Infinite, Immanent, Intimate

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The G*d of my understanding is a relational G*d which means that all of my relationships in my studies and work in the world are revelatory. In others I encounter the infinite, immanent and intimate presence of the Divine.

I begin with immanence in relationship that to me suggests the omnipresence of divinity reflected in all of creation, and a hospice patient ill with MS teaches me this. He is a divine illumination for me as he regularly takes ‘risks to become’ – in small – yet immense ways -his fully human self as he slowly dies. His willingness to speak increasingly of his diminishment with me and to share his feelings is a sacred trust that I heart-fully honor. Watching the patience with which he accepts this illness that claims him from within is beautifully juxtaposed with the outward expression of his soulful sense of Love in him, through him and with him. I see so clearly how powerless I am to do other than companion him. I understand that seeing him as he is makes all the difference. I hold carefully and attentively the preciousness of presence in our encounters. I give witness to his suffering which becomes implicit to transcending suffering – for him this is the belief that Love is stronger than Death held where he is in this space between his belief and his unbelief.

Intimacy in relationship suggests to me the spirit of G*d in the moments of my life – a sense of the liminal – this is my grandson.  He and I are able to share our Monday’s together and I experience him emotionally and kinesthetically as – Sacrementum Mundi – G*d’s grace as the action of G*d’s self-communication. Our time together in taking walks, eating, or holding each other in an embrace feel like the embodiment of the transforming grace of G*d. I know without being told that I am as near to touching the divine mystery as I may come. We hold each other as the fruit of divine promise – in which G*d’s vision for creation is restored. This relationship opens my ability to ‘think with my heart’.

In all of the relationships I experience, I expand my awareness of Divine Presence and Grace in others. I perceive that my ability to give and receive in reciprocal relationships of human and divine love reflect a capacity for constant revelation and transformation. And it is in this that I see dimly the infinite nature of Divine Love as the source of insight and knowing in my relationships extending to me a deep and meaningful mirroring or ‘ seeing’ through encounters with others.

For now I see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.  Corinthians 13:12

 

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Soul’s Gift

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«Our soul cannot live without love, it always wants to love something, for our soul is made of love, as I made it because of love» (Saint Catherine of Siena)

There is a sweetly luminous space in my own heart that I do not see. Even when I am deeply self aware of my gifts and edges, my motivations and desires, much of my-‘self’ is hidden from my consciousness. Perhaps it is for the best that I am somewhat obscure to my- ‘self’. Maybe those around me, maybe especially, those who love me, see this luminous space within me better than I do.

In this way, to be loved is to be seen and understood in ways that are surprising to me – gifts of the soul. I always tease my husband that this explains why he is with me! He sees things in me that I do not – indeed, I often say, “I am glad that you say that – I don’t see it”. As a wife, mom, sister and friend I can never fully know the significance of my presence in the lives of those I touch. I am sure that this too is a gift – a gift of mystery.

I think there is a beautiful, humbling and quiet grace in this notion that others see my light in ways unfamiliar to me. And it invites me to trust that it is the light of my secret heart that draws me toward a deep belonging to those who love me. It is there, within my secret heart that the spirit of love and friendship gently glows. Love, as the deepest part of my soul’s connection to all that is, graces me with embers that catch and reflect light like prisms for others’ love to see.

Equilibrium

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It is hard to escape the sphere of influence encompassed in what and how I live with others. It is, I sense, an intricate aspect of what makes it hard to identify my true self and harder still to always engage with equilibrium in my life’s calling. I seek my calling through my own authentic self, by be-ing who I am, by be-ing present in the world as who I am rather than as someone others want me to be. It is answering these essential questions; “Who am I? ; What is my nature?” that leads me to my true self.
 This is an inward journey of encounter with me and something greater than me. In this quest for the authentic self, my goal has been to find my purity of heart, and my focus of life. I suppose I imagine a certain equilibrium might be achieved and maintained in this.

Everything has a nature, which informs and provides limits as well as potentials; it is part of the medium I must work with to achieve my unique potential. Be-ing in relationship with the self helps me have insight into divine inspiration within and around me. When I disconnect from that, I lose. If I live life without understanding the grace of my gifts and honoring the gifts of others, I live in danger of establishing an inauthentic life. Consciousness is the essence of this inward journeying – consciousness to the presence of the divine –of the in-dwelling presence of divine inspiration working in, with and through me. This suggests that the equilibrium I imagine above is an illusion born of my desire for peace and balance.

As I know my inner self more deeply, I ponder my awareness and attention to growing through my actions and presence in my work in the world. It is good in the quest for living an authentic life, to ensure that who I am connects to my daily work- and to be aware that anything that makes me the sole center of my world or inspires me to imagine that I am more than a work in progress, disconnects me from what is authentic. I become alienated from the wisdom that the origin of everything has to teach me. And conversely, when I am open to that wisdom, I recognize that it strengthens me and beckons me to be responsible for a sacred, wholesome life of be-ing all that I am able to be. These gifts of awareness are born of the journey and all of its struggles and provide the comfort of a certain inner equilibrium that sustains me when life becomes too distracting.

In my chaplaincy work and training I encounter others also living their inner selves outwardly in their ministry.  Others can often illuminate my awareness. Whether it be a patient with whom I speak and visit, or a caregiver with whom I exchange a passing pleasantry.  Each is a rich reminder to reach always for presence in the face of the many potential details of this daily work that can be so very distracting. For me, these distractions can be the record keeping that seeks to verify care strictly from a quantity perspective as opposed to a quality perspective.  I recognize why this is and I see how it impacts each member of the various care teams I interact with.  Again a challenge to equilibrium.

So let me begin to be in life, to be with people, to accept what is, to bring my best self to each day in ways that illuminate the potential in every precious moment and brings an inner equilibrium that sustains me in the ebb and flow of my work’s distractions.

The Purpose Of My Prayer

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We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of the Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. This means we are to become vessels of G*d’s compassionate love for others. Clare of Assisi
In my work as a chaplain and spiritual companion, I often gather myself in a small prayer as I prepare to visit with someone. At these times, my prayer is typically the same, I pray for the eyes with which to see who is before me, the ears with which to listen to who is speaking to me, and the openness of heart to offer my full and loving presence to her/him in our moment together. In a way, my prayer is often a heartfelt request for ‘right presence’ in be-ing with another. Clare of Assisi lived this way and engaged with St. Francis, the women who joined her, and the world of her day in this way. Following her heart’s prayer, she founded the first order of women who lived by their own rule – the Franciscan rule. And, in that way Clare quietly, steadfastly and strongly followed Love and through Love breathed witness and presence into the Franciscan ideal, infusing it with a life and vitality that is integral to its animus, even today. Her purpose and her prayer united her in her life story – her life became a gospel narrative.
In chaplaincy, we speak of human beings as books we are to read– as our curriculum; each person we encounter holds a piece – their unique piece – of a larger spiritual landscape. There is a reverence in this – a sacred quality to meeting others in this way- that generates holiness as moments become sacraments, and our encounters become sacramental.
So, the purpose of my prayer is to open my heart and soul to the work of the Spirit and allow Spirit to lead me from my knees or my contemplative pillow, into the world where I attend to others. My prayer becomes my life as I recognize more deeply what I truly need from prayer en lieu of bringing what I truly want to prayer. In essence, I surrender my ego and open myself to a vast landscape of authentic belonging.
As I begin each day, I light a candle offering my gratitude and the gifts of the day to the Spirit of Infinity, Immanence, and Intimacy – the love that creates, liberates and makes whole. It is my heart’s deepest desire that these are made real through the communion and mutuality offered and received in my experience with others. May the fullness of life in me here and now draw me forward to live anew and offer this divine presence each day ~ May it be so!

 

The Beauty Of Sacred Dancers

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Last weekend, my husband and I attended a sacred dance gathering with a small group of people and a celebrated Celtic teacher of sacred dance. I have had the opportunity through my spiritual direction training to practice sacred dance in different sized groups.  For my husband, this was a first experience. If I am honest, it was challenging for me to surrender to the movement of the dance when I first tried it. Now, I am able to freely give myself to the rhythm of the dance and connect with the kinship present in moving in this sacred way with others.

For my husband, this first experience was most positive and his reluctance melted away with each new dance. I am greatly admiring of his willingness to risk as a participant in the gathering. There were, of course, a handful of other men participating too. Nonetheless, my husband opened himself in a new way and it was lovely to behold.

As we reflected on our mutual experience, we recognized an almost primordial sense of kinship present in the dance that was at once healing and energizing. It was a real gift to engage in what felt like a celebration of belonging. And now, we are not just husband and wife – we are two dancers –  and as we dance we become the beauty of the sacred dance

What follows is a wonderful reflection on the ever present  invitation to enter life as a sacred dancer – to join the sacred dance.

Prelude to The Dance   by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

What if it truly doesn’t matter what you do but how you do whatever you do?
 How would this change what you choose to do with your life?
What if you could be more present and openhearted with each person you met if you were working as a cashier in a corner store, or as a parking lot attendant, than you could if you were doing a job you think is more important?
How would this change how you spend your precious time on this earth?
What if your contribution to the world and the fulfillment of your own happiness is not dependent upon discovering a better method of prayer or technique of meditation, not dependent upon reading the right book or attending the right seminar, but upon really seeing and deeply appreciating yourself and the world as they are right now?
How would this affect your search for spiritual development?
What if there is no need to change, no need to try to transform yourself into someone who is more compassionate, more present, more loving or wise?
How would this affect all the places in your life where you are endlessly trying to be better?
What if the task is simply to unfold, to become who you already are in your essential nature — gentle, compassionate, and capable of living fully and passionately present?
How would this affect how you feel when you wake up in the morning?
What if who you essentially are right now is all that you are ever going to be?
How would this affect how you feel about your future?
What if the essence of who you are and always have been is enough?
How would this affect how you see and feel about your past?
What if the question is not why am I so infrequently the person I really want to be, but why do I so infrequently want to be the person I really am?
How would this change what you think you have to learn?
What if becoming who and what we truly are happens not through striving and trying but by recognizing and receiving the people and places and practices that offer us the warmth of encouragement we need to unfold?
How would this shape the choices you make about how to spend today?
What if you knew that the impulse to move in a way that creates beauty in the world will arise from deep within and guide you every time you simply pay attention and wait?
How would this shape your stillness, your movement, your willingness to follow this impulse, to just let go and dance?