Saturday, August 02, 2014

I am not alone...

There is this pulse, this beat, this call deep within me - something that pulls at me so much of the day, a hunger, a search, a drive to understand life beyond words and actions and situations and circumstances. There always- always- seems to be more than what meets the eye, the ear, the heart - our logical minds. Gaps in understanding. Pieces that seem to be missing. A curiousity about existence of this moment, that person, the soul I have not yet met, a soul I no longer know. 

It's a whisper...

It's a knowledge that 
there is something more...

And how Divine to discover once again that I am not alone ...

“It is interesting that in the autobiographical accounts of the great breakthroughs in man’s understanding of the universe, the role of intuition, or some mysterious comprehension, led to the breakthrough rather than any systematic analytic process."

“I didn’t arrive at my understanding of the fundamental laws of the universe through my rational mind.”—A. Einstein


Friday, August 01, 2014

Hoping for the perfect companion...

I can’t resist checking out the small animals at Magoo’s when going to get dog food for Hollister. They have quite an assortment of birds, lizards and rats (still gag!), guinea pigs and gerbils.

This time as I perused the aisle, I suddenly fell into a 45-year-old memory of me desperately wanting one of the little furry creatures that I could carry with me in my pocket and pull out any time day or night. Time suddenly stood still as I remembered picking out all the gerbils I ever had, baby gerbils so I could make sure I could tame them to my human touch. I so distinctly remember truly believing that these small little pets would be so wonderful to have with me. I would do everything I could to make their little lives perfect.

And it usually worked out great for a while. I fed them, bought them great little gerbil toys, cleaned their gerbil homes, and gave them great gerbil treats. They must have been happy with all my care and attention. I would take them out of their little homes frequently and pet them oh-so-gently out of great affection for their companionship. These little gerbils added so much meaning to my life. I loved having them as a part of my daily existence.

Until they bit me.

And they ALWAYS ended up biting me.

I stood there this morning staring at the gerbils, remembering how disappointed I felt with every single gerbil I ever brought into my life. I had hoped for the perfect companion. I worked hard at giving them a really great life.

But they bit me.

Every single gerbil I ever bought bit me.

And what is a gerbil if they just stay in their cage and run on that wheel? I wanted them to love me back – I wanted them to look forward to me coming home and pulling them from their tiny little homes into the far more comforting place of my hands.

Was that so awful? Did they have to bite me? Some drew blood!!

I lost interest in gerbils after a while. As much as those little furry creatures seemed to beg me to free them from the store, I knew they would turn on me, even after I had given them my very best.

As I turned away from them this morning, climbing the walls to get out of their cage, seeming to plead with me to take them home, I thought about the amazing ways God can speak to us about greater truths in life.

Am I still that little girl wanting perfect companions that won’t bite me? Do I do that with people too?

Maybe that’s why I like dogs and don’t mind hurting my back loading a 20-pound bag of dog food into my car. Hollister has never bitten me – at least not yet. What would I do if he did? Would I lose interest in caring for him?

I think I would.

So now what am I supposed to do with THAT??

For now, I’m going to look forward to going home tonight and seeing Hollister literally jump for joy at seeing me, like I am the greatest person in life, like he is so so grateful to just be with me, to have me pet him and take care of him – and to be a wonderful companion in a life that simply does not have enough shared moments of utter joy of simply being together…

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Does he love me? Does she?

And then 

there is this.

“For when you say “I fell in love” with him or her you are saying that he or she was the key that unlocked your heart—the place within yourself where you are love. When the experience is mutual, you can see that the psychic chemistry of the situation allows both partners to “fall in love” or to “awake into love” or to “come into the Spirit.” Since love is a state of being—and the Divine state at that—the state to which we all yearn to return, we wish to possess love. At best we can try to possess the key to our hearts—our beloved—but sooner or later we find that even that is impossible. To possess the key is to lose it.

"Just as with every other method of coming to the Light, if it works we get attached to the method, failing to realize that it is the goals and not the method which we crave. A relationship starting out as one that awakens love can only remain a living vehicle for love to the extent that it is continually made new or reconsecrated. That is, each partner in love must always strain to see through the veils of personality and body to see the Divine Essence within—within himself and his partner. And he must come to see the veils as veils . . . without getting trapped into thinking them real. Such ideas are reflected in the highest marriages, or for that matter in the highest form of any relationship. Play your role in the Divine Dance, but know it to be such and worship its divinity.”

Even at 53 I still think a lot about love. In some ways, it is the center from which I measure most every moment. I often question - Is this love? Is that? Does he love me? Does she? Why does my love feel different when I look deep into the eyes of my daughter or son? Why is love so intoxicatingly alive at some moments - and yet seems so very, very distant at others.

Doesn't life really come down to - love or fear? Do we live in love or fear? Further, what is fear, after all, if it is not unloved? It seems the greatest fear too often reveals itself when we consider otherwise successful people on their deathbed looking well beyond the veils and illusions they have created 
and reach for love...

To consider love as a state of being ... Unlocked by another ... And ourselves wanting to possess it. This rings true to my soul. And I wonder why I haven't heard this before? And yes, of course, of course, we get attached to the method - the person - and wonder why it all stops working, where love goes, when the method fails to work, especially in challenging times - when all we really, truly want is the goal. We really just want to experience Divine Love, to return to this organic state of unlocked love within our hearts - where no fear resides...

The author seems imploring in his words to see beyond the veils of personality to see the Divine within those we love - which, in one sense, should be everyone. In our more intimate relationships and friendships, it takes a more intentional work - because it is more difficult, more frightening to consider that what was once so Divine is no more.

May each of us see the veils as veils today -- and not get trapped into thinking they are real. 

Looking for the Divine Essence within...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Day 2 of friendlessness in the 21st century

The withdrawal from social media has me jonesing in odd ways. The reach to post or "catch up" on those constant streams of thought on Twitter and Facebook has been ridiculous - if not embarrassing. As if it somehow proves my existence to share my thoughts on that plane. Or worse, the worthiness of my existence. 

But get this. Dude, it's so much quieter in my brain!

And, of course, some would say my posts here are merely a substitute; and perhaps this blog is the step down drug of my detox. But detoxing I am... Not reaching for that Twitter feed of Flint Police Ops after hearing sirens at 3am - oh yeah, it takes courage and determination baby!

Now that I'm not cruising the Twitter feeds for news, I came upon this - believe me, I wasn't looking for it, but it certainly seemed timely. Research has winnowed out the negative symptoms of social media addicts (like me - there, I said it!) There is that same jittery feeling when you can't check the status or look at the feeds. But the piece went on further to describe the deeper issues such as seeing an ex on Facebook can restrict personal growth and emotional recovery; excessive usage can be a contributing factor in divorce; spending more time on Facebook can lead to increased feelings of unhappiness with your own life; and passively scrolling through your News Feed can increase feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Who knew??

I also was struck by the human nature observation of a 25-year-old who had just been sentenced in a Grand Rapids court for his role in the murder of another man. As he was leaving the courtroom, the guy turns toward the prosecutor, police and the family of a murder victim and held up the middle finger on each of his cuffed hands and cussed at them.

Wow! I had to read it a couple times. I thought I missed something. Here was this adult male who had destroyed the lives of a family - and he was angry at them? He was facing the consequences of his actions - and he was angry - and made the entire situation even more deplorable. 

There is so much I do not understand about life - about people. So much that is utterly confusing as we try to find logic in a very illogical world. 

It seems the greatest hope we can have is to be a faithful person - to have faith in something greater than ourselves. To be known as a faithful person who can be counted on to help make the world a better place. To be the real deal to everyone we encounter.

But what makes a person truly genuine?

Apparently, researchers have figured this out too!

1. You have high self-esteem.

Genuine people, by definition, have a good sense of self-esteem, says clinical psychologist Guy Winch, PhD, author of Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts.

"Really, with self-esteem, it’s the ‘Goldilocks’ range: Too much is not good because that’s the narcissism range, that’s the arrogant, prideful range," Winch tells The Huffington Post. "Too little is not good; you want something solid in the middle. So genuine people are those who have solid self-esteem -- it’s solid, it’s consistent, it’s not brittle. And people who have solid self-esteem are much less defensive about things usually. They can feel authentic, they can be authentic, because they’re far less worried about the implications of exposing who they are, because they feel OK about who they are."

Research backs this up: In a 2008 study published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, U.K.-based researchers explored the "authentic personality" and how other traits correlate with a person's sense of living genuinely. They found that people who expressed a high sense of authenticity also maintained higher levels of self-esteem.

2. You embrace vulnerability.

The psychological idea and societal construct of inner strength vary dramatically. Many cultures place great importance on maintaining defensive walls that hide or minimize personal weaknesses and imperfections, as a means of protecting oneself from harmful or unpleasant experiences. Science, on the other hand, supports using flexible coping mechanisms to face moments of discomfort -- opening oneself up to fears and failures in an attempt to learn and grow from them, rather than shut them out altogether. And it takes an authentic person with a solid foundation of self-esteem to be able to accomplish the latter.

"The stronger your self-esteem, the more able you are to admit that you’re failing, to receive criticism, to be able to receive negative feedback without it making you crumble," Winch says about the importance of maintaining such flexibility. "You can actually take on criticism, negative feedback, something not great about you, something that you don’t love about yourself, and it doesn’t really devastate you. It’s something you can admit, you can hope to work on or just take in, but it doesn’t affect your whole way of thinking about yourself."

3. You share your true thoughts, beliefs and opinions with the world.

Authentic people not only take the time to ponder their perspective on life and the experiences that led them there, but they easily share this "true self" with others around them. This outward expression is consistently characterized as an extroverted behavior in authenticity research. However, in a 2010 study published in the Journal of Personality, Wake Forest University psychologist William Fleeson established that both genuine introverts and extroverts alike feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, opinions and beliefs with the outside world.

“Authenticity is consistently associated with acting highly extraverted [sic], even for those who characterize themselves as introverts,” said Fleeson in a statement. “Being flexible with who you are is okay. It is not denying or disrespecting who you are. People are often too rigid about how they are and stick with the comfortable and familiar. Adapting to a situation can make you more true to yourself in some circumstances.”

His research also revealed that being genuine consistently goes hand-in-hand with being emotionally stable and intellectual.

4. You openly give and receive compliments.

Gratitude clearly flows in two directions: sometimes you give, and sometimes you receive. When it comes to the latter, Winch explains in his book Emotional First Aid that people with low self-esteem can sometimes struggle with accepting compliments. That's because they believe those compliments come attached to higher expectations from others, which results in feelings of stress. Those who are authentic and maintain a solid sense of self-esteem, on the other hand, don't view compliments with strings attached.

"You have to be able to see a compliment as just a compliment, and it takes a certain level of authenticity to receive that," Winch explains. "It’s about being able to take in and also give back in a way that’s unfiltered by all these kinds of other agendas."

When it comes to expressing gratitude to others, genuine people follow a similar path of not overthinking it.

"You want to reinforce people," he said. "It’s really merit-based. You’re doing it just because it's merited, and that comes across when you do it in a pure way, when you’re simply delighted that somebody did well and you compliment them."

5. You really listen -- and prefer deep conversations.

Genuine people find it easier to let go of distractions and focus intently in a conversation simply because they are truly interested in what the other person has to say. They aren't constantly checking their smartphone for text messages or letting their mind wander off to the day's to-do list. Everything else falls by the wayside.

According to a 2013 study conducted by psychological scientist Erin Heerey at Bangor University in Wales, others can tell when you are being genuine. The observational study paired strangers getting to know one another and monitored their reactions to any smile that was exchanged -- both genuine and polite. It found that the subjects responded much more quickly to genuine smiles than polite smiles, and viewed the genuine smiles a social reward to be valued.

"When we are authentic people and our self-esteem is strong, we are just much less burdened by agendas and baggage, and we can actually have a conversation that’s about the content of the conversation in a much purer way," adds Winch. "When people are authentic, there’s a certain purity to their interactions and conversations, and the conversations tend to be more interesting in terms of the content. You can get further, you can explore more, and you can discover more because it’s a much richer conversation."

6. You're driven by an inner voice rather than your surroundings.

One of the key components of authenticity is simply (or not so simply) knowing who you are and being comfortable with yourself. It requires taking the time to develop informed ideas about the things you care about, and not blindly adopting them from others around you. It is with this foundation that you are able to live those values -- stand behind them, represent them and feel strongly about them.

"When you have thought through what you think, what you feel, what’s important to you and why it’s important to you, that determines a certain sense of purpose and directive," says Winch. "We all have these operational directives -- we just don’t necessarily articulate them to ourselves. But if we look back on our behavior and examine what we do, why we do it , what we think, why we think it, we can figure out the principles that are driving us."

People who have really looked within to understand why they think and act the way they do are clearer about the principles -- and purposes -- that drive their lives, Winch adds. "It makes them proactive rather than reactive."

Let's do this! Day 2 of friendlessness in the 21st century!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Friendless in the 21st century

So I hit the button to deactivate my Facebook, and turned off my Twitter, deleted my Instagram and searched frantically to determine if I had any other lingering open accounts of social media. 

I've decided I don't like a world where the number of friends listed on any of these "social" accounts belies the truth that people are desperately alone in the 21st century. And while I have long believed that social media can be largely helpful, I think far more challenges lie in their wake. The generation of words and not presence has created a discordant anxiety with face to face communication at any level. We hide behind all of these social media masks that make us sound more than we are, stronger than we are, more self assured than we are. And for those who dare be authentic, it is so much easier to be "honest" in our reactions that seek to confront rather than listen. 

A friend of mine attended the Cannabis Cup this past weekend, billed as a two-day marijuana celebration at Auto City Speedway. He/she said some 400 people attended a concert Saturday night by Wyclef Jean, wandered through all sorts of vendors selling drug paraphernalia, and entered a "Medicinal Tent" where they were able to freely experience the "medicinal" effect of pot. High Times Magazine sponsored the event - and I forgot to ask if my friend saw a single doctor.

So my friend tells me they need an id to enter the medicinal tent "where the real action is." Of course, he/she didn't have an id, but their much older friend did. Forget the fact they look nothing alike! The old friend is granted access after the attendant checked the id. The old friend manages to slip the id back to my friend, poignantly reminding me of those days when fake ids granted access to every bar on college campuses. My friend flashes the id to the attendant who looks at it, looks at he/she, looks at id, looks at he/she - squints, then somewhat exasperated, says, "Whatever. Go ahead. Have fun." Entrance to the Medicinal Tent at the High Times Magazine Cannabis Cup is granted. No one even seemed the least bit concerned for the illness my friend was experiencing. In fact, my friend said they didn't see a lot of sick people attending the event. 

WHAT?? This wasn't a modern day Bethesda with a multitude of sick, blind and withered, waiting for the moving of the water? (Scripture - look it up - John 5:2&3!)

It's all in the billing of this stuff, how we market it. The words on every social media program seems to promise all that we longed for in high school - popularity. Just how many friends do we have? Do they like us? Did they accept my friend request? Oh my gosh, what about that feeling when we discover we have "friends" who have "unfriended" us?

It is hard for me not to hear the echoing words of a Flint teacher when I am considering all this. At the time, I was struck by his progressive stance that social media is actually nothing more than the 21st century playground - kids do the same things online as they did when they were outside and beyond the reach and glance of teachers who would correct anti-social behavior. On both playgrounds, there were bullies, false friends, words were said that stuck for a lifetime. Sometimes they get caught. Lots of times they don't. 

Truth be told, we don't really have as many friends as Facebook boasts. In a crisis, very few, if any, of my Twitter followers would be willing to drop everything to help me through the terror. And I have bemoaned the fact that hardly anyone ever likes my photos on Instagram - and I think they are great shots, darn it! 

And there may have been a few sick folks in the Medicinal Tent, but I am thinking the great majority were not. They were in there trying to feel better about life, sliding in under a false identity, but hoping the subterfuge wouldn't be discovered. 

This post represents my first day of not relying on words and truly seeking presence in friendships the old fashioned way. No false identities. No subterfuge.

It also represents not having any friends as defined by the 21st century...