The presence of joyous noxiousness

April 30, 2016

Well, I’ve died again.

It happens occasionally in my life. I’ll go underground, converse with the god of the underworld, and resurface to live the next iteration of my being in the world. This particular death process has lasted a few years and ended last night with a dream that I died and was able to read my autopsy. Here I was, dead, and reading my autopsy, alive, so that I could figure out what killed me. Dreams are great.

My cause of death was joyous noxiousness.

My response this morning is close to a WTF moment. But then, in order to come alive, to break the barrier, the part of me that went into darkness needs to die with all of its woe-is-me, heart-breaking, I-wish-the-world-were-different, my-mommy-and-daddy-were-mean-to-me excuses for not becoming fully alive.

We’re not talking soft sweet sympathetic head patting and empathetic eye blinks and hand holding meant to stimulate my emotional growth. No. We’re talking die already.

And what killed me was joyous noxiousness. Evidently, this joyous noxiousness has been quietly and steadily killing me without my knowledge and has now made itself known in a most magical and unexpected way.

My new life, then, is to learn how to live with it.

This one’s for you, Kathy.

The presence of lessons and eternal mirrors

January 2, 2015

“It isn’t all about you.”

We’ve all heard that line.

Or, the sarcastic: “yeah, it’s all about YOU, isn’t it?”

The message is that I am supposed to think about others, have regard for their feelings, some empathy and sympathy for what might be happening in their lives, and that nothing is all about me.

Or is it?

Is there a metaphysical existence where I perceive everything as reflecting my presence in the world? In this existence, life takes every opportunity to define itself by reflecting the nature of its creator.

That little proposition is easy to take on when one is out in “nature” defined by glorious trees, dazzling mountains, endless horizons of flowered meadows, and Bambi chewing clover by the river. It’s a little harder when one is hustling “nature” the day after New Year’s chasing down the after-Christmas sales at the local ginormous nationwide superstore which is where I happened upon my most recent soul-opening exercise.

At said nameless store, ever hopeful for a stay-at-home snow day, I placed two 15-pound cartons of snowmelt in my cart and proceeded to checkout. At the checkout counter, I unloaded all of my items, including the 15-pound cartons of snowmelt on to the conveyor belt. As the cashier swept the snowmelt cartons across the scanner, she said, “Next time just leave the heavy items in your cart and I will scan them from there.” She didn’t look happy while she said it.

It took me a moment to realize what she said. I finally asked, “So, you think those are heavy?”

She responded by saying “If you have to lift them all day long, they get real heavy.” She was not smiling when she said this.

All sorts of responses went through my head – statements about how there are no signs about leaving heavy items in the cart, what qualifies as heavy, pointed remarks about how this was the job she had chosen and if she didn’t like it . . ., and one really super retort about how I was contributing to helping her prevent osteoporosis, but fortunately none of THOSE came out. What I said was: “Thank you for pointing that out to me. I learned something today.”

I did not tell her what I learned because I had not yet figured it out. At that time, I was mostly thinking that whatever her problem was, it had nothing to do with me and was all about her disliking what she did for a living. And, I thanked her because I made a mental note to self: “never work at Nameless Nationwide Superstore as a cashier.”

But then I came home and read my e-mail. My friend, Deborah Hart Yemm, from A New Gaia and blog Gazing in the Mirror, had sent me this poem written by Rumi:

You have no idea how hard I’ve looked
for a gift to bring You.
Nothing seemed right.

What’s the point of bringing gold
to the gold mine, or water to the ocean.

Everything I came up with was like
taking spices to the Orient.

It’s no good giving my heart and my
soul because you already have these.

So I’ve brought you a mirror.
Look at yourself and remember me.

It is like God said “no, this IS about YOU.”

I am that cashier and she is me. Just as she has to own her suffering, I must own mine. Just as I seek my soul’s happiness in the world, so must she.

She cannot order me to alleviate her suffering anymore than I can demand that the world relieve mine. She cannot complain her way into happiness anymore than I can.
Barbara L. Kass
©1/2/2015

The presence of self-remembering

November 23, 2014

I sometimes forget that I am an eternal presence. Just over four years ago, I had a small epiphany and made a connection more with what I call my “eternal presence” – the essence of my soul or spirit who came to live in this body and experience this life – who knows that I have always existed and always will and knows that I am a part of the ultimate divine being (God/Spirit) and remain connected. I began this blog then and write about how my eternal presence connects to everydayness of life and how the everydayness of life connects to my eternal presence.

But, I get waylaid by life, distracted by other paths of existence and forget to stop and come back here to connect . . . to write about the outside. Writing about the outside brings it inside where I – the “I” who is eternal — can connect and process and reflect and give back to me who is thinking, sensing, and feeling her way through this life.

Events, people, writings, readings, animals, objects, thoughts, tasks – in other words: life – comes into my awareness to remind me of what I already know: I am an eternal presence existing in this mortal body, resting behind this thinking sensing feeling experience. Life is poking at me. God is poking at me. I make all of these invitations to the universe to show me how to bring my true self to life, yet unless those invitations show up in the way I imagine they should, I completely miss them.

Until I choose self-remembering . . . and suddenly I recognize them as singular messengers responding to my requests. A phone call from my daughter reminds me that my morning candlelight vigil for her is being heard. The balance in my bank account more than sufficient to meet my obligations. The person who comes upon my path with a word that leads me to a hidden wisdom.

It is the everydayness that makes the eternal interesting.

©2014 by Barbara L. Kass

A Blue Cup Presence

May 10, 2014

Material objects sometimes represent more to me than their momentary utility. A psychologist would tell you that I project myself into these objects, giving them my personality and attributes, a process called personification.

A shaman would tell you that everything has a spirit living in it, including material objects because those materials were made from earth’s resources, and the earth and its resources are nothing but living spirits. And, just like any other spirit, we cannot own them. They only agree to be borrowed for a time in our lives.

Some years ago, my daughter and son-in-law were struggling with their lives. The details are meaningless to anyone but me and them; the consequences, however, could have been so very costly to the person we care about more than anyone else: their daughter and my granddaughter. All of the responsibility for my granddaughter fell upon my son-in-law. He was a very young soul then, barely past the age of 20, and he had to make the commitment to save his own life first.

My resources were limited to taking care of me. While I could cheer him on and babysit, I could not step into his life and fix it for him. I could not run his race or lift his burden. It was his battle, not mine.

A day came very early into this battle . . . a very hot day, where his struggles brought him to my door while running the numerous errands that were his life at that moment. He asked only for a glass of water, and I gave it to him in a cup exactly like the one shown in the picture. bluecup1 (2) He swallowed the water in what seemed one gulp, so gave him another, but this time filled with ice. He was close to being late for his next appointment with destiny so I told him to take the blue cup with him.

I never saw that blue cup again.

Ten years later, I see my son-in-law and granddaughter all the time, and the blue cup in the picture is the mate to the one I gave away that day. My granddaughter rocks the world with her presence and my son-in-law has discovered grace and gifts within himself that amaze and comfort me.

When I look into my cupboard and see that lone blue cup, I am reminded of that day, what preceded it and what has come after. I don’t long for the presence of its mate. I don’t ever ask my son-in-law about it and I don’t want to know where it is. Instead, I imagine that other blue cup still out there offering a long, cool drink of water to a thirsty world.

©2014 by Barbara L. Kass

The presence of spiritual addiction

March 2, 2014

My addiction is no secret. Spirituality is my drug of life. My spiritual adventures are a relentless romp of reaching for the Divine in all that exists and they have this terminal quality to them: I have a singular devotion to the ultimate connection with God/Spirit/Jesus/the One/Universal Consciousness. I keep telling myself, once I am truly connected, I will no longer have the urge.

And, no, death does not count.

Just an aside here: yes, I know I have been a disappearing spirit ever since Christmas but I’ve been busy becoming a licensed counselor and setting up a practice. Feel free to explore at One Spirit Counseling.

Now back to that addiction thing. Contemplative Outreach has me on their mailing list. It is important that you understand that I want to BE contemplative outreach. The concept is much like the Jesuit’s contemplative in action: to be so in touch with God/Spirit that the communication is continuous, as if we are One, and I am transformed as a result, able to be that transformed soul seamlessly in the world, in action alone and with others.

Any time I see an invitation for a spiritual exercise or to learn a spiritual technique or engage in a spiritual lesson, my fingertips start tingling, my palms get sweaty, and my vision goes dark around the edges. The good guys at Contemplative Outreach have joined forces with the lovely people at Spirituality and Practice and they are offering a year-long series of online retreats. Those retreats call to me much like the street-drug vendor whispers to a junkie.

(C’mon . . . it doesn’t cost much. You know you want it.)
[but I’m on a budget]
(I’ll make you a deal. Buy all five at once and you’ll save twenty-five bucks)
[wow – that’s like getting half of one free]
(And I’ve all your favorites. Lectio Divina . . .)
[Oh!]
(Contemplative Living . . .)
[Stop it!]
(Forgiveness . . .)
[la la la la la la I can’t hear you la la la la]
(and a Practice Group)
[Sold]

Can one have too much spirituality? The shaman in me knows that Spirit is all that exists so the question is moot.

I would pray for willpower but that is feeding the oxymoron.

©2014 by Barbara L. Kass

The presence of reincarnation: Magic Redux

December 25, 2013

Today is Christmas, a notorious day for miracles. The whole season gets stretched thin with unmet expectations and people desperate to make the impossible happen.

We miss those who should have been here and wonder where the meaning has gone.

I have a few loved ones on the edge of precarious circumstances and most certainly my Christmas would be more joyful if I knew they were having a warm and loving time. My blessings include knowing they are alive and other loved ones are safe. I have my haven, my life here in Maryland, and had given myself the gift of a 25-day Advent spirituality practice.

I am well loved and the Universe has a most playful, unique way of letting me know just how connected I am.

magic4Some history first. Back on August 16, 2010, my soulmate kitty, Magic, went to the eternal beyond, breaking my heart in the process. I did not get another animal because I was living in other people’s homes at the time, but since moving back to my home this past May, I have toyed with the idea of getting another kitty. Magic

It occurred to me that Magic might reincarnate, but I did not know how I would find her if she did.

On December 23, I was supposed to play tennis doubles, but one of our four had a trip planned to Maui and forgot to tell us (really?). I was irritated because three people cannot play doubles and we were unable to find a fourth. In the middle of my search, my daughter, who is homeless in San Francisco, called asking if I could wire her some money for Christmas. I left work early because of course I want my daughter to have a Christmas. As I was leaving the store after wiring the funds, I saw the PetSmart across the street and wondered if Magic had reincarnated yet.

I drove over, walked in, and there she was. Only, she is a he now, but otherwise, nearly exactly the same: a black and white tuxedo kitty. He is nine months old and I knew instantly that he was her. He had just arrived that morning. Through the glass partition, we bumped heads. I could not leave without him.

max 4The store manager thought I was a bit nutty when I kept saying “that’s my cat” and told this story over and over. But when I got him home, my step-daughter (who knew Magic very well) just about fell over, and this little kitty went about finding everything without hesitation. Magic is home. It isn’t about investigation. It is about confirmation that (just like before) she/he:
• Gets to sleep on my side of the bed
• Gets to sleep on any lap, regardless of availability
• Has to know what is going on all the time
• Is on the wrong side of every door

max 2Had my daughter not called, I would not have gone by the PetSmart; had I not been stood up for tennis, I never would have taken the time to go in. The Universe absolutely conspired to make sure we found each other that day.

Inside of me is the absolute assurance that I already know this soul. A while ago, I wrote about replacement love. One of my regrets in life is that I have not loved those who are most precious to me when I had the chance to love them. I was always too busy, too anxious, too tired, too preoccupied, too often on my way to someplace else.

On this day of gifts, I have one of the ultimate: the chance to love again.

©2013 by Barbara L. Kass

The Presence of Self-Forgiveness

November 3, 2013

Forgiveness implies a problem – that something is wrong somewhere. A pain has manifested in someone and if I caused that pain, I was wrong and have to make amends. It does not matter that I did not know I caused the pain or the situation was out of my control. I did something wrong.

The message that there is something wrong with us gets reinforced throughout our lifetimes as we encounter the world and its ever-changing rules of engagement. Our laws, media, parents, teachers, and our children will tell us: you are wrong – you did something wrong – you have to fix it – you deserve a punishment. Laws can send us to prison or make us pay a fine. The media will deify those who are prettier/thinner/richer/smarter than us and punish the rest of us with stories and articles about how we are inadequate and here’s what we need to do change that. And if you can’t change, here is how you can “accept” (aka “forgive”) your failings. Punishment from parents could be anything from a frown to withdrawal of privileges to (in the worst case) abuse. Punishment from teachers includes failing grades, public humiliation, and a visit with the principal (who, despite popular spelling tricks, was never your “pal”). Punishment from your children is anyone’s guess. Take a look at your life and tell me what it is.

We also inflict self-punishment, a double-whammy when we’ve wronged ourselves. Hindsight 20/20 is the largest contributor to the embargo of my ability to forgive myself for transgressions against others or myself. For some reason, as I realize why I “should” have not done what I did, I proceed to believe that I “should” have known better and “should” have behaved better. A berating marathon begins and the punishment phase can last a lifetime.

An Internet search for ideas about self-forgiveness brought up the web site Greater Good sponsored by the University of California at Berkeley. While the site implores you to become a member (you can be happy for only $50.00 a year), there is plenty of free material, including some insightful articles and a quiz about forgiveness. All things being equal, I would think that how I apply forgiveness to others would be similar to how I apply self-forgiveness. I took the quiz and found out I have a moderate capacity for forgiveness.

Only moderate? Being the over-achiever I am, moderate is not good enough. Where am I failing to be an excellent forgiver? My test results showed that while I would not want anything bad to happen to anyone, I have a tendency to avoid and withdraw from people who mistreat me (duh – who would hang around?).

I thought about myself as the person who I would need to forgive: What if the person is me?

What if I am avoiding the me – the self – who I was when I made the transgression? What if I have withdrawn from that self who committed a real or imagined sin? I chose the word “sin” here because there were plenty of them sneaking around while I was growing up Catholic along with that offensive right hand we were told to cut off (Matthew 5:30).

Hmmm . . . I wonder where I got the message to avoid or “cut off” from the part of me causing the offense lest I be cast into the horrors of hell for all eternity?

Perhaps it is time to visit with those selves and offer them my right hand in forgiveness.

©2013 by Barbara L. Kass

The presence of experience

October 9, 2013

You cannot create experience. You must undergo it. Albert Camus

Before humans could write and read we learned through witnessing and listening. As witnesses, we saw what others experienced, and (hopefully) we learned vicariously. When we witnessed someone become ill from eating the strange red berries, we were not likely to eat those berries. We listened (again hopefully) when our parents and elders passed along knowledge and wisdom with the spoken word: don’t poke the sleeping tiger.

The written word expands our worlds. All the red berries have warning labels and the sleeping tigers have awakened. If we want to know about Subject X, the most expedient method is to look it up on the Internet. Sometimes, we can watch a film or talk to a subject expert, but the cheapest and quickest way to learn anything is to read. The written word saved my sanity as a child. Books were my lifeline to the world beyond the one I was confined to then, and I wanted to experience all of it.

The short 90 or so years that I will be on this planet will not satisfy my desire for discovery, and I am nearly two-thirds of the way to my expiration date. As I weed my way through what I am willing to experience, death has become my azimuth. Years ago, some therapists told me that this was a problem so I “worked” on it, but now, I find that it has served me well. Keeping my eye on death causes me to embrace my eternal presence – the part of me that will continue when my body no longer exists. Who I become now I take with me into eternity. What I experience helps me evolve into who I become.

Countless words exist of people’s tales detailing their journeys of how they became who they are. There are hundreds of methods and paths to self-discovery. I’ve read the books and blogs of people who appear to have blazed the trails to enlightenment and ultimate universal connection. I’ve prayed their prayers. I’ve practiced their meditations. I’ve repeated their mantras.

Yes, I’ve grown. I’ve become. I’ve discovered. I’ve experienced. But, I’ve not achieved the measure of conscious embodiment their words have described. I’ve failed to mirror their success and wonder why.

In my efforts to master the experience of Centering Prayer, I read Thomas Keating’s book Manifesting God. If you read his book, you can’t but help but hear Keating’s voice and feel his experience with God. In a moment of clarity, some small still voice inside me said: “these words describe how it is for him, but not necessarily how it is for you.” Keating can only describe his process, not mine. He cannot live my experience any more than I can live his.

Words and books cannot create my experience. Living creates experience.

The experience I seek is to be fully alive as my true self in this life.

Only my presence can create that experience.

©2013 by Barbara L. Kass

Learning Presence

September 12, 2013

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us. Joseph Campbell

My fingertips surprise me when I allow them to translate directly from my soul without filter. When I returned to this blog last week, I responded to a comment from Laurie (Speaking from the Heart ) by saying: “The more I learn, the less I know. I have seen, heard, and felt SO much that all I can say is that I know even less than I knew three years ago because my learning has far exceeded my knowledge. Now I have to go write a blog about that.”

So, here I am . . . writing a blog about that—the more I learn, the less I know.

At the age of four or five, I was complete. I knew everything I needed to know. My memories of that time are curled up in an idyllic cloud of nested satisfaction. During that brief period in my life, I had no worries about the past or the future. I was totally caught up in the present and that was enough.

Life happened and the world caught me in its grip of reminiscence and anticipation. Consequences began to haunt me. The future held shadows that foretold of events to come.

Learning became a cognitive process that created more questions. Half a century later, I stand at the edge of knowledge cliff facing a vast emptiness of unknowing.

I have learned that I often get what I have asked for only to find out that I have asked for something that is not good for me.

I have learned that no one is really in charge of life here on earth except the laws of physics and nature.

I have learned that we create our existence.

I have learned that nothing has to happen and everything will.

What I don’t know is how to put what is best for me first.

What I don’t know is how to help others see that we can only be in charge of ourselves and if we just do that, we might cause less harm to others.

What I don’t know is how to create a daily existence that is based on everything I write about here.

What I don’t know is how to let nothing happen.

I am learning ever . . . so . . . slowly . . . that if I just watch my life and live from my true presence, something will happen.

And it might be better than what I had planned.

©2013 Barbara L. Kass

The presence of returning

September 4, 2013

I’m back.

Back to my blogs. Back to my residence.

It appears from my last blog entry that I had managed some level of awakening and then disappeared. Or given up. The truth is I simply became busier than I could reasonably manage in a 24-hour day and this blog became one of the victims. While I kept up with Meaning Making, all of my other writing efforts were devoted to grad school papers and my final capstone thesis where I became undeniably aware that what I really really really really want right now is stillness and silence so that I can hear/feel/sense/discern the voice of the Divine/God/Spirit/Universal Consciousness.

I’ve returned to my place of living without my things because most of them burned up New Year’s Day 2012. But my habits have returned with me. I turn to see the time on the clock on the wall and see only an empty space. I need to find a new clock for that space because each time I face it, the memory of what used to be shakes me again, hurts me again, and I need to change that energy.

Returning requires replacement.

Returning requires facing what used to be with who I am now.

Returning is asking me the question: now what?

I’ve been living a life of finishing, stowed away in a different portal of time, sunk into a one-purpose outcome: graduation. It did not matter that I had already graduated from kindergarten, grade school, middle school, driver’s ed, dog obedience school, high school, college, and graduate school once before. Oh, no. I had to go back and hit graduate school one more time. It was a pure spiritual calling and what I discovered is the value of my time and attention—what is meaningful for me.

Returning finds me with everything I have absorbed and how it has changed me. I need to digest it all and make it mine. I am returned to where I began, and now I must somehow translate who I am now into my being in the world.

Someone is calling me to return to some greater presence of myself.

©2013 Barbara L. Kass


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