Wandering through Christianity, Buddhism, and Unity to my current interest of studying the Tao, I long ago exchanged organized religion for a more profoundspirituality. Structured religion gave me a moral and ethical compass for living life. Eastern philosophies expanded my understanding. But, my spirituality deepened after a life altering illness, decades of consciously working in the garden, and a burgeoning sense of gratitude.
“Religion…shall mean for us the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude…in relation to whatever they may consider the divine.”
“…In order to usefully interpret the realm of common, shared experience and history, we must each make certain “over-beliefs” in things which, while they cannot be proven on the basis of experience, help us to live fuller and better lives.” — William James
Discovering this naturally created pulpit and pews on my visit to Scotland this summer was a curious surprise.
Scotland Outdoor Pulpit and Pews
View from an outdoor church in Scotland with natural made pulpit and pews
View of sky, mountains and water from natural outdoor church in Scotland grass in Scotland
I imagined listening to a sermon among these bluest of skies, lush green mountains and clear waters. The pastor wouldn’t have to speak a word.
Blessed with three good weather seasons, I’m most often in the garden — seeding, nurturing, harvesting — plants, but also my thoughts and spirit.
For me, attending church is gliding over morning dew glistened grass to the vegetable patch or flower garden…feeling the warming sun on my skin and a serene sky’s embrace. Hearing “the quiet.” At first. And then the hum of bees, chirping birds, and steady rhythm of high-pitched crickets uniting in choir. Sweet nature gloriously sings a sermon to my soul.
Gardening teaches me so much about living life. Besides providing quiet time to regenerate, and avoid constant interruptions of marketing ploys or messages that can wait, gardening offers opportunities to look more deeply into life.
Stepping into the tomato patch today, I notice some are ripened red, some still green, some are somewhere along the way. Brighter, faster, bigger, smaller, slower — each is on its own natural path. Some are still hanging on, some have fallen, others have reached their potential, or are late bloomers. Each embodies the same components — vine, skin, flesh, seeds, juice — but they are not exactly the same. I do not understand why current culture insists humans must have the same thoughts, feelings, sensitivities, and opinions, that to be one we cannot be unalike.
We are a universe of red, white, brown, tan, black, tall, short, thin, plump beings, with indigenous dialects and languages, who think diverse thoughts, eat different foods, live in disparate climates, etc., etc., etc. Yet the Thought Police want to neutralize our inherent differences, insisting we cannot think independently, that our beliefs, words and opinions must all conform. Consider this:
An unripened tomato is not the same as a ripened one, not in color, size, taste or maturity. Similarly, a beefsteak tomato is not a cocktail tomato or a plum tomato or cherry tomato or tomato of any other name. I cannot force it to be what it is not. Some are blemished, some appear perfect on the surface, some may be rotten inside but I accept and work with each as is.
Instead of denigrating others for being who they are, or demanding an unrealistic homegeneity, a more equitable approach is through mutual respect — something greatly overshadowed anymore by stratospheric sensitivities. Now I am an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) but I honor individuality. Can culture shift its caliginous restraints on our genuine differences?
Over 15,000 varieties of tomatoes exist throughout our world in every shade of red, burgundy, pink, purple, orange, yellow, green, almost black, even streaked and striped. Numerous flavors range from tasty sweet to tart or well-balanced. I think it’s safe to say some prefer one type over another. There is nothing wrong with that. Each has its own comfort zone for thriving, and some are more versatile than others. Distinct qualities are refreshing. As with the human race. I don’t want to have just cherry tomatoes. Do you?
“Have you heard from Maria lately?” I asked another participant in Tai Chi class this week. “I’ve phoned a few times but hadn’t heard back.”
“Oh. I thought I saw something in the newspaper this past weekend. I think Maria passed away.”
I felt stunned. Barely able to concentrate, I wanted to run out of class and check the obituaries. Call another mutual friend.
Before it’s Too Late
Have you ever had a nagging sensation where a person keeps reappearing in your thoughts? Not because you are obsessing over them but feeling a need to contact them, see how they are.
This happened to me last December. My accountant, I knew was battling cancer but this was ongoing for nearly 10 years. Still, he kept reappearing in my mind. I brushed it off, thinking it due to the approaching tax season. He died before the end of January.
The year before, my tailor kept popping into my thoughts. He and his wife were a lovely older couple and when sending them my annual thanks giving greeting I learned he passed away in October.
My friend, Maria, would have been 96 this year. I can still hear our “Oohs” and “Ahs” over the splendor of blooming ornamental trees and giant rhododendrons while driving her around country roads this spring. We planned a similar outing for autumn’s vibrant foliage but…it didn’t come about.
Maria absorbed my thoughts while driving to Tai Chi this week. I planned on phoning her after class that afternoon. Only now am I beginning to understand why Maria occupied my mind. She was buried at 11AM that morning.
intuition/ (in-too-ish–uh n) /noun
knowledge or beliefobtainedneither by reasonnor by perception
instinctiveknowledge or belief
a hunch or unjustifiedbelief
A Voice with Many Names
My yoga teacher’s ability to accurately see from the inside amazes me. Just as the physical body communicates in the only language it knows — a headache, a pain, sleeplessness, an itch — the brain communicates through an inner vision, a nondescript sense of nonconscious emotional information. Derived from deep within, some call these diaphanous sensations a “gut feeling,” “inner voice,” “intuition,” “sixth sense,” “instinctual feeling,” “hunch,” or even God.
The Answers are Deep Within
Struggling to solve problems on my own for years I could not comprehend “the answers are within.” The incessant mental chatter, like current TV commentators, blocked out any truth. And when that sense of knowing withoutreallyknowing did appear, I discredited it as irrational or dismissed it as unfounded fear. I didn’t recognize the guiding light.
I now see that when my inner voice speaks to me, I need to take notice and probably some action. Here’s what I’m doing to develop a more intimate relationship with my inner voice. You can befriend yours too.
5 Tips for Tapping Into Intuition
1. Get quiet. Intuition speaks softly. The answers may be subtle and only heard through quiet. If seeking guidance for a problem, engage in a relaxing activity like meditation, walking, music, or anything to stop the mental chatter. Then close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and ask your sixth sense to dialogue with you.
If I think of my inner voice as shy, it is more easily coaxed to speak up when I am peaceful. I must listen closely. It may be only a whisper. At first.
2. Pay Attention.When ideas, insights and impressions come out of nowhere, grasp them. Be aware that the brain, aka sixth sense, is communicating to you.
3. Respond to Your Inner Voice. When the brain says call or visit this person now, do it. You may not get the chance later.
4. Record Your Gut Feeling.This helps determine the accuracy of that sixth sense once you have chosen to either ignore or act on the insight given.
Logging in my recent experiences makes me less likely to brush off similar future occurrences.
5. Get to Know Your Self. Make friends with your intuition. Develop that bond of trust. Thank it for its accuracy. As you listen and honor your sixth sense, it will become a valuable part of who you are and a useful guide for decision making.
“It’s all about learning to use unconscious information in your brain… Just as people can become more comfortable making decisions when they apply logic and reasoning, they may also become more adept at trusting their intuition when they use it more frequently over time.” — Live Science
Have you experienced a sixth sense? Do you act on it?
Raised in an anxiety-ridden home, it was stressful to live in the “now.” Far better to prepare for “what’s next,” I thought, even with its own undercurrent of anxiety.
A friend recently invited me to a year-long meditation but the voluminous information and instant marketing hype quickly drove me away. Unsettling. Like when I attempted meditation years ago in the standard seated position. Arduous. As soaking in a tub. Has this happened to you? Meditation offers many benefits but feeling stressed is not the goal.
Far more agreeable to me, are movement meditations such as hand drumming, walking, or being in the moment with Mother Nature. Fixed on berry picking, the smell of sun-ripening tomatoes and basil brushing my arm, or the infinite colors and textures of nature are far more relaxing and in-the-moment experiences for me.
One size doesn’t fit all. In many things, but meditation too. Giving myself permission to discover what works for me is key. Don’t know where to begin? Try leaving the cell phone behind and taking a walk outside. You may be pleasantly surprised by the calm in connecting with Mother Nature.
Lucky Three or Not Things come in threes beleaguers my thoughts. A month ago, I received word that my beloved border collie, Bess, passed away while I traveled in Scotland. Last week I received word that my best male friend from college passed away. Memories flash of the three close friends I lost a few years ago — all within nine months (3 x 3) time. Murmurings below the surface question if a third heartbreak will follow.
Contrary aphorisms abound for this popular number. Three’s a charm predicts success after two failures. Or a third misfortune can follow two others. A third soldier lighting a cigarette from the same source was considered unlucky on the WWI battlefield since a sniper could see the first light, aim on the second, and fire on the third.
Similar “superstitions” like don’t walk under a ladder or don’t open an umbrella in the house, I consider more as practical warnings. After all, anything can be dropped from working high above, and an umbrella’s cuspate spokes can be dangerous and obstructive indoors.
That Timeless Number Three My search for a deeper understanding of the number three revealed its timeless phenomenon. Pythagoreans, for instance, believed the number three to be the first triangular number. Besides its strength in triangles, tripods, and pyramids, the notorious number three prevails throughout history and cultures worldwide:
Ancient Symbolism: – A trident appears beside Neptune, Shiva, and farmers. – The Celtic triskele’s three spirals symbolize the Present World-where we live and exist, the Other World-home of our ancestors, spirit guides and deities, and the Celestial World. – The three-petaled French fleur-de-lis originally represented the commoners, nobility, and clergy. In other cultures it’s also symbolized life, perfection, and light.
Mythology: – Greek Cronus fathered three sons – Zeus, Poseidon and Hades; Norse Borr also fathered three sons – Odin, Vili, and Vé. – Mayans believed mankind was created in three attempts (flood destroyed the first man made of clay; a storm washed away the second man made of wood; but the third man made from maize was from whom all are descended). – Celtic gods and goddesses often appear in groups of three.
Religion: – Besides the Trinity, the number three winds throughout Christianity as when it was reported that three wise men presented three gifts (gold, frankincense and myrrh), and Jesus’ ministry lasted three years. – Buddhism’s Three Jewels are The Buddha, The Dharma, and The Sangha. – The Torah uses the number three for Jews to mediate between two opposing or contradictory values. – Universal chi, human plane chi, and earth chi compose Taoism’s Three Pure Ones. – Zoroastrianism’s three virtues are Humata (good thoughts), Hukhta (good words) and Hvarshta (good deeds). – Hindu’s Trimūrtitriple deity is Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer.
– Islam’s triple talaq is a Muslim divorce where a husband pronounces three times talaq (Arabic word for divorce). – The Bahá’í faith’s three principles are the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of humanity. – Neopagan religions revere the Triple Goddess deity of maiden, mother and crone.
Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes: Remember The Three Little Pigs, Three Blind Mice, or Goldie Locks and the Three Bears?
The Count of Three: – Arithmetic, reading, and writing are academic basics. – “You’re out!” after three strikes in baseball, and three outs end an inning. – Actions requiring synchrony often count to three like one-two-three “Say cheese!”
Music: – Music expresses feelings, ideas and moods. – A chord consists of three notes. – Music’s three main elements are melody, rhythm, and harmony.
Art: – Composition is based on the Rule of Thirds. – Artists create with three primary colors of red, yellow and blue. – Writers have a beginning, middle and end.
Nature and the Environment: – Physics, chemistry, and biology are the three types of natural laws. – The physical environment consists of land, sea, and sky. – Folklore and religions describe life in heaven, hell, and on earth.
Medicine and Science: – India’s Ayurvedic medicine revolves around three doshas — vata, pitta and kapha. – Variation, heredity, and selection are the three principles of evolution. – Personality theory is based on the id, the ego and the superego.
The Unity of Three Three can be an expression of unity as in father, mother and child or how one can become three as in me, myself and I. Of course, we’ve been told three’s a crowd but three is also a tie-breaker. Perhaps one is too solitary, and two is too black and white final. It is three that offers possibility like a shade of grey as in this, that, other, or door 1-2-or 3.
The number three appears almost everywhere. What do you think of the number three? Has it played any significance in your life?
Three Deep What is it that makes three so powerful and for years on end? Yogis access intuition through their third eye. Some may deem consideration of three as linear thinking or apophenia — a universal human tendency to seek patterns in random information. For me, observing patterns is a trait I developed in my youth to manage an unpredictable home life. Even if erroneous, considering the next possibility eliminated the shock when voices escalated and doors slammed.
My Adult View of Three… As a gardener, I understand plants need earth, water, and air. Three-leaf clovers make me smile, and I’m cautious near three-leaved poison ivy or oak. My red-white-and blue spirit cherishes life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I’ve learned that the number three can represent past, present and future, or body, soul and spirit. As the number of completion, I recognize that Bess and my college buddy have lived their cycles of birth, life and death — something that every living creature will experience. It just is. The way of life.
Photos of Scotland appear like subdued, opalescent paintings to me. Yet, when viewing these strikingly beautiful landscapes in person, they are just as dream-like.
Visiting Scotland a few weeks ago felt just as surreal in that I was finally fulfilling a lifelong dream…but learned early on that my beloved Ceilidh’s Bess passed. As I explored the western coast to the Isle of Skye then through the northwest Geopark, Scotland’s sweeping misty lens rendered surprising transparency into my own life.
Pay attention to how you feel in any given place. The words came back to me. Is the energy uplifting or downcast? Spirit-filled or draining? Am I feeling joy? Fear?
Wrapped among impassioned layers of enchanted forests and glens, glacier sculpted landscapes, pristine waters, and steep majestic mountains that hold thousands of years of stories untold, my spirit felt at home in the Highlands. Similarly, but on a wee scale, my northeastern American residence is sheltered in a mountainside of woodland lushness and sparking streams. I know now that north is true for me.
Learning about the Scottish Clearances and feeling the feelings of my long ago homeland illuminated my ken. I knew truth stood before me.
In the Clearances, inhabitants were ordered off their land then watched as their houses were burned.
Fighting the natural gas pipeline is my personal, modern day experience of the Clearances. I understand powerlessness when forced against one’s will. I know the heartbreak of loss.
Learning through Grief
I began this post before the untimely loss of my best friend — Bess my beloved 14 1/3 year old border collie. Acceptance soothes my broken heart when acknowledging this will happen to each and everyone of us and everyone we love, that this behest of time is a transformation of life. I continue learning through my loss of Bess…such as doing what I can then letting go, and the power of thought and perspective. I anticipate sharing more from time to time on insights gained through this experience…
“All of life’s experiences are to be either enjoyed or learned from.”
— Alan Cohen
Bess gave me both.
I am curious to know how you process grief. A sage shared this short (18 minute) video with me. Hopefully, you will benefit as well — not just in a time of need.