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The Psalms

The Psalms

If you are similar to me, you probably know or have a familiarity with the Psalms.  I have attempted a few times to read all 150 Psalms, but never got far.  I started to question myself as to why.

Questioning always leads somewhere.  I discovered there are a huge number of different translations of the Psalms.  In my exploration, I also came across a small and potent book about the Psalms called Spirituality of the Psalms by Walter Brueggemann.

Brueggemann describes three movements in the Psalms…that of orientation, disorientation and reorientation.  These are the movements of human life that we all experience many times over our lives.

From the book:

The Psalms of orientation tend to be consolidating, stable-enhancing, and inclined to urge conformity. These Psalms reflect a theodicy* that is accepted and celebrated without question.  They reflect society in a state of homeostatic equilibrium. They mean to affirm the order, to generate new allegiance to the order, to give the order more power and authority, and to inoculate the youth into it. This may be an act of good faith, but such a voice also benefits from the present arrangement….  [The Psalms of orientation] celebrate the coherence of life and the justice of God because that is how they are experienced. This is life fully oriented, finding the current rules on earth and heaven adequate.

The Psalms of disorientation occur and make sense to us when the consensus about theodicy has collapsed and there is a crisis in the ordering of life….in a season of disarray one does not know how best to move.  Within the Psalms of disorientation, there are three movements.  One is a yearning for retaliation against the unjust enemy who has made life so disoriented.   The second is an assault on Yahweh [God] as the legitimator of theodicy.  The third as a yearning for return to orientation and to accept the fault.

Finally the Psalms of reorientation celebrate a new settlement of the issue with the theodicy.  The crisis is past, and there is again a stable paradigm for social life.  What is clear in these Psalms is that this is not a return to the old theodicy.   There is no knuckling under to the old regime, the old God. There’s rather celebration of the coming of God, who now establishes a new rule.

….The Psalms are resources for spirituality; but any psalmic spirituality that denies or avoids the parallel issue of theodicy misses the point. That is, the spirituality of the Psalms is shaped, defined, and characterized in specific historical, experiential categories and shuns universals….The Psalms regularly insist upon equity, power, and freedom enough to live one’s life humanely.  The Psalms may not be taken out of such context of community concerns…. The spirituality of the Psalms assumes that the world is called to question in this conversation with God. That permits and requires that our conversation with God be vigorous, candid, and daring.

God assumes different roles in these conversations. At times God is the guarantor of the old equilibrium. At other times God is a harbinger of the new justice to be established.  At times also God is in the disorientation, being sovereign in ways that do not strike us as adequate.  We might wish for a God removed from such a dynamic, for a spirituality not so inclined to conflict. But the Psalms reject such a way with God as false to our daily life, and false to the memories of this people, who know they do not belong to the Egyptian empire, who hope for a new equilibrium in a kingdom of justice and righteousness. On this the Psalter insists passionately, vigorously, and boldly.

The Psalms are a timeless conversation with God, or the One Being of your knowing.  They are an example of the conversations we may find ourselves in with God. If you are so inclined, find a book of Psalms that speaks to you in your language and use it.  Prayer is so much more than just asking for things to go our way.  The Psalms can engage us in more intimate conversation with God.  May you have the faith and trust to converse with God boldly, vigorously and passionately!


*Theodicy:  A vindication of the divine attributes, particularly holiness and justice, in establishing or allowing the existence of physical and moral evil.

      :   A defense of God’s goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil.

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Category: Spirituality

Sacred Life

Sacred Life

I am reminded of a war veteran’s story.  The veteran shared that after each battle, they would search the dead enemies with hopes of finding some information that they could use to win the war.  He stated that was rarely the case.  However, he always found letters from loved ones and pictures of loved ones.  He realized these people, called enemies, are just like me.

Over the past few months, I have been using a daily meditation book to support my inner work.  The book is by Caitlin Matthews and it is called The Celtic Spirit: Daily Meditations for the Turning Year.  The following is an excerpt from the book that touches me deeply.  The focus of this reflection is seeing and honoring the sacredness and holiness of each life:

For many hundreds of years, the false tale that what ever is alive is evil has been told: This tale has been told from fear and denial, from pain and rejection, as a way of explaining why things go wrong and why perfection cannot be expected. Many people regard the living world as a predominantly evil place, full of beings whom we should be suspicious. For such people the only good place, the only good beings are in heaven. Living defensively in the eye of evil is not a happy way to live. Fear and suspicion darken everything with a sad pall.

The opposite view sees all of life as worthy of respect, as potentially able to achieve its fullest stature. Of course not every being alive reaches its potential; but then neither does it sink into irredeemable iniquity. Entertaining the possibility of all things living being able to achieve their potential of holiness is a powerful and supportive way to live.  But, like all life-ways, even this view can be abused: when we live as though no harm could come, we are foolish rather than innocent. 

Life is a sacred gift that all beings receive. It is the manner of our living that makes all the difference. The way in which we relate to other living beings encourages them to change the world for good or violate the world for ill; the way in which we spend our lives illuminates or darkens those around us. But if we are not aware of the sacred potential in each living being, if we do not acknowledge it and respected, we me become active agents of the soul’s darkening.   Everything that lives is holy because it is an abiding place of Spirit; Everybody is a home where the sacred gifts of Spirit may be born anew.

Contemplate the living beings with whom you are in contact, not just human beings, but other living beings of nature as well. Hold each of them in your heart and acknowledge their sacred gift. Write in a journal or share with a trusted loved one about your experience.

Blessings!

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Category: Spirituality
What is Great about Being Human?

All too often, we focus on what we do not like about being human.  Recently, I did an exercise where I asked myself,  “What do I enjoy about being human?”

This is what came to me:

  • Interacting with dogs. Smelling them, feeling their fur, receiving their kisses, and watching their behavior.
  • Tasting wholesome food. Enjoying the array of flavors and how flavors combine. Appreciating all the elements and people involved in the growing of the food.  Appreciating the nourishment of my body.
  • Interacting with nature. Seeing sunrises and sunsets. Feeling the wind and the warmth of the sun on my skin. Leaning against a tree. Smelling the earth.
  • Cooking creative meals and sharing them. I love to turn to recipes for inspiration then modify with the ingredients I have within my house at the moment, then share the meal with dear family or friends.
  • Looking deeply into the eyes of another and experiencing communion.
  • The gift of healthy touch either through massage, abhyanga, or trusted loved one’s hug or handholding.
  • Laughing!
  • Singing, especially with multigenerational groups spontaneously!
  • Practicing yoga and meditation…being in this body and in this moment is simply delightful!

How about you?  What do appreciate about being human?  As Father Richard Rohr has reminded us in many of his books and sermons, “It is good to be human.  It is good to live on this earth. It is good to have a body for God in Jesus chose and said ‘yes’ to our humanity. Incarnation is already redemptive. The problem is solved. Now go and truly enjoy all your remaining days.”

Consider sharing your lift on my FB page or with someone you appreciate.  Blessings and appreciation!

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Category: Spirituality

Symptoms

Lifestyle Determines Health

“…if we remember the fundamental principle that the symptomatology of an illness is at the same time a natural attempt at healing….”  ~C.G.Jung, Collected Works

How would we relate differently to our achy backs and stiff joints, or instable blood sugars and heartburn if we honored the symptom as the body’s way of attempting to heal itself?  What Western medicine offers is valuable, but it is limited.  The approach to symptoms in Western medicine primarily is that of attempting to eradicate or control. If we review symptoms as a natural process of healing, then the question becomes “Is the obliteration or control of symptoms the optimal approach?”

Certainly relief from symptoms is helpful, even necessary and life saving at times, but where both the provider and patient loose in the end is calling it a done deal when the symptoms are controlled or eradicated.

Epigenetics, which is the study of variation in gene expression that do not involve changes to the original DNA sequence, but may result in variable expression in our physical bodies.  Epigenetic change is a regular and natural occurrence and is influenced by several factors including age, the environment, lifestyle, and state of health.   What the study of Epigenetics has revealed is each of us is much more in control of lives than we thought.  We are not at the mercy of our genes!

We can influence our gene expression based on our lifestyles, and lifestyle determines health, thus investigation of disease beyond the mere treatment of symptoms is key.  What is lifestyle?  Lifestyle includes not only what we eat, but how we eat it; not only if we exercise, but what is our attitude when exercising;, not only if we are in relationships, but are those relationships nourishing; not only how we act, but what are the underlying emotions that are the foundation of our actions.

Health is not determined by a series of negative lab or imaging studies, nor is determined by your doctor saying, “Everything looks great.”

While those are important, each person’s health is ultimately dependent on his/her daily behaviors and attitudes.  Do you have resentments from childhood or from yesterday that are still festering?  How do those resentments impact your relationships today?  What habitual ways do you have of interacting?  Are they of benefit to you and others?  Are you willing to look, take responsibility, and be uncomfortable?

Wishing you courage and honesty with your self upon the exploration of these questions.  Remember engaging a trusted friend, family member or counselor to aid in your exploration is invaluable.  All the best!

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Category: Personal development

Dismissed

Dismissed

Over the years I have had many patients and friends share with me their experience of feeling “dismissed” by the doctor they were seeing.  It may have been a dismissal of symptoms or feelings or they felt they were not listened to.

Having reflected on their experiences, I recalled times when I had acted in the same way as a provider…when I was too overwhelmed to let one more thing inside my mind, heart and body.  While at first glance this seems like a valid strategy, it is actually an ineffectual one for the provider and probably harmful, or at least hurtful, for the patient.

What happens when we deny another’s experience is they begin to not trust themselves and viola we have created a victim, or disempowered another person.  When we deny another’s feelings, we deny their humanity, as well as our own.

I said many times over the years of practicing Obstetrics, “Thank goodness for epidurals.  If there were not epidurals, I couldn’t do this job.”  I started to question why I said that.  What has come forth is that I could not be with my own pain, thereby how could I be present and attend to any one else’s pain?  Whether is it physical, mental, emotional or spiritual pain, unless we are able to be with and attend to our own pain, we cannot honor and attend to another’s pain.

We all have pain from minor disappointments to major tragedies.  This is the nature of living this life.  The beauty of such is it provides us the needed contrast to experience happiness, as well as the fuel to heal.

In order to be an effectual healer, and we all are healers, we need to first cultivate the capacity to face and be with our own pain.  Then secondarily without effort, we transmit that healing force to all those we interact with no matter our profession.  Although overused, when taken to heart and felt, this is the essence of Gandhi’s saying “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  Many blessings!

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Category: Relationships

Dream Tending

Dreams are the royal road to the consciousness

Freud said, “Dreams are the royal road to the consciousness.” Dreams can release emotional steam from our daily lives. Dreams may be an inner resource, especially during difficult times. Dreams are alive and have their own wisdom.  Reasoning and intellect pales in comparison to dream tending, which approaches all life’s deep questions from a different perspective.

To begin to tend your dreams, start with a dream journal at your bedside, a soft light and an intent before you fall asleep to remember your dreams.   The first step in dream tending is recording the dream.  Do this immediately upon waking, even if it is the middle of the night.  The primary skill in working with dreams is listening with your whole being while sitting on interpretations.  The following process to tend to dreams is from Robert Johnson’s book titled Inner Work.

Four steps in dream tending:

  1. Make associations: Every dream is a series of images. By making associations with the dream images we can discover the meaning these images carry for us. Essentially this highlights the personal significance of the dream image. The same image can evoke different associations or reactions from different people, thereby it is recommended to forego interpreting dreams of others or referring to a book on dream images.  A dream image cannot be separated from the individual who dreams it.

When making associations avoid chain associations.  For example, if image A leads to B and then B leads to C and C leads to D – then the original significance of the starting image A can get diluted.  The image Johnson uses to convey what is the preferred method is that of a wheel with the dream image A being at the center and the associations proceeding from it radiating outward from that center. In other words, always come back to the original dream image being studied and proceed with associations from there.  Images from our dreams connect us to our deepest parts of our self.
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  1. Connect dream images to inner dynamics: Inner dynamics refers to anything that is going on inside of you as you see the dream image.  So what is arising in you as you experience the image from your dream?  What feeling, conflict, attitude, mood, emotional event is being experienced?  Every dream shows us some way in which we are accepting or resisting our inner self. Dreams are a reflection of the unconscious, or that which were are unaware of within.  Dreams almost always are aimed at the inner level or interior life.  It is fruitless to attempt to understand an external situation unless you identify the psychological patterns within you that affect it. So useful questions may be:  What traits do I have in common with the image?  What are the main characteristics of the person in the dream?  How do I describe their character/personality traits?  How do those traits show up in me?  Every dream is a portrait of the dreamer.  Be compassionate with your self as you explore this as dreams often show us extremes to get our attention.

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  2. Interpretation: Interpretation is the bringing together all the information of the first two steps in the dream tending into a unified picture. The interpretation is a coherent statement of what the dream means to you personally.  Useful questions are: What teachings from this dream are most meaningful to me? Why?  What is the central message of this dream?  What is the dream advising?  Is the dream directing me or guiding me?  Is there an overall meaning of the dream for my life?  Dream interpretation bests sums up the meaning of the dream for your life, while also potentially containing an application to your waking life.  While dreams may have many interpretations, the dream interpretation that arouses you, provides insights, or liberates you from behavioral patterns is most likely the correct one.   Follow the small, subtle clues in the dream.  If there is some image that keeps coming up for you, tend that one no matter how insignificant it may seem.   If an interpretation does not seem clear, then make an argument for and against the interpretation you are reviewing.

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  3. Ritual: Ritual is a symbolic behavior that is consciously performed.  Ritual is a demonstration of respect and reverence that taps us into higher consciousness, higher power.  A dream ritual is a physical act that affirms the message of your dream.  It could be something practical, or it may be symbolic.  Keep your physical rituals small, subtle, physical and performed in silence.  In short, make them doable.  Talking tends to place our dream experiences on an abstract level.  Talking about a dream lead to its contamination.  Instead of a vivid, private experience, we wind up with an amorphous chat when we talk about dreams.

 

Imagination and dreams come from the same source…both are communication from the Divine.   Happy dream tending!

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Category: Personal development
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