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Creating Every Day Thought by Thought


Someone emailed this week and asked if I’d say something about the Emily Dickinson quote that inspired these bulletins. Decided to include an excerpt from my memoir about feeling this for the first time…
—an excerpt from Still On Fire about starting a spiritual practice (book due out October 2021).

Andrew Greeley, a priest sociologist, reported in an article that 40% of Americans had experienced mysticism at some time in their lives, so there was no reason I couldn’t make a go of this. I might not have been religious, but my sense of spirituality had remained horizonless since Father Grabys pried my mind open in Theology 101, back in my Novitiate days. I was not one who believed in a geographical expanse between Heaven and Earth. It all pretty much boiled down to the one moment we had right in front of us. The eternal now. The kingdom is within and all around you is the Biblical phrase I stood by.

So I kept lighting the candle every morning. The only effort I made was to stop working at it. When I had a thought, I explored it for duality, defending both sides. I stretched my mind out like pizza dough. I practiced atheism a few days a week. It was all good. I was rewiring my brain, and since I couldn’t build a wall to keep thoughts out, I mastered the thoughts that came in. I printed out quotations that took me beyond right and wrong and put them on my altar.

When the ax comes into the forest
the trees, upon seeing its wooden handle, say
“Look, one of us.”

Hasidic saying

If you don’t share your wealth with us, we’ll share our poverty with you.
Nigerian tribal chief

My barn having burned to the ground, I can now see the moon.
Japanese saying

When the German mystic Meister Eckhart wrote about the mystical process, he said, “Your opening and Its entering are but one moment.” The surrender and fulfillment happen simultaneously. It is all one unfolding, one event. Like moss and the tree, fire and heat, oxygen and air. For the meditator, there is only the awareness that there is nothing to seek, the moment at hand contains the Universe. Divinity is the air we breathe. Our bodies are saturated with the Sacred.

As I relaxed more into my morning meditations, I began to feel less alone. The experience felt more visceral on some days. One morning I seemed to float into the silence like a parachuter drifting through cloudless skies. The quiet wrapped her arms around me like wind around a sail. I felt a presence, a counterpart. A yin to my yang.

By week three, I’d extended my morning time to thirty minutes. Miraculous creations did not drop from the heavens every day, but I wanted to be there just in case. I imagined myself a satellite dish to this Super Muse, my hands and mind open to whatever intelligence was being broadcast my way. I was in communion with that beautiful source, that font of creativity. Like Emily Dickinson who wrote:
The Only News I know
Is Bulletins all Day
From Immortality.

I had not navigated through spiritual terrain for years, and was only doing this because I trusted Paula. If she said my life couldn’t work out without it, I was in. What’s twenty or thirty minutes when you’re weighing it against a life’s chance to succeed? And the practice was changing me—though I can’t say what mattered more, the moderation in food and drink, the physical exercise, or this silence in the morning. I just felt happier, healthier and less lonely than before.

That I was just a tiny dust speck in the vast scheme of things, an amalgam of stardust and clay, never changed, but I felt connected by consciousness to everything around me. My former notion of God as a masculine deity shape-shifted and images of the Divine Feminine sprouted from the newly tilled soil of my soul. I thought of myself as matter mattering, part and parcel of the whole thing, one piece of the cosmic puzzle—and I was making something of it. I was in cahoots with Creativity Itself. Songs bubbled up. Poems drifted in. Anxiety walked out the door.

Every morning I woke up happy, eager to see what the silence brought. Some days ideas arrived out of nowhere, curiously connected to questions bubbling up on the inside. Other days came with lavish litanies of distracting thoughts. It was always like that—back and forth. Something, then nothing. Predictably unpredictable. On Monday, a profound awareness of my oneness with creation; on Tuesday, a meaningless cacophony of chaotic voices. My meditations were a constantly changing weather system of events, from droughts to lightning bolts, but I was the rock solid earth below.
Creating Every Day Thought by Thought | Jan Phillips | TEDx Talks


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