Oh, Oh, Oh Laaaaazy

Lazy doesn’t even begin to describe my energy levels today. I haven’t showered, brushed my teeth or even really gotten out of bed – which also means I haven’t gotten dressed today (no, Stasi, bathrobes – however fuzzy – do not count as getting dressed). It’s time to start preparing for Great Vespers. I don’t want to go anywhere. Not that I dislike attending church; to the contrary: I LOVE going to church and vespers – great, small or otherwise unnoteworthy – is my second favorite service. My favorite service is Matins, but I have yet to actually make it to Matins, considering how difficult it is to get me out of the house by choice or otherwise before ten. I still need to heal and nourish that ground. Perfect Christian I am not. Thankfully, God likes us in all our wonky imperfections. Being time challenged is only one of my (many) imperfections. Some days when I reflect momentarily on my imperfectness I think God must love me a LOT.

Anyway, slowly, with hot tea in hand, I am managing to get ready for church while simultaneously musing on the merits of urban homesteading and how much I miss being in the country where I can keep my horse (the one I don’t have yet), a few goats just for fun or packing or whatever and maybe some chickens. I can in theory keep chickens where I am currently; I hear roosters early in the morning or as the sun sets. This is OLD Santa Fe, not the fancy-pants, gentrified Santa Fe. People actually do quite a lot of real living here. And part of that living includes keeping chickens.

My chicken conundrum is whether or not to keep full-sized laying hens or my beloved banties. I don’t eat eggs (can’t stand them), but I could sell them. But what to do with the hens that are no longer “good layers”? I don’t eat animals. I end up considering every animal in my care as part of my family. Selling or giving them to others who will eat them is the same blood on my hands as doing it myself and putting them in my own freezer. Only worse because I get to play “pretend I had nothing to do with their deaths” so I can feel good about myself. Not an option. Bantam chickies that are totally adorable are most likely my best option. They can eat bugs, make compost, be cute as all get out and cause me no dilemmas. Or I can just not have any chickens at all. Even if I do think they’re cool and highly entertaining.

I actually did make it to church and nearly on time, too! The funny thing is church seemed that much sweeter tonight, like God was pouring extra favor on me for having overcome my ennui. It was a beautiful, sweet communion and especially so with the Theotokos (that would be Mary the mother of Jesus for those of you who have no idea who I’m talking about). And on coming home, I found myself perusing land for sale, housing in the country for rent, etc. and beginning the babiest of seeds of a plan to get myself out into the middle of nowhere. Even on a super modest income it could be done within five years – with some financial discipline and without a mortgage. In the meantime, urban homesteading is looking like a dream within reach. We shall see what God plops in my lap. He’s been amazingly good at taking care of me, the faithfullest of faithful, always eager to share happy little surprises with me. My life is a magical life!

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Radical Resting

I took two whole days and did absolutely nothing. No housework, no errands, not even going to church. It’s not that I don’t enjoy such things. I was just tired. Tired of the rushing, the “gotta, gotta, gotta”, the loud busyness of modernity, the measuring of success by how bedraggled and time starved you are. And I’m only on the outskirts of it, though not nearly far enough to said outskirts for my taste. I didn’t even get in my car, though I seriously needed a few groceries. My body and spirit were exhausted.

This has been a difficult year. I’ve been pushing and clawing and going nearly nonstop – not for some fabled and elusive success, but just to keep a roof over my and my family’s heads and food on the table, things commonly known as basic necessities. There were many times when I failed at the food part and I went without so my family didn’t have to. It can make work challenging; hunger brain fog is real, folks. But I’d endure that challenge ten times over to make sure my family doesn’t have to. Truly, there were moments I wondered if I’d be able to afford soap. Thankfully, I always could, somehow.

Recently, in an effort to make life easier all around, I attempted to
move. I found a place, the landlord and I found each other quite agreeable and my bank account found the rent quite nice. At the last moment, the landlord decided he’d rather move to the house in question. I don’t blame him; the place was beautiful! Not at first glance, but with care and love it could be an incredible sanctuary. I felt no malice toward him for his decision. I cried anyway. It felt like my last chance to get free of this seemingly interminable struggle I’ve been in for the last three years, intensifying this last year, had slipped away. I was hoping to be able to celebrate my birthday in a new place with the sigh of relief that comes with the lessening of a great burden. But no. I am still in my perfectly suitable but above my means house, still the same amount shy every month of being able to comfortably make rent and utilities, still in Santa Fe, still likely to be struggling a bit longer. I’d had enough and decided I didn’t want to talk to anyone outside my home, nor did I want to venture forth from said home.

I spent the entire weekend mostly prone, sleeping, reading, eating when I was hungry. I’ve had to make dietary changes so the restful time was perfect for this. I had to return to a raw vegan diet since everything else I ate was making me nauseous. Rest, fruits, nuts, seeds, sprouts and veggies, herbal teas and a good bit more rest. No phone (I left it off since coming home from work Friday night), very little internet, sparse conversation. I couldn’t even bring myself to exit my house doors, let alone turn on my car. If it wasn’t in my house already then I would do without it.

In my silence I began to notice my spirit felt like a raw, open wound. I hurt. My body hurt, my mind hurt, my spirit throbbed and ached and probably bled if spirit has such a thing as blood. I. Hurt. A lot. It was like I could feel not only my own pain but the pain of the entire world all at once, all its jagged, pointy edges shredding my soft innards like broken glass on a naked baby. So I rested. I slept. And slept and slept some more. I didn’t know I could sleep so much! And through all of this resting and doing of nothing I began to feel the deeper layers of fatigue. They go deep. Scary deep if I had to descend them on my own. Thankfully, I do not. I just have to be willing to see what’s there, knowing it’s the job of the Divine to heal and nourish whatever we find. As a matter of fact, that’s what was offered during one of my meditations this week: let God heal your heart for you.

The hardest part of healing is the doing of nothing. Especially when you’ve said yes to allowing God to do the work. I keep wanting to “help” – like when toddlers try to help with anything. We find it amusing and sweet but know they aren’t really helping at all. We give them a task that essentially keeps them out of the way but allows them to feel like they’re doing something helpful while we do the actual work. Helping God heal me is a lot like that. I am doing something, the task assigned me. This weekend, my task was radical rest. Not just any rest, but two steps away from complete shut down rest. The only way it could have been more complete would have been for me to be isolated somewhere without internet or cell access, alone. But I am not yet ready for such an intesive healing session. I would be there if that was what God had prepared for me. I need a bit more healing before I go careening off into the actual wilderness. There’s an awful lot of internal wilderness for me to explore and heal in the meantime. Radical resting may just become a regular habit.

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The Scariest Place

During my centering prayer practice this morning, I discovered the scariest of places: my own heart. To be clear, I wasn’t afraid but I could clearly feel my small, egoic self scrambling to get me out of this newer, deeper level I had come across. I could feel its fear and panic: “No, no! This is too deep! We’ll NEVER get out of here! Surely this will KILL me!” Scramble, scramble, panic, fight. I simply sat with it as I do with any thought in centering prayer: no reaction or response other than to gently continue releasing my grip and attention. No fighting back. Just softly returning to the space where my Beloved dwells and waits within me.

My practice has been a bit rough lately with lots of turbulent emotions dredging up from the bottom, stirring and clouding the water. My heart is being purified, the clutter being dredged up and cleared out. This leaves clearer pathways for me to descend ever deeper into heartspace where I connect with the Divine. Having touched this place within myself has changed me. I know it’s there now. I know there are greater depths to descend. I want to explore them all; I need and want more.

This is how it often is with me and the Divine: I catch a scent of It, a glimpse, get a taste and instant craving, yearning springs forth, sometimes overwhelmingly. I want to reach out to every heart and spark the same as I continue seeking more of my Beloved nestled secretly in every human, animal, rock and tree. Flowers whisper Her name, water carries the hymns of grace and sometimes I get to hear it even if my ears are out of tune. The Beloved is everywhere and nowhere, inside me and not. And all I can do is keep pursuing, seeking, hoping for the grace of ever closer contact.

In my lust for greater closeness, I’ve begun to see all of creation as the face of the Divine. Touching anything in any way becomes a vehicle for me to connect more deeply with the Divine. Losing that sense of God permeating everything is a profound loss for me. I find myself feeling unmoored, sometimes cranky. I am definitely more prone to tears. I wade through the marshy bog of my desolation and despair seeking land. The bones and snags of my own meanienesses and fears laughing and tearing at me, doing their best to suck me back into the muddy muck, keep me out of alignment and confused. Eventually I find land again, dragging my exhausted self onto it with my remaining strength. And there will sit my Beloved, waiting for me, welcoming me. I have found home once more.

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The Dark Cloud Night of Unknowing Soul?

Life for me currently has lost something of its meaning, its savor. The world seems a faded, washed out place. I’m having trouble finding the motivation to do anything at all aside from stare blankly at walls or perhaps sit in the woods or in a park. Just sit. No thought and certainly no talking. GAH! Right now, I absolutely abhor talking! Strangely enough, I love the feeling of community. As long as we’re all doing something together other than sitting around talking. Cooking, baking, gardening, cleaning is all fine in proximity to one another. Just sitting around visiting? No, thank you. Not right now. Everything grates. I can’t stand the flourescent lighting in stores, the jarring, saccharine notes of pop music, the sound of crying babies, barking dogs, voices, voices, voices! Everything is too loud: people’s presences are too loud, their thoughts are too loud, the energy of the city is too loud. It often feels like most people are moving through the world randomly shooting off quills from themselves. They hurt, so I hurt. Somebody PLEASE SHUT IT ALL OFF AND FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE, STOP TOUCHING ME!!! In many ways it feels like I’ve just come through some severe trauma. I feel raw, scrubbed out, bland. The strangest things will scare me or set me on edge. I feel vulnerable and exposed, both empty and in need of emptying myself.

At the same time, there is a stillness, a sweetness, a something (or Someone) holding me. If this is what is meant by dark night of the soul, it doesn’t feel very dark at all. I could see all around me just fine if there was something to see besides endless, shifting mists. I’m not in darkness; I’m just waiting. The only thing that brings me pleasure is connecting to the Divine in any and every way It chooses to share Itself with me. That’s where the colors come from, the world comes really and truly alive then. It surprises me that most people completely miss how sweet and playful the Divine is! I wonder how millennia of humans have mostly missed out on this very important knowing in favor of some bleak, pinchy-faced, big meanie with a perpetual grudge and toothache? I suspect most humans have not truly met the Divine at all, or at the very least haven’t spent much time with Him. It’s as though we’ve crafted our world to put as much space between us and any chance we might have of encountering the Divine. But It is crafty, the Divine. It breaks in where It wills and boops us anyway.

The in between feels more like unreality. I don’t feel bleak or numb. It’s more like being in suspension. I am here. No thoughts, no emotions most of the time. Soft, gentle, catching glimpses through out the day of the world through very different eyes. Sometimes I hear through my eyes and breathe through my skin, I can taste things, hear things, touch things just by gently placing my attention on them. I recently discovered that the leaves of aspens tinkle like tiny, shimmering bells. Beneath all the hideousness of modernity, the World has the most beautiful fragrance! And the sparkly, golden glow
that surrounds and emanates from everything…. I wonder is this is what Jesus meant when He said you must be made anew, you must be reborn? Either that or I’m going crazy and none too slowly.

So what to do while all this happens? Wait. That’s what I’m doing: waiting. Not like there’s anything else for me to do, anyway. Since what I had has become pointless, I’m waiting for the Divine to give me another meaning. I’m waiting for another dimension to open for me, some new or already present thing to take shape, stand out and point my pointlessness in the direction of a new reason to be here. Until then, I find myself barely able to function in any normal way. I often sequester myself away to do quiet things like practice with my drop spindle or learning crochet. I frequently read, though I have to be careful since not only the topic but the feel of the author can be jarring. But I wait. I practice letting go of everything that doesn’t serve anymore. When my Beloved is ready, I will begin again.

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Losing My Life (or My Mind – Whichever)

“Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it and whoever loses his life will save it.” ~ Jesus (Luke 17:33)

This Bible verse popped into my head one night and stayed with me for days, rattling around in my head like a ghost, flowing through my veins with each beat of my heart, following me like a shadow, circling overhead where ever I went; if so much as took a peek upwards, there they’d be like a flock of ravens riding the currents, camped out in the branches of every tree. Okay, I generally don’t consider myself Christian and definitely don’t have a Bible reading practice. In fact, at that point it had been many years since I picked up a Bible to read. The Beloved is trying to get my attention and doing a very good job of it.

Me: What is it You want from me?
The Divine: “Your entire life.”
Me: But I already gave You that.
The Divine: “It’s time to go deeper.”

Oh, dear. That sounds scary, but okay. My acceptance speech as always: let it be done to me as You say. Why? I know from experience at this point I’d be absolutely miserable if I resist, say no, try to go my own way. I figure the Divine knows way more than I do, so even if it’s gonna make me look stupid or like a total loser* I’ll be happier for it. May as well say yes right from the start and go where I’m guided.

My life feels different these days. Not much has changed on the outside, but there’s a lot happening in places I can’t readily see and I can feel it. Like (yet another) death is in process. Sometimes I think “GEEBERZ! Haven’t I already died enough by now? I barely recognize myself anymore.” But no, there’s always more to release. If I can love others with open hands, I must also learn to do this with myself. It’s the clinging to stuff, to my old, worn out, rotting baggage definitions of “me” I must love myself enough to let go of. It’s not needed and keeps me from my true goal. I know I probably look stupid or weird or like I’ve lost my marbles* (didn’t need them), but then whatever. I am as I am as I am.

I texted my cousin and asked her what chapter and verse the quote was and nearly cried when I saw it in her answer. Those spontaneous tears again. I was so eager to read it, I downloaded a Bible app just to accomplish the deed. It’s still on my devices. The verse is now my wallpaper on my tablet. A reminder. (The Bible app I downloaded has a feature where you can use stock photos and make inspirational quote pictures.) I was kind of nervous at first. Finally, it became so overwhelming I realized in that instance that whatever it is the Divine asks of me, no matter what it is or ever will be, I will do it. Even if it means the loss of everything. Even if it means going through scarier places than I’ve already been, even if it means my complete and utter annihilation and people refer to me as a cautionary tale: “Oh, but she went too far.”

All became quiet.

The verse is still there, though now it’s sunken into my heart. It was no small thing the Divine asked of me and it’s no small thing for me to say yes. I could have said no. I can still decide “NUH-UH! This is way too much! I changed my mind!” But then I would feel comepletely OUT of my mind. More shaking of the snow globe is in progress. I have no idea where the flakes will fall or if the whole thing will be shattered on the rocks below. No idea whatsoever. Sometimes I’m really scared. Since I agreed, I feel a sense of inner peace and calm I have never felt before. I am not being asked to go alone. The Divine asked me what I would give for the Pearl of Great Price I was being offered. I offered everything in return. Literally everything I have: all that I am, all I ever will be. He smiled and likewise said “Yes.”

 

*My answer to even the barest brush with the thought “I’ll look stupid, like a total loser” was yet another Bible verse: “The wisdom of God is the folly of men.” With warmth. And a chuckle. My Beloved is playful, has a sense of humor and seems to like talking to me via Bible verses these days.

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Little Rebellions

I’ve recently taken up the practice of centering prayer. The Divine and I have had a twice daily date for almost two weeks now. It’s totally shaken up my snow globe. The peace, stress reduction and inner calm that usually comes to mind when you hear things like centering prayer and contemplative practice? Yeah, no. Not yet at least. Centering prayer has lead me to places like the study of heartfulness and deeper into my love of solitude. That eremitic itch? Yeah, it’s still there, maybe a little stronger now. I just know there’s a little woodland homestead somewhere in need of my time and attention. Some wilderness cabin that would just LOVE to have me (and Beanie; she and I are a package deal). Decent wifi and heaps of solitude. Plenty of space for prayer, yoga and contemplation – and destressing from the modern world for which I seem woefully unequipped to handle.

Quite frankly, I SUCK at modernity. Too much weirdness, too many rules and “Whaaa???” Add to that most people don’t quite get my compulsive seeking out the Divine at all costs. Should I be presented with something I need to change in my environment, lifestyle, or anywhere else INCLUDING my thoughts (probably especially those) I may have times where I hesitate, but mostly to check out the terrain before plunging heedlessly onward. This has lead to some interesting “deceptions” of late.

I have a deep, deep love of the Orthodox Church. Warts and all. I’ve always adored the Roman Catholic Saints and contemplative practices. I brought many of those practices along with me into my Pagan life. The practices are awesome sauce whether you add a Jesus topping or not. And since we’re on the topic of That Guy, I never quite abandoned my love of Him, either, though my taste for the Jesus served up in either the New Age/Pagan or Christian circles is definitely lacking. None of it tastes like the Jesus I’d gotten a savor of in my travels. He’s either too bland or too bitter, like over steeped, watered down tea. No sweetness but definitely saccharine. His Mother, Mary, posed no problems for me at all. Straight up love Her.

Though I’m not ashamed of my deep love of some things Christian and would happily talk for ages about them to those with a similar love, I have zero interest in debate or defending anything. Many people enjoy that sort of thing; I am not one of them. I have no interest in apologetics of any faith. Nor will I set my treasures out for those who would make fun of them. People have a history of meanieness towards each other over probably anything you can think of. Religions can defend themselves without my help. I am perfectly happy to allow you to believe or not whatever you like. However, this is not the extent of my odd little “deceptions”, which are more like omissions.

I have begun going to church again. Not only that, but I LOVE going to church! I contemplate ways to arrange my schedule so I can attend all the services. The quiet prayerful services are my favorites. I even contemplate playing hookie from work so I can go to vespers in the evenings or pray the Akathist midmorning. (Currently, it’s just mental musings; other demands curtail the urge.) This week, open contemplation time was added on Monday nights where we can show up any time within an hour and simply sit in silence and contemplation in the church. You’d have thought they said “free vegan taco Tuesday – all you can eat”! Alas, I was very sick over the weekend and left work early-ish to go home and rest. Other life commitments again.

I find a certain peace and safety in the church. It’s quiet. It smells nice. I feel at home there. I adore the topic, though I don’t always agree with the language. And even in church I’m trying to look beneath the words and rituals for the deeper meaning, the clues to stronger connection to my Beloved.

So why do I count these rebellions? In our society, we are not supposed to be obsessed with a spiritual life. We’re supposed to “keep things in balance”, which generally means money earning gets all your best efforts and anything else gets squished in around the edges. Family gets the dregs and spiritual life…. gets whatever you can eek out of “me time”. Because any spiritual practices are presumably of no value to anybody but “me” and the maintainance of “me” as calm and stress free enough to go back to money earning, social climbing, positioning, etc., etc., etc. It is very clear in our society: the getting and keeping of money is supposed to be EVERYONE’S top priority.

Even among the devout, I am often cautioned to “not let my seeking get out of hand.” But don’t you see? I want it out of hand! I want it all consuming; I want it to completely take me over. I want to burn with it, drown in it, be buried in it. I don’t want weak tea and idle chatter; I want the full banquet, spicy, hot, sweet, rolling around on my tongue in ecstasy. I want to swoon with love of the Divine. And no, I have zero interest in being a monastic. I consider these rebellions because the life of Spirit is of far more interest and importance to me than money getting. I tried the other way, found it confusing, mean and sorely lacking in substance. Not to mention it made me ill. I see enormous value to myself my family, society and the world in tending to spiritual practice with the greatest care and attention, putting care of the Soul above everything else, crowning Love Sovereign over my life and moving forth from that. This to me is the truest tending of the Home Fires, caring for Hearth and Home.

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What If and Other Oddities of Life

A question from one of my facebook friends sparked an internal questioning. He asked “What would you do if you found out you only had thirty days to live?” My answer “exactly the things I’m already moving into now, only I’d dive in deeper,” gave me some mental noms. “Well, if that’s what I’d do with a mere thirty days left on this earth, why wait ’til then? Why not do it now? What am I waiting for? To REALLY be told I have only thirty days left?”

Honestly, I feel like I’ve died a thousand deaths already and will likely die a thousand more before my body ever kisses the grave. I tend to agree with St. Francis of Assisi, that dying the first time is the hardest and reaching that final death is no big deal afterwards. So many saints and mystics speak of going through a dark night of the soul. We tend to hear the tales and think we are somehow spared because we haven’t devoted our lives to the Divine like they did; besides, they’re SAINTS! OF COURSE they went through that stuff…. and came out better! We’re just ordinary folks. Why would such a thing bother with us when all we want is to get through the day/the week/life? But what if there’s no such thing as “ordinary folk”? From my observations over the years, there definitely aren’t. Just loads of people who think they’re ordinary. And each one of them is of great interest to the Divine. Hooray and bummer!

It’s a very good thing that the Divine takes such personal interest in each of us. It’s good to know that whatever we face – good, bad, etc. – doesn’t have to be faced alone. We always have someone to celebrate with, a shoulder to cry on, a lap to crawl into. And in spite of all the human-created blah-blah, the Divine really isn’t judging any of us. True, it is difficult to be in the presence of Divine Perfection and not recognize how shabby, unkempt and badly in need of a makeover you are no matter how gentle and compassionate a life you’ve lived. We always know we can do better than we have done, we’ve fallen far short of our own expectations and somehow we thoroughly expect the Divine to agree with us. Well, hooray, It does but It really doesn’t care a fig about that stuff. The Divine has seen you at your best, your worst and all the stops in between and STILL wants to hang out with you, still wants very much to be included in your life. But there is a catch.

“HA! I KNEW it!” you shout triumphantly. It’s not what you think. Like any relationship, you rub off on each other. When you’re hanging with the Beloved, the rubbing only goes one way. The Divine is absolute Perfect Love, we are not. The Divine knows us quite well already, better than we know ourselves. We are not so fortunate. We’ve preferred making up lovely (or not) stories in our heads about what the Divine is or isn’t, what It does or doesn’t like, etc., etc., etc. And we call these lovely tales “Truth”. Oh, we make a lot of fuss over our “Truths” too. Start entire wars and generations-long hatreds around them. We ask each other time after time what is “The Truth” concerning the Divine and we get answers, but rarely The Truth we’re looking for. Because the One Person we could easily ask to tell us is the One Person we never think to ask. That would require a dfferent sort of asking and a different sort of listening for the answers. That requires a willingness to be in relationship with Someone you can’t readily see, especially not with the eyes or grasp with all the logics of the mind, but will certainly, eagerly show Themselves to you. You must come to know and love Them with your heart.

So in answer to my friend’s question, I would live more deeply as I do now, go all in, nothing left to lose. Which makes me wonder if what I think I have to lose is really worth hanging on to? Why not live every day as though it were my last? I’m certainly not impressing the Divine by living out of alignment. I’m not proving to anyone that matters that I can be cautious, measured, careful, that I know how to take things slowly. These ideas are serving me not at all. I’ve found the Love of my life and I’m doing no one any favors dipping my toes in water I dearly desire to dive head first into and drown in. What if I only had thirty days left to live? What if Love was calling me to be rash, foolish and just dive in? What if…?

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The Path

The longer I am on this path, the more I realize I know nothing. Recently I realized the more I learn, the less I know. The more I give myself over to the Divine, the less I actually know. About anything. I am not so learned. I have no fancy degrees, no certifications, no one has recognized me for anything. I don’t know even who I am. Oddly, it feels as if this is exactly as it should be. Any label could pin on myself, any identity I could craft for myself would be only a partial picture anyway. Like trying to label the Divine, I am far more spacious than any title I or anyone else can come up with. All my ideas about who I am or might be are more things, more baggage to surrender along the path. And yet, through I am no thing, I am also all things.

I’ve noticed my desire to defend or protect myself stems from identifying with the labels I have allowed myself. “I am this but not that,” differentiating “I/me” from everything else. Then I realized I am that, too. I am at once everything I see, every label I or anyone else could craft. I am the good woman and the whore, the good mother and the bad one, the smart person and the idiot, the fool and the wise woman. I am all of it. And none of it. And all the breaths and spaces in between. Therefore I have nothing to protect or defend. Neither have I anything to prove or hide: if I am all things and nothing all at once, there is nothing and no one to prove anything to or hide anything from. I am the good tenant and the nightmare tenant and the plain pain in the butt tenant, the freeloader, the taker, the hard worker, the lazy person, the dedicated, give-it-my-all person. The dreamer, the doer, the watcher, the compassionate, the callous, the hateful, the meanie. I contain multiverses and some of the things I contain aren’t such nice things. I am all of that in all of my “thatness” and all of this in all of my “thisness”.

Through this, I am coming to understand the meaning of I AM. When you are as vast as you are, what else fits after “I AM”? Anything you say after I AM is pointless because you can immediately and rightfully claim its opposite. I am beginning to understand I have no idea who I AM. I AM this and that, too. Well, what is that? And if there is nothing that I AM not, then I have no idea who I AM or I actually do know, but it would certainly take a long time for me to answer that question. And even in the answering, the answer would be insufficient. There are no words, not enough words to give proper answer to this seemingly simple question. Like the Apostles said of Jesus when asked who he was “Come and see,” not realizing at the time that that was likewise an appropriate answer for themselves and anyone else they might meet.

And yet, how to function in the world as I AM? I feel expanded and small all at the same time. It’s an odd place to find oneself for certain. Who am I talk to? Are there others who feel the same way, who have had these same realizations? Others who have gone ahead of me who can hep me navigate, point out the path through the weeds? This is not an always obvious path to walk (sometimes run, sometimes crawl). It feels weird, or more likely I feel weird wandering around in the world, seeing from this vantage point that appears so different from the places most people I encounter are seeing from. Sometimes I think “What a silly ass you are, compulsively seeking out the Divine. Don’t you know that at best it’ll get you labeled a weirdo and at worst labeled mad and locked up? Only the truly weird bother with that stuff.”

I suppose then I have been “truly weird” my whole life. Even when I was a wee ‘un with no labels for what I sought. And I am told “What you seek is here in (insert name of religious tradition)!” So I went there. And there. And there and there and there…. Everywhere I found traces, scent trails, love notes from the Divine, like those “So and so was here” notes you see painted on walls and such. A flavor of it, a whiff, then the trail goes cold and I keep searching. Divine peek-a-boo. “Tag! You’re it!”

Recently while driving, the Divine sent me a butterfly. I was delighted and I giggled. I then remembered I also love hearts and thought “What a lovely game it would be to trade hearts everywhere!” My immediate answer “The only heart that interests Me is yours.” Ah, these love games of the Divine! How am I to live in the regular world when the farther along I go, the less it seems to mak sense? The concerns of the world are of barely any interest to me on a good day, though not in any sort of withdraw and pretend it doesn’t exist kind of way. I know it is important to many and out of compassion they are important to me. Most days the world seems to have gone wholly mad. Completely off its rocker! Pain and meanieness are the result of fearful, hurting people. But I am not focused on the same things. I understand why many who find themselves on this path tend to withdraw: we just seem
weird to people and they to us. We’re both saying “Well, just look at
what’s right in front of you!” as explanation for our points of view and though we’re both of us looking in the same direction, looking at the same things, we each see something comepletely different.

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To Be Surrendered

What do you mean it's really MY fault & I've just been whining?

Surely, you jest.

Or not. Sometimes, living the surrendered path is a pain. A. Major. PAIN. Sometimes in a very literal sense. It puts me in mind of a story I heard of St. Theresa of Avila: St. Theresa was out for whatever reason one day in the rain. A carriage went by or she fell or some such. Either way, she ended up soaked in mud. When she asked God what the deal was, He answered “This I save for my special ones,” to which she then replied “It is no wonder You haven’t more.” Of course this isn’t as lovely or witty as the tale when I heard it, but you get the gist. And I can seriously relate to St. Theresa’s feelings of the moment. Like “SERIOUSLY, GOD?!? SERIOUSLY?!?”

There are times I feel like the deeper my devotion to living in alignment with the Divine, the more troubles get heaped on me, the more bs I end up having to slog through, the more I am wounded by just being alive. I could armor up against it if 1) I could remember how to do that 2) armor wasn’t so darn uncomfortable and 3) the Divine wouldn’t just send something along that completely shattered my armor to uselessness. It can be a challenge. One not meant to be got through without the Divine, but it would be nice if there were stretches of ease and relaxation instead of what feels like a constant onslaught of hardship and meanieness. It makes me wonder if the Saints aren’t all stooped over like they are in icons because of a little too much Divine TLC.

I read somewhere that the periods of utter peace and bliss come after years of really hard stuff. Surely I must be up for some kind of mid-way quietude by now? I mean GEEBERZ! I can see why so many people say “Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll stick to the normal way of living.” A lot of this spiritual stuff is ouch when you really commit. But then, committing to a relationship of any kind is going to be ouch at some point in some places. It’s all in the process of rubbing each others’ pointy parts smooth. In the process, you’re occasionally going to poke each other, make each other bleed, cut each other up. Perhaps the difference lies in that you’re both human. With the Divine, it’s not exactly clear where my pointy parts are poking. Sometimes it feels like the pointy part is all of me and I’m being rubbed and tumbled until my soul is raw, scraped out and bleeding. And I must be the world’s biggest idiot because instead of pulling away and saying “See ya!” I go deeper, begin another practice meant to take me closer to the Divine. Sometimes I wonder if my mom dropped me on my head a few times as a baby or maybe I fell out of a window or something.

There are moments of sweetness and peace. I have experienced an inner calm so still and unflappable, days were the ordinary is so heartbreakingly beautiful, days where I effortlessly see radiance in the beggar, the businessman and the sulky teen on the street alike. And it is this that tempts me to endure the hardships, to drag myself that much closer in the midst of some of the biggest storms and darkest darks. Believe me, it gets REALLY dark sometimes. Such darkness it feels surreal, the force of it pressing hard against my face; deafening darkness where I fear my eardrums will burst from its pressure. I long for human companionship and am told this stretch I must walk alone.
I am tired and ragged and beaten. (Cue those three Revolutionary soldiers limping and hobbling along the road with drum and flute – only without music. Hmmm…. Maybe cue zombies instead.) I want to quit, entirely give up but don’t know the shape of such. I reach for the hand of the Divine, name it Beloved and stumble blindly on in not-so-perfect trust, but trusting nonetheless.

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Finding Home

I think I may be the most Orthodox Christian Pagan woman I know. Okay, I’m the ONLY Orthodox Christian Pagan woman I know. Or have even heard of, though I’m sure there must be more like me – male, female or otherwise. I used to be a card carrying Orthodox Christian. Though I liked choir, I preferred chant. I loved the quieter services like Orthros and vespers; Lent was my favorite season with all its inward focus and oodles of time devoted to prayer. There’s just something about Lent that does it for me. I guess it’s that draw to contemplation and emptying…. Aw, who am I kidding? If there’s even so much as whiff of “The Divine was here” I’ll be all over it like white on rice! I don’t much care where it’s located: church, sex, trees, New Age book stores – none of it matters a whit so long as I can encounter even a small scent of the Divine.

It just so happens that the Divine has a habit of playing “Tag! You’re it!” with me in Orthodox churches. Must be some kind of crazy juju in the incense they use. Every time I get a whiff of it, I feel at once like bawling my eyes out and like I’m home. It’s a bit disconcerting at times, really. And yet, like seeking out the Divine, I find it comforting. Like it’s the one place on the planet that’s safe to let go of everything, set any and all burdens aside and have a safe haven to fall apart. Completely. Just completely crumble into a pile of rubble, seams and all. I spent about half of liturgy today with tears streaming down my face. I couldn’t even bring myself to look at the chalice without rivers welling up and flowing me blind. No particular reason, I just cried each and every time I looked or even focused my attention in that direction. The tears came from deep within me, like I have a well that needs purging and is overflowing.

The tears don’t always happen at church, but they’re pretty much a guarantee there. I’ve had experiences in other places – home, work, driving, where they have spontaneously started flowing, sometimes with an ache of longing for the Divine, sometimes when something particularly poignant occurs: a homeless person begging on the side of the road, rainbows, someone looking pinched and hurried trying to get to where ever they’re going. But church is a dead ringer: I walk in the door or even just pull into the parking lot and tears will come. I wondered briefly when the tears would stop, then realized I didn’t care if they flowed forever. Whatever it is, it’s not necessarily about me, my needs, my desires and I’m okay with that. I don’t need to have answers. My answer has become as the Theotokos’ (that’s Mary, Jesus’ mother for those of you who don’t know): “Let it be done to me as you say.” Complete and utter surrender to the Divine. Scary? Yeah, sometimes. A lot of times because I have no idea where I’ll be lead and often can’t see even where to put my feet next. It gets dark, but it’s a bright darkness; I am never alone. I make my way by trust, by faith. But then again, I found home right under my nose just when I didn’t think I was looking for it. So I’m good.

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