Monk In The World

To be a monk is to have time to practice for your transformation and healing. And after that to help with the transformation and healing of other people.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Saturday, June 26, 2010


I did a funeral yesterday. In the eulogy I talked about the fact that one of the gifts of the deceased was that he "payed attention". I talked about how important it is to pay attention to this moment because this moment is the life we are living, the life we have, the life that is for us, right now!

I quoted from Mary Oliver's poem Summer it she says..."I don't know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention..."

"Pay" attention! Have you ever thought about the "pay" part? 

So to give one's attention cost something of us. 

I like that because one of the things I said about "paying attention" was that it was a sacred thing to do. It is a giving of yourself. 
It is an act of compassion. It is an act of love. And it is a spiritual discipline.

Seems to me if we could just learn to "pay attention", our lives would experience the deeper things, people around us would be changed in a good way.

I'll be the first to admit that I am still struggling with "it's all about me" and the simple act of paying attention to that character flaw (or personality disorder) is something that can make a difference in my relationships.

But it is not just about relationships. 

From a Buddhist perspective it is called "mindfulness" and from a Christian perspective, "the sacrament of the present moment". But then again, it is about "relationship", relationship to what we are doing, thinking, being in this very moment.

I think some folks in my family struggle with how I keep my life somewhat simple. When I say simple, I mean my activity. I still struggle with wanting "things". But the simplicity is about how I structure my day. But the simplicity about how I structure my day is how I try to practice paying attention, paying attention to those things that really matter. My rule of life creates the potential for me to "pay attention", to pay attention to what really matters.

So "paying attention" is something I am thinking about today. And the more I think about it, the more important it seems. And I need to pay attention to that.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

ROAD TRIP Towards Being Human

My wife and I have been on a road trip since Thursday. We traveled from Evans, Ga. to Atlanta to pick up my son Jason. We then headed to Nashville, TN to spend the night with my daughter Katie and her husband. On Friday morning I, my wife and son headed for Belleville, Illinois to be present at an engagement party being given by my son's future in-laws, Ed and Allyson.

So here I am this morning, having my coffee here at their beautiful home and thinking about what all this means.
Well, one thing it means is that we are all (both sides of the families) bringing new teachers into our lives, new teachers to help us  continue our road trip towards this thing we call "being human".

This statement of "being human" or is it "becoming human" has come up several times recently for me. And I have noticed myself using it in conversations.

One of the beautiful and graceful things about nature is that it is what it is without striving. Don't misunderstand what I mean here. I know quite often nature strives to survive and strives to be fruitful. But when a tree is a tree, it is already a tree. It does not have to work on becoming a tree. It may have to twist and turn to find the light of the sun to continue to be a tree in it's present form, but it has always been a tree.

Being human is a whole other journey, a long road trip. The sad thing is that it may take a life time to become human and then we die. That's why maps are important. You at least need to know where you are, even if you don't know where you are going.
May Zen practice is my map.

My son and his soon to be wife, Anne, are beginning a long road trip towards there becoming human towards each other. I certainly wish them well. And I certainly wish them the grace of patience as they strive to become who they are, side by side in this journey.

Let me respectfully remind you
Life and death are of supreme importance
Don't squander your life
Take heed,
Strive to awaken

And may I say, strive to awaken now, not at the moment of death

And another human will be born into this world.

Deep Bows to my new teachers,


Sunday, June 13, 2010

39 Years of Dating, Fighting, Loving, , Loving, Fighting, Dating

39 years ago today, my wife and I tied the knot. Then we rode off to Newport, Rhode Island and spent the first year and a half of our marriage ending a four year hitch in the United States Navy. 

What a great time that was - Carol King, James Taylor, Neil Young, CSN&Y, and the end of the Vietnam War, a few months after my exit from the Navy.

One thing Scott Peck taught me was, "love is not a feeling, it is commitment". 

Now I'm not going to get too philosophical here. I'm just going to state the facts.

This thing we call marriage is one of the most difficult things we will ever do but one of the most ready made teachers available for growing one up in this life, if one chooses to grow up.

Jackson Brown (or is it Browne) has a line in one of his songs, "I'm a couple years and a couple of changes behind you". 
It would be nice to think that we are just two parallel lines moving out towards infinity and at some point we will intersect. But that doesn't work in math and nor does it work in marriage.

Jackson Brown has it right in my opinion.We truly are never in the same place in our journey towards whatever it is we are to be moving towards. 

It's a push and pull battle in this thing called marriage but if we will learn how to nudge and hold hands lightly, we can keep walking together for a long time.

We need intimacy and we need space, we need to be alike and we need to be different, we need to teach and we need to be teachable, we need to be individuals and we need to be one.

Now trying to put flesh on that skeleton is a life long process. 

So this morning I got up and felt love for my wife of so many years. And tomorrow morning I may get up and not like her for some reason.
But one thing is for sure, on the third day I will still be getting up out of the bed we laid together in the night before.

I'm committed to this woman. And yes, I do love her!

Happy Anniversary Laurie!


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

It's About the Love!

So, here I am in Charleston, South Carolina. We're on our annual summer vacation with family, a tradition since the early 1980'S. 
We get together with my wife's brother and her two sisters, their spouses, there grown children and the children of these grown children. 

Like I said, this has been going on for quite sometime. 

And the mother of this clan, known affectionately as mom Idoni by the great grans, turned 88 years old when we arrived here on Saturday.

So, there are 18 adults here, eight grandchildren, and one in the oven. And this isn't the whole clan. Those eight grandchildren and the one in the oven are also Mom Idoni's great grandchildren. 

I don't have a canvas large enough to paint a picture of the memories that have been brushed on our minds from the many times this clan has come together for this annual tradition. 

Beautiful, colorful memories! And, well, truth be known, sometimes all the colors don't match, We are family but we are also individuals and each of us has our own brush and colors for our pictures about life. But heck, have you ever seen a beautiful rainbow with just one color?

So we are family and individuals who have opinions and over these so many years we have, at times, offered our opinions about one thing or another regarding this wild wonderful life we have been given. 

There have been one on one conversations, and group discussions by the pool, on the beach, in the kitchen and of course, around the table where we break bread together.  There have even been heated arguments about politics, about God, about religion, about love, about relationships, There have been tears, there has been laughter, there have been hugs, kisses, walking out of the room behaviors and the whole gambit of what it means to be family, what it means to be community. A beautiful rainbow with many colors. Family!

Those of us who can see the light at the end of the tunnel...and I do mean THE LIGHT...have mellowed in the way we state our cases and our opinions. We have been given the grace to have lived long enough in this old skin sack to just be comfortable as we are. Don't get me wrong. We do still have our opinions but they rest more in our hearts now than they do in our egos.I think it's safe to say that we have all been each other's teachers in some way or another. 

Those of us who are seeing that light coming closer, well we have been good examples to these younger ones who are now adults and we have also been bad examples. 
Somewhere in Leviticus it says, "and a little child shall lead them." 
Well, we have been led in ways we could have never been led, had it not been for these precious adult children in our lives and now they continue to grace us with grandchildren to lead us even further into what it means to be human and what it means to love. 

And I am sure there will come a day when these very little ones, lead these adult children who have led us.

So what am I really trying to say in all this? 

Let me say it by sharing with you one important part of this yearly tradition, which took place on Sunday night this year.
We call it Italian Night in honor of the Patriarch of this clan, Joe Idoni, affectionately known as Papa Joe who died 28 years ago.
My Italian father-in-law was short in stature but tall in spirit. He was the true Italian father-in-law, loving and working hard to support his family and of course, he loved spaghetti and meat balls. For as long as I knew him, every Sunday dinner was spaghetti and meatballs.

And so it is we officially begin vacation week each year with Italian night, spaghetti and meatballs,  honoring Papa Joe.

Last night we sat at the table you see in the above picture ( thanks to my son Jason for his photography gifts). We played Italian music and we remembered Papa Joe. We welcomed a new daughter-in-law, Anne Callison, soon to be Anne Faulkner, into the family and played Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline, in honor of my first grandchild, (Caroline) who is still growing in her precious mommies stomach.

As I observed all this on Sunday night I was reminded of the Eucharist, where in the Christian Tradition, we remember the love and sacrifice of Jesus.
As I observed all these many faces, lives, opinions, and numerous colors of life at this table, I was reminded that this too, this moment was in fact...let me say that fact, the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the wine. This was Eucharist!

And I was also reminded of one of my favorite scriptures...God is love...and I was reminded of all the many times we had broken bread as a family with all our many colors, all our many opinions, all our many arguments, all our many laughs, all our many tears.

And yet here we are again, breaking bread and sharing we are again, sharing what really matters when all those differences come together...
This mysterious thing we call love, this mysterious thing we spend our lives trying to incarnate in all that we do.
In one of John's epistles it says, "he who is of love is of God"
Everyone at this table is at a different place in their lives with their God but because each of us strive to understand who and what this God is...each of us believe in the one thing that this mysterious God has called all of humankind to:
We are called to love and to share that love.
And each of us continues to struggle to do that as this mysterious God would have us to do it.

What does that look like?

Well, just come and break bread with our clan sometime. We will show you the good and the bad in this struggle to become human.

And in that, we will also show you family!

And in the end, we just love it!