Imagine the Great Presence

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Today dawns on the new reality of a broken deal with Iran and missile fire exchanged between Iran in Syria and Israel. We wait for the other shoe to drop. Life on the edge is hard. Now, more than ever we are called to pay attention so we can feel the stirring of the Great Presence and receive its wisdom and consolation.

 

You, darkness, of
whom I am born—
I love you more than the flame
that limits the world
to the circle it illumines
and excludes all the rest.
But the dark embraces everything:
shapes and shadows, creatures and me,
people, nations—just as they are.
It lets me imagine
a great presence stirring beside me.
I believe in the night.

Rainer Marie Rilke
I, II Rilke’s Book of Hours trans. Anita Barrows, Joanna Macy

 

Photo by Lennart kcotsttiw from Pexels

Breach the Beach

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I settled into my meditation on the dock this morning, luxuriating in black bird twitters and the flash of red wings. The sun on my back thawed my winterized bones.  Ahh, how good to be alone with the divine… until the holy muse quietly morphed into a magnificent Great Blue Heron holding vigil in the water lilies.  Her faithful practice spoke to me,”Stand still. Watch and wait.  Your authentic self will catch up with you.”

 

Beach Combing

Bring Us Goodness And Light

 

 

This morning’s news cycle brought me back to that precipice of despair once again, so I begin yet another span of time away in which to allow space for the phoenix to rise again. I spare you the stories which pushed me over the edge so as to avoid putting the negative energy out there again-besides, you know them already.

My spiritual practice for this time came to me from, of all things, the Christmas carol, “Do You See What I See?” The phrase, “He will bring us goodness and light” engaged me. I want to counteract evil by radiating divine light and goodness. I rewrote the verse to reflect my theology and my heart.

Candle lit , I am ready to sing my song. Join me?

 

Listen to what I say
Live for peace, people everywhere,
Listen to what I say
The Christ, the Christ, moving in our world,
Will bring us goodness and light,
Will bring us goodness and light.

May it be so. Amen.

 

 

 

Photo credits:bxccbghcgsrasumofm.com “Phoenix Rising”

indigo aurora borealis photo pin with shadow

 

Mantras As Tools For Spiritual Growth

 

 

It should come as no surprise that much of what you read here has already been written elsewhere, for there really is “nothing new under the sun.” Thank you to the mystics and wonderers who go before me. What is new for each of us is the aha moment when we see a truth for the first time or when we peel away another layer so as to understand at greater depth.

For a few years I have used this mantra to stop the human flow of judgment and criticism,”God alive and we thrive.” If god is alive in the conversation, we thrive instead of being dragged down in a cloud of negative energy. I have found the mantra quite helpful until the other day when I had to deal with the incessant noise that accompanies city living and was given a new layer of meaning. I recalled a video of a Buddhist nun who used a bell to call her to mindfulness. She alluded to feeling so frustrated and impatient with the noise that kept her from mindfulness, and substituted the noise itself as the bell calling her to mindfulness. I began to consider the noise outside as a call to mindfulness and a different word came up, the word “presence.” My mantra became “Breathing in presence I release irritation. Breathing in presence I release unrest.” After a while the noise slipped away and I was gifted with a few moments of connection with the divine…much more satisfying than fixating on the noise of garbage trucks uploading!

Subsequently, other uses of the mantra have presented themselves to me. One day I fixated on the possibility of someone’s interference in my life. That negative energy did me no good at all, but this mantra transported me out of it, “Breathing in presence I release mistrust. Breathing in presence I release fear.” When we live in divine presence there is simply no space for negative energy. When we invite presence we are inviting the divine presence that lives in the other person to share space in our being.  It is like greeting someone with “Namaste, I greet the god in you.”

I invite you to try this mantra and share in a comment that will give all of us tools for our spiritual growth. Blessings be yours.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: http://www.clipartpanda.com/clipart_images/garbage-truck-clip-art-10415641

 

Release the Walled-In God

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For centuries in November Christians have celebrated the feast of Christ the King. And for centuries this feast about a kindom “not of this world” has been entrapped in the trappings of an earthly kingdom characterized by wealth and domination. The image of Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey is rarely preached. We like the image of kings and queens. We feel comfortable with it. Why else would our friends in Great Britain be placing bets on the gender and name of the expected royal? 

You have read in these posts before a quote from Meister Eckhart, the great medieval Dominican mystic,”I pray god that he quit me of god.” May we replace these false, self-serving images of god with images such as the “drifting mist that brought forth the morning,” suggests Rainier Maria Rilke in this lovely poem.

We must not portray you in king’s robes,
you drifting mist that brought forth the morning.
Once again from the old paintboxes
we take the same gold for scepter and crown
that has disguised you through the ages.
Piously we produce our images of you
till they stand around you like a thousand walls.
And when our hearts would simply open,
our fervent hands hide you.

Rainer Maria Rilke, I, 4
in Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love poems to God, trans. Anita Barrows and Joanna Macey

 

Photo Credit: http://www.catholictradition.org/Christ/cking-feast2.htm

Welcome to Listen to Your Life

 

I Invite you all to travel over to https://listeningtomylife.blog/blog/

Here you can drink in and savor the wisdom and experience of my dear friend, teacher and soulmate.  This is a recent offering:

 

The Sage Must Travel Light

A friend sent me this poem today and I wanted to share it with you.  This is the spiritual journey for me–letting go of all those old stories that keep me from living in peace.  I love the image of the backpack.  Getting rid of those old emotions that hold us in a tight knot.  Filling our backpacks with compassion brings forth a sense of connection.  May it be so!!

            The Sage Must Travel Light
    Youth can carry a heavy load day after day
        Without noticing the damaging effects.
        But the sage must lay down the burden.
                    Resentments, regrets,
                        Injuries, slights,
            Grudges and disappointments
                Are much too cumbersome
    For a person of wisdom and contentment.
                The sage must travel light.
            There is a backpack in the mind
        Which over the years, has become
                Filled with rocks and stones.
    You do not have to carry them anymore.
                You can empty your pack
               And carry only compassion
                From one day to the next.
                        William Martin

And Now the Damn Dandelions

 

 

(for Caron)

As a scruffy six-year-old I loved to sprawl on the parking strip under the Hawthorne trees Dad planted and pick dandelions to string a necklace for Mom. I’m sure the people riding past on the city bus were quite amused at the sight.  I wore  rolled-up baggy jeans, orange Mr. Magoo glasses, and tight Richard Hudnut Quick Home Perm curls.  When satisfied with my masterpiece, I ran up the stairs and through the backyard to the kitchen screen door, which banged repeatedly behind me like a glorious drum roll announcing my grand gift.  “Oh, Honey, it’s beautiful!  Yellow is my favorite color, you know,”  Mom exclaimed with every new necklace.

As a budding teenage beauty I lounged on the parking strip with friends hoping that Billy would just happen to walk by.  Right.  His paper delivery route took him by my house at the same time every summer afternoon.  To wile away the time we plucked the leaves off dandelions to the tune of “He loves me, he loves me not.”

And now, the damn dandelions!  They served me well in younger, carefree days.  in adulthood they are an eyesore, a nuisance. We regard them as useless weeds which overtake our carefully manicured grass, buying into the lawn culture marketed by herbicide companies.

What if we regarded dandelions as we do the weeds in our carefully manicured souls?  Let them grow among the virtues while we train them. We could treat them like questions living into answers, as Rilke says. The result just might be a more human landscape.

 

photo credit: Fire Engine Red <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/22620629@N05/25729346044″>Dandelions DP</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

 

 

In Spring

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in spring
infant leaves emerge
tentatively from buds on stark white winter-limbs
like tentative souls
emerging from the dark night
enthusiastic
expectant
leaning
into resurrection.

© rita h kowats 4-7-18

 

In meditation on this magnificent Rilke poem given to me by my soul-friend, I realize that it is both an echo and a fulfillment of my own attempt to grasp the depths of our spiritual journey.

 

God speaks to each of us as she makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall, go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.
Flare up like flame,
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.

Rilke’s Book of Hours

 

Between Seasons

 

 

 …when I lean over the chasm of myself—
it seems my God is dark and like a web:

a hundred roots silently drinking.
This is the ferment I grow out of.

from The Book of Hours by Rainer Maria Rilke
trans by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy I, 3

 

I live in the Seattle area where spring is a mixture. One hour we are treated to sun and blossoms, blue sky, mountains and shimmering water. Literally, the next hour we are plunged into gloom and doom, whipped about by wind and drenched by an onslaught of rain, hail and snow. Natives, accepting this show as a struggle for primacy between winter and spring, don their coats and await the next hour.

I write on the Monday after Easter and the sun and blue sky reign. The blossoming trees surrounding my home call me to emerge from my writing-table and walk. Some traditions call this Emmaus Day and the expectation is to go walking where one can “meet Jesus along the way” and break bread with him, as described in the gospel story.

Our spring weather lately has awakened me to the experience of many who are stuck in the hour of doom and gloom surrounded by blossoms and blue sky and the expectation that they just get on with it and move into that hour of new life. They may be asking, “What is wrong with me that I cannot celebrate,” and they feel strangely out-of-place in this Eastertide.

Krista Tippett’s podcast, On Being, recently aired interviews with persons who experience depression and who professionally work with persons who straddle emotional seasons:

On Being https://onbeing.org/programs/parker-palmer-andrew-solomon-and-anita-barrows-the-soul-in-depression/
I found the podcast inspiring, comforting and helpful. If you do as well, be sure to pass it on.

May the promise of Easter enfold you,
Rita

 

 

Photo Credit: jcolman N00/3475838105″>The Olympic Mountains in morning sunlight via photopin (license)

Good Friday 2018

 

 

. . . Whom should I turn to,
if not the one whose darkness
is darker than night, the only one
who keeps vigil with no candle,
and is not afraid—
the deep one, whose being I trust,
for it breaks through the
earth into trees,
and rises,
when I bow my head,
faint as a fragrance
from the soil. [II, 3]

Rainer Maria Rilke from Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macey