Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Truth of an Ending

Relationships are complex. I realize large doses of energy are spent considering relationship of some form - with myself - with others - with God. I woke up this morning with these words running through my mind - It is in relationship that we are broken and in relationship we are healed.

There's a theme of abandonment that runs through my personal narrative... So, much of the time I feel as though ended relationships are a failure on my part. If only I'd done something different, perhaps the relationship would have survived. If only I'd been a better friend, mother, daughter, fill-in-the blank, maybe they wouldn't have left. Sound familiar?

And then there are those relationships where I know I was the one who threw down the gauntlet and said, "This isn't working. Something needs to change" and the other party chose not to engage, and the relationship ended. So then what? Who has failed? Perhaps no one. Maybe everyone.

As I awoke this morning, I was greeted with these words, "magically" appearing in the form of "Today's Gift":

"Regret is an appalling waste of energy, you can't build on it: it's only good for wallowing in." - Katherine Mansfield

"Sentences beginning with "if only" can go nowhere but straight to regret... At times it's we, ourselves, who do the leaving. We can count it a success, not a failure, when we've had the courage to acknowledge the truth of an ending." -- Joan Larkin

That last sentence is slowly creating a shift in my perspective. Can I claim the bravery in seeing 'the truth of an ending'- the wisdom of letting go - the necessity of saying good-bye?

Are there places where you hang onto regret and find yourself wallowing in "if only's"? Would your perspective change if you saw the ending of a defunct relationship as a success rather than a failure? Can you listen to the truth that lies within your own heart - remembering there are three kinds of relationship - with God - with others - and with yourself?

Will you ponder alongside me?

"friends" photo © lucy

Monday, April 26, 2010

Book Review: God is Not One

When TLC Book Tours contacted me about writing a review of Stephen Prothero's new book, God is Not One, I found myself connecting to the topic through my personal lens. Surrounded by fundamental Christianity throughout childhood and early adulthood, I was taught and believed, there was only One "True" God. It was easier to don the mantle of others rather than break out of the structured mold and delve into the stirring questions with my own curiosity.

It was not until my middle years that I began to question who God is to me. As I have explored outside the boundaries of Christianity and learned about other faiths, I have found a broader and more encompassing God than the one of my upbringing. There has been ensuing peace and a sense of personal freedom as I have made connection with those I previously considered "different" (religious or otherwise). So, when asked to read and offer a review of God is Not One, I found myself grating at the division which I thought the book implied. I was not prepared for the delightful surprise that followed.

The book's subtitle - "the eight rival religions that run the world -- and why their differences matter" - found me focusing on the "rival" and "difference" aspect as I braced myself for another dialogue stirring the world toward division instead of unity. While most books on religion or "anti-religion" (think Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins) push an agenda of their belief, Prothero is a breath of fresh air who leaves lots of space to welcome your own conclusion.

Divided into nine succinct chapters, Prothero leads the reader through a journey of knowledge and enlightenment about eight significant religions and "a brief coda on atheism." Throughout the pages, he lets us wrestle with the question of how we even define religion (e.g. "Like Buddhism, Confucianism can't seem to make up its mind about the religion thing. So it calls into question what we mean by religion and in the process helps us to see it in a new light.") He also isn't afraid to pepper a few of his own thoughts and beliefs throughout the pages in a nonjudgmental way. (e.g. "Although I do not believe that this life is a mere dress rehearsal for the next..., I (Prothero) was moved by passages about the "homecoming" Muslims believe they have waiting in God.")

The author's voice includes both wisdom and humor, and I found myself savoring each chapter as a beautiful course leading toward a full meal. Granted, there were times I got bogged down, particularly when trying to decipher religions that are confusing even to their followers (think... multiple Hindu gods and layers of philosophy). Nevertheless, this tasty treat kept me turning the pages and finding myself moving toward a fuller understanding of the world we inhabit.

Rather than finding discord, I continued to discover tidbits that resonate with my own faith and wishing I could do as Prothero asks of one of his Boston University classes and create my own religion. By leaning into the similarities, rather than pushing away from the differences, my world broadened as I opened the door to greater understanding of significant cultures around the world. (For example, I had never heard of Yoruba which may account for as many as 100 million people. Nor had I ever considered the rich tradition of Confucianism as anything other than the source of 'Confucius says' humor).

God is Not One is by no means an exhaustive volume on these religions, however, it is a well-thought out and documented resource which I will return to again and again. For anyone wanting to broaden their understanding of world religions without spending years doing research, this book is a rare find. It balances nicely between factual information and easy-to-read status. Personally, I found it fascinating and will highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in issues of personal faith, world alliance or inter-faith dialogue.

While I recognize the importance of understanding differences, one mantra kept running through my head as I read each chapter - We are all searching for one thing, and that one thing is encapsulated in the word Freedom.

Much of my personal doctrine comes from the belief that we either operate out of our capacity to love or to fear. By refusing to engage with what we fear, (in this case, other religions) our capacity for relationship is hindered at best, and most likely becomes destructive (as witnessed daily in the world). Human beings can remain in personal or global bondage by refusing to step outside boundaries of knowledge, or we can choose to seek freedom by understanding ourselves and our world more wholly. Whether you are a seeker looking for contextual understanding of your own personal faith, or longing for peace in the larger world, God is Not One is a must-read.

In conclusion, Prothero offers, "Whether religion divides or unites depends on whether we can learn to talk about it with some measure of empathetic understanding." God is Not One is an excellent conversation starter. I invite you to join in the dialogue today!

Stephen Prothero is the New York Times bestselling author of Religious Literacy and a professor of religion at Boston University. Visit him online at www.stephenprothero.com.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Foolishness is in the Air

The element of air is with me today, as I meditate on the lightness of a feather. My “fool” cards from SoulCollage® pop into my mind and I start to play with the “I am the one who…” exercise. While all of the following words were written to myself during morning pages, pay close attention and see if you find yourself within them…

I am the one who is light as a feather. I am the one who floats on air – light, airy, pink. Carried by balloons – colorful & delightful. I am the one who makes peace with who I am by turning old expectations upside down. I feel the breeze behind me, above me, below me, around me. Look, do you see me? I am not foolish.

And so I ask, what do you have to give me? What I have to give you is peace, joy, rest in knowing who you are. You're only as old as you think you are. Question: What age would you be if you didn't know how old you are?
Answer: It doesn't matter!!! Remember that - that's what I want you to remember.

It doesn't matter if you have wrinkles or saggy arms or skin as fresh as a new born baby. Be yourself. Lighten up. Don't stop when you hear the voice of the stopper. Just go. Let go! Play, laugh, love. Be free as a bird. Blossom.

Who are you? I am the one who laughs and plays and drums and dances and blooms. I am the one who doesn't hide behind conventional wisdom. I am the one who says, "Go," not "Stop." There are lots of ways, as long as you're moving in the direction of your heart. Stop holding onto what "others" think. Play. Release. Let go. Drum and dance. Stop stopping You!!

Play. Bloom. You won't be foolish. God's wisdom is not what the world thinks it is. We all want to play, but we get stuck. Stuck in the paradigms we think are true. We think spirituality has to look stale and safe. We've taken the fun out of worship. We've put churches inside buildings rather than out in the fresh air on the cliffs and near the water. We've forgotten how to take off our shoes and run through the grass. We hear our mothers saying, "Don't get dirty. Finish your work before you go out to play." Guess what? The work is never done.

I want to feel everything around me. To feel the wind in my hair. The breeze on my skin. The sun kissing my beauty. Be free. Dance like the feather. Let your hands fly with your own rhythm. Laugh like there is no tomorrow. Eat what you want & what makes you happy. Nourishment is all you need and laughter is the best nourishment of all. Stop hiding. Bloom, friend, bloom. Reach toward freedom.

So... I invite you to consider where the element of air carries you today!!

inspired by Abbey of the Arts Easter E-Course &
soul collage creations by lucy

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Honoring earth day and air

"Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair." Kahlil Gibran

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

morning's whirlwind

Focusing on breath, yet finding I scarcely have time to breathe.
Listening to the cat's purr - wishing I could be so content.
From where has this whirlwind of my mind come? How can I make it stop?
I've typed over a thousand words this morning. Breathed a dozen cleansing breaths.
Started and stopped and still...
the tornado of ideas and creations and concerns whirls through my mind,
creating it's own wind tunnel of chaos.

Yesterday, I walked in the wind. I felt Spring's air upon my bare legs -
my skirt floating on the breeze of God and the steps of my desire.
I watched the newly bursting lilac blooms nod to me as I passed by.
A floating kite appeared in the sky, its imaginary string held in my palm.
I paused and naughtily picked a dandelion puff and blew the seeds into the wind,
(being mindful, of course, to avoid the neatly manicured lawn along my path.)

Wind. Breath of God. Ruach.
I write and I recall those moments of bliss,
and in the recollection, I am once again - if only for a moment-

photo circa 1997 © h3 images - artwork currently on display here and here.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What We Already Know

Did I ever tell you about my Hawaiian labyrinth experience? Perhaps not because it kind of fits into one of those categories of inexplicable. It was a journey even getting there. Recommended by my friend and fellow spiritual director, Mary Ellen, we (six adult family members) were on a mission to find the Sacred Gardens in Maui. (In reality, my sister and I were on the mission - the rest were more or less agreeable to join in the adventure.)

Upon arriving at the gardens, we were greeted by their giant guardian angel, Bodie. His joyful presence occupied the dog lovers with 150 pounds of slobbering puppy love. The gardens, book store and two labyrinths nestled into the center of this tropical island were entertainment enough for the rest of the gang.

When I finally made my way outside to the path surrounded by tropical forest, a fellow traveler had already started his walk. Rather than crowd him, I waited until he reached the center and began his trek out. For a few minutes we traversed the gravel pathway together, moving in and out along the sacred road. While I was only mildly aware of his presence, there came a moment when he stopped at the edge of the circle, paused and then stepped out. In that split second, I felt a noticeable shift in the energy around me - not good, not bad, just different. The labyrinth was now all mine.

Walking with gentle steps, I became aware of light raindrops touching my bare skin. There was something fresh and new about the drops sifting through the green foliage, while contented birds sang in tune with my every step. Not being one to let a little water slow me down (it is, after all, my word for the year), I continued my pilgrimage. The rain persisted and picked up speed as I realized I would soon be soaking wet (having only just dried out from the morning's beach combing.) That was when the second angel appeared - Eve, (appropriately named in this garden of Eden) the proprietress, silently offered me a giant umbrella to help keep me dry.

Striped bumbershoot in hand, I continued my walk toward center. Upon arrival, I found the rest of the world had slipped away. I wasn't aware of anyone or anything except the present moment. Time stood still. As I tipped my head back to peek from beneath my shelter, the rain slowed down to the pace creation. I could see each drop appearing, one by one. And as I felt my whole being stretching upward, I experienced the hands of God reaching for my own - forming the drops of moisture out of thin air and pouring them into the being that is me. Aaahhhhhh. Yes, time stood still.

There are moments in a lifetime, I believe, that cause a molecular shift in your whole being. Even though they may drift in and out of conscious memory, they are embedded in who I am - in who you are. Currently, I am reading about Yoruba religion (a new one for me). In this tradition, Yoruba wisdom speaks of "recalling what we already know within." While I cannot adequately describe with words, I know that standing in the center of the Sacred Garden's labyrinth was one of those moments of "recalling."

How about you? Have you ever experienced moments of recalling what you already know deep within?

For my "official" review of God is Not One, visit here Monday, April 26 when I’m featured on the TLC Book Tour.

Bodie & Sacred Gardens © h3 images - artwork currently on display here and here.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Water Reflections

The Drop and the Sea
I went looking for Him
And lost myself;
The drop merged with the Sea --
Who can find it now?

Looking and looking for Him
I lost myself;
The Sea merged with the drop --
Who can find it now?

by Kabir

photo © h3 images

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Even girls in tutus cry…

This morning I had the lovely and rare opportunity of meeting with a dear friend and spending a few hours dreaming together of creative possibilities for our lives. Our time together was made even more extraordinary by the backdrop of Shilshole Bay. The sun was shining, the wind calm and the temperature perfect - especially when wrapped in our warm blankies.

Part of my dreaming included ‘fessing up to some of the things that stop me from moving forward. These mainly consisted of journal whining with words like, “I could never…” or “Everybody else does it better than me…”

The background of this conversation featured children, mainly in the 2-4 year old range, romping up and down the beach – some with shovels in hand, others wearing brightly colored hats, most being trailed by mothers trying to keep up with the toddlers’ mad dashes toward the sea. One little girl in particular caught my eye. She was several yards down the beach, but close enough to see she was wearing a fabulous pink and black tutu – her mop of curly auburn hair flying in the breeze of her own making.

Tutus always catch my fancy. I’m not sure I ever owned one of my own and haven’t quite convinced myself that romping on the beach in a pink tutu would be my best look right now. However… I can easily get caught up in the magic of tulle and as I watched her from a distance, I felt empowered to overcome my journal whining and replace my “I could never” with a most certain, “Of course I can!”

A brief stop in the ladies’ room before heading home, brought us face to face with tutu girl. Her glee had been replaced by bellowing cries and fear at the sound of the hand dryer. The illusion of only perfection in tulle was momentarily shattered. Which was the illusion? What is the reality? Would my resolve waver too? Perhaps it was only the magic of the beach, sunshine and the tutu that made my dreams seem possible.

Nevertheless, I leaned into my resolve and listened to my inner creative spirit as I realized sometimes…
…even girls in tutus cry.

photos taken another day @ Shilshole Bay

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

To Be or Not to Be

Focus. It seems so funny to me that the word focus would arise with me this morning. As I look back at my morning journal pages, they show little focus (or volume recently). They appear abrupt and interrupted – unfocused. Can they be enough? Can I be enough? Can simply “being” be enough?

The focus of Being. I see it as the tension between allowing things to bubble up – percolate – be what they will be in the moment, AND putting a course into action - following what wants to arise with more steps, through more effort.

For example, I want to write a book (yikes did I just say that?). Will it simply bubble up? Will someone just say, “Here, let me put those unfocused journals into a book for you”? Very unlikely. It takes effort – focus. Will my body get healthy if I just sit around “being” all the time? No, it takes at least a little push to get out and walk, take a class, stretch on my yoga mat.

So, here's where my morning musings landed:

Simply being doesn’t always cut it. Sometimes you have to focus.

Thoughts? Do you experience the tension between being and focusing? To be or not to be - that is the question - today.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Confucius says...

A few weeks ago, I was asked to participate in a virtual book tour reviewing a new book titled, God is Not One. This is NOT the official review, just a brief stop along the way. ☺

God is Not One carries the subtitle, “The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World – and Why Their Differences Matter.” Three chapters into the book, I have just finished reading about Confucianism. The chapter begins: “To many Westerners, Confucianism seems about as relevant as a fortune cookie.” I don’t know about you, but my prior experience with Confucianism is pretty much relegated to the occasional “Confucius says” humor.

After reading the first few pages of author Prothero’s synopsis, I heard myself announcing to my husband, “I think I might be a Confucianist.” Now, this also reminds me of my psychopathology class where we started with a brief quiz and ultimately proclaimed ourselves schizophrenic, bipolar and/or major depressive, because we met at least one diagnostic criteria from the DSM-IV-TR. Nevertheless, I found myself quite intrigued with Confucianism and wanted to share a few inspiring highlights from the book:

  • The earth is our home, Confucians have always insisted, and now is our time.
  • …regard the everyday human world as profoundly spiritual.
  • One of the hallmarks of Confucians is their conviction that ethics and ritual are inextricably intertwined.
  • “self-transformation…is a communal act.” Tu Weiming
  • Human beings are learners, and as we learn we become more ourselves.
  • …we become ourselves, and transform society, through others. The path to social harmony runs through human flourishing, and human flourishing is made possible through right relations with other human beings.
So what do you think? Anything about this ancient philosophy strike your fancy? I’m not sure I’m ready to convert given a few of the more traditional tenets, but I definitely enjoyed learning more about this ancient tradition that emphasizes human-heartedness.

For my "official" review of God is Not One, visit here Monday, April 26 when I’m featured on the TLC Book Tour.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

After Easter

Reflecting on my past week and considering what called to be shared this morning, I looked into my past few journal entries and was greeted with a heading “Where do you experience the body of Christ?” Words flowed and I found the answer easily in those places where I feel most myself – welcomed – connected – seen for who I am versus who others think I should be.... but, life isn’t always lived feeling welcome & connected.

“We cannot live without being affected by others, but we are only real when we let truth and love shape us from within.” -- Mark Nepo

This week has been an odd one for me. Easter has come and gone. Life feels much the same as before and it feels different. How do we live after Easter? This week has been a series of ups and downs. I’ve considered where I meet the risen Christ. I’ve struggled with betrayal. I’ve experienced hope. Rejoiced in laughter and silence.

Easter Sunday this year was spent celebrating behind prison walls and in many ways it was a more sincere celebration than ever before without all the pomp and circumstance. Feelings of unconditional love and hope for restoration resounded. Still...

A big question this week has been who are my friends? Who stands up for me and meets me on the road where I am? Who stays present when the going gets rough or uncomfortable? Who is willing to die alongside me – the small and large doses of death each day? How will I meet those who grieve (myself included)? How will you?

This week, I wrote notes of condolence (which I prefer to call notes of solidarity) to two friends – one who lost a child tragically to alcohol poisoning; the other, whose father died naturally of old age. I attended a celebration for people in recovery, honoring their healing and transformation. I walked in a hailstorm and was met by sunshine when I turned a corner. Yes, it has been an odd week and a very normal one.

Reflecting again on “where do I experience the body of Christ?” I realize it is in all these places – behind prison walls & freely walking in my neighborhood – in death, life and resurrection. Struggling with betrayal and rejoicing in blessings. There is no separation. If Christ is risen – if I am risen – we must experience each other where our joy and wounds meet. Feeling the cross and the resurrection. Before. After. Now.

“Origami Emotion”

Elizabeth Barrette

Hope is
Folding paper cranes
even when your hands get cramped
and your eyes tired,
working past blisters and
paper cuts,
simply because something in you
insists on
opening its wings.

The collages shown here were co-created with my friend, MaryEllen, to honor the participants in our recent class,

Deepening Spirituality through SoulCollage.

top to bottom: Jan, Mikey, Jo, Q, Jeana

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Embracing the Fool Workshop

A few spaces left so Sign Up Now!

Please join me Friday, April 16 from 6:30 - 9:30 p.m. to explore the Archetype of the Fool by creating your own SoulCollage® cards.

Beginners and experienced collagers are welcome at this three-hour workshop. All supplies and instruction will be provided in a relaxed and fun atmosphere.

Workshop held at Soma Yoga in Crown Hill (Seattle). Pre-registration cost is $35. ($40 - night of the event) Space is limited, so register today. For questions or to sign up, please leave me a message or e-mail lucystdiamond@gmail.com. Feel free to pass this information along to anyone who might be interested.

SoulCollage® is the process, developed by Seena B. Frost, of creating a deck of collaged cards from found images for the primary purpose of self-exploration and self-acceptance.

You can visit the official SoulCollage® website here.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Easter Reflections

Saturday – For now we wait – in this place between death and redemption – dark and light. A mother sitting at the foot of the cross watching her son die. Others stand with her AND she can only stand alone. No one can know the heartbreak of her own cross – her flesh and blood pouring from the wounds.

Today, the day in between, we wait. Have we not always waited? Death & resurrection. Birth & new life. How did we get here? Sitting at the cross. Moving east toward sunrise . East toward the tomb.

For what do I wait? The already and the not yet. Jesus’ way. His life is my life. Buried and crucified. Killed for loving. Was it worth it? Yes – every moment. I could not be here if I hadn’t gone there. And now we wait.

“The tomb becomes a womb today.” Richard Rohr

Sunday – Sitting in last night's Easter vigil, I was not ready for the lights to come on. The darkness comforting – holding – peaceful & womblike. No resurrection – yet. No bright lights. No breaking the silence with a rousing Alleluia.

“Love is not a victory march. It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.”
-- Leonard Cohen

Today, I sit with you, Lord, knowing you are risen. Knowing it’s not about the grave or the cross or even death itself. It’s about now. You are here with me in this quiet moment. Risen. Yes.

I am happy to have sat in the dark of last night’s vigil. Today the light feels harsh. The celebration of bonnets and bunnies is too much. Instead, I sit in my jeans and t-shirt waiting to go to the Washington State Penitentiary to see my own flesh and blood.

We are rising. Already and not yet. We will go and sit and keep our own vigil on this day of resurrection. And in my heart, I will sing a broken Hallelujah – remembering the beauty in brokenness - waiting - and Love.

photo © h3images

Thursday, April 01, 2010

How Foolish is that?

For weeks now I’ve been reflecting on the irony of Maundy Thursday falling on April Fool’s Day. Questions keep swimming through my mind. They started in full force earlier this week when the gospel story had Mary (possibly) Magdalene pouring expensive perfume onto Jesus’ feet. How foolish is she? thought the observing witnesses. And then today, Jesus says to his disciples I will wash your feet. What? they wondered. How foolish is that? And then we go onto the greater story – a man would die and rise from the dead. He would die so that others might live. He did it willingly. How foolish is that?

I also wonder if Jesus asked the same question of his heavenly Father? Really? Put me on a stake and kill me, so others might have life? You’ve got to be kidding? They say he did not question. Still...I wonder.

The apostle Paul says, "We are fools for Christ's sake.” I Corinthians 4:10

The archetypal Fool is celebrated today. Coming in a variety of forms (clown, court jester, trickster, happy child), the Fool always causes us to take notice and reminds us how to Lighten Up! This lively character has a unique way of embracing life and turning 'normal' circumstances upside down.

Don’t you think this sounds just a bit like Mary and/or Jesus: “embracing life and turning 'normal' circumstances upside down?”

Today is Maundy Thursday and it is April Fool’s Day – I believe there is no irony. Will you consider this? Where might you be taking life too seriously? Where are you living so lightly, others are forgotten? Will you wash another’s feet today - literally or metaphorically? Will you tiptoe through the tulips of God’s creation? Will you embrace life for what it is – foolish, dark, majestic? Will you be a fool for Love’s sake?

(If you haven't signed up for my diamonds in the soul newsletter yet, click on the box in the right hand column for further discussion of "the Fool.")

'neighborhood reflections' © lucy 3.29.10