Tag: spiritual growth

WISDOM – WHAT IS IT? #WisdomWednesday

WISDOM – WHAT IS IT? #WisdomWednesday

As a young adult I admired those individuals who emulated wisdom. I read voraciously the words of great writers and teachers who seemed to have an inside tract on the meaning of life. From Kierkegaard, Tillich, C.S. Lewis, Kahlil Gibran, Jesus, Reinhold Niebuhr, Jung, Martin Buber, to Camus, Sartre, Herman Hess, Samuel Beckett, Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn, Virginia Woolf, I soaked in what I could.  I leaned in hungrily to the words of my professors of philosophy and theology, hoping to find a nugget or two of wisdom that would free me from my suffering. Wisdom . . . a thing I longed for. . . even as it eluded me.

What is wisdom?

Forty five years later, I think I have finally begun to understand the true nature of wisdom. It is not just the gift of insight, although it is that. Nor is it something that shows up on our doorstep, like a Fed Ex delivery. It shows up  in its own time and is something that one recognizes in oneself only in hindsight.

Wisdom
“It’s not what you look at that matters. It’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau

Wisdom, I believe, is a byproduct of suffering. It is not an award for endurance, although endurance is necessary.  It’s something more. It requires yielding to suffering and allowing it to become our teacher.

Wisdom comes to those who allow the fires of hell to burn down walls of protection in order to see the truth. It does not come to those who insist on wearing masks of denial or pretense. A fundamental ingredient of the wise is the ability to see and speak the Truth regardless of the consequences.

“We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.”
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace   

The wise learn to see themselves and the world through the eyes of truth, not the eyes of their ego.  Wisdom begins to show up precisely when a person sees how much they have left to learn and when they have begun to be willing students of life.  Not a goal to be achieved,  it arrives precisely when one no longer care about being wise.


FINDING HOPE, Quotes for Midlife and Beyond is packed with quotes to guide and support you as you gather wisdom. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed creating it. If so, please leave a review on Amazon and recommend it to a friend! It also makes a great gift for Mother’s Day and special occasions. Thank you, as always, for your support. DS

A DARK NIGHT BRINGS A NEW DAWN – Guest Post by Author Kathleen Pooler

A DARK NIGHT BRINGS A NEW DAWN – Guest Post by Author Kathleen Pooler

The Voices of Wisdom Series continues …

NOTE: Ten days ago Kathy had a fall and broke her wrist. She is in a cast and one-handed typing is slow. She greatly appreciates your comments but will not be able to respond at this time. Her recent post tells the story as well as memoir writing highlights from the International Women’s Writing Guild Summer Conference. READ MORE

We’re wishing you a speedy recovery Kathy!

 

How My Dark Night of the Soul Led Me to a Deeper Faith

by Kathleen Pooler

 

You necessarily have to be lost, before you’re found.”  

~ T. Scott McLeod, All That Is Unspoken

 

The “dark night of the soul “ is a term that originated with the writings of Saint John of the Cross in the 6th century. He refers to it as a journey in which “darkness represents the fact that the destination, God, is unknowable and the path is unknowable”.  He postulates that ”the mind and body with their cares have been stilled” and “the only light in this dark night is that which burns in the soul. And that is a guide more certain than the mid-day sun. This light leads the soul engaged in the mystic journey to divine union.”

We’ve all had moments, often triggered by external events, when nothing makes sense anymore. Life as we know it changes forever in a moment.

My “dark night of the soul” came to me through a series of events over a twenty-five year period that rendered me lost and despairing—single parenting after two divorces Voices of Wisdomfrom abusive marriages, a simultaneous battle of a cancer diagnosis and a teenaged son who spiraled into substance abuse.  Everything I had thought would or should happen in my life collapsed around me.

For me, my “dark night of the soul” led me to a deeper faith.

As a “cradle Catholic, I was born into and brought up with the traditions and ceremonies of the Roman Catholic faith. I have, by conscious choice and deepening desire, remained true to these beliefs and teachings, except for a brief period in my twenties when I questioned and even rejected them.

My faith did not deepen until I had to face several life-altering, as well as, life-threatening events. It was then that my religion became my faith and my spirituality, the source of comfort and meaning in my life. Gradually.

This excerpt from my memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse ddescribes how the memory of  Great-Grandmother Rose Ranze, guided me through a dark night as I waited, pregnant and lonely, at the bay window for my husband. I stood wondering what condition he would be in after a night of drinking:

Sitting by the Bay Window, 1973 

My slow, rhythmic breaths echoed through the quiet darkness and steadied the anxiety bubbling up from the pit of my stomach, colliding with my view of what I wanted and needed. My thoughts drifted to my great-grandmother. 

Great Grandma Ranze, Mom’s grandmother, had been pregnant with her ninth child when her husband died at the age of thirty-three. Surely I can get through this. The memory of watching Grandma Ranze praying the rosary when I was eight-years-old warmed me as I sat at the bay window on that cold night. 

Wrapped in a pink-knitted shawl, her long white hair pulled back into a neat bun, she had prayed with such fervor I was afraid to disturb her trance. As I walked beside her bed, she opened her eyes and smiled, reaching out to hold my hand. With rosary beads dangling, she continued to murmur her prayers in a soft, soothing drone. 

“Katerina come-a-here,” she motioned while making the sign of the cross after kissing the tiny silver crucifix on the rosary beads. 

As I sat on the edge of her bed, she pulled me close, the rosary beads woven around her worn, wrinkled fingers and kissed my forehead. The rosary beads tickled the back of my neck as I melted into her embrace. 

“God-a–bless, God-a –bless,” she said. The musty scent of an old person lingered as she gently rubbed my back. Her soft, tiny hands felt smooth, like a plush leather glove. 

I felt her gaze on me now and wondered if she were here what would she say to me as I sat lonely and anxious by the window. I grabbed my rosary beads and started praying. It made me feel close to her.

***

This scenario is just one of many over the twenty-five year period of my “dark night of the soul”.  Faith is a gift given to me and nurtured in my childhood by Grandma Ranze. The visions of that tiny woman with her unwavering faith came to me in whispers and glimpses throughout my life as I faced my own challenges. She is still with me when I say my daily prayers.

“My faith became my anchor that brought me back to myself.”

God wasn’t lounging at a pool, watching a mountain sunrise or dreaming by a babbling brook. Nor was He locked up in the Tabernacle on the altar in church.  He was on the battlefield with me, guiding me back into the light.

dark nightAllowing myself to be vulnerable enabled me to accept God’s love, grace and healing. I believe He sent me many angels in the form of family, friends and caregivers on my healing journey.

Simultaneous to the cancer journey was my young son’s spiral downward into alcoholism. The cancer was easier to deal with than watching my son’s descent. At least I had options for cancer treatment and felt some control. I had no control over my son’s addiction. So I prayed and leaned on my faith in God. I learned to hand my son over to God and let go of my need for control. And I never, ever gave up hope that God would heal me and my son.

The words of Grandma Rose echoed in my ears, “God will provide” and He did. That is the miracle of faith.

Having walked through these challenges—two abusive marriages, a life-threatening illness, and terror of loving and letting go of any addicted son has forced me to dig deeper to find the treasures of my faith within.

But now that I am on the other side of these challenges, I see God everyday in the people I love, nature, all the little things in life that matter.

My journey through the “dark night of the soul” has given me the gift of perspective about what really counts in life. It is through a deepening faith that I have seen the light.


Voices of WisdomabuseKathleen Pooler is an author and a retired Family Nurse Practitioner whose memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse, published on July 28, 2014 and work-in-progress sequel, The Edge of Hope (working title) are about how the power of hope through her faith in God helped her to transform, heal and transcend life’s obstacles and disappointments:  domestic abuse, divorce, single parenting, loving and letting go of an alcoholic son, cancer and heart failure to live a life of joy and contentment. She believes that hope matters and that we are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories. She lives with her husband Wayne in eastern New York.

CONNECT WITH KATHLEEN:

Read her weekly blogs at her Memoir Writer’s Journey blog.

Twitter @kathypooler

LinkedIn: Kathleen Pooler

Google+:Kathleen Pooler

Goodreads

Kathleen’s FB Author Page

Pinterest  

KATHLEEN’S SHORT STORIES:

“The Stone on the Shore” is published in the anthology: “The Woman I’ve Become: 37 Women Share Their Journeys From Toxic Relationships to Self-Empowerment” by Pat LaPointe, 2012.

“Choices and Chances” is published in the  “My Gutsy Story Anthology” by Sonia Marsh, September, 2013.


If you would like to be a contributor to The Voices of Wisdom Series, please contact Dorothy via email: DSander@AgingAbundantly.com 

Writer’s Guidelines

Wisdom Wednesday – Being Authentic

Wisdom Wednesday – Being Authentic

Being Authentic

Being authentic requires us to change…

and change doesn’t come easily for any of us. In fact, it becomes more difficult with age. Decades of buried hurts and confusion have clouded our vision, damped our courage and our ability to be authentic. We no longer even know where to begin.

We must remind ourselves, however, that we have gained strength along the way. Strength and endurance are beneficial characteristics for digging deep.

When we begin the journey toward authenticity, it’s common to feel as though we’re groping in the dark. We have been temporarily blinded us to ourselves and to what we cannot bear to see or feel.  Our subconscious muted it for our survival sake, so that we might continue to live the life we had in front of us. There comes a time to unearth that which has been hidden in order to reconnect with our true selves.

We must go beneath our facade, even when we don’t know what that looks like or how to go about it. All we know is that it’s time to find and bring forth our authentic selves, and to face all that we have buried and denied and abandoned about ourselves. It’s a primary task of aging.

For some the call is so loud we can’t hear ourselves think, until we stop and start paying attention. It’s time to turn around and face it, whatever “it” is. We must answer the call of our deeper selves. It is time.

“Be gentle with yourself for you are living through a major expansion of your faith and how you use it in the world. You are rewiring decades of old beliefs and shifting how you live your life. This is no small feat. It is OK to feel uncomfortable. Great change often brings with it discomfort and second guessing one’s self. Do not shrink back from this mission.”  ~ From The Celtic Christian Tradition

This period of change is ushering in a new beginning, a new opportunity for a deeper, richer life, one that creates abundance of a different sort.  A phase of deep reflection, of wrestling with our shadow self, of learning to once again let in the light, is a time that contains challenges like none we’ve faced before, an inner war perhaps, a straining toward our interior and away from externals. Being authentic requires work, contemplation, an openness to the teaching of others, and learning to listen to our inner world, to show up and be present to ourselves and all that lives within. Above all, we must learn to be still. Be silent. Be open to life itself.  [tweetthis display_mode=”button_link”]Above all, we must learn to be still. Be silent. Be open to life itself.[/tweetthis]

 

EPIPHANY

epiphany quote CM

Epiphany, is a word/concept that comes from the ancient Greek ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, and refers to a sudden awareness, an awakening of understanding, a striking realization that one’s perception has changed and deepened. The Christian Season of Epiphany, where this word is most often heard, is observed on January 6th and commemorates the manifestation of Christ to the Magus. Epiphany, however, is a rich symbolic word that is open to a wide variety of interpretations. Religious scholars have spent countless hours researching the history, the changes in language and understanding in the context of the words use and still cannot come to any real agreement. As time goes on, the slope becomes slippery. Yet, that is the very nature of symbolic language.

Symbolism is a powerful tool for personal use when delving into spiritual matters. There is no other way to talk about, or describe, that which we know but cannot see. Language is often a stumbling block for conversation as we misinterpret one another simply because we assign a different meaning to a word. I have avoided talking here too much about spiritual matters precisely because the language is so fluid at this point in time. “I had an epiphany” is a statement that means very different things to different people.

In spite of these obstacles, it’s a subject that can’t be overlooked. It’s a subject that is close to my heart. Those who are on the path of personal growth often find themselves at some point along the way here, in the spiritual arena.  One cannot get too far down the road of life without asking a few questions about the nature of life itself.  The spiritual quest is a fundamental thread that has run through my life, a thread that I picked up in earnest a decade ago. I will begin talking more about such things here on Wisdom Wednesday. I hope you’ll join me. I hope you’ll share pieces of your journey and we’ll struggle together with the language issues. Understanding is all I’m after here, growing in faith and wisdom, coming out of the shadows and into awareness of expanded consciousness. I believe, regardless of the words we use, we are all talking about the same thing.

You may also want to join the conversation in my closed group on Facebook:  Aging and the Inner Life

When you come to the edge of all that you know, you must believe one of two things: either there will be ground to stand on, or you will be given wings to fly. ~ O.R. Melling

————–

You might also enjoy:

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

More on Epiphany:

Epiphany, The Feasts of the Three Kings

The Season of Epiphany

 

 

On Loneliness

On Loneliness

 

It is … only in the state of complete abandonment and loneliness that we experience the helpful powers of our own natures. ”   Carl Jung;  Modern Man in Search of a Soul

 

Much of my life I spent locked in the cage of a deep and pervasive loneliness. It did not matter that I had friends, family or people around me. I struggled with this abiding isolation, helpless to make it go away. I berated myself for not “doing” the right thing, or “attracting” the right people into my life. Why when I married my best friend and was surrounded by children and friends that loved me was I still assailed by loneliness?

Figure at the Window by Salvador Dalí
Figure at the Window by Salvador Dalí

As I grew older, my parents died, my children left home, my husband and i were living with the consequences of a life time of destructive patterns of interaction, was I found myself in a “dark night of the soul”, as described by St. John of the Cross in his poem and treatise by that name – Dark Night of the Soul (Dover Thrift Editions). I saw nothing but endless isolation ahead, and death. I knew that I had to face my fear of being alone once and for all. I knew that I had to face it alone. That was all I knew, and it was terrifying. I believed there had to be a different answer to the problem than I had heretofore found and I became determined to find it.

Coming through a dark night is never easy, but it is always life and spirit altering. In my dark night I discovered a connection to myself and to my soul that now sustains me in a way nothing else was ever meant to do. I understand that now. One cannot escape loneliness through action or connection to others. One must heal the emptiness inside that separates us from ourselves. Only then can we gain true intimacy with others. It sounds simple, It is not.

Carl Jung discovered this as well. He discovered and articulated our need to discover the “powers of our own natures” and to live from within our own creative powers, using our own rich and magnificent resources. We have far more inside of ourselves and at our disposal than most of us ever imagine; more than most of us can even conceive, particularly when we are locked in the fear, dread and scarcity mentality of our culture. To discover our inner strength, the bubbling fountain of life energy that is ever-present to us, it is necessary to disconnect from anything that pulls us away from it and from that which draws our attention to false solutions and weak excuses. Only then, will we discover the richest part of this life we are now living.

Have you experience a “dark night of the soul”? Have you experienced deep and abiding loneliness? What did you discover there?

Unraveling Ourselves

Backwards Thinking

 

A Father’s Day Gift for the UnFathered

A Father’s Day Gift for the UnFathered

Father's DayFather’s Day is a day, created by a culture whose moral, ethical and spiritual foundation is a times questionable, and yet we are sucked in by it. How many of us are feeling guilt today because we don’t feel a generosity of spirit towards our fathers? Or, sad because our fathers were taken from us too soon? Or, a hole in our hearts because we did not have a father? Not everyone has a Hallmark Father’s Day. I would guess most do not, and yet, we feel somehow that there is something wrong with us when we experience negative feelings on this contrived holiday.

My father died fifteen years ago, but our relationship never got off the ground. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t experience discomfort from the lack of love in my early life. This emptiness, however, has been a gift to me. It has driven me deeper and deeper over the years into an exploration of the inner life; to a richer understanding of psychological and spiritual growth. I have more compassion for those in pain than I might otherwise have had, and a powerful desire to walk with those who suffer through their pain and toward the light.

Our discomfort in life is our signal to take a deeper look inside of ourselves. When we feel the nudge of anxiety, fear, sorrow, or depression, it is our cue that something needs attention. Although we are not meant to dwell in our discomfort, I do believe it is a useful tool for opening our wounds to the light of truth, and in doing so heal the past so that we might live more fully in the present. Our journey in life is to learn from our pain and discomfort and to set it free, in order to create space in our hearts for something better.

I have no real reason to feel sorry for myself because my father was emotionally absent. I know that now. If you feel uncomfortable with Father’s Day, and the memory or thoughts around your relationship with your father, be compassionate with yourself. Use your discomfort as an opportunity to go deeper, to grow in your understanding and acceptance of what was, and most importantly to find the real you, the ember of truth and wholeness that lives within you still. Each of us carries an ember within us of love and truth. It may be buried beneath years of hurt and despair, many of us have built walls a mile thick around it in an effort to protect ourselves from the pain, but it is still there. It will always be there. It is just waiting for us to remove the debris that covers it and blow on it gently until it erupts into a flame.

Replace your pain today with a prayer of gratitude because even in the midst of pain and sorrow there is eternal hope. It is our birthright.

Do You Really Know What You Believe?

Do You Really Know What You Believe?

 “Not all those who wander are lost.”  ― J.R.R. Tolkien
“Not all those who wander are lost.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

One belief, wrongly held, can cast a shadow over one’s entire life.
What do you believe? Do you know what’s driving you?

Over the last decade in my work with women over fifty, I have heard said countless times, “I don’t feel that way anymore”, and “I don’t worry about that anymore. It’s just not important.” The process of self-evaluation seems to begin in earnest as we begin to feel our bodies entering the “maturing woman” phase of life. There is a clear moment in time when we are forced to accept that we are no longer “young” and in our youth driven society that can come as quite a shock! I see it as a gift.

A shock of any kind can be just what we need to shake us out of our complacency. It forces us to ask the hard questions, to look at what we believe to be true at the most fundamental level. When we ask these questions, when we look deep inside of ourselves and ask, “who am I?” and “what do I believe” we set in motion a tidal wave of change.

Our lives cannot change unless we change…on the inside. This does not always appear to be the easiest option! We think it’s so much easier to just tolerate our discomfort, or change externals to alleviate our dis-ease. We imagine that if we get a new job, a new house, a new spouse, a new blouse all will be well. Has that ever worked for you in the long run? It hasn’t for me.

The bottom line is that to live a congruent, energy filled life as we age it is necessary to line up our insides with our outsides. In other words, we have to get in touch with our fundamental beliefs and values and start living them. I believe we are all challenged to do this, if by nothing else than our pain and suffering, for when we are living and acting in contrast to our fundamental values, we will suffer.

What questions need asking?

Knowing what questions to ask often comes along with whatever difficulty we are facing. When my mother was in the last years of her life a conflict arose in my family as to where she should live. I wanted to bring her home to live with my husband and me. My four siblings wanted her to stay put in the retirement home. My mother gave me every indication that she wanted to live with us, was, in fact, desperate to get out of the retirement home and get back into a more comfortable home environment, but, it was very clear she would not ask directly for this, nor would she advocate for herself. It was left to me to decide whether or not I should act counter to the rest of the family. It was a touch place to be as I hurt deeply for my mother. I understood her sense of isolation and loneliness. I wanted nothing more than to ease her pain, but there would be serious consequences. It was time for me to dig deep and wrestle with what I believed at the deepest level. Here are some of the questions I asked myself:

  • Is it worth creating a rift with my siblings that could cause long after my mother was gone?
  • Was my perspective of the situation of any more value and importance than my siblings?
  • Am I responsible for my mother’s happiness?
  • Is her happiness more important than my own?

I came to recognize that while I value family and doing what we can for those we love to ease their pain, they alone are responsible for their happiness, as am I for my own. Happiness is an inside job. Contentment is an inside job. As harsh as it sometimes sounds, even now, the seeds of my mother’s despair were sowed throughout her lifetime. I could never fix that, nor did I want the responsibility for it anymore.

Asking the question is the first and most important step.

When we look closer at an area of our lives that is causing us distress and pose a question that does not contain the word “do” (i.e. what should I do), or have person’s name attached to it, (i.e. what is Johnny’s real issue), then we are getting closer to the question that needs to be asked. You may want to begin by asking, “what do I believe to be true for me in this situation” and what are my underlying beliefs and values about this situation. Formulating the deepest, richest question you can find will take you in the direction of your answer and your resolution.