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Showing posts from July, 2010

Every Minute Kindness

There's a story I heard once, about a couple of enlightened Zen masters.  One of them goes to see the other one rainy morning, and when he gets there, the one he's come to see says to him, "When you came to see me today, did you leave your umbrella on the right side of your shoes, or the left?"

The visitor realizes he doesn't know, and that he doesn't know because he wasn't fully present when he put down his umbrella out in the entryway.  So, without so much as drinking a cup of tea, off he goes, back home to study Zen some more.  He puts in another twenty, maybe thirty years, getting himself well and truly enlightened this time, so he can really call himself a master--

--a master of every minute Zen.

Which is, I suppose, a pretty good thing to be.  But it's not my goal.  I want to be an every minute Quaker; I want to practice every minute kindness.

I think I already know what that would feel like, at least a little.  It would feel like this:

When I wa…

An Experiment in Scriptio Divina (Peter)

This came out of something we did last month in NEYM’s ministry and counsel working party on spirituality and sexual ethics. That group has been charged with promoting discussions at monthly meetings about sexual ethics, and also going through a process of deep and spirit-led discernment ourselves to draft a sexual ethics statement of our own, with the ultimate goal of bringing the results of all of this for consideration at the Yearly Meeting level.

Last month, one of the things the working party did was to go into worship and, from that place of worship, write down questions each of us would have had about sexual ethics and sexual behavior when we were younger. It turned into a sort of written worship sharing—not something I’d ever done or even heard of before—and it was pretty powerful.

I decided to try writing during my regular meeting for worship at Mt. Toby. Call it “scriptio divina”—divine writing. Or call it written ministry, analogous to vocal ministry. Or call it, as the …

Weeks Six and Seven: Plastic Tally and Comments

No photo this time--I just didn't feel like hauling out the camera.  Just a tally and a commentary:

The last two weeks' tally for the two of us amounts to 3 lb., 1 oz. of plastic waste.

The good news is that very little of that is single use plastic.  The weight is probably inflated, too, since we tossed out several empty bags of dog food.  We buy our dog food in bulk, and the bags are mostly paper, but with a thin plastic liner.

I know some people do feel their dogs home-made food.  Honestly, with the special dietary needs our aging and allergic dogs have, I don't think that's a road I want to travel.

Another category of plastic waste this week is packaging from tools and hardware for our home renovation.  It's amazing how many things are simply not available without a little plastic coffin around them!  And other things, quite useful and ordinary things, like the pulleys needed to repair sash weight windows seem to be unavailable except in salvage stores.

This is…

Stops. (And Openings.)

Part 3 of 3. 
(Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here.) 

The most dramatic illustration of experiencing a stop, and what came of it, is the experience I had on September 11, 2001, the experience that made me a Quaker.  But I've written about that before, and it is so woven in with the story of how I grew a peace testimony that I think I'll set that aside for a moment, and travel just a little further back in time, to a different kind of a Stop--more personal, less dramatic, but one that is, I suspect, still unfolding.

Sometime around the year 2000 or 2001, I began to feel waves of something a lot like grief, and a lot like fear, around my work life.

At that time, I was working as a psychotherapist, a trauma therapist specifically, and if I am to speak plainly, without preamble or apology, I was good at what I did.  For many years, I had worked specifically with survivors of childhood and adult sexual abuse and sexual assault, and for a number of years beginning in the mid 1990s…

Why I Love the 4th of July

I inevitably cry at small town parades. 

I don't think anyone should mistake love of country for love of all decisions of its government or as a boast of all of its actions throughout history.  I don't think anyone should mistake love of country for blind patriotism or jingoism.  There is so much more to a country--to any country--than a military or a flag.  There are its people, its landscape, and its unique history, of joy and idealism and hypocrisy and loss, all blended into one unique, unfinished story.

I love my country--not blindly, but deeply, and (I hope) well.

My own love of country is founded in the blue and rolling hills that bound my horizon, the murmur of the leaves of trees in the distance, old (and not so old) church ladies sharing pickle and pie recipes at a church social, small town high school bands, and the smell of a small swimming hole at midsummer.  It is the love of rivers, of sky, of wild things and of sun-baked city streets.

It also embraces the sweat …

The Trap (by Peter)

There’s a blogger named Colin Beavan who calls himself the “No Impact Man.” He’s become slightly famous in environmentalist circles, with a book and even a movie about him. The blurb for the movie asks, “Can you save the planet without driving your family crazy?”

That is one of the things Cat worried about when she started our plastic fast. She never demanded that I join in, and I’m not doing it to the extreme degree she is, but I also have a concern about plastic—have had since about 1980, when I was in college and became (for a couple of years) an avid organic gardener. I’ve been setting aside and weighing my own plastic waste as well, and I’ve been avoiding plastic packaging a little more in the last few weeks than I always have done.

But we’re contending with one of the biggest traps in this and a good many other worthy causes: Gray-faced, grim obligation.

About twenty years ago, when recycling was really starting to take off in our area, someone wrote an essay in The Valley Adv…

The Trap (by Peter)

There’s a blogger named Colin Beavan who calls himself the “No Impact Man.” He’s become slightly famous in environmentalist circles, with a book and even a movie about him. The blurb for the movie asks, “Can you save the planet without driving your family crazy?”

That is one of the things Cat worried about when she started our “plastic fast.” She never demanded that I join in, and I’m not doing it to the extreme degree she is, but I also have a concern about plastic—have had since about 1980, when I was in college and became (for a couple of years) an avid organic gardener. I’ve been setting aside and weighing my own plastic waste as well, and I’ve been avoiding plastic packaging a little more in the last few weeks than I always have done.

But we’re contending with one of the biggest traps in this and a good many other worthy causes: Gray-faced, grim obligation.

About twenty years ago, when recycling was really starting to take off in our area, someone wrote an essay in The Valley A…

Leadings and Stops and Gods and Trees

Part 2 of 3. 
(Part 1 is here.) 

What does it mean to listen to a god?  What does it mean to say gods or spirits talk to us?

Well, for the most part, it's subtle even when it's life-changing, and it's nothing someone with a good, hard case of skepticism couldn't explain away without even trying.  Which would be a shame, because listening to and speaking with the world of Spirit is a source of so much meaning and wisdom and strength.  I know some people need to go without it; I need not to.

I remember, for instance, the first time I "heard" a tree speaking to me, specifically.

My daughter and I were living in a tiny little apartment only a few streets from the downtown of the small village where we lived.  I had a car, but we rarely needed to use it: in good weather, we could walk almost anywhere we needed to go, from my daughter's day care center to my office and work.  I knew all the short cuts and back streets, and I enjoyed walking everywhere. 

Which …

Weeks Four and Five

Lots of plastic, even for two people for two weeks: this tally comes to 2 pounds, 2 oz.  Which works out to be about 27 pounds of plastic for each of us at the end of a year at this rate; still well below the American average.

Which is disconcerting, actually.

One comment about this double-week's plastic waste:
While we're still dealing with a certain amount of old single-use plastic, there's some new stuff, too--largely from fast food buys when one of us was suddenly hungry away from home.  One of the things that has to go, for us (and probably our society) to move away from a disposable culture is the ability to make decisions on the spur of the moment. 

Life without plastic involves more planning ahead than most of us are used to: remembering to return reusable bags to the car, but also remembering to eat before running errands, or to bring a snack or reusable container for food while out.  And while you won't see any more frozen pie crust wrappers in our plastic tallie…