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Posts Tagged ‘pilgrimage sites’

Pilgrimage Statistics

Cumulative Days Riding:  162                         Cumulative Days Blogging: 147

Today’s Mileage: 4                                              Total Trip Mileage: 1098

We are almost to Jacksonville Florida and tomorrow we will visit the first of three pilgrimage sites in the area, including two historical architectural churches and a nature site highlighting the beauty and diversity of the flora in Northern Florida.

Wired to love?

I’m sure that some of my friends and students found themselves saying “Oh my gosh, Dr. Edwards has gone over to the dark side!”  I want to assure everyone I am still my optimistic and upbeat self.  The title of today’s blog came from a statement made by Andrew Breitbart in a Time magazine article.  Mr. Breitbart is a highly outspoken mouth piece for right wing political thought on the web who the Time article described as a “Tea party Tycoon.” As I read the article I found myself shaking my head, not in disbelief, I’m a Clinical Psychologist I am seldom surprised by human behavior anymore, I shook my head out of sadness and concern. 

I have recently blogged on the characteristics that can lead religions to produce “evil” outcomes.  We have seen some of the sad results of this process in the tit-for-tat historical massacre of Christians by Christians and in the recent news reports of the arrest of a small group of “Christian militia” who intended to attack police officers and hasten a second revolution.

All hate all the time?

In recent news cycles a lot of attention has been given to “hate speech” or what you might call “alarmist speech.”  Terms like “lock and load,” “on the firing line,” and “reload” maybe seen as a colorful call to arms by the people using them, but it concerns others with the imagery of armed rebellion and violence.  Often the people making these statements will defend their “freedom of speech” and will attack those who raise concerns as being the source of the problem (e.g., the Obama health care bill caused the anger and threats of violence) and not the potential victims.

As a therapist I know from experience that words matter!  Among yesterday’s news announcements was the sad story of the teenage girl who after months of verbal and physical bullying by nine fellow students committed suicide. Their words mattered… they drove a desperate young girl to take her life! 

Matching hate speech!

I have spoken personally with members of a Unitarian Universalist church in Knoxville Tennessee, that lived through the terror of a gun wielding assailant who blasted away randomly during a children’s Sunday service.  A handful of innocent adults died in the pews, luckily no children were injured!  On the seat of the assailant’s vehicle in the parking lot lay a hateful letter targeting “liberals” filled with references to the “inspiring words” of a list of popular conservative talk show hosts.  These talk show hosts words mattered… they cost innocent people their lives!

In my last blog we talked about the triple filter test.  I have had a lot of comments about this post.  Many of them agree with my statement that we would all be better off if we followed this test before we spoke, before we made public statements, before we stepped in front of a microphone, before we painted a placard with hateful statements.  I noted that the three filters were truth, goodness and usefulness.  I would like to highlight the usefulness question because I believe it comes in two variations.  Is it useful for the person receiving the information (e.g., a compliment, feedback) or not (e.g., gossip, lies)?  Is it somehow useful to the person providing it (e.g., advancing an agenda, raising alarm and/or money, undermining someone else’s efforts)? 

As I noted in the last posting if Senator Scott Brown continues to repeat a lie (e.g., that Rachel Maddow is running against him) because it generates campaign fund then it is certainly useful to him given an “ends justify the means” approach to politics.  I guess some people would see it as an effective tactic or a screwed move.  I see it as nothing more than a useful lie, an example of false propaganda from a politician who will no doubt speak out of the other side of his mouth when he asks the people of his state to “believe in me” when they cast their reelection votes.  

Brought to you by Westboro Baptist Church!

Mr. Breitbart’s statement, which I used as a header for this posting saddens and concerns me.  He has a right to his belief, and he like all of us chooses the “process” he is going to follow in making his decisions.  That process might be the Golden or Platinum Rule, Might makes Right, the Ends Justify the Means, it’s all a Game, or The Triple Filter, to name just a few.  However, whatever process we use we must live with and accept the outcomes we sow and reap. 

I believe that when someone chooses to place themselves into a public position of authority, like a politician or clergy member, or are elevated by the popularity and marketing of their opinions, like a talk show host, news caster or leader of a movement, they have a responsibility to choose their words wisely!  Their proclamations should do more than serve their narrow needs, they should think about the greater good!  We would hold someone in contempt if they shouted “Fire” in a crowded theater just to secure a better seat, and then shrugged their shoulders at the trampled people’s suffering.  Then why do we turn away in silence when someone espouses hateful attitudes just to create distress in others or advance their personal agenda?

I believe that all of us have a responsibility to make sure that those who lead us, (whether Conservative or Liberal, Republican or Democrat) or act as our mouth pieces, (talk show hosts, favorite bloggers, or letter to the editor writers) or act as our cheerleaders  (family and friends) or offer us guidance (religious leaders) do it in a way so that the answer to the “usefulness”  question is not just that it is useful for them (e.g., makes money, sells books, strokes their egos), or even that it is just useful for our movement or side (e.g., we win the election, we save our school at the cost of som other school, or our church grows larger) but that it be useful for all members of the community, nation and world community.

Lets make it so!!!!

I know I am a dreamer!  I know what I ask is almost impossible to imagine in our present overly charged and highly emotion political and religious landscape.  However, if we who represent the “moderate core” the loving, compassionate, caring individuals, and yes dreamers in every faith and political movement stand up and make ourselves heard we can drown out these voices of hate and divisiveness.  I believe we can!  Join me… stand up… speak up… be heard!  After all we only have a world and a future to lose!

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Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding: 146                                      Days Blogged: 130 

New Mileage: 5                                                     Total Trip Mileage: 1015

Unfiltered Knowledge!

As I rode the bike today I reflected on the scenes along our route as we moved north on a road bordered to the east by a thin ribbon of sand and the vast Atlantic Ocean.  One of the ways I scout for pilgrimage sites is to follow a detailed road map (on the internet) that includes photos of the scenery along the route. These scenes will at time point me in the direction of unexpected sites for us to visit or may simply inspire my creativity.  Today I decided to focus on sunrise scenes!

I am aware that sunrises are often seen as symbolic of renewal, rebirth, and spring.  I have always found myself attracted to sunrises and prefer an early morning walk as a great way to get my day started.  My youngest son recently noted that he enjoys sunrises more than sunsets, because a sunrise means “you got the whole day ahead of you!”

Highlighting the colors!

As I collected some of the photos of sunrises I noticed that the most striking and beautiful sunrises had less to do with the sun itself and more to do with the clouds that interacted with and affected the sunlight.  I began to realize that there is a great deal more symbolism and meaning in sunrises because of the clouds that often accompany them.

If sunlight is seen as being representative of knowledge, guidance and/or wisdom, then clouds must serve a function of shaping, blocking, filtering and focusing this “light” before it is received by the viewer/recipients.  While we may marvel at that spot of intense light as the sun first breaks the plane of the horizon, we cannot for long study its growing presence without turning away.  It is too bright and intense in its raw form, in a very real way we are unable to “handle it” in it pure form.  However, a covering or haze of clouds can afford us the opportunity to see the light’s source in it’s perfect round form and to realize that its size is not as large as its unfiltered corolla might leads us to believe.  Some would say this is representative of the intense “glory” of the divine, that we must turn our gaze away.  The clouds imperfect covering allows us to study and receives insights from the lights source that would be absent with an empty bare sky.

Studying the sunrise scenes lead me to realize that clouds not only filter and diminish the sun’s intensity but also shape and focus the light, whether that is through the creation of a halo, a bright highlighted edge on a cloud or a beam of sunlight.  We may become acutely aware of the multiple colors or qualities of the light because of the cloud’s effects.  While the wisdom and knowledge represented by the sunlight maybe intense and illuminating in its pure form, I believe it is the interaction with the clouds, with the contrasts and textures created by this dance between the shifting and impermanent cloud forms that gives the sunrise its awe inspiring “take your breath away” quality.

Blue Hues!

As a pluralist I often tell my sons and students that there is no “one way” to get from point A to point B, that different people may need very different paths.   Whether that end point is an understanding of the divine (as with a spiritual pilgrim), finding a career/job that fits for you, or finding the answer/cure to what ails you (as in the course of psychotherapy).  I look at these sunrises as representing in a graphic way this message.  Some people like their insights and wisdom pure and straight forward, some need it filtered and muted, others need to be awed and dazzled with dancing colors.  Throw in a sunrise over the sea and you get the added reflection and texture of the ocean’s surface.

What are these clouds that shape and change the light, the wisdom coming at us from its divine source?  They are made up of water, a part of the earth, and air. We as human being are made up in large parts of water.  Therefore, much of this blocking and filtering is perhaps part of our nature or a product of the process of being human.  I suspect these clouds are representative of a number of things: teachings and instructions from parents and church leaders; personal experiences (like mystical experiences); biases we embrace out of safety and/or ignorance; exercises and rituals (like prayer, meditation, reason and logic); negative and/or positive mood states; our egos and basic needs. 

Rays of Illumination!

Perhaps that is a topic for another blog!  I for one can just as easily get lost watching a cloud and its flowing, shifting dance across the sky as I can in a sunrise.

I hope you enjoyed today’s words and sunrise scenes!

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Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding:  101                                                 Days Blogged: 94

New Mileage: 10                                                               Total Trip Mileage: 773

Finding a shared sense of meaning and joy!

As I ride the bike this morning I am reminded of the scene from the movie Peaceful Warrior  in which the young man followed his newly discovered mentor/teacher on a three hour hike to see “something special .”  As they neared the top of the hill, the young man, who was obviously excited and joyful, notes that he hopes they are close to arriving at their location.  His mentor notes they have arrived, to which the young man asked: “what’s the special thing we’ve come to see?”  The old man points at a rock at the young man’s feet. The young man grows puzzled and frustrated at this proclamation until he comes to the sudden realization that the special thing was “the journey “to that place. It reminds us that the destination does not matter as much as how we journey.  Ultimately, we all  end up as nothing more than a cold granite tombstone, a plaque on a memorial garden wall, or a wisp of ashes dancing on the breeze.  It’s what we do with our lives, with every day and every moment on this journey toward our final breath.

Buddha leads by example!

 My progress as a stationary pilgrim on a virtual search for pilgrimage sites across  Florida, the nation, and eventually the world, has helped me to clarify the nature of my trip. I have recently posted the connection to a new website at www.pilgrimagesite.com. You can find it by clicking on the pilgrimage site tab at the top of this page.  This site allows me to record the presence of retreat centers and potential pilgrimage sites that I find in my internet search.  This webpage contains no pictures or extensive descriptions, just a classification of with respect to its potential interest as a site and a webpage address.  This allows my fellow pilgrims to look at a site and decide on its personal significance to them.  Sites that might hold special significance in my journey, prompting questions and answers for me, might mean little or nothing to other pilgrims.  Even if we share an excitement about a particular site, you might be drawn to the spiritual significance of “the grotto” while I get lost in the spiritual significance of a nature trail.

Natures beauty invites reflection and awareness!

This search for potential sites has led me to questions concerning how to differentiate and classify these potential sites.  A pilgrimage has been defined typically in religious or spiritual terms as a journey or search of some great moral or spiritual significance. All of the world’s major religions have specific pilgrimage sites. Typically they are found in the lands where the faith originated.  For example within Buddhism there are four major pilgrimage sites these are associated with Buddha’s birth place, the site where he attained enlightenment, the site where he preached for the first time, and the site at which he slipped away from his material body. But a pilgrimage sites need not attain that level of significance to function as a journey destination, it need only have some level of spiritual significance for a group or an individual.  Many people make personal pilgrimages to honor their “fallen” ancestors on Memorial Day.  Other people may journey to the site of a special relic or the “first church” of their faith in the New World; I would call this an historically significant site. I have created a classification system whereby I identify sites as having potential significance on various dimensions: Artistic, Architectural, Historical, Scientific, Educational, Religious, and Natural (Nature).  

Retreat site on a hill top!

It seems that a pilgrimage journey is often undertaken when we seek an answer to some spiritual question or reconnection with some aspect of our faith.  Retreats on the other hand, seem to represent more of a temporary change or break from our normal daily routines, a chance to have some “down time” to seek silence and solitude.  This can be a time for prayer, a time to let go of pain, negative emotions, stress and reconnect with the things that are significant to us personally. Retreat centers, which there are many, seem to have as a principal feature the feelings of solitude and tranquility. I  find that retreat sites offer differing degrees of nature based solitude as a primary component.  As such retreat sites will range from what I call a Nature Site such as the Everglades National Park or at the Grand Canyon where an immersion in nature’s awe inspiring beauty is the sites primary offering. In fact if you are lucky such site will offer at least a port-a-potty to service your non-spiritual needs!  More common for the retreat sites I have previewed is what I would call Nature Tranquility which features things like a walking trail through the woods, a bench beside a tranquil river or a vista over a quiet valley.  Somewhat less significance with respect to nature are those sites that offer small but beautiful gardens, often next to a church or on the surrounding grounds.  There are also retreat sites that offer solitude but within an enclosed structure like you are what you might find in a large metropolitan area or in inner-city Zen temple with a simple garden and meditation rooms.

An unforseen spiritual crisis?

 Now that I have my pilgrimage site and retreat center webpage up and running, I’ll find it easier to navigate on my virtual journey.  When I come across sites that we will not visit, perhaps they’re too far out of the way or in some cases I’ve already traveled past the site’s location, I can simply post it for my fellow pilgrims to preview and perhaps visit on the own either virtually or in person. This serves to free my search as I can simply post all potential sites whether we may or may not visit in the future them as part of our virtual journey.   

On Saturday we will visit a Monastery on the outskirts of Tampa, I have found that monasteries and convents, which dot the countryside of our nation in larger numbers then you might think, make for popular retreat centers.  Remember that each breath, each step, each day is as important on our journey as making it to a specific destination!

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Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding:  87                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 88 

Today’s Mileage: 6                                              Total Trip Mileage: 711

I believe that an ability to laugh at yourself and your life circumstances is a key to a long and happy life.  As I ride the bike this evening I found myself chuckling at the comments of several friends.  They were speaking of my decision to scale back on the daily blog postings to only three a week to free up time for work and other interests.  I continue to ride the bike daily, and search for pilgrimage sites. These individuals all stated some variation of “well it’s about time!”

This is not the first time in my life that I’ve made a decision and then had family or friends announce that they had silently been “hoping and praying” that I would change course. When I asked them why they waited till then they noted: “because you were not ready!” How often I have personally used that same phrase with clients and friends.  We all undertake activities with some goal in mind, and become immersed in the process and dance of the activity, diving in deeper and spinning faster.  Others watch, sometimes with amazement and or concern, wondering how long you can keep up the pace or the depth of commitment.

 Life is a process and our goals must constantly be tweaked and sometimes may demand significant shifts in direction and intensity.  I have met alot of wonderful people in my expanding circle of blog readers, and I look forward to continuing to reach out to join with other sincere spiritual seekers and pilgrims. My youngest son commented the other day” “Dad you are pretty serious about this blog.”  I laughed and told him that I hoped there would be a day, somewhere in the future, when he might sit down and read my thoughts.  That he might gain some insights into his father and perhaps some insights into himself. 

This got me thinking about an issue that is important to anyone who creates.  I mentioned in one of my first postings that if you are a writer, artist or poet the most common form of feedback you get is no feedback at all!  You must have faith that your efforts will bear fruit and that it will bring insights, recognition, accolades, or whatever it is that you seek. Hopefully these efforts will have a positive impact on your own journey and dance, and perhaps the journey and dance of others.  I wrote a poem several years ago as I returned from a nature walk in which I pondered how my efforts would be greeting upon my return home to my family.

Can you blame them?

It’s the Donuts

Heading home

   Another walk ended.

Images on film,

   Words on tape.

Does it matter

   To anyone?

No not really!

Well perhaps

   The geese

      Whom I disturbed.

It’s the donuts,

   Bagged and resting

      On my car seat,

Which will be

   Remembered by those

      At home.

Maybe later,

   Days or years

      Into the future,

The images and words

   Of my passage

      Will inspire and delight.

But for now

   It’s the donuts,

      With glossy sweet surfaces,

         That will satisfy their hunger.

Protective parents are easily disturbed!

I never really lamented the fact that my creative efforts were not embraced by my two young sons or a wife preoccupied with the demands of motherhood. I had faith that a time and circumstance would arise, in my lifetime or afterwards, when these efforts would “touch and reverberate” with others. In addition to having faith that your creative efforts will somehow matter, you also have to “set the bar” with respect to how you will judge success.  Is it fame, or fortune, or seeing your work on a museum wall or bound in a book that will signify success? The following poem written on a nature walk in 1997 summarizes my thoughts on the matter:

 If I created a work of art, a poem, or a story

That touched a multitude of souls,

That became a timeless classic,

That would be nice.

 

If I created a work of art, a poem, or a story

That touched crowds of people,

That brought standing ovations and fame,

That would be great.

 

If I created a work of art, a poem, or a story

That touched a handful of people,

That connected them with each other

   And the natural world,

That would be tremendous.

 

If I created a work of art, a poem, or a story

That touched a single soul,

That helped them through their day

   And added meaning to their life,

Then all my efforts have been worth it.

I trust that most of you will recognize that with this posting and the presentation of these poems, my faith has been justified.  I hope you the reader find the images and words of my passage to be inspiring and delightful.  If it touched you then my efforts have been worthwhile!  Have a wonderful day… I’ll be back on Saturday.

The most important audience for our future... the children!

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Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding:  86                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 87 

Today’s Mileage: 4                                             Total Trip Mileage: 705

 As I ride the bike today I have decided to change the format of the blog.  I have found the process of writing it and finding pilgrimage sites to be an enjoyable, fulfilling and strenuous task.  I am faced with a heavy teaching schedule this spring semester and a long commute every day.  I now realize that I need to free up more time for work and relationship demands.  For that reason I am going to cut back to three postings a week.  Starting this weekend I will be posting on Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday.  I will still be riding the bike each day, and we will still be visiting pilgrimage site. I want to refocus the blog back on my original purpose.

Many sites to discover and visit!

 The blog has recently provided me with a vehicle to explore and come to grips with my son leaving home.  I wish to thank all of my family and friends who have offered words of encouragement as I have trudged through this event. It was not my intention when I created this blog to make it a personal journal, although it has at times had that flavor.  I wish to get back to the search for intriguing and spiritually diverse pilgrimage sites that dot or landscape.  Some are well known, others are overlooked or even hidden.  I hope you will continue to follow my journey!

I had a humorous event occur today that reinforced my thought that I needed a break.  I was having some oral surgery done this afternoon.  I was lying in the chair, breathing in an odorless gas that produced a heavy detached bodily sensation.  The Doctor said little, except an occasional “Open wider please!”  The dental tech, sitting to my left with suction device in hand was in fact a former student of mine.  The whole time the surgery  was taking place an old women in the room next door droned on and on in a loud but monotonous voice about her aches and pains, her bleeding gums, aching jaw, and sore feet.  I laid there feeling detached from my body as I listened to the women’s voice.  At one point I felt the Doctor manipulating string and thought “that’s odd why is he flossing my teeth.”  Then I realized he was probably applying stitches.  I wonder what this was like for my former student.  In the years of listening to my lectures; had she ever imagine that she would one day be digging around in my mouth, or that I would actually be speechless? Then I found myself wondering “how could I turn this into a blog topic?  It was at that moment that I realized I needed a break!

 I hope you have enjoyed my eighty some postings and the dozen pilgrimage sites we have visited.  I hope you will continue to follow my travels into the New Year as there are a multitude of places we have yet to visit!

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding:  82                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 83

Today’s Mileage: 4                                              Total Trip Mileage: 681

What to blog on today.  It is not a question of scarcity but of bountifulness.  There are so many potential topics. So many spiritual and religious questions populate my Blog idea folder!  Of course there is the symbolism of reaching the end of a calendar year and out with the old and in with the new. The local newspaper and many local news casts are speaking not only the best and worst of 2009, but the best and worst of a whole decade.  Of course many people are busy preparing their pledges towards the future with resolutions to better their health, living space, work productivity and to renew their religious and spiritual rituals.  Some might start a new journey, while others will resolve to double their efforts on their current path.

Happy New Years!

Cycles in nature and in our lives are but one of the things that give our lives meaning and some predictability.  Cycles give an excuse for a “fresh start.”  They give us a chance to banish mistakes and errors of “the past.”  This blog has become an important part of my life as a source of inspiration, and a testament to my perseverance and progress.  But it is not my whole life.  I am preparing to send one son off to the military and to war.  I am watching as a second son learns the ropes of having a first girlfriend.  I am preparing to once again enter the classroom.  Some classes will be filled with fresh faces, students who have not heard my stories and have not been challenged by my experiences and world view. Other classes will be filled with seniors, who have heard all the stories and are ready to “take off” into the real world.  All I can do is tweak them a bit, add a little polish and send them on their way.

My virtual bike trip has strengthened my legs and deepened my breath.  But my habit of snacking has limited its impact on my girth. I resolve to cut back on my snacking and make my studio and office more of a “clutter free” zone. What about the blog? Structurally I will complete the redesign of the Pilgrimage Site page and redouble my efforts to identify such sites as we return to our virtual map.  These will be only cosmetic changes.  This morning a voice from my past pointed out a philosophical and theological question which I intend to explore in the months to follow.

Martin Marty

I’m always looking for resource books and research projects for my classes and now the blog.  I glanced at the stack of books and one title jumped out at me.  I was Martin E. Marty’s book entitled: When Faiths Collide.  It was a book I picked up this summer before I had started the blog.  The title intrigued me, but the author was someone I had the pleasure to meet years ago. Dr. Marty is a Lutheran pastor, and a Professor Emeritus of Theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School. I met him when he was a guest speaker at my University, lecturing on the dangers of religious fundamentalism. We sat and talked for close to an hour.  We discovered that we shared a common root.  He was from a small farming community in eastern Nebraska, the same town where my mother had grown up. It turns out that he knew my grandfather and inquired about my uncles.  It is truly a small world!

When Faiths Collide

As I sat at the car dealership this morning, waiting to have some repairs done, I opened his book to the chapter on pluralism.  Barely a page into it I realized I had found another resolution for the New Year: to use the structure he outlined to refine my definitions of diversity and pluralism.  An underlying theme of my blog has been my recognition of an interconnection of all faiths, something Dr. Marty would call a “theological pluralism.” He points out that this is not an “easy sell” as it is likely to raise defenses of more exclusionary faiths.  Whereas “civic pluralism” relates to practical adjustments people make in communities in order to promote orderly relationships and common ground between different faith communities.  Dr. Marty notes that civic pluralism presented us with a less daunting task to implement.  This form of pluralism existed in the small towns Dr. Marty and I grew up in, on the plains where there was a necessity for town matters not to turn into battlegrounds of inter-religious warfare.

I have stated in my blog that I see my efforts as a small ripple, but that when combined with others, these ripples could become a larger wave for positive change.  It will be my goal in the New Year to clarify and explore the distinction between these two forms of pluralism. In doing so, I will hopefully not only further focus my efforts in productive ways but help my readers clarify their positions on this important topic.  Forward into the future!

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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.

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