Category Archives: spirituality

Yes, Virginia. There is a Spiritual Vortex in Lithuania

At the end of our stay in Vilnius, my aunt Ona’s husband arrived to drive us to our next destination, the spa town of Druskininkai in southern Lithuania. Ona and Kostas don’t even live in Vilnius, but they insisted on chauffeuring us so we wouldn’t have to rent a car.

How generous are the Lithuanians? Very generous.

We were hoping to stop and pick some mushrooms on the way (there is very good ‘shrooming in the area around Druskininkai) but the weather had been dry and there was no fungi in sight. Instead, Kostas asked if we’d like to make a short side trip to a place called “Merkin?s Piramid?” (the Pyramid of Merkin?), which was very close to our final destination.

“A pyramid? There’s a pyramid in Lithuania?” My attention was immediately piqued.

“Not big pyramid, like Egypt. Smoll pyramid,” Kostas explained. “Is spiritual place.”

“Like a church?” I asked.

“Not church, but spiritual energija, yes? Is guy, Paulius, very good guy, he built own two hands this pyramid. God told. Very special energy, people come all over Lithuania for healing.”

“You mean, it’s like a SPIRITUAL VORTEX?”

I have always wanted to visit a spiritual vortex.

“We stop, you see,” Kostas said.

So we turned off the main road and drove down a little towpath through a pine forest to the homestead of a man named Paulius. (A sidenote concerning Lithuanian towpaths: you think there is no way under God’s blue sky that your Audi sedan and the oncoming truck could both make it out of the towpath alive. But, nine times out of ten, you’d be wrong!)

So this guy, Paulius, received a message from heaven as a child telling him that a particular spot on his parents’ property was exceptional, and that he should build a pyramid over it where the special healing energy could be harnessed. It took him years, but he finally built the structure and the dome around it was completed just a few years ago.

merkines piramide

Merkin?s Piramid?

I especially love the juxtaposition of the traditional wooden homestead with the futuristic glass dome. It’s a good metaphor for the state of Lithuania today – a country clinging to its ancient roots while striving to be as modern a contender as possible.

There is no charge to get in (the structure was built with the help of private donations) and the holy well water available inside the dome is free, too.

Which is a good thing, because it was hotter than blazes inside that pyramid.

meditating

Meditating

under the pyramid

Kostas and Some Ladies Under the Pyramid.

So did I feel the energy, you ask?

Well, yes and no. Because it was easily one hundred degrees inside the dome, I found it hard to differentiate between feelings of unity with all of creation and plain old climate induced light-headedness. But there was very peaceful, new age type of music playing and the acoustics inside the dome are phenomenal, which definitely added to the ambiance. I sent up some prayers for all the people who come here to be healed.

Maybe that’s how it works?

Afterwards, I walked a bit around the grounds, which are beautiful, while the children played on one of the wooden play structures ubiquitous to the country of Lithuania (playgrounds are everywhere – it’s great.) I saw Paulius himself working in a field and began to make my way over. After reading the history of the pyramid that’s posted on the grounds, I was still unclear as to how, exactly, he received his mandate and what, exactly, God told him.

I really wanted to know.

I patiently waited to talk to him while a couple of other tourists monopolized his time, but after awhile I got bored just standing there waiting, plus there were a lot of bees who liked my scent in that field. So I left without getting the answer to the meaning of life, which I regret.

merkines kryziai

Crosses Near the Pyramid

These crosses near the pyramid are another example of the mingling of old and new in Lithuania. (Paulius is Catholic, but for some reason the Church has not sanctioned his activities with regards to the Pyramid.)

Whether there’s something going on here or not, it’s definitely a beautiful, serene place to visit.

*******************************************************************************

This is the seventh (but far from last) post in my series “Tessmans do the Fatherland,” about my family’s recent trip to Lithuania. Here, in chronological order, are the links to the first six posts:
  1. Lithuania, Day One
  2. City Building 101: The Founding of Vilnius (Gediminas Castle)
  3. Lithuanian Vacation: What We Ate
  4. Artists Sleep on Mondays (Užupis)
  5. Blood and Sunshine (The Vilnius TV Tower Memorial Site)
  6. Zip Line Trumps Castle (Trakai Castle and Tony Resort Park)
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We of Little Faith

I was minding my own beeswax at the end of the pew before Mass started today when a little old lady came up to me and asked if I was in her Birthday Book yet. She had long white hair and bright pink lipstick and for a minute I thought maybe I’d gone down the rabbit hole.

“Your Birthday Book?” I blinked. “I don’t know what that is.”

“I pray for people on their birthdays” said the mysterious stranger. “What’s your name? I’ll put you on my list!”

Now, I’m usually a suspicious person by nature, but I signed myself right up. I mean, here was someone offering to pray for me free of charge, and I need all the prayers I can get.

I spelled out my full name and gave her my birth date, which she scrawled into a flowery little journal she’d whipped out of her purse. Then she asked for the P-Dawg’s info, which I of course provided, and then the kids.’

I thought that would be the end of it, but before I knew it she was asking me for my parents’ names and birthdays, and also my mother-in-law’s. Now I was starting to get a little uncomfortable, but it seemed uncharitable to deny the rest of my family the opportunity to be prayed for, as well. What was I supposed to say to her? No thank you, I would rather you didn’t pray for the rest of them.

After she was done writing down my entire clan’s personal information in her little notebook, the little old lady gave me a meaningful look, squeezed my hand, and trotted off. I got a distinct sense like maybe she also wanted to hug me, (and ask for more names), but I cut her off at the pass. It’s one thing to give a stranger all of your personal information plus your mother’s maiden name, but quite another to physically touch.

“What were you talking to that woman about?” asked the P-Dawg, who’d been sitting out of earshot.

“She prays for people on their birthdays,” I told him. “So I gave her our stats.”

A small vein in my husband’s right temple began to throb.

“Did you give her our real names?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“And our real birthdays?”

”                         ”

“What other information did you give her?” the P-Dawg sounded alarmed.

“Just our social security numbers and online banking information,” I told him (even though I had not!)

Suddenly it seemed like not such a great idea, what I had done. I mean, if this lady was really praying for people on their birthdays, why didn’t she carry a calendar and write the names in for each day instead?

“Let us pray,” said the priest, and I sent up a silent petition that the Birthday Lady wouldn’t steal my identity.

“Do you think she’s going to steal our identities?” I asked the P-Dawg.

“Probably,” he said.

I couldn’t concentrate during Mass at all because I kept scanning the pews for the Birthday Lady. But I couldn’t see her anywhere and so naturally assumed that she was already back in her lair, hacking into our bank accounts.

Thankfully my daughter, who is a spy in training, had not let her out of her sight. She was ten pews up to our right. There was still a chance to get our names out of The Book!

After Mass I asked the P-Dawg if he would mind approaching the Prayer Lady and asking her to remove our names from her list.

“What?”

“Just say we reconsidered and we don’t want anyone praying for us.”

“I have a better idea,” the P-Dawg said.

“What are you going to do, take her down in the parking lot?”

“No, I’m going to trail her and get a picture of her license plate,” he explained to me. “But first, we’re going to have to split up.”

The children and I camped out in the car awaiting our fate and my husband hovered around the Birthday Lady while she chatted with people after church.

“Where’s Daddy?” asked my son after about ten minutes.

“Oh, he probably just ran into someone he knows,” I lied, even though I was starting to fret. What was the P-Dawg doing with the Prayer Lady? Had he been successful in confiscating our page? Had she pulled a switchblade on him? Had they come to blows?”

Finally my brave husband came back.

“Well?” I prodded. “How did it go down? Did you get our names removed from The Book?”

“No,” said the P-Dawg.  “She stayed after talking to a bunch of people who seemed to know and trust her, and then she went to the hall for coffee and donuts.”

“I don’t understand. Why didn’t you ask if you could see her Prayer Book, then rip our page out?”

“Because I could get arrested for that.”

We continued to discuss the situation on the car ride home and the P-Dawg reluctantly conceded that the Prayer Lady had probably been legit. I want to believe there are still people in the world who just want to pray for me and everyone I know for the heck of it. And I think it’s a shame that my husband we automatically second guess someone who offers. In fact, I should have asked for her name and info. That way I would at least know how to look her up.

So what do you think? Is the Birthday Lady going to pray for me, or rob me blind instead?

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Just Another Sunday at Holy Mass with Kids

“Turn around, please.”

“No.”

“Stop that.”

“And also with you.”

“Get off the floor, what are you doing?”

“No.”

“Please turn around.”

“Turn around.”

“Turn around.”

“Turn around.”

“Amen.”

“Get off that pole. Are you kidding me?”

“Please stand up.”

“No, I’m praying.”

“Stop gnawing on the pew. Jeez!”

“Please sit down.”

“Lord, have mercy.”

“Turn around.”

“Christ, have mercy.”

“Turn around.”

“Lord, have mercy.”

“Take that money out of your mouth. I never, ever want to see you putting a dollar in your mouth again. Do you understand?”

“Please don’t flip your skirt over your head, people can see your underwear.”

“There’s nothing in my purse.”

“No.”

“That’s not candy, please put it away.”

“No.”

“Lord, hear our prayer.”

“Just two more songs.”

“Yes, just two more songs.”

“Stop kicking the pew.”

“Okay, three more songs.”

“Come back here.”

“No, not yet.”

“Stand up.”

“Sit down.”

“Turn around.”

“Last song!”

“Thanks be to God.”

 

Although this is actually what it sounded like in Lithuanian . . .

“Prašau apsisuk.”

“Ne.”

“Nedaryk.”

“Ir su Tavimi.”

“Nesivoliok. K? tu darai?”

“Ne.”

“Prašau apsisuk.”

“Apsisuk.”

“Apsisuk.”

“Apsisuk.”

“Amen.”

“Nelipk ant stulpo, ar tu juokauji?”

“Prašau atsistok.”

“Ne, aš meldžiuos.”

“Negraužk suolo, Jeez!”

“Prašau atsis?sk.”

“Viešpatie, pasigail?k.”

“Apsisuk.”

“Kristau, pasigail?k.”

“Apsisuk.”

“Viešpatie, pasigail?k.”

“Išimk t? pinig? iš burnos! Aš geriau NIEKAD v?l nematy?iau taves dedant pinig? ? burn?, ar tu supranti?”

“Nedaryk taip, žmon?s matys tavo underwear.”

“Nieko n?ra mano rankinuke.”

“Ne.”

“Tai ne saldainis, prašau pad?k.”

“Ne.”

“Meldžiam Tave, Viešpatie.”

“Tik dar dvi giesm?s.”

“Tik dvi.”

“Nespirk suolo.”

“Okay, trys giesm?s.”

“Ateik ?ia.”

“Dar ne.”

“Atsistok.”

“Atsis?sk.”

“Apsisuk.”

“Paskutin? giesm?!”

“D?kojame tau, Viešpatie.”

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I Saw a UFO

When the children and I returned to our campsite overlooking Lake Raystown in the scenic Pennsylvania foothills, it was already dark and my husband was pacing back and forth.

“Where have you guys been?” he asked me. “I was about to send out an APB.”

“P-Dawg,” I said solemnly as I took a seat by the fire, “I just had a transcendental experience.”

“Did you see a UFO?” my husband dead-panned.

“How did you know? Did you see it, too?”

Here the P-Dawg rolled his eyes. “It was just a wild guess. But go on,” he continued, in what I couldn’t help but notice was a patronizing tone of voice, “Tell me what you saw.”

“Well. You know how sometimes a person will tell you about seeing some kind of weird luminous object in the sky that is definitely not an airplane or a hot air balloon or even a weather satellite?”

“Yes . . .”

“And what you tend to do is smile and nod. Maybe you’ll say something like, ‘Wow! That’s incredible,’ but what you’re really thinking is, ‘This person is a total nut job who probably also plays D&D and goes to medieval re-enactment fairs.”

“Yes . . .”

“Well, I know how those people feel now, the ones who no one believes.”

“Okay.”

“I took the kids for a walk down by the lake and while they were having a blast with the playground all to themselves, I sat down on a nearby rock and watched the sun set between the mountains. It was a gorgeous sunset, all salmon and coral blending into lavender gray within this perfectly balanced frame of water, mountains, and clouds around it.”

“Uh-huh.”

“And I felt totally content. The sight of that beautiful sunset completely eradicated those first few not so great days of our vacation, when I had to adjust to living in squalor and taking public showers, and when our reunion with our friends got rained out and when our side storage compartment opened up on the turnpike and we lost some of our stuff.”

“Go on,” said the P-Dawg.

“And just as I was thinking about what a perfect ending that sunset was to our vacation, this ORB OF GOLDEN LIGHT came up over the top of the mountain and started moving towards me.”

“Sounds like Ball Lightning.”

“It was about half the size of a full moon, I’d say. At first I thought it was a hot air balloon or something because the edges seemed like they were burning, but as it came closer I could tell it obviously wasn’t that. It was a glowing ball of fire. And I’ll tell you something else, P-Dawg. I saw it right there in front of me plain as the nose on your face.”

“I bet it was Ball Lightning.”

“It was moving towards me, but I felt no fear. Instead I got up from my rock and started walking toward it. It was the strangest thing I’d ever seen in the sky and I just had to find out what it was.”

“Ball Lightning” the P-Dawg said.

“I did not feel as though I was in any danger. It was one of those times when you think, ‘If this is the mothership come to take me home, well then so be it. I stared at it for several minutes and just when it got close enough that I thought I’d finally be able to make out what it was, it suddenly receded into a tiny pinprick and disappeared.”

“Look up ‘Ball Lightning’,” my husband said to me.  “Also, ‘Foo Fighter’,’Saint Elmo’s Fire’ and ‘Will o’ the Wisp’. I hear it happens pretty often when the conditions are right.”

“Have you ever seen it?”

“No.”

“Well. If it’s so common, how come they never mentioned it in my Earth Science class?”

Some of you are probably wondering if the Ball Lightning had a message for me.

It did not. But on that last night of our camping trip, in the tranquil breath between day and night, in front of misty mountains against a canvas of pink light, I felt for a moment as though all was right with the world. It made our whole trip worth it.

And now whenever I walk past the microwave, it starts going automatically and my hair stands on end.

Just kidding.

 

Of course, I didn’t have my phone or camera with me. But the Ball Lightning looked something like this:

 

You can look at some of the more mundane photos from our trip on my Flickr page here. One of the kids deleted most of the photos from my camera, so I have very few pictures from the inside of the camper and the three days we spent in DC.

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