Abundant Joy

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July is a month of wonderful celebrations in my life. I mark my birthday and my wedding anniversary in July. Both occasions have now passed and the riches they deposit in me flow forward. These are both moments for me where I am enveloped in the experience of the whole of my life – husband, children, grandchildren and siblings. I am surrounded in love and appreciation. In the face of these truly amazing gifts, this fullness of heart, I feel overwhelmed – almost afraid of the deep joy I experience. And so it is that I enter anew a paradox of my life. By paradox, I mean the mystery of having and holding joy in the midst of a world of suffering and strife. I live a regular life wherein I encounter frustrations, disappointments, stress and unhappiness. Sometimes, these belong to me, sometimes they involve those I love – a teenage daughter, a husband with a stressful job, a son raising his family, etc.. Sometimes, these belong to those I encounter as a chaplain or spiritual director. So, I am no stranger to holding and witnessing suffering and sorrow, my own and others’.

Wisdom helps me know in my heart that it is in fact the fruit of my own contemplative and spiritual practices that sustain me and connect me deeply to a sense of belonging that holds me always. I am led to a place of faith, hope and love in this subtle daily way of being in the world. Faith that opens me; hope that allows me to await with patience; and love as the source that richly infills me.

My ‘self’ wrestles to surrender to these deepest truths attracting me to cling and to fear the ‘whole of it’. Ironically, as I loosen my ego’s grasp of things and empty myself, I feel more whole. Time and experience illustrate over and over again that all is well and all will be well as I ground myself in the source of all be-ing. Trust in G*d with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. – Proverbs 3:5

And so today, I sit on my porch and savor the beauty of the summer day that unfolds around me as I write. I light my morning prayer candle in gratitude as I do everyday – happy or unhappy days. And I wait in joy now as I wait in suffering then to be drawn forward as I am meant to be. In the meantime, like a herald, I give witness to the amazing things that the creator has done in me, through me and with me. And I endeavor to allow joy to break my heart wide open just as I endeavor to let sorrow break my heart wide open. This is the continuing paradox – that these two realities co-exist and co-mingle within me.

In the stillness of the quiet, if we listen, we can hear the whisper of the heart giving strength to weakness, courage to fear, hope to despair.  Thurman

 

A Summer Threshold

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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.  I cross a threshold into a space where I dwell in the fullness of all I have gathered over the past year and ponder where it all leads me next. I sense G*d’s spirit and presence all around me in what I hold as the sacred rhythm of ‘unbroken dailiness’. Simone Weil says, “Attention consists of suspending our thought, leaving it detached, empty, and ready to be penetrated by the object.” And so, 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!  Each piece of summertime is replete with subtle, ordinary grace. May I open to be deeply touched by my encounters with loved ones, welcome relaxation, and fresh experiences with new faces.  May I see the thread that runs through it all – the tremendous spirit and beauty of the natural world that holds these moments. From the lushness of the New Hampshire woods, to the stunning vista of the Maine seacoast, and the simple ministrations of my lawn and gardens, my heart and soul commune with nature.

This connection to my embodied experience feels primordial; the sense that I am just a tiny part of all of this and it is in turn, part of me. The heart-centered knowing that spiritual transformation is also happening in me and aroud me on the cellular level. There is a deep and lasting joy that accompanies this awareness, this sense of being part of something far greater than I.

And so it is that I embrace anew the truth of spirituality and practice. I understand more closely how both lead me to my most authentic and meaningful existence. As I enliven my spirituality through my practice, I increasingly enter life more fully, more completely human.   Then my practice becomes both my spirituality and my life’s most unique purpose. “You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the ocean in a drop.”  Rumi