Saturday, May 26, 2012

Engaged Christianity

I recently attended a rousing event sponsored by Faith Leaders in Action. Wendell Potter, a former Senior Vice President of Cigna, spoke to a large and energized crowd about the distortions and outright lies promulgated by the insurance industry to define the debate on health care reform and derail any options that would threaten corporate profits. 

Government takeover, socialized medicine, irresponsible folks refusing to purchase insurance~~these were their phrases, their concepts fed to legislators, journalists and the American public.           
The truth is that insurance is often not available or affordable to folks who want it. And those who are insured frequently have exorbitant premiums, deductibles and copays, and face the possibility of losing coverage when hit with a serious accident, illness, or family crisis.
While there are many reasons we should be concerned by deficits in our current system, Potter and the pastors who spoke that evening focused on the spiritual mandate given by Christ. One particular teaching wove its way through the event.
Mark 2:1~12 tells of believers who brought a friend to be healed. Finding the way blocked by crowds, they hoisted their friend atop the home in which Christ was speaking, cut a hole in the roof, and lowered him down to Jesus. While my husband, always the pragmatic smart aleck, saw in this story pushy folks who cut in line and caused a whole lotta repair work, it can be read as a call to an engaged Christianity, one in which the faithful take purposeful and tireless action to enact Christ’s teachings.
Potter’s journey from well~paid insurance propagandist to whistle~blower began at a county fairground in Virginia. Curiosity drew him there to witness a free medical event. That curiosity turned to shock as he saw, not tidy booths offering free blood pressure checks and such, but hundreds of people lined up for hours to receive a full range of medical treatment in tents and animal stalls.
“It was like being hit with lightning,” Potter reported in a Bill Moyers interview in 2009. “It was...what country am I in?” Soon after, 17~year~old Nataline Sarkisyan died after Cigna denied her liver transplant, and Potter could no longer ignore his Christian calling.
“A new commandment I give unto you,” Christ said in John 13:34, “That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” Christ’s example calls us to love actively, and to take a stand when we see others harmed. Let us unite with Faith Leaders in Action and Wendell Potter in  reminding everyone that profit has no place in health care.
We must also begin telling our own health care stories. Mine includes paying $7200 per year in premiums with a $2000 deductible. That's $9,200 that I need to pay each year before my insurance will pay anything! Seems a bit high, doesn't it? A few years back, my husband's insurance refused to pay their full portion of his emergency heart attack treatment because the treating physician's group was not on their preferred provider list, even though they had no providers within 40 miles who could do the relatively routine stent procedure needed. As expensive as our situation is, however, we are among the lucky ones.

I urge you all to share your own stories~~perhaps beginning by adding a comment to this post~~and to listen with open hearts to the experiences of others. Consider, too, joining with others to press for change in your area.

Blessings on us all!

Loanne Marie

* * * * * * * * * *

Lotsa completely optional links for ya! Here are links to: 

...the Bill Moyer's interview with Potter; NPR story on the Virginia medical event that changed Potter; 

...two sources of information about the success of grassroots efforts to bring universal health care coverage to Vermonters, Vermont for Single Payer and a story from Salon;

...a story on activists in Oregon pressing for universal coverage there;

...Project Health Colorado, an organization working to turn things around in that state;

...PICO, a national organization that works for health care reform;

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Meditation Prayer

In two recent essays, Shadow Play and Song and Flame. I referred to a prayer I often use during meditation. Many of you have asked that I share that prayer. So here it is!

But first, a bit of explanation. A few of the lines below came from a prayer that made the rounds on the internet near the Winter Solstice of 2010. You can find a link to the site that includes this original prayer here, though you'll need to scroll way down the page until you reach A Solstice Prayer. It surprises me to see how different this original prayer is from the one I now use.

I'm not one for rote memorization. When I work with prayers or affirmations, I actively engage with the words, the feelings, the concepts. They are quite real to me and, therefore, do not remain static. Words and phrasings change with the day, my mood, my sensitivities. I add lines and take those away that no longer fit well or feel inspirational. The phrases on love grew from a single line from A Course In Miracles some friends had on their bedroom wall. In this way, the prayer informs my life and my life informs the prayer. We are linked together. 

Rarely is every word spoken or thought throughout an entire prayer. Rather, I think the meaning or feel the sensation or connection, without it being encapsulated in the form of words. So it was a bit of a trick to lay them out here, to dress them in the clothing of our common language. And if I were to do so tomorrow, likely some words would be different.

What I offer is an outline of a prayer I've found very helpful in orienting me to meditation and throughout my day. Here it is, along with some asides that give a feel for how I work with the prayer.

I breathe with the universal forces of creation…

~~Pause for several breaths, experiencing the fullness of the energizing Yang inhale and the fullness of the releasing Yin exhale~~

…under the guidance of...

~~Name those who have been important in your spiritual development, pausing a few moments after each one. I recognize it as an invocation of energy, usually with a strong sense of Presence surrounding me on the cushion as I go. Here is my own list, but of course create your own~~

the Buddha and his earthly representative Thich Nhat Hanh; Jesus Christ; the saints and sages of all spiritual traditions; all those who have, throughout time and without fanfare or recognition, infused ordinary human lives with Spirit; all my personal guides; all who have brought me to this place and time. 

~~And this next passage is where you bring it all back home, where the magic happens~~

I open to you now, as well as to all others who at this very moment are opening to Spirit in whatever way. I join my small voice to your vast chorus, add my tiny flame to your glorious fire.

~~Here, I often envision the Earth surrounded by innumerable points of light,
knowing one of them as my own.
Enter meditation, sensing or knowing yourself linked with a multitude of others as part of a greater whole, a greater flow. Allow yourself to become one with it.

When my meditation time is over, I start again at the beginning and complete the prayer~~

I breathe with the Universal Forces of Creation. Divine Source fills the spaces and cells of my being with pure Love and Light. I am healed, whole, and renewed and ready to move out into the world as your hollowing reed, allowing your Light to shine through me to all I meet this day, especially…

~~Name particular individuals, those you anticipate coming into contact with throughout your day. This is also a good time to send Light to someone in need.~~

…Love is the voice I listen to. Love is the voice I honor with my thoughts and actions. Love is the voice I remember as my own. I gratefully accept my role as a force for positive change 
at this time in Earth’s history.


I hope this has been helpful. Feel free to use these words as I wrote them or, better yet, make the prayer your own with changes coming immediately and continuing as you move forward. Let this prayer, and others you create, inform your life as you inform them. 

Many blessings!!!

Loanne Marie

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Song and Flame

I recently wrote about a favorite prayer’s evocative opening line,
“I breathe with the universal forces of creation.” 
The prayer then goes on to acknowledge those whose teachings have guided and informed our spiritual path. And then it takes an exhilarating turn. We consciously connect to all who, at this very moment , are opening to Spirit.
Given the world’s population of 7 billion plus, that’s just gotta be a lotta folks! In churches, sanghas, sacred groves, hospitals, synagogues, prayer circles, mosques, prison cells, medicine wheels, ashrams, on nature walks or in solitary devotion, in praise or in pain, they are opening right now. In ways reflective of cultural background and spiritual awareness, they align with that which is good. If your belief system allows, to these numbers can be added those not in human form~~guides, angels, and enlightened beings who’ve left their physical bodies~~all giving themselves unceasingly to the Divine. And this prayer now unites us with them all.
“I join my small voice to your vast chorus, 
add my tiny flame to your glorious fire.”
There’s something about the immediacy of this line that always energizes me. No longer am I a single practitioner sitting on a cushion or meeting with a handful of friends in weekly meditation. I am now consciously linked with a multitude of others. The teaching that all is a vibrant interconnected whole comes alive in me. I am absorbed into a greater flow. And for a few moments, I sing and shine from there.
Soon, though, it is time to move into the rest of my life. Can I maintain a connection to that Oneness, with harmonious voice and shining flame? Sometimes. Other times, not so much. This is as it should be. We are apprentices all.
Just as training the voice is essential to take one’s place in a choral group, we need coaching to best express our essence in the world. The beauty is that the world itself provides this mentoring. We are continually given experiences that allow us to cultivate our own voice and, through the feedback received, refine it.
In that vast chorus referred to in the prayer, our instrument is our mind and emotions, our personality, our psyche, our intuitive sense. Our heart and our soul. We are students learning to sing. Some lessons are pleasant and come easily to us. Others make us dig deep.
When we greet every experience consciously, as an exercise perhaps designed specifically for us, our tone grows clear and strong. Our vocal range extends, and our ability to improvise in response to the emanations of others increases. We come to delight in the notes themselves, expressing them deftly, playfully. We find our particular niche in that magnificent chorus and sing our hearts out in a song that is our very life.
And what about that tiny flame that is ours alone? We give it away. Brightly shining, we joyfully cast our light into that glorious fire that births and consumes us all.            

Sing your refrain joyfully. Shine your light generously. Sing and burn. Burn and sing.

Loanne Marie

To read the essay about this prayer's first line, I breathe with the universal forces of creation, click here.
To read the entire prayer, click here.