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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Those Pesky Resolutions

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“My biggest goal for this year is to celebrate my eightieth birthday,” I said. Then I laughed and added, “ I’m not sure what I’ll do after that because I can’t imagine being old.”

 One of the best things about getting to the wisdom age is that you know that life is what it is. That means it never jogs backward but always trots forward.

This year, I’m not making resolutions or setting goals. I’ve decided to enjoy life. I live in Sunny San Diego and I’m going to stretch my arms upward and smile back at the sun the next time it shines on me.

That’s not a resolution. I love the sun and I claim my right to enjoy every moment. I am not going to work at being anything. I spent the majority of my life trying very hard to improve and then discovered I was already perfect, whole and complete from the get-go. From now on – I’m on vacation.

I’ve decided to follow the advice I received about 39 years ago. I am going to live one day at a time. That means, I am going to do more or less what I want. If I want to watch old movies all day, I will. If I want to go to the gym, I will.

I know the key to delightful aging is supposed to be learning new things. In previous years, I would have made a goal list and written, “Learn better Spanish”, or “Study social media”, but not this year. This is the year I declare that I love myself the way I am.

It’s true that I benefited from hard work in the past and I don’t really begrudge it, but I choose to move into true acceptance in 2013. I am going to take a leaf from my friend Dr. David Walker’s book, and say, “I Am Enough”.

Truth is, I already know an awful lot of stuff no one else knows. When I leave the planet, I’m convinced there will be no one left who knows the difference between lie and lay or affect and effect. Everyone will say, “He invited John and I to the party”  and no one will cringe.

In my lifetime, I’ve learned a great deal about a great many things. For example, I learned how to put on makeup, brush my hair until it shone, dress to look slimmer, and use good table manners. It got me what I wanted at that time and it was fun while it lasted but that was then and this is now. I’ve dropped romance and now prefer sunshine keep my bones warm.

At one time or another, I used to know how to sew, cook, garden, and knit. I could make pottery, draw, paint, dance, write long sentences, and teach school. I learned about New Thought history, English literature, and the history of the opera, art, and film.  It was all very interesting at the time.

Once, I knew a whole lot of poetry and literature by heart. I knew Emerson’s essays, Freud’s theories and the Zen stories. I knew the tales of the Bal Shem Tov and the Brothers Grimm. I could read Tarot cards, practice yoga, swim, play poker, play canasta, sell real estate, and dress for success. I even once knew the difference between shall and will.

I am – in short – an accomplished woman. So I won’t be writing any new resolutions this year. I like my life pretty much the way it is. After all, it took me a long time to settle into my particular rut.

So what if I prefer my old movies to the new ones? I am perfectly happy looking at Myrna Loy and  William Powell drink their way thorough the Thin Man series. So what if I think Otis Redding is a better singer than those new guys whose names sound so peculiar. I understand the lyrics when Otis sings.

It’s true there are many, many things I never learned. I can’t sing. I never could touch my toes. For that matter, I never really learned to keep house. But I tried for as long as I cared to struggle. From now on, I’m going with the flow.

It is also true there are some things I might be able to learn if I set my head to it. I probably should have learned some of them a long time ago but I don’t intend to start now. I’ve travelled this far without multiplication tables, so I figure I can coast the rest of the way. BofA computers keep my bank balance now and I’ve had an account with Bank of America since I was fourteen. Why switch horses?

As for technology. I’ve already learned more than I wanted although I admit that my technological relationships are somewhat disfunctional.  I had a fax machine and it went out of style. My scanner is too dim and my copier is crooked.  I have a cell phone but it doesn’t work at my valley home. I have two Apple computers and only one of them gets the internet. I can’t download Netflix and the complaints go on…and on.

I was a liberal arts major. What can you expect of someone who didn’t even see a TV until she was 14 and didn’t turn on another one until she was 35?

Like Blanche DuBois in Streetcar Named Desire, I depend on the kindness of strangers (actually, mostly my relatives) when it comes to modern devices. I was in the hospital for two days last year and they let me go home early, probably because every time young Dr. Kildare came in, I asked him to help me with my cell phone.

I did not get a Kindle for Christmas because I did not want one. I love my books even if some are dusty. I don’t like machines and I do love books so why would I mix pleasure with pain? . You can’t underline the good books on a Kindle. You can’t trade the trashy ones in for more trashy ones.

Now that I’ve declared my independence. I give myself permission to change my mind. I will make some resolutions – at least for this day.

I Say No-No

I am not going to try to keep up.

I am not going to do things because they are good for me.

I am not going to criticize myself or others.

I Say Yes-Yes

I am going to march to my own drummer.

I am going to enjoy every moment I can.

I am going to see God in everyone.

I am going to have a Happy New Year.

May 2013 be filled with Love, Light, Joy, Wisdom, Health, Wealth and Lot’s Of Fun. You deserve the best! 

 


Measuring Progress

I am reading a nice note from a friend who visits me once a year in January. In the note, she raves about how much healthier and happier I seemed this recent visit as compared to the year before. It couldn’t have come on a better day because I was feeling frustrated about my progress toward greater health.

Most people get an idea or vision of how things can and should be and then they set a goal. They work toward the goal for a while and hope to see big results. If they don’t get the dream right away, they can get anxious, despondent, or frustrated because change doesn’t happen overnight.

I can be a lot like most people. How about you?

Whether it’s writing a book, healing a marriage, losing weight, or building a career, healthy and solid change usually takes time. That old saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” applies equally to muscle tone as marble. However, it can be difficult to stick to the creation of your vision when you don’t see the desired progress.

If you have ever had the experience of dieting all week and not losing a pound, or doing your level best to get along with your boss only to be reprimanded, you know what I am talking about. The short term lack of progress is apt to erase the truth of your general climb toward success.

Those of us in New Thought who believe in the power of prayer learn that our directed thought and prayer can create magnificent changes in short order. We also learn that it is important to back our prayers up with action. If you are looking for a job, send out resumes. If you want a perfect right partner, get out of the house and meet people.

Following up prayer with sensible activity in the direction of our dreams is important. It cements the dream in day-to-day reality and tells God you mean business. You should take reasonable steps after you pray if you possibly can.

In many cases, change happens gradually. I’ve never known anyone to lose 30 pounds overnight but I have known people to lose craving for sugar and fattening food overnight.

Prayer is powerful. I have had things happen so fast that it might look like a miracle to an outsider. When I put on the prayer power, I’ve seen change arrive at lightning speed. On the other hand, sometimes even with a lot of prayer, change happens slowly.

When change happens slowly, it sometimes is difficult to see it. That’s why keeping records is so important. A chart of your weight, or your bank balance over a longer period than your daily memory bank can be very useful. Since we seem to be programmed to always want more, we need help remembering how much more we have already gained.

Change doesn’t happen at all if we give up. Right now, we are about six weeks away from setting our New Year’s resolutions and some of us are losing patience and slacking off. This is exactly the time when we should be putting on the extra power.  When change seems to be avoiding us, it is not smart to give up. It is smart to pour on more power.

With God, all things are possible and prayer is the way we are most significantly with God when it comes to goal achievement. Prayer can bring about major changes in short order but sometimes we have a lot of resistance and there are hidden beliefs that take a while to dissolve.

It is pointless to spend a lot of time digging out the reasons why we are resisting. It is straight to the point to continue praying and to continue our planned program of success. How long should we pray for change? How long should we continue working toward our goals? The answer, according to Dr. Ernest Holmes, is until we see the desired result.

We should also try to see progress over a period of time rather than day by day. My friend’s note was a Godsend because it reminded me that compared to a year ago, my progress is marvelous. The note came on a day when I was discouraged about my exercise class and thinking about quitting.

One thing I have learned in my years on this planet is that people tend to give up too soon.  The most important gift we can give ourselves is to hang in there, do our prayer work on a daily basis, and follow our plan until we achieve our dreams.

Ask Yourself

How do you keep track of your progress?

How do you keep your dreams enthusiastically alive?

How are you doing on those resolutions?

Do you need more God power?