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~ Unspoken Prayer ~ by GettysGirl.
“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.” Douglas Adams, writer


One week.  Two rituals.  Two spiritual practices.  But somehow familiarity in each and universality in the intention.  The more I become invested in a spiritual path that includes meditation, meditative prayer, and cultivating inner peace and connection to something divine the more threads of wonderful connectedness I find between myself and every other person, my path and every other spiritual path around me.  The greatest element of synchronicity I have been lavishing in has been in my Christian Contemplative and Mystic journey and my spiritually enlivened yogic Sivananda route.

I have made an effort to not be overtly “religious” on this blog but definitely openly spiritual.  In this instance, and for the sake of the beauty in this element of my life path (as I have found it) I want to go a little into my own personal faith space–as it were.  I was raised a Catholic, my husband a Protestant and we have been searching for a space, place, and practice where the twain should meet.  The Episcopalian tradition of faith is infused with lovely ritual and ceremony that I always found “homey” elements of Catholicism while also being richly community, mission, and textually oriented in ways that my husband has always loved.  Best of all that beyond both of our traditions of origin, the particular community of Episcopals we stumbled upon seem to embody the foundations of faith we both love–inclusion, compassion, universal love, open intrigue into the unknown, and an ability to interweave and converse with every other spiritual path there is to “God” or a cosmically larger entity than self–however one defines it.  That was abundantly clear when I discovered their series on Eastern Religions.

RITUAL 1:

Anyway, we both sort of fell in love with this beautiful evolution of our histories of faith with a core much more akin to where both our hearts are–in exploring the world and faith with open mind, open heart (as one of my favorite contemplatives Thomas Keating wrote of in his book with the same name).  And so last Sunday, on Valentines Day we became confirmed into this body of faith that we felt we could grow in and love together.  It was a far more intimate experience than I imagined it could be and intimate at every level.

I stood in the back of the church waiting for the ceremony to begin and recalled back a moment similar to that–my Catholic Confirmation–from over a decade earlier.  I remember standing in the back of that church in that “official” moment of adulthood and having nothing but questions and skepticism and some resentments.  I remember not wanting to be where I was and not sure where I wanted to be.  I was conflicted at every level of my “self” and I think I spent many of my years following in a multitude of crisis.  I wanted to believe what I believed in –everyone was equal, we all had intrinsically good souls, and there was a space in internal silence where a voice could be heard that was not mine but came from inside me at the deepest level…from the root of the root and the bud of the bud.

Last Sunday was the opposite of my initial confirmation experience I felt, instead of solidifying a membership into a religion and sect I wasn’t sure about I finally understood more clearly the heritage I came from and the progression of my spiritual journey that led me to the place where I found myself.  Where I could enjoy one path of faith and still be committed to learning, understanding, and finding likeness and beauty in all other paths to same source.  And without feeling I needed some sort of solitary allegiance to one place, space, and role to be a participant in my own faith; being able to explore all the others with a sense of the communal and eternal in all faiths.

I have read much and thought much about the young, childlike faith we all begin our lives inside of–one with strict rules, this not that, good not bad, right not wrong–a very black and white religion.  That kind of faith helps us formulate what we believe in at a beginner level and gets us, hopefully, to  a space where we are comfortable knowing our own “box” but not needing to live in it.  A space where we can live outside of our comfort zone, our known norms, and into the rich and wonderful rewarding place of exploration, questioning, and yearning to know the world at a more multidimensional level.  I think I had to get to that space in my own faith before I could enter back into a community of faith without feeling I was placing myself back into a restrictive box.  I feel a new sense of adventure about this journey of self, experience, and community.

RITUAL 2:

In the circular and cyclical nature of the world and spirituality I participated in a second ritual of sorts this past Sunday.  A Swami from San Francisco, a clever wisp of a man, cloaked in saffron with a softness and kindness in his every gesture, came to my yoga school this weekend and I participated in a Mantra Initiation and Naming Ritual.  Having missed out on Ash Wednesday, I was again blown away by the ever-increasing similarities of nuances and symbolism I find abounding the more I study faiths, philosophies, and spiritualities in various contexts.  Part of the Mantra Initiation includes the initiant having ashes placed on their forehead–to remind us all that ashes to ashes, dust to dust, as we came from the earth to the earth we return.  This is also the same reason Ashes on Ash Wednesday are used–the identical reason.  I was given the sacred mantra of my choosing–“So Ham”.

I chose “So Ham” because it means that we are not our bodies or our minds, we are connected to something larger and more divine.  Interestingly the root of the meaning in this Mantra is the same at the root of Christian Contemplative Prayer practice (as well as many other contemplative prayer practices)–we connect to the divine in self through clearing our mind of mental “garbage” and filling it only with sacred words and corollary thoughts and intentions of divinity.  Mindfulness is the beginnings of this kind of clarity–something that I have not come close to mastering in any sustainable way…yet.  I also chose it because this meditation mimics breath–in, so, out, ham.  It reminded me of the story I had heard Richard Rohr tell at his talk a few weeks ago.  He spoke about a rabbi he heard lecture who spoke about the origin of the word Yahweh in Judaism as mimicking breath.  It is interesting to me how the pace and origin of breath seems inextricably linked, in human consciousness and maybe beyond, with something larger than self, something divine in nature.

There I sat, on blond wooden floor and meditation pillow, clothed in the traditional white garb of Mantra Initiation made of gauzy linens and cottons, meditating on my sacred words, seated cross-legged and reveling in the lovely versatility of spiritual paths and experiences I had imbibed in over the last two weeks–of course in contemplating that fact I was leaving my mantra behind and becoming distracted from the very thing I had been working towards–inner silence, contemplative prayer, and peaceful mind.

As I smirked to myself at my own irony–I often do that–I found gratitude in being able to explore a world so rich with faith traditions that, while divergent in language, garb, and texts also so similar in nuance, ritual, and intention.  What an exciting exploration.  What a world of faith we can breathe in.  What wonderful new levels and pages of world knowledge I feel privileged to imbibe in as I explore yoga further, expound on christian contemplation further, and find the mystical beauty in every pocket and nook of the world.

I remember reading the prologue of Thich Naht Hanh‘s book Living Buddha, Living Christ written by the Dalai Lama where he said (I am paraphrasing) “There are places in the world where rice grows better and so people eat rice.  There are places where wheat grows better and so people eat bread.  There is nothing wrong with eating what is appropriate for where you live, what grows there, and what you were raised knowing.”  We find our faith comforts and that is often where we stay, in what we know, but in that there is no harm in learning and understanding and growing in our own faith by understanding better all those that surround it–because at the root of the root, and the bud of the bud, we all come from ashes and return to the same.

Om and blessings on all of your personal paths and journeys of faith and belief and finding what fits for you in a world rich with ideas and spiritual passions.

Maginfying Glass by athena1970 on flickr

“I discovered that for many of us, the developmental tasks of the second half of life are primarily spiritual.”

Stephen Cope

 

According to author, yogi, and psychotherapist Stephen Cope midlife is a time to find our truer selves, the ones we are shrouding with perceived rich lives that when rattled, crack and required a rebuilding on a more solid internal foundation. 

 

According to Carl Jung (whom I have quoted before and Cope references in his book Yoga and The Quest for the True Self) I am now, as I have officially headed into my 30’s, considered to be in midlife.  Now some of that ideaology of midlife can be attributed to the era of Jung and less lengthy lives, but in point of fact I think it rings pretty true–at least relative to myself.

 

I have discussed on this blog some of the moves of my life–uprooting for the wrong and then the right reasons.  I have talked about my history of trauma, told my own story, and talked about the painful journey to get past that and start a life that was whole and real for myself.  I have talked some about the journey that brought me to a trauma therapist from the plight as a survivor and about how I feel professionally and personally imbued with a passion for trauma healing and the avenues of complementary therapies.  I have talked about what got me here, but where is here?

 

It seems to me that Jung and Cope have it right. 

 

I feel like my current path is a very deep and winding ravine.  One that I could not have traversed had I not gone through and overcome many of the obstacles that got me to this point.  I feel at a place professionally where I am established enough to vocalize myself with a dollop passion matched with a dab of authority on what I speak.  I feel like the storms of my life have quieted enough to allow me to take a deeper journey inward and find a depth of self and of life that I did not have the luxury to do before. 

 

I think wherever people are or whatever their life circumstances, the reason Cope and Jung talk about the 30s and 40s as that place of searching for a new meaning is due to those quelled oceans and those calming of life circumstances–perhaps as a result of facing the very worst demons in our lives or in our minds that we could imagine to get to a place where something deeper and more internal has some value. 

 

Lately I find myself pondering more than ever the inner workings of myself.  I said to my husband the other day (on his visit this past weekend for my birthday) how something feels like it aligned for me in this move.  It was not intentional and it did not result from trying to flee something, but it happened spontaneously and with unexpected mysteriousness. 

 

I felt freed from something invisible that I had not known was constraining me–whether it was just the simple stagnation that comes with familiarity of place, state, and life or it was something  bigger than that I cannot be sure. 

 

All I know is that something shifted in my move and for the better. 

 

And maybe it was also a confluence of circumstances leaving me with an abnormal amount of free time to ponder–with only the clicking of doggie toe nails on wood floors to distract me from my thoughts as I sit day after day in a new house, new town, and new life in a solitary kind of routine. 

 

I feel exploratory of my inner self in a playful and simultaneously intense way that leads me to want to explore further. 

 

All of this also leads excellently into beginning a yoga teacher training program.  Initially, I was pretty melancholy over the idea of having to wait two months to really get into the meat of this meatless excursion into self but as I have had time to digest (am I hungry?) the idea I realize that, that too has been a sort of blessing in disguise. 

 

i could be there when you land by harold lloyd on flickr 

 

I am a person with a huge inability to enjoy delayed gratification or wait for anything–I am a “Do it now!” kind of personality, for better or worse.  But in this forced state of expectation I have been able to pause, breathe, and even prepare for this next huge step of full immersion into a monastic training of ancient proportions. 

 

And in truth I think it is an undertaking that deserves this certain pause for a bit of reverence and a lot more preparation than I have been able to give it so far.  Not to mention a lot more required reading that I have been able to muster up to completing thus far.

 

I am doing fairly well on my plan to remove television or distraction (visual or auditory) from my sleep regimen, as well as being able to ease out of meaty delights (really I use meat, mostly, as a mandatory additive to a sandwich, more perfunctory than satiating so I hope this will go smoothly).  But fish and eggs might be harder as I am going to have to learn to live without so many of the staple additives to a meal that just come easily. 

 

The  next is overall distraction and noise.  I need to get out of the habit, that so many of us have, of coming home and switching on the television and just plopping.  I am, as my husband says (usually in reference to mail and clothes) “a plopper”.   I just come home and plop things, including my own body, down wherever they fall and then find it hard to recoup and reorganize, let alone motivate, once I have gone into full plop mode. 

 

I need to work on more intentional living as that seems a core root of a more spiritual and deeper existence.  Putting on a television is usually just a way to distract ourselves from inner self and thoughts and it is an easy solution to a few hours after work and before bed–but essentially unfulfilling.  So I am going to try to, gulp, spend less time plopping and more time focusing on something, anything.  Reading more and playing with my puppies and writing, writing, writing. 

 

I know we all do this.  We live easily more than we do intentionally.  We perceive ourselves superficially rather than below a surface level.  And often it takes a catalyst of some kind to shake us out of our daze and into something much more profound.  A move down some 1200 miles and a home echoing with silence (or NCIS–I know bad habits with the TV!) for me was a great catalyst to an internal state of wonder and self exploration that led to, among so many other adventures of self, writing this blog. 

 

I am excited to see what the next few months will bring and honored to be able to share that journey as it unfolds with whoever ever is willing to log on, click in, and listen. 

 

And, by the way, I find it to be no small coincidence that the man who wrote the quote below was also the same man who explored yoga and psychology and the potential healing effects of this particular moving art. 

 

“Among my patients in the second half of life–that is to say, over thirty-five–there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a spiritual outlook on life…and none of them has been really healed who did not regain his spiritual outlook.”

Carl Jung in Stephen Cope’s Yoga and the Quest for the True Self

 

 the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being by harold lloyd on flickr

 

Bathtubs, Holmfirth by tricky at flickrBathtubs, Holmfirthby trickyTM at flickr

 

One thing I dream for pretty consistently may seem an insinuated pleasure to some, a bathtub I can take a bath in; a big old, bubbles and whistles (well not literal whistles but you get the gist) bathtub that one can luxuriate and decompress in.  I often wonder what my life and perhaps my anxiety level might be with the addition of one of those–I have heard good things about such decadence.  Instead I have meandered through numerous years of rental living with one manner of unlivable bathing equipment after another.  And each time I think I have hit the bottom of the drain I am confronted with another even more extensive effrontery to human cleanliness. 

 

This time it is well water and lizards.  This is a new experience for me.  I have had plenty of tubs growing mold, potentially once sites of some kind of violent crime, or the tub that never was in my Manhattan adjacent apartment (ie Hoboken, NJ) where there was only enough space for a standing shower with toilet in the bathroom –see sink in the kitchen for further sanitation. 

 

But there is something about trickling well water that just doesn’t scream clean.  And even if it did the not-so-faint odor of rust that emits from the water itself and the washee following bathing in it leaves one with the feeling of needing to shower to wash away the shower.  I am more than ever thankful for very potent body lotions–which of course is additionally mosquito bait but between rustiness and bug bites my sensitive nasal cavities choose to offer me up to the tiny vampires of the south. 

 

Anyway, besides the fact of never feeling quite clean maybe I am thinking about this particular area of loss right now because it has been a particularly bad pain weekend.  I have cramping like mad and not at all sure why–besides faulty genetics and disorganized systems of reproduction.  Enemy thy name is Endometriosis.  And what I could use to deflect some of the enemy’s force might be a relaxing bath–or so I hypothesize as I bemoan not having the ability to find out. 

 

Endo as well as erratic Florida rain also inhibited my ability to take part in my first ocean view beach yoga class.  I am hoping that I can make up for that by taking one of the sunset classes this week at 6:00pm following work or try again next weekend…all depending on my pal Endo and what she has planned–we often conflict.  She’s always wanting to spend long days on bathroom floors, or in beds with heating pads on abdomens while I would rather do anything but those things.  She usually wins. 

 

Body as the enemy, and a woman.  Again I lead back into the multitude of issues related to internal or external trauma and the female elements of dueling within ourselves.  I would love a bath.  I would love a pain free regimen of care for my condition.  I would love to not have to go anywhere with backup pain medicine, just in case it gets too bad.  I would love a lot of things that are not within my grasp or within my power…like having my husband living with me in our home in Florida and going to sleep knowing that my whole family of two plus dogs was under the same roof. 

 

What I have learned in the brief period of time since the move to Florida with more clarity than ever before is that as much as we want to try to control the elements of our lives or our bodies sometimes it is just not possible and in those moments we just have to let things go.  “Let Go and Let God” is a constantly used mantra of AA programs but the overall sense of it is useful to all.  My friend Marisol over at Homefront Letters discussed the other day her own struggle within herself to want what isn’t possible and her method of giving it up to something greater than herself. 

 

Whatever we believe in and whatever spiritual path we follow sometimes it is necessary to let everything go: our pains, our wants, our control (which is often more just an illusion of our own imaginations than actual control).  We must let everything go and give it up to something bigger than us.  We can only carry so much and we really control so little.  Sometimes letting go is all we can do, otherwise we will drive ourselves mad trying to fix the unfixable or change what is not in our capacity to change. 

 

I am learning that with more clarity every day.  And sometimes the realization itself is a painful process of recognition.  Giving everything over to something that is not ourselves sometimes feels against our own instincts.  In truth it is more of a learned and acquired capacity but one that is much healthier for us in the long run.  To be able to let go of things that happen in our lives enough so that we are not ruled by them.  And also enough so that we can get enough distance and perspective that we can deal with the life issues that come up.  Again it is an acquired capacity and one that is not easy as I learn struggling with it daily. 

 

I will try to let go of the fury that wells in me when the cramps erupt and the frustration at my trickling well shower.  And I will continue to smile at my shower lizard when he pokes his head out of the drain…hoping desperately that I am not drowning him and apologizing profusely as I douse him with my shampoo run off.  He seems to take the whole experience far better than I am so far–but I guess it’s all a learning curve. 

 

Knowledge is learning something every day. Wisdom is letting go of something every day.

Zen Proverb

 

The Last Shower by winterofdiscontent at flickrThe Last Shower by winterofdiscontent on flickr

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