What you fear is what you get.

My husband had a poignant encounter with a fearsome beast, and a little girl wise beyond her years.  A few years ago Frank had a surveying job at a farm outside the city where we live. He finished, and was walking from the fenced-in pasture toward the farmhouse to let the owner know he was leaving, when he heard thumping behind him .

He looked back to see a very large cow approaching him. Alarmed, he started to walk faster. So did the cow. Then he started to jog, and the cow did too. It was catching up. Pretty soon Frank was running as fast as he could, his breath coming in spurts, his heart thumping.

The cow was nearly touching him when Frank finally reached the chain-link fence and scrambled up. He looked down to see the cow looking up at him. It mooed. Frank hoisted his legs and then the rest of him over the top of the fence, climbed down on the farmhouse side, and stood there catching his breath.

Pretty soon a small freckle-faced girl with a cowlick came marching up to him indignantly from the farmhouse. She had seen the whole thing. She stopped in front of Frank and looked up at him, her jaw set, her blue eyes boring into his soul.

“Rose just wanted to be petted, Mister,” she said fiercely.

Isn’t this what goes on between human beings so many times? So often a person just wants to be friends or get to know someone, or even just have a friendly conversation, and we misinterpret things, or we’re misinterpreted. We’re afraid to approach, to get close. We run fences like Linda Ronstadt’s Desperado, we scramble away like Frank from sweet affectionate Rose, we climb out of reach. We miss opportunities to connect. Rose just wanted to say Namaste, the divine in me greets the divine in you, bovine style. She wanted to be acknowledged in her tactile, animal way. It all went right over Frank’s head, but the little freckle-faced girl understood. If we were all more like children and cows, the world would be a better place. And that’s the truth, Mister.

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Deepak Chopra, where were you?

Meditation wasn’t invented 30 years ago, when I was a single working parent. I know that’s not true, of course. It was invented, but instruction and information about it wasn’t nearly as available as it is today. Now it’s taught at gyms and studios and community centers, on YouTube, on TV, in countless books, everywhere.

Things might have gone much more smoothly if I had had the tool of meditation when Michele was a kid. Especially in junior high and high school. There would have been less anger and frustration, more calm communication, far fewer tantrums. My tantrums, I’m talking about. I was the one who had tantrums and got frustrated and bounced off the walls. Michele was pretty calm.

Here I am before I started meditating. (The Scream, Munch)

Well, I can’t do the past over but I can start from now. These days I meditate every morning for 30 minutes, and for an hour at my church on Wednesdays. I’ve been at it for a while, and I haven’t had a single tantrum for a long time. I’m a calmer, more patient and understanding person because of people like Deepak Chopra…Amma…Sri Sri…Nancy Guarnera, meditation guru at my church…. Thank you all.

Where were you guys 30 years ago?

The real question is, where was I? Too busy being a frazzled single working parent, I guess. Now I’m a more serene senior. Better late than never.

Message from Beyond

One summer I signed up for six weeks of guided meditation. During the third-week session, I went deeper and deeper into the plumbless depths of my subconscious and became a bird. It was quite a shock. To top it off, I received instructions for living from another bird.

The bird made its instructions perfectly clear.

This all took place while I listened to music with delta waves, which are thought to bring on the deepest levels of sleep, relaxation and peace of mind during meditation. As I went deeper into my meditative state under the influence of the guide’s words and the delta waves, I found my befeathered self sitting in a tree that borders a fence in our backyard. Across from me, staring at me relentlessly, eyes boring into me, was a confident young bird also perched in a tree.

I was riveted by the power of our eye contact and telepathic connection across the yard from each other. The young bird then spoke to me. It was a profound, mystical, spiritual message: 

 “Back off, Mom.”

It was clear the young bird was my then 20-year-old daughter, Michele. She and I had relationship problems, largely because in my chronic anxiety I was always fearing for her safety. At the time, I was unconscious of it. But after this experience, I realized I did her no favors with my overprotectiveness and anxious hovering.

What her eloquent message relayed was that, emotionally and spiritually, she had her own tree separate from mine, and that I was to stay in my tree, and visit hers only when invited.

It doesn’t get much clearer than that.


“Love is patient and kind….It does not insist on its own way….”-1 Corinthians 13.4-7

Good always prevails.

The suspect

Hope was missing. My daughter had found her under a bush, a baseball-size mound of downy fur peeping like a baby bird. An abandoned kitten. Michele brought her home and we all fell in love. I took her to the vet where I dropped a pretty penny for medicine, and bought kitten feeding supplies. Over the next few weeks we took turns nursing her to health. Even my husband, Frank, pitched in.

Hope thrived. Then when she was a year old she left our yard one morning as usual and never came home. We walked the neighborhood day and night calling and calling her, knocked on doors to hand out flyers, called shelters, did everything else we could think of to find her. 

A week went by. We were losing hope, and beyond sad. Then the phone rang. “I think your cat is under our house,” a woman’s voice said. She lived around the corner. She had seen her dog, Summer, pacing excitedly in front of a vent in the backyard that opened to the crawl space under the house. It had no screen. Summer’s owner, Jean, peered down and saw a little cat shape.

We rushed over, and Jean led us to the floor-opening in her closet that led to the under-house space. She lifted the lid and two bright eyes shined up at us like searchlights. It was Hope, tail wagging and vibrating crazily, her entire body wiggling. Frank lifted her out and put her in her carrier, and we took her home for a joyous reunion. She was healthy. There must have been mice, and moisture from several heavy rains, in her underground world.

Next day I brought a gift basket to Jean, including some very expensive gourmet dog treats for our hero, Summer. I did that even though I was certain Summer was also the beast who scared Hope under the house in the first place. No other animals hung out in Jean’s backyard, at least no animals that would be likely to chase a cat. I knew, in my heart, that Summer was both persecutor and savior.

Summer knew I knew. I gave her a treat and while she was gulping it down like there was no tomorrow, she sneaked a couple of sheepish looks at me. Doggish looks, I should say. She was lucky that I believe every being who sins, and then repents, is deserving of forgiveness—and a made-from-scratch gourmet Pup Tart.  

If anyone sins against you, rebuke them. And if they repent, forgive them. Luke 17:3-4

High anxiety in the parking lot

Please, tell me where my car is!

Not again. I came out of Target, gazed at the vast, packed parking lot and realized I had no idea where my car was. I always mean to make a note of the parking row, but often forget as soon as I’m out of the car. 

I managed to remember it wasn’t too far from the store, so I went down the first row, clicking my key button and waiting hopefully for the beep. Silence. I turned down the next row, clicking. Silence. Another row, silence….

After the third row I got anxious. Evidently it showed, because suddenly I heard a sweet, angelic young voice. “Ma’am, do you need help?” I turned to see a pretty young woman looking at me from her SUV window, at exactly the same time I clicked my key and heard…my car!

Then the angel asked me again. “Are you lost? Can I help you find your car?”

“Oh, I just found it, finally! But thanks so much. I appreciate it.”

It was wonderful to encounter such a helpful, caring young woman in this age of self-centered individualism. Perhaps I reminded her of a beloved grandmother. I’m 71. At the same time it was disheartening to be so distracted I couldn’t remember where my car was and, the worst part, that it SHOWED. My anxiety was probably flashing like a warning light.  

I might find myself again someday wandering up and down parking lot rows, searching among countless nautical-blue Toyota Corollas for “216” at the end of the license plate. But maybe I shouldn’t be so anxious. “He shall direct your paths,” Proverbs 3:6 promises. The young woman was a reminder that God always sends angels. Almost always, anyway. Maybe I should have gotten her phone number.  

Better yet, maybe I should be my own angel and take responsibility for myself and enter the damn parking row in my iPhone notes. It’s time to grow up.  

Meditation in Real Life

I’m pretty new at meditation, with only about a year under my belt. But already I find that the more often and the more consistently I do it, the better my life goes. When I tune in to my newly discovered inner spiritual center, I find peace, wholeness, and connection with God. It benefits my emotional, mental and physical health. It heals, soothes, and restores. It keeps me from wigging out when my anxiety disorder flares.

My church holds great meditation sessions twice a week but that’s not enough, so I meditate at home. I use an itty-bitty room in our tiny house. The room is right next to the living room where the TV is. We use this room for so many different things we call it the Infinite-Purpose Room (IPR). The term multi-purpose just doesn’t come close. The IPR is our office, our storage room, guest room, exercise room, spiritual-reading room, and my blogging room. It’s the bad-kitty room, where we put one of our two male cats–Jack and Joe–to separate them when they’re fighting.

I had a typical meditation session this morning. I entered the IPR, and carefully stepped around Christmas decorations covering the floor to get to the small couch. I had to remove a couple of angels and a Styrofoam snowman from the couch to make room to sit. I know, I know. Here it is more than a month after Christmas and I haven’t put the decorations up in the loft yet. In my decorations rule book it’s okay as long as you get the Christmas stuff put away before Easter.

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I’d love to meditate in the vast, silent woods.

I sat on the cleared space on the couch, turned out the light and turned off my phone. I put in earplugs to drown out the sound of Judge Judy from the living room on the other side of the wall, where my husband Frank was watching TV. Judy was shouting rudely at an annoying, logic-impaired litigant. Her cynical raspy Bronx voice does not contribute to a peaceful ambience. Fortunately it got pretty faint when I closed the flimsy sliding accordion door to the hallway, and then the door of the IPR behind me. The words grew unintelligible, reduced to a faint sound like a fingernail scraping on a blackboard. I sat for a while in stillness, or as close as I’m ever going to get to stillness in our house, and thought of God. When I felt centered and ready, I turned on my CD player and put in some soothing music. I settled in while the calm of the cosmos gradually enveloped me.

I lost my centeredness temporarily when Judy raised her voice to tell a sweet, frail elderly woman that she was too despicable to even deserve to live. Then she lowered her voice, and I relaxed a bit more and let my thoughts float. I am at peace, I am peaceful, I am filled with peace, I am peace. I am hungry. I serenely let the stomach growls drift through my consciousness. The noise I make bothers me much less at home than when I’m meditating with others at the church. It’s always embarrassing to share body noises. Alone, I can just let everything rip and continue to drift in the vastness of my inner eternity. I am serene. There is nothing to be afraid of in God’s world. And nothing to be embarrassed about.

The growls stopped. In the silence I went deeper and deeper…deeper still…until I was tuned in to the heartbeat of the Universe. I entered into a profound and powerful state of relaxation, transported, transformed. I floated up-up-up to a higher state of consciousness, from which I was rudely torn away by the refrain of Lara’s Song from Dr. Zhivago. Frank programmed it on the doorbell. I remained calm, knowing it would go away and I would return to my altered state. Instead it played over and over. I paused the music to answer the damn door. I tripped over the wreath on the floor and bumped into our life-size plastic Rudolph.

“Quiet in there!” Frank called out.

It was the mail carrier at the door, with a registered letter that I needed to sign for. I was scared. I couldn’t think of anything Frank or I have done to anyone that would call for a registered letter. I took the envelope and studied it. Ah. It was for a person at the same number as our address, but on the next street over. Right address, wrong street. I was relieved. And annoyed. The mail service isn’t what it used to be. We get our neighbors’ mail all the time—retirement accounts and taxes and all kinds of private stuff, and they get ours. Being good neighbors, we always walk misdelivered mail over to the proper house and ring the doorbell, and put it in the mailbox if no one answers. Our neighbors do the same for us.

Once on my birthday I didn’t get the card from a dear friend that has come on time without fail for years. I was upset. I couldn’t believe she forgot about me! I sulked and spent a couple of weeks using up a lot of energy not forgiving her. Then the card arrived. It had been delivered to our neighbors while they were on a three-week cruise, and they brought it over when they got back. So I forgave my friend, and then I had to start all over, not forgiving the Post Office.

I returned to the IPR, relieved that the registered letter wasn’t from Frank suing for divorce, or some lawyer with clients in the neighborhood complaining that Jack and Joe were using their yard as a bathroom. In the silence I began to know with a total certainty, a sublime reassurance, that I am a partner with the Infinite and I do not walk alone through this world. Meows at the patio door affirmed this Truth. My feline companions were meowing for food and wouldn’t stop until someone brought it. I knew this, and I knew that I knew it. Jack and Joe will meow for eternity. They’ve done it before. The someone who feeds them, naturally, is usually me. Frank was glued to the TV, now tuned to Judge Milian, who is always yelling just like Judy but whose voice is more pleasant. At least there’s some humor in it. I paused the music, brought the boys their kibble, and returned to the IPR. Instead of Judge Milian, faint sounds of Hepburn and Bogart in the African Queen now wafted through the wall. I focused on my music, sounding like a river with its eternal flow, while on their river Kate and Bogey struggled in the background with leeches and hostile Germans.

I heard a click. The TV was off. Then Frank snoring. It was a soft, soothing sound and I fell asleep, which is an unpardonable offense when you’re meditating but it happens. I had a wonderful dream involving Hugh Jackman. It was not spiritual. Suddenly I was roused by shouts of “Fumble?! No!! You idiot!!” and other un-meditation-like exclamations from the TV room as the Pats socked it to the Steelers. I pushed my earplugs in tighter and the noise receded. I closed my eyes hoping Hugh was still there but he was gone. I was alone in my elevated state. I had no thoughts. It was all silence, stillness, eternity, infinity, all-life, all-God, all-love. Then all-football again, culminating in a deafening roar when New England ran out the clock to win 36-17 and secure their ninth trip to the Super Bowl in 32 years.

The roar died down and I heard another click followed by silence. Then Frank snoring. In the stillness broken only by Frank’s softly wuffling snores, there in my claustrophobic IPR, I was transported to a higher plane, a state of divine consciousness, a sense of endless love and good and wisdom and power that surrounded me in an atmosphere of total tranquility. I was also aware that I had until six o’clock when the news would come blaring through the adjoining wall, and I would have to leave my cluttered sanctuary to fix dinner. I threw my arm around the 4-foot Santa next to me, settled back comfortably, and enjoyed the tranquility while it lasted.

Another day, another meditation session in the IPR. 


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Scripture: On the glorious splendor of your majesty and on your wonderful works, I will meditate, though Super Bowl ads egregiously assault mine ears. 

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The Power of Chocolate: Don’t wreck a sublime chocolate experience by feeling guilty. ~Lora Brody

 

With Starbucks all things are possible.

I should have taken the sign that said “This lane must exit” more seriously. I was driving to a friend’s house and there was a horrific accident that caused a huge traffic jam. Not a car was moving as far as the eye could see and I decided to turn around and go home. I squeezed into the far right lane of the next exit then changed my mind. My friend needed help with a problem and I decided to do the right thing, which is where I went wrong. Checking my side mirror carefully, ignoring the sign, I slowly pulled back onto the freeway and immediately heard the dreaded, eerie meep

Uh-oh.

Uh-oh.

It was the meep of a Highway Patrol motorcycle horn. Though it was my first ticket in 15 years, the old familiar awful feeling came right back like it was yesterday. My stomach churned, my hands trembled, my breathing was shallow.

The cop, of course, took the must-exit sign seriously. He wrote my ticket and drove away, and I continued my slow crawl on the freeway, worrying about how much my little adventure was going to cost me. My jaw started aching. Lately my jaw had been really sore and popped when I opened it. TMJ, I figured. Stress related.

I started to call my friend  and tell her I’d be there late, and realized I left my phone at home. iPhone-less! OMG. I felt vulnerable, incomplete, disconnected from the world. It was the last straw. I was on the brink of losing it. I was just about to let out a naked, blood-curdling primal scream when I saw that I was at my friend’s exit. Right off of which was a blessed Starbucks. A miracle. Where isn’t there a Starbucks? Can you think of a place where there isn’t a Starbucks? So I decided on a caramel mocha latte instead of screaming.

A second miracle awaited me inside. The bathroom was vacant! That’s a rarity at Starbucks (of all places, with all that coffee) with their one-unisex-room accommodations. PTL! It was just what I needed. 

If the vacant restroom wasn’t miracle enough, when I ordered my drink I discovered another miracle. I had earned the holy number of Stars. Lo, all things come together for good. My drink was free! I was healed, instantly. It was like all those bad things in my morning never happened. It’s such a blessing to know that Starbucks is always there for us, everywhere, with its 22,000 points of light around the earth.

It makes me feel a lot better about the thousand dollars a year, at least, that I spend there on my daily fix.