Solitary Reflection

I am faced with an evidently useless life. Solitude can do that to you unless you engage in some holy activity like prayer or scripture reading (and these people are fooling themselves). I am allowing myself to be nothing and facing the truth that no amount of accomplishment or achievement fixes the futility of human life. Not being a stellar employee or business woman. Not having children which are brain surgeons or astronauts. Not being an astronaut or brain surgeon. Not being a monastic. Not attending Eucharist. Not an elite runner.

I run alot and I qualified for Boston with a 3:57 time. But I eschew the Boston marathon as a group specialness experience. What do they do as soon as they get there? Buy the jacket. Why? So they can prance around and brag about running Boston. Big deal! In the marathon I ran last weekend, the top three women in my age category (50-55) finished in 3:30 to 3:45. Now that is impressive. My Boston qualifying time means nothing compared with a 50 something who can run 26 miles in 3 and a half hours.

I am and I am not. I have eschewed ordinary human life. I have not transcended it or made my self into anything. I have discovered I am nothing and my vow is to face this dirty secret behind all human lives. None of us are anything. The result is to just get along. No big deal.

When I was in religious formation in a Roman Catholic monastic contemplative order, I learned how special vowed religious were both to the Church and to God. The monastic profession made a person special, irrevocably different. I bought this dogma hook line and sinker. I wanted to be special to God more than anything in the world. I hung in there for three full years.

Then on an 8 day silent retreat, I had a dream. The dream told me that love was the predominant mode of existence. I was kicked out of the monastery the next day. A day later I was hustled away with a box of clothes and an incensed ego.

In the past 7 years I have continually diminished in status and notoriety. I discovered the secret. I don\’t mean anything. There is some life force within me that probably does mean something but since it does not speak, it cannot help the poor human ego and its quest for specialness.

What am I trying to say? Why have I written this? Just an expression of my thinking. The solitary must face that inner emptiness. I look at it. I stare into the abyss. I seek the peace of utter quiet. I will not yet run away from this journey.

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Morning Meditation

I woke up tired and thought: a spirit shouldn\’t have to study spirituality; or live like this.

I sat quietly and thought: The certain outcome of solitude is peace; but you must first go through ego turmoil. The intermediate stage of turmoil, a mental stress, is seen as a psychological disorder and recommended against. Indeed the ego turmoil frightens others and causes them to council the solitary to rejoin the mainstream; because they secretly don\’t want anyone to find freedom. Freedom is a witness to the devestation of society.

On the other side, for those who endure the ego turmoil, is peace; the state we\’ve all been seeking.

God Himself is nothing more than utter peace. His Presence is freely and quietly entered as soon as the ego is renounced.

And then I went running.65 minutes on hills, pretty warm, little bits of snow whapping me in the face. I love running on hills. They are my life\’s blood. I can\’t imagine why some runners hate hills!

Under De-Struction

What happened to this blog?

Excuse: work has been busy and taking up all my creative thoughts.

There are one or two things that have been occupying my mind but I haven\’t come out of the closet to talk about them. One concerns my attendance at 12 Step meetings.

Before Christmas I quit going to these meetings. Then, I realized I really like doing my long weekend runs when I want to do them; instead of working them around meeting times. Then, after not going for a few weeks, I realized that my mind was much more peaceful without the meetings.

A little history here. I went to meetings very regularly for the first 14 years of my sobriety. Then I moved to a monastery and didn\’t go to any for 5 years; including my first year out of the monastery when I had 3 jobs and no desire to go. Then I got a day job and had time for meetings, so I started going again. Then I moved to the country and only went to one meeting a week because it was a 50 mile drive (I was coming to town for groceries anyway). So, a few months ago when I moved back to town, I intended to re-integrate back into the group. But I found that I had been away too long and could no longer relate to the people. I wasn\’t living on the same page. I had to filter everything I said into a language they would understand. I realized that I didn\’t like the meetings. I used to like the meetings 11 years ago; but not now. I don’t need meetings for myself and haven’t for ten or more years.

But quitting meetings means going against the 12 Step dogmatic precepts: the dogma that if you don’t go to meetings you’ll drink again. Truly however, the 12 Steps are a spiritual program of action which I continuously work at far more than the people who preach about going to meetings. I find that quitting meetings has brought space into my life and additional silence which is being used to spiritually change my perceptions of the world. For that I am grateful; but it is a work in progress. So I called this blog: De-Struction.

I am fascinated and in marvel at the flip side of the coin of not going to meetings: wow! I am a solitary and I like it. I like silence. It fascinates me that I spend all weekend alone except for a store clerk or two. I have no \”difficult\” relationships. I have arrived at solitude. A little history here: about 18 months before going to the monastery, I was in a period of unemployment. Right then, I read about a man who spend a year alone in a room, meditating. I was intrigued by the idea. The story led me to learn about and start practicing silent meditation, zazen or contemplation (whatever you want to call it). Contemplation led me to the monastery. The religious order which billed itself as contemplative was actually far more interested in building a cenobitic community than contemplation so it is a good thing I am not longer there. But I did learn a great deal about the desert experience, the eremitic life and silence during my 4 years as a nun. When I moved to the country, I made absolutely no effort to make friends and lived in silence except for work and the one meeting a week. Work has never been a social burden for me because I am a woman engineer doing analytical work amongst a bunch of guys. I never talk to them except about work.

So I can see how I have taken myself out of society in many ways: no TV, no family, long distance runner, natural vegan diet, student of a non-denominational theology. Looking at the history of how I learned about the spirituality of quiet, combined with my lifelong quest for God, and it finally makes sense that I embrace solitude. Only now am I owning solitude as a personal choice, not just an accident. I am perfectly capable of joining groups and being a friend; but I am more true to myself to let all that go. It takes courage for me to walk in these shoes openly. I\’ve been a closet solitary so as to avoid any opinions. But I have felt so gifted the past few weeks that I wanted to openly acknowledge my lifestyle choice. I’m coming out!

Life\’s Path

Vowed religious and many solitary hermits have a rule of life. I have a path.

My life’s path

It was to arise with the alarm clock
To have a hot coffee
To study A Course in Miracles
To practice my holy listening.
The path was building a relationship with US.

It was then to get some exercise
To shape the core with Zen crunches
To shower and make my lunch
And to jump in the Prius (Fore-runner) and attend my profession.
The path was to ponder the hand of God.

It was to sit in front of a computer for many hours,
To pound the keys or reading
To produce safety analyses for extremely hazardous chemicals.
The path was to immerse my mind in the nothingness.

The path was to guide a bored or restless mind
To drink coffee.
To resist the vending machine, taking flat bread instead.
To attend meetings and lead discussions.
The path was to serve and teach and learn.

The path was to double back on myself
To jump back in the Prius and head for home.
To exercise some more.
To work on a Miracles project.
To make juice and eat salad.
The path was in silence and solitude.

The path was not of greatness in this world
Not of high intelligence
Not of admirable inspiration
Not of speed or beauty
Not of greatly visible purpose for followers.
It was just a quiet solitary thing, to be merely lived.

The path did not have a rule
Not borrowed from a saint
Not validated by an authority
In fact quiet the opposite
It was a path away from outside favorable consideration.

The path has weekends and free days of pondering and solo running.
Pondering spiritual studies.
Pondering the long slow distance running.
Pondering merely sitting alone, mind unoccupied.
It was to have a life detached and empty, shared with Something.
The path was now real.

In the World but not of it

In my morning meditation today, I read from ACIM 27.III:

  • An empty space that is not seen as filled, an unused interval of time not seen as spent and fully occupied, become a silent invitation to the truth to enter, and to make itself at home. No preparation can be made that would enhance the invitation’s real appeal. For what you leave as vacant God will fill, and where He is there must the truth abide.
  • Reality is ultimately known without a form, unpictured and unseen.
  • In quietness are all things answered, and is every problem quietly resolved.
  • …in your state of mind, solution is impossible. Therefore, God must have given you a way of reaching to another state of mind in which the answer is already there. Such is the holy instant. It is here that all your problems should be brought and left.
  • Attempt to solve no problems but within the holy instant’s surety.

Today I ran 1:50 along the levy. It was a driving freezing rain that was painful at first. Going out, one side of my face was frozen. Coming back, the other side was frozen. I peed under the interstate. The Gortex did its job. I did this run because, well whenever I have time, I go running. I\’m not particularly tapering for a marathon on Sunday because, well, with snow on the way I\’ll likely walk on the treadmill tomorrow; and I don\’t even know if I\’ll feel like the three hour drive to get to the marathon.

The guy with the book was out there too. This man trudges along reading a book and not looking up at all. Today, he was trudging through the grass on the leeward side, away from the wind, with an umbrella. His blue jeans were sopping up the rain. I don\’t think he saw me up on the levy, but his dog came and said hi.

I saw a heard of wild turkeys, a couple of cardinals and some other small birds.

I see Christmas all around me but am not angry at it. I have cut ties with the reality of the illusion if I can watch the illusion but not be involved with it. This ambivalence is to be in the world but not of it.

I know some thoughtful people who don\’t want to do Christmas but do it because of pressure from others; blaming children or parents for their involvement. Peer pressure justifies gang rape too! Others feel like they must give, so they go work at the soup kitchen. Others feel like it is terrible for anyone to be alone and offer loners a place at their table. Others feel the religious necessity of celebrating Jesus\’ birthday, a holy day of obligation as well. Some loners gather together anyway unable to stand the idea of being alone on Christmas.

I have 5 days in a row off work. Time to be in solitude and silence.

So I have broken free of the ties of peer pressure. It puts me in a vacuum outside the world. I have time and space to listen to the inner Voice. The vacuum is a void where a spiritual reality can flood in to my awareness (even if it is not Christmas this happens). The spiritual reality is quiet. It has no definition related to the material world. It is a place I know, where I exist as an abstraction.

Sitting in my apartment watching the thoughts float through my mind is no different than going out into the world and watching what is going on with other people. Neither the thoughts in my mind nor the world I seem to see around me are real. The spiritual reality, which is real, is eneffable, undefined, abstract, ungrasped, unperceived; yet known. The inner Voice does not speak in words. I invest less of my belief in the material world, thus letting go of judgment, fear, anger, hate and self centeredness. I invest more of my belief in the world of undefined being, existence without limit or terms.

It is somewhat difficult to keep the attention focused on the spiritual world. To be in solitude focused on the spiritual world is the lingering gift of monastic life. Physically divorced from ordinary life while in the cloister, I was never able to return to normal life exactly. I continued my spiritual quest into the Great Beyond, where nothing said in words makes sense.

Poem of the Solitary Runner

A silent athlete in a silent world.
A muscle twitches, hardens, tightens, holds and lets go.
No one knows.
The count goes to 15; 15….15.
Tighten the laces.
Foot fall after foot fall on the wet pavement.
The swish of nylon plus husky wet breaths.
I can’t see. Slashing arms grip air. I get by.
Another lap, another hill, one more time.
Raw.
I don’t know why I am out here doing this.
Stamina, endurance, endlessness, driven by madness.
Energy unchanneled, lavishly expended, flung uselessly.
For nothing.

A cocoon of core. A cocoon of distance.
A funeral pyre of objectivity.
Rising, emerging, a chi floating on new fallen snow.
Through the silent woods. Footfall after footfall. I’ve forgotten what was.
I’ve been freed of who was.
Eternal presence, quietly alone.
Nothing, nobody.
Free.
Identity crucified by the endless distance and north wind.
Mystery strides forth coated in sweat.
Power shrugged at.
Another lap, another hill, one more time.
Solitary, mindful, obstinate unbelief, persevering belief.
Nothing to say, a sneer unsubsumed.
Uncalled for arrogance, prostrate, gasping.
Pushing, pushed.
Sacred, holy, an eruption of thought unbridled.
Love unchecked, let go, sprinting.
Phenomenon whispered by the sunlight.
Sheer awareness.
Alone, unlimited, annihilation of identity.
Unqualified existence, being untwisted.

A snowflake soon melted. Silence continues.

The Evolution of My Enlightenment

Part of why I sit alone and listen to my thoughts is sort through them, pray about them and discern which ones are authentic to my “real relationship” (with God) and which are ego posturing (reflect as it were, examine my life). Ego posturing includes those thoughts which could be perceived as coming from others; but in truth, these are my projected thoughts (I own them). In solitude, I allow my mountain of hatred to show itself. I patiently write down all its grievances against “them” and then find a spiritual remedy.

On the one hand, my ego hammers me un-mercilessly and endlessly with hatred for “them.” On the other hand, the Holy Spirit has given me one “real relationship” with God and is teaching me to live that reality.

This morning, two things happened. A) I realized how full of hatred my lifelong quest for enlightenment has been and how I need to think about what I really do want in the now; which is of myself and not what someone else said. B) I read something in the ACIM text which was beautiful. Yet I knew I was not capable of that thought pattern. But the reading was a tool to unleash a long list of hatreds and grievances which I could give to the Holy Spirit for healing.

“Think but how holy you must be from whom the Voice for God calls lovingly unto your brother, that you may awake in him the Voice that answers to your call! And think how holy he must be when in him sleeps your own salvation, with his freedom joined! However much you wish he be condemned, God is in him. And never will you know He is in you as well while you attack His chosen home, and battle with His host” (26.IX.1).

The brief story of my enlightenment goes like this:

1. Early in my 20s I was reading John of the Cross and his description of the infusion of love and the flight of the soul. I was also reading Thomas Merton and his descriptions of contemplation and what he got out of it. I wanted that personal ecstatic feeling.

2. As I got sober in my mid-20s in AA, I encountered descriptions of the spiritual experience and conscious contact with God. Again, there was the ecstatic release from reality and the ensuing divine wisdom and peace (so I thought). I definitely wanted the escape from reality. I was an emotional basket case.

3. Towards my late 20s, I got involved with some new age spiritual material and followed for a year a man who talked about finding your higher self. I kept going to workshops, doing the meditations and hoping to connect with this higher self. I hoped that I would finally feel loved. I became angry that I never got that feeling and upon discovering my next phase, I quit the meditation.

4. My next phase involved sex and motorcycles. The high point was a hope of love mixed with orgasm. I found a good looking lover and we rode our motorcycles to Madison County Iowa. We commenced to play “The Bridges of Madison County” (a romantic book I had read). The romance was euphoric for a weekend, but we had not the makings of a relationship. In this phase were two other guys I dated for long periods; but I never found that man who would sweep me off my feet, bring me to a castle and I would live safely, in luxury, and in love forever.

5. Then my enlightenment quest got serious because I discovered Zen meditation or Zazen. I began to practice diligently, again hoping for a moment of enlightenment. Zen “sitting” led me to a Christian form of contemplative prayer called Centering Prayer. I found myself back in the same boat as step 1 (above) hoping for the flight of the soul into “contemplation.”

6. Contemplation led to me seeking out a contemplative religious order and attempting to join. I thought that the only way to achieve what I wanted was to live in a monastery and follow a path. I thought that the others ahead of me on the path had found what I was seeking. It turns out not, but I did try to join with every fiber of my being. I practiced “lectio divina,” adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, daily Eucharist, and the Divine Office five times a day. The ecstatic flight of my soul never happened. I became enmeshed in emotional dependency as my daily life began to revolve around the approval of my superiors. I thought mystical union might happen after I made monastic profession, so I practiced people pleasing as much as possible in order to be approved for the mystical marriage. God had other plans for me and I found myself back in the world.

7. As I took up secular life, I felt less than the nuns and was determined to make a spiritual success of myself without the convent and without a guru. I spent hours a day in contemplative sitting. I fasted. I studied spiritual texts from all corners of the globe and prayed with them. I ran ultra long distances because I had read of the spiritual experiences of ultra-marathoners. I wanted to hear an intuitive voice from within who could solve my problems and be the end of the quest.

8. After a few years, I discovered A Course in Miracles and this became my primary spiritual text. I no longer want enlightenment as an ecstatic escape. I no longer want enlightenment in order to be as good as famous authors or vowed religious. I no longer want enlightenment because I am jealous. I no longer want enlightenment so I know God loves me. Enlightenment is not my focus. I want to sort through my hate and have the Holy Spirit heal it; in other words, be free of ego. I want to honestly perceive Christ in my brother; in other words, be free of ego.

God has given me a gift. I want to remember Him and accept His gift in this life. In the mean time, I seem to need to wade through a mountain of negativity. I return several times a day to the contemplative silence and listen to the Voice. IT helps me return to the present where peace is and all my grievances are seen for delusions which can be denied. Realizing my grievances are ego lies, I am able to see glimmers of holiness in my brothers. I can grasp this holy reality for at least awhile. Without going to the silence, I would forget it entirely.

I can’t explain to you why I don’t just instantly accept the Holy Spirit’s healing and never return to my ego hate. I face this insanity in myself and bring it out to the Holy Spirit. Evolved or not, this is where I am at.

Vacation Day Hermit Day

In solitude, I look for a thought. I seek a thought beyond what I read in someone’s book.

I have not got to the bottom of solitude. I don’t know the answer. I keep trying to write out the answer because my ego wants something to grasp. Yet, solitude is nothing. In solitude, I am nothing. At issue is nothingness. Can God be found in the bleak blank bare? While I am nothing and have nothing, I still hope for God.

This morning in ACIM text, I read something impossibly good; so good my mind snapped up a wall. I had to tell Jesus I don’t believe this could apply to me.

“Where sin once was perceived will rise a world that will become an altar to the truth, and you will join the lights of Heaven there, and sing their song of gratitude and praise. And as they come to you to be complete, so will you go with them. For no one hears the song of Heaven and remains without a voice that adds its power to the song, and makes it sweeter still. And each one joins the singing at the altar that was raised within the tiny spot that sin proclaimed to be its own. And what was tiny then has soared into a magnitude of song in which the universe has joined with but a single voice” (26.IV.5).

I don’t believe I will ever learn enough about Christ vision and seeing Christ in my brother (forgiveness) from my Guide and Teacher, the Holy Spirit. ACIM assures me that God cannot fail and I need not worry about how much I don’t understand. My desire is enough to get me to follow diligently. Following diligently, I will arrive at heaven because God cannot fail.

Then I went to 6:30 am Mass. If no one had told me there is a God, what would I think? I think I would have found my intuitive COMPANION. I go to Mass to watch and listen. I think there must be some intuitive information available which is beyond Catholic belief and the historical evolution. If the Eucharist really is what they say it is, no one would need to go more than once; and no one could go without knowing what it was.

Then I went to Wally World while it was still somewhat uncrowded. Then I went for a 16 mile run. I completed the run at a speed of 9.75 minutes per mile. That is very good considering I weigh about 3 pounds more than I should and I was wearing lots of clothes. It looks like I could do well in the “Run for the Ranch” marathon on 12/27; but I don’t know if I have the energy to drive my butt down to southern Missouri.

Then I went on a shopping spree at Dick’s Sporting Goods. I am a sucker for “Livestrong” clothing.

Solitude Explained

I am a solitary because I want time. I want time for spirituality and running. I say “solitary” because I have disengaged from society and individual relationships. As a result of sitting in long periods of silence and inactivity, facing my ego’s negativity, and exposing myself directly to spiritual intervention, my attitudes, ideas and opinions are differentiated from society; and becoming integrated with “something else” I call the COMPANION.

I want to live in deep embrace and partnership, one consciousness with the COMPANION. I have wanted this since I was 22. Seeking the oneness is why I’ve done everything else: daily spiritual study (for all those years), learned silent sitting, integrated running into the meditation, used wholistic food and fasting to attune my body to the COMPANION’s vibration pattern, disengaged from society (TV, entertainment, holidays, religion, politics, 12 Step groups, etc.), daily reflection and discussion with the COMPANION.

Ten years ago, I was removed from society totally by going to live in a monastic cloister, for almost 4 years. A Benedictine contemplative community is a group exercise, not solitude; but it does disconnect one from ordinary life.

Five years ago, I became a solitary by default as I lived and worked in the country. I was intentional about solitude and contemplation by this time. Alone for long periods of time, I had to consciously process guilt, hate, anger, shame and fear; or go back to society and avoid these emotions by being busy. Everybody has these but they are usually covered with busyness. We don\’t recognize that the routine frustrations are evidence of a mountain of hate lying just below the surface of consciousness. Solitude gives you knowledge of that mountain of negative ego emotion.

When you have stayed in solitude and processed the ego emotions for long enough, you become mentally different than the people who never did it; inhabiting a different world as it were. After some time of processing, it becomes impossible to go back. My worst problem with solitude is realizing that I am unable to rejoin society and no one wants for follow me into true embrace with the COMPANION. I’ve had people question why anyone would want to give up their life like this.

So, given the situation, I must find the COMPANION and fully enter His consciousness. To fully embrace and engage a spiritual life and spiritual world, I must fully let go of the ego world and ego emotions and any hope of finding satisfaction in anything other than the COMPANION. The COMPANION is with me always, but I must turn to Him and listen to His Voice; instead of looking back at society and listening to ego.

The COMPANION heals my guilt, hate, anger, shame and fear; if I give it to Him. I begin to live in a world of peace, joy and love, God’s reality. This new world is freedom from ego and reception of God’s gifts. My function becomes a) being an icon of God’s reality, b) projecting God’s reality and c) mirroring God’s reality.

The COMPANION has more to teach me. I am now an urban solitary, beginning a life of acceptance and faith in the COMPANION alone. My journey is still one of emptiness, inactivity and letting go of ego emotions.

Everyone has a path to oneness with the COMPANION. The COMPANION does not belong to me. Everyone walks their path and does their own work, whether they know it or not. The way out of the ego world is much quicker for those who intentionally engage in their process.

This morning, I got up at 6, did spiritual study for an hour (including writing this), cleaned the house, and sat down to type what I wrote. Now, I think it is almost time for running.

Hermit Day

Friday, vacation day.

I got up at 5 am and had an hour of spiritual study. Then I went to 6:30 am Mass. In Mass, it is very quiet with 30 or so adults scattered throughout a large church. People sit quietly in meditation and are very respectful of the silence. Perhaps we are in awe as we remember the Consciousness of Love which watches over us always. I don\’t say anything to any one. My body speaks liturgical language too. Today, my mouth spoke only liturgical language until about 11:30, when I spoke to the lady at the license bureau.

After church, I went for a run. I went to Parkville by the Missouri River. It was about 12F, no wind, clear sky. I decided to wear my yak-trak since the path was half snow covered. How long should I run for? Until…..

While running, I thought about being a solitary semi-hermit and how that has transformed since I moved to the city. The starting point of each day is solitude and connection with God. Then I try to bring the awareness out. I continue to live as a marginalized person and have no intention of rejoining the group. But it is happy for me to finally accept this circumstance of my life. The spiritual has been my interest for over 30 years. It makes since that I wouldn\’t understand people who chose family or career or some other distraction from The One Consciousness Who Loves Us.
I explore silence for silence sake. I don’t choose it out of hate or injury but for the sake of it itself. Maybe I could say that I believe silence is for ego transcendence. The other side of the ego transcendence coin is acceptance of higher truth. Acceptance of higher truth can only happen beyond the ego. Being social bolsters the ego and noises out that which is higher.

There are so many interesting things I find when I consider solitude: the addictiveness of society, the programming undertaken to become social, the peer pressure saying I am wrong, the ego inflation when others praise me, the anger towards others, the judgments of others, the un-productivity of solitude, the worthlessness of the un-engaged solitary. But, I could walk away. I could give the ego and the turmoil up. It is consistent with A Course in Miracles (ACIM) to walk away because it denies the ego illusion and receives inner peace. I can go farther into “losing my life for Christ’s sake.”

ACIM is always reminding me that Christ is within, Christ is very silent. So, am I willing to let go of the world to a greater extent and stand in my truth? I stand naked and alone. Naked because I have no excuses for NOT being social (I am not too busy and I am local); yet, I choose silence. I am not trying to prove anything or be anything (like a monk or contemplative); yet I practice silence. I have a lot to learn.

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So…I ran around the park for 15 miles. Then, I decided to go ahead and finish another 5 miles as nothing bad was going on with my legs and I don\’t know what the weather and footing might be like on Sunday. 20 miles, 3;48, 3 Gu, some water.
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A quick stop to pay the sales taxes on my new car. The license bureau is in a pet store; so I bought a small token of appreciation for my spiritual guide, CM, who lives in Canada and prays for me. (hehe)