Extra-Special Meaning

Standard

I return to sharing my reflections from a summer replete with great joy and much happiness. My own joy and happiness as I completed my training as a spiritual director (I prefer midwife to director a more apt description) and now approach the end of training as a Spiritual Care Chaplain. And my daughter’s amazing strides as a young (15) artist who participated in two art gallery shows while interning with a conservationist artist honing her scientific illustration skills. Plus, my son’s new baby boy who arrived two weeks early and in his splendor reminds us all of the eternal nature of the now. And, my husband’s gardening projects in our yard  while he and my daughter transformed the ‘art space’ they share. His gifts all inconspicuously and quietly unfolding as is his soul’s truest way.

I am overwhelmed by these gifts -all that has been born in and around me – and wrestle with how to open to truly receive it all…. Thus the time out from blogging. The expression that most accurately reflects my current state is that I have taken to kissing the ground in my prayer period. This is the gesture that conveys my very grateful heart.

Meister Eckhart says,“For God to be is to give being, and for us to be is to receive being.” Our true self is a received self. At each moment, we exist to the extent we receive existence from God who is existence. I resonate with this and perceive that at heart ,I am in a very real state of receiving. For me, there is a deep humility that accompanies this. In part, as I ponder my unworthiness owing to my well-known imperfections; and in part, as I feel so tiny in contrast to the greatness of the Creator – my Source. I notice that as I accept that I am unable to reconcile these aspects of my be-ing, I am widened and deepened by simply opening to hold these un-reconcilable pieces. I seek to ground myself in this ‘absolute love’ that seemingly sustains me in everything – the good and the not so good.

It seems the mystery of my faith enables me to ‘be’ and ‘let be’ in ever expanding ways. My faith asks me to honor both what I know and perhaps more, what is unknown to me. From this spot on the revelatory landscape, I am aware that I am growing in my capacity to hold these same paradoxes with others. Indeed, the depth of my simple contributions as a chaplain and spiritual midwife, quietly and gently give everything extra-special meaning.

 

Advertisements

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

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 – .

Hold On

Standard

As I move closer to summer’s close and autumn’s arrival, I encounter the bittersweet feelings that permeate transitions in me. My desire for belonging and my longing for the comfort of the familiar stir a kind of restlessness in me. Sure, I know that summer moves into fall and I have lived it (thanks be to God) many times. Yet, I also know that what lies ahead is unknown. I can of course buoy myself with the proof that I’ve transitioned before, and still, I must authentically enter each new transition as what it is – new and unknown – unlike what has come before by its very uniqueness.

And so, I open to receive the unknown gifts and edges of what lies ahead in my life and I hold on to the notion that I am sustained inwardly as I do. I hold on to the infilling source – Love – as my touchstone and my hope. Another way of saying this is that I have faith and hope that in my brokenness, the sacrament of Love will make me whole as it connects me to the infinite source. Rumi speaks of ‘broken open lowliness’ I look inside at the humility. That broken-open lowliness is the Reality.

The truth is that I am human, I am flawed and in both I am most deeply connected to others and our mutual existence. And so, as I live forward into the unknown, I choose Love as my path. I hold on that I may allow Love to act in me, with me and through me every day more fully. This becomes a trust and a sense of patience that things undoubtedly will unfold in ways I was not counting on and still, all will be well and I am sustained as I hold on.

The moment we choose to love we begin to move against domination, against oppression. The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others. Bell Hooks

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

 

A Summer Threshold

Standard

“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

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.