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Buddy, Answered Prayer

Affirmation: I believe in answered prayer.

 

iStock_000001272766Small-2Buddy was a Brittany, not a Brittany Spaniel which is a common mistake because the breed looks like a Spaniel, somewhere between a Cocker and a King Charles. They are, however, their own special breed and special was Buddy. He was orange and white and as far as we were concerned he was the most beautiful dog ever, inside and out.

I was searching for a new dog. We’d had dogs most of our lives and at the time we only had Misty, our cat that had adopted us a few years earlier. She was only allowed in the garage because the children were allergic to cats. That lasted about month and now she ruled the entire house whether people were sneezing or not.

This time I was determined to get a dog that was appropriate for our family. We hadn’t always been successful with our adoptions. Ralph was a prime example. He was a hyper Dalmatian who consumed a picnic table, did several thousand dollar’s worth of damage to one of our cars when he wanted to get in and play with the children and sprayed all the furniture to insure that his territory was marked. After a year or so we were able to find a farmer that wanted to care for him. It had been a very trying experience. He wasn’t the only dog we had issues with and I was very hesitant to take on another pet with which I would fail. I am not the best “dog person.” I might as well admit it. I am not a Caesar Milano, the dog whisperer. I’m not sure I have a single gene that enables me to respond appropriately to a dog’s deepest desires. I’m a good caregiver, please understand. I feed, shelter, offer warm cozy beds and long walks and good medial care. I even undergo lots of training sessions but I can’t seem to hear their inner most concerns. It didn’t matter with Buddy. Perhaps one of the reasons we did better with him was because he came to us at eleven months of age and was already somewhat trained or maybe it was because I had asked God whether or not to adopt him and God had sent a very clear message.

IMG_0005-2When I “found” Buddy I had gone and sat quietly to pray about adopting him. I don’t know what I expected but I’d read a lot about praying for specific answers and I was desperate. I didn’t want to disappoint another animal with my inability to create a livable space for it and for the family. I was afraid. So, I went and sat. I prayed, “God what should I do? Should I allow this animal to come into our home?” and then I waited. I was prepared to wait for as long as it took. It wasn’t more than a couple of breaths when I “heard,” “It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.” I was stunned but there it was, my answer. I stood up, called the breeder and a week later Buddy was being delivered to us by the New Jersey breeders who “happened” to be driving to their new home here in North Carolina. It was destiny. I’m here to tell you, God was right. I had my struggles but it was really really worth it. Buddy lived with us for fourteen years and he was the best dog ever. He’s been gone now for six years but we still have his ashes and his photo in our bedroom! I’m crying as I write this. I know many of you completely understand.

My friend, Mary Ann Scope, recently put down her English Bulldog and long time friend. That’s what prompted this story. She said she cried for days, she’s probably still crying, like me. My other friend, Tracie Barton-Barrett is in the process of writing a book about grieving for our pets. It’s a reality, isn’t it? There are so many life lessons we experience through them. The most important lesson being that of unconditional love. I have one photo of Buddy where he had gathered all of my sneakers. He had a “soft mouth” because he was a bird dog. He dropped them all around his bed and then snuggled in for a nap.

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My husband, Sandy, loves to tell the story about when I was gone for six weeks doing my yoga training at Kripalu. Buddy waited outside the back door, in the garage, every day until I finally returned, He had slept with Sandy every night in our bed until the night I came home when he wouldn’t come up even when called. He was just fine going back to his own bed next to ours. I was home and he was good again. Amazing!

Sandy shared his tiny family home with a dog named Missy. She was a Doberman they found in their back yard. She was very protective of that family! When he went to see his father’s office, he was struck by the fact that the only picture Joe had on his desk was of the dog. He asked where the other family photos were and his father told him, “Missy is the only one that runs to the door to greet me when I come home.” There it is again, unconditional love, total devotion; all the qualities we wished we and our loved one’s emulated.

Koko-Red-Dog-Kelpie-Australian-movie-poster-famous-dogs-film-canine-cinema-star-girl-guy-motorbike-desert-2011-2There have been hundreds of doggie movies about their journeys around the globe in an effort to return to their owners. One we recently watched is Red Dog, an Australian film about a dog and his deceased owner. It’s a great example of how much they love us and affirm us regardless of who we are or how dumb we are.

My adult daughter, Melissa and my grand-daughter, Isabelle, volunteer at the Wake County SPCA. They are “dog people.” They always have at least two dogs in their home. Recently, they brought home Gibson, a six weeks old mixed breed. What joy! Gibson discovered a pin cushion on the top of the dining room table. He didn’t eat it, but he did eat the thirteen pins and one needle. Their rescue dog needed several thousand dollars of surgery. They were saving for a new roof but their priorities were with this new guy who has brought smiles and giggles and once again, the unconditional love of a pet.

We are presently “pet free,” but I am beginning to open my heart and mind to maybe adopting another dog, maybe! I haven’t found one yet who is asking to come here. Once again, however, if one does come a knocking, I plan to sit with God and find out what the message is for us. It won’t surprise me at all if once again I am told, “it won’t be easy but it’ll be worth it.”

 

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Lenten Hopes & Prayers

Affirmation: I let go of resentment.

 

9781561708758_p0_v1_s260x420-2Wayne Dyer in his Ten Secrets of Happiness tells his readers that one of the secrets is to affirm, “There are no justified resentments.” That means we are called on to forgive every action that has bothered us, intentionally or unintentionally. How are you at doing that? Have you ever thought you were “over” something and then it reared its angry head when you least expected it? For me, I can nurse an injury to death! It can be years after the perceived hurt has occurred and the name of the offender will cause me to sit up straight and grimace and re-live, perhaps even re-tell, the horrible act committed. Boy! That will show that person. I will be justified and they will suffer because of my anger and my indignation. The truth, however, is there is only one person suffering, it is I and I have created it myself.

I was discussing with a friend that several of her dear friends had not reached out to her and her husband after he had undergone surgery. She was angry. I understood. When I was treated for breast cancer, some of the people with whom I was closest never sent a note or picked up the phone. Hundreds (and I am not exaggerating) of people reached out with such caring and generosity. It was healing and affirming but every now and then, I’d wonder about those few people who hadn’t taken the time to even send me an email. When I thought of them, I’d feel resentment. I wondered why I would chose to focus on those that appeared to ignore me and not the amazing people who showed such love and care? Why is that?

lent-purple-2We are presently in the season of Lent. I love Lent. I’ve felt this way for many years. It’s a time of quiet. It’s a time for additional reflection, a time to really focus on what is important to me in my relationship with God and others. It’s a time for me to develop a new good habit or two. It’s a time of hope. It is the dormant time before the rise of the flowers and blossoming of the trees. It’s that time when I wait with joyful anticipation Spring and the resurrection of Christ. It’s a time when my heart feels full with what is to come.

Lent has taken on a very different meaning for me over the years. As a child we would be encouraged to give up some favorite food and also to fill a small paper box with coins for the hungry children of a far off country. I’m sure I tried to honor the requests. I’m sure I didn’t do too well at it either. Then, as a young adult I rebelled. I decided all those rules and regulations were silly. What purpose did it serve to give up anything and how much of a difference did my small contribution make to the poor and destitute of the world? The thing that helped me recognize the wisdom of my church’s traditions was staying connected to my church. This is my home and one of the many gifts has been learning to honor our Lenten tradition.

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I’ve taken two intentions for this 2015 Lent. The first is to dedicate each day to one person. Their name goes on the top of my journal page and I write a small prayer for them. If it seems appropriate, I send it to them. I tell them that on this nth day of Lent I am lifting them up in prayer for the entire day. I tell them how they have blessed my life and how much I treasure their friendship and I end with wishes for a day filled with love, peace and joy and many times, improved health. I sit, first thing in the morning to see who comes to mind and I make that my person for the day. Today, someone “appeared” with whom I’ve had quite a bit of struggle. I didn’t want to offer up my day for that person. I don’t really want to think about that person at all, no less keep her on my thoughts for an entire day. I felt myself retreat from the idea and see for whom else I might pray. Certainly, many other people deserved prayer more than the person I resent.

41Mnaika3aL__SL500_AA300_-2The February 24th reading in Spiritual Insights for Daily Living begins with a quote from the Mayo Clinic; “Three-fourths of our patients are passing on the sickness of their minds and their souls to their bodies.” It goes on to say, Be careful of the beliefs you hold and the thoughts you repeatedly think. In Proverbs (6:27) the writer asks, “Can a man take fire unto his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?” More specially, we can ask: can a man (or anyone) take fears, doubts, hated, resentments, worries into his mind, and his body be unaffected?

The Buddhist saying is, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” The teacher appeared in my reading and Jesus told us, “Forgive.” How many times? “Seventy times seven.” Mathew (18:21) At a recent Pink Ribbon Yoga Committee planning meeting, Nancy Hannah, one of our dedicated gifted yoga teachers had us take the pain and suffering of others, surround it with love and then breathe it transformed back out into the universe. I’ve been struggling with the suffering of our world. This year’s news of twenty-one Coptic Christians being beheaded, people being put in cages and burned to death and the stories of the girls and women being kidnaped and abused has left me feeling weary and sad and powerless. What can I do to help the world?

ScreenShot2015-02-24at1.25.59PMIn the USA today on February 23rd of this year they had a marvelous story of a women, Nareen Shammo, who gave up her job as a reporter and has tirelessly worked towards the freedom, the salvation of any woman being held hostage. She’s succeeding one woman at a time. I don’t feel I have that kind of power but perhaps here on this page as I share my concerns, I can encourage and enlist those 30,000 plus people who have opened this site to join me in praying for them, praying for an end to war and hatred and religious intolerance. Use a rote prayer, make up a prayer, breathe prayerful energy into this world but do something!

The second intention I’ve adopted for Lent is, “I let go of resentment.” It means I have to dig deep within and forgive those I have struggled with. It means I must pray for not only those I comfortably hold in my heart but for those I don’t want to embrace. It means I have to pray for my enemies and even the terrorists. Perhaps, through the power of prayer, a heart will soften; maybe many hearts and the torture and abuse of the innocents of our world will decease. It all begins with me. It all begins with you. We must be the, “change I wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi.

 

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Expanding Your Gaze

Affirmation: I choose peace and love.

 

Jean2-2Have you heard of Yogaville? It is a yoga ashram located on 750 acres in Virginia. It was founded by Swami Satchidananda. The shrine, called the LOTUS was opened in 1986. It’s an acronym that stands for Light Of Truth Universal Shrine. I was looking for something to do with my granddaughter, Isabelle (age 17), for my birthday because my husband, Sandy, had told me he would be traveling at that time. Isabelle and I had been practicing yoga together for a while before this and I thought it would be a great adventure for us to share. It turned out to be only a three-hour drive from our home. I signed us up for a course called “Healthy Relationships in Yoga & The Path of Heart.”

God bless my granddaughter. What a light she is and what a good sport! The diet was strictly vegan and we were quite challenged to find something on which to focus other than kale and tofu. Also, she was the youngest by about ten years. Her youthful spirit and presence alone brought joy and smiles to everyone we encountered. We laughed, we ate weird food, we met new interesting people and most importantly we created some wonderful memories.

Jean3One of the first things we were told when we arrived was not to miss seeing the shrine. We were in the middle of nowhere and I envisioned a small concrete or wooden structure with maybe a Hindu deity in the middle. The next morning we headed out to walk about a mile through the woods to take photos and see what there was to see. We reached a road and followed it up a hill and then from out of the valley below rose a giant pink and blue lotus shaped building. It was, I guessed, as large as the White House in DC but it wasn’t white. We were stunned. It’s one of a huge complex consisting of three buildings that started at the top of the mountain and ended down in the valley. What would we find inside?

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On Tuesday, February 2nd, 2015 Kate Cook was the yoga teacher at Fire Fly Hot Yoga here in Cary, NC. She leads an hour and a half Intensive Slow Flow class. She’s one of the best Yoginis with whom I have ever studied. She is so precise in her language and she always brings a lesson with her to deepen our practice. This last week she instructed us to gaze on the ball of energy we created when we cupped our hands and placed them in front of us. As we breathed in our hands moved together, as we breathed out, they expanded. Then as we were doing our balance poses, she encouraged us to “change our gaze.”

Normally, when one is balancing the instruction is to focus on one point. In Yoga it’s called a “drishti.” Kate reminded us that our mat practice is a metaphor for our life practice. What we learn on our mats, we have the opportunity to take with us out into the world. As far as I’m concerned developing balance is one of the most important qualities we can cultivate for ourselves. I do like to remind myself, however, that as one yoga teacher said, “There is no balance, there is only balancing.” We are either coming into balance or falling out. I know this is true for me. As I stood there on one leg with my fingers wrapped around my big toe and my lifted leg straight out to one side, my drishti was on some unmovable object in front of me. Trying to stay upright and trying to remember to breathe, Kate then suggested we “change our gaze” and look in one direction and then the other. I fell over and I tried again and I fell over and again. I lost my balance. Without a focus I couldn’t stay steady with a focus I couldn’t see the rest of the space. Which is better? I decided neither. Sometimes one is needed and other times, a grater perspective is essential.

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It’s good to be focused. It helps me accomplish the tasks I set before myself but when it’s limits my perspective on life, it shrinks my world into a smaller box and I need to get smaller to fit into it. I don’t want to be small. At five feet tall, I’m small enough. I want to take a big giant breath and expand my world to include all sorts of people, places and ideas. Then I have to decide what to allow to stay with me and of what I want to let go. What is “of God” and what is not. What will enhance my life and what will diminish it? It’s a mediation, don’t you think? We are faced with this choice day in and day out. Sometimes it’s about food. Sometimes it’s about activities. It can be about people and most certainly it’s about our ideas, our beliefs, our concepts.

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The shrine in Yogaville is dedicated to all religions in the world, those that are well known and those that are yet to come. There are twelve altars in the lower level with reminders of Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, the Moslem faith and eight others. It was respectful and well presented. It was a home for all, even the atheist. My initial reaction was small minded but I prefer to be an inclusive person and Kate’s recently taken yoga class helped me respond in a more open, accepting, non-judgmental mode.

93df774313ec5583c878fb90c91ea8f8-2I’m reading Pope Francis’ encyclical, “The Joy of the Gospel.” He too talks about accepting all faiths, not judging, even accepting the non-believers. Peace. I believe this is Peace. I know we are instructed to “spread the good news.” We are actually commanded to do so. The best way I know to do that is to try to always be a kind and compassionate person but when someone tells you they are right and you are “so very wrong,” what is your reaction? It’s not normally a peaceful one, is it? The course Isabelle and I took was led by two of the founders of Yogaville, Jeevakan & Priya Abbate. They were kind, gentle, compassionate people. I could see why so many are attracted to this place. It radiated peace and acceptance. One of the lessons was around the concept that, “We can be right or we can have peace.” I’ve also heard it phrased, “We can be right or we can love.” This is the difference between having a focus and seeing the broader picture.

I’m a Christian. I’m a Catholic. Here I sit with a focus on Christ but for me, God is everywhere. God is everything. I am not here to limit God’s unfathomable power. Yogaville was a good place for me to share an adventure with Isabelle. It was a great birthday weekend. I was outside of my comfort zone. I had to broaden my horizons and see God in all things, even within a giant pink and blue concrete flower rising out of the Virginia valley.

Transforming Suffering

Affirmation: I choose to find the blessings that arise from my suffering.

 

2015-Predictions-World-War-3-Fears-Tick-The-Doomsday-Clock-Close-To-The-End-Of-The-World-665x385-2The newspaper article explained that the Doomsday Clock has been moved forward to two minutes before midnight. It is closer now to the bewitching hour than it has ever been since the end of World War II and the creation of the atomic bomb. The Doomsday Clock is an internationally recognized design that conveys how close we are to destroying our civilization with dangerous technologies of our own making. First and foremost among these are nuclear weapons, but the dangers include climate-changing technologies, emerging biotechnologies, and cyber technology that could inflict irrevocable harm, whether by intention, miscalculation, or by accident, to our way of life and to the planet. (http://thebulletin.org/overview#sthash.KlhM9quB.dpuf.)

I wasn’t surprised. The world as we know it will end. I’ve seen all of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator movies and the ones about the meteors and the aliens. How about a worldwide virus or the bird flu? Hollywood and fiction writers have been predicting our demise since its inception. How about the Walking Dead or the movies about the Rapture? Yes, the destruction of our lives as we know them can happen in many different ways and any day now. If the world doesn’t blow up, it’s also true that our own personal world may implode or explode.

BePrepared-2Recently the magazine Cincinnati had an article about being prepared for the challenges of life, especially as we age or as our loved ones age. It was about being aware and taking steps to bolster our resources. As you probably know if you read this blog I am the ultimate Girl Scout. “Be prepared” is their motto. I am the queen of preparation and while it’s true I see the changes taking place in my life and the lives of my family and friends, I don’t want to walk around always waiting for the “other shoe to drop.” It is so very easy to await the next mishap or disaster. It’s so easy to allow my mind and imagination to go to the difficulties that might arise, to enter into “the cave of phantoms.” So, I’m working on finding a balance between being overly prepared and letting go of the probability of pain and suffering.

The word “transform” keeps showing up as I search for an answer to this question. The first time it appeared was in Richard Rohr’s, The Art of Letting Go. He talked about developing the ability to transform our suffering because everyone does suffer and the longer one lives the more suffering one will experience. Oh my! Therefore, you need to find a way to transform it or it will transform you into a sad, mean, worn out human. The second time the word appeared was in Father Ryan’s sermon at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church. He used it to describe what happens to someone who finds themselves connected to the Divine, either through prayer or when they receive the Sacraments.

TheArtofLettingGoThe secular approach to pain and suffering is to simply be the obverse of whatever is, not to judge it, not to get caught up in the dualistic mind of good or bad, right or wrong, black or white. It’s one of life’s simple concepts that is without a doubt one of life’s most difficult to practice, impossible to master. The Christian faith, however, takes the simply observing concept to a whole other level. That which we judge as pain and suffering, if laid at the foot of the Cross or placed in the arms of The Christ is transformed into blessings beyond our wildest imaginings. The naked, tortured body of God, nailed to wooden beams over two thousand years ago was the ultimate gift. His message was not clear as he was going thorough His persecution. Once He had given up His spirit, however, this poor, itinerant, misunderstood preacher turned our civilization inside out and upside down.

Station-12-Jesus-Dies-Upon-the-Cross-2Many can’t and don’t fully appreciate how he changed the value of human life and dignity. If we lived in some of the third world, repressed regimes today we might better appreciate the impact of Christ’s teachings. He came to teach us that no matter what happens to us it is all redeemable and we get to choose how we perceive our lives. We can see ourselves as victims or as victors. His message was that we are all children of the Divine and we are loved. Our afflictions are not punishments.

I once heard someone say, “Suffering is one of our common denominators.” We all suffer. Some suffer more than others, of that I have no doubt. It doesn’t take too much awareness to know of the horrors that have taken place or are taking place in our world today. Once we head out into the world figuratively or in reality and listen to the ailments with which so many of our fellow humans are dealing, we are faced with story after story of sadness and challenge. If one has not developed the ability to simply be an observer of one’s suffering, how is it to be transformed?

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I don’t know. I want to place an answer here for everyone who is suffering and I know there are the wise, learned people out there who might be able to do that but I’ve decided I am not one of them. In bringing this topic to several of my friends and guides the only “answer” that has presented itself is for me to look at how I personally can and do transform my pain and suffering. What has worked for me in the past? How will that work for me in the future?

My personality lends itself to looking at the bright side of most situations. It can be quite obnoxious for others but it sure has helped me get through some really tough experiences. I’ve studied what is recommended to help one deal with life altering challenges and have taken note of those skills, which I believe will strengthen me when I am again faced with those issues. Simply writing that last sentence out gives me a sense of strength and hope. Hope. I carry hope in my heart. I believe, truly believe that every event I label “daunting or miserable” I will eventually see as a blessing. I believe each challenge no matter how sad it makes me is an opportunity for something amazing. I know on my own, I may not be able to transform all the difficult happenings in my life into something wonderful. There will be many times I need the support of my family and friends. Let them come! I accept. And I know I will also need my faith.

What has worked for me has been to trust God, not that nothing difficult or unpleasant will happen to me but that I will be able to transform what happens to me into something that will give glory to God, or at least peace to myself. Even if I’m faced with the end of the world, I am hopeful that with my trust in Christ, His Blessed Mother and all my Angels and guides that whatever comes my way, I will be that person who sees the good, who rises to the high ground and if I can’t, I am trusting that someone will come along who will help me overcome my grief or my despair.

How have you dealt with your pain and suffering? Have you developed a philosophy that will support you in the future? What can you do today to “be prepared” for the adversities that life will surely present to you? Be a light for others. Share your coping mechanisms. Perhaps one of your pearls of wisdom will be exactly what someone needs to help them turn their suffering into a blessing.

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