When we are going toward someone we say you are just like me your thoughts are my brothers and sisters word matches word how easy to be together.
When we are leaving someone we say how strange you are we cannot communicate we can never agree how hard, hard and weary to be together.
We are not different nor alike but each strange in our leather bodies sealed in skin and reaching out clumsy hands and loving is an act
that cannot outlive
the open hand
the open eye
the door in the chest standing open.
This poem drew me into meditation this morning and I have strolled through its many nuances throughout the day. We allow the other’s difference to grow a wedge between us because we don’t understand it, and we can’t control what we don’t understand. We would rather muck around in the divide than risk the outstretched hand and the open door in the chest.
In their book, Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greewald describe their study which concluded that every human being fills in what we don’t know with what we think we know. In observing myself, I see that it is my ego that fills in what I don’t know, rather than the self that lives in divine presence. This self is strong enough to welcome that which is strange in the other, that which reaches out with clumsy hands.
My spiritual practice comes in the form of a pause. I pause before I judge. I breathe in respect and release fear. I breathe in love and release judgment. Once in a while it works. Our human instinct is to protect our ego, but the pause interrupts the knee-jerk impulse to insert it into the strange, unknown spaces of the other. The pause lets in the Spirit who places clumsy hand in clumsy hand.
If you have never seen a Great Blue Heron walking, I assure you, it is quite amusing. These magnificent birds are as comical as we are in our daily ego-grasping endeavors. If we don’t laugh, we cry, so let’s have a laugh at our expense.
On my way home I passed the girls and stopped to chat. They showed me each new leaf on a shrub they had discovered and their brother told me the story of the Tyrannosaurus Rex that lumbered across his T- shirt.
from “A Brief for the Defense” in RefusingHeaven, Jack Gilbert
We must risk delight. We can do without
pleasure, but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness
in the ruthless furnace of this world. To make injustice the
only measure of our attention is to praise
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.