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How Rabi'a made my heart smile

The power of stories have a unique way of showing what we are doing. There is a wonderful story about Rabi'a one night looking for a key outside on the street. She was searching high and low and her neighbors decided to help her. They asked that question which we all ask, "what does it look like... do you think you lost it here?" She replied, "oh no, I lost it in the house." Laughing they asked, "why are you looking out here if you lost it in the house? That doesn't make any sense!" She said, "there is more light out here!"


Then Rabi'a laughed and asks, "Friends, it is clear you are intelligent, so why is it when you lose your peace of mind, perhaps because of a failed relationship or a lost job you look for what is lost out there and not in here." She points at her chest and says, "did you lose your joy out there or in here? Do you avoid looking for it in here because the light is dimmer or because it is less convenient?"

This story strikes a deep chord for me. Often I find myself looking at things outside of my spirit to stop pain from happening. I can look at a way that a relationship isn't working and find myself a 10 year old again trying to figure out what fashion I should be wearing to fit in, or watching a quippy show on television, wondering what way I should be with these others. I developed this practice from moving from place to place, there is no solid anchoring into one culture. What was acceptable in one region, was verboten in another region, and what was fashion forward in one place was entirely last years news in another. Beyond fashion, also morals changed, churches changed, environment changed. (That part was really, really fascinating.)

So what does this have to do with Rabi'a? I have been learning to turn back to God over and over again in order to be able to come back, point at my chest and say, "this is good enough here." As I embraced God's view of us that we are holy, my own opinion about that has shifted too! There was a deeply ingrained shame about how my family did things. We were in poverty, we were the "didn't mow the lawn, showed up to school without washed clothes, never went to the doctors/dentist unless a limb was severed" crowd. This meant that my spirit as a child believed deeply that we were dirty.

Or said a different way: untouchables. The people no one wanted to be associated with. Somehow I equated a cultural disdain for poverty as there was something wrong with me as a soul. My inner person was dirty!

To have Rabi'a say to me "why are you looking outside for when you are struggling inside" at first was hard to grasp. The story helped redirect this concept because even though I hard heard it before, until I heard it said that way, it didn't make sense to me.

My established paradigm was that looking within was to look in the "garbage for a treasure" in my cultural upbringing. Everything outside of me was shiny and those things were what was right with the world. How did I ascertain it was what was right? People were smiling wearing those things, people wanted to hang out with those people, people wanted to be LIKE those others. No one wants to be like the poor, no one wants to be friends with the poor. The poor don't want to be friends with the poor because it's painful to see yourself. I related in my being to Rabi'a's comment about the "house is dark and dirty and uncomfortable" part.

If you could have seen me, you would have seen my eyes got really wide and my mind chuckled a little. She was right... why would I look for the lost key somewhere that I hadn't been yet?

The strange thing that was the hinge for me was that we were not morally bankrupt. My mother was very firm on morals, "don't gossip, follow your conscience (which is the voice of God), be kind to people even if they are mean to you, don't beat up your brother." *grin* And to the level as children and teens that we could, we did. She had her own separation from the other neighbors because she wouldn't gossip or tell tales. The stresses of poverty are very real, and getting through daily life can be a challenge with four kids sleeping in the same room, fear around whether we will have heat in the house (one time we burned cardboard boxes in the fireplace and sat and watched them as closely as we could), if we are going to be asked to leave our home because we can't pay rent, or we aren't the kind of tenants they were hoping to have.

A surah in the Qur'an spoke to my heart: God shall make (me) understand the message of God in the farthest horizons to within (myself), and in other parts of the Qur'an it says "will you not see?"

I felt like I saw for the first time. Or I saw that I hadn't seen that this soul is the construction site for the work. There isn't a magic remedy 'out there', a spell, or a right thing to swear, wear or say that is going to change the world around me to make my heart feel different. I have to come in and find the key inside and stop avoiding what is uncomfortable inside. Yes, I am going to bump into things, my knees might get bruised, my frustration will probably rise up... lots!

But the message that I hear in the Qur'an, the Christian scriptures and the earth-based traditions is that God is Love, God is Mercy and that the stuff that is in us is what is also in infinity.

Rumi says, "You know the value of every article of merchandise, but if you do not know the value of your own soul, it is all foolishness."

So, that is my own story, how I kept myself from looking for the key to myself somewhere else other than in my own heart. What is keeping you from deciding to find yours in you?

Much love!

Post thought:

In this way, I deeply related to the Lego movie parting words: whatever lego creation you create is good enough, and having someone else build on your invention is good, having it not be perfect is good, and having it not match everyone else... is also good.

Because God is good.

I cannot be contained in the space of the earth,
I cannot be contained in the space of the heavens,

But I can be contained in the space

Of the pure and loving heart of my servant.

—Hadith Qudsi

My thanks to Jamal Rahman for his book "Fragrance of Faith, The Enlightened Heart of Islam."

My food experience...

So the first thing I am noticing is that I often have 2 things that are in conflict: exercise and getting things done. I will often say something like, "I should go on a walk, but the laundry needs to be done, or some food option for us needs to be researched that is much more pressing." My goal has been to be able to walk to the top of mt tabor without getting winded. (really my body is just feeling antsy to get out too!) this means that I actually have to walk. but getting OUT of the door is hard.

eating food that I shouldn't be eating hasn't really been an issue for awhile, which is nice! I want to be on track and I haven't been feeling the antsy edge. I think this is because I am so able to explore foods via the vegan world that I am on a quest for interesting ways to make foods that I can have. Like for instance, I just learned to make yam rice and it was amazing! :D I put it on my salads and it feels like a million bucks. so food right now, is rewarding, not a prison. but what has been hard is finding stuff to do going out. we used to go to Circa, order our favorite drinks and play Carcasonne (a strategy game). Now we stay in (which gives me cabin fever) or we go to a coffee shop. While this is fun to do, it can be very loud, and coffee late can be a liability. Somehow in this realm, tea feels limiting, even though I love it. So this area is rough for me. I don't want to go back to drinking alcohol mostly because it's just straight sugar anyway and its expensive.

also, being honest with myself is a point of work. I usually think of myself as being honest over all, but last night I found myself wanting to eat a dessert (which I realized I hadn't felt in a while), didn't really want to, so I made some popcorn and then in the morning didn't want to weigh myself. SO, this means that I often DO do things that I feel can be a liability, and then turn around and not want to know what the consequence might be. eye opening. And I realize as I am writing this that I just told you I don't have food cravings, but based upon last night (which I want to say was odd, but still happened), I do! Maybe this is a point of mindfulness that has yet to develop.

Crows herald in the fall

The house is silent today, a strong warm silence. It's strange to my mind that I can live with 6 people and 3 (small!) dogs and this deep resounding stillness exists daily. The crows outside were going crazy in our Fir tree, the ancient one that stands within 100 feet of our house, heralding the actual arrival of fall. My desire to sit and watch them with a cup of coffee on the front porch was only just barely staved off.

Even with the epic craziness that is going on astrologically and energetically: elections, friends in various stages of divorce/separation/pain, other friends moving on... the universe still feels ordered. The voice of the Lord of the Worlds doesn't feel far away. This morning, my heart wants to do some chanting at the altar and offer prayers for my community and those close to their hearts.
As I have fallen more in love with the Holy, it has become clear to me that God/dess (God doesn't have gender so I try to be equal opportunity!) is all around me: in the people I see, in the land that I walk on, in the air that I breathe, and in the spirit that animates me.

But this has not always been as apparent to this woman and it has come at a cost of saying that this physical world is worth time and energy to delve into to understand Divinity further.

I was taught, as many of us were, that the Holy was only found in transcendence (even though paradoxically God is everywhere!) and that this physical realm was a distraction at best from holy pursuits. I was also trained at university and seminary that the Protestant Christian version of the scriptures was the only source of true wisdom that could be trusted and that every other source of knowledge or wisdom could be fallible.

While trodding this path I came to this passage spoken by Paul to the Romans (1:19-21):

“19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

I found myself in an internal battle between what scripture was telling me, which is that the heavens declare the Glory of God, and a mass of well intentioned teachings from a religious community that was so fearful of committing the sin of idolatry (confusing a physical object with the transcendent Holy) that it was unwilling to look at anything outside of a single religious text to even look for a more mature understanding and knowledge of God.

Then, I did something really ballsy: I prayed to the Creator to show me the unknowable in the knowable. Show me grace by show me the truth as the truth, and show me the falsity as falseness. Or said another way, Show me what YOU are really about, since God told me that he/she is not a spirit of fear!

Seemed simple enough at the time.

St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that some things that are true about God are by nature a mystery to us, unknowable, and majestic. But he also tells us in the same treatise that humanity commences with its knowledge of God through the senses, saying, ”there are some truths which the natural reason also is able to reach…For, according to its manner of knowing in the present life, the intellect depends on the sense for the origin of knowledge; and so those things that do not fall under the senses cannot be grasped by the human intellect except in so far as the knowledge of them is gathered from sensible things.” - Contra Gentiles, I, c.3.

St. Aquinas teaches that while God is inherently unknowable because God is multi-layered, nuanced and multi-faceted, we should still use the faculties given us. My own Mother, fearful for the salvation of my soul, never wanted for me to leave Christianity, but she more than any one person taught me that I was not to fear people, only God. And it was with this in my heart that I set off to remove the darkness and foolishness in my mind.

I had no idea where I would wind up (not all of it good!).

Over the next decade plus years I spent time “beholding the universe around me and observed the order and arrangement in it.”

to be cont...

Flurry of Joy

Quietness has been a deep friend of mine, like a silent companion that holds my friend, reassuring, loving and stable. My *need* to be loud, heard and understood (and that all Leo trait: right) has dissolved to such a point that it surprises me now when it surfaces... where it seemed that even just a few eras, heart beats and skips before, it was my constant companion.

Culturally this makes me a bit awkward in the western tribal culture that I adore. Most of those who have been my companions for the last 15 years are in that place, and reward and desire loud, pay attention to me type actions and attitudes. Finding myself just wanting to be present, engaged but not trying to be the raucous can be lonely.

In this way I don't miss traveling with Orion and House of Brigh. The constant flurry of "OMG!" everywhere was fun sometimes, tiring at best, and hurtful to my spirit in a very deep way. I missed having just quiet deep connections with people. No need to talk, but deep presence.

I like having creative fun, playing hard and engaging in true joy... but as an outpouring of depth of connection... the Source of that joy I desire it to be the connection to Spirit.
All Creation Honors Creator

One of the main components in holy wars has to do with concrete thinking in religious contexts. Our current climate has some of the most brilliant people with doctorates, of which most have a religious education and spiritual development age of about 5th Grade!! This means that functionally that your average person has a belief system that concretized at about 10 years of age. As we go forward in our inner development, often we begin to look for deeper and more functional images of God.

How we find these can be harder than it seems because often well meaning people scare of us off from looking at these with real intent in order to keep us "safe" from crossing some invisible line. One concrete idea of God is that there are many religions that have access to God and that there are other images or names for God. This idea scares people who cannot do abstract religious thinking because they are unable to hold the idea that more than one person might be right. This ideology moves hand in hand with the idea that if someone else is right, that automatically means that another is wrong.

With this fear in mind... I'll tell you an old story:

There are four blind men who discover an elephant. Since the men have never encountered an elephant, they grope about, seeking to understand and describe this new phenomenon. One grasps the trunk and concludes it is a snake. Another explores one of the elephant's legs and describes it as a tree. A third finds the elephant's tail and announces that it is a rope. And the fourth blind man, after discovering the elephant's side, concludes that it is, after all, a wall.

Each in his blindness is describing the same thing: an elephant. Yet each describes the same thing in a radically different way.

According to many, this is analogous to the different religions of the world -- they are describing the same thing in radically different ways. Thus one should conclude that no individual religion has a corner on truth, but that all should be viewed as essentially equally valid.

This is a powerful and provocative image, and it certainly seems to capture something of the truth.

If God is infinite and we are finite, it is reasonable to believe that none of us can fully capture that infinite nature.

... at the end of the day, we can never fully know the mind of God, but God knows us... and the point of ANY religion is to just help people get to know God better. Anyone who uses a religion to prove that they are right or wrong is using God to promote their own insecurity instead of moving into submission to the Holy Spirit.

In this same vein... I will leave you with an idea...it is not God that needs to be protected... it is our own fear around our beliefs.

Blessings on your journey to deepening your faith!
I myself took up the cloak of blame;
I smashed the bottle of honor and virtue on a stone.
What of it?

Sometimes I rise up and watch the universe from above.
Sometimes I go down to earth and lose myself in love.
What of it?

Sometimes I study life's meaning in the holy books.
Sometimes I go to the tavern and get drunk.
What of it?

Sometimes I enter my garden to pick roses for my darling;
I grew the roses and I gathered them.
What of it?

The wine of this love is a sin, the orthodox think-
The sin is mine. I fill my glass and drink,
What of it?

The pious bow to the niche in the mosque.
I bow at the Beloved's doorstep, pressing my face up close.
What of it?

My enemy says loving beauty is sinful.
I love my Beloved so I'll gladly pay that price.
What of it?

They ask Nesimi,
are you and your beloved getting along?
Whether we get along or not, my Beloved is mine.
What of it?

-Nesimi, 15th C.
Ever find yourself in deep anxiety or emotional pain? You find yourself feeling trapped, overwhelmed and looking for the escape hatch? Recently I found myself in this deep suffering over my relationship with some close friends of mine and I was wondering if the Goddess was going to change it for me, if she was going to offer any sort of relief or support.

My mind lead me down this winding garden path and I wondered how long this pain was going to last. My inner shrink weighed in and I began wondering if I was causing this pain myself, wrapping myself up in something that wasn't necessary. I was antsy enough and felt displaced to such a point that I wondered if I was going to have trouble sleeping.

Then, I started feeling this nagging concern if I was going to be resentful if I prayed and the Goddess didn't answer or cause any change. How would this lack of change after prayer affect my belief in prayer and my belief around whether the goddess answers prayers. This softer concern voiced a true concern which made my skin crawl: whether prayer worked and if I believed in it. It was at that stunning moment that I realized that not only had I not prayed and asked, but that I was afraid to for fear it wouldn't be answered and I would be left holding the bag alone. After some deliberation, I stepped up to my inner prayer mat in a decision to choose to the best of my ability to allow the prayer to be answered any way that she saw fit and not try to control the outcome.

I moved into my soul, and very quietly, deeply and with intention started praying over myself and the situation. Through that offering to God, I began to see that I was asking for relief from pain. The spirits showed me that I needed grace as I went through something very difficult. I started perceiving grace as not a rescuing of myself from my pain, but instead more like a state of spiritual being that relieved me from having things attach to me, like lubing a pole before it went into a slot.

My prayers followed this flow, asking for grace to surround me and uphold me. And after my spirit had a good lube job, my inner eyes glanced to this energetic idea that was hovering over my spirit: that when I did prayers over something, that I was really hoping that God was going to be appeased enough that she or he would grant what I wanted. I was trying to BUY God with my prayers. I looked at that for a moment, felt a wave of remorse, relief and embarrassment. Good Lord, really?!!!! From there I began our traditions chant to offer remorse and then ask for it to be changed from that place of understanding or deep soul knowledge.

It's strange how invasive it is that you want to buy or earn your way somewhere, as if your soul were for sale so we can obtain respect, care for or honor. We cannot earn the love or grace of God. The Universe's love, relief or joy cannot bought and sold. Often we are seeking to "cure" something by prayers, chants or rituals instead of moving into presence with the holy and allowing it to impact or change our spirit. In reality, to cure is a misplaced goal because it is based on the assumption that something is broken or in error. In reality, we have no idea if this is true. Spiritual tools are like mechanic's tools to work with our "soul bits" functioning to clear, clean, feed or uphold the soul. We have to be careful not to try use them to obtain love, grace or the respect of Divinity, because the tools do not function like that and then we will find our spirits feeling resentful, betrayed or abandoned!

The real medicine for our soul's wound is to move close into the Goddess and allow her presence which is love to imprint our spirit. No child (young or grown) petitions or conjoles our Mother to *make* her make our owy better. Instead we love the Goddess, come closer to her and open ourselves to her as deeply as we can and like a mother who gets to see our owy, ask her to kiss it and make it better. She wants nothing more but to do this kindness for you, but our Goddess is a Lady and she won't force you to open the place where the owy is to let her kiss it.

I had dreams about Cerriadwen's cauldron all night. She was kind to me even as I struggled with this deep soul wound that I have to earn grace or love or compassion from the Universe. People often say that this work is unforgiving and brutal, and soul deep it is, but the Goddess loved me deeply that night. She spent the whole night standing in the deep place with me and as I changed, the inner sight that she is always standing there came open to me.

Great Mother Great Father, let me be open and guided by the highest and most noble inspirations and aspirations: You. Let my feet not stray from this path.

But by the Grace of Divinity go I.
I am expanding. My personal boundaries around love, acceptance of others and the willingness to change has also been expanding. About a year ago I started realizing that in order to be a true walker of this spiritual path that was congruent with what I believed was being asked of me by my creator, that I was going to have to change.

This included doing things that were uncomfortable for me. Seriously uncomfortable. There were some days that I must have chanted, "the Gods don't give us more than we can handle, we just may not agree on where the line is" 70 times a day! And in the same day, find myself thinking sometimes the ugliest things and realizing that I could not give myself permission to think that anymore.

The result? My heart started expanding. My capacity to love that which was before unlovable to my own eyes has started becoming valuable in and of itself. I remember the moment when I read a section out of my Dalai Lama book where he frankly stated that we were addicted to beauty and only wanted to love beautiful things or beautiful people and specifically that he stated that we devalued things that weren't beautiful. It felt like he was talking to me. Lately in that vein, I have noticed that our super models are really iconic on this. They are unhealthy and ragged bones in skin, being run by our consumer culture addiction to beauty and our connecting beauty to a value statement.

I saw a guy in Home Depot that had a ruddy face and knotty hair who was selling air conditioners and for the first time as I walked by I thought, what a beautiful man and I smiled at him unconditionally from a deep part in my heart. I shocked the hell outta myself!

All of this is an example of how I am working to remove my own prejudices that come forward, especially against myself. This transition been hard, and this is just one area! Let's not get onto how I feel about people who are arrogant, unkind or otherwise lacking. (especially in my own opinion)

Treating and feeling equanimity towards people, religions, ideologies and whatnot is something that I strive to uphold. Each time I see someone, I go back into my spirit and find the place that sees them the way that I think God sees them: As Divinity expressing Itself. My hope is that someday, my own spirit won't even remember what it was like to feel the other way.

the light turned on

I don't post here very often. It's not so much that I abandoned LJ, as much as I am so wrapped up in living life that sometimes I forget to write about it too.

Much has been happening on many fronts.

On the spiritual front, my heart has been listening to the piper of the unity mysteries and trying to figure out how to realize this deeper into my spirit. I understand these often with my brain (why, yes, it is all just God, duh!) to actually finding a way to ACT like this in my relationships, my interactions with the causal plane and my hopes and aspirations for the future. This is much harder to do than I thought because there are some sacred cows that are up for slaughter, and I have to admit I am more than nervous.

The thing that keeps my feet on the ground however, is the the Goddess has shown herself to be reliable to me. She didn't promise to do it for me, save me from heart ache or any of those type of markers that I felt like should indicate love. Instead, we walk together. She midwifes me. She leaves me options and choices and we collectively make decisions. I finally came to the realization that the pain that was happening in my life wasn't me being punished or less loved by by creator.

Also, having relationships with individual (very real!) deities I also realized didn't mean that there wasn't an overarching presence that ran through all things. So my "am I monotheistic am I polytheistic" conversation that has been turning in my head no less than 15 years suddenly became a non-issue. It's like the light turned on and I dropped the ax in surprise.

Beyond that, I am working on being a good member of a poly family. This is also difficult as in order to really live this sort of life, you really do have to work out your inner demons. I have had to learn not to punish people for my own insecurities and pain. I also have had to allow others to be not perfect and not punish them for that too. My own heart has been chiding me on not being a two faced hypocrite, meaning: If I believe that all people are worthwhile, and people are allowed to make mistakes, and all people deserve to be treated like full human beings: then, I cannot treat them like cattle to be mistreated as I feel angry, hurt abused or wronged. Removing the tantrum feature from a relationship system has been the most constructive thing I have done for myself in a LONG time. (Sorry for the over share here) But, the bottom line is that I think that many of us use our tantrums to hold people hostage whenever we start to get scared rather than go into any sort of true interior examination.

So... off to make my first African Hot sauce. (sounds really hot doesn't it?!) It's got like 5 kinds of peppers in it, and a whole lotta love!


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