4 day weekend

For most folks it is Thanksgiving. For me, it is a 4 day weekend. And, I thank God that I do not have to participate in Thanksgiving. I love being off the hook. I remember various times in the past, in particular when I was in the monastery. I used to feel so guilty if I went for a jog instead of either cooking or decorating the tables. And we sat there waaaay too long. And there was an amazing mountain of dishes to be done after.

Speaking of the monastery, I gave in to my inner angst for this 4 day weekend. I ordered several \”nun\” books from Amazon and am having a nun-book-read-in this weekend. See I understand my personal quest for God. I understand that religious orders promise fulfillment of that quest if you become one of them. But I am one of the most unlikely-est people I can think of to spend 4 years in a Roman Catholic Benedictine semi-cloistered monastery with 60 elderly women. I got kicked out of the monastery, and the \”false\” promise of spiritual fulfillment. The training in monastic practices did significantly alter my life; and I use this to continue my quest in a much more efficient manner. I went in to the cloister and came out different. I am still unwaveringly on the spiritual quest. I am not Roman Catholic, but firmly a student of A Course in Miracles.

I need to go deeper into what this experience could have meant. So reading books about others should give me a broader perspective and give me the freedom to think about my own experience.

Otherwise, a 4 day weekend is for training. This morning I did a 10 mile jog. It was wonderful to be in the warmth of the Texas coast; but also foggy so a blanket of quiet was laid down on everything. Others were out jogging too. It was so peaceful.

I\’ll do a cross training workout this evening. And repeat for the next 3 days.

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Entitlement

I used to have a lot to say on this blog. But since moving to Texas, I have less to say. This seems to me because I don\’t need to promote anything about myself. That is, I seem to have gotten over my need for approval from any church or monastic order. I know my spiritual program works for me; but that most people wouldn\’t agree that it is a valid theology. So, I seem to have forgotten my soap box about spirituality or contemplation. Doesn\’t mean that God is not constantly on my mind.

Why is Mitt Romney a candidate for president? Well, I saw a picture of him for the first time today (ummm….yeah I don\’t watch tv). IMO, he\’s just another pretty face. Bet Barak has a nicer ass. But, I\’m not registered to vote and don\’t vote.

1% has the money and the tax loopholes. 47% are victims. I\’m part of everyone else who actually pays the taxes. Anytime the government wants money, they come to us. Doesn\’t matter who exactly is elected.

I saw a picture of nuns from my former convent sitting around talking about the Church\’s \”Year of the Spirit.\” Really? Someone needs to make such a proclamation? What about every year? But, mostly as I looked at the picture, I realized how much I don\’t belong locked in a monastic life. No I really don\’t want to ever be in another encounter group.

It has been several years since I had a deep meaningful conversation with anyone. If something comes up in my life, I just think about it and then decide. I don\’t ask advice or opinions. I discuss work issues with colleagues, but that is about it.

 I have a sense of entitlement. I am entitled to at least 50 miles and 20 hours of exercise a week. I just had a 4 day weekend. My Seabrook training camp included 76 miles plus 3 hours of non-running cross training plus 100 sit-ups a day and 2 other strength sessions. Whew, I was tired.

But I still got up at 3:15 this morning, did my hour of spiritual work and the 75 minutes of cross training before getting to work at 6:30.

 I really really liked the 50 mile race I did on September 1st. It caused me to consider that perhaps I am an ultra-sprinter since I really don\’t see the point of destroying my body as a 100 mile run does. That said, I am signed up for Ultracentric for 48 hours in the hopes of trying to get 100 miles.

I signed up for a 50 mile race next year (and bought the airplane tickets to get there):

This weekend, when I was working out, I kept meditating on this (from Chapter 21 of ACIM):
Happiness is constant, unshakeable.
If I want it because it is the thruth
that God constantly loves His Son.

As I meditated, I conceded that there\’d have to be a God. Also, we are His Son and He loves us. Anything else is not real.

Samskara

This is a new word I learned a few days ago: an unfinished energy pattern that ends up running your life.

I don\’t know that I have one energy pattern running my life, but there is one past situation to which my brain returns over and over: my monastic experience. I can\’t seem to forget this. It doesn\’t help that I look at their web pages and read their news stories. Ultimately, I know that being a nun cooped up on a religious order is not right for me. But the metaphysics of why I went there and who I am outside here continue to bug me.

For instance. On Sunday, I ran 50 miles. It was an incredible experience and went beyond what I thought I was capable of. My ability to run in the late stages of the race was a miracle and far different than any 50 miles race I\’ve run before. At the monastery last Sunday, the sisters were having an open house to show off their remodeling. So they had the Abbot from the nearby men\’s monastery come over and bless the place. They gave tours. They had food.

When I lived at the monastery, I always hated the sedate lifestyle. And I never was in agreement with the all male Church hierarchy. On the other hand, I loved my 50 mile run.

Now it is Wednesday. I walked 6 miles yesterday, lifted free weights and did another hour of ex-machines. This morning I got up at 5:30 and hit the park in Seabrook at 6:45 for another 9 miles. Now I am taking my car for service and I will work out again this evening. And, I\’ll repeat the exercise routine for the rest of my vacation. You understand what this means: I was not injured by my 50 mile effort. Being injury free is also a miracle.

I am living my life. It is a real life. But no one bows before me as they do Sister OSB. My ego hates this. I think my ego is the only reason I am still holding up this energy. I picture my ego as a mad dog that attacks a stuffed toy over and over, violently shaking it around; and repeating the performance again tomorrow. If I had achieved enlightenment, perhaps I\’d just laugh at the dog. And truly, as soon as I remember to laugh, I am detached and free.

My latest spiritual studies remind me that I will have to practice \”conscious awareness\” or I\’ll go back to unconscious ego domination. One of the differences between A Course in Miracles and stuff like Zen is that I am not alone. I have help and I don\’t have to do anything but step back and be quiet. Whatever/ Whoever the help is, it does work for me.

This morning in Meador park, the huge fat man on the lawnmower stopped his machine and smiled at me as I walked along the path: such a sweet smile!

Happy ACIM Anniversary

Today, 7/29, is my Course in Miracles anniversary. When I started 5 years ago, I thought it might take 5 years just to get a grasp on it. I think I do have a grasp. I study the text everyday, practicing \”lectio divina\” which is one of my monastic practices. I\’ve read the Text 8 times. I\’m currently on chapter 13 and I made my prayer out of 13.III today.


Dear Holy Spirit,
I bring my thoughts to You.
I seek the reference point.
I am a loving mind.
Grandeur is the right of God\’s Son.

Chapter 13.III
\”For His answer is the reference point beyond illusions, from which you can look back on them and see them as insane. But seek this place and you will find it, for Love is in you and will lead you there.\”

Love, peace.


This time of year is very reflective for me. August 8 is the anniversary of my sobriety in 1985 and getting kicked out of the monastery in 2003.


Despite getting up at 8 am, and starting my walk at 9:45, a cloud cover came at 10:45 so I could continue walking for another 4 hours. I suppose that walking 5h19 minutes or 18.5 miles is pointless. I find I am proud to have a life where I have nothing better to do than walk for 5 hours on a Sunday afternoon. I didn\’t really plan on walking that long. I just loaded up my hydro-pak and said I\’d walk for a short while.

I spent the time repeating my prayer (above). I realized just before I started that today was the beginning of my last 8 day retreat before being abruptly kicked out of the monastery (9 years ago). I briefly looked at my journal for this day. Oh my, I was a tortured soul.

Upon leaving the monastery, Sister Mary Margaret Funk advised me to just be a monk in the world. I\’ve continued my monastic practices to live up to the monk part. And at work, I am part of at least 3 projects which span the globe and bring me into contact with people all over the world.

Now I am a Course in Miracles student. My mind is far more peaceful that it was when I started 5 years ago.

When I first started walking today, I had the park to myself. I could imagine not knowing what my body meant; just imagined myself as a primordial consciousness in a primordial forest. Then, as various families showed up for their kids to play on the slides, I practiced \”Grandeur is the right of God\’s Son.\”



While walking, I thought of the 3,100 Mile Race and how a couple of the guys will finish tomorrow and Tuesday.

I thought about my own plans to walk a 12 hour race in September. I realized that in that race, after 5 hours, my feet and mind will feel about the same as today, only I\’ll be trying to walk another 7 hours. No doubt, St Louis will be hot and humid too. I wonder if my mind will give up at 26.2 miles; or if my heel will just feel horrid and I\’ll stop.

The Endless Path

If I had stayed in the convent, I\’d be spending the weekend sitting in this room with these elderly nuns:

I pretty much hate sitting around rooms going through namby pamby discernment exercises. It is not like manufacturing groups don\’t also have meetings and set goals. Its just that things move along quicker. We don\’t have to ask who we are.

I am gathering my things and packing my bags. I have an ultra-marathon on tap this weekend. I\’ll be here, doing this and looking pretty much like this:

This is a picture from 3 years ago; the last time I was in this race.

Instead of being a nun with no possessions. I am an engineer with a six figure salary, a car, a home and everything else. My own treadmill, elliptical, nordic track, ex-bike and weight set. I have a stock of 4 new pairs of running shoes in the closet.

Instead of practicing Roman Catholicism and sitting in Adoration before the holy eucharist, I practice A Course in Miracles and sit before the inner altar where Christ is. And long distance running is my prayer. Endurance is my meditation. The endless trail is my contemplation.

How long can I go? What will it feel like?

When I left the convent, I didn\’t give up Christ, or silence or contemplation. But a part of me can\’t forget them. If you asked me if I am better off where I am now, I\’d answer yes. But I still look back. I still look back.

And then I look forward. I look forward. The path is long. The path is my conversation with God. I am spirit, talking through Spirit in communication with Source.

Who am I?

And what am I doing here?

I am the woman I always wanted to be.

But the meaning of my life doesn\’t seem to be known to me.

I thought going to a monastery would be meaningful. Last night, I had a dream about it. I was in the monastery and was to be professed that evening. I had been asked to come back, pre-approved for profession. So I went because I wanted to be joined. But, I also wondered, \”Why do you want to join this place when you have looked at their blog for the past 2 years and thought it was stupid? Why do you want to spend every day on Catholicism? You don\’t believe in it.\”

As I sit here and type, I think, \”Whats wrong with running?\” Look at the girl in the picture who is running a decent but not fast half marathon. She is happy. Several e-friends have said they are jealous of the muscle cut arms. In the original picture I have here at home, I look even better.

My quest of transcendence might be a quest to merely be human.

Americans are taught to keep trying to be more. This teaching produces agitation and dis-satisfaction with ordinary loving situations.

I\’d love to go back to the Silverton 1000 and run for six days. But I\’m pretty sure that the current condition of my knee would bump me off the steep hills on the first day. Whats wrong with totally pleasant half marathons interspersed with 20 hours of training a week?

At work, several great things happened. On Thursday, after a long day of goal setting with the Basic Chemicals team, I was apologizing to the leader for not staying for happy hour; because such things are usually semi-mandatory team building. He said that it was totally optional and no one should ever apologize for not staying or feel bad for not staying. That is the first time that the guilt has been totally removed. He was a messenger of love.

Yesterday, the Environmental Control manager drove me all around the site and pointed out all the water, utilities and infrastructure items he is responsible for. Really, the Chem-park where I work is huge. Nearly a city with 3,000 people and the massive usage of materials as well as disposal needs. I felt very good about riding around and seeing all the sites. He was a messenger of love.

Then, after a very long meeting, I got a golf cart ride from a guy named Mohammed who is very strictly practicing Halal. He is my co-worker and about 20 years younger and really cute. He was asking me how I liked Houston and talking about how he missed the Philadelphia ghetto. It came down to a friendship discussion and how few real friends (maybe only one) we had. He understood when I said that with most people I carry on superficial relationships, not saying anything important but getting along fine. See, he may be on the opposite end of a religious continuum than me, but we feel the same. I left him feeling like he was a real friend simply because we could discuss the subject of friendship. He was a messenger of love.

Whats wrong with being satisfied with a friend in a chemical plant above monastic profession or ultra-marathoning?

Is this love?

Or this?

We should accept all love as equal, no matter where it is found. Nobody is more holy than anyone else.

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.

Multi-day 4 – Intermission

I felt it a good idea to keep from pushing myself too far, beyond prudence, with the running. My mind was filled with what if injury scenarios and that any one of them could sideline me for the Maryville Marathon. I had already pushed the envelope by going about 83 miles in 3 1/2 days. So I decided to walk today. I walked 210 minutes and lifted weights.

This afternoon found me once again asking myself Why?

1. Why run a multi-day?
2. Why run at all?
3. Why be alive?

Question 3 is my ancient question and it echoes Heidegger’s metaphysical question: Why is there anything at all instead of nothing?

If today is an intermission, is my multi-day a symphony with several movements? If today is a Selah, is my multi-day a psalm, a song or a love poem?

Let me review:

Wednesday afternoon I had written a prelude with these main points: the multi-day is about prayer, not training; about contemplation, a place to merely be. It turns out, merely being is a hard mentality for an ego to tolerate. Wednesday evening I walked 2 hours.

Thursday, I went 28 miles and I said: running a multi-day is done for its own sake, to be only spirit.

Friday, I went 22 miles and visited my old monastery. That day, I practiced the Name of God as I ran. I said the multi-day should be allowed to be meaningless. A multi-day is an optional thing, and so is my life. The monastery trip was difficult. I saw things I didn’t want to see. I realized that as much as I want to be a monk, I am totally grateful God saw fit to ensure I didn’t stay there. It seems a place of stagnation and death.

Saturday, I went 26 miles. Mulling over my convent visit and working on that day’s ACIM lesson, the realization “God is my inheritance” solidified and became a reliable belief for me. I was moved by the messengers from nature: the frog (transformation, the path of change, natural healing), the deer (their heart rhythms pulse in soft waves of kindness) and the frustration of the deer thwarted by the government fence; and the snake (throwing off the past and continuing to live). I thought about ultra-sobriety as continuous conscious contact. I reached that sweaty place of stillness and silence in the hot sun where wordless “knowing” was my reality.

Now Sunday, my intermission from running, I walked 210 minutes. I do everything for spirituality. In the multi-day I seek contemplation, silence and prayer. Hidden is the desire for God to yield “something” which an ego could grasp. But in contemplation, I realize that God yields peace. I contemplate peace. Peace is not just lack of war, it truly is nothing. Real peace, total nothingness, is appalling to an ego. The truth of nothingness is why I keep questioning the running activity. The avoidance of nothingness is the reason why people “train” for races instead of just run (including me). The ego cannot accept that it is nothing. I look inside and see nothing. My multi-day, being not-racing, is nothing.

And then, the big one finally clicks: the way to find joy in nothing is to realize you are free. My multi-day is done in complete freedom. I run free for days. Think about freedom, not just the silly American type of freedom where we go around doing what we want; but freedom of the spirit escaped from the ego’s limitations and rules and silly worries. The free spirit is nothing of this world, and it soars beyond ego. This freedom is what endless running brings me, because the running means nothing.

Now I am happy, joyous and free.

Vacation Tuesday

Yesterday, I went to visit the monastery I used to live at. It is a beautiful ornate brick design that appears every bit as stately and solumn as you might imagine. In the fall, it is surrounded by outrageous fall colors. The chapel is of \”high church\” design, filled with statues of Benedictine women and its walls are covered with Gospel mosaics.

The joy of my visit was my time with 92 year old Sister Priscilla. When I first lived with the sisters, I lived in a forest in Oklahoma. They had a Catholic Ashram. Sister Priscilla was there with four other sisters. Together we practiced contemplative sitting for 2 1/2 hours a day, prayed the Liturgy of the Hours, gathered for communion; and cooked and cleaned cabins for a few guests.

I loved Sr Priscilla. She is tiny, not much above my waist. She is a fire ball. A year ago, she left the forest and went to live in the sister\’s house for assisted living. Priscilla has her own room and sneaks around doing things against the rules. I love this about her. Anyway, I visited in her room for an hour and she walked me all around the large house, then we went outside to the Altar Bread Department. I felt so incredibly special to be in her presence for a couple of hours.

One time, about two weeks after I got kicked out of the order, I went down to Oklahoma to Sr Priscilla\’s 65th anniversary of monastic life. I was secretly invited. I went walking into the kitchen where she was standing and totally surprised her. Yesterday, I walked down to the door into the assisted living house, and I could see her through the window, standing in the dining room. She looked up totally surprised. She said she thought she was seeing a vision.

Sr Priscilla said she thought about me alot, but after yesterday, I am not just a memory, I am an actual person who could show up any day. I am a haunting ghost unless I follow through on the friendship. Gulp! I\’ll need to visit the monastery more often.