Rain has come to Arkansas. Probably too late to help the fall colors in most of the state. But should create some nice morning mists at Meadowcreek. One thing it will surely do is stimulate contemplation.
One rain-induced contemplation hit me yesterday: Why does it seem to rain so often on the funeral days of good people? After virtually no rain for months in Arkansas, the patterns shifted yesterday. Meadowcreek got rain before the Delta. Here in our Delta town, the rain hadn’t quit reached us when we buried the wife of one of the nicest guys in town.
I sometimes volunteer as an usher when a huge crowd threatens to overwhelm our church. One funeral I helped with was when our heating and cooling system was on the fritz. A huge crowd had filled the church to standing room only. The cooling system couldn’t keep up with all the body heat generated by a crowd of 400. It was cooler outdoors, so we opened the front doors and side doors and got a little air into the stuffy church.
Then a train drove by. The wind was from the Northwest and the church is Southeast of the tracks. The train engineer was especially generous with his horn. So we had to close the doors to keep the noise out. Then the complaints started about the heat, so we opened them again. Then another train with equally loud and continuous horn rolled through. Shut doors and open again after complaints. Then a third train.
Before yesterday’s funeral, I planted some pansies–a coming home present for my wife. I had to get them in the ground because it was cloudy and all the forecasts were for rain, A space was waiting for them in a bed beside the roses outside the kitchen window and visible from her home office. After I got those planted, I got emails on the Resilience Project which needed a quick response. When I completed the last one, I saw I had just enough time to get to the church to help ush.
Yesterday’s temperature was perfect, the church HVAC system was working well, and the crowd was not bursting the church at its seams. So an hour after leaving home, I left the service after helping one last, late elderly lady with a cane, and one even later fellow in jeans and a t-shirt, get in without disturbing the other mourners (as attendees at funeral services are inexplicably called).
On the way home, I saw black clouds in my rearview mirror, gathering on the horizon. Rain was finally coming. I considered turning around and using my big umbrella to help folks get their cars and stay dry at the graveside. But I didn’t.
I heard the rain held off till the graveside service was over. Then it began to drip slowly and kept up a slow soaking rain all night. Sure makes you wonder about the coincidence of spirit leaving folks and rain coming.
This week there have been a few outbreaks of interest in spirit at Meadowcreek lately. One resident of Meadowcreek passed on a spirituality tract to another. A long-time supporter is told us he is coming on a spiritual quest to Meadowcreek. A third mentioned the famous early 20th century spiritualist George Ivanovich Gurdjieff.
By and large, we need to be pretty practical at Meadowcreek. We have enough work to do that we don’t have much time to explore esoteric spiritual topics. Nightime is OK for that stuff, since everyone is so tired from working all day that they fall asleep during the spiritual discussions anyway.
Still, this interest in spirit continues. This week I stumbled onto a solution for whenever spirituality seems to be overwhelming productive work. I was extremely happy to learn that one of the most famous of all spiritualists was extremely practical in the advice he gave his daughter. Reyna d’Assia, daughter of the influential spiritual teacher Gurdjieff , told filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky the 82 maxims her father had told her to guide her life.
Here they are:
1. Ground your attention on yourself. Be conscious at every moment of what you are thinking, sensing, feeling, desiring, and doing.
2. Always finish what you have begun.
3. Whatever you are doing, do it as well as possible.
4. Do not become attached to anything that can destroy you in the course of time.
5. Develop your generosity ‒ but secretly.
6. Treat everyone as if he or she was a close relative.
7. Organize what you have disorganized.
8. Learn to receive and give thanks for every gift.
9. Stop defining yourself.
10. Do not lie or steal, for you lie to yourself and steal from yourself.
11. Help your neighbor, but do not make him dependent.
12. Do not encourage others to imitate you.
13. Make work plans and accomplish them.
14. Do not take up too much space.
15. Make no useless movements or sounds.
16. If you lack faith, pretend to have it.
17. Do not allow yourself to be impressed by strong personalities.
18. Do not regard anyone or anything as your possession.
19. Share fairly.
20. Do not seduce.
21. Sleep and eat only as much as necessary.
22. Do not speak of your personal problems.
23. Do not express judgment or criticism when you are ignorant of most of the factors involved.
24. Do not establish useless friendships.
25. Do not follow fashions.
26. Do not sell yourself.
27. Respect contracts you have signed.
28. Be on time.
29. Never envy the luck or success of anyone.
30. Say no more than necessary.
31. Do not think of the profits your work will engender.
32. Never threaten anyone.
33. Keep your promises.
34. In any discussion, put yourself in the other person’s place.
35. Admit that someone else may be superior to you.
36. Do not eliminate, but transmute.
37. Conquer your fears, for each of them represents a camouflaged desire.
38. Help others to help themselves.
39. Conquer your aversions and come closer to those who inspire rejection in you.
40. Do not react to what others say about you, whether praise or blame.
41. Transform your pride into dignity.
42. Transform your anger into creativity.
43. Transform your greed into respect for beauty.
44. Transform your envy into admiration for the values of the other.
45. Transform your hate into charity.
46. Neither praise nor insult yourself.
47. Regard what does not belong to you as if it did belong to you.
48. Do not complain.
49. Develop your imagination.
50. Never give orders to gain the satisfaction of being obeyed.
51. Pay for services performed for you.
52. Do not proselytize your work or ideas.
53. Do not try to make others feel for you emotions such as pity, admiration, sympathy, or complicity.
54. Do not try to distinguish yourself by your appearance.
55. Never contradict; instead, be silent.
56. Do not contract debts; acquire and pay immediately.
57. If you offend someone, ask his or her pardon; if you have offended a person publicly, apologize publicly.
58. When you realize you have said something that is mistaken, do not persist in error through pride; instead, immediately retract it.
59. Never defend your old ideas simply because you are the one who expressed them.
60. Do not keep useless objects.
61. Do not adorn yourself with exotic ideas.
62. Do not have your photograph taken with famous people.
63. Justify yourself to no one, and keep your own counsel.
64. Never define yourself by what you possess.
65. Never speak of yourself without considering that you might change.
66. Accept that nothing belongs to you.
67. When someone asks your opinion about something or someone, speak only of his or her qualities.
68. When you become ill, regard your illness as your teacher, not as something to be hated.
69. Look directly, and do not hide yourself.
70. Do not forget your dead, but accord them a limited place and do not allow them to invade your life.
71. Wherever you live, always find a space that you devote to the sacred.
72. When you perform a service, make your effort inconspicuous.
73. If you decide to work to help others, do it with pleasure.
74. If you are hesitating between doing and not doing, take the risk of doing.
75. Do not try to be everything to your spouse; accept that there are things that you cannot give him or her but which others can.
76. When someone is speaking to an interested audience, do not contradict that person and steal his or her audience.
77. Live on money you have earned.
78. Never brag about amorous adventures.
79. Never glorify your weaknesses.
80. Never visit someone only to pass the time.
81. Obtain things in order to share them.
82. If you are meditating and a devil appears, make the devil meditate too.
If such a renowned spiritual teacher as Gurdjieff summarizes his beliefs in such practical rules, maybe we can nip in the bud any trend toward useless spiritual speculation.
It’s also great to see that Gurdjieff’s maxims seem to build on the Ten Commandments favored by the dozen or so Baptist and Pentecostal churches around Meadowcreek. Maybe Meadowcreek will be able to be conservatively innovative in spiritual things, too. Maybe Meadowcreek will be resilient.