Nature’s Sacred Wisdom

Standard

There is an Apache proverb that reads, “Wisdom sits in places.” As the leaves begin to fall from the trees and the light starts to fade, I sense a natural expression of this proverb all around me; an unusual and inspirational confluence of the sacred and the profane. Fall Equinox is a time for gathering. Time to bring together the fruits of our labor, time for in-filling, and time to prepare for be-ing inward. Now that days and nights become equal, there is a profane and sacred beckoning to balance. A chance to savor all we have gathered and to ponder in heart what we ‘know’ are life sustaining gifts and how to share them with others.

There is an inherent, mystical spirit present in nature, landscapes and horizons that speak to every human heart that is listening. The autumn landscape is one of awesome, fecund and alive transition; it invites more awareness of the thin veil between apparent reality and deeper reality. In an autumn experience, you can be more at ease with your own authentic self as you breathe the fall air, feel the sun’s warmth, touch the rain that brings life-giving water, taste the fruits of the harvest and sense the deeper connections intrinsic to the ‘web of life’ in the interwoven energies of these fomenting elements.

These fomenting and interwoven energies cannot be harnessed to serve only our personal needs. They humbly model for us and beckon us into service of a larger creative purpose through their generous grandeur. As we are nourished, so we must nourish, we too are mediums of the sacred and profane, of life-giving, life-sustaining energy.

“We each possess a deeper level of being, however,
which loves paradox. It knows that summer is already
Growing like a seed in the depth of winter. It knows
that the moment we are born, we begin to die. It knows
that all of life shimmers, in shades of becoming–
that shadow and light are always together,
the visible mingled with the invisible.” Gunilla Norris

Advertisements

Daily Grace

Standard

“ ~ 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

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.

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

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 ~ tending the garden in me and around me.

There is a sacred moment that I appreciate daily. It is a place where I see the sacred through my spouse as he enters a daily task for him, and a daily gift for me – creating a morning latte. Each morning my husband rises first and makes a latte for me that 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 – .

Abundant Joy

Standard

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

 

Gratitude

Standard

Each morning when I wake up, before I get up, read scripture or drink coffee, I begin the new day by lighting a candle in the name of the Creator who is life; the Savior who loves life; and the Holy Spirit who is the fire of life in gratitude for the gift of the day. This has been my daily ritual for five years now as I have entered my spiritual journey more fully and opened myself to G*d’s presence in me, through me and around me.

Just this past week, I crossed another life threshold I graduated from my Spiritual Direction Training program after two years of study and practicum under supervision. Like so many huge moments, it arrived before I knew it and it passed quickly. Tempus fugit! I noticed the subtle shift in my experience at this threshold. While I deeply experienced processing and recessing with my peers in the program, the beauty of the mass, the music, the graduation ceremony, I did not cling to it – I entered into it fully for the moment and then, let it go. I notice that there is something about being fully present to the moment – the now of life- that graces letting go and living forward. There is a new depth to the here and now which seems to lessen the desire to hold onto what was or worry about what will be.

In gratitude and through an amazing gift of grace, I bring myself to all of my experiences. I see spirit working through me and dimly begin to perceive that it is G*d’s love for me, and not my love, that is the measure of love.  This guides me to the belief that G*d’s love is uniquely and distinctly personal – not love in some general diffuse way. Every single life is loved in a unique, personal, and distinct way. This is a living G*d who is always ahead of me, always surprising, always calling me to come ahead. G*d reaches me, through my experience—Spirit. I live the Spirit as always present in my human interactions, in the nature that surrounds me, in the depths of my own soul, at the end of my reaching out in love. It is this Spirit that enters me through my own brokenness to make me whole and empowers me and allows me to be a healing presence. How could I be anything less than wholly/holy-grateful?

         Messenger by Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

 

Noticing

Standard

Last evening the contemplative circle that I convene gathered. We are a small group and enjoy a lovely intimacy and immanence in our time together. It just so happens that yesterday – June 1st – was my deceased nana’s birthday and as it turns out, the feast day of St. Justin – my son’s namesake. I held the symmetry of these things inwardly as I lived the day. I shared my sense of the day as it began via text with my son and I offered blessings to my nana. Her heart held memory and companionship allowed me to surrender to the infinite nature of our deepest belonging. This connects me to an inward pulse and tender live spot to ‘plug into’ as I trust in my authentic identity and the unique connection divine life holds in all things.

And so it is that I notice how this trifold of the infinite, immanent and intimate in my experience effect and affect my presence. Through these spiritual thresholds I emerge a more skilled, supple be-ing ~ offering, knowing, loving, and serving in my encounters. In this movement there is flow – a flow that expands and sustains a fecund sense of being awake to the source of all being. In noticing, I appreciate the subtle and not so subtle transitions that unfold in me and around me all of the time. By some divine grace, I am less anxious about transition and notice a steadier trust that all will be well.

In surrendering to what is, I ready myself for what may come and I die to that part of me that clings. Noticing my nana’s presence inspires me to appreciate anew all that is eternal in me. Contemplating with other souls connects me to immanence and intimacy; and I notice innate Goodness, Love victorious, and the everlasting life of Spirit. Perhaps this is the transition to heart centered knowing or a more authentic understanding of my place in the unity of all that is….or just my own ego sensing that I am heading into a new transition.

It Felt Love

Standard

How did the rose

Ever open her heart 


And give to this world 


All her beauty? 


She felt the encouragement

of light against her being, 
Otherwise, 


We all remain Too 
Frightened.

Hafiz

As a Two on the Enneagram, this reflection speaks to my heart as I endeavor to grow in self-acceptance and compassion, and learn to value my own needs. This allows me to give and build authentic, strong relationships from who I am, and not from what I do – a more real loving presence. It becomes far easier to help others from a deeper place of humility and altruism.

My theology and spiritual practice nurture and support the growth of my own agency, sense of providence and connection to community. I am more aware, more open and more present; I experience joy in others’ wellbeing and happiness as separate from my giving. I open myself to carefully sympathize so that I not get caught up in emotional whirlwinds. I open to receive from others with grace and love knowing that this nurtures them as well as me.

I now learn to love myself separate from what I give to others. I adhere to a loving-kindness practice that focuses equally on myself as to others and, I realize that love is found within myself that facilitates love for others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L.O.V.E.

Standard

Let others’ vulnerability emerge

This is my personal reminder as a Spiritual Director and Chaplain about my purpose, my call to ministry as such. It is a touchstone for remembering who and what I am. It also reminds me that to offer implicit and explicit presence, I must be prepared to give up protective habits to expand my capacity to see and hear Spirit in others. I live service of the Divine by opening toward, and drawing lessons from, all that I see, hear, or experience. On occasion, I add an S making it, let others’ vulnerability emerge safely.

At its heart, this work is all about surrendering the small self and connecting to the Divine in everything and everyone. To fortify spiritual resolve and find inspiration in my work I must humbly seek to be grounded in ‘not knowing’. In the end, Spirit often works through me at those moments when I am able to just be and let go of any notion that I am doing something.

I recently offered Reiki to a patient who was actively dying. I had visited him for several months on a weekly basis. I was blessed to be present to his thoughts, his belief, his unbelief as he moved closer to dying. There was great beauty in his vulnerability and much grace in his softening as he died. And there was that moment in being with him and offering him Reiki, where I sensed his spirit’s presence to my own in a divine energy exchange. I experience this as a dance of life that is never more fully present then when life is ending. I honor his journey as incomparable to the journey of the other, and I am blessed to appreciate that the path towards the original source of light extends through every other ray that comes from it.

“She who binds to herself a joy

Does the winged life destroy;

But she who kisses the joy as it flies

Lives in eternity’s sunrise.”

William Blake