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I wanted to write a funny blog today, but I am still feeling pensive and I need to roll with it. 

Below is a photo I took of my son half his life ago, when he was a little over three months.  At first, I simply considered this a great photo opportunity and I was very self-satisfied with my abilities as a photographer.  Today I looked at it again for the first time in a while, and I found a lesson waiting for me.

Smile

When was the last time you felt this joyful when looking in the mirror?  How often have you looked at yourself, only to be critical of or disappointed in what you saw?  I would venture a guess that virtually everyone would answer, “A while,” and “Too often,” to these questions.   Yet I defy you to find a young child who looks in the mirror and does anything but smile at him or herself.  Young children certainly don’t look in the mirror and judge themselves, that I am sure of.

Many spiritual teachers proclaim that there is no good or bad, there only is what there is.  Over the course of our lives we develop and strengthen our identity or ego, but that is really just a collection of ideas and memories about our physical selves, to which we become attached.  Our egos spend all day judging things as inherently good or inherently bad, instead of accepting them as they are.  The judging we do clouds our view and prevents us from being truly happy and fulfilled.  Our essence or spirit, on the other hand, is unencumbered by judgment or negative emotions; it isn’t attached to how we look or to things we have or haven’t accomplished.  It is our pure potential, as Deepak Chopra puts it, and connecting with our pure potential is the key to happiness. 

My first thought is, “Gee, that sounds like a nice place to be and I wish I knew how to get there…”  But I am starting to believe that we all used to be there, and the challenge is just remembering how to get back. 

I recently read that, until about the age of five, very young children have not fully transitioned into the physical realm and they are still very connected to the spiritual realm.  In other words, young children are still in touch with their essence, and lack a sense of identity or attachment to the physical form they have taken in this lifetime.  Is that why a child can look at him or herself in the mirror and feel pure joy?  Child psychologists might say that developmentally, the child doesn’t yet associate the image with him or herself, it is something that needs to be learned.  Maybe.  But, what if that association is to be unlearned, or if the real learning is to remember that the physical form our soul inhabits is not who we actually are.

When I first became a mother, I believed that much of my role is to teach my child by introducing him to new experiences, but that is only part of this journey.  The other part of the journey is for me to learn from my son as well, and the first lesson is that I must reconnect with my essence.  I must let go of my attachment to my accomplishments, my failures, my successes and my disappointments.  I have to try to remember how to look in the mirror and see past my Self, so I too can experience pure joy.

The following shall forever be referred to as “The Deepak Chopra Incident”. 

As I wrote about in “My Backstory,” I went through a very difficult personal time and got through it by turning inward.  I spent a lot of time by myself, reading and reflecting and generally trying to make sense of how I ended up in the situation in which I found myself.  Even though I was in a lot of pain, it was a special time for me because it changed my life profoundly and for the better.

There were quite a few books that really helped me during the journey from personal crisis to rebirth, and the one that was especially meaningful to me was The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.  In this book, Deepak Chopra presented me with a new way of understanding the universe and my perception of it, which caused me to reevaluate my life in every way and make some positive, necessary changes.

So, three years later, when I saw that Deepak Chopra would be doing a lecture and book signing through the Open Center in New York City, I was thrilled and excited to attend.  I signed up six months in advance when I first saw the promotions for the event.  Having recommended the book or even given it as a gift to many people, I also reached out to others who I thought would like to attend.   Through my suggestion, more than ten people registered for the event, including my now-husband and my parents.

A few days before the Big Night, I made a point of taking time to think about what I would say to Deepak Chopra if I had an opportunity.  So many things to talk with him about!  Knowing I would have a minute or two at the most, I needed to cull down the volume of thoughts and topics into something short that would impress upon him exactly how much his book, and he as a person, impacted me.  Should I tell him how many people to whom I had given his book?  Should I let him know that reading his book inspired me to move on from a marriage and abandon a career track, completely revamping my life in one fell swoop?  Should I explain that his words got me on a path to rediscover my personal creativity as a form of spirituality?  That I look at the world so differently now and I am a better person as a result?  Should I let him know he inspired me to write a book on leadership, and plant the seed so that he might write the introduction for it when it is finally completed?  Or, even better, maybe I could ask him to collaborate with me on it?  So many things!

Clearly, I had a challenge ahead of me.  There was no way I would be able to get an audience with Deepak Chopra.  In fact, as my father pointed out, it is possible that the books would have been signed in advance and handed out; after all, he must be a busy man and signing all of those books would take hours.  That was the worst case.  The best case was that I might be able to say hello to him while he signed my book.  Nonetheless, I hoped for the best and set about figuring out what to say to this man with whom I had developed an imaginary relationship in my head.

I utilized my sales training and developed an “elevator pitch.”  An elevator pitch is what you would say if you happened to run into a potential customer in an elevator and had only a few seconds to close a sale.  I honed my message carefully, trying to walk the balance between letting Deepak Chopra know how much he influenced me and sounding like a complete stalker.  After mulling it over for a few days, I felt I had developed the perfect thing to say and, as I sat on the train on my way to New York, I jotted the final version down in my journal.  Feeling satisfied and giddy with anticipation, I put my pen down, sat back and relaxed, enjoying the rest of the train ride with my friend.

When we got to New York City, we met our friends and family for dinner first.  I tried to exchange pleasantries but I couldn’t focus.  I wanted to get to the venue and get a good seat.  I was trying to relax and enjoy the meal, but I was getting stressed that we would end up too far in the back to see Deepak Chopra.  Dinner finally ended and we headed over.  We easily got in line and found seats near the front – enough for our entire group – and I started to feel blessed that things were falling into place.  This would be a very good night.  I couldn’t stop smiling.

This is probably a logical place to stop and make a brief mention of my relationship with my mother.  It’s complicated.  In a nutshell, my mom and I are very different personalities and in some ways polar opposites:  I am a tomboy and she is a girly-girl, I am a risk-taker and she likes for play it safe, I like my independence and she craves closeness, I spend Sundays watching football and she spends Sundays shopping.  We love each other, and we just have two very different ways of approaching things in life.

Back to the Big Night.  Deepak Chopra comes out to speak about his book, The Third Jesus (which is excellent, by the way).  His talk is amazing and I hang on every word.  He is funny, insightful, thought-provoking and inspirational.  He talks for longer than any of us expect and we all enjoy it thoroughly.  When he is finished, an announcement is made that Dr. Chopra will be signing books!  I look at my father, wide-eyed.  He is signing the books!  That means I can meet him!

I am in line to get my book signed, and my heart is pounding.  Everyone else in our group is making conversation while we wait, but I can’t participate because I am rehearsing what I had planned to say to him.  I watch the people who are ahead of me, and notice how much time they have with Deepak Chopra before they need to move on.  It doesn’t seem like they are being rushed, and I appreciate how patient he is and how willing to take his time with each person.  I am so looking forward to having my moment with Deepak Chopra that I can barely contain myself. 

Only a few people in front of me.  My heart quickens its pace.  Now only two people.  I am taking deep breaths and trying to stay calm, because I don’t want to miss my opportunity to make an impression on him.  One person ahead of me, and I can tell they are finishing up.  My turn!  It’s go time!

As I walk up, I am very focused, yet vaguely aware that my mother is right at my heels.  That’s alright, I think, she can hear what I have to say.  I move in front of the table where Deepak Chopra sits.  As he looks up at me, I hand him The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success and say:

“I was hoping you would sign this book for me as well.  I just have to tell you that this book had a tremendous impact on me.  It caused me to shift my perception in such a profound way that I ended up changing virtually every aspect of my life.”

He looked up at me and, before he could say a word, my mother said:

“And my book club loved it!”

I was shocked and appalled.  This book gave me the wisdom and strength to leave a toxic marriage!  This book caused me to abandon a high-powered job for a more fulfilling career!  This book allowed me to manifest a completely new life for myself!  Your book club loved it?!?  Are you kidding me?!? No offense, but there is really no comparison here!

Then, before Deepak Chopra could say a word, I said:

“Mom, it’s my turn!”

As soon as the words were out of my mouth I realized what I had done.  In one second, I went from being who I wanted to be – a woman on the path to enlightenment – and ended up back at square one – a girl arguing with her mother.  Great…just great.

Everything after that was a blur.  I don’t remember what Deepak Chopra said to me.  I do remember that he seemed mildly amused.   I remember feeling totally deflated that, while I had made an impression, it was not quite the impression I had intended to make.

So I ask you:  Am I enlightened?

Or maybe a better question is:  Is it possible to be enlightened while you are in the same room as your parents?

What would Deepak Chopra say?

 img_2131

I am happy to report that yesterday my son was Baptized, so now he is officially saved from the fiery pits of hell.  Here he is pictured with his parents and Godparents, whose destiny is a little less certain at this point.

This was an interesting day for me.  Spirituality has always had an important role in my life and has been something I have grappled with for the last few years.  In some ways I feel “less Catholic” than I used to and in others I am even more committed.  I have come to the conclusion that all organized religions have flaws, because all organized religions are based on something preternatural but are developed and managed by humans, and none of us is perfect.  As Eckhart Tolle wrote about in A New Earth, when people get too attached to their dogma everything gets screwed up (I paraphrased).  I guess Kevin Smith had it right years ago…

When I lived on Pavonia Avenue in Jersey City in the mid-90s, I became friends with a woman who was twice my age who lived downstairs.  We used to talk about stuff like this while she gardened and I watched, and I remember telling her that I was a “90s Catholic” because:

  • I don’t believe it’s wrong to use birth control,
  • I support a woman’s right to choose because I don’t think I should force my beliefs on someone else,
  • I don’t believe that people who haven’t accepted Jesus as Savior are going to hell,
  • I don’t believe that partnering with someone of the same sex is a sin, and
  • I believe women should be able to be leaders in the Catholic Church.

Her reply:  ”You’re not a 90s Catholic, you’re a Baptist.”

Her comment made me laugh and then caused me to investigate becoming a Baptist.  Turns out, that wasn’t a perfect fit for me either.  Why?  Because I had some issues with that belief-set as well.  What about Taoism and Buddhism?  Better, but still not a perfect fit.  I was even considering Kabbalah because the mysticism of it is so intriguing, but it was too trendy.  I mean, share a spiritual practice with Madonna and Britney Spears?  Come on!  Even on my path to enlightenment that was too much to take.

This was all a little frustrating at the time, because that was when I believed I was a hypocrite if I didn’t accept all facets of my chosen religion.  Now I know better.  They only perfect fit is the one you create for yourself.  As a wise woman wrote, “there are many paths to God.”  I truly believe that each person has a responsibility to develop his or her own spirituality in a way that makes sense to them.  Since every person is unique, that spirituality will look a little different for each of them.

So for me, I came full circle and I am back at Catholic.  I remember a Jewish friend of mine saying that Judaism is not just a religion but a culture.  Well, same goes for Italian-Catholicism.  When I say something off-color or mean, my immediate reaction is to make a quick sign of the cross.  When we listed our house for sale, my mother brought me a statue of St. Joseph to bury in the backyard.  Whenever I lose something, I pray to St. Anthony and he finds it (no joke, I’ll have to explain in a separate post because I have so many stories about that).

Now my spiritual practice includes studying the teachings of Jesus, going to Catholic Mass because I love the solemnity and joyfulness of it and because it is at least one hour out of a week when I will reflect, and raising my son Catholic because I want him to have a spiritual foundation.  Later, he can change his practice to something that better suits him if he chooses, but I want to instill in him the faith that there is something bigger, beyond what we can see around us.  That sort of faith leads to a feeling of peace, and I believe that developing it starts with spiritual discussions at a young age.  My father did that for me every week after Church, when he would annotate and sometimes modify what the priest said during Mass.  Thanks Dad!

Anyway, I covered a lot of ground in this post when I really just intended to put up the picture and make the crack about the “fiery pits of hell.”  Time to wrap it up…

Peace be with you.

About Me

The purpose of this blog is purely self-expression - being creative for the sake of being creative. It has evolved into a collection of non-fiction essays.

All of the anecdotes and incidents you read in this blog are completely true and not exaggerated, no matter how sad, pathetic or unbelievable they may seem.

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© Operation Peace and Serenity, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Operation Peace and Serenity with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.