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

 

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.

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.

Felt With The Heart

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One of the challenges of this season of patient anticipation is reconciling all of the sad and lonely people in the world – not to mention the desperate and suffering, or frightened and alone people in the world- with those who are not. The opposing forces at play all around us in the world can at times overwhelm us. Life is filled with paradoxes that I am far too limited and humble to even attempt to explain or rationalize. So, how do I respond to these concerns in my own life experience as they touch me daily in my work? I try to do small things with as much heart as I can bring to my presence with others.

There is a sense of loving agency particularly close at hand as I seek Christmas. I feel that my life is an enduring Advent of persistent waiting and faith, noticing G*d’s presence and allowing it to draw me forward. But my life is also a continuing Christmas, incarnating divine light through my spirit, my presence and my deeds.  There is a spirit of truth, and wisdom that touch my heart expanding my sense of my participation in everything and, everything’s participation in me.

So, I visit with a patient suffering from long-term illness that will eventually claim his life- it has already crippled him – and I offer him my whole-hearted presence. Sometimes, this means that I am light-hearted and playful drawing him out of himself. Sometimes, this means that I sit with him in an accustomed quiet until he speaks of deeper things. I know – because he tells me regularly – that having the use of his legs again is what he longs for. And he knows – because I regularly tell him – that if I could make that happen I would. And for now, we hold that painful reality in each other’s company. And in the spaces in-between we deepen our friendship and connection – a small yet meaningful truth for both of us. Somehow I know that this deeper truth and wisdom comes from the heart. And it is his heart that holds the promise of wholeness.

I pray that this Christmas his heart will be touched by the promise of incarnating light and that his spirit may help him to truly know that all of the best and most beautiful gifts of being fully alive are felt and nurtured in our capacious hearts. May he feel the enduring, sacred and deep presence of incarnated divine light in his heart!

The very nature of G*d, therefore, is to seek out the deepest possible communion and friendship with every last creature on this earth.    Catherine la Cugna

 

 

 

 

 

AND WE PRAY

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As Advent begins, I look forward to creating an advent wreath. I take solace in this ritual of an evergreen circle holding candles of purple and rose. I am drawn to the spreading of light as we illuminate more candles each week we move closer to Christmas. For me, the wreath feels ancient, connected and sacred; it is a sacred gift to imagine ways that I, my husband and daughter might enter into a nightly process of lighting a candle and praying.

It is my sense that our prayer expresses our deepest reality and offers us a potential experience of deep well-being and belonging. Still, it is not a facile process to gather from our separate activities and join each other in a mutually agreeable moment of prayer. It is my dearest hope for us that we meet in a moment of sincere and mutual desire for “we know not what”. That which draws us beckons us to gather together so small before the mystery of life, and reach toward a relationship with the ground of all Be-ing or Love.

Our nightly candle lighting and prayer together provokes and generates real intimacy – a quiet moment to know the heart of things. Practicing intimacy begins with creating space to be in contact with our inner self and each other. Be-ing in touch with self enriches and energizes our ability to give or share self beyond the moment. So, the sacred gathering ritual around our advent wreath connects us to our deepest human experience where Love is present to us. It seems that when and where we are most present, Love too is most present.

So, we pray from the very center of the heart of our be-ing. And we pray that creating this sacred space, these sacred moments together will deepen our sense of divine grace in us, with us and through us.

 

Serving Rather Than Achieving

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Having grown up in a large, dysfunctional family, I internalized the sense that earning love and approval were grounded in achieving success in the world. Self, chores, school and eventually career were measured by their intrinsic worldly value. Underneath this current of get out there and ‘do it’ there was a river of love and belonging that felt predicated on achieving. So, not so surprisingly, it took me a long time to dive deeper and surface in a new place that compassionately encompassed that personal history and moved beyond it. The roots of that new landscape are fecund and grounded in serving rather than achieving. Underneath this new landscape of being present here and now ‘to serve’ there is the energy of love and compassion that feel predicated on co-creating. So, serving rather than achieving becomes the means of co-creation in the world.

There are moments where the pull of my family life and achieving surface as distractions that I need to catch and release as I witness my authentic self and gently allow myself to be drawn more and more toward my soul’s discernment of what is real. This leads me deeper into loving and compassionate service.

Recently, one of the people I work with who is crippled by illness and bed ridden taught me anew the vulnerability of receiving and the gifts of opening and accepting. The encounter revolved around my offering Reiki for the first time to this person who has been bed ridden for more than a year. Disabled and living with the expanding diminishment of an illness that will end in death, this person has become bitter and closed. I have visited for many months now and offer what comfort through companionship I am able. I suggested Reiki and demonstrated on myself exactly what would occur. This person reluctantly agreed to try it caustically asking first, ‘Will it give my legs back?’ I responded, ‘No. But it may feel comforting to the emotional pain you feel about the loss of your legs.’

And so I served this patient through Reiki and once again touched the hem of authentic inward healing in those places we are socialized never to speak about. Just two human beings, in full and aware presence in, through and with each other sharing energy through the heart’s hands.

As I reflect on this watershed moment in our relationship, I am overwhelmed by the joy of serving. No thunder, no lightening bolts – just the gentle softening of a suffering human being – the opening to being fully seen, the vulnerability of our humanity. And touching humanity in this way fills me with awe at our capacity to care for each other. I am humbled in the wake of such ‘aliveness’. And, my capacity to serve expands as I wholly/holy surrender to this person – this amazing teacher- who serves me.

“I live in him, am him, am him-as-me Living as me, with me, as me-with-him.”   Rumi

Spirituality and Practice

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I have been away from writing for several weeks as I welcomed extended family for summer visits, participated in co-leading a retreat, and then went on vacation with my family. Each piece of this summertime was full of subtle, ordinary grace. There were deeply touching encounters with loved ones, some welcome relaxation, and fresh experiences with new faces. The thread that runs through it all is the tremendous spirit and beauty of the natural world that held each of these moments. From the lushness of the New Hampshire woods, to the stunning vista of the Acadia seacoast, and the simple ministrations of my lawn and gardens, nature communed with my heart and soul.

I was regularly and wholeheartedly enveloped by awe as I tended plants, established a remembrance garden, collected heart stones, walked the rocky coast on island paths, and swam frigid oceans. The connection was an embodied experience that felt and feels even now, 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 on the cellular level. There is a deep and lasting joy that accompanies this awareness, this sense of being held by something far greater than I.

Among the fresh faces, I encountered a 94 year-old artist/author and puppet maker who welcomed my family into his studio and revealed his unitive vision of the world arrived at through his art; his art that comes from all that he finds around him in nature and the world. His personal pursuit of developing his unique gifts and graces make this world a better place as his life, his art and his heart have merged in great beauty. He touched each of us profoundly with the truth of his life’s journey.

And so it is that I see anew the truth of spirituality and practice. I understand more closely how both lead us to our 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.