Archive for Spiritual Journey

We are all one

It’s hard to believe that such different pieces of nature can combine into a blended blanket of beauty.

oday it is buried behind baskets, boxes, bins and folded clothing.

  • The queen bed is stacked in the dining room in pieces.
  • The rounded headboard sports the claw marks of a heavy, beautiful white cat who made leaps onto the wood in order to see outside.

They are not carved for life, but they remind me of the joy that Spirit the feline had for all things. Two mattresses are lined up in front of the headboard and the matching end board sits firmly against the dining room table. The table is immoveable against the weight.
Pieces of china that are promised to my niece are jailed in the wall hutch until the bed can be moved into its rightful place.

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The Sum of Me

Be who we are

An oil painting of a Greek fishing village is lodged against a bookcase in the home office. Only the upper left hand corner of the gilded frame can be seen. I know what’s there, I know the seafoam, light turquoise, gold highlights of this village where men are boarding their boats to catch their daily inventory. My friend Wilda bought it for herself many years ago because she felt the picture captured different lights of the day. It hung over her couch in the living room. For reasons known only to her and me, she put a note on the back that indicated the painting would go to me at the time of her death. It has donned walls in my workplace and in my home.

Today it is buried behind baskets, boxes, bins and folded clothing.

The queen bed is stacked in the dining room in pieces. The rounded headboard sports the claw marks of a heavy, beautiful white cat who made leaps onto the wood in order to see outside. They are not carved for life, but they remind me of the joy that Spirit the feline had for all things. Two mattresses are lined up in front of the headboard and the matching end board sits firmly against the dining room table. The table is immoveable against the weight.
Pieces of china that are promised to my niece are jailed in the wall hutch until the bed can be moved into its rightful place.

The front room sports a collection of furniture. An oak armoire with carved floral patterns on the door handles rests up against the divider between the entry and the living area. In front of that is a dresser, always used in the bedroom, now a depository for things needing to be found each day. Alongside the front room window is a small bed, covered with a fluffy comforter, nestled next to a sofa table. The sofa table now serves as a bed stand, although the bed is much lower. Sleeping on the bed in the day puts one at an angle that showcases the crimson red of the maple leaves and the turquoise of the fall sky. It also puts one in plain view to visitors walking to the front door and the mailman who continuously treks up to deliver the Amazon package of the day.

In other structures in town are storage units, filled with promise and surprise. It is furniture that was inherited, pieces from another home, all deemed special and waiting to be used.

I walk down the halls of my home and I see how each room represents either a vain attempt to keep order of everyday things needed for living; or those rooms that hold those clustered items relegated to an inappropriate space because they cannot be where they were always intended.

“This is me” I thought. “This is my jumbled persona.”

That is not a self-deprecation. I have rooms in me that are like those rooms that have a semblance of order. Things are pretty much in their place, but there is always room for improvement. I’m fine with that, it allows me to stretch the person in me that likes to learn even more about what would make me operate more fully in my world.

In this house, I have two rooms that are wide open space. They are in various stages of renovation. There is an intention set for their direction.

Soon the bedroom will have new furniture, beautifully painted walls replacing blue wallpaper with pink rosebuds in perpendicular designs. Soon French doors will look out at the woods in the back yard, replacing a smaller ranch style window that I would not have been able to exit in case of fire in the hall. Soon there will be a sitting area, for a cup of something in the morning as the sun rises through the trees.

Soon the bathroom will have a small Jacuzzi tub against a new wall with windows that will have calla lily etchings in them. The tiled floor will be replaced with a light oak flooring that will complement dark wood furniture chest and table that will hold calla lilies.
These rooms will go from “functional” to “chic”.

I am like that. There are big places in me that are open and spacious, looking ahead to who and what I want to be. In order to see that occur, there must be intentions set so that I can move toward those places of growth that I desire.

There is a new house that is empty and ready with its “good bones”; open ceilings and picture windows that will bring immense light into its interior. That light draws me to the joy of mother earth, with her flowing rivers and lush trees.

Some of the furniture that makes the other house unusable right now will come to this house. It will grace the living space with its beauty, it will provide rest to the weary and it will showcase the unique person I have become over the years as I’ve identified what I consider beautiful and special.

This place is new to me. It was built by a man with a vibrant past who wanted to leave his mark by planting redwoods, rhododendrons and wildflowers. I am moving in to his vision.
There is another part of me that has the good bones, and I anticipate the open embrace of the wilderness outside. This house represents the movement toward expansion that my soul calls for. This is the place of new beginnings. This is the place where I simply open my arms and allow the Divine to speak through me of what I have come here to be. This is the place that asks that I sit with my feet dangling over the deck above the river below and listen. This is the place where I open my mind to prayer, and I open my crown to the guidance found nowhere else on the earth.

This is the place within me that understands that as I have created a world of beauty in some areas of me and have accepted those parts of me that are “unfinished” but definitely manageable, I am moving more and more toward the part of me that opens to the Mystery, that asks for the ability to forgive and embrace because this is a world that must be focused on Love.

There are two primary factors that have created this matrix of domiciles symbolic to me at this time. Without those factors, my awakened being would not recognize the blessings I’ve just conveyed.

Another house was recently sold. It was a wonderful house that had such lovely wood and seclusion. After 31 years of accumulated memories, the house is full of new blood, new stories in the making. As the shelves were cleared and the attic emptied, I realized that I have released old patterns that were holding me back. The memories in that house were those of a person learning to see things differently, but stubbornly fighting to hold on to old beliefs and teachings that did not work in my desire to live a spirt filled life. With each box put into the car and taken away, my desire to serve my ego unplugged itself from my persona. I was letting go. I was blessing the learnings and the wonderful memories of family, friends and events that fit another time. That time is gone. I bow to its potency and I am grateful.

Through all of this undulation of change (externally and internally) the common denominator was the people. It is not easy to move through release of the old during the time of bending and shaping to the clutter of expectancy, and the encirclement of the brand new.

There were the friends who knew of the internal ascending I endeavored to make every day. They cheered and they listened and they believed.

There was the excited family that exploded with excitement at the new house where they would create their own memories and choose their own life path within those tri-level walls.

There was the contractor who stood side by side with us as we created the vision of those new rooms and supplied us with friendly, respectful and highly qualified people who set forth to make it happen. There was no ego in his determination. “I want you to love it” he said, and opened the pathway for my own self exploration of what that would entail.
There was my husband who quietly offered his support. He walked with me in the goodbye ritual at the old house. He used his own building skills to support the contractor in his mission. He will sit on that deck at the river and breathe in his own life force in whatever form that may take.

There is the realtor who made this journey hers. She sold the old life and found the new one for us. She knew what would bring the old house to someone else’s heart, and she knew that the river house would be our enchanting tale.

The stepping stones in this two month journey were wider and easier to traverse because all involved collectively linked arms and moved our hearts and souls upward. We all welcomed the new beauty of those rooms that are opening to their fullest potential. We all will enjoy the river house for the balm it will give.

None of us are the same as we were when this voyage began.

My rooms love their new colors, their piles of potentials, their spaces where energy flows and rises to new levels. My domiciles dance in the wind, reach for the sun and the rain, lay gently in the boughs of the trees and look past the clouds and into the blue sea of All that Is. I feel the generosity of a Bigger than Life cosmos that gleefully handed down this adventure for reasons I don’t know at this point.

I am simply grateful for it all.

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God on the Fourth Floor

Every Friday morning I get on the elevator and ride it to the fourth floor of the Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis. It’s always a long ride.

My ride is always fraught with ruminations about my purpose and what life holds when I reach the fourth floor phone and they buzz me in.

I am still learning my “calling”. No one on this floor has requested a chaplain on my watch. Every visit I make is a “cold call”. My job, according to my supervisor, is to “bring God into the room”. That feels incredibly daunting. Who am I to bring God anywhere?

What I love about chaplaincy is that I’m not allowed to preach (which I don’t do very well anyway). I’m not allowed to bring my own theology (which isn’t clearly defined for the outsider because I’m so against having a ‘set’ theology). I’m to bring a Presence that allows openness that helps clarify the mile marker on their personal spiritual journey.

I’m an anomaly in a mainstream setting. The other chaplains know who they are. They are Christians. They espouse American religion and it fits them like a wet suit – they move in it easily and comfortably and there are no tears or bubbles that need mending.

I, on the other hand, will dance wildly at Solstice time in worship of the Goddess. I will join others at Buddhist retreats and learn acceptance. I will honor my chakras on a weekly basis, hoping for a deepening of the ancient Hindu spirituality. I will allow Jesus in my heart as much as I can without allowing the fundamentalist dogma to crawl out and into my ventricular system. I thrill when I hear Jewish chant and soften at the rituals. I believe in the braided path to God, and I use my sixty’s marching mentality to defend all that I believe – as I hear the Native American war chant beating in the distance.

That is the strange persona that I bring to the fourth floor. I don’t expect the nurses to understand it. The minute I introduce myself as the Friday Chaplain, they have a preconceived notion of what I’m about.

The fourth floor is for women patients only. Bright pastel walls blend with the bouquets of flowers adorning room shelves when a partially opened door allows a peek into the room. Balloons can be seen waving a joyful “look at this!” Passersby catch a glimpse of youthful husbands and wives as they gaze at their new born child with awe. There is a gentle sense of love and joy in those rooms.

When I began my internship, I would knock timidly on the door and then gauge whether I was welcome by facial expressions. The most recognizable expressions are those of Mormon couples. They have no need for any spiritual presence outside of the True Church. The second most understandable expressions are those afraid that I’m there to proselytize. I empathize mightily. After years of Christians convinced that I need their brand of God, I have no desire to be a continuing conduit of arrogant parochialism for captive hospital audiences.

Last week I walked into room 4106. I knocked first and listened for permission to enter. I scanned the room for evidence of family and support. There were flowers and balloons.

A woman lay in the bed, fresh faced and beaming. Instead of the baby lying in the nearby Plexiglas bed, she was laying in her mother’s arms. Her skin was the color of Bing cherries with a web of dark hair caressing her tiny head. The mother looked up when I told her who I was. She welcomed me in, and asked me to give her the bulb so that she could remove unwanted material from the baby’s nose.

The baby’s name is Marissa and she doesn’t like bulbs up her nose. Her reaction was immediate and vehement.

“That’s a spunky little girl” I exclaimed, falling in love immediately. Her mother agreed and gleefully began to share the energy she experienced as Marissa settled into her womb and claimed her place as an important part of their life within that cave of nutrients and love.

I moved to the other side of the bed to get a better look at this little female who had claimed my heart. She opened her tiny eyes, and a Light emanated in the room. I shared my observation with the mother, who again validated my perceptions. “Her middle name was Christina because she was a gift from God”.

She had lost a baby two years ago through a tubular pregnancy, a chaplain sat with her to support her in her grief. This time, she wanted a chaplain to pray a prayer of thanksgiving.

The prayer came easy. I wrapped Marissa with a blanket of gratitude for the role she would bring to our world. I thanked God for the parents who would care for her and support her. A tear rolled down my cheek as I sent a virtual hug over to this baby, who had settled down and lay with ease in her mother’s arms.

I opened my eyes, and felt the glow of Love and Joy wrapped around us. Marissa was the only being that took it for granted. The mother and I smiled at each other; we knew it was a special moment.

As I was leaving, the mother promised me that Marissa would belong to a church and attend Sunday School every week.

“Just remind her of who she is every day” I said, (breaking my chaplaincy code of expressing my own theology). “A Child of God”.

It was a defining moment. I didn’t bring God to the fourth floor. She was already there.

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(The Gift of Being Present)

We look with uncertainty
Beyond the old choices for
Clear-Cut answers
To a softer, more permeable aliveness
Which is every moment
At the brink of death;
For something new is being born in us
If we but let it
Ann Hillman

“I could die Thursday.”  Those were my waking thoughts on a Tuesday morning as sounds of birds singing and ocean rumble filled the bedroom in my beach home.   It wasn’t a depressingly fatalistic thought randomly pulled from the caverns of my psyche.  It was a sobering reality of my choice of activity for the week.  Thursday I was jumping out of a plane.

I’ve always wanted to experience the free flying soar of a bird, gazing over the world unencumbered by airplane window rims and endless wing span.   There seemed to be a higher calling to feel the air bathe my face and float with the clouds.

Since it was my sixtieth year on earth, it seemed like the time to give it a shot.  So I signed up in June.  I had a month to plan, but I didn’t.  And then I had two days to come to grips with an air flight that had no protection of airplane walls.
Mortality belongs to anyone else.  Once in a while there is a realization that my days are numbered, but numbered only in quadruple digits.  Jumping out of a plane suddenly brought a potentially much shorter time span.  Death might be imminent and I better be ready.

In a spiral notebook my service was planned and my art, my books and my clothes were assigned to a list of people who may want them or could distribute them accordingly.  As the words spilled out on the lined pages, I realized who mattered in my life.  I realized what beauty I had and wanted to share.  With a free associative flair I allowed the faces of those who truly rested in my heart to become stewards of my worldly goods.  A trip to Walden Pond was gleefully planned for family to take my ashes for distribution among the chickadees and deep red maple trees.

Gratitude filled my soul about my rich and juicy life, but thinking of jumping from the plane caused my solar plexus to quiver.  I’ll live lift to the fullest, just in case.” I told God.  “If you could send a reassuring sign that I should do this, that would really be great.”

Standing at the edge of the ocean, I opened my eyes to its power.  Wave after wave came up to my feet, lapping at them playfully, always returning to remind me to be conscious of its deep and outstretching waters.

Chats with my loved ones became even more frequent.  Conversations had more depth than usual, allowing for affairs of the heart, rather than the mundane of the every day.

Once while driving a neighborhood road, a young buck pranced across the road foraging for food.  A neighbor slowed traffic to keep it safe as we watched in awe of his strength and beauty.

Colors deepened around the hills and the lush foliage of the coastal mountain range seemed just a bit more vibrant.

There was no doubt in my mind that I would jump, it was fine.  The signs were there, like a beautiful card sent by the Universe that the world was perfect and so was my decision.

Finally, Thursday came.

The decision to jump could no longer be altered.  Friends came to see me dive, gathering under a tent by the airfield.

Waiver after waiver was initialed, disclaiming any liability of crushed skull, back, feet or arms.  Dying began to be a preferable outcome to the myriad of disabilities for which I could not blame the airfield.  A whimper began in my belly and quickly ascended into my vocal cords as I read and initialed.

“You are not selling me on this” I stated in a voice that squeaked.

“It’s a litigious society” the airfield official brusquely retorted.

Walking to the plane strapped into the appropriate gear took me by my friends.  Looking at their worried faces, all I could say was “remember I love you”.

The mantra “Thy Will Be Done” began to chant in my head, repeating my desire to let God carry me in His hands.  The plane climbed high and hovered against the blue sky.  My prayer continued.  It was honest.  It was authentic.  It was the letting go of my lifetime.

The large side panel of the plane opened with a clang, the cold air filled the cargo unit coldly and intrusively.

My tandem partner scooted me to the open panel and advised me to wrap my arms to my chest and lean my head back against him.  “Thy Will Be Done” I uttered…………………………………..

I leaned back…………………………

At thirteen thousand feet the air smells and tastes like ocean.  Genesis tells of the firmament lifted from the earth’s waters into a “canopy” of heavens.  “It’s true” my mind said as we sailed through the cold and salty sky and the wind stippled my face with lightly tapping fingers.

There was no more thought of the future, no concept of the past, falling through the air was being totally an experience of the present, and God carried me through the atmosphere as I gazed at the world with wide open eyes.  Flying in partnership with the universe, the world greeted me with a cheer and a wave.  My Mother the earth perfectly partnered with the clear blue sky, the far and wide stretch of green and brown patchwork ground, the majestic mountains bowing to me in welcome, and the sounds of silence with just a hush of wind caressing us, holding us as we flew unencumbered.  There was no terror, simply peace at experiencing the world in its glory so completely.

When the parachute pulled me upright, I felt the sadness of endings.  I would soon become earth bound once again.

As we lowered closer to the earth, I could see small beings waving joyously at us.  I knew I was coming home to my life.  Gratitude filled my heart, for the world I had seen in its total unobstructed beauty, for the people who waited my return with love and relief, for my “new best friend David” who guided me gently to the ground.

There was a death that Thursday.  It was a death to fear of the unknown.  The greatest gift was the resurrection to living completely in the moment, reminded lovingly of the wonder of a world that sustains us; even when we are too busy living to notice.

On a large piece of paper taken to the airfield are signatures from each of my friends in attendance.  Some wrote short phrases, some wrote prose.  One statement still sits like a beacon on my heart:

“You are nutz.  I love you”

Being earthbound isn’t all bad.

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