Saturday, May 29, 2010

On Possessions

"There's nothing I have to have, there's nothing I have to do, and there's nothing I have to be, except exactly what I'm being right now."

- Neale Donald Walsch

Are you like me in that you really enjoy getting rid of things? Over the last several months I have been getting rid of things in my apartment that I simply do not need, things that I never look at or use. Examples from my closet have been clothes and my collection of baseball cards. Why do we keep things around? Maybe because "one day" we might want to look back on them and they'll remind us of a certain time or event that occurred in our life. But as we hang onto these things, we do so to our detriment a lot of the time, we start to be bogged down by material things and we are less free.

It is in our clinging that we turn our backs on the freedom of non-attachment. "There's nothing I have to have," Walsch says. And it is true. We can get caught up in the lie that there are certain things we must have in our lives to be happy or to be free. But these are illusions. And what if we were to turn that sentence to say "There's no one that I have to have." When we place our identity onto someone else, it chokes relationships and friendships and we end up losing them and getting hurt. Instead, we can have relationships and friendships that are about sharing our individual gifts in a way that is beneficial to other people, rather than sharing them in order to get something in return. If we catch ourselves acting this way, in giving just in order to receive, we have not yet learned that other people can not provide our identity or sense of fulfillment for us.

Walsch continues with "There's nothing I have to do, and there's nothing I have to be, except exactly what I'm being right now."

How freeing this truly is if we let it sink into our hearts and minds. In a society bent on being successful (whatever that means), we can sit back, breathe in, and realize that we are enough. You are enough, right where you are, right now. It is hard to live this truth when we see others getting nice jobs or new spouses, new kids, or new boats. We start to compare ourselves to others and become envious of what they have. Now I'm not saying that these things are bad in and of themselves; there's nothing wrong with people getting married and having kids, for example. But the moment we place our worth on these things, is the moment we become frustrated.

What if our focus turned more toward being than doing? We would have to take a long look at ourselves and ask whether we truly trust our place within Life, within God, that we are beautiful and unique creations just as we are. So our focus can shift from "What must I have to do today in order to measure up (to our own or other's expectations)," to "Who can I be today for myself and others? How can I show up?

Mr. Rogers had it exactly right when he said during almost every show that you and I are special just the way we are. We must realize this and believe this before being able to give selflessly to those we care about. If we don't believe this and let this truth seep in, we may very well catch ourselves giving not from a pure place, but with an attitude of "what are you going to give me or do for me in return."

Who you are, right now, right where you are, is enough. Believe in God, believe in and love yourself just for who you are, not for what you can do.

On Creating Yourself

"Remember, you are constantly in the act of creating yourself. You are in every moment deciding who and what you are. You decide this largely through the choices you make regarding who and what you feel passionate about."

- Neale Donald Walsch

I partially agree with this, that life is ours to take by the horns and live it. Our choices matter. But I also believe in being led. When I was a Christian, I believed that God led us down a path, and it was important to rely on His guidance. And though my beliefs about who and what God is have changed a lot over the last 5 or 6 years, I still believe that God leads us, and that we should ask God to lead us. As we pray or state our desires to God, God works with those and leads us. It is a nice thought that in every moment we are deciding who and what we are, but what of the times when we are in the dark and can not make those decisions without great anguish. These are the times I believe that we can throw our hands up in the air, both in exasperation and in trust, like the trust a child has in its father or mother to pick her up and carry her. On a few occasions I have had the good fortune of feeling like I am being led by God, or as I prefer to call it, Life or Love. Events happen that are just too much to be merely coincidental. A friend contacts me just at the right time. A song comes into my head that I needed to hear at a particular moment.

I have said in the past that I believe that we as humans are no less than a part of God being born into the world to experience life on earth; to hear, to see, to touch. So I believe that we are God. At the same time I believe that God is more than us, more than we can understand, but She always has the best for us at heart. God is behind the scenes and at the forefront of our lives, orchestrating things for us. It is our job to trust, and also to ask things of God and expect an answer. As many people have suggested, that answer may look a lot different than what we expected or wanted, but She will answer.

I have a distinct feeling right now of being caught, of being held by God. When things are uncertain, we can take value in our place within God, and be glad that God is working on our behalf to bring about what should happen in our lives. Here, trust is key. Yes, trust in ourselves and our ability to make decisions, but also trust in God, that He will bring about for us what we need in our lives.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

On Mortality

On Understanding Death

"First, understand that death is not an end, but a beginning; not a horror, but a joy. It is not a closing down, but an opening up.

The happiest moment in your life will be the moment it ends.

That's because it doesn't end but only goes on in ways so magnificent, so full of peace and wisdom and joy, as to make it difficult to describe and impossible for you to comprehend."

-Neale Donald Walsch


I'm not sure that I believe all of this, but a lot of it sounds really nice, at least for the person that dies. But what of the levels of sorrow faced by family and friends left behind?

This morning I arrived early for church as it was my week to serve as an usher. I saw overflow chairs set up at the back of the sanctuary, and I naturally asked my new usher partner what they were for. At this point she gently told me that they were for a lady's memorial service that was held yesterday. This lady was my former ushering partner who I had just seen a few weeks before. I knew that she had been sick again, but I didn't expect this, so quickly. I will always remember Carol's bright smile.

Hearing of someone's death makes me think about the brevity of life, and making sure that the people you deeply care about know that you in fact do care. And to not take these friendships and relationships for granted, life can be short.

What do I think happens after we die? I am very comfortable in replying with a resolute "I don't know." Maybe it is so that just as we are born from God we return into God. Maybe we come back and live another life. I don't know. But my thoughts on the afterlife are not based on fear whatsoever, just as I try to live a fearless life.

...Let someone know today that you love them.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Walk As If You Are Kissing The Earth

Walking Meditation

"Walking meditation can be very enjoyable. We walk slowly, alone or with friends, if possible in some beautiful place. Walking meditation is really to enjoy the walking - walking not in order to arrive, but just to walk. The purpose is to be in the present moment and, aware of our breathing and our walking, to enjoy each step. Therefore we have to shake off all worries and anxieties, not thinking of the future, not thinking of the past, just enjoying the present moment. We can take the hand of a child as we do it. We walk, we make steps as if we are the happiest person on Earth.

Although we walk all the time, our walking is usually more like running. When we walk like that, we print anxiety and sorrow on the Earth. We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the Earth. We can all do this, provided that we want it very much. Any child can do it. If we can take one step like this, we can take two, three, four, and five. When we are able to take one step peacefully and happily, we are working for the cause of peace and happiness for the whole of humankind. Walking meditation is a wonderful practice.

When we do walking meditation outside, we walk a little slower than our normal pace, and we coordinate our breathing with our steps. For example, we take three steps with each in-breath and three steps with each out-breath. So we can say, "In, in, in. Out, out, out." "In" is to help us identify the in-breath. Every time we call something by its name, we make it more real, like saying the name of a friend.

If your lungs want four steps instead of three, please give them four steps. If they want only two steps, give them two. The lengths of your in-breath and out-breath do not have to be the same. For example, you can take three steps with each inhalation and four with each exhalation. If you feel happy, peaceful, and joyful while you are walking, you are practicing correctly.

Be aware of the contact between your feet and the Earth. Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet. We have caused a lot of damage to the Earth. Now it is time for us to take good care of her. We bring peace and calm to the surface of the Earth and share the lesson of love. We walk in that spirit. From time to time, when we see something beautiful, we may want to stop and look at it - a tree, a flower, some children playing. As we look, we continue to follow our breathing, lest we lose the beautiful flower and get caught up in our thoughts. When we want to resume walking, we just start again. Each step we take will create a cool breeze, refreshing our body and mind. Every step makes a flower bloom under our feet. We can do it only if we do not think of the future or the past, if we know that life can only be found in the present moment."

Thich Nhat Hanh, from Peace Is Every Step

Sunday, May 16, 2010


April 15th

There is nothing wrong in the present, and that is where we should live. The present may not be pretty, with things that make us hurt or experience anguish, but if we stay present with it, we can learn to depend more fully on Love, or God. The hurt of the present is not as bad as the hurt of the past and of the future, which are often illusions that our mind comes up with. We often have an unrealistic view of the past, or hold onto the hurt too long, and our worries of the future are often unfounded; really there is no way to tell as we haven't experienced the future yet. It's just our job to be here now, where we can see and hear and touch afresh, and rely on Love to get us through. Love is gentle, love is kind. As we are present, so we can be present to people around us, patiently listening to them as we sit with them, rather than daydreaming about what we will have for dinner or what movie we'll watch later that night. The greatest gift we can give to another is our presence, so said Thich Nhat Hanh. Learning to be present may mean weaning ourselves off of things that distract us, whether it be alcohol, iPods, cellphones, or maybe not. The goal though, is to be present, right here, right now.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Stream of Consciousness

Decaf coffee can be really good; this is quite shocking to me. I'm enjoying one at the Huether at the moment, after having breakfast and a Javanilla (caffeinated) coffee. It is one of those days outside where you're not sure whether to put up your umbrella or not. Barely spitting out. So do you allow yourself to be spat upon slightly, or do you look like a wuss and put up the umbrella? Not that it really matters what other people think, does it?

I just had a stretch of 5 days off and had a good time. Last Friday I sang 2 jazz standards at my church (I've Got Rhythm and Embraceable You.) That went very well, and I had 4 friends come to hear me, which was very nice, it meant a lot to me. Then we hung out at McDonalds afterward. I was completely overdressed, decked out in my black suit. At least I didn't have a tie on.

Saturday I went home to Tillsonburg and had a good time with my Mom and brother Dave and Lauretta and Rachael and Joshua. We went to my Aunt Donna's 60th birthday party. It was good to spend time with some cousins that I don't see very often (that would be you Keala and Andi.)

Sunday my Mom and I went to the church I grew up in, and it was kind of neat that John Brearley and family were leading worship. Then Mom and I went to Swiss chalet for lunch (chicken and shrimp - yum) and we visited my Grandma's and Aunt Darlene's gravesites as well.

Monday my Mom had a job interview in St. Thomas so we went there, and did some shopping at the huge WalMart there. Then Sharon, Ben, my Mom and I made the trip back to Kitchener. All in all a good time off.

It strikes me again that there is nothing that we have to do in order to prove ourselves worthy of love. I think that so many people base their self-worth on what they have accomplished, but what happens when those accomplishments run out or one isn't capable of doing them anymore? No, our satisfaction has to come from who we are. We are simply and wonderfully Love itself being born into the world to experience life and to love others. It isn't easy to live this way, because so many things distract us and tempt us to believe the lie that it is what we do that defines us. What is the deepest yearning of our hearts? One of mine is that simply I Am OK. There is nothing wrong. We get pulled away from this when we define ourselves by our accomplishments, and also when we lose sight of the present moment and start remembering the past or worrying about our future. But right now, right in this moment, you and I are ok. And what's more, we are wonderful creations, nothing less than God, Love being born into the world. We tap into who we really are when we love others and ourselves.

I hope your day is going well, my friends.

Mark Andrew

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Competition And Compassion

"This all-pervasive competition, which reaches into the smallest corners of our relationships, prevents us from entering into full solidarity with each other, and stands in the way of our being compassionate. We prefer to keep compassion on the periphery of our competitive lives. Being compassionate would require giving up dividing lines and relinquishing differences and distinctions. And that would mean losing our identities! This makes it clear why the call to be compassionate is so frightening and evokes such deep resistance.

This fear, which is very real and influences much of our behavior, betrays our deepest illusions: that we can forge our own identities; that we are the collective impressions of our surroundings; that we are the trophies and distinctions we have won. This, indeed, is our greatest illusion. It makes us into competitive people who compulsively cling to our differences and defend them at all cost, even to the point of violence.

- Henri Nouwen, Compassion