As you mentioned in your “My Favorite Things” post, I also heard the song, “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music over the holidays, but I blew off my emotional response to it as nostalgia. However, your invitation gave me an opportunity to give it some more thought, and while it usually takes me quite a while to process this kind of thing, you did say you wanted us to dig deep, so here it is!
Since the song focuses on things Maria thinks about to stop feeling badly, I initially tried to think about how I cope with life’s difficulties—loneliness, pain, boredom—and I realized a couple of my favorite things were not physical things. Then, as I read your blog post and a few of the comments, as well as Charlotta Amato’s response on Facebook, I saw that a few of you listed at least one thing that didn’t have anything to do with physical difficulties like dog bites or bee stings, instead they revolved around deep feelings about our existence.
Your example was pine needles. You said, “My house is surrounded by tall pine trees that sway in the wind. Sometimes it sounds like ocean waves. Sometimes it’s like a round of applause. Hundreds of thousands of little pine needles slide upon one another and crash together to make that sound. Like Siddhartha at the river, I feel like if I listen closely enough, the pine needles will tell me the secrets of the Universe.”
On your Facebook post, Debbie Herbert listed “ocean smells” and the ocean is incredibly important to me as well. Both of these comments reminded me of stories and perspectives I’ve developed in my yet-to-be-published memoir. Everyone knows that during our lifetimes everyone gathers a collection of things, but some of them transform through time and a variety of different kinds of experiences and they become imbued with an importance that goes beyond the material thing itself, making it incredibly special to us.
Many parts of my memoir revolve around these kinds of things. One of its central concepts is about how, over time, I began to see that “things that had become special or important to me” enabled God to connect with me.
As I will clarify a little more below, I have come to realize that it is incredibly important in our journeys to give a little extra thought once in a while to the things that are important to us, and it is equally important to share them with others.
I loved seeing that Debbie listed the ocean as #1 and that you compared the pine needle sound to it, and I am going to list it as #1 as well. When I was about nine, I had an experience with the sea that was transforming, and it continues to be a focal part of my life and my journey toward understanding my place in the scheme of things.
Ten of My Favorite Things
1) The ocean
Here is part of a story that is included in the memoir mentioned above:
One day my parents announced that we were going to take a trip to Seattle. Grandma and Aunt Bernice were going to join us, and the way everyone talked about the trip it sounded like we were making a pilgrimage to the western Mecca. After we arrived and got settled in our hotel, we headed to the waterfront and had lunch along the piers. Aunt Bernice ordered a seafood variety platter, and I had my first taste of Dungeness crab. As the salt air drifted into the restaurant on the breeze, I was touched more deeply than I ever imagined I could be. I found myself breathing it in repeatedly and being very aware that I was experiencing something profound that I couldn’t clearly define. All I knew was that I loved everything about Seattle. It was as if I’d come home to a place I’d never known.
Kind of speaks for itself in this situation. Computers, phones, internet (even books) enable us to connect with other people over vast amounts of time and space and I appreciate it in so many ways it would take too long to list them.
3) Modern medicine
I have been dealing with a skin condition for over a year (think I finally understand it is a reaction to airborne chemicals like perfumes), and more recently an eye infection, and I am so thankful we live in a time when we can get help with these kinds of problems.
We still have such a long way to go, but my oldest daughter just graduated from MIT and is now working at one of the most prominent companies in the country, and my youngest daughter is the Mechanical Lead on a FIRST Robotics team she joined this fall after our move, which had been her hope and was actually the driving factor in much of my decision making as I tried to figure out what to do after losing my last business client last January.
5) Make up
Without it I would be even more of a hermit than I already am.
6) My hair
I get compliments on it all the time, and I have cut it since I was about fourteen.
7) Sweet potatoes
When I was little my mother baked them in maple syrup , and I have decided to cut back on sugar for a number of reasons, but found I can bake them until they reach the “just about gush” stage. Then, to be able to enjoy sweet and sour without sugar, which is one more notch up, I usually have a salad with Annie’s Shiitake Sesame vinaigrette dressing on the side, and it’s wonderful!
8) Walking at night
Here is portion of a blog post, Star Gazing & Other Matters of Immense Gravity I wrote about it:
I love walking at night, but one night something shifted, I looked up with a different perspective—there seemed to be nothing between me and the stars…
…I’m a compulsive multi-tasker, so I always hope that I can work on my writing while stretching my legs after a long day at work, but sometimes I’m unable to get away from ruminating about the garbage of the day or making plans, which I keep trying to tell my mind could wait until I’m cooking or cleaning. But, once in a while, I get lucky. The vast emptiness and quiet that’s surrounds me allows me to clear my mind and it opens as if I’m a conduit accessing different connections. Like I’ve tapped into another force at work in the eternal unknown that enables me to utilize some other kind of power. Perhaps it’s the other 95% of my mind we’re told we don’t use, I don’t know, but ideas begin to flow.
9) Conversations with my daughters
I have been on a journey of trying to understand experiences that started in 1998 when I felt certain that God gave me a remarkable gift one afternoon when I was on a boating trip, then another in 2002 at a writer’s workshop. Since then gifts and experiences have continued, and while I was uncertain about how to go about sharing my experiences for about ten years (since many during that time seemed to fall more in line with the kind of thing everyone would describe as luck or coincidence) in 2012, another phenomenal experience occurred and I couldn’t deny it anymore.
But for years prior to that, I used to wonder what it would be like to be part of the conversations of the great thinkers of our time. The names I heard in college were those like Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman, and Virginia Woolf. So I just read everything I could get my hands on, and as my daughters got older, I began to realize that the way God “gave me what I dreamed about” was to give me two incredibly intelligent daughters.
When I was in high school, I was part of the group of kids called “freaks,” so I never dreamed I’d have brilliant daughters or that the kind of things that are happening to me could happen to anyone, let alone me, and that leads me to #10.
It’s kind of awkward to call God a thing, but when I am feeling sad or bad, most often now, I think about God. And I know a lot of people get really turned off by people who say this. For most of my life, whenever anyone would say anything about God, I would literally cringe. Now I am the one who is trying to share my experiences.
And it’s incredibly hard because I am not sharing experiences that have come to me from religious or spiritual concepts so there is a large group of people that is automatically agreeing with me, I am sharing stories about events I know have been orchestrated by God—something most of us have been told isn’t possible.
What has been the most surprising to me is that it has simultaneously been a journey of increasing my knowledge about myself, and realizing that my unique nature and unique life experiences have been critical to enabling God to connect with me, which is the opposite of the idea of recognizing the importance of our oneness or unity that most spiritual leaders are proclaiming is the true foundation of “spiritual” thinking. The journey has been a process of holding on to who I am when others try to define God and make claims about the kind of people we have to be to have any association with God. In some of my stories and parts of my memoir, I describe the ways I am being directed in these events and you can read a few stories and see the progression of my thinking in blog posts I’ve written since July 2013.
One of the most recent experiences occurred in 2014 and I was led to information that challenges a number of the most popular concepts of spirituality. I never dreamed I would have anything of value to contribute to the ideas being proclaimed as truth in the spiritual realm, but it’s still not an easy place to be.
[ In addition, in early 2015 while I was working on a book about it, I lost my last business client and had to move, but to my surprise, again, it turned out to be another phenomenal event that benefitted my youngest daughter in incredible ways (See Phenomenal Story to Share About Our Move.)]
I wouldn’t have been able to write Critical Revelations in the Realm of Contemporary Spirituality without the experiences I’ve had. They gave me the courage to question what many people are claiming to be the truth about God. They enabled me to stay true to myself even though people have been telling everyone (via posts and in books) that our experiences with God will/should be focused around abstract things like love, light and positive thinking, and mine weren’t. The process of discovery enabled me to explain why many of the popular spiritual concepts aren’t quite right, and the book revolves around a huge discovery, that some of the ideas being presented as “the truth about God and our relationship with God” in many spiritual communities (religious as well) are actually just reflections of people’s Myers-Briggs personality traits.
I believe the information I share will open new pathways for people to recognize God in their lives and perhaps begin a shift that will enable more people to walk away from the limited concepts of religion and spirituality to embrace the simplicity of the idea of simply working to help bring God’s goodness into the world in their own unique ways.
I hope you will consider reading Critical Revelations even if you have no interest in the concepts being shared in spiritual communities, because I believe the information about knowing ourselves on many levels, including understanding our personality traits and those of others, is important for everyone. I have the ability to offer free promotions on Kindle, so please feel free to check with me about when I am running the next one!
I hope over time more people will begin to see that our favorite things are important, beyond just making us feel good in the short term, that while pine needles (or things that are of similar value in every one of our lives) may not offer answers to everything we want to know about the Universe (because what fun would that be?), they can help us answer some of life’s deepest questions.
*Last week Amber and I went to three long doctor’s appointments for lower abdominal pain that made it difficult for her to walk (thankfully we found out it was a strained pelvic floor muscle instead of cysts, torsion, or endometriosis). She’s had a cold this week which meant running to the store for medicine. Yesterday she had her third college interview. Her work schedule has increased, and her robotics team is in week two of build season (of six) so there have been additional/longer meetings of all sorts! Of course, Jade has lots of things going on as well. Her work situation and new relationship also often lead to long conversations.