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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.

Florida Family Vacation by skookum on flickr“florida family vacation” by skookum on flickr

 

My new home has afforded me three lizard encounters thus far.  The first was a bit intimate as there is a shower lizard that may or may not live in the shower drain that likes to languish and leer whilst I shower–he’s all eyes that one.  The second encounter was of the morbid kind as I picked up a box off of my ikea buffet in the entry area of the house to find a  black lizard who must have been unlucky enough to have been wedged under the box.  Soon after I lifted the box, made a pitiable squeal of surprise, and called my sister over, the poor thing went to lizard heaven (presumably full of bushy palms and a neverending supply of tiny insects for consumption) and we had to, eek, flush him down the toilet.  I can only hope the shower lizard did not have to encounter him on his way down. 

 

The third lizard was in our spare bedroom/doggie cage room and he was just meandering across the bottom of the wall–I think even the lizards move at a slower pace in Florida.  Needless to say I am on lizard alert, not sure where the next one will appear.  It is both an endearing and equally unnerving element of my new home environment.   I love lizards, I really do but I never expected to share the inside of my home with them, at least barring a beach bungalow life in Thailand or Nicaragua (two favorite vacation spots of mine which have geckos and lizards on every wall of every room). 

 

The amphibian element is only one piece of my adjustment to life in the Sunshine State.  The unprovoked acts of friendliness are another element and I have to recalibrate my Jersey-induced public prickliness to a more sunny and unsuspicious disposition.  A woman was standing behind me on line at Home Goods last night and asked where I was going to put the lovely lamp I was purchasing.  I jolted upright and fumbled, confused, for a reply.  After an awkwardly long pause, and her beginning to eye me curiously, I finally answered quickly that I would be using it in my entryway and walked out of the store hoping I had feigned-Florida well enough.  I can recall this piece of transition from my move to Colorado years  back and I know it takes some time but I have confidence that soon I will smile not flinch when someone speaks to me unprovoked and kindly in public arenas. 

 

Another transition piece that I have yet to get fully accustomed to is my newly hairless pooch.  Yes, I have shaved my little dog to a fully naked but not quite profane state.  She has transformed from looking like a miniature beagle with a pug/squirrel tail to looking something like a mini Jack Russel Terrier with a possum tail (see below).  I found very quickly that Florida is just too hot a state for a long haired tiny dog.  She was panting like crazy and shedding like mad with such a fury that three days into the move I decided that the hair just had to go.  She seems somewhat confused but overall pleased with her new do, or lack of a “do”. 

 

Hairless Doggie

 

On the whole we are a household a bit confused and fumbling.  Last night the bed was me plus two dogs and thank god we got the king-sized bed before the move as it was cramped even with all the space.  All three of us were twitchy and hyperalert the whole night long, jolting up at every strange noise.  Around 2 a.m. the rumbling thunder came in with force and was so close and roaring I could feel it in my gut.  A family divided by space and states I find myself languishing a bit in my own solitude as I fumble through the nuances and confusions of new geography alone.  At least, I think to myself, I have the dogs and the lizards to keep me company. 

 

In the quiet of an empty house, as I find myself more and more talking in full conversations with my dogs, pausing and intuiting their replies before I continue on with the dialogue, I know these are the moments in which quiet contemplation and a focus on inner calm is the most necessary.  I know that these are the times for which I prescribe such measures for my clients; in periods of uncertainty, restlessness, sadness, fear, and general discontentedness.  Just breathe, I tell them and then I progress forward in teaching them how.  I know I must remember these tools for myself and I must focus on self-care. 

 

Just breathe.  I will repeat this mantra and work for inner meditative peace and search with a bit of urgency for my yoga mat that I know is packed somewhere in the few remaining boxes.  I yearn desperately for the peace of fluidity in silence and breath.  And if I don’t find that stinking mat by tomorrow I’ll just have to go find a new one.  Perhaps even find a local class with my fun new iphone “YogaNow” application.  It is what I purchased it for; when I was fumbling, lost and confused…in search of a collective namaste kind of moment.  I think that time is soon nearing.

  

Smile, breathe and go slowly.                                         Thich Nhat Hanh

 

ocean colour scene #3 by macca on flickr

“ocean colour scene #3” by macca on flickr

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