Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Sky Gave Me Its Heart

(This poem was written by Rabia of Basra, b. 717-801, a Persian Sufi poet)

The sky gave me its heart
because it knew mine was not large enough to care
for the earth the way
it did.

Why is it we think of God so much?
Why is there so much talk
about love?

When an animal is wounded
no one has to tell it, "You need to heal";
so naturally it will nurse itself the best it can.

My eye kept telling me,
"Something is missing from all I see."
So it went in search of the cure.

The cure for me was His Beauty,
the remedy-- for me
was to love.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Produce, Produce, Produce....

There's something I've been meditating upon for many years, but feel I have deeper perspective on now. Even so, I know I have light years to travel before getting a true handle on it. It has to do with being productive vs. being. I think many people can agree that today's day and age is at war with "being". We run here, we run there, we have these massive long lists of To Do's and tons of people to stay in communication with and we think that what we're doing is important. Maybe rattling off a crazy list of To Do's to the latest person inquiring as to how we're doing, somehow validates us. Or maybe we're just trying to blow off steam, because we don't quite have a handle on how to say "No" (at this house, we tend to fall in this category) and really do think we can do everything. 

But whatever happened to being still? Being silent? Listening to that small, still voice? Is there a balance to going back and forth between the productivity and stillness or are we stuck in one gear or the other? 

When I was growing up, I tended to fall together with the surfers and the hippies. They seemed more my speed and in the same mindset as myself, which was... what's the point of all the busy-ness if you can't take time to be with the ones you love, the ones you like... AND whenever you wanted.  We all came from high octane families where "success" was everything. Making a name for yourself was everything. And when I say "name" I mean the kinds of names you see on the front pages of grocery store magazines, or Variety or the New York Times type names. Our parents all went for it. Their whole lives were about impressing themselves and one another with what they did, who they knew and how much money they could make (even at somebody's else's expense).  In reaction to this pure unmitigated ambition, as well as subsequent absence from our lives because of it, there was a group of us kids who thought the highest value was in NOT doing anything. Being at peace with who you were and not expecting perfection from each other was the goal. We got enough of high expectations from our families and community, why feed it? We saw the not so pretty side of fame, notoriety and wealth and weren't impressed. We were the "enlightened" ones. The "ennobled" ones. Beauty isn't everything. Money isn't everything. Who you know isn't everything. The goal was to avoid every instance of name dropping that one encountered. We were embarrassed to be related to and close to your friendly neighborhood Superman. 1st world, 1% problems, right? 

It engendered this false sense of superiority. Without realizing it, we were being just as ambitious in our own way for anonymity. To prove that we didn't have to do anything to be worth something. We could be complete slackers and that was GOOD. It was an elevated thing. We drove in our VW's (Jetta's, Buses and Bugs) and our Audi's and Saab's and thought we were cool for not driving a Mercedes or a Beamer. Only stuffed shirts did that. We had our 4-wheel drive trucks to tear up the Santa Monica Mountains and we were what's up, because we actually knew how to have fun. We even sought out ways to "slum it". I personally, left the LA area and purposely set up shop right smack dab in the middle of fly-over country just to make a point. I gave up the 9 to 5 and sought out retails jobs just to prove that I didn't need a lot of money to be happy. I sought out the middle of an urban area just to see what it was like and then set out to survive on the barest minimum just so I could prove to myself that I didn't need what everyone was telling me I needed. I got rid of EVERYTHING and then periodically every 6 months, purged again. I spent lots of time in prayer and meditation and even considered joining a religious order as a nun. I convent hopped and studied theology, philosophy and spirituality for hours every day and sat in an adoration chapel for at least an hour a day. I know... I know... typical bourgeois attitudes. Run from materialism and embrace poverty and spirituality and Oh, aren't I special? (This is all tongue in cheek, mind you)

Needless to say, people thought I was nuts. Whenever I would go back to LA, I'd hear about all kinds of wild theories that had circulated amongst old family and friends on what had happened to me. I won't repeat them as some of them were completely off the wall and downright hurtful. Thankfully, I was born with super thick skin and a pit-bull focus that's great at blocking out anything that doesn't serve my purpose. I survived 8 years "in the wild" before calling it quits and moving back to my roots in LA.

Since moving back to LA, I've been the most "productive" I've ever been. I've worked harder then I've ever worked and have been able to put my name to a few things that I'm rather proud of. I've also started and developed the most meaningful relationships I've ever had, as well as deepening the relationships I already possessed. 

During all this time, I was contemplating what was important. What did God put me on this earth to do? To be? Do I even know how "to be"? Can I surrender the hyper-perfectionistic tendencies culled in me to the great unknown and actually develop a relationship with a God that my family doesn't even believe in as the concept of God is sooooo unintellectual and weak-willed? Only simple people do that. Smart, ambitious people avoid Christianity like the plague. Christianity is for the poor and undisciplined. Although it's okay to dabble in the occult, Hinduism, Buddhist, paganism and so on... that's different and perfectly acceptable. Ouija board, anyone? Can I tell you how many wealthy, hyper influential people carry one in their home office or bedroom? How many of these same people have their own personal psychic? But then I digress. Maybe I'll cover that in a different post. 

Getting back to the topic, I've learned a few things along the way. I've learned that productivity can be a good and worthy thing if your focus is in the right direction. It's not the enemy. If you put God, self, family, and others in the right order... everything else falls in line. You work to the best of your ability and then you rest. Pray and be still first thing in the morning, then schedule the rest of your day with God and everything will find a place in your day. Enjoy every moment no matter what it contains… “bad” or “good”. Self discipline is a good thing. Being a good steward of our money and time is a good thing. Being wealthy or poor is meaningless in and off themselves. Being notorious is meaningless in and off itself. What’s more important is WHY we do what we do and WHY we believe what we believe. 

Everything can flow from a clear and God oriented mentality, which lets go of all previous biases and is willing to learn things from scratch… like a kid. If you’re a student, get an A because you’re capable of it, not because somebody else wants you to do so. Don’t seek to “excel”, seek to pour out the best of yourself to a degree that you are challenged and formed to your highest level, because you are made (in the Body of Christ) to be full and satisfied so it’s super easy to let all the extra great stuff pour out of you to whoever God places across your path. God put us on this earth to give our best, to give our all. To not short change a situation even though we’re not "feeling" it. Poverty can be an excuse to play victim and to be lazy.  The “Noble Savage” is a myth and real holy poverty involves true poverty of spirit, which recognizes that we own nothing and are nothing without the grace of God. If however He makes me a steward of a lot of wealth, then I better darn well learn everything I can about finances, taxes, amortization, depreciation, fiscal responsibility and have a strong sense of ethics while I conduct my business. In the end all the money is his anyway, so I should know what I’m doing. Use the brain He gave me and not make excuses. Be wise with the materials he gave, treat employees and peers with respect and dignity. Don't live your life in reaction to your experiences, Live your life in response to an invitation. BE RESPONSIBLE. EDUCATE OURSELVES. 

I’ve seen so many people take pride in having little, while putting the burden of responsibility on somebody else. I’ve not only seen families do this to others, but have had families do this to me and mine. While claiming they trust in God, they’ve lied and taken money from other people to pay for their mistakes. Then they would turn around and claim victimization, even though they laid the beds they found themselves upon. I’m all for mercy, but not false mercy. Not mercy that gives people the chance to treat everyone around them as if they are there to serve them, because they are “poor”. It is possible to make yourself poor by making horrible decisions, not paying bills and spending money on fluff that has nothing to do with caring for your family or yourself. And praying your way out of it and claiming that it’s God’s will that you take mercy on them, is a bad tactic to attempt to take. Sooner or later, God will hold you accountable. There is such a thing as delusion.

It’s not good to be deluded. I’ve come to understand that Christianity is based in tried and true reality. Yes, the supernatural is there to show us that reality can be transcended and should be, but grace builds UPON nature not instead of it. We are given work to do on this earth. It’s not to laze around. It’s to be solid citizens that contribute to the world around us. Never fear… being responsible has a funny way of opening up lots of time. From my experience, being organized and responsible allows me a multitude of daily opportunities to just look in the eyes of the ones I love and just love them (especially God). Being productive and "successful", as well as "being still" don’t have to be exclusive. You can be BOTH. God can show the way. Just be willing to let it all go. He’ll take care of you. It is possible.