Choice to Write

From Ann Glover O’Dell’s Midwifing the Soul:

Beatitude

Blessed are the dead

    whose death comes peaceful as a slumber

        from a day of toil and song

Blessed are the living

    whose walks are filled with knowledge

        that each day might be their last

Blessed are those whose memories

    comfort with the absence

        of those gone before

Blessed are those whose heart strings

     play the melodies

        of unsung songs and voices

Blessed are the celebrants 

    whose lives memorialize

         the spirit of the absent ones

Blessed are the glimpses

    that quicken possibilities

        of joy that lie ahead

Blessed are the passionate

    who follow spirits leading them

        into the heart of God

Blessed are you

    whose open souls receive

        the gracious gifts so freely given


From Celia’s Images in a Reflecting Pool; a Journal:

An experience in scholarly writing:  “I worked very hard last Monday, reading all day for my book.  I really didn’t enjoy it.”

Later on . . . ”Most of that work was fruitless.  I didn’t put it in my book after all.  When work becomes a dull ache, it is usually wrong.”

On second-guessing my life’s work:  “What do I really want to do with the rest of my life?  Is it enough just to follow the Holy Spirit’s prompting on a daily basis?  Is long-range planning really a defense?  (The Course suggests that it is.)  (W- pI.135.14:1) Could I do my writing as well as have a more successful library career? 

The key to the latter would be ever-better interactions with the people I encounter everyday.  Sometimes I think the job of librarian really doesn’t accomplish much.  All of us work so hard on meaningless things; I see it all the time on the reference desk among the patrons, and I try to be tolerant. 

Healing minds in the sense meant by the Course has really become my preoccupation.  Knowing that, is it any wonder that I’m still tied to my very social occupation even though I’d rather write?

Creation Story

From Ann Glover O’Dell’s Midwifing the Soul:

Habitat           

Standing there afar

my habitat held in your hand

my heart’s pure ache so palpable

the world must sense my longing

but turn from me as

from some clanging bell.

How many labyrinthine turns must I traverse?

How many sandals must I wear sole thin?

How many times pray “show the way”?

What game of hide-and-seek has been ordained

among the tall trees of my weary mind?

How many clues must I search out

to later disregard?

Am I to be not privileged to sleep

before the hearth before I die?

or sup at table?

or rock contented all way round

and there attend the fire?

to sing and laugh

and let my homing spirit feel the joy?


From Celia:

Creation Story

There is a myth about the creation of souls that helps me to understand why we falter and fall away from God.  This myth, first expounded by Ruth Montgomery’s Guides in the 1960s, says that in the beginning God sent out from Himself sparks of light, souls in embryo, to experience life.  Some wandered farther, away from God, and got into trouble.  Others stayed close to Him and were guided by His greater Light.

We sometimes need to learn from both good and evil, and choose the good from a sense of knowing, and in that John Milton’s great treatise Areopagetica is right.  When we choose good from experience, we truly know.  It would be wrong, though, to deliberately set out to experience evil in order to learn from it.  It is enough that we learn to avoid the choices that take us away from God. In the myth, the fear to wander from God, felt by those souls in embryo who stayed close to Him, seems to be the flip side of Love.    

There is a long tradition in Christianity that says Christ needs our hands and feet to carry out his mission in this world.  We might be lost indeed if it weren’t for the souls who cling to God and learn of Love. We do know that sometimes we learn best from others like ourselves, people with two hands and two feet, homo sapiens.

God’s Light grows dim in us when we turn a deaf ear to His pleading.  But He stands ever ready to rescue us by whatever means it takes.

Every religious tradition, in every age, says that only Love matters.  In the end, this truth is the only truth yet to discover. And it will be no secret we are healed.

Work Pressures

From Ann Glover O’Dell’s Midwifing the Soul:

Floodgates

Waters parting

     floodgates making way

        I sensed prepared for me.

           I heard them coming

              deafened by the roar

                  of mighty waters rolling

                     down upon me.

I said a prayer

   prepared to die

      so sure my next few breaths

         would be my last.

I know not if I knelt

   or sat

      or stretched myself out prone

          ready to receive the hand of death.

 Louder came the roar

      A sound so full of fear

          I wished for deafness before death

              anything but being made

                   to hear that awful sound.

The roar grew louder

     louder still

         and I

              so sure my drums would burst

                  fixed all my thought on broken ears 

                       as cause of death

                           and in an instant heard played again

                               the thousand tapes of noisy voices

                                  of my wasted life of listening.

And still the roar increased

     till I heard screams

        my own thin voice

             inside my head

                 with shouts of

                     ‘Kill me, then!’

                          ‘Yes, do it now!’

                                ‘Anything but this!’

But ‘this’ was not yet finished

     my pleading was in vain

            as if demonic spirits

                took delight in my despair.

And then

     as quickly as begun

         the roar subsided

            to the pleasant sound

               of water

                   over smooth worn stones

                       reminding me

                         of where in childhood

                               played for hours

                                   and sheltered

                                     from the loss of innocence

                                        was I.


From Celia’s Images in a Reflecting Pool:

There is always time for what is needful.  This learned after long experimentation.  So why do I still fight fire when I have a desk filled with work, or a house that hasn’t been cleaned in a week? 

What “bad thing” will happen to me if it isn’t all accomplished in the too-short time I have allotted?

Colds or “bugs” are a form of seeking outside ourselves, convenient crutches we use when we are very weary from walking in the world. 

One then has an excuse to sit down.  Written a couple of days before I succumbed to a succession of mild but debilitating viruses:  “What do I really want to experience in my world? 

I don’t want to be hassled constantly to do more-more- more. 

I need to say ‘no’ to things for a month and then some.”

On the work complexities of modern life:  “I desperately need to learn how to pace myself.  If ever I get ahead at work, I immediately ‘fill my plate’ with a dozen things that are sure to swamp me eventually.” Four days later, the dawn of a solution: 

“I sensed today that I make things too hard.  I have too much a sense of responsibility.  I should let go and let God.  Life lived from moment to moment ‘listening’ (to the Holy Spirit) is much more interesting.  I can be much too work-oriented, so much that I become a drudge.” 

Now I would add that much of my work is self-generated, but influenced by my colleagues, who are working at least as hard. 

It is as though we were a group of children, backstage before a piano recital.  One’s nervousness and hyperactivity influences another, and then another, and yet another.  And to what end? 

The dubious “achievement” of performing before an audience. 

Now, proving our “worth” this way by more and more elevates work to a personal god whose demands are insatiable.  And isn’t that the clue that the dynamic is ego-based?

Is It Necessary to Know Good by Evil?

Note: Celia’s post follows poem.

From Ann Glover O’Dell’s Midwifing the Soul:

Restless

Winding through the branches of my spirit

   whispering glimpses of mortality

      wandering among the conscious complex

         winnowing former dogma like frail facts

down into recesses of my essence

  drifting through unbridled memory

    dauntingly presumptuous in its power

      dares this new disturbing premonition

halting nowhere near the seat of power

  having so destroyed that weaker vessel

     hurrying to reach its destination

       hovering within the fecund chamber

coming round the shaping walls of truth

  curving in and out of questions forming

    casting out decisions long since crumbled

      climbing vine-like through the hallowed halls

tethering to no anointed altar

  targeting no restrictive domicile

    templing within no single sacred cloister

      the hot bright breath of God appears.


From Celia’s Images in a Reflecting Pool:

I think we plan our lives before we are born.  If so, given that I have always spent much time in thinking about what I should do next, I’m sure I planned carefully on the other side. 

I once had an intuition that my growing-up years went just as intended.  I wanted to emphasize working hard on academic pursuits and developing the impetus to achieve.  Now when I question the advisability of all that, surely some balancing act is taking place.

We are our own worst enemy.  We do not have to do all things, even if all of these things are good.  Sometimes I entrap myself over a perceived “good goal” by taking steps to move toward it—knowing all the while that living out the goal will be painful.

Achieving at my maximal level has long been a goal.  I don’t like to be defeated by anything, to drop out of the race without trying sufficiently.  An old “Father Knows Best” television program drove the point home to me while still very young (and aren’t we quite impressionable when young?). 

I sense I could do library administration, albeit not without struggle.  Do I want to be one who, as Milton says, “slinks out of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat”?  Yet Milton’s famous passage also suggests that one would know good “by” evil, by the contrast. 

This I don’t believe is necessary.  Maybe now is one time that my doubts should be respected, because the ultimate goal, being ego-related, is questionable (as well as tangential to what I really want to do).  It’s a replay of a “have it all” 1980s motif—surely a way of life most of us are coming to repudiate.

Love

Note: Ann’s poem is first; Celia’s post follows.

From Ann Glover O’Dell’s Midwifing the Soul:

The Word

The Word became flesh

            once upon a time       once before time        once in time

                                  each time        a child is born        a gift is given.

                                        And upon their shoulders rests the imprint of the One

                                                whose Word makes all flesh to become.

Flesh becomes Word       becomes Verb Word

            saying ‘Let there be’

                        and there is

                                    as night follows day and dawn follows darkness,

                                                dappling creation with new language.

Be becomes all Words–

            creating nouns and expletives,

                        pronouns and correlatives,

                                    assumes the burden of unanswered questions

                                                and declaratives yet undeclared.

Flesh becomes Active Verb–

            transforming the great I AM into nominative–

                        posturing as transitive

                                    whose unknown object

                                           completes the diagram

                                                forming a sphere.


From Celia’s Images in a Reflecting Pool

Many years ago I was in a frame of mind in which unlimited possibilities seemed open to me.  The salient aspect of this period of time was that I was living with an attitude filled with love.  In making decisions, invariably I would come to a fork in the road.  It seemed that I could choose either way ahead and—this the questionable part—that either would be equally “OK”—just different ways to work out my destiny. 

Maybe we really do live in a safe universe when we are at home in Love.

Reality offers what I really want–the prayer of the heart. (A Course in Miracles, M-21.1:3-4)

Sometimes the unconscious guides us to a certain familiar pathway as a warning.  If I find myself gazing vacantly out a window and fantasizing about the future, the future that I see may eventually lead to difficulty, but it will always hold much joy. 

Intuition

A new feature of poetry; my post follows. – Love, Celia

From Ann Glover O’Dell’s Midwifing the Soul:

Doxology

Praise to Thee, O Lord, Creator of the Universe,

Who brings forth from your earth womb all life.

Praise to Thee, O God, Sustainer of the Universe,

who gives life the abundance Thou designed for it.

Praise to Thee who places godhood

in the center of our being.

Blow Holy Spirit, Wayward Wind,

with all thy special power

come stir again the old desire

in us who yearn to flower.

Rain into us the fullness

of the morning dew

made into streams

that penetrate our roots.

Make green the carpet of our days

that we, lured into verdancy,

might sprout new buds

and bloom as never even

once upon a time we dreamed.

Press down upon us sunshine

of the vision in your mind

of who we were and are and yet to be,

always within the firm embrace

of thy mysterious trinity.


From Celia’s Images in a Reflecting Pool:

There is a way of living by intuition and a way of living by rational choice (the latter usually called just “reason”).  The two are not mutually exclusive, of course.  But I have found that life is freer, more natural, happier, when I am brave enough to let intuition rule.  And it does take some bravery.

It takes a certain willingness to follow intuition.  Maybe there will always be a question in my mind about whether I am being rational.  But time and again events prove the correctness of following yet another hunch.

Do we have “free will”?  I once read someone’s remark to the effect that we act as if we do when we cross the street, so why not assume that we do? 

Deadlines

Note:  Today I am happy to tell you of a new feature on my blog:  poems on spirituality by a good friend, Ann Glover O’Dell.  Her poems speak to me as I hope they will to you.

My post for today follows after the poem.  – Love, Celia

From Ann’s Midwifing the Soul:

Request

What I expected was a memory

      deep imprimatur of miracle

          inspiring sustenance

             serving as benchmark

                 of all grateful glimpses

                    through the prism of experience.

A lesser geyser I requested

      having pooled within the marrow

           of my mind as journey food

             and solace after sorrow

               original sacred spray

                  hoping for its offspring

          never more distant

                        than corner round and waiting.

But just today that fountain flow returned

     reminding now

          its honoring of my desire

              so I breathe deep

                 and welcome gratefully

                    the fresh baptism

                        from my sacred source.


From Celia’s Images in a Reflecting Pool:

Just “being” in life is affirming and good.  I don’t have to “do” all the time.  I have to realize that doing “more, more, more” to justify my existence is not necessary.

Is taking the easier pathway always suspect?  Must we always struggle to be a “success”? 

I invariably overestimate the time that it will take to complete a task that I have been putting off.

Learning how to work properly has been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn.  Faced with much work, I’m apt to feel great anxiety and be paralyzed by it.  Even a modest sense of “too much to do” will keep me working at a pace that is too fast, one I can’t sustain. 

I do best when I consciously realize that there is more than enough time to do everything.  Then I work at a steady (but not slow) pace, and, most importantly, I enjoy the work.  My journal is filled with reminders to “pace” though the day.  Doesn’t this say to me that I ought to keep my duties always at a manageable level? 

As much as I would like to turn out prodigious amounts of work, that is an instance of falling in love with the ordering process, a phenomenon I once heard in a warning dream. 

I should know my own psychology counsels against this way of living unless the work is imposed from within (never from without), and there is little or no deadline pressure.

Work Ethic

It is not good for me to get too close to my work, lest I become obsessive about it.  I was virtually a workaholic in college, but without the “high” which true workaholics find.  In my case, I worked hard to make the grades for graduate school, and I worked with blinders on.  My mind was numbed by the hard work, my personality warped. 

Now I listen to my nocturnal dreams.  A couple of nights of bad dreams, and I know it is time to “let up.”  God doesn’t need drudges.  He can’t get through to them and therefore to what purpose does all the hard work serve?

A personal assessment made on the anniversary of my first year as a reference librarian:  “I jumped on a horse and tried to gallop off in all directions at once.” 

Certainly I took on too many varied responsibilities that year, but beginner’s enthusiasm is a great propellant.  It was a hard year.  Now, 11 years later, I find in the experience compelling reason to ride out the storm.  The first hard step is not a good indicator of all the joy that may follow.  When you step into a pool, the water is always at first quite cold.

Peter Principle

A town government official with many responsibilities discharged with praise once turned down a “better” job offer in a larger community by saying that one can “climb too high.”  One man’s version of the Peter Principle. 

But how much better would we all be if overarching ambition never took us beyond our scope? We would know mastery in a given sphere. 

Our nerves would be calmer.  And wouldn’t the world be a saner place as well? 

In high school, I found myself with a very critical mind whenever I had far too much to do.  This suggests that for me an overly busy life is not conducive to my better spirit. 

I used to be a real worrier.  When yet another good thing had happened, seeming to make the anxiety needless, my father simply remarked, “Most things do turn out well.” 

Why all the anxious moments?  I have come to believe that it was a psychological ploy.  I didn’t think I deserved good things unless I had given my “pound of flesh,” as Shakespeare described. 

And if things did turn out badly, I had done all I could: I had really cared enough to make myself miserable.

The base of it was that anxiety proved to be a goad to make me work harder—and thereby increase the likelihood that most things would “turn out well.” 

A trap of perfectionism carried to extremes.

“More”

On excessive ambition:  “I think my questioning of whether I am successful or not is neurotic.  Wanting to be ever and ever more successful is neurotic also.  It is the rat race personified.

“And when would I ever be ‘satisfied’ with what I had achieved?”

My journal in early 1992 is filled with evidence that striving for more, more, more doesn’t work for me.  Two examples:  “I realize I’m not as happy as I once was because I’m not as grateful for all the blessings that I have.  I’ve taken some of it for granted, and it becomes tedious routine, but also I feel stressed from the ‘busyness’ of it all.”   “Part of me feels that an active and busy life is evidence of a wise use of time.  But the truth is that I tend to lose my perspective.”  These attitudes seem frankly to be ego at work.

A Course in Miracles says, “. . .nothing you do or think or wish or make is necessary to establish your worth. . . .Your ego is never at stake because God did not create it.  Your spirit is never at stake because He did.” (T-4.I.7:4,8-9)  I’m dangerously close to being “unhealed” (T-9.V) as I try to heal others through my writing. 

As I’ve sought to withdraw support from the ego, it has sought to win back strength by guile. (M-25.5:3)  I’ve been making an image of myself as a fulfilled individual, but it is just that—a hollow image made without love as I pushed for “more.” 

Karma Yoga

The karma of being what is really “myself” seems very important.

It’s “karma yoga”: Don’t try to be the best somebody else, but find “your” truth.  As I think over my career options, the little excitement that I feel over some of them appears to be something best not reinforced.  My thinking that I should head for library administration as a way of succeeding was to make the obvious “jump” to greater success in the eyes of the world. 

Maybe a risk finally that is truly worth taking is not to make this jump.  I fall back on the obvious truth that strong doubts about a given pathway, over a long period of time, mean that that route is best passed by.  All in all, I’ve decided that I want a “pathway with a heart” much more than a pathway of dubious “success.”

Career success pursued for its own end has no end.

Soul-Searching

I learned after long soul-searching that my interest in the status of a job (and all that goes with that false value), and my dedication to having an academic career mean that I am trying to prove something to somebody that doesn’t need proving. 

“Going into work matters too much to you” was the message of a particularly symbolic and insightful dream.

For some reason I knew I needed to write a book.  And I did—one for my field of library science.  Did I need the discipline or did I need the credential?  Or did I need both? 

My motive is hard to fathom.

Pathways

There is an old expression, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

But I am always trying to make “it” better.  Isn’t this being too much of a perfectionist?

Achieving at my maximal level has long been a goal.  I don’t like to be defeated by anything, to drop out of the race without trying sufficiently.  An old “Father Knows Best” television program drove the point home to me while still very young (and aren’t we quite impressionable when young?). 

I sense I could take a new pathway in my career, albeit not without struggle.  Do I want to be one who, as Milton says, “slinks out of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat”?  Yet Milton’s famous passage also suggests that one would know good “by” evil, by the contrast. 

This I don’t believe is necessary.  Maybe now is one time that my doubts should be respected, because the ultimate goal, being ego-related, is questionable (as well as tangential to what I really want to do).  It’s a replay of a “have it all” 1980s motif—surely a way of life most of us are coming to repudiate.

Well – Considered Choices

On the instinct for acquisition:  “Recently I had the intuition that if money is viewed as security, one can never have enough. 

It has taken me 45+ years to understand that.  The intuition came in the day or so after I had felt the internal question:  “Do you want a lot of money?”  That excited me, and I said a tentative “Yes—if it doesn’t hurt anybody.” 

But later I began to think that this was a “devil’s” bargain: 

“Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24 – KJV)

Now I think my great-grandmother’s quiet answer about money is best: “The Lord has blessed me.”  She had no money worries, but her financial security was certainly not a preoccupation for her.”

The instinct for acquisition makes it hard to go God’s way.

We are our own worst enemy.  We do not have to do all things, even if all of these things are good.  Sometimes I entrap myself over a perceived “good goal” by taking steps to move toward it—knowing all the while that living out the goal will be painful.

Solace

If we focus on the good with a certain amount of reverence, then that good is very likely to show up in our lives. We can be reassured of it.

Comfort in times of difficulty is very real when we turn to God in prayer, especially if we have first calmed down by meditation.

If the world seems to be too much with us, then find a quiet corner and settle down with our Creator on our minds and hearts.

He will always find us when we turn in His direction.

Destiny

I think we plan our lives before we are born.  If so, given that I have always spent much time in thinking about what I should do next, I’m sure I planned carefully on the other side. 

I once had an intuition that my growing-up years went just as intended.  I wanted to emphasize working hard on academic pursuits and developing the impetus to achieve.  Now when I question the advisability of all that, surely some balancing act is taking place.

All of us enter life with a script that is filled with challenges and hurdles meant to build Character in the highest sense possible.  But, as Wordsworth says, we forget about this intention (“. . .Shades of the prison-house begin to close/ Upon the growing Boy, . . . .” 

Consequently, we attend alumni reunions with a bright smile, making conversation that lies about a successful life with rarely a cloud in the sky.  Instead, we should drop our masks and admit that life has been tough.  After all, we planned it that way—each and every one of us.

Prayer of the Heart

Sometimes the unconscious guides us to a certain familiar pathway as a warning.  If I find myself gazing vacantly out a window and fantasizing about the future, the future that I see is best avoided.  But remember not to try too hard to predict the future; probabilities change.

                                –

Reality offers what I really want–the prayer of the heart. (A Course in Miracles, M-21.1:3-4)

At Home in Love

Do we have “free will”?  I once read someone’s remark to the effect that we act as if we do when we cross the street, so why not assume that we do? 

Many years ago I was in a frame of mind in which unlimited possibilities seemed open to me.  The salient aspect of this period of time was that I was living with an attitude filled with love.  In making decisions, invariably I would come to a fork in the road.  It seemed that I could choose either way ahead and—this the questionable part—that either would be equally “OK”—just different ways to work out my destiny. 

Maybe we really do live in a safe universe when we are at home in Love.

Intuition

There is a way of living by intuition and a way of living by rational choice (the latter usually called just “reason”).  The two are not mutually exclusive, of course.  But I have found that life is freer, more natural, happier, when I am brave enough to let intuition rule.  And it does take some bravery.

It takes a certain willingness to follow intuition.  Maybe there will always be a question in my mind about whether I am being rational.  But time and again events prove the correctness of following yet another hunch.

Forgiveness

On self-tolerance and self-acceptance:  “I remember waking up one morning with the thought, ‘A lot of us believe in a world where everything is not a matter of life and death.’  It seemed a thought from the other side, a plea for common sense in decision-making.  Maybe I need to meditate on why I have such a problem with a ‘should.’ 

Am I too irresponsible?  Am I not dependable? Am I innately lazy and try to whip myself into shape by manufacturing imperatives? 

Have I accepted a big challenge in this lifetime and probably take myself too seriously in trying to work it out? 

Do I fear regretting to work as hard as I can? 

Do I just have too strong a superego?” 

Later . . .

“I know now that if I forgive more readily, I will realize the world can forgive me as well when I don’t measure up to some standard of unreachable perfection.”

Subconscious

A vacation is not always the best time to make decisions about puzzling problems.  At least twice during 1984 I made that attempt, only to find when I returned to my normal routine that my decisions did not make sense. 

Written upon reflection, two years subsequently, “It is easy to plan when very rested, as I was during that Christmas.  But the unreality of my thinking gives me pause for thought.”

When I awaken with a certain idea, I wonder if my subconscious has served up a message.

Dreams

I was on a high from successfully defending my dissertation when the dream to publish first emerged.  Many years later I can say that the impulse to write was a genuine idea possible of accomplishment and the instigator of some of my most rewarding hours.

A “godfather’s offer” (one I can’t refuse, as in the movie) is at least tangentially related to the fatal flaw of Shakespeare’s tragic characters and, for me, is virtually always coming from the ego.  If one makes the decision not to be ruled by the ego, the whole Force of the universe comes into play to reinforce this truly holy endeavor.

On the unreality of reflection:  “I have noticed a tendency to ‘resolve’ issues in my journal, and then–later–impulsively to choose a different answer.  I think I try to form a certain reality from wishful thinking, but then make a different decision when life seems to suggest otherwise.”

High Moments

Persistence will carry the day (and the goal) when thoughts of indecision and low self-esteem threaten to block leaving the gate.

If the process of making up my mind is unduly protracted and conflicted, I have come to realize that the option I’m considering is wrong for me.

Very high moments create a kind of super-sentient emotional tone from which we can see and understand far more than possible in the routine of daily normal living.  It is a bit of an artificial state of mind, but is nonetheless a better time to suggest new pathways than moments of depression. 

Smooth Pathway

My writing is informed by my employment in a library.  At my job, I enjoy social interactions; they teach so much about how people respond in all sorts of ways. Not surprisingly, that’s also the greatest personal benefit I got from the study and teaching of literature, my first career.

All second-guessing and other vacillations aside, sometimes just not wanting to do something is sufficient reason not to do it. 

And even if it flies in the face of one’s habitual pattern of decision-making.  Maybe that pattern has always been flawed, even though that pattern served in another time and place. 

This is a new day:  “. . .rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalms 118:24 – KJV)

Sometimes timing is everything.  I was once extremely ambivalent about taking a given job, but the moments in which I needed to act always seemed to arrive when I was in a positive attitude.  I did take the job; it did have drawbacks; but that early contradictory work life made possible the smooth pathway on which I walk today.

For Writers

I think I’m finally clear on “no promotions” at my job.  For years I’ve been pushed about by the impetus to succeed in my profession, and there has lately been some spillover in my writing.  It’s what Joseph Campbell calls a “concretized symbol” that will “push you around.” 

But this morning I had a lovely synchronicity in that I read my journal entry for February 14, 1992, and found total agreement with a passage from Campbell that I read last night.  Campbell warns the artist (and specifically a writer) not to let his work (the art) get contaminated by his job (his employment). 

For people with such impetus, he affirms, “. . .to keep up with your responsibilities and your fitness and still nurture your creative aspect, you must put a hermetically sealed retort, so that there is no intrusion, around a certain number of hours each day—however many you can honestly afford—and that time must be inviolate.” 

Life Decisions

Is this what has been going on for me as I resist library administration? 

Not that anybody has asked.  I say ahead of time that I’m not interested so that I won’t be tempted with an offer I can’t refuse (an offer that “can’t” be refused normally appears, at least for me, to be ego-inspired). 

I have to be certain that the ego is not the motivator here. 

Perhaps I am destined to be in indecision about this for a while.  Maybe I should stay in non-resolution until I learn what my soul is trying to tell me.  Yet non-resolution over a long period of time, I have learned, usually counsels “no.”

Life Decisions

Sometimes I think library science as a career just fell in my lap. In this work I’m able to plan ahead and therefore have few deadline pressures. Yet my first ambition—journalism—would have been filled with those very deadlines which I dread most. 

What benign destiny altered my life plan for the better?  I can claim no credit for this, because I gave up on the idea of journalism and opted for library science for all the wrong reasons.

Many of our life decisions—as we “remember” them—may be based on myth.  The “reasons why” that I’ve told myself may have had no basis in fact.  We construct a fiction in retrospect that sounds more rational than the decision was at the time.  Or am I just more of a mythmaker than the average person?

Individuals sometimes “fight all the way” decisions that are providential.  This learned from reading anecdotal accounts of heavenly guidance. 

Dreaming

The “worst” doesn’t happen.  Even when it seems to, it isn’t as bad as worry has anticipated, and I come out of it better off.  As much like Pollyanna as it sounds, this dynamic is probably an axiom of life and not my own lucky charm.

When I was a child, I used to look out my bedroom window at night, dreaming about the future with much anticipation.  It wasn’t until I returned to Florence and the neighboring hill town of Fiesole, with its panorama of Florence, for the second time in 25 years that I knew why. 

Gazing out at panoramas has a great calming effect on me; I have at such times no worries about the future and no problems of any kind.  I have not had great roles to play in this lifetime, but I have lived through a private drama that has led me ever more closely to God. 

And this was what the better Self in me wanted all along.

Vicissitudes

A 25-year-old losing a first job can’t know yet that all of life is a constant ebb and flow.  And all the ebbs yet to come can be seen as blessings in disguise as well.  Great inner growth is usually the by-product.  Possessing the knowledge that vicissitudes are natural is one advantage age always has over youth.

There is no sure way to know when one is actually in a fortunate period of life.  Once I was very unhappy for nine months in a job that I disliked.  In retrospect I believe this was actually a period of real internal growth, having repercussions that have reverberated down all the 20 years since.  I had felt almost compelled to get a job.  On some level, did I choose the unhappiness of that job as a necessary byproduct to a speedier learning process?

It really is fruitless to look back unless it teaches a way to take a better route in the future.

Vision

Did I take on too big a challenge in this lifetime?  Is that why I shade toward the serious?  Or is it just my ignominious narcissism coming into play?

I once saw a vision of my bad karma.  It was a woman with flashing eyes who gave me a knowing look and seemed to scream at me (though silently) that “her” intent was to “get mine” (i.e., get what “should” be coming to me in this life). 

Looking back, I remember that when I was a little girl, I didn’t want to be greedy (e.g., getting even “my share” of Easter eggs) nor to get “too much” for myself (I rarely told what I wanted for Christmas).  This suggests an attempt even as a child to deal with the “getting mine” that I recognized in the vision.  Fifteen years of denial in adult life followed that vision, and then the “ghost” seemed largely expiated.  There was never any question that I would selfishly seek my own “just desserts” instead of following what I perceived to be God’s will for me.  The set of my will was very strong because the love (however remote) that kept me on track was genuine.  And that has made all the difference.

Remembering

On looking back in regret: “Watched a program on television about the sixties.  I don’t think I was very reflective politically and socially in that time of my life, and I certainly know that I lacked courage.  Will I look back and regret my blindness today?”

And later on, “I was so unreflective in the sixties.  I wonder if I will look back on my life one day and feel that I went through all of it in a daze?”

My college suitemate during my freshman year was a senior with wide-ranging interests in the arts and culture, but who majored in economics, passed the CPA, and went on to get a Ph.D. in her field.  I once asked Joanne about this seeming “split” in her interest, and she responded that she wanted to keep her avocation and vocation separate; she wanted something “like economics” to pay the bills. 

I realize in retrospect how much to heart I took this comment. 

Even in college I longed for and deliberately planned for a profession.  The fact that what I eventually became (a librarian) is different from my college dreams (first, journalist; then, English college professor)is not particularly important. What is important is that all of these vocations are a little tangential to my “real” interests, which are a cluster of spirituality, metaphysics, and psychology. Something within me feared “getting lost” in these less-tangible areas.  In my work life I touch the here-and-now, the practical problems of interaction in and contribution to the secular world.

My head may be in the clouds, but my feet are on the ground.  Of course, it is the clouds that show me how to live.

Loving Thing

A decision made upon facing possible illness:  “I’ve been my own worst enemy in fearing health conditions in the past, and it’s time to put faith into action and not aggravate the situation with meaningless fears.”

Recognizing that a behavior is irrational is the first step toward changing it.

On understanding the way the mind works:  “I’m realizing that my superego (as Freud would say) is very strong, even severe.  Maybe if I were more forgiving, my thoughts of what I ‘should’ do would be less punishing. The choice to do the loving thing is not at all coercive.”

Choosing Illness

Choosing a pathway without suffering may take longer, and so is it any wonder that we in our impatient world sometimes opt for the shortcut, however difficult that may be?

“I think I choose sickness when I’m ready for a break from the world.”  A day after writing this, I came down with a virus that gave me a fever and mild aches for a week. 

My pipe dream that I could be happy just reading all day quickly evaporated, and in its place came a great need for people, which sent me to the phone.  When I wrote those words,did I know I was getting sick, just below the surface in my unconscious mind, or was I doubly psychic (intuiting sickness and giving my reason for it)? 

It is also true that I was at a turning point in my work, ready to take a new direction after finishing the tasks of the past months. 

Was God trying to get my attention? 

It is only in retrospect that the answers to questions like these ever come.

Tempests

I wonder if I’ve sometimes created a tempest in a teapot out of boredom. If I get upset about something, then I have the upset to deal with rather than the boredom. 

Do I seek fear to avoid boredom?

For the anxiety-prone part of me: “Sometimes I simply have to disengage my mind from worry.  That seems the healthiest way to live, and I have not always been able to do that.”

There is a truth about mental illness that sometimes only the mentally ill, and those who counsel troubled people, see.  At the heart of a split from “reality” may be a glimpse of true reality. And perhaps there is a partially formed mystic crying to get out. 

Who knows but that a psychotic sufferer has opted to jump ahead by one of the most wrenching means?  Who knows what contributions recovery—and their next life—will bring?

Dreams

Too much talk can kill a dream rather than increase the likelihood of its coming true.  Often the words are a weak substitute for truly living an experience.  Paradoxically, excessive verbalization can be a smokescreen set up to hide one’s inner being, which we believe (inaccurately) would be worthy only of rejection if viewed without its mask.

My family doctor asked, “What are you doing for fun?” “Everybody,” he continued, “needs something to look forward to.” There is more common-sense emotional advice in those brief words than there might be in most hours of psychoanalysis.

Relinquishing Ego

Ego is such a powerful motivator that when it is let go, one must find a substitute worth living for.  Mine is a genuine desire to make a meaningful contribution to the world.  But that is not the whole of it.  One still must fill countless hours with the minor chores of daily living.  One cannot always be doing “important” things.  And if these chores fill so many hours, can anyone say what “important” really is? 

A candid personality attracts because its owner seems to have dropped—at least for our eyesight—the mask that we normally wear.

Centering

Journal writing is an invaluable tool for the centering of one’s life and work.  Once I went for 19 months with only two entries. 

It is instructive that the last entry before starting this dry period was entitled “New Centering.”  I had reached a plateau and was willing quietly to rest there for a while. 

Creative assessment of real desires can help bring them about. But too much introspection can become retreating, and this fuels neurosis.

On making good decisions: “I’m feeling reassured that I will know the right decision to make if I pay attention to my nocturnal dreams, keep a positive and happy outlook, and listen to my heart (i.e., the Holy Spirit dwelling within).  Psychic inclinations help, but I must check them out and not go overboard.”

When a song goes through my head, I pause to remember the lyrics.

It is a fruitful path to the Unconscious.  Like a dream, the lyrics frequently take me a step deeper in my psyche. 

Live Each Moment

We are sometimes told, “Live each day as though it were your last.”  But this is not helpful advice if one has the wrong attitude toward work—an attitude that everything should have been done yesterday maybe, if not before. 

Some of the best advice in this vein I ever received was from an older and wiser family friend who reminded me, as I embarked on a new job that entailed establishing a middle school library, “Remember that you don’t have to do it all on the first day.”

A recurring theme in my journal is the need to enjoy all the moments of my life.  If you are doing something (or failing to) that makes you crabby, you are yourself ruining the very essence of living.  If life is not lived in daily moments, it is not “lived” at all.

Trying to Live Well

Understanding the way the mind works is to understand the reality that we make for ourselves.

Library science is my profession, but learning how to live well is the mission.  And I don’t mean monetarily well.  We can’t truly help others until we find the still point within that makes it all make sense.

At what point does a strong sense of Self become egotism rather than protection against Hamlet’s “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”?  Self-confidence with humility is a boon enjoyed by so few of us—-but what a joy when it visits even in fleeting moments.

A failure to view life positively is not benign. It creates momentum, and if one doesn’t watch it, negativity will snowball to become a veritable avalanche.

Images in a Reflecting Pool – Introduction

     The dreams the Holy Spirit gives are indeed happy.  I am

still learning, but I know more now.  In 1981, I was dreaming the

dreams of this world, caught in fantasies of an unreal past, and

vulnerable in the extreme.  After fifteen years and many hours of

studying A Course in Miracles, I have experienced more and more

hours and days of peace.  Oh, it is not 100 percent yet.  But

Jesus says, “In this world you need not have tribulation because

I have overcome the world.  That is why you should be of good

cheer.” (T-20.III.10:3-4)

     When I let my mind drop into fantasies, I forget how to

live.  Yet the Course promises that the way will be smooth.  “Time

is kind, and if you use it on behalf of reality, it will keep

gentle pace with you in your transition.” (T-4.I.13:10-11)  It is

not a hard path of learning, this better way structured to bring

us to Awakening.  Every year gets better, every decade a giant

step beyond the previous.  More and more I leave fear behind as I

try to see the face of Christ in my brothers and sisters.

     What lessons am I learning?  Attack is not the way to go.

(T-16.VI.8:2)  Anxiety is borne of the ego.

(T-30.VI.1:2)  And my worth is not measured by what I do.

(T-4.IV.4:1)  Of course, there are many other lessons, some

repeated frequently as I make my way still on this

side of the bridge.  As many before me have said, God is not

finished with me yet.

     This book details the issues and problems arising from my

life story and then dealt with in the manner of A Course in

Miracles.  In looking back, I find that three relationships–

Self-to-self, self-to-others, and self-to-God–have informed the

whole.  These images tell me that it is Love that

undergirds life and all my relationships of whatever nature.

Regardless of the relationship, however tenuous, it is love that

speaks to me in the everyday issues of which I tell you here.

     Images in a Reflecting Pool was written by rereading journal

entries from 1981 (the year I discovered A Course in Miracles) to

1996 (15 years).  If the entry seemed germane to my quest, I have

quoted directly from my journal.  Otherwise, I have penned a

reflection based on some incident recorded there.  I have sought

to follow the way of the Course to the extent that virtually none

of my personal philosophy is not informed by these spectacular

books.

     As you read, reflect on your own developing personal

philosophy.  Don’t take my word for it.  Take nothing unto

yourself unless it finds a gentle place in your heart.

     Jesus walks with us in our quest, as he has promised.

(T-4.I.7:1)

–unpublished writings by author of this blog.

God Is Not Fear, but Love

“When you seem to see some twisted form of the original error rising to frighten you, say only, ‘God is not fear, but Love,’ and it will disappear.  The truth will save you.  It has not left you, to go out into the mad world and so depart from you.  Inward is sanity; insanity is outside you.”  (A Course in Miracles, FIP ed., T-18.I.7)

We have long heard that we need to turn inward, but have we really understood what this means?  It means that we set aside time for God every day, maybe twice a day (as Jesus recommends in ACIM).  And in this we turn inward.

We can affirm the truth, which is Love, and turn aside from those things that frighten us.  Our affirmations will not seem strong enough when we are overwrought, and so we need to quiet ourselves before we can receive the blessing.  When we quiet ourselves, turning inward, we will know—with every fiber of our being—that God’s way is not in any way fearful.  That is the insanity of what we see outside ourselves.  When we turn inward, to God, we find only peace.

Don’t try to assimilate this idea when you are in the throes of anger.  Anger separates us from the truth that is within.  And, likewise, don’t choose to practice affirmations when you are in a panic.  Slow down and breathe.  God will find you when you give Him a moment.

Insanity is without, in the world.  And when we project from within, as long as the ego is in the ascendancy, we project insanity and our perception of the outer world is a thing of madness.

Don’t walk this way.  Turn inward, not only two times a day, but as often as you think of God.  “Pray without ceasing” is not an idle recommendation.  The reverent feeling will flow over your whole world of insanity, remove the insanity then, and you will sense Oneness with God.

Being

“In true knowledge, which comes from knowing your being in the light of eternal truth, you know the divine relationship.  The path proposed in this work is the path of being.”  Choose Only Love bk. 6, 1:III

Our divine relationship is, first and foremost, the best center for our lives. Previously many people proposed “doing” good works, with faith, as the way home to God. Jesus is here focusing on simply being in love with God. It doesn’t mean we will never “do” anything, but it does mean that our commitment is to simply being who we are, children of the divine Creator.

We don’t have to merit God’s good grace. His sun and rain shine and fall upon all equally. All are wanted by Him in a relationship of divine caring. Love in its essence.

Reading Choose Only Love

“Hear me, all!  Those who come to this work will be my beloved saints unknown to the world, but known forever in my love.”  Choose Only Love bk. 6, 1:III

This statement is a loving affirmation of our task in reading Choose Only Love. We would not be drawn to this work unless we had made contact, however limited, with God Himself. We need do only small things, unknown by the world, but valuable within our circle of family, friends, and acquaintances. When love is the motivator, God can take our small work and amplify it. He can do this best when our hearts are open to receive Him.

If Jesus, Mary, and the angels are loving us, we are blessed indeed. What more could we ask, than this, a part in forwarding the transformation that Jesus began 2,000 years ago?

Relinquish the Pain

“Remember, then, that always forgiveness is essential. . . . We speak here not of a blind passivity, but of a relinquishment within one’s own mind, and that is all.  It is a willingness to see the complete neutrality of all events.  (“The Way of Transformation,” The Way of Mastery, Chapter 21, Page 254)

I often think, when confronted with things that seem incomprehensible, that I am just dealing with the madness that A Course in Miracles explains so well. When we see madness, or neutrality, in the painful things of our world, we are in a better position to forgive. We don’t take it personally.

So forgiveness is essential. We need to let go, to relinquish our reactions that are negative when we see madness in our world. We let go, and when we let go, God rescues us from pain.

It is just that simple. And that easy.

Laws of Love

“This cooperation is natural when fear has been rejected.  You have long embraced fear and rejected love.  Now the reverse is true.  This reversal of truth has changed the nature of your universe and the laws by which it operates.  The laws of fear were laws of struggle, limits, danger, and competitiveness.  The laws of love are laws of peace, abundance, safety, and cooperation.  Your actions and the results of your actions in a universe of love will naturally be different from your actions and the results of your actions in a universe of fear.  You set the laws of the universe when you chose fear.  The laws of the universe of love are God-given.”  (A Course of Love, C:20.30 – 20.31)

We need love; it is our very nature.  We have lived for a long time in the “tiny, mad idea” (from A Course in Miracles) that gave us a universe of fear.  We were not at home there; we struggled mightily.  We listened to an egoic persona that did not mean us well, that tried to protect us by isolating us from each other in a cacophony of diverse sounds that spelled “fear” to us.  We never felt safe, because we never were safe.  Our “creations” had come back to haunt us.

But now all that can change.  Now we know better.  In a universe of love, we know peace abundance, safety, cooperation.  Our laws of struggle, limits danger, and competitiveness are not outdated.  What a joy to envision what awaits us in this new age!  We are safe because we are no longer “creating” with the ego; we are working within the laws of God, laws which complement our true reality.  We are homebound, safe in a universe where love reigns and where we have turned aside from the ego and its sad and forlorn dictates.

Miracles Become Natural

“You are a unique expression of the selfsame love that exists in all creation.  Thus your expression of love is as unique as your Self.  It is in the cooperation between unique expressions of love that creation continues and miracles become natural occurrences.”  (A Course of Love, C:20.30)

We are meant to live in a miraculous world, surrounded daily by a higher realm that meets our every need with miracles attuned to supply and demand.  We are unique individuals, each of us, but when we live in cooperation with each other, this uniqueness suggests that being different is not so much a fact as is our sameness.  We are all equally special, or, seen in the reverse, none of us are special at all.  We are simply entities of the creative endeavor of a limitless God Who knows no bounds to His loving of us, His creatures, of us, His Sons and Daughters.

We were born of His love, and when we extend the love that is at the core of our being, we soon live a life that is miraculous in the extreme.  We no longer take nature for granted.  We no longer take the dawn of a new day for granted.  We no longer take our health as a given.  We know that the love that sustains us also provides for us. 

And we know that that love comes from God Himself.

What Do I Want to Come of This?  What Is It for?

“In any situation in which you are uncertain, the first thing to consider, very simply, is ‘What do I want to come of this?  What is it for?’  The clarification of the goal belongs at the beginning, for it is this which will determine the outcome.”  (A Course in Miracles, FIP ed., T-17.VI.2)

I have long puzzled over this quotation.  It is hard to know how to answer the goal when we are faced with a myriad of possible activities.  But answer the goal, we must, if we are to make progress on the spiritual journey.

We want to make spiritual progress.  Our daily quiet time is designed for that purpose.  But we shouldn’t just think of goals when we are seeking God.  Our goal-driven society will ensure that there are many other times and means to reach an end.  Finding the right goals to pursue is crucial.

We often get side-tracked, especially when the ego is still strong in us.  We pursue goals that don’t satisfy, or they satisfy for only a short while, and then turn to dust.  This is always the way with egocentric goals.  We will feel an unreasoning elation when we reach one of these egotistical giants, but soon we will wonder why the gold has tarnished for us.  Why does this one thing—this goal—that we thought would satisfy all needs suddenly seem not to be enough?

So, we ask, what more can we pursue?  And we look around and identify a new pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  And we go after that.  Only to be doused in the dust again, when the goal is reached, and we find ourselves, once again, unsatisfied.

The ego always leads thus.  So at some point we realize that it is time to get off the treadmill of egoic longing.  There is no satisfying the ego; anything that we do will ultimately prove to be “not enough.”

Only the intangibles are lasting in satisfaction.  And any religious orientation will tell us what this are:  peace, harmony, kindness, forbearance, love, forgiveness.

We don’t have to be following A Course in Miracles to know that these are the values that our spiritual leaders have preached for eons.  We just need to take those values unto ourselves.  And once we do, the peace that we find will convince us that those spiritual leaders have been right all along.

We Were Never Meant to Be Isolated and Alone

“Others represent the accidents waiting to happen, love that is not returned, the withholding of things you deem important.  This fear that you feel in relation to others is as true of those you hold most dear to you as it is of those you would call strangers.  It is the very independence of others that makes your own independence seem so important to you.  Dependency is not consistent with your notions of a healthy self.  What, then is the alternative?

“The alternative is believing in giving and receiving as one.”  (A Course of Love, T2:7.2 – 7.3)

We are in unity with others, but we often don’t encourage this unity because of our fear of these same others—even our most significant others.  We think that being independent of needing other people will serve us best.  We think being close with others will lead to an unhealthy dependency.  But is this in line with A Course of Love?

Absolutely not.  We give and receive in tandem when we follow the dictates of ACOL.  We know that independence is not so very healthy, that the opposite of independence is not dependency, but a heartfelt joining of ourselves to other people.  We give them our love; they return our love.  The giving up of our solitary nature is actually a most joyful undertaking—when we realize that we were never meant to be isolated and alone.  We are meant to share with others, to live in a partnership with others.  Why else would the world have so many people? We are meant to join and to share, giving up our prideful isolation in a choice to give and receive as one with other people sharing our world.  This choice will give us joy.  Can it be so wrong to choose what will make us happy, avoiding the false independent nature that has failed us so many times?

Recovering Ideals

“[Y]our pulse is not the pulse of your heart alone, but of you connection to time, to space, to your esteemed and symbolic places, to ideas made manifest, and to humanity’s own fall from its ideals.”  Memoria

We are living in difficult times, and we see in Memoria (a new book channeled by Mary of Nazareth, received by Mari Perron) that Mary is aware of our difficulties.  Of course.  Her appearances in the world have always championed the downtrodden and forgotten.

I want to focus on our fall from ideals.  We can recover.  Perhaps those who are denigrated the most actually mean well; it is not for us to judge the hearts of our brothers and sisters.  It is not for us to judge at all, for fear and judgment keep us from Awakening.  This from A Course of Love, an earlier work received by Mari.

If we have fallen from our ideals, then we need to recoup.  We need to make a new start.  And we can.  It simply means that we turn to God and ask for His help in perilous times. 

He knows how to right our world, and if we ask with sincerity, wanting to know what to think, say, and do, He will surely tell us.  We are on the cusp of something called The New, and in this new world order, we will surely know peace when we draw it to ourselves.

Freedom from Imprisonment

“Become willing to be one who cultivates the ability to allow all things.  The mind that is free can do this.  The mind that is imprisoned cannot.  For the mind that is imprisoned is so because it insists that what it perceives should become different in itself, but that the perceiver need not change.  And that is the very essence of imprisonment.”  (“The Way of Transformation,” The Way of Mastery, Chapter 21, Page 253)

Our problems are frequently self-created. But when we seek answers from a counselor, we often think that everybody else has to change–rather than us! This insight from the psychologist and writer, Richard Carlson.

And this is exactly what Jesus is saying here, channeled by Jayem. But we need to “allow,” and this means being willing to have it so. It doesn’t mean we never will work for change in ourselves, other people, or the world, but it does mean that we are accepting in the face of things that don’t seem to want to be different. We don’t become tangled up in trying to effect change, when things often just seem to remain the same, oblivious to our influence.

In an unreal world, we project what we are viewing. It is a mass hallucination, an illusion. A Course in Miracles says famously, “There is no world!,” and though we don’t want to believe it, there it is.

We ought not to worry others with our insistence that they do our bidding. It is enough that we, the perceiver, make changes in ourselves that we see are needed. It always starts with ourselves. The world will change when enough people realize this. The tipping point will have been reached.