Sunday, January 14, 2018

Epiphany Musings

The Christian feast of the Epiphany was last Saturday—the 6th. As I child, the story of three wise men, traveling on camels and crossing mountains, deserts, and verdant valleys, enthralled me. Sister Corita, who taught me in 4th grade, made a whole story of this journey with a chilled wind followed by shimmering heat. Listening to her, we fourth-graders felt that we had been along for the ride.

I don’t know how old I was when I learned that the word epiphany meant “a sudden revelation or insight.” Then it was that I began to have my own epiphanies. With some regularity, I’d have a moment of clarity and understand something that had previously eluded me.

While in college, I discovered the poem “Journey of the Magi” by T. S. Eliot. It spoke to me of birth and death and the cycle they encapsulate. Each January 6th, I reread Eliot’s poem and find myself examining my own life to see what is birthing, what is dying, and what is perhaps doing both.

This year, I sent out a New Year’s letter about what I hope is birthing within me. In the final paragraph I wrote:

In 2018, I want to look for and find that which surmounts the differences I have with others politically. I want to offer all whom I meet—friends, family members, strangers, candidates for political office, and those already in Congress and the White House—a listening heart and mind. Only then, I think, can I truly say that I believe in the Holy Oneness of All Creation.

A Minnesota friend responded to my letter with the following thoughts, which she has given me permission to share with you:

I’m not sure that a “listening heart and mind” are enough to change the course inflicted on us by political and corporate leaders, but I wish it were true. Given that fear and ego are pitted against compassion and reason, it’s hard to see any common ground. It would be a worthy challenge if you could chronicle this struggle and give us hope that “all is, indeed, well”!

With things as they are, it’s useful to remember that all is on a continuum. Light is balanced by dark; hot is on a continuum with cold; good is tempered by evil, etc. The “Holy Oneness of All Creation” is not just goodness and light. There is darkness there too. Depending on our core beliefs and our perception of reality, we have an affinity for one side or the other. Some of us glow with gratitude and compassion while others get their energy by sowing fear and chaos.

My perception of reality makes me want to see the good in others because everyone has some redeeming qualities and has performed some act of kindness. I’m having trouble seeing the good in people who mock compassion, heap their fears and frustrations on scapegoats, and destroy our planet.

I’ve given up on trying to understand them because we are on completely different wavelengths. It’s like trying to understand someone who’s speaking a different language. In the same way, they have trouble understanding my reality.

I don’t know what the answer is, but have been told that this polarity will continue to reap chaos until the extremists on both sides are neutralized—whatever form that takes. Only then can more stable socio-economic and political structure be formed.

For me, these words from one of my Minnesota friends are an epiphany. They help me understand the birth and the death we are witnessing in the United States right now. They also help me “see” that I need to plunge myself into a deeper understanding of Oneness. I trust that if I do that, I will experience surprising epiphanies in the weeks and months ahead.

Peace to you, pressed down and overflowing, and may you, too, have your own surprising epiphanies this year.

Photograph from Wikipedia.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Hoping for Structure in 2018

I’ve spent the first week of 2018 sending out New Year’s letters, reading an engrossing mystery novel, doing laundry, taking down the tree, organizing the tree ornaments and the home decorations into three bins for easy access next Christmas, blogging, eating fruitcake and mandarin oranges, going to lunch with a niece, sleeping-sleeping-sleeping, and in general, enjoying feeling healthier than I have since January 2014. I am gleeful right now because I’m healthy and eager for life.

I enjoy my life more when I have structure in it. Possibly the word routine would be better. I can be completely spontaneous when the phone rings and someone wants to do something. On a daily basis, however, I like routine. That’s because I need to feel that I’m accomplishing something I love to do.

Among the things that give me pleasure are writing, painting watercolors, walking, blogging, talking with someone on the phone, working jigsaw puzzles, doing yoga, branching my dendrites by using a “brain” exercise book, doing T’ai Chi Chih, dancing, playing the keyboard, studying Greek, reading mystery novels, and playing solitaire or doing a Sudoku.

I also like going out with someone to lunch, shopping, or seeing a movie; sleeping/napping; reading historical non-fiction; baking bread; making soup; meditating; decluttering; and looking out the window at the world beyond.

I can’t fit all of that into any one day or even one week. Still, I’m working to build a routine that will enable me to incorporate each of these activities into my life on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

For example: On a weekly basis, I want to write, blog, do yoga, study Greek, and walk.

On a monthly basis, I want to declutter some part of my home or garage for one hour every Saturday, bake bread a couple of times, and go to a movie once or twice.

You see the pattern. I want to do these activities on a somewhat regular basis, knowing that not everything will go as planned because life happens and given the chance to do something else on any given day, I’ll probably do it—health permitting!

I do, however, want, in general, a daily structure, part of which will be writing in my gratitude journal before turning off the light and going to bed each night. I’ve done this for over twenty years. I write about whoever or whatever has brought me happiness and contentment that day.

If I have no structure—no routine—I mostly read, do solitaire, and sleep. Those three activities are enjoyable, but I need interests beyond them. This year I hope to honor that part of myself that wants a more rounded life.

Or course, ill health has taught me that I have little control over what I want to do. That is, I control the way I respond to the changes, uncertainties, and vicissitudes of my life. But I have always believed in dreaming BIG—even about structure and routines!

Does all this make sense to you? Do you need structure or a routine?  If so, what kind?

Peace to you as the second week of the new year begins.

The illustration is from Wikipedia.