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;

Circling the White Elephant

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The Carousel (I)
Jardin du Luxembourg

Under its canopy, in the shade it casts,
turns a world with painted horses,
all from a land that lingers a while before it disappears.
Some, it’s true, are harnessed to a wagon,
but all have valor in their eyes.
A fierce red lion leaps among them,
and here comes ’round a snow-white elephant.
Even a stag appears, straight from the forest,
except for the saddle he wears, and, buckled on it, a small boy in blue. And a boy in white rides the lion,
gripping it with small clenched hands,
while the lion flashes teeth and tongue.
And here comes ’round a snow-white elephant.
And riding past on charging horses come girls,
bright-eyed, almost too old now for this children’s play.
With the horses rising under them, they are looking
up and off to what awaits.
And here comes ’round a snow-white elephant.

New Poems
in A Year with Rilke: Readings from the Best of Rainer Maria Rilke
trans. Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

 

The Carousel (II)

It goes on and hurries to some end,
just circling and turning without a goal.
Flashes of red, of green, of grey whirl past,
solid shapes barely glimpsed.
Sometimes a smile comes toward us, and, like a blessing,
shines and is gone in this dizzying parade with no destination.
New Poems

in A Year with Rilke: Readings from the Best of Rainer Maria Rilke
trans. Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

 

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Lately, many of us have been feeling like passengers on a carousel, circling around a snow-white elephant in the room of our battered psyches. Whether the elephant is elections, confirmation hearings, Brexit, hurricanes or earthquakes, we can’t seem to step out of the fray.

Rilke offers a way out.  Let’s give the elephants their just due, then turn our attention to the smiles, the blessings we see as we circle.  This carousel of life has no destination.  It is how we ride the horse that matters.

I see a smile today in the example of a friend who is circling her third and possible final encounter with cancer. Her honest, intentional living is a blessing to me.  I am choosing to live in that light today and invite you to also bask in it.  I extend the merits of this meditation to you and to all sentient beings.

May it be so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit:https://www.pexels.com/photo/carousel-with-lights-1403653/Photo by Mihai Vlasceanu from Pexels

Response photo: http://www.pexels.com

 

 

 

 

Gottcha! Changing Focus

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The first headline screaming at me this morning was about a political rally in Mississippi in which survivors of sexual abuse were denigrated and doubted. I held on tightly, riding a wave of rage. Energy is hard for me to come by these days and I didn’t want to step into this carefully choreographed drama yet again.

Enter stage left, headline #2: possible tax fraud. “Gottcha!” Justice at last. True. If it plays out this headline may turn the tide. In the meantime, how do we get off this stage to protect our energy? How do we change our focus?

The process that has helped me in the last two months is a re-read of all the Louise Penny novels. By immersing myself in her poetic prose and the wisdom of her character, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, I have regained hope in humanity. Living in the village of Three pines again for that time away changed my focus. Here is how the author described it:

Some might argue that Three Pines itself isn’t real, and they’d be right, but limited in their view. The village does not exist, physically. But I think of it as existing in ways that are far more important and powerful. Three Pines is a state of mind. When we choose tolerance over hate. Kindness over cruelty. Goodness over bullying. When we choose to be hopeful, not cynical. Then we live in Three Pines.

Louise Penny Glass Houses

As I read the last page of the last novel I heaved a sigh of relief. Stronger again, I have slowly re-entered the news cycle and contemplated how to do justice without being victimized by the drama. I have discovered that it helps me to intentionally hold in light persons wronged by the drama. Sending loving kindness to them not only helps them. Putting my focus on their well-being gives me hope and directs my focus away from the “Gottcha!” spin.  Many of you have found other ways to help you through this. Please share them with us.

Peace be with us all.

 

photo credit: Me now0 <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/53421063@N02/16428362010″>Lake in the park. Изкуствено езеро в парка</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Pain-Compassion-Change

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One year ago I posted this:

“This effect grants the power to cause a hurricane in China to a butterfly flapping its wings in New Mexico. It may take a very long time, but the connection is real. If the butterfly had not flapped its wings at just the right point in space/time, the hurricane would not have happened.”

http://fractalfoundation.org/resources/what-is-chaos-theory/

 

Down Here
Wispy tendrils of hazy smoke
from Canada’s forest fires
Lasso branches of not-so-evergreens
And the aberrant heat drapes
its humid blanket over this bed
We now must lie in.

Over There
Adam lies drowning
In a pool of lethal despair
While in Bahrain more mundane matters
Press on Ahmad and the butterfly spirals down
To The Boneyard of Indifference.

©Rita H Kowats August 3, 2017

 

Photo Credit: photo credit: judygva <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/52450054@N04/34052621551″>Juniper Hairstreak – Callophrys gryneus, Phelps Wildlife Management Area, Sumerduck, Virginia</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

The Butterfly Effect III

Today, a year later, my back is left in pain from sitting all day on Thursday feeling and thinking my way through the testimonies of Christine Blasey Ford and Bret Kavanaugh. No doubt you have heard enough of and about it. I am led to acknowledge the pain that still bounces off the walls of our souls and offer a sliver of hope that I see emerging.

The spiritual implication of the Butterfly Effect theory is that our attitudes and actions matter to one another. They even matter to those we don’t know, whether we are aware or not. Even as I literally choke on the pain I still feel from past experiences, from the pain of Christine Blasey Ford, and the pain I feel with thousands of abuse survivors, I feel hope in the compassionate choice of Senator Jeff Flake calling for a week’s delay to investigate. Compassion. To feel with. This time, with this man, the butterfly did not spiral down to the boneyard of indifference.

We are experiencing this moment together. May we now practice leaving our left-brain analysis behind for a while to focus on this little flap of the wing:
Breathing-in compassion
Breathing-out compassion
Breathing-in understanding
Breathing-out change.

I am with you.

 

Finding Truth

 

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For Light

Light cannot see inside things.
That is what the dark is for:
Minding the interior,
Nurturing the draw of growth
Through places where death
In its own way turns into life.
In the glare of neon times,
Let our eyes not be worn
By surfaces that shine
With hunger made attractive.
That our thoughts may be true light,
Finding their way into words
Which have the weight of shadow
To hold the layers of truth.
That we never place our trust
In minds claimed by empty light,
Where one-sided certainties
Are driven by false desire.
When we look into the heart,
May our eyes have the kindness
And reverence of candlelight.
That the searching of our minds
Be equal to the oblique
Crevices and corners where
The mystery continues to dwell,
Glimmering in fugitive light.
When we are confined inside
The dark house of suffering
That moonlight might find a window.
When we become false and lost
That the severe noon-light
Would cast our shadow clear.
When we love, that dawn-light
Would lighten our feet
Upon the waters.
As we grow old, that twilight
Would illuminate treasure
In the fields of memory.
And when we come to search for God,
Let us first be robed in night,
Put on the mind of morning
To feel the rush of light
Spread slowly inside
The color and stillness
Of a found world.
– John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us:
A Book of Blessings

Lake Lament

 

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In June, even though I couldn’t see the lake I at least had a piece of it. On this August morning thick underbrush enveloped me and I lamented the loss of the lake.

At first I felt closed in and irritated that the city had not followed through with its mandate to prune. What about the common good and our need for beauty, after all? A practice of sitting ensued and soon I felt protected by the semi-circle of green, holding me, shielding me from the pending evil about to descend on Portland Oregon today.

Earlier I had sent loving kindness to the far right hate groups Patriot Prayer and Proud boys, due to hold a rally there. I sent loving kindness to the counter-protesters. I imagined nonviolence prevailing.

At the lake I imagined the overgrown green surrounding all of them with love and nonviolence and I called on all that is holy to shield them from the evil of hate. The little lake that I love is not what I needed. Nature knows best.

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Hatewatch” has experts all over the country monitoring hate group activity. Here are some links that detail the rally in Portland today. Heads up Washington State voters. Our primary ballots are due this coming Tuesday. Are you aware that one Republican candidate running for U.S. senate is Joey Gibson, the leader of Patriot Prayer?

https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2018/08/04/patriot-prayer-and-proud-boys-met-hundreds-counter-protesters-portland
https://www.splcenter.org/pnw-rallies

Can We Care Again?

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The headline in the Seattle Times reads “For third day, grieving orca carries dead calf in water.” (July 26, 2018). As I write this morning it is the sixth day the mother has carried her dead baby on her nose, diving down deep to retrieve it whenever it slips off. I don’t have words to express how I feel. The photo says it.

Elephants also mourn, holding wakes for fallen elephants. In a PBS production I saw a herd come across the remains of a bull elephant. They circled the skull caressing it with their trunks, even lingering over it. Around and around they went, emitting those low rumbling sounds humans cannot hear by ears alone.

I mourn that many humans no longer hear. We seem to have forgotten how to care enough for one another to hold vigil.
My practice:

Breathing in I care
Breathing out I release indifference
Breathing in I care
Breathing out I release hate
Breathing in I care
Breathing out I release fear of the other.

Breathing in we care
Breathing out we release indifference
Breathing in we care
Breathing out we release hate
Breathing in we care
Breathing out we release fear of the other.

May the merits of this practice extend to all sentient beings in the universe.

Amen.

Photo Credit: Seattle Times

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/puget-sound/for-third-day-grieving-orca-whale-carries-dead-calf-in-water/

Mother Hospitality

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This morning I feasted on a video from American Public Television entitled, Borders. PBS describes it this way:

“BORDERS explores the relationships and influences that Mexican and American craft artists have on each other and our cultures.” You can enjoy it here:

http://www.pbs.org/craft-in-america/tv-series/borders/

As I luxuriated in the rich, intense colors and the spiritual meaning inherent in the folk art I determined to learn more and to incorporate Mexican culture in my life more. Then I was slapped in the face by Donald Trump’s assessment of the Mexican people and I wept. This poem, Mother Hospitality, emerged as a spiritual practice to deal with my waning hope.

 

 

Caged within the borders of his fear
the xenophobe hunkers down untouched
by the diffused difference of cultures
casting bits of light on uncaged seekers outside.

Mother Hospitality tootles across the globe
picking up variegated pieces of light and love.
Her basket swings blithely on her arm in rhythm
with the hope that beats in her heart.
She watches for signs of cracking
then, quick as she can, tosses in a sliver of light
One sliver.
Enough to rattle the cage.

© rita h kowats 7-24-18

 

Photo Credit: free download from https://kathleenhalme.com/explore/cage%20clipart%20person/

Meditation on Passing Judgment

Sherlock Portrait 3-22-16

 

Sherlock sits on my lap
eyes fixed on shards of light
cast by cracks between slats in blinds
(that is how the light gets in, you know, through the cracks.)*
I have only to look in his green oval eyes
to know what he sees-
cracks of light dance there on the surface.
Sherlock’s meditation becomes mine:

If we let it, cracks of light from outside
will dance on our inside,
casting colors clear and keen
illuminating the eyes of our souls.

I see you now.

© rita h kowats 7-24-18
* Thank you, yet again, Leonard Cohen