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

 

Gratitude

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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

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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.

It Felt Love

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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.

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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

 

CONSOLATION

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If you look up the word consolation in the dictionary you will come across a definition that most likely reads something like what follows here. Consolation -comfort received by a person after a loss or disappointment; a person or thing providing comfort to a person who has suffered. Suggested synonyms are: solace, sympathy, compassion, commiseration, empathy; relief, help, support, moral support, encouragement, reassurance. Hmmm, that just about covers the myriad ways I feel as I search for Easter in me and enter Eastertide – one of my favorite times of the year.

I love that Easter – like Christmas – is a time and place in the Christ story where the presence, life, witness and wholehearted openness of the women disciples is central to what transpires. They are not the only places in the gospels where women are vital but they are the only places where the centrality of the feminine spiritual thread is undeniable, inarguable and inherent to the truth of what unfolds.

It is easy to be with all of the Mary’s at the tomb as they pour themselves out in grief weeping the kind of tears that exhaust and deplete one. And, it is glorious to imagine how it was for Mary when she hears him, recognizes him and turns from within, surrendering herself to the awesome truth and weeping anew. This crying is like spring rain – it replenishes and refills all that is. This weeping is as the birthing waters of her soul as she enters through faith and unknowing into a unitive experience of G*d. It is precisely her desolation and bereft heart that readies her for her consolation and the healing balm and wholeness that are alive in the sacrament of Love. ‘Resurrected life is transcendent life, breaking through our partial selves into a new wholeness of belonging.’ Ilia Delio

Mary’s turning from within to see and to know that Love is stronger than death is what makes her the Apostle to the Apostles. “Mary Magdalene, may we be anointed with the gift of spiritual love that is wine and fragrance, and may the name of the Savior spoken with love be a spreading perfume which draws us to the royal banquet, for the nourishment, healing, and liberation of all humanity.” 

It is so lovely, and so natural that she would be the one to illuminate this spiritual knowing that leads to nurturing the love of God within us and among us. She surrendered her broken heart allowing it to burst – and burst it did – wide open. She enters the flow of power with by giving away, by sharing, by letting go, encountering an infinity of trust and mutuality found in the love of God, the peace of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

“It’s impossible,” said pride.

“It’s risky,” said experience.

“It’s pointless,” said reason.


“Give it a try,” said the heart.