Tag Archives: spritual

Be Longing

Life is the brief experience of separation from God, the durable discrimination of moments into experiences, the simultaneous celebration and lament for what we almost remember and fear we have lost. We spend our lives longing to belong. Relax. This is neither reality nor illusion; it is choice.

NOTE: This blog series addresses twelve attributes I see conducive to recovery from PTSD and other past stress. June embraces Love.

Erotic (eros) love is both fear and celebration of separation. Really? Without separation there is neither union nor reunion.

Yes, there are times when two lovers feel so close they lose sentience of the boundary between them–when they touch the mysterious oneness, when all desire has matured. But, alas, there are other times.

Brotherly love (philos) is a sharing of time or treasure beyond individuality that dimly reflects the oneness we almost remember. It is a real expansion of self to others we like and trust, those within some group we perceive as like us. But, alas, there are others.

Godly love (Agape) is a grace of charity for others like our children. “Our” children. But, alas, there are “other” children.

For Biology students I give this definition: “Life is self-controlled chemistry.” Define “self”. Tell me, if you will, precisely where you end and the rest of the universe begins.

Bullets and bombs help one define the boundary. Enemies are not brothers, not lovers, and certainly neither our children nor parents.

We enlarge our definition of self and other. We trust less, share less, love less.

Relax. Trauma is an experience, a durable, discriminate, momentous experience. It is not the loss of choice, although it does challenge it.

It is primal biological drive to maintain this separation of self. It is survival.

There is another drive within us, perhaps even more primal, to go home to the oneness we almost remember.

I am grateful for the experience of lovers’ oneness. I am grateful for the experience of love for brothers and sisters. I am grateful for the experience of something approaching Agape for my children and grandchildren. These are all gifts, I know; but they are gifts I requested.

Today, I would like to gaze upon a fourth kind of love I have also experienced, a love of oneness sometimes referred to as Henosis.

“The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.” (Black Elk)

I have sat in the forest and known that I belong. I belong to the forest and it belongs to me. I have sat in the desert and known that I belong. I do not need to be longing for something I almost remember because I feel it in this moment of belonging.

I am grateful for the experience of oneness I have found within the forest, within the desert, and within myself. This is the greatest gift of my life for it allows me to be grateful for all the other gifts. I know it is a gift, but it is a gift I requested.

Have you asked for gifts? Have you sought them? Have you prayed and Quested for them?

Deep down inside you, where you almost remember oneness with God, is there a tiny prayer for experiences of love? Have you sung that prayer, danced that prayer, or even whispered it to yourself?

Happy Tracking!

Profound Power

The path to serenity is through the power of unselfishness.

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. March seeks serenity.

The state of being calm, peaceful, untroubled. Have you known it? When all is right with the world—even though things are not the way you think you think they should be? There is profound power in such a state, power to create and tolerate, power to abide, to endure, to be sure.

Care to know how to get there?

“When we become hollow bones there is no limit to what the Higher Powers can do in and through us in spiritual things.” (Frank Fools Crow)

The hollow bone was the Lakota medicine man’s metaphor for himself as an empty vessel open to Power to serve others. His description of his methods for clearing himself, of emptying himself, to become ready to help heal someone who had come to him for help, shows us the path to serenity.

His is an old, familiar story. Contrary to the habits of a busy, competitive culture, this is how the universe works, and there is good reason for that.

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” (Abraham Lincoln)

Selfish men cannot be trusted with power. Bad things happen. Power feeds their egos and their egos thirst for more power in a positive feedback loop of addiction. The more power they get, the thirstier for power they become.

Selfish people are spiritually constipated, so the power does not pass through them. They get drunk upon it, and it destroys them.

That is a familiar story, isn’t it?

Yes, you can have power without serenity, but it is not conducive to health.

Yes, you can have serenity without power, but not for long, because…if you open a window to your soul, light will enter. If you open a window from your soul to others, light will pass through you.

The light is Profound Power, and that really is all there is to it.

Oh, one more thing. If your purpose is to seek power for yourself, you are in danger of spiritual constipation.

If you seek serenity, if you choose to become a hollow bone, power will pass through you to bless others. And, it all starts with the unselfishness of emptying your ego of wants, needs, fears, and resentments, emptying yourself even of the wish for serenity—except as a state of power to serve others.

Next week we will seek this unselfishness within us. It is there.

Happy Tracking!

Simple Choice

There was simplicity of a crisp, stark January morning of my youth that I miss, today. It was not that mornings on a WI dairy farm of the fifties were easy, for life held to a thread of shelter from the cold. It was that necessity simplified the choices: Certain things had to be done without exception or equivocation. We simply did them.

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. January reflects upon simplicity.

It has been my goal since youth to simplify my worldview (long before I knew I had one) to a form I could understand. I do not wish to simplify the universe. I choose to simplify my model of the universe so that it makes sense to me. I have done the same with the meaning of life.

“The meaning of life is choice.” To the dismay of many students and the amusement of others, this statement has appeared and continues to appear on many of my exams. Students are free to choose “true” or “false” for their answer, and therein resides the meaning of the test item.

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” (Henry David Thoreau)

Simplicity is not easy and the choice of simplicity is not often the easy choice to make. It is routinely easier to choose the common, culturally accepted, trendy way of material complication and social drama. It is easier because we do not have to dare individuality. That is where the complication begins.

The laws of the universe are simple. We make them complicated looking for ways around them. We waste the years of our lives searching for ways to extend the years of our lives. We waste time and material trying to protect time and material. We waste our passion looking for the passionate.

Live. Today.

Simple, yes. Easy, no. That is our choice.

There is profound simplicity in acceptance of the personal reality of our present. Acceptance is abundance, and abundance is absence of poverty.

A spiritual person is never alone. Solitude is grandeur, Nature is cathedral, and reality is blessing.

Solitude and people are not mutually exclusive. By simple choice, I can enjoy solitude in a crowd. Also by choice, I can share the peace of solitude with willing others.

Simplicity undefines poverty for simplicity is its own abundance. There is need for neither material complication nor social drama.

Acceptance of simplicity undefines strength as competition for status and stuff evaporate. There we realize power—true, personal power.

Can you ignore the still, small voice inside you that mutters agreement with my claims?

Can you deny the tracks and traces of joys remembered of simpler times?

Seek the evidence within.

Happy Tracking

Holy Duty

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. December investigates charity.

We cannot experience charity by sharing ourselves with others unless we can accept ourselves, even our egos. Yes, the goal of many spiritual growth paradigms is to abandon ego; however, in my lay opinion, abandoning ego completely may lead to spiritual enlightenment and physical death. I aim to abandon the ego as the center of my existence.

And, that brings us to duty.

“Holiness is not the luxury of the few. It is a simple duty for you and for me.” (Mother Teresa)

I have made a leap from lay psychology to spirituality of the masses (pun intended). Come on, you knew it was coming. I have given you enough Jungian kind of psychology to expect some commitment to the unconscious.

This has been a challenging week for the entire concept of duty—with the release of the torture report. Last week I had searched for duty quotes and found many that are negative or inappropriate for this blog. I think the explanation is fairly simple: Egocentric duty is damned dangerous.

I recall a story about young Mother Teresa, but I could not find it. It claimed she was so moved by the hunger of the people she cared for that she gave away her own meager lunch. Day after day. And, being of youthful metabolism, she soon began to weaken until a superior noticed her failing stature and inquired. Young Mother Teresa was admonished to eat her lunch.

The point of the story? Unless we keep ourselves alive and reasonably healthy, we will have no strength, even no life, perhaps, to share with others.

I do not know if the story is true about Mother Teresa, but I know it is true about me.

It is the oxygen mask rule. In the case of a sudden loss of cabin pressure in the airplane, your oxygen mask will drop from the overhead panel. Put it on as demonstrated. If you are traveling with a dependent, put your mask on first so that you will be able to help your child or mother traveling with you.

That is why I say we must not abandon our ego—only put it in its proper place.

Proper place?

Yes, in service to others.

I am not Mother Teresa. Neither are you, I’ll bet, or you would not be reading my blog. We are people wounded by life, sure, but more than that, we are people with different duties, different callings.

Duty to whom?

Oh, no. You are not going to trick me into giving you my meager lunch. I have a deep conviction about my calling, my mission in life, and I am trying to live that. My gratitude is that I have been blessed with opportunities to serve others in that calling and that I continue to be so blessed.

For each of you, I pray such a blessing.

But, I am not a missionary to the poor. I am a teacher and occasional minister to the poor in spirit.

Who are you?

Whom do you serve?

There are very old ways of answering those most personal questions, ways that have much in common across indigenous cultures, ways that do not fail when the ego has been relegated to service, for then we become blessed with the joy of charity, of giving of ourselves, of doing our personal duty.

“Is it I, Lord?” (Daniel O’Donnell)

The answers are inside you, deep down beyond your ego, and they are Holy.

Happy Tracking!

Generosity of Spirit

“The love we give away is the only love we keep.” (Elbert Hubbard)

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. November investigates gratitude.

An old man I call friend has survived multiple wives afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease. He told us of his gratitude through the process as his wife and friend of over thirty years slipped away, gratitude for the years shared and for his opportunity to care for her through their ordeal. When I grow up, I want to be so grateful.

Grateful people are happy. At least, that is my observation. Unhappy people are ungrateful.

Generosity seems to be the key to happiness through gratitude.

“Minds, nevertheless, are not conquered by arms, but by love and generosity.” (Baruch Spinoza)

Sometimes, the mind to be conquered is my own. When I feel I need a little love, may I remember the power of generosity to give love away. There lies the way of happiness.

And, happiness, according to some, is the meaning of life. (I will leave it to you to find such quotes. Quests are good for the soul.)

This is just my opinion, of course, but I believe there are two basic views of human existence: #1) our world is dangerous and stuff is scarce; #2) our world is gracious and stuff is abundant. How we live our lives depends upon which view we choose.

Traumatic events tend to nudge or shove us toward view #1, a theme of danger and scarcity. We expect bad things to happen, people to be dangerous, things we need and want to be hard to get. Naturally, we are unhappy and our unhappiness perpetuates our belief.

Funny thing about belief and this self-perpetuating phenomenon. When we approach view #2, a theme of grace and abundance, we notice it in our lives. When we feel fortunate, we believe in abundance. When we accept the grace of generosity, we feel blessed. When we feel loved, we love others.

My old friend has a favorite saying when asked how he is. “Never had it so good.”

That always gives me pause, and I admit (often reluctantly) that the same is true for me. I am blessed. Feeling so, I become a little nicer, more inclined to share love, to give it away freely. It always comes back to me.

Is that all there is to life? If we are generous, we become happy?

Well, there is this little problem of waking with a feeling of dread, and feigning happiness just does not work. So, which comes first, feeling loved or giving love?

That’s your problem. Do a little work to discover your answer. Look to others for advice, if you wish, but look inside yourself, also. Look deep inside. What evidence can you find in your heart?

War and other trauma may scar our brains and hearts, but love leaves tracks there, too.

Happy tracking.

Spiritual Honesty

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. September looks at honesty.

I love cedar swamps. In them, it is easy to find the god of my understanding. Perhaps because they contain so few human tracks. Perhaps because I find it easy to get lost in them.

There have been times in my life when I felt as though I were lost in a cedar swamp in a fog on a moonless night. I had been walking on a raised logging road but wandered off. Now, I had no idea which way to turn to find that road.

Tall trees covered me in shadows from starlight smothered by fog. No wind. There was absence of reference.

My eyes blinked to no avail. There was nothing to see, nothing to feel.

No, not true. I could feel something deep down inside.

Cedar swamps have pitfalls. There are holes between the tree roots, deep holes filled with water and sometimes covered with floating plants. It is easy to step in one so deep your foot cannot find a bottom. It is an interesting experience in daylight.

How can I find my way out, assuming I want to. I have heard Tom Brown Jr. say that you are only lost if you have someplace to go and some time to get there. He attributed it to his Apache mentor, Stalking Wolf.

Have you ever had no place to go and no time to get there? Funny thing about such a condition. It is conducive to comprehending spirituality.

“Religion is for people who’re afraid of going to hell. Spirituality is for those who’ve already been there.”(Vine Deloria Jr.)

Lost in that cedar swamp in fog on a moonless night is an opportunity to get honest with one’s self. I can feel my way with my feet. I can reach out for the next tree. Or, I can take a deep but gentle breath, exhale, and ask for help. If I want to get out of the swamp, I can ask a simple question. “Which way should I go?”

No answer. Spirituality is not easy like that. It is simpler. For the primitive spirituality of gut feeling, all that is required is a simpler question: “Is this the way?”

I face a direction and ask that simple question and wait for the feeling in my gut. My gut is tight. That translates, “No.”

I turn (clockwise because my question is a prayer and I honor the customs of my Native American grandteacher, Stalking Wolf) and ask the question, again. I do not utter the words, only feel the question in my heart.

I have a friend, a veteran of WWII, who shares a quote from one of his teachers. “Prayer is a sincere desire of the heart.” If my wish to find my way out of this swamp is a sincere desire of the heart, it is prayer.

Honesty is a raindrop. Spiritual honesty is honesty from the heart, such as a teardrop.

I turn and feel the question. I wait for the answer. Any release of that feeling of tension in my gut is, “Yes.” That is the way I step, again and again, until I step upon the road.

The honesty required is, first, to admit I am lost; second, that I no longer want to be lost; third, that on my own, I will stay lost. Then, I have to get viscerally honest. What is the sincere desire of my heart? Finally, I have to be honest enough to accept my gut feeling to sense that release of tension.

I love cedar swamps. I do not mind being lost in them. But, I do not choose to wander into them on foggy, moonless nights.

Sometimes the tracks we need to find are in our own hearts. Happy tracking.

Love Remnants

It had been a very long week that May of 1988. Nancy and I had left Wisconsin in the early morning hours with my sister in her motor home headed for Arizona. The trip was unplanned but not really unexpected. Our dad had been sick—now he was sicker, and we made the decision to go get him and Mom.

We did not make it. When we stopped for fuel just across the state line in Missouri, Nancy called Mom only to find our Dad had died half an hour earlier. We continued to Yuma.

Much of that week is a blur of memory. A brother and other sisters showed up, a nephew, and my brother-in-law. We cried, laughed, and attended services for Dad at the little church in the foothills, but we did not lay him to rest. He would go home to Wisconsin.

When the arrangements had been made to send the body, we all prepared to make our ways back home. Nancy and I would ride with Mom and my sister and brother in-law in their motor home.

That was a good thing. Nancy is a natural care giver, an RN especially interested in families of the dying and deceased. She took charge.

Mom was, naturally, having trouble sleeping. Nancy suggested she wear one of Dad’s shirts to bed. We could see Mom’s face brighten. She picked out a rather plain western dress shirt Dad used to wear to church. It became Mom’s nightshirt. She slept well.

It is a simple thing, a shirt, and it does not really matter how such a thing works. Is it a trick of the mind? Is it a spiritual phenomenon? Or, both or neither? I don’t care. It works.

There is a feeling, a very real sense of closeness, which comes from wearing a loved one’s shirt. Dogs know this. They often grab a piece of clothing to hold close during a lonesome day. It is comfort.

I like to believe that love leaves tracks in things, that things people hold close and/or dear somehow hold remnants of their love as essence of their souls. I find comfort in the belief as people find comfort in the things like Dad’s shirt.

Dad did not have a lot of things. And what he had was divided among six children and many grandchildren. I have a few.

I own a two colored wildflower prints from an old book he cherished. They hang on our bathroom wall where I see them every day.

I inherited his first gun, a 16 gauge single shot he bought used. They ate rabbits and squirrels for survival during those hard times before WWII. It hangs on my brother’s wall where I put it when Nancy and I moved into our RV.
And I have his ring. Not a wedding ring, just a simple Native American silver ring with turquoise chips in an interesting design. I wear it most of the time when I am not home or doing physical labor.

It is not big, bold, or valuable. There is nothing special about it, although I do get compliments. I believe some people can see beauty beyond the visual aesthetic.

Dad loved that ring and wore it faithfully. Twenty five years later, it still keeps my father close to me. I hope I leave such love tracks in a few things to comfort those I leave behind. I hope you do, too.

Love Enough?

There is a story in my first novel, BEYOND THE BLOOD CHIT, that I now confess to be based upon personal experience. Okay, there may be a few. This one happened in my woods in the summer of 1999.

Reminder: This blog series is dedicated to love, the various kinds of love beyond the romantic and erotic that support personal growth and healing, especially the healing of invisible wounds from Combat PTSD.

Have you ever had a question lodged in your mind, swelling like a bean in water, pressing upon your conscience and consciousness for duration? One probably does better attending to such questions until a complete answer is articulated. Peace of mind demands it.

I went to the woods in search of answers and came back with a question.

A Vision Quest is a commitment of mind, body, and spirit to devotion of some purpose. I marked out a small circle, about twelve feet in diameter, on a hill above my stream valley. I laid out raingear, sleeping bag, and four days supply of water. I set up a cedar pole nearby but out of sight where I would tie a flag each morning to indicate my wellness to a friend acting as protector.

At dark dawn of Day One, I entered my circle from the East.

I frequently advise people in a hurry that if one day seems too short, try a Vision Quest.

I sat between the Sugar Maple and White Birch, leaning against a rotting stump. When I became bored, I watched something moving—anything—Quaking Aspen leaves, ants, inchworms, even clouds. Cloud watching usually becomes big by Day Three.

When emotions arose, I danced around the perimeter of my circle. Here I would stay, except for potty breaks and one daily trip to the cedar pole, for four days, or at least until I got answers. Come Hell or high water.

High water came with midnight of Day Two. It was called a “Storm of the Century” and really did bring a 100 year flood that seemed focused on top of my head. It filled my little stream valley with 6-8 feet of water, raised the lake 2.5 feet, and washed out several roads including mine.

I stayed.

I did not need to stay for my answer had already come to me out of the West in the form of the question soon after sundown of Day Two—and very soon before the thunderstorms began.

To protect the power of my Quest, I will not reveal specifics of the arrival of that question; however, I believe the question belongs to all of us.

Here it is: “Do you love enough?”

My answers have evolved since 1999. In fact, the answer seems to change day to day. Sometimes yes, sometimes no, usually somewhere in between with qualifications.

It has been my experience that my best days occur when the answer is a simple, “Yes.”

Love Is Green

“Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!” (Sitting Bull)

“I am grateful for green plants.” It was an assignment for my Lutheran Catechism class to write a paragraph on something for which I was grateful. I was a biology nerd before I ever had a Biology class, and I still am grateful for green plants fifty-some years later.

Here in the North Woods, growth has an urgency sometimes not found elsewhere. Our growing season for most green plants is May to September at maximum. One of the things I love is that each week, and sometimes each day, another species begins blooming. This week the Strawberries and Star Flowers are in full force, the Bunchberries beginning, and the Trilliums fading to pink. Many spring flowers have already set seed, Marsh Marigolds among them.

We have thousands of Balsam Fir trees and they sprout a few new shoots on the ends of each live branch, bright light green contrasting with the aged dark green needles. The buds grow into new branches so fast it seems possible to watch the movement. I am puzzled how anyone can be bored in the woods.

Balsams have a tendency to die early, susceptible to a vascular fungus carried by a bark beetle. They have soft wood and shallow roots, conditions of rapid growth, and they often tip over or break in the wind. Carpenter ants munch on the wood unable to keep up with the fast life cycle of the ambitious firs. So, I clean up and burn branches.

I love a good campfire. I prefer Cedar or Sugar Maple for a long evening fire with meditative coals, but a quick fire of Quaking Aspen (another fast growing, soft tree that dies young) and Balsam Fir brightens a rainy day. Campfires are as close to magic as this old nerd needs to be.

The flames and glowing coals are sunshine. These humble green plants have managed a seemingly impossible task, that of grasping light. The energy from the sun, captured in tiny green bodies inside their cells, has been imprisoned in the leaves and wood and set free as fire. It is also released by the fungi, insect larvae, earthworms, or bacteria capable of reversing the process, of digesting the food stored.

Life works like that. Almost all life away from wet thermal vents relies upon sunlight captured by green plants and stored in plant or animal bodies. All the energy I eat every day comes from a nuclear fusion reaction 93 million miles away captured by chloroplasts too tiny for human eyes to perceive living only inside green plant cells.

No green plants, no life. Know green plants, know life. Okay, I warned you I was a nerd.

Reminder: This blog series is dedicated to love, the various kinds of love beyond the romantic and erotic that support personal growth and healing, especially the healing of invisible wounds from Combat PTSD.
There is an emotional connection between people and plants.

Think not? Buy your wife or mother some flowers. For years, my Mothers’ Day tradition was to buy my mother some Pansies and plant them for her. Gardening is an act of Hope, Faith, and Love.

I believe there is a spiritual connection between people and green plants. Oh, sure, we get pretty good at ignoring it lest some human think we might be nerdy, but it is there. Gardening is a wonderful activity for grief, and PTSD is a condition of grief for the loss of our comrades and for the loss of our pre-trauma selves.

Gardening is a challenge in these lattitudes, but the North Woods is a natural garden. I don’t have to do the gardening, just lend a hand from time to time. Harvest a tree, pick some berries, monitor diseases, prevent fires, and maybe thin some overgrown thickets.

Nature is God’s garden which man, in good sense, has preserved here and there for all of us to enjoy. So, enjoy the love, already.

Dark Adventure

In America’s pre-dawn darkness on Friday, December 21st, 2012, our sun will reach its extreme southern position on our horizon—and people will die.
They will die because they are afraid.
They will die to avoid adventure.
For those of us living in the northern hemisphere, this is our longest night, our longest wait for the light of our sun. It is a dark season for us. For Christians, it is Advent. We wait.
This year we wait for the unknown. We wait for the change—maybe the end of the world as we know it—and we are afraid.
If the world does not immediately end on that day, we will face the cold. As my dad used to say, “When the days begin to lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen.”
But, the sun is coming back. The days are getting longer. Shouldn’t it be getting warmer?
All seasons lag. There is a delay as the long nights continue to take their toll. Winter follows the solstice,
February was always, ironically, my longest month. Spring still seemed so far away.
But it is coming, which is the meaning of advent, and our time between now and then is always an adventure. Because we do not know what comes, exactly, and we do not know what awaits us between now and then, between pain and salvation, between birth and death.
That is precisely what makes life an adventure.
In many ways, 2012 is no different from any other Advent season. We never know what the season brings or the new year (or, the new century, millennium, or age). Life is always adventure.
Earth will turn on Friday and the sun will rise over America as all other lands. The old adage, “It is always darkest before the dawn,” is figurative only. This year, our moon is in first quarter on Winter Solstice, so it will light our sky before sunrise, reflecting the sun’s light, foretelling its coming.
If we can but read the signs.
Pessimists among us decry change and adventure. They claim the world is ending, and fearing change, take their own lives. Sometimes they take the lives of others. Because they are afraid.
I watched a movie recently in which a young couple was stranded in the Grand Canyon. The husband lost his leg and suffered fever. As he lay near death, wolves approached. To save him from the wolves, his bride took his life—only moments before the sound of the approaching rescue helicopter.
Optimists see a Mayan prophecy of changing worlds, a grand spiritual shift from selfishness to cooperation among people. They see hope in adventure where others see despair.
Who is right?
Both. Seasons always lag. There will be more darkness. But seasons will change, light will return, Spring will come, and humans will evolve.
It will not be easy. It will be adventure.