Thorns Before Blooms

venus

I’m not sure if it’s truth or just sometimes true, but I’ve heard the saying, It’s always darkest before the dawn. When I was younger, my favorite time of the day was right before the sunrise. Especially when you can see Venus rising. It seems special, like I’m the only one awake. Private showing for me. I love the night sky and the sunrise is even better.

September marks a very strange time for me.

It’s my birthday month, but beyond that, it was a spiritually dark month for me in 2001. Not because of the Twin Towers destruction on 9/11, although that hit all of us in America pretty hard. But, I had a major depressive episode or nervous breakdown the week of Labor Day in 2001, the week before THE Bad Day of Sept 11. Tuesday, September 4th I sat on my bedroom floor in the middle of a panic attack. My body and mind shut down almost completely. My husband was out of town, my kids were playing, our church pastor had left. I finally reached a friend by phone. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what was wrong. My spiritual life didn’t prepare me for this. I felt like Sampson standing between the two pillars, without the strength that I was used to. Prior to this I knew what God wanted. I knew the answers. And suddenly I couldn’t even pray.

It took years to climb out.

There’s no easy answer or 10 step program when you meet the devil at the crossroads and he runs over you with a Mack truck. The formula that ensured success didn’t work. It worked before, but nope, not this time. When your illusions are shattered there’s nothing you can do but sit. Sit and let it all fall down. Wait for the pillars to fall. Wait for the dust to settle.

A lot of people say it happens for a reason. Well, everything does. Sometimes the reason is as simple as tripping over your own idealism. It’s not a master plan. There’s no design for our lives. We’re born, we live, and we learn. We could pretend. Name a cause just to make everything seem predictable and safe, but I don’t want to do that. I know why it happened. What I thought was a strong formula for success was only plaster and paint. 

If you imagine the growth of divine consciousness as being like the growth of a rose, then a cutting from the original rose would have to be placed in the earth. It has to be watered by prayer and by devotion and by meditation. It comes up out of the ground, it has to be protected. Then it grows thorns — the thorns of discrimination and wisdom. An Interview With Andrew Harvey – Colleen O’Connor 

If you’ve recently been hit with a Mack Truck and your world is falling apart, just let it happen. Seek counseling. Talk to friends. You can make it through. It may not be part of a master plan of divine origins, but it happened. This is life in all of it’s beauty and horror. Clean up time will come. I know because I made it through and I’m rebuilding. And the sun is rising in the east.

Mind, Body, and Spirit

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Mind we know. Body we get. But, what is spirit? Grace, kindness, joy, love, peace? Things you can’t see. Spirit doesn’t mean it’s a ghost or even that it will live after our body dies. I can believe in spirit without believing in Jehovah, Thor, Ahura Mazda or Allah. I believe those things named above are spirit. These live on after we have left the building. They are in the memory of every love letter you wrote, every kind word you said, and every cookie you baked. Think about these two things for a moment: Using your body to pray. Acts of kindness as gifts.

Grace is a power that comes in and transforms a moment into something better.

— CAROLINE MYSS

Yes, I know that love and joy and anger and confusion are emotions, ruled by chemicals. Our language and concept of self came at a time in history before we had knowledge of chemicals. At that time we often loved with our bowels. Spirit described anything or force that could not be seen or explained, but the chemical response in our heads never belittles the reality of love. It only shows it’s ours.

King James Bible

But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? I John 3:17

Never underestimate the power of kindness. You never know when a smile or a kind word or hug could save a person’s life. We are social animals. Even me, sometimes. We are meant to interact and bounce ideas off of each other. Without this we are stagnant and we die. If you don’t think you have anything to give, think again. Any kind act, any kind word can change someone’s day.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

I use my physical body as a way to express my love. Seanne Corn – On Being

Set your intention. What prayer would you pray with your actions or your movements? Do that today.

Not Waiting

amelia

Sometime after the blame and the anger, you realize it’s no one’s fault but your own.

Recently, I realized that I can take care of myself. And I kept saying those words, aloud, I take care of myself, over and over. I’m sure my family thought it strange, but for some reason it seemed more real to me than at any time ever.

Yeah, I’ve always wanted to and struggled to be independent, but something inside of me these last few years finally grew up. Yeah, I’m responsible for me. And there’s no easy way to describe that feeling other than the reverse. I know what it feels like to not have the choice. To be the one who waits for someone else to decide. In those cases you somehow disengage. You stop caring. You forget how to want, how to choose. 

I have always been taught that I must forgive. I must not hold onto unforgiveness or hatred. I tried for years to heal and forgive. Finally I stopped and decided it was actually normal to hate and be angry. And I don’t mind my anger anymore.

When you no longer fight your feelings, fight your needs, fight your wants, and fight your loves, you can look at yourself as you are. I can stand and say, I want this, I need that, I hate this, I love that. I don’t know exactly how it works, but I know that by acknowledging the facts I freed myself. I realized that I provide for my needs and I can take care of myself. I’m not the sad little girl who waited as in Amelia Pond on Doctor Who. Twice.

Amy Pond: In fact I think I can now definitely say I hate him. I hate the Doctor. I hate him more than I have hated anyone in my life and you can hear every word of this through those ridiculous glasses, can’t you, Raggedy Man?

The Doctor: Uh, yes. Putting the speakerphone on.

Amy Pond: You told me to wait, and I did. A lifetime.

The Doctor: Amy!

Amy Pond: You’ve got nothing to say to me.

The Doctor: Amy, behind you! - imdb.com/quotes

It’s not necessary for me to actively try to forgive anymore. It never worked anyway. When I realize I’m a free agent and I’m the responsible person here, I am free to walk away or stay. Being responsible helps me forgive. No, I take that back, being responsible helps me not to notice that there’s anything to forgive.

 

My Attitude? I Blame Westerns

hellonwheels

I watch the AMC show, Hell on Wheels and I often smile at the lengths the character Cullen Bohannon goes to hold to his morality. He will do whatever it takes to get the job done, whether it’s legal or not. Whether it’s lethal or not. Then step out of the muck and mud, put on his hat, and walk away.

Work hard. Clean up your mess. Speak softly and carry a big stick. Let your actions do your talking. Take care of your family. Don’t air your dirty laundry. It’s better to be poor and stand on your own two feet than to be carried around by someone else. That’s the codes of conduct I grew up with and they developed my attitudes.

 “A gun is a tool, Marian; no better or no worse than any other tool: an axe, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that.” – Shane

Someone asked me once, if you had a disease and the only treatment or cure was illegal, would you get it? My answer is easy. Absolutely, but I’m not alone. The rise of self publishing shows our love for individualism.

Whether you call it an American attitude or something we picked up from John Wayne in the movies, there’s an internal moral compass that tells us what is right and what is wrong. Even though the law says it’s right, it isn’t always the right that we believe. We honor independence over group thinking. It’s a western, as opposed to an eastern, way of thinking. See what I mean: Minimalistic Visualizations Explain Differences In Eastern And Western Cultures 

There are downfalls in this thinking and I’m not touting it as a recipe for success. Sadly, there were proud fathers who turned down help from neighbors when their children were starving. Charity wasn’t for them or their kin and they would state it proudly. No one is perfect and no political stance is complete. It would be refreshing though to see a politician or an individual who could look at a problem from a neutral viewpoint, without the blinders of pride or prejudice. The ability to hold two differing points of view in your mind and judge is a difficult task. If they could do that, then they could solve the problems of today, like the wise men of long ago. No, not just like Solomon, but like Rooster Cogburn also.

Rooster Cogburn: Well, out in the territory, we prize a dead shot more’n we do a lady’s charms.

Eula Goodnight: Then I’ve come to the right place, haven’t I? You mean the men in the West do not mind if their women outshoot and outsmart them?

Rooster Cogburn: If they’re quiet about it. No, here we value a spirited woman almost as much as we do a spirited horse.

Check it out: The 16 Best Western Movies-The Art of Manliness

 

Verifiable Results

ALAN MAHON james degale shadow

There’s an interesting fellow I see often on my drive home from work. He’s a boxer. You can see him almost daily along the Riverwalk in Tulsa. He stands in the middle of the drainage ditch and he jumps rope and shadow boxes. I’d like to know his story, but I haven’t ever had the nerve to find out. I wonder if when he was a younger man that maybe he did real boxing, but now he might be living in his imagination, but then I think that my thoughts are presumptuous. Maybe he just likes the exercise.

Youngsters

When I was younger I spent a lot of time praying. I prayed for the children in Africa and the people I saw on the news. I had no way of physically helping, but somehow the praying didn’t feel like a copout. I felt satisfaction after I prayed and I thought it was proof of results. It seemed that it was a ping back from the source telling me Yes, that’s it. You’re on target. But it wasn’t. It’s not. It’s just the chemicals in my brain telling me I’ve done an action that my belief system approves of. It’s not confirmation of it being effective. Otherwise the continent of Africa would be full of healthy people. The bad guys controlling the countries would be dead or disabled. The wildfires of Texas, Colorado, and California would be over as well as the long drought. And yes, when I prayed for these things I had faith. I got the ping back.

If only

If there is a god and the precepts are true then the results should be verifiable. If a disease or tragedy hits because of sin it should harm only the ones doing the wrong deed, or am I a simpleton. I’m thinking the arrow of disease is coming from the hand  of a just god.

Christians should be by a verifiable percentage of reality these things:

  • healthier than other religious people
  • impervious to disease more so than other religious people
  • not dying from snake bites
  • above only, as in, not enslaved to debt
  • lead happier lives
  • wealthier or having the ability to obtain wealth

Further, the Bible makes specific promises, but these promises are never fulfilled. For instance, John 15:7 states, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” This is simply not true! How many Christian people have prayed all over the globe for a release from the grip of terrible suffering just to be left in their circumstances with no way out?  Lydia @ DogmaDebate

If something exists or a pattern is true then you should see results. For example, if you take a medication that has been approved by the FDA Federal Drug Administration, it’s already went through Double Blind testing. There are certain tests that show it works. The man on the side of the road is getting exercise. I don’t wish to mock or belittle someone for their efforts. I only want to acknowledge the difference between efforts and results. If you want the exercise of meditation or praying or even shadow boxing, yes they do have their own benefits, but if you want to knock someone out you’re going to have to punch them.

So what works?

In the Bible, James says,

Faith and Works

17Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. 18But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

 

 

Your Life is Unfinished

Unfinished_card_web

Life is only incomplete and unfinished business. Your life is unfinished. My life is unfinished. Everyone’s life is incomplete. I was thinking this because I was mentally checking my list of things I wanted to do. But it will never be finished. I can take this as frustrating or I can think of it as liberating.

Every day we’re assaulted with facts, pseudofacts, news feeds and jibber-jabber, coming from all directions. According to a 2011 study, on a typical day, we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information, five times as much as we did in 1986. As the world’s 21,274 television stations produce some 85,000 hours of original programming every day (by 2003 figures), we watch an average of five hours of television per day. For every hour of YouTube video you watch, there are 5,999 hours of new video just posted! – Hit the Reset Button in Your Life

To keep myself from panic, I made a list of things I wanted to keep or add to my life and things I wanted to remove or keep away from my life. After reviewing this list I realized the keepers were already there. I have family, job, love, health, books, and all the other goodies that I’d listed. So for now, this minute, my life is good. But the next time I feel anxiety over my unfinished stuff, I want to remember that all of our lives are under construction. That’s the nature of the game of life. It’s messy and incomplete.

…no answer is a complete or final one. And I think that there’s so many times when we thought we understood something and then we realized we were totally wrong. I think that it’s chutzpah to think that we know all the answers or that we’ve understood something perfectly. – Adele Diamond

 

We live the life of an unfinished novel, still waiting to be written. Depending on how we live, the longer the chapters. Depending on how interesting we are, the more we appeal to others. We’re often judged by our covers. Sometimes, some people decide to just quit reading us. We’re just forgotten until someone finds us. Our characters can develop throughout the novel, but our chapters can never be edited.
– Unknown

Is It Too Late to Play?

children-playing-outside-data

I just finished listening to a podcast with the guest speaker, Adele Diamond. She’s a neuroscientist and has studied child development and talked about a subject I struggle with, The Science of Attention. There’s a lot of talk in the last 20 plus years about revamping our school system. The problem is that we think we know what it should look like, but the ideal education image changes with every generation. For a time we looked to Korea as a guide. Then more of a free-for-all was ideal. Is it rote memorization or phonetic writing? With children it could look one way and be a great school for 20% of the kids, but not the remaining 80%. No child is like another. There are also those dear adaptable kids that flourish in many environments. This just screws up all the statistics.

So what makes a good education? Right now there’s a lot of talk about how we’ve removed all the fluff and it’s the fluff that is as needed as much as the rest. Music, noncompetitive play, art, philosophy and life skills. Good play which can be sports, music, and pretend increases children’s ability to pay attention. It cultivates executive decision making.

Is it too late to play?

Adele Diamond spoke of a normal thing called mirror writing. I remember my kids doing that when they were learning to write.

“And Elena Bodrova has a very simple way, and after an afternoon or an evening, the mirror writing is gone. What she says is, when you go home tonight, and you do your math homework, every time you’re supposed to write a 6, put down your pencil and pick up a red pencil. That’s all she says. That’s the whole instruction.”

Is it too late to play?

Is it possible to increase your adult organization skills by continuing to play? So let’s experiment with some of the things mentioned. This week when you’re defaulting into a bad habit, do it differently. Try standing on one foot. Or using  a red pencil. Take your laptop or tablet to write into the kitchen. Stand instead of sit. Eat your ice cream with a fork. Run without music and watching the mileage. And don’t forget to play, because I don’t think it’s too late.

Here are some educational links meant for teaching but go ahead and take a look:

 

Barriers

There are so many walls, closed doors and iron bars in my mental picture that understanding life can sometimes be difficult. I’ve spent the last 10 plus years unlearning religion and yet I find so much of its cages still there. If I could find proof in a god or even if there was no god it would seem easier. But yet in the old behavioral science experiments the opposite is the case. In spite of the door being opened the animals still had difficulty leaving.

Is there a reason for the friction?

If you want to visit DisneyWorld, you’ll need to buy a ticket and wait in line.

If you want to see the full moon, you can go outside and look up in the sky.

Often, we’re tempted to create friction, barriers and turnstiles. We try to limit access, require a login, charge a fee… sometimes, that’s because we want control, other times we believe we can accomplish more by collecting money. Clearly, people value the moments that they spend at Disney–with hundreds of dollars on the line and just a few hours to spend, there’s an urgency and the feeling of an event occurring. – Seth Godin

When I can, I don’t make life so difficult. If I see a need and I can help, I help. God doesn’t need to be consulted or any religion. If I need money, I work. If I can make money at what I love doing, then great, otherwise I’ll do what someone else will pay me to do. I’m not going to sit around and worry because I’m not making money by being impressive. I want to just live my life without difficulty.

 

My Version of Confirmation Bias

I did something really stupid over the last 3 or 4 months. I hesitate to tell it because it seems so embarrassingly obvious now. And I bore you with the upfront explanation because I’m vain. Yeah, I know. It’s hard to believe, but I’d hate for anyone to think I’m as ditsy as my blonde hair appears.

I have one credit card that I run my monthly expenses through, as suggested by many financial experts, such as, Ramit Sethi, although I’m not a total fan of his.

I had some unexpected expenses so I didn’t pay my card in full and thought I’d catch it up later. Well this is the silly part. I downloaded the online spreadsheet each month to keep track of my monthly expenditures. This sounds smart, right? Until I misread the spreadsheet. I glanced and glazed over at the charges, mentally noted the total at the bottom. The next month the same. By the third month I’m puzzled. The balance was growing tremendously. Curious, I went back over the expenses and mentally added them up…whoa wait a minute. There’s a payment credit and it’s numbers offset the balance. Ugh. Classic mistake of confirmation bias. I had looked at the total I wanted to pay and just went with it. I liked that number. It’s what I wanted it to be, regardless of the true amount owed.

In short, your own mind acts like a compulsive yes-man who echoes whatever you want to believe. Psychologists call this mental gremlin the “confirmation bias.”- JASON ZWEIG

How to Ignore the Yes-Man in Your Head

Have you ever read through something you’ve written a month or a year ago? Amazing how you notice the errors later, but you swear they weren’t there when you posted the writing. That’s why we hire editors for the really important stuff. I call it confirmation bias, but it’s also called not seeing your own imperfections. You can’t. You’re too close. You need the skill of another person that’s not your mom or dad. Someone not too nice or not too critical. Truthful.

Humans are pattern-seeking animals. Once we have determined that a pattern exists, whether it actually does or does not, we tend to look for ways to confirm our suspicions. This is what is known as a confirmation bias. It can influence you in almost every area of your life; from school, to work, or even with the news or entertainment you may enjoy. However, recognizing that you have such biases is the first step in overcoming them and having a more objective view of the world. – Examples of Confirmation Bias

The next time something doesn’t seem right, but you just don’t “see” it, ask for a second opinion. Maybe someone else can help. We all have confirmation bias. Sometimes it’s as plain as the nose on your face, but you look right past it.

What is a Confirmation Bias? – Psychology Today

Now for my other bias, I love this music….

The Flip Side – To Thrive

The flip side of survival and the fear of failure is thriving. Thriving shouldn’t be difficult. How is it so difficult to win? To succeed? Well the difficulty is when you have achieved, what’s next? You’ve met your goal. Do you coast or do you keep pedaling?

Keep pedaling. This is why slow growth is better than lottery winning. If you’ve slowly grown a business you got there and grew into your success. Lucky breaks give you false hope.

We are good with striving. Making changes, adjusting, sacrificing, but actual thriving seems so dull sometimes. Oh, yeah we all have the fantasy of buying an island and not having to work for a living, but how long would it be before we would want more? A month? Six months? A year maybe? Somewhere in that time you start feeling the itchy feet. The need to contribute is too great. Building something even if it’s only a garden is a rewarding experience.