3.14.2014

Bye, social media!

Dear friends,

First and foremost, I want you to know that I love you.

Secondly, I've been writing blogs on this site for about five years and it has been a lot of fun, but what I've been learning is that I miss the interaction and connection that comes from a more intentional form of communication (i.e. letters, postcards, phone calls, face-to-face conversations, etc.). Quick comments below blog posts have always brightened my day and I'm grateful for those of you who took time to write. Those of you who emailed a personal message concerning something you read has been even sweeter. And those of you who I may have randomly met on the streets of the world (even Australia!) and have mentioned appreciation of my writing and sharing, thank you. I'm grateful for what this blogging tool has done over the last five years.

In efforts to be more human and more connected in reality, I am freeing myself of many of my social media ties and platforms. I want less of all that so there's room for much more real connection.

I pray I don't sound proud when stating these intentions. It's not that I think these tools are bad in any way, I've just found that I'm not mature enough to use them. Or, I suppose I've found that they haven't delivered what I hoped they would, which is meaningful connection and stronger relationships with friends and loved ones. Personally, I've found most social media to be a deceptive substitute for real relationship.

Since I'm not marketing to sell anything and I'm not trying to create yet another lifestyle brand, with my excursions as a tool to drum up readership, I really just want to share what's going on in my life – at least the things that I think you'd find encouraging and/or amusing. This life has been a trip and there are moments that I feel compelled to share, but just in a less public way. I want quality over quantity here.

So, from now on I'm only going to be sending out an occasional newsletter update to those who want to receive it. Email isn't that much better than sharing a blog, but I hope that it compels you to feel like you can write back to me and we can actually have a dialogue rather than me having a one-sided monologue on this blog page. Even better, nothing would beat sitting down with you and chatting over a cup of coffee. If that's feasible then let's do it and simply bypass all these technological formalities.

Feel free to reach out to me at ramblewithaplan@gmail.com.

And if you're interested in joining me on future rambles, which this year has some exciting ones in store, then please jump on my newsletter by signing up below.

Peace and good,
Dane

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...ramble on...

2.19.2014

It's going to be great.

(en route to the monastery in New Mexico)

This trip feels different than the hundreds that have come before it. Packing my suitcase seems trivial. I know there are necessities that I must take with me, like shoes and clothing, but I don’t know how to pack for a stay at a place that has been built to facilitate meeting with God.

How do you prepare for that? 

My toothbrush is packed for the sake of my teeth, right next to Scriptures packed for the sake of my soul.  

Feigning confidence, I lie to myself and repeat, “it’s going to be great.” Truthfully, I don’t know how it’s going to be at all. I’m just hoping that it’s going to be great. 

But what would great even entail?

I want to be less anxious, less concerned with things that don’t matter or are out of my control. I want to be absorbed in the love of God and know Him more. I want to be coordinated in the spiritual realm, so that I can walk around there.

Over the years, I’ve sincerely prayed for God to show me more of Himself and to give me opportunity to follow Him into a deeper knowledge of His love. I’ve prayed for humility and He’s delivered that a few times. I’ve prayed for direction and He’s always provided a way. Now, I’m just praying for a simpler, more surrendered mind. 

I want to see more beauty and be more grateful and love more selflessly. These things don’t come easy to me. My mind is my enemy.

I’m packing for a trip unlike any trip I’ve ever taken before. Never before have I so intentionally sought to be changed and reset.

What am I getting myself into? 

I keep telling myself that it’s going to be great.



...ramble on...

2.17.2014

Monks and low-riders

Dear friends and ramblers,

Rather than heehaw and speculate over the unknown ins and outs of my upcoming stay at a monastery in New Mexico, let me simply share what I do know (with tidbits of what I don’t know, too, because sharing one’s ignorance is mildly entertaining). 

I know that on Thursday morning I’ll be meeting some monk brothers in the low-rider capital of the world – a town called EspaƱola. What I don’t know is if these monk brothers will be driving a low-rider. We'll then travel to The Monastery of the Holy Archangel Michael

I know that the monastery’s superior monk is named Father Silouan and that he speaks English – we’ve spoken on the phone. What I don’t know is just about everything else there is to know about a person. 

Thanks to Google, I know that the monastery is situated in the high desert foothills of the Jemez Mountain range. What I don’t know is if I’ll be allowed to wander around these surrounding hills. 

Father Silouan has agreed to let me stay with his community of monk brothers for two weeks, as they live and work to maintain an inner calm (hesychia) and emulate Christ. The second week of my stay might prove to be particularly quiet because it marks the beginning of the Lenten period on the Church calendar, which is a time for additional focus on fasting, prayer, and penitence in remembrance of Christ’s forty days spent in the Judean wilderness being tempted by the Devil. 

I know that this is a journey I’m grateful to be on right now. What I don’t know is where it’s going to take me. 

What do you know? And what would you like to know? I’ll be taking plenty of my own questions with me to New Mexico, but I’ve left room for some of yours as well. Please share them (email, comment, etc.) soon since I'll be without internet access from Thursday onward (thank God!). 

St. Antony of Egypt, the father of Christian monasticism, said that “a monk outside of his monastery is like a fish out of water.” This idiom applies inversely, with generous alterations, to my own situation: “a man outside of his known world is like a fish traveling by train to the high desert of New Mexico.” 

These last few weeks have been filled with a great deal of studying, writing, and thinking, but now it’s time to go deeper. It’s time to immerse into another world and experientially discern all that I don’t now know.

Thanks for journeying along with me,
Dane

PS: I also send out an occasional newsletter full of insights, stories, and learnings as a founding student at Experience Institute. You can sign up for it here.

...ramble on...

2.15.2014

Anxiety or surrender

You couldn’t have known yesterday – when you were fretting over the future – that today would resolve all of your useless worrying. Planning is a wise thing to do, but remember to also bend to the pressures of life, lest rigidity break your wits.

Be willing to let go of the plans that you thought were vital to your growth, if they no longer deliver vitality.

Know what’s worth fighting for and lay to rest any plans that have been lost along the way.

Your obsession with fanciful ideas blind you from seeing the opportunities right in front of you.

Let go of control, it’s never been fully yours.

Be at ease, keep breathing, and take it a day at a time because this is all you’re guaranteed; this right here and now.


...ramble on...

2.08.2014

The spiritual is experienced, not understood

I have fallen into a classic intellectual trap. Others told me this could happen, but their warnings were so vague and mysterious and, well, spiritual-sounding that my rational mind ignored it.

Their timeless counsel follows:

“The Holy Spirit cannot be defined verbally. It has to be lived and experienced directly,” said Bishop Kallistos Ware.

“No one has ever seen the essence of God, but we believe in the essence because we experience the energy,” said St. Basil.

“True mysticism is to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary,” suggested Olivier Clement.

And the Holy Bible had some things to say about the Spirit as well:

It’s like a dove, a fire, a cloud of light, a rushing wind, and breath. Then again, it’s not only these things, it added.   

I can’t hold a flame of fire or contain the rushing wind or capture a cloud of light as it’s forming overhead. I yell at all of these intangible things and request their cooperation in being known.

Meanwhile, the angels are laughing.  

“Climb into the controlled confines of my limited human mind,” I demand. 

The Spirit’s reply is silent, remaining a conceptual abstraction of an abstruse other-worldly reality.

In attempting to know the spiritual realm, I’m greeted by more mysteries, more dark clouds of unknowing, more blinding lights, and fire too hot to handle.

“Simmer down!” I yell. But they whirl and bend and permeate everything, then show up as nothing.

“It’s not to be comprehended,” I’m reminded by a passing thought, an angel perhaps. “It’s an experience you’ll have and then retell in the form of metaphors just like what’s been done for you.”

And so I shrug my shoulders and shake my head, admitting a stubborn surrender, and then begin to trust my way out of this mind-made trap.

...ramble on...

2.01.2014

Outside of time

In this hour, stacks of books are lying around a coffee table with scrappy bookmarks protruding from their yellow-edged pages, indicating the progress of an expedition into history and vocabulary previously unknown.  

One moment, within this hour, thoughts are painted by the content of the text. Then, my eyes drift to the window to admire the hovering vibrations of a hummingbird drinking from the feeder, and the orange sun setting behind the ridge, and red flowers drooping from the rain that drenched their pedals yesterday.

And just like that, without my permission, the hour has passed.

This hour was designated for reading ancient thoughts about eternal realities, but it expired on schedule, unlike the unexpected beauties that appeared and faded from the window frame; outside of time, free from my control.   

There are notes everywhere, lists of new vocabulary, scribbled half-thoughts on napkins, and the beginnings of something.

In this hour, there were tasks to be completed, but no one could account for the immeasurable moment that would fill it with common glory, holding hostage the ticking clock.
I have much to learn, but there's wisdom beyond the pages; outside of time, out the window, free from my control.


...ramble on...

1.25.2014

Feed your dragon

"We're going to feed our dragons," he said.

The six of us didn't know what he was talking about, but we were intrigued.

We'd just finished writing down what we aimed to accomplish over the next three months, which would act as the second term of Experience Institute's inaugural year. We listed three intentions on a whiteboard, subsequently enlisting support and accountability from each other.

Then, he asked us to write down what we feared might come between us and following through with our stated commitments.

These fears weren't far away. They quickly transferred from mind to pen to page and there rested in scribbled letters, more vulnerable than I'd ever seen them before.

We examined our fears, identifying which of them were rooted in self doubt, insecurity, or a harsh internal critique. This process initiated a new sense of freedom from their disabling deception.

"Now, we're going to feed your dragon," he said.

He shared a story from Tibetan folklore about a woman who approached a dragon that had been terrorizing the town. For centuries, the story has been passed along as a charge to face your fears by asking what they want. Their answers are much less terrifying than we might assume.

Turns out, this dragon simply wanted a lick of nectar.

We closed our eyes and visualized the work that we wanted to accomplish and then waited for the fears to show up.

In a meditative daydream, I approached my computer to begin writing, a cement wall came between my hands and the keyboard. Here stood my fear, like the barricade between Israel and Palestine, and there was no way around it.

My initial reaction was to angrily begin chipping away at it, but this method had never proven fruitful in the past.

So, like the woman in the story, I asked what this wall wanted.

"Paint me white," it replied, "and write all over me."

My self doubts, which are consistently a blockade to my forward progress, were asking to be painted and told.

Instead of feeding a vicious dragon, I transformed an ugly wall into a canvas displaying honest stories.

Face your fears and ask them questions. Their replies may surprise you.

Their answers may set you free.

...ramble on...