Prep yourself, I'm about to go all over the place with this post. My usual approach in writing for Lifencompass.com has been to write, step away, return and edit. I may add a few things here or there but when I journal I allow myself the freedom to express without all the tailoring involved in "writing" so that I can get the letting loose that I am looking for. It's a blog, I realize that I do this for myself. As a reflection on the Journey I hope you get something out of it as well. Back in the days of working for Borders Books in Westwood where I ran the Religion and Metaphysics section; Where I worked with a lovely crew of zany, intelligent and diverse people, I can drum up a gaggle of conversations about various religious and spiritual topics. One of my coworkers then, forgive me my dear I cannot remember your name it has been over 10 years, and I had a conversation about the Old Testament. Her, being Jewish, was a wealth of information and understanding about Jewish traditions and not only facts about the old Bible but insights into meaning. She, my coworker, drew not just on the word of their law but on the deeper personal meaning that she found within the passages of her holy book.
Over shelves we would chat while putting order to the books by author and stocking shelves with old and new titles. It was through this coworker... PAM, that's her name, that I came to have a more rounded understanding of the Old Testament. I'm not expert, barely novice, but with the last few weeks in mind I am brought to a conversation we had about life at the time and her understanding through a passage from the Tanakh about the Pharisees. I can't quote the passage but out of our talk about how stubborn people can be in the face of truth she dropped an insight feather into the cap of our thoughts.
"I think that maybe God hardened the Pharisees to break them because our strength is not in remaining stubborn and fixed on the Law, but in learning to be supple and bend in our world so that 'The Law' is living, and constant with change. They were not stubborn... they were made hard to break so that they may learn from that experience." (I'm summarizing that conversation).
I had to mull that one around in the brain because I am not a biblical centered person.
Looking back I can see the reflection as plain as the birds on a feather, I had hardened. At the time I was in my Testament, learning softness and humility by becoming hard and life, breaking me down to see the value in our amazing co-dependence.
Many of you may be wondering why I am quoting the Bible but I want to freshen things up with a new idea and talk about my personal lesson in the last few weeks. I don't beat the bible tho I often rail on my perception of what I see as the word being used for personal ends by selfish people. Good spiritual people exist in all traditions, I see that, I hope you recognize this as I write this post.
Side tracking with purpose, after this last weekend I have been inspired by a new word combination, "Spiritual Cosmonaut." I realized at some point during my trip this last weekend to San Simeon, CA, that I can be a bit of a traveler into other spiritual traditions. I see that this as a realized strength, one I had not quite put my finger on before. Knowing it [this idea about myself] but not really defining it, until certain experiences in my life conspired for my personal growth.
Personal growth is spiritual growth. I mean this in a conscious manifestation of walking my path. If I have a spiritual idea, a value or insight, I weight it against several things like practicality, meaning, and how compassionate and realistic the insight is. Where does the moment of "ah ha" weigh in with regards to my life.
I have never been rooted in any one tradition other than spiritual development which is a bit of a crooked path, neither straight forward or meandering along a curving road. Peter Paddon described this in one of his podcasts [LINK] about the deeper mystical experience, and this too stuck to me in some strange way, adding to the mulling of information and insights coming my direction.
I'm sort of mixing all of this information still but I hope that in writing this I can journal out the meaning.
To sum up the essentials of what I have come to understand, I cannot and do not live without the help of friends and family, and the evolving life around me. I haven't blogged much, or hosted a healing event, or really done much of my personal work in a few weeks. A friend passed, we hit a few financial struggles, and I found that I had to weather through a lot to meet my commitments.
Life is an embrace. Sometimes the hug is a little to strong but I understand that it is the grip of living (on all levels) that I am feeling and my commitment to living can include a reminder to keep my intent in focus and flow with the moment I should just put one foot in front of the other, while things work out, resolve and evolve. As I came to this weekends Massage event, the "Best Buddies Challenge" I found myself stuck in a financial ditch and thinking that I wouldn't be able to go north and massage noble volunteers in their efforts to raise funding and awareness for those with intellectual disabilities.
What is the Best Buddies Challenge?
"It’s all in support of Best Buddies International, a non-profit dedicated to enhancing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. At the event, you will ride, run or walk along side Best Buddies participants. You’ll see the impact of your fundraising before your own eyes."
I'm very happy to say that I made it with the help of a friend and classmate. Yes I have come full circle on a life lesson, that means I understand that being hard to reach my goals isn't always the best way to accomplish them. Marie, my friend asked me to come. She re-organized carpool schedules, paid for dinner and breakfast and stared at the stars with me. I think it was the first time I have seen the Milky Way in a very long time, and that's inspiration all on its own, reminding me that through the lights of the city that drown out the starry sky, that we are not alone in this great creation.
Marie's generous spirit permeated all that we did, from a smile when we got a nice tip, to laughter over a funny situation (leg cramps) with a rider at the charity event. We also had the perfect road trip.
Before we left we talked about the road trip. The fear that drives people to speak when there is silence and our mutual understanding that chatter isn't necessary but giving voice when we find depth in the silence is just awesome. We arrived Friday and brought out tables to the event site for the Saturday event and then turned into the hotel. We wandered the hotel resort grounds on separate paths and met each other at the point unintentionally. We spent an awesome Saturday assisting and caring for those who rode their bikes, ran or walked for the Best Buddies Challenge. We left on Saturday around 5:00 pm and began the 5-hour drive home. It was in this leg of our journey that the real dialogue began, something I am sure I will remember for the rest of my life.
You see, going back to the Biblical note I made at the start of this entry, Marie is Christian, and really dam good one at that. She fosters compassion, lives the word of scripture and checks herself intellectually and spiritually when she is challenged. She lives blessing, giving from her connection to God and centers on this in a profound way that I believe many Christians should cultivate.
One the ride home we discussed so much and I came to understand what my feeling meant about being a spiritual cosmonaut and realizing that we are all indeed connected and interdependent. We crossed bridges, and we "crossed bridges" in conversation, creating new understandings that personally I knew to be there but connections that I have previously never been able to explore in good, connective and collaborative conversation. I find that at once that I have a strength in me to stay centered in my belief and still enter another's spiritual cosmology and not only draw meaning in reflection but hear, really hear outside of what I believe and learn a new path by entering it through leaving my belief behind and entering into another persons universe. A new cosmology. I am a Spiritual Cosmonaut.
This is a gift of affirmation and compassion. I feel a certain sense of "CHEEVE" (achievement) with our trip. I feel like I've made a very good friend. I feel like I'm closer to my spirituality through the tradition of another and wow do I feel good.
But wait there is more!
Prior to our drive we had talked about the before mentioned hurdles those challenges that are a death in our family and financial difficulty and all the issues around them. Marie had offered prayer to help with some of our troubles.
This churned around in my mind. Read that as I had some residual, cultural climate, issue about Christianity and prayer which translated to knee jerk reaction equating those things as religion and judgement. See my judgement? It's like a big red welt. Scar tissue. Not pretty. Needs more Massage, regularly. Right?
Right. There is my hardened spirit. Though I know in the deepest parts of me that we are talking in different formats about the same thing I get that I have armored up to Christianity, mostly because of the political-religious environment that many "Christians" have helped to create. I live in a country that says my life, my choices, and my essential being as a gay man is denied by the creator. Yet I find myself in a car with a wonderful woman creating connections through conversation and prayer (for some cash in my direction because I need it) who is fully supporting me, and and not judging me choosing to find meaning in her own spiritual practice to find connection, to create bridges so that we can become closer as friends and creators of deeper compassion. Marie prayed to God for some help in my current financial situation and, wait... the prayer was answered 10-fold. I have found myself asking for some opportunity and development that could help ease some of the monetary burdens we have and in four short days the money, tangibly, has come rolling in.
I found myself questioning my own spiritual practice. That's a really good thing in my opinion, critical thinking is the helpful twin to faith. Blind faith is blindness. Facts are lifeless without feeling and meaning. But I wondered why my prayers and work had not been answered up until this point.
Today it struck me like a rogue lightening bolt. In hardening myself to the tasks at hand I had forgotten my connection to all things, the rest of creation.
I had hunkered down into this "I got to do it on my own to solve it" mentality and that just wasn't going to work. I look at the volume of work I have done, my thoughts and beliefs about life, and my magickal ability to communicate with the unseen world and I was in a space of do it myself which does not lend to working with anything or anyone.
We are not alone but I now realize that I was in that same space I had found myself in 1998, the do it myself failure plan. Another classmate at NHI made today made a valid point about out dependence on the rest of life, and all the great help I received over the weekend, and while massaging today, coupled with the car conversations with Marie finally broke through.
We are not alone in our journey and sometimes we take ourselves to the point of solidarity until we are like those Pharisees, thinking that the laws we hold closest to us are nearest to our heart. But heart requires connection and this I found.
I am not alone in my journey, you are not alone. Ending this posting, with hope for some collaboration and the lyrics to a Beatles song:
"What would you do if I sang out of tune, Would you stand up and walk out on me. Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song, And I'll try not to sing out of key. Oh I get by with a little help from my friends, Mmm,I get high with a little help from my friends, Mmm, I'm gonna try with a little help from my friends."