Tag Archive: Living Buddha


If you want to verify how clean hardwood floors are, spend a couple of hours face down sliding your face over each board. It is a cleaning tip I have neither known nor read. It certainly wasn’t on the front page of Good Housekeeping, on the back of a Mr. Clean bottle, or seen on YouTube. Nonetheless, there I was at 2:00 AM early Monday: rubbing my face across my hardwood floors because I could neither sit, stand nor crawl. I rolled over in bed and something went ‘bink.’ Maybe it was a ‘bink.’ Sounded like a ‘bink.’ Then again, it could have been a ‘boink,’ or possibly a ‘dink.’ I cannot accurately describe the internal sound. Doesn’t matter. What I tell you is the subsequent several hours trying to find a way to simply exist. 

I have lived this past couple of years believing I could have gotten lucky. Death would simply fail to notice me. We all do. And for the past couple of months, for the most part, I started thinking about two years plus 1. Then, out of nowhere, ‘bink.’ Sudden onset of severe & constant dizziness, nausea and vomiting, and imbalance. Did not matter if I stood (which I could not) or sat (which I could, only by leaning against a wall). Therefore on a cool crisp night, I lay face down on the hardwood floor. Struggling to coordinate a response, I realized a few critical points that impeded my ability to do anything but ride it out.

Both my overpriced iPhone 12 Pro Max and fancy-dancy Apple iWatch 4 were in the other room. My telephone? You guessed it: in the other room. If you read my blog, you’re probably asking, “Why did you do that?” My response is similar to that of my cat Cougar after being caught climbing the Christmas tree. “Cougar! Why did you do that?” He sheepishly shrugged, “I don’t know.” That’s one of the tricks to fancy-schmancy technology, it is all absolutely of no value when face down on the floor at 2:20 AM in the morning. Siri can’t hear. Mr. Google is asleep. Amazon is off. It’s just you and your thoughts. 

Believe it or not, my first pressing question was “How will I take a dump?” Second question.”I manage to sit on the toilet, can I wipe?” Agreed. These are not life and death questions, but at 2:50 AM, they seemed important. Ok. Important to me. Of course, I should have been trying to figure a way out of this mess. I should have been deciding how to call paramedics, a friend, or a neighbor but the thought of an unwiped behind permeated my thoughts. No. Thought of the Angel of Death finding me with an unwiped behind never occurred to me. It was just thought of an old, bald, fat man lying dead with an unwiped behind. 

“What we have?” asks the corner.

First officer, “An old, bald, fat dude with an unwiped a**.”

“Geez. Third time this week.”

“Yup,” nods the second officer.

As you know, I made it out alive. My doctor reminded me that I am, in fact, dying. Just not today. She also stated March 2021 is just around the corner, that I should expect more problems when nearing the point of no return. Five months is not that far away. Deep down, I know my body is getting worse. I may refuse to show it, but I feel it.

As a spiritual person, a Buddhist, for these 8 years or so, I know the time of death is uncertain but the truth of death is not. I take hope in knowing that everything is intertwined and linked. Like all things, we are constantly changing and regrouping. This means that transitoriness and change are basic features of spiritual life. The same applies to the human body: it too is constantly changing. And even laying on a cool hardwood flow, openly ready to vomit, my body teaches impermanence.

It is a fundamental error to think of one existing separate from others. The fact that I have a human body is considered a rare privilege. I am unsure what I did in some previous life to earn that privilege, even with the understanding I have not nourished it properly for a decade. I disown neither it nor God. I am not my body, but rather I am an inhabitant. I am the renter. I am sorry for the pain I caused my lessor, but I am proud it served me, even unto the end.

Kamma! It Just Is.

I’ve been off radar recovering from ongoing medical conditions. A week ago, one of my eyes decided that going on the fritz was imperative, and for whatever reason, vision blurred. Being the alpha male of my home (Ok, the only male in said home), I decided it was nothing — that the visual part of my anatomy awoke to have a bad morning. Indeed, once I drop coffee down my throat, all will be well, sharp just like the night before. It turns out the alpha male of the home was completely wrong.

There is backdrop. February 2018, I woke up with primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) — called open-angle glaucoma — which is the most common type of glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma is particularly dangerous because those who have it don’t know anything is wrong until significant, irreparable vision loss occurs. Until all hell broke loose, I had no pain, no noticeable vision loss, or any other hint that something is amiss. Yet the “silent thief of sight” struck. Four eye surgeries later, I was a new man. “Go forth and procreate,” clinicians said. (I was told everything was ok.) Until this week.

“Ocular hypotony is usually defined as intraocular pressure (IOP) of 5–6 mmHg or less.” The doctor said. “So, instead of having too much pressure, you’re experiencing too little pressure. Also, the cornea in your eye looks like sandpaper. That’s why you’re experiencing blurred vision. The problem is, we don’t know why you’re experiencing low eye pressure. Every test we’ve performed is normal.” For the time being, blurred vision is my life, and the forecast reads like a weather forecast: partly cloudy to rainy.

Simultaneously, I’ve been listening to the news. Depending upon whom one hears, President Trump is either near post-COVID treatment and is ready to leave, requiring oxygen, has a long road to recovery, or has no clear path to recovery. Trump and I are alike in many ways. Both of us probably have “no clear path to recovery.” Each of us has received medical treatment not afforded to the average person living their life on Mainstreet, U.S.A. Trump received medication that neither you nor I will ever receive. Yet, both of us have avenues to better healthcare than most.

I have known for nineteen (19) months that time is short. Specifically, my time is short. Maybe Trump and I are on a similar path, just different roads. I also affirm that this present life is only a part of the round of existence (samsara). This current life I am experiencing was conditioned by others who influenced me. In turn, my next existence will allow me to learn lessons in this life.

In COVID, there are usually some people who succumb while others escape, even though both are exposed to similar conditions. According to the Buddhist view, the difference between the former and the latter is inherited from the past. Other examples are the cases where though the treatment was given was successful, and the patient died, and wherein spite of ineffective treatment, the patient lived. There have also been cases of remarkable and unexpected recoveries when modern medicine has given up all hope for remission. Such cases strengthen the Buddhist belief that besides the physical cause of disease, illness can be the effect of lousy Kamma in past lives. An infection from Kammic cause cannot be cured until that Kammic result is exhausted. But the Kamma of every person is a mystery both to himself and others.

In reality, all of us know suffering is an inevitable part of life. Like old age and death, sickness is unavoidable. In other words, in this life, “it just is.” This does not mean that I will mitigate every ache and pain through available medical means, but I will accept and mindfully endure if suffering remains. Within the spiritual tradition, physical pain and illness can provide an occasion for the cultivation of healthy and desirable mental states, including forbearance and patience. Therefore, it is not an illness but rather our response to it that has spiritual value.

And maybe that’s my Kamma to learn.

Trump’s fifty-plus minute diatribe in Charlotte, North Carolina reminded me of a Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. . . .” I flashed to 1963.

In June 1963, Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc publicly burned himself to death in a plea for President Ngo Dinh Diem to show “charity and compassion” to all religions. By November 1963, Diem was overthrown. Students of history, all of us should compare such self-sacrifice against the tyranny of the current administration. To be fair, Trump doesn’t hate protests, only dissent.

Pandering to cult leadership is not new. However harmful we thought previous leaders were, I don’t recall the overly targeted criticism of athletes who knelt, silently and peacefully, during the national anthem. Public rebuking NFL players in a series of tweets ended the NFL quarterback (Kaepernick); goodness of evil was emphasized when white supremacists marched; and black men and women are wrongly shot, most recently in the back. And most Americans sat on our asses and watched it all while the ‘shit-show’ ran amok.

In four short years, America witnessed institutional dismantling, justice to the preferred, truth for those who lied under oath, and rapping U.S. coffers for personal gain. In four years, healthcare dismantled, environmental standards ripped apart, legal norms suffocated, sought election interference from foreign powers, separated children from immigrant families and threw them into cages like stray dogs, told citizens to inject bleach (or maybe a light), spouted unproven medical quackery, and by December, will have witnessed 300,000 U.S. citizens die. We watch, all the while acknowledging the damage.

The president’s sister described him as a liar and fake. A former senior official at the Department of Homeland Security deemed him a danger to the country. CNN claims a prominent Fox News anchor had once called him “batshit crazy.” John Bolton, former Defense Secretary James Mattis, and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have described our leader as a danger to America. Sadly, none of these men or women were able to rise above the moment to demonstrate something greater. Perseverance of love failed miserably.

In his death, Thich Quang Duc demonstrated his compassion love – the need for bridges, not hatred. Presidential Historian Jon Meacham echoed Duc’s sentiment at the recent Democratic Convention, “Extremism, nativism, isolationism and a lack of economic opportunity for working people are all preventing us from realizing our nation’s promise, and so we must decide whether we will continue to be prisoners of the darkest of American forces or will we free ourselves to write a brighter better nobler story. Our (the American) story has soared when we have built bridges, not walls.”

Which story will you build? Bridges? Or walls?

On an early weekend morning, I rolled over to the edge of the bed and realized I couldn’t get up. (At least initially I couldn’t get up.) “F●●●,” my body groaned. I reached for my cane, pulled myself upright, steadied on the bed’s edge.” I am getting old. Quickly. There’s a sobering likelihood that I will be one of the seven 65-year-olds who will be disabled before death. I’m not looking forward to it, but I find myself continually negotiating with ‘Father Time’ for a snippet’s reprieve.

Nora Ephron wrote, “What I believe … is that at a certain point in life, whether or not you’ve been diagnosed with an illness, you enter into a conscious, ongoing … negotiation between the two … This negotiation often includes decisions as trivial as whether to eat the second piece of pie as important as whether to have medical treatment that may or may not prolong your life.” I’m at a point where second helpings are intolerable. I know it. My body knows it. Call it intuition. Call it the ‘sixth sense.’ Call it, ‘Joe.’ Call it whimsical. Doesn’t matter. Most dying can name the time, and date life shifted.

July 15th, my body shifted. My back, stomach, intestines, and right hip awoke pissed off, as if to say, “We’re in charge, Obiwan. And we decided to drive off that cliff in the near horizon.” My former sister-in-law described a similar feeling. She awoke one morning, feeling something wasn’t right. “It was an ominous feeling,’ she casually noted during an afternoon lunch. A little over a year later, cancer claimed her life. Therefore, any notion that “70 is the new 50” never occurred to me, as I never expected to get to 70. My physician will test whether ‘60’ is my never ‘70.’

Several tests, including complete blood count and tumor marker, have been ordered. I won’t stumble into the results. I won’t get to read it online before hearing from my doctor. Post-results, I will hit ‘pause’ to wait and see what happens. I’ll internalize everything until I know just how true this ‘intuition’ (my decline) turns out, for I do not want to claim to be a victim. 

I never thought that anyone would be sorting through my life history 30 years ago. And at this point, there’s no optional editing that can be performed. History is written. I know how the scales of justice both God and man weigh each detail on trial. Afterward, everyone alive will understand I was no victim. It’s unavoidable. Accept it and move on. 

Moving forward is an interesting concept. Buddhists believe most illnesses are primarily karma’s negative energy-consuming the sufferer. If so, I have acquired a s●●●load of it. Such karma stems from greed, anger, and stupidity, including eating pizza, beer, and onion rings. I suppose a lot of cancer is avoidable. Not smoking reduces lung cancer significantly. Avoiding red meat reduces other forms of cancer. Protection from sun exposure reduces skin cancer. For me, cancer is … cancer. Just is. It’s part of life (at least mine anyway). I will take this situation like others and make it part of the path. The path is exclusive. It’s not filled with only right situations, but any situation. Fortunately, I have time to prepare. 

When told of the odds of my survival (a couple of good years), I instructed my physicians I was not interested in hearing about weird drug trials, new medications, or life-saving operations. What good would it do me? I decided to live until death. I refuse to get waylaid by the kind of emotional baggage that frequently accompanies others. Life is short. Admit your wrongs, make amends when you can, and live until death.

On the way to work, a small simple yard sign caught my attention. ‘Don’t Give Up.’ My first snarky reaction was, “Why not? Why shouldn’t I give up? I’ve been through all this crap and am likely to pass rather painfully, so why shouldn’t I?” The fact that this sign was posted in the front lawn of a home estimated to be in the millions didn’t help.

If one made millions from investments, is it fair to proclamate onto others who haven’t to not surrender? Free speech allows an author to erect such messages, but we gain zero context. Maybe that author’s cancer went into remission. So, don’t give up. Then again, what if the resident lost his business during COVID and is saying, “Don’t give up, I’m not.” Or, I beat COVID. I got sick, nearly died, but recovered. Don’t give up. We can celebrate such victories, but the author had not taken time to understand the reader’s pain, me.

Rollen Fredrick Stewart (a.k.a. The Rainbow Man) was known for wearing a rainbow-colored afro-style wig and, later, holding up signs reading “John 3:16” at sporting events. Known as a born-again Christian, he was determined to get the message out that whoever believed in Jesus would not perish. Seeing him in the background a golfer, nothing indicated he knew me or my life’s experiences. No one in my home, or that I knew, ever said “John’s got it down.” I never watched a sports program waiting for Rollen’s message. He never spoke to me and it’s doubtful such messages mean anything for the average everyday ‘Joe.’

Just as ‘May God Bless You’ and ‘Jesus Saves’ litter highway barns, were not specific to me. Prior to March 2019, I neither would have thought ‘Don’t Give Up’ as a divine message targeted solely for me, nor would I ever believe the author thought of me. God probably never told the author that “In July 2020, the Unknown Buddhist will pass your home. Post a yard sign saying ‘Don’t Give Up.’ He’ll know it’s from Me.” Nor do I believe God was messaging when I drove past the ‘Hell is Real’ billboard on Ohio’s I-71 either. Projecting such views quickly fades from the minds of those whizzing by during a daily commute.

Just as television viewers zoom through commercials, travelers quickly dismiss billboard proclamations. They have no recall ability. Do pithy billboard messages buoy one’s mind? Probably not. Walk out of a room during a radio broadcast and ads fail to engage. If the communication were real-if that communication ever came from God- it would never fade.

God’s communication fundamentally changes life. For Churchill, it was “We shall never surrender.” Roosevelt experienced similar awe when speaking “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” during his inaugural address during the Great Depression. Real communication challenges the soul, the very ideas about who are in the world, and provides the intellectual confidence to achieve great accomplishments.

Jesus said, “The Kingdom is like a mustard seed which a man sowed in his field. Mustard is smaller than any other seed but let it grow and it becomes bigger than any garden plant; it is like a tree, big enough for the birds to come and nest among its branches.” 

I envision the mustard seed fully grown, strong enough to bear the nests of birds. I sit before the full-grown tree and communicate with it. We talk about smallness in a universe so large. We discuss discouragement; risk-taking; change; fruitfulness; being of service; and finally, the power of God in life. I then kneel before God and tell him what the mustard seed taught. And I ask if He will teach me as well.

That, my friends, is the power of real communication.

Only One Song

I’ve been told music is good for the soul and that music therapy may assist those with Parkinson’s and other medical disorders. Listening to music may also be of great assistance, including improvements in balance, singing, voice command.

Harry Chapin is one of my favorite singers. Except for that which is available on YouTube, I’ve never saw him play in concert. Accordingly, a recurring dream is to play a number of his songs on a guitar. Part of this fantasy is an ongoing dream of being a famous singer. Part if it is forgotten time when my soul simply wanted to express itself.

Supposedly, age has nothing to do with learning to play a musical instrument. One could be 15, 30, 40, 50, 60, or 70. I used to play guitar as a teenager, but had neither the time, energy, nor devotion to learn to seriously study. I could read guitar music and play its associated chord, but spent little time learning the meaning behind the music, the words, or even the composer’s heart. 

Years I read Beethoven wrote of about hearing loss. Symptoms and difficulties caused him continual problems, both professionally and socially. An autopsy revealed he had a distended inner ear, which developed lesions over time. Still, regardless of distress, historians claim Beethoven’s hearing loss never  prevented him from composing music. He heard and played music for decades, so he understood how instruments and voices sounded and how they complimented one another. He could always imagine in his mind what his compositions would sound like. 

I took a similar approach when recently acquiring an Ovation classical guitar. I studied how the Applause guitar was manufactured and was overly critical of the small blemish in the binding. But, we’re all imperfect. And such imperfections shouldn’t prevent us from creating our own kind of music.

Therefore, I accepted my Applause as a living soul that will allow me to be creative, express myself and produce harmony at some level. Just as all things are interconnected, each one of us is part composer, part conductor. We shuffle through each day in hopes of creating our own music—to hear it, to play it, and to become inspired through it. 

I believe Chapin hinted at this type of synergy in his lyric “You Are the Only Song.”

“… when you sing from the inside
You hope that something shows
And that it why
Yes you are the only song, the only song I need
You’re my laughter and you’re my lonely song
You’re the harvest and you’re the seed
And you’re my first and my final song
For you own me indeed
Oh yes, oh yes,
Yes, after all is said and done
You’re the one song that I need”

In the end, I will try and create whatever music possibly. I will not become a star. I will not be ‘discovered’ by some record executive. I will study, learn the craft, the meaning, and soul. I do it for God and myself. Why? To reclaim an unfilled calling.

I will play these songs to silence
In empty rooms or crowded halls
I will sing to God in standing room
I’ll sing em’ to the stars

It’s just as God would want playing for the only song—the one song we need.

Almost everything in Buddhism boils down to fear. Suffering is caused by fear, and either panic or freezing stops us from speaking up against injustice and often causes people to leave the path of goodness (i.e., the universal truth). When we get too deep, fear smacks us across the face and says, “This is no longer good.”

In meeting my case manager for the first time since March, I admitted to a host of fears: mainly losing my compass (i.e., the fear of the unknown); that I hadn’t processed my Parkinson’s Diagnosis; the fear of being unable to work; and, (after seeing many COVID-19 patients) the fear of dying a long and painful death (as opposed to quick and easy).

The compass throughout this ordeal was Ms. K. I have been successfully able to communicate clearly and thoughtfully since early 2019. As advancing pain presses, I fall asleep during meditation and fail to seize the opportunity for reflection of world’s events. (Ok. Maybe it’s about my circumstances.) 

“I know she’s still there,” I told my case manager. “. . . but I can’t communicate as clearly as I could before. I want her to know that I miss her and our conversations. However, it seems I’ve misplaced the phone number.”

In M*A*S*Hs’ “Pressure Points” episode, Sidney Freedman claims he’s conducting fact-finding medical research on stress. After making the rounds, Freedman meets Col. Potter. 

Truthfully, Potter called Sidney. Potter shares his feelings that his surgical skills are “. . . a lot less perfect than I can accept.” He’s worried but insists nothing’s wrong and wished to vent. Near the episode’s end, Potter tells Freedman he’s anxious about losing his touch (as a surgeon), and the idea of performing surgery fills him with terror. 

I’ve joked to colleagues and friends how surprised I am that my employee badge still works.

“Hey. How was your weekend?”

“Great,” I noted.

“Anything new or exciting?”

“Well, my badge worked.”

As M*A*S*H’s “Pressure Points” episode concludes, Sidney reminds Potter that someday he will get too old to be a surgeon. At this moment, the fear of failing has taken precedence. Whether or not that affects him is purely under Potter’s control.

My world is not as nuanced as a surgical room, for it is abundantly clear people are unobservant and aren’t paying that much attention. I come and go, and any notation of a trembling hand can quickly be dismissed to a remote COVID shift work or lack of sleep. When my work starts going downhill, I’ll have to recognize that the time has come to discuss the issue. I know that as time goes on, it’s going to get tougher to do the job. However, fear cannot be the driver of that moment.

As noted, there are other issues besides work that require my attention. However, it’s essential to remember Buddhism 101: fear must never be the driver of anything.

~ Fear does not prevent death. It prevents life. ~

Buddhist Teaching

Feeling Real

A cousin contacts me only when he needs something. Needs tend to vary. 

“We’re having a family reunion (in three days). Can you fly/drive/hike/skateboard/surf half-way across the country and join us?” Other times, “Hey, we’re celebrating my mother’s 50th/60th/70th birthday? (Usually in three to five days). Can you fly/drive/hitchhike/Greyhound/balloon here?”

After a couple of years of silence, he contacted me via email. 

“Hey, I talked to your mother today. I haven’t heard from you. Just checking in on you to see how you’re doing. Let me know.” 

The first thing I did was call my mother, who confirmed that my cousin called. “He said that since he wasn’t allowed to get his mother out of the nursing home, he wanted to know if I could go out and get a ‘Mother’s Day Card’ and send it to her.’

“So,” I asked. “Why would you break Social Distancing in the middle of an epidemic to get a ‘Mother’s Day Card’ on Wednesday for your 90-year-old sister? I presume he understands Mother’s Day is five days away?”

“Don’t know,” my mother retorted.

I wrote to my cousin, informed I was doing well, even though I am working with frontline clinicians. I was tired, tired of ‘flatline’ monitors, tired of being exhausted, that I was working 12 shifts since March 6th, and that we lost one of our team members to COVID.”

“Hey,” my cousin responded. “Glad you’re ok. By the way, Mother’s Day is upon us. Can you send a Mother’s Day Card to Aunt P.?”

I didn’t respond.

Feeling Real

A family settled down for dinner at a restaurant. The waitress first took the order of the adults, then turned to the seven-year-old. “What will you have?” she asked.

The boy looked around the table timidly and said, “I would like to have a hot dog.”

Before the waitress could write down the order, the mother interrupted. “No hot dogs,” she said, “Get him a steak with mashed potatoes and carrots.”

The waitress ignored her. “Do you want ketchup or mustard on your hot dog?” she asked the boy.

“Ketchup.”

“Coming up in a minute,” said the waitress as she started for the kitchen.

The boy looked at everyone and said, “Know what? She thinks I’m real!”

Conclusion

When others don’t pay attention to our presence we feel as though we are objects to be maintained or avoided or fixed, rather than real human beings to be treated with respect and dignity. On the other hand, when someone listens to us, we feel loved and we feel real.

In the current COVID world, please ensure everyone is loved and feels real.

My AAA Map

After posting the ‘AAA’ blog, a reader privately asked if I had a map, “Did I, in fact, ever get my own map?”

Before Google Maps, almost everyone went to AAA. However, my first response came out of nowhere and quoted Ralph Emmerson Walden, “Nah. It’s the journey, not the destination.” Pausing for several minutes, I decided this required a more authentic response. So, I deleted my quick ‘on the fly’ response and tried again.

Looking over the lakefront below, I realize just how overused Walden’s quote is. During my first colonoscopy, my father said, “Remember, it’s about the journey.” The same quote was uttered before February’s tumor surgery. And almost every spiritual guru I read (Chopra, Dyer, Ziglar, and others) used a similar version, somewhere, sometime. In the world of instant selfies and ghoulish cartoon meme’s, overuse has weakened its meaning, and truth has faded from intent.

I knew nothing of the journey upon which I set out. It’s a pilgrimage, not a trail.

My first spiritual teacher claimed my path as “… the intentional act chosen to the unwilled rhythms of the body to breathing and the beating of the heart. It strikes a delicate balance between working and idling, being, and doing.” Elated by the teacher’s description, I told a friend. It turns out my teacher repeated the same to him.

Years later, I learned my map was unique only to me and remains harmonious to the rhythms of my body, and beating of my heart. It’s balanced. It’s a psychiatric highway of redemption, filled with ups and downs, cold and heat, tears and anger, peace, and tranquility. It changes daily. One day is unfamiliar; another, I intuitively know where I’m going.

Similar to the flowers of a garden, the smell of jasmine breathes during Spring. Summer is surrounded by endless wheat fields, and gnarled oak trees. In the Fall, men prepare the harvest. Winter’s frost nips at my lips, and hot coca fills my stomach. Life is an endless path.

Knowing that conquering challenges leads to transformation, I kept moving through the good and bad. There were times of homesickness, days of sadness, feeling lost, and moments of exhaustion. But these moments, these tests and trials, all taught something. The sun will rise again. Just keep walking.

Our map (i.e., your path, my path) cannot be borrowed. And, if it is to be real and personal, it has to be something that lasts through trials and stands through doubts, questions, and worries. The map is about finding meaning in the challenges and feeling joyful regardless of the pain. It’s faith.

If you think about it, someone has gone before us. In the movie The Polar Express, the conductor says: “It doesn’t matter where the train (map) is going. What matters is that you choose to get on.” Most already know their map. The choice is about getting on the train.

My map is the AAA’s version of ‘faith.’

Closing Thought

Desperate for help, the people of the village held a meeting under a huge oak tree in the village  square.

Let us pray,” said an elderly woman. “Only God can save us now.

Since the village had citizens of different faiths, town leaders held their prayer in the open, late that night, under the open sky. Suddenly, two young travelers entered town decided to join the prayer and opened umbrellas above them.

“Why did you bring umbrellas? Can’t you see there is no rain? That’s why we have come to pray?”

“Yes,” chimed the travelers. “We are travelers, and the map used by our forefathers brings us through this town. Therefore, we will pray with you.”

“We don’t know your forefathers. Who were they?”

“Our forefathers come from the family ‘Faith.’ And we’re positive our prayer will be answered. That’s why we have umbrellas.”

So … Who had a better map?

Our forefathers knew the path. They’ve been there before, and they’ll get you home.

AAA

A friend discussed having difficulty getting several associates to get past their anger and fear of the other.

Unable to comprehend how to heal them, I interjected, “It’s not your duty to resolve.

Huh?

Your responsibility is to be triple-A (American Automobile Association). You can only provide a map. You’re not the driver.

Anthony de Mello noted the human condition well.

Most say they want to get out of kindergarten. Don’t believe them! All they want you to do is to mend their broken toys.

“Give me back my wife. Give me back my job. Give me back my money. Give me back my reputation, my success.”

This is what they want: they want their toys replaced. That’s all. Even the best psychologist will tell you that, that people don’t want to be cured. What they want is relief, for the cure is painful.

The path (map) before us appears unknown. It may be confusing and complicated, even dangerous. Before us lay potholes, debris, and potential injury. There are many unmarked highways and detours galore. It is all so confusing. Which way shall I go? What road shall I take?

Spiritual instruction has always been taught in bite-sized pieces. “Easy-peasy,” grade school friends would note. Formulaically, if we follow the prescribed set of Spiritual Laws, we’d get from Point A to Point B. Likewise, I had always presumed that the Bible was simple and provided a straightforward evacuation map to get us to heaven. These brief statements captured the essential kernels of Scripture.

I have concluded most Spiritual maps are not intended to be ‘evacuation maps.’ Neither is it an owner’s manual nor a love letter from God. What these Spiritual maps do is transform the traveler by teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training. The ‘transformation’ may be messy, and often, you will find yourself wrestling.

There was a passage in the Bible that described Jacob wrestling with God. Jacob wrestled God for a night. If you like me, I’ve found myself ‘wrestling’ for nearly forty years. Some nights, I fought all day and all night, continually asking for a fresh vision of who He is and what He wanted. However, until I had this very personal struggle, my life could not be cemented. I could not call it my own.

What Jacob discovers is that wrestling was a means to grace, a channel for spiritual blessing. The same applies to us. The AAA map my friend should have given is one that begins with struggle but is also filled with blessings and faith. And that faith leads to peace. Traveling the map will change one’s identity and can be a profoundly gracious gift of restoration.

As de Mello noted, “Most people don’t live aware lives. They live mechanical lives, mechanical thoughts — generally somebody else’s — mechanical emotions, mechanical actions, mechanical reactions.

Closing Thought

How do I find myself and the light?” asked a student.

By taking the path that leads to the truth,” the Master replied.

Will you help me walk the path?

I can only point the way. You must walk the path yourself.

Go to AAA and get your map. Awake! Arise and walk!

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