Sunday Sermon, Part IV, Two Wings of a Bird

“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light-years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual … “

Carl Sagan (1934-1996)

Hold up your hand for just a second.  Feel anything?

At any given second 100 trillion neutrinos are passing through your body  . . .RIGHT NOW.

The majority of neutrinos in the vicinity of the Earth are from nuclear reactions in the Sun. The solar neutrino flux for us on Earth is about 65 billion neutrinos, passing through just one square centimeter of area on earth, every second.  That’s a lot of neutrinos and we are not able to see them, sense them nor understand them.

There is so much, too much, that is not perceivable to our limited senses nor explainable by our reason.

I was a psychotherapist in private practice for 30 years.  Not only did people share their fears and sorrows but unexplainable encounters with spirits, near death experiences and life altering experiences with the divine. I admit I was sometimes skeptical.  Over time it became impossible, to dismiss what intelligent, discerning people shared.  

I now think of science as one wing and religion as the other wing of a bird; a bird needs two wings for flight, one alone would be useless . . .  

 . . .  and I circled back to my study of faith and my belief we live a domino life where when one falls we all fall, where one succeeds we all succeed.   I discovered two faiths I’d not originally studied – Unitarian Universalism and Baha’i. They not only complemented each other but each offered something a bit different.  

Baha’is believe in and share all the UU principles:  

  1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth;
  4.  A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process;
  6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;

. . . and most importantly the 7th UU principle –

Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

The Baha’i World Faith brought me full circle back to childhood and to God but it wasn’t the God of fear but of love.

When I read the three core principles which are the basis for Bahá’í teachings and doctrine: the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of humanity From these stems the belief that God periodically reveals his will through divine messengers: MuhammadJesusMoses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Krishna the Bab and Bahá’u’lláh.  It was an “ah-ha moment for me that all establishers of religion. the great religions of the world, represent successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society. That religion is seen as orderly, unified, and progressive from age to age unexpectedly resonated.

Through decades of trials and tribulations I realize the magical thinking in my childhood, that the world revolved around me, wasn’t quite accurate . . . however,

. . .  perhaps some magical thinking persists 60+ years later.   Every morning I say a Baha’i prayer for family, friends, acquaintances,  past clients and a prayer for those who have passed.  The recitation of all the people grows longer each day and takes longer than the prayers . . . The difference between then and now is my prayers are steeped in love, not terror. 

        *          *           *

I’m attending a sermon writing workshop led by Kent Doss, the reverend at Tapestry Unitarian Universalist Congregation – not because I plan to deliver sermons but because I’m fascinated how ministers, rabbi’s, priests and preachers write and deliver something inspiring enough to capture the imagination and stir humans to transformative right action. week after week after week which seems a daunting undertaking.  

To read Part I, The Interconnectedness of All Beings click HERE

Read Part II, Head & Heart click HERE

Read Part III – Stardusted, click HERE

 

 

Spirituality According to Max, Chapter 7 – LOVE Has No Bounds

“Be not content in showing friendship in words alone.
Let your heart burn with loving-kindness for all who cross your path.”
Baha’u’llah, Baha’i
Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it:
‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39 

If you missed previous chapters here are the links (they do need to be read in sequence to understand the thread):

Prologue & Epilogue
Chapter 1 – Instincts Rule
Chapter 2 – Love at First Lick
Chapter 3 – Chewsing Heaven
Chapter 4 – Unleashed
Chapter 5 – Our Little Angel
Chapter 6 – Favorite Flavors, Patience & Self Control
Chapter 7 – Love has No Bounds

Dad is grinning, despite himself, as Max licks him on any and every part of his body that is accessible. All this is happening ON the couch

My Dad never comfortable with outward displays of loving emotion, even from a dog, starts a wrestling match.  Max is more than up for the challenge.  Jumping on Dad over and over as  Dad pushes him back over and over.  With every jump and every push Max’s eyes grow bigger and bigger . . . a wild look that I can’t describe.  “Dad, Stop it!”  Max  gets wilder and wilder . . . his eyes get bigger and bigger.   “You’re riling him up”.  My sweet little angel looks possessed.  I will only see this look in Max’s eyes as long as my Dad is alive.  They have a primitive bond, a bit unnerving, but a special bond.

Dad finally stops, he’s 92 and no match for Max, “You picked a good one.”

Outwardly I smile. Inwardly I feel triumphant.

My Max loves his new family.  My brother Rick visits. Max’s very first “encounter” with Rick he jumps on the couch smothering Rick’s ear, inside and out, with licks of love.  Rick tries to dodge,  unsuccessfully, Max’s attentions  laughing so hard it brings tears . . . which of course, eggs Max on even more.

Max flagrantly disregards generations of controlled outward displays of affection.  He disregards etiquette and throws pretence away.  He licks my husband, he licks my Dad, he licks my brother, he licks me with unbridled loving passion. I’m sad that Mom, having passed on 4 years prior, didn’t get her share of all this public display of affection.  Max would have licked and loved her too.

Max’s first outing since coming home from the shelter is taking Dad to the grocery market.  Dad never spends much time shopping so this is a perfect opportunity for a short car ride.  Max is more than eager to go. When the car starts he begins squealing, and I do mean squealing, with delight. Non-stop squealing in delight.

I attempt to wait with Max in the car while Dad shops. Max has other ideas.  In self-defense, we take a little spin in the parking lot.  Max in the lead, sniffing, zig-zagging, choking  while I, hang on for dear life.  Abruptly he comes to a dead stop in front of the supermarket clerk who’s  corralling shopping carts.  “What a cute dog, what is he?”, the clerk bends down to pet Max, who without hesitation  exuberantly licks him on his face, his arms, his neck.  The clerk breaks out in delighted laughter.

My world simultaneously crashes and soars.   It not just me, not just my family . . . MAX LOVES EVERYONE.

This is a dog who now has a proper name that reflects his personality – distinct but cute, short but sweet, unique, memorable, independent,  a gourmand not a gourmet  . . .  I add indiscriminate lover to the list.

 

Spirituality According to Max, Chapter 3 – Heavenly Chewsing

“Jesus said: If your leaders say to you “Look! The Kingdom is in the sky!” Then the birds will be there before you are. If they say that the Kingdom is in the sea, then the fish will be there before you are. Rather, the Kingdom is within you and it is outside of you.” The Gospel of Thomas

Prologue & Epilogue

Chapter 1 – Instinct Rules

Chapter 2 – Love at First Lick

 Next time back I bring my Dad, a dog lover to the max. We are not allowed to take Homer into the play enclosure.  Does this mean another family is getting him?  A family with more money, more education, a better zip code?

More barks and humps. Dad’s not the least bit impressed.

I ask the shelter lady, trying to sound very nonchalant (so she can’t detect any desperation),  if they’ve made a decision about my adopting Homer.

“We’ll CALL to let you know if you’ve been chosen, MIZ Westerfield”.  She’s annoyed.  “Thank you”, I feebly respond,  steeling myself against the pain of ultimate rejection,  “WHY are you picking this dog?” Dad asks, clearly puzzled by my choice.

Ten (do you hear 10!) full days after falling in love I get the call, Homer is mine. I yank my husband into the car and tear down to the shelter before they change their minds.

Homer is, as always, DELIGHTED to see me, licking my hands, my arms, my neck, my face as I bend down to leash him.  I’m half-listening to the shelter lady, “Homer’s very friendly but not quite disciplined on walks.” Homer and I are already half way out the door, neither of us taking any chances that the shelter lady changes her mind. AAAAAAAAAnd Homer’s in the lead,  zig-zagging all over the place at full throttle.  Drowning in delight, I laugh louder and louder  which signals Homer to run faster and faster.

My husband finds us careening all over the front parking lot, both of us with tongues hanging out.

“I asked the shelter volunteer if there was anything else to know about him that would be helpful”, my husband says, as we cram all squirming, lurching and licking 29 pounds of dog into the back seat. “She really hesitated when I asked and said they put a wicker chair in his enclosure to see how he’d respond – he chewed it up”

“OF COURSE he would chew it up, rescued an hour before he was to die only to be imprisoned in that horrible enclosure without any companionship!  I would do the same.”, I snap, while trying to control Homer from jumping from the back seat to the front to lick me. This dog really loves me. I AM IN HEAVEN.

Links to all the current chapters (they do need to be read in order to follow the story thread):
Prologue & Epilogue
Chapter 1 – Instincts Rule
Chapter 2 – Love at First Lick
Chapter 3 – Chewsing Heaven
Chapter 4 – Unleashed
Chapter 5 – Our Little Angel
Chapter 6 – Favorite Flavors, Patience & Self Control
Chapter 7 – Love has no Bounds
 

 

Is Spirituality Connected to Pain and Suffering for You?

Walking with Max we passed a house decorated with hundreds of lights, candy canes and Charlie Brown Characters with huge stacks of gifts.  On the gate was a tiny sign that read “Happy Birthday Jesus”.

How and what, I wondered, did this family celebrate.  Many of my clients experience more pain, much suffering, emotional and physical, during the holidays than almost any other time of year.

The spiritual is lost in the longing for what they perceive is missing in their lives – that elusive dream or fantasy of how it should be.

I am NOT minimizing the loss experienced, remembering those who have died or left.  I have experienced the emotional “anniversary” “pain” of the death of loved ones. I am referring to the yearning for the picture in our mind of how we think it should be and the belief that “everyone else” is having that “Hallmark experience”.

Then I read a timely post from Carol D. Marsh at Chronic Pain and Spirituality Her blog is about spirituality, not religion.  As she says, “. . .pain and suffering are universal and so I take a universal approach”.  

I also believe that physical and emotional are so interrelated that whatever the origin of the pain, of the suffering Carol’s post applies.

Here’s an excerpt.   Tell me what YOU think:

“. . .  It’s a simple as this: when I am in pain, I do not care for theological arguments or doctrinal matters, I care about relieving, managing and living with the pain.
 
“. . . Here is how I see it: pain is the migraine – stabbing, pounding – and is physical; suffering is the contortions – worry, fear, despair – and is mental.
 
I have little or no control over migraine pain (behind that statement, there is a long saga of therapies tried, drugs taken, and alternative medicine explored), and that can lead to a sense of helplessness that is truly depressing. So there is something hopeful, something liberating in the knowledge that there is one area in which I have control: how I relate to the pain, or, how my mind thinks about it.
 
It’s the ancient Buddhist saying, pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. For those of us with chronic pain, the physical discomfort is inevitable. We are trying everything we can to alleviate it, and until something works for us, the hopeful news is we do not have to resign ourselves to being victims of it.
 
It is in our ability to choose to leave the egoic mind and turn toward Being that we become most fully and wonderfully human. Here we find what Jesus called, “the peace that passes all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7) And here is where I have found my most effective and healing pain management practice, in a calm of body and tranquility of mind that somehow miraculously reduces in significance the pain of my body, while eliminating the suffering of my mind.
 
” . . . Relieving the mind of thinking and emoting is about connecting to one’s essential Being. This is the journey to Wholeness that must take into account and include our body with its pain and our mind with its suffering. Perhaps that is the hidden blessing in chronic pain: it makes impossible the human tendency to split body and mind, thereby opening the door to our spirituality.”   Carol D. Marsh 
 

To read Carol’s post in it’s entirety click here: 

Chronic Pain and Spirituality 

“Men who suffer not, attain no perfection. The plant most pruned by the gardeners is that one which, when the summer comes, will have the most beautiful blossoms and the most abundant fruit…”
(Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 50)


How to Make the Question: “Am I Enough?” Funny!

Important topic for EVERYONE

and a funny presentation by Brene Brown in the Ted video.  

You will enjoy!

I work with people everyday, helping them intellectually understand and emotionally integrate the truth of who they are.

I would not be able to do this if I hadn’t taken my own journey in my own therapy to learn I was “enough” :  I wasn’t a fraud and I didn’t have to be afraid that others would discover what was wrong with me if I allowed myself to be vulnerable.

I would not be able to work with others if I didn’t believe we all need to live our lives based on that which Jesus taught – LOVE and Baha’u’llah taught – WE ARE ALL ONE.

When I heard this talk by Brene Brown I was blown away to hear her say with science, with humor and with vulnerability what I had learned and struggle to live by.

In moments of shame

practice gratitude and joy

Let myself be seen

In moments of fear

love with my whole heart and soul

Know, I am enough

(P.S. This haiku was written weeks ago!  I am still haiku’d-out!)

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