Posted in faith, inner peace, Life, meditation, Musings, People, spirituality

Redefining Holy

Holy

Holy: adjective; Exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness or righteousness.

When I think of the word holy, I can’t help but think of churches. Churches and bibles and the feeling of a big, scary God that I neither long for nor understand. A punishing God with rules I can’t reconcile, who speaks in a language that must be explained to me by someone deemed more worthy. The book they say he left for us is one of the only ones I have picked up countless times, only to put it right back down again. The God I think of when I first hear the word “holy” is a God that leaves me empty and cold. This is a God made by men, in their image, a God of religion, control, fear, money. A God corrupt.

There is another God for me, and he has been with me all my life. I say “he” only because that is how I’ve always thought to call him, but it’s meaningless. The God I know is neither female nor male, he has no face that I have ever seen. This God has filled me with comfort in moments of great despair. He carried me through the battles I fought against myself for all those years. He never left me, never turned his back. If ever he was out of reach, it was because I was closed off, because I had pulled away.

Most of September and some of October were hard for me. Looking back, I see that it was me who caused the shift. I stopped my morning ritual of prayer, I stopped meditating. I got caught up in other things- new relationships, vanity, concentrating on the way things look and not the way things feel. I held steady for a while, coasting on the fumes of all the months of work that I’d put in before. But soon enough, I was empty. Nothing left to give, aimless and unhappy.

I’ve come back down to earth again. Sat on my cushion, day after day, lighting the candles and saying my prayers until the words stopped sounding forced, until I felt like I was being heard again. Eventually, the conversation seemed to flow both ways, although it was only I who spoke. My God speaks directly to my spirit. I may not hear him, but the message gets through, loud and clear. Meditation stopped feeling like a task to be accomplished and became, once more, a slow fall into peace. I often sit long after the bell sounds, reluctant to let go of the soft ebb and flow of my breath.

And just like that, all the things began to fall into place. The pace of my world slowed, leaving time to linger over sunsets, time to gaze at the sky and the moon. Just like that, peace returned and I felt like myself again.

I think I will change what I think of as holy. There is nothing more holy to me than the sacred hours before sunrise, as I light my candles and sit on my cushion, in communion with the God I know. The God who loves me just as I am, no matter who that might be today. The God who reminds me that it is not he who must forgive me, but I who must forgive myself. My God does not recognize sin, does not judge my mistakes, does not leave anyone out. The God I know asks me to be gentle with myself when I have been hard on others, helps me to soften my edges, reminds me who I am- no worse and no better than anyone else.

When I think of what is holy now, I will think of the orange sky and the blazing yellow sun as it sinks into the blue-black sea. I will think of the cold, salty air on my skin and the sight of my daughter picking her way across the rocks back to me. I will think of leaving the sunset behind me and turning a bend in the road to find an impossibly perfect moon hanging before me in the sky. Holy is the warm light of the lamp in my dark living room, the scent of incense, the alter on my shelf of stones and feathers, sage and shells. Above all else, holy is the depth of the peace in my heart as I write this, the certainty that I have returned to myself.

Posted in books, Goals, Life, People, random, reading, writing

Meeting Anne Lamott

So, Friday was a day that will live in infamy for a long, long time- if not forever. I tried very hard not to know too much about what happened in Newtown on Friday, I tried very hard not to over educate myself just yet, because I was headed up to San Mateo to hear my favorite writer in the whole wide world speak, and I didn’t want to ruin it. Fat chance. I got stuck in traffic somewhere between San Jose and my destination, and I couldn’t resist the pull of the radio while moving four feet every hour. So, I sat in traffic, and I cried, and I worried that Anne would cancel her speaking engagement due to depression or something.

She didn’t. But let me back up a little and tell you that, up until I was in my car and driving, I really didn’t think I would go. It seemed ludicrous to me that something I felt was so incredibly wonderful was even marginally probable as an occurrence in my own little life. I left so early, and I brought my laptop, just in case, and I checked fourteen times to make sure I had my ticket, and I worried like crazy when I couldn’t remember where my glasses were (they had fallen between the bed and my nightstand) and when it started to rain as I drove over the windy and dangerous highway 17. I was pretty sure that at any moment, something big and theatrical would happen, preventing me from realizing this small but important dream of mine.

Instead, what happened was that I got there pretty much before anyone else, except for the people who were actually paid to be there. I stashed my belongings on a seat in the second row, center, used the bathroom, purchased my book and then perched in a chair in the book signing area for a really, really long time, waiting for her to arrive (she was a little late, but I was super early, so it was fifty-fifty, fault wise). I felt a little weird because I was alone, but when I thought about it, I really don’t have one friend to speak of that I could have brought along- at least no one who had read her books and adored her the way that I do. Maybe my mom, but she lives far away. Anyway, I’m glad I went alone, because now it is 100% my experience, made possible by me, carried out by me, a gift from me to me. I am one of those people who will, if other people are around, surrender all control to them- not because I am a follower, but because I am lazy as hell, so I end up feeling like without them, none of it would have been possible. So, I was alone, and I did a lot of observing, listening, small talk with people I didn’t know and will probably never see again.

It was already a wonderful night before she even arrived. The people around me were mostly older, mostly women, lots of them in recovery, many Christians, intellectuals, thinkers…different, at least for me. The best part of all was that I felt completely at home. I called my mom afterwards and told her “These people were exactly like me.” But I think what is more true is that these people are exactly who I want to become. Who I feel my best self would be, given a little prodding.

So, Ms. Lamott came right in the front door, with no body guards or anything. I mean, I didn’t really expect body guards, but I really thought she’d at least come in the back door, like the celebrity she is in my mind. No doubt, in that room, she was a celebrity of the highest caliber, so when she walked right by me in her jeans and sweater, I felt my eyes get big and she looked right at me, and I said something incredibly clever, like “Wow. That’s HER.”

I stood in line, and had my book signed, then stood in line again, and had my picture taken with her, and by the time I got to her the second time, I could tell the signing was becoming a bit of a strain- her smile was a little less smiley, and she seemed to want to get this whole thing over with. I can’t say I blame her- the line was just going on and on and on, and everyone wanted to say something to her or give her their card and talk about the book THEY were writing (which, I will have you know, I did not do, I just told her how excited I was to meet her and what an honor it was).

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But when she got up in front of the room to talk, I knew that my adoration for her was well, well deserved. She must be the most calm, most thoughtful, most devoted human being I have ever been lucky enough to be in the┬ápresence of. She speaks more beautifully, maybe, than she even writes, which just floored me- for me, it takes so much quiet and so much thought and so much privacy to access that part of myself that allows me to be beautiful on paper. Even now, I am ready to strangle my daughter who will not shut up while she is making Ramen here, in the kitchen, though I have asked, demanded and howled at her to zip it. I feel like it will ruin my day if she doesn’t stop chattering.

Anne Lamott radiated a sort of peace that made you think even a troupe of tap dancing gorillas could not ruffle her, if she was writing. I can’t finish a blog that ten people will read because my teenager is making ramen in the room beside me. I don’t know, guys…I have a long, long way to go. But I keep thinking that I am on my way there, every time I do something like this, meet an author that I adore and hear her speak, attend a writing event in San Francisco that blows my mind…even putting it all out here for the world (all ten of you) to see, just to keep the machine in working order. I am on my way. A gift from me, to me.