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.

Out of Egypt

Anyone who knows me or reads this blog, knows I used to live in a Benedictine monastery. I was there for almost 4 years, then suddenly pushed out the day before I was supposed to make my vows. This part of my past is continually on my mind. Why did this happen? Why did I go there in the first place? What was I wanting at a deep level?

I wanted contemplation. Check. Mission accomplished. I learned alot about silence, solitude, spiritual reading, listening.

I wanted to validate my life with religious profession. Nope. Not accomplished. And my ego has been bitter about this ever since. Daily I compare myself to the nuns and try to make me look better.

Recently, I was reading my journal from 2003, the year I got kicked out. I got kicked out in August, so there is a good deal of before and after writing. Clearly I was hugely depressed before getting kicked out. Lets call this mental torment \”Egypt.\” For the years since leaving the convent, my mental state has had periods of difficulty; but overall, my spiritual curve is trending positive. Furthermore, for you calculus fans, there is more and more area under the curve. That is, I am continually integrating and expanding.

This morning, reading Emmett Fox\’s \”Sermon on the Mount\” he said something about how regretting the past is to dis God\’s activity of salvation, and bringing Israel out of Egypt is just such an example of God\’s activity of salvation. Sudden bingo for me. If the convent was Egypt, then God, in a sudden turmoil of spiritual activity, brought me out of it. There was a few days of turmoil and then long years across a desert. This is a new thought for me. A new connection and a new synapse that signal a mental change.

I don\’t know if I am across a desert yet. It seems like it as I ponder my 2015 life story. This life I see is tremendously successful. At work, my Starship idea has been adopted for the plant and I am heavily involved with Creative Thinking teams. In my running life, I am first celebrating the end of my 55th year with a 55 hour run. Then in June, I am going on my first ever running expedition in the Utah desert. And in between January and June are several happy races on trails for which I intend to sign up.

But I wonder about my spiritual life; at least until today when I realize where I am at in graphical terms. I did leave the nuns in Egypt. Should I stop looking back? I need to stop looking back with an ego mindset. I could look back with a miracle mindset.

Reading Fox\’s book, I realize my ego measures itself against the explanations to determine if it is good. To know my thoughts are doing this is a great thing. It allows a bit of distancing from the activity. And in turn, an extreme gratitude for the presence of Spirit which taught me. From there, just keep walking, and be in awe of that power greater than myself.

God is in charge of the journey.

Lesson 254

\”Lesson 254: Let every voice but God’s be still in me.
1 Father, today I would but hear Your Voice. In deepest silence I would come to You, to hear Your Voice and to receive Your Word. I have no prayer but this: I come to You to ask You for the truth. And truth is but Your Will, which I would share with You today.

2 Today we let no ego thoughts direct our words or actions. When such thoughts occur, we quietly step back and look at them, and then we let them go. We do not want what they would bring with them. And so we do not choose to keep them. They are silent now. And in the stillness, hallowed by His Love, God speaks to us and tells us of our will, as we have chosen to remember Him.\”

It is Friday afternoon. I am drinking coffee. It is quiet here in my house. No \”entertainment.\” My head is not raging at me. I don\’t think I want to go anywhere. And for some reason, I\’ve not quite put the energy together to do any workout. Maybe after some more quiet time, I\’ll feel like walking.

I have been reviewing my journal for the past year. And also thinking about some successes for the coming year. There are some obvious themes which characterize my thinking. The themes should be obvious but until I looked back and saw it written every day, I didn\’t exactly know how frequently I thought that. A Course in Miracles would just say \”These thoughts do not mean anything.\”

My life doesn\’t have any big problems. So my spirituality is not about trauma. I\’m discovering a spirituality of quiet all on my own. Of course, I\’ve read books on silence etc. Now I\’ve got quiet in all of my own life (not just when meditating) and my ego doesn\’t have any big deals to yell at me about. I realize that creating another project to occupy me is exactly what my ego would want. But to sit here quietly and not start anything; that is the challenge.

When you study scripture\’s origin and the community from which Jesus probably came and scrutinize Paul\’s Christianity, you are left with nothing true about today\’s Christianity. You stop trying to prove anything by quoting scripture because you know it is wrong. Eventually, you observe the void, feel the null. No emotion is left.

It is 2014 and the internet is everything. So the monastic order in which I was formed has a face book page and tweets and videos. I look at the pictures frequently and know the people in them. I may not be there physically but the sisters are in my mind everyday. What does this mean? Is it good or bad? They are doing something new. The Roman Church is have a \”year of consecrated life.\” I have qualms about that. But because of it, the sisters started wearing traditional habits on Sundays. It is yet one more example of why I don\’t belong there. I go running on Sundays, not sit around in my habit.

I can completely write volumes about my universal non-special concept of God. I\’ve lost my vehemence to do so.
So back to silence. Listening to the quiet Voice for God and doing nothing.

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.

Consciousness Itself

Most people think that running is about training for a race or a time goal in a particular race. They think of how dreadful all that running is. My adventure into ultra-running came about as an extension of meditation; a way to discover consciousness beyond daily striving.

A hot humid day in Houston, after about 3 hours of jog walk produces mindlessness.

I love A Course in Miracles because it is a text book. As I read it and practice it\’s lessons, a Teacher enters my consciousness. I don\’t need to travel to India or even around the United States. I receive inner peace right here. I \”look beyond\” right now.

My only mistake, seemingly, is not having the great emotional experience that others write about in their books. This experience distinguishes them from all others and seems to once again produce separation. It is my inner job to let this go.

I once was in a monastery and a Benedictine novice for 4 years. Within 3 days of my monastic profession, invitations printed and sent, altar flower arrangements in the cooler, I was suddenly kicked out. At the moment of being told to leave, I spontaneously (out of the blue) visualized a white bird suddenly having a golden ankle chain cut and it flew free into a blue sky.

When I want freedom at any time today, I think, \”Eternal Silence lives It\’s life in me. Stately Quiet Love has set me free.\” I suppose I am able to fall down in adoration before Stately Quiet. It is here that I am free.

I had a dream during my final retreat in the monastery. I dreamed that I was dust mopping the long hallway near the Novitiate. I finished my cleaning work and then I was sitting outside on a rock, looking up at a starry sky, waiting. \”Love is the predominant form of existence,\” is the word that I heard in this dream.

All this is important now since the same thing is happening. My universe is changing. The waves of emotion tied to thoughts about appearances and perceptions attempt to take me away. I must sit in quiet calm right now.

I can see how my life is merely a love affair of joy and Joy.

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.

Trip Report – Flatlanders

On Friday morning, I started the trip and today I finished it. Now I have 2 more days to ponder its mystery. I visited the monastery I left 10 years ago. I went to an AA meeting in my old home group. I went in a running race. I read a book called \”The Empire of Illusion.\”

United Airlines, TSA, National Car Rental, Parking Spot, Panera (St Louis Bread), Marriott (Fairfield and Springhill), Honda, WalMart, Quick Trip, Jason\’s Deli, Barnes & Nobel, Coke, Pepsi, Silk, Starbucks, Wrigley\’s, Asics, Succeed, RockTape, and others; gave me a fantastic good time without any hitch at all.

Its really about the people. Like this morning. I arrived at my gate very early, in fact, the earlier flight was still at the gate. I went up to the gate agent and said I had a very stupid question, could I get on the earlier flight? She laughed and said I\’d have to work much harder than that to have a stupid question. She then went on for more than 5 minutes about stupid questions. This was a very friendly conversation. I was there for her.

The people at my old AA group mentioned several times about how I had affected them in the past and how they felt honored to be in my presence.

At the monastery, I got a tour of the new construction, visited the old sisters, ate in the refectory and talked a long time to the Prioress. I met the father of one of the sisters. He was a massively alive 80 something; eyes so bright so energetic. I cried a bit at the side of Sr Priscilla. I love her but she is 97 and barely moves. I held court with another group of elderly sisters. Some of the sisters I knew came over and hugged me; others ignored me. I noticed the silence. I know I have too much energy to stay at that place; and no desire to be so cloistered, bored, sedentary, Catholic.

Priscilla is in the middle.

My friend in Kansas City made me breakfast and we talked for 2 hours.

I then went to St Louis. I70 was construction free. I went in a timed race. The heat index was between 97 and 100F for 5 of the 6+ hours I was out there. I completed 26.6 miles before deciding my heel was in enough pain. I got to talk to several other runners.

Leaving the Parking Spot today, they only had one exit lane open, and none of the self check out lanes. So about 50 cars were lined up trying to get out. I was friendly to the cashier and she was able to tell my how hard it was.

I don\’t own any electronic products that begin with i. I plan to stay out of that community, just like Face Book and various other main stream activities.

I am satisfied with myself. I live in Texas. I am sober. I have the benefit of having gotten my world traveling out of the way when I lived with my parents. My only journey now is the one to God. Yes, I walk with Spirit.

Listening To The Call

Long ago, I went to university, a school of engineering, and I became and engineer. Then, years later, I desired to shamelessly follow Jesus and live a life of prayer. I entered a Benedictine monastery, a school for the Lord\’s service. The monastery gave me tools of contemplation and prayer. These tools have stuck with me just as much as engineering. I didn\’t stay at the Benedictine school to teach. I finished my novitiate and moved on to be a journeyman of sorts.

After a strange and sudden ejection from the monastery, I re-entered secular life. I spent a couple of years as a Roman Catholic. During this time, I realized that the Church was not an institution I could support with my personal moral fibers. I also came to believe that denominational Christianity was doing very little in helping people realize their true Christ nature. No one was \”doing the things he did.\”

I continued to investigate various ideas: meditation, raw foods, fasting, Essenes, hermits; and eventually A Course in Miracles. Somehow, this Course has became my area of spiritual specialization post graduating from the school for the Lord\’s service.

I have spent a great deal of time being upset that 4 years of monastic life divorced me from society. I simply can\’t join with the normal societal flow of eating and drinking and watching TV and gabbing away about nothing. But it is also true that I can only hear one voice at a time. If I want to hear The Voice for God, then I must stop listening to the voice of the world.

This does not at all mean I hate the other people. I just can\’t participate in their world. I can look with the Christ Vision given by the Voice for God; and accept its peace at any time. This practice is what I am doing out here. When I look with Christ vision, I am projecting peace; and this is all The Spirit asks of me.

Inspired by Chapter 31.I of the ACIM text:
Hear not the call for pain within yourself.
But listen rather to the deeper call
of love which asks in quiet for peace and love.
And all the world will give you peace and joy.

2012 has turned to 2013.
I am about to turn from 53 to 54.
I run another mile. I drive another mile.
I work another day. Another dollar is deposited into my account.

In spiritual dollars, I am rich. That is enough for me.

Four Days of On Call – Monday

I\’m thinking it is God calling; not work.

Yesterday was a massive breakthrough day. The break through was finally able to admit that my monastic teachings are a corruption in my brain and I must re-wire if I expect to live happily \”out here.\” The main problem is form over content. The content of the lay people I meet is as vital as the vowed religious. The form of the vowed religious is equally decorative as the form of the lay people.

When I left the monastery, it was with a commission: be a monk in the world. And I spent a good 9 years developing that. But I now realize it is killing me. I got it wrong. But I have also found environments to change that. In going back to AA, I re-claimed a spirituality separate from form. In AA, you can clearly see principle of A Course in Miracles at work for healing and uniting. The little gap is cleaned and God builds the bridge (text 28.III.2):

\”2 No mind is sick until another mind agrees that they are separate. And thus it is their joint decision to be sick. If you withhold agreement and accept the part you play in making sickness real, the other mind cannot project its guilt without your aid in letting it perceive itself as separate and apart from you. Thus is the body not perceived as sick by both your minds from separate points of view. Uniting with a brother’s mind prevents the cause of sickness and perceived effects. Healing is the effect of minds that join, as sickness comes from minds that separate.
3 The miracle does nothing just because the minds are joined, and cannot separate. Yet in the dreaming has this been reversed, and separate minds are seen as bodies, which are separated and which cannot join. Do not allow your brother to be sick, for if he is, have you abandoned him to his own dream by sharing it with him. He has not seen the cause of sickness where it is, and you have overlooked the gap between you, where the sickness has been bred. Thus are you joined in sickness, to preserve the little gap unhealed, where sickness is kept carefully protected, cherished, and upheld by firm belief, lest God should come to bridge the little gap that leads to Him. Fight not His coming with illusions, for it is His coming that you want above all things that seem to glisten in the dream.\”

You don\’t know how hard it is to do something simple, like go to dinner, when everything in your brain is screaming against it. After the AA meeting where I blurted out my  revelation, I bought 2 pieces of carrot cake and ate them.

Of course, I didn\’t agree with some of the decadence of the religious order where I found myself. Of one thing I am glad to be free of: religious holidays in the convent. Oh Lord. Saturday would have been spent cleaning and decorating; while I wished for some free time to go running. Today would be spent cooking and  secretly decorating the chapel for Midnight Mass; while I secretly wished for time to go running. We\’d gather in the chapel for Christmas lessons; and living out the contention over who got to sing them. Then we would be up til the wee hours doing Christmas Vigils and Midnight Mass and serving cookies to guests and then cleaning everything up. Tomorrow would be more liturgy, table setting and then a feast. I hated the feasts. They took too long, seemed decadent, required a ton of dishes; and I wanted to go running.

Nothing like clean rural Missouri air and hilly dirt roads to clear a nun\’s mind.

I have also corrupted some of A Course in Miracles. I hope to continue to correct my thinking with His help.

Lesson 127/8:
The world I see holds nothing that I want.
Escape from every law in which you now believe.
Allow His Voice to teach love\’s meaning to my open mind.
Love\’s meaning is my own and shared by God Himself.

Last week, I covered 76 miles and did 23 hours of workout, plus 3 strength sessions. Yesterday, I walked 15 miles. This gave my Achilles a little break. I have a race next this Saturday.

I am one of the 5% of people who don\’t participate in Christmas. Send your insults and guilt trips; I\’m still not going to do it.

Today I am going to the park for a few miles. I have experimented with taping my toes but not cutting holes in the shoes. I still need to solve the issue of tearing up my toes before I can do more than 50 miles. My previous tape jobs have been hit and miss. At Ultracentric, it was a massive miss. So, back to the drawing boards. It doesn\’t help that I have 2 pairs of new shoes, men\’s size 10, when I think 11s are going to be my future.