Posts Tagged ‘growth’

Pilgrimage Statistics

Cumulative Days Riding:  166                              Cumulative Days Blogging: 151

Today’s Mileage: 4                                                 Total Trip Mileage: 1116

Struggling with Change?

As I ride the bike this evening I think back to a long lunch discussion I had with a friend earlier today.  I was trying to explain to her the nature of the “confused and unsettled state” I have struggled with for the last half dozen days.  As often happens in long discussions with this friend, statements elicit questions and answers are punctuated by requests for further clarification!  It is a process that some people might see as circular and a “waste of time,” however it helps me to refine my thinking on important topics. 

I would like to briefly share with you the primary issues I have been mulling over as I “went silent” for the better part of a week.  As we ride westward across northern Florida in the coming days, I will explore these issues in more detail and explain how they are related to my spirituality and connectedness. 

Agreement is not mandatory either!

Before I present the basic issues I would like to note that Psychologists have long recognized that the label “stressful” is not reserved for only negative events, but fit for any event that signifies/represents a change in one’s life!  While negative events (e.g., a death, job loss, divorce) can be devastating, positive events (e.g., graduation, marriage, a new job) are also disruptive to well established life patterns and routines.  My friend asked me if I was worried about “making it through” this period of stress? 

I answered with a resounding NO!  Research has shown that even winning the lottery can and is stressful (i.e., the demands  associated with managing large amounts of cash), however the factor that best predicts a person’s long term happiness with their “good fortunes”  is the degree of happiness the y experience before their winnings.  In other words… happiness before the disruption best predicts adjustment to the disruption!  Since I have been in a “joyful” mood for some time I have no doubt I will come through this stronger.

Here are the issues:

1)    I have experienced an acute awareness of the numerous issues fueling conflict within our communities, nation and world.  This awareness has been greatly heightened by the process of searching for blog topics and pilgrimage sites.  Not an unexpected occurrence, but the poignancy of this process has been surprising.

2)    I have experienced transitory feelings of helplessness and hopelessness associated with the above mentioned awareness.  I am an optimist; however the number and deep seated nature of the difficulties we face represent an extremely daunting task especially as it sometimes seems that our options grow more limited by the day!

3)    I am experiencing a desire for renewal and/or change with respect to my academic career.  I am celebrating my 25th anniversary as a University Professor!  I love teaching and interacting with the students, I don’t savor all of the superficial demands that go along with the job and the 2 ½ hour a day commute is grueling.  In addition, my creative endeavors and interests have always taken a back seat to my academic career (bringing home a pay check).  I feel that it may be time to give my creativity a chance to shine.  A spirit confined can at best only stretch its wings, it can’t soar!

4)    I am struggling with a sense of parental sadness as I try to let go of my dreams for my eldest son, while at the same time savoring the memories.  This is coupled with a sense of fear for the choices he has made: dropping out of school, joining the Army, and the fact that he will likely go to war as an explosive expert (e.g., his job will be the same as the character on “the Hurt Locker”).

5)    I look forward with deep joy to my upcoming marriage.  I have found someone who does not merely tolerate who I am (my liberal beliefs, my Eastern Spirituality, my creativity, my jokes) but celebrates my strengths as gifts and forgives my weaknesses!  Still, merging lives, schedules, and families involves an ongoing process of finding balance… a joyful, but still stressful task!

Well, that is it in a nut shell.  I left out any reference to my spiritual journey, however, all of these points are impacted by my search for and review of pilgrimage sites.  I will speak to this impact in future blog postings.  Have a wonderful day!

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!

Read Full Post »

Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding:  80                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 81

Today’s Mileage: 4                                              Total Trip Mileage: 671

Do you ever have one of those mornings when you wake early and feel the need to take a walk to help clear you mind, still the swirl of voices, the struggle of feelings?  I had one of those this morning. 

I got up, threw on my jacket and gloves and retrieved my Dictaphone from the car.  As I walked up the street I found the swirling struggle of thoughts and feelings did not diminish!  The Dictaphone would not record and produced only a loud whine.  I pocketed it, deciding that perhaps I was meant to walk and just “be with” nature.  While the stars twinkled overhead, a biting north wind chilled me to the bone.  I chastised myself, as someone who had survived delivering papers in Dakota winters, the howling Alaskan winds and Antarctic storms, I could certainly put up with a chilly breeze. This idea of a walk, was just not working!  I turned around, picked up my pace and a short time later I had returned to the warmth of my studio.

Nine Eleven Taoist Walking Stick

As I ride the bike this morning I have no clear idea of what to blog about.  Yesterday I spoke about the need to sometimes just “be” in the moment.  I can do “just being” quite well when I’m surrounded by nature, standing in front of a fire, or walking in the woods.  I have heard the call of nature as it is the source of much of my creativity (e.g. my nature poems, wall hangings, and artwork) and provides a calming and peaceful respite.  It is a pull that can become so strong it leads people to becoming hermits and mountain men to retreat from human contact.

The Webfooted Taoist Walking Stick

I have heard the call and pull toward relationships with other people.  I have found great joy and pride as a parent watching their child explore, grow and become their own person.  I have felt the intense passion shared by lovers, felt the intense need to seek out friends for conversation during both moments of great joy and deep despair.  I have felt the joy and satisfaction of guiding and mentoring others through “rough times.”  I have also seen and felt the costs of relationships with others.  I have experienced the heart wrenching pain of a parent watching a child “crash and burn.”  I felt frustration as I watched friends and patients make poor choices that destroyed and damaged their lives, their health, and the lives of their loved ones. I have looked into pained and pleading eyes with little to offer.

I have heard the call of the divine, experienced its presence in the world around me, in the people I meet and deep within my being. I have met people who live their faith in positive life affirming ways and act as models for the rest of us.  I have met people who appear to have no relationship with the divine but find meaning in their possessions and accomplishments. I have known people whose relationship with the divine fed their sense of importance and self-righteousness but acted as a wedge between them and others. 

"Bare to the Bones" Taoist Walking Stick

I truly believe for me, the best route is the middle way, a balance between the moment-to-moment gifts of nature and the sometimes joyful dance and often frustrating struggle with human relationships. I have come to realize that relationships should never be easy or at least not all the time.  Good relationships (e.g. child, parent, teacher, lover, and friend) should challenge us to grow.  Growth should be the underlying process, such that good parents should grow with their parenting, good teachers should grow with their teaching, good bloggers should grow with their blogging.

The "Waterstick" Taoist Walking Stick

As we approach the New Year, it is customary to take stock of the outgoing year, to congratulate ourselves for our accomplishments, and resolve to work on our short comings. It is a good time to think about growth!  I will in the coming week steer my bike back onto our virtual path across Florida. I will be unveiling a “retooled” pilgrimage site page and map for my blog.  I look forward to our continuing journey into 2010 and the growth it offers!

The Taoist Walking Sticks are wall hangings I construct out of material and items I find on my nature hikes.  The examples shown included: stick, roots, feathers, deer bones, turtle bones and shell fragments, and remenants of a tattered flag.

Read Full Post »

Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 62                                Consecutive Days Blogging: 63

Today’s Mileage: 10                                           Total Trip Mileage: 545

The red line traces our progress.

A Spiritual Buffet?

Before I climbed on the bike this morning I reviewed an article on the front page of yesterday’s USA Today. The lead story was entitled: Mixing Their Religion: Many choose their faith from a spiritual buffet. The article was based on a recent survey of Americans about their religious beliefs. Over the past several years I have seen similar survey results pointing to a growing diversity in our nation’s religious and spiritual beliefs.  In particular several of them point to the fact that while many people may go to church, their beliefs often do not fit with that church’s dogma and teachings. These findings have fueled many a discussion on talk radio, chat rooms or newspaper letters to the editor.  It is clear there is a growing “blending” of diverse spiritual threads within people’s personal belief systems.  The question that fuels for many of these discussions is “what does this mean?”

Some individuals’ and groups’ answer to this question would lead us to believe that this blending is problematic and perhaps a sign of decay within our existing institutions.  Other individuals and groups see this blending as a positive sign, as an embracing of diversity and a sign of growth. Personally, I think it maybe both, a warning sign and a promising change! 

A Spiritual Entree?

Within psychology we have long recognized that our developing belief system follows a set process.  From the moment we are born, we are an information processing system.  We input data, we analyze data, we make assumptions and simple decisions based on this data, and we act on our assumptions and receive feedback from our environment (i.e. success or failure, reinforcement or punishment). This whole process operates with the goal of making sense of our world so we can act to get what we want and need. 

Initially this belief system (explanations and expectations) are given to us by parents, teachers, and ministers.   It represents a readymade road map with canned explanations of life’s demands.  But as any parent knows, fairly early in some cases, the challenges and questions concerning these beliefs will eventually follow!  Beliefs are constantly tested, we make predictions and then we wait to see if we are right.  Positive outcomes strengthen our beliefs; negative outcomes may lead us to search for better explanations, perhaps even new beliefs.  As we grow and mature, our beliefs are more and more of our own choosing.  We retool what we were taught with new information, new teachings and new experiences. 

My point is that exploring, sampling, testing and choosing are all part of our human nature.  Our religious and spiritual beliefs are no different than our political or economic beliefs. Many psychologists would argue that the sign of “maturity” is not in the content of your belief system (that it be different from your youth) but that you believe in the content for a different reason. Maturity is judged by how “well tested” your current beliefs are and whether they have they been challenged (internally, externally or both) and “forged” by life experiences.  You do not have to believe they are true, you know they are true for you!

Some of all or just one?

But how can this smorgasbord approach to spirituality be both positive and negative?  I believe  the distinction resides with the answers to two questions. First, does this blended belief system really fit for you, does it provide you with sound advice?  For some people this blended system simple represents a “quick and easy” or momentary convenient fit, perhaps just a “fad.”  Secondly, does this belief system promote a true state of transcendence and growth in the individual’s actions, thoughts and feelings?  For others this smorgasbord of a meal may simply provide temporary relief and a return to the “status quo.” 

For some a visit to the buffet provides nourishing advice and leads to growth. For others, sticking with a single satisfying entrée leads to a fulfilling meal and growth.

Read Full Post »