Mother’s Day Retrospective

May 9, 2022

I read several blogs about Mother’s Day this weekend. That is a US holiday celebrated on the second Sunday of May–for most of the past 26 years also celebrated by me during a youth soccer tournament. I was referee assignor for the 20th time of the 25-year history of the tournament last year. This year, I have no more affiliation with US Soccer. I “celebrated” at home with my wife and took her out for a light dinner.

My mom has been gone for more than 20 years. She was a very talented individual married to the wrong man who exacerbated her negative feelings about herself. She passed on her insecurities to her four sons. We all had to deal with attempting to overcoming these insecurities all our lives.

On the other hand, I was the oldest, and she taught me to undertake projects beyond my knowledge and experience. Dad was an accountant and insurance salesman. He didn’t know the difference between a regular and Philips screwdriver. He couldn’t use a hammer. His dad was a machinist and manufacturing operations manager. His grandfather was an early electrical engineer and built and flew an airplane in the 1910s. Ability skipped a generation and I had to pick it up the hard way. Mom learned by watching her two older brothers (she was fifth of six kids).

She would get the urge to fix something up. She’d corral me. We refinished the kitchen cabinets, laid tile in a downstairs room, did some switch rewiring, a bunch of painting, tackled some plumbing. I have since tackled many projects that I probably shouldn’t have, but you learn as you go. That’s indirectly what she taught me.

There was no expression of love in our house. The most poignant moment was the day before she died with us both in space suits in the hospital because she got that hospital-generated super virus. It’s the only time she ever said I love you. Me, I’m still handicapped with a semi-Aspergers personality from all that.

Grow By Subtracting

May 7, 2022

Growing through addition seems so obvious and logical. Kids grow by adding height and weight. Of course, adults grow by also adding weight although most of us try to keep that off. Business people think in terms of adding sales, income, products, customers. Couples think in terms of adding stuff–furniture, vehicles, art, bigger houses.

Personal and spiritual growth comes through subtraction.

  • Reduce weight
  • Eliminate senseless worry
  • Eliminate toxic relationships
  • Eliminate tasks that interfere with time for silence
  • Reduce waste
  • Eliminate toxic news sources
  • Reduce social media intake

What can you begin subtracting now?

The Spiritual Disciplines and Practice

May 6, 2022

When we get out the mat, whether alone in our bedroom or in a class, to begin Yoga, we call it a “practice.” Every time whether it’s five minutes of easy stretches, some planks and ab poses for core strength, or a 60-minute class, we are practicing.

We bring our mind, body, and spirit together to each pose practicing proper alignment, breathing, focus on the muscles we are working. And we practice, and practice some more, and one day we notice strength and balance and calmness that we didn’t know we could experience.

The same with specifically spiritual disciplines. Some people worry about proper posture for meditation or contemplation. Well, the idea is to relieve yourself of worry. So, lie or sit or walk. Eyes open or closed. The important thing is breath and focus.

If we are slouching as we sit, or our legs are crossed too tightly and we arise stiff with a sore back, well then we’ll learn to adjust our posture.

And if our mind wanders too much, well, that is what it does. It doesn’t want you to reach that sublime state of experience of God. We just relax, return to breath, maybe repeat our key word (God, love, spirit, Om, whatever). It just takes practice.

We learn not to be sloppy in any of our practices. Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. But, we aren’t perfect. We just focus and come back tomorrow to try again.

The Daily Practice

May 5, 2022

We can drift through life. We can practice life.

It’s a daily thing. I’m no longer young. I don’t have a full-time job answerable to a boss or corporation. But I have daily practice. Meditate, exercise, eat a nutritious breakfast, write, read (maybe practice guitar on a good day).

As the itinerant Chinese Buddhist Layman Pang said:

My daily activities are not unusual,

I’m just naturally in harmony with them.

Grasping nothing, discarding nothing…

Supernatural power and marvelous activity

Drawing water and carrying firewood.

Layman Pang, 740-808

Live in harmony with nature, with others, especially with yourself.

Fear Less, Love More

May 4, 2022

Lately, well almost forever, news writers strive to position content so as to strike at our primal fears. We read or watch and then get that tightening of the muscles in the gut the constriction of breathing and perversely the desire to keep reading or watching.

Even though I vet my news sources, I still had a couple of those moments.

Then I recalled this Swedish proverb;

  • Fear less, hope more
  • Eat less, chew more
  • Talk less, say more
  • Love more, and all good things will be yours

That seems to be plenty to ponder for today.

Beliefs Don’t Always Work Out

May 3, 2022

The effect of our actions can be quite different from what we believe.

Some small number of people not only in the United States but across the world proclaim a belief in Jesus but their vocal, even strident, political voice alienates at least half of the people they are supposedly trying to reach.

They may drive many people out of their gatherings.

Perhaps their beliefs align with Jesus’ command to love one another as I have loved you and to go into all the world teaching what I have taught you and make disciples.

The result is that a majority of people do not see people acting like that as loving, welcoming people.

Jesus followers of the first 200 years of the movement won followers because of the way their actions were congruent with their beliefs. People said, “I want to be part of a group like that.”

How are our actions? How different from our beliefs are they? What needs to change?

Sublime Experience Beyond the Consciousness

May 2, 2022

Chelsea football club, one of the top clubs in the English Premier League, traveled north to Everton to take on a team struggling to stay in the top league. For clubs outside the US, the bottom teams in the table are relegated to a minor league being replaced by the top teams of that league. So, teams lower in the table have a lot to play for.

Yesterday, Sunday May 1, Everton played all out. The goalkeeper made many fantastic saves. Two key defenders were tough against the Chelsea line. The forward converted his opportunity to score the game’s only goal. Fans sang club songs and cheered the entire 90 minutes. At the final whistle with an Everton 1-0 victory, 40,000 fans stayed and sang the club songs and cheered the team’s victory.

I was moved by the outstanding play and the fan’s emotion. My spine tingled and tears actually welled up. And I am not an Everton fan. But the experience was sublime.

Tor Nørretranders, writing in his study of consciousness, The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size, “The word sublime comes from Latin and means elevated, raised above the ordinary and humdrum.” He concludes his study discussing the sublime which is experience beyond consciousness.

I’ve explored such experiences for my entire adult life. Perhaps that’s why I’m moved by experiences such as that Everton sporting event. Contemplation for 55 years or longer has led to sublime experiences of God beyond rational interpretations of the Bible or of some major theologian. My touch of the sublime comes through quiet and contemplation. For others it is through charismatic gatherings of singing and praise. However you experience it, once you have experienced the sublime beyond consciousness, you are not going back.

Nørretranders’ book is not an easy read. The trail he forges through varieties of science fascinates and intrigues those willing to take the trip.

An Exercise In Futility

April 29, 2022
Sprinkling the sidewalk

Someone set this sprinkler head to assure that my path was well watered yesterday morning on my walk. The only grass it watered was from runoff along the walk.

I thought, what an exercise in futility. All that water just running off the paved path and into the street and down into the storm water system.

Sometimes we may feel that meditation and other spiritual practices are like this—an exercise in futility.

One way to look at this is that at the edge our work does set an example for others we may not even know and help them grow.

Or, maybe with just a slight change in our direction we can provide nourishment for many others and find the true purpose of our life.

Sometimes while fulfilling our purpose for others around us we find satisfaction, joy, kindness for ourselves.

Check your direction and then go out and spread some joy.

Next Best Thing

April 28, 2022

Jon asks, “What do we have time for? For what do we have time?”

Oliver Burkeman leads us through time and the use of time in his latest book, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals.

Perhaps you went into the rabbit warren of time management and productivity gains like I did. Some ideas were admirable. Choose your goals, and that sort of thing.

Burkeman warns “productivity is a trap.”

David Allen of Getting Things Done fame has us make a list and do the next task.

As Burkeman summarizes his research, he lifts a thought from psychologist Carl Jung, “Do the next best thing.”

What is the best thing you could be doing in the next half-hour?

Take a Breath

April 27, 2022

You’re trying to get somewhere and there is a queue at the entrance.

You’re focused on finishing a task around the house and one of your children needs immediate attention.

You’re coaching a youth sports team and one of the little ones needs a shoelace tied.

You’re Jesus hurrying with concerned parents to save a child from death and a woman with a need interrupts your hurry for a healing.

I imagine the scene and see Jesus momentarily annoyed that his journey was interrupted. I see him taking a breath. Pausing. Treating the woman with respect while assuring her of healing. Then, proceeding to bring life to the child.

There is no reason that we, fallible as we are, cannot also train ourselves to pause, take a breath, deal with the interruption respectfully, and continue.

There is a reason that Ancient Greek used the same word for breath and spirit. Think about that. Better yet, practice it.