This first week of Lent in my Mennonite faith community Mark 10:17-21 takes center stage in our human drama.
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
The rich young man who thinks he has done everything right is disappointed in Jesus’ response. I would be too except that Jesus looks at me and loves me.
Imagine this sacred bowl as the womb of the divine. Toss in all those grasping ego trips we hoard. Keep digging down until you get them all, and then you will be poor of grasping and rich of spirit.
My bowl is ready. My Lenten practice will be to root out the unhealthy ego manifestations that hold me in a death grip, write them down and toss them into my bowl. At Easter they will become my whole burnt offering.
Tina strolls leisurely along the lake boardwalk with her happy little dog whose pink satin bow bounces with attitude as she leads Tina. Someone has to lead because Tina is intensely focused on the book she is reading.
When I saw Tina in the elevator yesterday I felt a burst of radiant well-being emanate from her. Light showcased clear brown eyes highlighted by tastefully applied makeup. Her long auburn hair fell loosely around shoulders pulled straight by some unseen string from above. Tears of joy waited for release as the realization emerged- Tina was well.
Focusing on a book was something Tina couldn’t do very well when she first moved into my apartment building. I would see her strolling around the grounds with her Narcotics Anonymous sponsor, sometimes twice in one day. She walked bent over, studying the ground as if expecting it to swallow her up at any minute. Her face was contorted and conversation resembled a rapid staccato frenzie of unrelated words.
Standing upright a year later, Tina has become for me an icon of what the human spirit can do. Witnessing her noble struggle has been a spiritual practice which reminds me how to reach down and pull out the strength to go on, the strength to survive and then to thrive. She is a monument to the art of letting go.
I am grateful to Tina, to my brave niece and to thousands of others, for showing me how to let go.
Can you understand being alone so long you would go out in the middle of the night and put a bucket into the well so you could feel something down there tug at the other end of the rope?
Jack Gilbert in Refusing Heaven
RESPONSE (for a loved one who wandered too far)
Old age is like an abandoned valley where you have to venture out in the middle of the night to find a well to sink your bucket in search of someone to send it back. Don’t wander far. The well is closer than you imagine.
The leaf photo evokes the image of a crab’s pinchers poised to strike as it sidles sideways across the sand. As we know, the astrological sign of cancer is named for the crab. Those who are born under this sign are said to struggle letting go and they often communicate indirectly. Outer appearances serve as an armor of sorts, hiding the depths of their feelings, a universally human tendency.
In the process of growing up, crabs have to molt their hard shells many times to make way for each new, larger shell. As it molts, the old shell has to soften while the beginnings of the new shell grow under it. The crab must pull its whole self from the old shell; if it gets stuck, it dies.
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.”
Our attempts at self-protection cause us to live in a cramped corner of our lives.
Frank Ostaseski “A Friend until the End”
Lion’s Roar July 2018
Senescence has overtaken my back, but I am releasing pain and regaining flexibility by doing PNF stretches and swimming. Compared to five months ago, I am literally a walking miracle. I often meditate in the water, where this analogy came to me.
A miracle for the back
Why not for the soul?
Breathing out ego
Breathing in light
Synced simultaneous soul-stretches
Creating space for the divine.
Listen to this gift from Marge Piercy. Find the rhythm in your breathing as you take in the essence of her words. Let feelings rise as they will.
Open, love, open. I tell you we are able I tell you we are able now and then gently with hands and feet cold even as fish to curl into a tangle and grow a single hide, slowly to unknit all other skin and rest in flesh and rest in flesh entire
Come all the way in, love, it is a river with a strong current but its brown waters will not drown you.
Let go. Do not hold out your head. The current knows the bottom better than your feet can. You will find that in this river we can breathe we can breathe and under water see small gardens and bright fish too tender too tender for the air.
You are content to lie on the surface of the cobalt Maui ocean, cocooned in the embrace of warm trade winds, buoyant and safe. Relax and enjoy the carefree feeling of being carried aloft. Continue to synchronize your breathing with winds and waves. In out in out. Feel the warmth of the sun kiss your skin. Breathe in out in out.
Now let your mind wander to regions below the ocean’s surface, to places less placid where fear warns you away. Take some time now to explore those fears which threaten to take your breath away. Name each one as you breathe in and let out the fear on the wave of your breath. In out in out.
You have now dared to leave the surface. How is it for you down there? What small gardens and bright fish do you see? Your breathing becomes deeper and flows evenly throughout every cell of your body. You are the ocean. As the fish is in the sea and the sea is in the fish, you are in the ocean and the ocean is in you.
Ever so gently now, let your body slowly float up to the surface as you continue to breathe. Breathing in I am whole. Breathing out I release all fear. Breathing in I am peace. Breathing out I offer peace.
I have friends who are dealing with the worst of cancers and the death of a loved one. Earthquakes, flooding, wars and hurricanes displace thousands of people. Yet, many of them endure. Not just endure. They endure creatively. How do they do it?
They learn these truths:
Photo Credits: Raw silk- http://www.wormspit.com/degumming.htm; -wood_uncut_by_borysses.jpg
Sleep leaves us totally vulnerable to the beck and call of our unconscious. We spend a few hours each night open to stark naked truth, for better or for worse. If we turn our attention to those nocturnal events in our wake time, we glean valuable insight.
Lately I have been called to that vulnerable space in waking time as I deal with an incident that sent me into an emotional hurricane of old tapes. Around and out and in my ego spins on the rim of the hurricane, covering the same territory ad nauseum while longing to catch hold of the Eye where I can be drawn down into Presence for as long as that gift lasts. This time is both cursed and blessed. Cursed because that slip into emptiness is unspeakably lonely. One day when I was twenty-seven years old I thought I was losing my mind. I wasn’t, but the feeling of abandonment was keen enough to convince me I was. I shouted out to the God of my youth, “Help me! I don’t know what to do.” And the way opened.
I hate the hurricane and I love it because it makes me strip down to my essential humanity where I have to wallow in my muddy feelings. It’s so damned uncomfortable. And so redeeming because it’s in the wallowing that I become vulnerable enough to let go and can slip into the Eye of Presence.
After four dizzy days of spinning and three sleepless nights, I have finally caught onto the innermost rim and slipped into the Eye. Ahhh.
An Offering of Spiritual Practices for Hurricane Times
I kept my battery powered candle on throughout the night as a symbol that it is through the wounds that the light gets in (Thank you, Leonard Cohen.)
Sent loving kindness to the object of my wrath (between rants)…poured love like gold into the wound that wounded until it’s scar blinded with bling! Here is my version of it:
Swore softly at my cat between clenched teeth
Called upon my angels and spirit guides to surround me and let pass into me and from me only that energy which is for the greatest good.
Cleansed my aura often with spritz spray because-
Debriefed with a friend
Breathing in I am peace
Breathing out I release anger
Breathing in I am power
Breathing out I release dominance.
May it be so.
Photo Credit: http://www.nocturnepodcast.org/ Artist: Robin Gelanti
My soul feels tight
Like a ball of yarn
Wound around itself
Strand by strand round and round
Until no redemptive chink
Admits light or air.
Ego clamors to unravel and reveal
As if knowing alone can extricate and redeem.
Spirit takes this Jonah by the hand
And descends into the belly of the ball
To sit in her light and breathe in her air
Until the beginning strand finds me,
Wraps me round and catapults me
Into divine spaciousness.