So, What Does it Mean to Be New?

By Jane Tawel

New Year’s Eve.

December 31, 2022

“fireworks” by SJ photography is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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So, what does it mean to be new, new, new?

Oh, what does it mean to be new?

For isn’t the time that we think we have spent,

just simply our changed point of view?

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Oh, what’s in the name of a day, day, day,

and what’s in the name of a year?

For don’t the hours pass in the same old way

as the moments by moments appear?

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Oh, must we insist this is the new year,

encroaching, about to appear?

I fear we have missed the point — 

We exist to live in the now and the here.

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So, what does it mean to be new, new, new?

Oh, what does it mean to be new?

I think that it means I can be a new me,

and that I can see you’re a new you.

For I’m not the same as I was just last minute,

and you can have changes that have no great limits.

Will you look at me, and let me look at you?

And we will walk forward — so new, new, new.

Yes, we will begin again new.

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Happy New Minute, Friends!

Embrace Your New!

Embrace Your You!

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© Jane Tawel, New Year’s Eve, 2022

An Essay on: What Does Their Reality Have to Do with Me? And Why Do I Let Myself Think About It?

“mountain” by barnyz is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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An Essay on: What Does Their Reality Have to Do with Me?

And Why Do I Let Myself Think About It?

By Jane Tawel

December 10, 2022

I often tell my students, before you try to write the answer, find the question. And the important questions are always, “How?” and “Why?”. I read a lot about what, in shorthand, I might call “spiritual and life-quality improvement” books. I read theology and metaphysics and spirituality manuals and Sacred texts and philosophy and psychology and good novels of course. There is nothing like a well-written novel to teach one something about human nature and about what one might call the eternal cosmic laws of nature and human nature. But if you read anything along the lines of these genres, you may agree that good books mostly raise important questions and the answers are fluid. Answers are like streams and rivers, always flowing and never the same at the same place twice. Questions are like a Mountain Range. They have always been there, and always will. Every day, we look out from our perspective and we may change every day, but the mountain still stands before us, immovable like God. And no human has ever climbed and conquered all the questions and none of us can conquer them for the next person. We get caught up in the temporal questions that have no ultimate meaning, like “What? How much? When? Who?” But these are not the questions that lead to Life’s great anwers. The Big Ideas and the true meaning of what I am doing on this little blue ball always come from “How and Why?”.

Today I was reading about changing my thinking. This is something I think more of us can relate to after living through a pandemic. We had a lot of time to think and it wasn’t always pretty and it wasn’t always fruitful. Perhaps you, like I, got into the habit of anesthetizing our thinking and perhaps you, like I, got into the habit of thinking about things that weren’t real. What I mean by “not real” is that one often gets hit with a thought about someone or something and its negative impact goes in like a sharp arrow. And as Thich Nhat Hanh so wisely points out, for some reason what most of us do is refuse to remove the stabbing thought-arrow and we just shoot second and third and fourth and one-thousand more arrows into the same wound, over and over and over again by thinking about it. As I wrote in a poem called, “Do Not Let Them In, They Are Not Here”, we allow the negative thoughts of others to take up residence in the rooms of our Mind-Homes much more easily than we do the positive, loving, good memories, lovely moments to find a home within our Mind-Homes. And so, the question is: Why? Why do we do that?

Maybe you are like I am, and like a long line of the people in my genetic pool and in my current family and friend circle are — we keep thinking about the negative or hurtful or confusing or unloving or mostly SCARY things that other people do in our lives and in the world, because we have convinced ourselves somewhere along the way that if we could just figure out WHY they did that, or said that, or think that — then we would somehow UNDERSTAND. And we convince ourselves if we could just understand then we would stop thinking about it. What we really mean of course is that if we could somehow just confirm and convince them that they are WRONG and we are RIGHT, THEN we would be happy, at peace, have a positive attitude, etc. etc. etc. Our thinking so often goes, “If I figure it out, I could change them, it, that, her, him.”

So here is the “How” question: Haven’t I learned that the only thing I can change is myself, my thinking, my heart and soul; so HOW do I change myself?

And the Why is obvious — Why change me? Because I want to be happy, fulfilled, unafraid, not angry, positive and healthy and hopeful and free.

I read this today: “You demonstrate the state of your mind at any given time. You experience in the outer what you really think in the inner.” Jesus, who knew his sacred texts well, believed this: “As a man thinketh so is he.” And he acted on that time and time again in his own mind and heart and life. What a great example of being a fulfilled human being, Jesus could be if we would let him. His ministry was to heal people basically by convincing them of the truth of that statement. “Because of your faith (mind-set, heart-set, soul-set) you are healed. If you have faith (inner health, harmony, and freedom) you could move a mountain.” Our inner self is our reality. So why (there is that ultimate question again) do we muck it up with junk and crap that isn’t here? I am going to use a strong word in this next bit that I never use but if you have followed me so far you know that this is exactly what some people do to us and what some situations feel like to us:

It is sadly and far too often the case, that I cannot prevent someone from shitting on me. But I can stop myself from wallowing around in their shit. I can hose it off and walk away. But far too often, when something bad happens to me or someone I love, or someone is mean or hurtful or evil (and if you don’t believe in evil, well….I don’t know what to say, but evil can enter even the most normal or religious of us. For good information on that read M. Scott Peck’s People of the Lie and well, The Bible is good too.) So …. Again, sorry for the strong word but “Shit on me once, shame on you. Shit on me twice, shame on me. Shit on me a thousand times? — Why am I still letting my own thoughts do that to me? Why?

I worked a very stressful job once at a “Christian” place. Most American Christian places I have worked on, well…. God have mercy. But at this one I was so stressed after a year I thought I was having heart issues. The doctor assured me I had a heart as strong as a teenager and it was just panic attacks. If you have ever had panic attacks, there is no “just” about it. Panic attacks are the body’s desperate attempt to show us that our worst enemy, however he or she may choose to appear as anger or hate or righteousness or — our biggest and most virulent enemy is — Fear.

I had a dream during those years. I was walking toward the auditorium with all the other employees and there was a big hole in the ground — a sort of chasm really. I fell into the hole and when I clawed my way up out of it, my beautiful suit and high heels and panty hose and all of me, head to toe, were covered in mud. I kept walking with the other people toward the doors of the auditorium and here is why I still remember that dream — the astounding thing was that no one noticed I was covered in mud. No one noticed.

We don’t do we? We don’t notice each other’s pain. We aren’t willing to look in the mirror and see the real reason we keep feeling our own pain. And God forbid we feel guilty about the pain we cause someone else. So, we pretend we aren’t all wallowing in the dirt and mud. Because if we did, we might reach out a hand or pass around a clean cloth or offer to baptize each other in the healing pool of forgiveness and love.

The real reason we obsess about the negative things people do to us or with us or sometimes, mea culpa, because of us (I too am guilty of grieving the Holy Spirit), is not because we want to understand them, or even because we want to be right and prove them wrong. In our hearts we all know that being right is a fleeting joy and like those bags of chips or cases of beer or Netflix streaming shows that we all over did it with during the pandemic, being right will anesthetize the pain for a while but we have to keep the anesthesia flowing and eventually its efficacy wears off. We all know those people (often ourselves) who have become so needy to always be right that they will insist they are right even if they are quite obviously wrong. It would be funny if it weren’t rather sad. But isn’t that really what we are doing when we keep convincing ourselves we just want to “understand” or we just want to keep thinking about something because we want to make sure we are “right” about the situation? Why are we so afraid to admit that even being right does not bring us peace? Why do we not want to live with inner peace and love more than we want to “figure out” the answers? Wouldn’t I rather live with joy and peace and love of self and others more than I would to live with an endless, pointless, hopeless search for the wrong answers to the wrong questions? Because even if I know them, the answers for someone else’s reality will never make me feel at home with the questions about my own reality.

Today, I think I found my Question of the Day that may help me write my life-story’s next chapter –

Question to self: Even if you do in fact “see them” for what they really are, what does their “reality” have to do with your reality right here and right now?

And if my answer is, “Nothing”, then I need to rinse myself off, pick myself up, stop wallowing in the shit that isn’t here anymore, pull the arrows out and throw them as far as I can throw them, walk away from the things that I use to mask the pain and fear, and free myself from the prison with no bars to keep me in it. I need to find why I am still alive and breathing and seeing and hearing and talking and loving — -

HERE.

NOW.

JUST BEING.

ME.

“Yesterday is gone and will never return. This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118)

“Get away from me, ‘Satan’.” (Jesus)

“Flee from evil and do good, and dwell forever. For the Lord loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his Saints: they shall be preserved forevermore: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous men shall inherit the land, and dwell therein forever.” (Psalm 37)

“Oh, it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. So, let’s make the most of this beautiful day. Since we’re together, we might as well say: Would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won’t you be my neighbor?” (Fred “Mr.” Rogers)

Today, I will focus on the thoughts that I choose to be my neighbors. I will live with good neighbor-thoughts and I will only open my heart to the loving thoughts and ideas of goodness that I want to live within me.

Today, I cannot prevent a thought from arriving at the door of my mind, whether a fear for the world in which we live, a hurt from the past, or a desire for something that is not ultimately good for me or for those I love. I can, however, after opening the door to that negative thought, say, “Sorry, you may not come in. Sorry, your appearance is useful only in reminding me of what is important. Sorry, you hurt me once — see the scars? But you cannot come in and reside with me now; you may not hurt me now — you are not here with me in my reality. Even if you are here outside with me, I will not let you in here, inside the temple of myself.

Today, I will love myself enough to start anew — clean, free from fear, full of faith that the Universe is a Good place to live in today and that it is my job to protect myself from evil and harm and then to, in love, protect all others from what I can — outside in the world, and from within my own heart and mind.

Today, I shall feel all there is to feel and not anesthetize myself from that which can teach me to be a better human and to live with the great cosmic natural laws of God. And when any of those feelings are scary or hurtful or cause me anger or fear or greed or confusion, I will ask:

Why?

And I will know I can live within the question because someday, I will be what I have always been meant to be, and I shall see The True Reality, Face to face.

And all will be well with me today and forever, in the Kingdom on Earth as it is meant to be in a The Perfect Cosmos of God and Humanity. Amen.

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© Jane Tawel, 2022

The Question Tells Our Stories

“Open Book Policy” by Alex E. Proimos is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

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The Question Tells Our Stories

By Jane Tawel

December 2, 2022

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The young are ensnared,

by the Questioners,

who with all good intentions intact,

nonetheless, trap them

and grade them,

and release them into the world

thinking that the questions are:

What?

Who?

When?

And many never learn that these questions

have no ultimate worth

and will never satisfy.

For that which we all long for is — 

a story worth telling

a story worth listening to,

a story worth living.

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And all of us,

may be ground down

by those who lead

the inquisitions of

banal things,

like education, and politics, and religion.

We who educate the young

still believe we can teach them answers.

Have none of us learned yet,

that all that matters

are what questions we learn to ask,

and live with?

How few of us learn,

that all of life’s prompts,

are asking each of us,

all of us,

to answer only — 

“How?”

and “Why?”

And few of us learn or know

that when we ask

the real questions,

that even the questions are unclear,

But that living with the right questions

will lead us,

and we will lie down in green pastures,

near still waters,

in peace

with the questions.

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Oh, yes, many of us still seek

what we think to be written

in black and white.

And we foolishly walk in halls

constructed by Whats and Whos

and made crooked with straight lines

and covered in moldy, dead pictures

of dead saints and deader patriots.

And we live lives afraid of our own stories.

And we must hate and fear something,

so, we hate and fear the stories of others.

And we keep chasing whats and whos.

As if they were real.

As if they could last.

*

Listen to the elders speak.

“Oh, Our People –

when human stories are no longer told,

and we no longer look at each other

awed by the mystery,

then the heroes have failed

and the protagonist has died,

and the antagonists of the Story,

and the enemies of meaning and longing,

have won.

But they too, silly fools,

will have no victory in death.

*

Oh, we must remain awake!

We must keep turning the pages;

pages written only for us

in this place, and this time.

We must keep searching for the themes,

one by one,

eyes open

past our bedtimes

times that would turn out our lights,

and leave the Story unfinished.

Oh, I am learning to live

in the mystery

that all Good Stories must have,

waiting to gasp at the surprise ending.

For we know not

of what we are made of now,

but one day, we shall be revealed to be,

not what we are,

not who we are,

not what we have been;

but Why we have been,

and Why we have lived,

and Why we will always be.

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Oh, My People,

when we stop telling each other our stories,

and listening to each other’s stories — 

Well, that is when the Story of humanity

and of our beautiful earth,

will end –

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Oh, My People,

Tell your stories.

Tell them to whomever will listen.

Tell your story

in your bedroom,

in your office,

in check-out lines

and empty pews,

and protest marches

and wherever you are

and with whomever you are with.

And when you tell your true story,

and listen to another’s true story,

Why, then –

whatever you do

that you think is important

will be revealed

to be a lovely, peaceful little nothing at all,

compared to the True Story of You.

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Oh, My People,

Learn your story.

You are not a what

Or a who

Or a when — 

You have come through your story, thus far,

by learning to ask “How”.

And if you haven’t already,

You must now be brave enough

to ask yourself, “Why?”.

And then write

just the next moment of your story,

that is all your story needs,

the next word,

the next line,

the next action

that answers your “Why”.

And then you may write

one moment more,

and that too,

will be the answer.

And by asking the write questions,

You are asking the right questions.

And you are turning the page,

on another day to become closer

to the Story’s Awesome Ending! — 

and the answer to Why.

“Here am I, Oh Why. Send me.”

*

You are an arc, a radius, a point,

in the Awesome Circle

we sit in together,

telling the Story of Why.

Take part today in the Circle of Life.

*

And in the questions,

that your story,

and his story,

and her story,

and their story

ask with words whispered,

with proclamations shouted,

with songs sung;

the questions,

written large and small

with nubby pencils,

and leaking ink pens,

and sticks on cave walls,

and bindings both new and old — 

in the questions pulsing

like living hearts outside a body,

in the stories of yourself and others,

and all of humankind — 

you will find the Living Mystery,

that some call “God”,

and some call “Meaning”,

and some call “The Answer” — 

but all of humankind calls — 

“ The Why”.

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Oh, My People,

There are only two stories to be told.

One is loss.

And the other is –

Love.

Loss is the story of How.

Loss will guide the protagonist’s steps,

if allowed to be the catalyst to change.

But the only story worth

keeping on the top shelf of your thinking,

and the locked vault of Memory’s library,

and passed from hand to hand

in the circles of our gatherings;

and kept safely, next to the bed

to be read again,

and with parts memorized

for telling when the nightmares come,

or our sleepy children snuggle close,

or an old worn out body breathes its last;

the only story to be cherished

and told and retold and told again,

the story that is no respecter of persons,

but available for free,

always for all of us;

the only story worth living for,

worth dying for,

worth trusting in;

the Story with the real Ending,

that will never, never come,

but that will go on into eternity,

Why, that Story –

the story that answers “Why”,

is the Story of Love.

Oh, My People,

the only story that when told and retold,

never grows stale or boring,

the only story that is worth sharing,

again,

and again,

and again

is the Story of Love.

*

And Love will always,

Always — 

Always — 

Be — 

Forever…

The Story that answers

the only question worth asking:

Why?

© Jane Tawel, 2022

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*

I lived among the books and things,

and rode the merry-go-round.

And as I reached for the golden ring — 

Why — suddenly I found

that Life is not a carousel

that I did have to ride,

so, I slid off, so I could tell,

of what I’d found, before I died.

Oh, Children, do not hop aboard,

this world’s illusive wheel.

Instead, trust what you feel,

to be the Path your soul reveals.

For it’s within your very own,

dear self that you will find

a true and loving peaceful home,

for heart, and soul, and mind.

You must be brave.

You must be modest.

You’ll find The Path,

most strange and oddest.

But you will find around each bend,

our joy in journeying never ends.

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© Jane Tawel, 2022

Do Not Let Them In, They Are Not Here

Untitled by Anonymous

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Do Not Let Them In, They Are Not Here

By Jane Tawel

September 16, 2022

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She is not here now.

And when you let her in,

again and again,

you reveal your true insanity.

Not being part of

any true reality,

her presence has driven you mad.

*

He is not in this space.

But you have flung open

the entrances to your mind,

and now you have to face the fact,

that though you have allowed

the thief of your peaceful thoughts

almost constant habitation there,

he is dead,

(or would be if you killed him).

Allow him to die an honorable death.

Kill him gently

without leaving too much blood

on the floors in your house,

and then clean up the mess.

Remember he only came because you bid him come

and then blamed him for leaving grey scum

on the walls of your mind’s home.

He does not live here today,

and need not live in the home of your heart

any more.

*

They come disguised as cleaning crews,

or helpful guests and family,

pretending to help

with the cleaning-up of calamities

or of my misunderstandings,

but my need for them, not withstanding,

it is a relationship of lies.

For thoughts are just a house of cards,

if peopled by things one cannot see with eyes,

or hear alive in the world that exists outside the mind,

or touch with skin to skin,

feeling the softness of your cheek or the cheek of a ripe peach,

or made with something I can taste or drink

or move with the circles of my speech.

All that would dwell in the shadows

of my darkened house, filled with the

blood-suckers that would steal awakening joy,

these are nothing more

than dust motes of past emotions,

or the fogs that roll in from the future but don’t stay — 

Oh, all of this is nothing of me

in just this place — this day.

Yes, I have invited all of you not really here,

under false pretenses.

But trying to make you feel at ease as my mind’s guests,

serving your phantasmagorical hungers

from the hard labors

of the meals of my perceptions and attachments,

I feel like an alien in my own home.

The people I let in,

who do not really live here in my space,

are dirty and rude

because I allow them

to mess up that within

the home of my heart

and that which should be hallowed

in the hallways of my mind,

and still I find

it is hard to say good-bye to them.

And all that is meant to be preserved for my good,

is filled with the flood,

and mud of thinking on and on and on

about things that are not present now.

*

Do not let them in; they are not here.

Kick them all to the curb;

and prohibit them from

the treasure-room of yourself.

Those who used to live here,

or have not yet been born to you,

must take their place

with the other hallucinations

that your mind would create.

We all hear voices.

And yet, we do not stop our ears,

against those who would crash us on the shores,

of wasted energy and emotions

of all and anything that is not love.

Why, oh why, do we feel guilt,

when we release those

who do not live with us today,

those which we would cling to from yesterday,

or yearn or fear for in our tomorrows,

tomorrows which should remain unimagined?

We must stop our remembering

and our imagining,

as we dream of and with only those present,

in the here and now,

dreaming them in the reality of today.

*

Let all of them,

all but your best present-presence,

and that which is only alive in you for just this day,

leave your home,

and live where they belong,

in the house of the dead.

Let those who are not here,

take-up their residence where they belong,

and reside no more in your now

where only you

can see God and live.

Yes, there is enough space for only you,

your very present God, and you,

your home, which is yourself.

Be still

and only know this moment

and only in this moment, know

the Truth.

And let all others go.

Set them free.

So that your true self

is not housed,

but truly sheltered.

And Love will then

find plenty of room,

to fill the empty spaces,

that ghosts and chimeras have left behind.

In your home,

may all your past and future

no longer look to you

for tents of understanding build on bogs.

And in the only place you ever need,

the place in you that you call home,

the home that is yourself,

may you live forever-now

in peace.

© Jane Tawel, 2022

Jury Duty in L.A.- Reflection #1: You and Me

Homeless Person Vaporized on the Subway” by ramsay stirling is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

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Jury Duty in L.A.

Reflection #1 “You and Me?”

By Jane Tawel

May 17, 2022

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There is no place for me to go.

No place.

No place.

No place.

And I look out at a world not mine,

and no one sees my face.

My face.

My face.

My face.

*

What did I look like, years ago,

when I had some of that?

How did I lose it all so fast,

and end up here,

and end up lost,

and end up so miscast?

‘Cuz’ you don’t really see me, do you?

You think I am not like you.

Admit it, it’s true.

You don’t see the slippery slope

that’s been keepin’ you on your side of life’s river,

and I floating downstream on my frail mat,

and alla that, alla that, alla that,

you got, you think that you deserve it?

But one wrong glance, one bad romance, one missed chance,

one person screwing your finance, one look askance,

one little perchance,

one wrong step in The Big Dance,

and there you go, lucky you, not so lucky any more, are you?

No, you are just like me.

You ARE me,

but you don’t see.

There ain’t no you and me –

The Dance is always for Three.

Let them that have eyes, see.

Let them that have ears, hear.

And let them like me that have nothing any more,

Weep and mourn.

There ain’t no joy in the morning,

‘cuz alla you-all are blocking The Light.

*

© Jane Tawel, May 2022

Space and Time and the Essence of Spirit and Truth

by Jane Tawel

Space and Time and the Essence of Spirit and Truth

By Jane Tawel

February 26, 2022

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At no other time in our lives, have our ideas about space and time been so challenged, so shifted, or so illuminated. Two years past the beginning of this time that will, as long as we humans are allowed to keep creating history on this planet, be called “The 2020 Corona Virus Pandemic”, on what we hope will be the tail end, we are all taking stock of our actions, the actions of the world’s leaders, and the past versus present versus future worldviews we held/hold/ will possibly keep on holding.

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Many of us who hold what we might call a spiritual worldview, have long meditated on and mostly wrestled with our ideas about the big two: Time and Space. Even if a person does not have a spiritual or religious point of view about life, there is simply no way to go through one’s life without some philosophy or other about time and space. From pithy proverbs to gigantic tomes to every religious work from the Bible to the Quran to the various Buddhist Canons, if one is mature enough, wise enough, open enough, and hungry enough, one will find that apart from the human questions of  “what is the meaning of life” and “how do I find and feel love”, the two great motivating quests and relational aspects to every person’s life is  the relationship he has to Time and Space. On a simple level, space for most of us peons, means “where do I call my Home”. Our idea of time, for the common folk, is “what am I going to do today that is really what am I doing with my life?”

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Over the past two years I have had a lot more time to read and so I can end this essay here and refer you to three teachers and writers who have opened my mind and stretched my world view in so many ways, but significantly in terms of the ideas of Time and Space. The first great teacher I happened upon, thank God, is the profound Jewish rabbi and theologian, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and specifically his books Man is Not Alone and The Sabbath. Secondly, the many works of the brilliant and open-minded Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, whose views on both Buddhism and Christianity, can be not only worldview changing, but World-changing, if we let them. Finally, if you have not yet found a way to Richard Rohr’s many profound writings on Christianity as a “new and improved” religious lifestyle, please do.  However! But! Wait for it!  All of these teachers have brought me back around to the astounding, life-changing, True Truth Spiritual Worldview – words fail! – the words and ideas about Time and Space of Jeshua ben Joseph, Jesus, who some call The Christ. When read with not just an open-mind, but a childlike wonder, what Jesus believed, taught, and lived, is mind-morphing, world-shaking, mythically eternal, true Truth no matter what religion you call it, unsettling, and incredible. The problem as G.K Chesterton, among others, so sadly put it, is that the “ideals of Christ have not been tried and found wanting, but found to be difficult and so have not been tried”.

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So, in my small, still immature, seeking way, may I tell you a few of the practical ideas I am having about my desire to keep an ever growing, changing, worldview about living in The Way, seeking The Tao, and being a disciple?  I am going to stick to the practical ideas because first of all, the above teachers I mention, among others, have much better illuminated what I would call the spiritual or philosophical or Big Ideas than I ever could, especially in terms of those illusive and ethereal ideas of Time and Space. Secondly, I will stick to a few practical ideas because, I don’t know about you, but the past two years have made me reevaluate, what Francis Schaeffer so pithily coined as “How Shall We Then Live”.   A pandemic has made many of the world’s citizens look not only at their individual lives, but our collective lives on this planet as well, and the bottom line has been, for many of us, a hard look at how we have been rather blithely living on this planet with our fellow humans, and how we sure better start living in a practical, immediate, real way, if we want our species and this lovely globe to continue. And frankly, some of us feel this desire to somehow “continue” ourselves.  So, let me start with a couple of ideas that are based on my particular upbringing in the religion we call Christianity, but that I think can be applied to whatever your own religion was or is or to no “religion” at all.

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A Mediation on 2022 Steps Along The Way

By a Seeker

The Bible is a book about four relationships, with examples in biographies, poetry, essays, and history of humans trying to find the best way to live in those relationships. This collection of writings should be read with a desire to grow in one’s own relationships to: God, Self/others, Time, and Space. The man named Jesus was a believer in the Bible, the Jewish collection of writings of the Hebrew people and of a God that had many names and no name. Jesus taught what can be called The Way or The Truth, to people who believed in Torah/ The Bible and people who didn’t; to people who believed in God and people who believed in gods; to people who were Jewish and people who were enemies of the Jews; to people who followed him and to people who ended up killing him. But Jesus reminds me that the truth can be hard to hear, perhaps today, it is most especially hard to truly hear by the very people who have called the members of their religion “little-Christs”.  Jesus wept. What I have been finally able to listen to in the past couple of years, is that any religion or spiritual or philosophical pursuit, but perhaps especially the religion of Judeo-Christianity, is ultimately worthless if it is only about doctrines or ideas. The only true worth of a worldview, is in its practice. The ideas and teachings of Jesus were ultimately meant to be a practical way to live for every one. And any thing we read, whether it is found in the Bible, the Quran, a novel, a scientific text, a quote, or a bumper sticker, must be held up to the Light – and the Light is whether this is a true – a real—a practical way for all beings in all spaces and in all times—to live.

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This is where the words of Christ let us know that our relationship to God is not really something that can be taught, but which must be experienced as personal, mysterious, and the kind of relationship a small child has to her Parent, full of love, but very limited in terms of the limited mind’s ability for understanding who the Parent really is. “Our Daddy Who is “out there and everywhere”, doing stuff that I, a little human being/child don’t understand, I revere You, God-Daddy, and love you so much I worship you!” (a paraphrase of the beginning of Christ’s Lord’s Prayer)

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 Jesus also tried to teach us that Self/ and Other Humans are interbeings, we are One, and boy is this where the ego/ mind revolts. But to accept that who I am today is not who I was yesterday but is also who I was yesterday and is also part of who my parents, and grandparents and ancestors were, is to understand that our comprehension of self, is well, let’s just say – it’s complicated. Jesus had a hard time expressing this reality of “interbeing” but he tried to by teaching us that “I and the Parent of All are one” and that as Jesus and the Psalmist taught, “you are all gods” (Psalm 82:6 and John 10:34-36). When we look at ourselves and at others, we should see the image of God, and since God is One, so are we. Okay, that is Big Idea. Jesus dumbed it down for me so I could figure out how not to comprehend this great mystery but to live it in a practical way. The two big practical ways were: Live every moment and every relationship with complete empathetic caring love and complete forgiveness. Period. Fini.

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So, to forgive another is to forgive myself, to love my True Self, not my ego, but my soul, and that is how it is to love others, and therefore love myself, and even to empathize with and “become” my enemy in order to love him. Words fail when trying to grasp Ultimate Truth and Reality. But — Relationship to God, The Ultimate Alpha and Omega = Love and Awe and Trust. Relationship to Other Beings = forgive, let go, love self leads to love them = care as if your life depends on how you treat the least of life. Because it does. This loving and forgiving idea of Christ’s is not a suggestion, it is a revelation about what is actual Ultimate Reality. We just too often prefer our false reality which is limited by ego, greed, and our false views of time and space. 

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Jesus also does a great job of messing with our ideas about Space. Personally, the past two years of not being allowed to attend a building full of possibly virus-laden people on Sunday mornings, or Saturday Sabbaths, has been one of the greatest things to happen to my understanding of worship and space. Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond grateful for a lifetime of pastors and churches where I have learned and grown in understanding and I have only a few (and I do have them, mea culpa) regrets about raising my four adult-now children by taking them to church every week. But I now see that what we call The Church has been reduced horrifically to a building of (sorry) a capitalistic business enterprise where a handful of people get paid to speak and the rest of us sit and listen and give money to keep the machine running and then we call it worship of a God Who says quite strongly over and over again through the Prophets, “I detest your ‘sacrifices’. Your assemblies and feasts are a stench to My nostrils”.  I require you to treat others with mercy and a daily, humble acknowledgment of a need for Me to create in my people a Holy Character, which is peace, love, mercy, and grace. I, God want you to accept that all that is given is nothing you have earned, but is My Gift.”   Jeshua ben Joseph says that simply all we have, symbolized in Hebrew by the word “bread” or “manna”, is a gift of God, and we can’t hold on to what we were given in the past or the future, or take it with us to any space but the space of our own beating heart, breathing space of our bodies. “Give us today our daily needs”.

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Jesus makes very clear over and over, that what we consider Space, even the Space of this earth is not an ultimate reality, all will “pass away” and as scientists have tried to tell us, matter, or “space” never dies, it merely changes its “reality” or form. This is true of the matter we call, our own body, or space, or matter. But whatever form our matter takes, Jesus says that we exist in relationship to God. Christ teaches, in his very succinct and clear way: “If you mature, if you allow the change to happen, which will happen whether you accept it or not, then there will come a day, when you do not worship God on this mountain or that one, or in this temple or that building, or in your current form or another form, but in Spirit and in Truth.”

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As Paul said, when we are little children, we think as little children and we need the kind of teaching that little children need. But if we truly seek to be what some of us believe A God has called us to be as human beings, then someday we stop “drinking milk” and we take up the strong brew of maturity.  This is not for the faint of heart. And here is where a gathering, whether it is in what you believe to be a “sanctified” space on Sundays or not, is important. A gathering should ultimately lead you from a need to listen, to a need to partake; from a desire to learn to a desire to experience worship; from a self-need to a communal-need. If you are able to gather with a small community of those who seek Truth and Spirit, as you do, those who challenge you, walk alongside you in life, question you and themselves, and support you and need you to support them– then you are right to gather and “worship” or learn or just fellowship with those people. I have my community, my “church”, my “sangha”, spread out across the world. My “people” include some of my relatives and best friends, and teachers and even some people I have never met in person. They include people who would probably say they believe the same basic religious tenets that I do, and those who would definitely not. And might I go back to a desire to assemble on a weekend day to worship? Yes, I actually hope so, but it won’t be for the same reasons and it won’t be until I can find a space where people gather not because they think they have to in order to find God or go to heaven, but because they share a life of mutual need and mutual support and a desire to raise our voices to A Being, a Mommy-Daddy-Parent, Who we do not understand the Mystery of, but Whom we know somewhere deep within our very souls, loves us, Her children, and desires us to love each other and this beautiful Garden that our Progenitor has graced us with and Who longs to, as Jesus did, “gather us little seekers to Him as a Mother Hen gathers her fledgling chicks.”

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As I write this, The Kingdom of Russia has invaded The Kingdom of Ukraine. I happen to live in The Kingdom of America (which no longer should hold the title to “United” States, in my opinion); and my Kingdom has invaded lots of other Kingdoms in its short history. A lot of Jesus’ contemporaries tried to make him an invader of other Kingdoms. The Israelites changed a lot about their God over the course of their history, and one of those things was that God was created in the image of man, rather than the other way around, with a human-projected desire for the people who loved him to force other people to love Him too by taking over their “space”.  This idea that space should belong to the most powerful among us, is one of the greatest misunderstandings of God’s intention for our “Garden”, this beautiful Earth. We change God’s original idea of caring as wise caretakers for all of Creation, into the idea that we can “rule” the earth. If you have ever planted seeds or tended a garden, you may realize that we humans can not ever “rule” what God has created as nature, “natural”. For anything to grow, it must be accepted not as the work of our human hands but as something dependent on the grace of sun and rain and good soil and all the grace that is needed for life.   So, when his closest friends asked Jesus to conquer the Space of his time, he kept trying to point them to the truth about Space: “God’s Kingdom is not “out there” or “here”. God’s Space is among YOU, within YOU, within Me, it is everywhere, and no-where, it is “on earth, as it is in the sky, the heavens, the cosmos. The space known as God’s Kingdom is a cosmos out there and also within your very little human self. I could no more conquer it than I could hold it in my hand. “My kingdom is not of this world, but of a completely different idea about Space.”  Oh, dear children, what does it profit you if you gain all of the kingdoms, all space, all time, all stuff, all money, all fame, all admiration, all knowledge, and you die, ceasing to have any of that, ceasing to exist outside the Ultimate Reality, and have lost the only thing you have ever really wanted and have ever really been – a cosmic soul?

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The radical views of Christ’s about Space have begun to change my idea about who or what I am. Because the older you get, the more you are aware of the space you actually live in – your body/mind, or what Jesus called “your temple”. Talk about a place to worship in – the body/mind changes every day and when you are young, it is easy to overlook the changes. When you are older, not so much! And as I am older, I am not only more aware of the space of my body, but more aware of the great question of what will happen to “me” when the space I call my “body” is dead.  And what does “death” mean to me?  The recorded life and words of Jesus at least implies that one’s “self” can be eternal. Can be.  There is a way, that early disciples of Jesus, called The Way, and it is an eternal life that begins now, which takes us from the rather secondary reality we have been meditating on and which we call “Space”, to what Heschel reminds us is the Ultimate Reality of relationship and humanity, which is what we call “Time”. After all, as it is said, Time is the only thing we can never earn more of and which we continually undervalue, to our eternal regret.

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And so, saving the “best” for last, we come to that thing that defines us as a species, our comprehension of the passing of Time, but which is also that very thing we cannot comprehend even as we chase after its meaning until the very last breath – the idea of Time.  And really what the teachers and writers I referred you to at the top of this essay have tried to, well, “drill into my thick skull” can be summed up in one word; and that word is:

NOW.

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That’s it. That is all that needs to be said about Time but also, truth be told, all that can be said about Time. It is one of the words, The Christ, uses over and over and over again, and which we relegate to an intro, rather than the very main idea Jesus wanted us to grasp – “The Time is NOW”.

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We humans waste so much life thinking we can change our past time, or create future time, and we live in the past and future in our heads, our relationships, our decisions, our dreams and regrets – and it is all a false reality – all The Big Lie, because somewhere deep inside when we face True Reality, we realize, whether we want to or not, that all that ever exists is This Moment, This Present, This Now.

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How shall we then live? As if this moment was exactly all I would ever live. This moment is Eternity, and how I live this moment, is what I will eternally be. “To have eternal Time, you must be born again.” In other words – Wow! Bam! Whooo hoooo! I was just born to this moment!  Yikes! I just became alive! Look and true-ly see. Smell and true-ly breathe in and out, in and out, in and out. Listen and true-ly hear.  As the Psalmist says, “Taste and see that The Lord is good, take shelter in The Ultimate Love of Presence”.

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Jesus to me NOW: “I go to a different dimension, and you can’t go there, yet because you are still in this body, this space, and in this time, not yet dead. But in the Ultimate Reality to which I, Jeshua ben Joseph, Jesus, who has become Christ, am going, you too can come, if you want. It will take a new attitude on your part, my dear little friend. It will be as if you have become a little child again, full of wonder and delight in wherever you are in this very moment. It will be painful, like being forced out of a womb, and you will suffer and cry and find your own cross of suffering and dying to your ego to bear. But you will be reborn to something and into someone that you can only envision yourself to be, as if through a fog, but it will happen in eternity and it will also happen right now. But you will be awakened, and in each moment, you will become more and more alive than you can now imagine. I have shown you The Way. Follow my lead. You have been created by and for Love and all the Love that you are, that you give, that you accept and that you create, will never, ever pass away, but will exist outside Space and Time, within what you call yourself and within who you call others, and within Us. Your Love will become Our Love, and All will Be, within Our Relationship, forever and ever. Amen.”

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© Jane Tawel, 2022

My Worry-Bed, My Garden-Bed, My Bed of Nails, My Ocean

by Jane Tawel

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My Worry-Bed, My Garden-Bed, My Bed of Nails, My Ocean

By Jane Tawel

February 23, 2022

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Here am I,

in my Worry-Bed,

my Bed of Nails,

my wanderings,

down trails and trails,

of past and future ruts well-worn.

I’ve come to make my nest of thorns.

I lay me down,

my soul to rend,

my fears to tend,

like blood-sucking friends,

I let them in, again and again.

Dreams aborted, bashed and torn,

I fill the spaces in my head,

with raging demons, dead — 

and not yet born.

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Here I am,

in my Garden-bed.

I come to plant and tend and seed.

I lay me down,

my soul to keep,

and furrows clean and straight,

my seeds of fear are shorn,

right at the roots.

From weeds of worry,

stones of grief,

I plough the field of dreams towards truth.

I water drop by precious drop

the flowers of joy and plants of peace.

Without a need to grasp or climb,

but letting go of all but faith

in God’s protecting, mindful vines,

that reach and curl and hold and keep

Gardens of peace and love entwined.

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I rise up from my bed of nails,

exhausted from the fight and flight.

Oh, to wake and die no more,

to know all blindness, is now sight.

Oh, to find my tossing, turning nights,

have reached at last that tranquil shore.

I rise up from The Ocean-Bed

A wave, unique and wholly me.

I, a wave, in God’s great Sea,

and I am I, and I am Thee.

And in Love’s cradle,

even night is Light.

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© Jane Tawel, February 24, 2022

My Island and the Waves

Island 2018
“Island 2018” by jule.lumma is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

My Island and the Waves

By Jane Tawel

December 29, 2021

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On my peaceful, happy island,

where my mindfulness is calm,

when for just a moment, I am free

of you, and me, and what has been or what might be,

I embrace all life and living,

in accord with God and all.

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But freedom and peace even on an island, are briefly held,

while waves lap and rise and advance and swell.

But must even waves that threaten be feared,

when light is dark, and dark is light, and peace is meant for loosing?

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What happiness I’m meant to find in watching waves,

and knowing if I see that they are only and always water,

I, too, can walk on waves.

And once my faith is practice,

then I return myself to my island,

and bring my friends along.

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The waves are never too high when one is not alone.

And an island expands to create more time and space

 for all who trust and love.

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©  Jane Tawel, December 29, 2021

Shall I Give You This Moment, Too?

clear hour glass with brown frame
https://unsplash.com/photos/KYxXMTpTzek

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Shall I Give You This Moment, Too?

By Jane Tawel

December 8, 2021

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Shall I give you this moment, too?

I gave you most of yesterday.

My fallow brain,

was trained upon,

the shallow depths and weedy ways.

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Shall I give up the narrow Way,

of seeing teacups and seeing light;

to wallow more in thoughts most fey

and things that haunt both day and night?

Yes, haunt!– for these are spirits dim,

and not the moment I’m within.

To let the future or the past

steal yet more moments that won’t last,

is like a little death, each day,

and not True Life in The True Way.

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It matters not if good or bad,

the things I think upon.

It’s not about you, unless you’re here.

And if you are, I’ll hold most dear,

my task to focus, until you’re gone.

But then – goodbye. We’ll both be free

until the next time you see me.

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I seek a different Point of View.

Enough! Enough, I say!

I have anew, this gift, this day;

I’ll not waste it on you.

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© Jane Tawel, December 2021

I Choose the Chocolate-Covered Broccoli

By Jane Tawel

November 4, 2021

bunch of red cherries in brown bowl
https://unsplash.com/photos/3ANwn-zUfNQ

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I had a super fun reality check today. After all my years and careers in what might be considered “professional professions”, I got a job posting notification supposedly “matching my profile” that I am qualified for the job opening at a hospital of “Cook / Grill – Evening Shift”. I love it! I have no idea how any of my known rubrics could have led them to think this, but it completely tickled my strange little self. Perhaps they sensed I am my Grandma Gladys Cook’s current incarnation? (She spent years cooking for a nursing care home after years of cooking for her four boys and many grandchildren.) Or maybe the hospital algorithm robot finally grew a heart and knew that my heart was always happiest when preparing food for people I care about and love? Either way — maybe it’s a sign I should apply? Reinventing myself is one of my favorite parlor tricks.

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So, even though I have not only been around the block a few times but have been around long before quite a few of the new blocks were even a gleam in a city-planner’s eye, something can still pop-up out of the blue and tickle me pink. Sometimes the randomness of the universe can get me down, but the randomness of a comment can make my day.

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We go through life not always listening to the signals and signs that appear to guide us to a better vision of what our “True Self” has been, is today, and perhaps with nurturing and a little luck, can be tomorrow. But now and then, like a sudden sound that wakes you from a deep sleep, something tickles, or jars, or lands like a bolt from the sky on your understanding of Self, and Life, and All. Sometimes the “bolting upright” is a result of a comment about oneself from a friend or family member. My daughters have been more often than I like to admit very good at making a comment that, like it or not, shakes my view of who I am. Daughters can be good at that if you let them. Good friends can, too. Or maybe you get a serious invitation to apply for a job that really thrills you with the possibility of who you might become, but you are afraid of leaving who you are comfortable being. Maybe instead it is an offer of some kind that slightly unbalances you with an insight of what you have already become. I have found I can be caught unawares by a side note from a coworker I barely know or even a complete stranger who assumes something about me that makes me take another look at my grocery cart or my bad attitude.

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But for us privileged folks who live above the poverty line and not under the threat of bodily harm or mental abuse, we can develop an attitude of listening for signals from beyond one’s self-centeredness. This is not to imply all of us struggle with selfishness but we do all tend to keep our focus on the self that is only a “partial” self. Listening, really, honestly developing an aptitude for quick and deep listening, enables us to hear, even in the seemingly random or silly or anger-making conversations. Hearing  past the surface, can allow me to hear the signals from beyond, calling me to a fuller, truer, more open and whole Self.  Some of us call this attitude of listening intuition, or consciousness, or mindfulness, and some of us just call it God.

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But then it comes to the hard part. The words we read or the comment we hear, just like the sudden sound in the night, may break through our un-listening barriers we have built against the mundane or may scale the walls of the self-defensive attack-mode we adopt as a protection for our vulnerabilities, or it may lift us from the  stuck-in-a-rut-ness most of have fallen into, but just hearing something doesn’t mean we choose to listen to it. The noise may wake me from my spiritual slumber, but I can choose to go back to sleep.

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Sometimes it may seem that we are only offered negative perspective choices – like a choice between eating over-cooked limpid broccoli or slime-encrusted crunchy lima beans. No thank you, to both! Rarely, but sometimes a choice may be hard because you have to choose between the chocolate soufflé or the slice of cherry pie with whipped cream. But hearing something and truly listening to something are such very different things, that we can confuse the positive nutrients with a negative presentation. I remember reading once that sour cherries are just as good for you as the sweet ones. Doesn’t mean I prefer them, but I can still get the health-impacting goodness from them. When I hear something, truly hear it, I far too seldom take the time to calm my mind, steady my will, and open my heart to really listen to it.  And that is true whether it appears yummy or yucky at first. When my daughter says something that opens my eyes, I can choose to open my heart to that (and her) or not. When I read an email from or have a discussion with someone who is asking for something by adopting an attitude of superiority, I can choose to figuratively step away, take some time for silent meditation, and then see through the persons’ posing to the person’s real need for attention or their desperation to feel in control, and then I can choose to sympathize or even empathize. Because we all misspeak sometimes, even if we think we don’t. We all project onto others our needs and fears and hopes and confuse them and ourselves into thinking that we want to be more powerful or smarter or better, when what we always really only want is to feel loved.

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 If I really listen to what is murmuring beyond someone’s posture of grandiosity or anxiety or anger; listen for the tick-tock of the human heart that we who are all lucky enough to still be alive have beating within us, even in those who have covered it over with lots of ego-armor; if I walk in the shoes of someone before I try to rip the carpet out from under them, or dismiss what they have said, then that kind of listening opens up a cosmos of possibility of who they are, and who I am, and who we both might be becoming. In a world that pays little attention to the best of us, too much attention to the worst of us, and no attention at all to the Whole of Us, as that iconic little salesman in Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”, once said, we are all just trying to make the others understand, “Attention must be paid.”  And on a planet which we have tragically lost control of, to let go of needing to control things, is the first step toward healing ourselves – and possibly the planet as well. 

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 Being made aware of something and choosing to use it for Good are different things. And I have found that I can often choose whether I am going to allow something meant for evil to grow roots in me, or, instead, I will let even the manure of life be used to grow something beautiful. As that amazing Hebrew, Joseph of Egypt told his conniving, lying, cheating, murdering own brothers! – “you meant it for evil, but God meant it for the good of me and many others.” (Genesis 50:20). Think of any hero you greatly admire, and you will probably find that the words and actions that others used against them for evil, were often the very ones the Greats turn into a great good.

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And now, as Monty Python, might approve (and I think Jesus would as well), onto the secret weapon of using something for the good of me and others – the underrated weapon of Humor. I  have found if I put my overly serious self aside, that I can have some fun with something, hopefully not at anyone’s expense but the “anyone” of my False Self, the self that I usually let take things far too seriously. I can, if I listen to the True heartbeat of the world, hear the magic that undergirds Creation, and that is the magical gift of holding things lightly. Learn to listen for the lightness. Listen for the giggles of elves or fairies, the chuckles of God, and the deep rumbling laughter of a universe that knows how small and puny we humans are but delights in us anyway. A comment can make me wiser and a better human but it can also make me simply happier or sillier. Too often I allow things to wriggle, slug-like and anxiously on my life’s plate like a slimy lima bean or I take it in, but I keep rolling it around in my mind like a chokingly bitter hunk of kale on my tongue. It reminds me of seeing people turning-up their noses at food served them, as if it isn’t good enough. But what it feels like to the server is that he is not good enough. Let’s not miss the point of what keeps us truly living. It’s just food, folks, don’t mistake it for meaning. The meaning is in the person who is giving it to you. Psalm 34:8 has a fascinating precursor to the later words of Jesus who asks us to “eat” him. The Psalmist writes, “Taste and see that the Lord is good, how blessed are those who shelter in God.” Think about it: eating God and sheltering in God. That’s an incredible, glorious strange mixed metaphor, even for me. God in us, nourishing our True Self, and God outside of us, sheltering us, serving us, with His Love.

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How often do we gag down a day’s unique moments without ever tasting them? How often do we “take our medicine” like a grown-up but never wash away the bitter aftertaste of a comment or a memory or a mistake? Why do I not take the antacid of peace and joy when Nature or a friend or God offers it to me? Why do I hang on to the stomach-churning anxiety of something I am trying to digest before I have even finished what is on today’s plate of responsibilities or concerns? Sometimes I just have to say to my mind and heart and fledgling soul, “Jane, ole girl, choose to listen for the Good that is inside everything and the Good that is nurturing the world outside. Get out the chocolate syrup hidden in the pantry of your soul and pour that stuff all over life’s liver and onions!”

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So, I was offered to apply to be a “Cook/Grill – Evening Shift”.

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My first job when I was twelve was working at a sort of Christian camp dining hall cafeteria line. I was paid $1.25 per hour – (yeah, we won’t go there right now, ok?) I later was upgraded to work in the snack bar, making $1.75 an hour, where I served ice cream, soft pretzels, and what back then we called “Californians”. A Californian was a drink that had all the different soda pops– Coke, Root beer, Orange, Sprite, Mountain Dew–everything in the soda fountain machine, and they were all mixed together. It was never an exact science in terms of quantities of each and if I had to drink one now, I would probably gag, but back in the day and back in the small town of Indiana where I served sodas and floats and ice cream cones, a Californian was a fun drink, and a “secret” menu item not listed on the overhead menu board with the straight lines of slotted black lettering. I didn’t know then that someday I would live in the Magical Land of California, the number one place in the world for diversity, a land where the greatest mix of peoples, nations, tribes, and beliefs (and probably soda pop types too) are all gathered together in one giant oblong of pieced-together hopes and dreams.

California dreaming
“California dreaming” by Astro_Alex is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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Most people wouldn’t know this part, but the job offer I received is especially ironic because my maiden name was Cook. Think about it. I was born a Cook and then became a lot of different things with different names; names like nursing home assistant and personal assistant and assistant to the director and executive assistant (My goodness, I am the “always a bridesmaid, never bride” sort of person – always an assistant?! Oh, the metaphors I could murder in that one.) For a time, I even had a stage name and now my name is Tawel. Sadly, my husband doesn’t find it funny when people pronounce it Towel, but then that is his choice. I find it hilarious.  And so once upon a time this Jane was a Cook, and she was now being offered a look back? a way back? symbolically at least, to being a…. Cook. Or was it a way to circle back around but arrive at a different Cook-Me? It has brought to mind one of my all-time favorite Joni Mitchell songs, one I sang a lot to my kiddos in The Big Bed, and years earlier, sang with my dearest bestest childhood and survivor-in-arms of the yearning pre-teen years, my pal, Lisa. Mitchell calls it “The Circle Game”, and in this Westernized into straight, marching lines world, I long for a world that returns us to the truth of circles.  The well-known refrain, in case you have forgotten goes like this:

And the seasons, they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return, we can only look
Behind, from where we came
And go round and round and round, in the circle game

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Oh, it is lovely to still be going round and round on this wonderful carousel of time. It is a privilege to have one more day – one more moment–on this circular conveyor belt of choices. As Mitchel sings, looking at where we have come from can be a fruitful endeavor, as long as we look back ourselves with the Eyes of Love. We don’t have to think all apples have a worm inside (or a snake offering them.) If you get an apple with a worm, eat around it and gently return the worm to the earth. If there really is a Satan behind something someone did to you or does or says today, destroy its power over you by refusing to take it into yourself. There really is evil in the world, just as there is Goodness, but when you sense it, do your best to spit it out. Whenever necessary, use the emetic agent of humor or self-centering self-care or deep breathing, or prayer, or the greatest emetic of all to help vomit out bad things you have swallowed – the cleansing, restorative, health-sharing agent of sharing Love.

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 Remember that old song – “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries”? The first part goes like this:

Life is just a bowl of cherries
Don’t take it serious
Life’s too mysterious
You work, you save, you worry so
But you can’t take your dough
When you go, go, go
Keep repeating, it’s the berries

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You never know when you might be offered a job for a “Cook/Grill – Evening Shift”. Of course, on the flip side (get it? Flip it – like a Grill Cook would do? I think I’ve got this job nailed.) – on the flip side, you never know when today might be the day you get offered a job as an angel. And the only thing you can take with you to that job is all the Love you gave away in your last job.

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Bottom line? Choose to live. Live as if there is a surprise, like the perfect center in a piece of chocolate, a joyful response inside you, just waiting for what you are given in your Inbox, in your desk drawer, in your yard, on the sidewalk, or in the words of the person you have just met or the one you have known all your life. Live as if today could be the last day – or it could be the first. Live large. Live free. Live well. Live in all the love you gather up and then share it.

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My first job was serving food and I had many waitressing jobs through the years (I grew up in very gender specific times, so… ) and I did a lot of waiting on tables and taking people’s orders and some jobs in which I was preparing food. (At a deli I used the giant meat slicer thingy which still makes me tremble to think about whenever I look at my intact fingers. Especially because I still call it a “thingy”.). And I had no idea through all the years of food service, as I dreamt of what I really thought I wanted to be which was either a famous movie star or a famous writer, or a famous professor at some big-deal college, that all along I really had this “thing” waiting to be born within me. I had that seed we all have, that longs to grow to a ripe maturity. And mine would never make me famous or rich but would give me the love I had craved since before the beginning of time. And it would not just be a job but a calling; a purpose that was waiting and one that would allow me to give the love that I had had ready to share — ready to burst out of my heart-seams. That job waiting for me to be ready for it, was being a parent. But whether your calling is to be a parent or not, your purpose is to find that place in the world where there is Real Love and your True Self.

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As I mixed the Californians, or took the orders for pastrami on rye, I was being “ripened” for the very most wonderful bestest job I would ever have. And this job would also involve food prep and service,  because the best job I ever, ever had was being a mother, in my very own home, with my children, and my children’s father, and our dogs and rabbits and guinea pigs and lizards and hamsters and serving them all the breakfasts and lunches and dinners and snacks and left-overs and first tastings of books to read, and sights and sounds of new and old places to be in, and imbibings of music to hear, and encompassing, centering, heart-warming snuggles to snuggle, and all the partakings in together of all the love. All the love. All the love.

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When you dream of all the Love—when you hold in your heart and mind’s eye, your own True Self –who are you? Who and what are standing by, ready and willing to serve you your Meaning?

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I am an assistant to The Chef, The One Who has made the whole Banquet. I am merely a “Cook/ Grill – Evening Shift”.  And God said, “it is good. It is very good”.

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I am not a gourmet chef like my husband and some of my friends. I am a cook. Thankfully I am not yet past my sell-by date. Sometimes I still get to do the job I have loved most in the world, and sometimes that job involves my making and serving food for my adult children and my hubby. Sometimes it involves making or serving food to friends, the people who become that family you are allowed to choose, or making baked goods for coworkers or neighbors. And all these folks, family and friends, people I work with or for, give my cooking and my life a greater purpose than merely feeding myself. And because some of these people are the people who are the people I love most of all while riding this whole crazy merry-go-round we call life, I am made better for having opportunities to sometimes be their maker and server of food. Because loving someone with an action to it, is the most wonderful thing in the world. It is, in fact, the only thing that makes everything in the world, better. Even broccoli.

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Every moment I get to be the new and evolving me with the new and evolving people I love and who sometimes bring the people they love and who make me feel both loved and yes, often unsettled, challenged, smarter and wiser, stupider and more needy, comforted, uncertain, yearning and complete, curious and sated — and oh, oh, oh so hopeful—then no matter what job I have at that moment or task finished or left unfinished, or role in other people’s lives, then I am both full and hungry, serving and served, centered, whole, and loved.  This is God, isn’t it? God is hungry and sated, serving and served, and the Maker and Preparer of all the world and all the life and all the Love.

God is the Meaning behind all portions.

If you are searching for a higher purpose or higher calling or Higher Being, you need look no further than the table in front of you. Taste, eat, for it is good.

Chocolate surprise cupcake
“Chocolate surprise cupcake” by Angelina Cupcake is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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When life’s smorgasbord brings bitterness or rottenness, I don’t have to choose it. And sometimes I need to swallow my pride or hurt and say, hey, this can be digested and then used for the good of me. I will also allow myself to enjoy the chocolate crepes and warm apple crisps of being loved by someone. Love bestows on us the nourishment we need. Yes, we really do live in a world of a giant mix of often mixed-up people. But aren’t we all looking down the length of our own life’s table hoping that the Good stuff will be passed around and shared? Isn’t every one of us hoping that someone else will want to share in what we made and declare it, “good”? We can look at our full plates and find better ways of serving others. We can find pleasure in what is on offer in the Now. And we can taste and eat all God has prepared and provided, take it in for our growth, nourishment, and enjoyment.

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Whatever the Banquet of Life offers me today, whether I am serving it up myself, or being offered some insight or slaving over the grilling, hard work of a relationship or just getting a taste of my own medicine from someone else, whenever possible, I will “taste, eat and see” that the Spirit Who not only made and provides the Banquet, but Is the Banquet is Good. And God said, “it is all Very Good. Eat it. Eat Me.”

cooked food on table
https://unsplash.com/photos/1R7iHPt63Lc

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Today I shall attempt to cover my broccoli with sprinkles of Goodness and the sweet honey of Love. I may far too often, need the reality checks of things that are hard to swallow, but that doesn’t mean I can’t sweeten them up with some healing self-reflection, some joy in the journey, some giggles and smiles, and sometimes, let’s be honest, just some literal chocolate. I may not always get to choose my life’s ingredients, but I can choose how to use them and how to dish them up. As Psalm 81:16 assures us, that just as I love to give my loved ones, good things to eat, The Universe, The One Who Is, God, if you will, also longs to give us good things: “But God would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock, She would satisfy you.”

I haven’t the faintest inkling as to why I got a request to apply for a job of Cook/Grill- Evening Shift. “Life’s too mysterious”, as the song goes. But I’m so glad I did. Finding meaning in every ingredient of my life’s own strange casserole is what makes it fun. . Well, that, and the occasional chocolate cupcake.

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© Jane Tawel, November 4, 2021

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“Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries”

By Brown Lew and Henderson Ray

Life is just a bowl of cherries
Don’t take it serious
Life’s too mysterious
You work, you save, you worry so
But you can’t take your dough
When you go, go, go
Keep repeating, it’s the berries
The strongest oak must fall
The best things in life to you were just loaned
So how can you lose what you never owned
Life is just a bowl of cherries
So live and laugh at it all
Keep repeating, it’s the berries
You know the strongest oak has got to fall
The sweet things in life to you were just loaned
So how can you lose what you never owned
Life is just a bowl of cherries
So live it, love it, wriggle your ears
And think nothing of it, you can’t do without it
There’s no two ways about it
You live and you laugh at it all

Live your life today – it’s the best offer you are ever  going to get. – Shalom, Jane

©November 2021, Jane (Cook) Tawel