Monday, January 26, 2009

The Simple Woman's Daybook... A Monday Exercise Created By Peggy Hostetler...

Dear Ones,

Usually I am not one to take part in this type of thing because I am already juggling quite a lot, but this is so special I thought that I would join and add my thoughts each Monday. If you click on the graphic just below you will go to the Daybook page to find more information. Today's entry follows the graphic...

FOR TODAY ~ January 26, 2009...

Outside my window... sits my beautiful stone mermaid, an antique, about 4 feet tall. She is leaning against the white stucco wall, not minding the cold, waiting for spring to come again when she can go back to where she belongs... in the garden.

I am thinking... of the poem... "The world is full of so many wonderful things, we should all be as happy as Kings..." (I am paraphrasing from memory, but I think it's pretty close!). And I am thinking that we all have so very much, even if we are not "rich," and why are we not happier? I am happier than I have ever been, and growing more so everyday. The more my physical space is cleared out, the lighter is my load on every level. The less I have, the more space there is to love, to give, to feel joy, to hear, to see, to experience, the world in all it's glory.

I am thankful for... The soft, warm, teddy bear of a pug snuggled into me snoring. He reminds me that the small, simple things of the earth are what matter most in the end.

From the learning rooms...(if this applies)... This would have applied to me many years ago. We home-schooled our three children through high-school and they went on to college. One now has a master's degree, another is finishing her master's and my youngest who completed a 2 year degree, is getting ready to go back to college soon. And they say home-schoolers are not being educated! I won't need to answer this one again since I am no longer homeschooling -- my children are 25, 29, and the eldest will be 32 this Saturday -- but I just thought I would let the other home-schooling families know that I am in their corner!

From the kitchen... The breakfast is finished, the dishes are done, a golden beta fish swims peacefully in his little aquarium, and I can't stop looking at the refrigerator which is packed to the hilt with pictures of my children, their partners, fiancees, husbands, and my one grandchild from tiny baby to the presents, at 4 1/2 years old. Therein lies my glory. I have little room in my tiny kitchen, what with 5 food and water bowls for my bevy of rescue dogs, but with my human and animal family all around me, and the windowsill filled with growing things, it is, to me, a glorious place to be...

I am wearing... what I usually wear around the house, a long cotton caftan, this one a pink, blue and green floral from Bali, with one of my ever present shawls around my shoulders. This one, handwoven, in pinks, blues, greens, and rust, and a favorite because it is so well worn and loved it is incredibly soft. This shawl reminds me of The Velveteen Rabbit...

I am creating... three different shawls, all on the knitting kneedles now, and they will have crocheted edges. This is for my ministry and the shawls are donated to the needy.

I am going... out today to the post office, the office supply store, and to get medicines and groceries. As anyone who knows me well knows this is one of those huge days for me as I am disabled and rarely leave the house. My outreach ministry is run from here. So I say a prayer and off I go...

I am reading... The Bible; Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (for about the 10th time!) by Shunryu Suzuki; Everyday Sacred, by Sue Bender; Eckhart Tolle (watching DVD set, "The Flowering of Consciousness," along with reading his book, A NEW EARTH: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose; and several others. I read several books at once, dipping into one and then another each day.

I am hoping... to expand my ministry with love, compassion and kindness, to finish my book this year, and to lovingly care for the dozen or so animals in my care,

I am hearing... the snuffling and snoring of 4 rescue pugs, of big bird Blossom, the cockatoo I took in almost a year ago who was plucking her feathers and not eating and now she's beautiful and eating and playing... I hear the hepa air filter making a soothing white noise and my fingertips clicking on the keyboard as I type. I hear the burbling of the fish tank, the sound of my own heartbeat. I hear the great waves of the ocean of love, around the world, like putting your ear to a big seashell. It's always there, but you need a vehicle to hear it. We are good at not listening, not remembering. It's always good to keep a seashell nearby...

Around the house... things are in a wild state of dis-array, a good kind of messy, because the whole place is being cleaned out, cleaned up, and much of what is being kept is being boxed up and put in a nearby storage facility until I can move to larger quarters. As I begin my ministry and work on my book I need clutter-free clear space, in my surroundings and in my head...

One of my favorite things... is the first sip of my morning latte. It's not just that I love the latte, but when I have my first sip it means that I have taken care of all the animals, done the early morning chores, gone through the ritual of making the latte -- brewing the espresso, frothing the milk, cleaning the machine -- and once settled down with the latte and ready to face my early morning computer chores, I feel a peace inside, the kind that passeth all understanding, because a dozen or more animals, not wanted or badly treated by others, have found a loving home here, and are well cared for and now napping, and my day has been started productively, and the first sip of my latte holds all of that, and gives me hope for the day...

A few plans for the rest of the week: ... continuing to work on the reorganization of the cottage, taking pride in my daily chores, seeing that my house and life are better organized, opening my arms wider and wider to give and receive love. For this I pray...

Here is picture thought I am sharing... (add your picture here):

Since this is my introduction to the group I thought I would post my picture here. In subsequent entries I will post other photos. In this way I can introduce myself and get to know you all better!


Reverend Maitri Libellule

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Little Boy, a Great Man, The Innocence and Hope of a Nation. and The Tipping Point...

My grandson, 4 1/2 year old Lucas, watching
President Obama taking the oath of office.

Watching the inauguration day festivities and ceremonies all morning, leading up to the swearing in and beyond, I was so deeply moved and in tears that it seemed nothing could have touched me more that day, and for some time to come. It will remain one of the greatest days of my life, and the first time I remember, in my 54 years, being so excited about a President, so full of hope, awe, and dreams, and sitting in wonder at the changing of the world as we live through the times ahead with this great man at the helm.

My relationship with the days this week, days of grandeur, glory, and celebration in every corner of the nation, took a deeper turn when my daughter sent me 2 pictures of my precious grandson, Lucas, on that great day. The first one I put on my other blog, The Maitri Ministry, of little Lucas seeing his first snow ever, and the snowman he and his daddy built. The family called him Snowbama and it is an adorable picture. But when Rachel sent me the above picture today, I got tears in my eyes. My tiny grandchild starting out his life with Barack Obama as president means that he will come up in a whole new world than the one our generation, and the ones before us, knew. A nation that, I believe, while change dramatically in the years ahead, and while I know it will take decades for the deeper changes to be made, I see a rising hope as peoples who have been oppressed, and those who have experienced a kind of privilege simply because of the color of their skin, come together on equal ground. Or so I pray. My little fair-haired grandson standing in front of our beautiful new president whose very smile lights up the nation is one of the greatest images of hope for our nation that I have felt in a very long time.

I like to think that this great nation is very like the old story of Stone Soup. A village of people were very poor and starving. One day a man went in the town square and put an enormous kettle on a fire and he put in all he had, a smooth, heavy stone. The villagers watched, and realized that, though they barely had anything, they did have something, even if only one potato, a handful of rice, a small piece of meat, one a carrot, another a turnip, and on and on and on until the whole village had come to put in what they had. In the end there was a glorious soup that fed the whole town, each one giving the very little bit that they had. If it takes a village to raise a child, it will take every single person in this nation to do what they must to build a safe, strong, proud and glorious land for the next generations. I can only imagine what a world it might be when my little Lucas is President Obama's age. It is, at this juncture, simply unimaginable. And yet when I see the eloquence, the intelligence, the composure, the love for his wife and children, his spirituality, and caring for a more equal world where we might live, I am so full I feel like a helium balloon ready to fly off and circle space from high above, watching down in awe at the movement of history as it marches forward.

When you are young, when you finally grow a little older and even have children of your own, you love them and want the best for them but you don't begin to know the significance of the choices you make, the ones that will change your life and that of those around you, not to mention people around the world. But at 54 with my first grandchild, I can tell you that it does not sink in until midlife when you look at your grandchildren and those of other grandparents, that the life we live is the gift that we give them, and they are the future of this nation. I believe that President Obama will make the changes that will ensure a better world for my children and their children and theirs on into the future. For yours too. For this, I pray.

My life has been changing so much so fast these last few years that I can barely put it into words. The last decade found me going through grief, pain, loss, confusion, a feeling of separation from the world as well as those closest to me, and then finally changes starting happening, so slowly at first that I barely noticed them, and then all of a sudden building steam, like The Little Engine That Could. Chugging up hill after hill saying, "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can..." and then, finally, at the crest of the mountain comes that great whoosh when you know you can, and you start sailing along like you never knew you could before. Up and over the peak and flying down the other side. You have reached The Tipping Point. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book of this title many years back and it was a small but powerful book. The point of all of this for me is that not only have I reached a tipping point in my personal life, we are experiencing a tipping point in this country and around the world. The microcosm reflects the macrocosm and the reverse. Individual people's lives reflect the nation and the world as a whole, and the reverse. I believe, this week, with the swearing in of the 44th President of these United States, there was a tipping point of greater proportions than we can imagine. I bow deeply before the Buddha, hands pressed together in gassho, and say, reverently, Namaste. I raise my arms to the heavens and shout, with tears in my eyes, Praise The Lord!

Having been ordained at the beginning of this year, in this momentous time, I can barely believe how many changes are coming, quickly, and though I don't know where it will all end up, I know that I am on the right path, and I will keep following my inner guidance. I think many of us around the world are feeling the same sort of thing, in our own ways, differing circumstances but the same phenomena. And when President Obama was sworn in, I believed that he, and his time ahead, were reflecting what we are feeling, and the reverse.

And so right now I sit quietly in the near dark, surrounded by my animals, snoring pugs, sleeping birds, big Moe dog's long lean body stretching out across the floor as he sleeps silently, and Vincent the beta fish swimming peacefully around his tank, I revel in my solitude and silence and meditate on the picture of that great man and that little boy. They are both our future. It is in our hands. Tonight I hold hands, in my heart, with each and every one of you. We must move forward in grace. Each one, reach one. It is a whole new world...

With tender love, and a song of hope,

Reverend Maitri Libellule

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Taking The First Step Toward The Rest Of Your Life... Becoming Ordained... The Little Miracles That We Miss...

When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong
current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed
of when he first made the decision.

Paulo Coelho in The Alchemist

The turning of the new year brought something that I have known was coming nearly 5 years ago when I took the name Maitri Libellule legally. As I have so often said, I took the name Maitri, not because I thought I had achieved it, but so that it would guide me and be the mantle I would wear all the rest of my life. I also knew I was growing closer and closer to giving my life over to a life of service, one that, while looking a little odd from the outside in, is something that my spiritual advisor, Reverend Douglas Hickman, felt just perfect for me.

I am disabled and rarely leave my house. I am well medicated for Bi-Polar Disorder, severe PTSD, a severe type of anxiety disorder, I am borderline agoraphobic and I won't bother you with the rest. And I'm not saying any of this for the sake of sympathy, but in a kind of revelatory glory. I believe, I truly believe with all of my heart, that the severe abuse I suffered from 4-18, leaving me with a rather interesting bowl full of diagnoses and "cocktail" of medications that I must take everyday to live the life that I do, has, in it's way, been a rare gift. Having been abused, as any who have know, is an unimaginable horror. But if one has been, we have a choice. My choice is to live out my days as a healer and teacher, helping others, giving all that I can from an open heart.

By now you are shaking your head and I'm sure that you can't imagine where I'm going with this. NObody, including me, likes the fact that they were abused and some are crippled for life. Through thirty years of therapy, a number of doctors, and the last seven years, after those thirty years in therapy, FINALLY getting the right diagnoses and appropriate meds, I can now function very well in what seems to some people, very limited circumstances, but to me ,my world is limitless. Amidst my worst fears I feel incredible joy. Through sorrow, I feel led by spirit and can hang on. I have been gifted with deep sympathy and empathy, compassion and a very tender kindness for others because I have lived through some of the worst of what life has to offer and have been blessed with so much I feel humbled and in awe.

What all of this is leading up to is that the first weekend 0f the new year I was ordained a minister. The ordination was done in a church, but my ministry will be a non-denominational, interfaith outreach ministry, and it will be done, for the most part, right here from my little cottage. I have a great many skills and decades of education and teaching. I am a writer, a fiber artist, dedicated to animal welfare, and my heart seeks, most dearly, the lonely, the old, the ill, the forgotten. My ministry is taking shape, already making it's way out into the world. I have finally taken the first steps toward the rest of my life, and I know that I am right where I am supposed to be. You can read more about the ministry, if you wish, by visiting The Maitri Ministry blog and my main website, Dragonfly Cottage. And by the way, the ministry is not named for me, but for the teaching of maitri, of spreading compassion and loving kindness in every way that you can, all the days of your life, first.... and this is important ... first, finding a gentleness, a tenderness, loving-kindness and compassion for yourself. You cannot give from an empty well. Tend your own garden first and then carry flowers from that garden to all that you meet. It is as simple as that.

As I was ordained I brought with me a childhood of Catholicism, 3 decades as an adult as a student of Buddhism, a dedicated Franciscan, many spiritual teachers, guides, and experiences, and much more. And I am what might be considered a cloistered order. It matters not to me what spiritual path one walks, and my work is not in competition with any. I am not here to draw anyone away from their special path, but perhaps be an addendum, teaching love, and living it, between those Sundays when people go to church and for many feel they've done their spiritual duty. Life, real life, person to person, talking kindly with the check-out lady in the grocery store, taking a meal to an elderly neighbor, doing what you can right from where you are, you will be surprised how much you can do without ever leaving your house, or just going about your brief daily errands out into the world. Perhaps that, too, is an important part of my ministry. A kind smile, nothing more, can move mountains. Kindness is a healing balm like no other.

So many people want to help, but feel as though they can't because they are not wealthy, they do not have great resources to draw on. But when something catastrophic happens, in the life of an individual or perhaps something like the aftermath of 9/11, or this heartbreaking war, we can do something.

Right now I have three sets of knitting needles in a bag next to me with three different yarns and I am knitting shawls. I knit for the Battered Women and Children's center. I knit for the elderly one in the nursing home that feels forgotten and whom no one visits. A disabled friend of mine knits little caps for preemies at the hospital. Another makes blankets for the homeless. Many of my friends are involved in animal welfare. We all do what we can, and that's what is important. Not what we do, but that we do what we can. That is my message and it is very simple. Each one, reach one. If we can manage that, like the butterfly who flutters her wings and changes the weather patterns around the world, we will make a difference that we cannot begin to imagine.

This is so huge one can't wrap their mind around it and so they freeze up and do nothing. Baby steps. Look down, not up. Look at the tiny things beneath your feet, sit and close your eyes and watch your breath, every day, and let meditation be a balm your soul needs to heal. Adopt a little animal in need. Write a letter to a lonely soldier. Make amends. It's never too late. You don't have to be in a 12-step program to realize how very important that step is. Take action, even in your own little corner of the world. And the more you do, the more you'll do. You will be amazed at what you can do.

I don't read the newspaper and only once in awhile watch the news on television. If that seems as though I am dumbing down or putting my head in the sand, well, that couldn't possibly be further from the truth. Remember maitri, the teaching. The first step in the maitri path is to take care of yourself. Nurture yourself. Love yourself. Have compassion for yourself. Because of the wars I lived through as a child I can tell you that the horrors of the world will paralyze and frighten me so badly that I cannot function. And this does happen to me. I have learned that the world doesn't end because I stopped my subscription to the local paper and The New York Times. The sun still rises and sets. Day follows day, and I owe the tending of my "No, I'm sorry, I can't do that." Period. You take back your power in small ways, and you grow. And as you grow, you have more to give, and as you give what you have to give, your are living maitri. And so it goes.

Finally, for me, living life at as elemental a level as possible is key. As we speak a great portion of my little cottage is being cleaned out, things given away, thrown away, and the rest stored away in a storage building. To live a sparer life opens out into a far greater meadow of silence, solitude, and contemplation in which to do my work and live in peace. And it is from this vantage point that I witness small stunning little miracles that surely go on around us every day, and I witnessed just such a moment the other day. This is what I would like to leave you with.

Most of you know that I have 5 dogs. My big boy is Moses, a lab-doby mix, now 14, who we adopted as a tiny puppy from the Humane Society eons ago. The other four have come to me over the last year and a half from one of the rescues I help support through my ministry, Mid-Atlantic Pug Rescue. I have chosen to give a home to the elderly or infirm, or those small boys and girls who were so badly abused they need special care. My first pug was a wee tiny black girl named Babs. She was deaf when she came, and she is now blind, and 13 years old. She is such a precious little peapod that I carry her in my arms and kiss her and love on her and tell her what a sweet little girl she is. And as it's a long walk, for her, from the front of the cottage where her bed is, to the back door where we go out, I often carry her in my arms outside.

Sampson, you've all read about many times. He is 9 years old, came after much abuse, and nearly haven given up, not to mention being passed around so often even the rescue adopted him out and had him returned a couple of times. They told me that he had "abandonment issues," and would cling to me for dear life. I said that that was okay because I have abandonment issues myself. He is my constant companion, asleep, just now, as he usually is, on the arm of my chair, and he sleeps partly on my person. He is my angel boy.

So there we were, all five dogs and I went outside and everyone did their business, and all but Babs and Sampson wanted to go inside. I let the others in, and stayed outside with Babs and Sam. I stood very quietly and watched a scene so tender that it still gives me tears to write about it.

Wee little Babs has been here almost a year and a half and though she came here deaf she has slowly gone blind over the time she has been here. What I mean to say is that she knows her way around the house and her little area outside where she goes. But she meanders a bit and gets a little off track and I stay and watch her until she is really finished doing her business and sometimes I carry her back in.

This particular day she seemed to be meandering a bit more than the norm. As I live in an old townhome community and they don't have a fenced yard and certainly I would never let them out loose, I have very long "tie-outs" for them but never to leave them out. Simply so they can range around in the grass a bit and have some privacy to snuffle and do their business, with Mama Maitri keeping a watchful eye. They come right in when they are finished pottying.

While I watched Babs and Sampson, I noticed something very, very dear. Sampson was done with his business but Babsie was meandering a bit, couldn't decide where to go, and was taking a long time. Sam would go somewhere in the neighborhood of where she was, without crowding her, and when she moved, he moved a little, always watching her. And I realized that while all the rest of the dogs had raced in the cottage as soon as they were in, Sampson would not leave Babs out there. He sat like a stalwart little gentleman, and kept a good eye on her. Finally, she was finished and heading back to the door, and Sam waited until she passed him and then quietly followed her to the door and we all went in. He would not leave her until he knew she was safely inside. I was so moved that I came in all teary-eyed.

These are the kinds of things that happen everyday, and which we, for the most part, miss. These are the things that, when we live in the present moment, and silently watch the world instead of worrying about our own lives and problems and worries, and take just a small bit of time to really see the world around us, we witness acts of love and miracles so brief they are like a glint off a rock in the sun and are gone. We must be aware, always aware. I watched a middle aged boy who came to me so frightened he became more like a new body part than a little companion. I watched him wait like a gentleman for a tiny little old lady, deaf and blind, so that she would not be alone, so that he could watch over her and know that she was okay, and not until he knew she was, and was safely inside, did he follow her in. He walks in grace, that little pug. My mission, if you will, is to follow his example.

Jesus said, "And the little children shall lead you." Saint Francis sat in the woods amongst the little animals with birds lighting on his shoulders, and sat silently, and shared the quiet moments of their presence with him. Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree, simply attired, waiting, waiting, waiting for enlightenment, and I find it, often, cleaning up poop that my poor little elderly dogs leave me when they are too slow, or become ill, and need help. It is my honor to serve.

Each one, reach one. Step over the line in the sand that was your past, and open your heart to receive the gifts that the future will bring. Live in the moment, and find peace. And love, always love. It's the only thing there really is.

I open my arms and my heart to each and every one of you...

Namaste, and God Bless,

Reverend Maitri Libellule

Monday, January 12, 2009

A New, Long Post Will Be Up Tomorrow About What's Been Going On, But Until Then...

I have been behind in every direction because I've been terribly ill with a bronchial infection since just after Christmas, but one week ago I was ordained and am deeply touched as a ten year path has lead me to the beginning of the rest of my life. I've so much to share with you, and will, in the next day or two, but you can click on the above graphic to read more on the new blog that is the home of The Maitri Ministry. Much more coming here in the next day or two...

Blessings and Love,