A Prayer Walk in New York City

Meditations with Bernard
Geography of the Soul
Royce Fitts
(copyright 11.2017)

“I want to show you the places I pray and meditate…”, he says this, in his gentle and thoughtful manner, as we begin to walk through one of the most beautiful, unusual spaces and places I have ever been, Central Park in New York City.

Bernard and I met about six weeks before, during my first journey into Central Park. He was one of the scores of musicians, artists and performers self-placed throughout the park.

I was alone.

It was a warm autumn day, the trees filled with orange, green, red, brown and golden leaves. Scores of children and adults walking, gazing, laughing filled the park. I could not help but smile.

I am prairie, not city. Western prairie to be exact. Yet on this visit to this city of cities, I was taken by the energy, the flow, the beauty and friendliness of a place that, in my imagination, had been intimidating and not welcoming. But now…

The soulful notes of a saxophone floating up from a nearby walking tunnel beckoned me. The notes drifted out and up into the lovely blue and sunny autumn sky. I wandered in that direction. I went into the tunnel. I saw this man lost in his muse. I gave a smile and a slight bowing blessing to him as I went on my way. Two hours later, without consciously realizing it, I was back where I had started.

Almost on a whim, I walked again into his tunnel. He saw me, recognized me from earlier, and this time he bowed and smiled. He laughed and asked, “Are you famous? Are you a rock star”? (I get that a bit here and there.) Laughing together, we started to share stories about our lives, especially about his New York City world. Then suddenly, as he was talking, I stopped him. I knew I had to video interview this man. What he was sharing was gold, autumn gold, of his self-discoveries and healings when he was a boy in New York City, here in Central Park, nearly fifty years ago. Click here(add later) for his lovely story.

Yet, this story this time is about us, Bernard and me. It was early November just a bit over a month after our first meeting. Autumn in the city was insisting on being beautiful, warm and golden. We had been in occasional email correspondence since our first meeting. I was again going to be in the city and notified him. He welcomed me with open arms, and a bear hug.

We met at the Met, outside.

(Ah-hh…The Metropolitan Museum of Art. That’s another story, Meditations at the Met.)

Bernard and I walked. “Want coffee or tea?”, he offered? “No, I’m good. I want to go to where you told me you often pray and meditate. I’m curious. You mentioned St. Patrick’s Church and other places. I have never seen it.” “Oh, we don’t have to do that”, he responded. “It’s way over there…”, pointing somewhere far out of the park. “We can just hang out here and walk around.”

“No”, I said… “I was intrigued when you told me you often go on these walks and meditate in this city.” I did not say what was steeping deep within my own being, in my unconscious, because I was not aware of it. I am a prairie guy and much of my spiritual formation has been experienced and nurtured in the vastness of the wild, open grasslands, bluffs and canyons of my western Nebraska home. What is it like to walk, pray, meditate in the midst of the vastness of this rushing city?

Canyons of architecture, paths of concrete, blazing buses and cars, humans in fast motion.

“Well, sure”, he said. “I would like to show you.” We strolled first through this enchanting park, flowing within the spiritual river of this space, slowly moving in and around and through the pilgrims, watching artists paint, performers perform, children cheering and, then, stopping near the outdoor bandstand, “This is where Simon and Garfunkel gave their free concert”, he reminded me, and I so desperately yearned to go back in time to have been there. “And”, he said, “that is the place I told you about last time, when I was a kid, and I had my first LSD trip”.

This moment hovers in the air, drifting with memory and wonder.

We continued and headed toward somewhere, “over there”. As we walked through the park, Bernard laughed as he told me about his beloved mother, heavily active in her church and neighborhood, and cautious about Bernard’s new friend, me. “Are you sure it is OK to be with him? How did you meet him again?” she probed. We laughed and laughed. Bernard told me of seeing famous people in the park, one in particular, who was freely immodest as the famous soul relieved himself.

“See that walking tunnel over there? It has the best acoustics of all the tunnels in the park. It is fabulous. But, it is kind of spooky. Dark. All by itself. I won’t play there…”.

Tourists, not people who know Bernard, come up to him and asked directions. I am invisible to them, but not to him. How does that happen, I wonder? What energy exudes from him that draws people as natural as the autumn breeze brushes past?

“I pride myself on being the best tour guide of Central Park”, he smiles playfully brags.

Bernard stops and visits with musicians and artists, gives advice and encouraging words on how to connect with people, to engage more, sell more, because this is how some make their living. “Some of the best musicians in the world give up being in their bands just to come and play here, because it feels right.”

Starving artists by choice, rich in spirit.

We make our way out of the park. Somehow, for me, the dramatic contrast of nature, crossing the street, of the cars and buses and into the human rush simply unfolds in an easy awe.

I watch Bernard, notice his presence and his smile as he tells his tales of his life. “I was a disc jockey down in North Carolina”, he reflects. “Blues”. “This is Nick Granger on WWIL”, and his voice suddenly changes into a deep sexy baritone. He laughs. One time he got free tickets to a Rolling Stones concert. I forget the details of how he got the tickets, but what I do recall is, through the radio station, he and several guests were riding in a limousine together to the concert. It was a two-hour ride. One of the guests was a vapid white racist. “Here he is, crowded into a limo with us”, Bernard laughs. “There were free drinks in the limo, and the man, so intimated, started drinking right away. He was totally passed out by the time we got to the concert. We helped him get to the first aid station.”

“As for us, we loved the Stones! Great concert!” “Nick Granger” adds with a sigh of “Satisfaction” that only a Stones fan would understand.

“I want you to meet this minister and family”. We suddenly take a turn on the sidewalk. We walk up to a church. “One time I was in the park and this little girl got hurt, and I went over to help her, and her mommy appreciated it. I found out that they pastor this church. Every time I see the little girl now, she runs up to me, yells “Bernard!” and gives me a hug. I love that family.” Bernard tries the doors, but, the church is locked today. Bummer.

We flow onto Fifth Avenue. We are now fully immersed in city. Sometimes we are silent, walking in the midst of noise and structure. Quietly. Prayerfully.

“Here”, he says, let’s go in here”. The beautiful large, old building, dark red brick, darkened more by eons of city dust, has strange folding tables out on the sidewalk, displaying various wares. There is a sign that explains something about a fundraiser, and “all are welcome”. Bernard weaves his way through the crowd. “There is a bathroom right off the entry”, he smiles, and I get that. Men in their 60’s keep stock of where to go.

“I love this sanctuary”, he says. We work our way around the tables inside the church, and around the hosts who “welcome all”. We go into his sanctuary. His.

I am in awe, immediately.

The “Akron” style sanctuary. I learned that term in seminary, the only architectural style I even remember from those long past days. I remember because I loved it. The curved semi-circle design that allows for people and space to see each other, to feel connected to “divinity and humanity”, all one, together. And the warmth of the wood, deep and dark, in this sanctuary, warmed even more by the soft yellow lighting throughout the vast room.

We stood in awe for a moment. Silent. Silent. Nothing and everything. All one.

We softly entered the second pew, in the center of the sanctuary. The massive organ, beautifully displayed in the front, with the same dark, warm wood, was silent. We sat. Bernard removed his treasured fedora (“an Italian Felt Imao”, he described later, as he patiently corrected my hat sacrilege).

Presence. Above. Below. All around. Within.

We within, presence.

“Will you pray, Royce?” he asked. A bit surprised, I thought, “I am. Now. All the time. Without ceasing. With you, Bernard…I simply be, and pray…”

“Yes”, I answered. “Out loud?” I asked. “Yes”, he said. I looked at him, “You, too?” “OK”, he smiled.

I did and he did.

We left.

I am a minister, among other savory and unsavory labels. When I was in seminary, especially in my first year, and I was bored studying in the downstairs library of the School of Theology, I would find the Handbook of Denominations and peruse it. Weird, I know. But, I was fascinated by the explosion of the different kinds of churches in America. Some had crazy and fun self-righteous names (maybe even the one with which I was a member?). I guess, when I think about it, all of them are a bit crazy named. I mean, the names of even the “mainstream denominations” are strange, except to those ones who are members of a particular denomination. Anyway, my favorite church denomination name, the one I remember, was “Daniel’s Little Band”. I guess it was some kind of combination of some good old fashioned Old Testament theology honoring King David and New Testament Christology. As far as I remember, the group had less than a hundred members in the whole denomination. I often wondered what it was like to be one of those members.

I tell this little story because, I was curious of the church denomination’s name in which Bernard and I had just prayed. I noticed it right away (Presbyterian) as we came to the building because that is what I do. But, being ornery, I asked Bernard what church we had just prayed in. “I don’t know,” he answered. I smiled. Yay, Bernard! I cheered internally. Way to go! I loved that he went for the essence of the calling.

The essence. All that matters, really.

We continued down Fifth Avenue. I loved the juxtaposition of tourists, shoppers, business people, the energy of the city, alongside our meditation walk. Meditation mile, I thought.

Bernard’s Meditation Mile.

We came to the Episcopal Church. Bernard walks up the steps forthrightly. “They always allow the homeless to sleep on these steps”, he points down. St. Patrick’s doesn’t.” He waves his arm toward the opposite side of the street. “They have so much security and pat down everyone over there who enters. But here, the homeless are welcome on the steps.”

I immediately thought of “both sides, now” of this argument and position. I know some of the boldness of modern-day Episcopalian decision-making about social justice and compassion. I get the dilemma all churches go through in how to maintain their buildings and yet, offer authentic compassion to the vulnerable ones of any community. I think it is ironic and flat-out bizarre that allowing homeless to sleep on steps is somehow a social justice stand of a community.

And, it is.

I imagined being cold, in winter, icy. I imagined curling up on these steps. I imagined relief. Freezing. Relief. Freezing. Relief. Back and forth.

We go into the sanctuary. Wow. One of the awarenesses I learned in seminary is, in church buildings, where is God “located”? I, as I now write, shake my head in some mixture of befuddled puzzlement that we even studied such a thing. But, think about it. When you walk into a sanctuary, what part of the room most captures your attention? So, in seminary, we studied stuff like that. We noticed that architecture does this. Theology does this.

“Where is God”?

Are you shaking your head yet?

Well, in this particular sanctuary, God is in the front, and way up there! The massive, massive front wall of the sanctuary commands awe, and being overwhelmed by awe. It is amazing, beautiful, overwhelming, expensive (sorry, I think of that, too).

Several people were quietly praying in the pews. We sat far in the back. Tiny in here. I stared up, down, all around.

The organ was being tested that day and a huge sign apologizing for the constant and irregular sounds, was displayed in the center aisle. I barely noticed.

I prayed silently. Bernard bowed his head.

Presence. Within. All around.

Then, we went across the street, down the block a bit. Massive crowds. Confusion. Police guarding the gigantic open doors of the cathedral. Brilliant white marble soared from sidewalk to the skies. Gold shining in the November sun.

We went through security, were deemed safe. The times we are in: Necessary. Painful. Awful.

The noise here seemed different. Maybe my mood. Less meditative. Bernard and I slowly walked into the crowded sanctuary. A mass was in process. Cameras, mine included, were going wild. People in the pews were responding to the priest’s words, offering the blessing, “and, peace unto you…”

We sat. I noticed the beauty, the stunning colors of the sanctuary. Brilliant. I looked at Bernard. He was quiet, thoughtful. He was meditating, praying…this was his space. No matter the external chaos, he carried peace, within, all around.

Bernard sees other levels of beingness. Experiences beingness, quietness, connection in his city.

Dreamlike in those moments, I felt connected to the whole, the holy, the beyond and the intimate, the right here. I was in a daze, dazzled by synchronistic particles, the droplets, the dust of molecular compassion swirling within and without me.

Dreamlike in this city of sacred dreams.

Living Your Dreams in New York City

Living Your Dreams in New York City

 a brief reflection of last Saturday’s DreamWork Retreat

Imagine, 15 people, crowding into Dr Norman Suhu’s office in One Union Square, New York City to explore nighttime dreams. This is the second workshop and retreat experience that I have been honored to lead in Dr Norman’s office. And I wanted to take a moment to thank Dr Norman and the participants from last September, and also the new participants this last Saturday, April 28th, for your beauty and courage to come and experiment with something that you have likely never done before: sharing your dreams and discovering new perspectives, healing and wisdom through our group dream adventures.

We always have room for your dreams.

Dream Retreats and Spiritual Counseling are private experiences so I will not share the personal experiences of the dreamers. I do want to share that the sense of community and healing was deep and profound. Each person who shared their dream, whether it was an old one from many years ago that “keeps on giving gifts”, or a newer one from just a week ago, reveals how profound and healing dreams can be for our waking lives.

Projective DreamWork, the approach I use,  is a gentle, non-judgmental, playful, yet deeply insightful way to experience dreams. We borrow the dreamers dream and step into the dream to offer our own experience as a gift to the dreamer, and to ourselves. In our Retreat, we experienced again how we are part of a community, a tribe, a kind of communal experience, where dreams come to help all of us and to offer healing and insight to our own personal selves, as well as to our community and to the world.

All of us who shared our communal experience this last Saturday will agree, I’m sure, that New York City welcomed our dreams. We offered healing and beauty to the City through the sharing and exploring the meanings of our dreams. “All dreams come in the service of health, healing, and wholeness”…

Would you like to experience DreamWork and Spiritual Counseling?

We have begun to explore the possibilities of offering a Two-day DreamWork Retreat in midsummer, sometime in mid-July. Perhaps near New York City or in central New York State.

Are you interested?

Also, you can always contact me for individual DreamWork and Spiritual Counseling sessions via phone or Skype or Zoom. You and I can be anywhere in the world to experience this.

Tonight, give yourself a brief moment of grateful meditation and request the dreams to come. They will. They want to help, heal, and give you new amazing wisdom.

Blessings this Day,

Royce

I hope this post has been helpful to you!

Do you have a challenging or a troubling concern or are you yearning to explore the meanings of a night-time Dream? You are invited to contact me for a free 30-minute session to explore the possibilities of our working together for your healing and wholeness. Click here to contact me. 

I Miss Mr. Rogers In The World

1968 was a terrible, horrible, no-good very bad year. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. The Vietnam War and the earth-shaking Tet Offensive raged forming a deeper impression of a war that was, on all sides, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, unjust and full of lies (and, really, when has war not been that?). Peace and love were struggling, losing. Yet, not all was bad. I graduated from high school. Later that year, I went to college. And, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood appeared on PBS/Nebraska Educational Television/NET (as it was called then). In 2008, when Mr. Rogers, the person, who had died five years before, had his 80th birthday, I wrote a little story honoring him. The story is brief, written in a script I seldom use now (I miss that script and not capitalizing anything, and over-using my beloved ellipses…(-: It has been fifty years since all the above has happened. Fifty. Years. Ago. I share the story below because we still need him, Mr. Rogers. We can dig deep. He’s still here, inside us, all.

 

I Miss Mr. Rogers In The World…
(in honor of his 80th birthday, March 20, 2008)

 

So, I was in my teens, seems like…maybe coming in for dinner (that’s noon down on the farm!)…I remember sitting on some chair, unlacing my work boots, hungry, like only a farm teen can be…the overwhelming aroma of mom’s cooking filling every corner of our home…me, now feeling a sudden laziness, being hypnotized by the gods of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and very thick gravy… I’m staring at the tv…my baby sister, just three years old or so, sitting on the floor, cross-legged, her face just a few inches from the tv…she’s answering, out loud, a question Mr. Rogers has just asked her…yes, out loud she answers and talks to him in her sweet, tiny voice… I am torn between being enchanted by this mystery, touched deeply that this tiny human baby is genuinely visiting with, quite possibly, her closest friend and neighbor out here on the prairie…and, I, alternatively, am wanting to, in normal teen cynicism, laugh a sarcastic burst at my sister for being taken in by such a stupid thing! But, thank god, I am quiet for long moments…then, I say, in a raised voice to my mom who is still in the kitchen cooking, “Hey, did you know she’s talking to Mr. Rogers?”…”yes, uh-huh…she does that a lot”…and my baby sister does not even hear us talking…lost in conversation with this gentle, human man…

I miss Mr. Rogers in the world…I left the farm later, certainly not certain of my calling or manhood, as I went to far-away college in a far-away state… I believe, though, that the man in the tv invited me to know, just a bit, about being a different kind of man…a different kind of manly man…who knows, really, what influences we carry one from one another? Who knows, really, from where our inner-self comes? Who knows, really, how and when the shifts and nudges of the formation of our self takes place and change us forever?

I met one, two, three such men in my formation of man-self…one, when I was about fifteen, a teacher of elementary children, an artist, a kind and, sort of depressive man, who was playful and humorous with religion, drama and talked of existential angst…then, in college, a kind, compassionate, creative man, a minister, who, above all, for me, was the most amazing listener I have ever known…and then, in seminary, a lovely, mustached, bold, yet, quiet man, who terrified me with inspiration of very wild theological concepts and ideas…these men, mirrors, reflected back to me, my projections of man-self…

So, some years later, I am a daddy…living on an acreage in Indiana, remembering farm life, going to a local farm supply store and buying a warm, flannel shirt-jacket…wearing it for years and years and years, on any chilly day…it became, dubbed by me, my Mr rogers jacket, ’cause I seemed to always put it on after my work day, coming home, a little more relaxed, being with my babies…except it wasn’t a sweater, like Mr. rogers’, or red, like his…it was green and blue and flannel…and now, it is so worn, frayed on the elbows, threads, and material slowly disintegrating, hanging in the hallway…and, yet, how it worked…to remind me of manhood…

I saw, one time, my adult son, wear it…and I saw, another time, in his home, in a state far away, that he had his own flannel shirt-jacket… I felt warm inside… I saw that there was, a circle of life…

I miss Mr. Rogers in the world…


I hope this post has been helpful to you!

Do you have a challenging or a troubling concern or are you yearning to explore the meanings of a night-time Dream? You are invited to contact me for a free 30-minute session to explore the possibilities of our working together for your healing and wholeness. Click here to contact me. 

Pontifications: My Unholy Take

Pontifications:

My Unholy Take

 Be Gone,
 Ethics and Morality!
(You’ve been a problem way too long, anyway.)
Vote Ideology!
by
Royce Fitts
12/14/17
(copyright 2017)

It’s not about ethics or morality or the Sermon on the Mount or willing sacrifice for the sake of others, or the love of Jesus, or our love for him, or compassion and kindness, or the Ten Commandments…

It’s about ideology. Plain and simple.

That is how the ones who rationalize, from a conservative, often fundamentalist, Christian position, their support of the Trump presidency and for many of the current officeholders and positions and seek to elect almost anyone to office who espouses their ideology.

It is not about ethics or morality.

No.

Be gone ethics! Be gone morality! You are a problem for America (and God).

Ideology. That’s where it’s at.

So, these conservative, fundamentalist Christians say, as was said to me recently (again): “God can use even the most awful or bad or immoral or inept or unethical person to further his Kingdom” (notice, also, how it’s always about his, God’s male-ish Kingdom). God even chooses these kinds of leaders because he, God, can mold them to his purposes. After all, God is in charge and is using all things for his plans. All these leaders who fall into this camp are ordained by God. God, bless his soul, is in charge. God said it. I believe it. That settles it. Amen.

So, that is why Donald Trump is considered ordained by God and by (most of) the conservative and fundamentalist Christian community. There are (thank you, Jesus!) a few refreshing and fierce holdouts in this same community who are taking a stand against this sad and tragic theology.

That is why Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, the president’s press secretary, an upright moral and fundamentalist Christian, raised by upright and moral fundamentalist Christian parents, so vehemently supports her boss, the president.

It is God’s plan for her to be there in the White House to support God’s president.

That is the plan that brought her father (Mike Huckabee) from fundamentalist Christian pastor to fundamentalist Christian Governor of Arkansas, to fundamentalist Christian presidential candidate (several times). All this, in God’s mysterious ways, prepared daughter Sarah to serve now in the White House. It was not God’s plan to put her father there (thank God). It was God’s plan to put Sarah there. Sorry, dad. I am the one, not you.

Would Sarah want Trump to be her father?

I digress. Sorry.

However, in one of Ms. Huckabee-Sanders early interviews, as she started her new job, she was asked how her personal faith and morality might conflict with a boss who has been accused of unpretty and awfully blatant sins.

Her answer: “We need a president, not a pastor”.

It is not about ethics or morality. It is about ideology.

She is not alone in this thinking. The president was elected because of this thinking from the conservative and fundamentalist Christian right.

Ask the vice president, a happy, intense fundamentalist-in-the-center-of-power Christian.

Given this rationale, found in various stories of the Old Testament, God is described as using, even choosing, the evil and the mighty for his (male) purposes. However, it was never, ever OK to elect Crooked Hillary. Evidently, God just could not stomach this evil instrument, could not control her or make her serve his purposes. God would not be in charge if Hillary had been elected. Only Trump.

It is about ideology.

I know intimately the conservative and fundamentalist Christian community. Respecting all those ones whom I love and with whom I went to church for decades, that same community, as has similar others, given up the priority of Jesus’ ethics and morality for the sake of ideology.

There seems to be no discernable difference now. Ideology, ethics, and morality are all the same. It always seems to be right-wing and Republican these days.

Every time I travel across the vastness of the open prairie, through the center of Nebraska, through the center of our America, I follow the sometimes straggly, snake-like path of the Platte River. The Platte River Road it was called in the 1840s. It became known as, for Anglo-European immigrants who were headed for the dominion of the far western coast, The Oregon Trail.

Every time I pass through the center of my beloved state, I pass by the old church youth camp and state camp meeting grounds and buildings of the church of my heritage. I cannot help but gaze as I drive by, at the old buildings of my memories, nearly hidden in the cottonwood groves along the river. Once or twice or more I have pulled off at the nearest interstate exit and taken old U.S. Highway 30, the Lincoln Highway, which passes even closer to those old memories. One time at least, I turned south off of Highway 30, went onto the narrow dusty, gravel and dirt road and headed toward the campgrounds. I crossed the rough Union Pacific Railroad tracks that bordered the north side of the land. I remembered the cautions offered by those in charge at the camps to “stay away from the tracks” because coal trains rushing to and from the coal fields of Wyoming, sometimes every thirty minutes or so, would rapidly careen their gigantic, loaded cars past the camp. It was truly the thunderous and mighty Iron Horse.

No one was there that day I stopped. It was hot, early autumn. I slowly drove on the grounds and parked. The tall stately cottonwood trees were still there. The grass-covered drive and grounds needed water as always. Memories flooded. The softball games. The craft lessons. The bible studies. The tacky community bathrooms and showers. The meals in the large dining hall. The worship services, morning and night. The fierceness of the Word of God. The music fully and abundantly rolling across the prairie, down to the river. Our voices passionately declaring the Savior’s love and power and capability to forgive all sins, even teen-aged ones. Especially teenaged ones.

I met some of my best friends at that place. I met my early romances. I blush as I write. I regretted my shyness then and now. One time several of us skipped services and took an adventurous walk through the cottonwood forest and down to the river. We played and goofed off on the sandy banks of the Platte. The river was nearly dry at that time of the summer. We gawked at the trucks and cars racing past us, above us, on the interstate bridge. It was like a secret place, the travelers paying us no mind.

One time a crew of us drove into the little nearby town to one of our friend’s home and grabbed all her rock-n-roll records and record player. We went back to the campground and took over one of the little buildings and blasted that blessed rock-n-roll music, singing together at the top of our lungs. It was the best!

We didn’t dance, though. Dancing was a sin.

Suddenly, the door flew open! In burst a tall, tall preacher man. He was the father of one of our friends. This preacher hated our music. He, holding back his rage and fierce righteousness, quivering in his voice, said, “I will not let my son be a part of this sinful gathering of godless music”, or something like that. We were deflated. Defeated. Our friend was embarrassed. We tried to cover for him and take the blame.

Our version of “the day the music died”.

The numerous, several times a day worship services at the youth camps or in the adult camp meetings expressed the fervor of the great history of the American religious revival movements. The preaching and singing were intense, often joyous and entertaining.

I, as did most of us, took seriously the callings of Jesus to repent and become his disciples. The altar calls to “come forward to be saved” were in our lifeblood. I cannot tell you how many times I was saved. I often tease that I held the camp meeting or youth camp record for “going to the altar” and kneeling, praying, asking forgiveness and to accept Jesus into my heart, all over again, and again.

Some of those experiences are some of the most heartfelt and profound spiritual moments of my life. I treasure them.

I took seriously the preaching of the ethics and morality of Jesus. Many, scores of us did.

I became a minister. I pursued theological and psychological education to carry out my callings.

Now, I feel the gospel I had been taught has been betrayed and violated. I feel violated. Hurt. Heartbroken.

Jesus now is not about ethics, morality, compassion, humility, healing, vulnerability.

Much of conservative and fundamentalist Christianity is about ideology.

And power.

The hell with the baby being born in a dank, dark and dirty manger.

Let’s grab the White House by all means necessary. And declare that the occupant is ordained and chosen by God.

Somehow, Trump and many other leaders who hold positions of political power are rationalized as ordained of God to carry out God’s purposes.

The idea is this: “Let’s get these ideologically right-wing people elected first. We can control them later. God will control and use them to fulfill his purposes. Ethics and morality? Forgetaboutit. Sometimes God in the Old Testament stories used awful people to fulfill his purposes. God will fix this later.”

I find it, mostly, impossible to move into calm, thoughtful conversations with persons who hold this form of ideology. I, too, am reactive. I, too, am to blame. In my world of executive business coaching and consulting, I playfully call this “brain-stemming”, that we move into “rattlesnake reactivity” and away from “calmness and thoughtful thinking” and conversation by choice, logic and facts.

It is not playful.

I find myself speechless. Silent. Torn between love and ideology.

Whatever happened to the gospel?

I mean, it is like we have said, “C’mon Jesus, get off that ethics, morality and compassion thing. You’ve never be elected. You need right-wing ideology.

I donno, Jesus. Maybe you were way off the mark (“hamartia”) when you asked, “What does it profit a person to gain the whole world, but lose their own soul?”


I hope this post has been helpful to you!

Do you have a challenging or troubling Concern or are yearning to explore the meanings of a night-time Dream? You are invited to contact me for a free 30-minute session to explore the possibilities of our working together for your healing and wholeness. Click here to contact me. 

Subversive Compassion

Subversive Compassion

“I know what you did last summer…”
by
Royce Fitts
(copyright 2018)

“You’re in the Army now! You’re in the Army now! You’ll never get rich, You son of a bitch! You’re in the Army now!”
(1917, by Isham Jones, Tell Taylor, Ole Olsen)

I was not drafted. I applied.

In the spring and summer of 2017, I served the U.S. Army as a civilian Military Family Life Counselor.

If you know me at all, you would likely say that was “out of the box” for the Royce you know.

If you know me deeply, you would say, I was f’n crazy.

Crazy.

Like a dream.

And, speaking of such, here is a dream I had a couple of months later, in October 2017:

My brother and I own a camper trailer together. We are waking life age in this dream. I have an awareness that I have not put any actual money into owning this camper, but the sense is that we own it together.

There is some guy, a younger man, maybe in his 30s, who is harassing and threatening us. He wants to have a fight, a physical fight with us. I do not know why. It is night, very dark. The guy is chasing or following us on his motorcycle as we are driving a pickup truck pulling our camper. The street may be wet or maybe there is a railroad track, but he, the younger guy, skids out of control. I see sparks as he slides the motorbike on its side on the pavement. He is unhurt, but this accident seems to have made him more mad, more determined to fight.

Now we are out of the truck. The accident happened just outside a garage where there are other men working together on their projects, like their own cars or trucks. The threatening man is trying to entice the others to fight us, too. They all seem to be about the same age as the threatening man. They all come out into the street. My brother and I are just standing and the others are kind of milling about, in a sort of semicircle. I am afraid.

I’ve been trying to dial the police on my cell phone, but I cannot get the dial pad to come up. I keep trying, but to no avail. I feel anxiety, fear and dread. I even try to get the other men to call the cops, too. But some or all of the men are hesitant to call the police because this will alert the police to possibly target them because they all have had run-ins with the cops, and the men do not want to be targeted more.

I sought to understand this dream by working on it with my (now deceased) dream mentor and beloved friend, Jeremy Taylor (www.jeremytaylor.com). We used the style and approach of Projective DreamWork. Jeremy took the dream (and the session, for that matter) as his own, and reflected upon it with “I-messages”, speaking as if the dream was actually his own dream.

As we worked the dream, I became aware of a theme that occurs often in my dream and waking worlds. The theme being that I am “always” carrying a feeling of “not-OK-ness” within me, a kind of “out of place-ness” that I have with certain groups, especially certain kinds of men.

In this dream, all of the men are, like, “mechanically inclined”, comfortable with projects that require the use of their hands and brains to repair or make things, like motorcycles, cars, trucks…but not true for me in my waking life. I am not that kind of man. My waking world has been one to avoid those kinds of projects, tasks and responsibilities.

I observed that these dream men represented undeveloped sides of me. My waking life specializes in the world of the soul, the world of the interior life that seeks to move toward existential and spiritual meanings of who we are, as individuals and as a part of our universe. Jeremy reflected that these men in the dream seemed to not be comfortable with the “interior world”, the world of soul searching, meaning-making and, certainly, not comfortable being emotionally vulnerable in relationships.

Tasks, projects, building, repairing, making or destroying external objects (like cars, houses, buildings) are the domains, in my dream, of men like that. Men such as that threaten and scare me, or, at least did, when I was younger.

As a child, I was a “natural-born” sensitive, interior-minded soul. I was raised on a farm in western Nebraska. My extended family had a history of ranching and cowboying. I was ill a lot as a child and I’m sure that influenced my learnings and what I was taught. I was not comfortable with the concrete tasks and jobs of farming, the mechanical stuff. It was like a foreign language I could never learn.

However, I loved the poetry of the land, the seasons, the colors of the prairie. The spaces and places were sacred to me. My family was religious and I took seriously the “bible-teachings” of family and church. I often prayed and thought in poetic images of God, Jesus and how to live. I also experienced lots of shame-based teachings and judgmentalism. I absorbed this stuff deeply.

So, the dream reminded me of these aspects of myself. As I worked the dream, I began to understand that the feeling of “not-OK-ness” is a memory, a feeling of how it was for me in the past.

Memory, though from the past, can feel so present.

I learned a lot of survival and coping skills as a child growing up in that environment. Jeremy projected that he learned how to connect to survive, even if uncomfortable, with people, with men who didn’t get the “interior” side of life.

For me, as a professional helper in the waking world, I became a pastor of men such as these, and later, as I advanced my degrees and trainings, I became their psychotherapist. I would “teach” this style of man the “foreign languages” of “the interior”, of feeling-based, relationship-centered worlds of the soul.

In my waking world, it has never easy to serve, to minister, to therapeutically assist men like that.

Nor has it been easy for these men to be with me. Or to be vulnerable with me, or anyone.

No wonder that part of me in my dream was “hostile” to the part of me that was the “dream Royce”. As I am writing, another insight emerges. Maybe the urge to “fight” in the dream was a desire to “bring together” the opposing parts of me, to integrate the “opposites”. Sometimes “dream fighting” is a way, a first step, toward intimacy and healing.

Feelings like these do not “go gently into that good night”.

Feelings like these haunt me, like in the dream.

And, yet, I have often been drawn to serve men like this.

I have been drawn to serve (though not exclusively) as a therapist to ranchers, cowboys, farmers, motorcycle enthusiasts, railroaders, mechanics–these men, all earthy, and often concrete. However, as we worked together, often for years, we, sometimes, ended up as deep friends and endearing souls for each other.

“It’s not easy being green”, Kermit, the Frog still sings.

It’s not easy being unique, different.

It’s not easy being sensitive.

It is not easy being a man, a macho man or a soul man.

Or a soldier in the U.S. Army.

Not easy being green, camouflage or not.

In the early spring of 2017, I arrived at the U.S. Army post location a couple of days before I began my work. I parked near the main entry gate and sat alongside the road. I was observing, hoping I would not be spotted and ticketed for illegal parking.

Everything, every molecule of my being was insecure, shaking. I felt every kind of anxiety, every kind of hesitation imaginable to not go through with this decision. I, also, knew I would. Conflicting voices. Equally powerful.

I prayed. Not in eloquence, but in crude, anxiety-filled breaths. For me. For them. For, if nothing else, a learning experience out of the box for both of us. A sacred adventure. Maybe.

I had no comfort zone. In fact, except for my feelings of being in the Twilight Zone, I was zoned out.

My whole adult life had been arranged to never do what I was about to do. I was, with deep ambivalence, “anti-military”. I do understand the need for a powerful military. I embraced and lived richly with the results of some of our military accomplishments. I will not deny that truth. And, yet, I, also, perceived what I believe is “fear-mongering” upon U.S. citizenry by greedy, self-serving politicians and industrial giants to, for their own selfish gain, bloat our military and push for economic international imperialism. I wish I could be more eloquent about this evil energy. It is pervasive, deceptive, idolatrous, seductive. And, as I am forced to look into my own sacred mirror, it looks like me.

“Will they make you cut your hair?” How many friends and family asked that? Several. Secretly and neurotically, I wondered that, once the Army saw me, someone, some general, someone with authority in the system, would demand that my hair be cut.

Crazy. Like a dream.

I hid my anxiety. Or thought I did. Outside I tried to look cool, well dressed, maybe just a bit nervous, like starting a new job. I reserved the real hammering anxiety for my insides.

In my first days of my new assignment, I drove around the post, aimlessly sometimes, wondering and wandering what the hell was I about? I walked the post. I found hiking trails and streams, a small lake. I was surprised of the beauty of the post. I walked deep into the woods, smelling the aliveness of early spring as flowers and trees were budding.

One day, I drove into a beautiful wooded housing addition located in the far back section of the post. I parked on the muddy shoulder of the quiet residential road, wondering, again, if I was risking getting ticketed. I strolled across the soggy grass. It was cold, cloudy, raining. I was not dressed for strolling on muddy Army land. I had on a sport jacket, shirt and tie, hoping to look more formal and acceptable with my long, grey ponytail. Oh, the lengths I go, I thought, to build bridges of connection.

I was intrigued by the beautiful nature setting. I noticed something high in one of the trees. An owl? Hawk? No. It was an animal about the size of a small dog. The trees were barely leafing out so the animal’s dark coat was in contrast to the fresh green leaves. But I could not make out the kind of animal it was.

I invite you to reflect with me about “fresh and green”. In new situations, or in situations in which I do not feel secure or competent in, I often feel like a young child. I often feel like I felt in the dream I described earlier, out of place and threatened. These are “memory feelings” that feel powerful in the present, but are not based on the facts of the present. My adult self “knew” how to handle my new assignments. But my child self, the memories, felt insecure. I felt, like the tree leaves, fresh and very, very green. Vulnerable. I even feel that vulnerability as I write these words and know you, whoever you are, are reading them.

Green or not, I was curious about this animal living high in the trees on U.S. Army property. I had my phone camera ready. I was getting rained on and was wet. Just then a van pulled out of a nearby street and headed toward me. The van stopped. The window rolled down and a warm smile greeted me. “Are You OK?”, the woman driver asked. “Yes”, I answered, “just trying to figure out what that animal is up in the trees.” She, without so much as turning to look at the tree said, “Oh, that is a porcupine! We have all kinds of wildlife back here in the woods. It is amazing. I was just checking to make sure you were OK. We’re headed to do some shopping. Didn’t want you to be stalled.” I felt embarrassed. A porcupine, of course! But it was so high up. I did not know they would climb so high to munch on fresh leaves. My child self, the insecure self, who was in a new job, a new environment, and was thoroughly green, was in full charge. I was a child again. I could not “remember” how porcupines lived.

I stumbled to introduce myself, said this was my third day on the post and I was trying to get to know the base. “That is a great idea”, she exclaimed, and said, “welcome. Drive around back here. It is beautiful.”

We said goodbye and she drove off. I would see her a few times around the post that spring and summer. She was highly involved as a volunteer to assist in building community for the soldiers and families on the post. Her husband was one of the primary commanding officers.

I, cold, wet, young and green, walked back to my car, reflecting on this touch of warm, welcoming humanity.

What was I about, I wondered?

Less than a year before, I had declared myself to be on sabbatical. I did not work in academia where sabbaticals were a blessed part of the norm for a professor to do research, writing or specialized studies for a year or so, and be paid by that college or university. I worked in private practice as a psychotherapist, fully self-employed and vulnerable to the ebb and flow of client numbers and health insurance fees and reimbursements.

I loved my work and the clients with whom I worked. Yet, I was burnt out. Exhausted spiritually, financially, emotionally.

I had been divorced for about two years. The huge, necessary change of divorce was painful, shattering, disorienting, renewing and transformative. Even in the expansive and tumultuous result of a marriage ending, I saw, too, that the divorce represented only a part of what other necessary changes were needed.

Who am I, if not married? Who am I, if not living in the sacred prairie space I had lived in for much of my life? Who am I, if not a psychotherapist and spiritual counselor in a traditional setting? Who am I, really?

I visited with my clients about the idea of a sabbatical, informing them of my need to write, travel and heal. I was surprised by their support and acceptance of my journey. I was relieved. I had no idea if or when I would return to my traditional practice, and most clients accepted this with grace and understanding. I felt in awe of my clients’ wisdom and encouragements.

My humanity, in all of my vulnerabilities and rawness, was supported. I often coached deep, good self care for my clients, and did my best for myself as well. But never like this. I needed new adventures. I needed to expand my universe into uncharted waters.

I needed to face my shadows, even my nation’s shadows. I needed to walk where I have never walked before, not seeking traditional comfort, but expansive, uncomfortable growth.

Hello U.S. Department of Defense. Hello U.S. Military. Our shadows? We need to talk.

I had severe ethical and moral positions and questions about anything military. I had raging skepticism about anything political, that those god awful politicians and industrial powers would seek to make war, cheat, lie and steal to feed their wounded egos, make themselves wealthy and powerful while using humans, citizens of our nation, our soldiers, as tools in some kind of holy pawn and ponzi scheme. National defense? Of course. What was real? What is a power ponzi scheme and what is legitimate defense? Given the outrageous hyperbole from those sources, we can hardly know, really.

And, I had applied for this job.  While preparing for my self-made sabbatical, I had read about the interesting counseling model being used to serve people in the U.S. military. I saw this as an opportunity to earn some money, serve people in ways I had never served before, in a location I had never lived. Adventure. Travel. Meeting new people. Challenge like I never knew.

Crazy, like a dream.

It took me three weeks to figure out the layout of that place. Actually, I never did. Google Maps would only partially work on post. Never knew why, but the fun rumours were most often conspiracy-based.

My colleagues were a gift. I knew that I would get along with my fellow counselors, because, I am good at that, it’s what I do. It’s what we do. I never knew though, that some of them would become my close friends.

One day, one of my colleagues was leaving since her assignment was completed. She had been a welcoming help to me as I was starting. She was playful with this strange job and had coached me on the ins and outs. As she was leaving, she laughed and said, “Royce, this is a crazy-ass job!” I laughed, too. So on-target! That little moment was a gift. She told me to do this job like I wanted to, to follow my instincts and “stay in your lane!”, not go outside my scope of service.

Crazy, like a dream.

This kind of job was called “casual counseling”. It is modeled after “walking social workers”, those ones who walk the sidewalks of cities and drive the rural roads to connect and build helping relationships with residents. The concept in the military is to (my words) prevent soldiers and families from falling in between the cracks, getting lost in the milieu of military life. This service is classified as “non-medical counseling”, meaning, we as counselors do not provide any mental health diagnosis for anyone with whom we consult. We would refer anyone who needs more formal psychotherapy to the available mental health resources on the post or in the nearby city.

Casual counseling most intimately reminded me of being a priest in a parish, for I once was. A priest who drops in for coffee at a parishioner’s home, sharing spiritual communion with a family. A priest who walks her beat in her small town and neighborhood. A priest who visits a farm or ranch or city business and hangs out with the owners and workers, even offering to help with the tasks. A priest who has deep counseling sessions in a local pub with one of his flock. A priest who holds a newborn and gives a gentle kiss of welcome to the baby. A priest who prays goodbye to a life that fades away.

I doubted that anyone who assisted in creating the “casual counseling” model even knew or thought about the long history, since time immemorial, of ministers and shamans, the “social workers” of that day, living in the midst of their flock, their community. They existed as natural as the sacred breeze blowing through the camp.

I had to invent this job, as everyone who held this kind of position before me did, over and over. It reminded me (and I could not say this on post because turf issues on post are rigid) of my experiences, not only as a pastor in a parish, but also, as a chaplain in a medical center. Chaplaincy in the military is an esteemed service and to accidently describe my work on post as similar to that would cause challenging conflicts. Out of scope, out of my lane.

We, as casual counselors, had no formal office in which to regularly consult with soldiers and families. We hoofed it, all around the post. My job was to (my words) invent ways to meet soldiers and families on the post, to engage them in some form of connection and conversation, to begin the process of establishing trust so that, if they needed, they would ask for an appointment to consult.

I felt like I was a young Mormon, a first year elder in my missionary year, politely meeting and greeting folks all around the post.

One of the biggest, most powerful services we as counselors provided on post was to consult with any soldier or family member about whatever they needed to talk about, and not ever, ever take notes of what was shared. “Off the record”, absolutely, was the rule. The only exception being was if there was some indication of possible harm to someone, past, present or future. This, then, was out of scope and a referral and intervention was quickly acted upon.

It was refreshing, comforting even, to know soldiers and families could talk about anyone and anything, even about their commanding officers. In fact, many commanding officers would refer their soldiers to us directly, even ordering some to come to us. Again, off the record, safety, privacy. No one knew. In fact, numerous commanding officers would seek us out for their own needs, as well.

Interesting that the military, so rigid, controlled by sometimes corrupt industry and politicians would even think of such a service. I shake my head in wonder and appreciation. Not all is lost.

Crazy, like a dream.

I had to create some kind of routine, had to give myself structure to do my work, receive referrals, see people in privacy, if needed. What to do? How to do it?

I went back to my old family systems training, that the only thing I can be sure of is how I am functioning. Am I catering to others and losing a sense of me? Or am I keeping a solid sense of myself? Am I keeping myself as calm as possible and using the facts to guide me in any given situation? Am I seeking connection with others and, at the same time, am I being solid in my principals and clear in my goals?

I decided that the best way to serve in this environment was to, first of all, take care of myself in a non-selfish and proactive way.

How to meet soldiers? I decided to join one of the fitness centers on post. Imagine me, 6’ 3”, slim, 67 years old, long grey hair working out every morning with America’s finest. “Be All You Can Be!”

Crazy, like a dream.

I did it. Proud. Scared inside. Showing up to work out. Watching soldiers, being watched. Who were we, them and me?

I built friendships. Heard stories. Told stories. Took showers together.

I, then, nearly every day, went to the dining facility to eat breakfast, my favorite part of the day, with scores, even hundreds of soldiers. Communion with soldiers, breaking bread, mediocre coffee and great eggs and amazing kinds of breakfast trimmings.

I would see clients there, nod in a kind of secret way, to not expose anyone. Some soldiers would sit at my table and simply talk about their life, how to get out of the service or what their next assignment would be, or about the suicide of a friend, a fellow soldier. How to deal with that stuff? The one with whom I visited could not make sense of his friend’s killing himself, so he just said, as he stared off, “he was weak…” I felt sorrow for them both, the living and the dead.

I sigh. How do we do this to ourselves and each other? What politician or industrialist gained something over the death of that man?

I never talked, and would never speak, to any soldier or family member of my deep anti-military ambivalence. What I did offer was myself as a concerned, caring, curious, insecure, anxiety-ridden, highly-trained, seasoned and compassionate professional.

I am intuitive. I know the deep anxiety I often felt was not mine alone. The anxiety signals and energies were emitting out from all the psyches of nearly every soldier and family member. I felt their anxiety, along with my own. They were trained to ignore it, repress it, try to eradicate it.

Sometimes, I would be with a married couple and realize that, due to their youth, their lack of life experience, their new babies, their new locations far from their home of birth, that I was the only adult in the room. When the conflicts and emotional fighting would break out in my consulting room, it was up to me to be the anchor, the adult to offer calmness. I would often say, “Calmness is not a feeling, it is a choice and a thoughtful way to act.”

Sometimes that worked, for a moment. I became their calm touchpoint. I was honored.

How does a soldier walk the roads and hills of Afghanistan, have mines go off near him, damaging permanently his eardrums, and, now having a constant loud ringing in his head? How does that soul then come back after his tour, make love to his beloved, have babies and try to talk about intimacy and vulnerability? How does his wife relax and give him space, and hope that he comes back alive, and can be intimate and vulnerable?

Age old questions from every battlefield and every nation, past and present.

Crazy, like a dream.

I carried these questions in my soul everyday as I went through my routines. I would walk the forest trails of the post and pray, surrounded by trees, commune with the nature that somehow exists with beauty and peace on the post. It seemed beautifully odd.

One day I found a labyrinth near a forest trail, put there for meditation, prayer and peace. I walked it, prayed for a friend from Wyoming who had just died the day before. A labyrinth, of all things, for peace and prayer on a U.S. Army base. How to hold space for these strange realities? Somehow strangeness, opposites become friends…

Crazy, like a dream.

Every soldier was polite and addressed me as “sir”. No matter what. No matter how weird I may have looked to them, so out of place with their required military dress and protocol. I have never been so respected in any place. Required or not.

I would sit with officers as they reflected with me about their years in service, about some of their deep questions of what it was they were about. I did my best to hold non-judgemental space for their questions. I know sometimes the way of my being, the way I looked so different from them, and my presence, invited them to talk deeply and openly about their journeys in ways that they could not discuss with anyone else.

Sometimes, people who knew me off the post would ask what I was doing on a military base, I would say that I am offering “subversive compassion and subversive curiosity”. It became my answer to myself, to my soul, that I, uncomfortable with the outrageous decision-making that people in our government and industry do to exploit our soldiers, and use them to exploit our world. I sought to hold that subversive space, a secret closet, for the ones with whom I consulted. They needed the space to wonder, to be curious about their own journey. They needed space for compassion, for self and others.

One day, as my day was supposed to be winding down, I received a call from a colleague asking for assistance. It was late Friday afternoon. My colleague was fielding the telephone calls for counseling requests and walk-ins that always seemed to multiply before the start of the weekend. My counseling colleague was trying to visit with two separate soldiers, catch phone calls and deal with a third walk-in.

I showed up. The building was closing for the weekend. So I met the soldier, an officer, outside. We walked to a picnic shelter nearby to visit. She was hurting. Her wife and she were having a painful crisis. What a normal crisis to have, two people misunderstanding each other, deeply in love and accidently hurting each other. The soldier was wise to want space to reflect with a neutral person, a counselor, before their weekend road trip.

I am proud of this development in our military. Reducing racism, reducing sexual exploitation, increasing status for women, all changes like this in our military is cumbersome, painful and slow. And now, a same-sex couple, in love, married and serving each other and our nation reminds me how grace and progress sometimes surface in the most delightful, unexpected places.

The officer and I had a deep, reflective visit. She felt better, hopeful now to enjoy the weekend with her spouse. As we were saying goodbye, the clock struck 5 PM and, as tradition, taps was broadcast throughout the post. We were in the parking lot, empty now. No one around. Even the rush of traffic on the nearby road seemed to cease. The music of the trumpet softly echoed through the nearby forest, through the breeze, on the warm summer’s eve. The officer became silent, excused herself, removed her cap, stood at attention, and saluted.

She had a tear in her eye. I stood silent, head bowed. When taps were over, she quietly explained that she had friends, sisters and brothers in service, some deceased. “I always tear up no matter how often I hear the taps.”

Crazy, like a dream.

I hope this post has been helpful to you!

Do you have a challenging or troubling Concern or are yearning to explore the meanings of a night-time Dream? You are invited to contact me for a free 30-minute session to explore the possibilities of our working together for your healing and wholeness. Click here to contact me. 

***************

The Priest of Dreams

The Geography of the Soul
Discovering Healing through Journey, Land, and Dreams
by
Royce Fitts, D. Min., LMFT, LMHP
Spiritual Counselor and DreamWorker
(all blog articles copyrighted)
—-
This Priest of Dreams
in loving memory and honor of
Jeremy Taylor
by
Royce Fitts

(copyright January 2018)

The evening prior to Jeremy needing to place his beloved Kathy in the hospital, I had my regular session with him. Even in all his stress and worry, Jeremy was fully present with me as I shared with him my most recent news and adventures, including my waking and dreaming worlds. He honored me, as always, with his loving and gracious enthusiasm, wisdom and support–and humor!

Years ago, in one period of time, I was going through a particularly rough journey (seemed like always!). One day, because he and I shared a challenging background and present-ground of ministry, theology and shamanic callings, I mentioned to him, playfully, yet seriously, that he was my priest. I needed him as my priest. We briefly engaged about this yearning. Jeremy, then, spontaneously leapt up, barely in view of the computer camera and grabbed a hat, a priest’s hat, off his shelf, similar to this image:

Jeremy placed this hat upon his head. We laughed. It was what I needed, exactly. And, nearly every time from that moment on, as I Skyped with him, he would have the hat on, grinning, laughing and ready. Once in a while he or I forgot and he suddenly would grab the hat again, placing it upon his head. He honored this need in me, and, I believe, he honored this need in him, the projections of these two priests conversing, these two shamans exploring the dreamscapes. He loved being a priest, a theologian, a myth explorer, a Priest of Dreams.

 During our last consulting session, I could feel the present and upcoming urgentness of his and Kathy’s lives changing. Little did I know how much…I lovingly chided him, with his permission, regarding his self-care. He invited me to be his challenging caregiver for a few moments. He graciously heard me. He explained the difficult quandaries of his and Kathy’s waking worlds, being deeply aware of changes…changes not known, not said, changes “not yet speech ripe…”.

I shared with him the information described below, my exciting new DreamWork Retreat in NYC (of all places for Prairie Royce to have a DreamWork Retreat!). He celebrated this with me, even in his–or because of his–waking world stresses. I look back at those little moments and I wonder, how could Jeremy do that? He always, always supported his clients/friends/dream family with such gracious, expansive, enthusiastic love.

I have never met anyone with such intellectual, spiritual, emotional and lovingly curious PASSION about dreams.  

This Jeremy, this Priest of Dreams.

The trite saying (to me) of “life goes on” feels so violating–and so god-awful true–to my/our grief process of losing Jeremy and Kathy.

Yet, the dreams, beyond any tragedy, will go on…graciously, wisely, eternally, on and on and on. Dreams (thank you, DreamMaker!) are no respecter of waking world rules or tragedies and will continue yearning for all of us to grow, heal, expand.

Dreams are not going to stop, ever!

The more I sit with this strange emptiness of “no Jeremy to go to with my dreams”, the more I sit with this sadness for him that he said goodbye to his beloved Kathy on New Year’s day. The more I sit with this shock of Jeremy dying two days later, the less I am stunned. I think they, Jeremy and Kathy, had a “loving deal in dreams” to simply not go on after the other left. 

Ahh, yes, I speculate, deeply project onto them, “if this were my dream…”

When he was turning 70, I asked what that was like for him. He kind of thoughtfully fidgeted a bit and then said, something like, there are so many things I want to write about, to do yet. He seemed sad or a bit depressed (yes, my projections again). My internal projections leaped with hope and expectations that I would have Jeremy around for a long while, and, I could glean and glean his loving projections and reflections.

I am a selfish dreamer, no doubt. Perhaps happily.

I was raised, ordained, and ministered in a conservative, often fundamentalistic church background. I idealized myself to be a liberal minister in a conservative faith group. Didn’t work out. I couldn’t stay, didn’t want to stay. I like to playfully say that I gave all that up for Lent a long time ago. I became amazingly liberal and free (I say, with great truth and playful arrogance).

I kept wanting/needing to “replace” my old fundamentalistic god, the god who would tell me what to do, what road to take, what decisions to make, how to get out of the wilderness, what cereal to buy…well, OK, you catch my drift. And with that god gone, what to do? Well, I unconsciously and consciously projected all this yearning onto my dreams.

I wanted my dreams to tell me what to do!

Alas, Jeremy and I had many visits about this vulnerability. In his world, he shared that it was exceedingly rare for dreams to do that, to tell us what to do, whether dreams came from god or where ever. No matter how I grew, I had this little fundamentalist voice yelling at me, looking for external answers. 

I am learning to accept the graciousness of dreams being on my side and, whether from god, no god, ancestors, the webbings of all life and creations, the organicities of our mysterious evolutions, dreams always guide, offer wisdom, healing and, certainly great adventures.

Dreams and I (and, I hope, all of us) have loving conversations with each other. The “shoulds” are less. The invitations to grow are more. I loved Jeremy’s take on how dreams advocate for us, that when we make a waking world decision, wise or not, the dream world seeks to consolidate all that we are and works for our best possible health and wholeness, anyway.

Grace.

I know that is why I passionately embrace a philosophy/theology called Process Theology (see my About page here), because DreamWork and ProcessWork seem so wonderfully compatible. They calm that little fundamentalist voice inside. Whew! Relief. 

Dreams are possibly our most ancient evolutionary resource and tool. We have, as humans, invented so many waking world gifts, songs, ideas, tools, books that first came to us in dreams. I loved that Jeremy would speculate that the beginnings of language itself possibly emerged through dreams urging the “rewirings” of our primitive brains. Imagination. Faith. Dreams. All cousins.

I met Jeremy so many years ago. My soul is wracked with grief and death. He always reminded me/us, “death is always a sign of transformation, growth and healing” in the waking and dream worlds.

We are more alive because of this Priest of Dreams.

So, that is why, in Jeremy and Kathy’s honor, I dedicate this upcoming NYC DreamWork Retreat to their lives of waking and dreaming.

Jeremy and Kathy held us all, our dreams. Now we hold Jeremy and Kathy, forever.

Click the link below for details about the DreamWork Retreat

Dream-work-Day-Retreat-01.20.18_Rev-2.pdf

***************

Away In Your Manger

Away In Your Manager
“… and Mary took him, wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger.”

by
Royce Fitts
Min., LMHP, LMFT

Spiritual Counselor and DreamWorker

copyright 2008

Well, we were probably 7 or 11 or 9 or 8 years old or so, my cousins and I. We would try to leap over the hay trough in the barn, jump from the middle hallway and vault over the trough into the animal pen. If we could do it without falling or having to actually demean ourselves by just climbing over the trough, we would be “cool” or strong or whatever it was that farm cousins strive to be in front of each other. I’m not sure I ever made the leap successfully. I also know I would never admit it, anyway.

The hay trough was also a place for hidden treasures. More than once we would notice the disappearance of one of our momma cats. We would secretly and quietly tiptoe down the barn’s hallway, listening for the tell-tale tiny cries of newborn kittens. The momma cat, almost always gentle and friendly, would consent to our purring over her babies as she nursed them. It would also not be unusual to discover the next day that the momma cat had moved her babies to another secret location, probably trying to follow her instincts and keep these strange human children from bothering her little ones. Her work was always in vain, of course.

I don’t know how, but I remember one day it dawned on me that the hay trough could also be called a manger. “Wow!” I thought. “Could it be?! Jesus was born in a place like this?” I looked at the trough…called it a manger…and studied it. Did the original one look exactly like this? I’ve been jumping over the holy manger? I should be careful! I might die!

The trough looked so awkward, so hard to get into. It was kind of deep and only a momma cat could curl up comfortably in there. Only a cow with its long neck could easily reach in for food without tumbling into the trough. I was genuinely puzzled. How in the world could a baby, a human baby, live in there? Or at least sleep in there? I figured Mary was kind of short — how could she reach in there and care for her baby? Even for Joseph it would be hard. And most of all, why would they put their baby in there anyway??

I kept studying the …manger .  It was dirty! Dirt, dust, mice and spiders were probably everywhere! Yuck! I couldn’t believe it. Not here! A baby in a place like this? Besides, look at the animal pen! I mean, let’s be real. This is a barn. Pigs live in the pen sometimes. Cows with baby calves would live in here in the winter. Sick cows and sick calves would be treated for their diseases in here. And, of course, they would (and there is no nice way to say this … ) poop in here. This was gross!

I was really puzzled — no, I mean stunned! A baby in a manger? I even contemplated scrubbing and cleaning it, now that I knew what it was. You know, treat it with reverence. I envisioned trying to dust, wash and clean up the whole trough and pen — impossible, even I knew that! I even felt guilty for not trying.

Well, decades have come and gone since that day. Over the years I became much more refined and sophisticated, or so I thought. I became a liberal theologian, social activist, and counselor. I even got a couple of degrees in theology and psychotherapy. Maybe I was smart! Yet, somehow, that day in the barn, perched on the edge of the manger, has never left me.

I’ve met a lot of people since then. Some have asked me to join them on a sacred journey into the faraway lands of their soul, searching for lost treasures. Inevitably, it seems we would walk to their manger. They would tell me secret stories of cries in the night, of shattered dreams, nightmares and demons all too real. Tears from years of pain would flow.

And now I know why: We all have a barn. We all have a hay trough. We all have dirty animal pens. Maybe, just maybe, as we tiptoe quietly down our sacred hallway, we will hear the faint tiny cries of a baby being nursed by its mommy, touched by its daddy.

In this place in our souls where it is dank and dark, frightening and painful, is also where the gentle whisper of wings is heard and stars sing. This is our hay trough … this is our manger.

Away in our manger…

************

If you enjoyed reading this blog post and would like to subscribe to receive future posts, please click here to sign up for my central mailing list.

The Geography of the Soul – Discovering Healing through Journey, Land, and Dreams

The following is an introduction to my new blog entitled: 
The Geography of the Soul
Discovering Healing through Journey, Land, and Dreams
by
Royce Fitts, D. Min., LMFT, LMHP
Spiritual Counselor and DreamWorker
www.HealingforHealers.net

(copyright 2017)

I love the land, in all of her forms, across this earth. I love the journeys that beckon from people and place. I love the dreams that come unbidden in our sleep and, even if ignored, form us as souls and beings. The land, journeys and dreams yearn to heal us, to expand our souls, to mystically commune and converse with “the all that is…”.

This blog, and eventual book, seeks to invite us to move toward personal and community healing, and a deeper connection to each other and the world.

We must live with more vulnerability and the risks of love.

We haven’t much time.

We need each other to survive. We need the earth, all the beings therein, and our dreams to live.

This blog and book offer stories, journeys, and dreams across our geography of earth and soul. Some are next door. Some faraway. Some only in our sleep and take flight into the netherworld, surfacing mysteriously as we wake. Our souls and earth are deeply connected.

Let’s converse about these journeys, lands, and dreams. Let’s share our stories, journeys, and dreams with each other. Let’s become vulnerable, taking the risk of love with each other, that Sacred Risk of the ones who have gone before, and is the reason we are even here now.

************

(A Happy) Stranger in a Strange Synchronistic Land

New York City

The Geography of the Soul

Royce Fitts

(11/2017)

I can’t imagine planning this. This trip, I mean. Five days in the City. Five days of wonder. And wander. And synchronicity.I needed a wifi. AirBnB is most often great. I secured a lovely room about half a block from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Central Park for a tiny fraction of the cost of a hotel. Happy me. However, rules are rules and I could not stay in or return to the room until certain times. Inconvenient, yet mostly, OK. I asked my host for advice for a library and wifi. Two choices somewhat nearby. I chose, unbeknownst to me, a most amazing place, the New York Society Library (Wiki: The New York Society Library is the oldest cultural institution in New York City. It was founded in 1754 by the New York Society as a subscription library.). Again, I had no knowledge of this place and, only at this writing, did I discover even more historical information of this gift of literary wonder (I am embarrassed New York!, I am embarrassed!). It is a historical library, not a full-service public library, although the public is welcome to browse. I arrived early, waited until it opened, standing in the breezy, early morning November chill. A man, a member of the Society evidently for years, was waiting also. I offered a “good morning”. I was surprised to receive a rambling, friendly description of something about having worked at the bank across the street, not being able to get cash out of the ATM, or needing to get cash because he was not able to use his credit card at the little diner on the other side of the avenue, or something like that. I didn’t know what he was talking about. But, I guessed and tried to identify with him, because I ate the same dinner last night and didn’t have cash either until I ran across the street to the bank’s ATM, too. But he didn’t hear or understand or maybe didn’t care. He rambled on…about all sorts of stories, like he went to Yale, or worked at Yale, or knew someone from Yale. I tried, again, to simply keep it simple, this little visit on the street. I did not want to get into strangeness this morning. I had writing to do, promises to keep. I am on the road less traveled, trying to keep focused on synchronicities…those spiritual droplets and moments of seeing gifts of awareness and grace, even of guidance. I needed a wifi to be spiritual. I had impatience and judgmentalism, wondering if this kindly man was senile or a stroke victim or something. Then, I remembered my promise. Being open to gifts of wonder and wander. “What does it mean”, I wondered, “to have this strange, hard-to-track conversation with this kind, elderly man on the street?” “I am not from town”, I offered, hoping to get him to switch gears and visit with me about something I might understand. He took the bait, “Where are you from?” “Nebraska”, I answered. “Oh, you are here for the exhibition!” “I’m sorry”? “You have come to the right place”, he said with a warm, satisfied smile beneath his full grey mustache. “The writer, a-hh, from where you are from, her writings are on display. What’s her name? Can’t remember…a woman…” “A-hh…from Nebraska?” I answered? “Yes…”, he said. (What is this, I wondered?) I stared off…“You mean, Willa Cather?” I asked. “Yes! That’s her!” He was excited. “Upstairs…second floor, they are having an exhibit of her life in New York City.” (What? I am in New York City, in a specific location in the city, and I am being informed that one of Nebraska’s most famous souls from the 1930s and beyond, is being honored with a display of her life? OK…) The man began to freely associate about Nebraska while we waited. He mentioned something about a college friend from Nebraska. “He was, can’t remember his name, somebody who worked, like a lawler, for Nixon. We would see each other once in awhile after college and he’d say, ‘Sure getting busy in D.C.’…” The doors open. We walk in. The man introduces me to the front desk personnel, but he doesn’t know my name, so he, a bit flustered, just mentions I am from Nebraska. He says he is going to give me a tour of the Willa Cather display. The front desk librarians look unimpressed with me, or him, for that matter. I smiled, just said I am in town and was told I could use the wifi at the library. “No”, the librarian quickly answered, “it is only for Society members. But you are welcome for a tour and can use the public reading room”, pointing to a large sunny room behind me, filled with the card files of dark, warm wood. I tried to make conversation with the desk librarian, hoping I might strike gold and be given a wifi guest pass since I was from Nebraska, and I am now gracing this place, basking in Willa Cather’s geographic glow. I mentioned that I had read recently somewhere (I had, in fact), like, in the New York Times or The New Yorker within the last couple of months or so, that, I thought there was a new biography out about Willa Cather. I mentioned that the author of the article in the magazine had taken a tour of Cather’s birthplace and other points of interest in Red Cloud, Nebraska. The librarians, both of them, were nonplussed with my story or credentials. No entitlement here. Then my new friend said, “Let’s go up there”, pointing to the staircase. I gazed to my right and followed him, smiling. I was happy, amused, intrigued by this little gift of synchronicity. I wanted a wifi, but instead was being given a gift of Nebraska heritage, in the historical heart of NYC. We took the tour of “The New York Life of Willa Cather”. It was a small exhibit, but, for me, I had pride in this prairie author’s gift to the world, and that this City admired her. I took pictures of the pictures, of some of her books, of her, and of the Fountain in the center of Central Park, where she walked. I saw her handwritings of drafts of books and personal notes. And there was acknowledgment, now old news, of her life-long partnership with the woman she loved. So, here I was, a stranger in this city. I was being strangely guided by a strange man in a strange building to experience an exhibit about, strangely enough, a brave, artistic, bold woman from the prairie, who was considered, for her time, strange and eccentric. If this were your dream…? It was not a dream and it was a dream, a waking life dream. A walking, talking dream…one from which we call reality. What meanings are in this strange waking dream? I needed a wifi. Instead, I got a waking dream. If this were your dream? “…a stranger in a strange, synchronistic land…” ************ Return to top

A Concert in Central Park with Bernard

Throughout my sabbatical, I’ve continued to meet amazing people on my Geography of the Soul journey. About a month ago or so I was in Central Park in New York City. I did not know how much I would love that kind of environment. The energy of the city, the intrigue and friendliness of the people. No kidding 🙂 friendly! 🙂
https://youtube/Y4pqi3Zs4nQ
I went to Central Park a couple of different times. One day as I was walking alone, I said hello to this wonderful friendly saxophone player. A couple of hours later I came by and he was still there and we again made the connection. This sacred conversation took place:

Return to top