Presence and Peace

And Still I Rise

“And still I rise,” Maya Angelou nearly cries out the refrain in her achingly beautiful poem that feels wholly comforting to souls that wake weary these mornings.

I wrote Angelou’s words in my journal on January 16th, the day we celebrated the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. On that day, so many gave pause to honor the man whose eloquent voice rang out, “I have a dream,” in what seems a lifetime ago when considering today’s tumultuous times.

On August 28, 1963, when King called for an end to racism and for civil and economic rights, I’m sure many dared to hope as they hadn’t for a very long time.

And now, here we are, perched hesitantly on thin branches as the new president threatens hopelessness again. Oh God, I pray it isn’t so.

Maybe this 10-day-old period of rushed presidential edicts will turn into an eventual time of quieter order and understanding–miracles do still occur. In the meantime, we cannot ignore the real civil uprising that is occurring in cities and towns across our still-great nation.

The people need to speak. They need to be seen. They need to raise their voices against what seems at the moment like abuse of power.

Now is a time for care and caution. As a person in long-term recovery, I am not immune from rapidly accelerating thoughts that can lead to wrong action. I urge all my brothers and sisters in recovery to stay vigilant on their respective recovery paths and to stay “prayed up.”

Remember too that no one can take your joy or change you without your permission. Hear the rest of Angelou’s words:

“You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.”

In the Daily Word  on January 16, the passage about the word Dream, read, “I must act, pursue, and above all else, live in faith-filled awareness.”

I must remember that my life is about action now, not passivity laced with complaint. The latter was a part of my old life.

Today, I have a dream. I have a purpose. I will rise.

From James 1:25: “But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act–they will be blessed in their doing.”

A Savasana Gift

If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliche that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that’s his problem. Love and peace are eternal. ~ John Lennon

Yoga practitioners say that savasana, or corpse pose, is a favorite because it is a restorative pose that often concludes a yoga session.

I certainly look forward to the few moments of savasana that wrap up my Thursday night practice. Usually, I melt into relaxation after an hour of stretching and pushing my body to its physical limits. Last Thursday, however, I received an unexpected gift while “practicing” the corpse pose.

I had a vision.

I “saw” my abdomen as a smoothly hollowed out, bowl-like space, as if the edges dropped off below my sternum and rose again at my hips. Oddly enough, I didn’t freak out. I had the sense that all I was supposed to do in that moment was breathe into the space.

That’s it. Just breathe. I remember being vaguely curious about when I would fill the space and with what. Or even whether I would be the one to fill the bowl to its capacity again.

Weird, right?

Along with the mild curiosity, I remember telling myself that all was well. Nothing was unusual or off about having a bowl-gut.

I hadn’t told anyone about my vision until last night when my sweetie asked about my blog topic. Just speaking the words, “I had a vision” felt weird, like I’ve gone a little bit cuckoo, as my friend Helshi says.

When I remember what happened before yoga that night, things begin to add up.

Recently, the Interfaith Peace Chapel at my church–Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ–was tagged with some pretty hateful graffiti aimed presumably at our primarily LGBTQ congregation.

In addition, the Texas lieutenant governor, held a press conference announcing that a bill–turns out it’s SB6–would be introduced prohibiting transgender people from using restrooms reserved for the gender with which they identify. There is much idiocy and insanity in this bill, particularly the statement that it protect women and students.

Five people were killed and eight injured during the terrible tragedy at the Fort Lauderdale airport last week.

A hate-crime beating in Chicago was videoed and posted on Facebook.

A terrorist attack killed 39 in Istanbul on New Year’s.

Peace, where are you?

Give me an epiphany with a little e.

Last Thursday–the Day of Epiphany–while many Christians and others celebrated the manifestation of Jesus in their lives, I had my own little epiphany. My vision of the concave space represents filling myself with love and all its byproducts like generosity and kindness, peace and patience, gentleness and respect, trust and presence and so much more.

May my bowl, my vessel, be filled to overflowing so that none of the evil stays with me for long. Instead, let me be called to pray.

Let me be urged to focus on goodness.

Let me summon the belief–and hold it tightly–that God is working through even these evil times.

Let me continue to wait for moments to pour from my bowl of love, for God has chosen each of us to be his people and to spread one gospel.

It’s love. It’s always love. Now and forever more.

Peace be with you, my friends.

2017: Let’s Do Some Spiritual Shifting

Whew! Thank God THAT year is behind us!

While there was much that was bright and brilliant about 2016, we had to spend an inordinate amount of time looking for it. So many of us are bone-weary from the animosity that flanked the presidential election season regardless of whether our preferred candidate won or lost.

It feels like so much more was lost than won.

I propose that we make 2017 a return to decency and respect.

While it’s a relief to draw a deep, cleansing breath now that our shiny and new 2017 is here, there is damage from last year that needs repairing.

Please know that I’m not writing about politics, but about taking responsibility for one’s humanitarian footprint. In other words, leaving the past behind, how do you wish to care for and connect with your fellows throughout this year to make it a better one than last?

At my church, we’ve kicked off 2017 with a sermon series called Time to Shift. While the focus is on growing our church and its ministries and our individual walks with God, the series has a deeply personal call as well.

I think the time is absolutely right for a spiritual assessment of massive proportions. It IS time to shift.

It’s time to go deep, my friends. It’s time to see what we’re made of. It’s time to learn and grow, and yes, to shift.

Can I get an amen?

Some of you know that I was baptized for the first time last October. As a new Christian and new member of Cathedral of Hope, United Church of Christ, I am passionate about all things Jesus.

Here’s my big HOWEVER: I cherish the notion of individual spiritual sanctity. Whatever your path, I honor it. I hope you share it with me, especially if you agree to move into a shift.

As you begin to take your spiritual practice to a new level, I offer these seven ideas to support you:

Let music, dance, works of literature or art tingle your senses and offset the negative voices of news reports (or any negativity, for that matter!).

Stand firm in your power. No one else will state your case as well as you can.

Believe that you are valuable and worthy. God does, so why shouldn’t you?

Plant your feet in today and keep them there. If you find your mind wandering into “what ifs,” look at your feet.

Honor who you are always. Do not try to be anyone else for anyone else. Ever.

Love wildly and freely. Love big. And please, by all that is holy, love beyond those who look, act, vote like, or eat in the same restaurants as you.

Finally, should you ever feel the need to complain, stop it. Instead, find a solution, or at least a beginning idea.

May you have gobs of courage, hope and faith in 2017, my dear peeps. Big love to YOU!

Surrendering to Election 2016: Let’s Move On!

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Election 2016 is nearly in the books. Nervous anticipation hangs everywhere; the words, “I’ll be so glad when it’s over,” are exchanged again and again in coffee shops, at train stops and every other locale where two or more are gathered.

Throw in a stewed  mess of negative campaigning (what an understatement!) that stirs people into an emotional frenzy and I’m beginning to believe that our next president will need a divine intervention to repair the damage done to the collective American psyche.

My Australian friend Patricia says watching the American presidential campaign is like watching the best reality TV ever!

Too, too much!

I find the entire spectacle childish and sad. There’s a downside to living in a time when our culture is seemingly controlled by social media. Don’t get me wrong, I love the connectivity and potential for good that social media affords us, not to mention that I make my living working with social media platforms.

But for months, every sound bite and pictorial moment among the political candidates has become embedded in the global Twitter feed and therefore deemed newsworthy. My journalist’s heart weeps.

In Texas, we can choose to cast an early ballot so last Wednesday I approached the polling booth, not with excitement as I usually do, but with trepidation. I did not want to vote for either candidate. I felt a surge of resentment just as the polling judge announced, “We have a first-time voter!”

The young woman looked so eager and fresh-faced as she waved to the room.

“Bless her heart,” I thought to myself. What an awful, worn out election to be casting her first presidential vote.

Then I found myself wondering who is blessing the nation’s heart.

A Sunday surrender

At church yesterday, I got the reminder I needed of who is blessing us all. As dark as our nation’s time seems right now, God–insert your name for the Divine–always offers light. The beauty of humanhood is we get to choose to walk in the light and to send the shadows away beyond our hula hoop.

With light comes hope and who among us doesn’t want to carry that torch? I was also reminded during Sunday service at Cathedral of Hope, United Church of Christ, that choosing to bear the light of hope is carrying the mission of countless other masters of hope and peace who came before us. Certainly Jesus, but also the Buddha, Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, Jr. were saints in that they lived and walked in light and love.

We would do well to emulate them. And we do.

You are an everyday saint when you speak words of hope to another and each time you encourage inclusivity instead of division. You are an everyday saint each time to listen thoughtfully without judgment or derision. You are an everyday saint when you see the world with eyes of compassion and when you touch someone else with your peace.

The votes that we cast in this presidential election are crucial–I’m praying for a future filled with optimism and goodwill among those who win their chosen offices.

But we have a higher calling. May you be blessed with an abundance of hope, love and peace this week, and in your blessing, pay it forward.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile:maryhere

Hemingway or Wilson: The “I’m Okay” Story

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Have you considered how often you say the words “I’m okay?”

Usually the response follows a question from someone asking how you are or how you’re feeling. I heard the words during a talk given recently by author and philanthropist Mariel Hemingway. She appeared at an Enterhealth reception at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas.

The “I’m okay” story around mental health and addiction

Ms. Hemingway is known for her philanthropic work around mental health and addiction; in that work she speaks about her family–her famous grandfather, as well as her mother, father and sisters. Suicide from mental health conditions is rampant along with, in her case, obsessive attempts to control the out-of-control circumstances created from addiction and depression.

From the time she was young until she was 16 and moved to New York to make the movie Manhattan, Hemingway cleaned up the messes that followed her parents parties. In the middle of the night, she would get rid of the evidence, as she said, in hopes that the new day would bring hope (her word) and changed behaviors.

Like so many of us who grew up in homes where addiction was as much a part of the household as the furniture, Hemingway believed her role was a normal one. She believed every family had a fixer.

Ultimately, she spent decades trying to find where she fit, once she gave up her fixer role. She sought her identity through diets, religions, relationships and behaviors but nothing fit just right when she tried it on.

Finally, an answer

The answer to the identity she sought finally came during a private audience visit with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. She and a group were allowed to ask questions but she simply sat quietly next to His Holiness periodically exchanging a smile.

He must have sensed her seeking because at the end of the visit, he leaned over, touched her and quietly said, “You’re okay.”

So simple, yet so profound–and so much of what I know but have to practice. I no longer have to run from my story or fix my past because I am okay in this moment. As Rev. Neil said yesterday at Cathedral of Hope, sometimes when the glass feels half empty, the best we can do is simply be grateful for the next breath we draw.

Moment by moment, being present is a powerful exercise.

It doesn’t matter whether your family name is Hemingway or Wilson or any other name, Mariel reminded us that there are always gifts and baggage.

I say it’s time to let go of the baggage and embrace the gifts. For that realization, I am grateful and I’m okay.

Photo courtesy of takeasnap