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I have been out sick with a nasty flu for the past week, and it’s really gotten me down, but it has given me lots of reflection time. I was outside lying in the sun (trying to bake out this gunk) yesterday, and as I was journaling, this poem came out. I figured that I’d at least share this with you. I don’t proclaim to be a poet, and I’m sure this could go through a lot of editing, but here it is anyway. Sort of states where I am on my journey.
The Comet and The Sun
I want to grow wings out of my back
and glide above the buzz of the day to day life
to see the inconveniences for the little annoyances that they are
instead of the struggles they appear to be from this vantage point.
I want the clarity to see things from the perspective of the eternal
where I can relieve in myself of the burdock burrs of life
that cling to your pants whenever they find you as a convenient vehicle.
I am not as important as I think I am.
While I am the center of my galaxy, I am only a passing comet in this;
bright, energetic, and slightly dangerous if I get too close.
I will also make entry and exit, onto other exciting adventures .
The comet is viewed as impressive when in view
but not much considered went out of sight.
May I have the humility to see my light as people see the comet:
a welcome visitor but not the sun.
So, What have you come to realize today?
A lot has been going on here, and I know that I haven’t been posting much lately, but you’ll soon be seeing a whole bunch more postings here. I promise.
One of the activities that has been keeping me busy is that I completed a video for the Spirit at Work Creative Video Contest, and I need your help! Please watch the video below (or go to https://vimeo.com/groups/spiritatworkcreative/videos/39671085), and click on the “Like” button that’s shaped like a heart in the upper right hand corner of the video. There are 35 videos in the contest, and the 10 videos that get the most Likes before June 2, 2012 will be judged for a grand prize of CDN$7,500.00. There are many good videos in the context, but mine is the only one that is dealing with the issues of career and spiritual development. It might not be as flashy as some of the other videos, but I think that you’ll like the content.
Please share it with your friends and get them to “like” it to! Thanks for all your assistance!
A couple of weeks ago, I attended a program at the Theosophical Society of Boston by Pam Kristan, and the subject was “Awakening in Time: Practical Time Management for Those on A Spiritual Path”. Pam’s presentation was on thinking about how to manage your time and consider how it fits into your spiritual context. The most interesting thing for me was concept of Sufficiency Practice. Just like yoga or meditation being a practice, Pam mentioned that we need to think and consider what we’ve done already in order to appreciate it before we go into the next thing. This is also the work of my friend Gina LaRoche and Seven Stones Leadership.
Just like in any presentation, the standard set up for that is an introduction, presenting the content, and then a wrap up. Too often, we completely forget about the wrap up. The following is another video blog on my concepts on this.
So, are you noticing what you’ve already accomplished?
In my further striving to share interesting voices with you, I came upon this essay by Vilius Rudra Dundzilla, who is a yogi, university professor, Unitarian Universalist minister, and all around interesting guy. This essay was first posted on another blog, but I had to share it hear. I met Rudra at Easton Mountain, and have been following his unique approach to life since then.
The Importance of Spiritual Fitness
Let me tell you about Orion. He’s a big, muscular guy. An ex-football player, and an ex-marine. He’s a body builder now. He looks like an Arnold Schwarzenegger type. He manages a lumber yard in Virginia. He’s pretty fit.
Last weekend was Orion’s 30th birthday. He was celebrating it by going on a yoga vacation. We both attended a retreat for yoga teachers and advanced practitioners. It was at Easton Mountain, a Gay spiritual center in the Adirondacks near Albany, NY.
The first session was an intense warm up routine. Lots of stretching, in many different ways, to get the muscles warm and limber. With a deep focus on breathing, and bio-feedback. Yoga is meditation in postures.
Orion knocked his back out. It hurt him the rest of the weekend. He dropped out of the program, eventually taking vicadin. His back was so stiff, and hurt so much.
I felt sorry for him.
I asked him how he prepared for the yoga retreat.
He didn’t. He hadn’t practiced yoga in 3 years. He thought he could just pick it up again. I think that was the foot ball player or the body builder talking. The retreat had very clear preparation steps. We were to detoxify our bodies for two weeks. And we were to practice as much yoga as possible. Daily. At home, with DVDs, or in yoga classes. Orion did none of this. And he suffered the consequences for it.
You’re probably thinking something like, “I’ld never do something like that!” A whole weekend yoga boot camp. Forget it.
OK, I’m the yoga freak here.
But I know you’ve been through similar situations.
Think back to your college days, or high school.
You’ve got your final exam tomorrow. How do you study for it?
Well, best practices say study a few hours each day, over several weeks.
But how do you study for the exam?
You pull an all nighter, craming for the test. You fall asleep around 3 or 4 am. The next morning you wake up, drink a pot of coffee, and hope for the best.
That is, if you wake up in time for the test. I once had a student sleep through his final because he pulled an all nighter studying.
Some of you are triathletes or marathon runners. How to you prepare? Do you wake up the morning of the Chicago marathon, and decide over breakfast at McDonald’s, I think I’ll run the marathon today.
You plan ahead and start practicing months in advance. You need to get ready.
Our religious traditions are filled with stories like this.
Spirituality does not happen over night. It requires practice.
We heard the Taoist tale of Khing the woodcutter. And how he prepared for his sacred task of carving a bell stand. It was no ordinary bell stand, but an elaborate one for a temple.
In the Jewish tradition, Miriam is the sister of Moses. She is the only woman in the Tanakh, Hebrew Scriptures, named a prophet or a prophetess. When the Hebrews escape from Egypt, she leads the people in celebration. She sings and dances in victory. It’s “The Song of Miriam.” She inspires the Hebrews, and they rejoice with her. These are her spiritual practices. Our choirs still do this today.
In Christianity, we have John the Baptist. He eats locusts and honey, and lives in the desert with his renegade band of followers. He wanders from town to town, preaching the coming of the Messiah. And he baptizes people, that is, washes away their sins. That’s his spiritual practice.
Let’s face it. As Unitarian Universalists, this guy would probably not appeal to our religious sensibilities.
Islam has Mohammed. He learns Judaism and Christianity from his fellow merchants. He rejects the idolatry of his people. He begins to worship the one God. He goes to the caves outside Mecca to meditate in solitude and silence. There, his revelations begin. That’s his spiritual practice.
India gives the world Gandhi.
He’s a corporate lawyer. A graduate of British education in India and England. A very proper gentleman. But he believes in human rights, and he fights for equality. He organizes all kinds of boycotts, and protests, and marches in South Africa and in India. He breaks unjust laws. He opposes segregation, Apartheid, discrimination, excessive taxation, mistreatment of the poor and underprivileged, and especially the British occupation of India. But he also realizes that he needs to prepare himself. He needs to become a different person, so he could effectively transform the world. From this realization, comes his teaching, “to be the change we want to see in the world.”
“To be the change we want to see in the world.” That is the essence of spiritual fitness. As a child, he grows in up a religious family with Hindu devotionals. As an adult, he examines the religion of his youth. And explores other ones as well. Sound familiar?
Gandhi develops his deep spiritual practices gradually, over his life time. He experiments a lot. And he sticks with the practices that work for him. It’s trial and error.
He mediates every morning. He prays. He studies scriptures: Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Jain, and Jewish, all the religions. He even translates the Bhagavad Gita. He eats a vegetarian diet, and even tries a Fruitarian one. He controls his sexuality, sometimes to the chagrin of his wife. He keeps a day of silence once a week. Silence.
He weaves his own clothing out of Indian homespun cotton. And wears very simple Indian peasant clothes: a dhoti and a shawl. He journals, daily. And he writes articles, letters, and edits a newspaper. He takes long fasts. To purify himself, and to protest social ills. And when factions would argue at a meeting, He’d do one of two things. He’d suddenly declare that it was time for prayer. Or, he would serve tea to everyone. He would break class barriers and take on the role of a servant. Jesus washes feed. Gandhi serves tea. Seekers would come to Gandhi’s ashram. They have great plans, and huge ideas. They want to organize all sorts of protests, and marches, and actions. Gandhi tells them to spin and weave their own clothing first. BUT, BUT, BUT they try to respond. And then clean the toilets, Gandhi says. That blows their bubbles. He’s teaching them patience and humility.
Gandhi’s spiritual work empowers him. His gumption for social justice comes from his inner spiritual work. His struggles for human rights and equality is effective only because of his spiritual preparation. His spiritual fitness. He calls himself a spiritual warrior.
Gandhi is an example for us. We need to “be the change we want to see in the world.”
You know as well as I do that spiritual practice is a challenge. It takes time to find the right one. And then things get in the way, and you forget about it. But with repetition, it becomes easier. It becomes your second nature. The practice sustains you. It kicks in, when you need it most. Like when you find yourself stressed out, worried, spinning out of control. Bills, shopping, work, guests, you name it. And suddenly you remember the practice. And it calms you down.
A mother once told me her teen son had locked himself in the bathroom. Teens sometimes need their privacy, you know. After a while, mom knocked on the door. She got a gruff answer, “Ma, I’m all right. Leave me alone.” After a long while, she knocked again. There was no answer. She could not open the door. She panicked. She forgot how to unlock a bathroom door. She could not get to her son, to see what was going on with him. And she worried: how could she lift him? He was bigger than her. Her mind raced. Was it drugs? Or alcohol? Or, heaven forbid, suicide? Did he drown in the bathtub? Or electrocute himself? Or something else? She was going crazy.
She called 911. The paramedics took care of everything.
In the ambulance she realized, she needed to let go. Her son was in capable hands. She could do nothing to help. And she remembered the meditative breath, her meditative breath. The breath that clamed her down. Breathing, she could care for him without obsessing, without driving herself crazy.
As it turned out, he had gone into insulin shock. All-knowing and all-powerful teen that he was, he had not taken his insulin that day. Or maybe for a few days. He felt fine, so he felt did not need his meds.
As religious seekers, the challenge for you is finding a spiritual practice that works for you. And sticking with it.
What is your spiritual practice?
What do you do to center and ground yourself?
What inner work gives you inspiration and energy to do your outer work?
Is it meditation? Knitting? Gardening? Biking, or jogging? Walking along the lake front?
Take moment to think about this, and jot down notes on the slip of paper provided.
As a congregation, we are here to help each other. One of our goals is spirituality. Let’s read the words on the cover of our OOS together: 2U “is a vibrant community that inspires you to develop your own spiritual path and live our your values in the world.”
We share spiritual practices together in worship. Worship is the core life of a congregation. We pray, we sing, and we seek inspiration together. That is a spiritual practice. We have small group ministries, with check-in, a spiritual reading, and personal reflection about the reading. That is a spiritual practice.
We have children’s and adult faith development programs. We learn spiritual practices, grapple with life’s tough questions, and find ways to serve the world for the common good. That is a spiritual practice.
We nurture ourselves, then we serve the world.
Like Gandhi said, we need to “be the change we want to see in the world.”
- Viluis Rudra Dudzilla is Professor of Humanities & Comparative Religion at Harry S Truman College in Chicago, Illinois, USA and a Minister in the Unitarian Universalist Association.
It is the morning of Thursday, December 22nd, and the sun has come up after the longest night of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere). For cultures all over the world for centuries, this has signaled that the long, slow decrease in light will not continue, and light will return to the land. To use a term that’s been used a lot in the last few years, this was the original “It Gets Better” signal to the world.
We’ve all experienced times when things seem great, followed by times when all seems doom and gloom. I think we all intellectually understand the phrase from many traditions that “This too shall pass” whether good or bad, but that’s hard to emotionally get while we’re in the middle of something. Elation or depression can both keep us from clear thinking. I see this all the time when clients are just so happy to have a job they don’t realize that it’s not the right one for them and they dive into depression a few months later when the reality of their choice hits them.
At this time when all can seem merry and celebratory to some, and incredibly depressing to others, know that soon we will have the ordinariness of January. Take heart in enjoying what is here now, or knowing that enjoyment will come later. We are at an extraordinary time in our planet’s rotation, and that will generate extraordinary thoughts. Be kind and know they are there and that things will change.
So, what are you realizing right now?
On December 16, 2009, I started with my first post at the Spirit-Work Connection blog. I’ve now done 132 posts on all sorts of topics related to my life, career development, personal growth, spiritual seeking, and anything else that’s come to my mind. I’ve been saying that I’m writing my book a blog post at a time, and my thoughts on all these matters have been developing as I try to put them down in words for you. It’s been a great journey and I look forward to more interesting concepts arising.
To do that, I need some input, and I’d really like to know what value you’ve gotten from my writings. Please leave a comment stating the insights that you’ve gleaned and developed as a result of my writing. I will choose one lucky commenter from everyone who’s commented between now and 12/23/11 at noon for a free resume critique.
Thank you for your support of my work, and I look forward to lot of other interactions in the future!
So, what have you learned?
As I said in my earlier post, I’m starting a project I’m calling the Meditate Mass 351 Challenge. You can see the criteria I’ve listed here. Basically it’s to visit each of the 351 towns and cities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and to meditate/pray in each one for at least 10 minutes, and take a picture of me there to prove it.
I’ll be posting my pictures here to prove to myself (and all my readers) that I’m keeping myself honest. I can tell you that the first few dozen will probably be easy. Getting to places like Mt. Washington, Colrain, and Hardwick will take more effort!
Here’s today’s effort. and an easy one. I’m often on the Charles River.
So, where have you been and what have you been doing?
Being successful, whichever way you define that, can be a difficult thing, as there are so many variables in the mix. It’s a combination of you, what you have to offer, the needs ofothers, and the zeitgeist of the moment all aligning. While you can’t change the world situation (on the large scale at least), you can affect your own situation.
As was mentioned to me again this past weekend, you need to “put on your own air mask before helping others” and that all comes down to managing your own needs first and foremost. You need to know what the situation is out there (e.g. Is there a need or market for someone who sings show tunes while riding a unicycle?) before you know what parts of you you need to develop. That being said, you also need to know what’s important to you before you decide which people, companies and industries you need to investigate. No use in trying to please someone or something that isn’t important to you.
That being said, there are three different areas that you have to be sure of yourself:
- Head: Do you really know what you’re talking about? Are you sure the information is accurate? I’ve had too many clients take action steps because the “heard from somebody” that a certain job or industry would be a good choice. Do your research and get the facts.
- Heart: Is this something that matters to you? Are your insides feeling good about what you’re doing? You need to know what’s important to you before spending your time, money and energy pursuing something that you are going to throw away later. Granted, sometimes you don’t know for sure, but listen to yourself first.
- Guts: Do you have an instinct that you should do something? Not sure shy you’re interested in something but you know there’s a reason deep inside you? Our minds are complex and don’t always state our needs clearly to us (like our dreams). Again, it’s something to listen to.
We can’t ride on just our head, heart, or guts, but need to balance a great insight from one of them with wisdom from the others. Do you really want that great paying job that will make you travel too much? Are your dreams of Broadway stardom realistic given your mortgage? You need to consider all parts of you.
So, are you listening to your head, heart, and guts?
Note: If you want to another opportunity to slow down and listen to your body’s wisdom, please consider coming to my Alternative Black Friday workshop: Taking Stock of Your Life.
As those regular readers of The Spirit-Work Connection have already noticed, it’s been quite a while since I’ve written here. Like many of you can attest, sometimes life packs more into your schedule than your calendar or mental capacities can handle. That was certainly the case for me. I’ve been booked basically every day and night for the past three weeks with whatever slivers of time available taken to try to recharge. I’m looking forward to a few days to do things like fold laundry (I’ve got four loads waiting for me!) and cleaning up my outdoor plants for the impending frosts.
I’m finding that I’ve been spending a lot of time being very active in pursuing accomplishments (more clients, reading, having meetings to get things done) and I haven’t been doing as much to just take care of myself. I haven’t been going to the gym and doing yoga as much as I’d like. I have been taking walks pretty consistently (gotta get outside while we still have light and somewhat warm temperatures here in Boston) but the more concentrated honoring of my physical self has been lacking. As I learned through my Tantra studies, great, creative things can happen when you create a space for miracles to bubble up. My body not only is the vehicle for me to do so many great things (planning in a trip to the Bahamas in January!) but it also houses my spirit for this lifetime. I’m in the need to clean house and make this a more comfortable place for me.
Here on Halloween, many traditions celebrate that this is the time when our ancestors (i.e. those that no longer have their earthly containers) are closer to us than at any other time of the year. I should be pleased that I have a container/body to dwell in and that is something to be happy about and celebrate.
I’ve decided that this winter season will be a cocooning time for me where I’ll focus on doing yoga, meditating, journaling, reading good books, and cooking good food. And breathing. Got to remember to keep breathing.
So, what are you doing to take care of the one container you’ll never get out of in this life?