this little spark of mine – I’m gonna let it shine

 

“We are made, the scriptures of all religions assure us, in the image of God. Nothing can change that original goodness. Whatever mistakes we have made in the past, whatever problems we may have in the present, in every one of us this beautiful-cropland-dawn-1237119‘uncreated spark in the soul’ remains untouched, ever pure, ever perfect. Even if we try with all our might to douse or hide it, it is always ready to set our personality ablaze with light.”  EKNATH EASWARAN (1910-1999) cac.org

(Eknath Easwaran was an Indian born spiritual teacher and author, as well as translator and interpreter of early Hindu texts such as the UPANISHADS and the BHAGAVAD GITA.)

Meister Eckhart (1260-1328) taught:

“Our supreme purpose in life is not to make a fortune, nor to pursue pleasure, nor to write our name in history, but to discover this spark of the divine that is in our hearts.”

The world, specifically Western Culture, might do well to listen to the words of all religious traditions whose mystics searched beyond the limits of this life experience for truer meaning and self-less examination.  Escaping the insanity of violence, war, poverty, genocide, persecution, religious intolerance and greed is critical for a path to a sustainable co-existence of the human species as well as the ecosystem of earth which inarguably is essential to our survival.

Giving up self-indulgence is not easy.  Just ask any other recovering alcoholic or addict.  A primary symptom, if not the most salient aspect, of our addictions was ego-driven selfishness.  Unfortunately, that does not miraculously disappear upon our first day of the recovery process.  For most of us, especially me, this change in focus becomes a lifetime endeavor.  Some days are better than others, but the spark is there.  An AA saying that resonates is, “A belly full of booze and a head full of AA don’t mix.”  It’s the same with recognizing the divine spark within each of us.  Once you experience it, you can no longer ignore it.  That inner essence demands change.

I continue to be amazed that for some people this change is easily accomplished.  Involving in service work, rejoining their communities, whether in civic groups or church groups, seems to be a cakewalk for them.  Not for me.  You can drag me to a town hall meeting, but I will be kicking and screaming all the way.  It is not natural for me to do something that is not all about me, me, me.

We don’t hear WWJD very often these days.  “What Would Jesus Do?”  In no way have I perfected this approach, but when I ask myself this question, I can usually depend on a positive, forward-moving answer.  It doesn’t matter whether one believes a divine Jesus, a virgin-born Jesus, a reverential Jesus or a bodily resurrected Jesus, the keys to successful, peaceful, empowered living are contained in the writings which are attributed to the words of Jesus of Nazareth.  Those nuggets of inspiration and truth culled from the Bible’s chapters detailing Judaic history, folklore, and ancient wisdom present a lifestyle and mindset that lead to the change demanded by each individual’s inner essence.

Not surprisingly, this truth can be gathered from most of the world’s great spiritual traditions if we put aside the hype and tribal prejudices of religion and instead search for the reality of inner discovery.  History’s mystics lead that search.

 

 

It’s a zoo

Sue and Stu
lost at the zoo,
devilsaid Stu to Sue
“What shall we do,
it’s a very large zoo?”

Frank and Hank,
over by the shark tank,
said Hank to Frank
“Let’s play a prank
on Sue and Stu.”

But Mary and Jerry,
friends of Sue and Stu,
overheard Hank and Frank’s prank
over by the shark tank-
diabolical, evil and rank.
Said Jerry to Mary, “it truly stank.”

So they conspired with a man
whose name was Stan,
a very diminutive man,
and they hatched a plan.
Stan found an empty soup can
and over toward Frank and Hank he ran
“Benny, Benny, get back in your can.”

Behind the shark tank hid Jerry and Mary, Sue and Stu
watching as the little man approached Frank and Hank.
“Hello, may name is Stan and this is my can.”
“Well howdy Stan, I’m Frank, this is Hank, how do you do?”
Sue and Stu, Mary and Jerry watched curiously from behind the tank.
“Gosh, feller,” said Frank, “you sure are a little man.”
“Yes,” said Stan, “but once upon a time I was as tall as you.
I had an important position working in a bank.”
Mary and Jerry, Sue and Stu whispered, “What is Stan’s plan?”

Whaaaaat? Do you really think I know the plan of Stan, the little man?
Heck no, I’m just another man in the zoo.
There isn’t much that I can do.
The rest of this story is up to you.

Why did Sue and Stu get lost in the zoo?
What was the diabolical prank of Hank and Frank?love emoji
Why was Stan with a plan such a little man?
And who the hell is Benny?

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OPINIONATED

Heck no! I’m not opinionated
I am merely rightlaughing emoji3
always.

I’ve spent many days pondering
religion
politics.

sex
women
men.

No, not opinionated
simply always right
seven decades pondering life.

observing
interacting
discerning.

Nope, not opinionated
simply wise
prudent.

Sensible
pragmatic
logical.

Reasonable
rational
perceptive.

You, sir, are opinionated
always thinking you are correct
never admitting fault.

Closed-minded
narrow
conceited.

I, on the other hand, am simply a man who is always right.laughing emoji2

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ain’t going back no more

I spent too much of this past weekend reflecting upon my stint in the Navy as a hospital corpsman during the Vietnam era. I returned to the insanity and chaos of the war years as I remembered and honored my brothers who died in those jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam. Tonight, my soul aches anew. I still sometimes feel guilt for not being one of them. I should have been there beside them. For many years I thanked the God of my understanding for keeping me safely out of harm’s way. Today it’s easier to simply say I was just one of the lucky ones. My number was not drawn, my reassignment orders did not say Marine Corps training for assignment to Vietnam. But, was I really one of the lucky ones? They paid the supreme price, the family received condolences, insurance money, a flag, and a medal, and another warrior found eternal peace having died a war-time hero.

My duty station was the Philadelphia Naval Hospital. Having completed training as a psychiatric tech, none of the schooling prepared me for the pain I saw of returning warriors broken in limb and mind. They shared their horror stories, stories of terror and fear in the rice paddies and the jungles where they stayed high on dope just to survive the craziness that filled their minds. Those who lost arms and legs were rehabilitating in the orthopedic wards on the other side of the hospital grounds. They visited my wards in their wheelchairs and together the broken ones tried to heal one another.

One of my special assignments was that of body escort for a returning corpsman killed in action. My military bearing was never up to snuff from my first days in boot camp and it did not improve with time, but I somehow stayed out of trouble and made rank. It was considered an honor to escort a fallen warrior. I had lots of time to think as I rode with the dead young man to his funeral site in Virginia. I met the grieving family at the funeral home and began doing what body escorts are supposed to do. After the body was lowered in the ground, after the volley of gun fire, and after final taps from a nearby hillside, I returned to my motel room, cried like a baby and got drunk as hell.

I friggin hated war, I hated Vietnam and most of all I hated the government which had sent thousands of courageous men to their graves for the enrichment of the privileged, white boys back home in the safety of the USA. From that day forward my life tail-spinned into the drunken story of a sorry-assed man who couldn’t forgive himself for still being alive while too many had died. My untimely discharge from the military gave me ever more reason to pursue a new found career in drinking. Espousing anti-government sentiments from my barstool pulpit, I spent many nights with Jack Daniels and Cutty Sark informing other barroom patrons of the inherent evils of ‘their’ government.

I have detailed my sobriety story many times on this blog. It is indeed a miracle which has led me to self-forgiveness and acceptance of things which I cannot change. My drinking was my way of leaving my personal jungles and rice paddies behind and I am OK with it. I titled this post before I started writing it and now I know it’s a lie. I must go back remembering those who died, those who came back broken in spirit and body, and those who never again had a chance to live normally. They are all a part of my story and I can never forsake them.

Duane, Bryan, Joe – I’ll see you when I get there. SEMPER FI

PETE BUTTIGIEG – candidate

By now, if you live on this planet, you have heard about Pete Buttigieg.  The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has splashed across our screens with an exciting, energetic message for a weary America and much needed relief for those of us who are viewing the currentPETE BUTTUGUEG Administration in absolute disgust and revulsion.  In opening salvos, the man who some say cannot possibly win the Democratic nomination has referred to his tenure as a Mid-west city mayor as more public service than the current President, his executive experience as more than the current Vice-President, and his military service as more than the President and Vice-President combined.  Mastering eight languages, the Harvard graduate and Rhodes scholar who served in Afghanistan freely speaks of his marriage to Chasten, his husband.

Listen up, America.  The closet days are over for men like Pete and Chasten.  Some Americans do not like the lifestyle, some people are in strident opposition, but this country is in desperate need of guidance and direction from men and women who have risen above the slander and name-calling of a prejudiced minority with a message that will reset our destiny.  Whom we love and what we do in our bedrooms, whether gay or straight, is not the business of our government nor does it have bearing upon the multiple challenges facing our country.  The abilities and moral qualities this candidate brings to the race for President gives us a choice between a man with a moral compass and a President totally lacking that same compass.  It’s a no-brainer that Pete should be a bona-fide contender with the necessary credentials to challenge the current President.

PLEASE TAKE TIME TO LEARN ABOUT MAYOR PETE


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“you said come just as you are”

 

photos by LARRY PAUL BROWN

There’s a place I go where the eagles fly high, the rivers run deep, the grass is lush.  In that place it is peaceful and kind, no violence nor intolerance.  Wildflowers wave in the gentle breezes as the freshness of nearby pine forests fills the air with breath after breath of luxurious serenity.  I sit in the grass, admire the beauty of the flowers and  marvel that truly there is a heaven on earth.

And then, when that which is called reality reins in this escape to a quiet place, I return reluctantly and sadly.  But, I know that someday this kind and peaceful place will be a permanent home where I also shall soar with the eagles breathing in the freshness of eternity.  Come with me, won’t you?  We can go there just as we are.

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Every one of us has a story to tell.  It usually reflects on the brokenness of a past life which carried us to places that were more like a living hell than heaven.  Sometimes it involves drug addiction or alcoholism. Often it is a story of abuse and deprivation at the hands of someone whom we trusted.  Or we may return to the horrors of sex abuse and physical assault when telling our story.  The common thread with each one of our stories is the final surrender of the pain and suffering to an unseen, unfamiliar power.  We somehow, miraculously, discovered healing and acceptance.  We recognized and embraced our inner beauty and greatness.  We became willing to believe that our past lives, though never to be forgotten, should no longer be baggage to slow down our journey through sobriety.  And with each passing clean and serene day we discovered a special place where eagles soar, water runs deep, and grass is green, a place where peace and kindness greet our morning sun.

Drunk and reeking of alcohol, I met my unseen, unfamiliar Higher Power in a bar room as I staggered past a man who grabbed hold of me and said, “Son, do you want to be free?”  My blurred vision couldn’t really focus on the man and upon finally making my way to the door, turning around to see who had spoken to me, he was gone.  I demanded of the bartender,

“Who was that man that just grabbed me by the shoulders?”

“Sir, it’s just you and me in this bar room.  Nobody else has been here in the past hour.”

Do you want to be free?  Free of substance addiction, free of behavior addictions, free of self-imposed hell?  Lean into the Master and receive your miracle.   Matters not whether we name it Higher Power, the Source, God, or Spirit, the salvation we seek will welcome us with open arms and a hearty,

“Welcome home, son.  I have been waiting for you.  Now, come just as you are; sit with me for a while.  We have some catching up to do.”


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HERE COMES THE SUN – serenity prayer

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photo by JOHANNES PLENIO

Perhaps it’s an age thing – at this advanced chronological time in life, the ways of personal survival which have been learned and applied successfully over a lifetime, no longer hold validity in the eyes of the ‘younger ones’, those who are far more intelligent and cognitive.  Perhaps their ways are more sensible for today’s times; but, my way is exactly that – MY WAY.  And I still like my way.

Ahhh, did someone get out of bed this morning with an attitude?  You?  Spouse?  Children?  Neighbor?……Me?  Even the normal yoga, meditation, and exercise routine did not prepare for the annoying, “Well, you should do it my way, it’s better,” from the first interloper of the day.  Hmmm, go back to bed and start over?

Politicians, telemarketers, door-to-door salesman, Bible-thumpers can be annoyances.  Car salesmen, loud rap music, insurance agents, Republican neighbors, slow drivers in the passing lane can be annoyances.  But, loved ones should not be.  We call them loved ones because we love them and they love us.  And that’s all we need to know.  Let’s not categorize them as annoyances.  So, how can we do that?

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things (insert people) I cannot change….”

“…courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”  Yes, a few simple words with a huge promise can redirect my day, and yours.  Memorize the serenity prayer, say it out loud, repeat it again and again and again until you mean it.  And then receive the blessing of unbridled serenity.

and now that you are calm and serene….here’s an annoying thought from a Texas lawmaker

Responding to a vaccine researcher who urged Texas lawmakers to reverse the upward trend in vaccine exemptions – ” state Representative Jonathan Strickland told Dr. Peter Hotez to ‘do our state a favor and mind your own business.  Parental rights mean more to us than your self-enriching science.'”  VACCINATION IS SORCERY

PLEASE GIVE 4 MINUTES OF YOUR TIME TO LOVE OUR EARTH

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HERE COMES THE SUN – give thanks

beautiful-cropland-dawn-1237119JONATHAN PETERSSON photographer

Somewhere in our world the sun is always rising – unfailingly.  It doesn’t need my permission or your approval.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could do the same in our daily routine?

The most difficult part of my day are the first few hours upon rising.  Do I want to be awake?  Do I feel like swinging my legs over the bedside?  Will my first steps be pain filled or comfortable?  What should I do first?  What appointments do I have?  What chores must I do?

STOP!  Just stop.  Rewind the tapes and start over.  Let’s open eyes to the surroundings of a peaceful bedroom – the colors of the walls which are soft and relaxing, the whir of the ceiling fan bringing cool air to my face, the photos on the nightstand, the heirloom hanging on the wall, the cat quietly stretching and waking up with me, the smell of bacon being prepared by my spouse – it’s going to be a great day.  Ahhh, the anticipation of the first cup of fresh coffee.

No, don’t get up just yet.  Yes, of course there is time for a short gratitude list.  What am I grateful for this morning?  More importantly, whom am I grateful for?  Thank you for breath, for health, for peace, for companionship, for the roof over my head, for sobriety.  Now, sit up, stand up, fill those lungs with fresh air, feel the beat of a steadfast heart, raise those outstretched arms upward and thank the sun for shining on us, for making our earth a paradise for all to enjoy and a treasure to protect.

and now…from the wisdom of climate change deniers

Yes, there is a silver lining to the catastrophic melting of our polar ice caps…

“Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade.”  SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO during a presentation to the ARCTIC COUNCIL in Finland.

PLEASE GIVE 6 MINUTES OF YOUR TIME TO LOVE OUR EARTH

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I’m a believer

Aha!  You thought this post would be about the Monkees.  What?  You don’t know who the Monkees are?  Good Lord, you must be a young thing.

Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and Davy Jones, an English actor and singer, set American teeny boppers afire from 1966 to 1971.  Their TV series of the same name aired from 1966 to 1968.  It was fun entertainment that by today’s standards would be classified as ‘corny’.  Was I a big fan?  Not really.  ‘Too mature’ for their antics I preferred The Doors, The Animals, and Led Zeppelin.  But, “I’m a Believer” from the Monkees has had staying power with me through all the years which have seen me swing from hard rock to disco to contemporary Christian to classical to my favorite today – anything that doesn’t give me a headache and puts me to sleep.  Yep.  Meditation music rocks.

I’m a believer.  Are you?  What do you believe?  Has anyone challenged your beliefs?  Has anyone told you that what you believe is wrong?  If you follow the pack, then being called a non-believer by a believer is disturbing.  If you are the pack, then it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans….unless you don’t believe in you.  Then it can be unbelievably disturbing.  But I believe in you.

“I don’t believe that heaven waits
for only those who congregate.
I like to think of God as love,
he’s down below, he’s up above.
He’s watching people everywhere,
he knows who does and doesn’t care
and I’m an ordinary man,
sometimes I wonder who I am.”    DON WILLIAMS

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what if ?

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Do you ever play the ‘what if ‘game?  It’s akin to the ‘should have’, ‘would have’ and ‘ought to’ conversations we have with ourselves occasionally.  I don’t know about you, but I never seem to win that game.  It’s primary facilitator is monkey mind.  What?  you don’t know what monkey mind is.  Oh Lord, we need to have a talk.

Monkey mind is the incessant internal chatter happening within the space between the ears.  Can’t turn it off, can’t shut it out, can’t override it.  On and on and on go the thoughts passing through the gray matter occupying the skull.  It is fertile ground for the game of what if.  

What if I had married my high school sweetheart?  What if I had planned my future as a young man rather than float through the 60s and 70s as a wannabe hippie?  What if my parents had tried harder to work out their religious differences instead of divorcing?  Yeah, what if?

I’ve become rather good at ignoring monkey mind allowing it to scream its mindless chatter into the ozone.  But, sometimes, even 70 years after the fact, I scream back, “what the hell was so damned important about their religious beliefs to let me grow up without a daddy?  Tell me, what?”

Funny thing about monkey mind – it’s not very conversational, just wants to rattle on with politics, worries, money problems, relationships, what old lady Jones fussed about yesterday, nursing homes, arthritis, dementia, the sorry state of the union, the price of lettuce, Susie’s boy friend, the cat’s dirty ears, floors need to be mopped – on and on and on.  But, after having its way for a while, the noise stops and serenity settles in for a visit.

And all is cool until the JWs knock on the front door, “Do you know where you are going when you die?”

“Hell yes,” I respond in my Donald Duck underwear and fluffies, “I’m going down to undertaker Bob’s place to have a nip and tuck and a transfusion of embalming fluid.  Now get off my porch and take your tracts with you.”

Have you guessed by now that I have a hair up my butt about organized religion?  When other neighborhood boys were playing pitch with their daddies, I was cooking supper for me and mom because she had to work.  When other boys took their daddies fishing, I had to go grocery shopping with mom.  When other boys sat beside their daddies in church, I sat beside my mom praying for a daddy like theirs. C’mon, take your best shot.  Tell me again what is so damned important about religion that mom and dad had to divorce because they couldn’t agree about Jesus.

You don’t have an answer either, do you?  Maybe they both got wrapped up in a lot of fahooey about ‘proper’ Christian behavior.  Maybe they listened to parents and pastors instead of their loving hearts.  Maybe they listened to theatrics and drama from the pulpit rather than humility and compassion.  My time on this earth has shown me that there are innumerable examples of what organized religion gone astray can inflict on the devoted masses.

Extortion, persecution, subjugation, enslavement, murder, genocide – all in the name of God.  Not just Christian, but Judaic, and Muslim, too.  Maybe I’ve got this God-Jesus thing all wrong.  What if God is judgmental, wrathful and vengeful condoning murder and intolerance of the infidels?  What if Christianity is the only truth amidst all the world’s faith creeds?  What if?  What if?  What if?  Aw hell, there goes monkey mind again running the conversation.

I don’t know if Shakespeare was a man of faith or not.  But I do believe he nailed it with his line from Hamlet:  “This above all:  to thine own self be true.  And it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Do I know my own self?  Do you?  We came equipped from the factory with reason and logic.  We have a conscience that guides and speaks to us in those questioning moments.  We profess an indwelling spirit.  Maybe that is all we need to navigate this life in search of enlightenment.  Evolving to the higher self intended for us does not need to be rocket science nor religious indoctrination.  Shalom.

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