AIRPORTS

I really enjoying traveling and one of the reasons is because I get to spend quasi leisure time in airports.  I’m fascinated by them and their myriad of moving parts.  And then there are the people; short, tall, skinny, fat, buff, shapely, young, old, newborns, octogenarians and every color under the sun.  So many languages, dialects and people signing.  It’s all just fascinating to me.  Diversity!

 

I remember being on the beach at San Diego and my host showed me the little puddles of water in the large rocks, or were they coral, which contained its own complete ecosystem, like an airport in some ways.  Dare we say a microcosm of the earth?

 

Oh, there’s the ever present toddler with the “Pebbles” top knot exploring the universe around her with a sense of total freedom, with mom, or some other care taker, a few steps behind, ever vigilant.  There’s the weirdo with scraggly beard and clothes that don’t match.  Here comes the sports team on their great adventure with hopes of victory in their hearts.  Over there is the musician carrying his carefully packed instrument on his back.  Does each airport hire these people?  It almost seems they do.

 

One readily sees the differences and if one takes a bit of time to watch, we see our commonalities are far greater.  Do we not all experience pleasure and pain?  Do we not all require food and drink and the need to eliminate waste from our bodies?  The overwhelming majority of adults have experienced sexual intimacy with another.  No doubt, it is a very small majority of those over the age of twelve who have not had their hearts broken by a would be love attraction.  All of this is called life.  Some live it better than others, but we all live it, nonetheless.

 

So what is the most basic trait of our collective beings?  I propose it is that at our very core, we have the propensity to love and be loved.  We are born with a divine spark that enables us to want to live life to its fullest—with others.  Now that’s a great way to relate to our universe!  My wish is that you choose to continue to grow your soul in all the ways you can—even while stuck in the hubbub of an airport.

SITTING

Some years ago, I saw a “Ziggy” cartoon in which he was sitting on a kitchen bar stool.  His right knee was higher than the left and he was resting his elbow on it.  He was also resting his chin on the fist of his right arm, vis a vis, Rodin’s “The Thinker.” The first frame showed his thought, “Sometimes, I sits and thinks.”  The second said, “And sometimes, I just sits.”

I would add to that, I don’t “Just sits” enough.  Anyone who has ever tried the spiritual discipline of meditation knows it is extremely difficult to not think when we are conscious.  Some of us have worked (operative term) for years learning to have no thoughts when mediating.  Meditation is an ancient practice of spiritualists, self-care practitioners, mystics and many more.

My favorite, overly simplistic, definition of the practice is “Doing just one thing at a time with one’s mind.”  When was the last time you did that???  The easiest form is to just count one’s breaths, to four.  Assume a comfortable position.  If you are an Occidental, I don’t recommend the Lotus position!  Close your eyes and “Simply” count to four as you exhale.  Then start over.  That’s it.  Just do that for fifteen minutes without having another thought.  When you can do that, please contact me so I can send you a plaque saying you are a world class meditator!

Medical researchers such as Herbert W. Benson, MD, Harvard Medical School, have done extensive research proving that meditation causes reduced blood pressure, heart rate, breathing and a sense of peace.  Consistent practice over a period of time has many long term benefits.

I get it.  Our culture doesn’t allow for just sitting.  Yet all world religions, past and present, as well as secularists practice meditation.  We don’t have to wear saffron robes, shave our heads—well, you can if you want to, or do any other special things.  You don’t even have to buy special clothes or a twenty dollar water bottle.  Just sit.  And don’t think.  Fifteen to twenty minutes twice a day can have profound affects.  And your family will like you better—maybe.  Go ahead, I double dog dare ya!

I WATCHED THE UNIVERSE DANCE, TODAY!

As I sat in my easy chair reading Julian of Norwich this morning, I looked through my sliding glass doors opening onto my second story deck at the world around me.  Bijou, one of my two toy poodles, was asleep on the ottoman, snoring softly, next to my bare feet while Zoe’ was basking in the dappled sun as it streamed into the room.  Sam the squirrel was standing on his haunches, on the banister, trying to reach the thistle seed feeder I have for the finches. After a few more sniffs, and no little frustration, he went back to the dried ear of corn stuck on a large nail in the railing.  Bobby Blue Jay lighted on the top of the feeder stand making sure it was safe to roost on the container holding his fave, dried meal worms.

Beyond the deck was a sea of green from the coniferous and deciduous trees in the green belt behind my home.  White cumulus clouds filled in the space behind the trees with blue skies laying on top.  I could see some of the petunias and the hibiscus in pots on the deck.  The wind gently moved the leaves of all as the swayed rythmically as sparrows pushed and shoved their way to the bird seed.  A mama took a small piece of millet and fed her chirping juvenile.  Just now, Cal the cardinal showed up to add his color and beauty to the cosmic ballet.

And, I was one with creation.  Peaceful.  Satisfied.  Connected to all around me.  My soul is a bit larger, now.  I am filled with a sense of quiet joy, satisfied in the knowledge that all shall be well.  All shall be well.  All manner of things shall be well.”

ON SWEATING!

I have been doing a considerable amount of work in my yard, lately–assisted by my thirteen year old grandson, Tristan Micah Curd.  We pulled weeds the first few days, then used twelve inch paving bricks to create borders for the older flower beds and the newly created ones.  We carried forty pound bags of play sand, mulch and garden soil.  It’s that time of the year in Omaha when one must choose to walk to one’s mail box or swim.  I relearned that sweating is good for many things, including growing one’s soul.

There is ample evidence in the literature of stress management, cleansing the body of toxins (Sans a high colonic) and alternative medicine to support the premise.  The Sweat Lodge tradition of the native peoples of North and South America is a specifically spiritual tradition.  The Saunas of Scandinavian and other European countries are very popular for healing and relaxation.

If gardening is your thing, you are doubly blessed by actually interacting with the earth, plants, sky and sun.  There are age appropriate activities for all.  Other types of outdoor enterprises such as walking, running, cycling, horse back riding, building, farming; well, you get the point.  If you’re doing any of these things on a summer day, you will probably be sweating.  Might as well make it a spiritual exercise as well!

Be amazed at how your body is its own environmental control unit.  Feel the rivulets cleansing  poisons from your body–along with the beer, wine, and/or liquor you had last night.  Be aware of moisture bathing your body.  Be in communion with every soul who has ever lived and sweated.  Recognize your oneness with all nature, time, and other creatures who have shared the Earth.  Believe in the Universe that provides everything we need for a good life.  Enjoy the basic humanness of your body functioning properly. Be in relationship with all that is.

Think Through the Drill

That’s what “The Fat Man,” a.k.a. LTC (Ret.) E.V. Adams, director of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band use to tell us before we began our practice sessions and then on Saturdays when we did “The Drill” before thousands of football fans.  I remember to this day, how I would meticulously remember each step, six to five, I would take, where I would turn left or right or where I would countermarch.  Precision military marching.

Stephen Covey said, “Start with the end in mind.”  Fr. Richard Rohr, like so many mystics of all faith traditions, calls it “mindfulness” and/or “contemplation.”  Some behavioral scientists call it, “Being in the present.”  The opposite of all of the above is just cruising through life with no intention, no direction, lots of chaos and on a good day, some successful crisis management.

As I look back over my life, I realize there are many times that are just a blur.  That’s not because of a poor memory.  It’s because I was so busy doing life, I forgot to live.  I was focusing on what had happened, especially the hurts and affronts I “received” from others or I was planning my revenge.  Yes, gentle readers, I have stooped to such base levels on rare occasions!

My Psychodrama mentor, Dorothy Baldwin Satten, Ph.D., use to say, “If you don’t change direction, you’ll wind up where you’re going.”  Wisdom indeed!  My casual observation of our contemporary society, especially those who have not yet arrived to their mid fifties, is quite similar to what I experienced in that part of my life, only they have so many electronic detractors to enhance the process of avoidance.

Want to have a better spiritual life?  WAKE UP!  Quit self medicating with busyness, substances, electronic brain suckers, replaying of old hurts and failures.  Be in the now.  Give yourself, and others, the gift of silence, reflection, planning, preparation and contemplation.  And if your response is, “I’m too busy,” you are.

MOM

Clara Marie Denham Morrow was my mother-in-law for twenty-two years.  She was my friend from 1965 to now.  She died, Sunday after four years of Alzheimer’s Disease.  She lived a good life and she had a good death.  I frequently called her “My healthy mom.”  I learned so much from her on parenting and how to live a peaceful life.  I miss her.

Mom fed my soul and being with her was always a delight.  I somehow felt closer to the Universe when I was with her.  She was the peace maker in the family.  “Dad” and I would frequently argue and occasionally get angry with each other.  She would just subtly change the subject and we would quiet down.  I never knew that was an option before I met her.

Her home was “Home” for me and our sons.  It was the place to which we returned from our many postings while I was in the Army and even after her daughter and I divorced it was still home for me.  She and Dad continued to graciously welcome me as part of the family.

Once, after I married again, my second wife and I had a big argument.  We were living in San Antonio.  I did the male thing and bolted.  I was headed to Ft. Worth to be with them for a few days to lick my wounds.  How amazing were they that I could do that?!  I turned around in Johnson City.  But what a resource to know they still loved me after all the mistakes I had made.

Mom was a wonderful Southern lady and servant Christian.  Some would say the two are synonymous.  She was a daughter of Texas.  She spent her life giving to her family and the community.  She lived modestly and was very generous.  When Anne and I first married, I was in graduate school in Ft. Worth and we would go to her home to play spades.  That was our idea of a great evening!  It was also a cheap date.

I hope when I grow up, I will be more like her and know myself as well as she knew herself.  Nah, probably not.  She was unique.

DOROTHY

Dorothy Satten saved my psychological life.  Lest you think me using hyperbole, allow me to expound.  I was thirty-one years old, an active duty U.S. Army chaplain, married with two sons, ages two and six.  I had returned from a year long unaccompanied assignment in the Republic of Korea six months earlier and was still trying to process the psychological ramifications of that plus I had not resolved my grief over the death of my maternal grandmother, seven years earlier.  Oh yeah, I grew up in a rather dysfunctional family.  Got the picture?

Dorothy was a TEP, Trainer, Examiner and Practitioner of Psychodrama (more on that later).  We were at a three day workshop in Las Cruzes, NM.  I walked into the room and saw a woman of unidentifiable age with long brunette hair who was the epitome of “The Earth Mother.”  She wore flowing clothes of muted colors and had her long hair pinned into a clump on the back of her head.  Her face was very kind and her demeanor was one of peace.

She placed a chair in the middle of the seated group of forty or so persons and asked us to put someone in the chair with whom we had unfinished business.  Immediately, I “saw” Minnie Ardillera Utley, my deceased grandmother.  Two days later I did my first, ever psychodrama as the protagonist, i.e., main character, and was able to get closure on my grief.  That was May, 1978.

For the next thirty-six years, Dorothy and Mort, her husband and one of my two “Rebbies,” became a loving, caring, mentoring, parenting, training part of my life.  Under their tutelage, I became a credentialed Director of Psychodrama completing over a thousand hours of training and experience with them.  They traveled to Germany when I was stationed there and did workshops for our soldiers, their families and those who cared for them.  They have stayed in my home and I in theirs.  Great is the amount of bread we have broken, together.

They came to know my deepest fears, worst nightmares, greatest sins and weird sense of humor—and they loved me, anyway.  I experienced unmerited love from them.  I also did a hell of a lot of my own work so I could make peace with many of my dragons and resolved that which was unresolved.  They were the directors of that myriad of dramas.  They honored me by allowing me to direct some of their clients during their workshops when they were too tired.  They became surrogate grandparents to my children.

How does one repay that debt?  One doesn’t.  One can only accept (or reject) the love.  In her last years of life, ended by a degenerative nerve disease akin to Parkinson’s, the Universe (or whatever word you choose) allowed me to live in Omaha, NE where she lived in a memory care unit, close to her daughter, son-in-law and their children.  I got to visit with her a few times (I wish I had made the time to see her much more often).

When she was still able to enjoy them, I would take “The girls” (my two toy poodles) to see her.  The last few times I got to feed her Sunday dinner while I shared the latest about my life.  She could no longer speak or take care of herself.  Occasionally, I would slip in some of my Texas humor, which she loved, or tell a quick joke.  Then I would see the twinkle in her eyes and an ever so slight smile, and I knew she was still there and I was still loved.

Thank you, Dorothy.  I miss you, still.

HOW’S YOUR VISION?

I once walked into our home, which was being remodeled, and picked up a large piece of waste paper laying next to the wall and when I got into the kitchen my wife asked what I thought (about it).  The “it” to which she was referring was that the dining room through which I had just walked had been transformed from a very neutral off-white color to terracotta by the painters after I left for work that morning.  “What do I think about what?” I responded.

After she collected herself from the shock of my totally missing the metamorphosis, even though my head, but clearly not my eyes, was less than twelve inches from the wall when I picked up the paper, she just looked at me in total disbelief.  Following her gaze, I turned to see the transformation of the room and admired the beauty of the “bold” room afresh in the warm color.  How did I miss that?

I don’t see detail.  I never have.  I don’t even concern myself with detail unless I absolutely have to.  My ADD keeps my mind in overdrive almost constantly and at any given moment; I’m several hundred miles from where my body is.  Guess I was born that way or maybe it’s a malady of the culture in which we live.

As I have grown older and hopefully matured, I have come to understand the joy of seeing the world around me.  Sometimes, I actually observe there are leaves on the trees.  Sometimes, I watch the sunlight sparkle and “bounce” off the water of the river I’m standing in with a fly rod in my hand.  Sometimes, I sit in my chair with “the girls” (My two toy poodles) in my lap and watch the birds at the feeder and actually see the varied markings and colors that make them unique.  When I do these things, my blood pressure drops, my pulse slows and I have a sense of peace.  I wonder what else I have missed in life by not seeing?

Smoke

I was sitting in my chair during my devotions and watching the smoke from the stick of incense I was burning next to a lit candle.  Yes, Virginia, I’m a smells and bells kind of guy.  A shaft of light was cutting across the coffee table from a south window and I became mesmerized by the way the smoke danced across it.  It was a single strand, then a series of curls, followed by a small cloud which dissipated into the boundary of shadow to the left of the shaft.  New shapes and densities evolved as I continued to watch.

I once learned that smoke was considered by the ancients to be a symbol for the creative life force inherent in the universe.  Indeed, that day it was for me.  Change, dissipation, new order, a constant flow of nothingness seen in the magnification of light.

I felt connected, almost informed, by the ballet of that which I could not contain or make “mine.”  I could only enjoy it, experience it, savor it, smell it.  It was delightful.  It was enlightening.  I was witness to an eternal event which has been repeated since the universe first was.

I sat in the presence of what I believe represents the almighty creative force of life.  Perhaps because of my predisposition to religion, I also experienced being surrounded by love and peace and a simple joy of knowing I am connected to all that is.  Or was it just so much smoke?  I choose the former.

SNOW

SNOW

What does a red headed wood pecker, a black and white wood pecker, sparrows, a female gold finch, a purple finch, two male blue jays, snow birds, a pair of cardinals and a squirrel have in common?  They all feed at “my” feeder on “my” deck.  Have you ever just sat and watched birds and/or squirrels eat?

There was, as meteorologists call it, a light dusting of snow this morning when I awoke—about three-eighths of an inch.  “The Girls,” my two apricot toy poodles, and I went through our morning routine of scratching, tummy rubs, treats, out the doggie door for physical relief (just they use the door), and making coffee, well I had to do the latter because they refuse to learn, we settled into our easy chair for reading and morning meditations (Ever wonder on what dogs meditate?).  I began to watch the menagerie enjoying their breakfast.

Experiencing the wonder of creation and its reflection on the new snow, I had a sense of peace.  I sipped my coffee, almost reverently, as I took in the similarities of animals and humans.  Sam, the squirrel, ate, scratched, looked around to be sure he was safe and then ate some more.  When he left, the birds came to fight over more seed than they could possibly eat.  Their size made a difference in who ate first.  The smaller birds ate on the floor of the deck that which the cardinal pushed out of the feeder while he roosted in it.

Eat, fly away, sit in the trees, return to the feeder, repeat.  Their ballet was mesmerizing against the gray sky of winter.  As Bijou and Zoe’ snuggled against my legs, I unconsciously began to pet them. I gave thanks to the Great Creator as I felt the Sustainer surround me in the warmth of the “thinness” of earth touching heaven and I touching that which is eternal love.

It was a good morning to grow my soul.