Norman and Sheila
Years ago when Hugh and I lived in New York, we went to a play called The Boys Next Door, by Tom Griffin. It’s a serious comedy about the inhabitants of a Group Home for adults with mental challenges.
I remember one outstanding scene in this play.
Norman is an overweight man with a tiny IQ. We learn he has a crush on Sheila, a frumpy, cranky woman, who also has a low IQ. They meet at a social gathering and shuffle over to each other. They communicate in dim, flawed language and start a slow, lumbering dance.
Then it happens: the lights and music change. The actors make eye contact. They beam at one another. The audience sees Norman and Sheila as they see themselves. They are a radiant Fred and Ginger, a glorious dancing king and queen.
Hugh and I both sobbed out-loud in the theater when that happened. It was at least twenty-five years ago and I still sigh when I think of it.
I remember this moment because I re-live it often. Sometimes despite all appearances, I am glorious even though I am not. Continue reading
Our Hardest Work in This World
The mystical poet Hafiz wrote “Our separation from God – from Love –
Chama al-Din Muhammad Hafiz, author unknown
is the hardest work in this world.” I think Hafiz was onto something.
Mystical teachings tell us we can never truly be separate from the Absolute Reality of Love because the Absolute contains everything. Yet we create obstacles to Love. The most persistent obstacle I’ve observed is a sense of unworthiness. I have counseled numerous people who tell me they feel like “damaged goods,” and therefore believe they are unworthy of Love.
Another word for unworthiness is shame. Brene´ Brown, PhD states in a viral TED Talk, that shame thrives on three things: secrecy, silence, and judgment. We hide what we do not like about ourselves in the hopes that no one will see – or maybe it will just go away.
Dr. Brown also states that the one thing shame cannot tolerate is empathy. So in the spirit of dissolving secrecy and invoking empathy, I’ll share a story from my ministry that makes me look bad. I’m embarrassed to tell it – but here goes. Continue reading
I’ve been approached by many congregants who say, “I’m trying to learn to love myself. When can I expect the inner voices of shame and self-doubt to go away?”
My standard response to that question is, “I’ll get back to you when my own voices of shame and self-doubt disappear.”
Then I share what I’ve discovered through years of spiritual study and practice: no matter who you are and what you’ve accomplished, it’s normal to have a sense of inadequacy lurching around in your mind at times. Lurch lists your shortcomings. He plans potential failures. He tells you you’re not good enough and he’s quite skilled.
The best way to be with the lurching mind is to stop trying to control it. We can’t control the mind with the mind. We just observe it. Then, instead of “thinking ourselves into a new way of living – we live ourselves into a new way of thinking.” (Richard Rohr)
I know this, because several years ago Lurch tried to ruin a wedding. My nephew Andrew was marrying his beloved Mark in New York City. I was invited to officiate. Continue reading
Mystics like to talk about Absolute Reality – the ultimate changeless Reality that exists beneath our relative, conditioned opinions or perceptions. One of the best descriptions of the Absolute comes from Rumi, who wrote “Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing there is a field; I’ll meet you there; when the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about…”
The Absolute is the source of all things. Absolute reality contains relative reality, the place where we abide in consciousness much of the time. We often confuse the relative with the Absolute. We use a yellow hi-lighter to underline select passages in an Infinite book and then confuse the hi-lighted fragments with the Whole story. This limits our experience of the Infinite Divine.
I know, it’s confusing – a little abstract for the human mind. So let me tell you about a Goat named Blondie who enlightened me. This Holy Goat went beyond the poets and theologians. She clarified the nature of existence in a single stark moment. Continue reading
“Is The Secret real?” people ask me. “Does it work?”
You may remember The Secret, the book and movie released in 2006. The premise is “thoughts are things.” It’s Cause and Effect, or the Law of Attraction. The Secret says your thoughts create your reality. You manifest what you think about.
The ideas expressed in this teaching have been around for ages, and that’s a good thing. Because life can be baffling. We find comfort in taking charge and seeing that the quality of our thoughts can affect the quality of our lives.
The Secret is often taken a little too literally for my tastes. I have found that The Secret, in it’s literal sense doesn’t always “work.” I have experienced people who apply The Secret, and don’t get what they want. Then they move to places of blame, resistance and self-recrimination.
But today, I’d like to tell you about a time when The Secret worked a little too well — a time when the power of my thoughts almost got me in trouble.
I have impure thoughts about our Veterinarian. I want to lick him. Continue reading