Friday, April 24, 2009

Calm down

When thoughts spin out of control, there's relief in turning to the inner observer, the Self inside that's removed from the outer world and quiets us down if only we allow it room in our lives. This Self is easily available in the middle of the night when I wake up, as I often do, but only if I've established the habit of going to it during the day.

I hope every reader establishes a schedule of spending quiet time with this wiser Self. How and when you spend the time is up to you. A mantra doesn't work for me. I've tried dozens of formulas for quieting my thoughts and always come back to realizing that I have my own way of doing it. For me it's usually reading—not just anything for escape but inspirational words—and I continue to read until something leaps out, grabs me and tugs me into the quiet zone.

Every individual has to find her own way—some in exercise, some in church, some in music, some in transcendental meditation, some in traditional prayer—but find it we must to successfully manage the ordinary and extraordinary problems every path encounters.

The wiser Self will guide us in decisions and even relatively unimportant choices, like where to buy the milk. It’s always there nudging us but we have to pay attention. We have to keep the line open so its guidance can get through to the busy ego dealing with each day’s chaos.

The less time we have, the more critical is our need to spare time for quiet time.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dogs, literalism & synchronicity

I’m speaking to a high school class this afternoon, and fortuitously—I’ll say it was synchronistic (Click on paranormal posts to read about synchronicity)—someone sent me this wonderfully comic debate on the marquees of two churches facing each other on a busy street in Colorado. It’s a perfect illustration of religious literalism. I’ll see if the high school students get it.

All dogs go to heaven

Only humans go to heaven Read the Bible

God loves all his creation Dogs included

Dogs don’t have souls This is not open for debate

Catholic dogs go to heaven Presbyterian dogs can talk to their pastor

Converting to Catholicism does not magically grant your dog a soul

Free dog souls with conversion

Dogs are animals There aren’t any rocks in heaven either

All rocks go to heaven

Dogs & literalism

I was happy to see that the Catholic one showed a whimsical appreciation of literalism and had fun with it—dogs and rocks go to heaven. One email responder, a fully alive Catholic, wrote, " . . .but no cats enter the pearly gates!"
They do TOO.
See comments below.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Holy Mother

Although the symbol of Christ is withering in power, it is still the most evocative myth of Western culture.”
God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky

There’s no doubt that Jesus Christ still serves as the dominant sacred symbol for Americans. Mohammed and the Buddha lag far behind. Before technological progress brought foreign cultures to us, the only mental frame conceivable—the Spirit world “everybody” imagined—had a Garden of Eden, Jesus, Mary, & Joseph, the cross, heaven and hell, Resurrection, Trinity, and an end of the world with Second Coming. These filled the Western mind and satisfied most people spiritually for many centuries.

With the coming of pluralism comes the realization that one exclusive image for the holy mystery beyond human comprehension amounts to idolatry. The only way to avoid it is to mix the images. To that end, I provoke you with alternatives here.

• The god Attis died on March 22 and rose on March 25. Observance of his dying and rising, like Christian rites, included overnight vigils and singing of hymns. A church historian noted that pagans accused Christians of plagiarism.

• Sister Elizabeth Johnson, a Catholic nun, wrote a book entitled She Who Is, a book cited in my God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky.

• Like Christ, the goddess Persephone rises from the dead at this time of year and renews the earth. She figures in the mother/daughter myth that preceded the father/son myth of Christianity—another image, another time.

• You are invited to relax into the lap of Mother Earth as She refreshes Herself in this springtime of burgeoning growth.

Our Mother

Our Mother who art within us,
Each breath brings us to you.
Thy wisdom come,
Thy will be done,
as we honor your presence within us.
You give us this day all that we need.
Your bounty calls us to give and receive
all that is loving and pleasurable.
You are the courage that moves us to be true to ourselves
and we act with grace and power.
We relax into your cycles of birth,
growth, death and renewal.
Out of the womb, the darkness, the void, comes new life.
For you are the Mother of All Things.
Your body is the Sacred Earth and our bodies.
Your love nurtures us and unites us all.
Now and forever more.
Dale Allen Productions

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Taming testosterone

Since the emergence of agrarian societies—the shift from hoe to plow—we have seen “the single, great, enduring, and nightmarish task of subsequent civilization: the taming of testosterone. Fuck it or kill it . . .”
Ken Wilber

One of my volunteer activities is helping to plan an annual Gather The Women program. This event is local, but GTW is international, with members working at the UN and in other countries to enlarge awareness of what are called women’s issues and are essentially human rights issues.

In the words of Marilyn Nyborg, whom I call the mother of GTW,
We gather women together for the opportunity to connect and support one another, to inspire and be inspired. . . We invite women to bond in sisterhood, to end competition and mistrust. We invite women to create a new model of feminine leadership that will bring our gifts to the world in full partnership with men and not hiding behind a man’s way of doing business.
Our St. Cloud area event takes place at St. Ben’s. The prioress or another representative from St. Benedict’s Monastery welcomes participants—Somalis, Sudanese, Ethiopians and other Africans, Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and, of course, the European Americans who still comprise the majority. We encourage this mix of ethnic groups to interact with each other.

This year and other years, the program has begun with a Native American sage blessing. Our gathering used to take place in Sacred Heart Chapel, and spiritual uplift has always been one of its main, if not the main, purpose. But when we learned that some Somali women think (incorrectly) that they are forbidden to go into a Christian church, one of the sisters suggested having GTW in the college Gorecki Conference Center, and that’s where we now meet. I mention this as one of the ways the sisters extend warm hospitality to people of differing beliefs.

Women are different, a fact that was not appreciated by the women’s movement in the 1960s. Emotionally and even, I think, physically, women yearn more for connection with others. Many years ago I was struck by reading an observation that may explain women’s yearning for relationship, and I cited it in my essay “Taming Testosterone” for the anthology The Rule of Mars: Readings on the Origins, History and Impact of Patriarchy. Only women experience the biological activity of taking other into self. This happens during childbirth and the sex act.

The feminine impulse of reaching out to others makes them good at giving care and listening to others—to kids, to spouse, to parents, to friends in distress, to children and adults in need. It may help to explain why women in large numbers work for peace groups, for environmental groups, for humanitarian agencies.

I heard Cokie Roberts say to Scott Simon on NPR that women in politics ARE making a difference and not just entering the world of men in a man’s way. She said, for instance, that political women work more with people across the aisle. This brings to mind Maine’s Republican senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, two of only three Republican senators voting for the Democratic president’s agenda.

It also leads to conclusions I derived from Carol Gilligan’s book In a Different Voice and expressed in my essay:
Whereas the male seeks separation, the female seeks connection. While the male is threatened by intimacy, the female is threatened by separation. If he has difficulty with relationship, she has difficulty with individuation.
As a result, women often yield to dominant voices.

For thousands of years the male has dominated, playing out what Ken Wilber describes as the unbridled drive of testosterone, “Fuck it or kill it.” But today we see the adversarial, competitive impulse reaping wars, inequality, and violence of all kinds, including the corporate fraud that produced our economic crisis. The female impulse of seeking connections through cooperation and partnership looks increasingly attractive.

Both women and men embody both feminine and masculine energy. Maybe readers have noticed something I have—that older women take on masculine qualities and older men take on feminine qualities. “He’s mellowing with age,” we say. What we need is not feminine values dominating, but a balance of the masculine and feminine energies that reside in each individual.