Dark Night of the Soul




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.

© rita h kowats 7-16





Jacob Wrestles Again

(Genesis 32: 22-31)



The Invitation

I see you across the river.
Your massive wings catching the wind’s draft
Beckon me into the fray- I thought.
Your invitation is lost in the miasma
of my pugnacious fear.
The river pulls me toward my destiny
every step across the ford fraught
with illusions of empire.

The Fray

You stand stalwart in shinning sheen
that sets off sparks of fused energy
wherever it touches me.
Thrust and lunge pass and punt
around and under over and through
I wrestle in dusk then dark
demanding the blessing of blissful sovereignty
until I break with the dawning of new day.


I wake from the stupor of exhaustion
Supine and cradled in your protective wings.
Blessed with the chrism of your love
I rest in embryonic innocence
Face to Face
Free of fear.

© rita h kowats 2014

Photo Credit:   

A “SoulCard” by Deborah Koff-Chapin.  The technique Deborah has created is called “touch drawing.”  The  cards come in two decks of 60 images and can be used alone or with others as reflection tools.  They have enriched my meditation for years and have helped those I companion with.  You can learn more at Deborah’s webpage www.soulcards.com

Used with permission from the artist.

Shifting Images

This reflection comes to us from my friend Ardine Martinelli, who lives in the beautiful NW where she is a Spiritual Director and retreat leader.  She enjoys gardening, hiking, travel,
and good conversation with friends.  May it speak to us in ways we can hear and heed.

dancer now

Shifting Images

While meditating I received the most amazing message, “Change your image from Warrior to Dancer.”  This jolted me back to the present as I began to reflect on what that might look like.

I have been a warrior most of my life. I felt I needed to prove, achieve, master and do.  I lived life like I had to conquer it. I moved out into the world, believing I had to make things happen.  This mode served me well for a long time.  I built a successful career and business, and created a sense of competency and worth around my achievements.  I am now 71 years old and this image no longer serves me, in fact, it drains me.  I am tired of pushing through, I want to rest and let life come to me.

Ah, this is the image of the dancer.  As I began playing with the dancer image I realized I craved the idea of letting life flow through me.  As a dancer, I am a partner with life not a conqueror of life. My dancer waits, trusting in life and knowing all is well.   My whole body relaxes as I let this image flow through me.  It is hard for me to imagine waiting for life to come to me.   Trust is not a quality that comes easy.

Warrior is my default mode.  When I feel stressed, anxious, frustrated, I move into the warrior, take-charge mode.  It is my warrior energy that creates the struggle of believing I “should” be “doing” more.  With awareness, I can allow my warrior to rest. It is not either/or, it is a dance between my warrior and dancer. The shift of image is a process and I trust in its slow movement through my being.

 Photo Credits:

“Amazon ” www.wikigender.org;     “Dance Silhouettes” free vector clip-art


Caring for Anger

caring for anger

For Warmth

I hold my face in my two hands.
No, I am not crying.
I hold my face in my two hands
to keep my loneliness warm-
two hands protecting,
two hands nourishing,
two hands preventing
my soul from leaving me
in anger.

Thicht Naht Hanh

Deep-seated, out-of-control anger is a serious illness in need of intentional and consistent ministering to ourselves by ourselves.  Spiritual practice is not a process detached from our bodies.  Because anger is a dis-ease of the soul which ravishes the body as well, our practice must use the body to heal the soul, and use the soul to heal the body…”Two hands preventing my soul from leaving me in anger.”  Thicht Naht Hahn is not just speaking metaphorically.

Of course, good health dictates that we reveal anger to ourselves.  We need to know its cause and its effects before we can let it go.  This is the work of the mind.  To let go is the work of the spirit.  Solid, healthy spiritual practice never labels anger as bad in itself.  As with all human limitations which impede spiritual growth, unbridled anger is released through a process of letting go, letting be, and breaking through to the Godhead (Meister Eckhart’s description.)

It doesn’t work to violently chisel away at our anger, forcing it to go away and leave us in peace.  Violence begets violence.  Instead, we can use a ritual to free ourselves.   Deeply moved by Thicht Naht Hanh’s practice of caring for anger, I have developed a ritual which some of my readers may also find helpful.  This is an intuitive ritual best done apart from the necessary analytical exercises used to determine the nature of our anger.  I choose a quiet space with a meaningful focal point, such as a candle and a symbol.  While centering, I call upon the Spirit to guide me.   I take my face in my two hands and repeat these mantras until I feel ready to move on.  When possible, I journal how the Spirit moved me as I prayed, before I move away from this sacred liminal time.  I set aside time for the ritual daily, until it is no longer needed .  Other times the need for it arises unexpectedly, so I retreat to my “inner room” wherever I am, and say all or part of the ritual to restore my equilibrium.

**First Mantra** Breathe while saying the words.  Soon their rhythm will take you to a sacred place.

I gather the pieces of my wounded spirit in my two hands.

Breathing in        I nourish my soul.

Breathing out    I release pain.

**Second Mantra**

I gather the pieces of my wounded spirit in my two hands.

Breathing in        I protect my soul.

Breathing out    I release loneliness and rejection.

 **Third Mantra**

I gather the pieces of my wounded spirit in my two hands.

 Breathing in        I am filled with peace.

Breathing out    I release resentment.

**Last Mantra**

I stand in peace before the Holy One.

Breathing in        my soul returns.

Breathing out    I become whole.

My face in my two hands holding my soul.   Amen.


I first came upon “For Warmth” in a little book by Thicht Naht Hanh, Be Free Where You Are.  It is a collection of meditations he shared with prisoners to empower them in coping with their incarceration.  One can put the book in a pocket or bag and read a page or a line while busily navigating through his/her own particular incarcerations.  I recommend it.