hear the shouts of protest now. Critics will say, “Lady, you are crazy. What if I don’t have a job but desperately need one? If I say, ‘I have a job,’ I don’t suddenly and miraculously have a job.” True. But, maybe if you say, “I have a job” you will go to your next job interview with calm assurance instead of discouraged desperation. Maybe that will help.

Or someone else might say, “What if I want a red Porsche? If I close my eyes and say, ‘I have a red Porsche,’ when I open my eyes, there won’t be a shiny car in my driveway.” True, but if you say, “I have a red Porsche” over and over again often enough, maybe it will motivate you to start setting the money aside in a special fund. Maybe you’ll start browsing used car sites until you find the right one. Maybe it will help.

If you pray in the present tense, you might be surprised how often you answer your own prayers. The present tense:

  • opens our eyes to the gifts of the moment
  • infuses us with strength we didn’t know we had
  • relieves our stress and desperation and fills us with calm assurance
  • motivates us to work toward a goal.

A year ago yesterday my friend, Lynn, passed away. I grieved, for sure, because I missed my friend. I watched two teenagers lose a parent. I watched her husband lose a spouse and become a father/mother overnight. It was hard. But it was just that titch better because I had spent the previous five years celebrating her life in present tense every single day.

rainbow