Big Stone Gap

Big Stone Gap, Virginia

Big Stone Gap, Virginia

For your recreational and mindful reading…

Big Stone Gap

Another view of Big Stone Gap, in the heart of coal-mining country (twchoir.com)

I’ve been doing a lot of waiting lately, something I do very well under most circumstances, but I was ready for a Good Read. I like to go into Quality Thrift, one of Hilltop’s two used-goods stores and by far the better of the two because Mona and Del Maloney, the owners, have an antique shop as well (Quality Antiques). They go on buying trips and bring home truckloads of antiques and “junque,” as they refer to the odds and ends often thrown in for free when they make substantial purchases at estate sales.

If they relied only on estate sales, the book selection would run to romance novels, religious books, and Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. Fortunately, for me anyway (though I have a weakness for mindless mysteries and for the better romance novels by first-class authors such as Nora Roberts and Kristin Hannah, but not necessarily in large-type editions, which for some reason make me feel like I should read v-e-r-y slowly, placing my index finger under each word), Mona and Del catch the library sales and the yard sales, especially in the spring, when people want to free themselves of the burden of STUFF that seems to gather and multiply in their homes during the winter.

Big Stone Gap, by Adriana Trigiani

Big Stone Gap

(I don’t have anything against Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, by the way. Mama used to subscribe and she and Daddy would read all the books and if there was one they really liked they’d buy the unabridged version.)

So you never know what you’ll find, bookwise, at Quality Thrift. Sometimes the books I pick up are Very Serious slice-of-life sorts of novels in which all the characters are adrift and are so badly flawed that the story amounts to people pretty much stumbling over themselves and each other and finally dying and you don’t care. I used to feel honor-bound to finish every book I started and then I’d go around in a funk for a day or two trying to Figure Things Out. Now I’ll read a chapter or two, say (mentally) Get Over Yourself to the author, and move on.

The paperbacks are just a quarter, so I donate the ones that don’t make the cut back to Quality Thrift. (The Maloneys’ antique store does quite well; the Quality Thrift profits go to the no-kill animal shelter in La Mesa.) As the books are five for a dollar (that is, five for the price of four), I don’t mind taking a chance, and that’s what I did with Big Stone Gap, by Adriana Trigiani, an author I had never heard of. If nothing else, I thought as I glanced at the synopsis on the back cover, I could enjoy an imaginary sojourn in the beautiful and mysterious Appalachians, as I did with the lovely book Christy, by Catherine Marshall, and as I do whenever Uncle Lester surprises us with a visit.

Big Stone Gap is a real town of about five thousand in the extreme southwest corner of Virginia. Adriana Trigiani actually grew up in Big Stone Gap among people with names like Fleeta (and her husband, Portly), Worley Olinger, Spec (the ambulance driver), Dicie Sturgill, and Pee Wee Poteet — hopeful, likable people who, if they died, you’d care, just as you care about the narrator, Ave Maria Mulligan, the self-styled town spinster, who is much more attractive and interesting than she thinks she is.

Author Adriana Trigiani

Author Adriana Trigiani

But, you see, she has never been mindful. That’s what this charming book is about — the Big Push that life gives Ave (pronounced AH-vay) Maria into Mindfulness.

“I took care of everything,” she says to herself at one point. “I was so busy, I didn’t think about what I was doing or where the years were going. I just did what was expected of me.”

I actually am enjoying this book so much that I am refusing to finish it. My paperback edition has 306 pages and I’m on page 295 and I’m going to fix myself a nice lunch of baked salmon and buttered asparagus before I read the next page, and after that maybe I’ll have a dish of apple crisp with real whipped cream and then read another page and by the time I finish the book I will have gained fifty or sixty pounds….

The June Tolliver House & Folk Art Center in Big Stone Gap. June Tolliver was the heroine in the 1908 novel THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE by Big Stone Gap native John Fox, Jr.

The June Tolliver House & Folk Art Center in Big Stone Gap. June Tolliver was the heroine in the 1908 novel THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE by Big Stone Gap native John Fox, Jr.

Fanny McElroy

Moi, Fanny

Check this out! Sister Alma Rose told me she wrote romance novels in another life. I said, “Sister Alma Rose, I don’t know how that could be, because you’re, like, one hundred and fifty years old and before that there was no such thing as a romance novel,” and she grinned and said, “Tells how much y’all know,” which only made me more confused than I already am about reincarnation and past lives, and I followed her into the kitchen and said, “Sister Alma Rose, is there such a thing as a future past life?” and she said, “Honey, there’s things y’all need to learn now and things for later, and this is one for later,” and she handed me a huge oatmeal-raisin cookie, to shut me up, I think.

————–

Learn about mindfulness meditation from Jon Kabat-Zinn.

‘Get a Life, Amanda Groom’

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Sister Alma Rose Teaches Meditation

meditator_istock

Sister Alma Rose is teaching me to meditate. Nothing could be easier, really… and there are many ways to meditate, including the labyrinth for people who can’t sit or lie still.

Medieval labyrinth

Medieval labyrinth

As you know, Sister Alma Rose sometimes does lying-down meditations, which are really, I think, screening her real purpose, which is to nap. But I could be wrong.

She has taught me to meditate in a position similar to that of the woman in the photo above, except I don’t have gorgeous collarbones as she does, nor do I want to sit in a puddle. Also, Sister Alma Rose would never instruct her students to hold their heads in that unnatural “heads back” position, but, rather, our necks are straight and held comfortably, chins tucked in just a bit.

Here is the point…

Me, Fanny McElroy

Me, Fanny McElroy

The body is a metaphor for the spirit. The position of the woman’s hands, extended, resting on her knees, indicates a willingness to freely accept God’s gifts, which are grace.

She is sitting with an “open heart,” her shoulders back, her heart exposed, concealing nothing and eager to enfold others, whether their hearts be whole or damaged.

The body scan

Sometimes Sister Alma Rose has me begin meditation with a body scan. You consciously relax every muscle, every bone, every organ, every cell in your body, beginning with the toes and working your way up to the “crown” — the top of the head.

When you do a body scan, you might find some areas of discomfort. Often, the pain will disappear in a few minutes just by your allowing your attention to rest in the uncomfortable areas.

happydancer1_istockAfter you are finished with the body scan and with your meditation, think about the areas of discomfort that you noticed. Discomfort and pain mean that your body is trying to tell you something.

The body doesn’t lie

For example,  Sister Alma Rose says that if your eyes are burning and itching, there is probably something going on in your life that you refuse to “see.”  If the pain is in your abdomen, you have a “gut feeling” about something… a decision you’ve made or a situation you’re in. “Go with your gut,” Sister Alma Rose almost always advises.

If you have a persistent headache, you could be overanalyzing something that might benefit from an intuitive approach. Not every problem can be solved solely by the intellect.

And — pardon me — if you are constipated, it might be because you are “holding in” feelings that need to be expressed. If you are angry with someone, it is best to express your feelings in a civil way. Don’t worry if the person you’re mad at doesn’t “change.” Don’t sigh and complain, “I tell him and I tell him, and it doesn’t do any good.” Of course it does some good, to bring your feelings out in the open instead of hiding them and letting them fester and forgetting about them until they turn on you in some awful way.

happydancer4_istockSomeone once said, “The only reason to tell someone what you feel is to tell someone what you feel.” You are giving information. What the other person does with that information is up to him or her.

Sometimes people can be annoying

Now — There will always be people in your life who irritate you and who offer you no way of escaping because THEY ARE YOUR RELATIVES. My own parents are perfect, but if I were to marry Pablo in ten years I would have to deal with his sister’s snide comments and his mother’s overprotectiveness. I’m sure Pablo’s mamacita would feel that anything I did for Pablo would be flawed because I would not be doing it HER way. (But anyway, I am never going to marry Pablo. He is just my best friend.)

Sister Alma Rose suggests two different way to deal with people who annoy you, if you can’t avoid them altogether:

(1) Stop focusing exclusively on the words or the actions of the irritating person. Instead see the whole person, and project love and light from your heart to that person. Breathe in, to capture the light that shines from above and is always around you. Breathe out, to embrace the other person in the light.

(2) Silently repeat this mantra:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. —Psalm 51:10

happydancer3_istockIf the other person is at all toxic, this meditation will protect your heart from the other’s poison and will allow you to be clean and new, free of “baggage,” at any time you choose. Even before Sister Alma Rose began teaching me to meditate, I always liked to repeat this verse from Psalms to remind me to claim my innocence and state of grace. “Restore in me the joy of your salvation,” the Psalm goes on to say, “and uphold me with your free spirit.”

“Never,” says Sister Alma Rose, “never allow anyone to steal your joy.”

Sister Alma Rose Is Steamin’

Sister Alma Rose does not always practice what she preaches. Mrs. Groom, the wife of the Presbyterian pastor in Hilltop, appeared uninvited on Sister Alma Rose’s wonderful, spacious, grass-green porch one day, while Sister Alma Rose and Pablo and I were playing UNO, and she, Mrs. Groom, I mean, proceeded to lecture Sister Alma Rose about Portia, who is Cousin Dulcie’s daughter, which means, I think, that Portia is Sister Alma Rose’s first cousin once removed. In any case, there is no controlling Portia. She is part wood nymph, part bright redbird, and I have seen her fly, and I am not making that up. (I am almost sure she is one of the Ancients.)

pp_manwomanAfter listening calmly to Mrs. Groom for about five minutes, which was when Mrs. Groom ran out of breath, Sister Alma Rose poked her index finger, which is large, just like the rest of Sister Alma Rose, into the area of Mrs. Groom’s solar plexus, and Sister Alma Rose stood very close to her and said, “Amanda Groom, y’all are and always have been an interfering old busybody, and nobody in or around Hilltop has ever mended his or her ways because of y’all’s scolding, and Portia harms no one, and I want y’all off my property this minute or I shall call Sheriff Dunleavy and have y’all’s fat wiggly ass hauled to the county jail.”

Mrs. Groom stalked off the porch and down the drive, and she was about halfway to the road when Sister Alma Rose called after her: “Amanda Groom!”

Mrs. Groom turned and fixed a cold stare upon Sister Alma Rose.

“Amanda Groom,” Sister Alma Rose repeated, “get a life.”

bicycle-156x96

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Breathing Dawn

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A Morning Meditation

angel_clouds

Brothers, sisters, sons and daughters,
come with me to sacred waters.
Bring your troubles and your sorrows
at the cusp of dawn tomorrow.

Watch with me and greet the sun,
envoy of the Holy One.
Breathe with me the healing rays,
harbinger of blissful days,

sunrise_deb_small

conquerer of death and dread
with its lance of fiery red;
comforter of the oppressed.
Wait with me; be healed, and rest.

Feel the gentle pink caress
comfort you at God’s behest.
Listen to the songbirds’ chorus:
”Hallelujah! God before us.”

30-Year-Puzzle-Solved-Light-Guides-Flight-of-Migratory-Birds-2

God above and God within us —
love and light are reigning in us;
these our strength, we are serene,
ever breathing dawn’s first beam.

Enter now the crystal waters,
brothers, sisters, sons and daughters.
Let the river wash you clean;
see your sorrows swept downstream.

paintbox_mountains_lake

Now rejoice in God, our savior,
praise the Lord, the one creator.
Open wide your arms; believe
in the blessings you receive.

grassy_valley_bluesky_gorgeous

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Praying for Many

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Sister Alma Rose: How to Pray for Multitudes

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Sister Alma Rose Q & A

Dear Sister Alma Rose — I am on my church’s prayer chain, and people in the church make prayer requests, usually for loved ones who are sick, many of whom I know personally but more of whom I don’t. Some of the requests are for “the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan” or “the beleaguered and starving in Darfur.” I also pray daily for my own friends and family. I do not know how to pray, genuinely and with love, for so many people. Can you help? cartoon_group_2
—Signed, Baffled in Baltimore

Dear BIB — Sister Alma Rose understands y’all’s frustration. Sister Alma Rose, being Sister Alma Rose, is often asked to pray for multitudes. When she was young and naive, Sister Alma Rose wrote everybody’s request on a separate slip of paper, and she put all the pieces of paper in a “prayer box,” and then she prayed for the box, in a manner of speaking.

Or she would write the names on a list and then pray for all the requests in a bunch, but her heart wasn’t really in it and her thoughts would wander off to “Oh! The hyacinths are blooming” or “Oh! There’s a big stain on that cabinet; I need to remove it as soon as I finish off praying. Vinegar or ammonia, do you suppose?”

Then, as she became more devout, Sister Alma Rose thought she needed to pray very specifically for everybody, and she would ask God to remove so-and-so’s plantar wart or heal a difficult relationship, but midway through she would get very antsy, because she can’t sit still for long periods of time, and she would “surrender” the whole clump of requests to God and go to the kitchen and bake some bread.

cartoon_couple_making_listsSister Alma Rose does not know how prayer “works,” precisely, but she believes that there must be some kind of connection between the pray-er and the pray-ee through which the powerful energy of prayer travels, and since she does not know all of the people being prayed for and God does, and since God is the source of all energy, Sister Alma Rose finds that God is indispensable to prayer.

Bright blessing

Sometimes Sister Alma Rose gathers energy from God through meditation and then carries God’s blessing as a sort of shining angel. She floats with the sunrise to all parts of the world, and darts down, á la Tinkerbell, to embrace with light the person she is praying for. She holds an image in her mind, individually or in clumps, of those she doesn’t know personally.

At the River

Sometimes Sister Alma Rose visualizes those she is praying for being carried by angels to the Jordan River, or some other river, perhaps the Nile, where they (the pray-ees) are set down on the west bank to await the sunrise. Sister Alma Rose is there with them, and she sees them all. When the day dawns on the river, each person soaks up the healing rays sent from God, and the Holy Spirit carries all the pain and troubles away on a whirlwind, and thousands of birds sing for joy.

Lovingkindness meditation

Sometimes, after surrendering her own and everybody else’s burdens to God, Sister Alma Rose blesses her people (individually wherever possible, otherwise in clumps) using Susan Piver’s sweet, comforting lovingkindness meditation:how_not_to_be_afraid_of_your_own_life

May you be happy
May you be healthy
May you be peaceful
May you live with ease

—Susan Piver,  How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life: Opening Your Heart to Confidence, Intimacy, and Joy

Wafting Love and Warmth

Sister Alma Rose always, usually, when she remembers, turns worries into prayers. When she is fussed about something, she surrenders it (the “something”) to God. When she happens to think about someone, or when she sees an unhappy face in the throng, she calls upon God to empower her to send waves of love and light to that person. It is not at all unusual, after sending such blessings through the ether, for Sister Alma Rose to receive a letter, a phone call, or a visit from the pray-ee that very day.

Candle Prayer Ceremony

candles_boxedcandles_prayercandle_book-261x388As often as possible, Sister Alma Rose lights candles in the evening for the people and situations she is praying for. Not everybody gets his or her own individual candle, or else Sister Alma Rose’s entire house would be turned into a huge candle mob, and it would not be safe for her cats, Tim and Henry.

Alternatives

One could also divide up one’s prayer list and pray fervently for, say, five people a day. Sister Alma Rose does not find this satisfactory, but that doesn’t mean y’all shouldn’t try it if it appeals to y’all.

One can also, when praying the Lord’s prayer, specifically the part that says, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” use it as a vehicle for petitions and intercessions: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in Patricia; thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in Ephraim”; and so forth.

Sister Alma Rose has also made strings of prayer beads, each bead representing a person or situation. She enjoys praying this way, as it engages several of the senses and Sister Alma Rose is less likely to become distracted.

The very intention to pray is itself a blessing, and as Sister Alma Rose’s dear friend the Rev. Bruce Hurley used to say, God sorts out our prayers. 

May God bless y’all, dear reader: May y’all be happy; may y’all be healthy; may y’all be peaceful; may y’all live with ease. Amen.

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An Open Heart

Missing Juliette

Chakra Goddess (www.intotheheart.org, from www.karunaarts.com)

Chakra Goddess (www.intotheheart.org, from http://www.karunaarts.com)

Almost nothing matters except how much love I can give and how much love there is in the world…. I can rededicate myself each day to the intelligence, grace, and mystery of a truly open heart. —Susan Piver, How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life: Opening Your Heart to Confidence, Intimacy, and Joy

Fourth Chakra (heart): Located at the center of our chest in the heart region, this energy-center is focused on opening to love, including the Divine manifestation of Love. intotheheart.org

Me, Fanny McElroy

Me, Fanny McElroy

Sister Alma Rose and I had gone to visit our friend Juliette. “I am missing Juliette,” Sister Alma Rose had said, as if she had misplaced Juliette and we should do a thorough search of the house and grounds.

I knew what she meant, though, because I was missing Juliette too. Juliette is all heart and wit and honesty. Plus I have sort of a crush on Juliette’s son, Ry, who is easy on the eyes and is kind and good and takes care of his mother. They take care of each other and of anyone nearby who needs them, and sometimes people not-so-nearby, all of which is a minor miracle, as you will see.

The Brawl in Montreal

Sugar Ray Leonard

Sugar Ray Leonard

Sister Alma Rose has a guilty secret: She enjoys boxing — as a spectator, of course, though I think she could defeat an opponent in the first second of the first round with one of her “don’t y’all be messing with Sister Alma Rose” looks. In 1980, she went all the way to Canada to see the famous “Brawl in Montreal,” the World Welterweight Championship fight in which Roberto Durán beat Sugar Ray Leonard in a 15-round unanimous decision. (I Googled welterweight, and there are actually several definitions having to do with horses and things, but in the above context, welterweight refers to a professional boxer who weighs between 141 and 147 pounds, which is not very big, my tiny mama weighed more than that when she was pregnant with me.)

Actually, being a boxing fan is not Sister Alma Rose’s guilty secret, it’s mine, by which I mean, I feel guilty for her. She will tell anyone who cares to listen that she adores a well-matched fight and prefers a good, decisive knockout to a decision.

This astonishes me. I cannot understand why anyone, especially someone who exudes peace and serenity as Sister Alma Rose does, would actually enjoy watching two people trying to beat each other to a bloody pulp.

1st Lt. Alan Singleton lays in the ropes as team officials rush to his aid following his knockout by Lance Cpl. Charles Davis in the final fight of the 2000 All-Marine Boxing Trials. (Wikipedia)

1st Lt. Alan Singleton lies in the ropes as team officials rush to his aid after his knockout by Lance Cpl. Charles Davis in the final fight of the 2000 All-Marine Boxing Trials (Wikipedia)

All Sister Alma Rose will say is this: “Fanny, y’all should watch a fight some time. It’s a lesson in the human condition. A fighter gets knocked down hard, and before y’all can say ‘Marquess of Queensbury rules,’ the fighter is back on his feet, a little weaker but still eager to fight. If he gets knocked down again pretty quick, he’s a little slower to get up, but if the fight ended right then he could probably go out for a few beers with his buddies, have a shower, maybe get a massage, go to bed, sleep twelve hours, wake up aching all over, take it easy for a couple days, bingo, he’s good as new.

“But if the fight hadn’t ended, if he keeps on getting knocked down before he regains his equilibrium, pretty soon he just can’t get up any more. He’s helpless, and if somebody don’t come in and take care of him, he’s still lying there on the mat. But maybe he makes a couple million dollars just for showing up, so he’s got folks on the payroll who’ll look out for him and probably see to it that he gets healed and gets his strength back so that he can show up for another fight down the road.”

Frontispiece of the 1605 printing (Q2) of *Hamlet*

Frontispiece of the 1605 printing (Q2) of *Hamlet*

To be, or not to be–that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep —
No more — 
and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep–
To sleep–perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.

Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III, scene i

Her heart shines like the sun

Sister Alma Rose says that “no mere mortal” can get punched in the gut over and over like Juliette, or be whomped repeatedly by “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” and remain standing “with an open heart,” which is why she is sure that Juliette is an angel from heaven, and Ry, too, who is technically, she says, an “angelino,” which, I don’t know what that means except possibly Ry is an apprentice angel, I’m just guessing, or maybe there’s an age limit and he’s not old enough. As I said, I don’t know.

The front entrance of the Tomb of the Prophet Job in the Druze Mountain region of Lebanon (El-Chouf). It marks the place where God healed all Job's wounds. (Wikipedia)

The front entrance of the Tomb of the Prophet Job in the Druze Mountain region of Lebanon (El-Chouf). It marks the place where God healed all Job's wounds (Wikipedia)

I will tell you one — just one — of the series of disasters that afflicted Juliette, the way God seemed to keep punishing Job according to the Bible. Juliette’s grown daughter, Adrienne, Ry’s sister, took her own life, something like ten years ago. Sister Alma Rose says that many people never heal from a blow like that. They turn inward, they get bitter, they protect themselves from other scary stuff that might be out there. Sister Alma Rose once knew a kind, gentle woman, a butterfly collector, whose husband, who was a county medical examiner, shot himself in the head, and his widow went home to her mama in Chicago and about a month later her mama found her dead in her car in the garage, of carbon monoxide poisoning, with a note that said she had gone to be with her husband.

From the Public Library of Science Journal, Oct. 17, 2006, published on Wikipedia

From the Public Library of Science Journal, Oct. 17, 2006, published on Wikipedia

Juliette, after getting blindsided for about the fifth time, almost caved. She stopped eating, more or less, until she literally could not stand up, and Ry found her helpless in her living room and hauled her off to the hospital, where she got rehydrated and “stabilized,” and then she spent a couple of months at a rehab center learning to walk again, and that’s been a year and a half ago, and even though she’s still not what you might call robust, her heart shines like the sun. She actively looks for ways to help her friends. She says, “I might not be able to do THIS, but I can do THAT,” and then she does it.

More accurately, the Juliette-and-Ry team do it. He’s big and strong, she’s tiny and still a bit frail, though she’s getting stronger every day; so she scouts around for what people need and together they accomplish it.

Open your heart

Human heart with coronary arteries (Yale University School of Medicine, published on Wikipedia)

Human heart with coronary arteries (Yale University School of Medicine, published on Wikipedia)

I asked Sister Alma Rose, when we were walking home from our visit with Juliette and Ry, what is meant by “an open heart” and where can I get one. She stopped and turned so that we were facing each other, and she said, “Look at how y’all are standing, Miss Fanny, with your shoulders back and your heart exposed, so to speak. People talk about ‘deep in my heart’ and ‘heartfelt admiration’ and they might not know it but opening their heart is a literal, physical thing.”

I’m thinking surgery and gore, and Sister Alma Rose seems to read my mind, because she says, as she has said many times before, quoting somebody-or-other, I can’t remember, “Things are metaphors for ideas, Fanny. If you want your heart to open up, and you gently ask it to, it will open up. If you ask it in the name of God to shine on the Somali pirates or on President Obama or on Jimmy Oakley, who has head lice, it will shine on them and the whole world will be that much brighter.”

Barry Manilow (2008 photo by Matt Becker, pub. on Wikipedia)

Barry Manilow (2008 photo by Matt Becker, pub. on Wikipedia)

Sister Alma Rose has taught me to meditate on opening the heart and to pray by casting the heart’s love-beams, which sounds like a dreadful pop ballad by someone like Barry Manilow, but which is a real thing, because Sister Alma Rose can actually see, with her physical eyes, the light that shines from one person to another, which goes from you to the person you are praying for, though I can only feel it a little bit, like when I am going into a room full of people I don’t know and instead of feeling threatened and being shy and inward, I tell my heart to shine on them, one by one or all together, depending, and it always, always makes me feel friendly and open instead of afraid that nobody will talk to me or that my pants will suddenly decide to fall down. Although one time my pants did fall down; but that is another story….

The Ancients, Part 1 — Daddy Pete

  

Morning Ritual

Getting Ready from the Inside Out

exhausted_mom_istockQ. Dear Sister Alma Rose — I am a faithful reader of Sister Alma Rose Has the Last Word, and you have convinced me of the importance of frequent prayer and meditation; but I am having trouble finding the time! It is always rush-rush-rush in the morning and rush-rush-rush in the evening, and, by the time the children are asleep, I’m wiped out. Can you give me some advice? — Signed, Pooped in Ponca City

A. Dear Pooped — Even if you have time during your work day to meditate, which Sister Alma Rose is intuiting you haven’t got on account of it looks like your modus operandi is rush-rush-rush (but in any event, see Sister Alma Rose’s Lunchtime Meditation and Sister Alma Rose’s Walking Meditation featuring Fats Domino), it is always a good idea to start the day with prayer and meditation. Maybe, if y’all did that, y’all would be calm and focused enough to ambulate purposefully instead of rush-rush-rushing, which, Sister Alma Rose supposes, involves hurried and inadequate nourishment and the inability to find your keys or a pair of clean undies, and so forth.

teenage_girl_bruthsing_teethSister Alma Rose also supposes that you find time to brush your teeth before you leave the house, and you probably scrub too hard and when you get a little older the dentist will say that you have damaged your gums and tooth enamel what with all that scrubbing. In any event, Sister Alma Rose is certain that you would be more READY to start your day after prayer and meditation than after hasty and perhaps harmful tooth-brushing.

Morning ritual

Sister Alma Rose is a great believer in ritual. A ritual is one step up from a routine. A ritual is a routine infused with sacred purpose. Sister Alma Rose’s ritual infuses her entire day with sacred purpose — not, perhaps, so anyone could see it from the outside. Y’all wouldn’t look at Sister Alma Rose bustling about at 2 in the afternoon and be saying to yourself, “Goodness, how I admire the way Sister Alma Rose infuses her day with sacred purpose.” Nevertheless, Sister Alma Rose is always (usually) conscious of the presence of the Almighty in each action and in every encounter. At least that is her intention.

Sister Alma Rose calls her morning ritual “getting ready from the inside out.” She begins by (1) feeding and tending to her spirit, through prayer and meditation. Then she (2) feeds and tends to her body — by performing her morning ablutions, eating a healthful breakfast, and going for a walk. Then she (3) feeds and tends to any who are in her care and (4) tends to her environment, doing whatever tidying up and washing up and pulling of noxious weeds, and so forth, are necessary.

Sister Alma Rose’s Morning Prayer and Meditation

One of the fine advantages of a routine or a ritual is that it’s somewhat automatic. You don’t have to waste time and tempt Satan’s spawn whose name is Procrastination by deciding what needs to be done and in what order. Imagine if, every time y’all got in the car to go somewhere, you had to figure out how to drive all over again. Fortunately for most of us, driving is routine.

woman_praying_stormysky_trees

Routines and rituals need to be reexamined now and again to make sure they’re still serving their purpose. For prayer, Sister Alma Rose makes use of (and has for a good length of time made use of) a Prayer Pattern. At the same location as the prayer pattern are (1) music that Sister Alma Rose likes to pray to and (2) the names of the folks she’s praying for.

Sister Alma Rose prays for a great number of people. Sometimes she does an imaging sort of prayer wherein she feels divine love and healing entering through a white light as she inhales, and when she exhales she expresses her prayer for each person by a warm light that reaches from her heart to the other person’s heart. Sometimes she pictures those she prays for standing in the Valley of the Sunrise as the first morning rays cleanse and sanctify each of them. Sometimes she just mentally says their names and hopes God will understand.

Sister Alma Rose does not intend for y’all to put “prayer and meditation” on a checklist and then DO prayer and meditation and then cross it off your list and forget about it. There is great need and there are many opportunities to refresh your spirit during the day, even if it’s when you are waiting in line or stuck in traffic. It takes less time and energy, and it is more productive of peace and harmony, to pray serenely when you are stopped at a red light and the driver in front of you — who presumably was able to procure a driver’s license for her broom only by casting a powerful spell upon the DMV personnel — is looking into the rear-view mirror and applying lipstick when the light changes, and is no more cognizant that the light has changed than she is that the earth is revolving around the sun at a speed of 18.5 miles per second — than it is to honk the horn and flip her off. Sister Alma Rose knows this to be true. She has tried it both ways. To this day, she occasionally croaks “ribbit” for no apparent reason, always at inappropriate times, as if there were an appropriate time to croak “ribbit” when one is a respectable lady in the prime of one’s life.

 

Make a Habit of It

The Chakras

The Chakras

Give them love.
Give all your love.
Every minute, every second of your life, love and demonstrate love.
Touch all the people who cross your path.
Touching passes energy.
Seeing passes power.
Smiling passes serenity.
Shining your light passes hope.
All your life will transform from that touch, that look, that smile, and that light.
The whole universe will change a little on account of your attitude.
The whole universe will change a little because you embrace the light.
The whole universe will change a little because you choose to love.
—Adapted from a
Care2 E-card

 

Sister Alma Rose Q & A

Dear Sister Alma Rose — I have sampled the guided meditations on LifeIsPoetry.net. Many of them are simple and satisfying. Some of the others intrigue me, but they seem to want me to do six impossible things at the same time. Like like when I took golf lessons [“Keep your head down. At the top of your swing, the club shaft should be parallel to the square root of the angle of the sun minus three degrees, and the clubhead should be pointed at the target. BUT DON’T LOOK! If you’re left-handed, your left arm should be straight and your right elbow should be bent at a 63-degree angle. DON’T LOCK YOUR KNEES! Now just unwind, fluidly and naturally. BUT DON’T MOVE YOUR HEAD!”]. 

The most complicated meditations also seem to be the ones where people talk in breathy, ethereal voices, unlike Susan Piver, who speaks with warmth and reassurance. Still, I wonder what I’m missing out on. Can you advise me? —Spooked in Spokane

Dear Spooked — Honey, Sister Alma Rose knows exactly what y’all mean. If y’all have to think real hard on how to do a meditation “right,” then y’all ain’t meditating, y’all are thinking.

Sister Alma Rose has cultivated some meditation habits over the years that help her get more out of practices like chakra clearing, for example. Y’all can form these habits, too, and you don’t have to be meditating to do so. Then, when y’all are meditating, these habits will be engrained and you won’t have to clutter your mind with them. Here are a few:
Breathe from the Diaphragm ("Human Respiratory System," drawn by Theresa Knott)

Breathe from the Diaphragm (

  • Inhale “navel to spine.” Use your diaphragm to draw in air. By breathing in this way all the time, y’all are actually drawing more air farther into your lungs and y’all are, in a manner of speaking, practicing a continuous relaxation exercise. You’re less likely to experience signs of unhealthy stress such as headaches and numbness in your hands than when your breathing is habitually shallow.
  • At least a few times a day, whatever y’all are doing, practice “inhaling the light.” Some people believe that there is an eighth chakra, in the form of a small sun above your head. Other meditators talk about breathing in the light from your own energy field, or aura. Yet another approach is to imagine that y’all are inhaling “the light from a thousand universes,” which is, in a sense, literally true. Your goal is to feel, without thinking about it, that every breath fills your body with light and energy.
        The sensation of exhaling has different purposes, depending on the meditation, so once you habitually start inhaling light, you can decide (or the meditation guide can instruct you) what to do with the out breath. Sometimes y’all will exhale dark thoughts, negativity, pain, sickness, fear…. Other times y’all use exhalation to “push” the light you’ve just inhaled throughout your body, or to a spot where there is pain or inflammation.
  • Whenever y’all listen to music that particularly pleases or stirs you, “tune” your body’s vibration to the music’s vibration. This is really easier than it sounds. The “Crystal Chakra Awakening” meditation (number 5 in the second set on page) is good practice for sympathetic vibration.
  • Practice self-acceptance all the time, even when y’all screw up — especially when y’all screw up. This doesn’t mean justifying the screwup. It’s more about having the humility to allow yourself to make mistakes. Beating yourself up is ego-centered, and it’s a waste of the time y’all could be spending getting on with life. 

Sister Alma Rose recommends that you start with Jack Kornfield’s soothing meditation instruction and then proceed to Susan Piver’s relaxation, breathing, and lovingkindness practices (numbers 9, 10, and 11, top set on page).

A Prayer for Every Morning
Buy and Send Random Cards of Kindness
Learn to Meditate
50 Guided Meditations
Request Prayer and Pray for Others

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunchtime Meditation

Sister Alma Rose Glows

Visualization can be a form of meditation. Y’all know what it means to visualize, right? It’s a bit like imagining, but it’s more like pretending.

Here’s what Sister Alma Rose is trying to say: When you ”visualize yourself as a ray of light,” don’t stand a ways off and look at a ray of light and imagine it’s you. Y’all got to be that ray of light. Crawl inside it and soak it up until you are the ray of light.

Here’s the easiest meditation-visualization practice in the world:

Glow.

Glowing is especially useful when you’re in an uncomfortable social situation. Sister Alma Rose’s little friend Noreen occasionally has to travel with her boss, usually by car. They don’t have a lot to say to each other. The silences used to make Noreen uneasy, and she’d grope around for things to talk about. Now, whenever silence settles between them, she just… well, she glows. From her toes and fingertips to her face and the top of her head.

Sometimes she visualizes a warm, golden light entering through her crown, the middle of her forehead, or her heart. Other times, she feels the warmth and radiance emerge from inside.

Easy does it

One of the problems with a lot of guided visualizations is that they don’t make sense. A popular and generally helpful healing CD has y’all floating on a pink cloud, which then deposits y’all on a beach, where you bask in the sun for a while, and then you walk uphill and discover you’re carrying a big bag of rocks. In another meditation, called the Daisy Pond, y’all are supposed to walk down some steps, down a hall, through a door, and out into a lovely natural setting where there’s a giant daisy in the middle of a pond, into which y’all are supposed to propel yourself and get cozy. Sister Alma Rose just can’t feature it. Daisies are too fragile. A big red rose might work, but not a daisy.

In the lunchtime meditation, Sister Alma Rose is going to ask y’all to inhale a healing white light. Sister Alma Rose has experimented with different ways of doing this. Sometimes she’s in the Valley of the Sunrise and she’s breathing-in the first rays of dawn. Sometimes she’s in a kind of light-cocoon. Sometimes she’s a star.

If Sister Alma Rose is in a chilly place, like outside on her porch when there’s a cool breeze, she feels the light entering from above, like a thin shining stream.

Do what works for you. If you have a headache, it might help to feel the light entering where the pain is sharpest. If you’re grieving, you may want to feel the light coming into your heart.

Sit or lie down comfortably, where y’all can be undisturbed for ten minutes or so. Close your eyes and begin breathing easily from your diaphragm. As you inhale, feel the healing white light enter. Feel the warmth and a bit of tingling where the light enters your body.

Float in the rhythm of your breathing for a minute or two. Then feel the light penetrate and massage every part of your body. Lean into it, relax in it, surrender to it. Every inhalation brings in new, clean light; every exhalation sends the light surging through skin, muscle, bone, heart, lungs, stomach, down to your very cells. If y’all have pain, send the light to where the pain is, surrounding it with love and compassion. Don’t fight it. Just let the light do its work.

If your mind wanders, acknowledge the thoughts or feelings but don’t follow them. Gently, compassionately, return your attention to breathing-in the light. Don’t scold yourself. As one of the Masters says, the intention to meditate is enough for now.

This type of meditation is like a warm bath. It surrounds y’all and fills you with warmth and comfort. It cleanses and heals. It reassures you that right now, right here, everything is as it needs to be. And it is. Oh, yes, it is.

———–

Meditation Resources
Prayer Requests

New-Morning-Shine Medititation

Sister Alma Rose Becomes a Ray of Sunlight

Source of Light and Life, may I be a sunbeam to shine for you today. Amen

Photo: Luc Viatour

This prayer-meditation is best done lying down. Sister Alma Rose always prefers to meditate lying down, though for some types of meditation it’s better to sit up. Unfortunately.

Do this meditation first thing in the morning, if y’all are not in a rush; or when you need a breather during the day; or at bedtime. What matters is that you have undisturbed solitude and time—ten minutes or more. Y’all can practice this meditation for as long as you like.

Play some lovely, light, floaty, instrumental music. (There’s hours and hours of meditation music at LifeIsPoetry.net. Click on “Meditation” in the navigation bar.) You don’t want nobody singing in y’all’s ear. You don’t want “Maple Leaf Rag” or “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Y’all want violins and flutes and oboes, or a nice, smooth solo piano. Music you can fly on.

Relax. Use any relaxation technique y’all like. (Try Susan Piver’s “Breath Awareness” meditation.) Or just breathe comfortably and easily, and simply melt into the bed or floor. Start with your toes and feel them turn to warm butter, and work your way up through your bones to the top of your head (don’t forget your fingers and arms), until your entire body feels warm and soft.

With your eyes closed and your body loose and relaxed, feel yourself standing near the edge of a cliff by the ocean, facing west, just when the sun is starting to go down. Feel a soft, warm breeze at your back.

Now here’s what’s important. Don’t y’all just imagine yourself on the cliff with the breeze at your back. Be there. Place yourself there. Feel the wind.

As the sun sinks into the horizon, watch the sky turn from blue to lavender to a dusky pink—soft, like fluffy cotton. Lean forward, slowly, until the breeze picks you up and bears you easily, like a leaf, into the glowing cloud.

Y’all are floating through the cloud of pink light. It warms you through, and penetrates your pores and bones and every single cell until y’all are the light, and the wind carries away your pain. Swim in that pink cloud as long as you like. Make it a long, warm, healing bath. When you become the light, you won’t need the wind any more.

You emerge from the pink cloud with the dawn, and y’all are white light, all pure, just glowin’ holiness. There’s no hurry. Time is suspended. Y’all can play in the stratosphere—dancing, whirling, diving, turning to the music. You are the sunrise—maybe you are soft, like a kiss; or strong, like an angel; or spinning, like a pixie or a star.

You are pure, cleansing, loving energy. Go to those you want to bless, and shine on them, gently—not to awaken them, but to brush them with peace and healing. Embrace them in soft light. Stroke their hair, kiss their cheeks. Be the prayer and the answer to the prayer.

Go to the children, the old folk, the brothers and sisters, the fighting, the dying, the mourning ones. Shine on whole cities, on the planet; go to all the universes, and bless them.

Then, as fresh and clear as when y’all began, rejoin the soft predawn pastels, forerunners of the sun. Merge with the light until the breeze returns and carries you home.

 

 

Can’t Sleep?

 

Lay your body down and close your

eyes and float upon the wind till you can

hardly sense your skin and bones, then

leap into the river of the setting sun, and

slip and slide among the underwater

creatures in the silver-current-liquid

light, and let it rain in every pore and

cell and carry off your pain. Somewhere

downstream, you surface and it’s sunrise

there; it lifts you, and your shell is left

behind, you’re perfect radiance, the

first and bravest sunbeam of the day, a

swift, bright angel, or a spinning star, and

you do pirouettes in space, because you

can, not having any weight, and fearless. Go

now to the ones you love and pray for, sleeping

still, embrace them with new-morning-shine;

deep they rest, and in their dreaming all is

well, and they awaken clean and blessed.

 

For prayer requests, or to pray for others, go to LifeIsPoetry.net and click on “Prayer Community” in the lower left-hand corner.