Take 15

“Like brushing our teeth, we’re supposed to just do it.” Writing for 15 minutes a day, that is. And like coal miners who can’t sit around all day and complain about how hard their work is, whining gets us nowhere. We’re just supposed to write.

The admonishment to do creative writing for a quarter of an hour must prevent us from wining. Any grossing about writing would chew up most of our 15 minutes. If we spend our time complaining the work never gets done. Good strategy.

But what to write about? We write about what we know. However, there’s a lot I don’t know but I can’t have a page full of lists of things about which I know nothing. That would end up looking like baseball or hockey statistics or population demographics on fleas or South American cockroaches. Oddly, anyone one of those would draw rabid interest of researchers in those fields. But if I had nothing to say about baseball, hockey or cockroaches, nobody would be drawn to lists documenting my ignorance.

Perhaps, though, a researcher studying “The Things People Don’t Know” would be interested. They’d probably make some money on it. Would a compilation of  disinterest help Google save money in steering their search engines away from searches in which there would be less interest?

One of the existences I find mysterious is the cat we just brought home from the shelter. His name was said to be “Cookie” but that sounds like a name a 12 year old would give to a feline whom she dresses up in doll clothes.

Merlin seems more fitting. This cat can do magic and create potions, as far as I know. He must be magical because he figured out how to get a pad in Los Angeles for 2 grand a month, all the food and massages he wants and unlimited sleep time. And he doesn’t even have a job. Go figure.

He has also appeared on Instagram, Facebook and has a Medium account, writing under my name.  He said he’d attribute co-authorship with me if he was ever ever able to sell a piece.

Today Merlin told me he reads minds and knows what I’m going to say, even before I speak. This is a little disconcerting. Sometimes I’m thinking about telling him to be a little tidier in his litter box (which I clean out at least once a day). Add that to the list of perks for this being. His waste flushed for him.

I’m minding my own business and he pads up to me and says “What do you expect of an animal whom you confine to your puny apartment with no friends or social life?”

I told Merlin that he should unconditionally overlook all of my weaknesses like my impatience and neurotic striving for cleanliness. I say that all of us make our mistakes from fear. That we mostly are afraid of not being accepted. I worry that strangers might come into our living space and judge me as disorderly and unkempt, too unclean and unorganized. I’m afraid I’ll be judged as unworthy of being a rightful member of the middle class in American society. At least some “class” that passes as worthy enough to own an indoor cat.

I asked him if the world of cats has classes.

He said “I knew you were going to ask that!” He had me there.

I said “I knew you were going to say that, even before you meowed it” I shot back quickly.

Merlin said, “OK, if you’re so clairvoyant, how come you worry more than me? I can sit here and nap all day and I don’t worry about anything! So much for you being an authentic, self-actuated life form.”

“Now look, Merlin.” I replied. “Zen out a little here. There’s an ancient oriental proverb that suggests ‘Don’t put down the lifeform that feeds you!'”

Merlin pauses and sits back on his haunch. Next, he intently licks his right paw and thoughtfully washes the fur on his right cheek with his newly slobbered paw. Then he looks me in the eye and says, “you got me on that one.”

“So Merlin,” I say after an equally thought out pause, “would you help me figure out some writing topics for my blog? I’m thinking that with both of us working on it, maybe we can come up with some interesting topics other than Merlin the house-bound cat.”

Merlin asks cautiously, “Are we going to make any money out of it?”

“There’s absolutely no chance!” I say, “but I think you’ll get a lot of ‘likes.’ In fact, I like you. So how’s that?” I say.

Merlin rolls over on his back and says, “Ok, but scratch my tummy a little here” he says pointing with his paw. “I like that a lot.”

“So it’s a deal?” I say.

“Yup” he says. “Let’s go for as many likes as we can get. Maybe I’ll make Pet Fancy Magazine someday.”




About Your Worry About Giving Your Children Enough Religion or Spirituality

October 11, 2010

You already have a fully formed belief system. You already are a whole person with an increasing sense of your connectedness to the core of who you are, to the same of others as well as to the One Who made you. As for the peace we come to feel from something greater than ourselves, inwardly, you  know you are part of that. At the risk of sounding something like a Hallmark card at 6 a.m. on a Monday morning, . . . you already are part of the loving, brilliant, noble and compassionate whole in which we all exist.

Our shortfall, probably because of striving, fear, clinging or delusion, is that we forget. We are distracted by our own and the suffering of others so we forget our connectedness and purpose of compassion.

But your very existence, in all that you are and all that you teach to your children, your spouse and friends, is your gift. Your love and wisdom, as it continually evolves and grows to embrace others, is the “true spirituality” that contrasts so remarkably with the institutional and organized religion that most people have come to think as their religion. “Kindness is my religion” says the Dali Lama.

It’s simple, when we think and read about it for a number of years, but it easily eludes us on a daily basis. We’re confused by our own ambitions, fears and longings. We are absolutely hoodwinked (if that word is still in use) by our own delusions of “success” and “security.” It is unfortunate that we have to find ourselves in ‘near death experiences,’ in ‘fox holes’ or washed up on the shore, barely alive from excruciatingly significant emotional experiences. It is sad that before we are able to be truly present in the moment, we first must learn (and relearn) to present with ourselves – who we really are. Almost like the inattention of a toddler, we forget what we’ve learned and how noble we actually are.

We forget how to let things go and embrace ourselves and others with compassion. We can have compassion and give unconditional acceptance for a child or a hurting adult but sadly, not for ourselves. It’s somewhat pathetic that we can spend a lifetime of mindful philosophical inquiry and study and yet forget the lives, teachings and personal responses to the spiritual leaders of the very religion to which we ascribe. How quickly we have a brain freeze about the essentials of how our core being is to be in relation to others.

We also seem to be blind to how many leaders of organized religion have contorted their theology to portray a punitive god who relates to creation with an “are you good enough” check list. Our blind acceptance of this dominating, caustic and judgmental religion is  baffling. Incredibly, we pay attention to foolish, narcissistic and self-absorbed political leaders who think they have magically purchased intelligence through their own aggression.

There is a never-ending list of insight to unfold in our lives that makes for an infinite number of pigments on the canvas of our lives. Life’s meaning has endless artistic renderings of beauty and redemption. Life is embodied with meaningful themes and scenes that contain compassion and connectedness. Life’s patterns yield learnings that recognize universal suffering and yet healing and unconditional love. Living among other thinking and compassionate beings causes us to learn and respond. It is in the rhythm, cadence and creative flow of our human experience that we encounter wisdom and love.

We learn. We discover that in all of our connectedness, we find we are not truly alone but blessed with a brilliant presence of meaning in ourselves and others that nurtures each of us.

You’ve already passed on to your children all that you have come to learn and value through all of your life’s experiences. It’s now in their hearts and their DNA. They certainly know and perceive your values. You don’t have to worry. The good and what they deem as truly good —  they’ll keep. The views and teachings,that are less wise and helpful —  they’ll discard. They don’t need you to tell them what doesn’t really work. If they are questioning, they will ask you or someone else they have come to trust.

This is true of your children and everyone who has been a child throughout history. It isn’t up to you. It’s up to each of us, in the context of our life’s interactions, to find our own meaning. We can’t and shouldn’t pretend that we can control the flow of what we think is of value.

So genuinely pause and trust the brilliance, the creativity and the wisdom that your children already possess. Trust what is already within you. Trust what is within all those with whom your children interact. Know, in faith, that in us there is the Spirit of Wisdom and Compassion that leads us all to the spiritual expression in which we find ample meaning.

You already have enough. You are enough. Your children already have enough. Instead of worrying, celebrate that there is a Life-Presence that has been with you and your children forever. You don’t have to worry. It is what allows each of us to stop and dance with a child on the sidewalk in the midst of our walk. It is what causes us to create stories about archangels and light forms from another galaxy. It is what enables you and I and our children to bring new things to life that have before, been unimaginable. And this Presence can’t be corrupted by ignorance, hatred, intolerance or raging fear. “Bidden or unbidden, God is present” said the sign over the front door of Carl Young’s home.

Instead, it is the Life-Presence which can bring love, joy, creativity and compassion in any moment. Nobody can take cause it not to exist and nobody can take it away from you. No one can take this Presence from our children.

Like all of us, they’ll often become distracted from the Presence of each moment but they’ll never lose it. What each of us have, already, is enough. You and they will come to joy and understanding.

So we can stop striving for something that is already in our possession. Our children have what they need. Celebrate the Presence. It is enough.

The Mystery of the Healer’s Cloisonné

In the fifteenth century during the reign of Jingtai in the Ming Dynasty, there was a powerful sorcerer named Ling. He lived alone in the mountains and generally spent little time with the
villagers to keep his powers hidden. He would travel into the village only to purchase food and supplies but while being friendly to those he met, few knew much about him other than knowing him as a quiet old man from the hills.

It was rumored once, that a band of thieves had followed the old man up into the hills to rob him but mysteriously, they were never seen in that region again. In truth, Ling was mindful of the rogues in pursuit of him and turned himself into a tiger and put an end to their intended treachery.

One of Ling’s favorite pastimes was to disguise himself as a pauper and make his way, unknown, into the village. Because of his extraordinary powers, he would be able to join in public gatherings unnoticed. Because of his mastery of the art of disguises, Ling could even engage in conversations and become familiar with individuals and their circumstances.

One day, Ling came across the town healer, a  woman who had trained in the arts of physical healing. He saw that she regularly worked with the village folk, binding their wounds and applying her medicines. Ling was impressed by the young woman’s compassion for those whom she ministered and wondered how he could quietly aid her in her efforts.

He first thought that he would give her wealth. He thought that if she could build a healing facility, renown in the region for its work of healing, she would accomplish much. He next reasoned that the young healer would do well to have a cadre of disciples, followers who would enable her to provide healing for more people.

In the end, though, Ling saw that the young woman was so motivated with compassion for those she healed that he felt she needed none of these things. He decided that he would simply give her a charm that would only enhance the magic she already possessed.

Since Ling secretly had access to almost infinite amounts of wealth, he hired the very Emperor’s copper smith and the Empress’ personal artisan to fashion a small cloisonné bead
to embody his magic. The one possessing the cloisonné would be able to place their hand on another person and understand the cause of their inner pain, feeling the malaise of the inner tissue and the tension of the bodily torrents that caused
the patient’s discomfort. It took the artisans almost a year to create the intricate cloisonné but when it was completed, the sorcerer was pleased.

When Ling had imparted his sorcery to the tiny multi-colored orb, he enveloped himself in the disguise of a poor beggar and made his way into the village to meet the healer. He approached her and asked if she would treat his infirmed ankle for the old sorcerer suffered from arthritis.

Overlooking the beggar’s poverty, she immediately bathed his arthritic angle and wrapped it in a cloth with soothing salve. She next, very patiently, showed him how to exercise his ankle in ways that would keep it more agile.

“I have not money with me to give you,” Ling said in his crackly voice. “But I wish to give you this small orb” he said, removing his hand from his cloak and handing her the piece. “It will give
you, and whoever possesses it, an increase of awareness of your patient’s ailments. Use this power to heal and you will find blessing. But if you use it for personal gain, it will bring you sorrow. The choice will always be yours. When the time comes, pass it on to only those who are wise enough to use it for healing.”

Ling bowed to the young healer and left her presence, not to return to that village again.

The young healer found that when she had the orb in her possession, she was able to sense the inner pain in her patient’s limbs. To her amazement, she was able to see what inwardly troubled their minds. This intimate knowledge
enabled her to bring powerful healing to all who sought her healing skills. Hundreds came to this healer because of her mastery in understanding their aches and pains. But the young healer never forgot the strange man in rags who had given her the magic orb.

Through the months and years, this village healer became renowned for her healing powers but she remembered the words of the aged beggar. She regularly shunned praise and quietly went about, using her healing arts in ways that did not bring attention to her. All who knew her, loved her and she lived out her years with grace and reverence for those she served.

When the healer had become advanced in years and knew that her energies would soon not allow her to work as much as she had, she knew it was time to pass the small cloisonné orb on to another healer. She knew there was no other healer in the village and at first, became quite worried that the powerful cloisonné would be lost or fall into the hands of unscrupulous individuals. She was afraid that it would be used by some to manipulate others because of the knowledge it
gives the bearer of another’s need.

The now aged healer decided to seek the beggar who had
given her the cloisonné so many years ago. Through time, she had come to realize that the man must have been a powerful sorcerer. Not knowing if he was alive or dead, she went off into the hills in search of him, hoping he could help her pass the small orb on to a worthy individual.

Once up in the hill country, the healer came across a small cottage near the edge of the forest. It was a humble but well-cared-for thatched roof dwelling and obviously enjoyed by its owners. After she knocked on the door, the door opened and she found that the little one room home was empty except for a chair and a table with writing parchment upon it.

Feeling that no one was there or was likely to come back, the old healer sat down and began writing her story of the cloisonné and how she came upon it. She wrote of its powers and spoke of her hope that it would find its way into the hands of only those who truly wanted to bring healing and health to others.

As the aged healer finished her chronicles of the small but powerful orb, she looked over to the fireplace in the room which she had not noticed when she had entered hours before. To her astonishment, there was a fire gently burning,
emitting warmth to the small cottage, yet there seemed to be no one around.

Fearing that she may have been intruding on someone’s home, she stood to leave but jumped back with a cry when she saw there was the old man in a chair, smiling. It was the same man she had met years ago who had given her the orb.

“I’m sorry to frighten you” said Ling with a warm smile, “but I didn’t want to disturb you in your journaling.

“Thank you for the use of this cloisonné” she said gratefully. I didn’t know if you were still alive so I wanted to tell its story and then pass it on before my time on earth had come to an end.”

The old wizard slowly stood from his chair in the corner of the room and suddenly the healer found that the small cottage had disappeared and they were standing in the midst of the forest. The cloisonné and her completed parchment were in her hand.

As the two figures walked out of the forest and into the village, she spoke of the many individuals she had healed and of her gratitude for the orb’s enhancement of her healing arts.
When it was time for Ling to go on his separate way, he bid farewell to the aged healer, assuring her that she would find the next bearer of the orb. In the next village, she found another young healer and shared with him the story of the orb
and entrusted it to him.

And so it has gone through the many generations of this cloisonné that you now hold in your hand. This small orb was passed on and used by those of us whose life is that of being a healer. Because we have cherished its power to enhance
one’s perception and because all of us have respected the blessing it bestows on its owner, for the last ten generations we have made sure it would only come to the hands of those
committed, in their heart, to heal.

This cloisonné has come to you. It is given to you because you walk the path of the heart. With all of our blessings, each embodied in the accompanying blessing beads, we convey to you the best of our hopes and dreams. May this small orb, and its accompanying beads of blessings, bring you the peace you deserve as you birth your little one. In all that you do in your healing works ahead and all that your child will become, we know that the world will experience extraordinary healing. The world is already better for your presence.