With accidental start and end dates of Pentecost Sunday (’11) and Easter Sunday (’12), I have successfully completed my 30+ visits.But…I’m not done yet! The completed are, in no particular order:
1.Living Word Church (my childhood church) 2. King Ave Methodist (GLBTQ Reconciling) 3. Lake Erie Drive-in 4. Buddhist Temple 5.Pentecostal Mega-church 6.Baptist 7.African-American Baptist 8.Movie Theater Rock 9.Hindu Temple 10.Synagogue 11.Roman Catholic 12. Eastern Orthodox 13.Vineyard 14.Jehovah’s Witness 15.Mormon 16.Atheist 17.Stadium 18.Christian Spiritualist 19.Emergent Independent 20.Quaker 21.Hare Krishna 22.Scientology 23.Unitarian 24.Baha’i 25. Storefront Redeemed 26.Christian Science 27. Stone Village 28.Sikh 29.Naturalist 30.Taize 31. Vertias (church of the boot camp) 32. Seventh Day Adventist
(Note: My blog checklist is typically behind because I have to rely on my web programmer to change it.)
I was heavy on the Christian churches, especially in the beginning, so I am doubling back to attend a few originally on the list and several additions before the 5/15 deadline:
–Native American–Amish–Pagan and/or Wiccan–Kabbalah–Mosque
Though I’ve not had luck locating the following in my area, I am still interested in:
–Zoroastrianism–Tao–Sufi–Xenos–African/tribal–Voodou–Virtual–Rastafaria–Gnostic–Jainism–Confusionism–Shinto–New Thought–Polytheistic (any culture, but particularly Celtic)–Shamanism–Snake-handlers
With continual help from the Spirit, I’ve gone from Post-traumatic Church Syndrome (barely being able to enter a church) to being able, and excited, to attend places of worship of all faiths and even non-faiths. I’ve also completed a Thirty-Day fast, studied Ancient Christian and Buddhist meditation, read extensively on multiple religions, sorted out my own beliefs, found a faith I can believe in, known and seen my God, changed my career, discovered my ministry and calling, started this blog–thanks to the good advice of someone wise, written nearly 100,000 words for the book (probably only 10,000 that are any good!), survived three physical and one spiritual bootcamp & , (surprise!) found a church, and much, much more. But these are stories and conclusions for other days! I still have much more to write about. So, let the quest and the blog continue
I nearly quit Thirty by Thirty at least a dozen times. So…for all those who have followed and encouraged this journey…thank you! For those who have criticized it…thank you as well. Everyone who has touched this path has helped it toward completion. I’m not done yet. And probably never will be!
All my love–Reba
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I’d like to address a few of the questions I’ve received on my recent Thirty Day fast:
So…what did you eat? Nothing. I didn’t chew for 30 days, nor did I drink alcohol. I also tried to limit medications. I did take in copious amounts of vitamins, lots of juice (organic if possible), and sugar-free protein on workout days. (Yes, I still did boot camp.)
Isn’t that UNHEALTHY? Well, not for me. Obviously I’m here, I’m fine and, it could be argued, in better health than I have ever been. But I would like to be VERY CLEAR that an extreme fast could ABSOLUTELY be unhealthy for a given person depending on factors such as overall health, weight, lifestyle, mental state, etc. PLEASE DO NOT CONSIDER an extreme fast without A.) A very specific calling to undertake it and B.) Consulting your doctor.
Why did you choose to fast for thirty days? First, I didn’t choose to fast for 30 days. God asked me to. (There will be much more on this when I cover the fast in depth between April 15th and May 15th). A 30-day fast is something I never would have thought of, nor did I think I could do it. I was called to fast in December, and it took me nearly three months of wrestling with the concept and telling God there was NO WAY I could possibly ever do that before I surrendered and… just did it. Once I got towards the end, I wanted to do 40 days, but that was made impossible by a pre-planned family vacation.
How much weight did you lose? It is inconsequential….that was NOT the point. This was purely spiritual venture. I like to say some of the excess weight enabled me to complete the fast, but it was in no way a diet attempt. There isn’t enough willpower in my world.
Why did you stop blogging during the fast? Part of the reason fasting, especially long-term fasting, is spiritually effective is because it clears out your life of everything that isn’t entirely necessary. Due to the vast physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strain, fasting forced me to re-evaluate every activity in my life by these two questions: 1.) Is [activity] actively bringing me closer to God and/or 2.) Is [activity] absolutely necessary? In addition to ceasing blogging, I limited my activities to work, prayer, meditation, necessary household duties, spending time with my husband, and LOTS of sleeping.
Why didn’t you tell anyone? Fasting is a personal matter between you and your God. It is extremely difficult, and there is no place for the critical negativity of others. You’re already doubting yourself…you don’t need anyone else to doubt you. Also, to be brutally honest, I often thought I was going to fail. (Daily. Sometimes minute-ly.) I didn’t want to announce, “Hey, I am doing this 30-day fast!” only to say, “Hey, I quit on day 10.”
I hope that clears a few things up! Also, as mentioned, I will be writing in detail about the fast and what I learned starting on April 15th. But if you are interested in the basics of how I got through it…check out this post.
And now the Super-Secret Project and reason for my blog hiatus: I completed a Thirty Day total fast (no food, no alcohol) yesterday at sunset. The experience was completely incredible and entirely life-changing. Much more to come in the next month about how and why I did it, why I kept it a secret (even from family and friends!)…and what it did for me. Make no mistake: if you fast for 30 days? God shows up. For now…this is how it went… and how I got through it:
Ten percent Luck /Twenty percent Skill / Fifteen percent concentrated Power of Will / Five percent Pleasure / Fifty percent Pain /And a Hundred percent reason to Remember the Name [Lyrics Fort Minor]
So, FINALLY I could get up and make the ADHD kindergarten class in my mind to quiet down…right?
After sitting uncomfortably on the purple meditation cushion for over an hour, my legs were kind of stuck in lotus position. Or rather, what passes for lotus position in my lower body. Add to my stationary postion that I had worked out too hard the day before? Pain. This made for an uncomfortable journey from the floor to an (almost) upright posture. The yota teacher-man with the cane was even up before me. So was the obese woman in the corner and of course, so was Mr. Hotness (MH). Strike 10 againt Reba in the space of one hour! I did manage, however, to unfurl my crossed-legs and stand (albeit with the aide of the bookshelf behind me). Oh so graceful, oh so classy. Oh so…clearly an inexperienced meditator.
Anyhoo. Still barefoot, I followed yota and the rest of the class (MH, obese woman, three hippy-esque college girls sporting woven caps and flowing skirts who said “duuude” after every sentence, two middle-aged divorcees and one other man who may or may not have been a yoga instructor given the flexibility of his lotus position) into the main temple area.
To add perspective, this Buddhist center is housed in a converted vintage church, so the set-up is pretty standard Christian with changes made as needed:Narthex (shoe removal & storage center), sanctuary (main meditation area), communion room (classroom), basement social hall (same). Altars to Buddha flanked each side of the former altar to Jesus, and candles burned in multiple areas. There was also a faint scent of incense–thankfully not as overpowering as the Catholic Cloud!–and the whole ambience was one of peace, quiet and contemplation wrapped in an array of warm colors and fabrics. Which is why I was surprised when…
…the chair of the fundraising committee (huh?) came up to announce a bake sale (really?) to raise money to bring an esteemed Lama to the center for a special event. This was followed by a set of standard announcements you’d hear at any U.S. protestant Sunday service: volunteers needed, clothing and food drive, new classes starting, etc. But my mind was still whirling with visions of the Buddhist Bake Sale. Because I’m imagining these guys...
….baking and selling all manner of sugar confections.
This is not what I expected.
Buddhists Have Bake Sales Too. Score 1 for an interesting tidbit! Finally, I’m on the board!
After a closing reminder to Please Support Your Local Temple, we adjourned to the basement/social hall for a Tea Ceremony. Which sounds much more exciting and exotic than it actually was. Mostly it was all the regulars clustered together discussing, well, whatever regular Buddhists discuss, and visitors paving the walls looking around nervously while trying not to appear nervous. Being a visitor, I played my role quite well, hiding behind the steam from my styrafoam cup of Lipton Earl Grey and gazing at the floor. After shifting to and fro, I moved to a couch, where I assumed someone would speak to me eventually.
But Mr. Hotness did.
I reasoned that in any randomly nerve-racking situation, one is drawn to others who appear to be in the same state. But this was something else entirely. “So, do you come here often? Will I see you here next week? Maybe I could get your number and we could have a drink and discuss our spiritual journeys?”
HUH????! Did I hear him right? Was Mr. Hotness trying to pick me up? In the basement of a Buddhist Temple? Over cheap tea? WHILE I LOOKED LIKE SWAMP THING?
Oh my. This is awkward. He must not have noticed the ring. Oh no! Mental panic.Respond. RESPOND! What do I say? The ring has been warding off pick-up attempts for years! Where was this guy in college when I was dating losers who didn’t know how to spell the word Buddhist? Sorry, dude, you’re about seven years too late. Already. Happily.Married.
Me: “Ummmmmm.” Fake double cough. “Well.” Steathily push up left sleeve and slowly scratch nose.
MH: “Oh.” Dawn of recognition, slight embarrassment, fake cough. “Well…maybe I’ll see you around sometime.” Walks away quickly, hands in pockets.
Saved by the ring! I stash my tea, grab my shoes and hightail it to the car before bursting into giggles. He tried. Gasping. To pick. Swamp Thing up. Laughing. I have to tell all the single girls in bookclub to quit eharmony.com and try the temple!
Game, set, match, to me.
Now, if I could only learn to meditate….and get my hands on some delicious Buddhist baked goods!
Article I: My husband has a smile like a sunrise, dimples to die for, and blue eyes so clear a gal could drown in them. He is tall, with shoulders broad enough to carry all my worries. And his arms? Well, let’s just say that when we met, I entered his name in my cell as “Trent Great Arms”. I love him with all my heart, and I still can’t believe he picked me to spend his life with. (I promise this is pertinent information to my Buddhist Experience).
Meditation conversation in my mind:
You could have brushed your hair this morning you know–or at least your teeth! But I was in a rush! I didn’t want to be late! See, this is what you get for being lazy.You deserve to feel uncomfortable there on your meditaion mat, wondering if Mr. Hotness can smell you from a foot away. You should have showered!Well. I never considered the .000001% possibility that one of the hottest guys I’ve ever seen would sit on the cushion next to me! Well!You should have!!!
It was a fall Sunday morning, and I was attending the “Introduction to Buddhism” class at my local Buddhist temple. [I know, I know. I was supposed to be meditating, but all my resolve flew out the (small) window when Mr. Hotness (MH) strode in and chose to sit on the cushion right next to me, and I became distracted by my state of being which can only be aptly described as SWAMP THING. ]
This was my first time in a Buddhist temple, and the first Thirty by Thirty experience that required me to remove my shoes. (It would not be the last!) It was also the first time I had visited a non-Christian place of worship and, though I consciously enjoyed the use of color, flags and the distinctly Eastern temple decor, I think I was subconsciously looking for a cross and, instead, seeing a Buddha. (Disconcerting for a former Evangelical Poster Child raised to believe people of other religions were worshiping idols…and quite possibly the devil himself.In my past, Buddhist were clearly confused and most definitely going to hell. Apparently in a hand basket lined with meditation cushions.)
So. Barefoot and sitting atop a purple cushion in a small room off the main (sanctuary? meditation room?), I was already feeling vulnerable and out of place…even before MH’s arrival. He simply served as a further distraction from my meditation and attention to the wizened yota-man instructing our class. ( I’d like to refer now to Article I of this post re: My Hot Husband. I have discussed this encounter with him and he agrees that a hot girl would distract him from meditation, if he were so inclined to meditate. Which he is not.)
Seated behind what looked like a pulpit with the legs cut off, an old teacher was perched on a sort of slanted stool that enabled him to be near to the ground without having to bend his (elderly) knees too much. His cane rested next to the mini-pulpit, and I found myself envisioning the many ways he could break a hip getting in and out of teaching posture.
Pay attention,self! How many opportunities do you have to learn about Tibetan Buddhism from a life-long devotee? Stop wondering about the staus of his joints and (for Buddha’s sake!) quit contemplating your lack of beauty and hygiene! You are HAPPILY MARRIED! Who cares if MH thinks you smell?
[For the record, I must not have actually smelled, because MH later hit on me during the post-meditation tea service. More on that later. Still, I had reason to be insecure. I could have at least worn chapstick...or decent clothes! At this point I'd like to offer my husband's wisdom on the subject: Maybe the Buddhists use hot guys to lure girls like you into conversion.]
Back to the lesson: a brief primer of the study and practice of Buddhism. The temple’s name means “Place of the Buddha’s Teachings of the Three Vehicles in the Karma Kagyu Tradition,” and they study teachings and practice meditation from all three vehicles of the Buddhist dharma. Their three main practices are Quiet Sitting Meditation (called “Shinay” in Tibetan); Compassion Meditation (“Tong-len”) and Mantra and Visualization Meditation (Sadhana Practice, with Chenrezig, the Compassion Bodhisattva). One begins by practicing Shinay, followed by a daily practice of Tong-len which helps develop the altruistic motivation of the “bodhisattva,” or Buddha-in-training and helps uproot negative habits of mind.***
The lesson was followed by twenty minutes of Shinay, during which I silently warred with myself to keep my mind off topics such as: my aforementioned state of Ugliness and its impact on MH’s opinion of me, various issues at work, the grocery list, Oxley’s house-training, whether we should paint the porch next summer, if our deck would ever be finished and why does that darn fly have to be buzzing around and bumping into the window. Die already! Ooops…so my for my compassion and earlier Zen commitment to bring no harm to any sentient being. Wait, is a fly sentient? Also during this time, I briefly considered the secret ingredient of my grandmother’s macaroni before moving on to what I planned to eat for lunch. Ooooh I should totally get Vietnamese! With extra bean sprouts! Maybe Erin will come with me.I need to call her. And, oh yeah, send Liz a birthday card.
Second problem: my ability to remain motionless while sitting cross-legged on the floor rivals that of a class of kindergartners with ADD. Class, Remain Seated! I mean it…sit down and don’t move!
This was all in the first thirty seconds.
Tibetan Buddhist Meditation=epic fail.
Finally, thankfully, the gong sounded to end the meditation session. I could finally get up…or could I?
To be continued in Part 2: Buddhists Have Bake Sales Too!
***Some verbiage from the temple’s website