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MY FAVORITE DEPRESSION

Yesterday was World Suicide Prevention Day. Don’t even talk to me if you’ve never known anyone who’s been depressed, let alone offed themselves. Or thought of it yourself. Sadly, I’ve had an uncle hang himself at 93, a friend blow his brains out at 19. My sister’s brother-in-law hung himself (I think he was 19 too.) And the kicker of all kickers, I have a 93 year old friend currently whose husband and both her children–sons–shot themselves in the head.
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Trauma

Rosalie Cushman

Trauma – “a deeply distressing or disturbing experience, like the death of a child.” This is how Google defines it. Webster defines it thusly, “a very difficult or unpleasant experience that causes someone to have mental or emotional problems usually for a long time.” Okay. Read more

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WHY I LIKE MONASTERIES

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I’ve been reading “Gift From The Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh recently, feeling even more affected by it than the first reading years ago. The beauty of it, her poignant insight, strikes a profound cord someplace deep. Take, for example, the following passage:  Read more

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Requiem For Bennet Mermel

bennet vassar[1]Odd that I remain disbelieving that Bennet is gone, died, finished, caput. Oh, I intellectually understand it, the idea of it. But the emotional reality; How could it be that he is no more, that you are no more? No more phone calls, no more visits. No more Bennet to be with. Where are you, dear friend? Where have you gone? It seems you slipped away, right outside the worn out body, into the ethers. It seems strange you are no longer on the planet. How can it continue to spin? Read more

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THE POWER OF PLAY

I am so sick of repeating the same patterns, holding the same positions, continuing down the same road with only minor tweaks. Yet, how to make needed change without becoming unglued, unhinged, as it were? Or maybe becoming unhinged is required, who knows. In any case, I am in need of some significant change in my life EVEN if it’s only in how I perceive things which, at times, can make all the difference.

Making change, especially interior change, can be cataclysmic. In the past, it has frequently occurred after an intolerable amount of misery has reached critical mass, at which point I become uncomfortable inside my own skin. Almost always I begin to see that I’ve been living some sort of lie, a self-deception that is no longer sustainable.

The psychic-emotional niggling starts small accompanied by prolonged avoidance in addressing it. Instead, I look for all kinds of rationalizations as to why I should suck it up, surrender to “what is” and the like. Yet, without examination of how I feel or what it is I’m even doing to myself, the “dark night” only deepens. At this stage, I go all intellectual trying to think my way through with tepid success at best. Why? Because, for me, without clear recognition of what’s happening on the emotional front I’m only surrendering the tip of the proverbial iceberg. After all, “knowing about” something is not the same as “knowing,” which is to say, knowing about a feeling whether its anger, sorrow, fear, etc., without the full-throated experiencing of it only delays hitting bottom, postponing the required karmic lesson I’ve been avoiding in the first place.

In any case, after said unresolved misery swamps me I must choose whether to address what is not working and have the courage to change it. This is no small feat since it inevitably involves feeling the emotional pain I have been desperately trying to intellectualize away from all along! Oh dear.

I’ll give you a recent example. It has been brought to my attention I don’t play enough, don’t engage in activities that emotionally invigorate and feed my soul. I work too hard, or think I should be even when I don’t. This is due in part because of the ferocious Judeo-Christian work ethic I was raised on by parents and the Midwestern sub-culture from whence I came. In essence it projects a belief that ‘you are what you do; you are what you produce or accomplish!’ This ethic defines a person’s worth. I have unwittingly allowed it to define my worth. When I don’t meet these expectations I feel guilty, sad; angry. Not good!

Of course, like so many things in life there is an upside to the work ethic. The upside is that it has allowed me to accomplish some satisfying projects in spite of any downside. Unfortunately, it has also driven me to suppress some serious discomfort in the process. I go on to the next thing without playing, without giving myself even permission for anything other than to ‘recover.’ Yet, if I only would have played more I might not have reached the life-defying drudge state that has all-too-often contributed to any discontent. Life-affirming play has always seemed less noble, even frivolous, with the exception of when I used to drink pretty heavily in younger years, hardly a healthy alternative.

At any rate, I know now I must incorporate invigorating play that is soul-feeding, life-affirming, psychically-expanding, and exhilarating. Lately, I have begun to play although it almost feels awkward at times I’m so unused to it. I went to see The Blue Man Group with a friend, a group I have long wanted to see. The event was exciting, phenomenally loud, exceedingly clever, monstrously over-stimulating, childishly playful and really, really fun. I loved it even though at age 62 (not exactly the demographic group for which the program was designed) I was utterly exhausted by program’s end. Yet, I felt so alive. I felt connected to some primal part of myself, engaged and astonishingly released! I felt the best kind of unhinged from my absurdly serious self!! What’s more, later in the day I became aware of a state of relaxation involving a noticeable peace. This relaxed feeling also included a sense of satisfaction which felt normal, which is to say an integral part of my very nature. My God, even animals play, I thought. Oh to be a puppy!

Why I have allowed embedded, deeply tangled psychic assumptions to diminish the value of play is hardly a mystery, as previously noted. Yet I have reached a stage where I can no longer operate from such assumptions. It has simply become too painful to do so. For such a long time I have been so over-focused on work that I have blocked any honest instinct for joyful abandon. Well, no more! I’ve discovered an appetite for play. I want to act on the God-given instinct that fuels my healthy and robust heart, reclaiming an integral part of what I’m meant to be. And while this doesn’t mean I won’t work, it does mean I will play. I think it’s the only responsible thing for me to do. Who knows, I may even get a puppy!

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THE WEDDING

For Liz and Patrick: 

I went to some friend’s wedding recently. As is true for most weddings, it was a blessed occasion, as well as the social highlight of the summer for me. I imagine this to be true for the bride and groom as well. They both beamed, emitting rays of tenderness and affection for one another. Being a ‘May—December’ affair, the wedding was the second marriage for each of them, a glorious promise of ongoing love.

The church was decorated simply, including a few voluptuous floral arrangements and an array of finely dressed friends and family. The music was stunning, the pianist stroking the keys with breathtaking precision and feeling. As usual, the soloist led us in song at appropriate places befitting a catholic ceremony, along with gifting us by singing two luminous solos.

As a member of this church myself, this soprano grabs me where-I-live, what with her perfect-pitch voice that carries all the naturalness and subtlety of a song bird on one hand and the immense, thunderous crescendo of a wave dropping dramatically on the other. She always ‘has me at the first note,’ immersing me in a pool of beauty. After her first solo at the wedding, a stray thought occurred: I could hire her to sing Ave Maria just for me, some other time in this acoustically perfect sanctuary. I could lose myself in that sound, transported during the translation of that elegant energy that passes through her mouth.

And then, of course, a few minutes later she sang it. With a small catch in my throat, I had to stop myself from weeping. A kind of pressure occurred in an effort to prevent the tears from flowing so publicly upon hearing Shubert’s masterpiece rendered so lavishly.

Then there was the couple! They were so very endearing, she in her 50’s and he in his 70’s: The bride so beautiful and light, the groom so gentle and self-assured. As they knelt, the priest said he would ‘be brief’ with his comments because, after all, the wedding couple had older knees. One can’t ask old knees to stay in that locked position for too long and expect to get up. And at that we all laughed recognizing the truth of it. Throughout the ceremony, the priest seemed demonstrably tender with the bride and groom, extending great delicacy and care. Having known the near-blind bride for years and the widowed groom for decades, he clearly celebrated their having found such a sublime love for one another, one that was not just gentle but sturdy as well.

Now, weddings are usually joyous affairs and catholic weddings typically display no small amount of additional reverence for God, being one of the holy sacraments. But I was particularly struck by the priest’s devotion during the blessing of the host as he prepared to share the Eucharist with the couple, as well as the rest of us in attendance. It seemed obvious and palpable that he loved God, correction, loves God. While communion might be his version of the soprano’s crescendo, it is sourced from the same place and he is in recognition of that fact.

It also felt like he was inclusive, conscious of the community before him, even beyond his role as priest. His actions were not rote like some priests, not a habit from years in the priesthood. Rather, the love emanating from him was genuine, palpable, a visible stream originating from something greater than himself. It was beatific, lovely and, dare I say, knowable. What’s more, that love felt energetic. It didn’t need to exert itself, it just ‘was’ as if powered by an underground spring. At some point, it seemed to me he delivered that love, priest-as-conduit for all of us to partake, above and beyond the sacrament.

And in a flash I was reminded of the most beautiful description of love shared by a man and a woman which is this: “The love we have for each other is not different from the love we have for God,” (Dr. David R. Hawkins and Susan Hawkins.) It is breathtaking to me that God’s love can be expressed beyond personalities, beyond any role of priest or soprano, beyond but including the union of a couple, incorporating the whole of humanity. All are equally sourced from the same spring.

And so I left the church that day feeling buoyed, enlivened, and blessed to be both witness and participant to this touching and beautiful wedding between two people who deeply love one another; to be blessed to hear the soprano’s powerful trilling; to be bathed in one priest’s transmission of the Divine. I was also buoyed by the promise, no, the knowledge that this love is unstoppable, pervading every atom, every cell, every droplet in the spring, every wave in the ocean, and all of life. For Divine Love is both eminent and transcendent, everywhere at once, animating all that is both in the now and in the ever after.

 

in Writing, Spirituality/

Why I Love To Write

I have always loved to write, not just to have written as some famous writers have contended. When I am in the writing state it often takes me to an exquisite space where I am lost in a world of both beauty and reckoning. For me, the beauty of writing is in capturing a mood, an experience or inspiration, distilling it down to something universally recognizable as essence. While I don’t always do it well, there are some occasions when I succeed. What’s more, the process can become a delicious birthing of sorts, somewhat akin to a rhapsody transmitting both melody and a lyrical clarity that takes on a life of its own. There are times I cannot stop myself from writing, possessed with an urgency to translate what at first appears ineffable into something cohesive and sure, rich with meaning, containing nutrients to feast on in the process and even later on. Quite simply, it connects a smaller me to a larger Me, expanding my awareness in the process.

For communication, a fervent connection, is the name of the game. Even the Divine knows that! I almost imagine Him laughing at my depiction of His intention. After all, why else would Michelangelo have the capacity or desire to paint the fingers of God and Adam pointing at one another, projecting their transmission onto the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling? From whence did Michelangelo’s inspiration come if not from the Divine? Implied in this, of course, is His (and my) insatiable appetite to communicate, to connect, not just to myself but to others as well. Why else would this ceaseless impulse be given any of us?

And so, in my own humble way, I offer my modest creations painted not with a brush but a palette of words, all in an effort to render the depths of my heart as I understand it in any given instant or experience. It thumps away, that heart, never resting except in the silence that occurs between each beat.  Consequently, the itch to write resides in that silence, demanding attention, requiring I give language between my small sense of self to the larger One. For in the end, I am absorbed in something greater than my finite mind and heart can even imagine, knowing all along I must honor it if I am to be true to my very nature.