So the other day I was sitting on my front steps enjoying a mildly warm end of the afternoon. I sat gazing at the young couple across the street. They were out with their little one who is just learning to walk. They were laughing and playing, their dog barking, the baby taking a few steps and then flopping down on her butt… and then back up again 50x over. Mom and dad were pointing things out to the baby and encouraging her to touch a leaf, watch the deer nearby, and look up at the sky.
I sat there smiling remembering a time not all that long ago when my own kids were wee ones. They were 12, 10, and 8 when we moved here, and there was an elderly couple in that very house across the street. The lady’s name was Emma. We talked quite a bit and many a day she sat on her own stoop, or stood in the window with the curtain slightly drawn back, watching us play with our children in the front yard. We were always out there whether it was Frisbee, baseball, football, kick-the-can, freeze tag, or whatever the game of choice was that day. Filled with giggling, laughter, red, sweaty faces… and the neighborhood kids came to play too. (In fact one lady down the street thought we had 6 or 7 kids and was shocked to hear only 3 were actually ours).
One day Emma and I were talking by our mailboxes and she said with a smile on her face, “Oh how I love watching the children play, it reminds me of long ago when mine were little. That was such a long time ago, but I so enjoy watching them now. You are such good parents – always taking time to enjoy your family. That’s important.” She began to both smile and tear up as I walked her back to her porch from the end of the driveway.
I realized as I sat this day on my front stoop: I am now Emma. I am now the one pulling those memories from the recesses of my mind, memories I have tucked away. I see them in a different light now all these years later. Back then I was tired and heard the bickering over everything. I heard the “I’m hot”, “I’m tired”, “I’m bored”. I didn’t see it like Emma did from the window with the curtain pulled slightly back. But now, as I sit watching from across the street, I see my memories as Emma saw them. I see the good times, I hear the laughter, and I remember days of old differently. Perhaps in the way I should have seen them in the first place.
I wonder 20 years from now what I will see when I draw back the curtain.
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Guest Writer: Sue Fitzmaurice, author of "Angels in the Architecture."
By way of introduction, a potted history of my own changing beliefs and views on the Universe. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t believe in God; when I was very little I often dreamed of flying around the skies with God; when I was a young teenager it was my mother’s wish in particular that my brother and I complete a year’s study at our Anglican diocese to be ‘confirmed’ in the Church; my brother and I later served at the altar of our very old, large and beautiful Church; later still my brother became involved with the Baptist Church – never looking back – on a path that also led him to Bible College and a Bachelor of Divinities.
That wasn’t for me though, although I had even briefly contemplated the priesthood as a teenager. At this time also, my mother was dying, and she passed on just after my 20th birthday. I had a desperate need to know where she was, to understand this notion of heaven, and indeed what on earth we were here for. I read thoroughly on all the major Faiths, Buddhism, Judaism, various forms of Protestantism and of Catholicism, less on Hinduism and Islam although I read all of the Koran and the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. And my lengthy reading list included all manner of other texts from “The Tao of Physics” by Fritjof Capra to “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert Pirsig (still a great read!)
At 22 I came to view that ALL the great Faiths are one – certainly I believed all people were ONE – and I also understood the ‘idea’ of the oneness of all matter, although I’d had no experience of such. Whilst I might have said at the time that there were experiences that gave me great joy, or even bliss – some experiences in nature for instance, or the camaraderie of friends – those were in truth emotions – feelings – and it wasn't until I learned Transcendental Meditation in my mid-twenties that I really and truly “experienced” oneness.
And to briefly wind up this background check, I’ll add the ongoing engagement with people of all the major Faiths and many cultures; a particular involvement with a Chinese-based philosophy and meditation-type practice; and a formal university education that included Religious Studies, Philosophy, Political Science, International Law and International Relations, which I guess I mention since I do think my university education has given me a better brain and one able to look at things from many angles, albeit that a higher education seems often to close many minds to the spiritual.ere to edit.
I want to (try to) explain my view of what God is. Since for me I can only really talk about meditation and oneness by talking about God.
I don’t have the kind of ‘personal’ view of God that perhaps many others have – God is not an old man with a long white bear sitting on a cloud. Nor does God exist for me only in the person of Jesus, or some other such prophet. Indeed, to imagine God as such is to imagine God as very limited and small indeed – which is also not to say that Christ is small; not by any means. God is by definition, omnipotent – all powerful, and omnipresent – everywhere. Most of us cannot begin to conceive the size of the Universe – not even the word ‘size’ is useful – but God is bigger than that and indeed underlies all that the Universe is. And whilst one may also imagine the quantum, the atomic level – in reality we cannot conceive of its smallness, and in its smallness the extraordinary distances between the sub-atomic. This also is God; a squillion, bazillion, katrillion, gertrudian times over… And not even that largeness and smallness is all that God is.
It often bothers me that so many people not only can’t believe in God, but don’t want to, or they prefer to believe in something they call a Higher Power, or Nature, or simply Love. Mostly I tend to think ‘Poor God’; other times it seems limiting. Surprisingly I find most people who believe in nothing Divine at all, to frequently be even more vociferous and exclusive in their expounding of it than even the most fundamentalist of religionists, Usually such folk easily blame religion for so much that’s wrong in the world, missing the point that the current reality of hate and hurt is more the result of the inability to accept difference, than any actual difference is. Enough about that…
For me, the reality that is God and the Divine (not gender-exclusive either btw, but fully gender-encompassing) is that which underlies all creation, that lies in the space between all things, that is the Creator and animating force of all things, that is intelligent and All-Bountiful, that at its highest humanly-understood manifestation is Pure Love, that can be both beseeched and praised for all that It/He/She/They can and do provide for us all, and that is the Regulator of Divine Justice; or Karma if you prefer. (btw, I don’t mind referring to God as He for simplicity’s sake; sadly we don’t have a gender-neutral pronoun in English, aside from ‘It’, which always seems just a little derogatory somehow.)
And perhaps I should also say here that I do not believe in a devil, or in hell. Darkness is not a force – it is merely the absence of, or distance from, the Light. We experience a living hell when we are far from the Light, and some explanation of this is important. One of course may be a devout believer but be experiencing a living hell, perhaps via depression, physical illness, circumstances surrounding relationships, finances or life in general. For some reason, the Judeo-Christian God that most of us have grown up with hasn’t always been so bountiful as I believe God truly is. We have seen illness and hard times as tests from God, not to mention an abundance of very Judeo-Catholic guilt. And so we have borne them, often almost with pride! I do not believe these things come from God at all, and I consider it a massive misunderstanding of God to think this, and so despite one’s devotion it is very much our distance from the Light that causes such darkness. Our bodies, for example, are a gift – they are loaned to us for this lifetime – and we are duty-bound to take care of them. Our inability to do so, with proper exercise and diet as two main physical components of care, combined with our addiction to negative emotion of all kinds, leads to disease. (How to explain then the horrendous illnesses that may afflict the very young and apparently innocent? That may be for another time, but it is, sadly, explainable.) When we understand that our physical bodies are indeed our Temple, we can understand that ill-health of all kinds is due entirely to some significant negligence in maintaining our proximity to the Light of God.
I suppose I might add that I do understand that many may consider my non-belief in a devil a convenience for my own sake. For me, to believe some creature or power exists that can match the power of God does not fit with my belief in God as omnipotent. And to remove God’s omnipotence is to deny God is God. And since my view is that God is bigger than we can even begin to imagine, it is entirely impossible for a devil to fit into that view.
And now, I have spent so long on the foundations of Meditation, that I will have to make this Part I, and promise to deliver Part II rapidly on its heels.
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