Let me share a few things about myself which may not be immediately clear just from reading my blog:
I became a mother at age 21.
Last year I took my first commercial flight since I was 3.
I have never been outside of the USA.
I have done almost no traveling outside of the Midwest.
I was planning to be a high school English teacher before I became a mother.
I have 5 kids and two step-children.
I am entirely self-taught re scripture, religion, philosophy/rhetoric, psychology, ANE culture, and other topics I discuss here.
I have never been able to learn a foreign language.
I have been a stay-at-home mom/housewife for the last 12 years.
At this moment, I am sitting in my bedroom in a house that can be seen from I-94 in far Western Wisconsin ignoring 3 of my children who are bickering and pretending to be hissing cats.
All of which is to say that from the outside, I hardly seem like anyone special who would be qualified to speak on anything special. I’m just a housewife in Wisconsin. It has taken a lot of chutzpa on my part to keep writing here as if I had anything anyone might be interested in reading.
And it doesn’t help that I come from a family filled with people who have or are doing things that are much more impressive and interesting than anything I’ve ever done. My dad and all of his siblings all have advanced degrees. My dad travels the world as an expert in his field, speaking at conferences, testifying at trials and conferring with policy makers in his area of expertise. My mother has a brother who is a multimillionaire entrepreneur. Another of her brothers married into the family that founded a large financial company. Several of my siblings have spent time living overseas in places like Italy, Poland, Turkey and Uganda. Between all of them, I can think of at least 15 countries my siblings have visited. They have earned their way to each of those places themselves. They’ve had odd, interesting jobs like working on a whale-watching cruise ship, working on a pineapple farm in Hawaii and teaching inner-city kids. They have hiked through Alaskan wilderness. It can be a bit hard to be a housewife in Wisconsin, surrounded by so many worldly, impressive people.
But I know a secret that most people never learn; that the landscape of the human heart is as wild and strange and fascinating as anything in all of creation. And I don’t have to travel the world or make a lot of money or have a fancy education to explore the human heart. Being a housewife in Wisconsin works just fine for that.
A few years back, my beautiful sister Cindy and her husband Greg quit their jobs and spent several months traveling around East Africa, Thailand, Nepal and India. While there Cindy and Greg stayed at a Buddhist retreat center for a week of silence and meditation. They kept a blog while traveling and wrote one blog post for each leg of their journey. As I read the entry from this part of their journey, I had to smile. They were on the other side of the world learning and experiencing things not so much different from what I also learned and experienced as a housewife in Wisconsin. As I read my sister’s account of what it had been like to struggle to tame her mind through meditation, how her awareness increased in doing so and the reward for sticking with it, I remembered many of the points on my own, much less condensed journey along that same path.
I remember how during long car rides driving my husband to work and my boys to their Montessori school back when we only had one car I realized that my head was filled with a chattering, often pointless, mean and critical voice that needed to be tamed. I wanted to hear God more easily but had to shut that voice up first.
I remember having to learn to push impatience aside to just be while reading Hop on Pop and Everyone Poops 30 times in a row.
I remember listening and letting my brain chatter itself out while doing dishes.
I remember understanding at an emotional level that we are outnumbered by insects while watching ants move their nurseries when I disturbed them as I turned sod over to make my first garden.
I remember learning to cultivate quiet in my brain while going about the mundane business of driving and cleaning and walking and gardening. Where once my brain boiled like raging water, my consciousness became like the still water of a pond early in the morning. My thoughts became like the ripples caused by a fish nabbing a waterbug on the surface. Purposeful, directed, sustaining.
I remember learning to let my brain pull up the scripture verses I had tucked deep within in response to the various questions, topics and problems that would float into my consciousness through the quiet once the chattering had been tamed.
On her final day of meditation, my sister was able to enter into the joy of the Loving Kindness Meditation. I felt a certain amount of pride and gratitude as I read her description of creating and expanding love and kindness out from herself and into the world. Although I am not buddhist and had only heard about the Loving Kindness Meditation in passing, as I read her description, I recognized the experience. I knew that prayer, that place, that state of being quite well. I have sat with it often over the years.
I remember long ago when I first found that place of loving kindness in my parent’s living room as a little girl, spinning in circles with my arms and heart open wide. I had started to pray, “God bless my mom and dad. Bless my brothers and sisters. Bless my next door neighbors. Bless the people in my neighborhood. Bless my town. Bless my aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents.” As I prayed (I don’t ever remember saying a real prayer before this one), I brought to mind individuals and skylines and creatures and plants and rocks and maps and continents and oceans and the earth itself with its moon. I asked God to bless them all as joy rose up in me and I continued to spin in the golden afternoon light. I asked God to bless the galaxies in all their strangeness and the heavens with all their spirits and all that he had made and all that came before and all that would come after. And then, when I couldn’t think of what else to ask God to bless, but still feeling the need to extend the love that felt like it was radiating from my chest outwards, I ended: “God bless you. And God bless me. Let me be a blessing to you.” and I was satisfied.
Because you don’t have to travel the world or live in exotic lands to experience great spiritual things. Being a little girl spinning in circles or a housewife in Wisconsin works just fine.
*Yeah, this is another repeat from last fall. I’m busy and most of y’all weren’t here last year. I hope you enjoyed it!