Stretching soap

When taking a shower, I’m the type to use a bar of soap, rather than like my sister who uses “body wash.” When the bar of soap wears down so thin that it breaks, I put them together. But, when the piece is too thin to rub on the wash cloth, I used to throw it in the garbage. It bothered me, throwing out perfectly fine soap, but too small to handle usefully.

So, I started saving the broken halves.

After about a year, I had quite a gathering of these pieces of soap.

soap in panThe day came when I decided it was time to do something with them. After a little research, I found I could heat the pieces of soap in a pan on the stove and melt them down to eventually pour into a mold for a whole new bar of soap.

I put all the pieces into a pan and added a little milk before turning on the stove burner.

I turned the burner to medium heat and started stirring the mixture. Within one minute knew I made a mistake.

The soap mess started burning on the bottom. Instead of giving up, I carefully poured the mixture into another pan without disturbing the burnt bottom layer. I put aside the first pan to clean later.

I put the second pan, full of the soap pieces, on the burner and turned the heat level way down to melt, then added water. About a quarter cup.

I stirred patiently.

soap next to box soap barSure enough, it melted. Even when there were a few chunks in the mix, I poured it into a box, lined with wax paper. The box was one of those boxes I buy berries in at the store.

A day later, the bar of soap, shaped like none other, was retrieved from the box. It will last quite a while since it’s rather bulky.

Bulk aside, I now see how much soap I threw away in the past. No more. The process of re-forming the little pieces into a useful bar of soap is too easy. I’ll keep doing it.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.–Ps. 51:10, ESV

My relationship with pain

Most human beings invest time and money in the endeavor to get rid of physical pain.

Is that like getting rid of a rotten spouse?

Some people take pain better than others. I’ve often marveled at those people who follow through on extreme sports, immersing their bodies in harsh conditions (e.g. racing the Iditarod, climbing the 8,000 meter peaks). They don’t seem to notice pain even though their bodies are assaulted by severe weather or lack of nutrients.

For us normal people going about a daily life of family and work, we sometimes resort to psychology, massage, or medicine to try to manage or control pain.

But alas, pain still racks human beings.

CHINA - AUGUST 16: Digging out a tent after a summer snow storm. China. (Photo by Tommy Heinrich/National Geographic/Getty Images)

CHINA – AUGUST 16: Digging out a tent after a summer snow storm. China. (Photo by Tommy Heinrich/National Geographic/Getty Images)

On a personal level, pain doesn’t bother me too much. I’ve had pain, but it doesn’t scare me and when I calm myself down and focus on spiritual good, eventually the pain goes away.

One day, I thought about my relationship with my husband. It’s a good relationship. We’ve been married more than 30 years and the way it works is when we don’t try to get rid of one another. “Getting rid” of one another isn’t even an option.

We also don’t try to manage or control one another. Doing so only produces a disaster of hurt feelings, sloth, or anger.

We don’t love one another so much that we don’t love others. We just love the goodness each of us expresses.

Do I have a relationship with pain?

Pain doesn’t express too much goodness, except when it tells me, “Don’t stick your finger in moving bike wheel spokes again.”

I don’t try to manage or control pain. I don’t love pain, but I don’t hate it either. I can respect it enough to listen to it. And, this relationship with pain seems to work for me in that it doesn’t take over my consciousness and it doesn’t dictate my future.

Find satisfaction before the experience

Raising chickens was a great experience. We had chickens when our daughters were living at home. I didn’t have to buy an egg the entire time. We ate brown eggs from hens that roamed the pasture. We boiled, scrambled, and baked with fresh eggs.

It was a good experience.

We want experiences. A religious experience. A position of power experience. A sexual experience. Out of body experience. A death defying experience.

Sometimes, I want to get chickens again, to repeat the experience. But that won’t happen. I already know what it means to have chickens. So, I crave more satisfying experiences, ones that expand my consciousness.

I can’t help though, to back up a bit and think that maybe I’ve already experienced what I’m looking for.

I just need to recognize my satisfaction in it. And, maybe this is very simple.

For the last 4 days, it’s been raining here in upstate New York. We are starting to mold!

But, during a 2 hour break in the rain 2 days ago, I dashed out and mowed the part of the lawn that was out-of-control.

That lawn is still growing, in this ideal grass growing weather.

Instead of thinking I need to experience something, I am satisfied.

To find satisfaction “first” helps me not believe I have to have a certain experience first, a belief that can lead to obsession or addiction.

From 21st Century Science and Health, “Song, sermon, and Science—crumbs of comfort—are capable to inspire us with wisdom, Truth, and Love. Spiritual comfort blesses the human family, feeds the unsatisfied, and gives living water to the thirsty.

lawn mower

The devil and God

Sometimes I’m reluctant to read the news. Murder, slander, hate crimes, prison escapes, it gets to be too much.

This is where “the devil” comes in handy. And, I mean that in a singular tone. A devil; an impersonal devil. Not a bunch of human devils.

To believe people are devilish, is futile to a consciousness improving. The thinker gets caught in a whirlwind of seeing horrible acts, trying to identify its motivation, and applying non-conclusive solutions.

All the while, horrible acts still continue in the world, even though we have confinement, capital punishment, and counseling.

The advanced consciousness, though, is able to separate the person from the act, and better defeat the “tradition” of horribleness, the devil.

I can only arrive at this belief in “a devil” by believing in one God, even if my concept of God expands each day. But it allows me to get out of myself, my fears, and my egomania, to connect with the ideal of goodness, God. I’m better prepared to overcome the devil.

My mind opens to see goodness overbalance the crap.

In the world, I can not only read about, but also experience, milestones reached, forgiveness, cooperation, and common sense. I can move forward in these traditions.

thresh wheat

How to know what we need to know

I meet brilliant people, but find they are brilliant only in a specific field. They can even be dull in another area in life. This is because the human mind is limited. It can’t know everything. It can’t see everything.

So, we meditate. We take in more information. We study to learn. Yet, the human mind is still limited, because there is never an end to discovery.

Spiritual knowledge allows me to recognize the infinite Mind. I don’t pray to know what infinite Mind knows.

I pray to affirm that infinite Mind knows everything, and knows exactly what it needs to know at any given moment, and that I reflect that knowing.

My human mind yields to those epiphanies that keep life meaningful and fun.

This is natural. I see nature reflecting the all-knowing. Animals just know how to live.

2c horse near Gammys house

Finding those oases

Spiritual power can sometimes be oases in the middle of the big desert of birth, maturity, decay, death, fear, gain, and loss.

Our life journey takes us from one oasis to another as we look for that heightened consciousness that controls the physical world with goodness, healing, and strength.

It’s a letdown when moving toward an oasis, only to find it is a mirage.

This is when we can tap into our reserves. Like the body. It starts breaking down fat when famine is the case.

My reserves can come in the form of memories. Because I don’t want to live in the past, my memories aren’t necessarily brought up often. But when I feel desolate, I can choose to remember when I felt forces of love.

As much as I’m convinced I love my children, I can apply that conviction to a God who loves me. A God who can do anything for me to make my life full of grace. I find an oasis and am revived to move on in the infinite.

The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendor of our God.

—Isaiah 35: 1-2

desert oasis

Learning how to pray by not praying

If I could go back in time to deliver a message to my 16-year old self, it would be this: Relax and just be.

In high school, I was willingly interested in playing piano, but just as willingly convinced that, to be candid, I played abysmally.

I spent a great deal of time listening to music on the radio and trying to mimic the piano in the background, but fixated on the seemingly endless gulf between my lofty expectations and my relatively undeveloped abilities.

I vividly remember the time when I begged my piano teacher, Mrs. Courtoue to let me learn how to play a popular song. She yielded.

The sheet music arrived and Mrs. Courtoue explained the counting.

Soon, I thought, I’ll be playing behind the likes of Elton John.

So, when I sat down at the piano during my practice time, it was with the full weight of my own expectations for myself looming over me at the keyboard, plus the affliction of my own not-inconspicuous ego turning my every move into a potentially life-changing event.

I struggled to hit the correct piano keys with the necessary sharps. It didn’t matter if I knew how to count the song. My playing was so patchy that counting was only added noise. Every misplayed key resounded doom in my mind, not only for the song, but for my future as the next great piano player. After 3 weeks, I hated the song.

Based on this, I’d persuaded myself that I was terrible at piano.

But the urge to create harmony hasn’t gone away. My inner Elton John called to me when I was in my 30’s.

We’d needed someone to play piano at church. I brought out the hymnal and sat down on the bench. I began finding keys. Everyone in church supported me even when I played the songs with one finger. The willingness to make music returned. The keys on my fingers felt good. And to my great surprise, I improved. I found that all the things that had vexed me when I was 16-years old, besides comparing myself with other good piano players my age, caused me little anxiety. They were far away.

Somewhere between the time I was a teenager and the time I was in my 30’s, I’d learned how to play piano as background music.

It reminds me of other things that had seemed so intimidating, so uncomfortable and so scary to me as a 16-year old, that in fact became easier as I got older—after my false expectations and ego got out of the way. If I catch myself praying with anticipation of being Mary Baker Eddy, or any other spiritual leader, I stop praying until the anticipation is dissolved.

I can pray effectively. I can play piano, ride a motorcycle, write, and publish my writing. I can forgive my self-criticism. I can forgive others who criticize me. I can pray and heal things not healed before. I can see what is before my eyes, rather than be distracted at what could or should be. I can enjoy relaxing and just be.

lookg at piano

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