Friday, March 30, 2007


It is a beautiful morning. I enjoyed my morning commute along I-64. The landscape gets greener by the day. I am so glad it is Friday. This day feels good. The work week is coming to an end, its causal day, and I feel so relaxed in my jeans and Reeboks. The weekend ahead, although I know it will fly by quickly, seems like a long awaited sabbatical. Usually on Fridays I also go out for lunch with a friend. These lunches are always light hearted and full of laughter. I am getting hungry already just thinking about it. I haven't looked at my calendar yet for today but I hope it is relatively empty and that today will be a quiet day where I can catch up, breathe a little, and leave at the end of the day with some of my energy in reserve. I am sure you are all familiar with the term "crash and burn". That is what usually happens to me at the end of a workday when I stop my adrenaline fueled activity. Sometimes when I am waiting for my wife at her office, I am surprised that the police don't break into my car thinking I am dead.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Breathe In The Spring

It was difficult to meet my own challenge yesterday of trying to have one mind. The day was very busy and I felt pulled in a thousand directions. When I finally felt a little overwhelmed, I did sneak down the stairs for a quiet and solitary moment in the first floor break room. There I am usually just another face in the crowd and no one bothers me. Even the people who knew me and saw me seemed to sense my need and they ignored me. I am not anti social but sometimes I simply must be alone. I was happy to be lost in my own thoughts. When the work day finally came to an end, I walked slowly through the park to my car. The smells of spring filled the air. The dogwood blossoms caressed me in their fragrant aroma and my spirit was lifted. Driving home along the interstate I was suddenly aware of how much the grays of winter had been transformed into the multi colored palette of spring. The trees and bushes were in the first stages of what will become the full blossoming of summer. Mixed into the green were the sporadic purples and yellows and the whites of more dogwoods. How could one not feel renewed by this perennial but still miraculous rebirth of nature? I simply must start taking the time to occasionally escape the demands of the work day and slip outside for a breath of air and a shot of beauty. Even Chloe, at her precious young age, senses the beauty of what is going on in nature at this time. Now when she comes over she grabs my arm and wants to go outside for a walk. The sense of wonder and excitement that children have naturally is what we adults need to recapture. We get all caught up in our grown up affairs and we loose our connection with the wonder and beauty of life. No wonder so many of us are mentally exhausted, physically tired, and emotionally drained. Spring is an excellent time to reconnect with life since it is happening all around us. There are three books that I would recommend to help you regain your sense of wonder and appreciation of nature. One of my all time favorite books is Walden Pond by Henry David Thoreau. Another book that is mostly pictures is The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson. Finally, I offer Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. If you read these books you will never look at a tree, a leaf, a frog, or a pond quite the same. In these seemingly ordinary things you will learn to see magic.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Happiness And Joy In Daily Living

I have not been as positive lately as I try to be. The enemy of a positive attitude and enthusiasm for life is fatigue. I am not talking about a fatigue caused by a lack of sleep. I am talking about a fatigue that is caused by dissipation. It is the fatigue of a mind going in too many directions. In order to have a zest for living one must have enthusiasm for life that can only be maintained by a mind in harmony with itself. It is difficult to be enthusiastic if you are burning the candle at both ends and living in a mental fog exacerbated by a divided and dissipated mind. Today I am challenging myself and all of you to renew your quest for happiness and joy in your daily living. This happiness and joy can be found not only in pleasurable activities but in your other daily tasks including those in the workplace. I challenge you to strive for the "one mind" that is focused on the moment and the task at hand. Too many tasks at the same moment and you have a divided mind. The Buddha says that life is suffering. This sounds incredibly negative and pessimistic but it isn't. I think what the Buddha is telling us is that life is difficult and hard at times. I think this every time my alarm clock goes off on a workday and I must rise from my bed. I think this every time I have a chore to perform that I don't want to do. I think this every time my will must bow to the will of another. We all go through this and all of our lives have some difficulty, suffering, and challenge. No one is free from pain whether it is emotional or physical. In spite of life's struggles, pain, suffering, and challenges, we are still capable of happiness and joy. Whatever is going on around us, and even to us, we can still maintain an inner calmness and peace by striving for the "one mind" where we remain focused on the moment and the task. Admittedly, this is not always easy and it requires some effort. Much of what goes on in the world will not support you in this effort. Life will pull at you from every direction. With enough practice and perseverance you can resist these attempts to pull you from your center. The more you are centered and have "one mind", the better you will see the opportunities in the moments of your life for happiness and joyful living.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I Did Go To The Doctor But Not To Woodstock

Last week I shared some thoughts about “Wow” experiences in life. Yesterday my co-workers gave me a “Wow” experience. Without my knowledge they planned a wonderful birthday surprise. I came into work in a less than great mood. I was feeling old, it was Monday, and I dreaded my doctor appointment. As soon as I hit my floor I could see the birthday decorations around my desk. Soon I found out an entire meal had been planned in my honor. I received some birthday cards with dozens of signatures and well wishes plus a very generous gift card to Border’s Books which is one of my favorite stores. I described it once as an introverts dream with its inventory of books, CD’s, DVD’s, and coffee shop. My co-workers turned an ordinary day into a great one. I was greatly flattered and a little embarrassed but most of all I was grateful.

I did go to the doctor. I was feeling pretty good while I sat in the waiting room. Everyone else seemed to be on crutches, in a cast, or with stitches where their knees had been replaced. I went through some painful x rays before seeing the doctor. I could have a torn rotator cuff but the best case scenario for now is inflammation due to bursitis or arthritis. This certainly made me feel young! This is what my grandparents always complained about! I got off with a shot of cortisone in the shoulder. If my discomfort isn’t better in the next few weeks, the next step is an MRI. Stay tuned!

Someone asked me last week if I was at the original Woodstock Music Festival. The answer is no. In reality about 500,000 people attended Woodstock in the summer of 1969. Approximately 5,000,000 think they attended and the ones who really did can’t be sure. Over the years I have seen most of the performers who played at Woodstock but I was only at the original event in spirit. Since I was a very young boy, I have deeply loved music. I consider music a friend and it has been the most faithful friend I have ever had. Through out my life, in good times and bad, music has been part of my life. Many joyful moments alone in my room or with thousands of other people at a live concert, have been experienced when music filled the air. When I was about eleven years old or so, a friend’s big sister took us to the state fair to see the original Beach Boys. When they hit the stage and I heard those harmonies and electric guitars, I was hooked for life. That was in 1962 or 1963. Well, its 2007 and I am still going strong….well, maybe not as strong as I used to but I am still out there!

Monday, March 26, 2007

My Birthday

Today I am officially fifty six years old. I celebrated this by visiting an orthopedic doctor. Based on my own research, self diagnoses, and the extreme pain that I feel, I believe I have a torn rotator cuff. We’ll see what the doctor thinks after my examination and what needs to be done about it.

The end is near for the total chaos on the first floor of my home. Quite frankly, it has been driving me a little crazy. I dislike the disruption in my life. For several weekends now my son, and sometimes my daughter in law, have been coming over to paint. I think they are finally done. Sometime before the end of the week we will be getting rid of old furniture so the carpet guys can yank out the old carpet and install the new carpet before the new furniture is delivered. Do I need a flow chart here? I will be so glad when it is all over. Admittedly, I have contributed very little to this makeover except for occasionally being a beast of burden. My wife, son, and daughter in law deserve all the credit for the transformation. I have been somewhat resistent to this change. I am not preparing an acceptance speech for a husband of the year award.

In the spiritual life the metaphor of the desert is often used to describe a period of dryness and aridity. I cannot talk about the spiritual life without talking about all of life. It is all the same to me. Regular life and the spiritual life are so closely woven together that I cannot separate them. If my day to day life seems good, then I also seem to experience spiritual consolation. If my day to day life seems tiresome and unfulfilling, then spiritually I seem to be wandering in the desert. The combination of busyness at work and at home, not feeling really great physically, spiritually wandering in the desert, and having a heightened sense of my own mortality as another birthday arrives, exhausts me. Last week when Chloe and I were outside looking at the flowers, she got away from me and started running. I thought I was going to have a heart attack before I caught her. The chase was a metaphor for how I currently feel. Chloe represents youth and vitality and both of them seem to be running away from me. I feel old and tired. I know these feelings will not last forever and will eventually be replaced by more positive and contended feelings. Of course, when you are in the desert all you can think about is your thirst. I know, however, after traveling the journey of life for fifty six years that an unexpected, transcendent moment can come into your life and transport you from an arid desert to a cool garden

Friday, March 23, 2007

Experiencing The "Wow" Of Life

Even though I am a middle aged man, I sometimes feel much younger and even a little immature when I am around some young people and even a few of my own generation. There seems to be many people who are very driven and earnest. They are so serious about life. Although I take much of life seriously, my goal is to enjoy it rather than endure it. I have , however, lived enough life to understand what the Buddha means when he says "Life is suffering". Even though my middle aged body seems to be falling apart, inside of it is a young heart and very active mind striving to enjoy the really important things in life. Last night I was listening to a musician named Warren Zevon. He died of cancer a few years ago. One of the things he said after being told he had terminal cancer was "Enjoy every sandwich". As the days of my life accumulate, and I see that I have more days behind me than ahead of me, I think of Warren's words. I fulfill my obligations and strive to meet all my responsibilities but they are not always the most important things. Yesterday, for example, I completed a number of tasks at work and I was happy about that but the most important event of my day was picking up my granddaughter at the daycare. Teaching her to enjoy every sandwich is one of my grandfatherly goals. I hope to also teach her to enjoy spring. She should feel the wind and the sun. I hope she smells the flowers and notices the leaves unfolding and blooming on the trees and bushes. She needs to notice the birds in the sky and squirrels on the ground. She needs to get dirty once in while. She will grow from a child into a woman but I hope she never loses her sense of wonder and awe. She and I took a walk in the neighborhood last night doing all these things. At one point while touch a blooming daffodil she exclaimed "Wow"! She also started running like the wind and I thought I would have a heart attack before I caught her. If you don't have at least one experience a day where you can say "Wow"!, your day is lacking something.

Speaking of feeling young and immature, another big rock concert is coming to Churchill Downs. Back in late September I saw the Rolling Stones there. It was announced a few days ago that the Police will be there this summer. I know many of you weren't alive in the sixties but some of you surely remember the eighties. The Police were big in those days. One of still a major artist. Anyway, I plan on dragging my tired body out to the big show one more time wearing my rock and roll shoes. Actually, I will be doing this in two weeks when I head north to Columbus, Ohio to see Eric Clapton. Rock and roll keeps me young and reminds me that music is joy and experiencing joy and happiness is what life is all about. Wow!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A Couple Of Days Out Of My Routine

I have spent the last two days in a downtown hotel attending some Corporate training. These events are usually well planned and generally enjoyable. It enables me to see peers and friends that are not always part of my every day environment. It was nice to be out of my normal routine. Although my emails and work have piled up a little, the time away has fast forwarded my week. I was in my office on Monday and now it is already Thursday. There is nothing about that which upsets me.

It was a beautiful morning. Although overcast, the temperature was already in the high sixties. It rained a little today but such mild weather is welcome. Yesterday, after my training, I walked six or seven blocks to where my wife works. It was invigorating. I really felt alive. After sitting in a huge room with hundreds of people all day, it was wonderful to get lost in my solitary trek along the downtown streets.

My granddaughter, Chloe, keeps calling my house. She's not aware that she does it. Apparently, she gets the phone at her house and hits the speed dial. All we hear is background noise and then she hangs up.

Monday, March 19, 2007


I have been a little stressed lately. Last week I was very busy at work and my weekend at home was non stop activity. This week promises to be another very busy week. One of the things I must do at work is attend two days of off site meetings. I might be more positive about them if I could stop thinking about the work and emails that will pile up in my absence from the office. I must admit that all this busyness is stressing me out. I am finding it difficult to follow my own advice of being calm and present to the moment. Even when you know this is what you should and need to do, it is challenging to do so when you feel like a spinning top. I knew I was feeling tense this weekend. I had my first meltdown with my granddaughter, Chloe. My son and daughter in law were at my house painting. The wife was helping them. My responsibility was taking care of Chloe, keeping her entertained and away from the painting. At one point we left the house making a run to Home Depot for more supplies. We also had lunch at McDonald's and visited my parents. After doing these things for most of the day on Saturday I had run out of tricks. I was tired, she was tied, and nothing I did made her happy. Finally, I got a little impatient with her and raised my voice which is totally out of character when I am with her. She is the apple of my eye and usually I cherish any time with her. Later I apologized to her. She kissed and hugged me and I knew I was forgiven. That night she slept on my pillow and whenever I woke up, I looked at her and reminded myself how much I love her and how grateful I am to be her "Pa Paw".

Friday, March 16, 2007

Doing And Being

I had to go home yesterday on my lunch hour. It is always a dangerous thing to return home in the middle of the work day. The neighborhood was silent. Parents were working and children were at school. My own home was dark and absent of its occupants. When I entered, my couch tempted me with its siren song, beckoning me to take a nap. I so wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon home alone. I resisted the urge and only stayed home long enough to grab Chloe's car seat and eat a bowl of cereal. Soon enough I was back at work and into my tasks. The temporary respite in the silence and solitude of my home fueled me for the rest of the afternoon. I spent most of the afternoon quietly at my desk listening to classical music and working. I like Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven as well as the Grateful Dead, Bob Marley, and the Beatles. All music is good and one of life's great joys.

When I started typing these thoughts I thought today was Thursday. The realization that it is already Friday was shocking and joyful. This week has flown by. Life seems to go by so fast. It's a challenge to slow it down. I can't usually control the demands on me at work but I have some control over the demands made on me outside of the workplace. In the last couple of years I have stopped doing some things and have begun saying no more often. I resist the urge to even do good things. One could spend every available hour of their lives volunteering for something. Volunteer work is a good thing but there is a time for doing and a time for being. I am trying to simplify my life as well as slow it down. Both are difficult. I thought when my children were grown that my parental obligations would significantly decrease. I'm not sure they have plus now I have added the grandparent obligations. I don't really mind but my middle years seem just as busy as my early years. Still, I am grateful for the ability to recognize and seize the quiet moments such as the short time I had at home yesterday. If we open our eyes we will see these moments in our life. If we practice mindfulness and being present to the moment, the movement from moment to moment will not seem so blurry and jarring. If you want to slow down life, get lost in its moments.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

My Favorite Space

When I left work yesterday we were having a good old fashioned summer thunderstorm. The only strange thing is that summer is still about three months away. Although it feels like summer, it is only a tease. It could snow in a week. I walked quickly from my building through the park to my car. I really wasn’t prepared for such heavy rain and I got soaked. In spite of that, it felt good. One nice thing about being outdoors and feeling the weather is that you know you are alive. In the artificial and controlled environment of an office or a home, you don’t have that connection with the reality of the weather. This is why I love spring and fall. You can live with the windows open. Even now, when it’s nearly bedtime, the breeze coming inside my window is cool and it gets my attention. I know that change is coming. It’s too soon to pack away all my coats.

Do you have a favorite room in your home? I live in a nice house. It will soon be nicer because there is fresh paint in the living room and new carpet and furniture is not far behind. However, my favorite room still has old carpet and aging furniture. What makes it so special? It’s the only room in the entire house that is truly mine. I have my mother in law’s old recliner and a couch in there that I actually got to pick out all by myself. Both are sometimes used for world class naps. Many of my books are in this room as well as my CD collection. The walls are full of posters and prints reflecting my rock and roll passions and Deadhead background. Half of the room is even painted like a rain forest. A friend came over once with her paints, brushes and imagination, turning a bare wall into the Amazon Forest. Later, after the first Jurassic Park movie, we added a brachiosaurus who’s been eating out of the same tree now for the last fourteen years. If I were Superman, this room would be my Fortress of Solitude. It is where I spend my private downtime and many of my daily thoughts have been written there. It is the room where Chloe and I dance while we shake maracas. She refers to it as "Pa Paw's Room". It is where I retreat from the world. It is where I come to heal and rest. Sometimes my wife appears, stands in the doorway, and says “Do you mind! Turn that down”! I think my father used to say that to me when I was a teenager. Admittedly, this is not a room designed for prayer and meditation although that sometimes happens in the quiet when the music is resting. Everyone should have a favorite room or hiding place where they can retreat and be themselves. For me it is not only a nice thing to have, it is a requirement for my mental health.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Virtual Work

I guess it's a good thing that we are now on daylight savings time. If it wasn't for that I may not have seen any daylight yesterday. I did wonder why none of my atomic clocks automatically changed like they are supposed to do. I guess that was one small thing the genius's who moved daylight savings time ahead two weeks didn't think about. It was dark when I arrived at work yesterday and once I got to the floor I work on I left it only long enough to eat lunch at a thank you luncheon on the 2nd floor of my building. As I expected from taking two days off from work, I returned to hundreds of emails. I am beginning to think that maybe life wasn't so bad before computers when many people lived and worked on farms. I've never really been a farmer but I did do some farm work when I was studying at the monastery. I helped feed the cows, picked up bales of hay out in the fields, and occasionally mowed the grass while driving a tractor. I was at the peak of my physical abilities, my mind was clear, and I had never heard of stress. I also sometimes worked in the woods and was often surrounded by beauty. Sometimes I was out standing in my field. Sadly, this type of work is decreasing even for monks. Many of todays monks have a PC just like the one I am using now. More and more work is virtual and done in front of a monitor. It may have value but is rarely satisfying. I think many modern people are dissatisfied with their jobs because the results are so intangible. Some days it seems like all I see are numbers. They either go up or they go down. Sometimes up is good and other times it's bad. The same thing can be said about numbers that go down. Even when I deal with people I am usually talking about numbers. The numbers represent something but too often they are simply numbers. Along with the occasional farm work, while I was in the monastery I also helped build furniture, turn old dormitories into private rooms, and bake the occasional fruitcake. At the end of the day I could see what I had done. Even this past Sunday afternoon when I was hauling junk and unwanted items to the street in front of my house I felt some sense of satisfaction because I could see the results of my labor. In today's virtual world of work we are all challenged to find meaning in results that are usually not tangible or utilitarian.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

An Early Spring Sunday Afternoon

It is a beautiful, sunny, but still cool, Sunday afternoon in early spring. I just finished hauling all the family junk out to the street. It is the quarterly junk collection time in my neighborhood. It always feels good to get rid of stuff. The reality is that not everything I give away is junk. I suspect that much of what I have put on the curb will be taken by others before the morning comes. The manual labor involved with carrying sometimes heavy stuff to the street will surely cause me pain in a day or two. I am not the strong young man I used to be.

Shortly before doing the junk thing, my granddaughter left with her parents. She had spent the night. I did learn one thing during her visit. Do not let you granddaughter paint your fingernails purple with an indelible magic marker. It may be an embarrassing day at work tomorrow.

My four day long weekend comes to an end today. I did not have as much solitude as I hoped for nor as much rest. The little downtime that I had was very good. The balance of today is mine so I hope to use it well by enjoying the beautiful day, listening to some music, and napping on my couch. Tomorrow I will be back in the rat race of corporate life. How have I survived that madness for twenty one years? I am truly a fish out of water but the reality of needing to make a living and paying the bills keeps me going. Although I am a writer of sorts, I usually don't think of myself as an artist. However, when it comes to my employment, I am like a typical working artist when I think "This is not really who I am. I only do this for money". There's some truth to that but fortunately I am able to do some goods things at the office that have nothing to do with the work.

Friday, March 09, 2007

A Day That Turned Out Good Anyway

When I woke up this morning I had my day all planned in my head. I would take my wife to work, stop at a local bagel shop for breakfast, drop off some stuff at the local Goodwill, get my car washed, and go to my favorite music store for some new CD's. In between these errands, I might do something around the house. But, unfortunately, it was one of those days where a simple telephone call changes your entire day. My granddaughter was at the daycare but they insisted she had pink eye and someone must come to pick her up. Since I was home on a vacation day, guess who got elected? Admittedly, after the evening I had with her last night, I wasn't thrilled at the prospect of an all day one on one with Chloe. But, I wanted to be the loving grandfather so off I went to get her. For the most part we had a good day. However, even a good day with Chloe is exhausting because she is not yet three and I am fifty six. Even now, as I type these notes, she is here with me trying to blow up a balloon. Her parents and Grandmother are in another room. After dinner I did get a slight break when I slipped away to the music store where I picked up some CD's by Neil Young, the Youngbloods, and jazz great Joe Zawinul of Weather Report fame. The drive home was very enjoyable. It took me through the Highlands which is my favorite part of town. The Highlands is the Haight Asbury of my town and as an aging hippie I am still seduced by it's allure. Even though it is only mid March, it was a warm night and the streets were full of people walking in and out of the bars, restaurants, and shops. It made me wish I was young and free again hanging out with my friends.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A Sad Day

I took a vacation day today because work has been driving me crazy lately. I will also be off again tomorrow. Today has been a mostly sad day. We had to give our cat away. We've had him for several years even though my wife is highly allergic to cats. We inherited him from our youngest son. We quickly fell in love with him and decided to keep him in spite of her allergies. Unfortunately her allergies have been getting worse and we had to face the difficult decision of givng him to another family. Fortunately, a co-worker of my oldest son is a cat lover. He also has children and other cats. He offered to take Sox so we took the opportunity to give him to a loving home. My wife, youngest son, and myself have shed a few tears over this today. I am not what you would call an animal lover but I loved our cat. He has a great personality and both gave and demanded affection. I will truly miss him.

My granddaughter, Chloe, just left with her father. I love her very much and can usually handle her with little effort. Tonight, however, I saw a side of her I haven't experienced up till now. She threw a few royal tandrums. Now I remember the "terrible twos" with my own children. Of course, as a grandparent, I am much more patient than I was as a young parent. However, even with tons of love and the patience of Job, it is exhausting dealing with a tired and fussy child. She was crying for me as her father put her in the car seat. My guess is that she was asleep before they got out of the neighborhood.

I did manage to go to mass this morning at my parish after taking my wife to work. When I got home I had some silence while I fixed breakfast. I have another day home alone tomorrow so I hope to use it well.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Being Asleep And Awake

Yesterday I wasn't at my best. It was just one of those days. We all have them and yesterday it was my turn. I struggled the whole day to get out of first gear. My mind seemed dull and I felt like I was in a daze much of the day. To make it worse, I felt like I was 90 years old. Some days I can actually be a mover and a shaker at work while other days I feel like I don't know what I am doing. Today, however, is a new day and a fresh beginning. Perhaps my brain will be in gear today.

Over the weekend my son, Mike, painted the living room of my home. He is not a professional painter but you wouldn't know it from the looks of the room. He did an outstanding job. Mike is my oldest son and the father of my granddaughter, Chloe. He's very talented with his hands and tools. He is much more mechanical than I will ever be. I am a klutz with tools. I hate home remodeling or fixing anything because I am not very good at it. I am a fairly intelligent person who can't do much but think deep thoughts. I am much better at being than doing. I can write daily thoughts, a little poetry, and I'm not a bad public speaker. Just don't ask me to re-wire the house or fix the plumbing. I guess we all have our gifts and being Tim the Tool Man is not my gift. It is a gift for Mike. I have no idea how he acquired this gift anymore than I know why I can write well. The few things I am good at just seem to come to me naturally. I must admit, however, that I really wish I was one of those guys you could drop in the wilderness with a Swiss Army knife and within a few months they could build a complete log cabin.

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 that it is simple but difficult. What is the spiritual life? I don't always know because it is often difficult to "see" in our daily lives as evidenced in the short story below of two monks meditating.

Two monks were meditating. 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.

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. As an awakened one, we strive for the single minded attentiveness to what is deep within us. Like the Tom Cruise character in the "Last Samurai", we often have too many minds. Admittedly, in modern life it is quite challenging to have one mind especially when we often feel like we are losing our mind from the many demands made on us.

Even when I don't have one mind or can't "see" the spiritual in my daily life, I try to remember the following.

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!

Friday, March 02, 2007

One Way To Pray

It is a beautiful, but cool, morning with a hint of spring in the air. I am so glad its Friday. It has been an exhausting week. I am ready to sleep in for a few extra hours in the morning. I will have another early rising on Sunday because I must head to the monastery for my monthly meeting.

When I left work yesterday it was raining like it was the monsoon season in the Amazon basin. Sitting in my parked car waiting for my wife, the Sandman was attacking me viciously. Fighting the urge to sleep I must have appeared to be a bobble head doll.

I have often talked about prayer. You might wonder how I pray. My prayer is very simple. To be honest, I am often busy or too tired for a complicated prayer life. My role models for prayer are the men and women of the 2nd and 3rd centuries who left the cities and went out into the deserts. They are referred to as the Desert Fathers and Mothers and were the spiritual ancestors of what would later become monks and nuns. For the most part they were simple and uneducated people who often could not read. Their prayers were often just a word or perhaps a short phrase from scripture that had been read to them at some point. Along with their simple prayers, silence was a big part of their spirituality. This is how I pray most of the time. I sit in silence or use a simple word or phrase as a kind of mantra. My goal is to quiet my mind and open my heart and put my entire being in a receptive stance for whatever enlightenment God may choose to give me....or not give me. Prayer does not have to be complicated or lengthy. All prayer, if we are faithful to it, will eventually become the prayer of our heart even if we are not aware of it. This unconscious prayer of the heart is what I believe St Paul is talking about when he exhorts us to "Pray Always". At some point prayer becomes something you are and not just something you do. The pray-er becomes prayer. This is contemplation. It is those moments when you become one with the flame that is God. You are now part of the fire. Of course, this is only one way to pray and may not be attractive to all people. Whatever works for you, do it. There are many ways to pray.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Faith And Affirmation

Yesterday someone asked me what I thought about the recent news stories about the alleged finding of the bones of Jesus. Well, basically I think it's one more attempt for television ratings and I give it little credence. However, I am always amused by how easily some people's faith is challenged by things like the Da Vinci Code or this new thing about finding Jesus's bones. My friend, Fr Dennis, and I decided one day that even if we found out there's no such thing as God, we have no regrets about the lives we have tried to live based on faith. I would want to be a good person, full of compassion and love, even if Jesus was a hoax. Goodness is its own reward. Admittedly, the older I get the less sure I am about many things I was taught in my youth. I do question a lot of things but I believe doubt is an important part of belief. Would I be less contemplative if there was no God? I think not. I would still get lost in the moment and I would still love beauty. As I said yesterday, most, if not all I believe, cannot be proven intellectually. I don't have to understand something to believe in it. Even if the experiences I have had in my life that I attribute to God revealing Himself are in my imagination, who's to say that God doesn't use the imagination as a way to give us a sense of who He is? I know with little doubt that God does reveal Himself to me in the smiles and hugs of a little child named Chloe.

Speaking of Chloe..... All of us need affirmation in our lives. We like to believe that we make a difference in the lives of others. I was thinking on the way to work this morning that there are two things that really affirm me in my life. One of them is Chloe. I have never felt so loved. When I walk into her daycare center, she runs to me with her arms outstretched saying, "My Pa Paw's here"! How could I not feel good with a greeting like that? No one else gets that excited when I walk into a room. The other experience where I receive a lot of affirmation is writing these daily thoughts. People I don't even know speak to me on the elevator or other places in the building while others I don't know or have never met write to me. It amazes me but I am happy that somehow, through my words, I am able to touch people's lives in a positive way. So, thank all of you again for your kind words. You affirm me greatly.