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I was thinking about how much I love Pema Chodron, David Whyte, Buddhadarma magazine, anything India or Hindu or yoga related, my energy healing school… why don’t I just join a religious order someday?

I can’t speak for someday. I may hit a yoga retreat or an ashram or visit a Christian religious order just to clean up or get new clarity. I want to visit (almost) every place of worship with every loved one who will invite me, from the Hindu temple with Vidya for puja back to Christchurch in Rugby or Epiphany with my mom. Maybe I’ll take the Art of Living course for my birthday.Maybe I’ll go back to work for some difficult, bureaucratic, profitless agency that lets me help people and stresses me with the hardships of our clientele and staff.

But I could not just walk away permanently. I realized that I love this world, and that is why the answer is no. Spiritual practice must not be something that just sits off to the side waiting for an acceptable time. It is where the rubber hits the road– when someone pisses me off, when I am afraid, when I am celebrating, when there is injustice, mendacity, thoughtlessness, hurt, waste, pain, violence whether in words between family or warfare between nations– that tests what I believe and what I am growing to be.

My Tassajara would be a bed and breakfast where travelers can find family meals from my own garden and welcome and comfort. My 29 Palms is the beach at my Mom and Dad and Grammy’s house, Kim’s back patio looking out over the little lake, or Station Camp in Big South Fork, until such time as we can afford that second home in West Virginia near Granny’s house. I find so much to be grateful for each day, I just have to remember to see it and be grateful.

I don’t need a retreat. I need to be mindful. I can find a walking meditation counting flowers as cars roar by on the smelly city street that is the way to and from my child’s school. I know wine shrinks your brain but ‘this is the blood shed for thee’, and I love to taste it and cook with it. I can find a meditative joy in cooking mindfully, trying to nourish my family with healthy food, swimming upstream against the food industry. I can find a meditation in cleaning and organizing and FitTV. There is so much music to enjoy on YouTube or alternative radio or someday when we have a babysitter again in clubs.

I have about ten vocations… for one of them I might learn Buddhist counseling methods– just read a wonderful article about that in Buddhadarma magazine. I’d love to do that with a fat helping of Jungian study in San Francisco and Kabbalah from the School of Healing Arts in Nashville. I don’t have answers any more than anyone else does… and the answers are right within us, within our values and hopes and need and dreams. And this is our life, our kingdom come.

I love this world. Some parts of it hurt– people do nasty crappy things here in LA, as I know they do everywhere (though maybe not quite so often or willingly!). I think about losses and griefs. I screw up, judge, feel anxious, get irritated. I struggle with giving up unhealthy behaviors– all legal, but not healthy. Travel has forced me over and over again to reframe in a way that has been hard but good for me. How I handle these is constant opportunity for meditation without abandoning daily life. Spirituality can be a retreat, an abandonment of real life… I will never retreat. Meet me right here.

In that spirit, with my usual dedication to reverence and irreverence, here’s one of my theme songs. Stop right here if you don’t like ugly words.

The Bill O’Reilly Dance Remix used to give me a much needed laugh and relief from tension when I was working at the library. Okay, we don’t live in Darfur or anything, but outside of that… simple daily things were so hard I cannot describe it. F* it! I can’t do it! What a joy to have Bill express how I felt so eloquently every single day. I laughed my head off no matter how many times I watched it.

Now the video still gives me great joy– Kim R. just posted it on her fb page this morning and I’ve watched it about five times already and will probably watch it five more. But now the line that speaks to me is F* it! We’ll do it live!

Doing it live…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5j2YDq6FkVE

I’m working so of course I’m way behind on my Inner Christmas Musings.

But Lynn Jericho’s Second Holy Night focused on the need for divinity.

And coincidentally– unless, Mother, did you tell her to do this when I wasn’t around?– my five year old is suddenly wanting to say  her prayers each night at bedtime.

I take her to church with me but I don’t really comment on it one way or the other.  I have this weirdo feminist, deconstructed, materialist/Marxist literary way of seeing the liturgy and Christian / Bible-based worship. I love it. I can spout scripture from King James on demand, I swear I can. But my belief system is this weird combination of literal and superstitious and completely new age, Eastern and probably completely heretical.  As long as the belief system does not include or justify harming/oppressing women or children or anyone else, I’ll worship with anybody, however and whatever and whenever. Yoga, meditation, pagan ritual, it’s all good.

When I talk to her about spirituality I really try to give her a very simple line– Christmas is about a baby, about all babies, this is a creative, loving Universe, it created you, and the Universe loves you and has its arms open for you and exists for your happiness like I do only more– and that is a whole, whole lot, can you imagine even more? I want to hardwire the expectation of happiness, comfort, positive thinking, joy, play, fun, responsibility, order, pride in her achievements, the journey not the destination, the process as much as the product, can do as much as I can in her mind and heart.

This year I’ve started throwing in a little science and nature into the mix… how our traditions today started with observations of nature and the fears and hearts’ desires of people thousands of years ago, how science and theology intersect (for me) (and only in very general easy terms that make sense in the context of whatever we’re doing at the time).

But now she wants to say her prayers. Well, okay. Telling her not to do or believe something is to me just as intolerant and wrong as telling her to believe only one particular thing. So, okay. We’ll say prayers.

She looks at me and says, okay. Do you know how?

Do I know how???

What to tell her?

The chaplain at the hospital caring for my grandma said a prayer that really knocked my socks off. He just claimed it straight up– Lord, cover Elva (my grandma) in blessings and healing from the crown of her head to the soles of her feet.

And that is how you are supposed to pray.

It was amazing. She knew exactly what was going on, and actively reached for our hands and his to join the prayer. It was also, if I remember right, the occasion of her saying her first words after her stroke — ‘ya’ (yes in Swedish) and ‘amen.’ I knew then she was on the way.

What are prayers for, really? We used to do ‘Now I Lay Me’ when I was little and I didn’t think a thing about ‘if I should die before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take.’ Didn’t bother me none. But somehow between then and now it filtered into the collective consciousness that those words might upset a kid, so is that out of fashion or what do kids say nowadays? And my worst nightmare, if I die, is not where my soul’s going. It’s leaving my loved ones. I know we’re all connected. I KNOW it. I know it’s all part of the divine plan. I do. But I love my family, my little girl, so much– I can’t get my mind around leaving her, especially, or anyone else I love, or any of the work I think I am on this earth to do.

So, what to tell her? I maybe should take the example of the chaplain, tell her to claim it. I think I will.

But here’s what I’ve told her so far. Whatever we ask in your Son’s name… Part I is to ask for blessing for everyone we can think of, people we know and people we don’t. Tonight she said ‘bless everyone in the whole world.’ I like that way of thinking! When she said ‘bless my Mommy’ I just felt so covered in love and joy.

Part II is to think of things that happened during the day that made us happy– playing in the rain, playing on the porch, a Mayfield ice cream sandwich, whatever. I tell her to do that because I want her (and me!) to make a habit of revisiting the goodness in each day, and really touching on how that felt– flying updside down in the swing in a gentle summer like rain the day after Christmas, dragging her hair through the mud puddle under the swing and then stomping in every single mud puddle under every single other swing in the park before peddling furiously home on her little bike, her legs and clothes an Alabama clay orange that will never come out of her socks or her skirt– and who cares?  Really touching that physical feeling of joy matters ever so much to emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing.

I guess there needs to be a Part III as taught to me by the chaplain at DePaul.

The title of this post is Ladder of Angels because that’s the title of a book my mom gave me to share with my little one. It’s by Madeleine L’Engle, one of my dearest childhood favorites ever ever ever, she and Ursula LeGuin.  It’s been on my bedside table just forever, since whenever Mom gave it to me. Now… I’ve been given books meant to assure her salvation and proper Christian education in the past… I had her marked with holy water as an infant, we’ve never mentioned it again, it’s taken care of, and I don’t want her growing up thinking that most people are ‘unwarshed,’ with an us and them mentality. So those books, well…

But Ladder of Angels is so sweet. I had no idea.

It’s easy, unpretentious poems of one page or less, about lots of Bible stories, with illustrations by children. It’s lovely.

And what I had forgotten is how those stories lit my imagination when I was a kid. Jacob’s Ladder? Leah and Rachel? The pillar of salt? Water from the rock? Jacob and Esau? Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? the hand writing on the wall? My personal favorites to this day, Ezekiel’s wheel and the dry bones? I can’t wait to share the story of the baby Moses with her. This isn’t about some obscure and forbidding right wing evangelical faith… this is about a baby. It is about life and the supernatural. It is about story, and heart, and soul, and love which isn’t always a choice, and screwups and failures.

We read several of the poem/stories. I tried to explain ‘Better a Dinner of Herbs’ (Proverbs 15:17) to her. She said, so it’s better to be poor? Sigh. No. You can be rich AND have love and joy, the two are not mutually exclusive. So why is it better to be poor, then? Sigh. I said, so if you could have one leaf of raw spinach with your Mommy, knowing how much I love you, or a big gooey choclatey cupcake but there’s a mean old witch who’s going to smack you and call you hateful names when you reach for the cupcake which would you choose? She said, I’d feel bad because I really wanted to eat the cupcake.

When we said our prayers I ended up praying that she would trick the witch and get the cupcake and have lots of love too.

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