Ripple of Blessings

A mere two weeks ago, my daughter applied to and was accepted to go to Ghana as part of the medical team on a mission trip. Already we have seen blessings in our own lives. The latest one I’ve noticed is that our friends and family, upon hearing that donations are needed to fund the trip, are coming together over something wonderful. It seems that usually people are inspired to step up when there is disaster or tragedy, and it is great to see people help in such circumstances, but how wonderful that there is no grief, no sorrow, no regret involved in this coming together! It is pure joy and celebration, hope and love.

The Sunny Side of the Five Precepts

Leave it to me to be presumptuous enough to amend principles of a millenniums-old faith.

But that’s how I roll.

I always think it better to phrase things in the positive rather than the negative, if possible. It’s proven scientifically, as well as by common sense, that the brain understands things phrased positively much better than something negative. Compare: We deny the negation of the prohibition of the refusal to stop avoiding tantrums. Am I for tantrums or against them? Am I for good behavior or against it? And if you think I’m exaggerating, you obviously don’t read much news of higher court decisions or legislation. It sounds just like that.

Whereas if I am all for the promotion of the development of the increase in establishing protections of human rights, you know exactly my opinion, no matter how many positive things I string together.

Watch parents and kids at the park. A kid’s on the monkey bars, struggling. If the parent yells, “Don’t fall!” the kid has to understand falling, then abstractly negate it. Often, they fall. If the parent yells, “Hang on!” the kid knows instantly exactly what’s being directed, and often is able to hang on.

Humans do things. We don’t not do things.

The way to quit a bad habit is not to obsess over not doing it. You replace it with a better habit, and focus on that.

Water only the seeds you want to grow, and the rest dies naturally.

That’s a Buddhist principle, by the way.

So really, my audacity in changing the Five Precepts is merely my applying Buddhist thought to Buddhist thought, and see where it takes me. Buddhism encourages experimentation, after all.

Here are the Five Precepts as written in Jack Kornfield’s A Path With Heart:

  1. I undertake to refrain from killing and harming living beings.
  2. I undertake to refrain from stealing and taking that which is not mine.
  3. I undertake to refrain from causing harm through sexual misconduct.
  4. I undertake to refrain from false speech, harmful speech, gossip, and slander.
  5. I undertake to refrain from the misuse of intoxicants or substances such as alcohol or drugs that cause carelessness or loss of awareness.

I agree wholeheartedly with all of those. But I think if we phrase them positively, then read and meditate on them regularly, all the negative stuff will be contained therein, but we won’t have to have it in our faces all the time. I know very well that I should not stab my dog with a butcher knife, and I don’t need to bring that truth to mind constantly. If I focus instead on nurturing and nourishing my dog, the avoidance of butcher knives will naturally occur.

Here is my working list of Sunny Side Precepts:

  1. Cherish all life.
  2. Love shares joyfully.
  3. Cultivate healthy intimacy.
  4. Cultivate silence; if necessary, speak truth.
  5. Cultivate clear awareness.

The same alterations might appropriately be made to the ten commandments.

Inclusiveness: Direction vs. Location

I am currently making my way through the book of 2 Chronicles. In chapter 6 is Solomon’s prayer to God after having built God’s temple (house) in Jerusalem.

The thing that first caught my eye about Solomon’s request was that he was able to include everyone, even “foreigners,” in his request that God hear our prayers, by asking that God not only hear the prayers of those actually at the temple, but also those facing in the direction of the temple. So Solomon transforms his religion into something accessible to everyone, no matter where they are.

Inclusiveness is very important to me. The inclusive message of Jesus resonates so deeply for me, and to find it beginning this far back is exciting.

Here are the verses which describe the concentration of God’s presence in one location:

“…when they pray in the direction of their land which you gave their fathers, and of the city you have chosen, and of the house which I have built to your honor…” 2 Chronicles 6:38

Now, of course, I believe that God’s presence is concentrated within each of our hearts, so that we have only to face inward, that is, pray in the direction of our interior depths, where Christ has a temple and where the Holy Spirit fills us.

But I can see how Solomon with his God given wisdom started humanity down this path of everyone being able to stand in relation to Spirit (direction) to give all people access to Spirit, not just those lucky enough to be part of a certain group worshiping at a certain altar (location).

Up In The Air

My “career” for this coming semester is completely uncertain. Through two different institutions there is the possibility that I will be teaching six different classes five days per week.

It is also possible that I will be teaching nothing.

I have gone from an unknown to someone people think is worth having on the back burner. Not yet valuable enough to be permanently, certainly needed.

The All Things French class (which I like to abbreviate “ATF” while giggling, since our group of well-seasoned ladies is the exact opposite of the mostly young male ATF agents as portrayed on TV, wearing their dark windbreakers and busting into a drug dealer’s home with guns blazing) is almost a certain go, as I will have many return students who say they are bringing friends. I’ve come up with the syllabus for that one, chose the films, planned the conversation topics. Now I want to come up with a class packet with basic stuff we’ll be referring to throughout the class. Last time it was just a lot of handouts, and I think the ensuing disorganization discourages people.

I’m going to add some pages to the Conversational Spanish packet, then I’ll be ready to roll with that class. If it makes, it will be the sixth time I’ve taught it, so I pretty much have it down.

The Spanish for Health Care Providers class will have a textbook, and it will be really basic stuff, so there should be little to no planning for that one, other than coming up with extra activities, which I can simply steal from the conversation class. (I say steal, but I developed all the material, so don’t call the police just yet!)

The budgeting class I have down, pretty much. A one day seminar of three hours. I’d like to come up with some new stuff for that, just because it’s a lot of droning on about stuff that doesn’t really help the people who have to take the class. They have no money to budget, and often are not in the class through any financial errors of their own. Shall I go over how and why to have a bank account to the woman who is displaced, escaping with her children from an abusive relationship? Or the old man trying to live on his pension while simultaneously paying to have his stroked wife in a care facility? There has to be something more helpful I can do.

The two credit Spanish classes at the University will be time consuming, but simple in that all materials are provided. I just follow the plan and teach the material, hopefully imparting to the young people along the way a love of the Spanish language and the people who speak it.

And so I wait and make my little preparations. It is irritating not to know, but on the bright side, I can fantasize about what I’ll do with all my free time, should I end up having a lot.

Blessings

As my understanding of spirituality shifts further from the external to the internal, I have new appreciation for certain aspects, such as blessings.

Having heard since I was born people say grace to bless the food, I always understood it as an external invocation to God to come from wherever He’s hanging out to give extra fantastic goodness to what we were about to eat. The aspect of how corrupt, or at best neutral, everything is until we beg for blessing and receive it, or not, depending on God’s whim, never sat well with me. Pride? Ego? Who knows.

Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:4-5: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected when received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the invocation of God in prayer.”

At the outset, everything God creates is good. It is good in and of itself, whether or not any human ever says or intends anything with regard to it. The thing, say it’s corn on the cob, is already blessed, as Buddha would point out, by the sunshine, by the rainwater, by the insects that helped pollinate it or the animals who scattered the seed or the human who harvested it. All the energy that’s gone into it becomes Oneness, the whole world comes together in unified effort for the food in front of us. That is Love. That is God. What other blessing could possibly be required?

But Paul says that the prayer is important. Not for the food, but for us. In Romans 14:14 Paul says “I know and am convinced in the lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; still, it is unclean for someone who thinks it unclean.”

The prayer is for the benefit of the eater, not to create a blessing within the food, because that is already there. But to prepare oneself, body-mind-soul, to receive the indwelling blessing. To embrace it. To allow it to transform them into Oneness.

The power of the mind joins with the power of the Spirit.

Just like the placebo effect has real results, so as we are convinced that things are good, wholesome, healing, blessed, nourishing, so their inherent and natural effect on us is amplified.

It is not your lips making noises that brings blessing from wherever. It is your own heart opening to receive the blessings that already fill our world – this is the prayer.

New Year Promises, version 2013

I admit it, I’m a sucker for the New Year. While intellectually understanding that numbers on a calendar are essentially a randomly generated form of organization  (when it started, how many days per month, etc.), I also can’t help but take advantage of the feeling of newness and enthusiasm that overtakes me when it’s all about to start over again.

For Christmas my oldest daughter gave me a wonderful little book of quotes called The Essential Wisdom of the Saints, edited by Carol Kelly-Gangi. I have added it to my fantastically tall stack of books I’m in the middle of, and I enjoy tasty tidbits here and there.

I read this list by St. John Bosco a few days ago:

  • “I will take no unnecessary walks.
  • I will make exactingly careful use of my time.
  • When the salvation of souls is at stake I will always be ready to act, to suffer, and to humble myself.
  • May the charity and gentleness of St. Francis de Sales inform my every action.
  • I will always be content with the food set before me unless it is really harmful to my health.
  • I will always add water to my wine and drink it only for reasons of health.
  • Since work is a powerful weapon against the enemies of my salvation I will take only five hours sleep a night. During the day, especially after dinner, I will take no rest, except in case of illness.
  • Every day I will devote some time to meditation and spiritual reading.
  • During the day I will make a short visit, or at least a prayer, to the Blessed Sacrament. My preparation for Mass shall last at least a quarter of an hour and  so shall my thanksgiving.
  • Outside the confessional and save in cases of strict necessity I will never stop to talk to women.”

An interesting collection of personal promises, to say the least.

Being as we are in smelling-the-breath proximity to the beginning of 2013, I wrote that day a heading in my spiritual workbook, “New Year’s Promises for the Year of 2013.”

I was stumped. “Exercise every day.” “Eat lots of veggies.” “Spend quality time with each child each day.” Etc. Lots of directives that I already strive for. Is it really going to help me to lay down specific details and bind myself to them with a solemn vow?

This morning I came up with a short list that I intend to embrace fully, body-mind-soul:

  • invite Spirit
  • see Love
  • embrace Peace
  • cultivate Understanding

My plate is full.

This is gonna get messy

Because that’s how life, mine anyway, is most authentically lived.

I think about this blog almost daily, but don’t ever write anymore.

Some of my myriad excuses:

  • What I want to say might offend someone I know IRL who might stumble upon my blog
  • I don’t have my thoughts 100% clarified
  • Feeling guilty about taking time away from my family, household duties, work, etc. to polish a post
  • Respectable blogs have photos, strive to make money, participate in “carnivals,” are promoted, sponsored, gold-stamped, etc.
  • What the hell do I have to say that isn’t already being said/that anyone would give two craps about?

Also, I am overly attached to the “Tribe” part of “Wise Way,” and obsess over what this hypothetical group of people would think/expect.

If you belong to the Tribe (you know who you are!), then jump right in. If you’d like to contribute blog posts, just let me know, it is practically effortless to get them posted.

Meanwhile, I’ve got to dance with them what’s here, and currently, it’s just lil ole me.

And I’m not askeered of mud, mystery, or mess.

So here we go.