The Weight of a Small Boy

My nephew Dave and his wife Sylvia host a Misfits Thanksgiving Dinner every year.  They invite friends and acquaintances to their home, people who live far from extended family.  My husband and I attend when we can.   For eighteen years, I’ve watched the event evolve from paper Chinette plates to the Good China.  I’ve met about 50 of Dave and Sylvia’s friends.  I’ve seen their friends marry and have children. It’s always a gathering of goodwill, with an element of sacred craziness brought on by a lot of people in a smallish space.

Dave and Sylvia asked me to say grace this year.  I asked everyone to close their eyes and launched into what I thought was a kick-ass blessing.  Midway through, I heard a kid stage whisper, “Dude, you’re supposed to close your eyes.”  Right before I said “amen,” another child belched loudly.  I laughed, thinking all prayers should end with such eloquence.

The best moment was with Shep, Dave and Sylvia’s two-year-old son.

Children are often shy around me and I guess I’m shy around them too.  I understand dogs, cats, and bunnies, but kids are a mystery.  Yet Shep and I have a bond.   Maybe we share a genetic trend for silliness and infinite singing.  Whatever it is, there is chemistry.

After dessert, my sister Judy and I wallowed on the couch like two whales.  We stretched our sugar-stunned brains, trying to remember the words to a song from our childhood – The ABC Bunny.  Judy Googled the song on her iPad.  She found it on YouTube so we played it and sang along.  “’A’ for Apple big and red, tra la la la la la la; ‘B’ for Bunny snug abed, etc.”

Then the best thing happened.

Shep heard us singing from across the room.   His eyes grew wide.  With intense focus, he galloped past his scattered toys and scrambled up onto me like I was a piece of furniture, a couch on a couch.   He sat on me, staring at The ABC Bunny.  He listened as Judy and I sang along.  He studied the illustrations from the 1930’s, the same illustrations I remembered from my childhood.  It was more than interest; it was reverence.  I held him, feeling trust and delight settle in my lap.  I didn’t want it to stop.

It has taken me a while to figure out why this moment held magic for me.  Surely I’ve cried many times over Act Three of Our Town when Emily realizes that life and all its ordinary jewels rush by too fast.  In an instant, fifteen years from now, perhaps I’ll click over to Shep with a walker and screech in a crone voice, “Do you want to sit on my lap and sing The ABC Bunny?”  With any luck I’ll get to do this in front of his prom date.  If he’s like his dad, he’ll roll his eyes while he secretly cherishes our family’s solemn agreement to love through laughter.

But I think it’s something more.  When Sylvia was pregnant with Shep, she read David Whyte’s poetry to her belly.  There’s a poem that claims that even the soap dish and the window latch are our friends.  The kettle sings; “and the birds and the creatures of the world are unutterably themselves.”  The poet reminds us: “Everything is Waiting for You.”

Did the poem infuse Shep in utero and give him the grace to convey the impossible gifts of existence?  Maybe.  But more so, I think he’s a natural.  Unutterably himself.  Maybe all children are.  Maybe we are too, when we remember to be

So when I look in the mirror and see my wrinkly face, a face that still thinks burps during blessings are funny, I will remember.  I will remember myself through the weight of a small boy in my lap—a boy who offers trust and delight by his mere and mighty presence; a boy who is certain that everything is waiting for him. 

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The Sound of Wings

 

My friend Brock and I often greet each other with the words “ishq allah.”  He tells me that ishq is mad, passionate, sticky love for God.

I’ve got a bad case of ishq.

Crazy-ass love for spirit in matter and matter in spirit.  Sufi-madness, believing ishq allāh ma’būd lillāh  – God is love, lover, and beloved.  I’m finding a scandalous willingness to “give up on my brain” and stagger through life as a grace-intoxicated drunkard.

Today, the sound of wings staggered me.

We hiked around a bend on a mountain trail in upper Ojai.  Our dog Saraswati saw a stand of bushes and froze in a perfect point.  She assumed a sacred dog-yoga posture, downward pointing God, a “union” with her ordained intuition.

I held my breath.  The earth held its breath.

Saraswati heard a silent starting gun.  She barreled into the underbrush.  Twenty grey quail hurled themselves up out of the bushes, no chirping, only the sound of insistent wings, saying “I am.” 

I breathed the sound and said, “So am I, beloved quail.  I am.”

Saraswati, completely pleased, sassed back down the mountain to receive a blessing from me.  “You are The Beloved too, sweet girl,” I said.

Painting by Michael Steddum

 

What did I do to deserve this microcosm of audacious grace?

Who created a dog that points so clearly and dearly?

What offered a flock of quail the adventure of shared get-away?

How did air, feathers, and flight evolve the capacity to break my heart into beauty with a sound that only Love can see?

Who submitted us to this drunken nonsense?

Ishq allah, love, lover, and beloved.

What a privilege it is to hear the three in one.  No definitions, no reasoning required.  Only wonder in the wordless wings.

A Jewish Prayer reminds us that we “walk sightless among miracles.

After the wings this morning, I believe we are deaf as well as blind.  Love, Lover and Beloved sing to us constantly.  But will we listen?  Will we hear?

I want to be better.

With my Beloved’s help, I’ll start with the High School Band, that rehearses every day, inches from my house.   I’ll fall in love with their raucous “On Wisconsin.”  I’ll celebrate the salsa version of Beethoven’s “Fur Elise.”  I’ll dance to the drum line.  Love will transform out-of-tune band music to the sound of adoring children pointing at intangible grace.   But wait, did love change the music, the teenagers, or me?

Maybe, with practice, I can learn that everything changes everything.  Everything points to everything.  Everything is wings and wonder.  Everything is love, lover, and beloved.   Arguments, laughter, discord, and delight.  It’s all ishq allāh ma’būd lillāh ,  drunken rapture calling us home where we belong to the Beloved.

Ishq allah – drunken Saraswati

 

Prayer:  Help me to hear this differently.  Help me to hear the miraculous in all things.  Help me become the ears of the love, lover, and beloved I am. 

 

 

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A Generous Universe


The other night I dreamed there was a dead armadillo in my house.  It was under the chaise where I usually sit.  I knew it would soon start to rot and smell.  Rather than remove it though, I decided to wait until my husband and animals went outside.  It felt shameful somehow, to have a dead armadillo in my living room.  I’m not exactly a recipient of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, but this was too much.

When I awoke, in a stinky sweat, I realized this was a dream about all of us – a dream that needed to be shared without shame.

Armadillo means “little armored one” in Spanish.    I asked myself, where am I armored?  And because it’s a dream about all of us, I asked how do we collectively armor ourselves?  Where do we apply armor that “protects” us from the staggering audacity of Grace that longs to express in the details of our lives?

A belief in scarcity seems to be our primary armor.  We suit-up in scarcity.  Some of us struggle with basic survival; others have a great idea but then decide I’m not enough to pull that off; others see scarcity in the world around us – not enough food, money, or love.

How does scarcity show up in your life?

Scarcity is a culturally reinforced habit.   Through repetition, we create neural pathways, or neural grooves in our brains that tell us life is scarce and so am I.

My relationship with my phone provides a good example a neural pathway.  I love guinea pigs, so my phone has a Guinea Pig ring tone.   The electronic Guinea Pig squeals and this means someone is calling.  I am programmed to believe this.

A couple of months ago, my husband and I acquired Hoss, a real Guinea Pig.   Hoss squeaks in the middle of the night.  I immediately think, “Oh crap, who is calling me at this hour?”  I know we have a Guinea Pig.  Yet I’m still undoing the neural pathway, the conditioning created by my ringtone.

I’ve failed many times.  I run to the phone and realize there’s no one there.  Then I get a bean for Hossy-ji and marvel at my slow learner-ship.

I’m catching on now.  It gives me comfort to know that my brain can make new connections.  Squeaking is no longer evidence of a phone call.  It means Hoss is hungry.

In the same manner, when scarcity shows up, whether its personal or global, we tend to react as if it is Reality.  Scarcity is certainly part of relative reality, but it is not Absolute.

 

Embedded in every perception of scarcity is opportunity – an opportunity to examine our knee-jerk reactions and move into both perception and experience of Infinite Intimate Grace.  Grace is available for us always in all things.

Do you have any conditioned, knee-jerk reactions that reflect a belief in scarcity? Could your belief in scarcity be opportunity in disguise?

One of my knee-jerks happens around planning for the coming year at the Center.  Every September or so, I start looking at the budget, events, classes, and guest speakers.  I feel a need to get it right.  I want to keep everyone happy.  I have dreams and ideas that feel too big for my britches.  I don’t know how to make the ideas happen, so I let them go, or save them for later when I know more, or when “the time is right.”   The stress, the trying to get it right, the refusal to dream big are all aspects of conditioned scarcity.

This year, as I began to uncover my smelly inner armadillo of scarcity, I decided to try the Placemat Process.  This method, brought to us by Esther and Jerry Hicks (and possibly Denny’s), invites us to take a placemat, turn it over, and draw a line down the middle.  On the left, you write your to do list:  what am I responsible for.  On the right, you write the Universe’s to-do list:  what will I ask the universe do?

 

Mine looked something like this:

Me:  use my experience and expertise to create a draft of a schedule; act boldly; trust.

Universe:  see into the future and arrange a magnificent 2019; help me trust, help me  act boldly.

Shortly after creating my placemat I started re-wiring, engaging neuro-plasticity, affirming:  I live in a generous universe. 

You don’t believe what you see; you see what you believe.

I started seeing evidence of my new belief in this context, my new neural pathways.  I was divinely summoned to an out of the way bagel store.  Once inside, I coincidentally found a congregant who told me how The Center made a difference in his life. I dreamed of a program of Reconciling Angels – interviewing guest speakers who are brave peacemakers.  Rather than set the idea aside as too much, I decided to let the Universe handle it.  Possible speakers leapt into my consciousness – first Gino Walker, and soon others.  I also re-visted a vision to work with Nimo Patel to bring 17 children from the slums of India to Southern California, and possibly our Center.   That’s complex.  But new patterns are forming there as well.  Impossible is turning to I’m possible.

If you did the Placemat Process, what would you do and what would you delegate?  Are you willing to change your perception and see what new experience of Reality emerges from that change?

Here’s an assignment for you:  Go to Denny’s or someplace like it.  Eat something greasy.  Do the placemat process.  Be astonished; and tell about it.  If that’s too much, simply affirm “I live in a generous universe.”  Then live like the Truth is True.  Because the Truth is True.  If we all believe in generosity, we can shift the consciousness of the world.  Generosity becomes manifest when we believe.

I send you love, healing, revealing, wholeness, and the truth of abundant Grace, here for you, always.  You’ve got this.  And so it is.

 

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