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Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

Greetings friends and fellow pilgrims.  I am still preparing for and adjusting to my son’s departure for Fort Lewis Washington.  As a going away gift I am having the book “365 Tao” bound as a hardback book.  He has read it in the past to the point of breaking the binding so I thought a hardback copy would serve him well,  I also had the book binder include several pages of my words of encouragement and what I call “Words of Wisdom.”  I thought my readers might enjoy see them, so here they are:

The following represents “Words of Wisdom” I have gleamed from my life experiences.  I hope that pondering them may help you recognize their possible relevance in your life.

 1)      “Shit happens” – our lives are a constant parade of events that we are required

                                             to adjust too,  how we adjust affects our level of happiness!

  TYPES OF SHIT:

a)      Just Happens” Shit – we have little or no choice in the event’s occurrence

  1. THROWNESS – conditions we are born with (gender, race, baldness, etc)
  2. “DROPPED OUT OF THE BLUE” Shit – largely unexpected or unforeseeable events and conditions (illness, accidents, acts of nature)

      Keys to adjustment for the “Just Happens Shit”:

  1. Acceptance and Accommodation – some people actually embrace the

            event as a way of adjusting (“bald is beautiful”)                                        

  1. Foster Coping Skills – prepare for the next “unexpected event”

            (buy insurance, build strong social support, foster spirituality, get training)

      Most Common Errors:

  1. “Fight the Shit” – this is the basis for many marketing efforts

                                   (hair loss treatments, diets, cosmetic surgery)

  1. “Fear the Shit” – worry about all the “what ifs” that could occur

 b)      Stepped in It” Shit – we have some responsibility for these events occurrence 

                                                       as they are influenced by our life choices

  1. CONSEQUENCES – conditions we create by our actions, they are not necessarily predictable, but likely outcomes of our actions (highly probable).  They may involve the consequences of ours and others people’s actions, we tend to not see these coming, although in “hind sight” we realize that they were highly probable. (cancer due to smoking)
  2. “SEE IT COMING” Shit – if you are observant and know how to recognize it, these are the situations/ relationships/ events that you can steer clear of/ avoid (getting in the car with a drunk, going out with a drug user, skipping classes, unprotected sex).

      Keys to adjustment for the “Stepped In It Shit”:

  1. Make Corrections – change the causal behaviors or attitudes that 

                                       lead to event (quit smoking, start exercising, 

                                       leave the relationship, training, etc.)            

     2. Learn From It – take a lesson away from the experience and then 

                                Implement changes to decrease the likelihood of   

                                future problems (choose relationships more wisely)

     3. “Fight It” – work to take control (now) over the things you still have

                         control over… manage the fallout! (apologize)

      Most Common Errors:

  1. Embracing the Shit – this “there is meaning in suffering” attitude 

                                        often leads to a lack of action (everyone dies!)

  1. Misinterpreting it – seeing it as “Just Happens Shit” and accepting it 

                                      as an unchangeable situation. (I said “I do!”)

      Note:  Situations often represent combinations of these categories.  An unwanted  

                pregnancy maybe experienced as a “Dropped out of the Blue” event, but in 

                hindsight it is a “See it Coming” Event.

“I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I need to be.” – Douglas Adams

 2)       “Be Happy”           

–    Life is all about attitude! Attitude represents a filter or lens (like a pair of glasses) that we  

           view the world through.  Like a dirty lens, we often assume that what we perceive

           (through the lens) is the world and not a filtered image (anger is a dirty lens)

–          always remember that your lens needs polishing and cleaning… check it frequently!

3)      “Never Say Never”

–          We can only make predictions about the future, none of us can know what it holds!

       This attitude helps keeps us from committing to inflexible positions… keeps us from

       having to “eat our words” in the future… helps us keep our options open!

“Prayer is when you talk to God; meditation is when you listen to God.” – Diana Robinson

4)     

“Be Certain, But Humble”

–          Strive to be certain about your beliefs (in yourself and your worldview).  Strive to have your life experiences fit your life view, but be humble about your beliefs because they are yours and do not necessarily fit the life experiences of other people. 

–          This is particularly important with respect to political and religious beliefs.

 5)      “Change is Mandatory, Growth is Optional!”

–          perhaps one of the most important overriding points about life is that it is a process!

–          it is always in the process of becoming something (something more or something less, but surely something different) our control over this process is sometimes limited

–          like it or not, planned and unplanned changes (shit) happens, it is what we do with these changes (resist/ignore/adjust to them) that is of paramount importance

–          how we respond dictates the general course our life follows (do we consistently make mountains out of mole hills… or see mountains –obstacles- as just speed bumps)

–          wise choices do not always lead to success (a lack of failure) but they always lead to  growth (improving our happiness and chances for success in the future)

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” – Buddha

 6)      “Always strive for Balance”

–          Growth is a process of finding balance between our desires and needs (present and future) and the demands of life situations (rules and laws, other’s needs)

–          Buddha and the Taoists preached “the Middle Path” – don’t deny your needs but don’t give in to excesses – always treat others with compassion and care!

 7)      “Just because you can doesn’t mean that you have too or should!”

–          Life presents us with multiple possibilities and choices, we must choose wisely!

–          Not all choices are equal! Some choices represent unreasonable risks (You can see it coming shit) and     

            threaten to move us away from a balanced position.

–          Stupid people make stupid choices: 1) They couldn’t do what they tried to do (lacked skills to do it); 2) They

            didn’t see the potential risk (should not have done it); 3) They told themselves they “had to do it” (a dare,

            standing up to an insult, to look tough).

I hope that you found my words thought provoking and humorous… have a wonderful day!

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Cumulative Days Riding:  170                             Cumulative Days Blogging: 155

Today’s Mileage: 5                                                    Total Trip Mileage: 1134

35th Engineer Battalion

Greeting to all my fellow pilgrims!  It is good to finally climb back onto the bike and report to you all what has happened in the past weeks.  I had taken to the roadways and drove to Missouri to attend my eldest son’s graduation from US Army training.  I then shared a day and a half drive with him back to South Carolina.  The trip back was the rainiest stretch of travel I have ever undertaken in my life.  It rained steadily from Memphis to Atlanta, my thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Mississippi and Alabama impacted by the string of tornados that were figuratively “in our rear view mirror!”

I enjoyed the opportunity to visit an area of the country I had never had the opportunity to see before, the Ozarks.  The tree covered hills, rushing rivers and streams and pastures populated with cows and horses were idyllic.  In many ways it reminded me of the upstate in South Carolina, for I saw a lot of timber haulers, pickup trucks and trailer homes! 

Standing out from the crowd!

I experienced a great deal of pride watching my son’s graduation as he had distinguished himself in his training and received the US Army Engineers Trailblazer Award,  a distinction granted to only about 5% of the recruits.  The award proclaimed: For meritorious achievement as a combat engineer Pvt.  Edwards distinguished himself by exceeding course standards for all combat engineer occupational skills training levels of motivation, discipline, teamwork, and leadership throughout the training cycle, signifying him as one of Charlie Company’s finest.

He now stands tall and proud and is excited about making his way to Fort Lewis Washington where he will be assigned to a specific unit.  The drive to Missouri afforded me an opportunity to reminisce about the joy and sorrows of parenthood and the time I spent with him as he grew up.  I know that this mixture of ups (joys) and downs (stress and sadness) are part of the process of parenting, and a teenager’s need to find their own identity and path in life.  I am excited about the growth he has shown in the military.  I am excited that he will be seeing new places and meeting new people.  These can be valuable transformative experiences.  But I am also apprehensive as I know he will cross paths with problematic people, and be forced to make problematic choices.  He very likely will go to war and be faced with death!  I will save my thoughts on that prospect for another day.  I look forward, with mixed feelings, to his life unfolding and my watching from the sidelines… but I have no other choice!

Ho'oponopono Prayer

The title for today’s posting came from last Sunday’s sermon by the Rev. Pat Jobe.  It is a Hawaiian prayer!  Prayers come in a number of different forms and this one does not fit easily into the standard categories (e.g., Petition, Confession, Adoration, Intercession, Meditation, Thanksgiving, and Consecration).  Given that it does not make any reference to the divine it functions very much like a therapy or self-help device.  It offers a four step process to deal with feelings of sadness and anger at people or events in our lives.  These many represent current situations or feelings we are carrying from our past.  The first step is to declare “I’m sorry,” the second step is to ask “forgive me,” the third step is to declare “thank you,” and the final step is to proclaim “I love you!”  Listening to Pat talk about the prayer and its usage made me realize that I needed to repeat this prayer with respect to both of my sons and my long deceased father.

Proud warriors at ease!

Years ago as I prepared to become a father I remember thinking about my own father, about the pain and sorrow he visited upon his family.  I cursed him for the scars we (his children) carried forward into our futures.  I knew on some level that he carried his own scars, for he was the product of an emotionally distant alcoholic father.  However, the pain was strong and not easily extinguished.  I swore to myself, as I awaited the arrival of my first son that I would not make the mistakes my father made.  I would be emotionally involved and invested in his life at the same time I would let him become who he needed to be!

I am happy to report that I did not make the mistakes my father made!  However, sadly it seems that I made all new ones!  I’ve come to believe that you cannot be a parent, a partner, a teacher or a friend without making what in hindsight can be called, mistakes.  We cannot be “loving caring involved human beings” without some times disappointing or falling short of the hopes and expectations of those we love.  I realize now that my father was just doing the best he could.  I don’t make excuses for his bad choices, but I do forgive him for them.  I thank him for the many gifts he gave me, including an interest in art and nature and my mechanical abilities.  I am sorry for the frustration and sadness I know I visited on his life, especially as a cocky teenager and I do love him and regret that he never saw my successes and his grandsons.

I apologize to my sons, I am sorry for the things I have done that might have hurt or dismayed them.  I ask for their forgiveness.  Even if I knew of all the mistakes I’ve made I could not go back and change them, none of us can, so please forgive me!   I have received so much joy from having them in my life.  I have gained a youthful sense of awe and wonder as I experienced the world through their eyes.  I have sense the possibilities of a future that extends far beyond my own time on this earth.  I love you both and I pray for your safety.  I pray that you have sons and daughters that bring you as much joy and provide you with as many insights as you have brought into my life.  I will love you whether you succeed or fail, I will love you as much when you leave as when you come home.  I will love you where ever you travel, whether I still walk this earth or whether you are on your own.  My thoughts and prayers will always be with you!

I recently posted and old poem I had written about the sadness and regret I felt that my father and I had not talked and shared our thoughts and feelings as adults.  The following represents a follow up to that poem:

Trip Partners

young man

crisp uniform

ribbons and medals

a stoic face

hum of the highway

engine sounds

then he speaks

stories of intelligent actions

in a passionate voice

old man

casusal cloths

joyful smile

pride filled heart

a wish has been granted

a poem fulfilled

father and a son

two men – two voices

on a cross country trip

past troubles and sadness

in the rear view mirror

pushing through the driving rain

ahead of dangerous storms

racing forward

toward blue sky

toward sunlight

toward the future

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 36                               Consecutive Days Blogging: 37

Today’s Mileage:  5                                           Total Trip Mileage: 316

 stage6

     As I ride my bike and we approach our next Pilgrimage Site, I want to speak about mysticism.  Several viewers have asked me to define it and to describe types of mystical experiences.  To answer these questions in the depth they deserve it would take more time and space than one Blog posting can offer.  As such today I will be presenting only a cursory review.

cindy47452

Blazing Sky!

     Mysticism can be defined as: the pursuit of an understanding or relationship with the ultimate reality we call the divine, through direct experience, intuition and insight.  This relationship may include a desire to enter into a communion with, identification with, or achieve a conscious awareness of this ultimate reality, divinity, spiritual truth, or God. A mystical experience may be minor and uplifting, like a walk through a beautiful garden, or it may be profound, intense and a life changing event, such as a near death experience!

daodejing1     Mysticism usually focuses on practices that are intended to nurture this direct experience or awareness.  All of the major wisdom traditions either place mystical experiences at the core of their practices, primarily within the eastern traditions, or have mystical branches within their traditions, such as Kabbalah within Judaism, Sufism within Islam, Christian mystics within Christianity. The mystical branches of these Monotheist traditions are often treated skeptically by the more orthodox branches of the faith due to the emphasis the mystic person places on their direct experience and living realization over doctrine. In contrast to orthodox branches which often look only to the sacred scriptures for revelation and direction.

      Mystics believe these experiences of divine consciousness, enlightenment and union with God that are made possible via the mystical paths, are available to everyone who is willing to follow the practice. No one is denied or excluded from the practices or the experiences that result. While some mystic traditions may exclude the validity of other traditions, most tend to be more accepting than the non-mystical versions of their faiths. In general, mystics are more inclusionary and pluralistic.

 

AlchemicalStar-175

Alchemist's Star

   How are these mystical experiences classified? In general they can first be divided into dualistic, which maintains a distinction between the individual and the divine, often called Theist Mysticism, and non-dualistic, where the distinction is blurred or no distinction exists.

     These non-dualistic experiences can be further divided into those where there is a mystical consciousness of the unity of all reality superimposed upon a person’s perceptions of the world (i.e. when I, as a young boy, stood transfixed in the face of a gigantic thunderstorm as it and all of reality “passed through me” and became one).  This can be called Nature Mysticism and may be experienced in any moment of intense passion, creativity, or connectedness with other people and natural objects.  If the experience involves a “going inward” and the “falling away” of one’s identity to the point of “divine nothingness”, or bliss, this can be called Monist Mysticism.

  julian-holycard1   You might ask: is a person limited to just one form of mystical experience?  The answer is No!  I myself have experienced both Nature and Monist mystical experiences.  I have never experienced the divine as a deity or a spiritual presence.  My partner has experienced all three.

      Depending upon the religious tradition you are trying to conform to, these experiences may be embraced or looked upon with suspicion.  I believe no single type or combination is the true or desirable experience.  You cannot command mystical experiences to occur. However, you can maintain practices which increase their likelihood of occurrence.  You can pray, chant, dance, meditate, do yoga, or take nature walks to name only a few. A deep level of despair may visit a mystic who has lost this connection with the divine i.e. the Theist to whom God fails to speak, the Nature mystic who feels nothing at the feet of natural beauty, or the Monist who cannot penetrate  layers of ego and desire that block the way to the sacred core. It has been said that “Behind every addiction lies a search for the divine.”  False paths to the divine do exist but that’s a topic for another posting.

     Most people I know who have mystical experiences view them as profound gifts.  As with any special gift, one shouldn’t hoard it, but share it with others.  It may be shared when it inspires caring, loving behavior towards others, as inspiration for a poem or piece of artwork or the topic of a discussion.  There are many paths, many experiences that will take the seeking pilgrim to the mountain top, to a knowledge of and relationship with the divine.  Which path is “your path?”  There is no more important question in life!

     For more information the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy at www.plato.stanford.edu  contains a good academic discussion of the topic under mysticism.   In addition, a wonderful movie is available called A Still Small Voice, narrated by Bill Kurtis (of recent “I found the internet” fame) which includes presentations by people who have experienced all three forms of mysticism.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 21                                Consecutive Days Blogging: 22

Today’s Mileage: 11                                            Total Trip Mileage: 208 

stage5 

    I climbed on the bike today with a heavy heart. My oldest son is making choices that are sending his life down a destructive path.  As I work to grow, discover more about myself, and connect with the divine through my Pilgrimage Journey, he is “going over to the dark side!”  Whether it’s a family member, friend or student struggling with life’s demands, it is hard to watch. It is even harder to accept that there is little you can do for them. Sharing the struggle with others and carrying the individual in your thoughts and prayers can help. 

southwest florida by foto's van overal

Coast Prairie Trail west of Flamingo

 

In yesterday’s posting I noted that Jennifer Westwood described one of the components of the Longing to undertake a Pilgrimage journey as “the Prayer.” This prayer, which is carried by the pilgrim to the site, often takes the form of a request for assistance from the divine for themselves, for another person or some cause.

birds at flamingo by craig gaebel

Bird at Flamingo Florida

 

    Tomorrow I will post a Prayer page as part of this Blog It will be a place where we can identify those family and friends who are in need of our prayers.  I will carry these pilgrim prayers with me as I ride between pilgrimage sites.

 

high tide at flamango by danhester

At high tide near Flamingo

    As I spun the wheel and the miles slipped past I think of nature’s beauty as we travel through the Everglades National Park.  Some see the handiwork of the divine in this beauty and give praise for the many gifts that flow our way.  Other people stand in awe of the beauty and experience a mystical sense of oneness with the divine.

flamingo area by nationalparklover

Flamingo area with kite.

    I have included a number of pictures to highlight this natural beauty.  Seeing the shoreline, waterways and wildlife remind me of a walk I took along a local river and the blue heron that crossed my path. I wrote about our chance encounter.

The Heron

Like some exotic oriental kite

It hovers in the morning sky

I hold my breath

Holding onto the moment

 ****

Frozen

Standing majestically erect

Scanning the surroundings

It watches me

Not its prey

Like I was some enemy

 ****

Like These

It is moments like these

Standing shivering

   in the morning chill

The first rays of the morning sun

   Not yet clearing the horizon

Wafts of mist rising from

   roaring churning waters

That I feel

   most alive

 ****

Just the dance of life

One moment

    It stands frozen

        Like some garden ornament

The next

    It plunges its long neck       

        Into the swirling waters

Standing proud and erect

    It shifts its prey

        Lifts its head

            and the fish disappears

 ****

Departing

Lifting off

He turns skyward

As the morning sun

Creeps steadily across

The green river canopy

sunset north of flamingo by Dr. Rusty

Simple sunset north of Flamingo Florida

     I hope you enjoyed the photos and poems.  Have a wonderful and safe day!

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:  20                            Consecutive Days Blogging: 21

Today’s Mileage: 5                                           Total Trip Mileage: 197

stage5

On the road again... or at least on the map!

     You will notice that our map is back!  As I mentioned in yesterday’s Blog I had climbed on the bike for the last five days and just rode where the road took me.  By my calculations we travelled 60 miles and hit the “end of the road” at Lake Ingraham on the far western edge of the Everglades National Park!  So for the next several days we will have the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of nature in one of our National Parks as we ride back toward the populated East Coast of Florida.

east cape by roneway

Water flowing into the eastern gulf from the evergalades.

  What’s with the title of today’s Blog?  I have been collecting any material I can find on Pilgrimages, the location of sites and the process of the journey. For the next several days I want to share with you some of the thoughts of Jennifer Westwood who authored a book entitled: Sacred Journeys: An Illustrated Guide to Pilgrimages Around the World

     She describes various stages that a Pilgrim goes through in the process of a Pilgrimage Journey.  The first of these is termed: The Longing. I remember reading a newspaper account some years ago of the “Kumbha Mela,” a sacred pilgrimage in India that takes place once every twelve years, it was reported that over 90 Million people were expected to visit the sacred river Ganges within the seven day festival!  Westwood notes that for the massive numbers of individuals who undertake such journeys, and we find them in all faiths, are driven by an inborn yearning for an encounter with the divine.  She notes that “this yearning is compounded by the desire to reverence a deity in its own special place and the hope of persuading it to pay heed to individual prayer.”

     Westwood believes that “we are from the moment we are born to the moment we die, engaged in a search for meaning.  Pilgrimage to a special place, where the divine pierces through the mundane, holds out the promise of help and comfort in this world, and of a living encounter with deity.” So The Place or Site of the pilgrimage is important, but once again may represent a multitude of different experiences.  This place may exist in the natural world or only in the heart of the pilgrim; it may represent a place build for religious purposes (temple) or a place of natural beauty.  It may have a long history, or be a place known to few.  Westwood notes: “The place is part of the desire.”

american crocodile

Dangers off the path!

   Pilgrimages often dramatize our journeys through life. We often undertake them out of a sense of need for something we have lost or seek to achieve. Westwood calls this The Prayer, and notes “there is seemingly no limit to the range of desires of the human heart laid bare before deity.” These include a desire for health, for wealth, for protection from harm, for guidance, and to forgive their sins.  Sometimes a pilgrim’s prayers evoke empathy in others, while some present us with paradoxical conflict.  Like the narcotraficantes of Mexico who are generous at their shrine asking for blessings of their cocaine harvest and bullets!

     Westwood notes that “many seekers see their attempt to find an ideal to live by (something to give their life meaning) in terms of a Journey.”  Some join the pilgrimages of the world religions to experience community, a spiritual solidarity.  Others devise their own sacred journeys, including journeys of remembrance (to distant graves of loved ones).  Anthropologist Alan Morinis wrote that the term “pilgrimage” can be put to use “wherever journeying and some embodiment of the ideal intersect!” This means that all of the diverse strands of pilgrimage displayed around the world and throughout time give us something to work with when seeking for the focus and intent of our own journey.  I will leave you today with the closing paragraph from Westwood’s section on longing”

 “Essentially all pilgrims are seeking to access, by way of a significant site, a spiritual reservoir charged in the past and constantly refilled.  For the pilgrim not only takes but gives, drawing spiritual sustenance and at the same time by an act of faith in the place of pilgrimage replenishing the never-failing spring.  To be a pilgrim is not to perform an individual act of devotion, but to engage in humankind’s dialogue with the divine: not in time, but eternity.”

 
 

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

beach sunset by jsowers

Gift at the end of the day!

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