Tuesdays

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I awaken everyday in gratitude for the gift of the new day. I light a candle on my bedside table and ‘take a moment’ to remember that all of creation, including me, dwells in You. I breathe in and I breathe out, and I pray that opening myself to what may be will be as natural as my in-breath, and that releasing myself to You will be as natural as my out-breath. It is a small miracle breathing, and it reminds me of how simply I truly ‘know’ surrender as the action that leads to something wonderful – my next in-breath! How can something so simple be so complex? How is it that I know this and still struggle with trusting in this?

Tuesdays I visit my hospice patients and in some cases, I provide Reiki. I find my morning still time helps prepare me and hold me as I enter my visits. Being present and aware helps me avoid entering these moments in a rote or routine way – always a temptation with anything that is done regularly. Compartmentalizing and managing are skills I have perfected from childhood through my career as an educator/administrator. In my case, they became ways to cope with feeling overwhelmed and alienated by the very system I participate in. The systems I worked in somehow seemed to strangle my authenticity.

Recently, one of my Reiki patients expressed concern that the peace she received in the Reiki treatment meant that I was absorbing her negative energy. I assured her it was not the case. However, her concern inspired me to look into that whole notion. Indeed, that led me to some personal strategies and practices that can ensure that I am attending to myself even as I offer Reiki to another. I shared this process with my patient. The interesting thing is that her expression of concern awakened me further. I recognized that without care, I might inadvertently bring routine to these visits. And now, I am awake to the ways in which I have internalized systematic living and how facily it can creep into whatever I am doing.

So, now like breathing in awareness, I approach my visits more fully present. I use two practices – one – a gesturing Reiki prayer(Barnett/Newton) and the other – a prayer for presence.(Rupp)

Cross your hands over your heart “I am the light”

Put one hand on top of the other just below the navel “ The light is within me.”

Make a spiral with your right arm down your body. .” The light moves throughout me.”

Spread arms and legs out “The light surrounds me.”

Starting with both hands together in front in the prayer position, reach up and around, forming a heart.   “ The light protects me.”

Cross your hands over your heart. “ I am the light.”

I renew my life’s purpose
 of being faithful to our co-creation.
I give you my openness 
trusting that you will lead me on paths meant to help me grow.
I re-commit my intention 
to listen to you in all of life. I promise you my presence and awareness that I may be an instrument of your love. I give you my loyal heart.
 May I do all in the circle of your wisdom 
and learn from your dance of compassion
 in every corner of this universe.

It is another small miracle, Tuesday. It reminds me that I am meant to be fully alive. It shows me that in my heart I ‘know’ this truth. I am here to be fully human, fully present in this wild life of mine. My deepest, most authentic self ‘knows’ this paradox – the more I surrender to the one I authentically am – the more I become one with all that is. The invisible is always present in the visible. I encounter this paradox each day I begin anew in You

 

The Space In-Between

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“How we spend our days is, after all, how we spend our lives.”

                                                                               Annie Dillard

Summer in my life is very much a space in-between. My husband works in an independent school whose schedule shifts to accommodate the summer months when school is not in session. My fourteen-year old daughter delights in the completion of her freshman year and a few months to re-focus her attention inward. And I, I cross a threshold into a space where I dwell in the fullness of all I have gathered this past year imagining where it all leads me next.

I sense G*d’s spirit and presence all around us in what I hold as the sacred rhythm of ‘unbroken dailiness’. Simone Weil observes, “Attention consists of suspending our thought, leaving it detached, empty, and ready to be penetrated by the object.” And so it is that I endeavor to enter the precious space in-between, open to learning how to see, how to hear, how to feel and how to be with my own authentic life.

May I enter all the sacred spaces of life, the nooks and crannies and crevices of my world with an open mind, open heart and humble sense of wonder at all that is!

 

A Way of Life

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Just like space

And the great elements such as earth,

May I always support the life

Of all the boundless creatures.

And until they pass away from pain

May I also be the source of life

For all the realms of varied beings

That reach unto the ends of space.

a guide to the bodhisattva’s way of life – shantideva 

These very wise and compassionate expressions are indeed sage words to contemplate and weave into the fabric of intentional living. When I encounter them I am inspired. I recognize in these words, the heart of my own motivation and desire to enter chaplaincy training.

The notion of Life as unitive as well as, be-ing alive and present to each other attracts me. Each is so compellingly yet simply shared here. There is boundless wisdom in these guidelines as a way of life; so simple, and yet so complex – like me.

The process for chaplaincy training that I engage with asks the potential chaplain to be accountable to the spirit conveyed in, through and with these guidelines. To collaborate in a group setting where one shares deeply one’s journey with others and reflects meaningfully on how best to let the great elements and sources of life reach through us boundlessly feels like real human community and kinship to me.

And so I enter more deeply into life’s mystery pondering how I might bring mercy, love and compassion to a hungry world despite my faults and weaknesses. And I know more authentically that it is precisely because I am the recipient of mercy, love and compassion in my own hungry heart that I may yet hold the seeds for loving more of this imperfect world.

Thank G*d that Love is not reserved for the perfect and lovable. And may a grateful heart allow me to love more.

 

An Old Irish Sweater

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June 1st is my maternal grandmother’s birthday – nana to me. Coincidentally, and unbeknown to me as I named my son Justin, it is also the Feast of Saint Justin. The serendipity of these details in life is hugely appealing to me and generates a strong sense of kinship. A sense of belonging that transcends the linear measurement of life and provides a wonderful sense of the eternal in, through and with my relationships.

As a committed contemplative, I contemplate daily where I sense a similar feeling of kinship. As I begin contemplating, I hear in the quiet the wind against the windows, birds in the trees, the wind chimes outside; and then, the sound of my own inward and outward breathing. It seems to whisper Yaweh – ya on the inhalation and weh on the exhalation. My body awaits -resting in silence, and I unite with my heart’s language of love radiating – expanding like an echo in a cave. I have the sense of image and presence, an infusion of Spirit, connection …and I open to receive it.

I feel a profound sense of gratitude. I experience a strong sense of consolation that tempts me to cling and again, I let go and hold it lightly. I notice that my breathing tempo slows ‘my whole self’ down. I notice that I feel at peace. I notice that I feel open to all that might unfold. I notice that my mind occasionally tries to get in on the action and as I gently accept that and return to whispering ‘Yaweh’ and breathing, the sense that all is well expands within me.

At the heart of the experience of contemplation is really a language of silence that is somewhat indescribable but known. I feel at rest, that I am being gently held and cared for. I have a big desire to enter deeper into that gentle embrace like snuggling into my nana’s Irish sweater. It becomes like a mantel lovingly worn by one who has gone before me that nestles around me as if to say … Be still and rest here where we will mind you and be in you, through you and with you. I notice that at such moments time is irrelevant – almost liminal.

Come away to a secret place and rest for a while  Mark 6:31

 

Flowers ~ A Random Act of Kindness

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Not long ago, I was shopping at Trader Joe’s and feeling distracted by the details of my increasingly busy life. I was mulling the different people whose lives I interact with as a volunteer and pondering it all. I was so lost in such thoughts that when the clerk asked what I was going to be doing with the rest of the day, I didn’t realize he was speaking to me. I became present and shared why I was distracted and that no matter what the rest of the day brought it would be welcomed and appreciated as a true gift. He resonated with that idea, as did the young man who was packing the bags at the end of the counter.

Just as I paid, my cell phone rang and I answered. I was slowly walking out of the store and responding to the call when the young man who had packed my bags tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a bouquet of flowers. I was taken aback and quickly thanked him. Between his desire to duck away and the phone call, it was a brief expression of gratitude.

As I drove home, I nearly wept with joy at the kindness of his beautiful gesture and gift to me. I wondered how he knew that a random act of kindness was just what I needed. I marveled at the beauty of humanity and -not for the first time- considered that there might be some angelic inspiration at play in all of it.

I cannot say but I think of that young man as an angel who chose to buoy me just when I needed it most. I often need to remember to hold things lightly and it is said that ‘angels fly because they take themselves lightly’.

Excerpt from John O’Donohue:

Blessings of Angels

May the Angels in their beauty bless you.
May they turn toward you streams of blessing. May the Angel of Awakening stir your heart
 to come alive to the eternal within you,
to all the invitations that quietly surround you. May the Angel of Encouragement confirm you in worth and self-respect,
that you may live with the dignity that presides in your soul. May all the Angels be your sheltering and joyful guardians.

 

 

 

 

I Will Be Here

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There is a hospice patient I visit regularly who says this to me as I end my visit sharing that I will be back the following week. I have come to hear so much in these four little words. It begins with the sense that he desires to escape his terminal circumstance. It moves on to his sense of stagnation – he will be just as I left him when I return. And of course, that isn’t entirely true as he could diminish further prior to my return. Then I feel the anger in his words – ‘Where the heck do you think I will be next week?’; the envy – ‘Do you have any idea how fortunate you are- how much I want to walk out of here with you?’ Finally, it moves to a deeply wistful sense that he awaits my return because there is little else to look toward; and the slightly self-protective fear that I might not return. Each time he says this to me, I resonate with his deep sense of powerlessness. Each time I hear these four words I long to share with him how clearly I see him and how much I admire his courage as he struggles to reconcile himself to what is happening.

The reality is that I am powerless. I cannot really do anything other than humbly offer my companionship. I know that and so I choose to be present to him. I choose to give witness to his life, to his struggle to his existence – even to his diminishment. I choose to hope that a caring presence willing to companion him in this moment is part of the beauty of being fully alive. I choose to remember in him, with him and through him that we are never more fully alive then when we hold each other wholly/holy in the fullness of our humanity.

And so, in my humble effort to let him know that he is seen, to reassure him that he is not alone, to give witness to his pain and suffering, his humanity – I accept his refrain and I offer it back to him with the spirit of hope, companionship and love ~ I will be here.