Thursday, July 29, 2010
Barn's burnt down --
I can see the moon.
“I desire, Brother Wolf, to make peace between you and [the people], so that you may offend no more, and they shall forgive you your past offenses.”—St. Francis of Assisi, from “The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi”
“This…speaks to the workings of grace and love in all of us. We have the same power as St. Francis to transform animosity into love. Are you [we] open to this power of grace and love that extends to all sentient beings?”
(from [The Mystic Hours] by Brother Wayne Teasdale, 2004, p. 278)
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
"I cried because I had no shoes, then I met a man who had no feet." (Anonymous)
A couple of weeks ago our Wednesday group went through a repeating exercise of identifying the habits that put us down and keep us down. These are the stories we learned long ago that just keep showing up in our lives.
One of the new participants in the group, when asked what she thought of this exercise, quickly offered that at first she thought itt was corny, silly, weak, pointless—I don’t remember her exact label. But then she added just as quickly that she realized it had hit the mark for her.
To jump to the chase, from the exercise sheet we had completed, we ended up with three statements that we were then asked to take home with us. Our assignment was to stand in front of the mirror and do the following: Extending our left arm, say “I release my need to ________. Then extending our right arm, say “I release my need to ________. And finally, raising our arms above our heads in the shape of a V (perhaps V for Victory), say “I am grateful God is the ________ I am.” For me, it was: I release my belief in Rejection. I release my need to Self-Criticize. I am grateful God is the wholeness I am.
I guess it should come as no surprise that the words, habits we each chose to complete the blanks were not that dissimilar.
Fear, isolation, rejection, blame and shame plague most of us in some fashion or another. They live at the heart of the stories we have learned and that we continue to tell ourselves. We make them the truth.
Each time I get one of the “Forwarded” email messages that are continually circulating—the ones whose purpose is to separate us one from the other and promote the belief that we can’t trust one another—I immediately go on alert. After all, these messages intend that we should divide ourselves—us and them—and articulate our fears and isolation. They are about rejection and rejecting.
I had paid little attention to these emails until the most recent presidential election. When the messages arrived periodically bearing some alleged truth about the Black man who would be president and the female who would become Speaker of the House, in a combination of outrage and disgust over the ignorance that too frequently has its foot on our necks, I questioned, can this be true! For some time now, messages aimed at charging and condemning people of the Muslim faith are trafficking on the Internet. Thankfully, good sense led me to do a little fact checking (in my case to go to the Internet) and search for the source of these alleged truths. Without exception, I found the email messages to be hoaxes. Websites like www.urbanlegends.com and www.religioustolerance.org nailed it.
My own sense of right told me that I needed to let the person who had forwarded the message to me each time—and usually the list of recipients was at least a score of people—know that he or she was passing along information that was either distorted or untrue and that had clearly been manipulated to slander individuals and groups.
These habits of acting out our fear become most pathetic to me when I see the printed versions in the hands of people who probably haven’t joined the 21st century and don’t have computers. Thank you, friends and family, who are so ready to help us reinforce our fears by putting this nonsense in our hands and heads.
So as corny as it might seem, this morning when I came across my exercise sheet from two weeks ago, I thought, “well maybe this is a sign that I should give this a shot.” With sheet in hand, I went to the bathroom mirror. Clad in t-shirt and boxers, my night hair plastered in twenty directions, I stood there, thinking, “loser”. But I went on, counting the times I repeated the exercise. Maybe I made it to ten. Not the point, however. As I repeated this three-part mantra, at first focused on the sagging flesh of my face, my cow-licked hair, and the lack of muscle tone in my triceps (a reminder to go to the community gym for my modest dumb bell workout this morning), I got it. Gee, I’m better than the credit I give myself. Better yet, I am God’s own. I can love myself, and maybe, just maybe, it might become a lot easier to love—and to trust the love—of others—regardless of the tribe, regardless of how we are different. Smile begets smile, I’m thinking.
I have my habits and stories—learned long ago. And they’ve become comfortable to me, even though they’ve kept me from growing. Do we dare talk about happiness? My dissatisfaction with myself really can’t be separated from my fear of and dissatisfaction with others. As I was reminded the other day, any time we want to start working on figuring out where that gnawing feeling of discord is coming from—fault finding with this person or that group or some situation, all we have to do is look for the common denominator. That would be me. We get what we give—fear, trust, hate, love, blame, responsibility. The least I can do is try to discern when I’m fooling myself, or worse, using the same weapons on others that are part of the arsenal I use on myself. Sometimes a slow learner, I’m getting it. And so it is.
“I'm Starting With The Man In
I'm Asking Him To Change
And No Message Could Have
Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place…
Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change”
From Michael Jackson, “Man in the Mirror”
Look into the Mirror—Santa Fe, New Mexico (July 28, 2010)
R. Harold Hollis
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
I was one of 14 nieces and nephews who recently received another cash gift from the estate of our aunt and uncle. While the heirs come from both sides of this childless union, seven of us especially know the love of our aunt, who at times was a mother to each of us. She was the mother who loved and didn’t judge, who while she treasured any time she spent with us—singly or otherwise—didn’t feel any ownership over us. She simply loved us.
The letter we received, asking us to agree to the terms of distribution from our aunt and uncle’s estate, reminded us to think about our stewardship of this gift from our aunt and uncle’s hard work, good fortune, and mindful ways concerning their good fortune. For my part, I was totally surprised when I was told a year ago that I was to be one of equal heirs of my aunt’s generosity. In the world of big money, which has a mighty broad definition, this gift is not huge. But I realized then, and I know even more clearly now, this gift will make a huge difference in my future, my life. “Thank you,” I say, “thank you for blessing me in this way”.
On July 13th, some of our Hollis kin gathered for lunch and then visited our Aunt Mary’s grave in Houston. I loved what cousin Donald had to say about this. “[We] bought silk flowers and went to talk to Aunt Mary. She didn’t have much to say, but we did. Took pictures and did a little praying with her. I know I really needed this and was happy to be joined by the others.” I missed out on this celebration of familial love, but I am reminded again today of what I trust to be true. Although Aunt Mary might have been quiet that day, she was present, and she was touched by the love offering of her nieces and nephews.
This matter of heirs and money is essentially settled. What will never end, though, is the recognition that we are only as much as our love. So again, I say “thank you” for the love and the generosity of my aunt and uncle. I smile at the prospect of the stewardship that is my choice and my privilege. Thank you for blessing me in so many ways. And so it is.
Stewardship—Santa Fe, New Mexico (July 21, 2010)
R. Harold Hollis
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
So you ask,
"What does gratitude look like?"
I know what it feels like.
Like an encouraging message,
Especially one you didn’t expect.
Like a handshake from a stranger
Who decides to sit and talk.
Like a sun-cleansed breeze,
On an otherwise hot day.
Like walking through a door,
A door you didn’t even notice,
And finding a friend
On the other side.
R. Harold Hollis
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Each Wednesday night, a currently small group of us gather for what has been named “Wednesday Night Inspiration”. We do this at the center where I have chosen to have my formal God experience each week. Having said that, I am reminded that I read, I am told, and I try to remember, “There is one life. That life is God. That life is my life now.” Surely our human experiences are mostly similar. Regardless of how we choose to name it—God, Spirit, Creator, the Divine, all of the above—if we have chosen to be conscious of our essence, then we have also grappled with trying to reconcile that essence with the challenges of life.
On Wednesday nights, we begin with a little dancing, and because we are mostly similar in age, the music speaks to our generation's experience with radio music—a little rock ‘n roll and a little rhythm & blues. Dancing in church? My Internet friend, Wikipedia, affirms that dance has been an important part of ceremony, rituals, and celebrations throughout human history. As I read from “Science of Mind” magazine this morning—the current issue focusing on our creativity—I came to an article about a man who grew up in Malawi. Political unrest in the 1980s in his country brought him to the United States as a young man. And though he thought he would pursue a career in business, he chose instead to study theater and dance. Among the many accomplishments he’s made over the last 30 years, he has been recognized with the Dalai Lama’s Unsung Heroes of Compassion award for his work in using performance art as a tool for healing. Peace is at the center of his message and work.
So it dawned on me this morning—that’s what we are doing each Wednesday night. Even though I’ve commented, with a grin, several times—“My God, we’re holy rollers” (no offense intended). Last night, Steve Winwood’s 1986 #1 hit, “Higher Love” provided the inspiration for us to sweep into the floor space that had been created for us to get into the spirit, as it were.
“Think about it
there must be higher love
Down in the heart or hidden in the stars above.
Without it life is wasted time
Look inside your heart
I'll look inside mine.”
(from “Higher Love,” Steve Winwood)
The lyrics are dynamite, but the music, well, I couldn’t and I wouldn’t want to sit still.
Our weekly gatherings are about so much more than dancing. We do a little drumming—hmmm, more woo-woo. We light candles and release that which would hold us captive, someone sings a solo, we sing together, we state our affirmations, but most importantly perhaps, we hear a talk on God, faith, love, gratitude, forgiveness, blessings and the act of blessing, the freedom that our Creator wants us to know, and all of the things that any of us have learned on our spiritual journey. But we don’t talk about sin and guilt. And we don’t understand God as a male figure in the sky who wants to control us and exact punishment when our human nature leads us to fall short somehow. We are reminded as the prayer attributed to St. Francis tells us, it is in loving that we are loved; it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned. And we are reminded that we are at choice—always at choice.
How marvelous it is to know the healing power of music and dance. How marvelous to know that in spite of how we choose to separate ourselves one from the other, that we really are one and that celebrating this oneness is our challenge. The home of two of our Wednesday celebrants was broken into yesterday, so they were not physically present at the celebration last night. Before Steve Winwood’s music began, our leader offered a prayer of blessing for those who see themselves as victims and therefore privileged to violate the sanctity of another’s space. How marvelous to pray, as the Gospel of Matthew tells us, 5:44—“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
And so it is.
Just Let Me Bless You—Santa Fe, New Mexico (July 15, 2010)
R. Harold Hollis
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
When I began a walk this afternoon, I saw dark clouds to the east. “Rain in the mountains,” I thought, wondering if I would make the loop back to my home base before rain reached me. The sun shone where I stood. I wasn’t concerned with getting wet, but I was mindful that I didn’t want to be in a rainstorm, especially if lightning accompanied the storm.
The fact is that monsoons in New Mexico mean you might get rain, and then again, you might not. At least that’s been the case for the three summers I’ve spent here. Dark as the skies might become—and they might well be dark nearby while you stand in the sunshine—rain on the desert plateau is something you hope for.
No rain today where I live. The air cooled down, but the sun continued shining, tenacious, in a sky mostly bereft of clouds. The wind had its way with the tall cottonwoods and the lone pine outside my balcony door, and the chimes made music. Somewhere nearby someone raised his face to the rain and smiled.
R. Harold Hollis