Category Archives: spirit
Strange bedfellows make great stories, don’t they?
This week, CBC news reported the unusual friendship between a red-tailed hawk and some cows. In case you don’t live in Canada, or have somehow not seen a weather forecast in the past few months, the Maritime provinces on the east coast of Canada experienced crazy, knock-your-socks-off, don’t-leave-your-house-for-days snowstorms—repeatedly. In early February, Charlottetown, PEI received five feet of snow in a two-week period, and the storms just kept coming.
Unusual weather makes living creatures do unusual things. To escape the wild snowstorms, a red-tailed hawk took refuge in a barn. The storms were so frequent and of such extended duration, the hawk and the cows became friends.
(Awww . . .)
A few years ago I read about an Amur tiger in who actively sought out human assistance. Sadly, human activity caused him to need help in the first place; the tiger had a paw caught in a poacher’s trap. Weakened and in pain, the tiger cried out as it approached people.
(A red-tailed hawk is one thing, but a tiger?)
If only we could figure out a way to discover the kinship of strange bedfellows before a crisis. Wouldn’t that be fantastic?
I love the book The Alchemist, and I find its author, Paulo Coelho, inspirational as a writer and a human being.
Many people don’t agree. I made a visit to the “1 star” section of the Goodreads reviews of The Alchemist and discovered myriad variations on the “What a load of tripe” theme.
Those readers didn’t fall in with the fabled story of a hero journey. They didn’t buy the life wisdoms like the one quoted above. After all, since when does everyone in the universe get what they want? And what about good people who end up suffering?
Coelho recently responded to those concerns with this:
“I realized that despite the fear and the bruises of life, one has to keep on fighting for one’s dream. As Borges said in his writings ‘there no other virtue than being brave’. And one has to understand that braveness is not the absence of fear but rather the strength to keep on going forward despite the fear.”
I think he means this: If you have the ability to complain about NOT getting what you want, then that means that you’re still breathing, and your story is not over yet. There’s still time.
Get busy. Work hard. Stop whining, because if you don’t, all you’ll get is more of the same. Fight past all those things you fear. Don’t let them paralyze you into inaction.
If you do, you might be amazed at the machinations of the universe.
Consider Paulo Coelho’s 25 Important Points. Read them here: http://paulocoelhoblog.com/2014/09/03/25-important-points/
Last year I was part of a group that drafted a new mission statement for our church. One of our biggest questions? What word to use to describe the “awesomeness.”
God? A turn-off to too many people. The Holy? People said to us, “What does that even mean?” Spirit? Conjures up images of ghosts. Source? Doesn’t quite cover it. Creator? Edges into the whole evolution/intelligent design controversy.
We settled on The Divine. This did not go unchallenged. Grammar purists argued, “Divine is an adjective.” Others thought it too vague. It’s not perfect, but it was as close as we could come to capturing the elusive, thin-place feeling of Perfect Moments.
And what is a Perfect Moment?
It’s different for everyone, and never the same twice. If you try for it, it escapes your grasp. But you know it when it descends upon you unbidden. It doesn’t have to be in an Ashram or in deep meditation, although it can be. It happens in grocery stores, restaurants or (often) on a walk in the woods. Usually it is deceptively simple, so that when it’s over, people wonder, “Did that really happen?”
We celebrate New Year’s Eve with a group of friends. One New Year’s Eve, many years ago, we met as usual, relaxed together, and our children entertained each other in the play room. We gathered around the kitchen table. Through ceiling-high windows that lined one wall of the room, I watched inch-wide snow flakes drifting down and settling into fluffy banks. Christmas tree lights reflected in the glass. Children’s laughter wafted to us from a distance. The moment began to take on a special quality of timelessness, almost a buzzing. I felt part of the scene and apart from it. A witness. I looked at the snow, the lights, my friends, and I thought, “This is a Perfect Moment.”
I savoured it until the special quality dissipated with that noticeable shift back to reality and then moved on. I thought the moment was mine alone.
Later, one of my friends told me, “You know, I remember one New Year’s Eve, we were in the kitchen and the snow was falling, and the kids were playing and for a short time I was struck by how perfect the moment was.”
I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t believe that we had shared the Perfect Moment, the thin place, the awesomeness, together.
It might have come from God, Spirit, Creator or Source, and it felt Holy, but it was above all, Divine.
Read our mission statement here: http://www.trinityunitedottawa.ca/about-trinity/momentum-for-mission/
Lots of people ask me where I get my ideas.
Stephen King answers the same question this way:
“. . . good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, interviewed the American poet, Ruth Stone. During that interview, Ruth Stone spoke of feeling poems:
“. . . coming at her from over the landscape like a thunderous train of air.” She said that when this happened, she felt the poem coming, it shook the earth beneath her feet, and the only thing she could do was run like hell to the house, chased by the poem. She had to get to a piece of paper and a pencil fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page. Sometimes, she said, she wouldn’t be fast enough and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it and it would continue on across the landscape looking for another poet.”
Wouldn’t that be exciting?
I’m helped by Julia Cameron’s morning pages. In The Artist’s Way, she recommends the daily practice of writing three pages every morning. Weird and wonderful stuff comes to me on those pages. The ideas feed this blog and my other creative writing. The ideas arise out of a creative primordial ooze; I dredge them out of the muck, and they rise to the surface with a sucking sound, brand new and unevolved.
Without fail, something comes up. Almost always I think: “I could never have thought of that on my own.”
Out of the empty sky, barreling across the landscape, or rising out of the primordial soup—however we choose to describe it—the ideas come from somewhere, someone, someplace, something outside of us.
We just recognize them when they show up.
“Faith and fear have something in common. They both ask us to believe something will happen that we cannot see.” —Joel Osteen
Why is it so easy to accept fear-based dire predictions, but so difficult to believe in faith-based hope?
Why is there such societal pressure to go with fear instead of faith? Why are we so resistant to the idea of looking like a hopeful fool?
Joel Osteen has a point. Maybe the odds are 50/50 in any given situation? Maybe we should run with the faith option instead of succumbing to the grip of fear?
Maybe we’ll end up saying “I had faith that would happen,” instead of “I was afraid that would happen.”
“Onward” by Donald Smith © 2014
In Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, Dr. Eben Alexander describes the near-death experience (NDE) that granted him a glimpse of heaven. The circumstances of his brush with death differ from those of other people who reported NDE visions of heaven. In most cases, the patients’ hearts stop, or they stop breathing, but the part of their brains capable of creating visions remains functional. In Dr. Alexander’s case, bacterial meningitis shut down that vital visioning part of his brain.
Before his rare and serious illness, Dr. Alexander relied on a purely scientific view of the world. He did not give credence to near-death visions of heaven, because he credited the brain with, somehow or other, sparking the realistic images.
Then this man of science lost brain function and found an expanded view of life. After he made his unprecedented and unexpected complete recovery, he wrote about the spectacular experience.
Many aspects of his story warrant attention, but I particularly liked the phrases of reassurance he received from a beautiful heavenly girl:
“You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.
You have nothing to fear.
There is nothing you can do wrong.”
No matter what any of us think of heaven—whether we think of it as a place, or a vibration, or a state of mind, or a figment of the imagination, or a threat wielded by organized religion to scare people into being “good”—no matter what any of us think, we can still choose to settle those phrases into our hearts as truths.
That one simple act would make the world a happier place, I think.
“In my past view, spiritual wasn’t a word that I would have employed during a scientific conversation. Now I believe it is a word that we cannot afford to leave out.”
—Eben Alexander, M.D.