The Parting Words of the Mystic Anthony deMello

How do you get a person from Point A to Point B? You give them a map. If you’re the mystic Anthony de Mello, you might be more like a mountain sherpa, leading people up a road that forces you to pay attention to your steps, breathe the air deeply, look around and observe the view in awe, and make it as wordless an experience as possible.

Those who know of Antony deMello probably know of the circumstances of his death. Born in India, he became Jesuit in his teens. As a priest, he developed his calling as a retreat master, teacher, and writer. As such, his popularity grew tremendously in the eighties.

His talent was his ability to zero in on spiritual truths that transcended dogma, culture, and even words. People were simply drawn to “Tony” because he clearly was walking the walk. As a pied piper of mystics, he implored his followers to come on the journey to awareness–to leave the sad, confused, world behind and wake up!

From May 20-25, 1987, Tony delivered a seminar in Pune, India, to an estimated 300 priests and nuns. He expected to deliver it a few days later in the United States. Sadly, that seminar never happened. Tony passed away very unexpectedly in New York the night before he was to deliver it.
His brother Bill de Mello, who has authored Tony’s biography, The Happy Wanderer, was able to collect detailed notes from the participants of the Pune sessions and put together a transcript of that last seminar–the same one that the US participants were robbed of by his untimely death. So this book, Swansong, is a true blessing to be shared! It’s our last chance hear what he had to say–to hear the words that wound up being his Swansong.

The book is short and organized by the days in which the presentations were delivered. Each day had an overarching theme, with a progression from awareness through love, holiness, the ineffability of God, “living” with God through meditation, and finally, release of ego.

Many mystics have provided a similar road map, which often start with the opening the heart and end with the abandonment of self. This short book is not a long, daunting tour through seven mansions, like St. Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle; nor is it a pedantic treatise on the mystic way, like Evelyn Underhill.

This mystic journey more like a fun adventure–a road trip with a sherpa who had a darned great time pointing out the scenery. This sherpa tells jokes, he tells you how wise you are to have embarked on this trip and he tells you to put away the guide book and just see and hear and experience and be.

Here are some of my favorite quotes for each Day:

Day One. 20th May 1987

We humans have scriptures and all we do is feed on words. It’s like going to a restaurant and eating the menu.

The finest act of love you can perform is not an act of service but an act of contemplation, of seeing. When you serve people, you support, alleviate pain. When you see them in their inner beauty and goodness, you transform and create.

Day Two. 21st May 1987

In a conflict between Nature and your brain, back Nature; if you fight her, she will eventually destroy you. The secret therefore is to improve on Nature in harmony with Nature. How can you achieve this harmony?

Think of some change that you wish to bring about in your life or in your personality. Are you attempting to force this change on yourself through effort and through teh desire to become something that your ego has planned? That is the serpent fighting the dove. Or are you content to study, observe, understand, be aware of your present state and problems, without pushing, without forcing things that your ego desires, leaving reality to effect changes according to Nature’s plans, not yours? Then you have the perfect blending of the serpent and the dove.

We are here, not to change the world but to love the world and in that love, change may come. If I try to change you and you don’t change, I have resentment. And if I think I have change you, I take pride. Remember – Love is – clarity of perception, accuracy of response.

Day Three. 22nd May 1987

Life to those who have the ears to hear is a symphony; but very, very rare indeed is the human being who hears the music. Why? Because they are busy listening to the noises that their conditioning and their programming have put into their heads. That and something else–their attachments. An attachment is a major killer of life.

Once you pick up these attachments you become a slave to them. Then comes the tension and anxiety which are the very death of love and the joyful freedom that love brings. Love and freedom are only found when one enjoys each note of a symphony as it arises, and then allows it to go, so as to be fully receptive to the notes that follow.

Day Four. May 23rd 1987

When you drop your illusions, you get a sense of space and time. Mystics get this sense of timelessness; of eternity, of everlasting joy; because they have dropped their illusions.

Once a projection is screened before us, we make it a concept–static. When we create concepts we bring out our paintbrushes. We pain things good or bad, according to the concepts we have created. The Mystic does not paint it. The mystic sees everything with a clean slate and experiences what he sees in present moment freshness each and every time.

I can’t put into words what I’ve seen. But now I make a formula and instead of seeing what I am pointing to, I cling to the formula. Therefore your biggest obstacle to finding God is the concept: ‘God.’

Day Five. May 24th 1987

Reality cannot be known through concepts; much less, this reality we call God. He is not virtue and not vice. He is not light and He is not darkness. What is wrong is the use we make of the Bible. Don’t believe that reading the Scriptures will do you any good, unless you start working on yourself. You will not understand the Bible unless your mind, heart and eyes are clean; or else, you give it all sorts of interpretations to suit your own fears.

In order to meditate, you do not need to read the Bible. Instead examine your body, the five senses, the functioning of your mind.

I often hear, ‘I have no time to meditate.’ This is like saying ‘I have no time to breathe.’ Are you awake the entire day? Are you aware of your being, your surroundings? Are you aware of the sounds around you? The colours of nature which beautify this earth we live in? Of the melody of birds singing in the early hours of the morning or late evening? Of the sound of the breeze rustling through the branches of a tree? Staying ‘awake’ and being ‘aware’ for the entire day is meditation. Then you will realise that life is useless, worthless, not worth living, without consciousness. When walking in the jungle, you keep your eyes open to keep your feet from getting hurt. Likewise in life, in your relationships, find time to take the blindfold off.

A man comes regularly into a bar and ‘driving’ an imaginary car he ‘parks’ it in the bar. One day someone tells the bartender to tell him his bar is not a parking lot. ‘Why should I?’ says the bartender. ‘He gives me 10 dollars a week for parking here. If your illusion suit me, I don’t  mind stringing you along.

Swansong–Day Six, May 25th 1987

Remembering is an obstacle to seeing.  ‘Now’ is another name for love.

It isn’t as if God is the big dancer and you are the little dancer. You are not a dancer at all. You are being danced!

Dissatisfaction sets in when you cling to a thing, an event or a person.

If you really enjoy life and the simple pleasures of the senses, you’d be amazed. You’d develop that extraordinary discipline of the animal. Think of your body and compare it with the body of an animal that is left in its natural habitat.

It never eats or drinks what is not good for it. It has all the rest and exercise that it needs. It has the right amount of exposure to the elements, to wind and sun and rain and heat and cold.

That is because the animal listens to its body and allows itself to be guided by the body’s wisdom. Compare that with your own foolish cunningness. If your body could speak, what would it say to you? Observe the greed, the ambition, the vanity, the desire to show off and to please others, the guilt that drives you to ignore the voice of your body while you chase after objectives set by your ego.

Religion is not ritual, not intellectual, but purification. From that purified heart and mind, action will come.

You do not possess the wind, the stars, and the rain. You don’t possess these things; you surrender to them. And surrender occurs when you are aware of your illusions, when you are aware of your addictions, when you are aware of your desires and fears.

Faith, my dears, is the readiness to change in order to follow the truth.

What’s missing here in the words is the soul behind them–Tony’s charisma and presence–and so, I would encourage you to watch one of the many videos that are available for viewing.  Here’s one place you can go for that.

Tony’s passion in life was to get people to Wake Up! He repeatedly quotes Thomas Carlyle:  “The great tragedy of human life is not so much in what they suffer, but rather, in what they miss.”  Swansong is Tony’s last invitation to avert this tragedy–to follow this Mystic Sherpa on the path to a bird’s-eye view of awareness and joy.

Richard Rohr on Non-Duality

For those who are looking for writers in the Eckhart Tolle vein, just a quick post to mention that Franciscan priest and mystic Richard Rohr’s daily email meditations (which are well-worth subscribing to) are starting a series today on Non-Duality. Here is today’s meditation, as a teaser. If you wish to sign up, you can do so here. This meditation is from one of his wonderful books, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.

Growing into Contemplative Seeing           
Monday, June 29, 2015
Dualistic thinking is the well-practiced pattern of knowing most things by comparison. And for some reason, once you compare or label things (that is, “judge” them), you almost always conclude that one is good and the other is less good or even bad. In the first half of life, this provides ego boundaries and clear goals, which creates a nice clean “provisional personality.” But it is not close to the full picture that we call truth.

Dualistic thinking works only for a while to get us started, but if we are honest, it stops being helpful in most real-life situations. It is fine for teenagers to think that there is some moral or “supernatural” superiority to their chosen baseball team, their army, their ethnic group, or even their religion or gender; but one hopes that later in life they learn that such polarity is just an agreed-upon game. Your frame should grow larger as you move toward the Big Picture in which one God creates all and loves all, both Dodgers and Yankees, blacks and whites, Palestinians and Jews, gays and straights, Americans and Afghanis.

Non-dualistic thinking or both-and thinking is the benchmark of our growth into the second half of life. This more calm and contemplative seeing does not appear suddenly, but grows almost unconsciously over many years of conflict, confusion, healing, broadening, loving, and forgiving reality. It emerges gradually as we learn to “incorporate the negative,” learn from what we used to exclude, or, as Jesus put it, “forgive our enemies” both within and without.

You no longer need to divide the field of every moment between up and down, totally right or totally wrong, for or against. It justis what it is. This inner calm allows you to confront what must be confronted with even greater clarity and incisiveness. This stance is not at all passivity. It is, in fact, the essential link between true contemplation and skillful action. The big difference is that your small and petty self is now out of the way, and if God wants to use you or love you, which God always does, God’s chances are far better now!

June 2015 in America: It’s a New World. Love.

In the early sixties there was a satirical TV news show called “That Was the Week That Was.” Well, this week is The Week that Is and Will Be. It feels like a turning point week.

  • The ruling of the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the federal tax credits for all Americans under the Affordable Care Act–effectively saving “Obamacare” from being gutted. Obamacare is not perfect, it’s been criticized, and even vilified, but its flawed effort for equal access to healthcare for all citizens has been at least a big step in the right direction. This is really big because we can’t now go back to business as usual, healthcare-wise. Now we can move forward to fixing up the flaws, reducing healthcare costs, and ensuring that as many people as possible can be eligible for, and get, healthcare in this country.
  • The Supreme Court ruling that guarantees the right of same-sex couples to marry, no matter what state they live in. Wow.  As many have said on Facebook and in the media and on Twitter, this is huge because it means that #LoveWins.  It also redefines marriage. Marriage is an institution that is foundational in society and has been for a long time. In some countries and cultures, men can marry more than one wife. In some countries and cultures, marriages have been arranged by the families. Some marriages are business propositions; some are political pairings. But essentially, most believe that marriage is about love and devotion. In the play “Fiddler On the Roof,” Tevye’s daughter opts to defy custom and marry the man she loves–and Tevye, confused and wistful, says to Golde, “It’s a new world. Love.”
  • Then–Then!–there were the black families of the 9 victims of the Charleston shooting standing before the white racist assassin and publicly forgiving him for taking the lives of their loved ones.  And then, President Obama ending his eulogy for the pastor, Clementa Pinckney, with a heartfelt, soulful Amazing Grace.  Wow.

Just wow.

It’s just one week among many. News ebbs and flows and life goes on. But this week felt like a shift: it affirmed the efforts of millions of brave activists who have stood up for equality and love over the years. It affirmed that we are able to live with one version of accepted belief for centuries and then realize when it’s time to change. It raised a looking glass to the future in which we can be hopeful that we just might be able to overcome walls of hate, fear, and self-interest with love for each other–family, friends, strangers, fellow citizens.

America done good this week.

OSHO: What moving into silence is like and why we avoid it

OSHOToday’s meditation: Today I practice stillness, moving within and listening to the sounds of life.

I am following a wonderful 21-day audio meditation by OSHO called Meditation for Busy People. I recommend it highly–it is provided by Mentors Channel. This is Day 15, but you can still listen to the last six days for free, and of course, continue to hear the next six.  Sign up here.

In today’s meditation, OSHO explores many themes related to outward silence and inward silence. Today’s meditation was particularly enlightening: it talks about

  • How fear keeps us engaged in busy-ness,
  • The one thing you need to do to learn how to meditate
  • What you will find if you are patient enough to work through the meditative process
  • How listening can be a bridge between the outer world and the inner world

The description of moving inward, and why we avoid it, is very similar to what all mystics and practiced meditators report–it starts out difficult, almost impossible. You resist, you become impatient, and if you accept the challenge you are accepting a confrontation with yourself. And so busy-ness becomes a diversion–an escape–from meeting yourself. If you’ve ever read  St. Teresa describes in the first and second mansions in Interior Castle, you would find that the 16th century Spanish saint and this 20th century Indian guru say exactly the same thing!

There are souls so infirm and so accustomed to busying themselves with outside affairs that nothing can be done for them, and it seems as though they are incapable of entering within themselves at all. St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, translated and edited by E. Allison Peers

People are busy without business. People say they would like to rest but nobody wants to rest because if you rest really it automatically becomes a meditation, you start falling inwards. You start moving toward your inner center and fear grips. You become afraid.  OSHO

The set-up for the daily meditations are such that OSHO’s meditations are bookended by an introduction and a meditation exercise which is available as a pdf, and which in itself is very helpful. Today’s exercise was in “Listening Cheerfully”:

Even if you are listening to something that you have never thought of as worth listening to, listen to it very cheerfully – as if you are listening to a favorite melody –and suddenly you will see you have transformed the quality of it. It becomes beautiful.
And in that listening your ego will disappear. Whenever the body and the soul are really together, in any act, the ego disappears…and with this “listening, cheerfully” there is no distance left between the body and the soul.
So today, just stop and listen for a couple of minutes. Stand on that bridge between the outside world and the inner one. Listen to the symphony of life.

If you like Eckhart Tolle…, Part II: More about The Happy Wanderer, Anthony deMello

I have taken a good long break from writing, and not sure exactly why.   Shoot, my last post was about the election of Pope Francis, and look at all he’s done since then!  That tells you how long of a writer’s break I’ve taken.

But from time to time I’ll check stats here and I’ve noticed that the most popular, most viewed post by far is this one:  “If you like Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie, With a Touch of Bill Hicks… You’ll love Anthony deMello.”   It makes me think that people get to the end of books like The Power of Now and realize there’s a whole other world out there where it may be possible to let go of attachments, be one with the present moment, and accept what is.

I hope that some people have been drawn to Anthony deMello as a result of reading that post.    He is so accessible, so light and yet so deep.   Since my last post, I learned that his brother, Bill deMello, wrote a biography about him.  It is called The Happy Wanderer, and it is a great, loving account of the road that “Tony” deMello took in his journey to mystic awareness.   But I will talk more about that later.

I’ve explored other deMello books in the meantime as well:  The Way to Love:  The Last Meditations of Anthony deMello and Sadhana:  A Way to God.  

  • The Way to Love is a series of short chapters, or meditations on topics such as how to unloose the false beliefs that keep us from happiness; dealing with feelings of insecurity, how essential it is to cleave ourselves from our attachments before we can love.
  • Sadhana:  A Way to God is a more structured series of spiritual exercises, described by Amazon as “Truly a one-of-a-kind, how-to-do-it book, this small volume responds to a very real hunger for self-awareness and holistic living. It consists of a series of spiritual exercises for entering the contemplative state — blending psychology, spiritual therapy, and practices from both Eastern and Western traditions.”  Apparently the word Sadhana means “A means of accomplishing something.”    Very useful tool.

Once you’ve read a couple of these books, you may be inspired to check out the credentials of the author.  After all, f you want to learn to paint, you look to Picasso.  If you want to learn to build a building, you look to Frank Lloyd Wright.  If you want want spiritual awareness and enlightenment, you look to one who has walked the walk.

And that’s where Bill deMello’s The Happy Wanderer comes in.  Bill gives us a window into the life of his extraordinary brother, but he does not rely on just his memory or experience with him.  He was just a young boy when his brother left home, so Bill has done extensive research and conducted interviews with friends and colleagues in the Jesuit community who knew his brother in order to give us an accurate and multi-dimensional picture of who he was. At the same time, Bill’s love and appreciation for his brother shines through the book, which becomes both tribute to Tony and spiritual inspiration for the reader.

“The Happy Wanderer” title comes from a song deMello loved.  And it is an apt title for how he lived his life, as a person with no attachments, a wanderer in God’s world;  joyfully inspiring us to pick up our knapsacks and bask in the beauty of every moment.  His books take us with him on that journey.

And by the way, click this link to go to Bill’s Facebook tribute to his brother’s writings–and “like” it while you’re there!

We have a pope! Ring the bells that still can ring…


Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

How I LOVE that lyric from Anthem by Leonard Cohen.

On March 13, I was sitting in my living room proofing a report that was due to a client.  My husband burst out of his home office, looking for me.  “I hear the bells!  Do you hear the bells?”  Thinking he was going a little daft, I feared for a moment, but then got it…  the bells!  The bells of St. Augustine, the Catholic church at the bottom of my street.  The bells I catch at 8:45 every morning when walking Nessie.   Those bells ring at 8:45 every morning, summoning people to 9:00 Mass.

But it wasn’t 8:45.   It was in the afternoon.  And all of a sudden I remembered how the bells rang when Pope Benedict was elected.  So, this meant there was a new pope!  Now, my husband isn’t even Catholic, and for that matter, neither am I.  But I have certainly have brought my Catholic heritage into my life with no apologies.

So the bells were ringing, and with that, I was searching  Sure enough, habemus papum!  We have a pope!  And a simple Pope at that!   He cooks his own meals.  Eschews the fancy cardinal digs for a small apartment.  Rides the bus instead of taking a limousine.

CNN made good work of talking about this, how Pope Francis is a man of firsts–first non-European pope; the first Jesuit pope; first to choose the name of Francis, first to petition his flock to pray for him before he prayed for them.

Then, of course, the backlash.   Maybe he wasn’t so perfect after all.  Maybe he hadn’t done enough.  He should have done more to free and protect Argentinian Jesuits during the Dark War.  He didn’t back gay marriage.

When I started reading all this stuff about how “imperfect” Pope Francis is, I remembered Leonard Cohen’s lyric.  I remembered Dorothy Day who had an abortion, who was divorced.  I thought about the former party animal St. Augustine.   And then, what about Victor Hugo’s inspirational Jean Valjean–a thief, turned prisoner, turned ex-con, turned man of God.

I recently watched a Youtube video in which one of Dorothy Day’s commentator’s said that the meaning behind Dorothy Day’s famous quote:  “Don’t call me a saint.  I don’t want to be dismissed so easily”  is that designating her a saint lets us all off the hook.  If we expect saints to be perfect, we don’t have to strive for sainthood, because we’ve already “broken the seal” of sinfulness.  Kind of like when you abandon a diet after succumbing to pint of Cherries Garcia ice cream.  Well, guess what.  Yes, we’ve all broken the seal of sinfulness by virtue of being born.

But accepting that we, as well as all the saints, have inherited this original sin offers us hope.   Because all we have to do is accept God’s grace and take up the cross.  Anyone can do this!  We aren’t that special!  But paradoxically, we ARE that special.   We are special because we have cracks–not because we are perfect.  Our cracks are the peephole to God’s grace, and the way for the light to shine on others.

So when some people bash Pope Francis, I just want to say, “He’s not perfect.  Duh.  But he has lived among the poor.  He does not dismiss them.  He has washed the feet of AIDS patients.  He does not dismiss them.”  And as pope, it seems he will not be dismissing the imprisoned on Maundy Thursday, when he will go to a minor’s prison outside Rome instead of St. Peter’s Basilica, where he will wash of the feet of young offenders,

If he can stay true to himself, it will be a wonderful thing for the people, for the Church, and for the world at large.  If he can continue to perform these simple yet profound acts of humility and love for all of humanity, warts and all, he will shine a light on what we all wish a Christ-follower and Church leader to be.  And he will shine a light on the path that we can all follow.

Not Just Any New Year: the 60th Anniversary of Peace Pilgrim’s first step

This is the way of peace:  Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.–Peace Pilgrim

60 years ago today, Peace Pilgrim stepped out to walk her walk and her talk of Peace.  I first learned of her in 1999, and was immediately drawn to her simplicity of purpose, and the joy in non-attachment she had.

She was a woman who walked well over 25,000 from coast to coast spreading her own rendition of the Golden Rule and living a life of peace and simplicity.  Her message is so basic and pure, uncluttered by religious dogma, nationalism, or any other –ism, I have become deeply inspired by it.  Love is The Thing.  Typically, so many things clutter up that message.  But she simply got rid of all those other things in her own life and was left with the Big Thing.

Here is an NPR article about her in honor of the 60th anniversary of her first step.

Here is the Friends of Peace Pilgrim Facebook page.

And here is the full text of Steps to Inner Peace.  I have several copies of this little booklet, which I try to give out when I can.  This is a short post, but I would rather you read her words directly.

Happy New Year, and may this year be a year of peace for all.

In order for the world to become peaceful, people must become more peaceful. Among mature people war would not be a problem – it would be impossible. In their immaturity people want, at the same time, peace and the things which make war. However, people can mature just as children grow up. Yes, our institutions and our leaders reflect our immaturity, but as we mature we will elect better leaders and set up better institutions. It always comes back to the thing so many of us wish to avoid: working to improve ourselves.– Peace Pilgrim

Moorjani: You Are Love: So Allow Life, Live Fearlessly, Have Fun!

The title of this post is my attempt to cram in the message of a book I read this weekend called Dying to Be Me by Anita Moorjani, which I felt compelled to find and download while watching Wayne Dyer on PBS.

By all accounts, Moorjani had a miraculous life event.  She was rushed to the hospital one night in 2006, reaching the end of her two-year battle with cancer.  Doctors told her family there was nothing else they could do–that her death was imminent.

There, she had a near-death experience, about which she writes in detail in her book.  Many elements of her experience match that of others who have reported NDEs:  the amazing feeling of peace, connection with loved ones previously dead, an inexpressible sense of Oneness and a place where linear time is simply irrelevant.

She was told by her father (who had died previously) that she could go back if she wanted.   She chose to do that, while she witnessed the events in her earthly life unfolding:  her husband grieving, her mother crying, her brother who, having had a strange foreboding, had jumped on a plane to go see her before it was too late.

She knew if she returned, the cancer would be resolved.

So, she returned–30 hours after having lapsed into a coma, and over the next few weeks, her cancer shrunk and then completely disappeared.

That’s the background–which is interesting in itself.  But the main idea:  the main message is in the rest of this coherent book.  a message shared by a lot of saints, mystics and gurus throughout the ages.

If I could shamefully present her message in a four-bullet powerpoint presentation, these would be my key takeaways:

  • You Are Love:  We are all part of this Great Whole.  We draw from it, we give through it, we are it.  There is no separation between us and other life forms.  As a result, all fears driven by separation and all judgement is suspended.  We’re like a big reflecting pool:  We see ourselves in the sparkles of the light reflections on the water, but we can’t separate the drops one from the other.  This Big Pool is unconditional love.
    • She feels that her cancer (while being careful not to blame others for their sicknesses) was due to her repression of her self, and lack of acceptance of herself in an effort to please everyone.  She entreats everyone to realize their own magnificence.
  • Allow Life: Because we are Love and part of this Oneness, anything we do to force what we think should happen (as the result of judgments, perceptions and beliefs) is going to impede the life flow from going through us–it’s going to dam up that Love and render it ineffective.
    • So we need to find our center, we need to get to that Source within us and stay true to it.  We must not betray our own essence.  If we let life flow through us, the Love will emanate, and we have no need to fear.  Life will unfold as it’s meant to.
  • If we allow, and if we trust, we can then live fearlessly.   We can stop worrying; we can stop controlling ourselves and others.  We can just be.  That doesn’t mean we just sit around navel-gazing (although there’s a place for that).  But we accept the purpose of our lives as it unfolds.  If we listen to our inner selves, we will be drawn–we will know–what the next steps are, and we can follow them without anxiety.  It will all feel Right–we can stop trying to make the Universe a creation of our own limited projections.
  • Finally, don’t take life so seriously!  It’s a Garden of Eden still, in many ways.  If you draw away from Love by attempting to do the “right” things, you might feel like you are in a constant state of self-denial.  But following rules to “be good” for the desired effect, says Moorjani, is a backwards way of looking at things.  There is no punishment for the “wrong” way:  there are only misguided ways in which we fall away from the Source.   Instead of saying “If I do this, I will lose weight” or “if I do that, I will make my spouse sorry he hurt me,” simply fall back into line with the Source, and your actions will follow in tune.  For instance, instead of dieting, you may feel like you want to eat better because you honor your Self, and instead of controlling your spouse, you may stop wanting him/her to fulfill all your emotional needs–you have all the Love you need already and you’re ready to share that no matter what he/she does to you.
  • Bottom line:  “Your life is your prayer,” is what Moorjani says.  And prayer shouldn’t be a chore.  Your prayer should be your life  blurting out gratitude.
So, with my deep apologies to Anita Moorjani for paraphrasing her wonderful message so crudely, here is the main truth (You Are Love) and four implications it:  Feeling love and honoring your divine self, you are free–to allow Life to flow through you; to abandon your fears,  to act on the direction of the Voice within you, and to enjoy every moment!  Life is a ball!  Realize your magnificence!

Bill and Jim: Ambassadors of Kindness

Years ago, when my four children were very young, I announced to the my church that my husband was going to be away for a while.   The outpouring of support was astounding.  We got all kinds of cards and well-wishes.

One of the treasured gifts we got was from a friend of ours, Bill, who was, frankly, very overweight.  But we loved that about Bill. When Bill hugged you, you KNEW you were being hugged.  So when he came by one day when I was hoofing it alone with the four kids to offer his services in cutting the grass, I accepted tenuously.  We didn’t have a riding lawn mower.  We had, at that time, a $50 second hand mower with a cutting swath of about 6 inches.  I knew that it would be a struggle for Bill to mow that expanse of grass, but I accepted his kindness, trusting he would cry uncle if necessary.

He never cried uncle.  I had made a meatloaf dinner, but given my paltry cooking skills, I’m sure I was still greatly indebted to him after we ate.

He died a few years later of complications from diabetes, and my husband and I went to his memorial service at the same church (he had died in another state).   For some reason, even though I really didn’t know Bill very well, I started crying and couldn’t stop.  That’s not like me–the stoic Connecticut Yankee!  I guess I just felt it was so sad that we had lost, on this Earth, an Ambassador of Kindness.


Fast forward many years, to my being gainfully employed and traveling a lot.  One night I was at a facility doing market research.  I had never met the director, Jim, but he was very intent on great customer service.  He would have done just fine in that regard in any case, but as it turned out, the city was surprised by a snowstorm.  I asked Jim to get me a taxi–but with the snow, it was going to be a long wait to take me to my hotel about ten miles away.

Jim offered to take me to the hotel.  “No, that’s too much!” I told him.  What an offer!  Everyone knows how daunting a trip home can be in the snow, and in this case, Jim was offering me this daunting trip all the way to my hotel, and from there he would have to head home–God knows how bad the snow would be by then!  I accepted the offer, and I have never forgotten it.  Just a couple of months ago, I called him to commission his facility for a study and I had reminded him of his kindness.

Today, I came to work at his facility, and one of his employees got me settled and then said, “You know Jim, right?  We lost him last week in a car accident.”  I felt the wind kicked out of me.  Jim was 35, with a brand new baby son.  My eyes welled up with tears, and I felt stunned for much of the morning.  Why?  I didn’t know Jim.  I didn’t know his family.  All I knew was the kindness he had shared with me once.  Once again, I had lost an Ambassador of Kindness.

Goodness is not in short supply.  There are plenty of wonderful human beings.  But it would be great if we could hold on to them for a while.  It would be even greater if we could take their example and be Ambassadors of Kindness in their names.

RIP Jim, whom I barely knew.  Thanks for the lift on that snowy night.

iPhone: How do I use thee? Let me count the ways

This post is a little out of character for me–my posts are all much about very low-tech subjects.  But since this blog is about being astonished and telling about it, I feel compelled to talk about one of the astonishing accomplishments of a person who accomplished his mission of “putting a dent in the universe.”

I, like so many others, have spent time over the past few weeks examining the achievements of Steve Jobs since he died in October.  So many friends of mine talked of actually having cried when he died–it was almost like when John Lennon died.  But Steve Jobs was not a rock star in the literal sense of the word.  In fact he was in many ways what the Occupy protesters are protesting:  the head of a huge corporation that made billions, and who knew instinctively how to make money (one case in point, talking Steve Wozniak into NOT giving away his early technological achievements back when they were both part of the Homebrew Computer Club).

What so many of us actually grieved for was the loss of the person who had such passion for his creations that he changed the lives of each one of us, and that sounds hyperbolic, but it is the truth.  I, for one, found out about his passing on my iPhone, and then used my MacBook to read the news in greater depth.  In a weird way I felt that this very fact connected us as if we were some kind of technological distant cousins.  Uncle Steve was gone.

The inspiration for this post was this:  I was at a job just last week in which a quick snapshot was called for of the notes that were up on the dry-erase board our team was using, so I reached for my iPhone, saying to my client, it seems these days if you a phone, you don’t need anything else.

So, that got me thinking about how true that actually was, based on how I use my iPhone:

  1. 6:00am:  I wake up early to work on a report, using my iPhone’s alarm.  I’ve chosen a soft, soothing ring, like “Harp” because I’m home and if I oversleep, no big deal.  But if I’m on the road and need to get up for an early meeting, it might be “Piano Riff” or “Xylophone”–much ruder, but much less likely for me to sleep over it.  No more calling the hotel desks for a wake-up call.
  2. 7:30am: I’ve worked on my report for an hour and half and now Nessie is looking to go for a walk.  I wonder if I need a hat, so I check the weather app–43 degrees. Iffy.  I grab the hat.
  3. 7:45am:  While I’m on the walk I see a turtle cross the path by the creek, so I take a picture with the camera, upload it to Facebook.  The rest of the time I listen to my iPod:  some music, and a daily Podcast by
  4. 7:50am:  Done with the walk, so I check my calendar to see what meetings I have.
  5. 7:55am:  I read the daily Liturgy of the Hours readings on my Universalis app
  6. 8:15am:  I catch up on my finances.  I check in with Mint and input transactions from the day before to my YouNeedABudget app.  Mint reminds me I have a bill to pay today.
  7. 8:45am:  After breakfast and 20 minutes of yoga I log my meal and excercise on my MyFitnessPal app.I really want to get that report done, so I use my TaskTimer app, which is like a stopwatch, which is great for me because I tend to get distracted very easily.  But when I use the TaskTimer, I know I’ve pledged myself to 45 minutes of straight work.  Amazing what you can get done in 45 minutes of concentrated work.
  8. 11:30am:  At lunchtime I’m meeting a friend for lunch at a restaurant I haven’t used before, so I can either use my map app, which came with the iPhone, or I can use the more GPS-like AT&T Navigator.  In this case, because I have to drive and there seem to be a lot of turns, I go with the AT&T Navigator.  On the way, I listen to my iPod.
  9. 12:05pm My friend is a little late, so I read some of my book on my Kindle app.  Surprisingly, it reads very well, considering the screen is so small.  I sync it with my Kindle purchases, and the bookmarks always are in sync.   Or I could play a little Tetris.
  10. 12:10pm Also while I’m waiting, I check my blog stats on my WordPress app.
  11. 12:30pm  At lunch my friend hasn’t seen my kids in a while, so I show her the photos on my phone.  We also talk about the hardships of traveling, so I pull up a really funny comic monologue on travel by comedian Brian Regan on YouTube.
  12. 1:10pm  After lunch, I check my email and voice mail in the car parking lot, and return a couple of urgent emails.  I can tell which ones to ignore–the ones that aren’t identified through my contacts.
  13. 2:00-5:00pm  The rest of the afternoon I spend at my computer doing assorted tasks, taking all my business calls on my iPhone.  Hardly ever use the landline.
  14. 5:30pm  I see a QR code for a magazine article I’m interested in, so I use the code scanner I’ve downloaded and get the article and a coupon to use on a shopping trip.  I save the article to Evernote.
  15. 6:00pm  On the dog’s evening walk, I check out movies on my Redbox app and reserve one for the evening.
  16. 7:00pm  After dinner, we check in with my son, using FaceTime.  (I actually hate FaceTime because I’ve seen myself on the reverse camera feature and it’s a pretty scary sight!  If they could only create an app with a gauze feature to soften those wrinkles).
  17. 10:00pm  And before bed, I want to say a rosary, but I can never remember those darned mysteries, so I pray using my Rosary app.  If only my grammar school principal, Sister Ellen Marie, could see me now!

So there it is:  17 ways to use the iPhone.  I could have added more, but that would have taken me to a different day, and I didn’t want to exaggerate the number of applications my iPhone has in a typical day.

I love it.   A clock, an alarm, a camera, an outdoor thermometer, a stopwatch, a navigator, a music player, a mail server, a breviary/rosary, an address book, a concierge, a filing cabinet, a TV, a movie screen, a motivational tool, a shopping assistant, a financial manager, AND, did I forget to mention, a full-featured telephone:  All this in one elegant pocket-sized package.

And that’s just the applications used in my tiny corner of the world.  Amazing.

How do you use the iPhone in YOUR world?