The only one way to kill it: hold a mirror before its eyes. When the snake sees its own reflection it will die of fright.
How I loved the scene from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” when Harry’s spell casts Dudley head first into the snake’s den, freeing the snake. The snake slithers out, fixes an intense gaze on Harry and says, “Sssssthanks.” Harry replies, “Any time.” The snake in this scene bears no resemblance to the evil basilisk in later Harry Potter adventures. The Yin and Yang of life seems to be ever-present. “You can’t have one without the other.” The legend of the Basilisk, the King of Serpents relates only one way to kill it: hold a mirror before its eyes. When the snake sees its own reflection it will die of fright. So perhaps the best spiritual practice is not so much to focus on eradicating evil, as much as to focus on revealing it for what it is. Unmasking the evil which nips at our heels is a process of self-realization. That is where our energy is more profoundly effective, for in bringing our potential as human beings to realization, we also release the hold that evil can have on us. To be fully human is to be a spark of the divine, Meister Eckhart tells us. The most positive symbology of snakes is that of regeneration. The sloughing off of dead skin becomes a kind of resurrection for the snake. Changing our focus to self-realization promises a more vibrant spiritual life for us. Guardians of sacred spaces is a common symbol for snakes throughout the world. Countless sculptures of the Buddha have him sitting on the coils of a snake, while the snake’s head rises above the Buddha with hood flared.
In dream symbology snakes can be interpreted as guardians as well, but as guardians of the underground, the unconscious guardians of our consciousness. For profound and interesting treatment of animal symbols in dreams, including snakes visit my friends at http://www.dreamrly.com and http://www.thedreamwell.com. Our unconscious is indeed a sacred space which we need to guard and nourish. It holds the key to un-masquing the basilisk. Pay attention.
Sometimes we have so much difficulty seeing clearly what is ahead of us. Recently I was at Holden Village, a retreat center in the mountains. The top photo was taken out my bedroom window, which was covered with snow. The colors were beautiful, but I couldn’t tell at all what was beyond my window, other than the snow. Less than 48 hours later, because of melting snow, I was able to see the trees and buildings beyond my window. Life can be like this—we struggle and struggle to make sense out of life, not seeing our way out of a difficult situation.
Then something happens that changes our vision and brings sudden clarity. The confusion and struggle melt away as the snow did, opening up to an answer. The snow melts when the temperatures get warm enough. One can wait for that to happen or use a shovel to dig your way through the snow. When our vision of a situation is blocked by something, we may have to wait or perhaps there is something we can do to bring clarity. What or who helps you when you are in the midst of confusion and struggle and need clarity? Since my blocked window was on the 2nd floor, I wasn’t capable of removing the snow. I had to wait. Are you able to wait when nothing you can do removes the block, when struggling is futile? How is God a part of finding clarity? How is God a part of stopping the struggle and waiting?
1 Corinthians 13: 12-13. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.
Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
Marcia Mclaughlin is my colleague in spiritual direction ministry. She ministers as spiritual director, pastoral care counselor, and retreat leader at Richmond Beach UCC. I am delighted to share her wisdom with you.
Link to Marcia’s Linkedin Profile:
Spring has arrived today in the Pacific Northwest of the USA. 73 degrees and sunshine lured me out to the lake to ponder the message it might have for me. It’s astounding that such a small, seemingly inconsequential event can awaken us to the essence of life.
“The seed of God is in us. Given an intelligent and hard-working farmer, it will thrive and grow up to God, whose seed it is; and accordingly its fruits will be God-nature. Pear seeds grow into pear trees, nut seeds into nut trees, and God-seed into God. ” § Meister Eckhart
If you want to develop a conscious way of living, this little mantra may become a helpful tool for you, as it has been for me. It emerged when I was still working and dealing with the frantic pace of the job. When I feel caught up in activity or verbal clutter I say the mantra and enact it. By making this a consistent practice we can stop the intense break-neck speed of modern life. A slower pace carves out a spare room in our souls where we wait for the Spirit to enter and work in and through us. Practice and time develop the courage to open our minds and hearts to positive and new possibilities.
When we stand with integrity in an empty soul, we stand in the heart of the universe.
Books by Sallie McFague:
While I worked as a peace activist I cared for toddlers a few hours a week. It was such a relief to escape the darkness of nuclear weapons and attitudes of war by immersing myself in the imagination of two-year-olds for a few hours. My favorite time was when they woke up from their nap. Happy Easter!
Six somnolent toddlers
nestle in daycare cots
clutching stuffed animal amulets-
their companions into the dreamworld.
One by one they rub sandman eyes
and extend their little arms to me
as budding tree branches stretch to the sun.
We sit and rock
to the rhythm of hushed monosyllables
identifying body parts and objects.
I wonder if Jesus touched his resurrected body
exclaiming, “My eyes!” “My nose!” “My ear!”
My war-worn heart hungers for hope.
Who can give it?
The children teach trust.
I rub my purblind eyes,
and stretch out my arms,
© rita h kowats 1991-2014
Photo Credit: “Freedom” by citybreezes at https://www.sumo.fm/#profile/p=2
proclaiming the memory
of your path to Calvary.
with somber voices
making all the appropriate
pauses and inflections.
But what I remember
is the Calvary
whose body odor
invaded my space,
The three men
went on and on and on
with their words
telling the history
of your suffering.
I found you
not in their stiff words
but next to me,
a man still bearing
the heavy cross
of loneliness and rejection.
“Palm Sunday” collected in My Soul Feels Lean: Poems of Loss and Restoration Sorinbooks, 2013
Photo Credit: Edited from The Homeless Epidemic at http://eng105project3.blogspot.com/?m=1
“….I came into the world to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” John 18: 37
(Note: I have faith in Jesus as a great prophet who loved his religious tradition. At the same time, I abhor acts of violence against Jews perpetrated by hateful and ignorant Christians who label all Jewish people as “Christ-Killers.” This Good Friday I will be repenting the recent killing of three people at two Jewish community centers near Kansas City, Kansas USA, and I will ask for conversion of heart for all of God’s people.)
Michelangelo’s resurrected Jesus leaps out of the tomb just as he tumbled out of Mary’s womb: a clean and unhindered human. This Friday many will hear the evangelist John tell the story of his passion once again. Jesus stands before Pilate and Caiaphas in the eye of a storm powered by fear. The power of truth lives in the spaces between his scant words: “I am.” “YOU say that I am a king.” “Why ask?” “I testify to the truth.” “I thirst.” “It is finished.”
At the end he substitutes the vulnerable silence of the manger for the strength in his few words truth. As we read Jesus’ responses, we can feel power emanate from his truth that is contemplated and lived. His experience is not unlike Martin Luther’s, “Here I stand, for I cannot do otherwise,” or Thomas a Becket’s “It is not given me to win you over, Henry; it is simply given me to say no.” Jesus is the unmoved mover, speaking sparingly but powerfully from the eye of the storm: “Here is the truth. I know it because I live it.” It proves to be too much for the power mongers.
And what of us? How does the witness of Jesus speak to us from John’s gospel on this Good Friday? Love truth. Seek it. Preach it. Preach it from the spaces between our eloquent words, where human traffickers and immigration officials, and yes, even legislators, will be confounded by its power. Only when we recognize truth, live it and preach it, does it belong to us and we to it.
John 19-19:42 New Revised Standard Version: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+18%3A1-19%3A42&version=NRSV
Photo Credit: “The Risen Christ” Michelangelo ca. 1513 black chalk drawing Collection The British Musiem, London, England
As we move through the rituals of Holy Week this meditation from Eckhart Tolle in Stillness Speaks is a rich companion.
“When you walk into a forest that has not been tamed and interfered with by humans, you will not only see abundant life all around you, but you will also encounter fallen trees and decaying trunks, rotting leaves and decomposing matter at every step. Wherever you look, you will find death as well as life.
Upon closer scrutiny, however, you will discover that the decomposing tree trunk and rotting leaves not only give birth to new life, but are full of life themselves. Microorganisms are at work. Molecules are rearranging themselves. So death isn’t to be found anywhere. There is only the metamorphosis of life forms. What can you learn from this…?
If you can learn to accept and even welcome the endings in your life, you may find that the feeling of emptiness that initially felt uncomfortable turns into a sense of spaciousness that is deeply peaceful.
By learning to die daily in this way, you open yourself to Life….
Whenever death occurs, whenever a life form dissolves, God, the formless and unmanifested, shines through the opening left by the dissolving form. That is why the most sacred thing in life is death. That is why the peace of God can come to you through the contemplation and acceptance of death.”
Photo: Meadowlake Beach County Park, Lynnwood WA USA
“And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with grave-clothes and his face muffled with a handkerchief. “Now unbind him,” Jesus told them, “and let him go home.” John 11:44
I sat in our humble, spirit-filled church yesterday, listening to our preacher proclaim the story of Lazarus’ return to life, all the while, the image of Antelope Canyon wafting in and out of my consciousness. This poem was born today. I hope it will be for you as it is for me: food for the journey before us.
Primal and pristine
plummets through the fissure
of my tomb,
Trumpeting untested life.
nudge an expectant spirit
through the stone canal
rubbed smooth by the struggle
I tumble out
© rita h kowats Lent 2014
Photo Credit: Antelope Canyon Page, AZ Joyce Roach, O.P. used with permission. If you would like to feast more on Joyce’s poignant images, you can reach her at 253-756-9435, 1111 Rose Lane, Tacome WA USA 98406.