Swim Upstream

Swim Upstream

Epiphany 32

 

It was with no small amount of surprise when someone introduced me as a lifestyle blogger.  I do not discuss fashion, what I eat, where I went, or even trends.  I do not spend a great deal of time thinking about labels except to organize things but I have to confess I would have been hard put to categorize this blog with a label.  Still, was I really a “lifestyle” blogger?

 

What we do is discuss life and the various ways to live it.  Spirituality and religion play a big part because I think they are the fuel that drives the engine of our lives.  I never would have said this was a theological blog, however.  I hope it causes you to think and perhaps ponder how you are living but does that make this a lifestyle blog?  Apparently, to many, it does.

 

Then I was asked to write a lifestyle piece.  I thought, given the above paragraph, that I had been doing just that.  Be more specific, I was told.  Okay.  Here is my specific lifestyle piece.  I really don’t think it is much different than the other almost eleven hundred posts but you can decide.  As always, I would love to get your feedback.

 

We all get caught up in the hectic pace of life, the “rat race” as it was called in the 1950’s.  The exact origin of the phrase “the rat race” is unknown but it does appear in the 1947 John Steinbeck novel “The Wayward Bus”.  A female character describes her father’s lifestyle as “He was afraid of his friends and his friends were afraid of him. A rat race she thought.”

 

A rat race is any exhausting, unremitting, and usually competitive activity or routine, especially a pressured urban working life spent trying to get ahead with little time left for leisure, contemplation, etc.  Rats are often portrayed as running around and around through a maze in a laboratory setting to gain the coveted prize – a piece of cheese.  Their one focus is the prize at the end and little attention is paid to anything else.

 

The rat race typically means no work-life balance, no independence, high stress, long commutes, and general dissatisfaction with life. Work-life balance refers to a proportionate way of life. While work is necessary, its purpose is to provide the means to enjoy a satisfying life.  Many people caught up in such a rat race suffer burn-out, and often have higher incidences of divorce, addiction, and other poor health problems.

 

“A rat race is for rats. We’re not rats. We’re human beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice, lest you jeopardize your chances of self-promotion and self-advancement. This is how it starts. And before you know where you are, you’re a fully paid-up member of the rat pack. The price is too high. It entails the loss of your dignity and human spirit.” These words were spoken by Jimmy Reid, at a Glasgow University address in 1972 and are still true today.

 

So how do we avoid the proverbial rat race?  We learn to swim upstream.  This is not easy but it really is not that hard either.  When asked if he ever thought man would go to the moon, Neil Armstrong answered with a strong affirmative.  He felt it was in the nature of man to challenge known science and to explore.  He was proven correct when he became the first man to walk on the moon.

 

Life is about living, really living, not just going through the motions.  It requires us to be fully involved with the process of being alive.  W.C. Fields once said: “Remember, a dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a live one to swim upstream.”  My lifestyle tip for your today is to swim upstream and really enjoy being alive.  Lady Gaga sang this in her performance Of “Born This Way” last night, “I’m on the right track baby; I was born to survive.  I’m on the right track baby; I was born to be brave.”

Age and Renewal

Age and Renewal

Christmas 3

 

This blog is published daily or at least publishes a blog for each day, today being the 1030th blog post.  The different series are divided into sections based loosely on the liturgical calendar of those religions with an historic episcopate.  This blog is not religious in nature though.  The spirituality of the world is also included and recently someone asked me why.  Why do I not just publish from my own perspective?  Why include other religions and discuss various spiritualities?

 

The purpose of this blog was to have an outlet for discussion, discussions which, I hoped, would expand my own thinking and possibly that of others.  Hence, the title of this blog is “n2myhead” or… “into my head”.  As we approach the end of 2016, I found it fitting to have been asked this question because life really is about age and maturity and renewal, the very things we often reflect upon at this time of the year.  Age and renewal is also the history of the world’s religions and spiritualities and is the timeline for the cultures of humanity.

 

Today is the third day of Christmas, the second day of Kwanzaa, and tonight will be the fourth night of Hanukkah.  It might seem that a Christian holiday, a cultural commemoration of African heritage, and a Jewish celebration of a miracle have little in common, just as viewing the parade of representative in their native garb at the United Nations seems like a party rather than history.  Those perspectives, however, belie the truth and the connections all have.  They deny the connections we ourselves have.

 

Hinduism is considered the world’s oldest religion, followed by Judaism and Zoroastrianism.  There were no You Tube videos of the first worship services or spiritual practices but it is believed that the beginnings of Hinduism trace back to India’s pre-Vedic times, somewhere around 2000 BCE.  Called the oldest of the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism traces its beginnings to the time of Abraham or 1800 BCE.  Zoroastrianism is a bit more difficult to track but it is estimated to have begun in Persian from either the eighteenth century BCE to somewhere around the six century BCE.  Jainism, Buddhism, and Confucianism also began around the sixth century BCE and the text of Taoism has been attributed to Lao Tzu with a date also in this same religiously spiritual sixth century BCE.

 

Christianity is approximately two thousand years old with Islam coming six hundred years later.  Because it also is an Abrahamic faith along with Judaism and Christianity, some claim it had its beginnings with Abraham as do some Christian scholars.  The word “Islam” translates as “submission to the will of God” so it is understandable that since the Quran considers Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses as submitters, they might claim this earlier date.  As an organized religion, nonetheless, it came into existence with the prophet Mohammad in Arabia in the seventh century ACE. 

 

History is a nondenominational, non-spiritual recording of the history of the world and those in it and yet, even history did not escape the influence of spiritualties and religions.  The western of Georgian calendar used worldwide uses the Christian birth of Christ, the man known also as Jesus of Nazareth, as the axis point or divider for historical events.  Up until recently the terms “B.C.” and “A.D.” were used, referring to “Before Christ” and “Anno Domini” which is Latin for “in the year of the Lord”.  Now the terms are “BCE for “Before the Common Era” and “ACE” or “After the Common Era”.

 

Shinto is considered the indigenous or traditional religion of Japan and it came into being somewhere around the eighth century ACE.  The world’s youngest religion is Sikhism which was founded in India by Guru Nanak approximately in 1500 ACE.  These major religions are not the only ones practiced in the world, however.  Another religiously active century was the nineteenth century.  Baha’i  in Persia, the modern-day Iran. Christian Science in Boston, MA, USA,  and Mormonism in Western New York are made an appearance during the 1800’s. 

 

The twentieth century, known for its industrial revolutions and advancements in computer technology did not omit spirituality either.  Rastafarianism was found in Jamaica in the 1930’s; L. Ron Hubbard began his Church of Scientology in New Jersey, USA in 1953 and the Unification Church was founded in South Korea the following year.  Also during this time Great Britain saw a revival of ancient European indigenous paganism with traditions being unified under the heading of Wicca.

 

This timeline illustrates how we are connected not only with the use of a common sense of time but also by the aging and renewing of beliefs with different perspectives.  This time of year is the perfect time to emphasize those connections and take heed of the gifts we all have with them.  Each celebration serves a purpose and gives us an avenue to reconnect.  Just as we age and learn, growing into our own person, so does the world age and renew itself. 

 

Writer Deborah Day believes that “Renewal requires opening yourself up to new ways of thinking and feeling.”  I agree.  It is the very nature and purpose of this blog.  The Roman writer Ovid in his “Metamorphoses explains why this is important or should be important to us:   “As wave is driven by wave and each, pursued, pursues the wave ahead; so time flies on and follows, flies, and follows, always, forever and new. What was before is left behind; what never was is now; and every passing moment is renewed.”

 

During these eight days of Hanukah, these twelve days of Christmas, and six days of Kwanza, we are called to remember, revere, and renew.  It is the essence of life.  It is our purpose for living.  It is proper, then, that each includes the lighting of candles.  They serve to help light the path before us and to take us out of the darkness of the past.  “For within your flesh, deep within the center of your being, is the undaunted, waiting, longing, all-knowing. Is the ready, able, perfect. Within you, waiting its turn to emerge, piece by piece, with the dawn of every former test of trial and blackness, is the next unfolding, the great unfurling of wings, the re-forged backbone of a true Child of Light.” (Jennifer DeLucy)

The Power of Shhh…

The Power of Shhh…

Pentecost 131

 

We all know what the ravages of illness do to our physical body.  Ask anyone who suffers from a debilitating illness and they can assure you that their illness also takes a toll on their mental state and emotional health.  Rachel Naomi Remen was one of the first to connect the process backwards.  Remen is considered a pioneer in connecting conventional medicine and holistic practices in healing such diseases as cancer, fibromyalgia, and multiple sclerosis.  She has spent the past several decades helping people heal and assisting them in finding a positive connection between their spirit and recovery.

 

“Perhaps the most important thing we bring to another person is the silence in us, not the sort of silence that is filled with unspoken criticism or hard withdrawal. The sort of silence that is a place of refuge, of rest, of acceptance of someone as they are. We are all hungry for this other silence. It is hard to find. In its presence we can remember something beyond the moment, a strength on which to build a life. Silence is a place of great power and healing.”  As a professor at the Oster Center of Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and co-founder of Commonweal Cancer Help Program, Remen encourages finding personal peace.

 

Sometimes the best gift we can give ourselves is the gift of sanctuary.  Many claim to find such a calming sense of refuge in music or other arts but in the quote above, Remen encourages us to find it in the silence of our lives.  Moreover, she advocates that we create some silence every day.  The guest speaker  on several Public Broadcast Series on public television, Remen wants us to stop talking.

 

Sometimes the very best way to make the ordinary extraordinary is to simply be and to let the world exist around us.  Some might fear solitude but it is in the quiet of the world and our being that our greatest revelations can appear.  Those involved in transcendental meditation and centering prayer know the power of silence.

 

Of course, our minds tend to keep racing in those quiet moments.  Bryant McGill explains how this is not a bad thing but simply a path during our quiet times that we should not be afraid to follow.  “Each positive thought is your refuge and your sanctuary, where in that thoughtful moment, you are safe.”  Using the quiet in-between the appointments of our busy lives can create a world of its own.  They can serve to be our own sacred space, an altar in our minds that, in the silence, speaks volumes.

Living the Dream

Living the Dream

Pentecost #167

If someone walked up to you on the street today and offered you a million dollars to go live out your dream life, could you  instantly describe what that dream would be?  Most of us, if asked, would define the word dream as something we do when asleep or perhaps, as a daydream, when we are bored in a meeting or class.  The whole science of dream interpretation, though, is based upon the premise that dreams are much more than simply images we see in our subconscious mind while sleeping.  If you study dreams, at some point you will come across this quote:  “everything in a dream is an aspect of ourselves.”

For many of us, dreaming is just something we do in our sleep.  From Plato to Carl Jung, however, man has been fasicinated with dreaming.  They saw and see our dreams as something we do in our sleep.  For others it is a roadmap of our mind, illustrating what we fear or what makes us happy.  For the Aborigine people of Australia, the past, present, and future are explained in their myths of the Dreaming, a concept over forty thousand years old.

The spirits of the Dreaming are eternal mythical creatures who die, only to become part of the natural landscapes.  Thus what may appear to be a barren dessert is actually a living myth.  Recent rains have turned dessert pastures into beautiful colorful fields of wonder.  It is easy to understand how these ancient cultures saw what once had been stark turn into beauty and think it was the result of a supernatural power.  The Dreaming myths have been kept alive through oral tradition, songs, tattoos, sand paintings, and conventional art.

Before we dismiss such beliefs as silly, think about this.  Dreams are mentioned in the Bible one hundred and twenty times.  It may seem crazy in our modern world to believe spirits in the Dreaming die and become part of the landscape but consider the fact that symbols are called the language of dreams.  Perhaps those spirits that seem so alive are just symbols that represent something.  I once had an aunt who named all her trees and shrubs.  While I never really believed these were the returned spirits of my relatives , some of whom had died and others who were still living, it was fun to water them all, speaking to them by the named given to them by my aunt.  Maybe what others called her “green thumb” was simply a different version of the Aborigine Dreaming.

The study of dreams is considered to be a behavioral science.  Older definitions of a dream centered on images seen while sleeping.  We’ve already discussed day dreams, those periods where our mind seems to take a mini vacation.  Maybe we should follow the example of the first people of Australia and ask ourselves if our dreams are trying to tell us something.

Aborigines believe even today that the terrain feature, the topographical distinctions of a region, have power.  Their former spirits of the Dreaming which are now rocks or creeks, mountains or trees have spiritual power and potency.  Our own dreams also have power when we apply action to them.  The only thing keep a dream from becoming reality is a lack of faith in ourselves.  Faith in one’s self can make a dream become a plan for success, a way to fully and completely live the dream.