Week #16 – (Kindly) Ruminations

Lorikeets at Long Beach Aquarium

“I seek constantly to improve my manners and graces, for they are the sugar to which all are attracted.” – Og Mandino


When I first ran across the saying attributed to Anne Herbert – “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty,” I liked the concept so much I started practicing it.  I’d put carts into the cart corral; straighten labels and fill in holes on the shelves at the grocery store; entertain little kids whose parents were in the same line as I was by making absurd faces and getting them to giggle; straighten up coworkers’ work areas; scrape my own windshield clean of frost and snow and then go around and scrape the car windows of my coworkers who (apparently) didn’t have scrapers since they were either waiting for the car to warm up enough that the heater could do the job, or they were chipping away with a credit card or something.  Eventually that practice became a habit.  But somewhere along the way, my motivation shifted from “being kind” to “it’s a job that needs doing, so I’m doing it.”  And over time, I stopped.  Partly it was because I didn’t have a solid reason anymore to combat the embarrassment when my former best friend would make fun of me or deride me for “doing someone else’s job.”  Partly because I got lazy.  And partly because I was tired of being taken for granted.

One of our exercises this week is to practice random acts of kindness, and I admit, I breathed a sigh of resignation to myself on hearing that.  I’d ‘been there’ and ‘done that’ and didn’t have lasting pleasant associations with it.  But, it was a requirement, as was reporting about it.

I did have a problem with the “secret” portion of it.  I can hold my silence when the matter is an important one, but I’m an awful conspirator.  Surprise birthday parties, for example.  If I’m in the know about one of those, my only hope to avoid giving away the game is to avoid the subject entirely.  And the few times I’ve been involved in one of those “Secret Santa” things… let’s just say that nobody had any trouble figuring me out.

Still.  It was part of the MKMMA course, therefore I was going to do my best.

So I went back to being randomly kind.  And after the first day or two, I realized why it was I’d stopped in the first place.  Let me tell you, the act might have the same appearance, but the result completely differs depending on the motivations!

Being kind for the sake of being kind is fun.  And as soon as I restructured the reason I was doing what I had done in the normal course of things for years, I started seeing kindness everywhere.  From drivers who allow traffic to merge in front of them to the way people do their jobs – are they smiling?  Cheerful?  Do they offer a word or two of conversation as you interact with them?  Are they offering a step or two above the “average” level of service?  Because cashiers, doctors and nurses, gas station attendants, the folks who work at fast food places, they don’t have to be cheerful, y’know.  Or even helpful.  It’s possible to do the bare minimum out of a desire for a paycheck and still not annoy people enough that they complain about it.

I don’t know how many will remember this, but for a while in the late ’90s and early 2000s, there was a business philosophy that was all the rage.  It began at a Seattle fish market in the early ’90s (oh, and you might want to check out the Wikipedia entry for a key MasterKey concept that they employed) and became a national sensation.  FISH! Philosophy revolves around four simple steps:  Choose your Attitude; Play; Be present; Make their day.

I had the opportunity to listen to a recording of Carr Hagerman (otherwise known to Minnesota Rennaisance Festival patrons and performers as The Rat Catcher) speak about FISH! Philosophy.  What struck me the most was when he started talking about the step Make Their Day.  I can still hear his voice in my head; “We have become a nation of exceedingly poor customers.”  We expect, we want, we gripe and complain when we judge the service hasn’t been good enough, we blame…  We aren’t kind.  We don’t see what they do right.  We allow our opinion of them to become fact in our own minds (they’re lazy, overpaid, don’t understand the value of hard work or of a dollar, and if I was the manager here…) and then we behave based on that story we’ve gone and told ourselves.

(Knowing what I know now of the Universe and how it works, I suspect very strongly that FISH! Philosophy is yet another iteration of the MasterKeys in disguise.)

I still have trouble with the incognito aspect of our kindness exercise.

Oh, I understand the rationale behind it well enough.  Like in Og, we should not “indulge, anymore, in self-praise for deeds which in reality are too small to even acknowledge.”  Doing a kindness ostentatiously is self-defeating, since the whole point of that variety of kindness is for other people to see and praise what that person is doing.  Diane Duane says it well (and poetically) through her character Rhiow in To Visit The Queen; “Silently shall I strive to go my way… doing my work unseen; the Light needs no reminding by me of good deeds done by night.”


I suppose I view being asked to act incognito as touching on my integrity.  What reason is there for concealment, when I am not ashamed of what I’m doing and the things I choose to do are an outgrowth of my character and committment to leave the world a better place than how I found it?  Likewise, what reason is there for me to go out of my way to be noticed, either, when I do these things because it is right to do them?

Oddly enough, I’d feel the same way if I’d been asked to commit random acts of kindness as openly as possible.  And my reaction has that “deep-seated” feel to it that suggests it’s somehow fundamental to my nature.  Kind of like it says in the Oath of the Firstborn of the Kindred, “I walk my own Way/accepting no demands save those of my conscience/rejecting all law save that which I create for myself through wisdom and love.”  (It’s from a book I wrote… though it might be better phrased to say the book wrote itself through me.)

Still in all, it’s been a good week.  A fun week.  A week filled with open eyes looking through the lens of kindness.

I like that lens.

Ivan taking a picture

Week #15 – Glimpsing the Great Machine

Inner workings of a plane

So it’s Week 15, and I find myself staring at a blank screen.  What should I say this week?  What’s important for me to say, this week?  (Don’t worry – I promise my ruminations today will be shorter than those of week 14.)

Thoughts swirled around through my head as I started a couple different drafts, thoughts too fleeting for me to properly catch hold and examine.

Nummy tuna juice!So I went for a walk around the house, pacing the hallway, round the kitchen, back down the hallway to the bedroom that serves as my office, down the hallway and ’round the kitchen…  Sometimes I can just think better when I’m moving.  (Law of Relaxation, anyone?)  I parceled out some canned food for the cats (nothing makes them gather faster than a little bit of a treat – usually tuna juice.  I pop the can and they all come running, then mill around my feet meowing in various tones of complaint at their characteristic volumes, telling me I’m not moving fast enough.)

Don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Jim Butcher.  One of my favorite authors, he writes the Dresden File series (yes, they were books before there was a TV show).  One of my favorite quotes is from the book Grave Peril.  “One night when I couldn’t sleep, I mentioned to Michael that I was worried about the reprecussions of my workings, the harmful magic I had dished out.  I worried that it was going to come back to haunt me.

“‘I’m not a philosopher, Harry,’ he said.  ‘But here’s something for you to think about, at least.  What goes around, comes around.  And sometimes you get what’s coming around.’  He paused for a moment, frowning faintly, pursing his lips.  ‘And sometimes you are what’s coming around.  You see what I mean?'”

In the book, the sentence takes on the tone of retribution – but it can apply to virtually any situation when the Universe uses us to get someone else what it is they’ve attracted to themselves.

I had a moment like that this week.

I’m not in the best shape, physically speaking.  (Round is a shape!  Pear is a shape!)  Staying trim and athletic is really more work than I feel like putting in just now.  I do like to walk, though.  Once ‘around the block’ out where I live is 2.8 miles on county and country roads.  I’ve never actually seen the point of gym memberships, not when I have a road to walk.  So I’m not entirely sure what prompted me to accept a one-month trial membership at a local Anytime Fitness; I’m doubly not sure what prompted me to sign up.

At least, I wasn’t until yesterday.

For those who’ve read my Week #4 post, Jerry’s hip replacement surgery had been scheduled for the 5th of February; at his request, Mayo put us on a waiting list to move up the date if possible.  Well, the surgery date was advanced to the 14th of January.  (Tomorrow we get to spend all day at Mayo doing all the preparatory work.)  Now, yesterday when all the shuffling was in the works yet Jerry accompanied me to Anytime and hung around as I took my walk.  I introduced him to Corey, the guy who owns and runs the location, and we three got to chatting.  Jerry said he’s been wanting to get back into shape, and was especially eager to start work after his surgery, but wanted to be under the guidance of someone who knew and understood medical limitations.  Turns out one of the personal trainers is studying to be a Physical Therapist; basically perfect for Jerry and his situation, as well as giving her the opportunity to work with someone who has a genetic condition that’s somewhat rare.

Bald eagle outside office window

I see you seeing me

It’s not the first time the Universe has used me in that fashion.  It is the first time I’ve been aware of the fact.  (Though looking back I can detect others, such as the time fifteen years ago when I told an acquaintance who was complaining that her life was stuck on “repeat” that we all face the same situation, the same question, over and over again under different specific circumstances until we get the answer ‘right’ – in other words, learn what it was that situation existed for in order to teach us.  See MK15:7)  Even those of us who march to our own drum still move in time with the Universe.

I’ve also had the opening lines from Fullmetal Alchemist running through my head this week – any other anime fans among the MKMMA?  “Humankind cannot gain without first giving something in exchange.  To obtain, something of equal value must be lost.  This is Alchemy’s first Law of Equivalent Exchange.”  Who’d’ve thought that a ‘cartoon’ would have stumbled on a Universal Truth?  (Well, okay, me, but most people aren’t looking for wisdom in an animated show.)

So what’s the point?  Just that we’re writing our own story – we design it, we create it, we live it – but at the same time we’re being incorporated into the stories of the people around us, something not everyone is aware of.  In the study of the Qabalah it’s referred to as the Vision of the Machinery of the Universe, the experience of Yesod, the ninth sphere.  And once we receive that vision, courtesy of the Universe, we can never be unaware of it again; we’ll see it everywhere.

And frankly, it’s a fascinating study.

Qabalistic tree

Week #14 – Twice-told Tales


I love maps.

Maps are some of my favorite things.  Every time I drive somewhere new, I add a state map to my collection.  Did you know that state-sponsored rest areas are now giving road maps away for free?  I damn near drooled at the thought when I first found out about it.  All I have to do for a complete collection is drive to each and every state… Hawaii might be difficult.  The bridge across the Pacific hasn’t been built yet.

Periodically I lay all my maps out on the pool table and highlight the routes I’ve used to get places.  (One of these years I’ll get new maps all of the same type, cut out the state along the border, and make a to-scale United States wall in the barn or something.  Haven’t yet worked out all the details of how I’m going to be able to add new routes while keeping the maps waterproof and protected from the elements, but as soon as I do I ‘m making my wall.)

Maps are awesome.  They show you where you’re going.  They show you where you’ve been.  And they show you all the possibilities that exist along the way.

My favorite ‘possibilities’ are museums.  Right now I’m planning a trip east and then south along the eastern seaboard.  This particular trip I’ve been planning for about ten years now – changing the route, changing the focus, adding new destinations – and I’ve decided that 2015 is the year.  We’re going to stop at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio; spend about a week, maybe more, at the Mall in DC, visiting the memorials, monuments, the Smithsonian(s) – oh, and the International Spy Museum, too, of course; then the Naval Air Museum, NASCAR and Richard Petty museums, tour Talladega track, spend some time at the Kennedy Space Center (did you know you can walk the length of the Saturn V rocket in the Rocket Garden?  It’s so darned tall they had to lay it lengthwise along the ground!), and we’ll come home by way of Space Center Houston and the National World War I Museum – plus whatever cool other places we can find along the way (Roadside America is one of the neatest apps there is!).

Because what I’m after when I travel are the stories.  Museums not only have their own stories, they house a treasure trove of them!  People’s interests, their triumphs, their hardships – little pieces of their hearts and souls, hearts and souls that we are all connected to through Universal Mind.

See, stories… stories are kind of like maps.  Every person, every event, every object, has a story.  Those stories tell us where we’ve been; they suggest where we might like to go; they show us what possible destinations there are along the way.  Stories are humanity, all curled up into a nutshell.  Our regrets.  Our mistakes.  Our victories.  Our achievements.  Our educations at the hands of the Universe.

And they don’t need to be tampered with in order to be good stories.

This week we were to watch a movie of our choice from a list of four.  I’m planning on watching all four; Rudy and October Sky have been on my list for a while, and I’d never heard of Door to Door, but Cool Runnings was the one I decided to go with first.  I’ve also noticed in the blogs I follow that most of us watched that one for the exercise.  All the elements we’re learning about are there in the movie.  Derice Bannock has a burning desire to get to the Olympics, as his father did.  He believes it will be as a sprinter – just as his father did – but sees the dream snatched out of reach when he is tripped and falls with two other runners in the trials.  He goes to Mr. Coolidge and asks to have the race run over; he’s told the race can’t be rerun and advised to either work on his boxing or cycling – since those are the only other two sports in which Jamaica competes – or to prepare for four years later, when the Olympics will be held again.

Derice’s burning desire will not allow him to accept either of those choices.  He’s determined to be an Olympian that year; an Olympic gold is his destiny.  So he finds another sport in a picture of his father in Mr. Coolidge’s office; wondering about the other man pictured there wearing a gold medal.  Mr. Coolidge tells him that’s Irv Blitzer, a bobsledder living now on the island (“Unless he’s been shot or arrested.”) who had a wild theory about Jamaican sprinters making ideal bobsledders and wanted Derice’s father to change sports.

So Derice starts recruiting his mastermind – his best friend Sanka, and Irv Blitzer as coach.  They are joined soon after by Yul Brenner and Junior.  All desire to be in the Olympics, though for different reasons.  Coach Blitzer puts them to work: “Winning a bobsled race is about one thing: the push start.  Now, I know you dainty little track stars think you’re fast.  Well, heh, let’s see how fast you are when you push a 600-pound sled.  Now, a respectable start time is 5.7 seconds.  If you speed demons can’t whip off an even six-flat, you have a better chance of becoming a barbershop quartet.”  And there’s the plan of action.  And so they practice pushing a Volkswagon bug, and on hills with a rickety, makeshift sled until they achieve a pushstart of 5.9 seconds.  Then it comes time to go to Calgary.

Throughout the story, Derice holds fast to his purpose; his and Sanka’s positive attitude carry the team until Yul and Junior develop their own as the four plus coach become a cohesive team.  The story develops, they overcome adversity and though they don’t win a medal, they show themselves to be worthy competitors in a sport that is not the first one a person would think of when considering the tropical island of Jamaica.

(And just as a sideline; I detest book – and movie – reports.)

It’s a fun Disney movie with personal growth and a strong moral to the story, and I very much enjoy watching it, over and over again.  There are some phenomenal moments in there, such as when Junior explains to Sanka why Yul’s dream of living in a palace isn’t a foolish one.

Unfortunately, it’s wrong.

One of my personality quirks is that I research whatever interests me – I want the story.  That’s how I learned about the XB-70 Valkyrie and how the one in the Air Force Museum in Daytona is the only one left (there had been two, but one was lost during a publicity photo shoot for GE) and that the Valkyrie was eventually replaced by the Blackbird, which was in development at roughly the same time.  That’s how I learned that the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona (specifically, the number 88 test mule which is now on display at the Talledega Raceway Museum) was the first car ever to break the 200-mph speed barrier in March 24. 1970.  There’s a great story about how Buddy Baker, the driver, had been putting duct tape on the car throughout the day as adjustments were made to transmission, suspension and engine.  The last run of the day, after a 200.096 mph lap, the crew pulled off all the tape; on laps 33, 34 and 35 of that next run, the car clocked three consecutive times over 200 mph, one of which was a record-setting 200.448.  After the run, Buddy ceremoniously retrieved his roll of duct tape from the car and threw it in the trash.  And I’ve added other facts, tales, stories, remembrances to my collection whenever my interest is piqued.

The true story of the first Jamaican bobsled team is of a challenge by an American named George Fitch (portrayed in the film by John Candy’s Irv Blitzer, which is where the movie is worst wrong; Fitch was not nor had ever been a drunk disgraced Olympic bobsledder).  While stationed in Kingston, Jamaica, as the American embassy’s Commercial Attache, George developed a friendship with Ken Barnes, father of former Liverpool soccer star John Barnes.  Fitch was transferred to Paris, but returned to Kingston for a friend’s wedding; Barnes bragged then about how well Jamaica was going to do at the next summer’s Olympics in Seoul.  “But what about the Winter Olympics?” Fitch said.  “You got great athletes and a great athlete should be able to do any sport.”  Now, the pushcart derby did provide the inspiration for the new sport to be bobsledding, but Fitch couldn’t get any of the currently-training athletes interested, nor anyone in the sports clubs – they knew how dangerous bobsledding was and didn’t want to get injured.

The story could have ended there.  It didn’t, because Fitch was determined, and went to Ken Barnes, who then didn’t dismiss the whole idea out of hand.  Ken went to Major George Henry of the Jamaican Defence Force, who selected two sprint champions and a helicopter pilot for the first Jamaican bobsled team – which, incidentally, was welcomed by the other teams in fine Olympic tradition.  If you’re interested, you can get more of the story from ESPN, Business Insider, or even on Wikipedia.

I honestly have no problem with the Disney version.  Like I said, it’s a fun movie, and I enjoy it every time I watch it.  But it’s mostly fiction.  And the original story as it stands is just as good.  It didn’t need to be tampered with.  The elements that go with inevitable success – DMP, PMA, POA, MMA – they were all there.

Likewise, it follows that if each of us is a story, then every story – yours, mine, everyone’s – is good enough.  It doesn’t need to be tampered with!

But like Hollywood, the world around us tampers with our stories anyway.  We get told, over and over, that our heart’s desire is silly.  Impossible.  Not practical.  Won’t put food on the table or a roof over our heads.  Won’t get us an education or a good job.  And so we get lost, separated from our real story, our own most personal map.  Details and distractions become diversions from the World Within to the World Without, which then causes us to apply Universal Mind and the Law of Attraction in a negative fashion – much like most everyone all of us know.

And, frankly, finding the MKMMA as a map back to me concerns me as much as it thrills me.  Because every week I read blog posts on how the MKMMA is the answer to all life’s problems and questions, and warning bells go off in my head.  See, that’s the mistake that religions, alternate belief systems, political parties and even governments keep making:  They assume that because their way works for them, it must therefore be the one and only way that there is – the “One True Way.”

Which means, by logical extension, that everyone who disagrees with them is wrong and must be shown the error of their ways.

Do I believe the Master Key system is the best way for me to get where I’m going?  Absolutely.  Do I believe it’s the fastest?  Again, yes.  And more than that, it’s a way that has been traveled before us, so we have sources of support and guidance through the rocky parts of the trail.  But the Master Key System is not the only way that exists.  I’m sure it would be difficult to find another system which packs as much wisdom into as few words as Haanel does; I’m equally sure that one exists.  And while I will certainly encourage my friends and other people I meet to participate, I am not going to tell them that it’s the only way that there is for them to learn how to live in harmony with Universal Mind and thus manifest their dharma.

See, because to other people, we and the MKMMA are part of their World Without.  And if we tell them that we and only we have the answer, how then are we different from any other fad belief out there?  Yes, okay, our content and the value of it, but if we phrase ourselves the same way self-help gurus do, we won’t be doing ourselves or anyone else any favors.

Which leads to another thought.  One of my favorite lines from Cool Runnings is when Derice is studying turns and Coach Blitzer sticks his head in the door to see if he wants to come grab something to eat with the rest of the team.  Derice asks him about why Blitzer cheated.  He replied that he had to win.  He’d made winning his whole life, and when you make winning your whole life then you have to win no matter what.  Derice doesn’t understand; Irv had had two gold medals, he’d had everything.  And Blitzer said, “A gold medal is a wonderful thing.  But if you aren’t enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it.”

And so I find myself thinking, Am I enough?  Do I really, truly, believe that I’m enough?  Because that concept applies even to the MKMMA, which is not the same thing as Universal Wisdom.  If the MKMMA were taken from me tomorrow, would I be enough – would each and every one of us be enough – without it?  Would I continue to apply the principles that I’ve learned?  Would I seek wisdom through my inward connection to Universal Mind, unfettered by my tendency to follow slavishly the people who I think hold the answers in the World Without?  Would I hold a thought and mix it with a chosen emotion to create a belief that propels me to action?

Probably.  After all, it would be very hard indeed to live my own story – which is a good story – if all I’ve been doing thse past fourteen weeks has been blindly following someone else’s.

Week #13 – Hmmm…

Christmas with family

Today is Christmas Day.  Fun, family, food… presents.

Throughout my life, I’ve had a kind of love-hate relationship with Christmas.  There have been years where I wished that I was completely on my own, so I could celebrate or not, exactly as I chose.  There have been times when I just adored every aspect of the holiday, from crazed crowds out shopping to the sound of tearing paper as I exulted over what family members had given me and had the camera at the ready to capture expressions as they see what I’ve gotten them.  I’ve run the gamut of every possible emotion on this holiday – which rather gives the lie to the beLIEf that I can’t feel.  But there was always a mixture of lasting impressions.

This year’s been a little different.

First of all, I submitted three of my pictures to a stock site.  For those who aren’t familiar, a royalty-free stock photo site allows people to pay a fee, download a photo once and then use it multiple times.  The criteria for getting a photo accepted are pretty stiff.  Since the last time I’d had photos rejected, I’d taken classes, read books, been out for hours with my camera taking pictures, studying the photos afterwards for what worked and what didn’t, combing the stock sites for the kind of pictures that get accepted so I’d have some guidelines for composition and subject.  I learned how to use photo editing software to enhance and tweak a decent photo into a striking one.  And when I submitted the photos I’d chosen, I sent them off with hope and confidence.

Then I started looking more closely at the photos I’d chosen.  I starting finding little things wrong with each one.  I started to think that two of the three would probably be rejected, and the third was maybe acceptable…

And then I remembered I was supposed to be developing and practicing a positivity bias – which tells you how recent this was.  I mean seriously, in retrospect, just sending the photos in was a major achievement, after all the work and effort I put in, work and effort I wasn’t really consciously aware of as being the kind of work and effort that brings success – playing with the camera is fun, and I like taking classes, learning new things, gaining new skills.  And it’s amazing what you can see through the lens of a camera if you’re looking.

So it wasn’t really work.  It was just one step at a time, this is what I want, this is how I’m going to get there.

The day before Jerry and I left on our trip to see our eastern-seaboard family, I heard from the stock site:  All three were accepted!!

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But while I was waiting to hear back, waiting to start the trip east, waiting and anticipating the whole family being together for the first time in seven years, I did my Christmas shopping.

That particular task is not as easy as it might sound.  Two brothers, two sisters, two parents; two brothers-in-law, one sister-in-law. four nieces, two nephews… and only in the case of my older brother Ted do I live close enough to him to be enough of a part in his life that I feel confident of getting him something he’s going to want and like.

I don’t mind getting gift cards.  They’re useful, fun little things.  But I really don’t like giving them.  I feel that they’re a cop-out; that they’re taking the easy way out, instead of working hard enough to find something that will personally suit the receiver.  Of course I asked other family members what who might like, but it’s all hit and miss until you see the expression and know you’ve got a winner.  So I pulled the individual person into the forefront of my mind, and kept the Law of Giving in the back – it may be a compliment, a prayer, a trinket, a flower – and hot damn if I did not get a very sincere “Oh, wow – that’s GREAT” type of comment on every single gift.

Every.  Single.  Gift.

I can’t remember the last time that happened.  And it isn’t as if my family don’t appreciate the thought that went into something, even if it is a little disappointing – there are always, always, thank yous and genuine gratitude… but this year I didn’t read that little hitch of momentary dismay in anyone’s face.  And I’m sure that nobody read it on mine – today was perfect.

Which begs the question – did I hit the mark because of something I’m doing differently, or because I’m perceiving differently?  Because today I was focused on what went right.  Not a word of criticism out of my mouth, but there was plenty of praise.  I slipped and offered a couple of opinions, but they were very mild, almost more suggestions than anything, and I didn’t defend them if someone else disagreed.

It kind of reminds me of how delicate a life’s history can be.  One choice, one tiny shift in perception and therefore direction, and the entire day changes.  And there were plenty of opportunities for me to choose otherwise.

See, one of the secret, gnawing worries that I’ve had has revolved around the Law of Giving and Receiving.  We give without expectation of reciprocity because we are in the dynamic flow of giving and receiving.  And yet, in the back of our mind is the conscious awareness of that flow.  We can’t expect to get simply because we give, and yet we know we will,  because we’ve been told that by natural law such a thing is inevitable, therefore we can expect reciprocity from the Universe even if not from the same individuals we give to, and how does that not logically skew the entire setup?  And I’ve fretted that I’m not giving enough.  That my ledger is out of balance.  I don’t get out among people much during the normal course of things – which is just fine by me – so not a lot of opportunity to be of service except in writing articles for my website or taking stock photos for others’ use.  Yet without being of service first, as in Earl Nightingale’s Strangest Secret, we will not participate fully in the Law of Giving and Receiving.

But, I reckon that’s a question for another day.  For today was a perfect day.  I chose my family’s gifts well.  I helped with making the dinner, and cleaning up afterwards.  Tonight, the Gal in the Mirror and I are very pleased with each other.

Time to celebrate success in my dreams, and let contentment flood my mysterious source that never sleeps.

Week #12 – On the edge

One of my all-time favorite movies is Disney’s “Meet the Robinsons.”  A twelve-year-old genius named Lewis wants very badly to be adopted; wants it as badly as he wants to be an inventor.  He’s wicked-smart, he has a burning desire to build wonderful things that will improve the lives of everyone in the world, he works constantly on his creations – which, sadly, never function.  In fact, most of them blow up in his face, leaving him apologizing helplessly, convincing prospective parents that he wouldn’t be a good fit for them.  And after 124 adoption interviews go wrong, he decides he’s had enough.

The head of the orphanage tries to encourage him, knowing he’s special – they just haven’t found the right family yet.  Lewis figures if he could just find out what his mom looked like, if he could just see her face that rainy night she anonymously left him on the top step of the orphanage, he can find her and they can be a family again.  So he invents a memory scanner, studying the brain exhaustively, working and refining to the point of keeping his roommate up all night – events that ripple forward in unexpected ways.

Enter the science fair, a thirteen-year-old boy named Wilbur, and a skinny, sinister man wearing an intelligent bowler hat that sabotages the scanner, causing it to fail spectacularly, and a cascading chain of events that culminates in Lewis needing to repair a time machine about thirty years in the future so he can restore the time stream to its original path.

At first he balks.  What does he know about time machines?

After his failure in the garage he swears off inventing forever (again).  Then at dinner with Wilbur’s family, Lewis is volunteered to fix a PB&J gun.  He fails yet again… but the Robinson family reaction is different from any he’s ever encountered.

I’ve read a lot this week about fellow MKMMAers being worried about the phrase in Og, “I must fail often in order to succeed only once.”  Success is great – I sure like it a lot better than failure – but like Billie says, we don’t learn anything from it.  Too much of yesterday’s success, and we are lulled into today’s complacency.  Failure should be celebrated, not feared.  (Speaking strictly for myself, of course, that concept, like celebrating tiny successes, is a new thought that I need to develop receptive brain cells for – but I’d be willing to bet I’m not the only one.)

And yet, in order to keep moving forward – in other words, to keep growing and progressing – a person has to let go.  Not only of grudges and resentments, forgiving ourselves for people we’ve wronged and others who have wronged us, but also of past successes and – most importantly – who we have been up until that moment.

Even if we don’t really like who we are, it’s still a sacrifice to give that self up – that self represents what’s comfortable.  Safe.  Known.  But it’s impossible to progress if we’re still clinging tooth and nail to who we’ve been.

After submitting my survey, I read Mark’s blog for Week #12.  He talked about surrender – in his case, surrendering to the freedom of his own creativity.  Reading the post got me to thinking, and I asked in the comments if he reckoned that we all have a different point of surrender, given that we’re all such very different people, even though we’ve all been shaped by many of the same false beliefs (we’re not good enough, we have to rely on what’s outside ourselves to feel worthwhile, we do not and can not create our own reality, especially not a reality we design because life just doesn’t work like that… you know the drill).  He answered in a very emphatic affirmative – “Yes, no question about it Ellen…some people have surrendered BEFORE they even got here…..others it is a process while still other’s its an epithany …. VIVA LA DIFFERENCE !!”

In my own studies this week I came to realize that I know, understand, accept and rejoice in my own creativity.  I know that I am a luminous being of power who creates her reality with thought and the belief that the thought has already happened.  I’ve always known – at some times in my life, I’ve known more consciously than I have at others, but I’ve known.  What I have never been able to accept is the necessity of letting go of the fear.

My entire life, I’ve been afraid of my own power.  And I’ve clung to that fear in order to hold myself in check.  After all, how could I know what I would do with it?  I might abuse my abilities.  I might become a bully – and why not?  How often are we shown as children that might makes right?  The bigger and stronger you are, the more of your will you can impose on others.  Why shouldn’t I use what I can do to get even with the people who have wronged me?  And you know, even if I didn’t outright abuse my personal power, even if I didn’t seek vengeance, it’s easy – so terribly easy – to rationalize what I want to do so that it seems like the right thing to do.  No.  If I can even entertain the thought that I might do wrong with it, obviously I can’t be trusted with power.  So I locked it away behind the fear… and felt virtuous in doing so.  Protecting others from the monster I would become if ever I fully accepted what I am.

Do you see the missing piece?  That tiny, yet significant bit of Truth that renders the argument invalid and reveals my fears as the growth-stopping illusions that they are?

It’s impossible to use the creative power of the One in order to do harm to another – who is in turn another projection of the One.  As soon as you try, it rebounds on you, and the power slips through your fingers, as ethereal as mist.

And so now I’m asking myself – since I have the knowledge… have I the courage to dare, and the faith to do?  Do I have the nerve to reach inward and claim the power we were all born with, surrendering myself  for once and always to trusting in the system?  Will I employ natural law consciously, choosing to have “whatsoever I desire as I pray,” secure in the faith that if I “believe that I receive, it shall be mine?”

Jury’s still out on that one.  Easy choice, really, at least intellectually – why would I want to be limited, particularly at my own hands?  And seriously, I wouldn’t be in the MKMMA if I didn’t want the change, right? – but even though the choice is an easy one, and putting it into practice is no harder than I decide to make it be, there’s still a part of me that doesn’t want to sacrifice what we are in order to have what we might be.

In that, even at the age of twelve, Lewis is more evolved than I am.

We can have any future we envision.  All we have to do is make the right choices… and keep moving forward, one step at a time.

In truth, one step at a time is not too difficult.

Week #11 – Connections

Eagle outside my window

I paused in my schedule to appreciate nature yesterday (Wednesday).  Could have been snow; more likely it was heavy fog, condensing and freezing.  But it made the trees just so pretty…

So I took out my camera and went for a drive.

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Now, being able to take my camera out was caused by my brother helping me to get my desktop (photo-editing, photo storage, audio-transcribing, internet research) computer in working order again – first the operating drive burned out, then the o/s crashed on the new one.  Once Ted fixed it, I was able to get my photos backed up onto CD and I was okay with reformatting the compact flash cards my camera uses.

Perfect example of the ripple effect.  If not for Ted, I wouldn’t have had the space on the camera card – I have three, each one holds about a thousand pictures (I shoot in RAW – more color information to play with in Lightroom), and all were full of the photos from our Ensenada trip at the beginning of November, which tells you how long the desktop has been out of commission – I would have missed some lovely pictures, and spent at least part of the day whimpering to myself in longing to be out.

I hope the Universe gives him something very nice for that.  He is totally my computer guru, but I try not to call on him very often because I know that while he’s perfectly willing to share his skill it isn’t what he wants to be doing with his life.

Oh, and you know how I’ve mentioned from time to time that I’m still waiting for the ‘I begin to awaken each morning with a vitality I have never before known’?  Mark mentioned it again in last Sunday’s webinar, saying that if we aren’t leaping out of bed in the morning something’s not right with our goals, our DMP, our focus.  I could excuse myself as I have before, saying that I’m just not a morning person.  But an excuse is all it is; I could be a morning person.  I just don’t have a reason to be.

Or rather, I didn’t.  My guide, on my last iteration of my DMP, wanted me to expand on how I’m going to achieve spiritual growth.  Study?  Pilgrimages to holy places?  Daily meditation is fine, but won’t serve the purpose by itself, and merely becoming ‘an eager student of the Universe and the Source from which she sprang’ isn’t specific enough.  So I started thinking, and my eye was drawn to my esoteric bookshelf.

Ellen's booksThere was a time when I wanted to spend much of my life in study.

There was a time I wanted to be an expert on comparative religions, searching out the threads of Truth they all had in common.

There was a time when I wanted to be so deeply connected to the world around me that I became truly wise.

And there it was.  I tweaked my DMP to reflect the beginning steps I was taking to start growing that wisdom, and this morning (Thursday) when I woke up I was excited.  I get to get up and study my Qabalah! was my first thought.

Ripple effect.  Because if I hadn’t paid attention when my buddy Don told me of the MKMMA and encouraged me to apply, if I had chosen to dismiss it as ‘one of those things,’ – which, yes, was in the back of my mind as I watched the first and second videos – I wouldn’t be on this path back to my true Self.

(Hope the Universe has something really really special in mind for Don and Leanne for that particular act of giving.)

Ooh – and my studies give me a couple more places in which to use my functional  bookmarks!

The deeper we get into the Master Keys, the more I’m amazed at just how much of myself I truly understood when I was younger, before I let the world distract and squeeze the knowledge from me.

Writing and scholarship.  Learning and knowing.  Having the freedom to do both.  Is it possible to imagine where I would be now, if I hadn’t allowed myself to become negative and sidetracked then?

Two-Medicine Lake, Glacier Park Montana

Yes, it is.  Press Release!

And yet, I know from reading this week’s Master Key and from taking up my studies again (and oh, my – I’m already coming across certain critical concepts that are the same in Qabalah and in Haanel – all Truth is indeed One!) that a certain amount of care has to be taken.  Because while I am not responsible for anyone else’s choices, I am responsible for the various outcomes of mine, whether I forsee them or not.

At the same time, it’s marvelous to be part of a system which provides its own checks and balances.  I can’t inadvertently take someone else’s good;  I can share in it, I can add to it, but I can’t take it.  I’m part of them, they’re part of me.  Stealing from them is stealing from me, and the whole suffers; doing harm to someone else is doing harm to me, and the whole suffers.  And if I try to apply the Law of Attraction with negative intent (as in, “I will have it because I want it and I have the power to take it regardless of anyone else’s needs, wants or desires”), that in itself will skew the result.  The only way to receive untainted good is to be in harmony with the natural Law of Giving, which operates constantly and independently.  The Law of Attraction can’t be used effectively by a power-hungry bully.

Which means I can be powerful beyond measure without worrying that I will abuse that power simply because I’ve become accustomed to getting what I want and need by asking for it and believing I receive it; the system itself, which requires development of character and a balance of giving to receiving, prevents corruption.

I find that very comforting.

Gray Girl inside the window plastic

Gray Girl inside the window plastic


Week #10 – Relax

Ooh, tricksy!  It’s tricksy, my precious!

This week’s sit is to picture a black square against a blank wall, with a circle inside and dot at the center, which is then pulled out to become a cone.  The lines are black until we change them to red, to yellow.  Despite the difficulty of basically meditating with my eyes open, seeing this figure in my mind’s eye was fairly easy.  I could throw the shapes together, change the colors of the lines, make each line a different color.  Easy-peasy, especially when I pretended that the square and circle were from my shapes-and-colors chart.  And it didn’t take anywhere near fifteen minutes.

Then I spoke with a fellow MKMMAer – what was the point of the exercise? I wanted to know.  He said he was actually trying to convince his physical eyes to see it, there on the wall, and then pull it off the wall and rotate the geometric figure in the air, seeing from all angles and with all colors.

That… put a very different complexion on the exercise.  Seeing something imaginary with my physical eyes, like an afterimage?  How, without staring at a physical image first?  But what he was saying felt right, in as far as the spirit of the exercise was concerned, and it definitely sounded challenging enough to hold my attention for fifteen minutes or more.

Oh.  My.  Word.  I stared.  And stared.  And stared.  Forget a whole square, I’d settle for just the first line!  I can picture it in my head, but my eyes stubbornly refuse to see anything other than the speckles on the ceiling (all of my walls in my office, where I do my sits, are full of books and shelves – well, you’ve seen pictures in previous posts).  There isn’t a square there, my eyes insist.  Just random speckles from the roller that created them.  No pattern.  Certainly no black.  And the harder I concentrated on trying to see that line, the sharper and more distinct the random speckles became.

Then the back of my mind got bored and started playing with a passage in one of my books.  My main character is learning a new skill, and her teacher keeps saying, “Again.”  “Do it again.”  “Not good enough.  Try it again.”  “Again.”  (I will persist until I succeed…)

Playing with that passage led to another story I’m working on, and the back of my head started working on the next scene in the book, all the while I’m trying to drag it back to the matter at hand until I gave up, and just let that part of my mind play.

And there it was.  On the ceiling, a bluish-black square, like an afterimage when you stare at something for a minute and then glance to a white wall to see the negative.  It was oriented like a diamond in my eyes, but it was a square and it was there.  I blinked before I could draw the circle and the image disappeared, but I had seen it!  How?

And I remembered the Law Of Relaxation.  Mental effort is self-defeating.  If I hadn’t been lying down I probably would have kicked myself.  As it was, I just sighed and apologized to that part of myself that is wiser than my conscious awareness.

And then I tried again.

Today being Thursday the sit will be about my Press Release, but tomorrow…  Ah, tomorrow I have the way of it.  Let the forefront concentrate on what I want to see and let the back of my mind play wherever it will,  even though it sounds contrary to developing that laser focus the magnifying glass embodies.

Perhaps it has something to do with the concept of relaxed intensity.

Week #9 – Regarding Battleships and Hibiscus

The woods are never silent.  Did you know that?  People talk about the ‘peace and quiet of the deep woods,’ but they’re never… actually… completely… still.  The slightest of breezes will move the branches of boxelder, poplar, and cottonwood, and the wood sings to itself in little sighs, creaks and gentle clatters.  When the snow is falling it hisses and slides against the branches and brush.  At night the mice scurry through the leaves under the snow, rustle-rustle-crackle-rustle.  At dawn and dusk the deer and the rabbit are moving, searching for browse, moving to or from bedding areas or water.  During the day the squirrels race along branches and trunks to the ground, digging up the nuts they buried for winter forage; chickadees call and flit from branch to branch; woodpeckers tap at the trees with the hollow hammer sound that echoes through the woods.

Does the snow muffle that natural noise?  Yes.  Is there a near-reverent, cathedral-like hush?  Absolutely yes.  But the woods are never completely still or silent.

Last Sunday morning I was sitting in a deer stand, well bundled against the winter cold, twenty gauge lying across my lap, waiting.  It was still predawn; the sky was dark, and the snow had reflected only just enough light for me to see where I was placing my feet as I maneuvered around the brush on my way to the stand.

Now, I realize that I have put myself on a limb by mentioning that I’m a hunter.  It seems to be one of those subjects where everyone has an opinion – it’s right, it’s wrong, it’s good, it’s evil, it’s helpful, it’s cruel.  And whether or not I agree with what people think, whether or not I understand the reason why, I know that by and large they have good reason for feeling the way they do.

There’s a special kind of inner quiet that comes with sitting in the woods… in winter… in the slow and gradual growing light of dawn.  You huddle inside your many layers, trying not to pull the fabric tightly to you because it’s actually the air pockets you’re creating between your body and your clothes that are keeping you warm.  If you’re a hunter or a photographer, you gaze into the dark, letting eyes and mind relax.  Trust me, you don’t need to actively watch; you can be staring at nothing at all for fifteen, twenty minutes at a time; let there be any kind of movement within the range of your vision and your eyes snap to it before you’re consciously  aware that you’ve seen something.  (What a marvelous piece of mechanism is the human body!)  And you have to be still.  Absolutely still.  Because the creatures you’re out there to find have well coordinated senses, hyperaware and perfect for pinpointing you before you’ve seen them.  So if you want to know if they’re approaching from a place you can’t see, you also have to listen.

No electronics.  No radio or cell phone.  No pets or spouse or kids needing attention.  And if you want to see what you came to see, you have to be still.  Quiet.  Your senses are passive instead of being constantly bombarded…

And I thought, Everyone should experience this.  Even if it’s only once in their lifetime, everyone should take ten, fifteen, thirty minutes to meditate in the snowy woods during a midwestern winter.  I pulled out my pocket clock – it was still twenty-two minutes to legal shooting time.

But what I really wanted to talk about were battleships.  See, I started composing this post last Sunday; the last day of the battleship sit.  The USS Iowa, to be specific.  The lead vessel of her class of battleship – in fact the last lead vessel of any class of battleship – she saw combat, carried the United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was decommissioned and recommissioned twice, she’s a beautiful sight and far, far more than merely the sum of her parts.

But she can be stripped down into those component parts.  And d’you know, you end up in a different place depending on which component you follow.  The armament – take a tour around the history of firearms.  The 250 miles of electrical cable – explore the taming of the lightning and how intrepid inventors harnessed it for our use.  Oh, and how about the four steam-powered turbines that propel “The Big Stick” through the water – the simple power of a whistling tea kettle scaled up a few thousand times.

Beginning and ending with human ingenuity and adaptability.

And yet… so fragile, this embodiment of an idea.  Fragile, precarious, because it all rests on thousands of years of ideas, one leading to another which leads to another.  Change one event in the long string of progressions from inception to completion – just one – and the battleship never happens.  Because the battleship has to have all the parts in order to be more than the sum.

Whether I’m holding a weapon or a camera, how do I intersect with that creature on a cold winter morning, if I haven’t all my parts?  My eyes, fastening to motion.  My ears, attuned to animals moving through brush, working with my brain in order to determine the direction the sound comes from and the size and nature of the creature making it.  My clothes and boots, designed for Minnesota weather.  Change one component – Just. One. – the chain of events unravels, and that moment in the woods never happens.

And it’s the same – exactly the same – for a flower.  I have a hibiscus plant of which I am very fond.  Jerry picked it up two years ago from Menards and planted it out front here at the house.  It has large and thick leaves of a rich dark green, all the more startling when contrasted with the larger pale pink flower with its startling goldenrod-yellow stamen.  Hibiscus aren’t cold-hardy and Minnesota winters are harsh, so I needed to move the plant indoors to keep it.  At that, I almost waited too long; last year the bulk of the winter my poor hibiscus had frost-burned, dead leaves clinging to brittle twigs, and I wondered for a couple months if the plant would actually come back.

This week’s sit is to see a seed of our favorite plant through its entire life cycle – from planting to germination, the development of roots and puller leaves to the birth of a bloom and a whole new seed.  Simple.  Easy.

But what if the soil isn’t right?  Too acidic, too basic, too wet, too dry?  Too cold?  And if the seed germinates, what if it was planted too deep?  Roots will reach out, right enough, but the plant will spend too much energy trying to find the sun.  If the leaves can’t soak up the rays then no matter how good the root system is the plant will die.  Likewise, no matter how much sun those leaves get, if the root system can’t draw up sufficient water, or if the roots drown and slough off, the plant will die.

Change one thing.  Just one.

Most of us are in the MKMMA because there’s something more, something better, something greater that we could be doing.  And because of that what we do, what we say, what we think from moment to moment matters.  Because big things are made up of small things.  And because the sum of components is fragile.  Change one thing… just one.

I dare you.