Sunday, May 27, 2007

Do you want your rib back?

I'm nursing the remnants of last night with an iced tea and blogs...
So rather than lying on the floor quietly letting my brain wander and avoiding bright lights I am going to inflict upon you something that has been rattling around inside my head this morning.

We were not meant to be alone.

Call me co-dependent if you must, but I've been seriously contemplating the idea of companionship and the role it plays in our lives lately. I'm no expert, but it seems to me that humans are naturally social creatures, that we constantly form relationships and seek out familiarity in the people around us. So it makes sense that we partner ourselves off and establish families; we perpetuate the cycle.

But why do we do it? What do we hope to gain out of those relationships?
Is it love and understanding? Are we simply afraid to face the world alone?
Or is it something as simple and biological as sex and procreation and we justify it by calling it love?

And why is it that I ask questions I can't answer? Haha...

I hate post-modernism. I want a meta-narrative, something that tells the whole story for everyone. Hell I'd take positivism- This is the way it is, end of story. Here's the formula for finding the perfect partner and these are the desired results. Because right now I feel like I'm crawling around in the dark without my contacts in.

I wish I could just hand it all over to a higher power. I wish I could honestly believe that I have nothing to do with who I wind up with; that my prince charming has been hand-picked and will be arriving at my door according to God's timing.

But I am SO TIRED of taking a back-seat in my relationships.
I want to do what I want.
I want to be with who I want to be with...not just the guy who wants me.
I'm breaking a bad habit I've had for oh... 8 years now and I'm okay with that.

I think the one of the biggest problems in friendships and other relationships is that we think we know what's best for the other person. We think we understand what they want and need.

But what if what people really want and need is for us to support them in their own decisions? To not take sides or judge, but simply let them be their own people.

This is meandering to far from the original point I didn't have...oh well.

I'm going to go sit outside and find the truth beyond Kevin's "Fight, Flight or Fuck Theory".
There has to be more than this.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

My Own Personal Zen Waterfall...

(It's beyond just have to experience it for yourself. Gabriel knows what I'm talking about. :-))

I'm here.
I'm settled in but far from settled.
The parents are gone, Gabriel is gone...
I'm alone but far from alone.

My thoughts are keeping me company (read: beating me up) and there are plenty of things around here to distract me.

But I just want to sit and let the world turn without me for a little while.
I just want to breathe and find someplace deep down inside me that believes everything will be okay.

I have to get comfortable with not knowing.
I have to get comfortable with me.

But now more than ever I need a little reassurance.
Which is where you come in.
Thank you.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Stream of Conciousness at the Dentist

(As close to the actual thought process that went on in my head during my dentist appointment today as written word can get...)

If I can be mindful here, I can be mindful anywhere.

Deep breath. Pain is just a reminder I'm alive. I won't find my cave...I won't slip away...I'm here...

OH MY GOODNESS IS THAT BLOOD?? I'm bleeding all over her gloves!

Breathe. Blood is just a part of being human. I'm human, I'm connected to all those humans around me. Life is good and we are all just....Drool.

I just drooled all over myself thanks to her poor skills with the sucker. It's okay she's only human. I am she as she is me as you are me and we are all...Drool. One more time and I'm going to spit on her. She should be glad I don't have rabies.

I can feel my heart beating in my mouth. Just breathe and listen to the sound of my heart beat reminding me what a miracle it is that every day I wake up and breathe and....Drool.

Sometimes mindfulness is over-rated.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Spiritual Autobiography- Final Entry

I think this is where I will end this series. This isn't where it actually ends, but hopefully I've set the stage a little bit. I move to Lawrence on Friday...a bit scary and a bit exciting all at the same time. I'm just trying to take it all in stride.

I look forward to posting on here and hopefully joining in on conversations established on other blogs. Feel free to comment, let me know what you think! This should be fun. :-)

Track 13: Here Comes the Sun

Little darlin' it's been a long cold lonely winter
Little darlin' it feels like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it's all right

Little darlin' the smiles returning to their faces
Little darlin' it seems like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it's all right Sun, sun, sun, here it comes
“Here Comes The Sun”- George Harrison

Oh George Harrison, you speak to my soul. This song helped get me through my crisis, as it gave me hope and a realization that I wasn’t alone. It took some major soul searching and love from friends and family, but I realized how desperately I just wanted to be myself. I didn’t want to have to see the world in black and white, I didn’t want to choose one religious tradition over the other, I want to do things that re-affirm how I feel about the world and my role in it.
So where am I now? Good question. I suppose I have to answer it as that’s the whole purpose of doing this autobiography. The best answer I can give is this-

I am ready.

I’m ready to dive into graduate school, to learn more and explore as much as I can. I’m ready to live on my own, to think for myself and to not have to live up to anyone’s expectations but my own. I’m not ready to walk away from Christianity completely, as it is a major part of my roots, but I am ready to dialogue with people and with the religion itself. I’m ready to have discipline and really focus on myself spiritually. Throughout this time in my life, I’ve been growing into myself. I am ready.

Doesn't my face just scream "I'm ready for the real world?" ;-)
Shh...don't say it.

(Gabriel- I promise I didn't forget the last part. Hey Jude will always be yours and mine, thanks for guiding your Jules through this mess. You are wonderful.)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Spiritual Autobiography- Drury pt. 2

So if you couldn't tell, I've been avoiding this entry...
Well not completely, I had to move out and graduate and that took a little bit of time. It's hard to make yourself blog or even get online when you realize just how short your time with the people around you is. So now that I'm isolated in Tulsa, I've got nothing better to do!

This isn't the original version I included in the assigned spiritual autobiography I turned in. That version was sanitized, not here's to being vulnerable online, to opening myself up to strangers and those of you who will never comment. ;-)


Track 11: I’m So Tired

You'd say I'm putting you on
But it's no joke, it's doing me harm
You know I can't sleep, I can't stop my brain
You know it's three weeks, I'm going insane
You know I'd give you everything I've got for a little peace of mind
“I’m So Tired” –John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Just like with a sport, religion and spirituality take practice and discipline. When you fall out of practice, the results are often painful. I started my senior year by tacking up my “om” tapestry and hanging my Tibetan landscape picture up on the wall. I resolved myself to practicing yoga and meditation and having an awesome year. But you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men…

The frustration started early with my classes. Going from 300-level classes to a 101 Introduction to Religion class was more than just a little difficult. I found myself struggling with individuals in the class, wishing people would be more open-minded, and a little dismayed about my future as a teacher because these would be the types of people I would be teaching later. Ancient Greek philosophy gave me insight to the history of world-views, but we spent more time tearing ideas apart than building or salvaging what we could. Perhaps we were just bitter upperclassmen. The Spiritual Life allowed me a little bit of exploration of various other faiths, but I found myself so tired and stressed that it was hard to find joy.

Filling out graduate school applications at the end of first semester proved to be a challenge. How could I write personal statements when I had lost a sense of who I was? I was somewhere between Christian and Buddhist, somewhere between making everyone else happy and being myself, and having to write what I knew the schools wanted to hear. Little did I know, but I was experiencing the beginnings of an existential crisis.

Track 12: Help!

When I was younger, so much younger than today,
I never needed anybody's help in any way.
But now these days are gone, I'm not so self assured,
Now I find I've changed my mind and opened up the doors.
Help me if you can, I'm feeling down And I do appreciate you being round.
Help me, get my feet back on the ground,
Won't you please, please help me.
“Help!” John Lennon and Paul McCartney

I ended the first semester and headed home for winter break absolutely exhausted. My busy schedule afforded me little rest though, and before I knew it I was off to New Orleans with a group of students and professors to do Katrina relief work. The devastation I witnessed and the realization of how small the impact of our work was in the grand scheme of things threw me back to that time of guilt and frustration in high school. It was almost overwhelming. My stress level soared through the roof.

While I’m glad I went on the trip, and I’m sure the people we worked for were grateful for what we did, I was reminded of a valuable lesson from The Way of the Bodhisattva. You can’t help others if you haven’t first helped yourself. There must be an inner peace and calm within you before you can bring it to others. I worked on that trip the way I did in high school- stretching myself to the breaking point and not taking time to just breathe. Needless to say I started my final semester off feeling more than a little drained.

Senior Seminar was an interesting experience for me. While I know the word “interesting” doesn’t even begin to do the class justice, it’s the best I have right now. I enjoyed The Little Prince, and tolerated Walden, but I almost didn’t make it through Camus. Reading The Fall was like he had opened up my brain, put words to my worst imaginable fears and realizations and then left me on the edge of the bridge myself. I realized just how much I had been acting for other people. And while my actions were outwardly good, inwardly there was a struggle which had been started long ago.

At that time my biggest fear was that people would see right through me and realize just how much I fake it. I felt constantly under the microscope, everyone judging me and me constantly struggling to live up to their expectations. I was overwhelmed, perhaps depressed, anxiety was constantly breathing down my neck and it was driving me over the edge…almost literally at one point.

Nothing seemed to help. Meditation didn’t quiet my mind, it only served to stir it up. I put up walls and blocked out my friends. I just wanted to crawl away from the world for awhile. What was the point of this whole existence? Everything was false, meaningless…ugh! I wanted it to go away.


Words are failing me…I can’t quite put it into coherent sentences. It’s all in Albert Camus’ The Fall if you care that much.

We all have our dark nights of the soul.

(This picture is so old school...I think I'm 17. Funny how emotions and situations replay themselves in our lives. But that's another entry for another day.)

Monday, May 7, 2007

God is in the Rain

I couldn't sleep last night, thanks to the beautiful Tulsa storm- lightning illuminating my room, thunder shaking the house.

I couldn't sleep last night because I was reminded of my favorite scene from V for Vendetta- Evey's semi-baptismal experience after V releases her from her cell...

"God is in the rain..."

How do we redefine our understanding of God? How do we break free from cultural given beliefs about a Father God, one who has a physical body and controls our every move?

How do we get away from the cop-out of calling God "Mother" which is still dangerously anthropomorphic?

God is in the rain...
God is a self-perpetuating existence- life-giving, powerful...

But then to say God even exists doesn't work (as you've all heard me say) because that puts God on the same level as things like a table, and my shih tzu Leia.

There's a passage in Living Buddha, Living Christ, and I wish I had my book here so I could reference it but I don't, so bear with me as I try to paraphrase.

We call things by names when we don't truly understand what they are. For example we call a mountain a mountain without truly understanding what "it" is.

Then we realize that it isn't actually just a mountain-it is sunshine and air and all the people who have climbed it. Its arising was interdependent on everyone and everything else.

Once we realize this, we can go back to calling it a mountain.

Maybe I'll find some time today to sit and realize. To come to terms with what I want to call God but can't...quite yet.

But for now, God is in my the form of music and "Let it Be" and a duet with Leia.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

We interupt your regularly scheduled programing...

I tried to grow up too fast.
I realized this while I was driving this afternoon- windows down, blasting RENT. I haven't belted out show tunes in way too long.
"La Vie Boheme" was a great surprise waiting for me when I got back in my car. :-)

When I was 19 I desperately wanted to be 25...I was too good for all that college stuff.

Now that I'm 22, I desperately want to be 19 (well, with a fake ID).

Ironic that my last two nights as a student at Drury I actually have fun and realize what college should have been all about. I've missed out on some pretty amazing people by being "too good".

I guess I still have Thursday and Friday night...and hell, it would be perfectly "college" to show up to commencement hung-over right? ;-)

Oh man...maybe the joy really is in the journey.
This moment is a beautiful moment. :-D

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Spiritual Autobiography- Drury pt. 1

Track 9: I’ll Follow the Sun

And now the time has come
And, my love, I must go
And though I lose a friend
In the end you will know, oh

One day you'll find that I have gone
But tomorrow may rain,
So I'll follow the sun

“I’ll Follow the Sun” John Lennon and Paul McCartney

After some serious thinking and discussion with my parents, I decided to transfer. Interpreting just wasn’t working out for me, and I wanted to study religion and philosophy in a real department, with real professors, in hopes of one day teaching college. Leaving William Woods wasn’t all that difficult for me, because while I knew I would miss people, I desperately wanted to learn and I desperately wanted to go some place where that would be encouraged and supported in my philosophical endeavors. After visiting the campus of Drury University and meeting with Dr. Esposito, I knew Drury was where I needed to be.

My first religion class at Drury was The Bible and Sexual Ethics with Dr. Hornsby, which I took simultaneously with Classic Problems in Philosophy with Dr. Panza. Both of these classes gave me exactly what I wanted, what I had felt was missing from my education at William Woods. I was able to learn and discuss new concepts, and put official names to ideas I had already been pondering. I finally felt at ease.

But while I was enjoying myself intellectually, spiritually I was still on hold. I found it easier to just completely remove my world view, to “hang up my beliefs at the door” as I liked to call it, when I was in class. I didn’t consider myself or what I believed. I didn’t think about how what I was learning fit into my personal schema, I just absorbed information and discussed it without letting it truly affect me.

Track 10: Across the Universe


-“Across the Universe” John Lennon and Paul McCartney

It wasn’t until I took Buddhism and the Joy of Being Awake with Dr. Esposito that I let a class personally affect me. While “Across the Universe” is clearly a Hindu song, the mood it sets for me reminds me of the tranquil way I embraced Buddhist thought, the ease with which I transitioned into that world view. I had really wanted to take the class when I learned it was being offered, but when I enrolled in it I didn’t really know how much it would change my life.

My life has always been rather stressful. I could blame it on my family, on being the first-born or on my Type A personality, but that’s all irrelevant. I think the reason that learning about Buddhism was such a relief for me was because it offered me a chance to escape my stressful mind, to find peace. The four Noble Truths and the Noble Eight-fold Path rang true within me and I found myself wanting to learn more, to try to incorporate Buddhist practices into my life. I found myself wanting to be spiritual again.

For my final project in Buddhism class, I chose to do a sort of book report on Pema Chodron’s No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva. Through Chodron’s commentary on this ancient text, I found my spirituality, my drive to help human-kind renewed. The process of awakening bodhichitta, loving-kindness and working for the well-being of all resonated within me, and reawakened my inspiration for helping others.

After reading No Time to Lose, I picked up Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hahn, another book which changed my life. In a way, Hahn gave me permission to embrace Eastern ideas while living in a Western world and still operating within my Christian-raised paradigm. He emphasized staying true to your roots enhancing your Christian practices through Buddhist mindfulness and meditation. The practice of mindfulness, of living in the present moment, was such an enjoyable practice to me. The summer following junior year proved to be a bit stressful (as summers spent at camp in the hot sun with mischievous kids often are) but I glided through with a calm sense of security, and a love for everyone around me. I’m sure the spiders I saved from the squish-happy flip-flops of the kids were grateful for my inner peace as well.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Spiritual Autobiography- William Woods University

Track 5: Revolution

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world…

-“Revolution” John Lennon and Paul McCartney

I burst into college with enthusiasm; I was determined to take over the school by the end of my senior year. I was idealistic and had way too much first-born-child “I have to succeed” gusto. I found great friends in the interpreting department and joined a sorority of intelligent, driven girls. What I didn’t find was a place to belong spiritually.

My William Woods friends may criticize me for stereotyping, but this was my impression as a freshman; there were two types of people at WWU- the evangelical fundamentalists and the apathetics. People either went all out of for their faith, or they just couldn’t care less. There was really no place to belong for a open-minded, easy going Disciple like me, and I fell into a strange sort of melancholy loneliness. I was outside of the supportive arms of my church, eight hours away from my family, and lost.

Track 6: Yesterday

All my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they're here to stay
Oh, I believe in yesterday

I'm not half the man I used to be
There's a shadow hanging over me
Oh, yesterday came suddenly

-“Yesterday” John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Spiritually, I let myself mope. It seemed much easier to wallow in my loneliness and isolation than to actively seek out my own path. I tried going to Campus Crusade for Christ a few times, but always when I went I would love the music and then find myself groaning when it came time for the sermon. A line from “Jesus Christ Superstar” comes to mind- “Oh your followers are blind! Too much heaven on their minds…”

Suddenly the drive with which I had gone off to college had ground to a halt. I didn’t feel like praying, I didn’t find a church to go to, it just wasn’t a major priority in my life. No one pushed me spiritually, and while I was always open to new ideas and discussing religion, it just didn’t matter. Until I took an Introduction to the Bible course taught by Rev. C.W. Dawson, a southern-Baptist minister (at least in his preaching style, not his theology).

This class renewed my curiosity for religion. It made me curious to learn more about my own faith tradition and the way it came to be. I was hungry for knowledge again; not necessarily spiritual “God is with you” knowledge, but a solid historical knowledge of religion and how it affects people. Rev. Dawson inspired and encouraged us to ask questions, and even rewarded me when I was slightly subversive.

It was in this class that I realized I wanted to teach religion, but it’s not a very nice story. One day before class a couple of friends and I were discussing the Christian traditions of Easter and Christmas, and how they were basically pagan holidays that were taken over by the Christians to make conversion easier. Well I had known this since high school, and I assumed everyone else had too, but I was wrong. We made a Baptist minister’s daughter almost cry because she though Jesus was actually born on December 25th.

It was right then that I decided I wanted to teach religion so this sort of thing didn’t happen. So that people could understand the truth; so that I could understand the truth, and educate the world. I planned on finishing my interpreting degree and then using that to pay my way through graduate school in religion. While I still wasn’t participating in spiritual practices, or actively attending church, I was excited to have found something I really truly enjoyed doing, something that could give me meaning and purpose.

Spiritual Autobiography- High School

This post begins my series of posts from my Senior Seminar spiritual autobiography. The goal of the paper is for me to reflect on my spiritual and philosophical growth over my college years, but I started with high school because I feel my transformation is much more interesting to read with high school in mind. I'm skipping the intro part of my paper in order to get to the juicier stuff...

Tracks 3&4: Good Day Sunshine and She Loves You

I need to laugh, and when the sun is out
I've got something I can laugh about
I feel good, in a special way
I'm in love and it's a sunny day
-“Good Day Sunshine” John Lennon and Paul McCartney

I see high school as a time of spiritual innocence for me, which is why I’ve picked two earlier Beatles songs to represent this time. My attitude towards everything spiritual was much easier going, and Christianity made perfect sense to me. I felt that I had a good handle on my religion. I was a leader in my youth group and well known in my church and people were always asking me if I’d ever thought about going into the ministry.

Some of the most formative spiritual experiences during my high school years came through my involvement in my denomination’s regional youth Cabinet. As a member of cabinet I was involved in planning all sorts of events like camps and retreats, but one of the things I loved planning the most was worship. I loved the music, the chills I felt when a large group of teenagers raised their voices in song for the same purpose- worship. When I would pray in front of a large group, I never wrote down what I wanted to say, because I trusted the words that were necessary would come to me. Communion meditations were my favorite, and the words of institution were especially meaningful to me.

The event which impacted me the most spiritually, that was a definite “a-ha!” moment for me in my Christian faith occurred on a mission trip. While staying and working at the Heifer International Ranch my youth group was given the opportunity to experience what it is like to spend a night in a third world country. As part of the experience we were given resources for the evening so that we could eat and make a fire. One of those resources was the most unlikely vehicle for my spiritual revelation- a rabbit.

We had the option of harvesting the rabbit, but if we were going to use it for food those of us who would partake in it had to be present for its death. As a group we decided our experience wouldn’t be complete without a little rabbit stew, so the Heifer volunteers prepared the animal for us. As I sat there during the moment of silence we had for the animal, it hit me- I was so selfish. Just because I had a want, a craving for meat, this animal was giving up its life that I may continue mine. Suddenly there was no longer a life-less rabbit stretched before me, but rather a crucified man. I jumped up to help with the harvest because having the blood on my hands figuratively just wasn’t enough; I needed a literal representation of my guilt.

I left that mission trip with a greater appreciation of sacrifice, and a better understanding of human nature. I was sickened by just how much I took for granted; just how much I felt I needed or deserved. I felt that the blood of Jesus’ crucifixion was on my hands because I took so much for granted and had mistreated the people and the world around me. I remember many nights in high school where I felt like I wanted to crawl under the carpet to escape from God, to escape my guilt.

I continued on my Christian youth-leader path through the rest of high school, but before I knew it, it was time to graduate. I gave my senior sermon, said my good-byes and headed off to William Woods University to study American Sign Language interpreting. I knew God had a plan for me, and this is where I was to be. My renewed faith and I headed off to college together, but not for long.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Work in Progress

I'm still working on the spiritual autobiography (surprise surprise)...
But until I get it done, here's a peak at the CD that accompanies it-

In My Life
Dear Prudence

Good Day Sunshine
She Loves You

Octopus's Garden
Within You Without You/Tomorrow Never Knows

I'll Follow the Sun
Across the Universe
I'm So Tired
Here Comes The Sun/The Inner Light

Hey Jude
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
All You Need Is Love

If you know me well enough it's possible you can see the importance of each song. If not, no worries as I will try to make it clear in my paper. Patience. :-)

Who needs a paper when you've got a bangin' CD right? Right...

(muchas muchas gracias to gabriel for making the photo. he's a photoshop GENIUS!)