Monthly Archives: February 2013

Thanks Scott Rassbach

I had a pretty long, but rewarding day. I was up at 4am to drive in to Boston for the Massachusetts Music Educators’ Association Conference. I was there to try to convince music teachers in the state to include barbershop harmony as part of their programs. Some of you may wonder why, but I think it’s important to remember our history. Plus it’s just so awesome to sing.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about. I started “blogging” three days ago, and I have three posts to show for it. Batting 1000, so far so good, but today I figured I would take a pass. Because I’m tired, and I’m not convinced that anybody would notice, I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal if I missed this one.

Then I read Msgr. Scott’s blog post today.

Like him, and partly inspired by him, I have decided to blog as part of my own spiritual discipline, as well as in an attempt to improve as a writer. We all need help to build discipline, and the community can be the best help you can get. The love and support, and gentle peer pressure, can serve to keep us on the straight and narrow. I am grateful to Msgr. Scott and many others for the much-needed motivation.

I intent to write a blog post every day that I am able. I know I won’t always succeed, and I forgive myself in advance, but today I had no reason not to other than it wouldn’t have been easy or comfortable. Easy and comfortable never got anybody anyplace. You need that pebble in your shoe to get you to change your habits. Comfortable people have no reason to do anything different. I’m uncomfortable, not physically, but spiritually. I yearn towards Gnosis and Theosis. Going to bed early, while it would be physically delightful, doesn’t move me further down that path.

My advice to you is to avoid the comfortable mediocrity that comes with leading a normal, comfortable life. Find ways to make yourself uncomfortable for the greater spiritual good. Forgive yourself right now for the times when you succumb to the wants and desires that distract you from the things of the spirit, and commit to doing a little bit better next time.

And read Msgr. Scott’s blog.

Hey! Printed books!

Buy the book here

Now that I’ve seen them, I’ve learned some things.

The cover is too dark, and not printed very well, to be perfectly honest. I’ll re-upload the cover after I brighten it up a little, although this isn’t a big deal. Nobody’s buying the book for the cover.

The interior is a little odd too. I think the line spacing is too big, I should have just stuck with regular spacing, but I was worried about readability given the small dimensions. The margins are also too small. I know now for next time.

I picked 5″ x 8″ specifically because it’s the size of the Levitikon and Living Gnosticism. One could buy all three as a gift for someone and they would make a nice neat little package.

I hope I’m smart enough to apply these lessons to my next book. I have some ideas on that front, and I’ve started outlining two of them. When I have something to show, I’ll be sharing stuff here, so be sure to follow the blog to get updates. I plan to be very transparent about the next book, and I’ll be asking for opinions and sharing pieces as I go along.

Have you bought the physical book, or did you read it online? If you got the print copy, what do you think? What would you change about it?

Count to Ten

I’ve been working with a practice for the last several months that is really kicking my butt. It comes from Josephine McCarthy’s book Magical Knowledge Book I Foundations. It’s the very first exercise in the book, and it seems so simple, but it’s really not.

This practice is fundamentally different from the practices I put in my book, because it has a very specific end goal in mind. You can fail at this practice. In fact, you will, probably for weeks, if not months of steady work. I’ve only succeeded a few times. However, if you’re looking for a practice that will help you to really kick your spiritual development into high gear, this is the place to start.

I will briefly describe the practice here, but I also recommend that you buy the book. It’s especially useful for those interested in the esoteric path, but it has a decidedly mystical feel to it as well.

The basic practice is to close your eyes and count each breath until you get to ten. The challenge is to do it without being distracted by either inner or outer stimuli. If, in your counting, you have a stray thought, you need to start over. If hear a car go by and you take note of it, start over. If you get to 7 and you get excited that you’ve almost made it, start over. This practice is a harsh task-master, if you are honest enough with yourself to let it work. Only you will know if it’s working, so you have to be brutally honest with yourself, or the whole thing is pointless.

This practice builds towards an entire system of esoteric work in McCarthy’s book, but this practice, as part of a Gnostic practice, can really polish that mirror so the Light can shine. Give it a try! I like to set a timer for 20 minutes. Any more than that and the distractions become overwhelming. If you do, please let me know, in a comment to this post, how you did.

Roadside Cross Practice

I’d like to share with you a simple practice that I’ve been using for some time. When driving, you will sometimes see crosses on the side of the road. These mark the sites where there was a fatal accident. Friends and families of the victims will erect these monuments, and will often revisit them to add flowers and to remember the loved ones they lost.  While these memorials are often controversial, we can all certainly understand the impulse. Losing a loved one unexpectedly is truly a tragedy.

I have a practice that I use when I pass one of these memorials on the road. When I see the memorial I make the sign of the cross and say a short prayer. Most often this is the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”), but sometimes it’s something spontaneous. I take a moment to contemplate my own mortality, and I am grateful for the opportunity to continue my work here on Earth. There’s still a lot of things I hope to do before I shuffle off this mortal coil.

For me, this accomplishes several things at once. I am honoring the dead, though not usually the specific person for whom that memorial was erected, because it’s unlikely that I would know, at 65 MPH, who it is for. I honor the people I have known who have died, the people in my tradition who have gone before, people who have influenced my life in a substantial way, and more.

I’m reminded that someday I will also die, and as a Gnostic I know I have work to do before that time. Some Gnostics believe in reincarnation, others don’t. To paraphrase Msgr. Stratford, I’m not willing to wait around and find out. I hope to achieve the Resurrection in this life so that I can inherit the Kingdom. Practice is the way to ensure that, I believe.

Having cues as I go about my day that remind me to pray are a vital part of my practice. This is just one of them. This is a great technique to serve as a reminder, and you can use it, and many other things, to remind you to pray. You may think it is inappropriate to build a spiritual practice off of the suffering of others, but this is not what I’m doing at all. I am grateful to the victim and their friends and family every time I pray at a roadside memorial, and I think that if they knew I was doing it, they would be pleased that they continue to make a difference in the world in some small way.

Do you have any “prayer triggers” in your life?

(Photo: Roadside Memorial by Richard Croft – http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/792998)