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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 130                             Consecutive Days Blogging: 113

Today’s Mileage:  10                                             Total Trip Mileage: 923

How does he fit?

It’s a beautiful morning, finally a weekend without rain or snow!  I just returned from a walk in the woods and spent some time burning fallen branches and dead brush.  I’ve mentioned before the spiritual significance, for me, of creating a fire.  The flames, the heat, the dancing light add to a sense of burning away the old and preparing for the renewal of spring. It is a fulfilling and uplifting experience.

Before I begin talking about the pilgrimage site which we will be visiting today, I just wanted to share a joy with all my readers.  There are those points in our life where as a parent you feel a tremendous sense of pride in your children. My oldest son Max, who is in Army boot camp in Missouri,  wrote me with a sense of excitement that he had not only passed his rifle qualifications but he earned the expert rifleman ribbon and had the highest score in his unit 185 troops.  He noted in his letter: “I guess it must be in our blood,” for in my military training I had also earned the award.  This is a significant moment for my son, a young man who has started many things and seldom finished them (Boy Scouts, high school, football).  He seems to be finding himself, recognizing his abilities and seeing himself as part of a group, a team member.  All of these bodes well for his future and fuel s a tremendous sense of pride and joy in his father.

Apollo Capsule

Today we’re going to visit a pilgrimage site that I labeled as a Scientific Inspirational Site.  As I’ve mentioned before I do not limit pilgrimage sites to spiritual or religious locations.  I take a more general view of pilgrimages as journeys we undertake to find experiences that will give our lives meaning and help us to transcend our day-to-day needs and worries.  These journeys may help us see what we can aspire to be as an individual and as a people/community/nation.  Such pilgrimage sites can range from historic places that remind of us of our roots, art museums that fuel our creativity, or as today the Kennedy Space Center on the East Coast of Florida.  The center is where the dreams of the American people have reached into space.  From its Atlanta coast beaches the American space program launches vehicles into orbit, to the moon, the solar system and beyond.

Hubble: Our eye on the heavens!

I visited the space center years ago on my first visit to Florida, the shuttle program was just beginning, whereas now it’s about to end!  I was impressed with the sense of history, with the sense of mankind lifting itself up and reaching for the stars. The space center covers a considerable area and is comprised of numerous different subunits, different museums and launch pads, even a dock where you can visit one of the recovery ships.  A visit to the center’s webpage allows you to view a multitude of different photos many taken by visitors to the center.  I was particularly impressed with the shots of the shuttle launches, several of which I’ve used in today’s blog.

Sending our hopes skyward!

I don’t think I have to explain why I view this as an inspirational site. Life is a balancing act; there is that which is right in front of us, the positive aspects of relationships, and the beauty that you find on nature walks.  But there are also the stresses and strains the life demands that can bring us down and give us reasons to worry.  At times we need to think about where we are heading, we need to think of a future, with less stress and pain, one with more hope and excitement.   There will always be stressors but perhaps they could be less life-threatening (cures for diseases and climate change); perhaps they could be less about winning and losing (like partisan politics), perhaps life could be more balanced between the material and the spiritual. How to overcome diseases, how to decrease suffering, how to feed the masses, how to educate everyone.  Places like the Kennedy space Center make us look to the future as we look towards the heavens.  Technological advances such as the Hubble space telescope have done a lot to launch a man’s own dreams and aspirations.  It has widened the sense of mystery about the universe and deepened our sense of awe at the beauty to be found within the dance of galaxies and clouds of space dust.  We may set off on a pilgrimage journey to reconnect with something from our past, to reconnect with a deep sense of spiritual connection we have known, and sometimes will take pilgrimages that are meant to point us towards the mystery and awe to be found in nature and the cosmos.

Helix Nebula - the Eye of God

One last note, as I dictated this blog and thought about my visit some 20+ years ago to the Kennedy space Center, it’s humorous that the one thing that I most remember about my visit was something that I saw for the first time.  Something I’d heard about, I knew existed, but I had never seen before.  Driving into the Kennedy space Center in a ditch alongside the road was an armadillo. It slowly lumbers along the shoulder of the road searching for sustenance. I slowed down the car and marveled “they really do exist” I thought to myself.  Then I went on to look at man’s quest for the heavens, I’d already made a new discovery.  I wish you a good day and I hope that your day will be filled with at least one new discovery.

If you have enjoyed the blog please sign up for stationarypilgrim’s e-mail notification by going to the upper right corner of this page For more information about the Kennedy Space Center please visit the Pilgrimage Site tab at the top of this page.

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Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding:  86                             Consecutive Days Blogging: 87 

Today’s Mileage: 4                                              Total Trip Mileage: 705

Sometimes we have to admit the obvious. I have been trying to down play the fact that my oldest son leaves tomorrow for the military.  The last year has been a difficult and tumultuous.  I send him off with a certain sense of relief, but also a deep sadness. I pray that the military helps him grow and find himself.  I pray that he safely returns home.  Please hold him in your prayers!  I needed some time in the woods, I hope you enjoy the following musing/poem.

Beautiful but Dangerous!

A Walk in the Woods

Leaving the confines of my studio

I walked into the cold winter chill

With plans of gathering fallen branches

And building a fire

I forgot to be cautious

For nature offers many gifts

But it offers dangers too

I realized to late that the crush

Of leaves and ice under my feet

Would make the slope to the woods

A treacherous path

My feet slipped and I went down

I am getting too old

For such hard bounces

I rose and wiped off my sore tush

Brushed off my muddy elbows

And continued more cautiously

On my path

Perhaps we spend our entire lifetime

And never learn some lessons

To be ever mindful of the signs of danger

To move cautiously

Even on familiar ground

I have blogged of late

About wisdom and the seeds we plant

The memories, stories and the snippets of insight

We leave behind for those who follow

Looking for sticks I glanced up

Not a moment too late

To avoid the vine with rows of barbs

They would have only added to my injuries

Then I saw it hanging alone

On a thin brown tether

A seed pod shaped like a dried pear

Partially open

Downy white filaments spilling out

A matter of faith?

Is it a weed or a flower?  

Does it really matter?

I grasped and freed it

Raising it above my head

I shock it

Releasing to the wind

Dozens of white parasols

Each bearing a dark seed cargo

Some fell to the ground at my feet

Others were swept skyward

Carried towards the river

I was reminded of the task ahead

Releasing an eldest son

To be carried off into the world

With a prayer that he will survive the journey

Finds fertile ground and grows

I suspect the seed pod is that of the thorny vine

Perhaps I will question my decision

Sometime in the future

As I fight an invasion of unwanted guests

In the mean time I choose

To identify with a plant parent

Who with faith in the cycles of life

Releases it offspring to the wind

To a future unseen

To triumphs and failures

To joy and pain

To a life lived and a dance enjoined

Warmth - Light - Guidance

 

Epilogue:

Eventually I built my fire

Forgot about the fall in the mud

Retrieved the seed pod

And half a dozen of it offspring

Warmed myself and gave thanks

For another of nature’s gifts

The light, the warmth, the guidance

Of the flames

As the blazing disk

In the sky overhead

Pushed back the winter chill

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding:  75                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 76

Today’s Mileage: 4                                              Total Trip Mileage: 644

 I hope this note finds all my family and friends warm, safe and prepared for the Christmas celebration. I remember all too well from childhood how this day was to be the longest day of the year.  I now realize that scientifically it is close to one of the shortest days, but you could never have convinced me of that when I had to endure the existence of presents under the tree and the impending visit by Santa.

Snuggling in front of a fire!

I decided to give myself a bit of a break today.  As I was perusing the web looking at Christmas Eve images, I was struck by the multitude of symbolic scenes associated with this day.  Many of them tapped into memories of my youth, of my religious upbringing and of that joyful anticipation of Santa’s visit. In addition, there were the times away from home in the military, when I came to appreciate the idyllic images of snow and pine trees. While white sands were wonderful and palm trees provided shade, it was not the same as the sound of snow crushing under your feet and the sight of your vaporous breath fading into a clear blue sky.

I decided we would share some of these images associated with the season. Interspaced among these scenes is a Christmas Eve poem, by Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes. I believe it captures that youthful egocentric view of a joyfully simple world, including a fire, a best friend (Hobbes the stuffed tiger who lives in Calvin’s world) and the anticipation of gifts to come. 

Santa and raindeer!

We have many options. We can focus on the intellectual and religious meaning of the holiday, the birth of a savior God.  We might also or instead focus on the simple emotions of giving and receiving, of caring for family and friends, of hot cocoa in front of the fire place, of savoring old memories and making new ones.

Mixing symbols and memories!

On window panes the icy frost

Leaves feathered patterns,

crissed and crossed.

But in our house the Christmas tree

Is decorated festively

With tiny dots of colored light

That cozy up this winter night.

Crhistmas Eve Feast!

Christmas songs, familiar, slow,

Play softly on the radio.

Pops and hisses from the fire

Whistle with the bells and choir.

Snowmen, decorated trees and warmly lit houses!

My tiger is now fast asleep

On his back and dreaming deep.

When the fire makes him hot,

He turns to warm whatever’s not.

Christmas Eve Service at Salisbury Cathedral!

Propped against him on the rug,

I give my friend a gentle hug.

A Christmas Carol: Have you been naught or nice?

Tomorrow’s what I’m waiting for,

But I can wait a little more!

Guiding Stars!

In closing, I’d like to again wish all my family and friends a joyful and loving Christmas Eve.  I’m working on a special Christmas greeting for my distant family members and for the enjoyment of all my friends.  Till tomorrow… Peace on earth and good will to all!

Remembering heros far away!

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding:  73                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 74

Today’s Mileage: 5                                            Total Trip Mileage: 636

I’m dictating today’s posting in front of a blazing fire.  It’s a frosty clear morning as I continue my efforts at clearing away dead trees and branches on our property.  I’m sure fire has always had a lot of symbolic meaning. We appear to have both a fascination towards its flickering mysteries, and a need for its illumination and heat.  I believe it also speaks to our need to let go and release that which is old and rotten to make way for the new.

Look within to find the light!

I had not intended to talk about flame and fire today.  I want to address today’s blog to a particular individual.  I have never met him, but I have seen his words and his photo in the daily paper on numerous occasions.  I am speaking to Charles Krauthammer, or should I say Dr. Krauthammer.  He is a Washington Post political commentator, who in today’s paper noted that he was going to do something he rarely did, be self-reflective!  He wrote: “I’m not much given to self-reflection – why do you think I quit psychiatry? – but I figure once every quarter-century is not excessive.”

Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart.

 Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens —Jung

Venus looking in the mirror.

 That’s a long time to go without holding up the mirror of self-reflection, to explore how one finds meaning in life, and the consequences of our choices. When my partner, who read me the column aloud, noted his training in psychiatry I responded: “That explains a lot!” Let me clarify what I meant.

Over the course of my 25 years as a Clinical Psychologist and therapist, I have often explained to people the difference between psychology and psychiatry.  Psychiatrists are first and foremost trained as medical practitioners.  They are taught a biological view on the causes of problematic behaviors and given prescription pads. Pathology and problems are traced back to some biological imbalance. Then they find the right drug and voila! They have found the solution. Talking psychotherapy is no longer a main component of psychiatry.  In fact, I have been told that some psychiatry programs no longer require it as part of their training. I have a friend and former student who is currently struggling with a serious psychiatric illness in her family. Much of her frustration centers on the fact that many of the psychiatrists her family member has contact with are foreign born and barely speak English!  Psychotherapy is pretty much out of the question and drugs are the only prescription.

Missing pieces!

Psychologists on the other hand, have no prescription pads.  They must rely on their abilities to listen, to clarify, to uncover and to explore with the client.  This therapeutic process explores the client’s past and current perceptions, beliefs and circumstances to uncover the often multidimensional nature of their problem.  Therapists do not carry “road maps” for what the client should do or who they should become.  They advocate a “process” that helps the client explore and find their own road map. We are less a prescriber and more a mentor.

 Prescribers can afford to see the world through their own lens or perspective, and may find little need to check their lens (cleaning or changing them).  They only need to be certain about what they prescribe. Mentors on the other hand need to constantly hold up a mirror to make sure they are following the same self-reflective process of growth and discovery that they challenge their client to engage in.  They need to see the world through the patient’s lens/perspective; they need to be humble that it is not the same as theirs.

I now understand why I seldom make it past the first couple paragraphs of Dr. Krauthammer’s columns. It’s not just that I am liberal and he is conservative, it’s not that I am closed minded, it’s because he has a process and perspective much like a prescription pad.  No need to listen to the other side, no need to be empathetic or open to other views, just pull out your prescription pad, scribble out your note, proclaim it loudly, ignore any dissent and move on to the next patient.

It’s easy for me to see how Dr. Krauthammer moved from writing prescriptions to climbing on his commentator soap box and shouting out his rhetoric.  He is “the Doctor”, and our society is “the patient.”  He will write columns/prescriptions whether they work or whether we listen.  But that is his right, just as it is our right to reject any prescription regardless of what letters follow the person’s name!

Please note it is not my intention to paint all of psychiatry in a negative way.  I have met and worked with many caring, compassionate and dedicated psychiatrists, both foreign and native born. Drug prescriptions have their place in the treatment regiment, but they are not the only or necessarily the best solution to a patient’s problems.

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Consecutive Days Riding: 64                               Consecutive Days Blogging: 65

Today’s Mileage: 10                                            Total Trip Mileage: 562

The red line marks our progress.

As I ride the bike this morning I think about the candles burning around the world in temples and churches in celebration.  As I mentioned yesterday, for me, light and fire are symbolic of the divine. They provide us with guidance against ignorance.  They offer warmth against a cold inhumane world.  They have the ability to purify and cleanse, helping heal our wounds. Of course during this time of joy and celebration one does not have to look far to see sad scenes of death and destruction, abuse and hunger, of intolerance and hatred.

I recently received a comment  entitled “Pure and Undefiled Religion.”  The individual quoted the New Testament twice and included the following statements:

“And so it is that most of those who have chosen to follow The Messiah on The Narrow Way have had to “forsake their natural father, mother, brothers, sisters” and all others who will not follow The Messiah, because they “love this wicked world and their own life in and of it. What is declared to be “religion” today is truly the devil’s playground. Hope is there would be those who take heed unto The Call of The Only True G-D to “Come Out of her, MY people”!

He was critical of my blog, quoted scripture with certainty, and ended with the statement “Truth is never ending!” I responded with the following comment:

“I too believe in truth, but we seem to believe in very different truths! In my view the divine is large enough to embrace and love both of us! I choose to accept this “wide way,” if you choose to follow “the narrow way” then that is your choice. A student once asked me why it was that every semester it seemed there was always someone who was trying to “save me.” I just smiled and said: “They are just doing what they need to do to be the Christian they have chosen to be!” I am doing what I need to be doing (teaching, artwork, and blogging) to be the loving, spiritual person I have chosen to be! I appreciate that you visited my blog and took the time to respond to it! I wish you well on your journey… I will hold you in my prayers… as I hope you will hold me in yours. Have a wonderful and happy holiday.

This morning I received a response from him.  Again he quoted scripture, and directed ridicule at all of us “who do not follow the true G-D.”  I followed his comments back to his own blog.  I found that his statements to me were nothing more than a copy of the ramblings that filled his blog. Rants against the world at large, organized religion, and non-believers.

It is no wonder that this person’s comments appeared in the spam space of my blog?  They remind me of the individuals who stand on a street corner and cry out their condemnation of “passing sinner” without any knowledge of these individuals’ beliefs, virtuous actions or their relationship with the divine.  I suspect they view the negative reactions of the passing “sinners” not as feedback, but simply as sign of their righteousness.

It has been my experience that when some religious individuals embrace negative feedback or criticism, they often do not accept it as corrective feedback. Instead they exhibit an attitude of self-righteousness. They view the criticism as a sign they are on the right path. Any criticism or challenging feedback is ignored or ridiculed.  This response may lead them on a course fraught with dangerous consequences for their family, friends and society.

I have featured sunsets on today’s posting as they too are symbolic. They symbolize the end of a day and approaching darkness.  However, with their brillent colors they also plant the seeds for a new day, for a dawning and return of light. I receive criticism and feedback as gifts with open arms, as long as the other person is willing to: try to listen, try to understand and looks for common ground.  Let us hope that our churches, communities, nations and our world will see the sun set on divisive ideas and emotions which serve only to create schisms between us and them, between the natural and the spiritual worlds, between individuals and the divine.

A special thanks to the photographers associated with Panramio for the beautiful scenes from along the roadside.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 26                               Consecutive Days Blogging: 27

Today’s Mileage: 6                                              Total Trip Mileage: 250

 stage6

     As I ride the bike today I smile and laugh at myself.  In my posting entitled It’s the Climb! (Oct.25) I mentioned we’re all faced with the challenge of finding balance between looking up so you can see where you are going and looking down so that you don’t trip over things.  I intended on just riding today, letting the wheel spin and my thoughts wander.  Then I looked up and realized we are only a day away from our first Miami area pilgrimage site!

     Tomorrow we’ll stop at a strikingly beautiful spiritual compound situated between Homestead and South Miami Florida, the Wat Buddharangsi, a Buddhist monastery complete with orange robed monks and a golden Buddha.  Be sure to wear clean socks, as shoe removal is required.

candles5

     Over the weekend I indulged myself in “working” on picking up and burning fallen branches.  I saw it as an indulgence because I enjoy any excuse to walk in the woods and build a fire.  The psychologist Carl Jung would say that fire activates some primal archetype embedded within all of us.  You do not need to study anthropology or history to recognize the importance of fire in human sacred rites.  Enter many religious sites today and you will find fire in the form of flickering votive candles, or dancing incense offerings.  I wrote the following poem as I worked,sat and watched, the fire.

 Ageless Pilgrimage

I set the spirits free

Flames dance and leap skyward

Glowing embers join the surge

Dead leaves in overhanging branches

Wave and twist on unseen currents

Tumble and fall like offerings

With a crackle and pop

Thick branches turn to bright coals

With incense streamers

I have no doubt

That human history

Began around a fire

On a Fall evening

With a chill enveloping

The landscape

There is something comforting

Something captivating

About flames

 ****

      As we prepare to visit various pilgrimage sites, I thought I would share the words of Taoist sage Deng Ming-Dao from his book of daily meditations entitled 365 Tao.  He writes on the topic of Shrine and includes good advice to consider before entering a sacred site.

 “It is good to have holy places in the world, and it is good for us to go on pilgrimages.  Ultimately, it is not the place that is important; it is what you feel that is lasting.  To visit a place is minor; to change within yourself is greater. When people visit a holy place, some say that the spirits of that place speak to them. Others remember the exotic pageantry.  When it comes to sacred sites, it’s better to be a pilgrim than a tourist.  Go with a humble attitude, and let your heart be moved by what you experience.  Then you will receive the true treasure of the shrine.” (p.170)

sunset over allapattah by barbara livieri

Nature's flickering candle.

Have a wonderful day!  I hope to see you tomorrow as we visit the path of the Golden One.

A special thanks to the photographers associated with Panramio for the beautiful scenes from along the roadside. The information on holy days and sacred holidays comes from http://www.interfaithcalendar.org.

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