O is for Oneness and Oldness … Spirituality A to Z

The idea of Oneness is too important not to mention in an “O” writing, even if the other reference (Oldness) was actually the preferred topic for this piece. Together, they offer a depth and meaning to a Spiritual life that is richer when both are included.

Oneness can be another way of expressing connection…to other humans, to Life itself, to Divine Intelligence. It’s often a word used to describe a person’s relationship to God. In my Spiritual belief, we are all individual­ized expressions of the One Mind. We are each created with all the qualities of God within us. We develop or acknowledge those qualities as we mature on our Spiritual path and livingness in this physical world.

The idea that we are all made from the same “God stuff” – that the same type of cellular structures and processes are present throughout creation – solidifies the concept of Oneness. Regardless of how far back or how deep science investigates, similarities exist enough to show connection. And it is these familiar patterns or substances on which the future is created and from which it evolves. The threads of Life are long, sturdy, and enduring.

It is this type of Oldness that gives credence to Oneness, and that shows up in day-to-day living. For example, when a grandparent creates a special activity with his/her grandchildren, it can be the start of a new annual event for the family. This activity connects the participants in Oneness as a family and a bond is created through this shared event…special only to those involved. This is how memories are created. This is how tradition begins.

Oldness and Oneness are like two pillars of DNA rotating and spiraling through the core of our lives…connecting us by strands of love and DNA_moleculeexperiences. Even if we separate from the past or the familiar, we take some of those strands with us. They’re a part of us that will never be lost. The Oldness gives us the gift of Oneness, the connection to family, to humanity, to Life, and to our God-Self.

The older we get, the more strands of connection we have created. Perhaps that’s why we might sometimes have feelings of sadness at the thought of leaving this Life, or letting go of those who have passed on, or not being able to visit loved ones during holidays, or having a longing for familiar traditions of days gone by. The strands of connection, of Oneness, may get bent, but they never really break. Old memories are as important a link in all of us as our DNA, as the God-stuff that binds us together.

When we recognize how truly connected we are, such awareness breaks down barriers of indifference and judgment, of lack and loss…and opens the portals to Acceptance, Peace, Love, and so much more! The Oldness of God and these enduring Principles tie us together in the Oneness of this Life’s expression…and perhaps, into the next. Nothing is truly lost. And so much more is gained as our consciousness expands and we open our hearts to the ever-evolving possibilities that lie before us.

A Positive No

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where saying “no” to someone was actually a positive thing to do? It can be a way of declining a suggestion you may not want to experience. This, of course, can be done in various ways and intonations, depending on how much you feel you’re being pushed into something or who is involved. However, a Positive No has its own unique sound.

A Positive No comes first from Love. This can be Love for oneself, a conscious form of self-care. For example, you might decide not to participate in an activity with friends because you really need rest from a busy day or week. It can be Love for the safety of another, such as shouting a commanding “NO!” to a child wandering too close to a busy street.

A Positive No can also be utilized when you’re setting boundaries with others who have been used to getting only a “yes” from you in the past. It can be particularly difficult to say “no” to one’s children at times; especially when their circumstances are dire and help is limited. However, continuing to do (whatever) for anyone when they could and should do it for themselves becomes an enabling pattern that cripples everyone in the relationship. It becomes a hard habit to break, resentments build, self-esteem suffers, and relationships wither.

Someone needs to take the first step. In such a situation either person can make the change … the one who has been repeatedly asking for help or the person providing the help. It only takes one person with the awareness to see the cycle appearing again, and then having the courage to take action – in a loving manner – so that both parties can become disentangled from each other and begin the steps toward a mutually respectful relationship. The goal is to create an independent or interdependent, loving connection …rather than one of co-dependence and suffocation.

I now find myself – as one of thousands (maybe millions) of other Baby Boomers do – sandwiched between caring for aging parents in some way, as well trying to help out adult children and perhaps grandchildren. I question myself as to whether a situation really calls for me to participate and what my motive is when I choose to…or not.  There are sure to be some situations when the reason is not so clearly defined and others when there is no doubt at all what I must do. In each instance, I have the option to say “yes” or “no.”

I keep in mind a lesson taught to me on my first airline flight 25 years ago:  I must put on my oxygen mask first BEFORE I can help anyone else, including my child. If I can’t breathe or survive, I won’t be able to help them. I once heard motivational speaker Jim Rohn say, “The best thing you can do for the poor is not become one.” Sometimes that means making the difficult decision to decline a loved one’s request for help, especially if it puts you at great risk in some way…financially, emotionally, physically, etc. The ideal, of course, is a mutually beneficial arrangement – where everyone shares in the risk and success …where everyone grows from the experience.

I must remember to ALWAYS come from a place of Love…not from fear or anger or guilt…or even a self-imposed obligation. My heart and mind will know whether I am doing a service or an injustice. As long as I listen to the still small voice of the Divine Presence, I will be rightly guided. As long as I heed God’s direction and not ego’s, even a “no” can be a “yes” for the Highest Good of all involved.  And so it is.

My Broken Stick

Our deck has been in serious need of staining or painting for some time. Fortunately, my husband has decided to make this “his project” of the summer. He has spent several hours applying the first coat of stain, moving deck furniture, refilling buckets (I helped), and climbing ladders. It’s a lovely transition as the dark and weathered wood becomes clean and white. He’s making great progress on his own. However, I’m confident he’ll allow me to help soon.

Meanwhile, I spent a little time the other morning watering the trees and shrubs, the flowers and herb gardens. It provided me a ground-level perspective of the raised deck and the new paint project. While the water provided a drink for the plants, I sipped my morning coffee and surveyed the workmanship. I love house painting (mainly inside). Yet I’ve managed to stay out of his way and say very little about the process …until I saw the damage.

There on the ground, under the leg of a heavy extension ladder lying on its side, was one of my prized yard ornaments. A cherished walking stick was now broken in half. It had clearly been knocked from its revered position by something or someone. It now lay crushed in the dirt. My mood went from admiration to anger in a split second. No mention of this horrific act had been made in the past few days. But there was no doubt in my mind who was responsible. The painter man.

You see, this wasn’t just ANY walking stick. It had been found in the woods of Michigan by my elderly father. It came from a white birch_woodspaper birch tree, one of my top three favorite trees. The stick reminded me of the special times when dad would take a young me for walks, exploring the woods. The best feature was the twisted, curling shape at its center that made it so unique. That part was still intact. My dad had presented me with this odd stick on one of my visits to Michigan years ago. I packed it into my car and drove it back to Colorado. The walking stick became a yard ornament rather than for its intended use. I had moved it between new and old homes, protecting it, placing it in a significant position in the yard near the deck. It leaned patiently and gently against the post, waiting for someone to engage it in meaningful activity. And now it was broken.

I picked up the two disconnected pieces of useless walking support. I was in tears and somewhat surprised at my emotional reaction. But I could not keep quiet about the treatment being shown to my family treasures. I marched over to the basement window that shielded the painter man from my vengeance and called his name. He signaled that he was on a telephone call, so I stomped around in frantic circles in plain view until he got off the phone. I was so lost in my sorrow and anger that I didn’t notice him until he was standing on the half-finished deck, looking down, and asking me what was wrong.

I held up the two remnants of Nature’s exquisite art piece and yelled, “You broke my stick!”

The painter man was speechless. I could tell he was searching my facial expression to see if I was truly serious about this.

As soon as the words escaped my mouth, I recognized the absurdity of what I was doing. A smile also managed to escape with my tears. And in that moment I surrendered my anger, my ego, and my attachment to this piece of a dead tree branch from another state. It was just a stick! That’s all. Its only value came from my memories…its significance was based on emotions from within my mind…from a weak attachment to a distant place I rarely visited…and to a beautiful childhood experience of long ago.

I leaned the two halves gently onto another yard ornament (given to me by my son many years prior), telling the painter man the significance of that piece as well. He promised he would fix the stick right away. I assured him it wasn’t necessary.

The broken walking stick became more valuable to me in that discovery moment of its destruction than I had ever recognized or appreciated in its idle wholeness. Its bittersweet message – and all the other memories – can be cherished again and again, simply at the mention (or sight) of “my broken stick” now laid to rest and surrounded by flowers.

The ‘Hood

A morning routine I reinstated recently is to spend the first hour after waking in contemplation and meditation. I collect a thermos of coffee, a large floor pillow, my dog and spiritual booklets, and then take them with me to a second floor deck of our house. After reading the inspirational message for the day, I bask in the early morning sun to contemplate its meaning…to meditate.

morning_sunThis ritual is fast becoming my favorite time of day. In this seemingly intimate solitude, I am surrounded by a world bustling with activity and sound.

At any given moment can be heard the horn of a train in the distance…woodpeckers knocking on rooftops…the highway noise of morning commuters…skateboard wheels whizzing to school…a dog barking a few houses down the street…lawn mowers buzzing…or a car door closing before zooming off. There is little human conversation to be heard from my balcony perch, yet the neighborhood is definitely alive and busy. This is when the day comes to life. This is when I feel tremendous gratitude for living here, my neighborhood. Yet, I didn’t always feel this way.

There was a time when all I wanted to do was live somewhere else…move on. My life pattern had been to change residences every two to three years, sometimes more often than that. Life moved quickly and I sped along with it, sometimes unwillingly. Thus, as a result of such a transitory lifestyle, I never really took time to know the neighbors or appreciate my surroundings. Up until now.

As the sun lights my face and the birds introduce themselves in song, I acknowledge the growth of the trees, gardens and me. The roots are deep; the branches wide. Now I welcome the embrace of familiar surroundings enveloping me like a warm blanket. Now I feel peace and contentment. Now I’ve come to appreciate this community and its people.

Most of my neighbors have lived here for more than 15 years! We’ve gone from sending children to school together and to welcoming grandchildren into our backyards to play. We’re getting older, but no one’s in a hurry to move away. We’re not close friends; we are neighbors. We help each other shovel snow, call out a “hello” at the mailbox, yell across the fence to quiet a barking dog, look out for strangers, and wave or smile in passing cars.

It has taken years for me to appreciate how blessed I am to live here. And this feeling of connectedness, of being part of a community, extends beyond the end of the street. I carry the ‘hood with me when I drive across town, visit friends out-of-state, or travel to another country. I look for the threads that weave us together into one beautiful tapestry of humanity, brotherhood or sisterhood…the true ‘hood.

And while I like the variety of colors and patterns of a colorful life, thinking about how it would be to live somewhere else, to experience the excitement offered in a strange place, traveling to different lands, enjoying extraordinary scenery and cultural diversity, there’s nothing quite like returning to familiar and serene surroundings. There’s nothing like a sun-kissed morning on my balcony in quiet meditation. There’s nothing like coming home.


Family Love

Sometimes a commercial holiday can be beneficial in triggering us (me) to think about its particular theme, such as Valentine’s Day being about Love. While I’ve been truly blessed to spend parts of the day with a devoted husband and loving children and grandchildren, many thoughts about love today centered on those I’ve not seen in years…members of my family of origin.

I may have mentioned this in an earlier writing, about being the oldest of five siblings and leaving home (and the state) when I was 19. I traded the Midwest for the West Coast and an early marriage. My three brothers and one sister were all still in school; the two youngest were still in grade school as they are 11 and 12 years younger than me. Not only were we years apart in age and maturity, but as a result of my moving away, I never really knew them as individuals. I still don’t.

Life being what it was, I rarely went back to visit, but I did make the effort a few times over the years and am glad I did. There were no big family reunions. My parents didn’t travel or take big vacations. My mom has never visited my home.  It took nearly 40 years before my dad finally came to see where I lived. He stayed for five weeks. That was one of the most special, sharing events of my life. We now have conversations several times a week.

That’s not true for my siblings, however. Our interests and lifestyles are vastly different. We live in three or four different states with one or two having outdated addresses or no interest in making contact. I talk with one brother once or twice a year; another every couple of years; and the third maybe once a decade. I’m not sure where my sister is living or how to reach her. Even if I did, I’m not sure it’d be a good idea; she doesn’t seem to like me much.

The few conversations shared amongst the five of us over the years have been about feelings of abandon­ment, jealousy over the distribution of family possessions, reliving early childhood memories or family celebrations, catching up on where our adult children are living or how many grandchildren we have, what to do about aging parents, and hoping everyone is able to stay working and caring for themselves sufficiently for as long as possible. Not the healthiest types of relationships, to say the least.

While we share family bloodlines, it seems rather strange to declare real “love” for people I hardly know. Frankly, we’ve all had such separate lives for so long, it feels quite artificial to initiate any kind of meaningful relationship now…and yet I feel such a deep sense of loss. It may be time to try again.

I don’t regret leaving home at a young age. (My father actually encouraged me to go.) I like the person I’ve become through the experiences Life provided. My world is full of love from a blended and extended step-family, children, grandchildren, and friends. I promote regular family gatherings with our children and insist we communicate and share in each other’s lives. I want them to know the importance of such family connections…to learn about one another as adult individuals…to experience family love with their brothers and sisters. Maybe, someday, I will, too.

My Own Christmas Day

This may be a radical idea, especially coming out just two days after December 25. In fact, I’ll bet it brings up considerable resistance within the psyche of anyone who reads this. Change usually does.

First, let me say that having everyone celebrate the same holidays on the same days or schedules each year is an ideal way to bring structure to society. It serves a purpose and keeps things orderly. It allows American companies to provide employees days off through the designation of specific holiday dates each year. Everyone focuses on the same celebration at the same time. In that acknowledgment there is unity and oneness – a nice feeling to have with your neighbor or relative.

I think this form of order works quite well for recognizing political or societal holidays. I have a different opinion in regard to the rigidity of spiritually-based celebrations. For example, I propose to recognize the Spirit of Christmas in April or August. No more December 25. In fact, we could move this spiritual holiday to a different month each year, just to be sure folks are paying attention to the Spirit of the Season. Why you ask? Why make such a drastic suggestion?

Think about it. From Halloween to New Year’s Day it’s just one party or get-together after another. People get worn out from all that traveling and partying and gift buying in a short two-month span. Why not spread out the celebrations a bit? We could easily move Thanksgiving and Christmas to other times of the year…to those months when there’s not a lot going on in the way of connecting with one another.

Christmas in August would be ideal! There’d be less weather-related issues for traveling (no snow). You could combine buying the new academic year’s school clothes as Christmas presents (practical and money-saving). There’d be a lot more contemplation time in December to prepare all those resolutions due by January 1st. You wouldn’t have two major, end-of-year holiday celebrations just eight days apart (loss of employee productivity with all that time off). And with all the thought and attention placed on getting just the right Christmas gift and being with those you care about, you would be able to connect with them in the middle of the year (plus end-of-year holidays) and distribute the love more evenly throughout the months rather than focus on the last 65 days of the calendar.

This year our family purposely down-sized the commercial expectations that have built up over the years. Through that effort, we found we had a lot less stress about the whole Christmas event, we were freer to give from the heart and not the wallet, and we’ve started seeing or calling each other without the Christmas impetus. We’re talking to each other about life and having fun. We don’t need to have a designated date to make plans to visit. We can choose our own special days to connect. And that’s a very spiritual thing to do.

We recognize the Love more easily – no tree decorations in the way, no fancy meals to cook, no special trips to arrange – unless we choose to. We decide…when to call up and say “hello” or “I was thinking about you.” We decide…if it’s a day to spend with family or friends or both. We decide…to bring that sharing and giving consciousness to each other or to strangers along the way…and we can do it EVERY day. We express our loving God/Christ-nature EVERY day. And isn’t that the message we should be sharing?

There you have it. My slightly radical idea to have our own designated and personal Christmas day. If we celebrate the Spirit of Christmas on a regular basis, would we really miss doing it in December? What a fun surprise this will be for my family next year. I really can’t wait for Christmas!

If Today Was My Last…

In one of our spiritual classes, we learn about the benefits of mindfulness. It’s a practice that applies not only during meditation, but also in our practical, daily lives. To see clearly what is before you… preferably without attachment or judgment… to objectively see “what is.”

I was gifted this experience most profoundly while caring for my infant grandson. He finally fell asleep by my side as we rested on a comfortable chaise near a sunlit window. At first I occupied my busy mind with mundane electronic games to pass the time until he would eventually awake. Then his baby snores caught my attention and focus. His steady breathing, the fresh baby smell at the top of his head, the touch of his little hand on my arm…all these gave me clarity to see the gift we were to each other in that moment, just by being aware of his presence in my life. Time stood still and silent.

I thought, “If today was my last day of life, this is how I would choose to spend part of it… in such a moment as this.” It was clear to me that I would choose to fill up my final hours with the joy of being alive and being with those I love… to be gifts to one another.

As we cuddled in the quiet, my mind moved on to other ways I would spend my last day in this physical realm… chatting with granddaughters about their school days and dreams… discussing with my sons and daughters the meaning of life, the importance of love, and encouraging them to always seek spiritual and personal growth… sending out one more message to all my family and friends about how wonderful they are and how much they add to my life… taking a walk in my neighborhood in the cool of the day… pointing out where all the important papers are… playing the piano… giving away cherished items… playing tug-of-war with my dog… and having dinner with my husband, teasing and laughing together as we often do, sharing one last embrace as the sun goes down and the moon rises…

Not once did I think of extravagant trips to far-away lands or daredevil acts to perform. There was no fear or sadness. There was no place else I thought of going…only “being” in that moment next to this little soul. Only feeling love and wonder! It is forever etched in my mind and heart.

The greatest awareness of this experience is realizing I am already doing these things. I choose to do something every day to fully express my joy and gratitude in being alive… in connecting with Life. While I am not anxious to leave this physical realm any earlier than necessary, I am content with my existence and purpose, and with the person I have become, knowing my evolution is not yet complete… nor will it ever be. And, yes, I am now more mindful… more loving… more grateful… more aware… more Spirit.


A Full & Temporary Life

My husband just returned from several weeks of traveling overseas for business. It was sometimes a challenge to connect by computer video call or telephone due to the time differences. But we managed to succeed. The brief video calls we shared, so filled with laughter and love, will always be part of my memory. I discovered that, even during bouts of loneliness, I could function and even be happy in this temporary single life.

The thing is, you can’t catch up on the time apart. It’s in the past…spent…gone. What you CAN do is appreciate every moment in the NOW…the present and active experience in which you find yourself.

So I took the opportunity to visit my son and his family in another state – road trip – bringing with me my daughter and her children. The family gathering of siblings and grandchildren, dogs and air mattresses, preparing evening meals and impromptu fun activities with the kids, brought with the chaos a memory of my own childhood and a large family. I felt comfortable in the chaos and activity of multiple lives all buzzing around in one house. However, we all agreed and appreciated that this was only a temporary living arrangement; not one that we wanted to reinstate.

The day before my husband’s return home I had the pleasure of visiting with two of my dear and long-time friends, spending several hours with each of them in turn. One travels often for business; the other will soon be moving to another state. It wasn’t that we needed to catch up on each other’s lives or relive days gone by; it was more a time to go deeper into life’s meanings, challenges, and sharing solutions to problems that we’d discovered or found helpful. Spending time together like this is a temporary experience to be savored in the present moment.

All life is temporary. Each experience…idea…job…home…relationship…your body… season…a moment of connection…is either evolving into something deeper or transitioning, coming and going in cycles through a lifetime. Even our memories of the experiences are temporary and often uncertain. The other person may not get that same sentiment from the same physical experience. Yet, at the soul level, somewhere deep within each of us, we have connected in consciousness, in that moment.

My memory is important only to me; yours to you…yet we often want to hold on and relive it in our minds or try to recapture or re-enact the experience. It’s never the same, not really. Time has passed; it’s over. Living in the past robs us of real present-moment experiences or appreciating a significant and meaningful future.

This NOW, this temporary moment, this present experience is where our attention is needed. It’s all we have. It’s where we create the life we live. If we can pay attention, be mindful, of what is before us, we will live with such fullness that loneliness or separation will find no room in our heart or mind. Instead, we will be filled with the contentment of a lifetime of joyful experiences; each one fully appreciated, fully lived, and fully loved.


I’m in the midst of a countdown list of things to do as I prepare for a mini-vacation with family…I will be with my children and all my grandchildren for the first time ever!

While we all maintain contact through various technologies on at least a weekly basis, we definitely look forward to the face-to-face visits with great enthusiasm. At the same time…between all the pre-vacation preparations, the long days of driving to another state, and the fact that I really love my home, I sometimes find it difficult to make the journey. Yet, I’m always glad that I do. The connection we have as a family is stronger than any excuse not to go.

It takes time and energy to maintain quality relationships, whether it’s with your spouse, children, extended family, friends or groups in which a person is involved (such as church, work, hobbies, etc.). Oftentimes, and sadly, relationships can deteriorate and even fade away just from the lack of attention they so desperately need.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received about relationships is that they need to be fed. For example, in a marriage, both individuals need to contribute love, time, energy and respect (plus more!) in order for this vital union to survive. Both people need to contribute to the connection they share. It’s like a three-legged stool. It’s necessary to think of the relationship as a living entity, one of the legs, and the two people involved as the other two legs. Such a stool will never stand on its own with only one individual trying to make it work. A two-legged stool will never stand.

The same is true for ANY relationship to survive…parent and child, friendships, employer and employee, client and customer, or whatever. We must take the time to nourish the bonds that connect us…if we want them to continue.

I find it interesting to observe and be part of the evolution of a relationship. They’re precious no matter how long they last; the memory of a special connection can live in our memories forever. I get a warm, fuzzy feeling when I notice the seeds of a friendship taking root amongst members of our congregation. I melt in the love of a grandchild’s hug. A text from my adult children can turn into a laughing fest. An international phone call from my husband any time of the day or night is a testament to our long-term commitment. By whatever means available, making an effort to stay connected to the ones you care about deepens the joy of living…it helps to balance the three-legged stool…and turn it into a large and comfortable recliner.

I believe and teach that what you think, say and do is returned in some manner to you. How beautiful life is when those seeds of love and friendship are sowed with all you know and returned exponentially from many directions. There is no end to the Good…to the Love. Why not share it abundantly as often as you can!  See you after my trip.

Start Where You Are

Thanks to a daily reading provided earlier this week by Mary Morrissey, the idea of start where you are has been at the forefront of my mind for several days. I think of it as an expansion of “first things first,” “be here now” or “living in the now moment.” Start where you are implies there is something to be done and that you have all the tools you need to begin it.

Let’s say you want to start a meditation practice. You’d really like to spend at least an hour or two a day in total spiritual bliss and prayer, and emerge from the experience as an enlightened giant among men. But you never seem to have that much time to spare in your busy working life and you don’t know what to say. Start where you are. Dedicate just five minutes – in the morning, at night, at lunch, on a break – and begin with what you have. Set a timer if you must; it can help you relax into and focus on the moment. Use the words you know and feel. Prayers coming from the heart are much more powerful anyway. Then watch as you naturally expand the time for this meditation practice, and happily see unrealized benefits in all directions.

Recently I was counseling someone about an experience they were having with a family member. As I listened patiently for the story to be told, I could feel the pain in their words and remembered a similar incident in my own childhood. My intent was to bring unity to this person, their family, and the situation, but how? By the time the tale was told, I found myself sharing what I had done as a child when such a situation occurred in my home (Reading!) …and how I’ve benefited years later. I shared that, although my experience was painful at the time, I discovered my solution empowered me, made me feel good about myself. I found peace in the midst of chaos and a method that has been my comfort to this day. It’s led me to advanced education, writing, teaching and speaking. I started with what I had, what I knew, and built from there. Given the slightest encouragement and support, growth is inevitable!

Whether you are searching for a job, moving your home, changing a habit, helping those less fortunate, or trying to improve relationships, start where you are…it’s all you can or need to do! Tap into that Divine Energy within for strength and courage to put one foot in front of the other and get moving in the direction you have in mind. Build on your intention. What you focus on WILL grow and expand.

You can also start where you are by appreciating what you have to begin with. Gratitude is a key element in attracting ‘more’ into your life…more love, joy, peace, abundance. Just like the mustard seed, growing from its tiny form into a giant tree, you can do anything you truly desire, focus on, and nourish – start where you are!