Monday Musings ~ My Friend the Atheist

Spiritual Atheism framed

It all began at the local coffee bar – two girlfriends pondering the origin of the cosmos over coffee. As introverts, we dispensed with the pleasantries and dive into the deep end of the pool, discussing – parallel universes, aliens, religion versus spirituality and the nature of our suffering. I asked her what she knew of atheism and wondered how atheists deal with suffering and loss.  My friend asked if I’d read Sam Harris. I had not.

And so began my journey into the ethos of atheism and to my surprise, a deep respect, and admiration for my new friend, Sam Harris, a neuroscientist and a self-proclaimed atheist. I know Sam is controversial. I’ve watched many of his debates, listened to his podcasts and read his essays, but as I read his most recent best seller, Waking Up, A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, I discovered we were kindred spirits.

Sam is actually a spiritual atheist and in Waking Up, his spiritual memoir, he details his journey, including several years studying the Indian tradition of Advaita Vedanta, various schools of Buddhism and a year of meditation in silent retreat. As I read his story realized our views on spirituality were closely aligned. I’ve always believed that science is man’s way of discovering the magic and mystical realm of our existence.

“But there is a connection between scientific fact and spiritual wisdom and it is more direct than most people suppose…our conventional self is an illusion…and the way we think directly influences our experiences of the world.”  ~ Sam Harris,Waking Up

Honestly, I was amazed that an atheist would attempt to dabble in the spiritual realm, and further, to bring reason, logic and a scientific perspective along for the ride!

I enjoyed the chapter, The Riddle of the Self as Sam persuades the reader that the self is indeed an illusion. And in his chapter on Meditation, we are given practical instruction on transcending the self, only to find there is no self to transcend (ah, the riddles of the spiritual realm!)

The reader is in for a ride in chapter five with Gurus, Death, Drugs, and Other Puzzles. Here we learn the good, bad and the ugly of spiritual charlatans, near death experiences and the literal highs and lows of tripping on drugs.
Waking Up Sam Harris

*Spoiler Alert*

In conclusion, Sam says, “We need not await any data from the lab to say that self-transcendence is possible….Open your eyes and see.” With that I say, thank you, Sam, for bringing logic, reason and a persuasive argument in support of the mystical experience many of us have encountered on our own spiritual journey.

Although this is not a book review, I would highly recommend, Waking Up, to anyone wanting a different perspective on atheism.

As for me, I don’t consider myself a spiritual atheist – a spiritual mystic would be a more accurate description. I believe we’re part of a higher collective source or consciousness. Or as the great Sufi Mystic, Rumi says,

“You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean in a drop.” 

Rumi Ocean in a Drop

Back at the coffee bar, my friend said the term, spiritual agnostic, might be the most accurate label for what she believes. As our coffee chat ended, I realized the only label that truly mattered was that of “friend”.

I wish all the world could sit around a coffee bar and chat, without judgment, about their beliefs with the intent to understand, not needing to agree, simply to listen and learn of, and from, one another – and upon leaving, refer to each other as “friend”.

I’m tossing that wish out into the Universe in hopes that one day we will all “wake up” and see our common humanity.

Wishing you all a magical Monday! ~ Namaste

 

Monday Musing ~ A Sonnet for Humanity

As I Believe - Sonnet

May I live as I believe and be free?
A simple life of authenticity,
of what I believe, you need not agree.
I can live with vulnerability.

I know my truth; my lessons learned and sought.
For each seeker, there is a path to reach,
a spiral staircase of wisdom’s thoughts, 
an open heart and open mind they teach.

Yet, until we can see humanity
in all of those we love and revile,
we sleep through this life of insanity
immersed in our nightmare all the while.

We must learn to love and see, within each,
I am you, and you are another me.

Poetry By Sue

Monday Musings ~ A Journey with Fear

FEAR EYES framed

I took a journey with my old friend “Fear” last week. A few other friends came along for the ride. Allow me to share a short excerpt from my travel journal. Oh, and I brought you back a souvenir! I’ll share it at the end.

Warning: It got a little heated on this trip because my old friend, “Fear” was livid and decided to wear her favorite mask – Anger.

~~Travel Journal Entry~~

“I’m fired up! I’m gonna combust any moment!” my old friend Fear shrieks as I take a deep breath and grip the steering wheel.

“Breathe everyone. Let’s practice what we preach,” Spirit Guide cheers as she fastens her seatbelt.

“Shut up!” Fear screams, reaching her foot over and stepping on the accelerator as we speed toward the valley below.

“Oh no, this isn’t going to end well,” cries Inner Child as she cowers in the back seat next to the slumbering Artist.

“Calm down Fear, let’s all breathe through this,” instructs Spirit Guide as we approach the valley floor.

“I can’t breathe! I’m so angry I could spit fire!” Fear yells as we begin to slow and pull off the road near the river. “I need to get this out,” Fear demands. “Give me my sword!

“Ah, but the pen is mightier than the sword,” Spirit Guide replies, grinning.

“Whatever! Hand over your pen and parchment!” Fear demands as I rummage through the glove compartment. Fear is so melodramatic, I stifle a giggle as I hand over pen and paper.

“May I have pen and paper too,” Spirit Guide asks calmly.

“Me too, me too!” shouts Inner Child from the back seat. I watch as they scribble frantically and the Artist slumbers.

“There, I’m feeling better now,” Spirit Guide declares as she sets down her pen.

“Oh no! There’s more! Can’t you feel it?” Fear moans and scribbles a barrage of conflicting thoughts on the page. “There! That should do it!” Fear says gleefully and  slaps her pen down on the page.

Inner Child finishes doodling and cheerfully holds up her scribble for all to see.

The slumbering Artist awakens.  “Let me have a look ,” she says as she gathers the pages, sifting through the scrambled rant of words. “Ah, we may have something here.”

“Of course we have something!” Fear boasts.

“Shut up fear. I’m busy here!” Artist shouts. “It’s a mess, a tangled mess, but maybe … just maybe….,” she trails off and begins to work her magic.

~~End of Travel Log Entry~~

Alas, I survived another journey with Fear and Friends and arrived safely in the Valley of Creativity. Let me share a souvenir from our journey together –  a rant, or a poem, of sorts.

Defiance Poewm

use more red, try more blue
can’t you find a better hue?

write it this way, make a choice
search within and find your voice!

remain humble, a step behind
assert yourself and use your mind!

mind your prose, that will not do
the words don’t flow, they don’t ring true!

know the box and learn the rules
stray beyond and join the fools!

hear me speak, don’t look away
watch me act, not what I say!

NO!

I will not stop or be made still
my magic flows from brush to quill

I’ll paint my world, I’ll fill the pages
I’ll seek my truth among the sages

and deep within, creativity brews
the inner artist ignites the fuse

and there you have it, my story be told
defiant and grand, no box can it hold!

Poetry By Sue

Monday Musings ~ Founding Fathers

Adams & Jefferson Framed

Did you know that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the same day?

July 4, 1826

Amazingly, they each took their last breath on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the

Declaration of Independence.

John Adams, the country’s second president was 90 years old when he uttered his last words, “Jefferson survives.” There was no way for him to know that the country’s third president, Jefferson, 82, had passed away five hours earlier at his home in Monticello.

As we celebrate the 240th anniversary of the birth of this great nation I’d like to think Adams and Jefferson would be proud and astounded at our progress. And lest you think they’d be disappointed in our political discourse – just look back at their respective political campaigns! Can you imagine if they’d had Twitter!

HAVE A SAFE AND HAPPY 4th  MY FELLOW AMERICANS!

Happy 4th

 

Monday Musings ~ Just Be.

Laughing Buddhas Just BeI am a “doer”, a doer of things, often attempting to do them all at one time. Writing this post is an example of what happens when I try to “just be”. I was attempting to meditate for a few minutes, follow my breath, in and out, just “be” in my body.

“Oh, you should blog about that,” a voice in my head says in the middle of my breathing. And so I reach for my laptop thinking, “I’ll just jot a few notes in WordPress and then get back to my meditation”.  Guess what – I’m still typing…oh, and drinking coffee because this habitual “doer” requires massive amounts of caffeine!

Our western culture rewards “doers”. Our media and brands say, “Just do it”. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “just do something, anything!”
So what of “being”? Can we even grasp the concept of such a state in our western culture?

Recently, I read an article where Buddhist Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh, was quoted as saying, “Focus on the practice of being.” I was intrigued by the words: Focus and practice. I lack both. I need to “do” both of those things. Nhat Hanh went on to say, “Be peace. Be joy. Be happiness. Be compassionate. Be attentive.” He talks about the energy that emanates from individuals who inhabit this state of “being”. Not surprisingly, he said, “we are drawn to such people.”

As I read the article and his words, I was reminded of the Taoist concept of “effortless effort”. Indeed, there is some action and practice required to live in a state of “effortless being”. I know I will forever be a doer of things, but I am hopeful that through focus and practice, I can achieve balance – a way of “being and doing” in this world, that radiates peace, joy, happiness, and compassion.

Have a magical Monday my fellow travelers! ~ Namaste

Monday Musing ~ How to Survive the Loss of a Love

How to survive the loss of a loveCan a book save your life? I can only speak from my own experience and what I know is this: a little book entitled, How to Survive the Loss of a Love, by Melba Colgrove, Harold Bloomfield, and Peter McWilliams, saved my life.

The year I turned twenty-three, my life changed forever. My dreams of a fairytale love and a happily- ever-after life were shattered. My marriage of only three years was over; the man I loved was gone.

My heart was filled with so much sorrow I could barely function. I lost count of how many nights I lay crying on the bathroom floor in my small apartment. On one of those nights, I reached for a book a friend had given me with instructions to: “Read this when you cry.” And so I did, night after night, through tear soaked eyes – I read the little book. Then I read it again, and again.

Slowly, over many months and countless readings from the little book, and the support of family, my heart began to heal.

How to Survive the Loss of a Love, is only 120 pages, half of those pages are short, heartfelt poems. For me, the book validated my feelings, explained the process of grief, healing and, most importantly, celebrated the ultimate growth that emerges from having suffered and survived.

Since my healing all those years ago, I have given countless copies of this book to family and friends grieving the loss of a love. I want to share a few poems in the book, written by the authors. These poems resonated for me then, and still speak to my heart:

On grief:

Grief is a quiet thing
Deadly in repose
A raging horror, a thunder of abuse
Raucous –
Demanding-
Incomprehensible –
Tearing all that one has ever loved.
Hopeless,
Forlorn,
Fear-ridden and misunderstood;
Ceasing a moment, and through the years
Returning…to destroy.
To rage,
To curse all that is happy –
Or contented,
Or trusting.
To threaten every beauty this is true
Grief?
It’s a quiet thing.

On Healing:

I hope I heal soon. I want to enjoy autumn.

and this one,

One thing I forgot:
After the pain of parting
Comes the happiness of healing.
Rediscovering life, friends, self.
Joy.

On survival:

I loved
Which was purgatory
I lost
Which was hell
And I survived
Heaven!

Through all my tears and suffering, a transformation was underway. I couldn’t see it at the time, but I can see it clearly now. I survived and grew stronger for the experience. I lived to love another day! I also developed great empathy for those who have suffered and survived the loss of a love.

Some thirty years later, I am happy to say, I found my happily-ever-after.  Life is good. Right here, right now.

Make it a magical Monday my friends! ~ Namaste

Monday Musings ~ The 10 1/2 Inclinations

The 10 12 Inclinations
I have a unique list I want to share with you. The list contains ten and one-half inclinations – sounds mysterious doesn’t it? Although the list is intended for children, I think you will want to take heed of its message.
I stumbled upon the list while reading, A Time for New Dreams, a book of essays by Ben Okri,  an award-winning Nigerian poet and novelist.  Among his many thought-provoking essays I discovered the “The 10 1/2 Inclinations”.
Okri had been asked by the Royal Society of Literature to recommend the top ten books that children should read before leaving school. Okri rebelled, and instead submitted the following:

 “The 10 1/2 Inclinations”

1 ~There is a secret trail of books meant to inspire and enlighten you. Find that trail.

2 ~ Read outside your nation, color, class, gender.

3 ~ Read the books your parent’s hate.

4 ~ Read the books your parent’s love.

5 ~ Have one or two authors that are important, that speak to you; and make their works your secret passion.

6 ~ Read widely, for fun, for stimulation, for escape.

7 ~ Don’t read what everyone else is reading. Check them out cautiously, later.

8 ~ Read what you’re not supposed to read.

9 ~ Read for your own liberation and mental freedom.

10 ~ Books are like mirrors. Don’t just read the words. Go into the mirror. That is where the real secrets are. Inside. Behind. That’s where the gods dream, where our realities are born.

10 1/2 ~  Read the world. It is the most mysterious book of all.

Have a magical Monday my fellow readers! ~ Namaste

Monday Musings ~ Effortless Effort

Effortless Effort Framed
As many of you are aware, I’m practicing the concept of  “effortless effort”. I know what you’re thinking. Ha! How hard can that be? Well, actually it takes some effort to find your flow. My Tai Chi Master said, “You’ll know you’re in the flow when your feet are rooted in the ground and the movements flow through you effortlessly.” Being “rooted in the ground” is a rather new concept for me – I tend to be the girl with her “head in the clouds”…just sayin.

I realize my Tai Chi instructor is a master of his craft because he’s been a student and teacher of Tai Chi for over forty years. Developing expertise, or mastery in any field of endeavor takes time, patience and practice. I’m reminded of the 10,000 hours rule cited by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outlier – The Story of Success.

“In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.” – Malcolm Gladwell

(I rather enjoy that Gladwell used the words “research” and “magic” in the same sentence!) Anyhow, I clearly have many hours of practice ahead of me before I master the art of Tai Chi.

However, in my effort to live in the flow of life, I discovered a new concept that has me fascinated!

“Purposeless wandering”

Okay, I know what you’re thinking, seriously this chic has gone off the deep end, but wait…before you rush to judgment, hear me out. Or better yet, listen to the wisdom of the ancients.

“Chuang Tzu refers to this type of being in the world as flowing, or more poetically, and provocatively, as “purposeless wandering!” How opposite this concept is to some of our most cherished cultural values. To have no purpose is unthinkable and even frightening … And yet it would be difficult to maintain that our current values have promoted harmony and balance…” ~ Ted Kardash, Taoism, and the Wu-Wei Principle.

The concept of “purposeless wandering” resonates with me because it describes the path I’ve been walking for the last few years. After decades of hard work and raising children, I finally have time to wander aimlessly and wonder.  My curiosity plays the role of tour guide and I am forever entertained.  I’m constantly tripping over a new found treasure on the trail!

Wander not lostMy most recent discovery is – poetry!  Last week, I wrote eight poems -in one day! That’s more poems than I’ve written in my lifetime. What’s up with that? Shhhhh….it’s magic, just sayin. If I can summon enough courage I may debut one of my poems here on my Friday Features post – stay tuned.

Although I’m enjoying following my curiosity and wandering the trail, I do believe I’m making progress on my journey.  I believe I’ve already mastered one of the most  important concepts of living in the flow (Wu- Wei) and that’s letting go of future outcomes. I can’t believe I’m gonna say this, but I don’t really have attachments to future goals or outcomes. Yeah, I want to finish my memoir and master the art of Tai Chi, but hey, the world won’t end if I don’t.

And yet, I believe I’ll do both, not because I have to, but because I want to. Writing and Tai Chi are now part of my flow. Not yet effortless, but give me another 9,000 magical hours and I’ll get there!

In the meantime, I’m enjoying my purposeless wanderings along the path. Thank you for joining me on my journey!

Have a magical Monday my fellow travelers! ~ Namaste

Monday Musing ~ THE CHASE

Chase Framed

They chase me as I walk along the trail. They try to run me off the road when I’m driving!  Lately, they creep into my garden while I’m tending my flowers. I’ve thought about telling them to leave me alone but I need them.

And so I’ve turned the tables and now I capture them.  I have several of them trapped in a press. They sit, simmering…waiting their turn – waiting to be released. I check on them often, watering them, some of them grow, others shrivel and die. The ones that grow get released. Sometimes I put two of them together and they thrive and morph into something quite unexpected.

I don’t mind them chasing me anymore. I’m ready for them; I’ve armed myself. I still have to pull off the road to capture them safely, but now I have the proper tools on hand. I have the devices needed to capture these wispy, fleeting, magical things. So what chases me? What do I desperately need to capture?

IDEAS!

I asked the universe to send me ideas and I may as well have cast a spell! Because now they won’t leave me alone! They’re everywhere! Pure magic!

“Ideas are disembodied, energetic life forms.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

I was reassured when I read those words in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic. She validated what I know to be true. Ideas are things, magical things. They seek us out – chase us, haunt us – if we’re open to receiving them. This part is important. If you don’t believe in magic you won’t experience it. This doesn’t mean you won’t have ideas, they’re just harder to come by and feel more like work.

The magic of the universe is effortless and fun. So let’s play a game of chase and see how many ideas you can capture today – tag, you’re it!

~ Namaste