Ashes of Specialness

I\’ve been contemplating this picture:

I got it off Face Book, so it is a public thing. I know the person. I know she is about to receive ashes. I see she now wears a veil. This seems like it should be an intimate moment, not a thing for FB or to be photographed at all. But since it is, I\’ve been pondering it for several days.

I lived in various states of membership with this religious order for more than three and a half years. Because of FB, I can look in the window every day and see a new glimpse of people I am attached to.

So the picture is an intimate moment. I can\’t really figure the holiness of the Catholic practice of ashes. Actually, I think, \”How dare the male priest hierarchy put ashes on anyone\’s forehead let alone the pure of heart as I know this sister to be.\”

Over the past 3 or so years, I\’ve been watching veils appear in these photos. This sister was not one of the first. And she does have lovely hair. You can google the meaning of the veil. For me at this moment, I don\’t think it adds to anyone\’s holiness. But I know that young women who might want to be nuns are attracted to orders that wear habits. It is a false notion that a habit adds to spirituality. In fact, I think it detracts from the difficult job of renunciation. Renunciation not of the world but of ego things. The habit and veil are clearly of the ego because the show specialness.

The veils in this religious order show a growing conservatism and obedience to the male hierarchy. And the whole reason I\’m no longer Catholic is because that hierarchy is criminal. Yes, even the new lovable saying all the right things pope is a criminal because he continues to harbor criminal priests.

I need to continue to find the holiness and love that this picture was meant to convey. I can easily find the holiness and love in my own quiet meditation, or fellowship meetings, or reading Q\’s Gospel. But my God is not punitive and I am not a sinner. Humility needed? Yes. But existentially or ontologically bad? No.


9/80 Weekend

This weekend, I put together 42 miles in about 10 hours. Today was walk day, as in mostly walk only some jog. Yesterday was 5×1 day, as in jog 5 walk 1.

And I bought a new car:

Totally happy with it. Its my second Prius, 4th Toyota. First sexy black car.

It has been a weekend of pondering inner peace. The car purchase was part of it; because it was almost a total non-event as far as life in this world is concerned. I went to the dealership. Jerked around with the sales man back and forth twice. Jerked around with a stack of paperwork. Move my stuff into the new car and go home. Inner peace would mean a not-special life. No dopamine. No highs. No lows. I\’ve been working on inner peace as a spiritual goal. My life does get quieter. But then I ask myself, do I really want this? Well, not ego does. Egos like turmoil and excitement.

Today is the start of Holy Week for the Christians, especially the Roman Catholics. It is a hellish week for monastics. \”The Demons\” go wild with annoyances. As for myself, I don\’t really see the point anymore. It has been several years since I finished my bible studies and decided most of it was the domain early Church Bishop\’s agenda; and that what Jesus said or did has been misinterpreted ever since.

Sitting in my AA meeting this week, I had a revelation. See, I felt guilty that I left my home town at the age of 26 to move halfway across the continent. Got sober and attempted to do step 9 by letter with a raging alcoholic. Didn\’t work. She kicked me out of her life and then died before I ever saw her again. Yesterday, I for the first time thought, \”What if all that was The Spirit\’s way of sparing me additional pain including a life as a drunk?\” What if I was doing the next right thing and how it turned out had nothing to do with me? Then, I should accept The Spirit\’s gift of a sober life and be happy.

Today I did my miles in Brummerhop park. 41 laps. I thought about self transcendence. My whole ultra career go started and stays on because I hope for self transcendence. Truly, walking laps in a 0.37 miles loop is unglamorous and the only thing to do is repeat the day\’s spiritual lesson. For hours. I could call it training for the 55 hour race I signed up for. But really, its original purpose was self transcendence. I attempt to think thoughts not from the worldly source. I attempt to quiet my mind and hear spiritually sourced thoughts.

And just keep walking.

And just keep walking.

The Idea of the Monastery…..

….versus the monastery itself.

I want to know God. There was beautiful promises made about how the monastery was the place to carry out that quest. I\’ve been out of the monastery and carrying on that quest for 10 years, using many spiritual opportunities. These opportunities are not Catholic so might not have been available to me had I stayed at the monastery. My body mind and spirit are free to accept all opportunities offered me by Spirit since I am not locked in a box.

What follows is a distinctly negative view of what I saw during my recent visit to the monastery where I was in formation: death and ghosts of people. Yes there are positives to convent life, but that is not my current focus. And my comments are somewhat framed by the final profession of one of the sisters which occurred this weekend.

I am on the last day of a 6 day vacation. I slept late, dreading facing the Texas heat. As usual, my mind had wandered into my monastic problem. That is, all the various questions regarding why I went there and why I didn\’t stay and the God quest now. I got up and went to turn off the fan by my bed. It suddenly struck me. I wanted the idea of the monastery, but I see now, not the monastery itself.

The idea of the monastery was \”a school for the Lord\’s service;\” a place away from the world where undistracted prayer could be carried out. For me, it was a place to practice contemplation with people who I thought were as intensely interested in God consciousness as myself. Perhaps they all go to the monastery with that quest. Formation, the process of training nuns, is exactly that: formation. Formation is a process of changing people from who they are to what the other nuns think is acceptable.

I say now that the monastery cripples people. What I saw was people crippled by their life in a insulated box. Obesity in a world where there really isn\’t that much food. White skin which never sees the sun. A sister with a bony disfigured upper body, yet she is my age. Dull colors and decorations from the last century. The most color was from a small pile of M&Ms a sister sitting at the reception desk had obtained from the stock kept for guests. Oh my God, how terrible that half a days work for two young sisters was to sit at a reception desk where hardly anyone ever comes! A sister telling me about her programming of automated machines, not even guessing the sophistication of the machines used in my chemical plant. In the monastery, few have to worry about the day to day survival issues of obtaining food, going to work, dealing with money, maintaining a house or car, health care, making life decisions.

While I was doing my spiritual study, the thought struck me that the monastery was a practice similar to Chinese foot binding of women long ago. That is, the monastery is a binding of religion and place which causes people to grow in strange unnatural ways.

Then I flashed on the picture of Abbot Gregory putting the nun\’s wedding ring (to Jesus) on the finger of the newly professed nun. I thought with horror how that is so symbolic of male power in the Church. I couldn\’t stand it.

So, my quest for God consciousness goes in in the world. My learning result from my visit is that I cherish the idea of the monastery, but continue to thank God that I didn\’t make a profession. Yes, my ego will still worry over the experience of being asked to leave and the dogma that vowed religious are somehow special to Jesus. These are synapses which will always be in my brain; but my mind knows more. Everyone is either equal before God, or our God is a terribly cruel God.

I am reading a scholarly tome about the Q source of the gospels. It will show a quit different picture of Jesus. I have the ability to carry out monastic practices: silence, solitude, prayer, simplicity, poverty (meaning poor-in-society not poor financially), chastity, Lent, spiritual reading, vows of obedience, stability and conversatio made to God.

And I am about to go outside and enjoy an hour or so of walking in the Texas heat. Tomorrow it is back to work.

Good Friday

Yesterday, Holy Thursday, I thought about the Catholic Church and how after the Thursday evening service, they take the \”bread-which-is-Jesus\” out of the church; and then pretend Jesus is not in the church. Then, on Friday, they serve \”leftover-bread-that-is-Jesus.\” Then at the vigil on Saturday night or Sunday pre-dawn, they make new \”bread-which-is-Jesus.\” After that, Jesus stays in the church for the rest of the year.

What? Really?

At this point in my life, that all sounds preposterous. One of the reasons I left organized religion was because I believe that every molecule, photon and the smaller or even non-existent particle (thinking of you SGL), is either holy, spirit filled and the Real Presence; or their is no God and none of this matters.

I believe there is a Higher Power. I don\’t say God because there is too much incorrect teaching about what God could be. But none of this matters as it is an illusion.

So, in the monastery, Good Friday was used for penance and confession. When I was a novice, I was excluded from some of the sisters activities; so I did the unseemly thing. I went running.

As I was running today, I thought about my monastic life. As a matter of fact, I owe my current spiritual capability to my monastic training. See I don\’t get involved in distractions from the knowledge of God\’s presence because of those 4 years cut off from the world. I want to be grateful to the sisters rather than being angry they kicked me out. As a matter of fact, my spirituality is far better now than if I\’d remained in a Roman Catholic Convent. As I ran, saying my day\’s psalm, I did feel happy for the gift of contemplation.

Let me remember what my purpose is.
Let me remember that my goal is God.
Setting aside all little senseless aims.
Achieving only what You want me to.

To celebrate Easter this year, I thought of buying a symbolic piece of body wear. It turns out, I spent $35 on an aqua titanium neck band. It is white and I tied 3 knots in it to symbolize the Trinity. I look very hip in it.

Today was Good Friday indeed. I got up at 5 and hit the park by 6:30. I jog/walked 8x2s for almost 4 hours. Then I came home just as the guys delivering the new treadmill showed up. I bought a new treadmill because of too much concrete in Texas and no hills at all. I got a really good Life Fitness treadmill. It cost less than 2 weeks salary (after taxes and 401K). This afternoon, I walked another 5 miles uphill on the treadmill as well as lift weights and do core. My new shorts also came today.

So different from being a nun. Here are some picture from my last half marathon where I won 2nd place in my age group. The last one is with one of my Canadian friends.

The Laws of Healing

I got this picture out of \”Spirit and Life\” yesterday; the magazine published by the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration where I lived for 4 years. The picture is a mosaic from their chapel. It surprised me today. I can see in it a need for me to have re-birth, a new life; and all the powers of heaven rejoicing in my willingness to accept God’s gift. I am astounded at this idea because it is the first good one I\’ve had about Christmas so far this year.

This idea is a light in my darkness as I looked at my negative thinking this morning.

I can\’t believe I was a nun for 4 years. I cannot really believe I am Roman Catholic and attend Mass frequently. Before I went to the convent, I spent decades trying to find a husband but never connected. It still amazes me because the lack of a husband has in so many ways changed my life\’s course, freeing me from the misery I would have been as a drunken wife, following in the miserable footsteps of my drunken mother. I can\’t believe I was an alcoholic 24 years ago. It amazes me I am still a long distance runner and engineer.

My life has been all over the map. The outward images seem disconnected. Running and engineering and my search for God are the common threads. Spirituality is an exercise in ego transcendence. Whatever happens in my life seems tied to ego deflation and the emergence of my spiritual self.

I am attempting to make heads or tails of the “Laws of Healing” (below). I struggle with solitude vs my place in the 12 Step Fellowship and the Church. I think I should go to meetings; yet despite my spiritual work, the meetings upset me and I leave with my ego hysterically hammering me. So I quit going to meetings and I feel much better; but I now feel like I’ve failed ACIM forgiveness. 12 Step meetings for me have taken a place as a spiritual exercise of ACIM forgiveness; they are not for the purpose of recovery or helping others. No wonder they are such a disaster for my ego. I am using them as a mirror and what I see is my own projected hate. I approach them as I would any difficult undertaking: with trepidation and the knowledge that I’m about to have a painful lesson. On the side of Church attendance, I quit going to the big Sunday Masses and attend the quiet weekday Masses because I leave without the ego hammering.

My prayer this morning is for further guidance from my COMPANION. God cannot fail in His purpose so I am assured of healing. I must accept the healing found in the practice of forgiveness. I know my ego is obstinate about this whole issue; but surprisingly, I am getting better. I am far less hateful, fearful and angry than I used to be. I have more inner peace despite the periodic encounters with ego hammering.

The Laws of Healing, excerpted (ACIM text chapter 26.VII):

Forgiveness is the only function here, and serves to bring the joy this world denies to every aspect of God’s Son where sin was thought to rule… Forgiveness takes away what stands between your brother and yourself. It is the wish that you be joined with him, and not apart… What is forgiveness but a willingness that truth be true?… Forgiveness is the answer to attack of any kind. So is attack deprived of its effects, and hate is answered in the name of love.

Salvation, perfect and complete, asks but a little wish that what is true be true; a little willingness to overlook what is not there; a little sigh that speaks for Heaven as a preference to this world that death and desolation seem to rule.

All sickness comes from separation. When the separation is denied, it goes…

Guilt asks for punishment, and its request is granted.

Perception’s laws are opposite to truth, and what is true of knowledge is not true of anything that is apart from it…. What is projected out, and seems to be external to the mind, is not outside at all, but an effect of what is in, and has not left its source…Perception’s laws must be reversed, because they are reversals of the laws of truth.

Cause and effect are one, not separate. God wills you learn what always has been true: That He created you as part of Him, and this must still be true because ideas leave not their source.

The miracle is possible when cause and consequence are brought together, not kept separate…God gave to all illusions that were made another purpose that would justify a miracle whatever form they took. In every miracle all healing lies, for God gave answer to them all as one… The miracle but calls your ancient name, which you will recognize because the truth is in your memory. And to this name your brother calls for his release and yours… Your ancient name belongs to everyone, as theirs to you. Call on your brother’s name and God will answer, for on Him you call.

To use the power God has given you as He would have it used is natural… The gift of God to you is limitless. There is no circumstance it cannot answer, and no problem which is not resolved within its gracious light.

Abide in peace, where God would have you be. And be the means whereby your brother finds the peace in which your wishes are fulfilled…. to bless but one gives blessing to them all as one.

Mass Again

I got up at 3:50 and did my hour of spiritual study. This morning, I was totally focused on seeing what God sees and created (holiness); which is not what I see in my illusion of the world. I am totally willing to let go of my ego and let Jesus teach me to see something different. Then, I had a wonderful 45 minute run, made my daily green smoothie for work, quick shower and off to Mass. I\’m not sure why my thirst for Mass has come back, but I honor it.

When I am at Mass, I sit to the side by the box which holds Jesus.

This morning, a funny thing happened. I was thinking that if I am going to frequent daily Mass, I should get a book which has the Mass readings for this liturgical year because I can\’t understand the readers very well and one of the priests is ESL, so I can\’t understand him at all. Then, I saw in the pew in front of me that someone had left a daily Mass book for the first quarter. No telling when that book got left there, but not at this Mass.

Ummmm…yes…I stole it!