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Lost in translation

Today, in the American Christian tradition, is Pentecost. According to the Bible, it is the day when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles, they each perceived the message from the heavens in the language of their birth, and each was instructed to take the message to the world. For most who follow Christian tradition, it’s the end of yet another Easter season; for others, it’s instructions about how to worship.

I say it’s more. Much more. Besides, who says what is the correct way to worship? Or that formalized, programmed worship is the only way to go?

If you would, shelve your personal religious practice for about 30 seconds and follow along with me. (You’ll get your practice back…I promise!)

What are the main messages of each faith tradition?  According to The Harmony Institute, the top ten messages are:

  1. There is one “God” (substitute whatever name you prefer)
  2. God is everywhere
  3. We each have a soul
  4. God is inside us
  5. We are all capable of understanding spiritual knowledge
  6. God has a name (again, whatever you prefer to call it…some traditions hold that many names exist for the same being)
  7. We should be respectful and compassionate of each other
  8. Morals are important
  9. We are all connected
  10. Peace and nonviolence are the goals

There are other messages, to be sure, but I agree this list comprises the commonalities. What we get hung up on are the details of the religious practice because of the way that our practices have been translated, filtered, and passed down through time. Differences in language, culture, emphasis, and translator bias has resulted in a bunch of people who are divided over the meaning of the same thing.

The very same thing.

I think that the message of Pentecost is a reminder of number 9 of the above list: We are all connected. By missing this part of the message and focusing on the “speaking in their own language” part, we have not– we can not — achieve number 10. We are simply disconnected people who periodically descend into exclusion, further division, and violence.

And with that, the lasting message of God (or Buddha, the Creator, the Goddess, etc.) is lost in translation.

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Posted by on 05/15/2016 in Insight

 

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We are hard-boiled eggs

I sometimes feel that my life is very busy — overwhelmingly so, on occasion — and that taking time to slow, breathe, and reflect simply means that I am shirking my work. For those who know me personally, I doubt that they would ever associate the word “shirking” with me. Workaholic, perhaps. Driven, definitely. When I do take time to slow down, I wonder what is the point of being so busy. Is it that I truly have that much to accomplish? Or am I using my commitments as some sort of defense mechanism?

I took one of those ubiquitous Facebook tests recently, and this particular one struck a chord with me. The purpose of this test was to help the tester determine what might be subconsciously holding them back from attaining their career aspirations. My result startled me at first, but it makes more sense upon reflection. It revealed that I am afraid that other people will not like me, so I avoid situations that allow me to open up to other people fully and am reluctant to state my own truth because of this fear.

Talk about being hit in the head with the proverbial 2×4… That result, as childish as it may sound, is spot-on correct, which makes me a little uncomfortable. I regard myself as serious and adult (for the most part), and it seems silly to be afraid of other people not liking me. What drove it home for me was the insight that every failed relationship in my life has left me with some element of thinking that I am unlikable and that is why the relationship failed– not because the other person was going through something that I did not understand or know. Upon reflection, I see a pattern of my trying too hard to get someone to like me and to show me their esteem in a way that I need to see it. And by not seeing that, I have built up a wall that has become thicker over time.

Prior to taking this test, I happened to be on a retreat with my church’s leadership team. The retreat was held at a lovely monastery in upstate New York that had glorious views of the Hudson River. On the first morning of the retreat, I happened to be peeling a hard-boiled egg with my breakfast, and it occurred to me that part of this life’s journey is to find a way to remove the built-up layers of defense that we all have so that the real person may emerge. If you have ever peeled an egg, you know that sometimes the shell can be removed easily, but sometimeseggs-peeled it requires painstaking effort and patience.

I have a feeling that I am in the latter category.

The hardest part of peeling the egg is making the initial crack big enough to start the process. In my life, that first crack involves an element of force followed by gentle, careful, and persistent trust. Trust that I will be liked for who I am. Trust that the walls I have built no longer need to exist. Trust that all will be well. And in my case, trust that it is alright to not be busy, that people will still like me if I take the time to take care of my own needs, and that I am likable just as I am.

This could be one of the biggest challenges yet.

 

 
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Posted by on 04/28/2016 in Growth, Insight

 

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On an ordinary Saturday

It’s an ordinary Saturday. Everyone has slept in and is waking up gently, either reading a book or doing whatever they like on a tablet. The cat is purring, and meows at me to get up and get my coffee going. It’s drizzly and 50 degrees, and the leaden sky obscures any sunlight. I prepare to do the weekend errands and get into my new car. The seat is warm against the slight chill, and I quickly find my favorite music on the satellite radio. And then it hits me:

This is the life I’ve always dreamed of.

In this one ordinary moment of existence, I am aware that I have a career that fulfills and stretches me beyond what I think I can do. I have a happy family, including two children who are growing in beauty and intelligence, who occasionally stun me with their insights, and who grow faster than I could ever have imagined. My husband is very successful in his chosen profession and is well respected in our community. Our furry friend always greets me when I come home, even if it’s only with a flick of her tail. I am going to the grocery store to choose nutritious food for the family. The area in which I live is gloriously beautiful, even on this damp morning. I glance through the large moonroof as I drive and see trees silhouetted against the clouds and little rivers of raindrops streaming toward the back of the car.

What drives this all “home” is the little Facebook memories posts that occasionally pop in to my feed. Pictures from three and four years ago appear, and I would have never guessed then where I would be today…

…On an ordinary Saturday.

 
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Posted by on 04/02/2016 in Insight

 

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Subtle changes are the most powerful

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These past couple of weeks have passed in a blur that has included dropping kids off and picking them up, creating fun classes for my students, watching the snow disappear (sniff!), and a myriad of too many other tidbits. Among it all, I’ve noticed some very subtle personal shifts.

  • I find that I am deliberately choosing the healthy food options, not because some diet plan tells me I must, but because they make me feel healthier. I had a hamburger and fries yesterday, and almost immediately noticed the draggy feeling of too much fat and salt. Even if I never achieve that slender body I once had, I feel healthier.
  • I had the great fortune to escort some students to see the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange. It was amazing to be in there, but what was more extraordinary was when we took the students to the 9/11 memorial. Standing on the site, I suddenly understood the magnitude of the shock and the terror that literally a million people in the local area would have felt. It was eerie to stand at the edge of the reflecting pool and realize that it had been the basement for the building where thousands of people worked. Where once I would have been thrilled more by the trip to the Exchange, what stayed with me was the profound sorrow that I experienced.
  • I have had two situations within the last 24 hours in which I felt justifiably, furiously angry. In both cases, I allowed myself to feel the anger, but instead of allowing it to burn on, I let it burn out and chose to be calm. In one case, the calm was for myself so that I didn’t allow the weight of the anger to weigh me down. In the other situation, the calm was for my daughter, who was so terrified that she was somehow unlovable because I was angry. In both cases, the shift I noticed was that I didn’t experience the physical side-effects of the anger (i.e., a tension headache) because of a prolonged reaction to the event, and my calmness influenced the mood of my home.
  • I’ve also been dealing with a fairly uncomfortable medical issue (not the un-friend RA, but something different and definitely TMI) that has required a significant amount of patience for me to handle. Tonight is the first time in about three weeks that I’ve felt relief from the pain and discomfort. Through it all, I have been patient and hopeful that the doctors and I would arrive at an appropriate solution. Where once would have been anxiety, there has been hope and endurance.

What has caused these small, powerful shifts? Maturity? Perhaps. Wisdom? Again, perhaps. The answer is that I simply do not know. But I am grateful that they occurred. I feel calmer, healthier, and more content than I can remember in, well, ever.

 
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Posted by on 03/11/2016 in Growth, Insight

 

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When mommy is lying on the floor…

I’ve been doing yoga on and off for about 20 years now (a statistic that blows my mind…how can it have been 20 years?) and am accustomed to the weird joint angles. But lately my un-friend (RA, and that’s not Raymond Arthur or something cutesy like that) has made those angles less than comfortable to achieve, much less sustain. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea that I might have to add yoga to the list of things that RA has taken from me.

Until I found a style called Yin yoga. I’m in love with yoga again. In this style, the emphasis is on gentle, relatively lengthy stretching of the connective tissues. No balancing, none of those painful downward facing dog positions, and nothing jarring or quick. Just softness, peace, and gently releasing tension from the tendons, spine, and internal organs. Hah– one life activity has been rescued from the greedy un-friend!

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The other effects of this practice are more profound. I’m finding that my stress levels are significantly lower, I’m sleeping more deeply, and I don’t have as many headaches. I’m also learning more about who I am and accepting what I like, regardless of other people’s opinions. I have become more assertive in many ways– assertive, not aggressive or passive-aggressive — and am improving the quality of not just my life, but that of my family. My colleagues and students have commented on how patient and thorough I have become and wonder at how I maintain the external appearance of energy and peace. You, my friends, know the secret. It’s al about caring for self so that I have more self to give.

So if mommy is in a weird, somewhat lumpy pretzel-like position on the floor, just step through quietly. Don’t engage, and above all– don’t trip over me. You’ll be thankful.

 
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Posted by on 02/24/2016 in Growth, Insight

 

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Diamonds from the Sky

This winter has been less snowy than what I consider wonderful. Let’s put it this way: The most we’ve had is three inches, while we had at least a foot or two at this time the last couple of years. It’s been a bit disappointing, to say the least.

And then came this evening’s snow storm, which I hardly call a “storm,” but ok– I defer to the meteorologists’ judgment. I was driving home from my students’ club meeting to see thousands of tiny diamonds in my headlights. It seems so magical and I don’t recall seeing the snow with just this quality before in my life. I was driving home and was transfixed by all the glittering diamonds in the car’s headlights: More than I could count, and it was a challenge to pay attention to the road when these little diamonds were everywhere I looked.

This is certainly not my first snowfall. Far from it, in fact. But it’s one I’ll not forget soon.

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Posted by on 02/08/2016 in Insight

 

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Lightly child, lightly

Live & Learn

light-chest-mind

I wanted to think it was like a light bulb, life,
dangling in the chest, asking to be switched on.
But it’s not the light that’s even in question,
rather, what’s your brilliant, glaring wattage?
What do you dare to gleam out and reflect?”

Ada Limón, “The Other Wish,” from Bright Dead Things

Credits:

  • Sculpture: Ronald Ventura (Blanco, 2015. Metal, fiberglass, Resin) via Thisisnthappiness.com.
  • Poem Source: Boston Poetry Slam
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

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Posted by on 01/25/2016 in Motivation

 
 
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