Noticing

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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.

Desolation

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Holy Saturday is a time of vigil, a time of waiting and a time of deep mourning. In my heart, I accompany the women at the foot of the cross, and Mary Magdalene and he others bereft at the grave. Bereft and desolate, unable to leave the place where Yeshua is laid, unable to let go of the absence of his presence. This human anguish, grief and mystery of unknowing are at the heart of embodied spirituality as we live into the unbearable loss of what was. It is physical encounter with the truly dark and desolate side of being fully alive. In this place between knowing and not knowing, belief and unbelief our souls are tilled for divine renewal.

“And yet, when the holy affirming of redemptive love meets the holy denying of human hatred and fear in the reconciling ground of Jesus’ surrendered heart—“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34)— there is, indeed a new arising. It begins right there at the foot of the cross, heralded by a new quality of presence already caught by the centurion in his hushed exclamation, “Truly, this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39). In the moment of Jesus’ death, the innermost essence of divine love was released into the planet as a palpable force that continues to make its energetic presence directly known. That is the imaginal resurrection, the real and ongoing source of Christianity’s redemptive power.” Bourgeault

It is in this place that we begin to see the meaning of life and see anew that it is in giving life away that we receive it. “The grain of wheat falls to the ground and dying lives onward. “ So the women who wait at the grave feed and nourish my life with their real, incarnate lives of presence, generosity, forgiveness, strength, courage, guidance, and love. Their loving example challenges me and holds me accountable. Likewise, they encourage me by showing me more than what I could see for myself. They call out of me the very best of who I might become. They point me to beauty, both within myself and in others. They enlarge my spiritual life. They are the faithful witnesses of the dark and desolate unknown where the seeds of renewal are sown.

And so I wait in my inner desolate place and ponder how I might – metaphorically speaking -lay down my life. “This laying down might in special circumstances mean dying for others. But it means first of all making our own lives – our sorrows and joys, our despair and hope, our loneliness and experience of intimacy – available to others as sources of new life. One of the greatest gifts we can give others is ourselves. Do not be afraid, I know what you are living and I am living it with you. You are not alone. Thus we become Christ-like shepherds.” Nouwen

Mary Magdalene my wise, loyal and faithful guide, lead me to ever stronger growth
, inner freedom and Love.
 Help me renew my life’s purpose
 of be-ing faithful.
 Accept my openness and my
 trust. Lead me on paths
 that help me grow in heartfulness.
 Companion me in being an incarnation of love. May I do all in the circle of your wisdom 
and learn from your dance of loving presence and compassion
 in every corner of this universe. May I alight today with warmth and possibility. Thank you for being with me in this desolate place.

 

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!

 

Christmastide

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As the New Year unfolds, I intend to greet each new day that comes to me with a rekindled awareness of life’s possibilities. Not an unrealistic desire to overhaul my whole world, but an embodied spirit of my creative potential drawing me forward in ways I have yet to imagine. The ongoing, unending divine invitation and inward impetus to allow my light to illuminate all it encounters.

The Christmas season – also known as Christmastide – actually lasts forty days. It begins on Christmas Eve, and ends on February 2nd,the feast of Jesus’ presentation in the temple, Candlemas. Quietly pondering and contemplating the true beauty of the season in my heart is an important piece of keeping Christmastide for me. I continue to light my Christmas candle each day as a beautiful, enlightened reminder of Grace and the incarnation of Divine Love. I light my candle in gratitude for the gift of the day ahead, and in the hope of uncovering a new, small, and mostly invisible way to mirror that light in the world.

As I contemplate and inwardly ponder, I discern an evolving sense of my deepest self as indelibly connected to human, worldly, and divine suffering through my small and ordinary life. I am drawn to protect the dignity of all beings and to serve as a reflection of divine compassion in my everyday and serendipitous encounters.

My daily prayer is that I may live each day with more of an open heart and become more fully who I am ~ making my life my prayer.

“I am a hole in a flute that the Christ breath moves through … listen to this music, listen to this music….”   Wisdom Chant

This Again

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Recently, I have found myself in life situations whose scenarios are all too familiar and challenging for me. Those encounters where my spirituality as it graces my presence in the here and now, meets an all to familiar pattern of exchange that pulls me backwards, heels dragging, into that place where I am overwhelmed by my emotions. I see it approaching – rushing toward me -and just as it hits me my heart whispers ‘this again’. These are the moments where I connect powerfully with feeling out of control or simply out of sorts. I cannot reconcile what is happening alone.

In the past, my pattern was to verbally process these kinds of encounters. This invariably led to a kind and supportive person seeing my side of the situation and encouraging me to feel right in my emotional response. Such affirmation about my role in my personal patterns no longer works for me as a balm in the aftermath of these encounters.

Now, I find the ability to hold these moments in kindness and compassion toward myself and the other involved through my contemplative practice. It is in my contemplative prayer that I am able to move deeper, beyond the encounter itself and touch a deeper reality. I sense, and come to know, my emotional responses to patterned scenarios of my life as transient and not real. I know in my heart that what is real is coming from within me not outside of me. And, I begin to see that this is true as well, for the other in these challenging moments.

Slowly, over time, I am less shaken by ‘this again’ and more open, more able to accept and attend to my encounters from a place of kindness and compassion. I am not able to prevent or control patterned scenarios though I am able to not allow or permit them to take root in my mind and heart.

Most important of all, I can actually offer a silent prayer of gratitude for these difficult moments. Could it be that I am slowly beginning to really know in my heart that my imperfection and failures are welcome pieces of what is?

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

 

Timeless Treasure

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Losing Athena, my 12 and half year old German Shepherd, last week provokes memories of other losses of loved ones as is the way of loss. As I contemplate and mourn, I also re-mem-ber the consolations of those who have gone before as I let go of her and Athena joins them.

Having lost both of my parents in the last seven years, I fully recognize their deaths as connected to my own spirit’s deepening. I knew this at the moment they each died, and in countless moments with them that are relived, re-entered and experienced anew since then. Both, as I was and they were in that ‘real time’ experience; and, as I am now and they are now in that ‘imaginal/liminal’ experience – beyond time as it were. This spiraling, evolving sense of each other’s presence is our mutual awakened and aware love. It exists as it were beyond death.

Love’s gifts open my heart’s capacity and infuse new value in past treasures. It is as if these moments themselves spiral beyond the realm of time as I know it, lending an enduring, cosmic sense of kinship and belonging. A kinship and belonging that begins with us and expands well beyond us yet, through us, toward the universe and all of creation. And so it is that our time together emerges as timeless treasure.

The universe only pretends to be made of matter. Secretly, it is made of love.

 – Daniel Pinchbeck