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Sacred Ground (words and photos)

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Do you remember Moses at the burning bush?  God had to tell him to take off his shoes–-he didn’t know he was on holy ground. And if we can just come to see that right where we are is holy ground–-in our jobs and homes, with our co-workers and friends and families.  This is where we learn to pray.” ~Richard Foster


So last week after having breakfast with my sisters on a crisp winter’s day I rode my bike to the cemetery. As odd as it may sound, I find cemeteries beautiful. Peaceful. I find its sacredness calming and in a way connecting. I had some things on my mind and needed the calm.

Sometimes if I’m feeling stressed or disconnected I have a practice which I do. I think to myself how in some time (hopefully later than sooner) I will no longer be here. I will cease to exist in this particular bodily form. I do believe I will exist in some type of consciousness but cannot fathom what that may be. At some point I (my soul)—which is eternal—will shed this body like an old coat and move on to whatever there is beyond. We all will.

When I looked around at the monuments I thought of how each person had their own worries and stresses but in the end none of those worries matter. Some of the graves have large monuments built to honor their loved ones, but they are no more important than the smaller ones or even those unmarked.

I know this may seem a bit dark and even morbid, but it’s not. To me it is inspiring because it makes me remember what I have right now. Because that of course is all we really have…the now.

Thinking in these terms also helps me remember our connectedness and the holiness of everyday life. If, for example, there is something greater than I, a higher power, which I believe there is, then wouldn’t this source shed the same light on you and I and everyone equally? So if this is true wouldn’t we each carry a spark of light from this source within us, no matter our circumstances? And if this were true wouldn’t each of us be not only connected to one another in some mysterious way but also precious to this source in some unfathomable way? And if this were true would each interaction, each step we take, in some way be holy, sacred. The very ground on which we walk sacred.

I’ve come to this cemetery for years, for solace and photos. And I remember a while back, in the summertime, seeing a group of teenagers lying on the grass as if it were a public park. They seemed harmless enough, and happy, but inadvertently they were lying on a person’s grave. A cemetery worker saw them as he drove by. He stopped and I was close enough that I could hear what he said. He told the teenagers they were welcome to stay so long as they stayed on the road or benches or other public areas, because where they were currently sitting was sacred ground.

As I rode my bike through the paths of the cemetery last week, on a crisp winter day, I would stop periodically to snap a photo when something caught my eye. And when I did I would hear the sounds of wildlife as the cemetery is an unofficial animal sanctuary in the city. At one point a family of deer gracefully meandering through the gravestones. The sound of geese is always present as they squawk and cackle near the lake and stream. And circling above were a couple falcons searching for prey. The cycle of life, I thought. And I also thought of the irony…so much life in this place of graves. So much beauty.

Years ago I happened upon a book by the spiritual writer, Ernest Holmes, at used bookstore. The bookstore has since closed, and the owner himself has made his transition, but I still have the book. It’s simply titled, Practicing the Presence, and is the first book of New Thought I had read, which eventually changed the way I view things. When I first picked up the book I opened it at random and the first words that I read were, “The very place on which you stand at this moment is holy ground.” Chills ran up my spine as I read it and they do again as I remember this and type these words.

So as I stood there straddling my bike, my breath visible from the cold, I thought about this. It is true that nothing matters but now. The connections we have with one another and how we interact in this particular time we all happen to be passing through are all we have. Money worries are nothing. Annoyances at work, ditto. None of it means anything. The only thing that matters is love. For one another and all things. And as I stood thinking these things, for a very brief moment, the veil was lifted ever so slightly and I caught a glimpse of this. And at that moment I was standing on holy ground, and realized that each one of us is sacred. To each other but also to our source from whence we came and will ultimately return.

As I pedaled and coasted home I had a full belly from brunch, but also a full heart from my
contemplation in the cemetery. Now I have to remember to carry this with me throughout my days. And that will be the most difficult part.

 Urban Simplicity

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A Very Brief Poem About Things…

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There are so many things

So many little things

Everyday things

Things ignored or unnoticed

To be grateful for

A Poem About Rain…

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After the rain. 

The clouds hung low and heavy for most of the day.

They were gray and ominous.

The humidity was oppressive.

Then the evening came, and so did the rain.

It didn’t begin with a sprinkle, but a pour; a torrent.

It’s as if the heavens themselves were split open.

I ducked in a doorway to watch the rain.

There was no thunder, no lightening; just rain.

For fifteen minutes it came down like buckets.

And it fell on everything; nothing was spared.

All the buildings and trees were soaked.

So were the creepy things that crawl in the grass.

It washed away all the grime from a hot day.

And it washed away my stress and worries, too.

Then just as suddenly, it stopped.

Just like that the rain was over and the moon was out.

Now there was a slight mist coming from the warm sidewalk.

As I walked I could hear the wetness under my feet,

and I could hear the car tires in the street,

and I could hear the wet trees dripping with wetness.

It made me remember that I was not in control,

but that I was alive.

I felt free.

And this is what I thought about,

after the rain.

.

Urban Simplicity.

Notes to My Younger Self; Eleven Things I’d like to say.

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Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”

–Bob Dylan

Time goes so very fast doesn’t it? I remember hearing this when I was younger and not really paying it much attention, but the older I get the more true this seems to be.

I am a creature of habit, I always have been. And while I have moved away from Buffalo, NY—the city of my birth—a few times, and have done a bit of traveling, I have always called it home. I live in the eclectic and somewhat bohemian neighborhood known as Allentown—a village within the city—and I know it’s streets like the back of my hand. Some of the businesses I have patronized for decades. And this is what I was thinking while I was out for a couple beers the other night at one of my favorite watering holes.

As I leaned against the bar, which is so old that it in itself is leaning, I thought about the three decades that I’ve come here. In my younger years I would visit late-night for serious partying, but these days it’s mostly just a beer or two in the early evening. And I’m not sure what made me think of this one night in particular, but I did. I was likely about 22 or 23 at the time and had driven here from the suburbs by myself. I was still living in my parent’s house, though they had both passed away by this time. Anyhow, I’m not sure why I remember this night—as nothing out of the ordinary happened—but it came to mind. I can even remember what I was wearing…parachute pants (remember them?) tucked into combat boots (keep in mind this would have been the early eighties and I was heavily influenced by The Clash…watch this video). And on this night I was leaning against the bar just a few feet from where I now stood, albeit 30 years later.

In those days the thought of being 52 years old would have been inconceivable…an old man. At the time I thought I was so grown up—I’ve often felt older than my years—but in retrospect I was just an uncertain young man. I was rebellious, crazy, and wild, but I also carried the weight of the world on my shoulders; and I had so much unresolved grief. But no one probably knew this because even then—just as now—I have the ability to put on a different facade, the face I believe people want to see. And now—so many years later—I had the fantasy of going back and offering my younger self some useful advice.

I imagined standing next to my younger self and having a beer and gently telling myself things that would help me along the way. After all, who would no better than me? Many people write themselves notes (I know that I do)..a sort of “note to self” so they don’t forget something. Well this is a sort of note to self in the retrospective sense…truly trying to remember who I was meant to be as I walk this planet.

It is said that with age comes wisdom. While this may be true, I at times still feel like that uncertain and confused young man. But being more than twice as old as I was then, and knowing myself better now than I did then, I feel I would have some good advice to offer my younger self. And these are some of the things I would say (in no particular order).

1. Don’t worry. For the most part everything works itself out. If you have your health that is enough. You may have heard this a thousand times but it’s truer than true.

2. Cherish relationships. Family, friends, acquaintances, all of them. Over the years people drift apart or in and out of your life. People get sick and die. Cherish them all because you never know when the next time you’ll see each other.

3. Spend your time wisely. When you are younger there is so much time for everything. But as you get older you will realize that time is your most valuable commodity. Spend it wisely.

4. Be kind to people (everyone) and don’t hold grudges. The only one you will be hurting is yourself.

5. Don’t take yourself—or life—too seriously. As you start to fall into certain roles (because you will whether you like it or not) don’t take yourself too seriously. Life can be so fleeting and the years go by quickly. Enjoy it.

6. Relax. Yup, it’s that simple. I know that you are a driven person, and a creative person, but allow yourself to relax now and again. Just…do nothing.

7. Don’t suppress your creativity. You are an extremely creative person (we all are) and as a child it is expressed so freely, but as we get older this is sometimes stifled (and in so many ways). Creativity is what makes our souls jump withing these bodies that we currently occupy. So just do it. Create. Write, draw, paint, play music…whatever makes your heart sing.

8. Live in the present moment (and enjoy the journey). I don’t mean to keep harping on this but it is true, life can be so fleeting so just enjoy every minute of it. This, I truly believe is why we as eternal souls have incarnated into these human forms…to experience life. All of it; the good and that bad. It’s not about the destination but the journey itself. Enjoy it. Every minute of it. Never lose your sense of wonder. Embrace it.

9. Don’t try to be someone you are not; be yourself always. Throughout life people will try to fit you into certain roles and identities, and you yourself will try to make yourself fit into roles and identities that you are not meant for, but don’t do it. Be yourself. Always. It may be difficult sometimes—really difficult—but just be yourself. To everyone and all the time. Years from now you will be happier for it. Be your authentic self.

10. Embrace the fact that you are an introvert. It will take you many years to accept this, and many more thereafter to realize you are an INFJ (sometimes INFP)…one of the quirkiest and most obscure personalities to visit this planet. But the sooner the better. Don’t just accept this, embrace it. Once you figure this out things will fall into place much easier. You’ll be a better person all around.

11. Be grateful for everything. Seriously. Even when it seems impossible or undeserving. Just be grateful. Everything is a gift.

So of course I could go on for pages having this imaginary conversation with my younger self. Offering the younger me advice on how to navigate the years ahead. But as I was typing I couldn’t help but think…if I am writing and conversing with my younger self 30 years prior, what I wonder will I want to tell my current 52 year old self when (hopefully) I am 82, thirty years from now. But then it came to me that maybe I’m already doing it…that much of what I have to say to my younger self is just as pertinent now as it was then. Now I just have to heed my own advice.

There are only two ways to live your life. One is though nothing is a miracle. The other is though everything is a miracle.”

–Albert Einstein

 

The view from my handlebars, a few thoughts on Ash Wednesday/Lent, and things to be thankful for…

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So there I was anxious and rushing to get home from the community center on yet another single digit evening so I could make it to the opening time of an online class that began tonight, but then I had to stop for yet another traffic light (pictured above). Why, I thought, did I hit another light? Doesn’t the Universe know I am late? The traffic light, of course, seemed especially long. But I couldn’t help notice the sunset. Incredible. Here it was something like 9F and I was straddling my bike shivering a little but looking at that incredible sunset–the same sunset that if you live in the same hemisphere as me could view along with me–it made everything ok. At least for a few minutes. And I started thinking about how today was the beginning of Lent; Ash Wednesday. Symbolically representing Jesus going into the desert and fasting for forty days. Well, I am far from fasting, though I have given a few things up. But I don’t just give things up for the sake of doing so (but if you do I am not trying to pass judgment); I like to add something, such as additional prayer, meditation, yoga, etc. And also random acts of kindness. But as I stood there straddling my bike, and my fingers grew increasingly colder and I looked at that incredible sunset, I thought that–as a spiritual practice–I really should appreciate gratitude more. Just the little things. Because I have so much to be grateful for. And at that very moment I realized how grateful I was for that sunset on this very chilly night. So I took out my iPhone and snapped a picture with shivering fingers.The traffic light seemed to take ten minutes to change (though it was probably only two), and I did make it home just in time for the online class. While I watched it I ate dinner while my two pugs sat at my side and wood stove heated the room. I was, and am, thankful for that as well. But as I rode home this evening I also realized that it was nearly 7pm and there was still light in the sky, and that each day brings a little more light as we progress towards spring. The cold darkness of winter will end soon enough. And after riding through this very cold and snowy winter, this is something to truly be thankful for. I’d love to hear what you are thankful for at this point in your lives (because there is so much).


Urban Simplicity.