Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Dogma

In dogmatic religions,
definitions are contrived
to circumscribe the myth and the ritual.

What is going on in the Catholic church now
 is something of a disaster.
There we have the inheritance
of one of the greatest mythical structures ever, anywhere,
and what are they doing to it?
It’s really incredible.

Instead of simply presenting mythic ritual beautifully,
 a rich mythologically-based heritage
beautifully and powerfully
for the individual to experience in his/her own way,
they are destroying Myth
 and insisting, instead, on the dogmas,
designed to tell us
how we are supposed to interpret our experiences.

Dogma cuts us off
from our own potential of response.

When Myth is alive,
there is always an inward reference:
When contemplating Myth,
one is really, by way of a mirror-reflection,
contemplating one’s own spirit,
one’s own inward truth.

When Myth
is replaced with dogma,
contemplation of one’s own Spirit,
questing one’s own Truth,
discovering True Self
is thwarted.

Instead of helping us
Live the Questions of Life,
institutional hierarchy
scandalously foists its dogmatic answers upon us,
answers designed to protect
the status quo.

Dogma
protects the circled wagons
in an ever-shrinking circle.





Truly Listening

Truly Listening
 involves a clear intention
of bringing attention to the moment,
opening up,
and letting go
of the preoccupations with myself.

Truly Listening
requires that I suspend my internal thoughts
and quiet the viewpoints most closely held as mine.
I just let them go,
turning off my opinions
like shutting off my cell phone.

As easy as that sounds,
it is more difficult to do
than giving in to my viewpoints.
Those silent opinions give me a reference point to hold on to.
It is like having an internal handrail in my mind.

I can listen
as long as I have a sense of solidity, of safety, of security
inside myself.
If I give up the attachment to what I think and feel,
I’m afraid I’ll drop into a kind of free fall.
I’ll lose my grip on things.
I won’t really know who I am or where I am going.

 This sounds dramatic and silly,
but at some level,
this is how tightly I hold on to my own perspective.

Listening involves letting go,
releasing my tight grip on things on my mind.
At first it feels like falling,
but once I have befriended it,
once I have learned to relax with it,
it feels good to let go.

Letting go is another form of empathy.
My private opinions and judgments
no longer create a division between me and the person speaking.
We simply join with their experience.
We become one and the same.

The Jesuits

The Jesuits,
The Society of Jesus
are known as,
and teach us to be,
Companions
of Jesus,
not followers,
not leaders,
but
Companions.

Accompaniment
is a fundamental disposition
that shapes the works
of Justice, Dignity, and Respect.

Accompaniment, Solidarity, and Receptivity
teach us
to remove our sandals
before the sacredness of
the Other Person.

Accompaniment
recognizes the created beauty
of each individual.

In the incredible moments of solidarity
I do not know
and do not need to know
who is follower
or who is leader.

So unlike institutional church


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Grief is

Grief seems to be
a place none of us knows
until we reach it.

We anticipate that someone close to us will die,
but we do not look beyond such an imagined death.

We expect, if the death is sudden, to feel shock,
but we do not expect the shock to be so devastating
to both body and mind.

We might expect that we will be inconsolable and crazy with loss,
but we do not expect to be literally crazy
by believing that our loved one is about to return.

We imagine that the moment to most severely test us
will be the funeral,
after which hypothetical healing will take place.

When we anticipate the funeral,
we wonder about getting through it,
being able to rise to the occasion,
exhibiting the strength
that invariably gets mentioned
as the correct response to death.

We anticipate needing to prepare ourselves the for the moment:
will I be able to greet people,
will I be able to leave the scene,
will I be able even to get dressed that day?

We have no way of knowing
that this will not be the big trial.
We have no way of knowing
that the funeral itself will be experienced in shock,
a kind of narcotic regression,
in which we are wrapped in the care of others
and the gravity and meaning of the occasion.

 We cannot know the unending absence that follows,
 the void,
the very opposite of meaning,
the relentless succession of moments
 during which we will confront the experience
of meaninglessness itself.

We do not realize,
but eventually come to learn,
that we do not make the long journey that is Grief
alone,
but only in the Community of Grievers
of which we are all members.

A Griever’s reaction:

Oh so true. 
As you say, no one escapes grief. 
We are not alone,
our feelings are not unique but felt by every human being.

My Reaction:
The funeral is a blur. 
What I remember most was a friend hugging me
... the rest is a blank. 
I must tell her someday. 

You are so right! 
I thought the funeral would be the hardest part. 
Little did I know the sorrow that lay ahead. 
The thoughts and memories slammed into me
at the most unexpected moments,
almost taking my breath away. 
Trying to keep up the charade that I was healing
was exhausting. 

If only I had known then...




Church is

Church:

not some building
where official liturgies are performed,

not a group of people
who adhere to a certain set of beliefs or creed,

not an organization
of clergy and hierarchy,

but
as in Jesus’ own words
anywhere two or three are gathered
in His Name.

As originally used in Scripture,
simply a Gathering.

Some believe
Jesus is present in consecrated Bread and Wine,
Others,
in the Words of the Bible,
while He Himself said
He is Present
Anywhere two or three are gathered
in His Name.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

My Life in E's

Evolution 
from Embryo to Enlightenment
with EnJoyment:


Encouragement, Encouragement
Encirclement
Entrapment
Education, Education, Education, Education
Envisioning
Experience, Experience, Experience
Errors
Emotions
Embracing 
Enchantment
Excitement
Enamored
Eros
Ecstasy
Energy
Empathy
Expressiveness
Enigma
Escape
Epiphany
Emboldenment
Enlightenment
Embodiment
EnJoyment

My parents never discouraged me;
I always felt Encouraged to grow as much as I was able.

Early on, I was Encircled by Church ritual and rites,
doctrine, and dogma,
where many felt secure,
but remained Entrapped.

I benefitted immensely
from great Education,
St. Nicholas, Weber High, John Carroll University,
Kino Institute, and
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota (MA)
learning that true Education
should lead us out
of darkness.

The Jesuits taught me
How to think,
not what to think.

A world of far-reaching Experiences
with my wonderful family
was gifted me.

I made Errors,
but learned that they are a part of life,
opportunities to learn 
and grow.

I found wisdom, not only in my intellect,
but also in my Emotions.

I Embraced all that Life brought me,
and was Enchanted by the wonder of it all,
so Exciting.

I discovered the power of Love,
Enamored with life and 
those life brought to me;
I found Eros within,
Ecstasy.

I was gifted with the health and Energy
to pursue my dreams.

I grew in Love
with a profound Empathy
for those in Hospice,
for the bereaved and their caregivers.

Through it all,
I was able to Express myself well
through my poetry,
on my blog,
in my books,
sharing all with friends and family.

I discovered that
life is an Enigma
and I must be willing
to live the Questions it poses.

I was Emboldened enough
to Escape
the bushel that Institutional Church
had become for me,
an Epiphany.

I found Enlightenment,
being able to Expose to the light,
that which was deep and dark within.

I learned we are all
an Embodiment of the Divine,
of Love.

And
I EnJOYed it all.

Other relevant E's:
Eclectic,
Eccentric, 
Enneagram (A most useful tool on my journey)

Existentially Yours,
John






Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Questions, Not Answers

I grew up chock full of Catholic Answers
 to contemporary questions. 
But those airtight answers left little space 
for the nuances that emerge
 whenever human beings are involved.

But, experience has revealed 
that memorizing catechism answers 
is no more helpful 
than reciting scripture verses 
if isolated from the rich context of our life and times. 

Knowing the answer does me little good, 
in fact, 
if I’m not asking the right question.

Questions are a vital part of Jesus’ story. 
Teachers and Clerics 
bring their often academic or sterile inquiries to Jesus: 
What must I do to inherit eternal life? 
What is the greatest commandment? 
Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar? 
Why do your disciples not fast? 
Why do they pick grain on the Sabbath? 
Why do they not purify their hands before eating? 
Are you a king? 

Even when the question has an immediate and practical urgency to it
as the law of Moses says to stone an adulteress: 
What say you, Jesus?
It rings hollow 
without the personal investment of the interrogator. 

Such inquiries are designed 
to entrap the responder, 
not enlighten the inquirer. 
Starting from the wrong mindset, 
no liberating answer is likely.

A seeker will ask other questions. 
Take, for example, the magi on their long and costly mystical quest. 
They’ve made the investment of patient study, time, and resources. 
Arriving in Jerusalem, 
these men are prepared to ask the right question: 
“Where is the child born to be king of the Jews?” 

It’s the sort of open, hopeful question 
to which Jesus might reply with his usual invitation to discipleship:
 “Come and see!”

John the Baptist, 
another famed seeker, 
frankly asks Jesus what he needs to know on several occasions:
 “Why have you come to me to be baptized? 
I ought to be coming to you!” 
Or: “Are you the one who is to come? 
Or should we look for another?” 

Because he seeks clarity and direction, 
John will get the reply that actually helps him know what to do.

Even demonic spirits 
seem to have the good sense to ask appropriate questions:
 “What do you want with us, Jesus Son of God? 
Have you come to destroy us?” 
Um, that would be yes; but also and more pointedly, 
to free the suffering host.

Jesus asks many questions. 
They’re the kind that pierce to the heart of the matter: 
Why are you afraid? 
Aren’t you worth more than sparrows? 
Can worry make you live longer? 
Do you believe I can make you well? 
Why don’t you give the hungry crowds something to eat? 
Why do you doubt me, O you of little faith? 
Who do you say that I am? 
What profit is it to gain the world and lose your soul? 
Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?

When Jesus encounters two blind men, 
he asks simply,
 “What do you want me to do for you?” 
They reply with as much eager directness, 
“Lord, we want to see!” 
And so they do.

Asking the right question, 
clearly, has its advantages. 

The crowds around Jesus 
were rarely perceptive enough to know 
what that question might be. 
Instead, they wondered about worldly matters, 
rooted in gossip and glimmers of self-interest: 
Could Jesus be the Son of David, 
meant to restore Israel to greatness? 

But wait, isn’t he the carpenter’s son, 
nothing special? 
If he were a prophet, 
wouldn’t he know the sort of woman who is touching him? 

Not much may be expected 
from crowds who came for the Jesus show 
while it was in town 
but returned home afterwards. 

The in-it-to-win-it disciples, however, 
should have been more discerning. 
Yet they were notorious for being quite dense, 
even after listening to Jesus teach day after day. 

They asked ego-driven questions, 
often with personal gain as their focus: 
Why couldn’t we cast out the demon in that boy? 
How many times should I forgive someone
—is seven times enough? 
What will we get in return 
for giving up everything to follow Jesus? 
Can we sit on your left and your right 
in the coming kingdom? 
Why is this dubious woman 
wasting such expensive perfume in this conspicuous gesture? 
How much do I get if I hand Jesus over to you?

Questions of all kinds leap from the pages of the gospels: 
the pointed and the pointless, 
the sort to which a miracle is the best reply, 
as well as the rhetorical question
 that hangs in the air 
demanding a response composed of our very lives. 

These questions invite us 
to be the community that asks better questions, 
not merely an ecclesial authority 
swift to rattle off the final answer.

If I am not careful 
to ask the right questions, 
no matter which answers I arrive at, 
they are sure to be woefully inadequate.

I have had to
abandon the Hierarchy’s easy answers
learning to
live the questions.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Thinking

Thinking
can only take me so far. 

Action, behavior, 
especially compassionate behavior,
 has been more important for me 
than thinking. 

By constantly exercising compassion,
I can enter a different state of consciousness. 
This rather than thinking 
has been my path to enlightenment.

Compassion brings me release from my mind. 
It is a synonym in Buddhism
for the ultimate enlightenment of nirvana. 

The New Testament is full of the same wisdom. 
Charity and loving kindness 
brings me into the presence of God, 
not thinking. 

In the Western Christian world,
we place too much emphasis on thinking certain beliefs. 
What I have been discovering 
is the second order of thinking, 
where I watch my mind thinking. 

I now realize
 that I don’t know what I think I know. 
Thought can do a whole lot of things 
but it always finishes with unknowing. 

Thinking can take me a long way 
but I keep bumping up against unknowing. 

I only really began my quest, 
when I realized I know nothing.

The exercise of compassion 
is what matters in our world. 
The Dalai Lama says “my religion is kindness.” 

Confucious said
 “religion is altruism” 
dethroning myself from the center of my world 
and putting another there. 

Yes, this does require some intelligent thought. 
I really have to think 
and practice the golden rule 
about what the other person really wants 
rather than what I think he/she ought to want. 

When I speak to people 
I strive to  address them 
where they really are 
and not where I think they should be.  
I have to put myself in the place of another.

This state of compassion, of engagement, 
does take thinking.
It takes constant, flexible intelligence.  

Each person is different
 so principles are really not the point.  
I have to be flexible 
to respond to each situation that arises 
especially in a time where everything is changing so fast. 

All the great sages have said that 
we must see things as they really are. 
I cannot achieve enlightenment by ignoring what is. 

When I think of living this way, 
completely open, defenseless, radically honest, 
it’s as if certain primal emotions come alive. 
The ego doesn’t want to be sacrificed,
 to be killed.


In mastering this way of life 
I start to experience incredible joy 
because I’m training myself 
to go beyond my frightened ego, 
who often needs to put down other people 
to bolster itself up. 

When I let that go, 
a lot of fear goes down. 

We are programmed to defend ourselves, 
but when I take myself out of that mind state, 
if I start divesting myself of ego, 
I enter a different state of consciousness.

Took me a long time
to learn that
rather than thinking my way into a new way of acting,
I had to act my way into 
a new way of thinking.



The Upside of Being Sensitive

As a sensitive person, I have much to be grateful for: 
I can experience exquisite passion and joy. 
I can perceive the big picture 
on a deep level. 

I am attuned to the beauty, poetry, and energy of life. 
My compassion 
gives me the capacity to help others. 

My sensitivities 
allow me to be caring, vulnerable, and aware. 

I feel a special relationship to nature. 
I feel a kinship with animals, flowers, trees, and clouds. 

I am drawn to the peace of the wilderness, 
the beauty of Torch Lake,
the quiet of the Arizona desert, 
the red rock canyons, 
the forests, 
the vastness of the ocean. 

I can dance under the full moon 
and feel her loveliness in my body. 
I can become one with the serenity of nature. 

I want to protect the earth, 
our mother, 
and conserve her precious resources. 

Empaths have the power to positively change themselves, 
their families, 
and the rest of the world.

Empaths represent a new model for leadership 
by being vulnerable and strong. 
We can have a huge effect on humanity 
by promoting mutual understanding,
the path to peace in our personal lives 
and globally. 

Through sensitivity,
 we can create a compassion revolution 
and save the world.

Sensitivity is the path to nonviolence. 
We can be the healers and restorers and seers 
and lovers 
if we keep our sensitivities open 
and stay centered 
in the power of
Love.




Sunday, August 27, 2017

Church

MFor me,
CHURCH needed to be about Compassion and Community,
less about Commandments and Coercion.

For me,
Church needed to Hear other views with Humility
not simply expelling dissenters, labeling them Heretics.

For me,
Church needed to be about Us,
about Unity,
not labeling some Unclean,
Unfit to be members.

For me,
Church needed drastic Reform,
Rejuvenation,
Rebirth,
less Restoration, Recrimination, Retaliation.

For me,
Church needed to be about Charisma, Cooperation, and real Communion,
less about Conformity, Compliance, and Constraints.

For me,
Church needed to be about Healing
and Heart,
less about Hell and Head.

And so,
I found what I needed
Outside the Bushel.

(For me,
Church needed to be about
THIS Life,
not about the next.)




All

By accepting all aspects of life, 
good and bad, 
right and wrong, 
yours and mine, 
the static, defensive life, 
which is what most people are cursed with, 
my journey has been converted into a dance, 
the  cosmic dance of life,
 metamorphosis. 

I can dance to sorrow or to joy; 
even dance abstractly. 
The point is that, 
by the mere act of dancing, 
the elements which compose it are transformed; 
my dance is an end in itself,
 just like life. 

My acceptance of the situation, 
any situation, 
brings about a flow, 
a rhythmic impulse towards self-expression. 

To relax is, of course, the first thing I had to learn. 
It is also the first thing a patient has to learn 
when confronting a disease. 

It is the first thing anyone has to learn 
in order to fully live. 
It is extremely difficult, 
because it means surrender to what is,
 full surrender.

Life can be a conflict, 
and being part of life, 
I could be an expression of conflict. 
When I recognized that fact 
and accepted it, 
I was able to know peace 
and enjoy it. 

But arriving at this end, 
which is only a beginning
I had to learn the doctrine of acceptance, 
that is, of unconditional surrender, 
which is love.

As an awakened individual, 
life begins now, 
at any and every moment; 
it begins at the moment 
when I realize that I am part of a great whole, 
and in that realization
 I become myself whole. 

In the knowledge of limits and relationships 
I discover eternal self, 
moving with obedience and discipline 
in full freedom.

True love 
is never perplexed, never qualifies, never rejects, never demands. 
It replenishes, 
by grace,
restoring unlimited circulation. 
It burns, 
because it knows the true meaning of sacrifice. 
It is life illuminated.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Happiness and Joy

Happiness is a fulfillment of my hopes and aims.
Happiness is mediated by my nervous system, 
which has to do with 
eating, contentment, resting, placidity. 

Joy is mediated by the opposing system,
 the sympathetic, 
which does not make me want to eat, 
but stimulates me for exploration. 

Happiness relaxes me;
 Joy challenges me with new levels of experience. 

Happiness depends generally on my outer state; 
joy is an overflowing of my inner energies 
and leads me to awe and wonderment. 

Joy is a release, 
an opening up;
 it is what comes when I am able genuinely to let go.

Happiness is associated with contentment;
 Joy with freedom and an abundance of human spirit.

Joy is new possibilities; 
it points toward the future. 
Joy is living on the razor’s edge; 
happiness promises satisfaction of my present state,
 a fulfillment of old longings. 

Joy is the thrill of new things to explore; 
it is an unfolding of life.

Happiness is related to security, 
to being reassured,
 to doing things as I is used to do them.
Joy is a revelation of what was unknown before. 

Happiness often ends up in a placidity 
on the edge of boredom. 
Happiness is success. 
But joy is stimulating, 
it is the discovery of new feelings 
emerging within me.

Happiness is the absence of discord; 
joy is the welcoming of discord 
as the basis of higher harmonies. 

Happiness is finding a system of rules 
which solves my problems;
 joy is taking the risk 
that is necessary to break new frontiers.

Joy follows rightly confronted despair. 
Joy is the experience of possibility, 
the consciousness of my freedom 
as I confront my destiny. 

In this sense, despair, 
when it is directly faced,
 can lead to joy. 

After despair, 
the one thing left is possibility. 
We all stand on the edge of life, 
each moment comprising that edge. 

Before us is only possibility. 
The future is open.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Happy

Unhappiness:
Wishing things were other than they are.

True happiness
 exists as the spacious and compassionate heart's willingness
 to be at peace 
with whatever is present.

Expectations
can be the biggest source of unhappiness;
People just don’t behave as we expect them to;
Events just don’t happen as we might wish.

Taking Joy in life as it is
is key.


Outcast

I discovered
 a hidden joy,
even power,
in being an outcast,
a so-called heretic
from my institutionalized religion.

We should all have ways
in which we feel that we stand outside
the circles of religious power.

Moving out
beyond institutionalized religion’s do’s and don’ts
can be they key to knowledge and experiences
that are not available in the inner circle.

When I stopped trying so hard to fit in,
I discovered new horizons,
freedom,
and the power
to grow.