Nature’s Sacred Wisdom

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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

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“ ~ 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 – .

Extra-Special Meaning

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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.

 

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.

 

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!

 

Bless To Me My Belief And My Unbelief

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There is a Celtic custom of prayer that acknowledges the embodied, primordial spiritual hunger that informs humanity. It provides that incarnational spirit that gives birth to divine light through the uniqueness of our be-ing.   And at the same time, it holds the full sense of the mystery of be-ing. It is a paradox.

Oh Blessed Creator who created my soul and its warp and my body. Oh You who gave me breath. Bless to me, My soul and my body; 
Bless to me, My life and my condition; 
Bless to me,
My heart and my speech, 
And bless to me, 
My belief and my unbelief.

This is the paradox of faith. It is something that we must have in order to come to divine presence and yet, it is also something we have to open our hearts to first; and then we find that divine presence that has been there within us all the while.

Our most authentic self sees the world with a sense of wonder and inherent trust in the creator and creation. Paradoxically, to be sincere of heart we must reconcile our doubts, our struggles and our cares in our prayer. In this way, we are able to cultivate sincerity, trust and gratitude for what is and dwell in the fullness of our humanity.

It is in the paradox of our belief and our unbelief that we encounter our faith, our hope and joy. These do not come from avoiding; on the contrary it is possible only when we have gone into the heart of belief and unbelief – and prayed from there…

 

 

 

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?

Flowers ~ A Random Act of Kindness

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Not long ago, I was shopping at Trader Joe’s and feeling distracted by the details of my increasingly busy life. I was mulling the different people whose lives I interact with as a volunteer and pondering it all. I was so lost in such thoughts that when the clerk asked what I was going to be doing with the rest of the day, I didn’t realize he was speaking to me. I became present and shared why I was distracted and that no matter what the rest of the day brought it would be welcomed and appreciated as a true gift. He resonated with that idea, as did the young man who was packing the bags at the end of the counter.

Just as I paid, my cell phone rang and I answered. I was slowly walking out of the store and responding to the call when the young man who had packed my bags tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a bouquet of flowers. I was taken aback and quickly thanked him. Between his desire to duck away and the phone call, it was a brief expression of gratitude.

As I drove home, I nearly wept with joy at the kindness of his beautiful gesture and gift to me. I wondered how he knew that a random act of kindness was just what I needed. I marveled at the beauty of humanity and -not for the first time- considered that there might be some angelic inspiration at play in all of it.

I cannot say but I think of that young man as an angel who chose to buoy me just when I needed it most. I often need to remember to hold things lightly and it is said that ‘angels fly because they take themselves lightly’.

Excerpt from John O’Donohue:

Blessings of Angels

May the Angels in their beauty bless you.
May they turn toward you streams of blessing. May the Angel of Awakening stir your heart
 to come alive to the eternal within you,
to all the invitations that quietly surround you. May the Angel of Encouragement confirm you in worth and self-respect,
that you may live with the dignity that presides in your soul. May all the Angels be your sheltering and joyful guardians.