My Rose Parade Epiphany

SayingThisDayI watched the Rose Parade because it reflects the things I love about California – the blend of old and new ways and ideas. Besides all that, the Rose Parade and I have history.         

I went to the Rose Parade when I was around thirteen and I climbed a lamppost to see more. That made me very dizzy and I thought I would faint or vomit.

That experience scared me so much that I avoided parades, football games, pep rallies, rock concerts and  department store sales forever after. I only began to enjoy the Rose Parade after I got a large color TV and could drink coffee in the comfort of my recliner.

Some people write resolutions or clean house but I like to spend my New Year’s mornings watching the beautiful floats pass me by. I sometimes turn the sound off and I always tape it ahead so I can fast forward the commercials. It’s a good way to start the year – relaxed, comfortable and surrounded by beauty. I love sunshine and flowers.

The parades show the very best about my beloved state. They showcase its amazing diversity, unusual history, and most of all – it’s perfect balance of tradition, campy earnestness and impermanence.

This year, as I was watching, I marveled at the amount of love and care that goes into every float. The one from Cal Poly was built by an estimated 10,000 hours of volunteer labor and all from California, mostly organic, flowers. I could see those earnest young engineers tilling the soil. Many of the flowers came from campus gardens.

I was enjoyed the beauty, ingenuity and fascinating details built into those floats. My personal favorite was from Indonesia. It won the President’s Award and was built with the 2500 species of Indonesian orchids.

The Indonesian float contained antique musical instruments and giant shadow puppets. Human attendants walked beside the float wearing spiky, fabulous costumes that looked as though they came out of one of my favorite movies, Pricilla, Queen of the Desert.  I loved that float and I found myself wanting to preserve it somehow.

That brought me to my epiphany for the New Year! It occurred to me that even if there were some way to “keep” the float, once the moment was over, it would not be the same. I truly understood that the magic of the moment is in the mind of the viewer in that moment.

Whether you are hanging from a lamp post or sipping coffee in your living room, when the float passes you by, it is gone. Which is just another way of saying, “The past is gone forever”. I should have learned that better, of course, in 12 Step or as Religious Science minister. God is always NOW.

There was something about my enlightened New Year moment that helped me internalize the idea that the time I have is Now. We say we know these things but if I am honest, I can see that quite a bit of my life is dedicated to the past, one way or another. For example, my office is filled with photos of people who are gone. Some have moved far away and some are dead.

I still love them and I like to remember that love. My friend, Rev. Jeff Proctor’s photo is on my desk as a kind of magical memory of him and his technological ability. Is that good or bad? I don’t know but I do know I must not yearn for the past or I will miss the present.

Somehow, in the years since I got dizzy in a New Year’s crowd back in the 1946, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned that I am in charge of my life and my mind. I’ve learned to enjoy life and to appreciate beauty. I’ve also learned that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.

This year, I’ve learned that even if you could spray the float in plastic and stick it in a museum somewhere, the experience would not be the same. It would not bring the same thrill. But that’s OK. We just need to move on and not regret the past.

The fact that the past is gone forever is not a good thing or a bad thing. It is just the truth. If we are unable to accept that truth, we will hold on to guilt, bygone wishes, or remorse. We can’t reject the present because we judge it inferior. Accepting that life moves along is a key to enjoying life.

The Rose Bowl floats reminded me of sand painting. I’ve always been fascinated by the hours that the Tibetan, or the Native American shamans work on sand painting. When they are complete, they destroy them. Why?

This was always a big mystery for me. I have always thought of visual art as something we hang on walls. That may be so for some people but for the spiritual teachers of many cultures they are more. The sand paintings are beautiful teaching devices. Rose Bowl floats and sand paintings teach the impermanence of life wonderfully well.

As a writer and artist as well as a spiritual leader, I know a bit about losing oneself in the beauty of the moment. That particular sense of losing yourself in the moment is the payoff that keeps people coming back to paint that picture, build that float, stretch into a new yoga pose or write that novel.

The artist is familiar with being in the moment and so is the person who follows Buddhist or Hindu meditation techniques. It is a great relaxing change for most people.

Most people tend to sell meditation, and other well-known forms of spiritual practice as ways to enhance ordinary life. You hear a lot about lowering blood pressure or living longer. That’s fine but it’s not the best part of the story.

Moments of living in the Now are where we find God. The payoff from painting, journaling, stretching into yoga or simply counting your breath, is in the moment where you lose your separate sense of self. Spiritual practice is its own reward. God is in the Now. Joy is in the Moment. Life is Now.

It’s true the past is gone and the future is unknown but that is neither good nor bad. It simply is. The impermanence of life simply is. This is your moment to know God. And also is the truth.  Happy New Year.

Ask Yourself

What’s new in my life?

Do I hang onto the past?

How’s my spiritual practice?

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Radio Days

 

I’m on the internet radio and all you have to do to hear me is go to IDareYouRadio.com. I will be featured for a couple more days and then you can find me in the archives. Isn’t life the Information Age interesting?

The Information Age is upon us and mostly, I find it is very, very good. Certainly, it is difficult to sort out what to read, hear or see first, in a new world where time seems to have grown tighter. On the other hand, the may be myriad but theya re also wonderful.

Many experts predicted that these new technological devices  would be the beginning of the end of civilization. As usual, the doomsdayers were wrong.

People who fear the future are usually wrong. Remember how people laughed at the idea of  24 hour news channels on TV? I love being able to find out what’s happening at my convenience. I also love being able to tape something and watch it later.

Back in the late 70’s, I read about the computer age that a friend gave to me. I don’t remember the title or author but I do remember that the book’s predictions were terrified of the coming computers.

The author predicted that the news would arrive on our computers from one place and it would be so managed that we would only know what our government wanted us to know. For this author, the future would be a starkly managed dictatorship. We would lose our freedom because our information was going to be so managed.

What has actually happened is that we have so much information our heads are swimming. Even the nations that are currently dictatorships are losing their grasp because of the information age changes.

These days, anyone with an IPhone is a reporter. Traditional news stations such as CNN depend on instant amateur videos. Instead of managed news, we have only the problem of deciding who to believe.

In my parents’ time, people were dependent on the one newspaper in town and the few radio stations they could get on their little round topped radios. During World War Two we would get news of battles three days later. Now we get information, with photos, right in the midst of battles from places such as Syria.

Whether you or not choose to watch the news is your decision. My point isn’t just about the news –  it’s about all information. My daughter and her stepfather used to have discussions at the dinner table and they’d jump up to get the encyclopedia to find the answers. It made our family a bit eccentric but she learned a great deal. Most families we knew didn’t even have encyclopedias.

In these days, just about everyone has a computer and access to Wikipedia and while it may not be one hundred percent accurate, I’ve certainly relied upon it a great deal for general information. We truly do live in the information age.

We may not be noticing it but the information age is hitting the New Thought world in a big way. It used to be you could find Science of Mind in church on Sunday if you lived in a few places. There were also books if you knew enough to find them. Now anyone in the world with a computer can find excellent Science of Mind blogs, talks, and classes on the internet.

I start my days by reading blogs by my favorites, Dr. Carol Carnes, Dr. Maxine Kaye and when available, Dr. Dennis Merrit Jones.

I’m always telling some out of town guest to look for our New Thought speakers who put their talks on line. Now I’m telling you to listen to me on a radio show that would have disappeared into the ethers in the old days but will live a long time in the archives.

We live in new times and they are better times. We need to be grateful for all the opportunities the Information Age is bringing us. One way we can do that is bless our machines and use them to make our lives better by selecting the uplifting messages that New Thought offers. This is a world in which we have choices and I am happy to be a part of it.

Ask Yourself 

Do I suffer from the disease of nostalgia?

What do I believe about the future?

Am I grateful for the convenience of the modern world?


Present Moment

 

Nearly everyone has been busy making plans and resolutions lately. I think goals are fine but living in the future can be a pitfall. Times change. People change. Life changes. We might fall madly in love. We might have a health challenge. We might rethink our career. Someone will get pregnant. Someone will win the lottery. A life without surprises would be unreal.

 

I believe in setting goals. I also believe we can have a great deal of control over what happens to us in our private lives. But the wisest and most important thing I believe is – we must live one day at a time.

When I was younger, I daydreamed constantly and I was always trying to live in the future. I lived in a housing project and read Seventeen Magazine cover to cover; I yearned to go to college and wear pedal pushers while I hunted clams on the beaches of New England.

I did eventually move out of that housing project into the rarified air of the Eastern Establishment but I kept forgetting to enjoy the day. When I finally got to New York and Cape Cod, I was so busy pushing my career ambitions that I couldn’t taste the clams in the chowder. And pedal pushers had been out of style for thirty years.

My spiritual studies created many important blessings for me. The biggest blessing of all has been to bring me into the present tense. Before I got sober and started studying Science of Mind, I was almost never present. I spent much too much energy feeling regret for my past. I also spent way too much energy feeling restless and impatient about the future.

Learning to live in the present moment was absolutely like opening a door and walking into a new movie. I think of it as being exactly like the moment when Dorothy moves from sepia-colored Kansas into Technicolor OZ. My spiritual studies have kept me in the colorful present moment and that has been a great gift.

What about visioning? And goals? And ambition?  These are all wonderful tools but they cannot be the payoff. The payoff is living in the here and now and loving every moment of it.

Daydreams are fine if they steer you in the right direction but if you forget to enjoy the journey, daydreams can be lethal. As for regretting the past – make what amends you can and move on. The past is gone forever.

This is such commonplace wisdom. We hear it all the time. How many times have you had someone tell you to stop and smell the roses or enjoy the sunset? Here’s the next question – when did you last stop and look at the sky? Or the shrubs around your house.

Want to take a test? Take a walk around your house or apartment and really look at the plant life. When you find yourself thinking about how you need to clean or prune, remind yourself this is a walking meditation. You are just looking. You can stop and smell if you want to, but you cannot turn this New Year’s walk into a chore.

If you can do a walking meditation in your own yard, you are in good shape to begin the new year. If you had trouble staying focused on the joy of growing greenery, then you might want to add a walking meditation into your New Year’s resolution to pay more attention to your spiritual practice.

Right now, take a deep breath, hug yourself and wish yourself a very happy, healthy, successful New Year. May all your dreams come true, one day at a time.

You deserve the best!

 Ask Yourself

 Do I need to spend more time in the present moment?

What can I do to encourage myself to be in the here and now?