Too Many Minds!
Before I left Idaho, one of the inmates mentioned how the former monk in our Friday night group seems to be a bit of a mind reader. (Yup.) He reported the asian had came over to him at work one day and said in his broken accent, "Too many minds!!" (I could just hear him!) The asian's mind's as clear as a bell. He is of One Mind, One Eye. We love his prayers--for us, family, friends, and by (inmate) request. He prays morning and night. His one mind is his heart. No one (except perhaps a narrow minded evangelist--bless him or her) could miss his passion and spirit. He avoids vexatious men. Once overheard him lecture a fellow inmate not to react to taunts, get sucked into arguments. It's a blessing to be with this "simple", happy man, this inmate, a teacher by action, not words, though when they come out in awkward English, they're often gold. His even, good nature speaks volumes. He laughs when teased about his small size, or losing a wrestling match. No problem for a master of One Mind. Too many minds--I'll never forget! It is so.
Last summer the obvious hit me--prison is simplicity practice--involuntary simplicity. (Way back Bo Lozoff noted the similarities between ashram and prison life.) Seems to me, those who surrender, simplifying minds as well as existence, learn a lot. I'll quote a note I received from one of the men when I find it in the boxes of my yet unsimplified life I've put in storage. I consider this man a successful graduate of involuntary simplicity.
My worldly life has been in 2 storage units a couple months now, being nibbled by crickets and friends. At first I was ballistic about the crickets--actually paying to have my stuff damaged! I'm not sure how I'll feel about the holes in my favorite worldly attachments when I start opening boxes in a few months. I've been talking to myself about impermanence a lot, thank you, Buddha for the noble truths. [ed note: and then, with fall, there were mice....]
Sink or Swim
Though it seemed like it might never happen, my stuff and I made it to Illinois 2 weeks ago. It's utterly surreal, returning after all these years. Am I on vacation? Visiting? How does one go home?
This move home feels like heavy, serious stuff, final exams; like Sink or Swim. If I don't make it here--get along with folks, finding meaning, here with the help of ancestors and family reputation, I won't make it anywhere. Lord have mercy! Sometime in the final weeks of moving I put on grandmother's mustard seed ears and vowed to wear them as long as needed. (Still on.) I've also worn my "How Big is Your God" t-shirt from Fr Rohr's Center for Action and Contemplation a lot (such as to Bible study with the Baptists who disapprove on yoga.) I envision the church I find or am found by my last--more on that.
One evening the second week I was back in Illinois I went to bed particularly content after spending the evening with high school mate Connie and her good buddy Linda. Time slowed as we ate in my interim kitchen, then chatted the rest of the evening. I'm enjoying these grounded women who "stayed home". From the porch where we waved away bugs, cicadas called, end of summer lightning bugs flashed. For this I uprooted.
Both women attend their childhood churches; know who they are. They're not seekers. They can't imagine why anyone would be visiting churches like I am. (Just change your old one Connie suggested.) The folks who stayed put are profoundly different from my experience Out West, where acquaintances didn't "do" religion, answer phones or worry about thank yous. Nor are these hometown folks seekers within their own religions. They rolled their eyes when I mentioned attending a "Prophets" seminar this summer and hooted, "Profits!" I could read their minds--why in the world would anyone go out of town to listen to some priest or nun talk! They already have all they need.
Food for the soul, as I drifted off to sleep, full from easy company.
I'm missing yoga and meditation and having a church home here in west central Illinois. (For the record, we're hundreds of miles from Chicago.) The project of finding a church home is underway--not obvious where I'm going to end up, likely to take awhile. What will sustain me, surprise me? Where will I feel accepted, useful? I envy people who drive into a town, or walk into a church and know it to be home. That wouldn't be me. I've probably visited/stopped by 10 churches, some briefly, several for repeat visits. Small town, not a sea of choices; still it's enough to keep my monkey mind busy--music, community, pastor? I seem to be looking for a healthy church like I came from, where people wanted to be there, where there was no way to get a seat in the packed front section. Except for a couple of fundamentalist leaning churches (not unlike my beloved, though uneasy Idaho church home) or the catholic mass, what I've come upon is a few white heads scattered around a huge old church with beautiful stained glass, with a frustrated, round, middle-aged fellow trying to keep things alive without rocking the boat.
I think of how the newly hired, retirement aged new thought minister in Boise said he was loving his way through the challenges of a 50 some year old church and its congregation. 8 years later he announced his (2nd) retirement; the congregation was slightly bigger, a church move on the horizon. After a year or so of the minister loving his way along I moved on, frustrated, to a church that had started from scratch, with less feelings that could be hurt, fewer benefactors to offend. Sometimes I'd go away bent outa shape after cracks about new agers and gays, but I couldn't stay away long because I sensed something right that I'd never experienced in any group. I loved the way staff was willing to change, knew God was in charge of everything from finances on, walked that talk, not inflicting doubt on the congregation. The music touched my heart; I endured no kids stories, litanies of woes and praises from the congregation, or ceaseless demands for money. Announcements were succinct and the practical message affirmed, inspired and challenged. My new church made several expansions with a minimum of pleading for funds. Eventually I found my home and got to know people in the food bank garden. For something like six years I watched a 10 year church plant grow cautiously, learn, mature and blossom. I love to talk about the church I found by asking where there was a lot of singing. When I knew I'd be moving I vowed to try not to be one of those folks who says "back in blah blah, we did it like this...".
Neither the slow moving older church nor the higher energy young church is better, of course--it's all in what one makes of things, though they can seem rather different. For a season, I chose to journey, support and eventually join the church with younger roots, that seemed to take the winds of change more easily, sniff the breezes for needs and address them quickly. Ironically it's moral root/teaching was old fashioned, "conservative" bible teachings (taught with love) which I seemed to crave in these turbulent moral times, rather than the more open ended, contemporary teachings of the older church. Truth doesn't change, but it sure can be taught differently. Learned to hold my nose as needed and pray for the pastors to know the Truth. Had to shake my head when the senior pastor remarked he'd never heard anyone in the congregation dismiss another church in the body of Christ. Bless him. Hear no evil. By the time I left, the E world--environment--was being used regularly, along with symbiosis and soil. Amazing. (I was still waiting for the M word, Meditation, to be accepted, and the H/ homophobic digs to disappear.)
And yet, having been socially and verbally abused by leaders and congregation of my beloved Jesus movement church (had I chosen to look at it that way, which I obviously did on occasion) for teaching yoga, practicing Christian meditation ("it's a cult", I was warned) and facilitating buddhist meditation in prison (won't even go there), I hesitate to join another church whose leadership cart blanche believes "liberals" and philosophies like yoga are satanic. Been there, done that. Leadership is still human even when outstanding. Even under authority, I heard the higher truth when it was only faint. Finding excellent, mature leadership was such a novelty and pleasure I stayed put. Know a good thing when I find it, even if it took growth and maturity on my part--hallelujah!
Prefer my leaders loving and wise, short on judgment, a combination I've haven't found often. Prefer not to endure quips about liberals, fundamentalists or new agers; democrats or republicans; pro- or anti-life; men or women; race or religion. Once I open my mouth, I'm sure to be on someone's list, what with being child free and all my quirks. I figure if I bounce back to a church that accepts me and my yoga-meditation interests, I'm likely to hear cracks about my old buddies, the fundamentalists! Something of a no win situation, since there's no new thought church near in which to hide. On and on, I list, wanting it all--community, music, purpose and inspiration. Ha!
Even if there are only christian churches around my new/old home, I still have a foot in both christian and nonchristian worlds. (Too many minds?) Today I saw on the internet that the unitarians in neighboring Springfield host a zen meditation group. Sitting and walking meditation hold such appeal (though they surely didn't make for community in Idaho). Sounds insane to drive 30 miles to sit still, but I can't think of anything more important than sitting (not driving). I'm an evangelist for meditation. Lately I've not heeded my own counsel, so off I go Saturday for a zen day in Springfield. Buddhist, pagan and christian are just labels, like UCC, presbyterian, baptist and catholic. But no, with the exception of a few buddhist, christian and other masters, like the asian inmate with one mind, or Thomas Merton, each time I meet a label I learn that one's best and other's aren't right. Can't stand it! Lord have mercy! Don't wanna label, but want the community that can come with it!!
I'll likely be adopting yet another new church label/identity one of these days. Is it too late to become catholic, though I don't think I is one? Pretty sure I'm not episcopalian, baptist or Missouri synod lutheran, yet I'm awfully fond of their members! Methodist or presbyterian has never felt like me--but this time I'm back where I started, is it different? Could UCC outlive me? Stay tuned! Fortunately I've learned good enough can be perfectly good.
Practice is what counts, Hindu spiritualist Gandhi's "My life is my message", folks. Until then, we ougta keep clam, as Seattle's Ivar of clam fame says! Meanwhile, I'll keep my heart open, wisdom antenna up, and do my best to keep clam and listen up!
Summer 2006 - Saying goodbye
Lord Have Mercy!
Should I survive, perhaps Ripleys would be interested in listing the World's Slowest Mover. I've thought about this Midwest move for years. Publicly committed, as the evangelists might put it, to moving last winter. Realized it would happen in stages. Lo, it's the end of July and I'm down to the last week of sorting and packing. (Fixing and cleaning isn't even on the map, though I carry around the broken bottom lock for the right french door, just in case I can find a replacement.) The pressing job is to empty the house. Lord have Mercy! If I were really saved, would Jesus do the packing? On the other hand, without faith I wouldn't have been able to take on this move, even make the decision. However, just praying and staring at a life time of stuff doesn't seem to get the job done! Beloved child of god, Move Thy Feet!
Last week I said goodbye to the 10am yoga class I've had since the fitness center opened in 1999. We worked slowly and deeply on our backs, doing the tie series as I call it--what I needed to do to relax. Perfect goodbye. Afterwards several of us exchanged addresses. My job is to let go, know that the perfect teacher awaits them, though I don't know who it is. I've given them all I could. I've always found teachers in unexpected places.
Friday night I said goodbye to the felons, the light of my life! (see prison page)
Everyday is filled with goodbyes--a favorite restaurant or friend; old boxes of articles. Kate helped tape boxes and left a fine feng shui gift that will remind me of her. What an amazing, balanced woman; we've crossed paths twice in the past 2 decades. Caryl and I lunched at Zen Bento (a hard place to leave); she's been an excellent yoga friend, welcoming me to workshops where she was the only face I recognized.
In the final hour I met a wide awake fellow at church, who talks religion, who hails from near St Louis, nat. We both carry little black and white notebooks. He introduced me to his favorite restaurant just down the street from the home I'm packing up. Never been there.
A few weeks ago, walking in Garden City with neighbor Gary, ran into early Boise acquaintance Eileen. We've had an unfinished relationship. Felt right to reconnect and take a late night walk on our own a few nights later. I like wrapping up things. Weird, perhaps. Not saying goodbye is a hard one for me. Unless, I suppose, it's my choice! Which it is with an old relationship that goes all the way back to the coast, but just isn't all that comfortable.
More often than not this summer I feel on the unsteady edge of mental health, forgetting who's really in charge, full of worries about the move, and dark thoughts about my addiction to things of the world that weigh me down during what feels like this year of judgment. Thus the mantra Lord Have Mercy has been bubbling up often. Don't know if I've ever been this deeply depressed about myself, what with all my past strewn out on the floor. Maybe. Maybe not. Yet another Dark Night of the soul--why stuff is so important to me.
Richard Rohr's Enneagram book is helping me understand what that challenge is about. Ahh--books and food comfort.
Perhaps not surprisingly, I seem to be a magnet for other neurotic folks these days. One of my dear confused friends keeps phoning; I end up taking on some of her confusion, incapable of being patient with her needs while I feel so desperate myself. Another woman I just met started to tell me her problems and I cut her off with an I gotta pack now! Then she grasped, "Give me something you're gonna give away!" Dream on--I'm gonna drive across town with some trinket! Not likely! Patience and boundaries in my face. I feel like people are messing with me every time they say I don't have to go. Wrong! I'm a desperate woman on Midwest Mission. Gotta go. Be helpful or outa my way!
Then someone says the right thing at the right time, or best of all, lets me be, and I breathe a little better.
Buddhism teaches others are more important. I struggle with this, although I'm sleeping remarkably well. I'm desperate, busy, sorting, hauling, lifting, moving. Dr A picked up my anxiety on my last appointment, putting me on a blood pressure remedy. Thank you! Should I survive, I'll probably fall asleep in relief at the first rest stop out of Boise! In some ways I'm so focused on this getting everything out of the house phase of the move, I don't care that I don't have a definitely home when I get to Illinois.
One of the best things to come from this final packing during this record breaking heat wave is that about dark I burst out of the house, to walk along the Hill Road canal. I'm pretty much inside with the air conditioning on all day so I'm unusually keen about this walk. Desperate, would be the truth. It's still hot out, but do-able. I listen to scurrying and rustling along the canal. The other evening nearby owls called and clacked. (Alas the walk got squeezed out the last few days.)
Another less serious light side of the move is the need to use all the frozen fruit in the freezer. Learned how to make a great berry soda with Blue Bunny vanilla ice cream, soda water and the Braun mixer.
Keep calling Uhaul, shifting the trailer rental date. Worked with Dan to put on the trailer hitch.
Spring 2006 - Is it really true?
Wrestling with entitlement and grace
Been chewing on "entitlement" ever since it was brought up in a discussion on community at Breitenbush last winter. If I heard correctly, the context was in regard to the challenge of senior community founders (of the '70s) interfacing with the contemporary community/younger generation's sense of entitlement. Over time pay? Unheard of by founders. Paid vacations? Health insurance? Etc. I was fascinated by the dialog. How I wanted to side with the old duffers against the young up starts! But the "old duffers" (younger than me), were patiently considering these demands and entitlements, while my mind had dismissed them out of hand! In good Buddhist style, I observed myself--how I fight change, cling to cherished, outdated beliefs! Eek! Indeed I do.
Seems like, in 3 generations, many of us have swung from knowing we don't deserve anything unless we work hard, to feeling entitled to it all. My folks believed education and work were the way to the American dream of home with family car. It worked--my father worked himself to an early death, leaving mom financially comfortable, 2 homes paid for. From my point of view, that's what it looked like. Of course there are other ways to look at it. A few decades later, (some of) my parents' generation grandchildren believe they should be given everything. I'm the confused link in between. Thoughts came to a head again recently as I watched Troop 1500 video--a mom in prison asked why she should work for $280/week when she could make that in an instant selling drugs.
This spring I met a hard working young woman who bought a house when she was 20. I was stunned a few years back when friends my age helped their just out of college aged son buy a house in an upscale economy. Another younger friend's son's military job is so lucrative he was able to buy a new truck (and immediately wreck it). "He can afford it" (a new truck), dad commented. Long, long ago I remember when Molly said she deserved sex because she'd lost weight. Even then I wonder what the connection was. And then, of course, there is the issue of immigration. Folks demanding to live in America. What if I demanded Parisian citizenship and subsidized housing--understand it's spendy? I don't think so! Or Australian, or Swiss citizenship. I doubt if an application from an old lady would be snapped up. (After all, I'm struggling to get a post office box in my old home town in Illinois. How successful would I be if I went down to Mexico, demanding citizenship and the right to own beach front property?) Another friend wonders how his young son thinks he's going to buy a car (or live in his own place), when he just quit his job. Will dad give it to him?
Res ipsa loquotor. It goes without saying? Is anything wrong with these pictures?
"I'm an American. I need ______ (fill in blank--houses; X number of spouses and children; cars, boats; world travel; recreational drugs, prescription drugs; face lifts, hair transplants; free health care; government subsidies.) And I need them now. I also need to live forever.
Is it really true??? spiritual teacher Byron Katie asks us to ask ourselves.
"Seems like everyone's moving here or there these days", I commented to a wise friend in Seattle. "Baby boomers are the first generation with the affluence to move all over", she quickly responded to the koan I'd been puzzling over.
I bought my first house a few years ago, a few years before I was 60. (Granted, that's statistically aberrant, a throw away.) If family money hadn't come in shortly afterwards, I wonder how I'd have kept making payments and afforded maintenance and repairs. How do people do it!
Is it all about job skills? Being able to make the big bucks? Looking good for the interview--dressing professionally, dying hair, as one friend told me she did before an interview. Is it who you know? Playing games? Inheriting property or cash? Is it all about Jesus?
I like to say grace allows me to own a house and retire early, out and out volunteer rather than look for work, something I never got the hang of. Would I have been a "better" person, sleep better, be kinder, if I'd been forced to deal with the challenge of making money longer? Keep searching for that passion that supports me with ease? With great difficulty I've earned money (having passed on the option of marrying for financial reasons). For me, it's easier to manage well than earn.
Recently I blurted out, in woman's group, "Is more money really the answer to all these big questions we keep coming back to? To kids not having parents, folks not having homes, to starvation in Africa, the war in Iraq, social justice issues all over the world? Immigration? To cancer, menopause, the stem cell debate and health care? To divorce, loneliness, single parenting? To stress?
Have we taken the Biblical promise of being provided for literally, to the extreme of opening arms to receive, exchanging nothing? (No, no, not a Biblical debate.) Can we expect to have all we want handed to us on a platter, no strings attached? I surely don't know. It looks like that happens, but I've been reading Gloria Vanderbilt this winter; inclined to think there are always lessons, strings to life, no matter what it looks like. Actions and results. Life--a do it yourself project. With or without an official belief system or philosophy of faith.
I vividly recall when Rev Kathianne's announced her prayer for the new year was to be open to good without struggle. Effortless good. Sounded good. Change her belief that life's a struggle. I'm still trying to fit that with today's material world.
The closer I look at spiritual teachings about our thinking, the more uncertain the ground on which I stand. I thought I knew right from wrong. Byron Katie's "Do you really know that is true?" rattles in my head? I returned to church because my life wasn't working. Maybe to get help and support reclaiming old fashioned thinking. I found relief coming back to black and white, yes and no, the thou shalt not steal, covet, lie, kill, as it were. Lessons on what works and why. What doesn't.
Last weekend Gary Anderson brought his one man play about the life of Clarence Darrow to Boise. Felt called to revisit Inherit the Wind/the Scopes Monkey trial in light of issues coming full circle. I read and listen to life through several filters. One being: would faith have made a difference? I study what makes us tick. Although Darrow bashed organized religion, he seemed to have that old fashioned quality that fascinated me that I want to call moral fiber. I went away hearing the message I needed to-- Do Good, Make a Difference.
Now where does that come from? Is it in our bones, or hearts, our parents? And, where does it go?
Spring 2006 - Transitions
"Difficult people make the best teachers", Sally Kempton wrote in a recent Yoga Journal. After the events of the last few weeks I can only respond with a hearty Amen! No kidding!
Friday night at prison during meditation my mind has time to observe patterns in the parade of frustrations from the last weeks--difficult people includes myself, of course. My lay practice of tonglen breathing meditation has helped save my sanity this winter.
I look for bottom lines, themes, then breathe out antidotes to these irritations.
"Dismissed" was one theme. I snort about not being heard. For months I've mentioned I'm moving only to hear, "You didn't tell me you were moving". How can you not hear the major thing in my life!
Following a chat, I was sure I'd found the perfect article for a fellow meditator. My offer to share was quickly dismissed with an "I'll pass". The lovely T-shirt had been snapped up! My tongue is bitten deep.
Failure to communicate, another theme. Offered the wood pile by the garden to a buddy; came home a few weeks later, found him loading it. Then later heard a ruckus by the side of the house. My friend had gone ahead and helped himself to the wood pile by the house. Not only that, he dug up the garden beds 2 months after I asked, after I'd planted peas and the arugala was up! Wanted to scream and pull out my hair. What's happening! And, while I'm on a roll, Why can't people be straightforward! If you'd rather walk dogs than meditate, just say so!
"Thanks for the calories", an acquaintance I'd braced myself to visit, said sarcastically, without looking at what I'd brought her. (I confess I didn't try to explain.) She phoned to apologize the next day. "Too bad you changed your email address", another terror in my life snapped, "Didn't get your email in time". Didn't loose energy replying; I haven't changed my address.
Then there's me--asking Mike to explain tonglen, then butting in on him! Ach!
Not to mention years of frustration over book club personalities. Not even going there!
So I breathe in frustration, out peace. In anxiety, out peace. In fear and uncertainty, out love. In anger, out patience. In unskillful behavior, out acceptance. In judgment, out patience. In impatience, out peace.
As I was reading on the step machine at the gym, I was stopped in my tracks--ha ha--by an article on patience by Eknath Easwaran. So struck by its truth I read aloud the first few paragraphs to a yoga class last week, so I could hear it again. "Patience is the ornament of the strong!" ...the power of patience, the power Gandhi harnessed in leading India to political independence without violence.
Recently senior pastor said he keeps remembering the experiment where frogs stay in hot water 'til they die when the water temperature's raised slowly. (Rather than jumping out like they would if they suddenly fell in hot water). The story clicked. Each week it seems traffic's heavier and ruder; folks hurry faster and faster. Twice last week oncoming traffic turned into my lane. First time, swerved into a pawnshop lot to avoid the young girl turning into me. The split second after I turned left at a stop sign a car sailed through without stopping.
Most folks aren't phased by what I perceive as changes. I'm a frog who doesn't quite know where to hop, only that she's gotta hop out of Boise before it comes to a full boil. Retreating, outa here. Soon. Each week I sort and sift through life, sneezing, organizing, discovering, deciding, coaxing. Round 1. How do I feel about this? Can/should I live without it, yes or no? Or, as Marcy tells in her Mary Harding perfect death story: would I want someone to find this after I die?
Indeed wonderful teachers, both difficult and perfect. Recently an elder stepped forward to make a suggestion in our Wed. meditation group. Since we're all pretty much under authority in that group, we listened and implemented his wisdom immediately. In my experience it was a rare moment. I don't remember the last time an elder spoke up and shared wisdom in an appropriate and helpful way; I was stopped in my tracks. This is the way it should be I thought, groups not always recreating the wheel, hearing from those who've successfully been there, done that.
More common is my experience, meeting monthly with grannies downtown in the lounge, surrounded by baby books, videos and posters for new moms. I'm grateful to this church based women's spiritual group (the only one who's kept me on the email list--I've invited myself to several over the years.) We read Joan Chittister, then all talk at once about the problems in the world. What's wrong with this picture?
The Perfect Weekend - Sacred Finales
Last winter I put a Saturday morning Sacred Art of Living and Dying seminar on the calendar for Palm Sunday weekend. The title called. Little did I know Adult Catholic Education of Treasure Valley was bringing one of the leaders of the Anamcara hospice movement (based in Bend OR, I learned) to Boise. A morning with Richard Groves was enough to rekindle my spiritual fires. What a huge, huge, blessing. Floated out with the best Christmas present possible.
That Sunday our Celebration Choir sang with Cherie Buckner and Niki Haris, a second extraordinary Boise blessing. First the Celtic blessing of Richard Groves "Bas shona" (May you have a happy death!), now the blessing of Cherie's presence. Whoever wudda believed my stay in Boise would be the opportunity to sing gospel! Dug out my handkerchief as Niki Haris spoke about the One God (of all religions) and God as a woman--oh the Idaho heresy of it! I let out an audible Amen!, then thought--A-what! Blew nose, wiped tears! Turns out Niki's with Michael Beckwith's Agape Church. So good to hear New Thought again; adapted as I am, I'm still starved here. Gospel Sunday, what a perfect good bye to the blessing of gospel music in Boise.
Sense things are wrapping up (as well as heating up) in Boise. Blessing after blessing, sends me on my way. How can I leave? I just happen to know that every time I move, this kind of thing happens. I don't take them as signs to stay (though maybe I should). I experience them as perfect closings, warm good byes, blessings. In every other way however I'm desperate to uproot, though I have little idea what's next. Our neighborhood is suddenly full of for sale signs, like a lake "turning over" for the season. Meanwhile storm after storm rolls across the west, the nation. A second tornado hit Morgan County, my retreat destination. I don't care! I wanna go home.
May you live in interesting times (Chinese curse)
I've taken to stopping by Chan's at closing, on the way in from prison Friday nights, with 2 McChicken sandwiches for him, and a bag of french fries to share. He lights his new candle collection on his musical altar, and plays his latest musical treasure on his awesome stereo. He's turned me onto the music of Arvo Pärt. Although we often have widely different preferences in music (mine being extremely narrow in scope), it turns out we both absolutely love Pärt's "Alina". Feel like I can give away the rest of my CDs (though of course I won't). I've never seen the inscrutable Chan blurt out repeatedly, "I just love this, I love this! I've looked for the composer for years!" (He hadn't ask me to get on the wonder web.) Then I come home and read a few chapters from Gloria Vanderbilt's life!
Uhh... Blessed Be!
Recently at church, sitting in back, unable to see the pastor because I was in line with a pillar, realized how "far" I'd come. As a newcomer I'd sat toward the back of church careful not to be behind a pole. Then I went through a season where I tried to squeeze up front between regulars to see and hear better. I liked being near the musicians, seeing the pastors' expressions and observing those who listened right under the pastor's nose. Still, I never really met anyone to regularly greet and competition for seats upfront was fierce; always felt like an intruder on pre-existing claims. Got tired of being run off from long rows of seats "saved" just in case family and friends showed up, which I observed they often did not. Prime real estate empty where I'd tried to sit! Eventually I gave up and sat randomly around the room. When a line of folks I'd met through the garden folks hailed me to join them one Sunday, felt I'd finally found home. After 5 years! Usually I'm saved a place, well inside the long row, but I don't mind. At last I greet and am greeted warmly.
I don't even mind sitting in line with the pole so I have to use one of the two screens on either side of the wide room, that originally projected song lyrics, to watch whoever's speaking. Shift happens.
I've come full circle. From sitting in back watching the whole church, to sitting in back with buddies. I still listen, like a hawk. Only when a pastor kicks into evangelical berating, does my mind take off and my eyes roll. Not very often.
Since I yammer and rave about church so much, folks who won't be in one 'til their own funeral, and maybe not then, like to allude to my church friends. I let the comment go. Yup, I'll miss church, lock, stock and barrel. This church adventure must have been the reason I landed in Boise. What a grand, interesting, healing adventure it's been. But as for hosts of folks wondering where I am some Sunday, I don't think so.
Re-rooting and Closing
Where am I going with this?
Last fall it became crystal clear that (right or wrong) rather than advancing westward ho, I needed to re-treat, return to the midwest, move back to Illinois roots. Not my idea, I insisted, must be a divine nudge that had to become a push as I entered the final stage of my life. (Deep gratitude for the practical, no nonsense Buddhist teachings on the inevitable cycle of life and death.) I've apologized for being a midwesterner all my life. I'm not an Idahoan and do not want to die here. Nooo. Written that before.
Time to uproot these shallow but wide shallow western roots. Gulp.
I've wrestled with the midwest since mom's memorial March 2004. Once it was obvious change was in order (like it or not) I began to share the idea with out of state friends, where I've had support longest. I know well one is wise to be careful with dreams and plans.
The idea of the move consumes me. I wake up worrying and planning. It's what's on my plate; I'm obsessed, but have written little except in my head--so big! I'm frequently overwhelmed, beyond words. Who can I mention it to?? I've shared with one neighbor, meditation group/christian version.
I want to model openness, but know sharing what's close to one's heart is often risky. I'm careful to share unless I'm prepared for comments like, "Why would you wanna do that [move]!"
Timing is important. Since the new year, I've inwardly thought of all I do in terms of closings and good byes. Since the few groups I'm involved with here don't tend to get too personal--conversations always tend to be about movies and tv--I listen for appropriate openings.
In February I figured book club would be meeting at my home for the last time. When no opportunity arose to mention the move, I blurted it out. Conversation changed completely; felt we had some of the best discussion in a long while.
Already one yoga class is looking for another instructor. I know from my sentimental, reflective nature, I'll miss yoga classes and church far, far more than I'll be missed. Time to call on that independence that has moved me so many times. And all the physical and mental strength I can gather.
Vicky Penwell's Proverbs 31 address to church women in February was a perfect closing with women I began meeting at informal outdoor evenings under the grape arbor, when I first came to the vineyard. I'd never known women like these! Vicki's call to feminism, essentially from the view of a "third world" midwife missionary, was the most compelling, balanced, I've ever heard. How I love these women who walk their talk without judging others. And those who've judged me on Jesus' behalf, found me unacceptable to serve in the church ministry to incarcerated, prayed for me for teaching yoga, called Fr Laurence's meditation a cult? Bless their fearful hearts! What excellent practice loving those who are tough to love!
The gifts and healing I take won't weigh a thing.
Speaking of the incarcerated, at some point I need to say good bye to being a prison volunteer, to guards and chapel in house employees, and the men who are still around who have come to the Friday nights Buddhist time slot. I'm extremely fond of staff and the men in blue I've gotten to know as I pass through the gates. I've prayed and racked my brain to know how to make the most of the opportunity to share Buddhist teachings, to serve by visiting the incarcerated. Medium security population feels more unstable than ever; transfers regularly move men state to state, keeping them uncertain, more on edge than ever. I'd love to leave Boise knowing class will continue, but that doesn't seem possible. Outside of the devout Asian, there's no strong in house teacher. At this time no one even owns the Plum Village Chant and Recitation book that has served as a basic text for a number of years. Interest is erratic. Luckily spiritual teachings are right there to help me know I've done what I can; the rest is in God's or Buddha's hands. I've loved the men, been fed by their honesty and reaped that harvest. I'm keen to connect with administration at the local prison in Illinois about volunteering. It's my fervent prayer to share yoga some day.
Maybe it's a good thing to say good-bye to the outrageous, multi-faith style I've developed in Boise! The search for a tranquil mind has led me to study and practice meditation wherever it's available each week--prison-zen-yoga-christian! I'm certain I want a clear, relaxed mind. Any opportunity to practice paying attention to body, breath and mind calls.
One recent Friday evening I gave up going into prison in lieu of pot lucking with visiting Zen teacher Leslie James. As I hoped, a circle formed and Leslie began talking about issues of zen in American from her view as an elder, if not, the elder, at the San Francisco Zen Center--to be or not to be a priest; to take or not to take the precepts; to be a resident or not. I was fascinated by her wisdom, balance and depth of view and study. The evening felt like a perfect good-bye to the buddhist study group folks I've whined about since I got to Boise. I don't even know that there will ever be an opportunity to mention I'm moving. Not that kind of group. I'll be listening for one.
The next morning I sat with perhaps a dozen through Leslie's thoughts on what taking precepts can mean. Then I dashed up the hill, eating left over Albertsons pot roast, for a 3 hour class on shoulders with fellow Bay Area yoga teacher Judith Lasater. I always enjoy Judith's lively teaching, even when my ego doesn't. I feel more educated on shoulder safety, and most of our shoulders got the workout of their lives.
Back to the dojo to catch the last of Leslie's closing remarks. The day ended with fish soup at Chan's, worship music at Calvary Chapel, hot tub and bed, bed, bed, thank you, Beloved!
It's wonderful both Leslie and Judith teach in Boise. I may never study with either again. California will be much further from the midwest, no longer a neighboring state. On the other hand, if I do return to workshops with either--could be Boise I suppose--it will be a huge treat. If I need a refresher from Judith--she regularly teaches in Ohio (as well as other places I'm fond of)--I can find my way to new places. Something tells me this next life ahead could be rather different.
The morning following overlapping zen and yoga workshops, back in the world of Christians, at the podium Tri bravely brought up global warming. He shared that he can't help being reminded of the story of how frogs stays in water as it's heated slowly, and die. It might take thick skin to wanna be a Buddhist in semi Christian Boise, but I think it's absolutely heroic to mention global warming and the dirty little green E word, "environment", at a major evangelical church in Boise. Now that's an old testament warrior! I don't even like mentioning the C word (church or christian) in Buddhist circles!
Why do I wonder why I collapsed Monday night, sick, and spent much of the rest of the week sleeping!! I passionately believe in freedom of religion, but it wipes me out taking advantage of it sometimes! Probably traveled the emotional equivalent of several continents last weekend, all with mind open, mouth closed! Gotta write my way back to health and balance!
Back to the large projector screens either side of stage at church. Several years ago, after visiting an uncomfortably slick Vineyard church in Colorado, I wrote a rare email to the Boise church saying how grateful I was that the Boise church just uses simple black and white words to project words for songs. I expressed the hope we'd never have to read lyrics on fancy distracting backgrounds. Famous last words.
Some months back our screens moved into megachurch kingdom. What looks like an iceberg from the March of the Penguins is the background for song lyrics on the screen. Like other progress, fancy lights in the new hall, ornate bathrooms, I denied and ignored what was happening. (Who's the frog?) The way I look at it, I pay for these frills and don't like it. Cinderblocks are good enough for me! Of course, I understand how important it is to keep the sound bite programmed American brain from drifting to porn or teevee. (Do I sound like columnist Weekly Bill Cope?) However, having just read yet another article on the ills of multi-tasking on the heels of having taken to bed sick, I recognized how severely over stimulated I am, including visually, at my beloved church. Still celebrating the stunning February talk Tri gave on simplicity, I'm deeply disappointed to see my church move into complexity in the name of serving God's addicted children. Huh uh. Pushing caffeine and pizza is bad enough--have I mentioned that?--no, I've been quiet for years.
Maybe I'll end up on wooden benches with Quakers or Christian Scientists yet! Competition evangelization pays a subtle, unhealthy price.
Billboard sized signs only an idiot could miss--time to move on, Jeannie. Last fall Tri stunned me when he talked about clearing out the clutter as though one's moving. I sat on the edge of the seat. This winter he's spoken on both moving on, and simplifying lives. Thank you God for keeping all the tools I need fresh in mind. Before vineyard boise seems any more passive aggressive, I'd better be on my way. I'll always love this church that sings simple words (once on simple backgrounds), in the people's key. Like, "Let My Words Be Few"--we haven't sung it for months!
Bumped into another old timer in the bookstore today where I was inquiring about a "new" song I'd really liked, "Holy, Holy, Holy" (a contemporary version). Its melody sustained me several gray weeks, until it drifted from mind. We're onto new words and melodies, at the rate of a new song or 2 introduced week after week. "What happened to the one about breaking chains", Ken said. I immediately knew the one he meant. "Break these chains and set me free", I said, making fists and the breaking gesture I can resist with that line. "I love that one too", I nearly cried. Ken doesn't complain like I do--no one complains--but he misses songs too. I'm an elder in a short attention span, youth oriented world. Time to leave the Church of Looking Good and go home, back to "Fairest Lord Jesus". (Won't I be surprised!)
Mike Freeman gave the Sermon of the Mount today in street language, using terms like Academy Awards, 20/20 vision and Shop 'til they drop. I'm slipping away. Thank you God for loosening my grip on the Vineyard. It's painful, but I understand. Yes, yes, time to go. Shift happens.
Boise's moving way, way, way too fast for me, for health and balance. One February Tuesday I read headlines about 2 snowmobile deaths and 2 murder sentences. Husband and wife collided with each other on snowmobiles; one died. The young man who'd killed a roommate was sentenced to something like a dozen years; the other, who appeared Afro American, was given decades in prison. I shook my head. Someone's crazy. Since it's not "them", it must be me. Gotta go.
If I relocate to a population 1/10 the size of Boise, will there be 1/10 the problems? Web headlines on Illinois oldest continuously published newspaper tell me it's unlikely. I'll enjoy visiting the variety of small churches folks I'm connecting with attend, searching for an agreeable choir or pastor. One never knows where one will be touched, called. It'll be rich exploring a smaller community, ricketier buildings and roads, much older communities.
He leadeth me to green pastures
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