Thursday, March 21, 2013

What to Do When.....

...someone assumes if you JUST got to know Jesus as he really is, you'd be a Christian (again.)

I have two off-the-proverbial-cuff responses when I get this from a (usually well-meaning) person after they've learned I'm going a different direction with my spirituality.

1.  Try to defend and explain, knowing it won't do a bit of good because we are simply speaking from two different brain ruts, although I condescend to at least have experience in their brain rut so I get where they're coming from.  'Course they don't believe that because surely, SURELY, if I had REALLY REALLY met Jesus I would NEVER leave the flock.  What makes this frustrating is that the convo is over at that point.  It won't be discussed again.  Polite 'thanks for sharing' comments ensue, and they'll go on their merry way shaking their head.  It's rather infuriating, but all I can do is share in honesty where I'm at and how I got there.

Unfortunately, I don't have a weekly meeting with other like-minded folks to reassure me of the validity of my brand of spirituality...I gotta go this alone, bravely, as the Buddha teaches.  I don't have the luxury of having a single 'Book' that teaches all there is to know about the divine.  Instead I forage around in the non-descript arena of facebook feeds and dusty shelves labelled 'spirituality' in which everyone simply shares their own journey.  Don't get me wrong, it's fabulous knowing others are seekers like me, but to interact face-to-face as I did in the church, with others of similar persuasion, is something I certainly miss.  Yoga classes come close, but then I have to sweat.

This response to engage the other person in a dialogue when you already know the outcome is well, dumb.  But I do it anyway because it helps me continue to refine and define my experience (which is great because I don't get to do that every week in a church, see above).  I suppose I hope it will also plant a seed of doubt, as devious as that seems.  Yes, I see the irony.  We all would love to think and believe as we do.  It's such a warm, reassuring feeling when others believe as we do, like we're all 'right' or something, because how could it be wrong when so many believe it to be 'right'?  But there's another reason  to risk the vulnerability and rejection (and hearing "I hope you'll meet the real Jesus sometime" is a brush-off form of rejection not only of my beliefs, but of they assume I just haven't experienced God in the RIGHT way, THEIR way.  If I had, I would be a christian....or a vegetarian, or a crossfitter, or whatev. We like to be validated, and bringing people to our way of thinking is the surest form of validation there is beyond a burning bush.)  I choose to be vulnerable because I'm lonely, and the only way to find other pilgrims on the journey is to put yourself out there and see who responds.

I was vulnerable like that yesterday when I posted the link to this blog on a facebook thread.  Someone commented on a picture and quote I shared from the Buddha....asking if I'd forgotten Jesus?  That he is our hope?  And so, because I want to keep relationship with this person, I offered to post a link to here, if they were interested in understanding where I was coming from.  They were, and so I posted.  I shared this link as well as this one.

The response was why I wrote this post.  But not before sticking my head WAAAY out there again and responding on the thread one last time.  Their comment was per usual "thanks for sharing, hope you'll meet the real jesus, and not let the idiots scare you away"  (my paraphrase) Here's what I wrote (and it's darn good if you ask me):

Thanks for reading the posts....although I left the church because of the people, I left my beliefs about Jesus 

thru my own study and experience. The 'story' just doesn't hold up for me anymore, and I've found other 

avenues to satisfy my spiritual hunger. I enjoy knowing I can meet the divine in any individual if I take the

 time to connect with their Being....a hard thing to do sometimes! I guess I don't think people are good or

 bad: your comment that we're all 'quite the mess' is a belief I don't share...I think we're all just spirits having 

a human experience with choices, and sometimes the choices of others affect us negatively. I felt I had a 

'personal relationship' with God thru Jesus for many years, but now I don't believe in a personal god, just the 

divine as it expresses itself thru the created world, including humans. I know you believe I just haven't

 REALLY met Jesus, and if I did, then I'd be a christian again. (I've had others say this to me as well when

 they hear of my new spiritual life, and honestly, it feels kinda patronizing, although I know their heart is in the

 right place.) What I experienced as 'having a personal relationship with Jesus' was simply one avenue of 

connecting with myself, others and the hindsight I don't necessarily believe there was a Person 

outside myself who was speaking to me. I think it was my own divine nature (my Consciousness), and 

because of my conditioning/surroundings, I assumed it was a personal God outside myself. Getting really 

esoteric here. When I stepped back from my faith in the bible as the only way to know Truth, that unraveling 

opened new ideas and hence, my heart. My journey has been to discover the spiritual without the specific

 trappings of a christian understanding. I ask too many dangerous questions for most christian theology to

 answer  And while I still get pretty riled up about how some christians portray their faith in such narrow

 terms, I mostly just don't pay attention anymore as it's so outside my experience now. Spiritually speaking,

 I'm very content and secure in my not knowing some ultimate 'Truth'. Sorry for the length....

This person is intimately involved with their church family, works for the school at the church where their kids attend, lives in a neighborhood just down the street from their church where many fellow attenders also live.  I don't have any illusions that my words will do anything other than help them understand I'm no longer a christian.  The end.

And yet, still I responded.  The last remaining reason for doing so is purely selfish.

I don't want to pretend around them anymore.  I don't want them assuming I am how I've always been when I've changed.  I totally relate to my gay friends when they 'come out'.  It's hard to play a role you shed long before and really keep your integrity.  If being real means some will reject any honest relationship with you, so be it.  I'd rather not wait til my eulogy, as my mom did, to tell the world who I really am.  Not that those who really loved her and kept relationship with her didn't know her or understand and accept her beliefs....but the many christians from her past who came to the service got themselves an eloquent, gracious earful....and Susie came gloriously exploding out of their tidy christian boxes.  Talk about getting the last word ;)

And the 2nd off-the-cuff-proberbial response. Just walk away.  Perhaps I need to exercise this response more often?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Geneen Roth and her brilliant take on food and life

I get Geneen's newsletter in my inbox.  I love her.  I want to marry her.  

Her book "When Food is Love" was a tremendous catalyst to helping me explore my issues with food.  Her book "Women, Food, and God" came just at the right time as I began digging deeper into my spirituality, and linked my issues with food to my search for truth.  

I'm back on the bandwagon after a 3 month slip and slide down to The Ugly Place after my mom left us.  A few weeks ago I found the strength to say 'enough' and began taking care of myself again.  

So, of course, the Universe sends me some Geneen Love at just the right moment, reminding me of the journey...which is life itself.  And that arriving isn't the point.


If a wish-granting genie had appeared during the 17 years I was gaining and losing a thousand pounds, I would've said, "Take 50 pounds off my body immediately and make me thin. When I wake up tomorrow, let me eat ice cream without guilt and munch potato chips without seeing them on my hips within ten minutes." If the aforementioned genie had been smart, she probably would've said to me, "Are you kidding? With all the wishes you could possibly have -- being forever happy or endlessly wise or even unspeakably rich, you want to be thin?" And my answer would've been a resounding yes. I wanted your basic miracle. Just one teeny miracle.

If there's one refrain I hear constantly from people who are struggling with food, it's that they want this to be over, done, kaput. They want to wake up thin tomorrow and spend the rest of their life without a food problem.

Yup, I understand. Been there. Wished that. But let me tell you the good news about that wish: It's entirely possible to break free from emotional eating. You can be someone who walks around without thoughts of food occupying the main portion of your mental life.

The bad news, of course, is that the work of transformation is up to you, and the work itself is a journey that -- uh-oh, here it comes -- never ends.

Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield tells a story about a family of nomads traveling through the desert on camels. One of the children calls out, "Hey, Dad! When are we going to get there?" And the dad calls back, "We're nomads. We're never going to get there!" That's how it is: with life, with emotional eating, and with transforming ourselves. It's a journey, an adventure, a process; we're not done until there's not a breath left in our bodies.

Part of the challenge of emotional eating involves changing how we think about food: from a problem to fix to a path we walk. Instead of telling ourselves that we want to get rid of our struggles, we can ask ourselves how the vehicle we've chosen for the journey -- our relationship with food -- functions in our lives. How is emotional eating helping us, speaking for us, and expressing something we feel we can't express directly?

One of the principles of my work is that there are always exquisitely good reasons why we turn to food when we aren't hungry -- and our work is to develop a kinder, wiser relationship not only with food but also with ourselves. It means being willing to consider and then explore how we use food in our lives. It means treating ourselves with compassion, and understanding that the point isn't to arrive at some imagined destination but to have a transformative, fascinating, fabulous time arriving. And arriving and arriving.

A few years ago, I worked with a woman who couldn't stop eating desserts. Rebecca would get through the days eating balanced meals, but at night, she'd graze from cheesecake to ice cream to cookies. Then she'd get disgusted with herself and go on a high-protein diet, during which she wouldn't eat any sweets. After she lost weight, she'd go back to her regular dessert-laden lifestyle.

Rebecca wanted help figuring out why she constantly sabotaged herself. I told her that I believe we use food for good reasons and even though it seemed like self-sabotage, I knew she was trying to care for herself in some way; it was our task to discover what that was.

At first, Rebecca was interested only in discovering how to fix herself immediately. She wanted magic. She wanted instant answers. She wanted to wake up thin tomorrow.

But when she relaxed and stopped focusing on the goal, she remembered that when she was younger, her parents were very poor and there was never enough meat on the table. But there were always cookies, she said. "We always had sweets because they were cheap, and my mother could feel that she was giving us something we liked."

As she recalled the days of being hungry, she realized that bingeing on desserts made her feel close to her parents, who had died years before. "I know this sounds strange," she said, "but now that I am a successful businesswoman, I have this secret belief that I am being disloyal to my family. I have what they never had -- enough money to buy the main course."

Once she realized what she was doing, she could ask herself if what she believed was actually true. And she recognized, of course, that it wasn't, and that there were other unharmful ways to remember her parents. When she stopped wanting to make theproblem go away, she relaxed enough to be able to explore the root of her emotional eating. And she stopped being married to sugar.

If Rebecca had woken up thin before understanding the reasons she was eating sweets, the sense of guilt and abandoning her family would've still haunted her.

Years ago, I attended a month-long retreat with Vietnamese peace activist and Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. As I walked along the paths at his retreat center, there were signs every few steps that said, "You are arriving in every moment." There was never a sign that said, "You have arrived."

Think about how different life could be if you stopped emphasizing the end, the fix, or getting there and began enjoying each step of the way. If one moment was as good as the next. If the goal in life was not to fix yourself but to transform yourself.

Here, after all, is a miracle: You're already on the journey. You already know and already have everything you need to continue. Relax, breathe, be kind to yourself and everyone else.

Oh, there's one more thing: Enjoy the ride.


Check out all things Geneen Roth HERE.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Following the bread crumbs

My mom’s home library contains a plethora of books on spirituality of all stripes and colors.  It might be called dangerous by some, and many years ago, even she probably would’ve called it scandalous.  Her shelves contain the voices of dozens of controversial authors who have dared ask the hard questions of life/God/religion, risked their reputations and incomes, and spoke Truth in a way that helped congeal the myriad, rambling thoughts of the always-curious mind that resided within her beautiful head and heart.

That library had at times concerned me, soon lured me, and now delights me to no end.
Like my Mom, I love discovering these others who live outside the many recognizable spiritual/philosophical boxes of our current society… honestly from their gut, following their hearts into dark places of Mystery and ancient Knowings, not settling for inconsistencies or things that offend their hearts.  Mom thrilled with each new voice who articulated universal  themes of Divine Love even as they were flowering in her own heart.  Those authors were lighting the path she found herself following, opening new avenues of understanding and embracing Spirit as well as her own amazing humanity.

And, I should mention, Mom couldn’t leave a book alone.  Thumbing thru pages she’d devoured were her written reactions….her wanderings, her ponderings, her exuberant agreements….lots of exclamation points and underlinings, ‘cause Mom never did anything unless she did it All. The. Way.  These books contain almost diary-like revelations, causing one to feel that they’re trespassing thru the private, sacred workings of a person in process, a person completely resolved to follow their unpredictable path wherever it leads, and completely in awe and wonderment at the journey…. regardless of random rabbit trails or even gawking onlookers shaking their heads at the direction she’s headed.  My mom knew there was no going back, no folding that relentless thirsty mind and heart of hers back into its previous claustrophobic space. 

Several weeks before she died, I happened upon one such book on her shelves. With a delicious title like Jesus and the Lost Goddess, how could I resist?  So I teased it out from among its neighbors and began to casually flip thru the pages.  As usual, the back of the book was filled with mom’s copious notes…..BUT as I quickly glanced thru the hastily scribbled lines, I immediately noticed two inked stars halfway down the page, followed by 
“My prayer for Cindy and family”. 

Feeling a leeetle bit guilty, like I used to feel when I discovered the marshmallow fudge twists Mom had hidden in the cupboard for herself, I checked the page number referenced and……

….decided I wasn’t sure I was ready to read it.  Whether I *should* read it.

So I took the book home, (and let my Mom know), then eventually got brave and turned to page 64 where I found the two stars again, next to an underlined section.

It read:

“at the innermost depths of each of us there is one Consciousness, unchanging and the same…the hidden root of the tree of which we are all branches.”

At the bottom of that page, Mom had written “You gave me my prayer for Cindy—and the blessing to me, first.  My Consciousness.”

I’m sharing this here to publicly acknowledge that her prayer for me (and my family) is being answered.   I hope my Mom knew it as well before she let go of this life.

See, Mom was a genius in leaving (whole grain Brownberry)  bread crumbs behind her as she picked her way ahead of me, easing my own journey toward an ever expanding, inclusive, love-based spirituality that honors both our intensely human experience as well as our infinite, perfect Self.  She blazed a trail without knowing exactly where she was headed, trusting the rest of us would find the clues, perhaps avoid some of her pitfalls, and embrace our own messy pilgrimage thru the hairball of our human existence. 

So now, I hope you’ll allow me to share a gift from my own journey, which has been and will continue to be inspired by my mom. In July, anticipating what I’d be facing in the coming months, I took a headlong leap into a yoga practice. I felt perhaps the holistic approach offered by a “fitness program” that’d been around for over 5000 years may have something to offer me. 

That ended up being a gross understatement.  I wrote all about it here.

One of the spiritual practices of yoga is the meditative chanting of ancient Sanskrit mantras, which are simply prayers or reciting the sacred names of God.  It bypasses the mind, quiets the heart, and speaks directly to the Self.  One chant in particular has captured my imagination, as it’s helped me feel connected to Mom’s Consciousness during the last difficult weeks of her illness, and will serve me going forward as I learn to journey on without her physical presence in my life. I feel it was and is my Mom’s heart for every one of us because I watched her try to practice it herself.  It translates:

May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.
Peace Peace Peace.

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

Thank you, friends, for letting me share this with you, and for holding the sacred brilliance of my fun-loving, brave, pioneering mother in your hearts. 

The Divine (Consciousness) in me bows to the Divine (Consciousness) within each of you. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

New 'do

I chanced some change with my hairs.  Got 'em all cut off.  Each and every one.

I feel like making big changes in this season, a time for new beginnings, even in my grief.  Yet I also feel exhausted, like the leaves barely clinging to the branches....ready to fall and wither.  I don't want life to just go on.  I don't want to do life without Mom here on this earth, breathing the same air as me, watching the leaves turn and fall, bundling up for winter, planning the season's holiday decor.


So I go a hair cut.  Big change.

Everyone so far is gaga over it.  Telling me how young and cute it is.

I don't know what to think.  It's been over a week and I still don't know how to get it to look like the picture up thar (that was the stylist's doing).  I feel naked and people will see my fat now, not my glorious hair.  No hiding in the tresses or cute flowers.

Mom would love it.  I remember getting my first 'Dorothy Hamill' cut in the '70's and posing out front for Mom's camera.  She liked my hair short.  I had stick straight pixies in 1st and 2nd grade.  Got an asymetrical shaved/swoopy thing in high school.  A short mullet.  Lots of perms.

Here's how it looked a couple days ago after I attempted to style it:

Not so great.  Too structured (Type 4), not enough randomness.

Got a bit closer a this weekend:

I'm definitely not loving the amount of product it takes to do this.  I have no choice now except to play around with it and hope I figure it out.  Or get used to wearing hats. :)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fading Roses

My sweet Mom died 14 very long days ago.

She planned her own memorial,  choosing the songs, poems and prayers...even wrote her own beautiful eulogy.  Evidently dying slowly of cancer affords you this luxury, but I'm fairly certain it wasn't a luxury Mom ever coveted.  Still, we were all so grateful to her for the work she put in as a last gift to us.  The service was amazingly difficult, yet amazingly beautiful.  She reached out to us from where she now flies, and it was a profound experience for my brother, sister, dad, and everyone who stuffed themselves into the ballroom at my parent's neighborhood Chateau {{glorified clubhouse}} to say goodbye.

Because I'm so much like my mom, I'm processing her passing by writing my own words.  The day after I watched her take her last breath, I wrote a big ole thing.  I wrote it in thankfulness for the mom I was given, for the too-short time I had with her, and for the hope of a future with her guidance to lead me and her memory as my companion.  Because I believe she wants me to pursue every drop of hope and light I can....and I know this because she pursued it herself.  It's a good piece, written in the heady aftermath of the drama of death and emotion and naive grief not yet tested by the loneliness and monotony of the coming weeks. I'll post it soon, but not tonight.

Tonight I just feel this raging hurting loss.  I have some nasties to let fly so my mom can catch them in the wind and toss them where they won't prick me and taunt me and suffocate me.  Do you mind?

There is a huge something missing in my life now. Enormous and never-ending and painful and awkward and weird and stupid.  I'm kinda pissed about it actually.   I mean, why her?  Why not the fatass at Walmart in the candy aisle with greasy hair?  {{I immediately feel a *Knowing tap* on my shoulder as Mom reminds me "why NOT her?"  Ok Mom.  It's an uneven playing field and the refs are on strike, so I'll go with it.}}
I know she's near me, but it's just not the same.  Not at all.

Anyone who tells you different hasn't lost their own huge something.

And, btw, to those who have sinned by omission due to not having lost your own huge something yet, ouch.
That hurt.  I forgive you.  But I'm still kinda mad at you.  I might be over it by the holidays.  Or not.  There might be opportunities for enough downward dogs in the next few months to get it out of my system.  But don't count on it.  I really do hope to be over it by the time you must lose your huge something so that I won't be a dick in your hour of loss.  Because, really, I want to be a nice person again.

And what's with this weather?  Like the cosmos tapped into my searing heart and was like, "hey show her what her pain looks like on the outside"  and sent a sudden foretaste of the biting cold that's coming, complete with heavy, sagging grey clouds and spitting shards of rain.  Nice.

I know it sounds like I'm angry.  I'm ok with that.

I'm also utterly sad.  I'm trying to be ok with that.

And I'm lonely.  With my hubby and kids always nearby, I'm still profoundly lonely.  I may never be ok with that.

I'm sitting with my emotions when all I really want to do is rage around and terrify everyone around me because it HURTS SO MUCH, then drive as fast as I can to the nearest Dunkin' Donuts for yeasty demons filled with fluffified transfat and rolled in powered sugar dust.  Why yes, I will take a bakers dozen. Eating my emotions would taste so good....

And what I didn't expect was the exhaustion.  Physical exhaustion, I mean.  It's not like I'm training for a marathon....I drive my kids to school, walk my dog, do some yoga.  And yet I'm bone-tired.  Feels like the kind that won't ever go away.

Yes, I know it will.  Don't care.  Needed to write it.  Needed to acknowledge it.

Since I don't have a freaking clue how this is all gonna come out {this post or my life post-watching-cancer-kick-the-shit-out-of-my-mom's-beautiful-body}, I figure the least I can do is get it out here and hope for the best..  Other things I'm trying out before giving in to the afore-mentioned doughnuts:

Pin a dozen new hairstyle ideas on Pinterest.

Make just shy of 4 million batches of soap in my mom's honor (and blow up a batch in the oven).

Remember to breath.

Listen to as much Mumford and Sons as I possibly can.

Pick up 6 tiny, perfect, flaming red leaves that lay in my path as I walk in the rain.

Blow raspberries and slobber kisses on my grandbaby's petal soft cheeks.

Remember to breath.

Feel sorry for myself, then tell all my facebook friends I need a playdate.

Do yoga.

Do more yoga.

Remember to breath.

Watch episodes of mindless TV on Netflix.

Stare at the leaves as they write their own eulogy in brilliant color, just like my Mom did, and know she can see them too....that she's now part of the magic that makes it happen.

Oh yeah, and eat one too many Bob Evans biscuits with honey.

And......remember to breath.

I miss you Mom.  Nothing will ever be the same.  Help me see goodness again.