Both Ends of Life

Alice sat on the bench with a weary but satisfied sigh. She looked around at the lush growth of the surrounding garden. The sun warmed her wrinkled face even as the slight breeze moved the humid air against her arms with silken coolness. The contrast was quite pleasant.

As she quietly waited for her breathing to return to normal she noted the rose bushes that were going to need pruning before too long, the mint that was rapidly spreading in the shady area off to her right, and the Artemisia that was at least four times as big as it had been when she’d put it in last year. The mild winter had been good for these plants.

The life force bursting in them was hard to resist. At the same time their disparity with her own waning energy sometimes exhausted her. She loved it all. There was nothing like a meditation garden to emphasize the continuity of life, especially as a person neared the end of one’s own.

With her pruning shears in one hand in her lap and her cane in the other beside her, she tipped her weathered face to the sun and with closed eyes drank in the warmth. The dampness of the morning dew was barely dry and the heavily humid air was redolent with growing greenery.

Suddenly she sensed someone else beside her. She lifted her head and turned to see Janet seating herself on the bench; nothing but the slight whisper of her small muffled footsteps on the pine needle mulch of the path had revealed her presence.

They smiled companionably at each other, the old lady nearing the end of her life, the young girl still moving toward her maximum fruition. In spite of their age difference they recognized in each other a kindred soul. Alice reached out. Janet softly laid her unfeatured young hand in Alice’s age-spotted one and Alice gently patted it with her other hand. Then the two of them as one, like paired sunflowers, leaned back and turned their faces to the sun. With eyes closed in bliss they shared the invisible nectar raining down from the clear blue sky.

They sat that way until Alice’s hand grew cold and stiff. The smile never left her face.

Dancing In The Rain

This month, reminding me of April showers, was slow to take hold for me but iDancing in the rain Royalty Free Stock Imagest eventually led me to remember this great quote from Vivian Greene: “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass…it’s about learning how to dance in the rain!”

Growing up in northwest Ohio farm country I never learned that one could dance in the rain. Rain was something one hurried to get out of. It seemed, from my perspective, that we had storms more than gentle rains, though I’m sure the farmers were glad of gentle rains that must have occurred.

I have only vague memories of my childhood there; counselors and psychiatrists could probably make much of that. Most of those memories are colored by grayness, whether a result of the usual (as I remember) humidity and grayness of clouds and storms or, more likely, a chronic depression that I suspect is normal for living there. Several years ago my therapist told me I had dysthymia, which is chronic depression. Whether related to personality, personal chemistry, or situational conditions I don’t know.

Liquid gold background Royalty Free Stock ImagesEventually I went to Florida to serve my laboratory internship. I’d never been below the Mason-Dixon line before and I was stunned by the light and sunshine there. And the rain. It rained every day for varying lengths of time, usually not for long. I was told that was standard for summertime. It was also the first time I’d ever seen it rain when the sun was shining. The locals got a kick out of my amazement and told me it was liquid sunshine. I believed them.

Then I went back to Ohio and everything was pretty much gray again. Well, I lived in Cleveland then and with all the stone buildings, gray was about the only color they could have. But after a couple of years I got married and after a couple of more years ended up in Texas. So much light, again! And after fifty years here, now, I’ve discovered that even light can be oppressive in excess.

But I also discovered liquid sunshine again. Now that’s the kind of rain that’s made for dancing. Not that I ever did; I don’t dance and never have. But I can recognize dancing weather when I see it. And I just saw it the day before yesterday. It’s been quite some time since I noticed it. I don’t think it’s been the only time it occurred, though. It’s just that something is very slowly and gradually changing in me and the ability to notice such things is growing in me again.

I may not dance – canes and wheelchairs are not very amenable to dancing –Hammock in the rain. Royalty Free Stock Photography but my spirit can dance and it did when it saw the light come out after the storm, followed by raindrops on the patio. I’m grateful for whatever is changing, when the grayness of the past few years, when I struggled and lost the struggle over and over, is lifting. I’m grateful and I believe gratitude brings the lightness of dance with it.

Burn, Baby, Burn!

Things have been awfully hectic since I last wrote. Tony got some pretty significant chemical burns at work a couple of weeks ago. His right leg and arm, got it the worse, and a couple of lesser areas on his back, spots on his hands. When I saw thSkin burn injury sun radiation Royalty Free Stock Photographyem again the next day, BIG blisters and max redness and peeling skin, I knew that was more than I could help with so I told him to go to the doc.

He went to a local clinic and they decided he needed to go to a diabetic wound care clinic. There they fixed him up with antibiotic ointment and bandages but didn’t suggest anything else and told him to replace them daily. Well, that wasn’t something he could do for himself and we didn’t have bandages and stuff, so he talked them into having a nurse change the dressings daily. By this time, of course, he’d told them at work so he wasn’t working any more but he still had to drive in to the clinic every day to change dressings.

After about a week of that, another doc saw him and wasted no time in admitting him to the local hospital around noon, I guess. I went to visit him shortly thereafter. I left around five or so and took his wallet and stuff with me, thinking I’d come back with them the next day. But the doc who saw him later decided to send him either to Dallas or San Antonio to a specialized burn hospital and he left about midnight by ambulance to San Antonio.

It all happened so fast we didn’t have time to think about it. Thank goodness for cell phones and texting or I wouldn’t have known anything. They took him to the big military burn center there. It’s famous for its burn care so that was good. Only he had no ID, no money, nada. I had his wallet and I was home while he was "traveling!" LOL He joked about being "broke and undocumented" but the situation was a little too surreal and yet realistic at the same time. He got some strange looks now and then. When you have an accent and brown skin and no ID, well, it can be scary.

So he was there for several days while they removed the burned skin every Dressing on leg Stock Photosday, slathered him with ointment, and considered surgery for skin grafts on his elbow and knee. Thank goodness that didn’t turn out to be necessary. After a while he convinced them he needed to go home because he figured I needed him here since I don’t do so well on my own. I can do everything that needs to be done, of course, it’s just awfully hard and takes me a really long time and I can’t convince him that’s OK. But they acquiesced.

Of course, San Antonio is 150 miles to the south, he didn’t have a car and couldn’t even rent one without his drivers license, which I had up here. So Workers Comp, which had by this time been notified of the situation, sent him home by cab. Whew! I certainly didn’t look forward to driving down there and back, though driving is generally fairly comfortable for me. That’s a big city and I’m not familiar with it and trying to get around in it and figure out where the hospital was didn’t thrill me.

So for the past week he’s been taking warm showers and then we scrape off Mummy Stock Photothe dead skin and schmear him with antibiotic ointment and wrap him up like a mummy. At least the burn hospital sent him home with bags and bags of bandages and ointment. *G* Today was supposed to be the last day I had to wrap him up but he somehow managed to get the essentials taken care of by himself and those bandages will stay on until he has his followup appointment tomorrow. Again, they’re sending a cab for him. Whew!

It’s been an exhausting week or two. Thank goodness his skin is looking pretty good now, though still really red and purplish, but it looks much better. It never did pain him as much as I’d expect it to but the itching nearly drove him crazy. I’m hoping they have something else that can be used from here on out without the daily mummy-ing again. Maybe vitamin E oil or something like that. They gave him three special shirts that are treated with silver to combat any potential infection, as well as oral antibiotics, so maybe if we can figure out how to keep the skin from drying and shrinking and being painful we won’t have to wrap him.

I’ve never had much to do with burns and even so, things are way more advanced than when I had any reason to learn about them so I don’t know what’s the protocol any more. But I’m glad they sent him to San Antonio because that burn center is famous for their burn treatments.

So, I guess we’ll have some answers by tomorrow evening when he gets back. By cab. *G*

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print!  LOL

First Kiss

I’ve had two first kisses. I know, I know, there can be only one true first kiss but these weren’t with my true love – or any love, for that matter.

The first kiss was at my cousin Suzie’s wedding. I was sixteen years old and one of her bridesmaids. I was young and naïve – especially naïve – and for whatever reason I felt grown up that day. Clueless, but grown up. Maybe it was the form-fitting bronze sateen off-the-shoulder gown I wore.

Then Jay Pilkington decided to give me a kiss. Jay was one of the groomKiss a Bull Royalty Free Stock Photosmen, I think, but I’m not sure. I didn’t know many of the people there since I was from out of town. He strode up and said, “I want to kiss you.” I was expecting a quick peck on the cheek or maybe even on the lips, so I nodded. Suddenly I was held tight, bent backward by this very tall young man, and my entire mouth was covered by a slobbery orifice that could have put a bulldog to shame. I was trapped by his encircling arms, trapped by his encircling mouth. Trapped. I couldn’t even squirm.

I was stunned as his lips wriggled like earthworms and his tongue tried to pry its way into my mouth. Was this what kissing was like? Is this what I had to look forward to when I finally started to date? Oh, no! I couldn’t struggle, couldn’t think, couldn’t begin to function. Then, so suddenly I staggered, Jay released me and lurched away without a word. It was then I realized he was drunk. Slobbering drunk.

I slowly wiped my lips and lower face and tried to process my emotions. I’ve never quite gotten over the experience that my first kiss was so traumatic. First kisses are supposed to be romantic, lovely, etc. It left me anxious about my next experience. How could anyone think that was pleasant, much less romantic? Jay was so plastered I doubt he had any idea he’d even done what he’d done.

Then, a few years later, my next first kiss, when I was in college, was on a date with Ken, my first real date. Physically, the kiss was light-years different, but there was disappointment in store. I was an experiment for Ken. But at least he didn’t slobber! Our noseFirst kiss Royalty Free Stock Images just got in the way is all. Amusing and not a big deal. This kiss almost made up for Jay but it had its own bittersweet attachments. Once again, I was basically a thing, not seen as a person, as me, at all. Ken’s point in asking me on a date had been to use me to see if he really wanted to marry his girlfriend. I guess if he could kiss me and feel nothing, then he really loved her and that’s it. I don’t know if he married her or not, but I can pretty much say I felt nothing.

And, you know, I can’t even remember the first kiss I had with the man I eventually did marry. C’est la vie.

(I’m posting this rather more quickly than I usually do simply because it’s already written, and because Part Two should have some relationship to Part One. Enjoy. I hope!)



I believe the Higher Self has ways of guiding us onto the path we’re meant to travel, our destiny. If we (our egos) are too stubborn or too strong or too Embody Your Higher Self Royalty Free Stock Photosdense to figure that out, or if we try to do it all ourselves, or if we use the “deliberate unconsciousness” that Caroline Myss describes, the Higher Self must use whatever means necessary to nudge us in the right direction. If that nudge has the size and power of a 2×4, then that’s what it takes. We have no one to thank but our selves.

In other instances, though, the Higher Self may not resort to such forceful nudges. In some cases it may be that the ego is so spellbound by what appears to be the “real” world that it can’t be rescued by nudges or sharp pokes or even crashes. In these cases the ego will continue living but the élan in its life will be reduced or even eliminated as the self’s separation from the influence of its Self becomes nearly unbridgeable. It might even lead to an early demise from workaholism or some other similar “ism” or a physical illness. I came very close to this in my own experience.

Instances of people who appear to have it made and yet who seem puzzlingly dissatisfied are legion. Of course, it doesn’t do to judge such situations because, while we may see someone who appears unhappy in spite of all their accumulated stuff, their dissatisfaction may really be the nudge that moves them along. There’s no way to know the movings of spirit in the lives of others; we can only know our own experiences. Those experiences can change our point of view and allow us to step back and notice how others are experiencing their nudges from their Self. We can quit judging and just notice.

The mazes we might wander in our search could have dead ends throughout their twisting paths but there is a way out, though not all will find it. The path of the labyrinth, however, while it might seem to similarly wander aimlessly like the maze, actually has as its sole purpose to guide us inward to the center, our own interior, where dwells the Self. It then leads us back out again with the knowledge and wisdom we’ve gained from that meeting, now a more integrated being.

Just because the ego hesitates or resists doesn’t mean that the Higher Self gives up. I think my own experience shows that. Campbell says, “Not all who hesitate are lost;” similarly, J. R. R. Tolkien says in Lord of the Rings, “Not all who wander are lost.” The Higher Self may harass and niggle and provide all sorts of impassable barricades in our egoic life as well as use other implements to ensure that the ego is guided, even if unknowingly, into the necessary byways of the labyrinth.

Recall the instance of Jonah in the Bible. He was told to preach and prophesy to the city of Nineveh that it must give up its evil ways or be destroyed. In his effort to avoid this spiritual mission he attempted to run away by boarding a ship to a place as far away as it was possible to get from his homeland or, in Jonah’s case, his mJonah and fish Stock Imageission.

However, he was not able to avoid his fate. His life was struck by turbulence in the form of a storm at sea (symbolic of the chaos of the watery unconscious?) and the terrified sailors threw him overboard in an effort to appease the unruly waters. It apparently worked and the storm abated but a giant fish or whale swallowed Jonah.

Now this was indeed a very deep and dark world! Jonah’s prayer suggests the dark depths when he says, “…from the midst of the nether world I cried for help.” He goes on, “The waters swirled about me, threatening my life; the abyss enveloped me…. Down I went to the roots of the mountains; the bars of the nether world were closing behind me forever.” With this description we can see echoes of similarity between Jonah’s journey and the descent of Inanna where the depths of the underworld were guarded by gates she had to squeeze through to get in and then she was unable to get out through them again on her own.

Jonah’s prayer was heard and the fish spat him out. Jonah said, in essence, “I can’t do this any more!” He’d had to face his dark world and acknowledge it. Yet did he really learn from his experience or was he simply coerced by it? Let’s see.

Jonah was given a second chance to fulfill his mission and this time, preachingPreaching monk in church Stock Images and prophesying as he was bidden, he was successful. The people of Nineveh, a city that in his self-righteousness he would have preferred to see destroyed for its sinful decadence, listened to him. The people changed their ways, and the city was saved from destruction.

Then Jonah got angry about that. He hadn’t wanted this mission in the first place and now, after being pressured into doing it, and after preaching that Nineveh would be destroyed, it wasn’t, because the residents had heeded his prophecy and changed their ways. That really burned him up! Especially because, in some ways, it made him look like a fool. Firstly, he’d preached destruction that then didn’t happen, and secondly, because the people who’d listened to him weren’t even Hebrews and he truly hadn’t wanted to save them because of that.

He obviously didn’t understand the big picture even yet. Now is it apparent how much of his ego was involved in this mission? If he couldn’t avoid it and just had to do it, then he wanted to be in charge of the results, to have it to go off according to his desires and plans. Is this much different than how our egos might feel after having had some scrapes with our own interior depths and come out of them feeling fortunate and maybe a bit cocky because we hadn’t been trapped down there with that “stuff?” Our egos would probably take a lot of credit for that.

The story ends with Jonah being reproved by God for his anger over something that was really none of his business. He’d been given a job to do and he was not to concern himself with the outcome. Similarly in our own lives, the ego can resist and yet still accomplish the work of spirit even while not having a complete understanding of the entire process.

Fate Stock ImagesAt any rate, Jonah didn’t seem to learn much and he certainly didn’t have a very good time because of his resistance to his mission. Just think what a great adventure he could have related if he’d had a different outlook on the whole thing. After all, how many people can survive a storm at sea and be swallowed by a whale and live to tell about it?

While his ego’s attitude didn’t prevent him from ultimately achieving his mission it did make a big difference in his experience of it. As Seneca aptly and humorously reminds us, "The fates [or God or Higher Self] lead him who will – him who won’t, they drag." Much better to learn to go with the flow than to ignore the Call and end up doing it the hard way, being dragged kicking and scratching and maybe screaming all the way.

Now, there is another way for the ego to answer the Call or, rather, to not answer the Call and yet to accomplish its mission. Campbell calls it “willful introversion.” It’s sort of the opposite of Myss’s “deliberate unconsciousness.” The ego can make a choice, perhaps unconscious of what it means, but a deliberate choice all the same, to drive or push or in some way cause itself to enter into the psychic depths, to find out what Ereshkigal is in agony about, to seek something greater than the egoic self even if it’s not sure just what that might be.

Some egos attempt this union with a greater something by enrolling in the military or becoming an activist or joining a church or even a cult, etc. These methods all have the potential to lead to something worthy, something greater than even that group of which we’ve become a part. But too often they are only egoic ventures that proceed no further. The ego sort of accomplishes the mission without any real understanding of the purpose.

There are some who suggest using drugs to facilitate the willful introversion route, to rapidly open the ego to the contents of the unconscious but I believeDrugs addiction Royalty Free Stock Image that psychoactive substances, whether LSD or peyote or even alcohol or some other material, can be dangerous if not used with the proper spiritual training and purpose. Using these sorts of drugs simply for a recreational high is even more dangerous. The unconscious is very powerful and no matter how one is exposed, opening to it before one understands what can be called forth is playing with spiritual and psychological fire, not to mention physical pitfalls.

I believe that it’s safer to use a slower method that will enable one’s ego to become gradually strengthened and psychologically acclimatized so as to not be overwhelmed by the experiences. Forms of intensive meditation as well as measures like depth psychology, active imagination, dream incubation and interpretation, etc, can also accomplish this purposeful entry of the ego into the depths. Even these activities can be potentially dangerous or at least uncomfortable for the unprepared or weak ego, though, so they should be undertaken with proper guidance and training.

Campbell discusses the dangers when he states, “[Willful introversion] cannot be described, quite, as an answer to any specific call. Rather, it is a deliberate, terrific refusal to respond to anything but the deepest, highest, richest answer to the as yet unknown demand of some waiting void within…” He goes on, “The result, of course, may be a disintegration of consciousness more or less complete…but on the other hand if the personality [ego] is able to absorb and integrate the new forces there will be an almost superhuman degree of self-consciousness and masterful control.” One more intimation that a flimsy or weak ego can be at risk even if the potential rewards can be great.

This method of willful introversion is not one that’s often undertaken in our culture but it’s the way of certain styles of yoga and some types of meditation. Chinese ball Royalty Free Stock PhotoIt’s also similar to the process used by some artists for many kinds of creative endeavor from painting and sculpture to writing and dance expression. It’s no accident that great creativity and madness are so often linked in common lore. What happens is that the ego makes a conscious decision to attempt to enter the depths and to train itself to work with the energies that arise from those depths even if they might be uncomfortable or frightening. It then attempts to direct and construct those unconscious energies into expressions in the conscious world.

Those who undertake this route are sometimes described as neurotic but, like depression, neurosis can actually be a constructive state. Neurosis is simply a psychological sense that the ego/self and the Self are not in complete harmony. This sense of disjointedness, this neurosis, is often what propels the ego to Man and anxiety neurosis Royalty Free Stock Imageenter upon this difficult path. The pain of staying disconnected, wrapped up in its tight little bud, is worse than the fear of what it may find in its own depths. With the ego’s conscious choice and deliberate willingness to undergo this discomfort, the disharmony can be eliminated.

It’s not easy and it may take quite some time. The trick is to not get stuck at the neurotic stage but to be willing to bear the discomfort as the ego is transformed into one that is in harmony with and thus useful to the Self.

Willful introversion aside, if the ego refuses to respond to the Call and invests more and more of its energy in accumulating “stuff” for a specific lifestyle, it has less energy to commit toward the opportunity to grow into a partnership with the Self. In one way or the other, then, the ego has crippled itself by refusing to partake in the adventure available to it.

Of course, from the egoic viewpoint, if it can even understand or think about it at all, it thinks it’s saved itself from a great deal of discomfort at least and from death at best, and it expects to always get home in time for dinner. Thus, we sometimes see people who may have very comfortable physical lives but who seem to feel empty and lost. A bud rotting on the stem is not the way to exist in comfort and/or to keep death at bay.

It may take the ego some time to realize this. Perhaps it never will get the message. One way to avoid this dismal end is to teach our children, through myth or religion or initiatory rites or even fairy tales or movies, that there is a Call that we can expect to receive at some point in our lives, what this Call signifies and what it might entail, and what symptoms and emotions might be involved.

If we don’t refuse it or overlook it, if we are taught that it’s a normal part of life, we can make our passage an exciting adventure instead of a miserable experience.

If we’re not afraid to heed the Call we needn’t look for ways to avoid it.

(After a rather long layoff from my memoir book chapters I’ve finally put up the next chapter here. I feel like I have significant editing to do to these chapters but they’re out for a purpose, though I’m not quite sure in myself what that purpose is, yet.)


“We’re just plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things. Make you late for dinner. I can’t think what anybody sees in them.”

Bilbo Baggins


In the previous chapter I said that some people will ignore the Call or downright refuse to hear it. Why might anyone refuse a call to adventure? Especially if that adventure might lead to something wonderful?

Because adventures are unpredictable and that means that at least part of theAdventure signpost Royalty Free Stock Photography time, more often most of the time, we (our egos) are not in control of what’s going on. While we might like a little bit of spice and excitement in our lives, we still want to feel that we’re in control of, at the minimum, all crucial aspects. A refusal of adventure reflects the fear of the ego that it will lose control of things.

Egos take a long time to learn, if they ever do, that they’re not really in control of anything anyway. The only thing they have any degree of control over is whether or not they’ll release their illusion of control. For an ego bound by this fear of loss of control there is no such thing as “something wonderful” unless it’s a guaranteed pleasant result. By its very nature such a guarantee removes some of the wonderfulness. It’s the surprise, the marvel of encountering something unknown or unexpected, even if it’s difficult, that makes an adventure “wonder full.”

The ego doesn’t see any contribution to its self-interest by having an Explore Royalty Free Stock Photosadventure. Adventure will make you late for dinner. It will probably keep you apart from your loved ones in one way or another, at least for a while. It may very well be frightening. It will almost definitely, at the minimum, make you uncomfortable (if not cause actual pain) at some point or other. It might even be dangerous. The ego definitely doesn’t like to be uncomfortable for very long. Being uncomfortable or in pain emphasizes the ego’s mortality and it doesn’t want to think about that.

Paradoxically, busyness, even to the point of severe pain and distress, can allow the ego to avoid thinking about its impermanence. Staying within its “comfort zone” allows it to convince itself that nothing will ever change and that it will continue to exist indefinitely.

By this refusal to grow the ego actually sounds its own death knell. The term we use to indicate the absence of change or growth is death and yet the ego is blind to this reality. Without growth the only option is for the bud to rot on the stem. Stockpiling more money and things and status and living a long time doesn’t equate to growth.

This refusal isn’t always a conscious and deliberate choice – most often it’s not – but is generally a result of being deeply invested in the trappings of material success as a measure of who we are. If we think that what we do and what we have and even what and how well we think is what makes us who we are, then we get attached to our possessions and abilities. When that happens, ourMoney saving concept Stock Photo belongings and aptitudes begin to rule our lives. They make us decide how we’ll live to protect them rather than decide how we’ll use them to live. All of our efforts go into keeping what we have, making sure it doesn’t get taken away from us, and trying to get more. If we lose any of that paraphernalia, who will we become? Maybe a bag lady? Horrors!

But what’s really important? What gives meaning to our lives? Is it our things? Is it what we do? Is it how we live, how we behave? I don’t have to tell you the answers. But we can avoid finding the answers to these questions by getting involved in busyness in an effort to distract our thoughts from them or in trying to amass distractions such as status and possessions.

What we’re really avoiding, though, is the answer to only one question: Who Labyrinth Royalty Free Stock Imagesam I? When we begin the Journey engendered by that question we begin the journey to wisdom. This Journey isn’t very straightforward, though it might seem so at first. It will lead us into a labyrinth in which it is first necessary to become lost, to lose our selves so we can find our Selves.

The ego finds it very difficult to trust that, just as a sparrow or a lily of the field, it will always have its needs taken care of. I know, I know, there really are bag ladies and homeless people, and cats catch sparrows, and lilies wilt and die, but maybe our needs are different than we think they are. They can certainly be very different than what our egos think they are.

The ego trusts only what it can accumulate for itself to keep it as comfortable, as safe and secure as possible. This attitude can lead the ego all unknowingly into behaviors and activities that are actually antithetical to its desires. Like me, laboring under the illusion of control by “doing all the right things,” adding more and more until I was juggling way too many of them and my life was out of control.

My egoic anxiety about my group health insurance was a legitimate concern but I made my decision about that on the basis of a vague and illegitimate fear, not on the reality of the situation. That anxiety led me to live life with an eye to the distant future and to commit to actions that simply led me to more and more commitments until I was so over-committed that I should have been committed.

I was so involved in the process and in concern for my future that I didn’t even notice how unlivable it was making my life in the present. It didn’t occur to me until nearly too late that if I continued living that way I might not have a future in which I’d need health care.

Unlike our egos, our Authentic Self is immortal and, having all the time imaginable, it’s only too happy to go slowly and savor life’s various events as well as desiring a variety of experiences. This doesn’t mean to just take Soap bubbles Stock Photographyvacations in exotic places, though that can be a part of it. It simply means to notice where we are right now, the small things in our lives, like birds at a feeder or the color of the new grass in spring or the bubbles in the dishwater as they create miniature prisms for the sunlight coming through the window.

By being aware of these small glories and making a conscious decision to share them with our Higher Self (termed by my friend Alice as our Divine Guest) we become more open to the wonders of the real world as well as satisfying our soul at the deepest level. My ten years in the navy reserve saw me with assignments on all three coasts at one time or another and, stress aside, I generally enjoyed them even when they were very demanding, so maybe my Authentic Self got something out of those experiences. I hope so. I (ego) paid a dear price for them, though I can’t say I’m sorry for them.

Most of all, though, the Self wants and needs encounters that help it grow in wisdom. While I wouldn’t say that all my busyness was the best way to go about learning wisdom, it certainly did teach me that it was a most difficult way to begin that learning. Maybe it took all of this busyness and exhaustion to wear down my ego defenses, to break through my popcorn shell, so that I could finally have the opportunity to expand and learn.


(End Part One)

(This is a re-blog of one that turned out to be different than I expected it to be. Maybe it will be the same for you. I was doing research on why people were so upset by Caitlin Jenner’s desire to become Caitlin and “come down” from her previous position of privilege as a man. This doesn’t answer that but it tells me that all is not lost when it comes to following our soul’s urgings.)


Rabbi, Co-founder, Uri L’Tzedek: Orthodox Social Justice

Should I Thank God for Not Making Me a Woman?

Posted: 05/02/2013 3:00 pm EDT Updated: 07/02/2013 5:12 am EDT

  • "Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has not made me a woman." — Morning Blessings, Artscroll Siddur, p. 12.
  • I’m supposed to say that each morning. If I were a woman, I would recite this instead: "Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has made me according to Your will."

    These difficult, even painful blessings are a part of a series of otherwise beautiful meditations thanking God for the everyday gifts of sight, clothes and freedom. Those other blessings roll easily off my tongue, the praise genuine and sincere. But for years I’ve struggled with praising God for not making me a woman. And I’m not the only Orthodox rabbi who struggles with it.

    As a committed Orthodox Jew, I have accepted the entirety of halacha — the Jewish path of law and tradition — upon myself. This includes guidelines on rituals, holidays, charity, legal matters, sex and, yes, prayers. Not only do I accept it on myself, but as a rabbi, I teach it to others.

    There are parts of halacha that I love, and parts that I struggle with. This blessing though, this blessing is really tough. Written by male rabbis nearly 2,000 years ago, these words evoke for me the sexism too prevalent in the Orthodox world and beyond. These words have echoes of the religious misogynists who throw chairs at a woman for praying at the Western Wall or force women to sit at the back of Israeli buses. This blessing helps enable the religious sexism that silences women’s voices, keeps them from positions of communal leadership, and denies them study of our sacred texts.

    Do I want any part of that sexism? No.

    So do I say the blessing? Yes.

    Here’s why:

    Sadly, there are some excellent reasons to be grateful for not being a woman in this world. For example:

    • As a man, I will most likely make more money working at a job than if I were a woman. And as an Orthodox rabbi, I couldn’t have my job if I were woman.
    • So long as I stay out of jail, the odds that I will be raped are very low.
    • If I were raped, I probably wouldn’t be blamed for it.
    • I can be ambitious professionally and no one will question my gender.
    • Most political, religious and cultural leaders are guys, just like me!
    • In most prayerbooks and Bibles, God and I share a gender.
    • There aren’t billions of dollars spent every year trying to make me feel bad about how I look and selling me things to change my appearance.
    • I get to be a hero if I change a diaper or spend time with my kids, and most people won’t look down on me if I don’t.

    Saying this blessing every day challenges me to face these and other difficult facts about men and women in today’s world. It forces me to remember that work as a spiritual leader in the Orthodox community would not be possible if I were a woman (though that is changing thanks to the pioneering work of Yeshivat Maharat, but not without a fight).

    This blessing calls me to recommit to building a world where inequality and oppression do not exist. It calls me to recommit each day to building a world where saying "thank you God for not making me a woman" will disappear, not because it is offensive, but because it is meaningless.


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