It is the end of the year. Yesterday my wall looked like this:
Today it looks like this:
A blank wall. Turn the page. Let go of 2 years worth of racing. Let go of last year's 12 marathons and 4 half marathons. Let go of the DNS due to a March snow storm in Kansas. Let go of the DNSs due to surgery. Let go of the wasted air fares, entry fees, people not seen, miserable results.
I'm starting a new position in my company in 2014. I have a new heel. I have a new philosopher to study.
I'm almost 55 years old, just a few more days. My life should be past its mid-life crisis. You would think that I would have accepted everything. But this morning, the pondering carried on. Few dopamine rewards accrue to the solitary.
When I came into sobriety, I had to admit powerlessness and un-manageability over my life. In the monastery, the act of monastic profession was bound up with the idea of total self gift to God. I really wanted to make my total self gift and have it validated by the religious order and Church. Instead, I got kicked out, so no validation of my gift. This morning, reading Plotinus' Enneads, the idea of self disposal came up. Self disposal is true if there is no outside master or compulsion over the act; and it is inwards toward The Good. I realized that I have control over this. I can do it.
I return to my life. 55 years of some interesting events, some dopamine rewards in achievements, but no visible purpose. My ego got nothing but older. But I see that self disposal is true. I have been somewhat solitary for about 10 years. In my somewhat ordinary life, dopamine rewards thwarted by solitude, self disposal is possible. Total self gift becomes real in the surrender, in the admission of powerlessness, in the ongoing spiritual practice with no worldly rewards.
This Christmas, my ego got nothing. I got what I wanted.
I'm going to be 55 on January 12. I wanted to do something special for my birthday. Usually I would run 55 miles or 55 laps; but due to my recovery from surgery, I can't do that this year.
Someone gave me this idea about 55 fortuitous moments. You'll notice I stopped at 27 (not in any order). I could think about smaller and smaller things to get 55. But already, 6 things I've picked out as very big in my life (see all caps comments).
Today, coming up on yet another annual holiday boycott, I'm off work for a few days. I have time to think about this. I usually think my life is somewhat of a failure. Today, I think, "I wanted my life to be exactly as it is. I created it to be what and where I am today. Why?" The answer is found in the financial stability of the engineer. The desire for raising my consciousness found in sobriety (conscious contact spirituality of the 12 Steps), contemplation, recognizing Jerusalem at the outset, ultra exercise as meditation. So 5 of 6 keys are directly spiritual for me and the sixth provides the environment to pursue the others.
In this context, going to the monastery and leaving it is simply part of the overall God pursuit. Not a failure. Just part of an overall theme of pursuing God and renouncing all else. So not having a marriage or family is part of that theme. Being separate from main stream society is part of that theme. I've spent many hours in enjoyable spiritual reading as a result of my solitariness.
Now, I find myself plowing my way through the Enneads of Plotinus (205 CE). I can see that only some higher God desire would provide the energy to study 700 pages of badly translated Greek. Yet I find myself standing on primal spiritual ground. It is awesome to discover the pinnacle where the end of Greek philosophy meets the start of Christianity.
As for physical fitness. I find that exercise continues to be big in my life, especially as I can wander around my house in silence, going from machine to machine, pondering the Spirit inside me.
1. circa 1977. When I signed up for Agricultural engineering, not even knowing what it was but to appease my mother who wanted me to be a vet. Since I got in to engineering school at all that way, I could then switch to mechanical engineering and find my current life. BEING AN ENGINEER IS A KEY
2. circa 1986. When Fr Mo said he knew I felt like a quivering pile of shit and sent me to Roy Davis. I was a quivering pile of shit because I had quit drinking 10 months prior, was in a new city quite different from San Francisco bay area and in a job supervising hourly employees which is totally unsuited to my personality. I quit drinking cold turkey so I wouldn't be an alcoholic like the mother I hated. Roy Davis, psychotherapist, flat out told me I was an alcoholic. I would never have figured that out by myself. He also made me go to AA. I wouldn't have done that on my own either. But because of that, I've stayed sober ever since. SOBRIETY IS A KEY
3. circa 1999. When Fr Ed said I should join a community. He thought I was spiritual and should live in a monastic environment. Because he said that, and because of my personality, I promptly found a community and applied for entrance.
4. circa 2003. When I wrote my religious vows on a piece of paper and privately committed. The Benedictine vows of obedience, stability and conversatio are a little bit different than canonical religious vows. But chastity is implied in the vows because it is in the Rule. When I wrote them on a piece of paper to give to the Prioress on my profession day, I meant them. Just because my profession was cancelled at the last minute does not mean I didn't fully intend to live a life dedicated to God. I can't seem to get around this even though I've been outside the monastery for over 10 years. RENUNCIATION IS A KEY
5. circa 2003. When Sr Dawn told me to be safe with my reconciliation to Sr Pat, but I decided on honesty and boldness. Sr Dawn knew how difficult my relationship with Sr Pat had been for 2 years. Her advice was just to get past Sr Pat, take my vows and go on with a sister's life. I couldn't do that. It meant alot to me to in detail go over many incidences of my novitiate and what they had meant to me with Sr Pat. The result was that Sr Meg thought I didn't belong in the monastery. Sr Meg, being a world famous sister who was guiding my last retreat before vows played a hug part in this fortuitous moment. She was the one who could look at me with a larger perception and see that a small life in a small monastery was not going to work for me.
6. circa 1981. When I went to Israel instead of Easter island; ending up standing in that square in Jerusalem and deciding there might be something to this God idea. THE GOD PURSUIT IS A KEY
7. circa 1998. When I got a lap top with a modem and I could load up America Online and was able to sell my motorcycle. Just after selling the motorcycle, I was thrilled to have time for meditation instead of riding around.
8. circa 1997. When the odd man in the bookstore found the Kornfield book for me. This was the moment in history when I first contemplated the idea of aloneness. The first chapter of the book describes a man who spent a year alone in a room. I wanted whatever could be gained by solitude. CONTEMPLATION IS A KEY
9. circa 1998. When I decided Henri was too much work.
10. circa 1987. When I decided to take environmental instead of body shop. And again when I decided to quit GM instead of move to Wentzville.
11. circa 1990. When I decided to quit E.T.Archer rather than continue to lie for Anthony. My professional integrity was at stake. I decided on protecting my reputation with the State of Missouri environmental staff rather than continue to support a mafioso.
12. circa 1975. When I decided to be on varsity basketball instead of JV in 9th grade. It shows something about myself that I would pick the higher ego reward. But I did receive most improved player that year and that made me proud.
13. 2012. When I looked in a mirror in a fancy women's bathroom in Germany in 2012, and was freaking happy I was sober. The result was that I went back to AA with 27 years of sobriety and ensured continued sobriety.
14. 2011. When I didn't get the Pressure Safety job in KC and it pissed me off that the plant manager said, "We can't replace you;" so I went to Texas despite him.
15. 2001. When I read in Tentsin Palmo's book that we must not eat meat. I was sort of vegetarian before that, but after that, not eating meat became a conviction.
16. circa 1998. When I told Steve I was quitting because I couldn't make a commitment to him.
17. circa 1972. When I read "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" in 8th grade and somehow running attracted me. RUNNING OR EXERCISE IS A KEY
18. circa 1998. When I said I'd not again have sex outside of marriage.
19. circa 1972. When I was trying to be a yogi using BKS Ayengar's book; and I was about 13.
20. circa 1981. Something about the China experience. It could have been learning about Chinese art before I went (symbolism and mysticism) or the time in China itself or the decision to read Mao's Little Red Book and the principles of integrity explained there. That is, I really wanted to live beyond materialism. I had no religion at that point. While I did good in school and was surviving an alcoholic parent, I was also drinking myself and having sex but I knew I was missing some inner strength. I wanted depth and wisdom but didn't know what those were.
21. 2004. When I got the environmental job at MGP. then again in 2009 when I got laid off.
22. circa 1969. When my mother got a horse.
23. circa 1968. When my parents first took me to Europe. Well, we went on such trips every summer for numerous years. The resultant is that I saw all the world's great tourist attractions before the age of 15; and have no desire to go again. Also, I learned how to do international travel.
24. circa 1965. When I walked from the Orinda Country Club into Orinda to the dive shop and bought a surfer's cross. I wanted the cross for its holiness. I don't know why I thought that.
25. circa 2001 when a shooter killed several monks at Conception Abby. This led to me being upset about Fr. Kenneth was shot. He had been my means of emotional support in the form of a confessor who was not a sister. I went out running in the hot Missouri afternoon summertime sun without water. About 3 miles out, I had to decide whether to keep running and die of heat exhaustion or go back to the monastery and try one more time. I went back.
26. circa December 1999. I left the world and moved to the monastery. The fortuitous moment was my decision to not rejoin the world after I left the monastery. I left it when I went to the monastery.
27. circa 2004. I left the ability to be a part of the Catholic Church in 2004 when I read Heidegger. And left totally while I was living in Atchison. And left further after I moved back to KC in 2009.
About November 4, my left foot came out of a boot; and I've been in rehab post heel spur surgery. For the month of November, I've been using a Fitbit to track my steps. Despite the slowness of recovery, I can say that things are improving. Today I did a 4 mile walk in 80 minutes and was not in pain. That is major.
I've been on vacation for a week and was able to get in more than 2 hours of various types of exercise every day. That was awesome. I look forward to more holidays in December and a big month for miles.
Here is November. Note that I surpassed both September and October.
Blogger.com bothers me somewhat as every time I post, I get 60 hits from robots. Very few actual people look at this. I like to separate the people from the robots.
A week ago perhaps, I first heard of Plotinus. Now I find myself immersed in this Greek philosopher. I am fascinated to see the underpinnings of western religion without the Christian overlays. I can move on from A Course in Miracles since I see it as the same thing as this earlier philosopher but in a more fanciful mode and with Christian semantics. Plotinus would propose the same principles of The Unity and of humans as thoughts and this world as an illusion and looking within; but in far cleaner prose. Although, without 30 years of spiritual study, I don't suppose Plotinus would make any sense to me.
Sunday Musings from 6th Ennead, 9th Tractate:
Section 7 explains the "preoccupation by the impress of something else, we are withheld under that pressure from becoming aware of The Unity, a mind gripped and fastened by some definite thing cannot take the print of the very contrary."
Herein is explained much of what I've tried to do with my life. I went into the monastery seeking contemplation. I came out with tools for contemplation. Out here, I may have to work for a living, but I am much better able to seek solitude during my off hours. In solitude, I look toward The Unity and away from the distraction of the world. That was the purpose of the monastery too.
In section 6, it says The Solitary.... In this, I see that being in solitude as much as possible, I come closer to "neither knowing nor anything unknown." In solitude, I can turn inward. Not looking at the world, I know less about it; and am more like The Solitary towards which I look.
I cook my beans and rice as I always have; knowing nothing of fancier processed foods. My world changes some but I intentionally keep constancy as a divine quality.
But there is a terrible effort to balance. I can't leave the world totally. I must interact at points. For the most part, work can be kept in a box. Other interactions are brief and can be seen as like meeting like. I have no family of relationship so I don't have the agony I see most others experiencing.
The Truth is true. So reading Plotinus this morning, I became aware of a foundation on which many theologies are built. Religion only goes on to hide the foundation. The Unity is more than a foundation of course, but it is also the thing found by the founders of theologies.
I haven't had a week long vacation in over 2 years. Last year, vacation was messed up by work. Weeks out of town for work don't count as vacation. 2 weeks spent recovering from surgery don't count.
Finally, I have managed an entire week alone at home. No traveling and good health. I am rehabilitated enough from surgery to get some exercise done. I have been to a couple of AA meetings just to hear other people to discuss their spirituality. I am associated with a discussion of Plotinus' Enneads online.
44 days to my 55th birthday. I feel like I'm staring down the barrel of a gun.
In the AA meeting, a young women's statement about quitting trying to be something she wasn't is running through my head. Can I NOT be a mystic? Can I NOT be an athlete? If anything, I've been riding these 2 ethos into the ground. Various joints of the 55 year old body are wearing out. I AM a successful engineer, but not a cloistered monk. My life flows back and forth between inner solitude in my house and vibrant contributions to the world around me. Like waves I go in and out.
Plotinus interests me. He was a Greek philosopher around the year 250 CE. So, in his writings, I can see where Christianity comes from, minus "Jesus Son of God." I can see where A Course in Miracles comes from, minus the claim of being channeled by Jesus. I can see what I take to be the spiritual path of many books I have read. For the most part, these paths consist of 2 things: self purification plus an infusion of Grace.
Bang! My head hits the wall again. Every book says I need these 2 things! What more purification? When does God infuse ecstasy?
But, as I type that, I realize: let go of the emotional component. If I do, I know God has come into my life. I have in fact tapped the inner resource. Evidence? I haven't killed myself.
When I was 22, I stood in a square in old Jerusalem and got the idea I wanted to know God. About 15 years later, I heard about a man who spent a year alone in a room. I wanted whatever could be found alone in a room. Now, almost 33 years later, I have the same ideas. Just let go of thinking I've failed and I clearly see that I have succeeded.
I flow back and forth like a wave. Think of an ocean and the sound of the waves; in, crash, out. That is me. That is my truth.
In solitude, I don't participate in what society has to offer. My thinking changes. I control what goes into my brain; for YEARS.
The blog was silent for a number of days, as I had nothing to say. But now I am on a 9 day vacation, in the solitude of my house; and there is now space for thinking beyond work and daily life. In that is disclosed the purpose of the monastery or the hermitage. Monks and Hermits are those with the holy leisure, time to ponder something more than survival in the world.
The past 24 hours, I have been attempting to make sense out of the first 6 pages of Plotinus' first Ennead. Plotinus was a philosopher existing around 250 ACE. It occurs to me that 250 ACE was formative for the human mentality. In a sense, the discontinuity of Christ formed and discontinuity in mental evolution. Many of our theories of God and Spirit and Soul were born at this time.
I as a 20th century American have struggled with many of these ideas. I live in an age where access to information is easier than 50 years ago when I was born. This in and of itself explains who I am and my insistence that I satisfy the yearnings of my soul.
Sitting here in Texas, in a cold rain with hot coffee and table lamp, books and journals, I ponder Plotinus. What am I? I feel like St Therese: a little bird which cannot reach the sun.
I answer in my own words. Words not given by Plotinus or A Course in Miracles. Words based in my life and all of its 54 years of experience. The yearning has been with me for a long time. It was a girl on a play ground by herself shooting baskets. A girl walking. A girl riding a bicycle. A girl swimming laps. A girl lieutenant on the traffic squad.
The yearning has been with me forever. And so now I say the I am yearning embodied. I am a yearning principle which lives. All my athletics are yearning. All prayer, all getting out of bed day after day. I accept this state of being. If it me as separate from God that yearns? Or is it Soul that yearns and I am a function of the Soul's yearning? Why would Soul yearn? Still, either way, I am yearning itself.
As yearning, I can also call myself love. Yearning is love. If I achieve stillness, I swing the scale of yearning to silent love, Being Itself. And then I am completely coherent. The problem of yearning is solved.
This idea comes from the introduction, "Talking Back" Brakke's translation of Evagrius.
The goal of the Evagrian monk is not simply to avoid evil deeds, remarkably he seeks not to experience the first movements (initial thought impressions) that incite to sin at all...a "monastic intellect" is someone who is free even from the thoughts...The ultimate goal is to eliminate the thoughts themselves and to pray and contemplate God purely....A persistent representation of a corporeal object can 'imprint' the intellect, distorting the intellect in a way that prevents the clarity of vision required for knowledge of God and pure prayer."... Persistent bad thoughts causing impassioned representations to persist in the intellect damage the intellect, preventing the monk from becoming the 'monastic intellect' ...Talking Back applies also to the more advanced stage of the monastic gnostic, in which the monk contemplates the material world and rational beings on his path to knowledge of God. ... practices of biblical refutation and short prayers to God help to clear his intellect of evil thoughts and distorting representations and thus prepare him for the vision of the Trinity's light..."
So really, I do want to know God. But I need something simple in my head that can be playing all the time or grasped habitually and quickly. If yes, proceed to 'monastic intellect.' I can.
Today I drove to work in relative calm. The radio off and a hokey prayer: In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The monastery was invented to take the place of the desert; where people were more urban and living in the desert no longer feasible. But from my monastic experience, I'd say that it is not really much more of a desert than the life I have chosen as a 'monk in the world.'
This morning, I also read in A Course in Miracles about my choice: "It is impossible the Son of God be merely driven by events outside of him. It is
impossible that happenings that come to him were not his choice. His power of
decision is the determiner of every situation in which he seems to find himself
by chance or accident. No accident nor chance is possible within the universe as
God created it, outside of which is nothing. Suffer, and you decided sin was
your goal. Be happy, and you gave the power of decision to Him Who must decide
for God for you." (21.II)
I choose to the the Holy Spirit decide for me. I don't decide I want to find sin. I don't decide what I see is sin. I merely talk back.
3 days since my left foot became free of the boot worn for 5 weeks. Today, I can almost walk normally and the incision area is not tremendously painful. Wow!
Why do monks recite the Psalms? Because of the Lord. The Lord Himself is in the words of the scripture.
It started with Anthony of the Desert, whose life was written by Athanasius, whose book was read by Evagrius and others. Cassian read Evagrius. Benedict read Cassian.
From the book "Talking Back" by Brakke: "Reciting the Psalms becomes a means of both therapeutic recognition of the soul's condition and ethical formation of the soul after the pattern of Christ...that the melody that is applied to the Psalms alters the condition of the body may indicate knowledge of the Epistle's teaching (Athanasius' letter to Marsellinus) that the melody effect's the soul which can then bring harmony to the body's members."
This matters to me because I am a spiritual seeker. I want the Lord to be in my consciousness.
Today I said, "Spirit, I need you now." and then I thought:
The light in my soul burns quietly.
I need not fret.
It is the Lord.
I keep forgetting happiness. I do better remembering I am a worm and no man (Benedict). The urge to sign up for a race returns. The episode of my foot surgery is over. Silence returns but I can't let it be. I have been riding the ex-bike with the boot for about 3 weeks. Today I rode it without the boot. Shortly there after, my left lower leg started quivering.
I started reading a book which is a translation of a book written by Evagrius of Pontus (345 ce). It is called "Talking Back" by David Brakke.
In the introduction, there is an explanation of a monastic practice of making a notebook of responses:
Foucault: "an important too that cultivated persons of antiquity used for the shaping of the self"... "...the self formative function of this kind of writing: the compilation of the notebook was itself an exercise in identifying and gathering the best of what one had read or heard; the writer then sought to unify in his own identity and rational action the inevitably disparate elements that he had collected from others"
Athanasius: "...the monk should write down the deeds and movements of the soul as if they were to be read by other monks, in this way the monks will form themselves"
The notebook is in form and function a collection of reminders, notes to self that cultivated persons might compile in the effort to improve himself in virtue.
So, I have been a spiritual seeker for nearly 35 years, starting at the young age of 22 when I went to Israel. I note that I am a product of various traditions: Alcoholics Anonymous, Christianity, Benedictine monasticism, A Course in Miracles. I have studied many of the books by Paul Brunton. Talk about notebooks! Brunton was prolific.
I've been interested in somehow integrating these various spiritual outlooks into one theology but it is an overwhelming idea. For example, Benedict had 12 steps of humility. Guigo II had 12 meditations in his Ladder of Monks. AA has 12 steps.
If I was just going after alcoholism, I might suggest the following chapters of a notebook of responses:
On the desire to drink
On going to meetings
On prayer and meditation
On the realm of the spirit
As a working person, I doubt I'd have the patience to compile my responses. Especially since I continue to find additional responses. *sigh* That fact of my daily education is in itself a response.
This morning, I crutched from my bed to the chair where I sit to get dressed. As I got to the chair, I noticed that the shoe was in the way so I kicked it. The shoe was a trail shoe and its tread gripped the carpet. The shoe did not move.
Instead, I began a slow tipping. Me and my crutches made a slow but unstoppable crash into the bureau, wall and chair. God, it was a slow crash. No, I'm not hurt. Just an example of the hazards of crutches.
5 weeks after surgery. 6 days to next doctor visit. Everything feels great. Surgery was a fantastic decision.
But I finally admit to my conscious mind that recovery is a long slow process. I'll probably be weight bearing but still in the boot after next week. And then a slow progression of heel lift adjustments, and exercises until I walk.
I just asked for the refund for the Texas Marathon on 1/1/14. I'm sure that even walking a half marathon would not be possible that soon. A sad but realistic day for me.
As an endorphin addict, I suppose I am surviving pretty well.
I look at the wall of my bedroom where I have hung up 2 years worth of race medals. It represents a freaking amount of money and time. Some of the races were fun. Some were lots of worry in preparation and then a serious business of racing.
If I run again, I hope for the quiet morning runs in El Lago.
I've completed 5 weeks of confinement due to foot surgery. These weekends, I've spent more time in spiritual study instead of doing miles outside. This weekend, I was partly reading "Glittering Vices", going to AA meetings, and studying A Course in Miracles.
Fighting giants. The Israelites didn't want to leave the desert and fight the giants in order to enter the promised land (Numbers and Deuteronomy). What giants do I not want to fight, hence staying in a desert. AA meetings have giants at the door. Each and every meeting is an ego battle. I have 28 years of sobriety. Why should I go to meetings? Because AA is a spiritual fellowship and a spiritual program of action for a spiritual malady. That I don't want to go to the fellowship is evidence that I still have the malady.
Silence is not enough. For my ego at least.
Trappings. Trappings are for the ego. If I have trappings, I am somebody. But if I refuse to look special or live in a special place or drive a special car, my ego hates it. Monastic life has trappings. Runners have trappings (those belt buckles we get to 100 miles). Buddhist monks. Lately, it seems like my spiritual life is nothing. I've not had any big moments of clarity or enlightenment. This doesn't mean God went away. It means the ego got nothing. But it led me to realize, what if I hadn't read books about other people's enlightenment experiences? Would I realize there is nothing wrong with this particular moment?
"Lay aside the body and quietly transcend...look you not back...." (ACIM 21.VI.9). Life in the monastery is over and in the past. Running is over and in the past. Quietly transcend.
Spirit soaring. I lay on the floor with one bad leg doing leg lifts. Not exactly as romantic as running 100 miles or climbing a mountain. But my spirit soared.
Accessibility: This week I was at the Hilton in College Station. Since most of the floors have a padded carpet, it was very difficult to get around on wheels. It was like pushing through sand or mud all day. And while they did have a chair lift to get to one of the meeting rooms, it was slightly broken. I got through the broken part and used it once. But later, when I had to go back to that room, I drove my car around to the back of the hotel and went in that way. Then a buffet lunch was provided. I had to ask a colleague to carry my plate since I couldn't hold it in one hand and also push through the carpet. I think I was the only "handicapped" person at the conference.
I was reading Glittering Vices this morning in the chapter on "vain glory." This quote appeared from St Augustine: "Accordingly two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord. For the one seeks glory from [human beings]; but the greatest glory of the other is God, the witness of conscience. The one lifts up its head in its own glory; the other says to its God, 'Thou art my glory, and the lifter up of mine head' ."
This quotation explain why I have divorced myself from society. I wouldn't say I'm totally intent of glorifying God, but that I am intent on relinquishing self for the purpose of knowing God or following Spirit. American society mainly reminds me of the first city. I would not say I dwell in the second city either but that I'd pick a consciousness of love and credit to God as modus operandi. For me it is a continuum I move along, ever going towards the God idea and away from the self idea.
I had a drunk dream last night. Only it wasn't me that drank. The context of the dream was an AA group. One of the longer term members had a terrible event and she drank. Then another younger term member drank because the first one drank. I thought that was stupid; but anyway, the dream continued on in that we got both people to meetings. We also got the group together and no one else drank.
Sobriety in AA is about overcoming a spiritual malady. May I always realize that reliance on God is the foundation of my sobriety.
I think about running and racing as I sit here with one foot in a boot, recovering from surgery. How will I shape my fitness in the future. I can't with a straight face say that ultra running is a good idea. I'm not sure I can say that marathoning is a good idea. What is a good idea? I don't know. The idea of relinquishing ego and transcending self once again raises to the surface. How do I live the reality. Which reality? I did enjoy an early morning jog in El Lago. Lets hope for that.
I am in College Station at a professional conference. I unexpectedly found that my future boss and 2 colleagues are here. An example of how little we communicate that I didn't know any of them were coming. I have put on dress pants for the first time in over a year. The women's 10s from Talbot are way too big. The men's 32x32 are also too big but fit better than the womens cuz they don't have the wide hips. I don't have wide hips. I also don't like womens pants as they are nowadays which only come up to the hips. Um no, I am an engineering professional and I don't wear pants half way down my butt.
I am reading a book called "Glittering Vices." It is a very interesting look at the seven capital vices. It is spiritually deep as it integrates monastic desert spirituality and Aquinas and modern day influences. I am finding it really hits home in explaining how I feel.
Envy is really a symptom of feeling worthless and needing to be superior to mask that feeling. "...defining envy as dissatisfaction with our place in God's order of creation, manifested in begrudging his gifts to others." When an envier does "win" she still does not have what she needs: "... a secure, non-contingent, unconditional sense of her own worth.....the cure for envy requires getting out of the comparative game of engineering self-worth altogether."
A Course in Miracles also offers explanations of envy related to the ego; and offers a spiritual correction for the situation. Other metaphysical methodologies would offer meditation and changing your thoughts.
For now, I am glad to be exploring and defining my envy. I am glad to name it and put it out there where I can see it. Now that I am hip to the situation, I don't have to react to it. I have taken my power back.
Just now, I hopped on my leg scooter and rolled out to the mail box. I don't go outside much these days so a trip to the mail box is a chance to pause and feel the sunshine. It is a beautiful morning. Houston has finally cooled off. I could hear birds. It was very peaceful. I know that others are out doing their miles. I am happy that this does not bug me. I am happy that I can be at peace.
During my convalescence, I have spent more time on spiritual study. I am continually integrating the concepts of the 3 traditions I am currently studying: A Course in Miracles, Conscious Contact (AA), Paul Brunton. These three have the same foundational concepts but say it in very different ways; and my mind is integrating them. Monastic practices I learned in the monastery play a part in this integration, but they have to be separated from denominational Catholicism and Benedictine-ism.
I say "Not this Not that" because I realized this morning that I don't have to label myself in spiritual terms. I don't have to call my self a "desert dweller" "hermit" "monk" or anything. I get to just keep relating to Spirit and going where ever It leads. I don't have to prove anything to anybody. In fact, my current status as a handicapped person is an impoverishment in most people's eyes.
The good news is that we can have conscious contact with a power greater than ourselves and we don't need to leave our homes. We just need to devote ourselves to the quest; and we are guaranteed to succeed. What I want more than anything is the conscious contact, the living of the spiritual identity here and now; not in some ashram or convent or under some guru or after I die. Now.
It is always possible now.
This week I found out I am getting a raise at work. Logically, this baffles me because our company is having austerity, and because I am being transferred to another division so the people who applied for and pushed the raise are not the ones I'll be working for in a couple of months. But somehow, it was necessary for the Talent Management program to address my salary for the purpose of retention. I have to mix this occurrence with my metaphysics and accept that my thinking must have been changed by spiritual practice or the raise would not have happened. It is not the money but the recognition that reality is made of thoughts and my thoughts must have risen higher.
This week I am going to a Process Safety symposium. I am going as a semi-mobile person. It will be interesting how the accessibility goes and which people take an interest in me or not. I worry about stuff like what size of luggage to take and how to lug it around. How easy will it be to get in and out of the hotel. What will the shower be like? I am bringing plastic bags so I can wear my boot in the shower. It is doubtful that a bench will be available. What about the convention center? Can I access the plenary session? I am going to case the convention center the afternoon before.
By the way, my foot is doing fantastic. Now I just need to be patient and not stupid.
On September 24, I had surgery to fix my foot. On October 1, I got a boot. And I started to work out. At first, I did core and leg lifts. Then, after my arms got work hardened to heaving my body around, I added some weights. A few days ago, I added easy exercise bike. Starting from ground zero, I rebuilding. Here is a chart of how many minutes a day I've been doing:
Three weeks into this, my foot feels fantastic. When I take it out of the boot, I can move it around. In the morning when I get up, the foot is not swollen at all. It does collect fluids during the day since it just sits in a boot. Yesterday, my new Hokas showed up. Wearing a Hoka on the other foot has made it possible to stand and feel good.
I'm high this evening on my first endorphins in awhile. But also high about the company I work for. They started a program called "Talent Management" designed to retain talent. Many of us thought it was fake. But I am getting a raise! My talent has been successfully managed.
I was reading an article about sloth by Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, a professor at Calvin College. I found it on the Internet because I have been wondering if my spiritual life is slowly dying. I wondered if it was dying because my strenuous efforts to achieve enlightenment have been slowly let go. My running transcendence project has been discontinued. Is my daily spiritual study enough? Is the fellowship of AA enough?
I don't really have a way to calibrate. Most spiritual concepts are woefully corrupted by religious dogmas which are not really spiritually based. Many practices are dopamine based.
First note, my reading of the sloth article this morning takes place against a back drop of the "conscious contact" spirituality offered by AA, A Course in Miracles, Paul Brunton's philosophy, my own Americanism, my life as a process safety expert in a chemical plant. If my left foot was not out of commission, I doubt I'd be spending the time on this. I'd be out running and dreaming of racing the next marathon or ultra-marathon.
So, some excerpts. She starts with the desert fathers; those early Christians who left the cities to dwell in desert wilderness and fight demons (evil thoughts). I myself, in my monastic life and in my secular solitary life, fight demons. The demon of acedia (sloth) "deploys every device in order to have the monk leave his cell and flee the life" (Evagrius)...it is a vice that threatens one's fundamental commitment to one's religious identity....one's entire commitment of one's life to God is at stake...For Pascal....diversions and distractions are what we fill our lives and minds with to avoid facing the truth about who we are and are called to be in relationship with God...
She discusses how in today's secular world, work has become a virtue equivalent to worship. How work is our promise of self fulfillment. How humans are wired to seek fulfillment but really, only the divine relationship can provide fulfillment. Acedia is a resistance to divine relationship by either laziness or virtuous industriousness. Rooted in self-love and presumption of dominion over our own lives that neither acknowledges nor depends on God.
Sloth is resistance, inertia.
For me this morning, "resistance to grace" sprung to life as I considered the plight of people with long term sobriety who quit going to meetings. We say we don't need the meetings. If I believe this, then I have probably missed the point of the meetings. They are not really about fear of drinking (although drinking does usually follow). They are about participation, cooperation, dependence on Grace, freely available at the meetings.
The answer is to go deeper. Alcoholism is a spiritual malady. Recovery is a spiritual project. If meeting makers make it, then meetings must be spiritual. Why do I resist except for ego? My original excuse, being in a convent, may have had a genuine yearning for contemplation as a virtuous motive. God may have devised my monastic experience as a way to add to my spiritual capability. But still, I am left with fighting demons.
Today I wanted to go to an event. Truth is, the AA club I go to was having some outside speakers. I wanted to go, but they don't have that much parking. I was worried because I can't park a quarter of a mile away and get to the meeting.
So, um, yeah, I prayed. I asked for a parking spot. I also went pretty early. When I got there, the lot was full, but someone pulled out right then, so I did get a parking spot.
I went to use the rest room. There were 6 empty stalls and one handicapped stall with a person in it. So I had to wait. Of course, then that person was all embarrassed.
The first speaker was an Alanon with 42 years in that program. The part of her story that impressed me was her discussion of family members who stopped drinking in AA for 20+ years, then started experimenting. It is important for me to reflect on this. I have 28 years of sobriety. I didn't go to meetings for about 10 years. A year ago I started going to meetings again. In a room of 50, there will be less than a handful of us with more than 20 years. I sit there. Part of my brain wants to be too good for meetings. Another part points out that I do better when I go, even if it is only once a week. I don't think about drinking, but I do better in happiness.
The second speaker was a young woman with 6 years of sobriety. She was a charismatic speaker with a good story. But as I listened to her and mixed my thoughts about the first speaker into my reflecting, I continue to be amazed at how screwed up some of my thinking is. Especially my post-monastic life. I so totally came out of the convent determined to be a monk in the world so I could be as holy as my sisters in the convent.
And this brings me to the second prayer I said this morning. I said I need to see this gathering of AAs, with its silliness, bad food and gaudiness of middle class America, as holy. At least as I listened to the second speaker, I was able to realize that I have been taught that the world is bad and non-religious people are not as good as the nuns. I have had other looks at this, but I see even more now how I need to get over that. I've been lying to myself.
Since I had my leg on my 4 wheel cart, I didn't try to mix into the crowds. I staked out a chair where I wouldn't be in the way. I saw a woman just sort of by herself. I invited her to come over and talk to me. We had a nice 20 minutes or so talking before the first speaker. Then between speakers, another lady came over to talk to me. She wanted to thank me for something I said in a meeting. This lady is really pretty and was dressed in a pretty red dress. I was a little dumbfounded that someone that pretty would talk to me since I am not much to look at.
So, my healing from convent life continues.
Coming out of the meeting, I rolled myself to where the ramp went off the sidewalk onto the parking lot. Someone had parked right in front of it, so I couldn't get by on my cart. I had to go around to another place and then another lady helped me move my cart over the curb. That is what it is like to be handicapped.
Today is day 17 of having one leg out of service. It is day 4 of going back to work. I recognize that the rest of my body is tired of hauling around the one bad leg. But work hardening is occurring and already I notice my hands are not as sore from the crutches and I'm not a tired when I go home.
This morning, I was noticing a mental component to all this; which gave me an insight for my spiritual journey. The past 4 days I have wanted to use my disability as an excuse to work fewer hours. It is an attempt to feel sorry for myself and slack off; even while there isn't really a need for this. At the same time, I notice a governing drive which gets out of bed anyway, gets me into the shower anyway so I am sweet smelling and gets me to work on time anyway, and keeps me here for 8 hours anyway.
As I worked on my spiritual study this morning, I noticed the friction going on between the slacker attitude and the governing drive. I realize that the governing drive always wins even though the slacker chews at the governor's edges. It is a friction, a tension. But I realize that while it became apparent in reflecting on my disability, it is actually a life long issue. The same friction is apparent in the struggle to get out of bed everyday or exercise everyday or practice contemplation when I have free time.
Some people might even say that the slacker is sin and the governor is virtue. The slacker is not sin. The slacker is also not my essence. It is just a function of the illusion of this world.
Now that slacker is identified, I can use it as a tool to raise my thinking. Now I have got to the crux of the matter. A monk has a desire to know God. Over the ages, monks have retreated to deserts, hermitages and monasteries as environments that provide space to think spiritual thoughts more than worldly thoughts. As a monk in the world, I can now consider how slacker drags back governor and prevents contemplation (loftier thinking) even when I have time available for it.
When I thought about being out of commission due to leg surgery, I thought it would be an opportunity for contemplation as I would be off work. But that didn't turn out.
Now, with the new insight on slacker vs. governor, I want to refocus on contemplation. I want to make it happen even if I have to be a monk in the world. It must grow more each day; no excuses since I don't live in a monastery. Even when I did live in a monastery, I noticed all us nuns were often wrapped up in non-contemplative thinking.
I just finished my workout for one legged people. I've named it: Invalid xxx. And then I cleaned my own toilet. So proud of myself.
I've had one leg for almost 2 weeks. I've noticed that my hands have strengthened up so my crutches are not so bad. My one good leg has also strengthened up and is better at both standing and hopping. My arms and shoulders are not so tired from heaving around my body.
I have to go back to work tomorrow. My office has been moved out of the plant to the admin building where I can access it. I was begged to do an incident investigation, so tomorrow at 10 am, I'll be fully at work. "I was begged" because I am a great facilitator: hands down, bar none, I am the best.
How stupid US health care costs are. Not.related.to.reality.AT.ALL! Because I have insurance, the hospital accepts a fee that is only 25% of what they itemized. Really? If the hospital would send me a bill that was only 25% of what they wanted, I'd just pay it and skip the insurance company all together. It is such a total game.
I continue to learn alot about what it might be like to be handicapped full time. Trips to the grocery store are especially interesting because someone always has to say or do something funny. Like this morning, I was rolling from a handicapped parking space towards the front door, where people drive. A car pulled in front of me and stopped, not seeing me, let off an able bodied person, then noticed me standing by the side of the car waiting for it to move. Man gives an embarrassed wave and drives off to a parking spot. I'm not being snarky, just interested in what must happen every day to one legged people. I'll be more aware when I get my leg back.
On the other hand, most American adults are hopelessly disabled just because they never exercise their bodies for any reason.
The Invalid 950 took an hour.
crunches on ball 75
butt scrunch on ball 75
twists on ball 75
Russian twists 75
leg lift front 50
leg lift side 50
leg lift inner 50
side curl 50
roll ups 75
sitting knee lift w/10 lbs 50
triceps kick backs 50
It has only been 10 days. I have at least 30 more to go. It is my first experience of having one leg out of commission. Most of the time during the day, I am able to use a scooter under that leg and so get around pretty easy. At night, on the second floor of my house, I use crutches (aaaakkkkk! hated).
At this time, almost every activity is a chore. I didn't realize how easy everything is when you have 2 legs. But with one leg, my body is most of the time like a sack of potatoes heaved around by my arms. And my hands are sore from the crutches.
As I sit in bed in the morning, I dread getting up. I miss the endorphins I made as a runner. Am I getting depressed?
Well, this morning, getting up was a chore. Getting a shower was a chore. But very soon, after I got downstairs and began my spiritual study, I had good thoughts.
My answer for everything is to find your essence, the ground of your being. Here, at my source is the meeting place of human consciousness and higher consciousness. And here, I can turn over my human consciousness and accept intuitive thoughts. And then, I feel fine.
Overall, getting my foot fixed is the best idea ever! And even my current disability is still "having it good" in general terms. For instance, I just scooted out to get the mail and felt the sunshine. I have my work computer at home and am being a productive employee. I will even get one of my "Invalid 550" workouts done today. Other people have been helping me.
So, for depression, desire to drink, sloth, any mental barrier; find the ground of my being and let it take over my life. I am here to serve the pattern of life, nothing more. Gratitude is another word for it.
Well, as an invalid, I am having a good time. Work from home for several hours, then go have vitamin D therapy:
I realized that I almost never just sit by the water and enjoy the sunshine. Well, for most of the summer, Texas is too hot. But now, it was nice.
I also have what I am calling the "Invalid 550" workout. It is easy on my arms since they are very tired from heaving my body around. And it loosens up the butt which is sitting too much. It took me 45 min yesterday so I swear I got some endorphins too.
50 each of: crunches (lower legs on ball), butt scrunch bridges (lower legs on ball), bicycles, leg lifts front, Russian twists, side curls, clams, side leg lifts, core activation, inner leg lifts, roll ups. Equals 550.
Yesterday I thought: to know God, you should be grateful. Not for what you have, but to your soul for who you are. Stop and think. What is the essence of a human being. Majesty. Power. Love.
Today I thought: Peace extends from deep inside yourself to embrace all. Surrender to your inner holiness. Surrender to the love existent within and all around. Stop and think. Feel that quiet truth inside. How still. How peaceful. Jut let go.
AAs Big Book says, "Deep down in every man woman and child is the fundamental idea of God." Surrender to the idea. Be sober.
It is 4 days since my foot surgery. I am off the hydrocodone and my brain is functioning normally right now. My body hates hydrocodone. It threw it up yesterday, thank you very much.
A set of wheels makes a huge difference in the life of a one legged person:
Crutches are very difficult, but this little scooter makes many things possible.
I have tremendous access to support staff.
So I am always pondering greater issues of the spirit, wondering if I do indeed have a higher self. I realize I am an ego consciousness; but an ego that wants to be more than an ego. This desire could in itself be egotistical; or it could be a symptom of a true higher call.
During surgery, I was "gone" for about 2 hours. My body, while still alive, was completely an object in other peoples realities. Like, no less than 3 anesthesiology staff were pissed at me because I am hard to intubate. The results of their work, in the form of gouges in the back of my mouth, still hurt.
I do not know this world if the body connection is taken away. But, when it was restored, I came back. Am I the brain in the body or a spirit which returns to this body while this body exists? Some of chose on faith to live from the spiritual foundation. I myself find the spiritual foundation inescapable.
It is fitting that I would arrive today at a chapter on Grace in Paul Brunton's book "The Wisdom of the Overself." Here are some quotes:
"What is Grace? It is a descent of the Overself into the underself's zone of awareness. It is a visitation of power...the voice of the Overself speaking suddenly out of the cosmic silence....a mystical energy...an active principle....Such is its dynamic potency that it can confer insight into ultimate reality as easily as it can lift a dying person to life again...Grace manifests itself in two ways: first a sense of dissatisfaction and insufficiency with the exterior life alone, second: a yearning for inner reality."
"Psychoanalytical professors are apt to regard what they call the unconscious mind of man as a bottomless well swarming only with shapes of lust and lewdness. They have yet to learn that it holds also an infinite fund of goodness, truth and beauty such as would overwhelm them with its grandeur could they become but momentarily aware of it."
My decades long obsession with spiritual matters is fruitful. I used to think it was a failure since I had not achieved that enlightenment described in the books. It has taken a long time to believe that the subtler and frequent awarenesses are true and permanent. I refuse now to de-value the still small voice.
Just as the healing of my foot is going on in a silent cast, so the transformation of my ego is going on in the cocoon of this life.
Now that I am home from my business trip, I have taken my study of Q back up. Q? Q is a source for the Gospels of Mathew and Luke separate from Mark. There is no historical document of Q. There is only passages in Mathew and Luke which are identical enough to say they copied them from somewhere, but they don't appear in Mark. There are some interesting silences in the Q material.
Any true Christian should do a several years study of the Bible from the critical point of view: Where did it come from? Don't just take it point blank or according to what the church authority says.
My point today is that I was reading how Q's Jesus story relates to the typical prophet's story found in the Old Testament, particularly Wisdom 2-5. The person who makes a decision to adhere to God ALWAYS undergoes persecution and death. Then the adherent often rises; but frequently the adherent's sayings live on in the survivors. This "Wisdom Story" is not an individual's story but a community story.
The Wisdom Story happens over and over and crosses cultural and time boundaries.
So from a neuro-philosophy point of view, I wonder: is the Wisdom Story just a part of human brain wiring? If so, do I have to believe it? Do I have to follow it?
What was really the truth of Jesus?
What I have to go on today is many written materials, and my own experiences of Spirit. Is the Spirit spiritual or is the Spirit my own Higher Self? What I do know is that my foundational belief is that there is a higher consciousness and that I can rely on it activities. Its relationship to me is a beneficial one. It doesn't have to be my Higher Self. It could be OUR Higher Self.
I have clearly decided for God. No I don't have any proof and am willing to admit this is entirely neuro.
Some part of last night was spent thinking about what 6 weeks on crutches would be like. And some part was spent worrying about the surgery date being changed due to a personal crisis the doctor is having. But now I think, The Universe is in charge. Let go. There is nothing I can do.
But you see, I must firmly believe that there is a Higher Self or Spirit who is helping me with my life. This idea works if everything is seen as a spiritual growth experience and everything is for the spiritual quest. Most of all surrendering to this Higher Self is the learning. Believing in this Higher Self and its care for its creations is my foundation.
"...even in this widespread longing for personal continuance we can detect the beginnings of what will one day grow into the nobler longing to live in the true immortality. For it is an unconscious perception that human existence does possess something within it which is unaffected by events in time and is therefore genuinely eternal, something which stands apart from all the miserable mutations of the flesh and the 'I'. It is indeed an unformulated intuition which, hiding among the perishable elements of personality, affirms that there is an imperishable principle which cannot be brought to an end with the end of the body."
"The view of immortality as belonging to the higher individuality of the Overself rather than to the lower personality will then replace the former one, which is ultimately doomed to suffer the anguish of frustrated desire whereas the true view bathes a man in increasing peace the better it is understood."
Here I am in Pittsburgh again; on business. I have spent the week leading 2 groups of guys in Hazard and Operability Studies. At the same time, I am always pondering my own spiritual path. I have always continued my studies of A Course in Miracles; and now mixed with the philosophy of Paul Brunton. The 2 philosophies are worded differently but the spiritual principles are the same. Therefore, I am a believer in certain ideas, but not in any religion.
"I don't detect the Overself because it is beyond my consciousness.
Being universal, it can't be experienced familiarly. But this principle
is a permanent element within me. The general principle of Thought can
be indirectly supposed. I have thoughts but the general principle is
"The world I perceive is a product of my thoughts, but my illusion of
the world is not solely mine. Each mind is confined to its own
sensational world but each sensational world is rooted in a common
mental ground provided by the World-Mind, the Overself, the general
principle of Thought. "
3. " If Jesus was a man of sorrows, it was not because of what they would
do to his body, but because of what they thought in their minds." "When
we identify the I-thought, which always arises first, with the
body-thought, which always arises second, we turn the scale of values
upside down and limit the larger factor with the lesser one. Through
this initial error we not only strengthen our sorrows and increase
grief, but also fill hearts with unnecessary fear. But when we become
conscious that we are conscious and that this is the most direct thing
of our experience, we have reached the momentous turning-point of
understanding the difference between both thoughts. For the making of
this miracle--and it is nothing less -- clear to our own understanding
itself puts us on the right path to achieving it."
My spiritual ideas are related to identifying with spirit instead of body. My path is of ego transcendence; joining the universal Self and letting go of the small self. this topic comes up no matter what I study. Brunton does a good job of explaining how the world is my thoughts but also a universal world with other people in the same thought field. But it is not a sound bite. I'm not going to try and explain 25 years of spiritual study in one sentence.
I also think it is time for the ordinary spiritual people to hold to their truth. We are members of ordinary society, not monk or nuns or famous authors or teachers. We are the transcending identities within normal society. We know the truth and we live it to free others. But our teaching is quiet. Our teaching is our presence. Embrace.
I came to Pennsylvania on Saturday and ran a half marathon in Erie on Sunday.
If you read this blog, you have seen my foot x-ray.
Two weeks ago, I decided that I was tired of having my achilles impaled on a sharp point of bone and went to an orthopedist. Surgery is scheduled for....OMG.....next Friday!
I have pondered over and over, why do I run. Then, why does my heel
hurt. Metaphysically, the heel surgery can be a point of transcendence
just as much as the daily miles. 6 weeks on crutches will be worth it. It is a death and then a resurrection; not to the same body but to a different state.
I am studying a long complicated book about Q, one of the sources of the New Testament Gospels. Mathew and Luke are derived from Mark and Q. Q and Mark are separate. I'm up to page 94 of the analysis and maybe only 1/10th through the book.
I had to stop and ponder. About 8 years ago, when I last did serious scripture study, I had to decide that only about 20% of the Gospels have any source in Jesus; the rest being the agenda of the male priestly portion of humanity. This morning, I am again amazed about the volume of arguments from numerous scholars; and how impossible it is to discern what Jesus actually said and did or who he was.
More startling is that reading the analysis, I realized that mankind is based on some common suppositions (my synopsis):
Mankind believes in God.
Mankind believes it is bad/ sinful.
Mankind believes in a Messiah/ Savior.
In these beliefs there is a tremendous amount of dogma. There is a mostly frightening rendition of an angry God. The beliefs plus dogma seem hopeless. It can't be that joining the Roman Catholic Church is your only out. Or even saying "Jesus is Lord" is your only out.
My interest in spirituality is for today, this life; not after I die or some other life. My interest is in spirituality today, conscious contact now. Evolution requires that humanity transcend these beliefs.
I think I need to return to the hermitage and just listen.
It is yet another hot humid day in Houston. I guess I'll go walk around Brummerhop Park, practicing to keep my mind silent.
I want to know God. There was beautiful promises made about how the monastery was the place to carry out that quest. I've been out of the monastery and carrying on that quest for 10 years, using many spiritual opportunities. These opportunities are not Catholic so might not have been available to me had I stayed at the monastery. My body mind and spirit are free to accept all opportunities offered me by Spirit since I am not locked in a box.
What follows is a distinctly negative view of what I saw during my recent visit to the monastery where I was in formation: death and ghosts of people. Yes there are positives to convent life, but that is not my current focus. And my comments are somewhat framed by the final profession of one of the sisters which occurred this weekend.
I am on the last day of a 6 day vacation. I slept late, dreading facing the Texas heat. As usual, my mind had wandered into my monastic problem. That is, all the various questions regarding why I went there and why I didn't stay and the God quest now. I got up and went to turn off the fan by my bed. It suddenly struck me. I wanted the idea of the monastery, but I see now, not the monastery itself.
The idea of the monastery was "a school for the Lord's service;" a place away from the world where undistracted prayer could be carried out. For me, it was a place to practice contemplation with people who I thought were as intensely interested in God consciousness as myself. Perhaps they all go to the monastery with that quest. Formation, the process of training nuns, is exactly that: formation. Formation is a process of changing people from who they are to what the other nuns think is acceptable.
I say now that the monastery cripples people. What I saw was people crippled by their life in a insulated box. Obesity in a world where there really isn't that much food. White skin which never sees the sun. A sister with a bony disfigured upper body, yet she is my age. Dull colors and decorations from the last century. The most color was from a small pile of M&Ms a sister sitting at the reception desk had obtained from the stock kept for guests. Oh my God, how terrible that half a days work for two young sisters was to sit at a reception desk where hardly anyone ever comes! A sister telling me about her programming of automated machines, not even guessing the sophistication of the machines used in my chemical plant. In the monastery, few have to worry about the day to day survival issues of obtaining food, going to work, dealing with money, maintaining a house or car, health care, making life decisions.
While I was doing my spiritual study, the thought struck me that the monastery was a practice similar to Chinese foot binding of women long ago. That is, the monastery is a binding of religion and place which causes people to grow in strange unnatural ways.
Then I flashed on the picture of Abbot Gregory putting the nun's wedding ring (to Jesus) on the finger of the newly professed nun. I thought with horror how that is so symbolic of male power in the Church. I couldn't stand it.
So, my quest for God consciousness goes in in the world. My learning result from my visit is that I cherish the idea of the monastery, but continue to thank God that I didn't make a profession. Yes, my ego will still worry over the experience of being asked to leave and the dogma that vowed religious are somehow special to Jesus. These are synapses which will always be in my brain; but my mind knows more. Everyone is either equal before God, or our God is a terribly cruel God.
I am reading a scholarly tome about the Q source of the gospels. It will show a quit different picture of Jesus. I have the ability to carry out monastic practices: silence, solitude, prayer, simplicity, poverty (meaning poor-in-society not poor financially), chastity, Lent, spiritual reading, vows of obedience, stability and conversatio made to God.
And I am about to go outside and enjoy an hour or so of walking in the Texas heat. Tomorrow it is back to work.
On Friday morning, I started the trip and today I finished it. Now I have 2 more days to ponder its mystery. I visited the monastery I left 10 years ago. I went to an AA meeting in my old home group. I went in a running race. I read a book called "The Empire of Illusion."
United Airlines, TSA, National Car Rental, Parking Spot, Panera (St Louis Bread), Marriott (Fairfield and Springhill), Honda, WalMart, Quick Trip, Jason's Deli, Barnes & Nobel, Coke, Pepsi, Silk, Starbucks, Wrigley's, Asics, Succeed, RockTape, and others; gave me a fantastic good time without any hitch at all.
Its really about the people. Like this morning. I arrived at my gate very early, in fact, the earlier flight was still at the gate. I went up to the gate agent and said I had a very stupid question, could I get on the earlier flight? She laughed and said I'd have to work much harder than that to have a stupid question. She then went on for more than 5 minutes about stupid questions. This was a very friendly conversation. I was there for her.
The people at my old AA group mentioned several times about how I had affected them in the past and how they felt honored to be in my presence.
At the monastery, I got a tour of the new construction, visited the old sisters, ate in the refectory and talked a long time to the Prioress. I met the father of one of the sisters. He was a massively alive 80 something; eyes so bright so energetic. I cried a bit at the side of Sr Priscilla. I love her but she is 97 and barely moves. I held court with another group of elderly sisters. Some of the sisters I knew came over and hugged me; others ignored me. I noticed the silence. I know I have too much energy to stay at that place; and no desire to be so cloistered, bored, sedentary, Catholic.
Priscilla is in the middle.
My friend in Kansas City made me breakfast and we talked for 2 hours.
I then went to St Louis. I70 was construction free. I went in a timed race. The heat index was between 97 and 100F for 5 of the 6+ hours I was out there. I completed 26.6 miles before deciding my heel was in enough pain. I got to talk to several other runners.
Leaving the Parking Spot today, they only had one exit lane open, and none of the self check out lanes. So about 50 cars were lined up trying to get out. I was friendly to the cashier and she was able to tell my how hard it was.
I don't own any electronic products that begin with i. I plan to stay out of that community, just like Face Book and various other main stream activities.
I am satisfied with myself. I live in Texas. I am sober. I have the benefit of having gotten my world traveling out of the way when I lived with my parents. My only journey now is the one to God. Yes, I walk with Spirit.
There has been some joking around work about the gold coin being sent out by our company to all the employees to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the business. We don't know what to do with a gold coin. We'd rather have t-shirts. But, it is a German company which treats the rest of the world like lesser beings. So....
But, I got an insight. I have 2 other coins which do mean something to me. I realized that my company wishes to stand by these other valuable associations; and gold is the best way they could think of to cause me to consider the company in the same terms.
The other 2 coins? One is a Benedictine medal and my time in the monastery had a dramatic effect on my life. The other is my AA anniversary coin, which I get a new one every year I'm sober. Obviously, 28 years of sobriety has effected my life.
I will grant my employer equal status.
To put it in perspective, I took a picture of 4 commemorative coins I have on hand. The fourth one I got what I finished the 10th Seabrook marathon. It doesn't mean alot to me, but I realize that keeping a race going for 10 years means alot to the organizers, enough to get these coins made for all the finishers.
So, I honor anyone who honors themself. The coin is just a way of communicating the value of long term achievement. Personal character does go into building a long term achievement. I respect that.
I am always saying that A Course in Miracles (ACIM) defines common terms differently. One of them is forgiveness. Here in the ordinary world, we think of forgiveness as knowing someone is guilty but letting them off the hook. ACIM says it looking beyond.
But ACIM forgiveness gives students tons of trouble actually understanding it and doing it. And doing it or practicing it is key to ACIM. So, I've been studying for 6 years. Now, here is a moment of clarity I had around this term yesterday.
I was driving through Wyoming listening to an NPR story about a woman who is priestess to the white lions in South Africa. I won't go into whatever it means to be a priestess to white lions. What I was thinking is how everyone has a task. Some people have fantastic tasks like being priestess to white lions. Some people have tasks which make us highly jealous. Some have "special" tasks that seem to make them better than everyone else. But most of us seem to have ordinary daily life. Then suddenly it clicked for me that all our tasks are equally needed.
My task appears very non-special. I work and run. But I know that I am at work metaphysically because the non-material side of my life is at least conscious; something I actively work at. And I realized that all our tasks are really one task in content but different in form.
And here is where I clearly understood what ACIM forgiveness means. If I know that everyone has a task, and that when I interact with them, I am helping them with their task and they are helping me with my task, then forgiveness has happened. Well, the whole Course in Miracles is completed in that instant of interaction. But it is also true that physical presence is not necessary.
I find it completely possible to walk the face of the earth helping others with their task. With that frame of reference, my life is not about going to work to earn money and retire and die. It doesn't have anything to do with whether I have a "special" task, or wrote a book, or was a guru. I just help others with their task.
I get it: Some monks are explicit. They live in a monastery. My life is implicitly monastic; hidden behind a veil of worldly life.
This morning, I rode my elliptical with my eyes closed, chanting my ACIM phrases to a monastic melody I learned in the convent. Then I went outside for a sweaty jog, and continued to chant.
Inspired by A Course in Miracles 17.V:
Do not breathe life into your failing ego.
You have chosen but the goal of God.
Accept with gladness what's not understood.
I thought about my failing ego in several areas of my life. I though about how my upcoming 12 hour race could be so ego deflating if I stick to walking. I thought about how I see a 24 hour race as walking through the dark night in order to achieve a dawn, a sunrise. I want to walk through the dark night. But I realized how it is a human failing to think we can't achieve a dawn without a dark night.
In A Course in Miracles, we have "this holy instant." We immediately shorten the path in this holy instant. The holy instant in Christ; no crucifixion required. Salvation is already here.
I wanted to change a trip I have. I know they have a large fee to change. So I just bought another ticket for what I wanted. I then called them and said, I won't be on that flight. Would you cancel it so someone else can get on it?
Their answer was: oh no. Just don't show up. We'll credit you with the amount of the flight.
Some how this works in their favor beyond me buying another ticket. Are flights all so overbooked? Do they never show a flight as full? What if the flight shows full, but if they took me off, one spot would open up?
I find this to be poor customer service and an activity that only makes us hate United Airlines more than we already do.
Anyway, business travel aside, I am slowly discontinuing trips which require air travel. Except for Southwest, I find all airlines very annoying.
On the other hand, I am highly excited to be me and have 2 out of town races coming up in the next 3 weeks.
Today was another memorable sweatfest in Brummerhop Park. I got 16.4 miles of slow jog in between 9 am and 1 pm. My shoes were sopping wet I sweat so much. I drank 70 oz of water. When I came home I didn't feel well.
But you know? I love it. I like being out there sweating. Yes, it is Houston in August. There is a ton more humidity than I ever even thought about when I was in Missouri. But looking back on it, I realize I relish the hours walking or slow jogging in that heat.
I'm not the only one out there either.
Nothing much was on my mind. Well, except my upcoming races in Wyoming and Missouri. But, the 3,100 mile Self Transcendence race is over for another year. My anniversaries are over for another year. What is left if the daily focus: study ACIM, silent thought, exercise, AA on the weekends. But, try not to distract from God too much. Realize this world holds no lasting satisfaction. It is the spiritual reality which I cherish.
This morning, I was studying chapter 17.IV in A Course in Miracles text. Here is the part that inspired me: "Let Him [Holy Spirit] uncover the spark of beauty in your relationships, and show it to you...It is still up to you to choose to join with truth or with illusion. But remember that to choose one is to let the other go. Which one you choose you will endow you with beauty and reality, because the choice depends on which you value more...the spark of beauty or the veil of ugliness..."
I thought about how I didn't hate my boss this week and how many people texted me on my anniversary. I decided to allow the love that had been present; which is to choose the spark of beauty I had been shown.
After this, did I become insane? Here's my story.
Earlier this week, I got an e-mail about a new 24 hour event in Houston in December. (I went in a 50k there last year). So, I would really like to walk 24 hours. And my new shoe design might allow for a "Kinhin" Zen walk for 24 hours. I'm after the meditation side, not the distance side mind you. I mentioned it to a guy at work. He said he'd be happy to hand me cups of water and drive my butt home. (Transportation could be an issue after being up all night.)
This morning was my usual Saturday struggle to get out of bed. The only reason to get up early is to run before temps rise above 90F. As a walker however, it doesn't really matter. So I slept until 7. Then, I did my spiritual study, prayed about the December 24 hour run. I heard rumbles outside, but I decided to go for a short walk in El Lago and test the shoe.
The first 50 feet out the door, I'm thinking I'll drop down to the half marathon for the Nebraska race in 3 weeks. See, the modified shoe won't work in Nebraska on a hilly dirt course. Depressing.
50 feet later, another thought shot across my mind. Well, you could go to St Louis since you are already entered in that 12 hour run.
I shook my fist at the sky. "G-d dammit, that is the exact opposite thought from what I wanted!"
During the first mile of my walk in El Lago, I saw the faint trace of a rainbow. An omen? Was God speaking? It poured on me twice during the first 2 hours; but since this is Houston in August, it is always at least 80F. If you get wet, no big deal.
I thought about the 12 hour race in St Louis. It makes a ton of sense. Before dreaming of a 24 hour race, why not see how 12 hours go? And the course in Fenton (St Louis) is perfect for my shoe. The driving is about the same as if I went to Nebraska. I already know some people who will be walking in Fenton. No time pressure for a 12 hour time period. It fits the scope of meditative walking (not racing).
So, crap. I think I'll go to Fenton.
Today, I walked 4 hours in my shoe. I came home once to modify it and finally stopped at 4 hours cuz I needed to modify again and I realized that the thicker sock was tearing up one of my little toes. Fang (one of the heel spurs) was quiet today. The only problem was the back of the shoe heel wasn't short enough and kept banging into the bottom of my heel and hurting it (4 hours of that really was enough). So, I have 3 weeks to get the shoe right. I don't even have to decide for sure until that week so I can shift my hotels around. But, I think Fenton will be much better for me.
I have a retrocalcaneal heel spur. This means that the back of any shoe pushes my achilles tendon against a sharp line of calcium build up. It hurts.
So, about 2 weeks ago, I got an idea. I've been experimenting with the idea. Today, I proclaimed the idea a winner.
Its not for anyone who wants to run fast, or on trails; but for a jogger like me, it works great.
Here it is: the pain free Haglund's shoe.
Yes, it is missing a portion of heel right where the greatest pain is. But still enough heel that if you want to stick a Dirty Girls gaiter over the opening, you can. But on paved roads, no issue. I wear thick socks and lace up tight. The shoe doesn't come off.
Brummerhop is a very tiny park. But much of it is tree shaded. That is why I spend so much time there in the summer. So, the long jog yesterday went well. Today, I did another 2 hour jog. My heel doesn't feel too bad. Good news. I'm starting to think that the massive pain from last weekend was caused by running on the concrete bridge.
Jogging in Brummerhop could be eternal. That is, if you are there often enough and long enough, you lose track of where you are. Time loses its meaning and you just are.
I came home and again waited for Mr AC to show up. Finally.....he came and the AC is ready for another year.
I think I might go ride my bike around El Lago for afternoon exercise.
Actually, I finally realized the deal was done long ago. I just hadn't fully realized or accepted it.
Today is my 9/80 Friday off. So the first thing that happened is that I slept in. Then, I had a leisurely period of spiritual study. In fact I am in chapter 16.VII of A Course in Miracles text. Here is a little bit of what I read which possibly could be understood by a non-course student.
"Do not underestimate the intensity of the ego’s drive for vengeance on the past. It is completely savage and completely insane. For the ego remembers everything you have done that has offended it, and seeks retribution of you. The fantasies it brings to its chosen relationships in which to act out its hate are fantasies of your destruction. For the ego holds the past against you, and in your escape from the past it sees itself deprived of the vengeance it believes you so justly merit. Yet without your alliance in your own destruction, the ego could not hold you to the past. In the special relationship you are allowing your destruction to be. That this is insane is obvious. But what is less obvious is that the present is useless to you while you pursue the ego’s goal as its ally....Against the ego’s insane notion of salvation the Holy Spirit gently lays the holy instant. We said before that the Holy Spirit must teach through comparisons, and uses opposites to point to truth. The holy instant is the opposite of the ego’s fixed belief in salvation through vengeance for the past. In the holy instant it is understood that the past is gone, and with its passing the drive for vengeance has been uprooted and has disappeared. The stillness and the peace of now enfold you in perfect gentleness. Everything is gone except the truth."
I pondered "destruction" and "hate fantasies" and the "holy instant". I was able to disgorge some nasty thoughts which were quietly playing in my mind and give these to whatever spiritual power there is.
Then I loaded up my water bottles and headed to Brummerhop park intending just to walk laps for awhile. Quite quickly I got to my revelation about "Done Deal." I remembered the fateful day near the Jaffa Gate in old Jerusalem. I was 22 or so. I was watching a couple of Hassidic men in fur hats and beards and ear locks walk into the Via Delarosa. I had a tiny thought, "If they are willing to dress like that, there must be something to this God thing."
I was not a meditator at the time, so it is amazing that I noticed that one little thought. Except that I instantly answered yes. In that moment, I became a God seeker and nothing has since been able to knock me off track. So, in the religious sense, it was in that moment that I became married to the God quest. I didn't really need monastic profession to validate the commitment. It is a done deal. I said I do, or I will, and that is that.
It was jogging in super hot, super humid, small and secret Brummerhop park today that I finally realized the truth of my being. Doing laps in Brummerhop park is an existential activity. It is the equal of sitting on a cushion or attending Mass. All is communion.
Nothing needs to be added to anyone to achieve holiness. It is merely a matter of saying yes and accepting conscious contact with a higher power. I said yes long ago and the practice of conscious contact has never abated.