The older I get, the faster the years seem to roll by, even blur together. Once, not so long ago, I had the school year to glue the days and months together, even the hours. One year was clearly distinct from another, marked by childhood milestones, bicycle to driver's license, kindergarten to high school graduation as our children marked the millions of moments that became the timepiece of our lives. In retrospect, time flies. As Dr. Seuss said, "How did it get so late, so soon?"
Time is a funny thing, isn't it? We waste it, run of of it and frequently need more of it. Time is free and yet free time is hard to come by; we squander it away on our phones and gadgets. Time is short, but can also drag on for the lonely, the bereaved, or for any of us faced at the moment with very real worries. And, despite the claim that on occasion time stands still, the truth is, time waits for no one, ticking off the seconds in precise rhythm until another year has gone.
Einstein called Time an illusion. After all, it exists in a 4th dimension we can't even grasp. C. S. Lewis observed that God must be outside of Time, where there is no past or future but only "an eternal Now." Which brings me to the present, and 2016.
The New Year is here whether we are ready or not. Living in the present is the way we humans might describe the "eternal Now," being mindful of the breath we are taking in this moment, the face of a loved one across the table, what they have to say. Or maybe it's simply being, basking in the beauty of a a sunset. Living in the eternal Now gives us the illusion that Time is, at least, on our side.
Someone once said, "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but the moments that take our breath away." Here's to as many of those miracle moments as you can find in the year to come. (Katie)
(Post by Meb) I write this on the shortest day of the year, a dreary, rainy day, which in California is good news, considering the drought.
The sad news is that my longtime friend, Patty, has gone home from the hospital and is on hospice. I am both full of grief and inspired. Anyone who has ever used child care that has been provided by someone other than a close relative has benefited from Patty's state and national advocacy for high quality, early education and child care. Patty is a force. Her passion and persistence have influenced thousands of people like me to work on behalf of children and families.
They say an angel's work is never done. Perhaps this is because angels know how to lead so that others will follow and carry on their work. Something else about angels that I've noticed; they seem to be good at helping others to fly. As Patty's human life-light wavers, the inspirational light she holds passes on, like the Olympic torch, from hand to hand and heart to heart. It ripples outward, possibly beyond what even she can imagine. I like to think her light will never end.
In the midst of the holiday season, let us take some time to love and appreciate the angels in our midst,the human ones who inspire an d support us, those that work on our behalf, and the angelic host who may show up for a miracle or two when we need one the most. Let take time to thank the teachers, the officers and advocates who have given so much in service of others.
Helen Keller said that, "the best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or thought but are felt in the heart." The gifts of the heart are the best ones and they really do light up the world. This holiday season hold your heart-light high. Let it inspire others to do the same. We can all be torches aflame together and for one another, sending the darkness away. (Meb)
Having spent my childhood in Catholic school, it was a boon to my friends and me that we always got the day after Halloween off. Not because the nuns took pity on us young ghosts and goblins, but because the day after Halloween is All Saints Day, a Holy Day in the church. Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, began back in the 8th century and marked the beginning of the holidays to honor saints (November 1st) and souls (November 2nd) though it may have had its origins in the Celtic harvest festivals. Nevertheless, thanks to the saints, the sinners got to play and stay out later than usual.
In thinking about All Saints Day this coming Sunday, (no free day this year!), I remembered someone I came across while researching The Miracle Chase. I had written "St. Juan Macias" on one of the colorful index cards the three of us used to share information with each other and was intrigued by the modern miracle associated with him. Still, months went by before I finally sat down to research him. It was my wedding anniversary, September 18th, and as I brought his name up on the screen, it showed his feast day as September 18th, one of those Celestine moments that seemed to happen all the time while writing the book. In any case, St. Juan Macias and I bonded immediately.
I'm not sure why I thought of him again recently, maybe because he has more than a few things in common with Pope Francis. Juan Macias was born in Europe (Spain) and immigrated to South America (Peru), where he became a Dominican friar and ministered to the poor. Though he died in the 17th century, he was not made a saint until 1975. This was thanks to a spectacular miracle attributed to him that occurred on the evening of January 25, 1949.
In the town where he was born, Ribera de Fresno, Juan had long been the village patron saint and was known simply as "the Blessed." On that evening, a volunteer cook set out to prepare dinner in the parish hall for the children of the nearby orphanage and the destitute families who came to the door each night. When she realized she only had 3 cups of rice, she said a desperate prayer for help to "the Blessed". And then an odd thing happened. The rice pot began to overflow, so she transferred some to a second pot, and then a third. For four hours, the rice seemed to multiply much to the amazement of the pastor and the other 20 witnesses to the events that night. We miracle chasers call it Miracle Math. Like Frederick Buechner said, "A miracle is when 1+1=1000."
I'm not one to pray to saints, though I did pray to St. Anthony once when I lost a key (and promptly found it, I might add). There is a patron saint for just about every cause (including lost causes), country, and profession. A couple thousand years of men and women (!) who overcame their propensity to be human and spread some divine light around the earth instead. It seems Saints, dead or alive, are the gift that keeps on giving. (Katie)
Are you a person who believes that we create not only all the successes and good in our lives, but also all the bad events? When was the last time you heard something like this: "Look at it this way, when [bad thing, fill in the blank] happened to you, it was your higher self giving you a growth opportunity and life lesson!"
Consider the scenario Liz Phillips writes about in her blog, The Treacherous Terrain of Spiritual Utilitarianism Imagine that you, a person who considers yourself firmly on a fulfilling spiritual path, have just broken your leg in a freak accident. While recovering in the hospital, you are visited by someone who, up until now, has been a dear friend...
Your friend opens her mouth to comfort you and says, "It must be really hard to be dealing with this right now." She continues, with unnatural excitement, "You've given yourself such a wonderful soul growth opportunity!"
When you gawk at her with both incomprehension and a sinking feeling that perhaps you'd rather remain ignorant of her meaning, she simply plows ahead with the explanation you never had been waiting for, "See, before you were born, your soul chose all the lessons you were to learn in your lifetime. You chose to sign up for all sorts of traumatic experiences, including breaking your leg, so you could accelerate your spiritual development in this lifetime. Gosh, what a wonderful thing! Think of everything you can learn from it!" Wonderful?...
My daughter Liz goes on to ask: Did you choose before birth that you were going to break you leg? Does everyone choose what happens to them before birth? What about abuse or cancer survivors; what about survivors of genocide? Surely, assuming there's an afterlife, no soul would choose such a horrible experience willingly, no matter how sweeping the universal perspective might be. You think back to spiritual teaching you've heard in the past about the other side being full of light and unconditional love. Could anyone possessing unconditional love for themselves and all beings ever justify or permit atrocities to be done to themselves or others they love simply on the grounds of expedience? Talk about violence inherent in the system!
The above example describes a concept that is perhaps most popular in new age philosophy and spirituality, but is gaining supporters from people of spiritual backgrounds of all sorts. While this concept is most prevalent in new age thinking about reincarnation, it can appear in a slightly modified form in books or workshops on the law of attraction and manifestation by people who genuinely express their spirituality with heart and dedication.
The problem as I see it, is that the following is a true statement: A creative and optimistic person can retrospectively find something good/healing/perspective-altering that came out of a harrowing/negative/traumatic event in one's life, even if it is as simple as "I lived another day." Hindsight is 20/20.
But, because the statement really is true, some people now turn this around to say, "You chose that opportunity; you created your own reality," for the reason of this beneficial outcome you now see in hindsight. Now you don't have to be a victim anymore because you created the very circumstance that you are trying to make sense of. On top of this, it is then suggested that you will benefit from adopting this viewpoint so that you won't identify as a victim!
At the core, it's another form of victim blaming.
I wrote my dissertation on women who suffered terrible traumatic events who then became actively engaged in changing their world so that another mother would not have to go through the same tragic experience. We owe a lot of things we take for granted, like car seats, swimming pool covers, motorcycle helmets and drunk driving laws, to women who created meaning from a terrible event by doing something protective that helped other people.
I will never subscribe to the belief that these women willed the events and the tragedies in their families for the experience of their own soul's growth. I do believe that an essential part of being human is to learn from experiences and protect ourselves, our families and our communities. While amazing humans, like Victor Frankel, are beacons to our very highest selves, most of us will not face a holocaust from which we must then find meaning. But one cannot go through life for very long without loss, danger, injury and illness. We are all in need of compassion, from ourselves and from others. For me, this is a kind of "reincarnation". I am born again and again into another better self every minute I choose to live a more compassionate life. (Meb)
Good Grief. It's a term I use often without thinking much about it. One of those oxymora, like pretty ugly or virtual reality. Or, is it? Is there really such a thing as good grief?
Not long after my mother died in February, I was on a walk with a friend who asked if I had any thoughts on grief, if my recent experience had enlightened me. She had read the March newsletter that I had written and seemed disappointed that I hadn't said something more about it. It got me thinking. Do we allow ourselves to talk about grief enough? Do we feel that others are willing to engage in this conversation? Having lost her own mother not too long ago, my friend was willing to engage. "Do you have any regrets?" she wanted to know.
What is it about death, the finality of it that allows us to feel things we should have known all along? When I flew to the Bay Area for the first time after the funeral, it struck me harder than the day my mother died that she was no longer there. My usual phone call right after landing didn't need to happen. No enthusiastic voice on the other end of the line to welcome me. "Home," such as it is for any of us, felt permanently altered. No matter that our roles had flip-flopped long ago after my father died, I didn't appreciate how much she anchored my own sense of belonging and identity. As Janie's daughter, I was well-versed in the art of etiquette, the proper use of "I" and "me," and that to stand up and be counted is our greatest responsibility as human beings, whether it is to lend our time for a cause that needs our help or to speak up in the face of prejudice. If, in grieving, we recognize the indelible marks left upon us, the testament to a life well-lived, then in this recognition, perhaps you could call it "good grief."
Losing the second parent carries a particular sting. There is no older generation, no protective ceiling to shield you from your own mortality. If thirty years ago my father's death had the effect of scattering my four siblings and me to the winds, my mother's death had the opposite effect. In the days before and after her funeral we shared a generosity with each other that stands as a fitting tribute to legacy and love and here again, I can say "good grief."
My mother was a big believer in miracles and held steadfast to her own faith. Home for her had long ago been diminished when my father died and so when she asked that I pray that, "God would take her home," I know she saw her own death as a win-win. Maybe knowing this is also "good grief. (Katie)