My spirit calls on me to write

I do not know why, but my spirit is calling on me to write.  I have had enough opportunities to have my spirit call to me that I trust it and bide its call.

I guess we are all on some type of journey our entire lives, whether we realize it or not.  In truth, we may each be on several journeys simultaneously.  The journey I am compelled to write about today is my spiritual journey.

Looking back, there are many moments and many people who have played a part in my spiritual journey.  But at this point there are a few that stand more prominently in the light of my vision.

The earliest spiritual experience I had, though I would have called it a religious experience at the time, was at a Catholic retreat in the Catholic High School gym in Flagstaff, Arizona.  I would have been in eight or ninth grade at the time.  It was the first time I had an opportunity to really explore and prod my own relationship with my spirituality.  That was a very long time ago, and I don’t remember the details, but I remember being deeply moved as I nudged my way into spiritual self-exploration.

When I was in college at SUNY Cortland, I had a number of experiences that primed me for spiritual self-exploration, but none of them were a true effort of exploring my spirituality.  One thing stands out during that time period that helped to pave the way for me to continue that spiritual journey, accidentally learning how to meditate.

I remember this very well.  I was sitting on the floor in Paul Fabozzi’s room in Randall Hall, up on the 3rd floor.  We were sitting there doing nothing but listening to music, probably at least a little bit high.  I was staring at a spot on a poster on his wall and focusing on a single tiny spot of brightness in an otherwise relatively dark poster.  I think it must have been a concert poster for some rock band, I don’t remember the poster, but I do remember that spot.  As I focused on that spot my breathing slowed and became deeper and rhythmic.  I let my mind wander into that spot of light and before I knew it, my conscious was outside my body.  I don’t know a better way of explaining it.  It was deeply soothing and my thoughts slowed to the point where I escaped from the bombardment of thoughts that were normally in my brain.  I guess it was the first time I escaped my own consciousness while I was awake and moved into what I feel was a sub-conscious state.  I think Ekhart Tolle would say I had escaped my ego.

A short while later, something, a sound or a movement, caught my attention and broke the trance and I came crashing back into my conscious.  But I was amazingly relaxed and at peace.  I wanted to find a way back to that place so I began a meditation practice.  I made a point of almost every day sitting down in my room and taught myself to meditate.  It was incredibly refreshing and I found that a half hour of meditation was as good as several hours of sleep for refreshing myself and clearing my mind to focus on one thing at a time.

I continued that practice for the remainder of the school year, I even created a video that was shown in a film festival about my experience with meditation, and what it was like in my mind when I was meditating.  But, my practice was broken when I moved out of the dorm in May 1986, and I have never made my way back to a regular meditation practice.  (I should do something about that).

It was a very long time after that before I came back to my spirituality in any way.  It was largely forgotten until my son, Brandt was born in 1992 and we as a family started going to church regularly at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Springfield, MO.  It was there that I became part of a community of believers, and developed extremely close ties with a fantastic group of people, especially the Men’s Club and their families.  We spent many years with this family of friends watching our families grow, and exploring our faith and belief systems together.  I am still very close friends with a few of them, even after 16 years of living away.

In 2001, very shortly after 911, my family moved to Rockhampton in Queensland, Australia on a work visa that wold also eventually lead to my PhD studies.  In Australia, our experience with religion, and with Catholicism began to change and the facade of religion started to remove itself from my spiritual beliefs, but not in a big way yet.  But one thing stands out in my mind from our time in Australia.

I was traveling down a road just out of Rockhampton with a colleague, Wal Taylor.  We came to an area and I got ah overwhelming feeling of dread or foreboding.  I told Wal, “there is something evil around here”. Wal told me that the location where we were at was a place where people used to go to “hunt” aborigines and that there had been a massacre nearby. The thought of hunting human beings is quite disturbing.   (Hunting of Aborigines by the “Native Police” around Rockhampton is referenced in the book “The Secret War: A True History of Queensland’s Native Police”, Jonathan Richards, 2008).

After we moved back to the United States, I ended up working at what was then the University of Missouri – Rolla, now called Missouri University of Science and Technology.  My son Jax was enrolled at the elementary school at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.

On December 15, 2006 when I went to drop Jax off, there was a van full of military people parked in the school parking lot.  I asked Jax if something was going on, and he said there was a funeral for a soldier that had died in Iraq.  I dropped Jax off and was heading to work when for whatever reason my spirit told me that I needed to go to the funeral.  I listened to my spirit, and my life has never been the same.

I called my supervisor, Cheryl McKay.  I told her I didn’t know what exactly was going on but that I was being called to be at the funeral for this soldier and told her I would be late for work.  She said something to the affect of, “you have to go, tell me what happens when you get done.”

The soldier’s name was Captain Travis Patriquin (Obituary).

The details of the day are not important here, but I ended up sitting in the back pew with a person who was a cousin, or something to that affect, of Captain Patriquin.  We spoke and I told him that I didn’t know Captain Patriquin, I was a member of the church and when I learned of the funeral I felt compelled to pay my respects .  When he learned that the church did not take up a collection at a funeral, he took out his wallet and said “watch this”.  He took a couple of hundred dollar bills out of his wallet and handed them to me and said, “do something good with this.”

After the service had ended and everyone left, I returned to the church and sat, emotionally overwhelmed, sobbing in the back pew.  I knew the priest and when he saw me he asked if I was related to the family.  I told him no and we sat down and I told him the whole story.  I asked him what I should do with the money, and he said that it had come to me, it was my decision what do with it.  I asked him if he would hold the money, and he put it in an envelope in his desk and called it the “miracle money”.  Eventually, and it didn’t take long, we identified a good cause and it is my understanding that it helped a family through a difficult time.

But, I was changed forever.  The series of events that led up to me going to and serving witness at that funeral changed me, and lit a fire in me that has had me on a soul searching journey ever since.

It is now eleven years later.  I am no longer a member of the Catholic church and I do not practice any religion. My focus is spiritual.  There is seldom, if ever, a day that passes when I do not think about my place in the world and relationship to others, and I allow that to lead me through my day.  Some days it is easier than others.

I have learned to recognize and try to minimize the impact on myself of those things that are most divisive among humans: race, religion, creed, gender and politics.  I have come to recognize that human nature, within its ebbs and flows, is relatively consistent.  There will always be the seven sins and they will be countered by the seven virtues.  It is up to each and every person to decide in the form of many small decisions every day whether they will take the path of the virtues. It is never too late to choose a path of virtue, or to fall off of that path.  We can certainly influence others on their paths, but in the end you are the only one that can change your own heart.  You and only you can choose your path.

This is a daily struggle, but one which I am at peace in undertaking.

I think that takes care of getting out what my spirit thought I should write.  You now have access to a little glimpse of my spiritual journey and I share it with you willingly.

Of Peace, Love and Joy

Live Peac Love
Live Peace Love

Of Peace, Love and Joy

Kevin W. Tharp                                     December 2014 

We

You

Me

As I grow older I am given the opportunity to reflect on many of the mysteries of life.  I walk a path that often changes my perspective on the world.  Many times in my life I have found myself with thoughts that are completely contradictory to the thoughts of the younger me.

I once was an active poet, writing many poems of which I now have no recollection.  But there is one poem that I wrote over 30 years ago that holds truer today than I could have ever imagined.

I used to laugh at people like me

Look at me now

I used to laugh at people like me

It was an early realization of the nature of my own human existence.  A recognition that even as a teen I had changed my perspective on some of the big questions of life, and a glimpse into the ever evolving nature of me.

I no longer profess to have the answers, or even a clue about the answers to some of the questions that life presents us.  The answers to questions of spirituality and existence elude me.

Why are we here?

What are we supposed to do in this life?

What happens when we die?

But these are the questions my mind finds its way back to again, and again, and again.

Now, as winter sets in, things slow down a little and nature hunkers down until it awakens again in spring. It is a time to think and plan for the coming seasons.  My mind settles on the deeper things in life, like Peace, Love, Joy and of course my garden.

Let’s talk about those deeper things that have become a focus of my thoughts. They are not easy to explain, but we’ll keep it simple.

Peace

A lot of different meanings here.
Quiet and Tranquility.
Freedom from civil disturbance.

Peace on Earth, Goodwill towards humankind.

On an individual level, I can be at peace with a decision, or at peace with the world.  In this way it is an acceptance of the world the way it is.  But generally when we talk about peace, we are talking about something belonging to a community or collective.

It is easier to explain what it is not than what it is.

On the collective level, peace is the absence of violence, strife, … tension.  I think of Peace as the collective decision to not violate “the others”.

Just because there isn’t war doesn’t mean there is peace.  When I am violating or even threatening the tranquility of a community,
I am disturbing the peace.

Peace is illusive because it depends upon groups to get along.
Peace is a gift that we give to each other.

Peace is about We.

Love

An intense feeling of deep affection.  I think that love is the strongest, the deepest and the most profound aspect of our spiritual being.  At least it is for me.

I was recently asked to define what I meant by love.

If I have to define love for you, this is a sad state of affairs indeed.

But as I thought about it, the closest I could come to defining love in my words was the bonding of two spirits.

There is the love of God, the love of another human, and the love for other creatures.   The reality is that love doesn’t have to be reciprocated.  I can love you and you not love me.

Under my definition you cannot love chocolate,  ((but I love chocolate ))
though you may use that word to describe a deep affection.  ((I love chocolate ))
And in my definition you cannot love yourself.  ((that is Narcissism))

Or, self-love is the state of self-respect and caring for oneself.
Self-love is your spirit embracing and respecting itself.

I love you.  You love me.
Ideally we both love each other.  I give my love to you.  Love is a thing that I give to you.
Love is about you.

Joy

A feeling of great pleasure and happiness.  Joy is the most transient, the most changeable and the quickest of the states we have discussed. Joy is a perspective, it is a conscious decision about how I am going to interpret and react to my circumstances.

The pure and simple delight in life and the world I live in.

Each day I make decisions about how I am going to proceed through the day.

Joy is a gift I give myself.
Joy is a gift you give yourself.

In that way, it is like a garden.

Plant kindness and understanding and Joy grows.  Fertilize with Love and Peace, and Joy thrives.  But you have got to pull the weeds.

Weeds take the energy that Joy needs to grow.

Dig out the hate to make room for joy.

Pull up jealousy and anger by the roots.

Don’t allow prejudice to invade the garden,
it is invasive and will choke out the joy
and may even spread to your neighbors.

Joy is a gift that I give myself
and it makes the world around me more beautiful.

Joy is about me.

We wish you all the joy of life,
but that of course is a decision that you have to make for yourself.

PEACE!

If we were a world of PEACE and LOVE instead of WAR and HATE

Caribbean Sunset
Caribbean Sunset
If we were a world of peace and love instead of war and hate, the rest would take care of itself.

There is something that I don’t understand.  How can we as humans create a world that is so driven by war and hatred.  Every major religion has love at the core.  Every people speaks of love and peace.  Yet we always find a way to turn others into enemies.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  All we have to do is stop.  Some day, some way it has to happen.  Why not now?