Showing posts with label carmelite. Show all posts
Showing posts with label carmelite. Show all posts

22 Feb 2015

The Greater Art of Falling Down

In Akido, there is a concept called, "the art of falling down." Falling down is considered an art because if falling is done with skillfull intention instead of just being caught unaware by a blow, the person who falls will be safer. 

During this Lent, I have been following Blessed Titus Brandsma's meditations on the Stations of the Cross. He wrote these meditations in Scheveningen Prison, awaiting his execution. Tonight, I read about the "seventh station," where Jesus falls for the second time. Blessed Titus wrote that Jesus allowed himself to be overwhelmed by the weight of the cross and to fall. 

I hadn't contemplated this before, but of course He did. Our Lord God incarnate, maker of miracles and who later resurrected would not do or allow anything to be done to Him without intentionality. Jesus intentionally fell down. 

Falling is an art. Not just for our "safety." Not just so we can learn lessons in life. Not so we can build the courage to get up again when we "fail." No. There is more.

There is a greater art of falling down. 
Falling down may be the most important thing we ever do. 

10 Jan 2015

Longing to be Still

Jesus, through this frantic world, could you just hold me still?

I don't want to be happy.
I do not want comfort,
for these things pass.

O How I long to be still, still, still with you.

I've had enough,
and nothing else will satisfy.
and there is nothing I won't do
to be still with you.

Let the world keep spinning,
Let it spin until I'm sick,
but Jesus, hold me still.

continue reading

12 Dec 2014

Why I Cope With Life Better Today (as a Catholic)

I do not know how I would cope with my life if I were not Catholic. I can easily tell you that I would not cope well. Years of living beforehand would bear that out.

Here are some differences in how I get through tough times today vs. during my "heretical" years. 

(1) My emotions do not control my decisions as much

Free will has to do with making decisions without being driven by emotions. I am making more solid, logical and clear choices now than I ever have before. During my "heretical years," I believed that free will had to do with extricating myself from the oppression of moral obligations in order to be free to follow my feelings. How did that work out for me? Hmm.. I'm writing this... so...

(2) I take care to have selfless motives. 

When I pursue being of the greatest service to God above the motives for comfort, public opinion or material things, each decision I make has meaning. When I work to make my life a gift to God rather than a gift to myself, I do not have time to immerse myself in self-pity or resentment.

Good feelings and material things will all pass away. Peace in my heart, mind and soul will never be possible if I waste any time trying to chase any other goal than to serve God. 

1 Oct 2014

St. Thérèse: My Soul Mate

In her short life – she was only twenty-four when she died – St. Thérèse of Lisieux discovered profound truths, truths that I have stumbled on as well. Thérèse is my soul mate, perhaps the soul mate of many mothers.
Everything is a grace.
Everything is the direct effect of our Father’s love – difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul’s miseries, her burdens, her needs – everything.
Because through them she learns humility, realizes her weakness.
Everything is a grace because everything is God’s gift. 
I have recently discovered that my spirituality is very similar to that of St. Thérèse the Little Flower probably because I have lived with children under the age of 18 for 33 years.  I think that many mothers can relate to this saint as well. She lived the little way like all people who are not rich and famous but want to serve God their loving Father through their littleness and simplicity. She chose to stay as a child in they eyes of God, performing all of her duties with love and obedience, no matter how small and insignificant they were.
Matthew 18:3: and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

30 Aug 2014

The 7 Most Mindblowingly Liberating Things I've Learned By Being Catholic

I finally figured out what matters.
This is it.

(1) I do not need a happy ending in life. 

The Meaning: Life isn't meant to be a fairy tale. Whether....

The Freedom: No matter how my life ends, ....

(2) How I feel about my life doesn't matter. 

The Meaning: Whether I think my life is going well or not is....

The Freedom: Less time wasted with pointlessly evaluating my life in....

(4) Even if I became a god or goddess, it wouldn't matter. 

The Meaning: Having "personal power," or realizing the greatness in my soul in order....

The Freedom: Who cares who I am?...

"Lord, when we ask you for honors, income, money or worldly things, do not hear us."
-St. Teresa of Avila

(7) Never stop asking- "How Could I Do Better?" 

The Meaning: It doesn't matter...

The Freedom: This is the annoying part...

Here's the rest of this post: "The 7 Most Mindblowingly Liberating Things I've Learned As A Catholic," Laura Paxton, Carmel Heart.

21 Jul 2014

The Eucharist and the “Ghost in the Machine”

As an autistic, I have the unenviable ability to almost completely compartmentalize my intellect from emotions. I go into a “machine mode.”

My friends often have a very unfortunate experience with that. They talk to me while I am in the middle of “implementing my agenda,” and they see that I do not acknowledge their feelings at all. Friends who know me well stop me and say, “Hey, I just poured out my heart to you,” or “I just disclosed something hard for me to say,” and of course, I collapse into a sea of apologies. I don't realize what I did, but of course I want to acknowledge the feelings of my friends!

My autistic reality is not all that different from neurotypical reality. Humans minds work very much like computers, which is why computers are designed based on how our logical intellect works. Our minds are different from computers because emotional drives can dominate our experience. I know all about that too! I have been known to immerse myself in emotion and the “lever” that makes my brain work seems to snap completely off, while emotions drive my life. Whether we are emotionally driven or intellectually detached, we are all divided, unintegrated and crippled in our human experience.

21 Jun 2014

I Am Free (and it's not what I thought it was). My Conversion Story.

I'm Laura Paxton and I am free.

I am free to play, to create, to express myself, to explore my world. I am freer to think and to reason and daydream than I ever have before. I read more. I have meaningful work that I enjoy very much. I wake up each day with the joy of purpose before me.

Only about five years ago, I existed in a cramped, dark apartment where I had given up on life, agoraphobic, eating mostly chocolate bars for sustenance and playing online scrabble all day long to keep my mind off the pain trapped deep inside. How did I end up there?

Let's face it... I'm autistic. I'm bipolar. I've lived on the dangerous edges of life. I've been raped,  survived a near fatal suicide attempt, was almost successfully murdered and lived homeless at times in my teens. Over the course of my life, I've also been taken advantage of, tricked and abused because of my poor judgment, (which was poorer than most people's to begin with, because I'm autistic and don't judge social situations well). Add to that how I had a mother who rejected me. Compound that with how I was immersed in the "New Age" since childhood and my spiritual practices became more and more satanic-leaning over time. How am I alive? How am I even here? 

2 Nov 2013

The Heartbeat of Jesus, Why I Live

I was wandering the woods in my amnesia, 
Following the lights to scattered campfires, wandering to who knows where.
The moon was full
My heart was hungry
Who am I? Where am I?  So lost, confused and crying.

When my father held me as a baby, his heartbeat soothed my every tear.

When I am close to Jesus, I am near his heartbeat too. 
I am a baby in his arms and His Sacred Heart holds my heart in the safest place I'll ever be.
As I grew older, my dad and I camped by the river. The heartbeat of the river soothed me in the intoxicating laurel thicket where we slept.
Every evening, my dad's friend would say, “This is the life.”

Years passed when I could not hear that heartbeat.
All I could hear were chaotic sounds of need and fear,
frantic crickets and cicadas seeking quickly fleeting mates.
The moon was full
My heart was hungry
Starving, all alone.

One day, I will find myself, floating on my back, nailed to my cross.
I won't move there but I'll be freer than in all my life, alongside of Jesus in that river of peace.
Indifferent to my pain, my peace will deepen, more than I have ever known. He has showed me that.
Jesus, floating with me, will say to me, with all delight, “My child, this is the life.”

The Cross, it is the Life, the life that pulls me back into the rhythm of His heart at His breast and the waves in their joy, “My child my child, this is the Only Life.”
My heart is full
As the moon fades into dawn.

-Laura Paxton 11/02/2013

15 Oct 2013

St. Teresa of Ávila: A Doctor of the Church with a Sense of Humour

Today, Oct. 15,  is the Feast of St. Teresa of Ávila, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus. I love this woman. Although she is a doctor of the Church and  one of the three great 16th century Spanish mystics (along with St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. John of the Cross), she is funny.

St. Teresa is down-to-earth with a wonderful sense of humour which is always a sign of holiness for me. Her humourous quotes tell me that she was real, humble enough to laugh at herself and that she lived in the joy of the Lord. Thank heaven she did not take herself too seriously.

Famous  HUMOUROUS Quotes
  • Even the first line of her autobiography is amusing.
 “Having virtuous and God-fearing parents would have been enough for me to be good if I were not so wicked.”

  • After a donkey threw her into a cold river
“If this is how You treat Your friends, then it is no wonder You have so few of them.”
You’ve gotta love that level of practicality and annoyance in a mystic.

  • On false piety
“From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us!” 
Teresa of Avila was fully, deeply, unapologetically herself.  read more

9 Oct 2013

Jesus loves us MOST when we are weak.

At the Secular Carmelite retreat I went to last weekend, I heard a message I didn't expect and it has changed the way I'm hearing scripture, liturgy and homilies. I have different ears somehow.

The topic of our retreat was, "Rediscovering the Riches of Divine Intimacy," with retreat master Father Robert Barcelos, OCD. I had been wondering how to grow in intimacy with God, pondering how it was that I had been feeling stuck for so long and even having a hard time following through on my prayer commitments. 

Father Robert said that Jesus loves us MOST where we are weak. He doesn't love us DESPITE when  we're weak, but loves us MOST when we are weak. It's his preference. Whenever Jesus picks a place of encounter, it is in a place where life is messy, shameful or overwhelming for us.

Where did Jesus choose to encounter mankind, face to face, in the flesh, for the first time? In a dank, smelly stable, in the middle of the night. He could have chosen any other place to meet us, but he chose there, a messy, unpleasant, uncomfortable place. When we follow Jesus through the scriptures, where does He meet us? He goes to where the tax collectors and prostitutes are. He is right there when the adulterous woman is to be stoned to death. He's there with the sick, hungry and grieving. He doesn't seek out places where He isn't needed or where people don't realize that they need Him, but He is, as Father Robert said, "a magnet for our affliction." He wants with all His heart to love us there.

The enemy also zones in on affliction. Like a shark smelling blood, he moves quickly for a kill. The greatest spiritual battles of our lives are around our wounded places and our weak places. The enemy will try to make you run from God in shame, but where do you go when you feel ashamed? Into the arms of the enemy instead.
read more>

14 Jul 2013

St. Thérèse of Lisieux and Mums

I have recently discovered that my spirituality is very similar to that of St. Thérèse the Little Flower probably because I have lived with children under the age of 18 for 33 years. 

 I think that many mothers can relate to this saint as well. She lived the little way like all people who are not rich and famous but want to serve God their loving Father through their littleness and simplicity. She chose to stay as a child in they eyes of God, performing all of her duties with love and obedience, no matter how small and insignificant they were. 
Matthew 18:3: and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 
images (4)
 I like to say that a child, frog and tree are holy because they are who they called to be without a mask or false persona or large ego.

St. Thérèse said,  “Holiness consists simply in doing God's will, and being just what God wants us to be.”

 I pray now by simply resting in Him, looking into the light and His eyes and He looks at me. I smile. He smiles and immediately fills me with a surge of joy

St. Thérèse said, "For me prayer is a surge of the heart, it is a simple look towards Heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy." 
“I say nothing to him; I love him”

25 years ago God told me

31 May 2013

What is detachment in the Catholic spiritual life?

File:John of the Cross crucifixion sketch.jpg

Among Carmelite saints, John of the Cross, co-founder of the Discalced Carmelites with Teresa of Avila, is not the most popular. Why not? He insisted that detachment was necessary for holiness. Many Catholics, misunderstanding his teaching, think it too hard and too dull. On first reading his Ascent of Mt. Carmel, they might be tempted to settle for luke-warmness.

On the other hand, nearly everyone loves St. Therese of Lisieux. The irony is that Therese was a true daughter of John, embracing all that he taught. If we reject John, we implicitly reject Therese as well.

Misconceptions about attachment


Let’s examine some of the misconceptions about detachment.

First of all, the detachment John of the Cross speaks of is not aloofness. We should have proper affection for our family and friends.  It’s nonsensical to be cold towards your spouse due to a supposed love for God.

Detachment doesn’t mean denying the good that is in the material world. Rather, it means viewing temporal goods as temporal, gifts from God meant to lead us to Him. Unlike some religions, where the physical world is seen as evil, Christianity does not teach asceticism for its own sake. We give up our desires for things in order to make room in our hearts for God.  Detachment is a means, not an end.

Continue reading about detachment.

12 Apr 2013

I Don't Know How To Stop

I feel whiny today. Yesterday, I cried.
Why, oh why, do I have to slow down?
I hate it. I want to stay busy.

Everyone who cares about me annoys me by trying to get me to stop. I want them to go away, since I'm too busy for them anyway.

My therapist said I need more breaks in my day to take care of myself.

My spiritual director said I need to keep doing Eucharistic Adoration for the next three months and then we'll re-evaluate whether I need to continue. I don't have to obey what he says, but I'm not seeking direction because I'm a genius at how to grow spiritually. My talents lie more in the realm of driving myself to the edge of psychosis and back. So, I agreed and I do what I agree to do. I realize that what I want isn't always what I need.

I don't want to slow down. It's almost as if I feel the world will come to an end if I do.

I used to play computer games non-stop at night, five and six hours at a time, to de-stress. But, that just charges adrenalin and provides escape. Plus, annoyingly, none of my advisers think this is healthy anymore or want me to continue. In fact, I have yet to find anyone in their right mind that thinks I should continue. Wow, I'd love to find one!

So, I have to do other things, like turn to God more. 

I'm pushing myself really hard. I've spoken before small audiences four times this week- four. And it terrifies me to do that. I'm also making a special effort to be more present and responsive to my boyfriend. I emotionally neglect him and autism is a reason. Especially when I'm overloaded, I want and actually need to shut down and go inside myself to hibernate from everything. However, it is but not an excuse to ignore him completely and in general, act like a jerk. I can't stop doing my best to give my best. He's sick this week too, so he needs more care.

Also, there is my overwhelmingly difficult Quickbooks class and the fact that I am preparing three books for printing and none of that is going as smoothly as I think it should. But mainly, the problem is that I don't want to let go of my control and give that over to God. I just don't.

I tell every autistic I know not to make big changes in their lives all at once or they will set themselves up for meltdown. Yet, I refuse to listen to what I know is true.


I SAY that I want to do the right thing, with all my heart, more than anything else. And my heart breaks that it's never enough. Yet, even though I feel that's true. I'm lying to myself. I don't know what the right thing is. I just want to push myself to feel important, valued, and redeemed. It's really all about me.

After receiving communion yesterday, I just prayed, and I said, "Jesus, I don't know how to stop. I don't know how to put limits on anything." I felt His presence clearly and a soft voice spoke in my heart, "My love needs no limits."

The infinite love God offers us doesn't push us to the brink of insanity. That sort of thing is MY forte, not His!

I need to go do my Eucharistic Adoration in about an hour. For my non-Catholic friends, it's basically spending an hour with God in a chapel. Tomorrow, at the end of my monthly day at the Carmelite Monastery, I meet before a council of officers and our spiritual adviser, to see if I will be permitted to enter formation. What do I need to do more than focus on de-stressing and making room for that unlimited love in my heart? Only my pride wants to save the world. Enough.

6 Apr 2013

Autism Acceptance and Morality

April is "Autism Acceptance Month." Some organizations have called it, "Autism Awareness Month," but because so much of the negative advertising of many autism charities, autistics like myself have re-titled the month, "Autism Acceptance Month." It seemed most charities only wanted to make people aware of the negative parts of autism, leaving out the good parts!

 I've had a tough time accepting my autism since the day I was diagnosed. The part I hate most about it is that I need help in areas and ways that other people don't. Because of that, I feel like I'm not equal to other people. So, "Autism Acceptance Month" has given me a lot to think about.

Autism is a difference in neurological wiring. Although some aspects of this are disabling, they are balanced by the many strengths we also have. Autistic people generally have a great eye for detail, an unparalleled conscientiousness, sincerity and honesty. In general, we're the people you can count on to be careful and hard workers. Lying is actually a complex social skill and so  if we're ever able to develop it, it is usually later in life.

"Autism Acceptance" is a movement toward helping other people understand and have empathy for us, rather than trying to change us into being like people we are not. In regards to our identity, I completely agree that we should not be told we're not as "cool" or "normal" as other people and should change. In regards to our behavior, I agree that it is unfair to expect us to do certain things easily, but I think it is also unfair not to expect us to try at all. Working to improve ourselves is not the same as seeking to cure ourselves or become a different person. If we don't try to do a little better each day, we are cheating ourselves and the world out of better relationships and productivity.

Most people know that autism can make learning to do social things a lot harder. Yet, the challenges go well beyond social things. Our brains are not wired to put things in prioritized order, although we can be obsessed with order. 

When most people think of autistic children, they picture them lining up their toys or putting them into categories. Each time I see those pictures, I laugh. I was one of them. Only dolls I loved were given real names. The dolls I didn't like very much were all put in one category. They were ALL named, "Sue." I loved to play "landlady." I'd organize "The Sues" in neat categories in cardboard boxes and come along to collect the rent. "Librarian" was another fun game for me- "The Sues" would line up to check out books and I would stamp them and keep track of when Sue #4 had an overdue book. (Wow- it must have been fun being one of my dolls- ha!)

However, the order I come up with isn't usually a practical order. The order I come up with is usually order for the sake of order, to make sense of an overwhelming world. The way I like to order things is not always (or even usually!) what the world thinks is important, and sometimes I don't care. Leave me alone and don't disturb me while I re-sort my computer folders or socks!

What is most important? What comes first? Hell, if I know!

This is why: As an autistic person, I have severe deficits in "executive functioning."

Here's a basic summary of what executive functioning means:

Executive Functioning (EF) is  "a set of processes that all have to do with managing oneself and one's resources in order to achieve a goal. It is an umbrella term for the neurologically-based skills involving mental control and self-regulation." 

Executive functions help you manage life tasks of all types. For example, executive functions let you organize a trip, a research project, or a paper for school. EF also governs all levels of task management, including prioritization, scheduling and seeing the "big picture." Lack of executive function can make inhibition tough and when I want to stop something at an appropriate time (actions, thoughts, etc.) it is very difficult. Also, shifting focus from one situation or task to another takes me a very long time. 

I used to find it humiliating that I wasn't able to be as organized and focused as I wanted to be, but then I learned that I don't have much innate strength in that mental capability, so it is pointless to beat myself up. I was like a blind person beating herself up because she can't see. What a useless thing to do! So, I have a home health care provider who helps me organize my life every week.

I run my own business. This means I manage lots of things and juggle multiple projects. I can do this without great executive functioning, because my helper and I sit down once a week for 2-3 hours and break down my priorities, goals and task lists. Once that's set, I don't worry about it anymore. The first thing this helps is anxiety level. I can relax and just follow my schedule and routine. I'm at least three times more productive than I've ever been in my life. It is awesome.

I've also found that learning the Catholic rules of morality have anchored me, so that my daily anxiety is reduced. Even so, I can drown in moral ambiguity, worrying on and on about something probably inconsequential and minor while ignoring something that borders on a grave sin. That's one of the many reasons I keep myself in spiritual direction.

Let's see what happens when an autistic person prepares for confession! The first thing usually suggested in preparing an examination of conscience is to review the ten commandments carefully. The content of the ten commandments is basically the same but the commandment numbers are divided up differently by Jews, Protestants and Catholics. And for the autistic person, this alone is a cause for anxious alarm. In Catholicism, the first three are basically about our relationship with God and the last seven are about our relationships with others and society. Catholics are encouraged to run through an examination of conscience nightly. Most guides to confession are very detailed and being a fairly contemplative person, I am actually more aware of problems with my relationship with God than I am with other people.

So, as an autistic Catholic, I would normally spend quite a lot of time on the first three and when I am tired of it all, go through the rest without much concentration-- I mean, I'm not murdering or stealing, right? And, it's almost impossible for me to successfully lie. And, I'm autistic, right? So, any social screw-ups are just my disability, right? Not to worry!

But, guess what? My Spiritual Director has started asking me to focus on my relationships with others first. This is a big switch for me mentally. It's easier just to say that I'm not very good with people and it's my disability, not a moral issue. Yet, if I'm not aware of the impact my behavior has on others and I'm not focused at all on trying to improve that, then yes, it is a moral issue. It's an issue that needs to come first.

If autistics are so honest and without guile, there is no serious sin autistic people can get into, right? Wrong. We want to belong an fit in, so we can be prone to peer pressure. Peer pressure can lead to everything from drug use to serious criminal activity. Computer hacking is sometimes a problem behavior for those on the spectrum. We can be misled by false teachers. We can get so caught up in one direction or track of thought that we don't fulfill important responsibilities or we emotionally neglect the people in our lives. Some can do some crazy impulsive things. There is a lot of room for error and some serious error. I can attest to how easy it is to spin completely off the rails. I'm very good at it.

Yet, to get the best grasp on these problems, it is most helpful to start focusing more on our relationships with other people and putting that focus first. Without consciously doing that, it may never actually be done at all.

I think I'm finally learning "autism acceptance." People said I was a "child prodigy." I was supposed to be "better" than other people all through life. My family and society had high, high expectations for me.

It's been SO hard for me to admit I need help and that I cannot manage completely on my own. It's been SO hard for me to realize I'm a good person and still a very smart person in spite of the fact that I feel like such a mess. I never wanted any of this. 

Want it or not, it just is.

God, help me today and every day to accept that being autistic does not make me less than anybody else.

Autism Acceptance is the key to making peace with ourselves AND to growing more responsible with our lives.

Feast of Saint Joseph, A Man of Many Virtues

Today is the feast day of one of my favorite saints – Saint Joseph. I claim him as one of my favorites, because he was such a virtuous ma...