Monday, July 30, 2007

What Afterlife?

For those of you who are younger than I am, I write to let you know that at age 49 (in real time) AARP begins knocking softly on your door. Their offers are seductive; their services legion.

Living as I do with someone who is already a card-carrying member, AARP The Magazine comes to our house. It is the magazine with the largest circulation in the world. The September/October issue had an article about what people over 50 believe about the afterlife.

Afterlife.

It’s a word I’ve read in all sorts of settings for years. The beliefs articulated in the article were as varied as there are people. The thing is, the word afterlife brought me to a full stop.

I don’t believe in an afterlife. (Keep reading!)

Don’t misunderstand me. What I mean is that there is life. Life. Period.

There’s no beforelife and there’s no afterlife—
there’s only and always life.
It just keeps going.


Much of the article was consumed with definitions and beliefs about Heaven and Hell, and who would and who would not be taking up residence in either place. The author made me laugh out loud when she quoted a copy editor she knew, who said, “Heaven gets a capital letter. Heaven is a place. Like Poughkeepsie.”

Like Poughkeepsie? Okay. But then I thought about it a little more. Yeah, like Poughkeepsie. Like Oshkosh. Like Manhattan, New York or Kansas. Like Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco. Like Tombstone, Arizona. Like Venice, Vienna, Moscow, Cairo, Johannesburg, Sydney, Bombay, Taipei. I could go on and on and on.

Heaven, capital H, is a place. It has an alternative spelling which is:

Here.

And the time Heaven occurs? In between that beforelife and afterlife.

Now.

Remember Belinda Carlisle? Oooh baby, do you know what that’s worth? Oooh, Heaven is a place on earth.

She goes on, They say in Heaven, Love comes first, We’ll make Heaven a place on earth.

If my own experience is any barometer, it’s my choices that make the quality of my life Heaven or Hell and the only time I can make a choice for love in my life is now.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Less Is More

Seeds IX, 30

Seed: Less is More
We’ve all heard this expression, I know, but approaching 50 as I am, it has come to mean a lot more to me lately than at other times in my life. Earlier, more is more made more sense to me. Now, not so much.

So, I did what any self-respecting writer does. I googled it. Here you go: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was an architect who adopted the motto less is more to describe his aesthetic. Buckminster Fuller adopted a similar saying, doing more with less, but his concerns were oriented towards technology and engineering rather than aesthetics.

I’m with both men. For me, at this point in my life, less means simpler. Fewer things, fewer distractions, fewer (and clearer) priorities. I prefer life this way because I, like Bucky, am finding that I can do more with less.

The way I do this is to go deep rather than broad. There are plenty of things I still want to learn in this life. I’d rather single out one or two and go deep rather than ten or twelve and skim over the surface. I’m finding this holds true for everything in my life. Less is more because less in the field means I can truly focus on and love what’s left.

Be serene,

Dr. Susan Corso

Seeds are remarkable gifts. Sown in consciousness, they bring you to the most important part of your being—your Divine Spark.

When you have friends you would like added to the Seeds e-mail list, send their addresses to me at SeedsDrCorso@comcast.net and please visit my blog posts Ode Magazine.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Just Like Me

Would you like a simple spiritual practice that will guarantee you more peace with the people around you?

It will work for the ones you know and the ones you don’t know.

It will work for the ones you knew and the ones you will know.


When you hear a sentence out of your mouth that begins something like, “He is so . . . .” I’ll let you fill in the blank. Or “She really makes me . . . .” Criticisms. Angers. Frustrations. Hurts. Sadnesses. Disappointments.


Take Osama bin Laden.

“Osama bin Laden is hateful.”

Just revise your sentence with three words. Begin it with:

Just like me, Osama bin Laden is hateful.”

I don’t know about you but that brings me to a full inner stop. Relationships are mirrors. Direct mirrors, not fun house mirrors. If I can see it in Osama bin Laden, then it’s somewhere in me. That sounds harsh, I know, but that’s how the law of relationship works.

Peace will grow in you very quickly if every time in the next 21 days you rewrite your criticisms of others. Try “Just like me,” and be forewarned. Transformation will knock down your door.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Magic is Afoot

{NO SPOILERS HERE!}

I happen to know two people who celebrated birthdays this weekend and I'm so glad both were born, but the real gift was Saturday’s arrival of the latest and last book in the Harry Potter series. I’d ordered it months ago. Months. As I’d had some less-than-totally-satisfactory delivery experiences with earlier volumes, I was Girl Scout prepared for this one.

Imagine my delight when all my visualized scenarios evaporated as I heard the book thud onto our marble front steps at 6:44 AM! I was so pleased that I was actually able to discipline myself to stay on my own writing schedule before I even opened the package. Just knowing it was here was enough.

Around 8:54 AM I opened Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling and just let it sit on my desk in silence, glowing. Perhaps I was the one glowing, but it could have been the orangey Mary GrandPr√© cover too. I kept whispering to myself, “It’s here. It’s here!”

Finally, I couldn’t stand it, and I fell into the meticulously-crafted world of wizards and witches and the ultimate battle of good and evil, and I was completely quiet. My whole house was silent. I ate up the words till 3 PM when my eyes gave out and I had to take a nap. I was about 400 pages in. A little over half-way.

Up again, eyes rested, I carried on. Reading ever faster. I moved chairs from time to time so I wouldn’t get stiff. I read in the kitchen, in my office, in the living room, on the porch. I knew I had to finish it before I could go to sleep.

I got emails from friends. They were jealous that my copy had come so early. One was already done and wanted to talk about it. Another wanted to talk after we both finished it. This was a much anticipated book.

The further and further I went into Harry’s world, the quieter I became, and the quieter my house became. Reading is, for me, a silent pleasure. The peace that silence brings with it “enables me to experience and absorb it all more intensely.” (I’m quoting Tijn Touber in the June issue of Ode Magazine, where I’m part of the team of Readers Bloggers, from an article he wrote on his experience of a silent retreat.)

It was 10:07 PM when I finished the book. I sat under a Victorian stained glass lamp on my sofa in the living room and clasped the book to my chest. Silent. Pleasure. Oh yes. J. K. Rowling fulfills every storyline and then some in this final volume. Well worth the wait. I’ll start it again in the morning and read more slowly next time.

I couldn’t call my friend to talk it through though, not last night. Instead, I had to hug the book to myself for a little while. In the silence. With the pleasure. As we say in my neck of the woods,

Mazel Tov, J. K. Rowling!

Thank you and bless you for writing Harry Potter.


One other thought. It did not escape me that as millions of Americans were sitting down with a book about the battle between good and evil that we had a different president than our usual one. Mr. Bush was having minor surgery so for 2 ½ hours Mr. Cheney was president. Thank God, magic was afoot.

Friday, July 20, 2007

When-Then Zen

Seeds IX, 29

Seed: When-Then Zen

You’ve heard of If-Then Statements. It’s a set-up for logic. I want to talk about something I read in the writing of Dr. Barbara White Steinberg. She writes about When-Then Statements, and my take is that it’s a set-up for illogic.

Try these out:

When I lose ten pounds, then I’ll . . .
When I retire, then I’ll . . .
When I clean out the garage, then I’ll . . .

When-Then, as a rule, sets up a thoroughly false premise which leads to a false, and less than satisfying result. This is mostly because the When part of these statements puts into the future something you actually want right now.

The universe is not set up on a reward system unless you set up your universe that way. Try rephrasing your When-Then Statements into what I call Zen-Then Statements.

Now that I am losing ten pounds, I’m . . .

Placing your good in the future . . . well, places your good in the future. There is no When; there is no Then; there is only Zen—now.

Be serene,

Dr. Susan Corso

Seeds are remarkable gifts. Sown in consciousness, they bring you to the most important part of your being—your Divine Spark.

When you have friends you would like added to the Seeds e-mail list, send their addresses to me at SeedsDrCorso@comcast.net and please visit my blog entries at Ode Magazine.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

At The Mercy Of

Does this ever happen to you? You hear a word differently than you normally do, and then you hear it all the time? The word mercy has caught me this week.

A newscaster said that the United States is at the mercy of one or another terrorist organization. At the mercy of, in that case, must mean a victim of. I don’t like that, so I repaired to the OED.

The OED says that mercy, in this sense, means wholly in the power of. We’re not wholly in the power of any terrorist anything—unless we agree to be.

Later I was reading a coming-of-age-spiritually book and the author wrote that she was at the mercy of God. Living wholly in the power of God sounds good to me.

The word mercy comes from Latin roots meaning reward. Its French equivalent is merci, which means thanks.

I wonder at the usage of this phrase in our world today. Shouldn’t it be our delight to be at the mercy of any benevolence? And can’t we transform any malevolence by giving thanks for how whatever it is might change us for the better?

I’ve had my fair share of challenges in this lifetime. What I’ve learned to do is give thanks in the midst of the things that I used feel victimized by. What happens is that living in gratitude allows the negatives to be transformed into positives.

Declare for yourself:

I am at the mercy of no one but Divinity.

Then expect the rewards that come with surrender.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A New Kind of Gratitude

I learned something fascinating about gratitude this weekend. It’s something I might already have heard, thought of as valuable, and then forgotten. Certainly, anyone who works with the fundamentals of metaphysics is familiar with the idea of having an

Attitude of Gratitude

Crystal Cathedral founder Robert Schuller was famous for preaching about having an attitude of gratitude, and how gratitude greases the wheels of creation in our favor. He’s right. Look at this though—they’re the words of St. Paul’s first epistle to the Thessalonians (5:18):

In every thing give thanks . . . .

If your mother was anything like mine, one of the things you learned as a child was the mannerly art of writing thank you notes. The rule in our house was that we couldn't have whatever gift that grandmother had sent until we had written our thank you note. Think of a younger you. How might you have started that little missive?

Dear Grandma,

Thank you so much for . . . .


Do you see the difference between Paul and the note? I’ll give you a hint—it’s all in the prepositions. Eric Butterworth taught me this in his book, Spiritual Economics.

Giving thanks for certain people, places, things, events has an implicit judgment in it. Actually, two judgments. First, it assumes that gratitude is a reaction to things outside of us. Second, when we are grateful for certain things, it implies that there are also things for which we are not grateful.

Giving thanks in every person, place, thing, event uses the tool of gratitude properly. Genuine gratitude is a state of being and does not require outer stimuli. This is what makes gratitude open the windows of heaven—it’s causative.

Is something in your life stuck? Unstick it by being grateful right in the midst of whatever is stuck. Watch it unstick—Butterworth says gratefulness makes you full of greatness—and turn into your next blessing.

Friday, July 13, 2007

TNT!

Seeds IX, 28

Seed: TNT!

There was a time in my life when I was a motivational speaker, mostly to the nuclear industry, and the first thing I always told them was that I couldn’t motivate anyone. It’s true. No one can really motivate anyone else. That’s because motivation is an inside job.

What I could and did do was create an environment where my listeners’ personal motivation could be activated. Today’s Seed comes from a respected motivational speaker, Denis Waitley. It stands for Today! Not Tomorrow! And it’s a great piece of advice.

Motivation can sometimes feel elusive. Let’s say you’re inspired to make a change in your life. Do it when the inspiration comes! Or, at least, start it when the inspiration comes.

You’ll find, I’m pretty sure, that once you take action—any action—that the next one will naturally flow from the first one. If you don’t act, then the change becomes just so much theory, a good idea, yeah, someday, and it eventually gets filed in the recycling.

Today! Not Tomorrow! Take that one step, and see how much easier the second one is.

Be serene,

Dr. Susan Corso

Seeds are remarkable gifts. Sown in consciousness, they bring you to the most important part of your being—your Divine Spark.

When you have friends you would like added to the Seeds e-mail list, send their addresses to me at SeedsDrCorso@comcast.net and please visit my blog at OdeMagazine.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Bypass Washington

I read these two words in the order in which they appear above in an article called “Redeeming America” in the July-August Utne magazine. They stunned me.

I wouldn’t exactly say I am a political animal and I have to be honest and credit Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant television series, The West Wing, for my interest in politics at all. (He taught me how it works.) I enjoy pedaling my bicycle for daily exercise in front of Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann, the smart, bad boys of the liberal media.

There’s also one other thing: I vote—and I prefer to vote informed rather than strictly along party lines.

The hard part of this for me is the heart of our nation is in Washington, a government of the people, by the people and for the people. What people? What’s happened to our national heart? Where is it? Why hasn’t the heart of us gotten out of Iraq or into Darfur? What’s going on?

I am sorely tried by the Congress seeming to spout at the White House about bringing home our troops, and not voting to put OUR money where their mouths are. I pray more through the daily news than at any other time of the day.

Bypass is a word common to the world of coronary surgery. The surgery reroutes, or bypasses, blood around clogged arteries to improve blood flow and oxygen to the heart. Could “clogged arteries” also be spelled “clogged beltway?”

Bypass operations are happening politically all over the country these days. Mayors are greening their own cities; governors, their states. Communities are creating safety and watch organizations for their own streets. College students are working to create a Department of Peace in the United States Cabinet, and so are their adult compatriots. Bypassing is a commonplace.

When a coronary bypass is successful, blood flow is improved and the heart gets more oxygen. Take a deep breath, dear one, and pray for more bypass till the heart returns to our nation, or we return to our national heart, whichever comes first.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Just Ideas

For some reason, my favorite magazines have decided to change their taglines all at once. Ode, which used to be “for intelligent optimists,” which is what made me subscribe in the first place, is now “to people, to passion, to possibilities.” (Please be sure to check out their Readers Blog, where I am a regular charter member contributor.)

Utne used to be “understanding the next evolution,” which is a very clever use of their name. Now it’s “Don’t Be Afraid! They’re just ideas.” I laughed when I read it. Just ideas!?!?! Oh, that’s all.

Dear one, nothing but nothing starts without an idea first. I read an article in Guideposts about a stay-at-home mom who wanted to have her own business. She started with an idea to make pillows filled with corn that could be hot or cold. They’re called Wuvits and she’s now got a multimillion-dollar business. First, an idea.

I think ideas are why I write “Seeds” and why I’ve written them for nine years and why I see no reason to stop writing them. The “Seeds” I write are all about ideas. Because you never know. One small idea seed in front of the right person at the right moment could change the world.

One of my favorites, Ralph Waldo Emerson, wrote,

Nothing can withstand an idea whose time has come.

Nothing. No thing. First, an idea. In an individual. Who is energized by it. Takes the idea and acts on it. Tells others. The world is transformed. Sounds like a short, simple formula. Not so much. But it doesn’t matter.

This summer I’ve been given some quiet time to reflect on the past almost fifty years of my life. The things that have taken me the farthest in these fifty years have been ideas. Don’t be afraid, dear one. We’ve all got them.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Mr. & Mrs. Murphy

Seeds IX, 27

Seed: Mr. & Mrs. Murphy

Did you know that there really was a Mr. Murphy, as in Murphy’s Law? Yessir, he was an Air Force engineer in the 1940s. You know his law, I’m sure, If anything can go wrong, it will, and at the worst possible time. Can you say, “glass half-empty?” I can.

Know anyone like this? We all do it, actually. It’s the way we’ve learned to use our own minds against ourselves. Try it this way: You lose your keys. In an instant, no, faster, your brain is searching its own files for “Lost Key Experiences.” It says something like this: Aha! Remember the last time you lost your keys? You were late to work and it was the straw that broken the bosses’ back and . . . need I go on?

Allow me to introduce you to Mr. Murphy’s helpmeet, Mrs. Murphy. She too (surprise, surprise) has her own law. If something can go right, it will.

At one point when I was a kid, our address was 4544 East Oregon. Two blocks down was a different address: 4544 East Orange. It didn’t take long for the postal worker to mix up our addresses. Guess who lived on Orange? Mr. and Mrs. Murphy and their four children. Mrs. Murphy became my mom-away-from-mom. Whenever I wasn’t satisfied with my own mother’s answers to whatever I dreamed up, I went to Mrs. Murphy. She always steered me right. Thanks, Mrs. Murphy.

Be serene,

Dr. Susan Corso

Seeds are remarkable gifts. Sown in consciousness, they bring you to the most important part of your being—your Divine Spark.

When you have friends you would like added to the Seeds e-mail list, send their addresses to me at SeedsDrCorso@comcast.net

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Who’s Your {Super}hero?

As a rule, magazine articles don’t make me cry, but reading Utne this morning, I teared up and spilled over. The article is called “Geek Squads: It’s a bird! It’s a plane! “It’s a superhero—in your neighborhood!” In my original flip through the magazine, I was pretty sure this article was about those wonderful white socked, skinny-tied computer wizards who make housecalls, but no . . .

Author Kristen Mueller cites a magazine called Punk Planet, “An entire community of real-life superheroes patrols the streets from Los Angeles to Boise, Chicago to Phoenix.” Who knew? A New York City superhero named Dark Guardian said,

“It’s all about standing up for what’s right.”

The President of the United States commuted Scooter Libby’s prison sentence the day before yesterday, and I am dismayed. This action is so far from standing up for what’s right that it makes me feel ill. That’s why I cried over the superheroes. Because they exist.

The thing it made me wonder about is this: does a superhero/ine exist in each one of us? Let’s say it does. You have a superhero inside you. Who is he? Who is she? Would you let him/her out if you could? When? Under what circumstances? Why? Why not? What’s her name? How is he costumed? What’s the mission?

A New York metro area superhero named Tothian says, “I’m pretty much fighting the bad guys, saving the world, that kind of stuff.” Superheroes also pick up trash, stop older kids from bullying younger ones, and provide hope—hope that there is within ourselves and our race a genuine, natural desire to stand up for what’s right.

Another superhero in Flagstaff, Arizona, Kevlex runs the World Superhero Registry. He says that real-life superheroes are trying to prove that . . .

anyone can provoke change

by “taking a stand for your version of the world, and doing it in a very public way.” I suppose it could be argued that this is just what George W. Bush and his cronies are doing, but the superhero designation adds a twist to the equation.

In ancient mythology, a hero/ine was a human who mediated between humanity and the divinity, a human plus and/or a deity minus. On this Independence Day, consider spending a little of your holiday daydreaming your own inner superhero/ine into reality. We need the hope your existence inspires.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Why Do I Give? What Upset Me?

Recently friends of mine who have a theatre company received their not-for-profit status from the Internal Revenue Service. It’s a matter for much rejoicing because the IRS doesn’t hand out 501(c)3 status without a lot of work. I immediately sent them a contribution.

This was a few months ago. I never heard from them. Not a call, an email, nor a tax deduction letter. I don’t like this about myself, but it bothered me. It also made me look at why I give. One question I asked was, do I give to get thanks?

The real answer is no, I don’t. But it bothered me that they hadn’t thanked me, or acknowledged my gift for tax purposes. I had to dig deeper about what was bothering me. When I went to see a performance of theirs last night, there was a list of donors in the program. My name wasn’t there.

Some of you know that I have a lot of experience in the professional theatre. The theatre started out to be my career on earth until life made a mid-course correction for me. It took most of the first act to figure out why I was bothered by the omission.

At the reception afterward, I was finally clear enough to mention the experience without sniping. (There were layers of emotion to work through till I was clear.) I cornered one of the founders, told her my story, and finally got to the crux of the matter for me. It was one of conscience.

I said, “I don’t care if my name is listed. That’s not the point. The point is that if my gift was overlooked, what others were overlooked, and are you hurting yourself by being out of integrity in your business dealings?” The co-founder got it in one.

I give, dear one, because, like all humans, I like to give. It makes me feel good. Public acknowledgment for giving is nice, but that’s not the point. I was upset in behalf of my friends because I was worried that they’d offended other donors.

Moral of the story: look carefully at your upsets. What you think is personal might not be personal at all.