Be Present

You have to get the simple stuff down if you’re going to survive the hard stuff. Be present. “It’s your body – it likes when you visit.

A Thanksgiving Blessing

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.
~ T.S. Elliot


Why You Should Always, Always, Always Listen to Your Heart

keep-calm-and-listen-to-your-heart-35One of the things that I learned while researching the bible verses that say that “the man is the head of the woman as Jesus is head of the church” is that in the days when Paul and the rest of the bible’s writers were living, no one really knew what the brain was for. It was widely believed to be some sort of cooling system. But there were cases where brain damage caused changes in people’s behavior and abilities and no one could quite figure out how damage to the cooling system could cause the problems they were observing. So no one knew quite what to make of that. There was even one school of thought on the brain which had sperm being produced in the brain and transported to it’s destination through the nervous system. It wasn’t until the 2nd century AD that Roman physician Galen popularized the idea of the head as controlling the body and storing memories, and thus thought.

Prior to that, it was believed that the seat of thought, emotion and will was the heart. Which actually makes sense because if you’ve ever paid attention, we feel emotions in our bodies – particularly around our chest. Thoughts quickly follow from emotions and our will is determined between the two. Today we think of the heart as symbolic of our emotions, but in the Egyptian, Greek and Roman worlds, the heart was the center of not just emotion, but of thought and will as well.

So there’s your completely pointless history lesson of the day. Use it well. I’m sure you’ll be able to fascinate people at your next dinner party with it. (Make your donations to support this amazing ministry today by clicking HERE.)

Anyhow, I actually do have a point. My point is to explain to you why you should always listen to your heart. Here’s the thing about your heart: (more…)

Meditate Like Jesus


What if I told you that I held the secret to meditating like Jesus did? And that I have been practicing it with amazing results for 15 years? And I can teach you the secret to meditating like Jesus did. Would you pay me $29.95 for access to an online book explaining the secret of this great mystery? Pay to attend a seminar to learn under my expert guidance? How about if I threw in a money back guarentee – use the technique for 90 days and if you are not completely satisfied, I’ll refund your money (upon receipt of documented evidence of practicing this meditation technique for 90 days, of course).

Yeah, well, if you want to send me money, you are always welcome to – there’s a donation button on the right side of the page on my site. But don’t worry – I’m just going to tell you what I know. Making a book, seminar or marketing plan out of it sounds like way too much work. Maybe one day when I’m feeling less busy/lazy, I’ll work up the ambition to build a multi-million dollar enterprise sharing my expertise as a spiritual scam artist leader.

First, a quick confession; I don’t actually know what I’m talking about. I have learned to pray and meditate almost entirely by instinct and/or following the lead of the Holy Spirit. I’ve never read a book or had any training or gone on a retreat to learn to meditate properly. I’ve probably read a couple of magazine articles or blog posts over the years, but that’s about it. My only actual training in prayer was memorizing prayers for Catholic catecism classes when I was a kid. So what I share is my own idiosyncratic understanding which may or may not meet the standards of Meditation, Inc.

So, first allow me to explain my own understanding of how to meditate, which probably isn’t too much different than anyone else’s. Then I’ll explain the part about meditating like Jesus. (Which may or may not actually be how Jesus meditated, but we’ll get to that in a minute.)

Because I was Catholic when I started learning to meditate, I used a candle. Catholics really like candles, you know. I would simply look at the flame of a burning candle and try to focus on nothing but the black wick at the center of the flame. Of course, this is almost impossible to do right off the bat. Your brain keeps wandering off and before you know it, you’re trying to figure out why Justin Donnelly, the boy whose children you plan on having, should he ever notice your existance, has a British accent even though he’s been attending school with you in the midwestern United States since second grade. Once I realized that my mind was wandering, I’d just let it go and refocus on the flame. Over and over and over and over.

I won’t go through the whole process, which I’m sure has been documented in excruciating detail elsewhere, but eventually the brain chatters itself out. It’s replaced by silence, for just a few seconds at first. But eventually, for extended periods of time you can silence your brain and just focus on your breathing or a flame or a word. This can take time – like years. My sister once attended a week long, silent meditation retreat in Thailand and was able to do it in 5 days. I’m sure she could give you a reference if you need one.

Being able to meditate like this is a great skill to have. And it is a skill which requires regular practice. But for my purposes, being able to sit with a blank mind without thinking wasn’t really the point. Yes, there are benefits to meditating in this fashion, like reducing stress, increasing mindfulness, etc. But this is my own idiosyncratic version, so for me, being able to sit with a silent mind wasn’t an end to itself.

Rather, the bible says repeatedly that we should meditate on God’s word and ways. For me, being able to get my mind blank and quiet provided a good, clean starting place for me to do this. I could introduce a bit of scripture or an idea into my meditation time and rather than having a brain that wandered off or engaged in free-association from the starting point, I could concentrate fully on what I was meditating on. The thoughts which came up were purposeful rather than random. Often I could see connections or gain a deeper understanding while engaging in this sort of meditation.

So, that’s all well and fine, but I started by positing that I might know the secret to meditating like Jesus did. And I might even have been practicing it for many years. Which might be true. You see, many years ago, I read an article, written by a Jewish person, which claimed that the ancient Hebrew style of meditation was to take two ideas which were seemingly in conflict with each other and meditate on them. The ancient Hebrew thinkers, they said, would hold these two seemingly opposing ideas together in their mind until the connections between them revealed themselves. In the end, not just the connections, but the interdependance of thse two seemingly opposing ideas would become clear and then the meditator would be able to see the reality of the situation and why God had made it so.

It’s been many years since I read this and honestly, I’ve never been able to find this explanation for how the ancient Hebrews meditated anywhere else. So maybe the ancient Hebrews really did meditate this way and maybe they didn’t. But when I read that, it occurred to me that, if this were true, then this would be how Jesus had meditated. Plus, it seemed like a good approach to try and I did.

After many years of engaging in this sort of meditation, I am inclined to think that this may well have been how Jesus meditated on God, scripture and theology. If you look at his teachings, you can see that he was the master of the third way. That he was able to find a way to be faithful to scripture without ever sacrificing the primacy of the command to love God, neighbor and self. In my experience, meditating in this way – by taking two things which appear to be in conflict and holding them side-by-side – is an excellent way to find this third way. Especially, if you choose Love as your north star – the thing that everything must be measured by – this sort of meditation does allow you to see connections, recognize what’s extraneous or an unwarrented assumption and eventually, how what you once though was in conflict fits together.

I suppose that I really could write a book or put together a seminar or retreat explaining the ins and outs of how this works. But this is a blog post, so you’re getting the cheapy, free version. 😉 However, if you are intrigued and want to give it a try, I’ll just leave you with a few tips.

First, examples of subjects which this style of meditation can be useful for:

  • Bible verses which appear to contradict
  • The science of creation vs the creation stories in Genesis
  • Christian customs or teachings which are in conflict with human nature or culture (ie women’s roles, homosexuality, wealth)
  • Theodicy – why we live in a world where there’s suffering if God is good

When you have a subject you are meditating on, these can be useful questions to ask yourself:

  • What if this were true?
  • What if I let go of this assumption?
  • Why do I think this must be true/false?
  • Am I making connections between things that aren’t really connected?
  • Is there a different way of understanding this word or concept?

And finally, if you do adopt this method of meditation, know that it’s not a quick fix. On occasion, I puzzle something out quickly, But there are subjects I’ve been meditating on, off and on, for years. Usually, you gain greater understanding without necessarily resolving the whole issue. So it’s not a panacea.

As for whether this is actually a good way to figure out what is true or just a nice way to make your own arguments, I’ll just share this. Over the years it has been incredibly common for people to ask me, “have you been reading so-and-so? Because what you’re saying sounds an awful lot like what he writes about in such-and-such.” The answer, nearly 100% of the time is no, I haven’t read and unless they are a church father, I probably haven’t even heard of the person they are asking about. My book budget is non-existent and I don’t have the sort of education where one would read or learn about various theologians. Nearly always, what I’m sharing which bears such a strong resemblance to what someone else says comes out of this habit of meditating.

Because we each bear God’s image, I believe that we each carrying within us the answers to everything. It’s just a matter of uncovering them and separating the wheat from the chaff and what is particular to me from what is universal. So, maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I can’t help but think that the frequency that I am told that what I am saying is much the same as what some church mother or father or some theologian says is a pretty good sign that this way of meditating has been quite productive for me. I think it’s a bit like how scientific discoveries or inventions tend to pop up in multiple places with multiple people all at once – a sign that something solid has been hit on. Or the way evolution tends to produce the same traits repeatedly in different places and settings – a sign that something useful has been produced. The fact that I’m often reaching conclusions that others have seems to be a good indicator that meditating like Jesus (presumably) did works.

Anyhow, if I ever decide to become a charletan guru and sell my super secret, revolutionary method for meditating like our Lord and Savior, y’all will be the first to know. In the meantime, give it a go yourself!

Related: Just A Housewife

Why Parents Should Meditate

Meditation is good for us. The bible tells us to meditate dozens and dozens of times. Modern science has shown that meditation changes the way our brains work and provides a host of physical and mental health benefits. Everyone should learn to meditate.

While meditation is good for everyone, it is essential for parents. In fact, I think it is safe to say that if I didn’t meditate, I would be unable to parent my 5 children without the assistance of weed or booze to smooth things out. But because I meditate, I am usually an oasis of peace in the middle of chaos, even while sober.

When you meditate, you learn to tune out your senses – or at least not give them center stage. Which is really helpful when a kid spilled milk in the car without your knowing it. If you haven’t learned to meditate and tune out your senses, the smell of spoiled milk every time you get in the car might really bother you. Not so for the meditating parent.

When you meditate, you learn to quiet or take no notice of the chattering little voices in your head which insistently demand your attention. This is an essential skill for parents when several children gang up on you demanding ice cream and a pony. You just use the skills you have developed through hours of meditation and those chattering, insistent voices quickly fade away, leaving you free to contemplate what it would actually be like to have a pony in the backyard. As with meditation, when you take no notice of the chattering voices of children demanding that you give your full attention to every inanity of life, they wear themselves out and go away.

Meditation also develops your powers of concentration. Which is helpful when you’re trying to pay enough attention to what your daughter is saying so you can keep track of who is mad at whom today and what each person’s favorite My Little Pony character is. When you’re stuck in the house all day with small children, you take your gossip where you can get it, so this is very important.

The ability to tame your brain and concentrate is also helpful when you have a kid who wants to explain, in minute detail, an epic pokemon battle he saw on youtube. The control over your brain developed through meditation allows you to tune him out entirely without him noticing. You just tune in a couple times a minute to repeat the last word or two you heard – “he used thunderbolt attack, mmhm.” Then your brain is free to plan your next meal, rehash your argument with your sister or find the answer to meaning of life. A parent who doesn’t meditate has to either let their kid know that you don’t care what they are talking about or be held hostage to a long diatribe about the evolution of Celibi, the guardian of the forest.

Another benefit of meditating is that you become more aware of what’s happening in the moment. My husband responds to the various screetches, yells, wails and shouts of our children with alarm and panic. He doesn’t meditate much and therefore has a hard time tuning into the details of the present moment in a pinch. He often struggles to discern the difference between the cry of a child whose finger has just been severed and a child who is losing an argument. But as a meditating parent who is in the moment, I can discern not only between serious injury and frustration. I can tell the difference between crying caused by injury that requires medical attention, injury which requires an ice pack and an over-reaction to a scratch. This greatly reduces the amount of panic in my life. It allows me to continue what I am doing until the child who is wailing comes to tattle on someone.

Now that I have teens, I have found that being an experienced meditator is even more essential than ever. For example, part of meditating is not responding to every thought, emotion and stimulus that comes up. Instead of reacting, you just observe. Let it be what it is. Which was helpful this afternoon when my son came home with two bows in his hair. Rather than reacting, I could simply observe that his hair looks cute with bows in it. When my other son decided to forgo a shower this morning, I was able to observe that the room he was sitting in smelled like cumin and politely told him to go shower before the odor seeped into the couch cushions.

People sometimes ask me how it is that I can raise 5 kids, keep my house from being condemned by the county and write. The answer, simply is meditation. If it wasn’t for meditation, I wouldn’t be able to write many of my blog posts like this (you only think I am kidding):


Related: Just a Housewife

Just a housewife

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 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.  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. (more…)

I am. God is. Are you? Zen . . .

I am.  That’s our goal.  I am.  We are children of I Am.  Made in his image.  I am.  Are you?  Ha!

Part of our problem is that we are convinced that I am – whether it be God, ourselves, or our present circumstances and surroundings – is something to be suspect of, probably terribly boring or terrible bad or terribly not me.  Like the God whose main building tool is explosions is going to want us to stand around all day humming melodically.  Seriously?  (Sometimes when people talk to me, this just pops into my head.) 

But we resist I am.  If we didn’t we’d have to learn to slow down and be present.  We’d maybe even have to let ourselves be irreperably imperfect.  We’d have to face things we didn’t even know we’d be running from.  And that would be uncomfortable.  We’d have to do things the people around us might not approve of.  It might be too hard.  It might even drive you into the arms of God, no?  Because it’s not easy to learn to just be.  I would never want to have to do it on my own. 

When you are determined to learn to embrace I Am whether it is the I Am God or the I am Rebecca or I am going through an unwanted divorce and I’m really embarrassed at what the people I’m related to will think of me because of this, then you will reach a place that I call zen – although it’s probably a terrible abuse of what the actual word means.  To me zen is just a very deep acceptance.  It’s when you can let go – even for just a few seconds at a time – of your emotional need for reality to be different than it actually is.  It’s not letting go of desire – wanting something is part of reality, and acceptance of reality is what living with and in I am is all about.  One of the differences between real zen and the Christian version, donchya know.

When I am at “zen”, I find that I have all the patience in the world when I need it.  There is peace.  There is joy. Things make much more sense from the point of zen than they do any other time.  If I’ve ever said something that was so obvious that it made you feel stupid for not having thought of it that way before, it’s something that came from being in zen.  (more…)

Know Thine Self

Getting to know yourself can be one of the biggest, most difficult jobs we will ever undertake.  But you can’t properly love yourself – or even really like yourself! – if you don’t know who you are.  If you don’t know who you are, how will you know what about yourself there is to love?

Occassionally take some time to listen to yourself.  Sit quietly and think of a topic or question you are interested in.  Usually, when you do this a pat answer will immediately pop into your head.  This is the standard answer that you think is supposed to be the right one.  Let that answer fade away and listen for what pops into your brain next.  Notice any feelings that come up.  Ask yourself lots of follow-up questions.


“Why do I feel this way?”

“Why do I think this?”

“Is it true?”

“Does it make sense to me?”

“Is this what I want to be true?  Why?”

Just listen to what you have to say.  Usually it’s much more interesting and enlightening than the pat answers you normally come up with!

Just a housewife

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 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 services company whose name you are quite familiar with.  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, 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 had traveled completely to the other side of the world in order to experience things that I have also experienced as a housewife in Wisconsin.

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 when turning 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.

Pay your body a visit!

It’s hard to enjoy your life if you are not really there for it.

“I am.” -God

“Be Present” is one of those great spiritual truths like Love, Peace an Compassion.  I’m sure books have been written on why this is so, but so far the teaching of it has been lax at best.  And no matter how much people on TV swear by it, meditating for an hour a day just isn’t practical.  But there are ways to learn to be more present that don’t put you in any danger of falling asleep while in the lotus pose.

To start learning to be present, start where you should always start: with yourself.

Once or twice a day, take a few seconds to be still and pay attention to your body.  The first few times you do it, do it when you don’t need to be paying attention to something else. You do want to be able to focus.  Good times can be when you are rocking or nursing a child.  Or just sitting at your computer.  Don’t do it while driving.

Just close your eyes, notice any noise or smells.  Notice your reactions to them – are they irritating?  Pleasant?  Feel your skin – is there a breeze, can you feel the weight of your legs on your chair?  Notice any aches or stiffness.  Are you thirsty?  Hungry?  Take a good look around your non-visual senses, but you don’t have to go deep here.  Your goal is to notice what your body is experiencing, not to experience the movement of butterfly wings stirring air near-by!

 It’s your body and it likes when you visit!

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