Prayer for Health and Harmony

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Divine Father-Mother, hear our prayer for health and harmony:

May the sick be strong and well. May the injured heal. May the dying rest in confidence of immortality.

May broken relationships be mended, and may animosity give way to gratitude and discovery. Let the heavens open and the spring rain wash away all jealousy… insecurity… distrust; dissolve resentment and self-righteousness; and penetrate and cleanse the heart. May we cast off the illusion that we are alone, separate from one another or from you, Almighty God. May we see each other as we are: perfect soul to perfect soul… radiance to radiance… glory to glory.

May we experience our inner light, knowing that we shine with energy and purpose… safe and secure in the morning of Creation… no longer blind, able to find and navigate the path of satisfaction, service, and joy…. Set us on the road that guides us to our reason for becoming.

Divine Creator, God of grace, you have endowed us with the gifts, abilities, and inclinations that reveal the way of happiness and the way of peacemaking and compassion. In the practice of our dharma, we repair the fractured universe, and construct, stone by stone, your kingdom on earth. May our compass be true, our motives pure, our intuition steadfast.

May we open our minds to your guidance and entrust our prayers to the wings of angels. Our petitions bow to your wisdom: We pray, “This we seek, or something finer, truer, purer, more sublime, and dedicated to the greatest good of all creation.” Thus may we thrive in the abundance of experience, generosity, and shared delight. Thus may our endeavors take flight, yielding bliss in the pursuit as well as the achievement.

Given courage by your grace, O God, may we embrace one another in the confidence of shared recognition. All is forgiven. Undivided by religion or bias, strangers become friends, and friends and families become united: husbands, wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, and the children of our children… sisters and brothers… generation to generation without end.

In our common habitat, may streams be swift and pure, lakes fresh and placid, oceans clean, their motion constant, unencumbered by the careless use of earth’s great treasures. May the winds whirl freely and the skies be clean and benign. May the trees and crops and herbs be bountiful and vigorous; and may all creation flourish, giving no cause for a sense of lack or an impulse toward greed or hoarding.

May all be granted understanding this very day that truth abides in love, innocence, kindness, and freedom from want. Patiently remind us that you share our day-to-day concerns and our great struggles. May we be aware, any time we listen for it, of the pulse and chorus of the universe, music of our souls, rhythm of our lives, and singing of our spirits.

Amen.

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Will Guilt Make You Good?

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Human nature
cannot be studied
in cities except
at a disadvantage —
a village is the place.
There you can
know your man
inside and out–
in a city you but
know his crust;
and his crust is
usually a lie
Mark Twain, 1883

I guess a
small-town
mayor is
sort of like a
community organizer
,”
except that
you have
actual
responsibilities

Sarah Palin, 2008

Your hometown
is where they
can’t figure out
how you did
as well as you
did
—Source unknown

What’s So Bad about Feeling Good? Part 1

My Hometown

From Canadian TV series MY HOMETOWN, Filmwest Associates

HILLTOP, U.S.A. — A lovely place. A peaceful place, as I have said. The fact that I am peeved at Eloise Mary Shea because her birthday-party invitation said to come in costume, and I went wrapped in alumninum foil, as a baked potato, you know, and no one else was in costume because she, Eloise Mary Shea…

…who, I happen to know, wears the same pair of underwear two days in a row, turning it wrong-side-out for the second day…

Eloise Mary Shea, third from left; I, Fanny, am taking the photograph

Eloise Mary Shea, third from left; I, Fanny, am taking the photograph

…had informed everyone personally that she’d changed her mind about costumes, but she “forgot” to tell me — anyway, I understand that my trifling I’ll-be-over-it-by-Thursday SNIT does, to some degree, send negative vibrations into the ether and thereby delays the dawning of the Age of Universal Peace and Love just that much more, but it doesn’t seem to have done much to the spiritual frequencies in Hilltop, because Hilltop is under a Peace Spell, like a soft blanket, which was probably doing its job of comforting and safe-keeping even during the silly Battle of the Barbers, which, after all, ended happily, with Mr. Henry now busier than bees on lilacs because, unlike Mr. Bill, who knew how to cut crew cuts, period, Mr. Henry’s not a one-haircut guy, plus Mr. Henry’s hands don’t shake so alarmingly that his customers are afraid he’s going to pierce an eardrum with his scissors, as they feared re Mr. Bill in the latter years.

Sedona at sunset; photo by Joseph Plotz

Sedona at sunset; photo by Joseph Plotz

‘Make love, not war’

I, Fanny

I, Fanny

Now, just because Hilltop is peaceful and somewhat out of the way, I would not want you to think that we are all self-delusional or backward, like those people residing in really isolated parts of Appalachia who misbelieve that the War Between the States is still a-ragin’. Let me make one thing perfectly clear: We do not marry our first cousins. Well, not any more. Not since Lettie and Bobby Lee Wallace and their six unbridled hellions — children, I meant to say — Jimmy Lee, Tommy Lee, Alice Lee, Maribel Lee, Robert E. Lee, and Curtis Lee. True story.

Earnest Fort House, Green County, Tennessee, 1780s; photo by Brian Stansberry

Appalachia: Earnest Fort House, Green County, Tennessee, 1780s; photo by Brian Stansberry

No. We are well informed, we are hip, and we are diverse.

The Vietnam War era, as recalled by Sister Alma Rose

According to Sister Alma Rose, in the 1960s and 1970s, when the young people of Hilltop went away to school (some to LaMesa State College, but as many to institutions such as Brown, William and Mary, Georgetown, Oberlin, and so forth), a number of them wandered off after graduation and forgot to call home to let their parents know they’d be late.

Did they prostrate themselves before their parents, kissing their feet and adoringly, gratefully, or even sneeringly saying, “Thank you, Mother and Father, for spending skillions of dollars to provide me with…

Healy Hall, Georgetown University; photo by Patrick Neil

Healy Hall, Georgetown University; photo by Patrick Neil

“(a) a fascist education devised to indoctrinate my cohort and me with propaganda about the history and government of the United States, which is an evil capitalist empire bent on world domination; or

“(b) a highly practical education that taught me to despise you and everything you stand for and through which I learned how to make pipe bombs and orate against capitalist materialism outside the White House, the United Nations, and the 1968 Democratic National Convention?”

NO,
THEY DID
NOT

Crim Dell Bridge, William & Mary

Crim Dell Bridge, William & Mary

If they wrote at all, they sent surly letters asking for rent money or travelers’ checks for a sojourn in Tibet, or perhaps Canada (who could blame them?). Eventually, many of them drifted back… sometimes contrite and in need of treatment for various addictions; sometimes pregnant or toting actual babies, who might be any of a variety of colors characteristic of humans (not green, like Kermit, though that would have been okay too).

Sister Alma Rose recalls that all the parents “killed the fatted calf” and welcomed their prodigals with open arms. She knows of only one instance in which the chastened young adults, their children, and any spouses or life partners who might have tagged along, were not forgiven, cherished, cared for, and put to work as soon as possible. The exception involved the sister of a boy who had been killed in Vietnam. The sister, Jeannette, who had changed her name to “Peace Feather,” and who, mystifyingly, wore a war bonnet and painted multicolored stripes across her face for all occasions, had been contemptuous of the Vietnam G.I.’s and had heaped abuse, at every opportunity, against the veterans. Even in her parents’ home, on their dime, she was unrepentant; and she was asked to leave, and nobody cared, except for possibly Peace Feather herself, though we hear that she has done well in Sedona, where she grooms cats and balances their chakras, but she still wears her war bonnet all the time, which is kind of sad, but, oh, well.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Return of the Prodigal Son

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Return of the Prodigal Son

Also in the late 1960s, all the kindly old ministers who patted you on the head and called you “Susie,” and who had baptized your grandparents, died, kind of in a clump. And the young ministers who took their places preached the Gospel of Social Justice. For these warriors against racism, ageism, classism, sexismhomophobiaxenophobia, speciesism, and whatever other phobias and –isms I’m forgetting…

…GUILT

was the weapon of choice (except in the case of Father Dooley, who was and still is a cupcake).

Astronaut John Bennett Harrington is an enrolled member of the Chickasaw nation

Astronaut John Bennett Herrington is an enrolled member of the Chickasaw nation

These clergymen (no women, yet, back then) were opposed to the war (like Sister Alma Rose); they supported racial and gender equality (like Sister Alma Rose). They wanted to Integrate Hilltop, I don’t know, import people in from Miami or something — until the new ministers looked around, says Sister Alma Rose, and saw that

all together, there were (and still are) more Asians, Indians (both kinds), black folks, brown folks (many being refugees from Central America), and combinations thereof, than there were and are white folks in Hilltop….

This “demographic,” says Sister Alma Rose, is unexpected in a town the size of Hilltop, and located where we are, and given the fact that there are no big companies headquartered here and luring folks with jobs. I, Fanny, think that our good fortune has something to do with The Ancients, but I always believe that The Ancients are involved when I can’t think of another explanation.

Crow warbonnet

Back to guilt. Sister Alma Rose does not believe in guilt. No, that’s not true at all. Guilt, she says, is “like sticking y’all’s foot in the fire. Oh, hell, that stuff’s HOT! Y’all pull your foot out, repair the damage as well as y’all can, and then let it heal. Y’all don’t poke and prod at it every ten minutes to see if it still hurts.”

Sister Alma Rose on guilt…
‘Guilt is a bad reason to do good’

…because it wastes so much energy. Guilt is uncomfortable, so most folks try to get rid of it, like they’d dig out a tick. How can y’all do the work of the Lord, or even empty the trash, if y’all are tuckered out from grappling with guilt?

Adultery

Adultery

Guilt trip, Type A

If y’all feel guilty because y’all did something wrong, and if y’all can fix it — like if y’all stole money, say — y’all can (1) pay it back with interest and (2) apologize. Maybe y’all won’t even have to (3) spend a few days in jail (well, unless you stole a WHOLE LOT of money; let’s just say you didn’t). (4) Resolve not to steal again, and (5) stick to your resolution. Then, by the grace of God, there’s no reason to feel guilty any more, is there?

Guilt trip, Type B

Now, if y’all feel guilty because y’all did something wrong and it can’t be undone — like a spot of adultery, say — then y’all should (1) quit, cold turkey; (2) resolve not to commit adultery again, and stick to your resolution. (3) As to whether y’all should confess your transgression to your spouse and ask for forgiveness, that’s between y’all and God. But (4) once y’all have established that y’all not only can refrain from adultery but can love and cherish your spouse, and live in mutual trust, then (5) there’s nothing to feel guilty about. (6) If guilt sticks to y’all anyway, unstick it off yourself and give it to God.

Parents: 'Where did we go wrong?'

Bad Lot: 'Where did we go wrong?'

Guilt trip, Type C

The hardest to get rid of is the kind of guilt that y’all do nothing to deserve in the first place — like if, in spite of y’all’s being the best parent y’all know how to be, one of y’all’s kids grows up to be a ne’er-do-well. Y’all will undoubtedly relive every moment of this kid’s childhood, and y’all will find mistakes because y’all are human, and y’all did not have Mary Poppins living at y’all’s house.

Y’all will have tried to fix the kid or paid lots of money for “professionals” to fix him, and then y’all tried to help him out and discovered that, omigosh, y’all were “enabling” him.

Y’all will have tried “tough love,” which is a breeding ground for parental guilt, and “tough love” won’t have done any good either, because Dad’s sticking to the program but Mom is slipping the kid Dutch apple pies, or worse…. Eventually the kid ends up in jail or disappears, or gets struck by lightning and goes to medical school and becomes a top proctologist. Who knows?

I know a nice married couple who raised four kids: two model daughters and a saintly son and a Bad Lot, addicted to cocaine, committing armed robbery, constantly pestering Mom and Dad for money, stealing from them. They moved across the country and didn’t offer a forwarding address to the Bad Lot. Sure, they felt guilty….

The Hague: Actors in a play about teenage angst

The Hague: Actors in a play about teenage angst

This kind of guilt is really sticky, and y’all might have to peel it off and give it over to God a whole slew of times, and rejoice in y’all’s new freedom, a whole slew of more times. The guilt tries to creep in through the back door, and it starts by whispering in y’all’s ear, “If only y’all had….” Well, y’all didn’t. In fact, y’all probably did better than y’all remember, but that’s beside the point. Just hand over to God this fresh batch of guilt, because it’s not like he has his hands full, or anything….

Sister Alma Rose believes that Freedom from Guilt is a gift of grace and is pretty much the whole point of the New Testament; it’s the Good News, the occasion for gratitude, the reason for joy, the excuse for a party; and it’s not just for Christians! Buddhists and people in other religious traditions (not that Buddhism is, strictly speaking, religious) know how to let the vast, intelligent universe redeem their guilt.

Take Judaism, for example. King David, or whoever authored Psalm 103, wrote this heartening, lyrical promise:

As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgression from us (Ps. 103:12)

Russian icon of St. David, the Prophet and King, 18th century (Iconostasis of Kizhi monastery, Karelia, Russia)

The Gospel of Guilt, which most of Hilltop’s ministers in the 1960s and 1970s preached, is one of a bunch of reasons that Sister Alma Rose started worshiping in her own chapel, the one Daddy Pete built so long ago. At first it was just her and Mr. Truman LaFollette and a few neighbors, but now, on Sunday mornings, several dozen people might show up for worship at Hilltop Farm.

Not that Sister Alma Rose is sticking her head in the sand. She helps. No one has any idea, because she doesn’t advertise the good works she does.

“I do what I’m called to do,” she says, “what best uses my talents and gives me the greatest satisfaction. So will y’all someday.”

Guilt rides again

When Elizabeth Anna Stratton, Sister Alma Rose’s good friend since she, Elizabeth Anna, was a little girl, came back to Hilltop for a visit last month, and Elizabeth Anna asked Sister Alma Rose and me to go with her to the 7:30 a.m. Sunday service at the Presbyterian church, I thought, how bad can it be?

Child in  Darfur refugee camp, www.columbia.edu

Child in Darfur refugee camp, http://www.columbia.edu

Well, as Sister Alma Rose put it, “We got a us generous dose of the Gospel of Guilt,” to the point that I came out of that service feeling depressed and ashamed and ready to get on the next boat to Sudan or the next train to Chicago, where I’m sure, if I looked hard enough, I could find young people, and older people as well, using dangerous, addictive drugs, and I would say, “Stop that right now,” because, what do I know, I’m just a kid, and they would shoot me, or at least take my nice catalog clothes and my travelers’ checks, and it would be no more than I deserve. Because what right do I have, living in the bosom of a loving family, in a nice house with oak floors and central heating and a microwave, for God’s sake, eating plenty of wholesome food and probably throwing some of it away! and wearing nice clothes from the catalog when God knows there are rags aplenty, or I might consider a hairshirt — all this in a world where — according to the vituperative sermon given by the Reverend Ms. O’Donnell and directed at the “complacent middle class,” which is pretty much all of Hilltop —

The reality of drug addiction, www.outoftheherd.com

The reality of drug addiction, http://www.outoftheherd.com

…families are being driven from their homes and living in filthy camps where children starve, and little boys are being abducted to fight in revolutions they don’t understand, and young men and women are smoking crack cocaine, and mothers are selling their daughters into prostitution in exchange for money to feed their addictions, and I think that I have a right to want anything at all and to be happy in a world of suffering?

A word about the Reverend Ms.O’Donnell

This is a woman who, by all appearances, ingests quite a bit more than “plenty of wholesome food,” in fact, a surplus, one might infer, which she evidently carries with her, dromedary-style, in case of a sudden and tragic potato-chip shortage; and who, according to Elizabeth Anna, was wearing a chichi suit from Lord & Taylor… and who also, after the service and the Coffee Fellowship, hopped into her classic T-Bird convertible, which, and my mother doesn’t even like cars, Mama would cheerfully exchange her own children for.

1957 Thunderbird convertible; photo, nminow via Wikipedia

1957 Thunderbird convertible; photo, nminow via Wikipedia

So much, I thought, for self-denial.

To be continued…

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The Eloise Cure

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Isn't she lovely?

Isn't she lovely?

Praise God for all the people who spread kindness
quietly, who every day make
sweeter by a note, a call — What does it
take to do the things you’ve always meant to
do but never took the time; too busy,
overladen with responsibility, with
this committee, that event, the social
whirl; but aren’t we meant to feed His sheep?

Small kindnesses can save
the world. Thank God for them. Amen
Anonymous

Tea with Eloise

tea_roomYesterday, Sister Alma Rose and I had tea with Eloise. We met at the Hilltop Tea Room, which is very sophisticated for Hilltop, which is to say that all the plants are real and not plastic. The tablecloth fabrics are different colorful French Provincial prints, the dishes are unmatching white china, very beautiful, and for ambient music the owner, Mrs. Fern Feeney (really, that is her name), plays Beethoven and Mozart rather than sanitized versions of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” performed by the Orchestra of All Our Music Sounds the Same.

tearoom_ouytdoor_diningIt was a beautiful morning, and we decided to have our tea and scones on the patio, where there are a tinkly fountain and enormous potted plants filled with daisies and moss rose and petunias and asparagus ferns and begonias, and that stringy stuff, moss, or something.

French provincial-style drape

French provincial-style drape

I always, always, always thank God, up close and personal, for Eloise. If I were on my deathbed, bleeding from all orifices, with a temperature of a hundred and ten, delirious and retching — and Sister Alma Rose said, “Fanny McElroy, let’s go have tea with Eloise,” I would be instantly cured. I would “rise, pick up [my] bed, and walk,” as Jesus told the paralytic, but I’m sure the paralytic’s bed did not have an antique carved-oak headboard and footboard and two mattresses, so I am speaking figuratively, not literally.

frenchch_provincial_tea_thingsHere is what I love about Eloise: She is truly, genuinely, deep-down kind. If you need something, she is right there, whether the “something” is a kidney donation or $10 to get your eyebrows waxed.

Eloise got married in her mid-30s, for the first (and last) time, to the guy (Duncan) who is tied for Second Most Wonderful Man in the World (first most wonderful is my dad), who is 10 years younger than Eloise (Duncan, not my dad), and when Eloise was creeping up on 40, she and Duncan had a baby boy and, a few years later, a baby girl, who are adorable,

Me, Fanny McElroy

Me, Fanny McElroy

smart, funny kids, and Duncan and Eloise do not ask me to baby-sit as often as they could, even though I wouldn’t let them pay me because I love the kids and I also love Duncan and Eloise’s unpretentious 90-year-old house with oak floors and enormous double-hung windows, the kind where the rope is always breaking in the guts of the window frame, where you can’t get to it, so you have to prop the window up with a tire iron or something.

PattiLabelle1A number of years ago, Eloise and her family, including her grandparents, Ellen and Rick, were dining in some swank Kansas City hotel when Patti Labelle slipped into the room. Eloise said, quietly, to the assembled family, “Patti Labelle just walked in.”

Ellen, thrilled but not, unfortunately, beyond words, bellowed to Rick, who was hard of hearing, “Look, Rick! It’s Patti O’Dell!”

Who?” Rick bellowed back.

“PAT-tee O-DELL!” Ellen screeched, an octave higher and eighty decibels louder, in tones Patti might have envied, were she a lesser person.

Eloise’s dark side?

I have a story on Eloise, something she did when she was five years old and had to stay home from kindergarten because she was sick, so she was sitting on the front porch watching all the other kids walk home from school, and she was very crabby, and a little girl from Eloise’s kindergarten class walked by, and Eloise yelled at that little girl, at the top of her (Eloise’s) lungs, the absolutely most inventive bit of profanity you can think of.

An elegant spittoon

An elegant spittoon

But I am not going to tell you what it was, except to say that, based on that oh-so-cleverly articulated word alone, you would think that Eloise would have taken the Wrong Path and would have grown up to be a sniper-terrorist-Nazi-Satanist instead of the smart, generous, beautiful, delightful woman that she is.

Here is proof of Eloise’s wonderfulness: She has only one auntie, and every few weeks she takes her auntie to coffee, and her auntie, whose name is Augusta, hates the world because she, Augusta, has ugly warts, and she chews tobacco and curses loudly and is always scratching her private places, where there are, no doubt, fleas or something worse, I don’t want to know, and she rarely smiles, which is a good thing, because, when she does, there are bits of chewing tobacco between her teeth, of which there are seven (I counted) and they (Augusta’s teeth) resemble kidney beans, and when she wants the waitress, she yells, “Girlie!” really loud, and when the waitress refills Augusta’s coffee cup, Augusta always says, “leave room for my medicine, Girlie,” and then she pours something vile and alcoholic from the flask she always carries… and Eloise loves her anyway.

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    Sister Alma Rose Walks with the Angels

    The Rescuer Whose Name Is Grace

     

    summer_trail_okThere is littleness in ghettos of the spirit; there are clusters of

    anxiety for great and small potentialities; there

    is a gnawing discontent, and there is greed, there is belligerence

    whose appetite for prey is so immense it manufactures

    enemies to butcher and devour. Here pain and anger

    are allowed and unrestrained; envy and resentment are

    infectious, and susceptible or even willing hosts become

    diseased. This is Planet Earth, its denizens believe.

    Luc Viatour

    Photo: Luc Viatour

     

    But there is one whose promise — “I have overcome the world” —

    revealed a paradise where anyone who wishes can abide. And when

    I chose to make my home where he is guardian and guide, I

    saw that littleness is less than I supposed, for I was given eyes

    with which to view the continents anew, and they were radiant. The

    huddled masses dwell, I saw, in mere illusion; fog that

    vanishes at dawn. I live among the angels and I wander

    on green hills, and the inhabitants with whom I every day converse

    are beauty, peace, vitality; are song and dance; are spirits that

    rejoice in blessed certainty that everything they need will be

    supplied, and more besides. This is where I live, but

    even so, I often fall away, for there is a seductive quality in

    self-indulgence and complaint. And then I have forgotten to

    return, have thought I didn’t know the way, have even stopped

    believing there was ever such a place. Infected by deceit

    and heavy with the burden of a nothingness disguised as stone,

    a monolith, I struggle for each breath and grapple with the lie that

    I am all alone. But I am not invisible to those who wait at home.

    Luc Viatour

    Photo: Luc Viatour

     

    They send a rescuer whose name is Grace, who never tires of carrying

    the weary and the lost back to the place prepared for them eternities

    ago. And the monstrosities are known for what they are — only shadows

    that cannot abide the sun. I needn’t earn the bread and wine on

    heaven’s table; all that is required is my acceptance. If

    unswallowed, they cannot revive the tired and hungry prodigal.

     

    Let this be my embracing of abundant grace; these words I

    have received and written, and must give away to clear a

    space for brighter blessings yet to come.

     

    February 13, 2006

    Luc Viatour

    Photo: Luc Viatour

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    How to Get Rich

    God of Grace, I love the place I’m in, but we are not intended not to grow. So if I need to go from here, I ask, as Brother Lawrence did, that you will put me where you want me… where I’m needed most. Amen

    Ï

    Dear Sister Alma Rose—Is it sinful to want to be rich? If not, how can I become wealthy? —Penniless in Potsdam

    The Palace of Versailles; photo by Eric Pouhier

    The Palace of Versailles; photo by Eric Pouhier

    Dear Penniless—Sister Alma Rose wouldn’t say “sinful”; unenlightened, perhaps. The answer to y’all’s question depends upon why y’all want to be rich, and what kind of riches y’all are seeking. Sister Alma Rose has found that those who are the saddest are the very poor and the very rich… the poor, because they struggle, and the rich, because wealth don’t satisfy them the way they thought it would do. Sister Alma Rose wishes she had thought to say this before Marsha Sinetar wrote a book about it: Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow. If y’all have true abundance—friends, joy in your work, a welcoming home, and peace in y’all’s heart—then outward abundance will be likewise manifest. And if it ain’t, would you care?

    Sister Alma Rose’s niece Jo Ellen wrote this bit of verse that might speak to y’all:

    I Won’t Mind It If I Fall

    Baking Cookies with Grandma

    Baking Cookies with Grandma

    I want to be a powder-scented
    grandma who bakes cookies and
    wears aprons and is plump and
    matronly… not now, but maybe
    someday soon, before my grandchildren
    grow up and have to pay a duty call and
    wonder if I’ll know their names when
    they approach me shyly, in the Home. I
    truly hope I’m not incontinent. But
    I’ll be rich by then, I think, and have
    my own domestic staff anticipating
    every wish and bringing me my food
    and drink upon a tray that has a doily,
    lace, not paper, and I don’t want
    ketchup in the bottle, not that I’ve the
    tiniest affection for that condiment, but
    still.

    Today, however, I’ll be reckless and not
    mind it if I fall, for I have nothing, so
    I’ve not a thing to lose. And
    it’s not true, not true at all, that I
    have nothing, if by something is
    meant “money.” There are days when dust
    motes drifting in a ray of sunlight make me
    giddy with delight. Perhaps I should get
    out more, though I always walk the
    neighborhood to see what subtle changes
    have been made since yesterday. We must
    have had a shower in the night; the air
    smells clean, my sweet alyssum is a little
    greener, and the sky is bright.

    There are so many roads I wish to travel,
    in the next life if I haven’t got the time in
    this one. God is economical; we’re given
    longings for a reason, to be satisfied in
    God’s time, in their season, by God’s grace. I
    can wait; I’m happy as a kitten with a junebug
    in this place. 

    Ï

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    Sister Alma Rose’s Thought for the Day: Breathing Is Enough

     

    Author and meditation teacher Susan Piver, on her CD Freedom from Fear, leads a very simple, very effective breathing meditation that never fails to bring peace and gratitude.

    At one point she invites the meditator to pause in the little space after the “out breath” and notice how the “in breath” spontaneously arises.

    What she doesn’t say is how wonderful it feels to breathe.

    I am about to say something that might sound preachy. If it does, please understand that I am preaching to myself as much as I am to anyone else who is experiencing discontent.

    Breathing is enough.

    That’s the beauty of a breathing meditation. When we are breathing consciously, then each breath is an affirmation, a choice to be alive. And it feels so good.

    Whatever might be wrong with our lives, our relationships, our health – when the house is a mess or the spouse is messing around – when we should have had the promotion someone else was given, however unjustly – when (in the words of a song called The Merry Minuet, written by Sheldon Harnick and popularized by the Kingston Trio in the 1950s) “they’re rioting in Africa, they’re starving in Spain, there’s hurricanes in Florida, and Texas needs rain” – as long as we can breathe, we have a place to start.

    It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed – by the laundry, by global warming, by the millions of messages that bombard us every day, by our own unreasonable demands on ourselves.

    When I am flinging fragments of myself throughout the cosmos, trying to solve my own and everybody else’s problems, Susan Piver, in her low, soft, reassuring voice, inevitably helps me reassemble myself in the process often called ”centering.” When life is unmanageable, sometimes all you can do is, as Anne Lamott advises, remember to breathe.

    When you can be grateful for breathing, then everything else – sunlight, shelter, warmth, coffee, leftover pizza – feels like abundance.

    Health, a light body, freedom from cravings, a glowing skin, sonorous voice, fragrance of body: these signs indicate progress in the practice of meditation. —The Shvetashvatara Upanishad

    Photo © Luc Viatour, GFDL/CC. Text from the forthcoming book Unfamiliar Territory, Volume 2: Meditations.
    Unfamiliar Territory, Volume 1: Poems, Prayers, Meditations, and Household Hints is available at www.LifeIsPoetry.net.