Breathing Practice

In a comfortable chair with a long spine or in a safe reclining position, exhale fully for a count of seven. Now, inhale fully for a count of seven.

This is your own personal count of seven. Thus, you determine the rate at which you are exhaling and inhaling, thoughtfully observing your even breathing as your breath moves easily out from and into the body.

Spirituality

As you relax into this regular and even breathing pattern, exhaling for seven and inhaling for seven, observe as the emotional tensions in and about the body begin to lose their rigid hold.

Riding the waves of your newly established breathing rhythm, you will sense these once rigid emotional forms losing their hold within and around the body—only to be carried away on the strength of the waves of your own even, regular and oceanic breathing.

Now, in the space you have created in and around your physical frame through this breathing practice and on your next inhaling breath, allow the Light that abides to enter your body and fill those spaces once occupied by tension with a warm expansiveness. On each inhaling breath, consciously draw the Light of life into the depths of your body and create a gentle, protective blanket of Light about you.

This is your sacred space, in which to live and thrive. This is the space from which you will learn and grow. You have a unique gift to share. Trust this. Uncover your gift. Discover your Self.

Namaste

Chewing on Life

At a luncheon one day, an acquaintance begins a conversation with me about another person’s child, observing that she is disappointed in the manner in which this other person’s child is “turning out.”

I listen in silence as the speaker describes a list of goals, dreams and visions she had for this child, and I remain silent and quietly amazed as my luncheon companion concludes with an almost equally lengthy should-have, could-have and would-have set of statements for another person’s life.

Inside of myself, I ponder the sheer degree of personal energy we are willing to expend in thought and word on other people’s lives—wasted energy really—on gossip and daydreaming.

The one-sided conversation I had that day ended there because I was not willing to weigh in with an equally useless set of empty opinions.

Spirituality

Of late, I have taken this position on people and their very unique and individual paths: When I encounter a person and a set of actions which I do not understand, I hold that person in the Light, asking for all of the holy protection and the whole-hearted extension of sacred support which Grace has to offer. In doing this, I hope Grace will assist another individual in attending to the many quandaries and decisions to be faced and that, somehow, life will be made a little lighter and easier due to my simple, quiet requests.

Blind Faith

At a book-signing, a woman asks me how far from Canada I was raised.

“One lake away,” I respond in an amused tone. Then, I add, “You are not the first person to ask that question.”

Spirituality

Her inquiry reminds me about how far from “home” I have come and sometimes still feel. Yet, every relocation my family and I have made has seemed to be a carefully fulfilled and dovetailed adventure, based upon a combination of thoughtful research and the lovingly patient guidance which the hand of Grace is able to provide.

The furthest afield I have ever moved with my family is when we relocated to a mountain town in the American Southwest. And, this is how that particular story unfolds.

One September day, four months prior to our departure from our home region in the upper Midwest, while riding my bicycle across town, I cruise to a hard stop at a red light. Planting my feet firmly on the ground astraddle my snow-friendly, fat-tired bike, an overwhelming sense of you-do-not-belong-here comes over me.

In response to this sensation, I think, “Where do I belong, if not here?”

Sitting with this question over the next few days, I begin a flurry of research at the local library into other municipalities which I and my family might call home. Where do I and we belong? I consider the list of things we need in a new, home city: employment, good schools and affordable housing amid clean air, water and soil. In my heart, I consider that I would like to try living somewhere below the fortieth parallel, much further south than we have ever lived before. Yet, I feel no clear leadings to take up residence in the Southeast nor do I feel a pull to move due south.

In terms of my research, everything points to the possibility of moving to the American Southwest. This is a region of the country with which I am almost completely unfamiliar and, as “a child of the forest” the notion of barren deserts or scrubby, rocky landscapes at a high degree of altitude give me pause. Nonetheless, in faith, I persist in my efforts to downsize our household’s inventory, as I narrow the field of municipal candidates for relocation.

Finally, having selected a new city to call “home” and with a little more than a month to go before our scheduled departure, we make arrangements with a  cross-country mover. We have no address, no relatives and no friends to meet us on the other end—just a very strong sense that this move will take us where we need to be.

Then, one day, while I am sorting through the few remaining items to be packed in the vehicle along with us, I choke. I choke on the entire idea of guidance, intuitive nudges, Quaker leadings and blind faith. Looking for some form of concrete affirmation outside of myself for the leap we are about to take, I try something for the first (and only) time, which a former Christian roommate used in her daily faith practice: I decide to engage in sortes Biblicae.

Scrambling to find a copy of our Bible to put my Spirit at ease, I paw through the stacks of books which have been set aside to travel with us.  After some searching, I pull the book out from under several others. Then, placing the Bible on a freshly cleared window ledge facing the north side of our apartment, the lake, the arboretum and my own local “forest” sanctuary, I close my eyes and open it, being careful not to injure its delicate pages. With a solid sense of resolve, I plant my extended index finger firmly on one of the two open pages. Picking up the book, while being mindful that I do not shift my finger in a way that would cause me to lose the marked passage, I open my eyes and draw the book closer to me.

Clearly marked by my extended index finger, one line from a verse in Isaiah (40:9) stands out, “…Get thee up into the high mountain….” All tension and doubt melt away. My Spirit grows calm with the affirmation that we are on the right track.

Abraham & Isaac

In one of the most traditional interpretations of the Abraham and Isaac story, in which Abraham believes he has been commanded by God to make a burnt offering of his young son, Isaac, only to be  stopped at the last moment and guided to offer up a ram in Isaac’s stead, the primary moral generally derived is that we must be prepared to lay everything down in sacrifice, at God’s request, before we will ever experience God’s Grace, blessings or “rewards.”

Yet, Grace—or God—is not the force testing us daily; it is worldly living which tests us daily, as does the dialogue between our own internal Light, that which is of God’s Grace residing in our hearts, and our more worldly inclined minds. For most of us, these are the sources of our most pernicious struggles and the genuine “tests” which occur every day.

I would like to offer an alternate and more metaphorical, interpretive reading of this ancient text.

Spirituality

In this metaphorical reading, Abraham represents the intellect of a devout, if not somewhat overly zealous worshipper of God. Abraham actively seeks to become closer to God’s Grace or know God through the limiting confines of his own mind and to honor God by means of following the ritual acts of sacrificial worship to which he has become accustomed—burnt offerings. Isaac, in contrast, is Abraham’s very heart and happiness—the Light, which when properly attended to, is full of ebullient laughter, joy and potential. It is Isaac’s natural love which brings God’s Grace closer to Abraham than any other person or force in Abraham’s life.

Abraham begins his trek to do what he perceives to be God’s bidding, to offer Isaac’s life up, in the same blind and disconnected way in which we often manage, through our convoluted reasoning, to separate ourselves from the Light within our own hearts. Separation from the heart’s Light is often caused by the mind’s ability to overthink situations, by an excessively rigid adherence to societal norms or by our own  inappropriate reactions to what we perceive to be “the best” course of behavior at a given time.

As Abraham and Isaac come closer to the moment when the burnt offering is to be made, Isaac (the heart) asks the Abraham (the mind) where the offering is. The zealous and ungrounded mind reassures the innocent and confused heart that God will provide. And, this is where, I would argue, Grace makes Its appearance in the text—as a struggling ram whose horns are caught in a thicket. In this interpretive reading, God’s Grace is consistantly attempting to intervene on our behalf to bring each of us back into our own awareness of the sacred nature of life, the Light and the inherent joy residing in everything around us—to the extent that Grace is willing to sacrifice Itself so that we may continue to honor, embrace and affirm the very relationships which sustain us—whether those relationships are internal or external in nature.

So, what does this interpretation mean in relationship to the sacrifice-reward paradigm set up in the original text in the  following, concluding passage?  “…for because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, from me, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall inherit the lands of your enemies; and by your ‘seed’ [which can also mean ‘teaching’ in Aramaic] shall all the nations of the earth be blessed because you have obeyed my voice.”

Given the metaphorical nature of this interpretation, I read this portion of the text as a request by Grace for us to surrender our hearts fully to the Light. The “sacrifice” we make in doing this, more than anything, usually involves some sort of disconnect with whatever current, societal norms go against affirming life. And, once an individual’s whole-hearted relationship with Grace has been established, the reward of inheriting the “lands of your enemies” involves the winning over of others’ hearts. Thus, in this interpretive rendering, there is—eventually—no Other or Enemy.

For me, the Abraham and Isaac story asks each of us to cultivate our very personal and internal relationship with the heart’s Light and joy, as well as requesting that we do not turn away from our potential for developing a carefully and fully attuned heart (the one, true gift from God) by becoming overzealous in the areas of our lives and minds that would cause us to forget the sacred quality of our own life, family ties, relationship to community, one another’s hearts and nature’s fragile web.

Good Deeds

“One sage has said that God prefers the joy to the mitzvah. (How he found this out, I do not know.)”

—Leo Rosten

I am relating a tale to you about an anonymous mitzvah, which will no longer be a mitzvah of the highest order after today’s telling—nor will it be completely anonymous, because you and I will know.

Spirituality

Not so long ago, we had as a very dear neighbor, a hard-speaking saint of a woman, whose heart was so full of Light and generosity that, when we returned home at night, we would often find whole pastries, pots of rich stew or other fine, fresh baked goods waiting for us outside of our front door. We were a family of three, and she was but one person—living solo.

Now, as the story goes, we were a struggling young family. Our monies were limited, carefully counted and thoughtfully metered out. Our neighbor, too, was careful with her change. Yet, she loved to indulge in one favorite pastime.

One November, five weeks before Christmas, we learned that our neighbor had splurged and purchased an expensive piece of equipment in support of her pastime—on layaway. After some discussion within our household, we decided to make our neighbor’s December layaway payment anonymously.

Bewildered and grateful as she was, our neighbor never did find out who made that payment for her. So, be sure that you do not tell.

Power & Strength

Recently, a great deal of material coming through my social media feeds talks about “being in” or “standing in” one’s “power.”

Spirituality

From an energetic point of view, the differences between power and strength are these:

Power is held at an individual level and generally experienced through the third chakra.

Strength, in contrast, flows from an individual’s alignment with Universal principles and is experienced through the fourth chakra or heart.

Work with holding these two concepts, one at a time, in the context of your consciousness, and use the laboratory of your body to determine which produces the greatest frequency or instances of Divine Union.