Seventy Times Seven

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It is not possible to get to Carnegie Hall without traveling the path of practice, nor is it possible to find joy without the practice of forgiveness.  Practice, practice, practice.

In my continuing quest for peace of mind and happy endings, I am more aware than ever of the need to put my money where my mouth is and stop talking and start doing the inner work that is necessary to move forward on the path to enlightenment.

In answer to my impassioned plea for more joy in my life I was rewarded with the opportunity to practice what I preach.  This answer comes to me in the form of a person who is so in-your-face angry and contentious that I want nothing more than to see the back of her head when she walks away. The experience of being in her presence is so disturbing that my heart ties itself into a knot just thinking about it.  Sometimes I think that God has a very mischievous sense of humor.

Twice I have received guidance and insight into the path to forgiveness of her and twice, it has slipped away.  How fleeting these precious thoughts can be, and how quickly I forget!  I need to write it down so that I can remember and practice, but it is so elusive that I ask for help to remember and recapture those ephemeral thoughts.  Help comes in the form of a poem.  Well, sort of.  I’m not a poet.

She is not angry with me
She is angry with the world
Those in her path reap her wrath
Rather than respond with anger
I prefer to offer forgiveness
Yet forgiveness is hard to find

She is not angry with me
The world has done her wrong
Her anger lashes out on others
And she drives them away with her fury
She is in great need of forgiveness
Of herself, of others, of the world

If I cannot find forgiveness
Perhaps I can find compassion
Compassion for her suffering
Compassion for the pain that drives her
And understanding of the intense grievances
That clog her heart with the fear of love

Jesus implores us to forgive seventy times seven
I may find it in my heart to forgive today
Yet tomorrow will bring renewed opportunity
When she stands in my face once again
With a glare, a frown and bitterness in her heart

In her current state of mind
She is helpless to help herself
But I can refrain from my judgment of her
And silently acknowledge her suffering
In exchange for her anger and contention
I can offer compassion and forgiveness
And a prayer of peace and love for her
Seventy times seven

 

 

 

 

The Peace Thieves

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There are a few people in the world who make me want to hide myself under the Harry Potter invisibility cloak.  They are the peace disturbers, the annoyers, the ones who make me crazy with just a word, a look, a comment, a request—that’s all it takes to send me off into a world of anger, frustration, criticism, or judgment.  Try as I might, it seems impossible to avoid some sort of conflict or contact with them.  I hear a voice, I turn and do a quick-step in the opposite direction.  Then another pops up and blocks my exit route. There’s no escape.  While there are only a couple of folks who have that effect on me, it seems more like an army. They’re everywhere.  It’s maddening.

I try.  I mean, I really, really try hard to not allow myself to be negatively impacted by the words and deeds of others, no matter how underhanded, manipulative, or controlling I perceive them to be.  Once in a blue moon, I succeed for a minute, but a minute is about all I can manage to muster up before the next offense rises up and challenges me to get over myself and behave like an adult.

Maybe it’s karma. Maybe it’s lifetimes of unhealed junk that I’ve carried around in my backpack for as long as the world has been spinning.  Maybe these blessed souls are there for the sole purpose of teaching me some sort of a gigantic life lesson.  Maybe I’m not getting out of here alive before first realizing that avoidance is not the best or healthiest way to deal with a troubling situation.  The most troubling of all is the wee perception that what I perceive as “wrong with them” may be something within myself that needs to be healed, else I would not be able to recognize it outside of myself.  Yikes.

Sometimes it helps to focus on the benefit of letting go.  Sometimes it’s a matter of asking myself my least favorite question, “What’s in it for me?”  What’s in it for me to forgive a husband who had a brief fling with a friend?  My knee jerk reaction was to distance myself from the co-respondent, along with the entire group of friends of which we were all a part.  My unwillingness to associate with the betrayer fueled my departure from a group of friends that I enjoyed and robbed me of a large piece of my social life.  Oh, the things I do to myself!

The forgive-and-forget plan fell short of its goal, and neither avoidance nor denial provided solution or solace.  I was the one left suffering the effect of my own anger with the loss of peace, trust, and friendship.  The infraction of one person (well, maybe two if you count my philandering husband) who had crossed a line had rocked my world.

Two years after the discovery, as I was riding down Connecticut Avenue on my way to work, I had an epiphany.  I suddenly saw that I was the one denying myself the joy of love and friendship by virtue of my blame, criticism, and judgment of one person.  I was the one stuck on my righteous attitude of anger and blame.  I was the only one suffering while the others went merrily on their way without me, utterly clueless about my pain.  I was the one refusing to forgive because clearly, I was right and they were wrong. Right?  Wrong!

With that epiphany came another—the instant realization that since I was the only one suffering by my own hand (or head is more like it) in this scenario, I was the only one who could change the situation that I had created for myself.  I was my own peace thief.

Simultaneously, another amazing thing happened.  An actual desire to let it go and forgive and forget washed over me and a spontaneous prayer arose within me. Oh God I truly do want to forgive this situation, but I don’t know how. Please help!  And I sat back, let go, and relaxed.

Day by day, little by little, inch by inch, I began to feel better until one day soon after, I awoke and discovered that it was gone—all of the blame, criticism, anger, judgment—gone.  In the midst of the quiet miracle that had occurred within me, it dawned on me that forgiveness requires true willingness.   Only the sincere desire and heartfelt commitment to forgive will open the floodgates to the miracle of forgiveness.  It doesn’t work if there’s even the tiniest bit of anger or resentment. Sometimes one has to be willing to be willing to be willing to let go and forgive.

As I ponder my attitude toward my current peace disturbers, I must sit myself down and ask a soul-searching question.  Am I truly willing?  Do I really, really mean it when I ask for forgiveness such that I can stand to be in the same room with one of my peace thieves and not wish to commit dishonorable hara-kiri?  Do I have it within myself to pull it off? Do I?  Can I?  Will I?

Yes, I do, yes I can, and yes I will.

To my unwitting teachers of peace, I pray that with each thought of you, my heart opens spontaneously so that I may clearly see that purity and radiating love are a force in your life.  I pray that I look beyond any and all behavior that causes me to think less of you, or that distorts my image of you as anything other than the Truth of your being, which is Love. 

With my backpack fully loaded with willingness, desire, and a prayer for forgiveness, all I need do now is sit back, relax, and be amazed and grateful for the miracle that restores me to peace and floods my life and the lives of others with love and grace.

So what’s in it for me?  Only peace of mind. Oh–and maybe a bit of happiness too.  That’s all.

Zest, Zesty, Zestier

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I wandered into Sur La Table for a lemon zester and stood at the check-out counter while the transaction was being completed.  As I waited, a hulking figure emerged from the back room carrying a bag full of money.  He was wearing a dark blue uniform and the brightest smile I have seen since my soon-to-be son-in-law caught his first glimpse of his bride walking down the aisle a couple of decades ago.

As he passed by, he looked me straight in the eye with a grin the size of Texas and wished me a cheery “Good morning.”  How is it, I wonder, that just one beaming smile coupled with an enthusiastic, heartfelt “good morning” can leave me feeling so over-the-top-happy?  What a zesty guy!

I had only one word for the encounter.  “Wow,” I said.  My gaze followed him out the door as he walked toward his armored truck.  Reading my mind, the cashier glanced at me with a faraway look in her eye and a soft smile on her face.  “I know,” she said.  “I really look forward to Friday mornings when he comes in because I always feel so good when he’s here, and all day even after he leaves.”

The man had a palpable, larger-than-life presence that lit up the room and left me in a state of awe.  In that one brief instant, I was reminded that we all carry a presence, and that what we carry within ourselves reaches out and touches those around us, for better or for worse. It made me stop for a moment and ask myself what it is that I am sending out to those around me, to the ones I love, and to strangers.

What about the people who zoom down the shoulder of the road and cut in the front of the line, or those who leave their dog’s droppings for other people to step in, or the folks whose empty Budweiser cans I pick up on my daily walks?  What about the myriad of other small irritations that are available to confront my peace of mind every single day of my life?  Are my thoughts and judgments polluting the air around me, and negatively impacting those unfortunate unsuspecting souls who happen to stand within close range?  Worse, are they polluting my own inner space?  Do I allow these small little annoyances to become volcanic in my mind?  Or do I embrace them as part of a plan to grow up and get over it?

I’m not sure that I can possibly begin to imagine what it must be like to live within that man’s big heart.  I can’t think of any cause greater than to spread kindness and goodwill just simply by being.  But just for an instant, I’d sure like to be able to pop inside his skin and check it out for myself, to experience how it feels to reside within such an amazing presence.  No, I can’t imagine it.  But this much I do know.  I want to be a zester just like him when I grow up.  After all, I am the only one who can do something about how they will feel when I walk away, right?

To Do or Not to Do?

 

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I’m not a Catholic girl, but recently I’ve noticed a tendency to want to start new blogs with, “Forgive me Father, it has been 13 days since my last blog.”  I’m not quite sure what I need to be forgiven for, but I have concluded that clearly, it must have something to do with myself.  Whatever.  Maybe the answer to that will become clear as this blog—or this day—or this lifetime moves on.  We’ll see.  Or not.

I’ve done a lot of blog stop-starts in the past few days but they are just that.  Starts and stops.  Life is like that sometimes—a series of starting stuff that I don’t finish.  Maybe that’swhat I need to forgive myself for, especially those days when I just can’t seem to get out of my own way.  Heaven help me—I’m in a blog fog!

A few days ago when lethargy was the order of the day, I blamed it on post Royal Wedding Blues. All of that glorious anticipation and activity leading up to The Great Moment when Harry and Meghan finally tied the knot and we all had our curious little questions answered.  Will Harry wear a uniform and keep his beard? Will he wear a wedding ring? Who will walk Meghan down the aisle?  What will her dress be like and who was the designer?  You know—all of those intriguing questions that tickled the world’s fancy for weeks on end.

Well it was either that, or a week of grey gloomy weather that added to the post wedding blues that got me, or maybe a combination platter.  Whatever it was, voila!  Instant depression.  How depressing!

Okay so today is a whole new day and I’m over it.  I’ve allowed myself the luxury of a full do-nothing, guilt-free, three-day wallow and now it’s time to move on.  There is something really therapeutic about giving oneself the gift of a good wallow, provided it is not allowed to go on for too long lest it become self-defeating hence unhealthy.  Three days max.

Now here I am, fresh as a daisy, bright as a star with a whole day (albeit another gloomy one) in front of me with nothing on my calendar and nothing pressing to do.  So many options, so many choices!  In her recent blog, Natalietalksabout.com inspired me to declutter a jewelry drawer.  I could do that, I suppose.  Or write a blog about decluttering (and with any luck it might even make it to the finish line).  Or I could stop procrastinating and plant some flowers and herbs in the pots on my balcony.  Well maybe—I never like to rush into anything.  Whoa–were those the Blue Angels that just streaked overhead past my balcony?  If I had been out there tending to pots, perhaps I wouldn’t have missed seeing them.  Oh well–maybe later–

Meanwhile, lest I fritter away the entire day in indecision mode, best I pick one and just DO it.  So here I am DOING it, and as it turns out, the IT is a blog.  Well, whatdya know—I think maybe it might even be finished.  Today there is hope about making it as far as the jewelry drawer.  I’m not too sure about those empty pots however but God willing, tomorrow is another day.

Hot dog.  Today there is nothing to feel guilty about or forgive myself for.  Not today, not any day, no matter how naughty I think that I may have been. God bless God for giving us do-over’s—the chance to fix what isn’t really broken in the first place.  I’ll drink to that.  Except that I don’t drink anymore.  Drat.  Maybe I’ll just celebrate with a push of the post button and dance a little happy dance instead.

Ye haw.  Thank you God!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is the Meaning of This?

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In keeping with my usual “get-up-early-so-I-can-loaf-longer” mode, it is o’dark-thirty and I have been up for over an hour and a half.  So far, I have picked up my pen instead of my computer (a major start-of-the-day accomplishment), meditated, walked and fed the dog, and just settled down to enjoy my second cup of coffee.  Somewhere between the twenty steps that separate the kitchen from my Lazygirl, a small kamikaze fly took a suicide dive into my coveted second cup. Bummer.

My normal modus operandi would be to immediately ask myself,  “What is the meaning of this?”   Today I have admitted to myself that perhaps there is no meaning in this.  But hey—it wouldn’t be like me not to wonder just a little bit—and to use the incident as a springboard to the discovery some sort of magical, mystical, amazing hidden Truth that suddenly reveals itself as a reward for my continual forward march on the obstacle-strewn path to Nirvana. What is my life after all, if nothing but a search for meaning?

The fly-in-the-coffee routine is reminiscent of the wasp-in-the-purse number that occurred a number of years ago.  It makes me wonder—why bother to search for meaning when I have already found it long ago (and apparently forgotten it again)?  That would be a little like reinventing the wheel.  On the other hand, what with my forgetful ways, I always do appreciate a good reminder because Heaven knows, I can use all of them I can get!

Just so you know—the little story that you are about to read was lifted right out of my book, Amusings—Looking at Life Through a Stained Glass Window.  Is it blog- cheating to plagiarize myself?  I don’t know, but I’m going to do it anyway, so here goes.  The following little vignette is titled The Wasp.

Have you ever popped into your car, reached your hand into your purse to find your keys and discovered that there was a wasp wandering around somewhere between your checkbook and wallet?  It is probably a moment you would prefer reading about when it happened to someone else than actually experiencing for yourself.

Well, we had quite a time, the wasp and I.  We had a little conversation—seems I did most of the talking—while the nosy little itinerant inspected the contents of my handbag.  Hitching a ride to somewhere, and looking for a bite of free lunch, I supposed.  I wasn’t much looking forward to being his mid-day meal.

Apparently, I managed to talk some sense into the tiny critter’s head, because before too very long, s/he flew out the open car window, rather than risk being bludgeoned to death by the contents of a closed purse being pounded in panic against a hot asphalt parking lot.  Thank goodness.

Once my heart rate returned to normal, I immediately launched into my usual what-does-this-mean mode, and concluded that the wasp had given me a very great gift.  I drove away thanking the clever powers that be for the experience, because now—ta dah—I had a juicy little tidbit of insight for the subject of my next writing session.

There was a time when I thought that daily bread was a tangible, like money, or food. (Naturally, I’d be thinking in terms of food).  But that day, thanks to my friend the wasp, I came to an entirely new understanding about the meaning of daily bread.  Daily bread became transformed in my mind from the tangibles of food and money into food for thought.  I moved from the tangible to intangible, then back to tangible again, by bringing ideas, creativity, wisdom and inspiration into physical manifestation through words as a personal expression of individual creativity.

Some folks can take their ideas and build buildings, or paint masterpieces, or write great American novels, or take embryonic ideas and turn them into enormous business empires. Well I had an unfortunate relationship with geometry, never got past kindergarten art, and my grandiose, highfalutin entrepreneurial ideas have long since gone up in smoke, along with the dream of making it onto Oprah’s book list.

But I’m not dead yet! Thanks to that unexpected, uninvited visitor in my purse, I was given an idea and a story to tell, along with a healthy dose of insight, inspiration, and willingness to use it creatively. So the idea is to write the idea. And who knows?  Maybe one day the idea will be published somewhere and I’ll even get paid fir it.  Now wouldn’t that be something!

Either way, published or not, when I fail to write for myself as a personal expression of my own inner creativity, I’m starving myself to death.

Oh Lord, give me this day my daily bread.  I’m too young to die.

 

 

 

 

Sowing and Reaping

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I wake up on a lovely rainy morning and search my mind for what’s up for the day.  Lunch with some friends closely followed by a nap. Well, it just doesn’t get much better than that, now does it? With nothing pressing on my agenda, I settle myself into my Lazygirl with my first cup of coffee of the day, put my feet up on the matted sheepskin that disguises a well worn hassock, and open my Kindle to Practicing the Presence by Joel Goldsmith, one of my favorite spiritual writers/teachers. Nothing to do right now except relax and wallow around in the luxury of comfort, good coffee, and infinite possibility. And listen to the raindrops.

As I sit back to enjoy my quiet time, I read a few passages about abundance and my mind transports me back a few decades ago to a day that still brings a sense of awe.  It lives forever on in my memory and amazes me still as I recollect the fullness and abundance contained within it.

I do not recall the exact details, but what I remember the most about it is putting my head on the pillow at the end of the day and looking back over what I had accomplished during my waking hours.  It was if I had entered a wormhole in space that allowed me to zoom throughout the day at warp speed doing anything and everything that I could possibly think of to do.  I shifted into Superwoman mode and away I went full speed ahead.

The accomplishments of the day were astounding—not just the little piddling stuff, like returning phone calls or doing laundry.  No, it was more like clean out the basement, organize the junk closet, run a month worth of errands all over town, scrub the kitchen floor within an inch of its life, and have a dinner party for six that night stuff.  Really?  Did I do all of that in one day?  And still have energy left to spare?  On a normal day in my life, the mere thought of tackling any one of those tasks would have sent me running back to the shelter and comfort of my waiting Lazygirl. How did this happen?  Whatever did I sow in order to reap such great benefits?

As I allowed Joel Goldsmith’s words to sink into my head and heart, I realized again what I have heard many times before and often forgotten.  All things are possible, provided that I acknowledge that God, All That Is, the Universe, or whatever one wants to call it, is the total and complete source of all, and I am part of that all, and therefore all that God is I am. And so are you.  Period.  All that I am and all that I have is simply an outpouring of that which exists within myself, and is mine provided that I recognize, realize, and acknowledge the Truth of it. The minute I forget and think that I, or a friend, or family member, or job is the source of my happiness or my supply, I have lost sight of my divine nature and fail to experience that which is my natural inheritance, my birthright.

If the miraculous expansion of time is any indicator of the miracles that God can pull off without even being asked, imagine the possibilities of what can be done with those little strips of paper and stacks of metal disks that we call money.  Can they not multiply and stretch as well?  If I have $100 in my pocket, can it not disappear in a heartbeat as if never there?  Or by some miraculous phenomenon can it seem to stretch into twice as much or more, providing greater benefit than it’s apparent limited value?

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Was that magical day a gift to teach me about abundance, to demonstrate that there is always enough time, always enough money, and that there is never a need to live in lack of any sort?  The gift of abundance comes in many forms.  One can have an abundance of misery or an abundance of joy.  It is a matter of choice.  It is all a state of mind.  As a man  thinketh in his heart so is he.  As ye sow, so shall ye reap.

If, in my limited way of thinking I can find nothing to write about, and then suddenly I awake one morning with an idea so compelling that I have no choice but to run to my computer and start typing, is that not also abundance?

“The principle of abundance is:  “To him that hath, so shall be given.” Practice this principle by casting your bread upon the waters, giving freely of yourself and your possessions, knowing that what you are giving is God’s, and that you are merely the instrument as which it flows out into the world.  Never look for a return, but rest in quiet confidence in the assurance that within is the fountain of life and His grace is your sufficiency in all things.  In that certainty, born of an inner understanding of the letter of truth, you have.  The cup of joy runs over, and all that the Father has flows forth into expression.

Joel Goldsmith ~~ Practicing the Presence

 

 

Trashy Dreams

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Allow me to introduce myself.  I am Julia, self-appointed Queen of the Trash Room.  This honor is bestowed upon me courtesy of my own idiocy as a result of my willingness to join the board of directors of the condo building where I live. Clearly, we do not have a janitor.

My kingdom includes a 300-square foot trash room with cinder block walls, a concrete floor, and a dumpster, the receptacle for whatever crazy stuff that residents can think of to send down the chute from six floors above.  I don’t recommend vacuum cleaners.  The result of such folly inevitably creates a horror show that would send a janitor running for his life.  Would that we had one but alas, I’m it.

If the dumpster is overloaded the bags bounce onto the floor and heaven help anyone who might be standing in the way.  The room itself is the collector of an unimaginable assortment of dumped household belonging—an unholy mix of trash, garbage, and recyclables—fluorescent bulbs, half empty paint cans, discarded electronics, mattresses, broken desk chairs—the possibilities are endless.  Happy am I when the room is tidy and clean, empty of assorted litter and junk because then in my world, all is well and God is in her heaven.

It’s bad enough when I have to deal with this garbage for real—but really—do I have to do it in my dreams too?

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Last night I had a hideous nightmare in which someone dumped a 60-gallon dirty yellow container down the chute, and rather than using a securely-tied plastic bag to rein in the contents, the expletive-deleted perpetrator had filled the thing with a broken down cardboard carton full of loose trash.  Naturally, the container landed upside down and emptied its mountainous load of yukkiness all over the floor, a horror show of epic proportions.  The Queen of Trash nearly had a fainting spell at the mere sight of it, not to mention the mind-numbing prospect of having to clean it all up.  To make matters worse, the container had a wheel broken off, a sure indicator that it too qualified as trash, providing an even greater puzzle to solve.  Is it recyclable? Is it plastic or rubberized? Is rubber recyclable?  How am I supposed to get rid of that?

As I stood at the intersection of horrified and enraged, an idea popped into my head.  “Hey, wait a minute.” I thought.  “Maybe this is just a nightmare, and if so, I don’t have to worry about how to clean it up.  Maybe I can just wake up and poof—problem solved!  Wouldn’t that just be miraculous?”  And with that, my eyes popped open and I woke up with a realization that it was indeed, just a dream.  Words cannot possibly begin to describe the mixture of gratitude, relief, and joy that I experienced to discover the unreality of that nasty situation.

This trashy nightmare brings to mind a question that I have pondered many times over my lifetime. What is real?  What is illusion?  While I sleep, my nighttime dreams become my reality and are as concrete as the floor of that trash room.  They are as real as the world seems to be when I am in a so-called waking state.  Yet when I am walking around in the daytime with my eyes wide open and think that I am awake, the dreams that I have at night vanish into thin air and quickly fade and are forgotten.  Where do the nighttime dreams go?  Where do the daytime dreams go?  Which one is real?

Perhaps none of it is real.  Perhaps it is all only an illusion.  Perhaps we are all asleep and dreaming and perhaps one day we will all wake up to a new reality in which we realize that life is nothing more than a dream, a movie projected by our minds based upon what we think, feel, perceive, or believe is real.

In the meantime, perhaps we are all living in the same dream with a common belief in love and fear, good and evil, right and wrong, black and white, beliefs that divide and separate us from one another when in truth we are all one, we are all the same, we all are only here on classroom earth learning how to get along together and to let go of fear and replace it with love.  We’re all teachers, we’re all students, we’re all in it together.

Let’s face it—the world we live in today could qualify as a nightmare.  I don’t know about you, but I’m going to do my best to turn the nightmare into a happy dream and wake up to the Truth that the only thing that is real is love.  Meanwhile, I’m going to practice loving my enemies.  It isn’t easy, but the result is surely worth the effort.  Care to join me?

Bye for now. See you in my dreams.

With love,

Julia, Queen of Trash