Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Living Mirrors

Yesterday was an interesting day. Somehow I had convinced myself that I had made progress. Yes, even after the last post where I exposed the proof of continued arrogance. Both Ann Albers, Byron Katie, Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama tell us that other people are our best mirrors. Other people evoke or provoke aspects of our personality. If we keep alert, we can watch ourselves in that mirror.

OK, watch this. Last night I needed to refill the prescription for needles for my diabetic dog, Maisie. We have been injecting insulin into Maisie for more than a year, picking up a new supply of needles every 50 days, with rarely a problem. Sometimes, the pharmacist will ask me if I have a prescription for the needles. I explain its for the dog. “Oh, yeah, I see that. No problem.” and the pharmacist gives me a box of one-hundred needles.

Last night, the pharmacist challenged me, “I'll have to call the doctor. There are no refills left on the order.”

Its nearly 7:00PM and the veterinary office is long since closed. “Its for my dog,” I explain.

“I know its for your dog,” she says, “I will have to call the doctor to renew the prescription.”

I got angry. “Look, that prescription has said 'No refills' for over a year. Since it's for the dog, it doesn't require a new prescription.”

“Oh, wait a minute,” she says as she is typing into the computer. "There is a newer prescription on file. I'll use it.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“Nope, can't do it. I need to call the doctor.”

“OK, just give me a pack of ten needles to get me by until you can call the doctor.” (For some reason, they can sell a pack of ten needles without a prescription, but not a box of one-hundred needles.)

“OK,” she said as she pulled out a bag of ten needles. “Oh, wait! You don't need a prescription renewal for the dog. Do you still want the bag of ten, or do you want the box of one-hundred.”

I was confused and I was very irritated. Did I not tell her it was for the dog, and did she not confirm that she knew that? “Please give me the box of one-hundred needles.”

As I drove out of the parking lot, I realized I was still angry and thinking many negative thoughts toward the pharmacist. I also realized that I still have some nasty issues with judgment and arrogance. There is no way that I can justify the irritation I felt about the situation. The mirror worked! I saw myself as I was. Byron Katie's admonition came to mind, “Love what is.” I'm not going to change anything but my chemistry and my health by allowing anger to rule. So, now the question is, how do I restructure my thinking so that these silly situations don't cause so much turmoil within?

Be Peace.
Be Love.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Does anybody remember?

Does anyone remember what I wrote on August 24? How can you remember what you never read? Well, just in case...

If you did read it, perhaps you caught a very telling attitude in my final statement. I actually caught it immediately after I thought it earlier in the evening. But I was tired last night, I didn't feel like addressing the real issue, Here's what I said:
I concluded, once again, that I can only change myself. I can't change any one else. The most that can happen, is that if I change, perhaps it can inspire change in others. But, don't count on it, I assured myself, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink

Did you catch the attitude? The assumption I made in that statement is that I was right, and someone else was wrong. That, my friends, is arrogance. Pride. Not that I was wrong about the situation, but that it was wrong of me to assume that the other person should learn from me and correct their situation.

The correct attitude would be to “love what is.” Sound familiar? Remember Byron Katie, Loving What Is? Rather than wanting something to change, I should just accept it, embrace it, and let life go on.

'Nuff said.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Don't drink the water.

In my younger years, I visited many bars all around the world, from Omaha, Nebraska to Monterey, California; Melbourne, Australia; Seoul, Korea; Chicago, Illinois; Atlanta, Georgia; San Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington; Long Island, New York; Tampa, Florida; San Angelo, Texas; Des Moines, Iowa; Ames, Iowa; Iowa City, Iowa; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and many, many towns in between these towns. There were a few bars that remain in my memory simply because of their unusual names.

In the early 70's, if someone shouted an insulting name in your direction, it was expected that you would respond in kind with, “So's your mother.” In Des Moines, there was a bar close to Drake University on University Avenue that took on the name, “So's Your Mother.” It was a fun bar; mostly Drake University students. My most “fond” recollection of the place was when a person with beautiful blond hair and a creamy white pant suit captured my fancy. I saw her only from the backside at first. I walked across the dance floor and tapped her on the shoulder to find out that “she” had a well trimmed red beard and very bushy eyebrows. “Uh, I'm sorry, I thought you were some one else.”

Well, there was one other memory from that bar. It was the musician that played there one night. The 1st string on his guitar was actually the “E” string from a bass guitar. It made for some very rich bass runs in his music. I figure the action on the guitar had to be very high to accommodate the thick bass string. Perhaps he crafted the nut and the bridge so that they accommodated the large string. I did not look at the guitar closely. I just enjoyed the music.

And then that triggers another memory; my apartment in Des Moines was a very small 6 ft by 10 ft room with a smaller room with a toilet and a small shower booth in the basement of a one-hundred year old mansion. The most interesting thing about the apartment was that it had a combination safe in the solid brick foundation of the house. The door was locked open—you could not close the safe because the locking pins kept the door from closing. The landlord told me that he did not know the combination of the lock

One night, when I didn't have the money for So's Your Mother, I removed the inner panel on the safe door, exposing the tumblers. I played with the tumblers, while listening to the Guess Who's “Share The Land” album, until I figured out what they represented in terms of numbers. Then I applied the “clear right; twice left; once right” rule to the numbers and successfully unlocked the safe. I was excited! Then for fun, I played a little further and figured out how to change the combination. I did it and successfully unlocked the safe with a new combination. I thought I was pretty damned smart. The landlord was impressed when I left him with the combination to the safe.

Also, I shared the same name as the leader of the Des Moines chapter of the Black Panthers. Many times, I received early morning calls telling me that the “pigs” had locked up so-and-so, and that I needed to take some action to get them out of jail. Since I was somewhat involved in the civil rights movement at the time, I was often sympathetic to the complaints that came my way. None-the-less, I was obligated to explain that I was not the person they thought I was.

Then there is the “Lift Ticket” bar in downtown Benson, Nebraska. Benson was a town once upon a time. Now, Benson is a suburb in Omaha, Nebraska. Its old town center still thrives as a commercial district in the suburb. Why was it called the “Lift Ticket?” I have no clue. The clientele consisted of the “hip” people in their late 20's and early thirties. I was a sound engineer for a band in those days and we played that bar frequently. One memory that remains from that experience was the day one of the band members called me crying. “Someone broke into the bar and stole all of our sound equipment." It was more than a thousand dollars worth of equipment. I was the only person in the band that was fully employed. I excused myself from the job for the day and met my friend at the bar. I quickly ascertained that I could find new equipment and have it set up and ready to go for the night's show. It cost me well over $4000 ( about two month's pay) but I was glad to do it.

The other memory from that experience was the night that a lady was trying to put the make on me right in front of her husband. I learned that she was a cousin to our lead guitarist. I discretely approached him about her. “Oh, yeah. Stay far away from her. She's a pack of trouble.” I had already decided she was nuts. His admonition only confirmed my suspicions.

And last but not least, a bar with a “south-of-the-border” theme-I believe it was in Omaha, too, “Don't Drink the Water.” The thing that stands out in my memory of that bar is simply the name. I have no recollection of the bar itself. Hmmmm. Maybe I should have drank the water.

What brought on this series of thoughts? Well, I was in a negative funk tonight, pondering what I could do about a situation that piques my ire. I concluded, once again, that I can only change myself. I can't change anyone else. The most that can happen, is that if I change, perhaps it can inspire change in others. But, don't count on it, I assured myself, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. Of course, “Don't Drink the Water” came to mind immediately after that. And here you are, a victim of my rambling thoughts.

Freedom. Real Freedom

When I hear or think of the word "freedom" the scene from Braveheart comes to mind, where William Wallace (played by Mel Gibson) is being tortured in an effort to make him renounce his freedom movement. While in excruciating pain, he signals his tormentors that he wants to talk. They bow down in front of his face to hear what they hoped would be a statement of capitulation. To their chagrin, Wallace screams to the top of his lungs, a long drawn-out rally to “FREEDOM!”

I could probably write at length about the feelings I have for freedom. I will just shorten those feelings to this: I would hope that I would have the personal integrity and strength to stand-up for freedom should it come to a point that we Americans should once again need to shed a tyrannical government.

For the moment though, I just want to tell you about the dream I remembered from last night. It spoke of one of the many aspects of freedom.

I found myself in a small farming community somewhere in the Midwest. There are many dieing towns with populations of less than one-thousand souls here in Nebraska. I suspect I had moved to one of them, for some reason. I needed a place to stay but the only place available was a small house in which three other people were living. As I walked into the rear door of the house, I found myself immediately in the kitchen. The old linoleum floor was cracking, and pieces of it were flaking. The floor was mushy under the feet, and it creaked with every step I took. There was a smell of musty damp wood. The refrigerator was an ancient gas refrigerator that clunked and clanked as it turned on. The stove was an old gas stove with the heavy iron grid work where the pots and pans would sit. The oven door did not have a glass viewing port. The clock on the stove had long since stopped from the grease and dirt clogging the workings and causing the motor windings to burn up. The ceiling was dingy from grease and dirt that had never been washed. There were no tables or chairs, but at the opposite end of the kitchen, in what should have been the dining area, was a dirty dark couch—my bed.

To the left of the entry way was a dark, short hallway leading to the two bedrooms. A large window nearly covered one wall of the kitchen. The window was covered by a filthy white, thin see-through curtain. The window was not a window to the outside; showed into one of the bedrooms. The occupants of the bed in that bedroom watched me through the curtain. The foot of the bed, was in fact, level with the base of the window and shoved flush against the window.

The two women dressed in night apparel lay on their bellies, actively watching me, giggling and whispering to one another, knowing that I could see them as well as they could see me. I sensed from them an attitude of arrogance with a question of whether or not I would be able to live in those conditions, with them always able to see everything I did in that end of the kitchen. I would have absolutely no privacy in that house. The two women kissed each other and waited for a reaction from me. I threw my backpack on the couch. I felt the challenge from them, and an attitude which said, “We are free to do whatever we want. We have no shame. Can you take it?”

One of my dogs barked, waking me from the dream. I laid in the recliner trying to make sense of the dream. I'm not sure if the dream made sense, really, but it started my thoughts on freedom. My character in the dream lived an open life. Having no privacy was somewhat of an annoyance, but I had nothing to hide; I did not do anything that would bring negative judgments on me. The situation was tolerable.

The two women, while they felt they had freedom, flaunted their life-style in defiance. The truth be known, they were not free at all. They could not change their life if they wanted to, because they had become slaves to their lifestyle, flaunting it in an attempt to say they had made a choice and therefore were free. The arrogance was a way to cover the fact that they no longer had choices.

Is it true then, that a man who lives in good conscience is a truly free man?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sometimes, all I need is the air that I breathe

If you are a baby-boomer, you may recall the Hollies song, “The Air that I Breathe.” Cool tune, in my opinion. If you have read any books by Thich Nhat Hanh you have read that he focuses on breathing techniques. When I first started reading his works , I almost became irritated about his constant emphasis on learning to breathe. However, Let me tell you something. I have been practicing breathing techniques regularly for over 2 years, now. I have learned that you can control heart rate, skin resistance, and blood pressure using breathing techniques.

I'll give you a specific example of how I use breathing techniques to control my blood pressure. I had read about a product called RespeRate. It sells for less than $300 USD. I read as much about it as I could to determine how it works. It monitors your respiration rate, does a calculation, then guides you into changing your breathing to get your respiration rate below 12 respirations per minute. Typically, most of us (including me) are very shallow breathers. The other goal of the RespeRate is to get you to breathe deeper. The company claims that if you use the machine 15 minutes each day for 30 days, you can lower your blood pressure as much as 20 points on the systolic and diastolic measurements.

I set about to determine my optimal breathing patterns to decrease my respiration to something less than 12 respirations per minute, and to increase the depth of my respiration to supply more oxygen to the heart. As I describe this process, keep in mind that we are all metabolically unique. We all have different operational requirements in our biology. What works for me may not work for you. You must determine your own optimal respiration rate and depth.

First, learn to count off seconds. I have found that if I count “one-thousand-and-one” that will get me very close to one second in time. If I count:
I will have counted off 4 seconds.

Start at trying 12 respirations per minute. A complete respiration includes an inhale and an exhale. To get 12 respirations per minute, I divide 60/12 which is 5. I need to do a complete respiration every 5 seconds. Keep in mind that you must exhale as much volume as you inhale. So I would need to inhale for 2.5 seconds and exhale 2.5 seconds (5/2).

OK, start the inhale as you count “one-thousand-and-one one-thousand-and-two one-thousand” Then start the exhale as you count one-thousand-and-one one-thousand-and-two one-thousand.” Then start the cycle over.

Twelve respirations per minute will probably be too shallow and you will soon feel like you are out of breath. You may even start yawning or even burping.

After a bit of experimenting, I found that 6 respirations per minute was optimal. That means I count off 4 seconds on a deep, steady inhale, hold 1 second, exhale 4 seconds, hold 1 second and repeat the cycle. Holding the breath for a second may be necessary to allow your lungs time to absorb the oxygen from the air and exchange it with the carbon dioxide. That rate allowed me to breathe comfortably, deeply and efficiently. At 6 respirations per minute, I do not yawn, I do not feel like I am out of breath. It is totally comfortable and sustainable.

How effective was it? Well, my blood pressure without medication has a baseline of 168/98. I have had times when my blood pressure, without medication shoots up to 210/110. At that pressure, the capillaries in my eyeballs literally start popping. It is not pretty. Using the breathing technique at 6 respirations per second, I can lower my blood pressure to the baseline in less than 10 minutes.

Obviously, I have to be on blood pressure medications. The meds have brought my pressure down to about 158/93. (For some reason, my diastolic pressure doesn't change much under medication. My doctor is somewhat distressed over that phenomenon. There are times when my blood pressure may jump to around 190/101. In less than 5 minutes, using the breathing at 6 respirations per minute, I can bring my pressure as low as 158/89. That is a drop of 32 points on the systolic measurement.

There can be any number of reasons for this decrease in blood pressure. Here are a few things that come to my mind. First, counting of seconds causes my mind to focus – it gets rid of “monkey mind.” It could be that whatever emotion or thought that causes the pressure to go up, is preempted by the counting. Without the stress source, the blood pressure naturally drops.

Perhaps, the deeper breathing allows the lungs to absorb more oxygen, giving the heart more oxygen, reducing the need to pump so vigorously to get enough oxygen to the rest of the body.

After years of practice, I easily achieve one of the altered states of mind with the breathing techniques. Perhaps, with that relaxed state, the heart doesn't have to work so hard, and the blood pressure drops.

Back to Thich Nhat Hanh and his emphasis on breathing techniques: he is spot on. Controlling breathing in various patterns, achieves different results in your body statistics; Things like heart rate, skin resistance, mind states, and even awareness, change.

I have found a training device that is excellent if one is interested in learning breathing techniques for what ever reason. Checkout Wild Divine's hardware and software packages. I have used both the Journey to the Wild Divine and the Wisdom Quest packages. All of their packages work on the same premise, but the “Journey” and the “Quest” wrap the exercises and techniques in a story that requires you to learn and achieve proficiency in various breathing techniques. The sensors measure heart rate and skin resistance then calculate the degree of success in controlling these measurements. The program provides constant biofeedback to help you achieve the goals. The fact that breathing techniques influence “something” that changes skin resistance and heart rate, is interesting, and it can obviously be used to do good things like lower blood pressure, and change moods and attitudes.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I won't tolerate intolerance.

One day the CEO of the company for whom I worked made a statement that caught my weird sense of language. She was talking about an incident where some children were engaging in racist types of dialogue. She told us, “Of course, you know me. I won't tolerate intolerance.”

Have you ever thought about “tolerance?” In this diverse society, we are constantly reminded of the requirement to “tolerate” those with whom we differ for whatever reason. Those of us that were brought up as Christians, were admonished to “love” one another. The command includes loving our neighbors, our family, our government, and our enemies. The same admonition given to the Jews and to the Buddhists, as well. In none of those traditions were we told to “tolerate.” We are commanded to “love.”

See where I'm going? If you do, you are ahead of me. I'm not sure I can explain this clearly. To me, the term “tolerate” has more to do with avoidance and preservation of peace than it has to do with love. Tolerate does not mean “accept.” It just means that we have to allow the other to practice whatever it is one may practice. In my mind, if you don't think you can accept another 100%, then the next best thing is to tolerate the other. It is an expedience; a practical, pragmatic attitude to avoid conflict and possible mutual destruction.

OK, that brings me to another point in my practical experience of learning to love (accept unconditionally). I find myself judging another, and realize that I am not thinking loving thoughts. So, I start trying to justify the behavior of the person I have come to judge. In effect, I am rationalizing and finding a condition by which I can “love” the one I judged. The irony is, of course, that I set up a condition for love. Love, by definition, is unconditional. In the end, I am only providing an excuse to tolerate the person, not love the person. I fall short of love by a long distance, do I not?

I learn a lot from my dogs. I can tell you without hedging any definitions, I LOVE my dogs. They cannot keep me from loving them. They can do nothing to stop my love for them. My dogs are like me--they have behaviors that can be irritating. When those behaviors manifest, I very lovingly seek a way to correct the behavior, or in the case when they soil the floor with biological discharge, I clean it up. For other behavioral corrections, I will think of appropriate ways to demonstrate to the dog what I expect without in any way striking or hurting the dog. In the end, I really do not “tolerate” my dogs. I love them and I involve myself with them and I teach them what they need to know.

See the difference?

I guess, until I have grown spiritually to the point that I can love all things, I will have to settle for tolerating all things. And to say I will tolerate something is offensive. It makes me sound arrogant. My goal is to become love. I will have to tolerate tolerance until I learn to love. Life is just chock full of contradictions, is it not?

Be Peace.
Be Love.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Intuition is worth its salt.

Roger Kamenetz says that our dreams are the subconscious attempts to confront us on issues to which we need to pay attention. I highly recommend his books, The Jew in the Lotus and The History of Last Night's Dream . Now that I am getting some sleep, and I am starting to remember dreams, I am also trying to listen to them.

Last night's dream: I was on a Department of Roads team—the new guy. We gathered at the rear of the two-ton flatbed truck to discuss the plan of action. A few yards ahead of us was a long span of bridge over a four-lane highway and a river below. Our task was to wash the gravel and salt off of the bridge. The supervisor, a lady in a baggy white denim shirt with buttoned pockets on the chest, and a wide collar. She wore baggy, unpressed khaki pants. Her curly blond frizzy hair blew in the gusts of wind. “Let's see, now. We do have some detergent with us.” She spoke first looking down the road toward the bridge, then back at me. “I want to hear what you think we should do to clean the bridge.”

I tried hard not to show my surprise at her question. I heard her mention the detergent, but was otherwise clueless. This was, after all, my first day on the job. My gut told me to steer clear of the detergent. I knew that what ever we did, we needed to dilute, or neutralize the salt. I scanned my memory for my high school chemistry where learned that salt was a by-product of neutralized acid. Even so, salt is very corrosive, so I must have misunderstood what salt came from. Then I thought that perhaps the detergent we had was specially designed to neutralize the salt. I looked at the terrain below the bridge. Along with the four-lane highway, there was a meandering shallow river with a great deal of natural vegetation. I thought that surely the salt and detergent were the last things we wanted to use because the run-off would end up in the river.

The supervisor smiled as she looked into my eyes, waiting for the answer. “Why would she mention detergent if that were not part of the answer she expected.?” I asked myself.

“Yeah,” I started with feigned confidence and authority, “high pressure water and a mild detergent mix ought to be good.”

The smile on her face grew bigger as she cocked her head in a “Gotcha” gesture. I knew immediately that I should have gone with my instinct and totally ignored the comment about the detergent. I awoke, feeling embarrassed, stupid, and duped.

I think there were two messages that came from the dream. 1) I try to read people to please them much to my own peril. 2) Pride always makes a fool of its prisoners.

The solution to the problem? First, my instinct said “no detergent” and warned me about salt and detergent in the river below.” I should have went with no detergent, but had no clue what to do about salt. Pride forced me to provide an answer and cover the ignorance with a show of authority and confidence. I should have simply stated my concern about the salt and the detergent and left the solution up to the supervisor who probably knew the correct action to take.

So my targets are to trust my intuition more, and to ferret out and marginalize pride in my life.

Be Peace.
Be Love.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Answer Is the Question

I have been reading Whispers of the Spirit by Ann Albers. It is packed with wisdom. Not that every sentence you read contains an indispensable life changing bite. One of the reasons the book is so valuable is because Ms. Albers takes you through the very real life situations that caused her to grow in spiritual maturity and in wisdom.

Through the course of the reading, I am usually excited, enthusiastic, and generally highly appreciative that I, too, gain insight from her experiences, and definitely from her conclusions. But every now and then, I find myself face to face with something you may not expect of me, but I find quite typical of me in certain situations. I get jealous of Ms. Albers. She goes through an experience and comes out the other end with such profound understanding, or she has an indescribable mountain top experience. I think, “Damn, why can't I do that?”

Think about it for a second. The answer to my question is the question. Were it not for pride and jealousy, I would never ask the question, would I? Pride means that I can't be trusted from a spiritual standpoint. I can't be given some truths because pride and arrogance will abuse them. There will come a time when prides has released its grip, and I will be more trustworthy. Until that time, my wise and loving guides will continue to teach me humility.

Be Peace.
Be Love.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Wisdom from Ann Albers

I have been reading Whispers of the Spirit by Ann Albers. I have been reading it slowly, and just taking in bits and pieces to digest in between times. The book is just full of wonderful insights and incites. Here is the wisdom I read today:

Life is like a great hall of mirrors. Everywhere we turn there's a chance to see something more about who we are and where our lives are going. I had learned well how to look outside of myself for wisdom. The mirrors of my life—the reflections that showed me who I was and who I was growing to be—were becoming ever clearer. Next, I would learn that there is even greater wisdom to be found when you go within and discover the source of the reflections. (Ann Albers, Whispers of the Spirit, P144)

'Nuff said, I say.

Be Peace. Be Love.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Relax! Take it easy.

At the beginning of "Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man)" by Styx, Dennis DeYoung speaks softly, "Relax. Take it easy." It's a good title for this piece.

Sometimes, we are forced to slow down in order to learn our spiritual lessons. I am about 100 pounds over my best weight. The pressure on my knees is very high, and for the last several months, I have had to be very careful about what I do when I am on my feet.

It was inevitable that someday I would be forced to exceed the limits on my aching, inflamed knees. Our new dog decided he'd take the opportunity to explore on his own. I chased him for about one-tenth mile before finally catching him. By that time I had twisted both knees and it was extremely painful carrying the naughty little boy (7 pound Pomeranian) back home.

The knees quickly swelled up, and immobilized me after I arrived home. This is my third day for not being able to carry out my normal duties. It is my third day of trying to manage the pain as I do the walking that can't be avoided. I am learning something. I don't know if I am learning what was meant for me to learn, but I am learning, none-the-less.

First, when I have to walk, the muscles automatically tense up in an effort to protect the injured knees. The muscles quickly tire and the legs begin to ache from muscle fatigue as well as the knee injuries. As the muscles fatigue, it is harder to maintain balance. The more the knees shift to maintain balance, the more pain you experience and the more the muscles tense up. It's a vicious cycle.

To mitigate the pain and to stop the cycle when I have to walk, I use techniques I learned from meditation to relax the muscles in the legs. I can't explain how, but once you learn various meditation techniques, it becomes relatively easy to control localized pain. So, as I walk, I concentrate on slow, even movements and relaxing those muscles that so want to protect the knees. I can walk for a considerable longer time without exceptional pain, now. When I talk about “longer time”, I'm talking about something less than 5 minutes of walking, as in walking from my office to the bathroom, or helping to feed and medicate the dogs. The idea is to stay off of the feet, but control the muscles when it is necessary to walk.

There are several spiritual and life lessons in this. First, in many situations, it is necessary to relax when the urge is to act. How many times can we recall when we have acted hastily and exacerbated the situation. The second lesson is that it is far harder to maintain balance when one is weak and injured. Ironically, when one is weak and injured is the very time that balance is most required. It comes back to learning to relax in the face of adversity.

The third lesson is this: Life goes on. The daily demands on a person continue whether or not you are up to them. During the time that I wrote this piece, I have had to help feed and medicate the dogs, eat breakfast, clean-up the breakfast mess, prepare my morning cherry juice, clean-up after the dogs, and walk up and down two stories of stairs to reset a circuit breaker that popped during last night's rain storm. And by the way, speaking of last night's rainstorm, I was awakened by the sound of water splashing somewhere close to my bed. One of or downspouts backed up, and poured water into our house. Yes, I was cleaning that mess up at 5:30 AM.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Change is in the wind.

The Catholic theologians of old had it right when they named pride as one of the seven deadly sins. But let me reword that just a little. You know of my struggle with the word “sin” and the connotation that it involves condemnation from God. The original meaning of the word “sin” as the Apostle Paul used it, means “missing the mark.” That is when we do something that falls short of the standard God has given us, we miss the mark.

“I'm so proud of the fact that I'm humble.” I frequently say that in jest. But only partly so, because I understand how insidious pride is. It is truly a two-edged sword, and if it doesn't get you on the forward swing, it will definitely get you on the back swing.

For the sake of argument, let's give each of the blades of pride a name. When you refuse to see that you have faults, that is the blade that comes at you with the forward swing. It is called, “arrogance.” When you see that you have faults and you try to hide them from others because of embarrassment, that is the blade that cuts your legs off on the back swing. That blade is called, “shame.”

Yes, shame is not the opposite of pride, it is just pride coming from the opposite direction. Shame says to you, “I am not perfect, therefore I am embarrassed.” In this case, pride causes you to hate yourself.
Arrogance says, “I am perfect and beyond reproach. I have no need to change.” Arrogance precludes self examination. Arrogance places a condition on your love for self, and builds an illusion resembling, but far from unconditional love. Shame merely seeks to cover the fault, not to resolve it. Arrogance never acknowledges fault. Either way, pride brings spiritual growth to a halt, and it will eventually totally annihilate any growth that may have gone before.

In years past, if I went a period without finding cause to hate myself, I had the false sense that I had not fallen short of perfection and that I must be growing. Now, I see the folly and the work of pride. Now, if I seemed to have successfully navigated through the many temptations and invitations to imperfection, I no longer have a sense of smugness. In fact, quite the contrary; I have a deep sense of gratitude to my spirit guides who advised me and guided me through those dark and dangerous straits. At the same time, I know there are many failures about which I have not yet become aware. For everything I've done right, I have fallen short on at least a hundred others. Never the less, I bow in gratitude and joy before my God, Who is the lover of my soul, and I see Him smile, knowing that I finally have learned to lean on those divine servants He has provided to see me through this life. Even so, don't get the idea that I think I have arrived. Believe me, my guides continue to push me to deal with other issues that are now clearly visible that weren't so visible before.

And today, I have felt a peace that I have not felt for many years. I finally feel at home with myself. I am finally learning to be real with myself, and learning to love myself unconditionally. That means I see my faults, and I work to resolve them, not hide them. And I also see my attitudes toward others changing, as well. I don't spend near the time judging as I may have in the past.