Category Archives: Peace

I BELIEVE I CAN FLY!

Ever since I was a child I’ve had repeated dreams where I can fly. I literally just bend my legs and lean upward and I fly. At first there is a bit of an unsure feeling, but I quickly get the hang of it and delight in my ability to fly!

 

A couple of weeks ago I was privileged to attend a day long retreat/teaching with the Dalai Lama. He spoke of meditation within our current frenzied cultural context as a source of peace, focus and something that engenders compassion. He also spoke about the endless chatter that we all have going on in our minds, whether or not we are aware of it. He said: “Who wouldn’t want a break from all that every now and then!”

 

The other night I had another dream that I was able to fly. As always I woke up feeling sad that it was a dream and that I really can’t fly. Yet, for some reason, this particular dream of flying began to get connected with my meditation. Meditation is a way to fly on this side of life; it’s a taste of the total freedom and total weightlessness that we will experience – both a psychological weightlessness and a physical weightlessness. When one meditates, the deeper we go, the more unaware of our body and mind we are and, in a sense, we begin to fly! Some even say we get more in contact and at one with everything that is around us – because, as physicists say, everything that exists is simply wave energy vibrating at a certain frequency. This creates matter. When we meditate I believe we are in touch with this Energy (capital intentional, i.e., God) at more fundamental levels and so we begin to experience a freedom from this particular body and a unity with all that exists, all Energy – and in this sense, we fly!

 

Jesus said “the kingdom is at hand,” it’s here! What a blessing and what a relief that we can begin to experience the kingdom right here and now. I believe I can fly!


GOD IS WITH US???

I recently heard a sermon by a bright young priest at an independent catholic church. He began with a story of his Mom, in her mid 30’s huddling her 6 boys and 1 girl together in her arms, . . . at their daddy’s funeral. He said that as she held them close, she kept repeating, almost whispering “God is with us, God is with us, God is with us, God is with us . . .” What struck me is that he said that these words, normally heard and spoken in happiness this time of year, came from a place of deep fear, uncertainty and sadness within her.

When I think of the reality of what many in the world will celebrate in a few days, it is far from the pretty, warm cozy picture that we try to create. It was cold, dirty, smelly, bloody and fearful. Joseph was perplexed by his pregnant wife to be. Instead of a warm, cozy home, they had to leave home and when they arrived in Bethlehem there was no room for them. The child was sought after and almost killed.

“God is with us, God is with us, God is with us, God is with us . . .”

Sometimes our lives can be messy, dark and cold; but the reality that we shout these days is “God is with us!” To some in difficulty, such words might ring hollow. But as sweet and sappy as some of this season can be, perhaps we need this time of year when we are reminded of what is good in the world, what is good in the human spirit and when our thoughts turn to “peace and goodwill toward all.” I can’t help but think that since a lot of us are thinking such thoughts, a little bit of it might actually manifest itself in our reality.


I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO IT!

As I continue “Just Sitting” – my Zazen practice – I remain intrigued by what it’s doing, yet at the same time trying to be unattached from expectation that anything will come of it. This simple (and not so simple!) opening of the body, spirit and mind connects us directly to Source Energy, God, Spirit and when you think about it, that’s freak’n amazing!! I find myself more aware, looking to see what this silence will bring.

Most of the time I find it difficult not to think, and simply concentrate on my breathing. The mind, the ego will not easily shut up. It does NOT want to give up control! Yet, what a relief it is to stop the incessant chatter within! I can only imagine what this must do to the brain. I can’t help but believe that in the process of this silence of the mind, the brain is literally making new connections. I am convinced that in this silence I am more lined up with Source, and Divine will becomes my will. In this silence the ego is shut up and I somehow feel more directly connected to God – I let go of control. I get out of the way. Maybe that’s what “let go, and let God” means. Normally when I give up control, I find myself, at least apprehensive, if not downright fearful. Yet as a result of this silence I find myself looking forward in hopeful expectation to see what will unfold in my life – and that of the world (because it‘s not just about my life, but affecting the world). Instead of a problem to be solved, life is becoming a Mystery to be lived. I look forward to the journey!


IN THE ARMS OF YOUR SILENT EMBRACE

Today I was meditating, and, as often is the case, my mind gets going and I want to get up and start getting something done that I’m thinking about. Sometimes it is “work” just to sit there. Funny huh? “Work” just to sit there?

The White Robed Monks call this “Just Sitting,” a practice adopted from Zen, where one simply sits 15 minutes a day, concentrating on the breath and clearing the mind of all thought. When we do this our mind, our ego revolts. That little voice in our heads just doesn’t want to leave us alone.

What struck me this morning again is that when I want to heed that voice within, when I want to get up and start moving and stop this sitting – I am not trusting! In essence, when I break the meditation and start running, I am saying that I trust more in myself than I do in Divine Power. My experience, however, says that when I stay with this “work,” when I simply sit and make an empty space in my mind, I connect directly with Source Energy, God, the Spirit. Suddenly my work is given energy and much more is accomplished – and somehow – directly as a result of thinking no-thing, my thoughts are clarified and my life is given meaning and direction. It’s like I have suddenly been plugged in!

Can I trust enough to stay with the silent embrace and make a space in my life to connect with Source? Try it. And see what happens!


Darfur’s Unheard Cries

In the midst of so much happening in our countries, our world, our lives, our economies, it‘s easy to forget regions of the world where violence rages out of control and little attention is given to it. One such place if the Darfur region of the Sudan. Such places are not “sexy” as they hold little strategic value and so are given little help and attention. Yet people are being slaughtered and have been for several years now. Such atrocities rival the atrocities perpetrated by Saddam Hussein, if not make them pale in comparison! Yet I hear little of a Presidential or political outcry over this. Again and again, this situation gets pushed to the side in the media and does not hold the attention of our political leaders.

If you have never watched the movie “Hotel Rwanda,” I highly recommend it, but don’t watch it if you’re even the slightest bit depressed. It vividly portrays what happened, and indeed, what has been and is happening now in the Darfur region of Sudan.

In the midst of economic crises, political campaigns, gas prices, wars, terrorism, etc. it’s easy to forget these innocent ones who are being slaughtered and who get little attention because they have little strategic value to us. Perhaps they have little strategic value, but do they not have moral value to the world community with resources to help?

If you get a minute, drop a note to the UN, your Congressional Representatives and Senators, and President Bush. Urge them, if possible, to do something more to address this situation, even if it isn’t “sexy.” Such action, I believe, is part and parcel of walking a spiritual path.


The Secret Calm – Part II

Someone commented yesterday how wonderful it would be to be able to calm the mind, to be completely free of thought or worry.

Lest anyone think that that is the case with me, let me assure you it is not! I don’t think it is true of anyone. If the expectation is that with our spiritual practice we will be completely free of thought of worry, we will be disappointed. However, if we practice calming the mind, meditation, etc we will have tools at our disposal which will help us calm the mind and go to a place of greater peace and centeredness. Is it complete calm and peace? No. But our practice gives us a door, an opening into a deeper dimension of stillness, beyond the chaos of mind or life situations. And this can lead us to a place of greater peace. And when the storm comes, it’s best to have some tools at our disposal! In other words, we don’t have to stand completely powerless in the face of storms in our lives. Our spiritual practice, 12 Step work, therapy, religious faith – all of these are tools that we can pick up at a moment’s notice and use to deal more effectively with life’s issues.

The important thing is that we maintain some sort of spiritual practice CONSISTENTLY. Then, when we need it, it will be more of an ingrained habit, to which we will easily turn. Do these tools have immediate results in calming me? Sometimes yes. But most often, it is a process where calm and focus gradually takes hold. It’s like having a secure anchor to grab on to, or firm ground on which to stand. The storm may be raging around us or within us, but these practices provide a point of grounding in the midst of the storm. Do they immediately take the storm away? Not usually. But the grounding itself gives cause for hope and gradually opens a door to greater peace and clarity.

Today is the feast of a famous saint whose prayer of peace attributed to him is prayed by Christians and non-Christians alike. Francis of Assisi was a man who experienced many storms in his life and in the world around him. Yet he continually drew himself and his followers back to a quiet place within – as well as BEING the peace that he wanted to experience. “Make ME an instrument of your peace . . .” In so doing, we gain the peace that we impart to others.


“Cats” and the “War On Terror”

Last night, on a spur of the moment, I went to see a local production of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical “Cats.” It was a great performance. I was amazed at the talent of these young people, most of whom were still in High School and College. It seems that people either love the show or hate it, finding it confusing and boring. I am one who likes it and gets into the layers of symbolism in the show.

The central symbol in the show is Grizabella the glamour cat. She is old, used up and unwanted by the rest of the group. Her days in the spotlight are long over and one suspects that her life and reputation has not been the best since then. She appears at various times throughout the show and is always shunned by the other cats. In the end she sings the central and now famous tune in the show “Memory.” At the end of the song, alone, sad and afraid she screams: “Touch me! It’s so easy to leave me all alone with the memory of my days in the sun. If you touch me you’ll understand what happiness is! Look! A New day has begun!” It is indeed a tear jerking moment to see the other cats slowly approach her and touch her. When they touch her it’s as if they become energized and filled with life. Having shunned her throughout the show, now they surround her and celebrate as she is the unlikely one chosen to be reborn into a new life.

The symbol of Grizabella and what happens to her speaks to me on a variety of levels. Of course, as a gay man, I have known and continue to know what it feels like to be shunned, laughed at and kept in the shadows of society. What struck me last night was Grizabella as a symbol of peacemaking.

In touching and not shunning the ills of the world, peace and happiness are achieved. It’s unfortunate that many feel that the so called “war on terror” is to be fought through bombs and armies and guns. This will only serve to prolong and intensify it. However, if we touch the ills of the world, peace will ensue. Some time ago, I watched a documentary in which a retired US Army General was interviewed. He said that, after being in Iraq he came to realize that the “war on terror” is not fought with guns, but by helping impoverished people. He said that many people are easily recruited by Al-Qaida because they give them money and an ideology of overthrowing the evil West who has used and abused them. He described an instance in Africa where the US Army successfully defeated Al-Qaida. Do you know how they won the war in that area? They dug a well for the people and provided water, which began to change their lives for the better. The people gradually no longer needed Al-Qaida and they drove them away. This General said it struck him that the simple digging of a well is what won this little “war.” He went on to say that the “war on terror” is to be won, not with guns and bombs, but by providing schools, clinics and basic services.

When I touch and help those who are alone, those who feel shunned or used, those who are poor and even those who have hurt and shunned me, then I understand more deeply what happiness and peace are. When I am no longer ruled by concern for protecting my own time or resources then I will know what freedom and happiness are. When I am no longer ruled by my resentments and can touch, and not react to one who has hurt me, then the energy of peace begins to break the cycle of conflict.