Monday, August 22, 2011

Zeal, Compassion and Everything In Between

It was more than two weeks ago when I sat in with a group of "Faith Bloggers" at the BlogHer Conference in San Diego. The conversation was a provocative one, hinging on whether and why the blog-reading public would be biased against a writer who declared herself a "faith blogger" - particularly if she were Christian.

Having only recently had my own encounter with some otherwise lovely-seeming Christian ladies - who politely inferred that I was going to hell unless I took Christ into my heart, etc. etc. - I felt equipped to say why some people may get the wrong idea about some Christians.

Then, on the ride home, I happened upon an interview with anthropologist Hank Wesselman. In "The Bowl of Light:" his new book about Hawaiian shamanism, he explores Polynesian beliefs about the positive and negative polarities of every life path. For the path of the Priest or Priestess, the Hawaiian Kahunas say, those polarities are "compassion" and "zeal".

I believe, when we find ourselves on the receiving end of someone else's religious/spiritual judgment, what we've just experienced is some good, old-fashioned ZEAL: the kind that fueled the inquisition, burned witches and currently inflames impressionable suicide bombers.

But what, exactly, is zeal?

It's the feeling we get when we're so certain we're right, when something feels so true for us, that we seek to prove others wrong or even destroy them because of it. It's a feeling we can get about a movie, a transformational technique, a diet or anything else that inspires us. And because of that, it is a dark side to which everyone is vulnerable -whatever the  belief system or passion.

It is a dark side which has, unfortunately, sullied the reputation of religions around the world and turned many, otherwise compassionate people, against anything that rings of  "faith" or "religion." It is a dark side that has  been propagated not only by unscrupulous leaders but by ordinary people who have too fervently believed that theirs was the only right way.

But where zeal divides, compassion unifies. And as long as someone speaks and writes with compassion - whether they are a Christian faith blogger, a Jew, a Wiccan or a Muslim - I will listen, learn and, hopefully, grow.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Top Ten List About BlogHer 2011 (because people love lists and numbers)

I was so overwhelmed and overstimulated by my experience at BlogHer 2011 (August 5-6) that I was nearly stricken by writer's block. On reflection, however, it wasn't writer's 'block' as much a desire to say so much that I couldn't even organize my thoughts.  In the past, I've resisted straying from my holy trinity of surfing, prayer and love mostly because I enjoy holding forth on so many things, so much, that I thought it wiser to limit myself.

That said, it will only seem like I'm going off-topic for this top ten list. See if you can spot (or feel) all the surf, prayer and love in the following:

1) Most Infuriating 90 Minutes of the Weekend? A panel discussion called "Women: Redefining Success in the 21st Century" (or something like that)  wo/manned exclusively by super-successful women (in the 20th Century way) who had nothing to say about "redefining success" (unless your definition of redefining success includes thinking of your husband as a "puppy"). OMG! I was supposed to LISTEN to this woman? I can't remember the last time so much steam came out of my ears. I'm still having a hard time writing about it.

2) BUT Lisa Belkin from the New York Times was sitting next to me and made a very intelligent comment to the vapid and superficial (but VERY SUCCESSFUL) women on the panel. Yay for Lisa Belkin, real journalism and backing your observations up with sources. You can read her at  Motherlode.

3) THEN I met some other bloggers and am eager to read what they have to say, especially the ones who also had steam coming out of their ears at the "success" panel (Ashley Boyd and Katrina Alcorn).

4) Most Valuable Realization? I wasn't a corporate shill before I became a blogger, I'm not going to become one now. It's nice to get clear on that. Though there are many women who make a living having their blogs sponsored by corporations like WalMart, I don't think I'm the WalMart type...

5) I'm the spiritual type. Which I admitted when I introduced myself to a group of fellow "faith bloggers." Then I declared "faith blogging" a kind of calling and not one to be taken lightly. Since writing about politics or religion is not the kind of thing a woman does when she wants to be liked.

6) Jeez, there was chocolate everywhere. It's sweet (literally), and thoughtful, to provide so much chocolate when there are 3700 women milling about. But, ultimately, that much sugar and caffeine makes women cranky and then they say vapid and superficial things. I would have liked to see the chocolate countered by some kale smoothies or at least  a room dedicated to round-the-clock yoga and meditation. Cause I'm spiritual.

7) Speaking of being "spiritual", many companies wanted me to tweet how great they were during the weekend. I was like "You want me to say wha?? You've got to be effin' kidding me. That's my voice we're talking about."

8) But then I told the rep from Boiron Homeopathics that I'd have no problem recommending their Arnica ointment - because I actually use it. And it works.

9) Biggest Mindblower? When she told me that Hyland's Homeopathics is manufactured by the Bornemann  family! OMG -THAT'S MY FAMILY! I have to meet these people, especially since I love vibrational remedies - i.e., homeopathy, flower remedies and crystal elixirs. It must be my DNA.

10) Best decision of the weekend?   Just one day of this conference was so intense,  I couldn't  bear the thought of going back. So, the next day, I drove to Encinitas where I meditated at the Self Realization Fellowship and watched the surfers from high up on a cliff above the world famous surf spot known as Swami's. Pure Bliss.

p.s. much love to Britt Bravo for inviting me in the first place, spending a hilarious night watching cable in her hotel room and teaching me that people love lists and numbers.

Monday, August 1, 2011

When Dreams Come True

Several events inspired me to reach out to my spiritual mentor last week: the dream about the waves that I shared in my previous post, another dream in which I served pizza to "god" (who was a movie studio executive), and a retreat I recently attended. I arrived at the retreat with the intention of working on my book about mother/athletes. I left, considering that my best contributions may not come  through worldly endeavors such as book publishing, etc., but through  esoteric pursuits such as reading people's cards and being a channel for spirit.

Without giving any details, I dropped her a brief e-mail requesting a phone conversation. As divine grace would have it, she was flying into LA the very next day and I managed to meet with her, in the flesh, yesterday afternoon.

As usual, we talked,we laughed and we inquired into spirit. Less usually, we had pizza.

Even though, as a registered shaman herself, she may have a bias towards seeing me as a fellow person "of the cloth", I also trust her judgment and her discerning nature. She's never led me astray and she confirmed what I'd been sensing. Yes, even though it's scary, counter-intuitive, and financially terrifying, the spiritual path is mine to walk. As much as I've always longed to be an artist, an author, a person of influence in the culture at large, she is not the first person to observe that my path lies elsewhere. And yesterday was not the first time I've said in response "But where's the money in THAT?"

In response, her only instruction was that I make an offering.

Prepared with something I knew I wouldn't want to part with (a pint of raspberries) I arrived at the beach to make my offering. And there, in front of me, lay the waveless expanse of my dream. There was no wind and sunlight glittered gloriously on the water's still surface. I grabbed my camera and took the above photo. And then, as I continued to shoot some more pictures, the tide came in.

Within minutes, where there had been only the lapping of still water, there were now waves.