Sway With the Wind

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The black wrought iron bench was toasty-warm today where I sat watching lakeside trees sway against the gentle autumn wind. Against the wind. I hear Bob Seeger singing in my ear,”…we were running against the wind.” The wind today was coming from the Fraser River Valley in Canada. Normally wind comes from the south around here in the Puget Sound area and our trees know that. They are genetically disposed to sway with the southern winds. When those winds howl down from Canada in winter accompanied by cold temperatures, we can be in trouble. It happened one winter when I lived in a rural wood. I woke up to eighteen trees uprooted on the road behind me. They can’t handle seventy-mile-an-hour sustained northern winds.

I saw the lesson in the trees gently swaying today. I’ve been feeling a bit off lately, an underlying dis-ease in response to an impending hip replacement. The surgery itself doesn’t make me uneasy…I’m a pro, having already had both knees replaced! It’s all the preparations and doctors’ appointments and constant questions and questionnaires that unnerve me. The trees reminded me to be flexible, to sway with the wind rather than against it. Much easier. Much healthier spirituality and physically. Of course, sometimes justice demands that we run against the prevailing wind hanging on tightly, but not this time.

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

 

 

 

photo credit: KarinKarin2 <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/123747563@N07/32265204954″>Sylt</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Innocence Re-Membered

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Epilogue

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.

Also, this…

from “A Brief for the Defense” in Refusing Heaven, 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
the Devil.

 

 

 

 

photo credit: James Bowe <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/29848680@N08/41372593744″>Buttercups</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Ruth Uprooted

 

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But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God”. Ruth 1:16

 

Imagine this. Your father is eighty years old and his wife of 55+ years has just entered a Memory Care Unit. Every visit to his wife is a painful death. The added stress of learning how to manage his household and care for his own aging body is quickly depleting him of energy.

Like the biblical Ruth you hear a call that is more than duty. The call to loving compassion sounds clearly and insistently across Badlands and Cascades: Uproot. Go. Your people shall be my people. So you leave everything to make a new home with your father.

Who does such a thing? I am in awe of the courage and aware of the challenges. May I someday learn to be this selfless.

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The Call
vibrates along every vein in every root
pulsing and pulling
tapping the primal tattoo heard by Ruth before you:
GO

You scoop up your scattered roots,

clutch them close and set out.
Without control
Without guarantee
With trust.
Welcome, sister.

                                                     ©Rita H. Kowats March 23, 2018

 

The Badlands Photo Credit: Thomas James Caldwell <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/81643710@N00/15497697471″>Erosive Effects</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

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

Tree: Photo by Daniel Watson from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/gray-trunk-green-leaf-tree-beside-body-of-water-762679/

Alone

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(Drawing by Mervyn Peake)

 

“Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.”

― Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

 

I heaved my 27-year-old body onto the bed and sobbed until not a single tear could not be wrung from my soul. I had been cruelly abandoned by peers, and given no explanation. Even now at 73 I can say that I have never felt as alone as I did in that moment. I was terrified that I would lose my mind. In desperation I called out, “God help me!” A solution emerged and a sense of peace replaced the terror.

We had participated in a week-long Disclosure-Confrontation Marathon, one of the many experiments of psychologists in the 1970’s. This one later lost his license to practice anywhere in the United States. He had insisted that the way for us to grow was to hold “mini-sessions” among ourselves where we would disclose and confront one another. We held one session. I disclosed and became the target. William Golding’s classic novel Lord of the Flies comes to mind. In it children are marooned on an island without adult supervision and the outcome is harrowing.

I survived. Sometimes I even thrive. In the years following this traumatic experience I practiced riding the waves of loneliness safely to the shore, buoyed by the trust that divine presence is a constant in my life. It has been important to me to identify spiritually advanced persons to guide me through these times. At Spiritual Directors International, http://www.sdiworld.org, one can connect to a spiritual guide.
We walk this human journey together. As I post this reflection I light my candle and hold vigil for all who experience being alone.  Be well, my friends.

 

Relinquishment (I Kings 19:11-13)

After

Whirlwind
Earthquake
Fire

You come to me
In the whisper that
Lures me out of the cave
Into the light.

Here I am. Send me

© Rita H Kowats May 21,2017, revisited 3-9-18

 

 

 

First Journey to a Memory Care Center

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My first experience visiting a Memory Care facility has left me with a heightened awareness of the spiritual practice of emptying oneself. I am left with an urgency to learn how to let go while I can still choose. I want to store up the Light that will warm me and guide me if I come to a place of unawares. May it be so.

 

The young woman at the lobby desk welcomes my sister and me to the memory care unit with genuine enthusiasm, happy that Gloria has visitors. She invites us to enjoy refreshments from the sideboard while we sign in, then we embark on our journey into another world.

The door opens onto the movie theatre. Comfortable chairs face a giant screen, flanked by posters of actors in their 1940’s heyday. A few residents watch, while others sleep or stare inwardly at movies of their past lives.

The theatre morphes into a small dining area, the brown floral Persian rug seamlessly connecting the two areas. Three small tables host residents and their care-givers slowly enacting the ritual of eating. Bite. Sleep. Bite. Stare. Bite. Tears gather and I choke up, overwhelmed by the question stalking me on this first journey, ” What if the disease takes me? What if…” The words of the biblical character Job bubble up as if emblazoned on a marquee,”The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” What an emptying this would be.

Moving down a hallway, windows look out on a garden and period musical instruments don one wall, while 1950’s fashion prom dresses decorate the other wall. When the hallway enters into another area we see Gloria seated at a table eating lunch with another resident. She still knows who we are and her delight at seeing us is reassuring. Also reassuring is her increased appetite and genuine affirmation of her new home.

After a brief stroll around the halls we say our goodbyes, happy that Gloria is happy but dreading the fast-approaching time when she will no longer know who we are. We, however, will know who Gloria is on our next visit and we will love her in whichever dimension is claiming her that day.

 

 

PHOTO CREDIT: https://news.vanderbilt.edu/2017/01/25/learn-about-alzheimers-disease-and-dementia-research-at-public-forum/

Thank You

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I wish each of you abundant blessing in this new year.  I very much appreciate the energy you bring with you when you come to this blog, and I am grateful for the energy you infuse into it.  Together we experience God coming near.

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GOD JUST CAME NEAR

No
One
In need of love
Can sit with my verse for
An hour
And then walk away without carrying
Golden tools,
And feeling that God
Just came
Near.

 

HAFIZ

 

Photo Credit: Daniel Tran Cathedral of Light Sydney’s festival, Vivid Sydney

Returning to Presence: A Spiritual Practice

 

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Sometimes we all get into an obsessive space over a perceived or real wrong done to us. Around and around, out and in our egos spin on the rim of that hurricane, covering the same territory ad nauseum even while we long to catch hold of the Eye where we can be drawn down into Presence for as long as that gift lasts.

Here are some tools I find helpful:

  • Keep a battery powered candle on throughout the time your ego spins out of control. It is a powerful symbol that through the open wound the light gets in (Thank you, Leonard Cohen.)
  • Between rants send loving kindness to the one who wounded you. Pour love like gold into their wound until it’s scar blinds with bling! Here is my version of it:

I surround you with divine light
May you be safe from harm
May you be happy and peaceful
May you be strong and healthy
May you take care of yourself with joy.

  • Call upon your angels and spirit guides to surround you and let pass into you and from you only that energy which is for the greatest good.
  • Cleanse your aura often with spritz spray or hands full of water, or burn sage. “Our thoughts and feelings have an electromagnetic reality and we should manifest wisely.” (source unknown)
  • Debrief once with one trusted person if you feel the need; repeated sessions with multiple persons tend to feed negative energy.

Mantra

Breathing in I am peace
Breathing out I release anger
Breathing in I am power
Breathing out I release dominance.
May it be so.

 

 

We Are The Song

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Louise Penny writes a mystery series about a detective in a mythical village in Quebec called Three Pines. I love these books especially for the author’s keen insight into human nature and her prose which flows like poetry. A favorite from the series is The Beautiful Mystery, about a murder in a monastery set deep into the wilds of Canada. Although hidden away, the monks are renowned for their near perfect expression of Gregorian chant. The abbot says, “Each of us individual notes. On our own, nothing. But together? Divine. We don’t just sing, we are the song.” The narrator says, “Gamache wondered if an equally important part of a chant wasn’t just the notes, but the space between them. The silence…They had such a profound effect on those who sang and heard them that the ancient chants became known as “The Beautiful Mystery.”

 

The Beauriful Mystery

 

 

Photo Credit: https://www.smov.info/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=347&Itemid=717

Light and Shadow

“Salmon Berry Blossom on Black Water” Lynn Schooler

The impetus for this post was the beauty of our solar eclipse with its dramatic changes of light.

Chiaroscuro

  • :  pictorial representation in terms of light and shade without regard to color

  •  :  the arrangement or treatment of light and dark parts in a pictorial work of art:

  • the quality of being veiled or partly in shadow

Merriam-Webster

 

Inside every living thing, no matter how beautiful, if opened fully enough was darkness. A Trick of the Light Louise Penny

 
If you have ever spent time in the company of the dark emotions, you too may have received subtle messages from friends and strangers alike that you were supposed to handle them and move on sooner instead of later. Some of us have even gotten the message that if we cannot do this on schedule, we may not have enough faith in God. If we had enough, we would be able to banish the dark angels from our beds, replacing them with the light angels of belief, trust, and praise. Greenspan [Healing Through the Dark Emotions by Miriam Greenspan] calls this “spiritual bypassing”—using religion to dodge the dark emotions instead of letting it lead us to embrace those dark angels as the best, most demanding spiritual teachers we may ever know…The emotions themselves are conduits of pure energy that want something from us: to wake us up, to tell us something we need to know, to break the ice around our hearts, to move us to act.

Learning to Walk in the Dark Barbara Brown Taylor

 

Lynn Schooler photo used with permission

 

 

Doubt As A Path To Faith

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Rainer Maria Rilke from Letters to a Young Poet

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it,  live along some distant day
into the answer.”

Time and again I have become aware of how profoundly connected my psychological self is to my spiritual self.  One day as I worked at my desk I began musing about my childhood and realized how keenly ashamed I was of the limitations of the little girl I had been.  I felt surrounded by spirit and as if pushed in the direction, I began walking downstairs to the little chapel in our convent.  I lay down on the floor before the altar in a fetal position and held “Margaret” like I had never held her before.  I promised to love and cherish her.  I thanked her for all the good things she brought to me.  I forgave her imperfection.  I offered her gifts to God.  At seventy-three years old I am finally living into those gifts.

I think that faith development is both spiritual practice and psychological practice.  My experience with Margaret was both a psychological practice of becoming conscious of my vulnerabilities and a spiritual practice of letting them go and resting in the divine.  When we have doubts about faith we sometimes go into “The Dark Night of the Soul,” described by the mystics.

“It is a term used to describe what one could call a collapse of a perceived meaning in life…an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness….the meaning that you had given your life, your activities, your achievements, where you are going, what is considered important, and the meaning that you had given your life for some reason collapses.”

Elkhart Tolle  See the full description here:   https://www.eckharttolle.com/newsletter/october-2011

So we begin to ask questions, often feeling guilty about it.  Some give up all faith in the end; for others doubt brings them closer to God.  Why this paradox? To paraphrase Jesus, whoever finds faith will lose it, and whoever loses their faith for my sake will find it.  After living in our faith for a while we take the risk of separating what is authentic about it from that which encloses us in a spiritual safety deposit box. If we come to a faith in which we have no need to be controlled, we come to an experience of the holy that is real and which has no need to control us.

Why do we sometimes feel closer to God when we doubt God?  Because we dare to seek the real God who lives outside the sometimes immature and unhealthy images we conjure.  Faith is not something that can be pinned down with very specific and concrete language.  Those who express faith are often mocked in our “enlightened” western society.  When we have begun to develop the right side of our brain we can see into the spaces between words and know that those spaces contain real truth. Some of my heroes are scientists who dare to make the connections between science and spirituality:  Brian Swimme, mathematical cosmologist, Albert Einstein, and to some extent, David Bohm. They have risked being laughed out of the sacred halls of academia.

Many of you are by now sick of the Meyers-Briggs Personality Inventory; however, it can be a profound spiritual awakening.  A person who scores as a high thinker and sensate can use spiritual practices to develop his/her intuitive gifts.  As a traveler I could stop photographing a myriad of details for a few minutes and just sit and drink in what the scene means and how it affects me.  Practices like this bring us into the spaces between words where the experience of the holy happens. Churches celebrate the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle annually by telling the story of how he doubted the resurrection of Jesus.  Poor man.  He never had access to the MeyersBriggs.

At the end of his life the great scholastic theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas said about his many treatises, “The end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.” His fine mind and the questions he asked of it led him to rest in divine presence.  They served him so well that in the end he didn’t need them anymore.