Author: Seeking the Divine All the Time
Transcendental Meditation: Not Just for the Beatles Anymore
I did not even know the word, meditation, back when it came to some fame when the Beatles fell upon transcendental meditation in the late 70’s learning under the great Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
But as an adult, learning more and more about yoga, I became open to the benefits of meditation – trying to calm my relentless monkey mind which enjoyed stirring things up with its incessant editor always second guessing my words and its unique ability to take a small snow ball and build it into a careering, frightening preview of what was surely next to come.
And it was never good.
I tried though. Be quiet, monkey mind. Concentrate on your breath. Chase those thoughts away. (Try doing that for over five seconds). Meditate. Meditate. Finally, I just choose to use Savasana at the end of each yoga class to simply lie still and try to keep my mind from making the to do list.
And then a few weeks ago, twice in concession, someone mentioned Transcendental Meditation. Not just for a calm mind. But for its innumerable health benefits. Studied relentlessly for years and endorsed by such reputable organizations such as The National Institute of Health, The American Heart Association and The American Medical Association, TM is making a big comeback for psychological and health benefits, too.
Fighting stress, high blood pressure, fatigue, and migraines, I decided to take the plunge and see what it was all about. Right behind me, refusing to be left out, was Honey and off we went to Asheville for our four days of training with official trainers, Jeanne and Tom Ball.
Sixty five days later, I can report that I have had not one single headache, migraine or regular, a huge drop in blood pressure, a feeling of relaxation that is incredibly welcome and unusual, more energy than I have had in years and a calm that is close to bliss.
TM is practiced twice a day for twenty minutes each – first thing in the morning and sometime in the afternoon before dinner. I know! I did not think I had that kind of time either. But in fact, I now have more time with my increased energy, my wakefulness and my new more stable take on everyday life happenings.
TM often likens our minds to an ocean. Roaring, petulant, never the same and dynamic, it is always moving. But at its depths, lies a beautiful stillness. A stillness that actually charms and woos our minds when we are quiet enough to give it a shot.
And do other thoughts come up? Yes, but they are quickly released as the practitioner favors a simple, syllabic mantra that is repeated throughout the meditation. No judgment.
All sorts of folks are signing up. It is finding its way into schools, prisons, hospitals, and corporate offices, private homes and homeless shelters.
TM is giving me a place to rest deeply. Not a religion. Not a belief. Just a simple way of slowing down to embrace peace in a turbulent world. Just want you to know that my journey has been greatly enhanced by this new venture and at least two more lives (mine and Honey’s) are finding a way to stop the earth at least twice every day. And by the way, our little dog, Finlay, is getting the hang. He settles down and stops every time we meditate.
Google it. It will be the best search you will do all day.
In Darkness and In Light, The Great Spirit Abides
Hiking Divinity’s earth
Hand in hand
Pathways to new lands
– George F. Maynard, III (Trey)
Years ago, Trey and I embarked on a hike that had been recommended – Sam’s Knob Summit on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
It was late March and the afternoon was surprising warm for so early in the mountain Spring. The trek soon delivered us to a humble meadow that sat meekly beneath the spectacular mountain we were about to climb and ended abruptly at its base. Long grasses, still brown from the winter blew gently in the light wind and a few courageous wildflowers, defiant in the face of frosts surely left to come, were valiantly making an early show of spotty color.
We made our way across the meadow ascending the 400 feet steadily back and forth among the switchbacks and imagined the wide view of the Blue Ridge Mountains that awaited us. Tricky rocks, thorny winter limbs and devious roots required special attention here and there. The trees were like shrubbery seeming as if they had never decided for sure if they wanted to be tall bushes or stubby trees.
As the ascent grew steeper, the air became cooler and grayer. But engaged in talk and making the grade, we did not notice. At last, we climbed a set of wooden stairs that stretched over a particularly steep and rough decline below and feeling a bit like Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark, we put one foot in front of the other until we scaled higher. Shortly thereafter, we reached the rocky pinnacle of Sam’s Knob, which rose 6045 feet above sea level and paused to take in the view we had been promised.
It was not there.
In fact, nothing was there.
A dense gray fog hung heavy erasing any potential panoramic vista view. It was as if dark walls had materialized on the mountaintop with no windows. No trace of the meadow below. No view of the mountains.
We could barely see our hands stretched before our faces as we gazed into the shroud that so thoroughly cloaked the rest of the world.
As it turns out, the Divine had a teachable moment in store for us that day. But it was only part one of the lesson. The second came when we made the same hike a few weeks later.
On that day, our arrival at the top brought us a spectacular view of the Divine creation that was vast and glorious.
We had no idea and still do not of what any given day will bring our way. No matter how dark the future looks or how sunny it begins. The view is eternal, however, whether or not we can actually see it – just as the Divine Spirit is always there with us.
So I thank that Great Spirit, of whom we are all sparks – for reminding us so darkly and so clearly, of the Presence and Assurance that sometimes comes to us as a mysterious and daunting great fog and sometimes as a lightness and vastness unimaginable.
We are not alone.
This blog is shared in honor of Honey’s recent Birthday. How is it that you entered this world on a windy day in March of 1947 in the hometown of Elvis Presley, followed a number of years later by a girl born in the pine-needled, sandy flatlands of North Carolina, thus beginning a circuitous trajectory that mysteriously began to proceed through crossroads, stop signs, people who unwittingly connected us one with one another, unexpected career turns, several years of platonic and professional acquaintance and finally delivered us here together for the past 12 years? The very best of my life.
Although life is never easy, with you it has never once failed to be awash with deep, spiritual growth; unfailing love; surprises – both wonderful and challenging and a deep and abiding trust.
The Adventures of Trey and Crissy could fill a number of books. Consider the annals that Carl Sandburg wrote on Abraham Lincoln. (Okay, so maybe I am stretching it just a tad). But there was Carl, whose home we love so much in Flat Rock, NC, and his incredible love for his “Paula” and he wrote her poem after poem to let her know so – as you have done for me – even as you have adapted his quote, “I don’t know where I am going – but I am on my way,” for your very own life. So ain’t that the truth, Dear One?
We’ve been places and we have seen things we never dreamed of – Budapest dancing off the Danube River on both sides on a cold but glorious Christmas night. (So that is what Christmas is supposed to be like – Nothing like those delusional Norman Rockwell holiday paintings that have screwed up so many unsuspecting folks and, subsequently, sent us all flocking to shrinks by the handfuls.)
Kindred Spirit on the beach of North Carolina and the mailbox full of letters on Bird Island where we have spent hours drafting notes to the Divine, thanking Her for our good fortune.
A restaurant and bar that we found in San Francisco by accident one night and spent hours listening to music and wondering how we found the place. Watching the holiday bonfires in New Orleans. (Another great example of Christmas as it should be – but, alas, I drift again), along with our wonderful dinners with our dear friends from Greenville whom we seem to see only in the bayou.
Thanksgiving after Thanksgiving with adopted “orphans” like us needing somewhere to go and who fill our home with love and cherish on this most favorite holiday which is all about gratitude. Finding Roberto’s Tavern in Montisi, Italy. Saying hello to scary surgeries and diagnoses that give us only a whiff now and then of what may or may not come. Dinners at home alone and out with friends. Transcendental meditation. Leaving the church proper in order to find the Spirit Proper. For Real. Adopting Finlay, our Westie, who needed a home when his Mom was gravely ill. Reading incessantly. Exploring and remaining open and curious to the Great Unknown. And now working together again. Oh! A wild and curvy ride it has been. Road trips. Long ones. Walks. Lots of them. Yoga classes. Coffee in the mornings. A toast to another great week.
Once I thought there was a destination. Marriage, perhaps? Well, when we got there, it just turned out we are on a journey that keeps on delivering surprises.
Most every day.
And I am glad I don’t know. (Never thought I would say that).
Glad I don’t know about the things unexpected that will make me gasp, “Oh, no.” Glad to not know about the gifts that will astound me with joy. Happy for the true and special awakening of just – an ordinary day. When nothing happens much at all – but time passing together. Happy Birthday, Honey. You are my Anam Cara – my soul friend. For ever.
Celebration Of A Life That Changed Mine
Happy Birthday, Honey! How is it that you entered this world on a windy day in March of 1947 in the hometown of Elvis Pressly, followed 12 and a half years ago by a baby girl born in the pine-needled, sandy flatlands of North Carolina, thus beginning and a circuitous trajectory that mysteriously and surreptiously began to move through crossroads, stopsigns, people in the past, career turns, friendship and finally delivered us here 14 years later. The very best 14 in my 55 years of life.
Although it has not always been easy, it has never once failed to be awash with deep, spiritual growth; unfailing love; surprises – both wonderful and challenging; a deep and abiding trust that has taken my fearful heart a while to accept. Trust being a concept that by nature takes me so much time to build. (And here is an extra nod to those of you- and you know who you are – exactly – who have helped me with that little side journey of mine).
The Adventures of Trey and Crissy could fill a number of books. Consider the anals that Carl Sandburg wrote on Abraham Lincoln. (Okay, so maybe I am stretching it just a tad). But thinking of Carl, whose home we love so much in Flat Rock, NC, He did love his “Paula” as he called her and he wrote her poem after poem to let her know so – as you have done for me – even as you adapted his quote, “I don’t know where I am going – but I am on my way,” for your very own life. So ain’t that the truth, Dear One?
We’ve been places and we have seen things we never dreamed of – Budapest dancing off the Danube River on both sides on Christmas night. Kindred Spirit and the mailbox full of letters on Bird Island where we have spent hours drafting notes to the Divine, thanking Her for our good fortune. A restaurant and bar that we found in San Francisco by accident one night and spent hours listening to music and wondering how we found the place. Watching the holiday bonfires in New Orleans. Thanksgiving after Thanksgiving with adopted families. People with love and cherish to fill our home on holidays.
On Saying GoodBye: Part Two
Light and Love
– George Maynard, III (Trey)
Noted today on Facebook, a friend of mine moving. Pictures of a house – empty, floors bare and sleek as a baby’s bottom without a diaper and cupboards and closets bereft of the pots and pans and clothes and games and junk drawers and doodle pads and old Southern Living magazines and pet hair and clocks that tick, tick, tick, tick away precious, fleeting time.
Those clocks that make the seconds that make the minutes that make the hours that make the days that make the memories of our lives. The houses that make the homes that hold those memories. Oh! My Grandmother Honeycutt’s house was huge, I remember! Places to hide with (and from!) my cousins playing hide and seek, an expansive lawn on which to turn flips and cartwheels (yes, I can STILL do both!) and extravagant, heaping, warm platters of homemade biscuits, red-eye gravy, collard greens with vinegar and chicken fried in Crisco and flour in seasoned black iron skillets – except it wasn’t. Huge, that is. Huge in the square footage style anyway – but huge in my memory. Clapboard, white and small. When I drive by it now, I wonder how it can possibly contain the extraordinary memories that I can feel, smell and still long for.
My first home as an adult was a place filled with the makings of bridal showers – gifts of best wishes and gratefully received by needy, innocent, unconscious young people. Small, gray and concrete block. It passed into the shadows of yesterday and remains a place where I remember planting marigolds in dire hopes of cheering it up and watching them rise crooked and unsteady in a brilliant cautionary yellow line, YELLING “Best for you both if you leave this relationship now.” Which was not heeded until more than a couple of decades later.
Many, many years later, long after my marigolds were gone and Honey and I were together, we built this house with great thoughtfulness, sticking love notes and a poem for every room on the framework before the sheetrock went up, placing our own best wishes on plywood before the hard wood floors were laid, saving Gracie – the tulip tree – from being rudely chopped down by one of the workers who thought she was not beautiful (She is), and having the house ceremoniously and quite spiritually blessed.
One day, this house, too, will become a dreamy, outrageous memory – the parties and laughs with our friends, the daffodils (Did we really plant so many? Oh! They just multiplied!). I thought the house was so much bigger, we will muse. Do you think we could knock on the front door and ask to see Faith, the maple, we planted in the backyard? And, by the way, we saved Gracie, the tulip tree, for you. Do you remember the night, we will query each other, the time our friend played the guitar on the back porch or when Roberto, our Italian chef friend, cooked for us? And all the nights we chased fireflies and Finlay, the Westie, around and around the yard throwing balls and playing go fetch. Remember, he was such a great puppy! Oh, us, too! We were such young sprouts! 🙂
Whomever comes next, whenever, surely will build on this beautiful karma of those who were here before. Our homes are our homes only temporarily. Because life is and will, one day, move us on, move us on.
Best of luck, my friend, moving on.
In due time, we shall all join you.
On Saying GoodBye
If life has taught me one thing and one thing only. And if Oprah feels called to ask what a Southerner like me has learned most specifically in my life, I know the answer, life is impermanence.
We can fight it. We can set up bank accounts, retirement accounts, go to the gym, be nice to our friends and our relatives, show up at work each day, work hard and long, be nice to others, follow the golden rule, eat our fruits and vegetables, meditate, pray, be kind, wash our face, floss, wash and walk the dog, drive carefully, pay our taxes, not cheat a thing.
We can pay it forward. Be kind to strangers on a street. Go out of our way to help a stranger and a loved one.
And still bam! Life changes on a dime.
And then. There we are leaving our sweet nest. What we have known forever. Goodbye. It is heart wrenching. And it happens to us all. Usually more than once.
Today I spoke with a beloved friend saying goodbye. And I was reminded of the times I wept leaving each home. The primordial, yanking, sadness and fear and excitement, too, and I celebrate her bravery. And I love her spirit. And I join her in the tears and the courage she has behind her and before her.
And quite honestly, I hope she remembers me on the greatness end of her scale, (She will do great things), but I have not doubt she will, because that is who she is.
Godspeed…My Dear Friend. I love you.
Alternative Routes to An Easier Life
I could not get out of this underground parking lot. Now I admit to not being the best driver as one of my best friends (Gail) will happily attest. But I had to back out of the space, backwards, past a long line of parked cars, up a significant grade and then (still going backwards) enter a very busy street. It was not going well.
Why hadn’t I backed into the space rather than driven into it? But then again I am not good at that either.
I felt like I had never driven a car before in my life.
Again and again, I panicked and screeched back into my little parking spot, panting and frightened I would hurt someone else or myself. Or damage a bunch of cars? Who designed this thing? How in the heck was I going to get my car out of that cramped underground parking lot?
Then I saw it, clear as a bell, where it had been all along – an exit sign. Simply back out, move to the back of the garage, make a circle and come out car front first into the street.
How did I miss that? How did I make things those so hard? So, in my dream, I did just that and was on my way in seconds.
In wake-up life, I find I also make things harder than necessary. Instead, I need to slow down and look for an alternative. Take a few deep breaths. Take a short walk. Ask someone for directions. Don’t panic. We might all be surprised how much easier it is to make it through a day.
And better yet, when we see someone struggling with a situation that we can help to relieve, pass it on. Nothing feels better than helping someone else.
Pay attention every day. The Divine wants us to get to the work we need to do and She doesn’t try to make it hard. Get out of that parking lot and change some lives with your sweet Divine sparks!
When A Passion and A Career Come Together
Note: What follows is a blog I wrote for the Greenville Health System Office of Philanthropy and Partnership where I raise major gifts for our amazing Children’s Hospital. This is a little out of the ordinary for my blog, Seeking the Divine All the Time, yet it falls right in line with my daily spiritual quest. I am so very, very fortunate to work with the amazing caregivers who give selflessly, tirelessly to be of service to sick children in need. The little tiny part I play – encouraging philanthropic gifts -is (for me) the best job in the world. Thank you, Divine, and for letting me be a small Spark!
“No one stands so tall as when he or she stoops to help a child.” This slightly altered, gender-diversified and beautiful truth is accredited to President Lincoln. I think of it daily as I work to raise philanthropic dollars to help our children at Greenville Health System Children’s Hospital in Greenville, South Carolina.
It reminds me also of the late Reverend Bennett Sims who observed “the human soul was built to give.”
And giving through clinical and supportive care to Children’s Hospital happens each day. With over 200 board certified physicians, hundreds of specialized clinicians, and still more who provide other ancillary care, Children’s Hospital is where we care for children, not as miniature adults, but as children.
For example, in our sedation clinic, children are prepared thoughtfully for mysterious procedures that are intimidating even for adults. MRI’s and CT scans can be loud and lonely experiences. One of our child life specialists, with a chain of small, replica medical devices around her neck, explained how she uses these along with a special doll, to explain what will happen during the procedure. On the best of days, the child ends up not even needing sedation after her visit and, “Oh!” she laughed at the end of our conversation, “I am also a professional bubble blower!” Another way to relieve anxiety.
Personally, I think we need adult life specialists at the health system.
Another example is our supportive care team which provide the vital infrastructure and medical care for children with chronic or complex medical conditions. They provide medical expertise to help parents filter through complicated decisions. They provide pastoral counseling in whatever spiritual (or not) belief system the patient and family holds. And they go above and beyond to help with special needs such as transportation and extra care when parents are at work.
These folks give treasure, too. The $1 million gift of The Dr. William and Jean Schmidt Family was immediately matched by an anonymous community member to establish The Seed Fund For Advanced Pediatric Care. This fund will be used to ensure that Children’s Hospital has the latest care throughout the future. During the nearly 25 years as Medical Director of Children’s Hospital, we have witnessed through Dr. Schmidt the amazing things that happen when deep passion and a career intersect.
I have raised money mostly for hospitals since 1990 and often I am asked, “How do you do that? I cannot imagine asking people for money.”
To this, I say, it is simply an explanation of the excellent quality of our care and the importance of philanthropy to provide essentials not covered by hospital reimbursement for services such as child life specialists, pastoral care, social work and so much more.
After all, the human soul is built to give and we are never so deeply human as when we help a child.
Thank You, Mary Oliver
“and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do-
determined to save
the only life you could save.”
I love this poem, the ending above, a work of the great poet Mary Oliver. I have studied it for years along with another, “The Butterfly,” (“Don’t love your life too much.”) They were ports in the storm of the most tumultuous time of my life and eventually helped me find the courage to leave behind what needed to be left behind and move forward (not unafraid) but with at least, solid shaky confidence.
Many years have passed since that time and, although I would be loathe to do it all again, I would. As I screamed and cried and wrote and sought elusive “safety,” (which is a sad figment of our imaginations), I was growing and changing profoundly in ways that I am still uncovering today.
Recently, someone asked me what was the most important thing I learned back then.
And this is it.
We can change only one person and save only one life. Our own.
That is why it is so important to maintain our integrity with ourselves. Not to drown out our own voices with the loud noise of the seductive world. Not to give up our own personal freedom and choice by capitulating to inappropriate commands of others. But to live a life that is thoughtful and intentional and in line with our purpose.
That means taking time to be still and listen and give the Divine a chance to help us remember who we are. And to guide us through being brutally honest with ourselves about how to move forward.
Is it selfish, you might ask, doing what it takes to save our life? I don’t think so.
This is the life we have and it is flying by and we have work to do to leave this whole place in better shape when we pass one day into the Great Mystery.
Sometimes that means moving on as it did years ago for me. And as it does today when I realize I am conceding my own intention in relationships and situations and, thus, not remaining true to myself. (Read, in fact, sometimes lying to myself).
Thank you, Mary Oliver, for the words I needed and still need today.
We owe ourselves and the Divine a life lived in Our Truth.