Monday, 16 July 2018

Joy to Your World

The last line of the first verse of Francis' prayer directs:

"Where there is sadness, joy"

How can you possibly experience joy in your life if you see continually see it from the perspective of what it lacks?

We as a society are bombarded with advertisements aimed at convincing us that we would be better off if we just had what they have to sell. They play on and exploit insecurities (and they know full well that they are doing so - they have gone to great lengths to learn just what buttons to push).

There are no end of gurus, teachers, healers etc. that position themselves in the world as the answer to filling "the void" so many secretly feel within themselves. Many are consciously aware that this "void" exists - but they continue on their way through life behaving as though something is missing.

Nothing is missing. I am, you are - enough!

You don't need the love and approval of any collective - you don't need a leader. If I chronically believe that the next accomplishment, the next purchase, the next job, the next relationship will book me passage on the joy train - it is inevitable that once I'm there - I'll be setting my sights on the "next" - again!

It is thinking I don't have "enough" - that is the catalyst for sadness. Even more sad - a chronic state of thinking that I'm not enough. How can that be anything else but sad? The thinking needs to be changed. What is called for is an attitude adjustment.

I'm not talking about dismissing acute feelings of sadness which are there to be felt and expressed. I'm referring to long term "the sky is falling" melancholy - that no matter how good things are, they'd be so much better if.............

Constantly comparing myself to others is a sure fire way to sadness. "They have this," and if only I had their talent (money, good looks) blah.. blah.. blah

I have what God (the Creator) gave me - who am I to diminish or dismiss that? If I want to get myself on the path to more joy in my life I might focus on fostering some acceptance and gratitude.

I know it's sometimes challenging to think of gratitude when there are various life challenges present. Just the same, when I put my focus on what I do have to be grateful for it puts me in a higher energy state which is more useful to deal with those challenges.

Then if I decide I would enjoy to have something in particular - I do what it takes and go ahead and get it. Not because I'm incomplete without it. Not because I'm any better with it. All the trappings of the material world are only temporary anyway. Doesn't mean they can't be enjoyed and appreciated while I have them. The cart has been placed before the horse when I in effect worship this stuff (or other person/s, places or things) as though my worth and wellness depends on it.

Go ahead and feel joyful. If not now, when? Bring your joyful self into all encounters - lead by example. Your exhibiting joy "give permission" for others to lighten up or at least shows them it is a viable option. Where you encounter sadness in others, listen - allow them to express themselves, and then point out their good qualities and what they have to be grateful for. Maybe they haven't heard that for awhile; maybe they never have heard it.

It is very easy to buy in to the "lack" mentality - it is everywhere. As such it is readily habituated and lends to chronic sadness.

There is enough of that in the world. The suggestion to bring joy is as applicable now, as it was in the time of Francis of Assisi.

R. O'Neill (July 16, 2018)

Sunday, 15 July 2018

This Little Light

The continued wisdom of the prayer of St. Francis states:

"Where there is darkness, light"

As well as the presentation that in a world seen through the lens of duality there can be no light without darkness there are additional considerations.

Darkness is transformed by light. In terms of "spiritual growth" and healing - that doesn't mean the darkness can be ignored. The darkness is brought to the light or into the light. (i.e. where it can be seen and acknowledged).

There are too many people running around "spreading love and light" - when what they are really spreading is denial. Denying, making it wrong (shaming) does nothing to transform  wounds and limiting beliefs. You can parrot "love and light" all you wish. Of course if this is what someone chooses, then that is, their choice.

The drawback is that some of these people can be fairly convincing with regard to "their path" and for others for whom, a sincere desire exists to bring change into their life - they can be easily taken in and led to believe these people represent an "evolved" state; when in truth, they have left much of their own personal work undone. (This can be lay persons and "professionals").

If you have a pile of horse manure in your yard and rather than dig it into your garden you decide to "beautify" it by burying it in rose petals - you still have a pile of manure - not a rose garden.

What is often considered "negative" does however need to be treated with love in order to be healed. The shaming, berating, punishing of self or others, is ineffective. If anything, it just more deeply entrenches the unwanted energies, driving them further into hiding.

Becoming "more aware" means an expanded awareness of what is limiting me (my thoughts, beliefs, behaviours). This can sometimes be a lonely path, but definitely a worthwhile pursuit.

The other thing is, there is nothing virtuous about hiding your light, playing small and false modesty. Everyone was meant to shine in their own unique way!

Where becoming this beacon of life in the world - keep in mind you can't shine a light through a dirty lens.


R. O'Neill (July 15, 2018)





Saturday, 14 July 2018

Repair for Despair

I'm going for a motorcycle ride up island tomorrow a.m. (for the day) so I'm going to get the blog post out tonight.

The next line of the Prayer of Francis reads:

"Where there is despair, hope"

What I can say about despair (hopelessness) where it has touched my life is, I can't imagine a worse state of mind. I certainly wouldn't wish it on anybody. I'm going to presume that this would be true of most anybody's experience of this state. I don't see any point in trying to quantify "degrees of despair."

It is an overwhelmingly dark state (whether I was "diagnosable" as depressed or any of the myriad of other labels medicine has at the time - I wouldn't know, I didn't seek medical attention.  Having worked in "health care," seen, heard, and read about the tragic way, so many lives are devastated through mental health systems - I chose to steer clear of it. Whatever I was dealing with, I believed I had a better chance of surviving that, than the medical system (even though I was contemplating my early demise at the time).

I don't think there is a much greater gift one can receive than hope - seriously, what can you do without it? It's not like I have buckets full of it and can provide it to someone else. I actually can't say exactly what took place when I went from feeling hopeless to one with hope. What I mean is I don't know why then and not previously... what was said, by whom, that made such a profound difference.

Miracles have been described as a profound change of perspective. I would say that it what came into play here. It didn't matter previously to that, what I had going for me, it didn't matter if it was a beautiful sunny day, I had my health (relatively speaking) food, shelter - still, I couldn't see the forest for the trees. At that time all seemed black and irrevocably broken. (Until it didn't) - certainly nothing I can take credit for. I mean I showed up - where "help" was available and somehow what I desperately needed, found it's way, to where I needed it.

I believe any one of us can be used to deliver hope. Again I'm not saying I'm the source of. I don't have all of life's answers. But a willingness, to be that channel of God's healing power, is what I would call, doing my part.

Who knows what it might look like, one case to another. The other night, I was on my way home from the neighbourhood grocery store; and there was a fellow out in the parking lot, collecting cigarette butts, to roll some smokes, from the left over tobacco. Instantly I reached in my pocket and pulled out a twenty dollar bill. I approached the fellow, who didn't see me coming. I got his attention, gave him the money and suggested he go buy himself a package of cigarettes.

I didn't hang around to see if he did. I didn't stop and think about this endlessly before I did it. I just felt guided to do so and didn't question it. I know all about "enabling," the harm of cigarette tobacco, blah, blah, blah.

He is going to smoke at this point anyway. Can you imagine what else is leached into the tobacco of the butts he's rolling from the surface of the parking lot? It's not my business to see to it he buys smokes - if he went to the liquor store instead, so be it! It was his money then, to do with as he pleased.

He was very surprised and grateful! There is a level of desperation at play that compels someone to do something such as this - that so clearly is not in their best interest.

I can judge him or, at least be kind and respectful. I don't have the resources (financial) to help everyone that is in need. This fellow wasn't asking anyone for help - he was just going about his business. I don't think anyone need do more than what they can, with what they have. Will this change his life? I don't know - nor does anybody else. You never know when someone is on the brink and on seemingly innocuous act gives them what they need to hang on.

He could be back in the parking lot tomorrow for all I know. But in this instance he didn't have to be. I have so much it couldn't possibly hurt me to intervene in this way. Perhaps my experience in life with hopelessness has helped in fostering some compassion. I'm also all too familiar with the power of addiction.

Hope can change (even save) a life - I know from direct experience. As powerful as it is, it is an inexhaustible resource to give away & it can cost nothing.

R. O'Neill (July 14, 2018)

Friday, 13 July 2018

Once You Get it - Give it Away!

As the prayer of Francis of Assisi continues to unfold we are presented with:

"Where there is doubt, faith"

Recall Francis was asking to be made and instrument of peace. What peace? God's peace! So this next line might well be interpreted as, having the strength and conviction in one's own believe, that they are then in turn able, to help bolster someone else's flagging faith.

I'm not talking about evangelizing - standing on street corner's preaching.

But certainly if someone you encounter (or a friend) has temporarily forgotten who they are, you certainly can give them a "shot in the arm.." to help to remind them. Who doesn't get a little down-hearted sometimes; or become taunted by their own self-doubts. I know it's been true for me.

In some of the twelve step rooms there's a slogan that goes: "Let us Love you, until you can love yourself."

A little sincere encouragement from another can, go a long way. If you frequent a particular spiritual community, then maybe the support you render might be, specifically focused toward God. Sometimes the cards that life deals can test the most ardent faith - whether that is in "God" - a "loving universe" or that everything will work out. Of course one must muster their own "get up & go," but it is also true "no man is an island." This is where a recognition in "interdependence" is of great benefit.  Just think about a time when you felt dejected and overwhelmed with some current circumstances and somebody intervened with a helping hand or some encouraging words that changed your perspective. This is the power we each have to direct toward each other (rather than this notion of always being in competition).

Even the simplest gesture of kindness or encouragement can have immeasurable impact on the recipient. How many times have you heard someone say, "this" (whatever is what) restores my faith in humanity." Consider this is not just an empty platitude and that the one doing the "restoring" - is embodying what it is, to be that instrument Francis wrote about.

R. O'Neill (July 13, 2018)

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

The Time for Forgiveness is Upon Us

To continue with the Francis of Assisi prayer the next line reads:

"Where there is injury, pardon"

Here the spiritual principle of forgiveness is being illuminated.

I suspect most everyone would prefer to be forgiven. How many people relish the idea, that when you have made a mistake, the error is brought up, again and again. Every time there is a discussion, there it is again, it's as though you have been identified with your mistake, that it is all you are, the reason being, you have.

Another prayer contains the phrase: "And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us."

Here's what I know - it's dead easy to hold a grudge.

If I want to begin to move in the direction of forgiveness, I might want to ask myself, what's in it for me to continue to resent this person, place or thing.

The answer would be, that from my stance of self-righteousness, there is no need for me to consider changing anything about me. This mindset allows for me to self-appoint, as the infallible judge and therefore, all the changing, needs to happen out there somewhere.

Another truth around forgiveness is that "I" (that same infallible judge) am not "letting someone of the hook" when I decide, to forgive. The act of forgiveness is not "for them" - it is for me. The forgiver - is the beneficiary of the forgiveness; I'll grant you, it might be quite some process to get there. Did you really think that a spiritual journey would allow you just to run around wishing everyone "love and light" and you were never going to need to get your hands dirty wielding the sword of truth upon you and your own life? So then, I can get off any high horse, thinking I'm this paragon of virtue, that I have "granted forgiveness."

Forgiveness has nothing to do with condoning the act, it has everything to do, with my being willing to discontinue "injuring" myself; by keeping myself tethered to the act, by rehashing it over and over and over. The perceived "offender" is now busy in their life doing whatever it is they do - but I'm still in effect, inflicting further wounding (to myself) by not being willing to let it go.

Nobody is expected to put themselves back in harm's way, as part of forgiveness.

Our reward/punishment society might do better to consider a more widely practiced system of rehabilitation/restorative justice. In this model, accountability is still encouraged/required, but it operates on the premise, that the individual is more than their momentary error in judgement, or perhaps act of desperation.

Forgiveness is an act of self-love. It allows one to cease punishing themselves with their own venomous thoughts and hard hearted stance.

It has been said of holding resentments: "It's just like drinking a cup of poison and expecting the other person to die."

While we're at it I believe it bares mentioning that pardon is a welcome and beneficial blessing to bestow upon yourself. Haven't you persecuted yourself long enough by now?

R. O'Neill (July 11, 2018) 

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Love Actually is: "Realistic!"

I'm going to go out on a limb and declare that this prayer (or perhaps it could be seen, as "channeled guidance;" that is how I see it, is not meant to be a path to Catholicism - despite that organization staking claim to Francis, and making him one of "their saints." My understanding is that the church of the day (in Francis' time) didn't "approve"of much of what he was up to, in the world.

The guidance he received, was something to the effect of, "my church has fallen into disrepair - I want you to rebuild it."So he may have been at a place where he believed "he needed saving;" but his "salvation," was to rebuild that which was in as much or more, "rack and ruin" than he was. As an aside, I have considered where my own life is concerned, the guidance regarding a church, being in disrepair; can be seen as a metaphor, which points at my own heart (which I'm suggesting ought to be revered as a temple - the divine resides there, or at least it is a conduit). You the reader are free to believe or not this reference - I know for me it was - spot on! (of course that is the nature of guidance it fits the receiver - like a glove, it doesn't need to be meaningful to anyone else).

 I believe he cooperated with the church, where he saw it could be advantageous to forwarding his work. To have operated completely in opposition, to the political power centre, may well have prevented him; from being the cause for change in the world, that he was. I believe he was divinely guided to give the church their token respect - so they would leave him alone to do his work. Despite their opposition to him and his methods (which he fashioned, living as he was guided, as closely as he could, to the way Jesus lived) - they then, made him one of their saints. - This I would call, one of the ultimate acts of hypocrisy, image usurping and "name dropping." (i.e. "oh ya, Francis he was one of our starters,  he got "rookie of the year," five time winner of the MVP award, and now inducted to the "Hall of Fame.")

I believe the "Prayer" points to a connection through which anyone can interact with life itself. Anyone can develop this connection - no particular church, nor it's dogma is required. There are literally too many churches and too many adherents throughout the world - for there not to be those that are making a positive difference in the world. So, I'm not on a mission to denounce churches.  I'm saying that your connection to Source/God/Life; is yours, and it can be addressed autonomously.

Francis goes on to say:

Where there is hatred - Let me sow love

Jesus said, "Love your enemy, and pray for those that persecute you."

And - "Love thy neighbour has thy self"

Many religious texts have some version of - "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Many people make enemies out of their neighbours (for example, they don't care for their vision of lawn care).

I must remind myself, it doesn't say - do unto others as I would have them do unto me - (unless they piss me off) then I can be a self-righteous "holy" terror."

None of these "suggestions" make "sense" in a "tit for tat" - win/lose, pride filled mindset (remember it was also said, "pride cometh before the fall." I might not have the monopoly on pride induced pratfalls - but I can assure you, I have fallen so many times, it might not be clear, I am a being meant to walk upright. The extent of my pride (which was a most formidable cover story, for my deep under-lying shame, often had me "knocked down," before I started, and threatened to keep me there.

The other thing I would like to illuminate, regarding the idea of sowing love where hatred exists: it can be equally directed inward, as it can be outward. It vitally important that I bring any self-hatred I find operating within, to love.

I believe this is at the crux of the "love your enemy" teaching.

I'm not familiar with Charles Spurgeon  or his work - but this quote came to mind, which I then searched and found, that he said, "Beware of no man more than yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us."

What if, most of the people that I have held with disdain have all been "mirroring for me," those parts of myself, that are screaming to be brought to love?

A mentor of mine used to have this to say to me when discussing fear, "Rob, there are two kinds of fear, "fear that you aren't going to get something you want" and "fear that you are going to lose something you already have." Of course if I'm so inclined (and I was once entirely so - it was how I was oriented in the world) then it is someone or something, outside of myself; that are going to rob me of that which otherwise would be mine, therefore they become: "the enemy."

It certainly never occurred to me, to search within myself, for what it is, I'm afraid of."

 If someone is pointing out for me, some form of immobilizing fear within - they might almost be seen as an "ally." That there, is some useful information. Maybe we're not going to become bosom buddies - but "enemy," might well be, erroneous.

Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

I know for me, holding deep seated resentment toward someone, has never brought me any peace. Furthermore it doesn't matter, what occurs in their life; with respect to being dealt anything that might be considered "justice;" hatred is insatiable, no amount of retribution, will ease the hurt and pain. It is, a call for love.

Do I always show up as the "sower" of love. Not exactly. But I will bring love right here, right now, to any inkling of self-condemnation, that I have not arrived at perfection, where that is concerned.

I could not have written this perspective at other times in my life, because I was unconscious of that which I have now shared about myself and where I was operating from. From the text of A.A. I reference the principle, that I continue to seek, "Spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection."

There is much more to be gained by day to day progress; rather than the condemnation, of an expectation of perfection (which is more apt to become self-defeating).

How then to deal with those that do commit some sort of assault on my person. Am I meant to condone such behaviour. In a word, no! The act itself can be unacceptable, it is the state of my heart in response to what has occurred - that I have any power to do anything about.

There are those "living among us" that have demonstrated shining examples of love in the face of hatred. These are survivors of genocide, family of murder victims, those held as political prisoners. All have responded with love toward the perpetrators (while calling for justice). There are innumerable examples of the organizations for peace, empowerment, reconciliation some of these folks have gone on to create - despite having experienced devastating events in their lives. This demonstrates for me what is possible, it takes "religious abstractions" (and what some might dismiss as unattainable platitudes and makes them real). It also shows me that it is a choice to bring love through.

We are never given a "fly on the wall" perspective; of the ongoing process, any of these people underwent in their lives. I would suggest, that the choice to call in love, would be made again and again and again........ In the face of tragedy & great loss, there would be a great many feelings to wade through; any of which, or combination there of, might be adequate temptation, to meet hatred with hatred.

One must decide what paradigm they wish to operate from (a selection criteria might include, what serves the highest good for all concerned?) If one sees the world through the eyes of a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. Therefore if war, retaliation, hostility, retribution, power struggles are seen as "inevitable," then clearly, they always will be.

Love must be given at least an equal footing if not, a greater priority.

You think this is not operating in the day to day personal lives of ordinary people? Look at the ways the laundry list of ill-intent I just listed, play out in, for example, in the dissolving of marriages. It's not enough, that two people decide, they no longer wish to carry on the relationship, as a married partnership. This is a pain filled decision. The loss of the dream, the vision, the bond/connection between the two etc. And as if this weren't enough pain, well then, one or both, decide they are going to dish out a great deal more hurt; on the way out the door, and seek to ruin the person financially, and/or their reputation in the community etc.

Are they then "at peace," grounded and prepared to "move on?"  Based on many people, I have met that have undergone such a separation and legal battle, I would say not in the least! Years later they are every bit as bitter (read hurt) - no resolution, no peace.

Many are quick to denounce "hate crimes," but cannot see that the sowing of hatred in their own lives, is equally ineffective ( unless what they hope to achieve, is the generation of more hate, then of course, it works like gangbusters).

I want the pain to stop! I hold this vision for my life and for all beings. I stand a great deal more chance, of seeing it through to fruition in my own life, but that won't prevent me, from a more expanded vision, for all of humanity.

I believe in a vast potential for all human beings. It saddens me that so many don't express that in the world. I know first hand the pain of believing, in a very limited view of myself, and the power attained (even if incrementally) of liberation, from the self-imposed prison of these limitations.

I now see it as my passion to support others in the realization, they are, the jail and the jailer (as well as the jury that rendered the sentence) and that the walls, are not nearly as impenetrable, as they once thought!!

R. O'Neill (July 10, 2018)






Monday, 9 July 2018

Know Self - Know Peace

The Francis of Assisi prayer begins:

"Lord make me an instrument of your peace"

I have also so seen: "My Creator make me an instrument of your peace"

"Make me an instrument of your peace" 

It does change the context choosing different wording. Francis was doing his utmost to emulate and live life, as Jesus did - so he may well have been addressing Jesus (as Lord). Choosing "Creator" would imply one is petitioning "God." It is not the scope of this post, to dwell in the discussion around, specifying the nature of the divine (or what it is called).

So what is it that is being asked for here. I would say it suggests that "God," is the source of the ultimate peace. This line of the prayer (if I'm praying sincerely) is my asking, to not just receive the "peace of God," but to be the conveyor, (instrument) of that peace.

It doesn't mean I'm special or uniquely qualified to do so. I believe every human being has the choice to know and deliver (through the use of their unique gifts) the peace of God here on earth. It is necessary to ask to do so - because we have free will. I can choose not to, (God knows why, pun intended) it's pretty easy to understand I'd be better off, "at peace." But God is not going to force my hand. That would be more along the lines of how some of the countries in the world operate, when acting out their political agendas (i.e. they claim to be ushering in peace, but they do it at the end of a rifle; not to mention all the other armaments of modern warfare). That is human will. Harnessing the greatest innovative minds, to create weapons to orchestrate human greed, power lust (illusory power), vindictiveness, hostility, aggression, revenge.

Take away the implements of modern war, and all those same motivations for war, existed in the time of Francis of Assisi. He in fact sought to be a knight before his conversion experience. So it seems to me, in that light, humans can choose to be instruments of destruction, or of peace. (Their own or they can take their agendas further afield).

So whether I pray to the God of religion or to some higher aspect of myself - I know from my experience; that I won't find peace at the level of my mind; which is frequently, the source of my agitation.

I don't have the inside track to knowledge of God. I don't know to what degree God can or would intervene directly in the matters of humanity. I suspect that humans themselves, are meant to be the "hands & legs" of God. We can make heaven on earth for ourselves or hell. I have ample examples of doing both in my life. And I have participated in the creation of both in the lives of others.

Gandhi said, "we must be the change we wish to see in the world." I'm frequently reminded of this, when I'm experiencing some wave of "growing pains." I can't very well be an instrument of peace, if I'm the embodiment of internal strife. So then, it should come to me as no surprise; if I go about praying to be "made" and instrument of peace, then it's going to become the catalyst to my dealing with whatever it is, within my inner world, that is preventing peace. It should come as no surprise, but it often does! The thing is I can pray all forms of prayer... but that doesn't mean, I'll be privy to or have control of, what plays out in my life to address (or point out) the need for change.

So then the "path to peace" might not always feel like peace - or as the saying goes: in order to make an omelette you must break a few eggs."

I think the most important thing for me to remember is where change is concerned - that I keep my expectations kind and gentle toward myself. On the one hand through my life I have undergone stark transformation; some of which might be said to have been quick and spontaneous, but for the most part it has been gradually and incrementally over time. We don't all under go these drastic conversion experiences that have occurred to some such as Francis. Rather than romanticize about that, (as experiences like that are no walk in the park) - I can be grateful (extremely grateful) for the change that has occurred in my life.... the life I have, and the time I'm given to continue to seek that peace.

One day at a time!

R. O'Neill (July 09, 2018)

Sunday, 8 July 2018

An Instrument Being Tuned

The next series of blog posts I'm going to take on, will take a look at the Saint Francis of Assisi Prayer.

For the sake of clarity - I'm going to aim to do a line of the prayer each day (on any given day there could be additional posts unrelated to this particular focus). When I say cover, it certainly isn't meant to imply, that this is the definitive examination of his prayer - it represents my current understanding combined with any inspiration in the moment. There are most certainly, more learned than I, that have written and studied comprehensively, on the life and work of Francis.

This first post will offer a little background on my relationship with Francis. Yes I'm suggesting a relationship exists. One of considerable longstanding as it turns out. First of all I will mention I am not Catholic. The family I was raised in (adopted) were Anglican by affiliation. Though it was not a particularly "religious" household. So I both attended Anglican church when I was young and was sent to a Catholic elementary school - it was thought, I'd get a better education there, with the smaller class sizes etc.

So I suppose it's safe to say I was influenced by both Churches to some extent. I don't happen to believe that one must be Catholic to consider Francis their guide. I'm quite sure "he" doesn't care at all. I don't believe the Catholics have the monopoly on any of the beings they have deemed "saints."

Mother Mary is a significant presence in my life as well. Both relationships are largely absent the theology of Catholicism. Which many in their ranks, would likely say is not possible. I say, my relationship with Francis, Mary and Jesus (for that matter), are none of their business.

It was many years after my attendance at "St. Joesph's school, that I was reminded and made aware, that one of my favourite "songs;" I liked to sing, when I was allowed to tag along, with all the Catholic kids and attend their Mass; as it turns out, was based on the words of Francis' prayer.

I was to be reintroduced to that prayer, in my late twenties when I entered into A.A. (Alcoholics Anonymous) - I'm not in breach of the "anonymity" principle; each is allowed to shroud themselves or "break their anonymity" as they choose. I would never break that of any other member. I don't actually attend those meetings anymore, my spirituality stems from a variety of other sources. That program (including that prayer at that time went on to save my life).

This reacquainting with Francis was very comforting and the words of his prayer took on a vastly deeper and more power meaning. I believe I could live out the rest of my life, trying to live up to directives in the prayer. Still later in my life,  I was traveling in Europe for my first time. I had decided to join some friends in Italy for a couple yoga retreats (then and now,  I have vast untapped yoga potential) - but I was over there and the idea of connecting with this beautiful group of people and in Italy, over-rode my "performance anxiety." I was traveling through the Balkan countries and stayed 3 nights in Split, Croatia (there was an over night ferry from there to go across to Italy).

No sooner had  I checked my bags into my B&B room and started to explore the town - the first church I was drawn to go through turned out to be "the Church of St. Francis". The first of the two yoga retreats was to be in a small town called Spoleto... it was only an hour away from Assisi, so I spent 3 nights in that city and two more in Perugia. My experiences while there, were very profound. I prayed at the tomb of St. Francis and St. Clare. Sat in the church he "rebuilt." Walked in the woods and hills where he may have roamed.

When I checked into a hotel in Spoleto (having arrived there a few days before the retreat started) my room was at the Hotel Clarici ("Clare" - who renounced her life to follow in the steps of Francis and went on to create the "Poor Clares" - the order of St. Clare a contemplative order of nuns) a women working at the desk that was very helpful getting me settled and oriented (her name was Francesca - the feminine form of "Francis.."

I was also to meet another women by the same name. She and her friends drove me back to the venue one night (early a.m.) after I had got separated from my retreat group. She owned a pizza restaurant in town and was very hospitable toward me while I was in town after the retreat.

It is through these experiences and many more that I realize the "presence" of Francis has been around me most of (maybe all of) my life; in direct ways and some more subtle - I have been taken care of and guided.

I don't believe you need to be a religious person at all in order to connect with the spirit of any of the world's "historic" characters. I'd say it's a easy as beginning any new friendship - start by saying hello.

In this case I also believe that the tenets of this prayer provide me with a "road map" for a life time of character development and spiritual growth.

I include the prayer here for any that might not be familiar with it and as something to refer to as I work my way through it's vision.

Holy Cards: Prayer for Peace (St. Francis)

R.O'Neill (July 08, 2018)

Friday, 6 July 2018

Or You Could Be Happy!

The final word/s from the Desiderata:

"Be cheerful. Strive to be happy."

Given the context, it seems to me, this directive is aimed at you and I, the readers. The mandate is one of personal responsibility. It's not saying, expect someone to do it for you. It's not saying hold someone else accountable for your lack of happiness. It is suggesting that you be "cheerful" and that being happy, is going to require your participation. I don't say effort, as I would suggest, it shouldn't be forced. But that choice does come into play.

I would say, I'm generally pretty happy. Not giddy, not deliriously happy, all day, every day (in fact seldom, if ever).  More like, I have developed the ability to enjoy my own company when called for, and I try to be a positive presence, when in the company of others. I actively aim to expand the qualities of acceptance and contentment.

It doesn't mean I don't get angry or agitated at times; but I'm not waiting on a particular set of circumstances to arrive, in order to then, be happy.

Naturally there would be those, that have been in my life at one time or another, that may have witnessed or been on the receiving end, of more than their share of my unhappiness, and they would possibly spin a different perspective.

Conversely the manager of the Harley motorcycle service department shared with me, that he was talking to someone else in the department about my bike - his assessment was, "he's a pleasure to deal with, always comes in with a smile on his face...." I was genuinely surprised to receive this feedback - not that I thought I was "unpleasant," but it was nice to hear. I guess in that environment,  (working on motorcycles) and Harley's at that (expensive when it comes to parts etc.) the staff have the dubious responsibility, to not always impart happy news to their clients. My demeanour is not contrived to win me special favours - but I believe I get great service out there. I do my best to treat people respectfully.

Of course there are times when I fit squarely into the "surly to bed - surly to rise" club. I try to avoid interacting with people while in this state if possible.

I don't believe it's any more or less unrealistic to be as happy as I can (despite the world events) than to be chronically unhappy. The former isn't indicative of being in denial and the latter doesn't imply I'm any more sensitive or caring. Challenges of day to day life certainly won't be more readily overcome by being miserable about it. If anything that's more apt to bring you down.

It's choices.

Bobby MeFerrin gave us: "Don't Worry, Be Happy!" (Sage advice - I'd say!)

R. O'Neill (July 06, 2018)


Thursday, 5 July 2018

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

It would be easy to presume that were you to decide to pursue a "spiritual path," that from then on you go about life somehow floating above ("transcending") mindsets and life pursuits, that otherwise "mere mortals," continue to engage with. How might you draw this conclusion? Why through speaking to some of these people, or being a fly on the wall, somewhere where they gather.

"Oh no, I only drive my Platinum Edition Hummer with the all season hemp tires; to yoga, three times a week." "Well yes it does have an all-leather interior - but I just know intuitively, that the hides were ethically sourced,"  "I can tell by the energy in my vehicle, that this was a one very happy cow." "I pray daily for the people going into the steak house - may they be forgiven, for they know not what they do!"

Ironically many, in the spiritual walks of life, like to distinguish themselves from "religious people" citing the hypocrisy of religion. Meanwhile being quite oblivious to their own.

If you feel passionate about being a vegan then do your homework, learn how to continue to meet decent nutrition standards, and enjoy yourself. If you feel called to meditate then there are dozens of paths available - books and dvd presentations galore. If you are drawn to something, there's a good chance there is something in it for you. However, there is nothing "spiritual" about self-righteous evangelical, I gave up cable so now my shit don't stink; ways of being in the world.

Renunciation is not uncommon in different spiritual paths; including some to which people devote their entire lives. Without the "distraction" of worldly goods and concerns - the adherents are more free to focus their attention on their spiritual development. This life is not necessarily for everyone and not the only way to explore your spirituality.

Again, should you choose to renounce various foods, "social activities," ways of life, then do so because you feel inspired to do so. I don't advocate self-mandated suffering. And you are not better than anyone else for having made this choice. When I take something like this on - it is then part of the crucible through which I might just experience some personal growth.  I'm not entitled to any accolades from anyone els,e nor to lord it over them.

Yesterday when I got home after spending the day traveling some of the back roads and to villages up the island on my motorcycle; I was unpacking my gear and putting it away and then discovered, I was missing the hat I had with me all day long.

Retracing my steps up to my apartment it was nowhere to be seen; not still in the saddle bags; not lying anywhere around my apartment. I don't have clear recall. I was carrying my helmet with glasses and the case in it, had a small back pack and my keys. If I'd had the hat on my head, it should have made it into my apartment. I remember taking it off and stowing in a saddle bag. The reason I remember that, is because I frequently pack the saddle bag; do up the straps and buttons, and then when I go to put my helmet on, I realize I'm still wearing the hat, and have to open the saddle bag to pack it. It can't come out of the bag while riding, the flap overlaps and buckles and buttons closed.

So it's possible I had it tucked under my arm on the way up to my apartment and dropped it on route. Maybe someone in the building found it and has it. I put a note on a bulletin board by the mailboxes - last night (which not everyone would have had a chance to see yet - or respond to).

Today I went to town and bought a new hat!

I know a thing or too about "impermanence." I believe I have a healthy perspective on love for self, love of others and not putting too much value upon "stuff." (though I would suggest taking care of my belongings is an extension of caring for myself). Granted, many things are not built to last, but taking care of them, can extend their useful longevity.

I even have other hats that are essentially the same style as the one I lost - however they are wool and too hot, this time of year. I have ball cap style hats which functionally provide me with what I need this time of year, which is shading from the sun. I don't always want the ball cap look. Parts of my head have renounced growing hair; so I have largely either closed cropped or shaved my entire head for years. I grew it out a little a while ago, to see what was going on these days - there were no startling revelations! It still grows where it does and not where it doesn't.

I wear that lost hat at some part of pretty much ever day - it doesn't matter how I hold the hat philosophically, my naked scalp requires coverage!

I don't care to live out this scenario: "Wow your head is really burnt, that must be painful!"

"Well yes it is, it hurts like hell," "but I am embracing the principle of impermanence." "I lost my hat, and that is just a reminder that all in life is temporary;" "therefore my suffering is preferable, to my continued exhaustion, of the ever depleting resources of our planet, by buying another hat."

I imagine the divine universal intelligence providing the following guidance:

"Dude for God-sake, get off the pot, and buy another hat!"


R. O'Neill (July 05, 2018)

Beauty Abounds

The next observations noted in the Desiderata is:

"With all its sham, drudgery, & broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world."


Pathologies such as "clinical depression" or deep-seated anxiety for example, aside; for in order to attain liberty from these states, it may take complex intervention; todays segment of the Desiderata would seem to contain elements, of how one chooses, to see the world.

Is the glass half full or half empty. (or, at least you have some water to drink!)

Without a doubt, if you dwell on the dark and negative, there are no shortage of such, occurring in our world - placing your attention there, if it doesn't attract those situations to you, at least will skew your perspective accordingly.

By all means process and grieve the disappointments, the losses, the broken dreams. It doesn't mean you can't create new dreams. Beware of the shams, but don't abandon trust and push away those with honourable intention and good hearts. More importantly, don't renounce your own good heart!

That which has gotten old and stale, where possible, refresh the routine. For those repetitive tasks in your life, that must be done a certain way - recognize the importance of each, in your personal foundation. In an ever changing world - perhaps these routines can serve as an anchor.

Get out in nature as often and for as long, as you can allow the time. Time in the forests, at the seaside, along the river or around the lake - will offer you something you cannot attain, listening to media talking heads, paint the world bleakly and at the brink.

One's heart and soul need revitalization - in order to face the demands of life. Time spent soaking up the beauty of our world, is not ignoring what is going on - it is a self-loving response.

We all need each other - showing up (in the face of world events) bringing our best game forward. I don't know about you, but I can't muster the ongoing enthusiasm - if I constantly dwell on the dark. I have done reams of "shadow work" - I will do further when & where it is necessary. But I don't live there.

An apt metaphor is suggested in the "23rd Psalm;"

The 3rd line reads:

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil......."

I believe the most powerful word here is "through" (walk through.....) - not set up camp, not build a cabin and commence with homesteading.... walk through! To me that is not imposing a time expectation, which then allows for anyone's individual process to occur in it's own divine time.....

But it does imply (suggest) walking through - which to me, reminds me, not to stay stuck and gives me hope that I am walking toward resolution.


R. O'Neill (July 05, 2018)



Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Pre-Meditated Peace

More on this matter of peace Desiderata carries on with:

"And whatever your labours & aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace in your soul."

This reminds me of how easy it can be, to be swept up into dramas of various forms. Some close to home and therefore more personal - others farther removed, but none the less, made personal. How readily then, am I willing, to surrender the peace in my soul? The "selling" of ones soul need not only be some huge cataclysmic life altering cross-road. It can just as readily be served up, piece meal; & handed over on a platter day by day - rather than aligning with its guidance.

Your soul provides a unique blueprint just for you - to ignore it, too become to concerned with trends, fads, fashion and following the crowd; invites a great deal of inner turmoil. It is quite possible that your soul-aligned guidance will receive the "approval" of no one outside yourself (even though it's directives have the highest good for all in mind).

"A Course In Miracles" - poses the idea: "I choose peace, rather than this......" - an application worth considering.

John Lennon - suggested: "Give Peace a Chance.." Ultimately I believe this means, peace is not just, "the absence of noise.." it requires conscious action, for it's attainment and preservation.

The soul has no allegiance to the false gods of materialism & consumerism - peace then is a choice; and must be given more priority, than the satisfying of greed and acquisition, of illusory power.

 Peace, Shalom, Salam, Namaste, Síocháin, Mirovni!!!

R. O'Neill (July 04, 2018)  

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

A Peace that's Worth Defending - But Won't Require It!

Thank you to all who continue to follow my blog and in particular, this current examination of Desiderata. The line by line exploration, is proving to be for me the writer, a journey. I imagine a journey of sorts, for the readers that have chosen to follow along.

To continue then, the next line reads:

"Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive him to be."

Right out of the gate, I envision laptops snapping shut after reading that line. The atheists insisting there is no God. Another significant portion of the world, railing at the idea that the Divine, is referred to as "God" & "him."

I most certainly do not claim, to have the definitive inside track to the divine. I don't know who you are, but I know, neither do you. If we can get that out of the way, and have a discussion in terms of "possibility" and mystery, maybe you'll reach the end of this post. I'm not trying to promote my view or discount the view of others. I don't need anyone to share my view and I'll listen to yours, but I'm not interested in it being force fed to me.

To some degree I would say the choice of the words (God & him) reflect conventions of the era Desiderata was written. I don't wish to discount, discredit or diminish what has occurred with respect to the feminine aspect of the divine over the centuries. I accept to be true that there is continued healing and work to be done in that realm as well as; to focus exclusively there, is very limiting and places the limitless, infinite divine, in another limiting finite box.

So do what you need to do; to make the suggestion from Desiderata palatable, and then in the context of what was said before it, and that which will follow, examine it for yourself.

I believe, the assigning of gender to the divine as exclusively one or the other, is erroneous. I believe both exist equally. Further I believe that people the world over, create the image of the divine, to suit themselves, according to whatever they most need it to be. So for example someone that renounces a male or female oriented deity; correspondingly has unhealed "issues," with that parent and ongoing history of angst relating to that corresponding gender (or anyone that has similar energy to the "offending parent."

No paradigm that excludes the masculine or the feminine works for me. They are present in all human beings, regardless of what "gender" the individual "identifies" with.

I would say - where the divine is concerned, whether you call it God or Goddess... you are not at "peace" with it - if you are denying "half of it." Given the existence of both energies & and aspect of the divine within me, if I'm repressing/rejecting to varying degrees, part or all of one energy, the other or both... I'm rejecting myself (and the divine). No peace there, I can assure you.

I'm no authority on the source or path to peace.... but I could extensively and comprehensively outline what isn't the path. In that respect I'm not uniquely wise or gifted, nor do I have some special connection. I was compelled  to seek a path to peace (which is an ongoing work in progress) when my life drove me to my knees. My seeking is not a demonstration of superiority or virtue on my part; it was necessary to save my life. Seeking the peaceful answer represents a necessity to me. I'm not interested in debating the existence of a path that works - I want and need, a path that works.

The masculine and feminine energies within me were bestowed by the Creator as part of "creation." Certainly I am free to reject this gift in part or in whole. I've never found peace in doing so & I've never met anyone, that was at peace through doing so.

Humanity hasn't learned to live a balanced approach to much of anything. Even some of those that honour "nature" - ignore that both energies exist in that very nature.

Any one can make an argument for their world view and while a vice-like grip is maintained on that view, ample "evidence," will present to support it. It doesn't mean one has the monopoly on the whole truth,  it just means, they can see only, what they are willing and allowing, to be seen.

Gender specific deities don't have to mean one is at odds with the opposite sex - there can be those with a balanced world view, but it's just as likely that there are those, that are hiding from the more painful parts of themselves, through wide scale renunciation.

The way I see it, this whole post is composed in finite language, & barely scratches the surface of this matter of the divine. My experience is, the more widely I'm able to accept myself, others, life on life's terms and take responsibility for where I'm at, with all of it - the more peace I feel.

I don't need to agree with anyone's view to listen to it. The sharing of it might reveal something to me that will become assimilated into my awareness. Or it might prompt me to explore further what was said or the path you are espousing.

I have found through my life .. those times went I adamantly defended what I thought I knew; (or what I wanted someone else to believe I knew) were the times, when I was the most uncertain and scared. I clung to my position like a drowning man grasps a life preserver (again - No Peace!)

I'm inclined to believe ... believe what you want, but if in order to present those views, or if someone questions them; & you fly into a rant, there is no peace. I don't want to just talk about my beliefs, I want the path I follow, to be embodied in a peaceful way of being.

I can't and won't try to define the divine. For me, those that claim theirs, to be the definitive viewpoint hold to something far too small - essentially they have wrapped the divine in their own ego projection.

 It is enough for me to acknowledge it exists and then continue to ask what are the implications of this, and how is it meaningful to me, one day to the next.

R. O'Neill (July 03, 2018)


Monday, 2 July 2018

On a Don't Need to Know Basis

Carrying on with the Desiderata teachings:

"And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should."

This claim might seem the epitome of preposterous. One only need pick up a newspaper or witness any of the various "news" channels; after which they might conclude, the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

I watched my father (who was obsessed with all news media formats) do little more than raise his blood pressure and feed his anxieties. There was never any intention on his part, to do anything about any of it - so I could never see the point, of ruminating over ever nuance released, and just getting more upset about it.

I'm not suggesting an inhumane disconnection, empathy or lack of compassion. I'm not saying there aren't horrendous events occurring daily (somewhere) on the planet; many that naturally give rise to fear.

I defer to the wisdom within the Serenity prayer "Accept the things I cannot change." I have very little control over, oh so many things. Oh sure I can contribute and participate, but outcomes are often an unknown. My continuing to focus all my attention on "world news" - their penchant for sensationalization and graphic depiction, of all that is "wrong with the world," would do nothing to change any of it.

Of course the same prayer asks for "the Courage to change the things I can." I don't believe that is license to just go through life spewing anger at everything & everybody; that is involved in anything I disagree with. I'd serve the world better to deal with my anger (or at least how I go about expressing it). If I feel passionate enough to want to be part of a change - then I can make a contribution any way I can.

It's possible that this engaging of life - is far more likely to foster change in me, than in the world at large. Certainly "one person" can make a difference - but often times, one's contribution, doesn't create any immediately tangible change; or it is one that is visible, only after an extended period of time.

All day, every day, there are people (individuals & groups) doing amazing things. Do not go to the media looking to hear accounts of these heart-warming stories. Oh sure, there is often one "feel good story" included in the newscast (whether due to lobbying from the sponsors, the viewers, or the "news team" themselves; are numbing their own psyche's and generating fear in their ranks, with their own broadcasts) - there is the one lone positive story.

I would assert, the world doesn't need another person riddled with fear and anxiety - behaving in the world from a place of defensiveness and projection of their own pain. This might only amount to a minuscule contribution; but if nothing else - my intention is to address that, within myself.

Therefore it is necessary to make a conscious effort to contribute where ever one can and make a concerted effort to look for the positive. I'm not saying ignore the atrocities and glaze them over with denial and rainbows (don't get me wrong - I love rainbows). It goes back to the story of the two wolves (black & white) & which one is fed.

I'm also not saying that this "focus" matter, is "black & white" (pun intended) and I then go through life feeling nothing but the lighter more enjoyable emotions, and "darker" world events, don't effect me.

Does that mean ("the universe is unfolding as it should...") that history's events have been "necessary?"

I couldn't say for sure. What I can say,  is in my own life, there has been all forms of life experience painful, humiliating, frightening (some might say "senseless..") and yet all of it, has made me who I am and has been catalyst, for my evolution. Did I "have to," go through these experiences - maybe not, but I did. It serves no useful purpose to condemn myself indefinitely for these choices. So in effect, things continue to and are unfolding, "as they should."

I make somewhat of an assumption, that if this is true in my life (and I am part of humanity) then it is possibly true, of the collective humanity and it's evolution. Of course this doesn't make it so and it only serves to help me sleep at night (which incidentally isn't assured anyway).

Isn't it remarkable the scale to which "we"as humans can expand our personal drama (and then extend that concern for that of the "world stage;" even given we live on this tiny speck of a planet, in an universe that extends far beyond our minds ability to conceptualize it, which continues to unfold and is undergoing ongoing creation).

We are here so I suppose we matter in the greater scheme of things. But maybe not quite as much as we'd like (or choose) to think.

R. O'Neill (July 01, 2018)