Wednesday, June 21, 2017



Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of LifeFalling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm at a place in my life and spiritual journey where this book meant so much to me and was so very helpful. I'm sure it also helps that my theology/spiritual beliefs seem to be closely aligned with Richard Rohr's; I found myself wanting to underline just about everything in this book!

A wide summary; this book discusses the purpose of the 1st half of life/first journey/first task, what life should be like when we've moved into the 2nd half of life/second journey/second task, and those things that must occur in order to move from 1st to 2nd half (note to those who are looking for a quick "self help" guide: this is not something you can control, sorry!)

Some (ok, more than some) highlights for me:

*We are summoned to it, not commanded to go...because each of us has to go on this path (towards the 2nd half of life) freely

*We are led by mystery or grace into spiritual maturity

*Those who walk the full and entire journey are considered...Elders

*The way up is the way down; the way down is the way up. Sacrifice of something...some sort of falling, necessary suffering...is programmed into the journey

*We grow spiritually much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right. The demand for perfect is the greatest enemy of good

*The opposite of rational is not always irrational. It can also be trans-rational (bigger than the rational mind can process)

*You cannot walk the second journey with first journey tools

*We all need some successes, response and positive feedback early in life or we will spend the rest of our lives demanding it, or, bemoaning its lack from others

*2nd journey people both transcend and include 1st journey people. Jesus was a 2nd half of life man who had...the task of trying to teach and be understood by a largely 1st half of life history, church, and culture

*Most of organized religion is still living inside first half of life issues

*We can and will move forward as soon as we have completed and lived the previous state; by grace, and the old agenda shows itself to being insufficient or even falls apart

*You need a very strong container (constructed during the 1st half of life) to hold the contents and the contradictions that arrive later in life. You ironically need a very strong ego structure to let go of ego

*The only real Biblical promise is that unconditional love will have the last word

*The voice of our Loyal Soldier gets us through the first half of life safely...our Loyal Soldier cannot get you to the second half of life. You must discharge your Loyal Soldier = death of False Self, but the very birth of the Soul

*We will need authentic "soul friends" (Spiritual Directors, Elders, Truth Speakers, Contemplatives) to guide us across...to the 2nd half

*Life is both loss and renewal, death and resurrection, chaos and healing at the same time. Life is a collision of opposites

*The tragic sense of life is ultimate and humiliating realism, which demands a lot of forgiveness of almost everything. Faith is simply to trust the real, and to trust that God is found in it

*God comes to you disguised as your life

*Jung: Neurotic behavior is usually the result of refusing legitimate suffering. Refusing this necessary pain of being human brings to the person 10X more suffering in the long run

*Your True Self is who you are objectively from the beginning in the mind and heart of God. "The face you had before you were born"

*God excludes no one from union, but He must allow us to exclude ourselves in order for us to maintain our freedom (free will)

*Either God is for everybody and the divine DNA is somehow in all creatures, or this God is not God by any common definition

*Without Elders, a society perishes. Socially and spiritually

*In the 2nd half of life, if you have forgiven yourself for being imperfect, you can now do it for just about everybody else

*Our (spiritually) mature years are characterized by a kind of bright sadness and a sober happiness

*You do not fight these things anymore...you learn to positively ignore and withdraw your energy from evil or stupid things rather than fight them directly. You fight only when you have been directly called and equipped to do so

*The Beatitudes speak louder to you than The Ten Commandments

*The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better

*Persona = diligently constructed in the 1st half. Not true; it is manufactured and sustained unconsciously by your mind

*Shadow = what you refuse to see about yourself and what you do not want others to see

*The movement to 2nd half of life wisdom has much to do with necessary shadow work. You never get there without major shadow boxing. Shadow work = Falling Upward

*Soulful (2nd half of life) people temper our tantrums by their calm, lessen our urgency by their peace, exhibit a world of options and alternatives when all conversation turns into dualistic bickering

*Soulful people are salt, yeast, light

*If your politics do not become more compassionate and inclusive, it's doubtful whether you are on the second journey

*(embrace) both and thinking...you no longer need to divide the field of every moment between up and down, totally right or totally wrong, with me or against me. It just is.

*Non-dualistic wisdom = contemplation

*Great people come to serve, not to be served

*It is the freedom of the 2nd half of life not to need

*Being totally received as we truly are is what we wait and long for all of our lives. We who are gazed at so perfectly can pass on the same accepting gaze to all others who need it

Amen and Amen!


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Life Lesson




Meet Our New Addition to The House of B
Hesed Lucille


Life with a puppy is a good reminder of life in general. A few steps forward followed by several steps backwards, always an adventure, and don't forget to chase butterflies and smell the flowers. 🐕🐾🦋🌺


Mrs. B

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Renovations



It seems I’ve spent the majority of my life in a stage of renovation. It began at twelve, when I morphed, ostensibly overnight, from a pudgy and picked-on child, into a slender, long-legged teenager with bedroom eyes.  I wasn’t, and have never been, a conventional beauty; but as my best friend used to assure me, I was exotic; a hot house flower held up against the delicate loveliness of, say, a rose.  For a while, this was pretty much all that mattered to  me as I played the part of a Southern California party girl.  Yet, it was truly a role.  I had smarts, savvy and, thanks to my parents, a decent enough college education (if not the highest GPA in the world, because, well, the party girl thing routinely got in the way of my studies). 

It took several years, the onset of maturity, and the humiliation of realizing that my Father felt the best he could hope for would be for me to land a secretarial job at a good company and marry my boss, that finally motivated me into shedding that happy-go-lucky persona and focus on evolving into someone my parents could be proud of:  an independent and reasonably successful career woman.  Along the way, I got slightly side-tracked by my first husband, whose job he felt it was to turn me into someone else; mainly, someone who idol worshipped him. Still, during the ten or so years of our marriage, I managed to further my career. Eventually, I and the (ex) husband went our separate ways and  I entered into the subsequent revamp:  DWF/mid-thirties/corporate director/living “the life” in  Los Angeles.

Anyone who believes that this was glamorous  has never lived it because it wasn’t.  It meant routine sixty plus hours in the office and many others working from home.  It meant a lot of travel with the majority of it being to nowhere in the least bit exciting.  It meant countless meetings, presentations, problems to be solved, company politics to contend with, stress-filled days and nights, difficulty sleeping, and loneliness.  Ah, the loneliness.  I could buy all the Jimmy Choo shoes I wanted and I drove a sweet little BMW, but I was lonely. All of my family had moved back east of the Mississippi.  I did have friends in California, but most of them lived several hours away.  The few people from work that I’d somehow managed to bond with were just as busy as I was, so opportunities to get together were infrequent.  This left me, in the rare times that I was not absorbed with projects and deadlines, floundering about; and, as the song goes, “Looking for love in all the wrong places.”  So, on the outside I had it all; in reality, I didn’t have much at all, except my two aging cats.

The fall of 2001 ushered in an extremely dark period.  One incident after another sent me into a tailspin of behavior which can only be described as risky at best, dangerous and life threatening in reality; eventually culminating in what was the absolute worst night of my life.  Although what occurred that night and its aftermath consumed me for many months to follow, it’s not what happened that matters so much as that it defined my next renovation; the one that would completely change the trajectory of my life:  I decided that I would leave my job, go to Italy, take a total immersion language course, and see what happened next.  That’s it.  That was my blueprint! 

Despite how glorious and brave it may have seemed to those I left behind, those living vicariously through me and hoping for “Under the Tuscan Sun”  or “Eat, Pray, Love” movie moments, the truth of the matter is, my six weeks in Italy were a mostly lonely and painful experience.  My “newly sprung from the prison life of career” self struggled daily with who I was now going to be; and I questioned myself and my sanity.   A lot.  Why did I, at only age 39, abandon a prestigious job, uproot myself and go half-way around the world to learn a language that I’d probably never use again (I haven’t), and live in conditions (a rented apartment) that were reminiscent of my starving student college days?  I didn’t take any trappings of my former life with me to Italy; no French tip nails, only one small suitcase of very serviceable clothes (which I promptly loathed after seeing all of the beautiful Italian fashions), and no BMW (I walked everywhere).  No one there knew who I was, least of all, me.  But, there were moments of fulfilment and flashes of realization that I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing, even though I didn’t know exactly what that was.

That was 15 years ago now; when I did what a therapist (whom I’m convinced now was an angel in disguise, or at least channeling his inner Glinda from “The Wizard of Oz”) suggested:  “Get off the hamster wheel and walk out of the cage you put yourself into.  No one is stopping you but you.”  I think, in hindsight, that I chose to abscond to Italy to be in neutral ground for this battle between my old  and  new selves.  I enrolled in  the immersion course because that part of me that will always be me had to be doing something productive.  The challenge there was not to let learning the language get in the way of learning who I was to be.  Italy, as it turned out, was  the bridge from one life to the next. 

Was I whisked off by a wealthy Italian man? No, I was not.  I went back to California, sold my condo, and moved to Durham North Carolina simply because my brothers lived there.  Within two months of arriving, however, I met my now husband of 12 years; not an Italian Adonis, but a New Yorker and a CPA. I’ve dabbled in various self-improvement and volunteer activities such as teaching English as a second language and did some consulting work (more as a favor to an old friend than any other reason). I’ve never really re-entered the rat race. I am, however, a minority partner in my husband’s tax and accounting firm and support him; I suppose you could say “work for him”,   during tax season.  I think of my Father’s fear from so many years ago that the best I might do would be to marry my boss, and the irony of this makes my toes curl in delight. 

The truth is, we almost always have before us opportunities  to renovate ourselves.  We use whatever resources we have at hand to do so,  and we ask for help from those nearby when we can’t do it by ourselves.  Sometimes a renovation begins from a clear personal vision, other times the opening falls into our laps a la “When the student is ready the teacher appears”; and  still other times it emerges from a period of darkness  and confusion.  Yet, it emerges. 

I mentioned my experience in Italy was painful because growth is painful. However, I was not always unhappy, because one cannot be in such a beautiful country and be miserable 100% of the time.  There were moments when I would stumble across something so simple yet incredibly beautiful that I’d just have to stop and take it in.  These “simple things of beauty” had also existed in my life in Southern California,  I was just too empty there to see them. 

After Italy, I believed, wrongly, that I’d never be confused or at sea again. In reality, there would be many more renovations to come.  However,   a poem I wrote while wandering and wondering through Italy has  served  to remind me that, regardless of what chaos may be going on around me in the midst of a messy remodel,  I  always have the choice to embrace serenity and see the beauty in it all.

The Simple Things of Beauty

I used to go so fast
that I never stopped to see
the simple things of beauty
that were there in front of me.

I was on a frantic path,
rushing through each day
the simple things of beauty
were just annoyances in my way

Then one night fate intervened
I thought it was a curse
when my life changed direction
it seemed from bad to worse

Yet it was not misfortune that forced me to reflect
on an existence where all appeared sour
it was a well-timed dose of reality
administered by a higher power

Now I’ve found the determination
to cease the insanity
and to explore with new found courage
the person that I should be

Although each day brings challenges
so many obstacles are still there
my heart is open to the simple things of beauty
and I see them everywhere

Mrs. B