A Place of Possibility

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As mom to an adolescent girl, I regularly come face to face with the socio-political and religious gender constructs that make growing up female today so complicated. Often times, I get lost just trying to figure out where these inescapable constructs are permeating my self-concept as a woman and a mom, let alone how to liberate my daughter from these intertwining oppressive systems. I want to equip her for survival and well-being. I want to be present to her in ways that illuminate how our own practice of being aware through, for and with each other may liberate us from the systems that impede us. Our way of living and being offers us opportunities to hold an awareness of the world’s oppressions and yet, still imagine authentic ways to co-create be-ing with each other.

These are complex ideas and the notion that as a parent and child we can navigate below the surface of these waters and not lose sight of each other is frightening. My daughter sees me as a kind of mermaid – one who likes to go deep and is comfortable in the depths. I see my daughter as an amazing and emerging artist whose self-knowledge and self-concept permeate her creative work. A font of untapped potential. She beckons me to surface and splash around in the shallows for a while. I beckon her to dwell more comfortably in uncertainty, holding her work and experience lightly as she grows.

Our life together is punctuated by lively conversations, emotional meltdowns, creative stresses around school or work and testing the fabric of our connection. And yet, we start each day and end each day with a hug and simple expressions of love.

Recently, we had an impromptu opportunity to do some window-shopping and stroll around town together. This included stops in different shops and pleasant banter with the shop clerks. My daughter chose to buy something for herself. A bit later, while walking together my daughter stopped and hugged me. “Mom, I love you. I love so much the lovely way you always speak about me to others. I feel so cared for -so seen for who I am. I know that it makes me feel more confident in who I am.” “I also know that it isn’t always the case with moms and daughters.” I hugged her back and said, “I love you too honey and everything I say is just how I see you. And I am so happy you can say this to me as not every daughter does that.” In this moment – holding and speaking our truth to each other, we see each other clearly, meeting only briefly in a place of infinite possibility. A place deep within us both. A place that expand us and furthers us.

It is said that those who understand forgiveness and forgive do so from a deeply held understanding that they are forgiven. In that construct, one is able to forgive as one belongs to forgiveness and forgiving becomes unitive. Perhaps the same can be said for love – those who love, do so from an authentic, primal appreciation that they belong to love and love becomes unitive.

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Tend Your Garden

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“ ~ live and respond to grace in the here and now. … Listen closely. … Don’t cultivate someone else’s garden. Grow where you are planted.”   ~St. Francis de Sales

~ Sage counsel to anyone who seeks to hear and to learn with an open mind and an open heart. Simple notions;there are no involved, complicated steps to pursue – just a straightforward commitment to yourself. Through a clear attitude of trust within yourself, you will be able to find the grace and the wisdom to grow moment by moment. Whatever comes your way, therefore, offers you an opportunity to learn and deepen your roots. That is, if you can simply cultivate this openness to receive whatever comes to you.

While I know in my heart that this is the way to inner peace, I still struggle to accept that I can grow in grace by simply be-ing present. My religious upbringing has steeped me well in notions of elaborate rituals and acts of penance as the vehicles for finding grace. Implicit in these things I am required ‘to do’ is the underlying idea that, ‘as I am’, is not enough. Thus, I hold a sense that I must work hard to achieve grace and I disdain and regret my flaws and weaknesses.

Can I just ‘be’? Can I come ‘as I am’? Can I open myself ever wider and fall ever deeper into the Source of all that is? Can I trust that presence? Can I let go more completely? Can I allow for the possibilities?

My heartful , seeker’s response is: YES

And so it is that I hope to seed and cultivate my garden. May I nurture responsiveness to the present moment; may I listen to learn more closely the language of silence; may I unfold toward all that is.

“Silence appears at the moment when we position ourselves at the very source of being.”  Raimon Panikkar

The Sacred Nature Of Daily Life

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My inner longing to dive deeper into the mystery of be-ing draws me exponentially deeper toward the essence of be-ing. In the ebb and flow of this labyrinthine experience of living and longing, I begin to understand the mysterious, spiraling interface of my inner and outer lives. I see that I contain myself and empty myself to enter more fully into this mystery; and, to allow this mystery to unfold in me, with me and through me.

Annie Dillard wisely observed, “how we spend our days, is in fact, how we spend our lives”. At times, this pains me. Mostly, at times when I am engaged in what poet Adrienne Rich refers to as, “the kind of woman’s work that is only done to be undone”. Lately, when I catch myself slipping into a martyr’s approach to ‘enduring’ these tasks that ‘must be done’, I pause, and bring my attention to the moment where I am. In that pause, I reflect on the Buddhist notion that most of life is, ‘chopping wood and carrying water’. Then, I am better able to authentically give myself to my tasks and to see more clearly the connection between how I enter my tasks and how I enter my life. Somehow, the sacredness of my life resides deep within my attention and presence in my daily work and effort.

There is a sacred moment that looms large for me daily. It is a place where I see the sacred in my spouse as he enters a daily task for him, a daily gift for me – creating a morning latte. Each morning my husband rises first, and quietly, unassumingly, whips up a latte for me. I need to highlight that he is a tea drinker himself and does not drink coffee with me. The latte is unpretentiously delivered to my bedside table. This small and beautiful daily gift is a sacred moment for me. Within this gesture from my beloved, I see the mystery and compassion of Love. I see that I am a recipient of this Love despite my flaws and faults. By some grace of Godde, my beloved has an ability to know me in both shadow and light and love me still.

Best of all, this love humbly reveals itself as it unconditionally illuminates the smallest of tasks. As I commune with this small, daily moment, I linger in the fullness of its meaning and grace; I dwell in a prayer like return to gratitude. Knowing in my heart, that the essence of this mystery expands within me through my daily tasks, my life – .

NEWNESS

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I have been considering how one experiences time while on the threshold of newness – new work – new lifestyle– new daily schedule… I think at these thresholds one experiences a small sense of temporary isolation. A sense that is heightened by the myriad of changes and demands that are beyond one’s kin – I think such thresholds shake one’s sense of place. Especially given the nearly racehorse pace of life that asks even the most reluctant person to be ‘a doer’. As if by doing one could actually change anything. It is, I think, truer to say that in reality things will always happen beyond one’s control. And it is equally true that all one can really change is the self – one’s attitude and approach.

So, when you are in the midst of lost equilibrium brought on by your particular life’s shifts and thresholds, know that you can, bit by bit, reclaim a sense of calm in the midst of these shifting life moments.  You can intuitively establish sanctuary; inwardly replenish your body and spirit, and outwardly evolve – giving rise to a deeper sense of place. To live in this way, I think it is important to claim your time for time -to understand that nothing is wasted time

As a doer, one also needs to know that resting when tired or worn out, is on the list of possibilities – most especially, during times of change. In being thus, you allow for the possibility of creating small comforting rituals which in turn provide a new rhythm to your days as you are present to your time which becomes your life.

Find ways to enjoy fallow time– an approach to time that encourages a deeper way of knowing to come forth: Don’t just do something. Sit there.

 

Practice

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I participate in several different meditation groups. Each setting draws a varied group of participants. One group has a designated leader who reads a spiritual reflection to us then leads us into thirty minutes of meditation. We are discouraged from discussing our meditative experiences. The group is small 2-3. Another group gathers and meditates for thirty minutes and then reads some scripture aloud to each other taking turns and sharing reflections. This group has about 10 or so participants. The final group I meditate with gathers with some informal chat, meditates for thirty minutes, shares whatever comes up, then meditates a few minutes more before ending. This group is also small 3-5 participants.

It builds awareness to listen to what people share in these diverse and intimate settings. I am always inspired to reflect on my own experience and I am enriched by the simple act of sharing in this sacred practice with others. My own contemplative life unfolds twice daily for twenty minutes and is an important piece of my daily attention to my inner life and authentic self. It expands my perception of meditation to sit with distinct groups, cooperating in their practice too. It is an excellent opportunity to learn, to understand how to relate to others with an open mind and open heart.

There is one mature gentleman who often exclaims that he is ‘out of practice’ at the end of our meditation. This refers to a struggle focusing or some sense he has that he did not experience the meditation, as he wanted. To me, it often sounds almost apologetic – as if he is letting us down. Those of us who sit with him endeavor to highlight the importance of the process versus any particular outcome.

Recently, another group member suggested to this gentleman that the awareness of the experience was perhaps an intentional piece of the process. Therefore, not something to lament just part of the overall practice. I appreciated that perspective. Seeing meditation as a process creates space for an authentic unfolding of the self toward something deeper more liminal.

For me, this whole exchange highlights my need to focus on my own daily process while relinquishing ideas of what should and should not be done. I must hold my experience lightly. This is my small way of engaging in a humble, yet sacramental process, that leads me further into my own authentic self and thereby, deeper into wisdom and strength. It strikes me that there is a great mystery in all of this contemplative practice. Through it and in it, I am encouraged to contribute to the wellbeing of the world. It is as if the process leads me to a more relational – unitive perspective of my internal and external worlds as I encounter that which is greater than – yet part of – me.

Kinship

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I recently attended my daughter in-law’s baby shower and (as the dad’s mother) wondered how I might show my support and love. So, I created a mother’s box for my daughter in-law filled with gifts and sundries for her self-care as she becomes a mother for the first time. From lotions, to massage oils, scented candles, herbal tea and gourmet cookies – my daughter and I created something to commemorate this larger than life moment.

My husband used a fisherman’s tackle box and likewise, filled it with playful and thoughtful self-care items for a new dad. From strong coffee, to burping tee shirts, invigorating shower gel, a parenting book, twizzlers(his go-to candy) and a power mix bag of nuts. This became a father’s box for our son through which to acknowledge this rite of passage.

We presented these mother/father boxes at the shower and included in each a note of personal reflections to each regarding this watershed life moment.

My daughter and I also provided a candle to each guest at the shower with a blessing-thought attached. The candles are to be lighted as the labor begins in support of the parents’ approaching birth journey. What follows is the text of the note we wrapped with a ribbon around each candle.

Light this candle once labor begins to symbolize your connection with the new mom on her journey through pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. Say a prayer, special thought or mantra and together we create and offer her our kinship, and affinity of belonging. We are here for her – bringing her love and light for her journey.

I closed my note of reflection to my daughter in-law with the following blessing:

May you know the quiet confidence that all will be well and always listen to your secret heart. May motherhood deepen your sense of your own miraculous be-ing and may all that dwells within you blossom into a future graced with love.