Are Prayers Answered?

My point at this moment: reality looks like the energy of the prayer.

I guess that is a metaphysic-y answer.

ACIM lesson: today the peace of God envelops me; and I forget all things except His Love.

I did my morning meditation as usual today. All is quiet in my mind. I finish off packing for my overnight trip to run a marathon. I look at the Houston Transtar map to see what traffic is like. It is appalling. TexDOT has seen fit to completely close several freeways for construction. All of them seem to be in the north west area; where I need to go to go to Waco.

Consternation! I look at that map and at google maps and finally decide on a route.

I go to the AA meeting which is on the 11th step. I sit there and listen to people talk. I think about my own life long struggle to know God. I think about my current practice of reading Q\’s gospel out loud to myself every night and then practicing silent meditation. I think about my recent reading of the beginning of the Big Book and its instance that we are hopeless apart from divine help and this is for everything about our lives. As if prayer is all there is!

I whip out (from my back pocket) my piece of paper with the lesson for today. I think about getting out of Houston. I think about the peace of God as my reality. I felt peace as my reality. I remembered yesterday\’s realization that \”this IS my life.\” I came to understand that no matter what traffic was like, it is my higher power\’s life.

I get in the car and start driving. It turns out, I hardly met a spec of traffic. Unknowingly, I had picked mainly toll roads, and gone a little bit long around; but I went pretty much 80 mph all the way to Waco.

During the trip, I also looked at my piece of paper and imagined feeling the peace.

Arriving in Waco, I quickly saw the convention center where packet pickup is. There was a Marriott across the street that looked like a handy place to park. As I got out of the car, I had an idea. I went in to the Marriott and told them I was booked at another Marriott 8 miles away but that this Marriott was exactly where I wanted to be. Did they have a room? Could they cancel my other reservation without penalty and book me in there? They did, as well as give me the same rate.

OMG! I am ensconced in a hotel across the street from the start line.

I wanted to experience \”enveloped by the peace of God today.\” I didn\’t ask God for anything material. I wanted to experience the peace of God and this peaceful reality is what I perceived. It seems completely plausible that me and my higher power created a reality, or that peace was always there but I perceived it today, or what I perceived was my dream of peace.

Reality could be an illusion and it could be malleable. Or perception is in the mind of the perceiver, but what is perceived doesn\’t actually exist. Only peace exists, the rest of what I perceived is my dream.

No bull:

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Me vs My Life

I finally had a moment of realization this morning. Years of meditation and spiritual study may or may  not have helped; but in a moment of total ordinary consciousness, I got it.

\”Me\” as stated in the title of this blog, is my self centered ego consciousness. \”My Life\” is what I now understand to be my higher consciousness. And I heard it as well as entered it today.

Its like this. I was reading a portion of the book Alcoholics Anonymous this morning, pages 62 and 63. It talks about how self centeredness creates all our problems; and that we can\’t be less self centered on our own power. Self will is of no use. Only a higher power can help.  Then, I did a few minutes of silent meditation. Then I made my lunch and was getting ready to leave for work.

I was thinking about how I haven\’t had a life. All I\’ve ever done was work. I was having an imaginary conversation with my boss explaining how I don\’t have enough vacation and never get to have my life. Suddenly, however, I heard another mental voice say, \”This is my life.\” Suddenly, it seemed that my higher consciousness had wanted the life my ego wants to get away from. I experienced my higher consciousness. It was vast.

This had nothing to do with oneness or love. It just had to do with realizing my higher consciousness IS living the life it wants. I can surrender and stop fighting. In stopping fighting, I give up ego self centeredness. In giving up, I gain that vast consciousness which is the content with my life.

What if I saw my life from this higher perspective: alcoholic home, several childhood trips around the world, horses, mountain cabins, Israel, men, monasteries, chemical plants, marathons.

Realizing the difference between ego consciousness and higher consciousness is great. I hope it gives me more access to higher consciousness each day.

The gurus and authors have said this too. But it was always something achieved outside of real life. Something obtained in a monastery, ashram or retreat. Mine is in the middle of a chemical plant.

I am really \”My Life\” not \”me.\”

Thanksgiving Day 9

So sad. Everything is ready for going back to work tomorrow. I finished off my vacation with a 16.6 mile jog on Seabrook trails. It was a warm Texas day. I enjoyed the heat.

For my vacation (9 days), I got 156.x miles and 42 total hours of workout (includes cross training).

I had a moment of healing today. Might be difficult to explain. Think about the Catholic Church as an institution which brain washes people to believe what the hierarchy says. Now think of a religious order as a super cult contained within this brainwashing organization. Think of the \”formation\” process used on aspirants as 24/7 brainwashing.

That is what I\’ve been trying to heal from for the past 11 years. See, before the monastery, I got along well with other people around me. I had friends. I went to coffee with other ladies and enjoyed their company. Post monastery, I\’ve felt that everything about other people is wrong.

Today, I went to a ladies AA meeting (I usually go to this meeting), and I listened to a lady celebrating 25 years talk from the podium. And then I listened to several others talk about themselves. Suddenly, looking at all the nice ladies in the room, for the first time since leaving the convent, I thought, \”What if the nuns were wrong?\” I thought, well maybe I can heal from monastic \”formation.\”

Then, coming home, I looked on the sister\’s FB page and saw that they now have these traditional habits. They look horrible. People on the outside of a convent don\’t know what is going on inside. It is a mystery, but the mystique makes the holy appearance. Wearing a black habit or saying prayers all day doesn\’t make a person special to God.

Any AA can confirm that spiritual awakenings occur with regularity among AA members. We are so blessed to see spiritual awakenings happen and experience them our selves. Nothing is more holy.

I sure hope that I soon heal from my monastic brain washing and that I will be able to enjoy the company of the people around me without judging them.

Thanksgiving Day 2

I slept late today since I didn\’t set an alarm. A little tougher to work in so many hours of workout if you sleep through a couple of hour of it. Then before going running, I decided to take care of a small administrative matter for work. Then, not knowing how long I wanted to run, I had to mix up drinks and fill bottles before being ready. So pretty late getting to the park.

But wow, what a fantastic day. Totally sunny breezy and not that hot. Well, 80F is not that hot for Texas. I got in 4 hours / 17.4 miles.

My Course in Miracles lesson was: \”This day belongs to God. It is my gift to Him.\” I had my mind tuned to this lesson during most of my run.

I had to stop because of time and running out of drinks and because the beans in the crock pot at home needed to be turned off. I make beans every Sunday in the crock pot. I love a bowl of fresh beans.

After a brief rest, I went to an AA meeting. This didn\’t turn out that well. A lady was there with her baby. And the activities around playing with the baby got too distracting for me to pay attention to the speakers. So I moved to the other side of the room. I suppose this upset the mother. So she packed up and left. I\’m sorry she did that just because I didn\’t want to watch her baby so I moved. Oh well.

Now of course, it is time for me to manage my mind. This is now a Course in Miracles moment. Do I listen to my brain yell at me about how guilty I am or do I give this to Jesus and look beyond to the heart of Christ. I glanced at tomorrow\’s Lesson: \”Today I will judge nothing that occurs.\” Perfect for right now.

The TED radio hour was on quiet. A guy on there didn\’t speak for 17 years. And he walked around the world. He did communicate with signs. Not speaking is not the same as silence.

My ego yells at me and at the world almost all the time; unless I\’m engaged deeply in my work, reading a good book, or actively managing my thoughts including silencing them. Tomorrow\’s lesson is perfect for talking back to my brain and stopping it\’s yelling.

At least half of my spiritual practice is related to dealing with the yelling mind.

This evening, I did another elliptical workout and a free weight workout.

Just a little over 5 hours today. What am I doing? Well, to complete any of my upcoming endurance events, it is enough to walk jog 20 or so miles and then walk for another 10 or 20 miles. So, having one long walk jog in the morning and following that with cross training in the afternoon fills the bill without undue pounding on the legs. I feel energized at the end of the day instead of exhausted.

My goal tomorrow is merely to get out of bed at the alarm. After that, something will happen and there will be time.

Surrender and do better

One way to get through a day is to remember \”I am a worn and no man.\” (see the 7th degree of humility) Remembering this, I survived 4 years in a monastery where I was in fact below all other precious but annoying little nuns.

Rule of Benedict, Chapter 7: On Humility

The seventh degree of humility
is that he consider himself lower and of less account
than anyone else,
and this not only in verbal protestation
but also with the most heartfelt inner conviction,
humbling himself and saying with the Prophet,
\”But I am a worm and no man,
the scorn of men and the outcast of the people\” (Ps. 21[22]:7).
\”After being exalted, I have been humbled
and covered with confusion\” (Pa. 87:16).
And again,
\”It is good for me that You have humbled me,
that I may learn Your commandments\” (Ps. 118[119]:71).

Another way to get through a day come through the 3rd step of AA: \”Father, I offer myself to you, to do with me and build with me as thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self that I may better do thy will. Take away my difficulties that victory over them may bear witness to the will, thy love and thy way of life. May I at last abandon myself utterly to you.\”

Another way is a daily phrase from A Course in Miracles. From the Manual for Teachers: \”The name of Jesus stands for love beyond this world. Jesus is the Word of God. The Word of God is the Atonement.\” or also,
\”I am here only to be truly helpful. I am here to represent Him who sent me. I do not have to worry about what to say or what to do, because He Who sent me will direct me. I am content to be wherever He wishes, knowing He goes there with me. I will be healed as I let Him teach me to heal.\” (text 2.V)

\”Into thy hands I commend my spirit.\”

What I am saying is that if I abandon my ego, turn my will and my life over to God, I do better. Otherwise, I am a stressed out worrisome mess every day. If I practice downward mobility in a hierarchical sense, that is, stop trying to protect and defend but merely serve, I do better mentally and emotionally. I may or may not do better financially, but that is not the point.

Now I will go to the park and run laps.

Death by Sweat

This evening was yet one more installment of Death by Sweat jogging. Runners in Houston know that no matter what time of day you jog, it will be hot and humid. Yet, we do it anyway. It may feel like 100F out there but none of us are dying. We are just jogging along.

The 3,100 Mile Self Transcendence Race may be over for this year, but my miles continue. In the 5 weekdays this week, I piled up 39 miles and 10.5 hours of workout. I don\’t know what I\’ll get done on Saturday and Sunday.

I prefer to be alone with my thoughts. My thoughts were about my professional life. I continue to face my general attitude that most 50 something professionals face: we are so done with corporate competitions. We are realizing that just going to work and doing a fantastic job is good for integrity but not so good for promotion. But, we are done competing. Despite my inner ego driven need to beat the others, some other part of my only seeks performance for the sake of character.

I also was pondering the fact that I live in Texas. Really? Really! Texas. (wtf) Texas. God!

Today is my sobriety anniversary. 29 years. I\’ve not given it a great deal of thought this year. But I have lived a sober adult life, except for a few brief effed-up years in my early twenties. What this really means is I have been working the 12 steps and seeking to improve my conscious contact with a power greater than myself, an unsuspected inner resource.

Spiritual Integration

If you come to a fork in the road, take it. I didn\’t make that up, but I like it.

I\’ve been reading a philosopher named Plotinus for 3 months now. He was a student of Plato in around 250 CE.

But my focus is necessarily on my own personal spiritual crisis: how do I connect with a higher power?

In Ennead 2.9.2, P discusses three parts of the Soul. One part standing high, in the presence of Beauty and The Divine Beings. One part concerned with this world. One part in the middle which is tugged higher and lower but never succumbs to the lowest. In this, I am instantly reminded of Freud. I have not studied Freud beyond some idea of ego, super ego and id; not knowing what Freud really meant.

From what is said, I will take in my own words. My soul can dwell in contemplation of the things above it and  \”establishing order by the marvelous efficacy of it contemplation…\” What the soul draws from the contemplation \”it communicates to the lower sphere, illuminated and illuminating always.\”

What I understand from that is the Course in Miracles explanation of \”the real world;\” or the AA Big Book discussion of \”the realm of the spirit;\” or even what Jesus said \”the kingdom of God is within.\” And so we know why I sit in silence, a bit withdrawn from the day to day world. It is to feel this soul above. So I want to direct my attention to the thing above, to gaze on the divine. Plotinus allows this to varying extents. To have a life that is spiritually directed, then I would contemplate higher things and allow divine order and illumination to come down of its own accord.

I still think that contemplation and establishing the order of my life from spirit rather than by my own plans and designs is best done with space between me and the general social order.

There is another call in my mentality, to more involvement in the world. If this call came to fruition, I\’d need to put greater effort into the contemplation despite the time needed to carry out any other worldly commissions. As of now, my only decision is I want God above all else. And I will gaze up in order to draw down.

This is the pearl of great price. I actually have it. But I still wonder what my daily life should be like. I still need money. I will still get old. I don\’t think middle class Americans, and I am one, are capable of saying \”enough.\” My dream is of a tiny cabin hermitage; but I don\’t think my brain would be able to stand it.

My brain won\’t stop competing unless I take charge of it. Like today, my ACIM Lesson is \”I am entitled to miracles.\” When I need to take charge of my brain, I think my lesson. The lesson reminds me of a spiritual picture of reality which I want.

The Father of Lights

In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, in Bill\’s Story, starting around page 13, I piece together a theory of living: \”…I placed myself unreservedly under His care and direction…I was to sit quietly when in doubt…I must turn in all things to the Father of Light…the moment I fully accepted, the effect was electric. There was a sense of victory, followed by such a peace and serenity as I had never known. There was utter confidence. I felt lifted up, as though the great clean wind of a mountain top blew through and through…\”

Lesson 3: I do not understand anything I see.

24.VII: \”Perception can serve another goal…It is given me to make another choice.\”

Plotinus 6.8.14: \”…where there is true being, where things have been brought to reality by that Principle…all that reality is brought about in virtue of something emanating from the divine.\”

And then I stopped to pray silently. What I heard was: allow yourself to be both seeker and sought. It is a mistake to think you are a flawed sinner, hated by God. Any time I sit before the Father of Lights, I feel utter confidence, a great clean wind.

I feel really good today. Included in my morning workout was a one mile/ 11:44 minute Run. And now I am at work and my shoes don\’t hurt. Awesome.

Responses Notebook

I started reading a book which is a translation of a book written by Evagrius of Pontus (345 ce). It is called \”Talking Back\” by David Brakke.

In the introduction, there is an explanation of a monastic practice of making a notebook of responses:
Foucault: \”an important too that cultivated persons of antiquity used for the shaping of the self\”… \”…the self formative function of this kind of writing: the compilation of the notebook was itself an exercise in identifying and gathering the best of what one had read or heard; the writer then sought to unify in his own identity and rational action the inevitably disparate elements that he had collected from others\”
Athanasius: \”…the monk should write down the deeds and movements of the soul as if they were to be read by other monks, in this way the monks will form themselves\”

The notebook is in form and function a collection of reminders, notes to self that cultivated persons might compile in the effort to improve himself in virtue.

So, I have been a spiritual seeker for nearly 35 years, starting at the young age of 22 when I went to Israel. I note that I am a product of various traditions: Alcoholics Anonymous, Christianity, Benedictine monasticism, A Course in Miracles. I have studied many of the books by Paul Brunton. Talk about notebooks! Brunton was prolific.

I\’ve been interested in somehow integrating these various spiritual outlooks into one theology but it is an overwhelming idea. For example, Benedict had 12 steps of humility. Guigo II had 12 meditations in his Ladder of Monks. AA has 12 steps.

If I was just going after alcoholism, I might suggest the following chapters of a notebook of responses:

  • On the desire to drink
  • On going to meetings
  • On sponsorship
  • On service
  • On inventories
  • On prayer and meditation
  • On the realm of the spirit
As a working person, I doubt I\’d have the patience to compile my responses. Especially since I continue to find additional responses. *sigh* That fact of my daily education is in itself a response.

Week 5

I\’ve completed 5 weeks of confinement due to foot surgery. These weekends, I\’ve spent more time in spiritual study instead of doing miles outside. This weekend, I was partly reading \”Glittering Vices\”, going to AA meetings, and studying A Course in Miracles.

Fighting giants. The Israelites didn\’t want to leave the desert and fight the giants in order to enter the promised land (Numbers and Deuteronomy). What giants do I not want to fight, hence staying in a desert. AA meetings have giants at the door. Each and every meeting is an ego battle. I have 28 years of sobriety. Why should I go to meetings? Because AA is a spiritual fellowship and a spiritual program of action for a spiritual malady. That I don\’t want to go to the fellowship is evidence that I still have the malady.

Silence is not enough. For my ego at least.

Trappings. Trappings are for the ego. If I have trappings, I am somebody. But if I refuse to look special or live in a special place or drive a special car, my ego hates it. Monastic life has trappings. Runners have trappings (those belt buckles we get to 100 miles). Buddhist monks. Lately, it seems like my spiritual life is nothing. I\’ve not had any big moments of clarity or enlightenment. This doesn\’t mean God went away. It means the ego got nothing. But it led me to realize, what if I hadn\’t read books about other people\’s enlightenment experiences? Would I realize there is nothing wrong with this particular moment?

\”Lay aside the body and quietly transcend…look you not back….\” (ACIM 21.VI.9). Life in the monastery is over and in the past. Running is over and in the past. Quietly transcend.

Spirit soaring. I lay on the floor with one bad leg doing leg lifts. Not exactly as romantic as running 100 miles or climbing a mountain. But my spirit soared.

Accessibility: This week I was at the Hilton in College Station. Since most of the floors have a padded carpet, it was very difficult to get around on wheels. It was like pushing through sand or mud all day. And while they did have a chair lift to get to one of the meeting rooms, it was slightly broken. I got through the broken part and used it once. But later, when I had to go back to that room, I drove my car around to the back of the hotel and went in that way. Then a buffet lunch was provided. I had to ask a colleague to carry my plate since I couldn\’t hold it in one hand and also push through the carpet. I think I was the only \”handicapped\” person at the conference.