• Tag Archives: Nature

Catching Up with Life – Practicing Faith

Beech Mountain, NC ©2018 JRobin Whitley

‘When the powers of nature are the focus of your awareness and your thoughts, you come near to spirit, near to the source of all life. This is why most people love to walk in the woods or by the sea: they come close to the original source, and it is healing just to be in its presence. It cleanses you, brings peace of mind, touches your heart and brings you home to your soul.’
~ Chris Luttichau

The past few weeks I’ve been out of town. I was only gone for two weeks and it’s summer so I wasn’t worried about my condo. The dog went with me, so no worries about that either. Yet, here it is a week later and I’m still catching up on getting my home back in shape.

While gone, nature didn’t stop being nature. The bills and emails all those things that make up “daily life” at home, still happened. I don’t have a personal secretary (though my dog Birdie thinks she is my boss). There’s no maid that comes to clean.

I left my condo clean and in order so that when we came back, we could just pick right up where we left. My hosts and family allowed me to wash my clothing too so that when I got back, all I had to do was unpack. Sounds perfect doesn’t it? We go on a trip, have fun, see family and come home and everything works out perfectly. We might as well laugh at ourselves when we think anything in life works out perfectly.

Murphy’s Law is something most of us are taught at an early age. Yet, even at this age, I remain the idealist. If I plan it, it is so or will be so. No, that’s not really working for me for those who may ask. It means to continue facing disappointments. I remain hopeful nonetheless. Not hopeful that the world will turn as I plan or that life will stop with disappointments. My hope is in something hard to describe. Many call it faith.

As I write, my heart and mind are aware of the many who no longer want to talk about God or the church. It’s understandable because as a lesbian,  there are those around me who still discuss my sinfulness. The irony of it all is how boring my life is when compared to most folks. That’s not to say we can’t be boring and commit sins. I just wonder how they know so much about the state of my soul.

Faith. We use the word willy-nilly at times in the Christian tradition. I say that because it’s one of those words all Christians are supposed to use. Perhaps we use it too quickly. One of my spiritual directors told me never to pray for patience or faith. We laughed about it because I had been praying for both. Why did she say what she did? Because in order to have patience, one has to learn to wait. In order to have faith, one must learn to endure trials.

Oddly enough, the writing that helped me embrace a more realistic way of looking at faith is Herman Hesse’s book, Siddhartha. If you’re curious, the link is an open source PDF for reading the book. I always prefer a real book rather than its electronic version. I like being able to hold it in my hand. That’s beside the point. What helped me look at my faith differently by reading the book happened BECAUSE it was outside of my tradition.

As I try to summarize what helped me in the book, I find that the BBC’s description of Buddhism best summarizes both the book and what I could see in Hesse’s writing:

“Buddhism is a tradition that focuses on personal spiritual development. Buddhists strive for a deep insight into the true nature of life and do not worship gods or deities.”

BBC Religions

 

This sentence, in particular, strikes me, “…Buddhists strive for a deep insight into the true nature of life.” This blog started out with a quote about nature and it’s because I think the natural world is one that best teaches about the blessings of

A tree with prayer flags.

faith. A tree does what it does and it’s neither right nor wrong, but it just is a tree. The beauty of a tree reaching to the sky never ceases to amaze and inspire me.

Sometimes it seems that those of us who grew up in the church (and the South perhaps) think that if we have faith, nothing will go wrong in life. Some of the more fundamental Christian churches will preach that way. Perhaps it’s something that is the undercurrent in all of the churches in the South. I can’t speak for anywhere else.

Yet, we all know so many good people who have horrible things happen to them. Faith won’t make us be something else. Real faith as I now begin to see it means to accept what is and know that there’s a way through the trial. The way may not be fun and most likely won’t be pretty. When we have a community of loving and kind people, then we can have faith to get through the challenge.

In two or three weeks, life really threw me some curveballs. Nothing that means the end of the world for me, but there are trials with no clear way through. There are things happening to beloved family members and all I can do is be here and be me. I have no magic and I cannot take the pain of life away from them. It’s hard to watch someone you love suffer. My thoughts return to the tree. All we can do is remain a steadfast presence for those who need us.

Many of us know Shel Silverstein’s book, The Giving Tree. I first heard of the book at some event in college. Some group was doing a skit of the story. I’ve read it and told the story many times throughout the years. I think of it when I walk among the wonderful trees in my neighborhood. There are many gifts the tree “gives” but the essence of the book throughout is the power of presence.

Faith does not try to make us something other than that which we are. As I talked with my priest about the challenges my family is facing right now, he said, “Just be you Robin. Just be you.” As my beloved aunt fades, my nephew and his wife walk through a dark valley, as my niece and her husband seek hope, I am helpless to DO anything. Yes, I can pray, but the larger part of praying is learning to BE PRESENT to the holy. Only once we are present can we know the act that is necessary.

Life is holy, sacred, and good. Yes, it can also be pernicious and in the worst of times, feel like hell. The power of presence is that our loving and kind presence can transform those hard times into gold. Not the gold we can sell, but the golden light of the soul. The light of the soul that comes from being present to yourself in life, being present to nature, being present to the Other.

 

 

 

 

Content Protection by DMCA.com

Thoughts on Being

Living alone on Beech Mountain is certainly a process of living in the now. One of the important practices in meditation is learning to just be present to the moment. Thoughts on being are prevalent in all religious traditions. NPR even has a great radio show called On Being with Krista Tippett. She interviews great speakers from around the world to talk about being.

In my experience, being can be challenging if it means I must sit still. Sitting still is a type of challenge for me since I am a wiggly person. Since getting older, I also move to try and deal with the pain that is constantly

Grayson – He was a very good cat!

present in my body. For the best example of what I mean by merely being, think of a cat.  I no longer have a cat, but our cat, Grayson was great at being. I often called him my Buddha cat. It always seemed that when I was having problems paying attention to “being” instead of “doing”, Grayson was sitting at the window merely observing the world as it passed by.

My wife was better at being still than I was. But, learning to be present to the moment, as meant here, is more than being still. Just as Grayson was able to be all cat in his “being”, our being means to be all you and for me, all me without trying to be someone else. It means being present to all that makes up the person you are (not who you want to be). The only person who can know if one is good at that type of being is the individual.

A new part of my “being” has been very hard for me to accept. It is accepting my physical limitations as I accept my physical illness and challenge. Yet, as I continued to push and try to be who I was in the past, those actions only caused more harm to my body, peace of mind, and relationships with others.

Being a spiritual person has meant that in my life, I paid more attention to the interior process than the body. Constantly working to train the mind, heart, and soul to be godly was my vocation. That vocation played out in music and church work. I also enjoyed softball, biking, and hiking. Though competitive, there was no interest in harming myself to win.

Because of being attuned to my body, I thought that meant I took care of my body. Though I did in many ways, one of the most acceptable ways to destroy one’s health is also one of the most rewarded ways of destroying health. Many call it work and for me, it turned into workaholism.

Growing up, I knew at an early age I was a lesbian, though I didn’t know the word for it yet. I only knew that my crushes were on girls and I dreamed of growing up to marry a woman. I did have crushes on a few boys and those were the ones I spoke of aloud. But in my childhood dreams, I was the boy and I always had a girlfriend. That wasn’t happening as a child, but it was a dream. I learned quickly that I had to find ways to divert attention from myself. Luckily for me, work did the trick. It was also a good thing that I had a good singing voice. As I began to sing at school and at church, it seemed to be a good cover.

Many will ask what this has to do with “being” and I’m getting there. During this same time, I had always been a religious kid too. I was merely interested in God and the Bible without understanding the religious condemnation at the time. All these years later, it’s become clear that some of my natural gifts combined with my physical and intellectual capacity for work empowered me to become my own wizard of oz. The only thing is it caused me harm.

Busy all the time means that someone is ignored. Always on the go means several things: not eating right, missing quality time with friends and family, waste of natural resources. Sometimes a body has to stop. Rest. Rest is the part that we Americans want to leave out of the equation for happiness. I don’t mean vacations that require more money, time, or travel. I mean sleeping. Unwinding. Reading. Being quiet. What many call unplugging. Yet, many of us are afraid of unplugging because in that place of solitude and stillness we come face to face with who we really ARE.

There are some things that can be changed about who I am. I can cut my hair, wear different clothes or makeup, ink my skin. Yet those are all exterior changes to the body. The body is a temple for the source of our being. The changes we can make to our body are merely adornments. Not taking time to rest or listen to our heart and mind can cause physiological changes. Those are not the ones we want or need. What does it mean to be you? What makes you afraid to be you? How are you creating smokescreens to divert YOUR attention away from who you really are?

 

One of the things this place on Beech Mountain is not a thing, but a place. I have a place where I can be quiet and simply BE. Even the little town below us has a sticker with the word on it.  This sacred place allows me to let the dust of the world settle and see what remains. Every time I can be patient with myself and have courage, these things remain: G_d, spirit, music. Another way of saying that for me is faith, hope, and love. I must also admit to myself in those moments that there is an essence of life that is uniquely Robin. G_d does not want that essence to change for Robin was created for a divine purpose whether others recognize it or not.

 

______________________________________

Robin will be giving a talk about her book and the power of community on May 5th in Albemarle, NC. Please join the conversation at Second Street Sundries at 1:00 p.m.

PayPal.Me/RobinsRadio

 

 

 

Content Protection by DMCA.com

Random Thoughts on a February Morning

Tree at Beech Moutain’s Bark Park

Random Thoughts 2/2/2018

Just because a person misspeaks once, doesn’t mean the person is all-bad or all-wrong. As humans, we are prone to error. What makes us think another is in the wrong because of a mistake? What makes us think we are totally in the right because the mistake is obvious to us?

 

As I was washing dishes this morning, I rinsed out the small tub I use in my kitchen sink. There’s no dishwasher here but me. When I was drying it off, its white plastic not one I would choose, I thought of my Grandma Whitley. She always had a white plastic container she would put in her old porcelain sink to wash dishes. When the huge Whitley family gathered for meals, I always volunteered to do dishes. It’s something I never minded. It was also a way I could be around the women of my Southern family in a way that didn’t make me so nervous. I could listen and look out the window. They could talk.

We think we humans know how to love. It seems we only know how to create illusions of love. Then, when life gets tough, we take a pin to pop the bubble or the balloon of the illusion and think love is over when in fact, it may only have just begun.

___________________________________

Sometimes the audio picked up the sound of Birdie swallowing or making a sound in her sleep. The sound is NOT my stomach growling. LOL

 

“The soul often speaks through longing.” ~Sue Monk Kidd

Content Protection by DMCA.com

Morning Errands

Morning errands seem never-ending. Today, we went towards Bryson City instead of Sylva. We stopped at the coffee shop to ask if Bryson City has a pet store. Of course, I stopped in the coffee shop to ask. I could search GPS, but people have better answers about local places. Besides, I am still training Birdie about being a polite canine in public places. I’ve discovered she REALLY likes people. There were no qualms about tying her to a tree on the porch while I asked for directions and a coffee. She wouldn’t try to escape. I wasn’t in the shop long before she started barking. The bark was the one that meant, “Why aren’t those people petting me?” The bark is happy but shrill. It’s just one decibel lower than the scream bark which is her Squirrel bark.
I go outside to keep her quiet. One of the employees is talking to her trying to assure her. I apologize to her and the one waiting on me. The girl says there are children that make more noise than any dogs. I get that. Oh, and I neglected to mention, there is also a train across the street. A bell clangs and a steam engine hisses to remind me. When I stoop to get Birdie’s leash, I see what appears to be a shiny rhinestone or crystal near the leash. Like a crow enthralled with shiny objects I reach to pick it up.

It melts on my fingertips because it was a drop of pine sap rather than something solid. I’m disgusted by the feel of the slimy sap and annoyed because I know pine sap can stay on one’s skin for days. Then, as I try to rub the sap off of my fingers, there’s the wonderful smell of pine. The sap comes off easier and I see that the tree itself is a different species of tree, though I can’t identify it.

Birdie hoping for a bite of my bagel.

A nice tourist comes up and pets Birdie. I watch the other tourists looking at the train and taking pictures. Several squeaky cars drive by because the coffee shop, Mountain Perks, is near the stop light. A service dog comes by and Birdie is offended that he didn’t even see her. She doesn’t understand that the german shepherd is working. At least she doesn’t bark at it. Birdie does turn to me with a questioning look. A woman in the group smiles at Birdie as though she understands the small dog’s confusion.
There’s not particular reason for this writing. It is merely a beautiful day in the mountains where pine sap becomes diamond and the light coming through the forest dances. People smile at each other. A train conductor waves to a woman walking across the tracks with a yellow Dollar General bag in hand. A car drives by and someone is laughing. It’s a good day to be alive.
 
Content Protection by DMCA.com

Writing on a May Morning

Chicken in a stroller
Stroller dogs
Bird anatomy
Tradio
Free the nipple
Sand in your pants
Pineapple on the side of the road
Habit
Sitting in the house nude

__________________________________

We talk about the weird things we’ve seen or read about in the past week. I remember some of my own, but they are nothing compared to a woman wearing a metallic bikini top flashing in the sunlight. Still, I list them all. Mine seem boring except for the pineapple on the side of the road.

This morning I listened to the local radio show that is a knockoff of WRGC’s show “Tradio”. A woman called in asking for someone to plow their garden. A band booster thanked listeners for supporting the band. A man wanted to sell 100 gallons of stain for $100. All different colors.

Now a writer jumps up and down in front of the window trying to silence the noise distracting us all. We then laugh about vibrations. Once she found the source of the sound, she resolves the problem and we return to writing in the quiet bookstore. We write in an old house that became a doctor’s office, became a bookstore, became a restaurant. The stories this building could tell. Perhaps it was talking to us today.

Blackberry winter is still here through Tuesday, but Wednesday will be up in the eighties. As a kid, I don’t think it got into the eighties until June. Never one to like hot weather, I often consider moving to cooler places; either farther north or farther up in elevation.

The place where I live now is a wonderful place on top of a mountain. At night, it seems the stars are closer. At times, it feels a though I could kiss the stars. This morning the moon was my bright friend as I took my black dog into the chill. The smells are crisp at four a.m. The road below is quiet and nothing stirs.

The sun rises and the birds are happy. Today is a beautiful day to be alive. I even have a Walmart employee ask if he could help me and several others were smiling. The bookstore is quiet as we arrive. While I wait for my coffee in the cafe below, the cat meows wanting entrance into the cafe. Then the laughter of joining together to write refreshes my spirit. There is peace in the clicking of keys typing out a story. It’s another day in writer’s group.

____________________________

Thank you for visiting my site.  My memoir has been re-released and will soon be available in audiobooks. Check back here for more information on the audiobook.

Content Protection by DMCA.com
close
%d bloggers like this: