Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Innocent Buddha

Pope Innocent the 3rd, our open-minded Papal Action Figure, is thinking of shaving his head. Not only will his pointy Pontifical hat fit more snuggly, but he feels his chances for Enlightenment will be greatly enhanced. With shaving cream and razor at the ready, the Pope is preparing himself for his date with destiny. 21 days from now. At the University of Buffalo, in Western New York. At precisely 3pm. On that day-of-days, Pope Innocent the 3rd will have an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

To be more precise ,the Pope will be in the audience, along with 30,000 other quivering fans, as the 14th reincarnation of the Buddha of Compassion gives his Holy Lesson in the UB Bulls football stadium. Despite the odds and the security, the Pope feels his chances of meeting his "Homey Lama" are quite good. Especially if he dyes his Papal robe saffron, along with shaving his head.

The Pope has spent many late nights perfecting his Lite-Brite mandala and transcribing excerpts from the Book of Kells onto red and orange prayer flags. He hopes to give these little works of art to his Homey as gifts of gratitude and honor. The Pope has also been engrossed in the Dalai Lama's book , Live In A Better Way , and has refrained from killing any bugs. He's even put aside his carnivorous tendencies in anticipation of his initiation into Enlightenment. The only glitch in his preparations has been the hamstring pull he suffered while trying to get into the lotus position for meditation. He will likely be beyond hobbling before the day-of-days.

Pope Innocent the 3rd knows what a great blessing it will be to be in the presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He knows it will be an even greater blessing to receive his teachings. 22 days from now, you just may see a bald Pope in a saffron robe at the Continental Airways ticket counter, heading for Tibet. Prayer flags streaming from his bag, and an "I Love My Lama" button on his hat.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Soul Mates

It is a myth that we have only one soulmate. We have more soulmates than we consciously know. The limiting definition of "soulmate" holds that we have one special partner, destined to be with us throughout our adult years. Supporting us, loving us, being the central figure of our lives. For many, this brand of soulmate arrives and stays. For many, this brand arrives and leaves or never arrives at all. It matters not. Soulmates are everywhere.

There is no limit to the packaging in which a soulmate can arrive in our lives. They can be young or old, male or female. They can be black, white, red, brown, yellow or pink. They can be our parent, our grandparent, our sibling, our cousin. They can be our friend, our co-worker, our rival, our enemy. They can stay for a lifetime. They can stay for a minute. They can shower us with love. They can shower us with hate.

A true soulmate is one who comes into our lives to assist in the positive growth of our soul. A true soulmate stretches us to become more than we feel capable of becoming. A true soulmate is under Universal contract to support us in expressing the God-essence at the core of our soul. The essence that knows only compassion, only gratitude and only love. The essence that can forgive all transgressions. The essence that can see the perfection in the flaws.

The comfortable and preferred soulmates are the ones we bond with at a deep level. The ones of like mind. The ones who make us laugh out loud. The ones whose aid we rush to. The ones who give us safe space in which to know the limitlessness of our hearts.

The uncomfortable and least preferred soulmates are the ones who show up for a minute or a seeming millennium. The ones who strongly disagree with us. The ones who won't support us. The ones that would seek to harm us. The ones whose hearts are closed.

These are the soulmates the Universe sends when we are in need of metaphorical open-heart surgery. When we are in need of learning and embracing the virtues of forgiveness and humbleness and the bone-deep understanding of walking in another's shoes. These least preferred soulmates come into our lives when we are least compassionate with ourselves and least forgiving of ourselves. When we are hell-bent on pummeling and suppressing the God-essence within us. Because everyone we meet is a mirror for how we feel about ourselves and a mirror for how we are currently treating ourselves.

These least preferred and often unaware soulmates are the guardians of the gate that lead us back to the path of our soul's mission. When we can muster forgiveness and compassion and peace in the face of rage and hatred and criticism, we pass the through the gate and return to our mission of knowing and sharing our God-essence. We return to enjoying life with our comfortable soulmates. We return to respecting ourselves, loving ourselves and sharing our best selves with the world.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Letter Project

Today I received magic in my mailbox. Along with the bill from the cable company and the postcard letting me know I could get an amazing deal on carpeting, there was a parchment-colored envelope with my name on it. My name was hand written. So was the return address. I didn't recognize it.

I carried the envelope into my living room, slightly puzzled. It was from California. I don't know anyone from California that would have my home address. I turned the thick envelope over in my hands a few times. Then I remembered The Letter Project.

Recently, while online, I stumbled upon a man who had a small advertisement about a personal quest, called The Letter Project. In this ad, Rick, from California, offered to send a handwritten letter to anyone who asked. Just send him your home address and he'd send you an authentic, old fashioned snail mail letter written by himself. For the purpose of resurrecting an almost lost art. For the purpose of sharing and caring in a less-hurried way. For the purpose of remembering what anticipation felt like. Because I'm fond of lost arts and letters, I sent Rick my address.

In return for less than 3 minutes of my time to sign up with Rick, I received a 5 1/2 page, handwritten correspondence in blue ink. The made-to-look-like-parchment stationary he used matched the envelope. He dated the letter and began with "Dear Graciel". Let me tell you, he had me at "Dear Graciel".

This stranger named Rick wrote to me about being in my home-state of New York and how breathtaking he found it to be. He told me about living in a community that is carved out of the desert and sports few trees. He told me about the fragrant sage blossoms that are about to bloom. He told me about being the elected shoulder to cry on for all his friends. He told me about the dinner of smoked turkey and rice he made. About going to the bookstore and losing his keys accidentally in the garbage can out front. About what he was currently reading. About his job as a writer for others and how he needs to return to publishing his own work.

Rick also asked about me. He asked what my dreams are. He asked what I was doing to realize them. He asked what I lay awake at night wishing for. Rick included a return envelope with a stamp already on it. He invited me to send him a letter in return or pass on the goodwill and send a letter to someone else.

I will never again underestimate the power of the written word. Especially the handwritten word. Rick's effort and caring and selflessness gave palpable energy to the ream of staionary he sent. I literally felt the vibrational energy of the pages through my hands. That's how powerful the compassion of a stranger can be.

Because of Rick's energy and daring and genuine desire to care and share, he is no longer a stranger. He is instantly my friend. He is instantly my new hero. If his little ad hadn't mentioned he was already married, I would instantly pack my bags to smell sage blossoms in the desert.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

New Pioneers

Angels are writing classifieds. They are putting a call out for new pioneers. Pioneers who are willing to instill balance. Pioneers who are willing to make peace. Pioneers who are willing to uncover inner landscapes and share them with the world.

The Angels are calling for me. They are also calling for you. We are the new pioneers. We are the innovators that will save the rainforests, lift up the poor and stop the endless cycle of war. We are the innovators that the Angelic Realm is relying on to shift this world on its axis. To heal this world of its ills. To usher heaven down to earth.

What can we do to shift and heal and usher? What can we do to answer the call and be a new pioneer? We can be ourselves. Utterly. Completely. Daily. We can express who we really are. As God made us. In front of everyone we meet. Quirks, smirks, passions and all.

This call takes courage to answer. Courage of heroic proportions. Because we have been taught to live our lives to please other people. We have been taught to suppress the best parts of ourselves to fit in. To be accepted. To earn love. We have been taught by our parents and our schools and our society at large to squelch the very characteristics that make us each unique. The very characteristics that empower us. It takes rare courage to stop heeding the pressure imposed on us. To stop making the opinions and approval of others, all others, matter so much.

But the salvation of the world depends on each of us to dig deep for that rare courage. To give ourselves permission to go against the tide and express our true selves. To express God through ourselves. And with God, there is only goodness. Only love.

When we are truly ourselves in front of another person, our energy automatically empowers that other person to feel comfortable to express who they really are. Their personal brand of caring, of humor, of love. Like a domino effect, one person's courage triggers the same courage in the next person and the next and the next.

When enough of us heed the Angelic call to be who we are in every moment, to be the new pioneers, miracles will abound. Peace will abound. Love will abound. God's balanced Kingdom and Queendom will abound. When enough of us heed the Angelic call, we will discover we are individually and collectively the long awaited second coming.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Dirt Cheap Therapy

Nature is medicine. It has the power to heal, the power to soothe, and the power to calm. It is the doorway to mental health, emotional health and spiritual health. It is dirt-cheap, effective therapy.

Since I need therapy on a daily basis, and I'm not a bajillionaire yet, I have regular, free appointments with Nature. My favorite form of therapy is Avian Therapy. Commonly known as bird watching.

Watching, studying and thrilling over birds immediately brings the mind into the present moment. The present moment is where all healing begins and where all healing lives. While watching the rosey-colored house finch at my feeder, my mind is no longer obsessing about past or future events. Time stops. There is nothing but the thrill of the color, the sweet song and the marvel of how much seed that little body can pack away. Then the bouncing goldfinch arrives and the darting chickadee and the always vocal downey woodpecker. Time ceases to exist. What does exist is the soothing, calm awareness that peace and balance and beauty are the dominant forces at work on our beloved planet. It simply takes present-moment awareness to understand this and to live this.

I also take therapy while driving. With luck, you won't be in the car behind me when I stomp on the brakes to catch a great blue heron fishing in a pond. Or swerve to the side of the road to catch a red tail hawk swooping down on a mouse. Despite my erratic driving habits, rest assured, I'm in the process of calming myself, soothing myself and healing myself of all neurosis regarding the annoying habits of other drivers. Bird watching makes me a better, more friendly driver.

I remind myself there is no excuse for prolonged angst. There is no excuse for dwelling on the past and the future and making myself mildly insane. There is no excuse for living anywhere but the present, joy-filled moment. Not when God has provided dirt-cheap, timeless therapy flying by every window I choose to look out and flying down every road I choose to take.

{ The great blue heron photograph was taken by my friend, Lisa Clare, of Gasport, NY. Lisa has a heart of gold, a great eye for nature photography and subscribes to the same therapy as me. Today is Lisa's 40th birthday.}

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Purge

One wooden door. One wobbly table. One red and black cabinet. One icky-green night stand. One peeling window. 2 boxes of scavenged cherry bark. One crushed Monet poster. Bubble wrap.

Purged. Curbside. Out of my life.

I'm cleaning again. Removing clutter and crap that no longer serves me. Removing energy that vibrates at a lesser frequency than which I'm currently spinning. Removing blockages to better things and better opportunities. Lightening my load so I can live with more light, more peace, more joy.

This is scary business. It requires a certain amount of courage. Because purging crap from one's physical surroundings creates a contract with the Universe that one's corresponding inner crap will be purged as well. As without, so within.

{If the load at the curb is huge, one's inner expulsion will be equal in size. Best to start with a modest purge when first entertaining this notion. Clean out one room. Then stock up on Kleenex. Adequate health insurance is a must if purging an entire home.}

As per my contract, a wave of sorrow has flooded my heart since finishing the task at the curb. Sorrow about the man who still hasn't shown up. The man with the soft eyes. The man who loves nature and art and makes room for God in his daily round.

As per my contract, I'm letting the sorrow leak out. I'm letting myself be purged and cleansed and emptied of lesser vibrations, of thoughts of self-doubt, of the old wooden door across my heart that no longer serves me.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Buffalo Is Beautiful~ Chapter 1

Blessed Trinity Roman Catholic Church, at 323 Leroy St. in Buffalo, New York, is a hidden architectural jewel. It is tucked away in a crumbling neighborhood, unknown to many, if not most of the local residents. Yet, it is one of the most complete and true examples of 12th century Lombard Romanesque-style architecture existing in the United States. It is unabashedly gorgeous.

Built between 1923 and 1928 for a cost of $513,000, the structure would be almost impossible to reconstruct today. It features handmade bricks created and set in 12th century fashion. It is laden with ceramics for structural and decorative purposes. It has more than 2000 handmade symbols and pictures of medieval Christian iconography embellishing the inside and outside of the building. The symbols represent nature, science, morals and history. It has a painted dome that peaks at 73' from the floor, with a 40' diameter. It has 615 small projections, or corbels, along the top of the walls of the structure. And it has a stained glass skylight over the altar made up of 20,000 pieces of glass, in 300 different shades of color.

For a knock and polite smile, Dorothy the devoted church member and part-time cleaning lady will let you in and turn on the lights. She will invite you to part with a mere 5 dollars to own the picture-laden booklet decsribing every blessed detail of Blessed Trinity. It will be the most informative 5 dollars you will ever spend. Don't even think of leaving your camera at home.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Buffalo Is Beautiful~ The Preface

On a national weather forecast at the end of July, the presiding weatherman felt compelled to announce that surprisingly, there was no snow in the forecast for Buffalo, New York. His pasty cheeks then spread into a wide grin. For someone living no where near Buffalo, his eyeball-rolling remark was typical.

That weatherman, much like the rest of America, has very little idea what Buffalo has to offer. Most people, like Mr. Pasty Cheeks, think Buffalo is nothing more than a rusting, former steel town buried in snow 11 months out of the year. It's actually only 10 months. No, wait. That would be the dream of all local ski resorts. Okay, so it's really ripe for snow 5 months of the year. But Buffalo and its surrounding towns have the best snow-removal equipment and capabilities of any area in the country. Buffalo can dig itself out of any snowfall in world-record time. And unlike hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and floods, snowstorms rarely kill or lay waste to property.

What America doesn't know is that Buffalo is beautiful. The architecture alone is jaw-dropping. The city ranks 9th in America for support of the arts and theater. Not bad for a city of 280,000 and surrounding area total of 1.1 million. Buffalo is a food-lovers haven, a sports haven, a music haven. Buffalo is lush with trees, lush with parks and lush with rare waterfowl along the speedy Niagara River. Perched on the eastern shore of Lake Erie, Buffalo is also lush with the gold of the future~ fresh water.

The best kept secret about Buffalo, aptly named "The City of Good Neighbors", is the people. No where in America will you find more down-to-earth residents. No where in America will you find more people willing to tell it like it is. There is less pretention in Buffalo. There is less ego in Buffalo. There is more friendliness in Buffalo.

The down-side of less pretension and less ego is a subtle, collective lack of self-esteem. The people of Buffalo are humble to a fault. They are largely unaware of the treasures they live amongst in their area because they are largely unaware of the treasures they live with in themselves. There is a low-grade, collective energy that pervades the people of the region. That energy projects, "we're not quite good enough". It is the mist that shrouds this Avalon of the Northeast.

Thankfully, the energy is shifting. It is shifting from the self-deprecating to the self-appreciating. The people of Buffalo are waking up to the beauty in their area and the beauty in themselves. Eventually, the positive momentum will lift the shroud on this cultural Mecca and the world will no longer be snowblind about Buffalo.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Yellow Mums

My friend, Lynn, works in the floral department of an upscale grocery store. Yesterday, she noticed a young man standing in front of her large display of yellow mums. He didn't ask any questions, he just continued looking a the mums.

Eventually, Lynn asked if she could help him. He responded by asking if the flowers he was looking at were mums. Yes, said Lynn. The young man asked if they came in other colors. Lynn explained that they do come in many other other colors, but today, all they had was yellow mums. She mentioned the smaller mum plants in the back of the department and told him they also come in other colors, but again, all they had currently was yellow.

The young man then told Lynn his mother had died a couple days ago. He explained that before she died, his mother had told him when he sees yellow mums it was to be a message from her that she was happy, no longer in pain and in a better place.

The Gate~ Chapter 4

My mission to open the gate of my heart continues. It requires commitment on many levels. It requires more self discipline than I sometimes care to invoke. It requires focus and patience and unclenching of stomach muscles. It requires acute awareness of thoughts rampaging freely through my brain. It requires the practice of self respect and the practice of setting healthy boundaries. It requires staying focused in the present moment.

This heart-opening business is sometimes daunting. To aid myself in my mission, I have committed to practicing Yoga three mornings each week. Yoga is said to open the energy centers of the body, massage the internal organs, increase flexibility and calm the mind. I don't know what kind of Yoga I practice. I've created my own medley of moves and held positions based on the 2 brief adult education classes I've taken. But whatever I'm doing is exhibiting results.

While laying on the floor holding a spinal twist position, I had a burst of compassion well up in me regarding a loved one. A full and total understanding of the childhood traumas that shaped her adult behavior. The carpet was wet from the pull of gravity on my flooding tears.

While standing in the warrior pose, I gleaned another piece of a past life. The one where I took refuge in a European monastery and was saved by the beauty of the architecture and the songs and the healing calmness of its residents. The one that explains my present life magnetism to sacred architecture, chant and the Abbey of the Genesee, 50 minutes east in Piffard, New York.

While holding a position of the sun salutation, I lifted my head and looked out my living room window. The same window I looked out of every day previous. Suddenly, I saw it. Straight ahead. Highlighted. In full view at the end of my curving street.

I saw the Gate.

I felt tingles run the length of my body. Tingles that confirmed my mission was truly unfolding. Tingles that confirmed my instincts about how to help myself are working. Tingles that confirmed Yoga is for me, a gate to the heart, a gate to the mind, and a gate to the Divine.