Friday, December 29, 2006

What Is Holiness?

I am all settled into my new work home on the 9th floor of my building. I have a cozy little area that is quiet and solitary even though other people are around me. The morning sun is a little intense but at least I have some connection with the outdoors. I think I will like it here so I will enjoy it for as long as it lasts.

Yesterday I was sitting in my car waiting for my wife to come out of her office. My cell phone rang and it was her. "Where are you"? I said, "I'm right here in front of your office. I can't believe you don't see me"! She said that she didn't see me anywhere. It was then that I realized I was parked on the wrong block. I was in front of the wrong building. These senior moments are increasing at an alarming rate.

I also picked up my granddaughter at the daycare. As we were walking out I said, "Look at the sky, Chloe. Isn't the sunset beautiful? She pointed to it and said, "Orange!" Then we looked in another direction and saw the moon. "Goodbye, moon!" she said as we headed for the car.

2006 is nearly over. When we return to work it will be a new year. Starting a new year and moving to a new place is an excellent time to renew ourselves, have fresh beginnings and new attitudes, and start with clean slates. Forget all the failures of last year. They're in the past. As 2007 begins, become a new person. Be the person you always wanted to be. Let go of your baggage and start a new journey. Learn to travel lightly. Focus on what's really important in life. Below are the highlights of an article I read on holiness. Holiness may not be the personal goal of everyone. However, the traits listed below could also be applied to just being a good person. Who doesn't want to be a good person? I often wonder about the jerks of the world. Do people really choose to be a jerk? I think not. Somewhere in that person is a hurting soul. Choose to be a good person. If you also turn out holy, all the better! What are the traits of a holy person? According to Fr. Ron Knott, a local priest, the following would be evident in a holy person. It doesn't matter what religion you are or what tradition you follow, or even if you go to church.

People who are holy are first of all people who put their relationships with God and people above everything else in life. They have their priorities straight.

People who are holy are not so jaded and self centered that they no longer have the ability to feel compassion for those who suffer. Holy people are the opposite of cold and heartless people.

People who are holy know their strengths and weaknesses. They neither inflate their worth nor devalue it. Holy people have an unpretentious, down to earth goodness about them.

People who are holy want to get to know God more, want to become better people and are passionate about trying to do what God asks of them. Knowing God and serving God are the central passions of holy people.

People who are holy give other people a break, the benefit of the doubt, a good hearing, rather than rush to judgment. They withhold judgment and extend mercy, knowing they cannot see into other people's hearts.

People who are holy do the right thing and also do it for the right reason. What you see is what you get. Who they appear to be and who they really are match up perfectly.

People who are holy go out and look for opportunities to heal, to reunite, to bring together and to put an end to strife and misunderstanding. They cannot rest until unity and harmony are restored.

People who are holy are persecuted. Evil cannot bear the presence of goodness. No good deed, or good person for that matter, goes unpunished.

People who are holy are not afraid of being known as a friend of God. They do not shove their religion into other's faces but neither do they hide it.

This kind of person stands in stark contrast to the money grubbing, cold hearted, self inflated, quick to judge, self centered, opportunistic materialist that they world encourages us to be.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Tis The Season To Be Busy

I think I met myself yesterday. I don't know if I was coming or going. It was one of those days where you are very busy but feel like you accomplished very little. I tried to be focused. I tried to be where I was and to do whatever I was doing, but Mindfulness failed me today. Not only is this the week before Christmas but my entire department is moving to another floor next Thursday. I just returned from our new area after assigning everyone new work spaces. In these kinds of circumstances I remember the words of Abraham Lincoln. He said, "You can please all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time". We'll see soon how perceptive and wise President Lincoln was.

I received a very nice gift card from my staff. It was for Border's Books. This store has everything essential for an introvert's happiness. You can buy books, CD's, DVD's, and coffee. As Robert Fripp once said, "Me and a book is a party. Me and a book and a cup of coffee is an orgy". If you also throw in some good music in the background, I'm totally out of control and someone is likely to call the police!

In the last few weeks I went to the theater to see Charles Dicken's "A Christmas Carol" and I saw the new film called "The Nativity". Dicken's story is timeless and, of course, the Nativity is what Christmas is really all about for most people. This week my family watched "A Christmas Story" and "National Lampoons Christmas Vacation". The story of Ralphie and his family seems very much like my own childhood. However, the Griswolds seem more like my adult life. All of these views of Christmas have something to offer. Christmas is many things to many people.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Snow Wish

From the look of my desk right now, I must have been a good boy this year. I have received a number of very nice gifts today and in the last week or so. I appreciate them all and the thoughtfulness that accompanied them. It's another example of the blessings in my life. As much as I don't like to work sometimes, I am very blessed in the work place. All work places can be maddening at times. There are good days and bad ones. Most of the time it doesn't matter because I have friends who share all of the experiences with me. You can't get through life easily without friends that you care about and who care about you.

It was a busy day today. I got a lot accomplished but didn't complete all my tasks. Here and at home, life is busy. There will be no rest until next week when all the Christmas madness has subsided. In all the hustle and bustle, it is difficult to find a quiet and peaceful moment to just breathe. In times like this, I am happy to be an introvert. My inner world allows me much space to wander. Of course, everything has a flip side. It is this same introverted nature that finds all the Christmas activity exhausting.

I would love some cooler weather and a little snow. While the snow is falling I would like to be transported to the monastery woods. Snow in the woods is a wondrous sight. The snow is silent. At some point I might sit on a decaying log and simply stare into the trees and glens. Usually I would pick a spot near a stream. The flow of the water is all I hear. The sound soothes me as I close my eyes and breathe in the cool air. Such winter moments fill me with enthusiasm for life. I am lost in the beauty of the moment. Of course, as I type this I am sitting at my desk shortly before I leave for the day. With my vivid imagination, it doesn't matter where I am. The world I just described exists within me as well as on monastery land. I can visit it whenever I want. O well, its time to shake the snow from my boots and head home.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas And Zen

Christmas is nearly here. One reason I like it is that it generates some excitement and energy not found in other times of the year. People are more sentimental and loving. People seem to care more about their fellow man. It can be a bright spot in an otherwise boring and routine existence. I have always been blessed with good Christmas memories. I often find myself lost in my own thoughts in spite of being surrounded by people and activity. In many ways, Christmas is a continuation of Thanksgiving. I find myself feeling very grateful for all the blessings in my life. Admittedly, some of these blessings don't always feel like gifts. When I see the happiness of people around me, I realize that life is not all about the pursuit of my happiness. Although I sometimes forget it, making other people happy often comes back to me as happiness. When I am too focused on myself, I tend to see what's missing, not what's present. I see what's empty, not what's full.

Zen is doing what you are doing and being where you are. Sounds simple, right? It is the same with the spiritual life. The simple things....the basics....are often challenging to do on a daily basis. The reality of the spiritual life is like the story of two monks who were meditating. There was an older, wiser monk and a young novice. As they were meditating, the young monk kept peeking at the older monk. He did this several times. Finally, the older, wiser monk looked at him and said, "This is it. Nothing else happens". Such is most of life. To be a Buddha means to be an "awakened" one. In the Christian tradition, to be a contemplative is to also be an awakened one. Our spiritual practices are a means to an end. Our intention is the inner transformation and conversion that leads us to purity of heart and the discovery of the true self. As awakened ones, we strive for the single minded attentiveness that slowly peels away the layers of the onion that makes up our false self. Like the Tom Cruise character in the "Last Samurai", we often have too many minds. We strive for this single-mindedness that is focused on the spiritual dimension of life.

A small fish was swimming along. He came upon a bigger fish and asked, "Can you tell me where the ocean is?" The bigger fish said, "Are you kidding??? You're in the ocean. It's all around you. In it, we live and breathe and have our being!" So it is with God. He is like the ocean and we are fish. We spend our entire lives living in his presence. In Him, we live and breathe and have our being!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas Is Near

It was a very busy weekend. At one point I thought there might be such a thing as too much Chloe. I was wrong. There can never be too much Chloe. My wife and I did have her much of the weekend while her parents moved into their new home. It did occur to me over the weekend that Chloe may have inherited my rebellious streak. She had a few tantrums over the weekend. When you put a tired 2 1/2 year old with a tired 55 year old in a grocery store on a Friday night, there is sometimes conflict. We lived through it, however, and made it home with all the groceries. Later when we were in bed, we laughed and played games until Granny told us to settle down. Saturday we went to the Mall. When Chloe spotted Santa, she nearly leaped over the gate to see him. Well, when we finally got up to him and I sat her on his lap, Santa suddenly lost all his appeal. She had to settle for a Grandfather that look's like Santa's brother. Finally on Sunday afternoon we attended a family Christmas party. Chloe was in a great mood and looked lovely in her new Christmas dress and fancy shoes. It's one week until Christmas. Activity is reaching a fever pitch for many. Thanks to my very productive wife, most of the work of Christmas is behind us. Hopefully, you can say the same and we can all spend this week slowing down, being quiet, and contemplating the deeper and true meeting of Christmas. Next weekend we will all be in a frenzy as we go over the hills and through the woods to Grandma's house. Next Monday morning I will be cooking a breakfast feast at my house for my family. Now that I have advanced to Grandfatherhood, people come to my home instead of me having to hit the road. This growing old stuff has a few perks.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Lunch With Friends

Yesterday I drove to the home of my friend, Fr Dennis, to help prepare and enjoy a lunch with some friends. These were not ordinary friends. One was Fr. Damien, the current Abbot of Gethsemani. The other was Fr. Timothy, a former Abbot of Gethsemani and now the Procurator General of the Cistercian Order. Fr. Timothy was my Novice Master during my time at Gethsemani. It was a great priviledge to share such an intimate encounter with them. It was especially nice because, in spite of their titles and roles in the Cistercian Order, we ate as friends. There was also another priest with us from New York. I was told that he helped care for Fr. Francis Kline while he was in New York being treated for the leukemia that eventually caused his early death. The five of us laughed and told stories about one another and others we knew in the religious life. We shared concerns about the future of religious life and the church. All in all we were just five men who shared different but similar spiritual journeys.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Nativity, Potty Training, My Mother's Birthday, & A Christmas Carol

I had a very full weekend. I was able to spend much of the day on Saturday doing very little. It was the only time all weekend that I wasn’t busy. My busyness, however, was all good stuff. Saturday afternoon I went to see the new film entitled “The Nativity”. It was very well done. Scripture scholars may take some issue with it but overall I believe it was a very realistic portrayal of what that first Christmas must have been like for Joseph and Mary. I would recommend it all persons of Christian faith.

My granddaughter, Chloe, came over for a few hours on Saturday night while her parents attended a company Christmas party. At some point in the evening, my wife suggested I read a book to Chloe. It was a Bert and Ernie book about using a potty chair. The next thing I know Chloe is taking her clothes off, dropping her diaper and heading for the bathroom. It was time to practice using the potty chair. She sat down, pretended to pee, asked for toilet paper, wiped herself, and flushed the toilet paper down the real toilet. I thought, “Wow, she’s got that process down”! Of course, then we had to do it three or four more times. Finally, she said, “Wash hands”! I held her up to the sink as she turned on the water, asked for hand soap, and rubbed her hands together. When she was finished, she rinsed off the soap and dried her hands on a towel. Of course, it wasn’t quite that simple. We also had to go through the hand washing process three or four times. Finally, I said, “That’s it, Chloe. No more. We’re done here”. That did not go over well. She gave me the look. It was the same look I sometimes get from her Grandmother. It was the kind of look only a woman can give to a man. Of course, sometimes Granny’s look is accompanied with words that I cannot print here. We slipped the Bert and Ernie book in her diaper bag when she left to go home. I’ll let the parents read it to her next time.

On Sunday morning I met my brothers and one of my sisters, along with my mother, for a very pleasant brunch. It was my mother’s 77th birthday. It’s actually a rare treat to be with my siblings. Usually the entire, extended family is also present. With spouses and children and boyfriends and girlfriends, our family encounters do not always lend themselves to much intimacy.

Last year on December 10th, I was a nervous boy. I had been asked to give the Sunday homily at the local Cathedral in memory of Thomas Merton on the 37th anniversary of his death. It turned out fine as most things do.

My weekend finished off with a trip to the theater with my wife, sons, and daughter in law. We went to see the classic Charles Dickens’s story “A Christmas Carol”. It was enjoyable as always. Admittedly, I am not at my most alert at 2:00 PM on a Sunday afternoon in a semi dark room. However, as I walked out of the theater I found myself thinking the words of Tiny Tim Cratchit, “God bless us, everyone”!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Lots Of Activity

Yesterday when I left home for work, the temperature was in the low thirties, slightly above freezing. Early in the morning there were so light flurries that dusted some areas. By the end of the work day it was in the low twenties. I went out for a walk during my lunch break and thought I would not make it back alive. I was walking along the river. There was a strong wind and the river actually had swells like an ocean. When I got back into the office my face had windburn and I was very cold. Wow! It sure was invigorating!

Life is a little chaotic in my office. People are moving to other floors. New people are moving in to available...and in some cases...not available space. I will be here holding on to my little piece of real estate for another two weeks before moving up to the tenth floor. I hate the chaos. I am a person who seeks harmony and tranquility. When I am in chaos my first reaction is to bring about order. Unfortunately, I have little control over what's going on around me. Of course, the chaos and lack of control over this movement in my office is nothing more than a metaphor for life. Life is often chaotic and most of it we cannot control. Does that mean our only option in life is to react to everything around us? I don't think so. In most situations people think you must either fight it or run from it. The contemplative way...the middle to simply be present to it. I can't always bring order to chaos or control the events around me. What I can control is my reaction to them. I can be the eye of the hurricane. I can be the order I desire. I can choose to not react but simply to flow with it. I can choose to relax and be.

I caused a near riot in my granddaughter Chloe's daycare last night. I suppose if you look like me you should not walk into a daycare wearing a red coat and hat at this time of year. Many of the little kids starting yelling out, "Hello, Santa!" and shook my hand. Chloe must be the envy of her friends. How many children get picked up by Santa Claus?

It will be a busy weekend. Tomorrow I am going to see the new film called "The Nativity". Sunday I am having brunch with my brothers and one of my sisters for my mother's 77th birthday. I realized this morning that she was only 21 years old when I was born. I wonder what she thought that day? On Sunday I am going to the theater with my wife, sons, and daughter in law to see Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol".

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Death And Living

I am not a morbid person but sometimes I think about death. It's probably natural to do so when you have more years behind you than ahead of you. I do not believe that thinking about death is depressing. I do it as a way to challenge how well I live now. The average life expectancy for a man is 75 years. That equates to 27,375 days. I have already used up approximately 20,315 days of my life. That's a sobering thought. That means I have approximately 7,060 days left, if nothing happens to me and the actuaries are on the money with their predictions, to live really well and to do good in the world. I am no different than anyone else. I have wasted days of my life and I regret that. I will probably never do all the things I would like to do. There are certain routines and responsibilities I will have to honor for a while. One thing I can do now and for as long as I have on this planet is to not sweat the small stuff. I once read a two step process for reducing stress in your life. The first step was to not sweat the small stuff. The second step was to realize that most things in life are small stuff. Let's be honest. Do we really have that many major crisis in our life? I think not for the majority of us. Most of what upsets us are little things that are pretty unimportant in the great scheme of life. Yes, sometimes I am petty and little things do annoy me. Most things, however, I let slide right down my back. Most so called "crisis" are not worth more than a passing thought. For whatever time we all have in the world, it is better to love than to hate. It is better to give than to take. It is better to be patient and serene than to be annoyed by every slight or inconvenience. It is better to relax and live than to be uptight about everything. I did not always understand these things. One must have more than a few days of living under their belt to achieve this awareness. I am going to do my best to live my remaining 7000+ days with some zest and a joyful and calm spirit. When I die I want it to be because I have used up all my capacity for living.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Monastery

I got out of bed at the crack of dawn on Sunday. Soon I was outdoors scraping the frost off my car in preparation for a trip to the monastery. After getting gas and buying a cup of coffee, I headed down the road. It was a beautiful drive. Sunday mornings are a good time to be on the road. Traffic is sparse. Soon the eastern sky was a glorious orange as the daylight illuminated the frosted landscape. Pockets of fog were nestled in clumps of trees. The morning light caused the fog and fields to glisten. I was so lost in the beauty that I sailed right past my exit. In a moment of alertness I suddenly realized that nothing looked familiar. Thankfully I hadn't gone too far out of my way and I was able to circle back and get back on track. The monastery is always an inviting place for me. Since it was my home in a former life, I always feel welcome and comfortable there. I met with my usual group of friends and we had some good conversation before mass with the monks. Afterwards I ran into my friend, Fr Dennis, who informed me that another of my past teachers and mentors, Fr Timothy, was there visiting from Rome, Italy. Later in the morning I had a chance to speak with him. It was good to see him after a number of years. Before leaving for home I shared a pot luck lunch with my friends. As usual I ate too much which made for a sleepy drive home. However, the drive home was also a beautiful one as the day was bright, cold, and clear. I am happy to live close enough to the monastery that I can go there on a regular basis. It is often a struggle to remain spiritual while living in the world. These monthly trips to the monastery give me the boost and renewal that I often need. All ground is holy but the monastery is a special place for me.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Daydreaming At Work

It's a Saturday morning and I am at work. It was a cold trip into the office today. The highway was empty but the streets around my building had cars parked in every available space. There must be a lot of work to do and people are motivated by the need for Christmas money. While I am here at work, my wife will be out spending all our money and more so there are lots of smiles at my home on Christmas morning. As I sit here drinking my coffee and typing these words, I am distracted by the photo on my calendar. It is a photo of a small log cabin nestled in the woods of the Great Smoky Mountains. The barren landscape and trees are covered with a light snow. I would like to be in that cabin right now. I would have a warm fire going in the fireplace. My rocking chair would be facing the fire as I stare at the flames and drink my coffee. Soon I would go out for a walk in the woods, hoping a hungry bear isn't doing the same thing. When I get cold I would head back to the warmth of the cabin, pour some more coffee, and pick out a good book. I would get lost in the silence and the solitude. Whew....I really drifted off for a moment. I am actually in a cubicle in an office building in downtown Louisville. It's not quite as romantic but I'm feeling kind of cozy. It is quiet and somewhat solitary. I think I will hide out here for a few hours before I go home and have to do some real work.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Time Bandit

This week is flying by. I had to stop for a moment to remember what day it is. Sometimes I feel like Captain Kirk and Mr Spock in an old Star Trek TV episode. They appear to be moving at a normal speed and everyone around them appears to be standing still. The reality was that Kirk and Spock were moving at an accelerated pace and everyone else was moving at a normal speed. The buzzing sound that everyone was hearing was Kirk and Spock who were moving so fast no one could see them. In my world, I know I am not the one moving so fast that I am only a buzz to other's ears. I am the one hearing the buzz and that buzz is the world around me. Do you ever feel like you are standing still and the rest of the world is moving around you? This is different than thinking the world revolves around you. I know the world doesn't revolve around me. It does, however, seem to often be on a different schedule. I resist the pace of the world. I am the Robin Hood of time. I am a time bandit who steals time from the world in order to give it to myself. I try to meet all the responsibilities of my life without being swept away in the vortex of the world's demands. In the sixties there was a poster that all self respecting hippies had in their apartments. It said, "What if they gave a war and nobody came"? My questions today would be "What if we all slowed down? Would the speed of life in the world keep increasing"? Does the world control us or us the world? So much change happens so slowly that we don't notice it until it's out of control. It will take similar small changes within ourselves to reverse some of the trends of modern life.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I received some nice comments on yesterday's thoughts. It's always nice when I strike a cord that is meaningful to people. It's further proof that we are all not so different. The people who receive these thoughts are very diverse but we are all just people. We are many places and we do many different things but at the end of the day we are just happy to return safely to our homes. When I get home at nights, it's the simple things for which I am grateful. First of all, I am grateful that I survived the day and I am still alive. I am grateful for a good meal. I am grateful for the hot bath I take before changing into more comfortable clothes. I am grateful for letters or messages from friends. I am grateful for music and a soft chair while I read the daily news. I am grateful for my couch where I sometimes take wonderful naps. I am grateful for my granddaughter, Chloe, who sometimes surprises me with a visit. I am grateful for my cat in spite of litter boxes and hairballs. I am grateful to be part of a family even though we all drive one another crazy sometimes. I am grateful that I feel safe and secure in my home. I am grateful that I don't think life sucks even when it does. O well, I could go on and on. You get the point.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Yesterday I received the following email from one of my readers.

You probably don't know me, but I get your morning thoughts every day and enjoy them very much. Any way, I have struggled with attachment and having unrealistic expectations my whole life and am now feeling drawn toward meditation and spirituality as a release for these things. I am always putting so much pressure on my self to be successful and perfect and in doing so have become intolerant and detached. I figured you may have some advice. Thanks.

We all struggle with the attachments. If you can't let something go, whether it be a person, things, or even ideas, you have attachments. There is a saying that goes, "The bird of happiness lands upon the hand that does not grasp". The Buddha teaches that all things are impermanent. This is not a negative teaching. Yes, it is true that many good people or experiences may come into our lives and later leave us. Sometimes this causes us sadness. It is probably more appropriate to be grateful for the happiness they brought us or the life lesson they taught us. Instead of being something we lost, it was a gift with an expiration date on it. As others have passed through our lives, so do we pass through theirs. We are all attached to things. I like my nice car, my CD's, my book collection and even my personal space. Of course, tomorrow someone could wreck my car and the insurance company total it. When I get home after my transit bus ride, I might discover that a thief has broken into my home and stolen all my CD's and books. I would be sad about this because I admit I am very attached to these things. However, in a more lucid and reflective moment I would realize that they are only things and can be replaced. Perhaps the happiness I thought they gave me was an illusion. People in this country and culture are obsessed with success. It all about more power, prestige, and possessions. We want to have authority over others and to be important. We believe that he who dies with the most toys wins. I even saw this last thought on a poster once. These obsessions are a serious deterrent to any deep spiritual growth. Our cultural narcissism has now spread to much of the world. Without getting political, this is why so many people in other countries and cultures dislike Americans. Our secular obsessions are in conflict with many others deeper spiritual values. Of course, their reaction to this is not always appropriate either. Much of this reaction is now called terrorism. So what is the answer? I can't give you a definitive one but I can make a suggestion. Instead of being driven to acquire more and more and more, why not explore ways to be happy with less? A former teacher once told a story about a time he was in Africa. One of the tribal elders in a small village prayed, "Lord, may our homes never have doors". In their village, their homes had no doors and everything was open and people shared. The elder's fear was that doors would destroy that feeling. Doors would keep everyone out and then people would be overly attached to everything within. On top of all of this, many of us also want to be perfect and beautiful. Of course, it is the world's standards of perfection and beauty that we use to measure ourselves. We were born perfect and beautiful. It is our own mistakes and choices that have made us less so. Most of what we think we are is a false self. The goal of the spiritual life is to return to the original, perfect, and beautiful essence of who we are in God. This is the true self. Do not think I have achieved my own spiritual ideals. I have not and there is still a long journey ahead of me before I do. I struggle with all of this as many of you do. I am awake enough to know I am struggling. I try to keep it simple. Live with kindness, share what you can, put people first, and let go of more than you acquire. Instead of adding to my life, I seek to let go of things. It's what my former teacher calls a "Spirituality of Subtraction".

Sunday, November 26, 2006


It's Sunday night after the long Thanksgiving Weekend. I woke up in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and after driving nearly 300 miles, we arrived home safely. The weekend began at 5:00 AM on Thanksgiving Day when my wife, son, and I loaded up the car and headed down the road. We were blessed all weekend with beautiful weather. There were warm, sunny days and cool, clear nights. In spite of the holiday weekend, the traffic was normal going down and coming back home. On the way down I decided to take full advantage of my satellite radio. I have found a channel that sounds like an underground radio station from the late sixties and early seventies. I could be a DJ on this station. They play all the music I play for myself with my CD collection. One of the highlights of the weekend was visiting with Charles and Annette. They are the couple I met while sitting on a bench in Gatlinburg last summer. My wife, son, and I spent most of an afternoon visiting with them in their cabin. It's very close to town but has a remote feel to it. It is a wonderful and cozy spot full of memorabilia from their lives. I mean it as a compliment when I say it reminded me of a Hobbit house from the Shire in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. We drank apple cider and had cookies and brownies as we talked of many things. I would probably still be there talking if my wife hadn't reminded me that we had some shopping that needed to be done. I look forward to future visits. The city of Gatlinburg is beautiful at this time of year. The city is aglow with Christmas lights and decorations. During the evenings when we walked along the streets and in and out of the shops, it was lovely. It was cold enough to appreciate the warmth of a egg nog latte but not cold enough to be miserable. It all reminded me that Christmas is less than a month away! In about two weeks I will be seeing Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol at the theater. That will be the icing on the cake of my Christmas spirit.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


I would like to wish all of you God's blessings during this time of Thanksgiving. We all have days where we don't feel blessed but I can assure you that we are. If you really stop and reflect, you will find a myriad of people, things, and events for which to be grateful. I have often talked about contemplation in the past. Much of contemplation is learning to live with a grateful heart. Contemplative mindfulness is simply taking the time and allowing yourself to be aware of the moments and the blessings they contain. Holidays are sometimes a bit crazy and too often get focused on all the wrong things. Tomorrow and in the coming weeks, take some time to breathe and to pay attention to the moments as you experience them. There are moments within moments that are full of joy. Be open to these moments. If you don't pay attention to your own life you will miss them. I count all of you who receive these daily thoughts as a blessing in my life. Thank you for letting me share my stories and thoughts and for trusting me enough to share your stories with me.

Today is the birthday of my good friend, Father Dennis. He is 67 years young. We have a wonderful friendship. He is a big brother and a mentor to me. We glide easily from deeply spiritual conversations to making one another laugh hysterically. Happy Birthday, Dennis!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Monday was an exhausting day. Was it because my eyes shot open at 4:00 AM and I didn't fall back asleep until one minute before my alarm clock went off? Am I getting sick for the third time this season? I certainly hope not because I hitting the road on Thursday morning for some rest and relaxation. Maybe I was just tired because I had a busy and hectic weekend. Not everything is complicated. Some things are simple. When your car stops running, the engine isn't always broken. Sometimes the gas take is just empty.

The building maintenance workers are assembling the "official" office Christmas tree. It will be nice to arrive in the early morning darkness to the warm and inviting colored lights. Some of the Christmas music is a little jarring first thing in the morning but I won't be a scrooge. On the positive side, there are mornings where the blast of trumpets as I walk in the building will be an excellent wake up call to arms!

As this Thanksgiving Day approaches, I find myself grateful for friends old and new. Yesterday I received an email from an old friend and teacher who is traveling in New Zealand. When I got home I had a postcard from Katie who is visiting Costa Rica. (Why didn't I marry Katie???? I could be in the rainforest this morning instead of standing in my driveway scraping the frost off my car!) Finally, I also received a real letter from another old friend delivered by the postal service! Of course, I am also grateful for those friends who are part of my everyday life. They are my lunch buddies, my walking buddies, those with whom I laugh during frustrating work days, my spiritual friends and those who rock and roll with me. My friends are a very diverse group. It would be interesting to get them all in the same room

Monday, November 20, 2006

Moods Are Like The Weather

It was another quiet Saturday morning at work. I was in a daze all morning and wasn't very productive. Two cups of coffee and one diet Coke didn't energize me. I have been in a contemplative mood lately and throughout the morning I reflected on all the different parts of my life. It occurred to me that my life seems to go through the same patterns over and over. I go along for days and weeks and even months feeling content and satisfied with my life. Then, for no apparent reason, I don't feel content or satisfied. I get in a slight funk where I seem to feel empty or bored. These waves of feeling are like the tides of the ocean as they come in and go out. I don't know why they happen. I think I often feel like this when the holidays approach. These times of expected happiness are not always on the same schedule as my emotional moods. My life doesn't change that much from day to day so I usually try to ignore my moods. Moods are like the weather. They constantly change and who says that a sunny day is better than a rainy day? Both are necessary and they work together to bring about the desired results. When a farmer plants a seed, doesn't he need the rain and the sun? If there's one without the other, the seed doesn't grow or reach maturity. So, like the weather, one must patiently wait out our changing moods. Sometimes, when I am down, something will happen that will cause me to suddenly wake up and be in touch with something deep within that fills me with a new joy and zest for living. My life has been full of such awakenings. I love the surprise when they happen.

We had an early Thanksgiving yesterday with my wife's side of the family. Chloe was lovely in her multi colored tights, denim skirt, and French curled hair.

It is cold this morning. There was a trace of snow on my car. The thought of snow excites me.

Life never leaves us alone. One of the realities of spiritual growth is that no matter where you are, you can't stay there. O, you can be where you are in a zen sort of way but only for a spiritual moment. What we used to call "grace" in the Catholic Church is always prompting us to move on. Why do you think it's called the spiritual journey?

Several years ago I drove to eastern Kentucky with a friend to visit a Zen community. It was not a place where you would expect to find such a community. Slightly off the beaten path, there it was. Nestled among the trees was a collection of log cabins and nearby, on top of a small mountain, was a Zen temple. If I didn't know better, I could have imagined myself in Japan. One of the zen masters gave us a tour of the area. Afterwards we went into the temple and meditated. The front of the temple was open and I had a magnificent view of the surrounding landscape. Hawks were circling in the sky and I felt totally one with everything around me. If only for a brief moment, I was where I was.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Avoid The Rush!

There's little over a week until we celebrate Thanksgiving Day in America. On that day we gather with family and loved ones to count our blessings, be grateful, drink wine, eats lots of food, and watch football. Avoid the rush! Be grateful now! Count your blessings today! OK, we may have to hold up on the drinking of wine since it's a workday but we can still live now with grateful hearts. We all know that life it tough and it's a rare day without a challenge. If I just look at this moment, however, I can find all kinds of things to be grateful for. I am warm and my stomach is full. I have a job where I am surrounded with lots of friends. The little coffee pot on my desk has been faithfully providing me with my morning Java for over 15 years! I am able to send out these daily thoughts which so many enjoy. I am alive and in relatively good health. As I sit here at my desk I ask myself the following question, "What, at this moment, is lacking"? The only thing lacking, as I pour my first cup of coffee, is a cheese danish. Other than that, I am good. How about you?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

It's That Time Of Year Again!

There was lots of activity at my house this weekend. I slept in on Saturday morning as late as I could because I knew that when my granddaughter Chloe arrived there would be no rest. Eventually on Saturday afternoon Chloe and her parents finally arrived. They're never on time. Our goal for the day was to bring into the house all the Christmas decorations stored in my outdoor shed. Soon enough the inside of my house looked like a movie set from a Tim Burton film as we hauled in Christmas decorations while some Halloween decorations were still sitting around. With everyone pitching in it didn't take too long to achieve this first step in the Christmas decoration process. My granddaughter was wide eyed and excited all afternoon and night as she explored all the various Christmas items around the house.

Chloe is at the age now where she will tell you when she is ready for bed. By the time she announced it, we were all ready. Grandma's goal was to get Chloe asleep so she could get back up and have some quiet time. Chloe snuggled with me all night long. When we weren't "spooning", we were back to back or face to face on my pillow. She slept the whole night. I, however, didn't. Most of the night I was awake, sometimes hanging on to the edge of the bed, hoping I wouldn't fall out. Grandma, of course, had three fourths of the bed all to herself. At one point when I was awake and watching Chloe sleep, all of a sudden she started laughing out loud. I wondered what dream she was having that made her laugh so much? Was it about me? Our cat? A great day at school? What do two and a half year olds dream about?

On Sunday, Chloe's parents returned, bringing one of the great grandparents along, and we completed decorating the tree. Afterwards we cooked burgers out on the grill. By the time dinner was eaten and cleaned up, I was ready for some solitude and quiet. Chloe and her parents headed one way and my wife and I headed another way as we took Great Grandma back to the old folks home. Soon my wife, son, cat, and me all found a corner of the house in which to retreat and rest . Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Hang On! Christmas Is Coming!

Although we still have two weeks until Thanksgiving, the pressure is on at home to prepare for Christmas. There are already some presents hidden in the dining room, specifically a Cabbage Patch doll for my granddaughter. My wife has already given everyone in my family, especially me, the word that it's all hands on deck this weekend to haul out all the Christmas decorations from wherever they are stashed. It won't matter if I am not in the Christmas spirit. I am sure my wife is thinking that if I am not in the mood, I need to get in the mood. Our weekdays are full of work obligations and our weekends are filling up with other commitments. This weekend will be chaos as we clean up the house as best we can and begin the task of putting up Christmas decorations. Somewhere in the middle of all the excitement will be Chloe. By the time Christmas actually arrives, she will be 2 1/2 years old. Nothing this year can be as intense as last year at this time when we were not only decorating for Christmas but preparing for my son's wedding at our house. I have been feeling sick all week so I broke down last night and tried to go to the "Doc in the Box" at the local supermarket. It was a long wait and eventually I gave up. I settled for some Theraflu and breakfast at the Waffle House with my son. Today I am feeling much better.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Seasoning For The World Around Us

Someone once said "I love mankind, it's people I can't stand". I understand this sentiment. I guess on some level I have always had a goal to love everyone but, quite frankly, I haven't achieved this goal. Some people are just annoying. In my defense, I like most people and most people seem to like me. I like variety and diversity in people. If I don't like someone it has nothing to do with their gender, race, sexual preference, religious affiliation, political agenda, or musical taste. They're probably just a jerk. I saw a cartoon once of God making the world. He was dressed like a chef and was "cooking up the world". In the cartoon he has what appears to be a salt shaker that he is sprinkling into the "world" that he is cooking up. The shaker is labeled "jerks" and God is saying "Just to make it interesting....." This cartoon has made it easier for me to accept that some people's purpose in the world seems to be to irritate the rest of us. Of course, we all have our bad days. I have been called a jerk before....and worse. If our personalities are seasoning for the world around us, what kind of flavor are we adding to the mix? Are we sweet or sour? Do we bring out the best flavor of what's around us or do we completely ruin the taste? It's only human to occasionally be a jerk but I sure don't want to be labeled as one.

Monday, November 06, 2006

My Religion Is Kindness

Outside my window, on this Saturday morning, the sun is shining brightly and it looks like a beautiful day. It is a bit of an illusion. It was very chilly when I came into my office today and I suspect there is still some coolness in the air. I often talk about my walk down the spiritual path. Lately I feel as though I have been stumbling along that path. Why? Do I need to get back to basics? Have I become too distracted? In my quest to be an "Awakened One" have I been falling sleep? I admit I have a difficult time being faithful to spiritual practices. I often begin a discipline with enthusiasm but then run out of gas. Spiritual practices are like dieting or exercising. You know they're good for you but eventually they become a chore or you're bored and you just get tired of them. Sometimes spiritual practices become empty for me, and once they lose meaning, they are difficult to maintain. In such moments I come face to face with the reality of how undisciplined I can be. On the other hand, in these days where I become more aware of my aging and the importance of living each day well, I feel I am living a new kind of spirituality. I call it the spirituality of my life. It involves paying attention to your life. It's being real and true to yourself. It's striving to live well and be present to all the special moments of your life. It's not necessarily about doing more. It's often about doing less but doing it better. The Dalai Lama has consolidated his entire belief system into four words. He says, "My religion is kindness". I agree with him. Why can't my spiritual practice be kindness? Kindness to myself and kindness to others. If I just did this one thing...all the time...would I not be living well? Timing is everything. Just when I was needing a B-12 shot of spirituality, it was time for my monthly trip to the monastery. My alarm went off at 6:00 AM on Sunday and I awoke with a sore throat. It wasn't enough to keep me home so I got out of bed and headed for the shower. Soon I was on my way in the early morning darkness trailed by a full moon. The drive was very enjoyable as the daylight overcame the darkness. Most of the leaves are off the trees and the ones that remain are mostly a burnt orange or brown. Soon I arrived at the home of my friend, Fr Dennis. We had our usual mass for two, followed by coffee and muffins. Afterwards I headed to the monastery to meet with my group. We had delightful discussion about all sorts of things. Later, when I got back home, my wife and son coerced me to go see "Santa Claus 3". It was OK but what I am really looking forward to seeing is "The Christmas Carol" at Actors Theater in a few weeks.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Make A Joyful Noise/Music Is Life

Today I decided to keep alive my tradition of not working the day after a concert. I don't do this because I partied too much. I am not much of a party animal. My health doesn't encourage drinking and I am not as young as I used to be. The day after is often a celebration of the night before. I rest and remember what I experienced. I sometimes play the artist's music again and again. As luck would have it, my day off also turned out to be a glorious autumn day. Much of the day I looked out my window as the wind blew thousands of leaves from the trees. My entire yard is now covered with a carpet of multi-colored leaves. I enjoyed my solitude. I also ran a few errands and had lunch at a deli that I haven't been to in quite a while. The concert I saw was another wonderful musical experience. I saw some great musicians in an intimate theater from the second row. Earlier, in a serendipitous moment, as a friend and I were walking from the parking garage to the theater, we had one of those moments that all music lovers dream about. As we were walking on a side street, we ran into the headliner and his entire band. We shook hands and told them how much we were looking forward to their performance. They did not disappoint. It was an evening of mesmerizing music. Music can be a very spiritual and emotional experience for me. I think my friends would say the same. For us, music is not just entertainment. Music is life. There is a depth of emotion that only music can touch. The musicians I saw played with a level of skill and a depth of emotion that sent chills up and down my spine. This emotion was especially felt on a song entitled "Make A Joyful Noise". This title says it all. Music is life and joy and certainly one of mankind's greatest achievements.

Monday, October 30, 2006

We Are Responsible For Our Own Reputations

Tomorrow is my wife's last day of work at Humana. She was never really happy there. All of her working life she has worked for smaller companies in much smaller offices. It was quite an adjustment for her to work here where there are thousands of people. She wasn't happy being another brick in the wall. A couple of weeks ago a job at another company literally fell into her lap. A former co-worker of hers, now at another company in a position of influence, had a need and thought of my wife. He called her and within a week she had interviewed and been offered a position with a substantial pay increase. It's an example of how the way you influence and impress others now can come back to you in good and bad ways in your future. In her case the hard work and dedication she showed a previous employer paid off. All of us, in our personal and professional lives, are responsible for the reputations we create. Everything we do, as well as the things we don't do, are noticed by others and opinions are formed. Do you ever wonder what impression others have of you? How do your bosses, co-workers, subordinates, and friends see you? What impression do you make? How hard do you work to create a positive impression? Do you care what others think? If you always do only what you want, and don't care what others think, don't be surprised when others don't think highly of you. Admittedly, it's a fine line to walk sometimes. I want to be liked and respected and there is a part of me that likes to please others. However, at the same time I don't live my entire life to meet the expectations of every person around me. It's impossible to satisfy all the expectations of parents, spouses, children, family, friends or employers. I can only adapt so much. Hopefully, there's enough good about me that most can also accept my weaknesses. I know I am not everyone's favorite cup of tea but hopefully nothing about me is a bitter drink to anyone either. How about you?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Christmas Is Right Around The Corner

I do not want to alarm anyone but Christmas is less than two months away. That's eight weeks, or to use my wife's method of tracking time, it's four paychecks away. It always seems that once Halloween is here (next Tuesday) the days really accelerate and the holidaze is upon us in no time. Four Thursdays from tomorrow, most of us will be sitting down to a wonderful meal surrounded by family. The next morning, credit cards in hand, Christmas shoppers will descend on the malls in a spirit of joy and panic. In spite of the panic and frenzy and financial concerns, most of us love the holidaze. In my family Christmas is a lot more fun now that we have Chloe. It's a lot more fun to watch her rip open a present than to watch her 28 year old father do the same. Somehow, in the midst of the secular observation of these holidaze, I always strive, and sometimes fail, to be mindful of the deeper significance behind these days. On some levels it's always Thanksgiving and Christmas for me as I strive to live with a grateful heart for all the blessings in my life as well as trying to be aware of all the ways God is present in the day to day experiences in my life. In the days and weeks ahead, if we all just remain calm, we will survive.

A Day With Chloe And A Night With The Old Folks

I stayed home today to take care of my sick granddaughter. No one else could do it so I volunteered. Her father dropped her off very early and she crawled into my bed. She looked at me at said, "Pa Paw" before lying on my pillow. She quickly feel asleep and both of us stayed in bed till around 10:00 AM. After we got up, and when I wasn't giving her medicine, trying to get her to eat or drink, or changing her diaper, we sat in my chair together most of the day and watched the Disney Channel. We had conversations all day long and she must have said "Pa Paw" 500+ times as she pointed to objects and told me their name or color. Occasionally, she would act like Cleopatra, the Queen of the Nile, and I felt like one of her servants, but, in spite of her sickness, she behaved well and we had a great day of bonding.

After Chloe went home with her mother, my wife and I went to see my mother in law. It was Octoberfest at the old folks home. The beer and wine was flowing. There was a buffett of German food and a couple of old guys were playing polka music. I hadn't been to a party this wild since the Rolling Stones concert a few weeks ago. One old lady hit on me. I was sitting on a couch with my hat in my lap. She was looking for a place to sit so I offered her my seat. She said, "Sonny, if you move that hat, I can sit on your lap". When we left, the party was still going strong. They'll be talking about this at the breakfast table for weeks. While I was there I kept humming a song in my head called "Old Folks Boogie" by Little Feat. Wait till the Woodstock generation ends up in the retirement homes. We'll have some old guys playing music, too, but it won't be polka music. We'll be line dancing to "Jumping Jack Flash"! Our children will say, "Mom, Dad" are you doing OK? We'll reply, you bet! Life's a gas gas gas"!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Pumpkins And The Meaning Of Life

Today I did the family thing. My wife, son, and I met Chloe and her parents at Huber's Orchard and Pumpkin Patch in southern Indiana. We went a little earlier than usual and the crowd was sparse. Of course, the temperature was in the mid forties, it was overcast, and a brisk wind was whipping through the place. In other words, it was cold! Chloe didn't seem to mind. When a gust of wind blew across our faces, she would exclaim, "Whoa!". She also seemed enthralled with all the pumpkins, scarecrows, and witches, although a few of the scarier exhibits seemed to frighten her. Chloe is becoming quite the little person. She is now self aware. Chloe knows that she is Chloe. This is significant. I am 55 years old and I still don't know who I am. I think I am Michael but who is Michael?

My Saturday was very quiet and I had lots of time to stare out the window and just think. I like to think even though sometimes I think too much. In my weekend thinking I came to the realization that everything I have written and shared in my daily thoughts all boils down to one thing. It all about the search for meaning in my life. The meaning of life, often a subject for jokes and ridicule, is really what most of us are seeking, isn't it? Don't most of us wonder why we are here? Why we do the things we do or fail to do other things? Why do we believe...or doubt...the things we do? Of course, I often find the meaning of life overwelming. I can't even figure out my own behavior most of the time. I have spent years studying psychology, the Myers-Briggs, and the Enneagram, just trying to understand my own patterns of behavior, especially the parts of me that are dysfunctional. If I don't understand my own behavior, how can I understand the meaning of life. What if Kramer was right when he looked at Jerry in a recent Seinfeld episode and said, "You think there's more to life, don't you? Well, there's not!" The truth is that I don't know the meaning of life. Much of the time life makes no sense to me. I don't understand myself or most other people. However, if life does have meaning, I think it has something to do with love. No one has to explain love. When you feel it, you know what it is. Maybe if I concentrate on understanding what love is, the rest of life will explain itself. Maybe Chloe has been trying to explain the meaning of life to me in those moments when I can't understand her.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Being Patient With Life

It is a cold and rainy night as I sit here in my room. The work week has gone by quickly and I am glad. The weekend is always a welcome sight. I was thinking today that I'm disappointed with the fall colors so far. Is it because of all the rain? Am I being impatient with nature? Has its time not yet arrived? Do we need more sun and dry days? Nature will move along at its own pace and it's not subject to my whims or desires. This reminds me of how impatient I can be at times. I advise everyone else to live in the moment and to practice mindfulness yet I am often impatience with the moment and eager for the next one. I want to fast forward the transformation of the leaves. Yet, if I were able to do that, autumn, my favorite time of the year, would pass quickly and I would soon find myself in the cold and sometimes bleak days of winter. Of course, there are other times and experiences where I wish I could slow down time or even stop it. When I am in one of those perfect moments that often come along unexpectedly, I want it to last forever. Thank God for variety in life. If life were always perfect, we would eventually loose our appreciation of its goodness. If life was always bad, we would probably despair. I think most of us are blessed with enough balance in our lives so we are not overwhelmed with the bad or annoying but don't have so much of the great and wonderful and beautiful that we forget what's it's like to hunger for good days. If we look more closely at our days, we would probably discover that each has this balance within it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sharing Our Journeys

Tonight I was reading the blog of a friend. In it he was wondering how much of his personal life he should share publicly. It's a good question. Originally the daily thoughts I share via email were just a collection of quotes. I didn't share personal experiences or feelings. It was really just on a whim that I shared a personal story. I wrote a few sentences about the first time my wife and I kept our granddaughter, Chloe, for the entire night. At the time Chloe was three weeks old and we were in our fifties. It was quite a night. The response to this personal story was great so I began sharing more of my personal journey. In my stories I try to be open and honest about the ups and downs of my life without using this forum as a dumping ground for all my inner turmoil. Yes, it's true. Sometimes I do have inner turmoil. I have often found that when I share something that caused me the greatest pause before I hit the send button, I got the greatest response. The responses are always affirmative because other people identified with whatever I was talking about. At other times, what I may have been hesitant to share was exactly what someone else needed to read that day. My more joyful experiences, such as going to a concert, sometimes prompted people to get out and live. The reality is that we may not always have the same experiences, but as human being we do share the same kinds of feelings in our lives. We all love and desire to be loved. We all want to be happy. We all are sometimes afraid and fearful. We are all sometimes lonely and sad. We are all sometimes bored and dull of mind. So, I think it is a good thing to share our journeys with one another as long as we don't use other people as trash bins. Whether your experience is good or bad, use it to enlighten others. As others may have been a light for your path, be a light for others. Lets help one another down the road.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Life Is Like A Box Of Chocolates

Life is never smooth sailing all of the time. Although I believe that life in general is a wonderful thing, there are always bumps in the road and the occasional crisis. Forrest Gump's mother was right. Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get. Of course, if life is like a box of chocolates, there's always the possibility of it being sweet and rich. Most days, if you pay attention, you are likely to find the chocolate of your choice waiting for you to savor it's delicacy. Periodically in my daily thoughts I will share one of my life's sweet moments. It may be the joy of an musical experience, the quiet peace of a solitary moment at the monastery, or hanging out with my young granddaughter. The moments I share are only a few of my "Greatest Hits". It is a rare day where I don't have special moments where I savor the sweet taste of whatever chocolate that day has to offer. I'll take a life that is like a box of chocolates any day. The worst chocolate in the box tastes better than brussel sprouts!

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Night In The Emergency Room

It has been a hectic couple of days. Late Saturday night my wife and I took our youngest son the the emergency room. Apparenantly he had a severe allergic reaction to some penicillen. It was serious enough that the doctor decided to admit him overnight for continued observation. As I was walking to my car to go home , I reallized it was 3:15 AM. The monks at the monastery were gathering for their night prayer! By the next day he appeared well enough to come home home. Shortly after he was back home, We received a call from my other son telling us that my granddaughter Chloe had a 104 degree temperature and they were taking her to the emergency room. Chloe has never been really sick in two years but now she is in a daycare. It makes all the difference in the world. Fortunately, Chloe wasn't seriously ill and she was released within a few hours. All seemed well until Monday morning. Shortly after I arrived at work, my youngest son called and told me he was having another reaction. Since I had a commitment at work, my wife left work to go home and check it out. She had to take him back to the emergency room and now he's back in the hospital. He appears to be stable now but I am not sure how long he must stay in the hospital. Like the cold and wet commute on Monday evening, some days just rain down problems.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Poetry and Friendship

A package full of poetry books arrived in the mail today. It was a gift from Katie. Who is Katie? Way back in the summer of 1970, Katie was my girlfriend. In those days we were young hippies, carefree, and living out the end of the sixties. During most of whatever happened that summer, we were together. It was Katie who went with me to the Atlanta Pop Festival, along with 400,000 other people, to see Jimi Hendrix play the Star Spangled Banner on the 4th of July. Thinking back through the mists of time I don't really remember meeting Katie or of us parting. I think we drifted apart because we went to different colleges. Although I thought about her from time to time, we had no contact for over thirty years. Then, a few years ago, another friend ran into Katie. I obtained her email address and sent her a note. We have been in contact ever since. She has a family now, too, and lives in another state. We exchange notes about our current lives and old memories. Once again an old friend has re-entered my life. This is a great experience. I can quickly think of several people who have re-entered my life in recent years and now I wonder how I lived so many years without them. These are the kinds of friends where, once we got back together, the years melted away and it was like no time had passed at all. Friendship is a great and wonderful thing and something to be cherished.

Friday, October 13, 2006

My Favorite Time of the Year

Winter is knocking at the door. This morning's temperatures were in the mid thirties and the heat is on at home. It was difficult to leave the warm comfort of my house to enter the morning darkness and cold. There was a light frost where I live. In spite of the cold, I was feeling pretty good today after a week of feeling bad. It's expected to be a great weekend so I hope to seal the deal on restoring my health. Later tonight my granddaughter will be making a visit and she is always a breath of fresh air. Next weekend I will go with her and the family to Huber's Orchard a k a pumpkin land. Last year the pumpkins were bigger than Chloe. This year I think she is ready to ride the farm wagon out into the fields to help us pick the perfect pumpkin. I love all things related to this time of year, i.e. pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin butter, Halloween, autumn, harvest time, leaves changing, cooler temperatures, going to the mountains, Thanksgiving, etc. Ironically, in this season when nature seems to die, I feel more alive than ever.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Under The Weather

It is an overcast and rainy day. I am at home and under the weather. I began getting sick sometime on Saturday. In spite of that, I went to the monastery on Sunday because I was committed to several activities there. By the time I left the monastery I was feeling worse and the drive home seemed much longer than normal. When I finally arrived home, I crashed on my couch for several hours. Since I was just ending a week of vacation it didn't seem right to call in sick on Monday so I forced myself to work on Monday. That was a mistake. I felt terrible all day and ended up leaving early. I have been home ever since. This is a somewhat humbling experience. Just before getting sick I was bragging about how I never get sick and that I couldn't remember the last sick day I had taken from work. Humility arrived on schedule soon after I made these statements. Even though I have a number of medical issues that must be managed, I am blessed with good health most of the time. I manage my issues as best I can (most days), try to walk with my friend Chris three or four times a week during our lunch break, and I usually eat healthier now than I did several years ago. Of course, even the healthiest get taken down occasionally by a germ or virus. The occasional illness makes us more grateful for all the healthy days of our lives when we feel good. It's usually nice when I don't have to work but I would rather be at work feeling good than at home feeling bad. After being on vacation last week and missing two days this week, I am falling behind. Assuming I get back on the horse tomorrow, I will have a very busy Thursday and Friday.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Vacation Is Over...Back to work!

My week of vacation has come to an end. It began with singing in the rain with the Rolling Stones at Churchill Downs. It ended with an Interfaith Prayer Celebration at the Abbey of Gethsemani. The prayer celebration was an interesting experience and it included members of Baha'i, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, The Quakers, and Native Americans. In between these events I had some carefree days and a couple of Chloe visits. She spent the night on Saturday and we spent a lot of time discussing the meaning of life and our places within the order of the universe. She now talks non stop. When we went to bed and turned off the lights, she kept calling out, "Pa Paw"? I would respond "I'm right here"! She did this about ten times. Finally, there was a pause so I said "Chloe"? Her little voice responded "I'm right here"! Isn't this what we all want? Don't we just want to know that someone is there? Now that my vacation is over and I am back to work, I have a cold. It came over me about two days ago. Is it from standing in the rain like a fool, albeit a happy fool, at the Rolling Stone concert last week or the nearly 50% drop in temperature over a period of just a few days?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Reality Is Right Around The Corner

When I woke up yesterday it was 46 degrees, a nearly 50% drop in temperature from earlier in the week. Is this the reason my throat hurts this morning? I went to a movie yesterday afternoon. It was the first real activity of the week. In the evening Chloe and her parents came for a visit. We went for what might be one of our last visits to the ice cream shop. Moo’ latté’s lose their appeal in the middle of winter. While sitting there enjoying Chloe’s antics as well as my ice cream, my cell phone rang. It was my friends Tom and John out in Los Angeles. They were sitting in the Hollywood Bowl waiting for the start of Roger Water’s concert. This is the same concert I saw last Saturday in Indianapolis with Tom and others. Tom, John, and I went to high school together and have known one another since we were fifteen years old. We are all old hippies riding out the last waves of the musical history of our generation.

Today is an absolutely beautiful autumn day. It is bright, sunny, and cool. Downtown thousands of people are enjoying the annual St James Art Fair. I sit here in my room listening to Eric Clapton play the blues while the aroma of my coffee tickles my nose. Later, Chloe will be back for the night. That’s always interesting and exhausting. Now that she talks so much, it’s a never ending conversation when she is around. I love it that she can now communicate with me and me with her. She seems to understand me more than I understand her but I am quickly catching up with her.

The reality that my vacation is nearly over weighs heavy. I will be on the road and at the monastery most of tomorrow and then it’s back to the reality of work on Monday. Admittedly, in some ways, it will be nice to get back to a routine.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Vacation Time Is Running Out!

Today is the first day this week I have actually slept in. I stayed in bed until 10:00 AM. It was overcast outside and the blinds were pulled so 10:00 AM looked like 10:00 PM. I felt rested but some quality morning time was wasted. We are finally back to fall like temperatures. It is 57 degrees at the moment and the A/C is off again, thank God! Yesterday it was 87 degrees and felt like the middle of summer.

I had a quiet day. My mood is good, at least better than it has been the last few days. My feelings this week make me think a lot about how I would feel with extended time off or retirement. I am normally quite content with having nothing to do and with being alone. This week I have often felt down and bored. I need some activity but have nothing to do. Yes, there are chores that could be done at home but I am not motivated to do any of them. I find myself missing people. It is a good thing that I am going to the monastery on Sunday. The drive will be enjoyable and perhaps being in the presence of Buddhist monks will renew and refresh me.

Another day has passed. The highlight of this day was going to the grocery store. That should give you some sense of my day. In spite of the boredom, it has been a wonderful autumn day. It was cool all day and is now cold at this late hour. The leaves are beginning to change color. In a couple of weeks the fall foliage will be at its peak. Unfortunately by the time I get to Gatlinburg over the Thanksgiving weekend, the best of the leaf colors will be gone.

My vacation week is nearly over. It started out great and will likely end on a high note with my trip to the monastery on Sunday. The days in the middle have left something to be desired. I have done little that was really enjoyable and, in fact, have rarely left the house. I can’t remember when a week off from work was less enjoyable. This feeling is more in my own mind than in the actual reality. There are a few things in my life troubling me and my mind has been pre-occupied with these thoughts all week. I am also somewhat dreading a return to work. Right before I started my vacation I was assigned a new job with all new responsibilities. I know I can handle them but for what seems like the hundredth time I must change and adapt.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A Better Day

Today is the feast day of St Francis of Assisi. He lived in the 12th century. Of all the Christian holy men who have lived through the ages, he is my favorite. His followers, the Franciscans, are still living his spirit in the world today. Several of my friends are members of the Franciscan order.

It is autumn but the temperature today is expected to be 87 degrees! I am very disappointed that we haven’t had cool, autumn weather during this week of vacation.

Soon I will leave to go visit my friend who is a silversmith. After that I will go get Chloe. I am very excited about seeing her.

When my wife and I got to Chloe’s daycare, the lady in the office checked us out to make sure we were really the grandparents. For once in my life I was happy to be checked out. We had arrived at the daycare during the afternoon nap period. When we got to Chloe’s room, she was asleep on her little cot, beautiful as ever. We leaned over her and gently spoke her name. She opened her eyes and was immediately excited. She raised her arms and called our names. Even though she has adapted well to daycare, she was very happy to see us. As soon as we got out of the daycare she began talking and rarely stopped the rest of the afternoon. She has really taken a quantum leap forward in her ability to talk. She can repeat anything you say and her vocabulary is extensive. If you say it once, she will remember it.

I had a great visit with my old friend, Joe, who now works as an artist and silversmith. We talked about our past lives as monks and some of our mutual friends in that life. Eventually we also talked about possible designs for a ring. I need to do some further research to determine a possible symbol that could be part of the ring.

I feel a little “lighter” today. Certainly Chloe’s visit was a bright spot. I hope that the mood I have experienced so far this week is not a sign of impending illness. Quite out of the blue my son wrote up this morning feeling bad. A trip to the doctor diagnosed him with strep throat. It would be my luck to get sick just as it’s time to go back to work.

I am scheduled to go to the monastery on Sunday for one of my regular monthly gatherings. I emailed my friend, Fr Dennis, to let him know I would be heading his way and stopping at his house for coffee. He informed me of an interfaith prayer service to be held at the monastery on Sunday afternoon. It will include Buddhists and Hindus among others. I have made plans to attend. It sounds like a great way to end my week of vacation.

I have a headache. Is it my blood sugar? I guess I shouldn’t have ordered the orange swirl milkshake earlier today when I was at McDonald’s with Chloe. She barely ate her Happy Meal. She was too distracted with the Little Mermaid figurine that came with it.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tuesday Has No Feel

According to the character “Newman” on the old Seinfeld show, Tuesday has no feel. So far I am in agreement with him. I stayed up till 1:30 AM last night and was actually enjoying the time. I would have stayed up longer but I got tired. When I woke up around 8:00 AM I was feeling pretty good so I got out of bed. I enjoy late nights and early morning. Both are peaceful times of day. Last night I listened to some new music and occupied myself with simple activities. This morning I went outside and walked to the end of the drive for my morning paper while coffee brewed in the kitchen. After a simple breakfast I settled into my chair and read the news. I am upset about all the senseless violence in the world. The tragedy that occurred yesterday with the Amish children is further proof that none of us are truly safe in today’s world. At some point around mid morning, I felt a little sleepy so I reclined on my couch. Big mistake! The next thing I know it was noon. Now I am awake once again, showered, and knee deep in laundry.

Once again it is late night. I couldn’t go to bed without cleaning up the kitchen and loading the dishwasher. It has been a non descript day. I feel like I napped all afternoon. Occasionally the buzzer on the dryer would wake me up and I would start a new cycle of washing and drying. Tomorrow will be a better day. I am going to Chloe’s daycare to pick her up so she can spend the afternoon at my house. Later we’ll have dinner somewhere before taking her home. Before I pick up Chloe I am going to visit the silversmith/jewelry shop of a friend of mine who is also a former monk. Like many people I have always been on a search for the perfect ring. Since my friend is also an artist, I am hoping he can take some of my ideas and create something for me.

After the weekend I had, this has been a boring couple of days. Normally I would enjoy the leisure and “nothingness” but for some reason I have been restless and very lethargic. My mind is going in a lot of places these days so perhaps that is the root of my discontent. I haven’t felt like this in quite a while. I am not troubled by mood swings. I have been through enough of them in my life to know they come and they go. I believe my mood will be lightened by Chloe’s visit. When she is around I am not so self absorbed. Another downer this week has been the summer like weather. We have the A/C on because of it. The weatherman says that fall like weather will return on Thursday but he also said it wouldn’t rain at the Rolling Stones concert.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Post Concert Weekend Anti Climax Stress Syndrome

I am on vacation this week. After spending most of the weekend with approximately 75,000 people, it is good to have some alone time. It was nice to wake up this morning to the sounds of a typical Monday morning and to be able to ignore them. First I heard the sound of the paper boy throwing my morning paper on the driveway. Soon that was followed by the trash collector emptying my trash container into his truck. After things quieted back down I simply laid in bed for a few additional moments savoring the joy of not having to get up and go to work. Soon, however, I got out of bed so I could enjoy my leisurely morning. I made some coffee, and read the morning paper with some Moody Blues music quietly playing in the background. I love such moments.

Around midday I went out for a while and visited a fellow music lover at his music store. He was at the same concerts I attended so we shared our experiences. Before leaving I did some wheeling and dealing and trading, bringing home some new CD's and a DVD of a Roger Waters concert that is very close to replicating the show I saw over the weekend.

It is early evening now. Dinner is finished and the dreadful evening news is over for now. The airwaves are full of a new tragedy. A deranged man walked into an Amish school and killed some young children. What is up with this kind of senseless violence? If you absolutely want to kill yourself, go ahead and do it, but do you have to take other innocent people, especially children, with you?

This day is about over. I am not sure why but I feel a little down. Maybe it's Post Concert Weekend Anti Climax Stress Syndrome (PCWACSS). Even thought I am on vacation for the rest of the week, I have nothing to look forward to except sleeping in and hanging out in my room. That's not all bad. I will certainly have a lot of time for listening to music but sitting alone listening to CD's isn't quite the same experience as being with friends in a live setting. There you not only experience the sound of music being played in the moment, you can't help but get caught up in the adrenaline rush of being surrounded by other people sharing your enthusiasm. I am happy not to be at work but I face the prospect of a boring week ahead.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Roger Waters at Deer Creek Music Center

I have been going to concerts at the Deer Creek Music Center outside of Indianapolis since 1990. A few years ago a bad corporate decision was made to rename this venue and many more like it. It's now officially called the Verizon Wireless Music Center but in the hearts of the people who go there to attend concerts, it will forever be the Deer Creek Music Center. I was there last night with some of my musical friends. The day and night was not without challenges. I was driving up with a friend and his son. We got on the road a little later than expected. We didn't realized that I-65 North was closed and so it was a additional delay and hassle just to get out of Louisville. I was also going to meet up with another group of friends to pass on an extra ticket. Connecting with another group of people in a crowd estimated at 30,000 was a challenge. Thank God for cell phones! My group had made it to the venue in time but my other friends got stuck in traffic trying to get into the venue. As fate would have it, I was waiting in the front of the venue and my stuck in the traffic friends ended up in the back of the venue. We made a cell phone connection and arranged a meeting spot. By this time the show was just about to start. I got through the security check and headed for the lawn. When I got there it was a sea of humanity and darkness had fallen. I jumped in and found my way to the top of the hill/lawn where thousands of people were sitting. In the process I lost one group of friends but found another. I decided to stay with the found group and to seek out the lost group after the show. The show itself was excellent. Most of the songs in the show were classic Pink Floyd songs and the cast of musicians backing Roger Waters perfectly recreated the Pink Floyd sound. The crowd was totally into the experience. My friends and I were all happy and the hassles of the day melted away as we grooved on the music. When the concert was over a new challenge presented itself. I easily found my lost friends. As we headed to the parking lot, it started to rain. We didn't care because the show was over. The traffic to get out of the venue was as bad, if not worse, than the traffic getting in. We sat in our car for an hour before starting the engine. After that, it took us an hour and a half to get to our hotel which couldn't have been more than seven or eight miles away. When we got to our hotel, it was 1:30 AM. Did I have a great weekend?

Rolling Stones ticket....$99.00

Roger Water's ticket...$47.50

Room at the Marriott with breakfast...$148.00

Being with my friends and hearing great music....Priceless!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Rolling Stones at Churchill Downs

First of all, every weatherman in Louisville should be fired from their job. All day on Friday all the local weathermen predicted a dry evening for the Rolling Stones concert. It ended up raining most of the night. It started at some point during Alice Cooper's set. One had to smile when the 60+ year old Alice Cooper sang about the angst of being 18 or the joy of when school's out for the summer! Shortly after the Alice Cooper set, the Rolling Stones hit the stage and opened with one of rocks greatest songs, "Jumpin Jack Flash". The energy rarely let up and Mick Jagger at age 63 has more energy than many men half his age. Except for a few of their newer songs from "A Bigger Bang", most of the 40,000 people who were there sang along to every song. As one would expect, it was an older crowd and we all felt a little pumped as the songs of our youth and lives filled us with nostalgia and a joy some may not have felt in a while. Of course, I feel this all the time because I am still out there enjoying such concerts on a fairly regular basis. It has been a great year for music so far and there are still three months to go! My friend and I got soaking wet as we stood in the rain. In spite of that we had a great time and this night will be added to a treasure trove of memories that will warm the heart someday. When the show was over and we were walking through the crowds of people and down the streets of the surrounding neighborhood, we didn't even notice that we were wet and cold.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


When a man becomes a monk, one of the vows he takes is stability. This means that the monk commits himself to a particular group of people and to a particular place. Unless there is a special reason or a need for him to be elsewhere, the monk will generally live his entire life in the same place and with the same people who persevere along with him. Stability is a difficult concept in a culture where 50% of all marriages fail and everyone seems to be on the move. Many people I know were born somewhere other than where they live. So what does stability mean for those of us in the world? It can mean being faithful to commitments or to a particular community or church or even employer. There's nothing wrong with advancing your career or moving to a new city but why do some feel the constant need to do so? I think what stability might ask of us is to think beyond our own needs. Stability might be challenging us about our own restlessness. Why are so many people unrooted? Why are so many like tumbleweeds rather than oak trees? Why are we so reluctant to plant ourselves and take deep root? Stability is tough in our culture of restless and wandering spirits. In some instances, it means staying in the same field and “chewing my cud” instead of always looking for the perfect situation. Stability must also be balanced with the idea of God calling us forth. Grace involves movement. Of course, that movement is often internal and doesn’t necessarily involve a change of geography. Community cannot be build without the stability of its members. Stability is definitely counter cultural in this country.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Typical Work Night...Sadly.

Tonight, sitting at my desk at home, the night air coming in my window is cool and it feels great. It has been another hectic day at work. There's change and growth and new relationships forming. It's all very normal in my world but still exhasberating at times. I really don't mind getting up and going to work everyday but I don't mind leaving work everyday either. It always feels great to walk out of the building at the end of the day. Today, while I was sitting in my car, waiting for my wife, my daughter in law, aka "Chloe's Mom", popped her head in my car window. It was just luck that she came out the side of the building where I was parked. Since my wife was expected any moment, I told her to hop in and we would drive her to her car. We've hired so many people in the last year that many people must park blocks away. On the way home, my wife and I stopped at a Chinese buffett where I ate too much. Later, I fell into a Egg Drop soup induced nap and woke up in a daze several hours later. I really enjoy my personal time in the evenings but too often I am in a daze. I stumble through the evening trying to stay awake and alert. It is often a challenge. The quality of my personal time sometimes suffers from fatigue and too much food. They're a bad combination!

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Fire Within

When my son went to the daycare to pick up Chloe, she didn't want to leave. My guess is that all the two year old boys were offering up part of their lunches to sit next to Chloe. She'll be the daycare heartbreaker! Chloe's mother, Stacy, also had a good day so my wife can check these things off her list of things to worry about. Now if I can just get her to stop worrying about that asteroid that might hit planet earth!

Yesterday was one of those hectic, busy days where I felt like I was meeting myself coming and going. At the end of the day I was tired but not sure what I accomplished. I felt like the day controlled me instead of me controlling the day. That is never a good thing. One oasis in the day was lunch with a friend. This friend has been through a recent retreat experience that really has her fired up. My introverted personality was almost overwhelmed by her extroverted enthusiasm. At the same time, I was happy to see such joy and passion. Too many of us lack these things in our lives and beliefs. I know I sometimes feel like much of life is simply an aggravation and my mantra at times is "Just leave me alone!" Of course, somewhere within all of us is passion and there is much in life that should fill us with joy. How we express our passion or experience our joy can vary from person to person. Certainly an extroverted person can seem to have more emotional than an introverted person but we are all human and we all feel. Do not worry if you don't feel the fire and enthusiasm that others seem to have. Some of us are ablaze and others on a slow but long lasting burn. We all have a fire within us and we will find the passion that will at times turn our spark into a flame. If your fire is out, stoke the embers, grab some kindling, and throw on another log.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A Glorious Autumn Day

Any day that I wake up and the first thing I see is my granddaughter, Chloe, is a good day. Such was my Sunday morning. I could hear her waking up so I rolled over and looked in her direction. She sat up and said, "Pa Paw, how are you"? We sat there and talked a few minutes before heading downstairs so "Memo" could sleep a little longer.

Today was a glorious autumn day. In the afternoon my wife, Chloe, and I headed for my parents home where all of my family would be gathering. My sister was in town from New York City and my brother was home from Iraq. I didn't take a head count but I think most of my college age nieces and nephews were home for the weekend from their respective colleges. We were having a cookout and the brats and hamburgers on the grill smelled great and tasted even better. It was one of our better family gatherings. Chloe was a hit in her hippie like apparel. She has some competition now with Ellie, the four month old daughter of my niece, Christine. At one point we got a picture of the two of them together. Chloe was holding Ellie and seemed very impressed with the life like "doll".

We got close to eight inches of rain in the Louisville area Friday and Saturday. As you can imagine, it has caused many problems for many people. Some people died in surrounding areas from the flash flooding. Please keep all these people in your prayers

My Mexican lunch and Friday evening pizza woke me up several times Friday night. Each time I woke up, the rain was pouring down. At the time I didn't realize the extent of the rain or the problems it would cause. I simply enjoyed it. It was Friday night so I didn't mind the fact that I was losing sleep. I knew I could stay in bed as long as it took to get rested. The rain was heavy but not intense. I found it soothing and comforting. I listened to its song until I drifted back to my dreams.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Weekend Is Here

Does anything feel as good as Friday night? It is always a good feeling to finish the work week. I love to go to bed on Friday night knowing the morning alarm will be dormant and I can wake up naturally. To make this Friday night even better, it is pouring down rain outside my window. A little earlier my granddaughter, Chloe, and her parents were here for a visit. We had met them earlier for some pizza. Tomorrow, after I wake up, I will go get Chloe and bring her back here to spend the day and night. My wife and I will take her with us on Sunday when we go to my parent's home for a cookout celebrating the return of my brother from Iraq. Soon it will be bedtime and I am eager for sleep induced by the rhythm of the falling rain.

I will lie down in peace and sleep comes at once for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.
-Psalm 4

Thursday, September 21, 2006

My Life Is All Over The Place

Last Friday I left for the monastery and a weekend of silence, solitude, and peace. This weekend my granddaughter Chloe will be coming over to help Granny get out all her Halloween decorations and pack away all the everyday stuff that sits around. Chloe won't do any real work but she will be all excited and into everything. Every time I know Chloe is coming over for the weekend I am excited and everytime she goes back home I am exhausted.

Next weekend my rock and roll summer tour ends with a mammoth weekend. The rock and roll gods have smiled on me and I now have a ticket to see the Rolling Stones at Churchill Downs next Friday. This will be my 4th Rolling Stones concert. These guys are old but they can still rock and roll. I suppose they will keep going until Mick Jagger keels over on the stage. If this wasn't enough for the average, aging rocker, I will leave the following day for Indianapolis to see Roger Waters of Pink Floyd performing, among other things, his magnum opus "The Dark Side of the Moon" album. For all you youngsters out there, this was was of the greatest selling albums of ALL time. It was in the top 100 albums for 14 YEARS! Needless to say, because I am a aging road warrior, I will be taking some time off after these back to back musical events.

I think one of the signs of middle age is that everything exhausts you. I have noticed at the end of the workday that it doesn't matter how hard I worked that day. It could have been a hectic day or a slow one. Whatever it was, I am usually exhausted by the time I get home. I was exhausted when I got home from my retreat. Chloe will have me hopping all weekend and when she leaves, I will head straight for the couch. As soon as I finish typing these thoughts, I will stretch out on the sofa that is within my vision at this moment. The only part of aging that really annoys me is that I don't have the stamina and energy that I had when I was 25. Of course, as one gets older, you must let go of some of the expectations you have of yourself. At the same time, I am more conscious of time and my mortality so I try not to let any opportunities for fun or insight get past me.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Final Day Of My Retreat

Sunday Morning

I am back in my room after two hours of prayer and meditation. My eyes opened at 2:57 AM, three minutes before the alarm went off. As I was getting out of my bed, the monastery bells were ringing. After dressing and splashing some water on my face, I headed for church. My room is so close to the church that I feel as though I am sleeping in the church. Sunday Vigils are long and we sing rather than simply recite the Psalms.

After Vigils, I once again headed to the dining room for coffee and toast. Sitting in the silent and dimly lit room, I stared out the window into the darkness. The coffee and toasted whole wheat monk’s bread seemed like a great feast. Afterwards I got a second cup of coffee and went outside where I sat in the retreat house garden under the stars. The morning chill kept me awake and alert and all the insects around me sang their morning hymns. Since it is Sunday I will have an extra hour of solitude.

Sunday Midday

The morning activities are over. After another simple breakfast of oatmeal and brown sugar, I attended a talk by Fr Elias on a short passage of St Bernard. After a short visit with some fellow retreatants, I headed to church for Sunday mass. After mass, when I walked across the balcony to my room, the smell of incense was still wafting in the air. It is good to be alone again after a morning with people. It bothers me that people, especially groups, are so exhausting to me. Of course, I did not choose to be an introvert and I do know fully understand why I am one.

The noonday sun is hot.

My time at the monastery ended with a short ceremony where some of the people I have been guiding, as well as others, made a commitment to live their spiritual lives in solidarity with the monks. Those of us who have been doing this a while recommitted our selves.

After the ceremony, I loaded my bags into the car and I headed back home. I always enjoy being at the monastery but my life is in the city with my wife and children a little blue eyed girl named Chloe.

Saturday Night

I am just returning to the monastery after having dinner in town with Dennis. We always have a great time together. He’s much more extroverted than me and one of the funniest people I know. We laugh and joke a lot but much of our conversation is also serious.

The sun has set but I can still see the hills and fields outside my window. I like the ending of the day almost as much as I like the beginning. I don’t always like the middle part of the day when the sun is high and life is moving much more quickly.

It is easy for me to just sit here and be. This time at the monastery is called the Grand Silence. It lasts from Night Prayer (Compline) until the morning work period. Although silence is always valued and sought in the monastery, during the Grand Silence special care is taken to be quiet. People walk softly and close doors gently. There are no radios or television. Guests are asked to turn off their cell phones. If talking is necessary, it is done in a whisper. The silence is soothing and healing and wraps around you like a warm blanket.

I brought five books with me. The only one I have actually read is The Cistercian Way by Andre Louf. Cistercian refers to the type of monk in this monastery. They came to this place in 1848 to escape the French Revolution. Their origins go back to the year 1098 and the city of Citeaux, France. Citeaux is one of the cities I visited in the summer of 2005.

I have read that only 14% of all Catholics attend mass on a regular basis. Yet, this retreat house is packed and you must reserve a room months or even a year in advance. What does this say about the spiritual hunger in the world today? Many of the people who come here are not Catholic and some not Christian. The Dalai Lama has been here twice.

Sunrise Till The End Of The Day

Saturday Dawn

I am back in my room after morning prayer, mass, and breakfast. Weekday masses are like Vigils, quiet and subdued. Breakfast was simple, a bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar. Soon I must attend a conference downstairs. After lunch I will have the rest of the day to do as I please. I will seek out opportunities for solitude.

Saturday Afternoon

I feel like Rip Van Winkle. I just woke up from a world class nap. It will probably take me forever to get to sleep tonight. Before I drifted off there was a gentle knock on the door of my room. It was Fr. Dennis asking me if I would like to go to dinner after Evening Prayer (Vespers). Since the evening meal at the monastery is very simple and sometimes leaves something to be desired, I accepted.

Now I sit here with a cup of coffee trying to wake up. I have an hour until vespers. The morning talks were very good and an interesting approach was taken on the topics. For each topic, a monk and a lay person gave their perspective. Each had the same topic but with different approaches and thoughts. For example, the topic of community means something different to a monk than to a person living in the world.

The early morning darkness and cool air have been replaced by bright light and warm sun. It has been a beautiful day.

My personal prayer is mostly silent. I am not one to use a lot of words. In most cases I just sit in the silence. When I use words, they are usually a mantra like the word “Abba” or a short scriptural phrase like “O God, come to my assistance, O Lord, make haste to help me”! Sometimes people ask me to pray for them. The world is also full of needs that cry out for prayer. How does one keep up with it all? No one can be conscious of every prayer request or need. I like to believe that every request or need, once I become aware of it, becomes part of what I hope is a ceaseless prayer of my heart. Of course, some people and situations are consciously noted and called to mind in prayer. Sometimes I do verbally refer to people and events and I intercede for them

It is nearly time for Vespers and soon the bells will ring. I need to get dressed and go sit in church. Since I am on retreat, Dennis and I will avoid the Bourbon Festival being held in town. (smile)