Our Half-Lived Lives: O’Donohue Meets Meister Eckhart

…An authentic life is a life that is aware of and willing to engage its own oppositions…. Sometimes, people who are very vociferous and moralistic are people who have erased the tug of opposition from their lives….It is lonely sometimes to hear them talk because,in their certainty, you can hear the hollow echo of a life only half-lived….One of the greatest duties of postmodern culture…is to try to bring the personal and the communal, the individual and the universal, together.

John O’Donohue in a talk delivered for “The Open Mind” 

published in Walking in Wonder by John Quinn and John O’Donohue

The eye with which god sees me
is the same eye with which I see god.
God’s eye and my eye are one.
One seeing, one knowing, one loving.

Meister Eckhart

There is a space
of potential presence
in god’s eye where we
can reside in peace
with the other, even if
we cannot be with them
in any other place,
in any other way.
If we can believe that
we are one in God’s eye,
we break the wall of dualism
that separates us, even
if just for a moment.
Moments live into
more moments.
Rest in the sacred gaze
of the divine.

A Spiritual Camino de Santiago



I am reminded of these earlier musings as I feast on the book, Walking in Wonder, a gathering of Johm O’Donohue’s poetry and philosophising by his friend John Quinn.  It is O’Donohue’s discussion of Meister Eckhart that brought me to this place again.

I first coined the phrase “genes of our souls” in this poem I wrote in 1989 after experiencing the deaths of my parents.  It brought me some comfort.


At 75 I am coming closer to understanding and accepting the import of the phrase.  O’Donohue relates Meister Eckhart’s conviction that there is “a lonely edge to our lives” that can only be filled by God, and that if we want to come into God’s presence, we must let go of all images to make that journey.  And it is the journey, the process that matters. For me the journey entails a stripping down to the very genes of my soul where Presence lives unfettered by the images I have created.  In those moments of nothingness I experience fullness.

This has become my Advent meditation. My journey is less toward a babe in a manger and more toward an expansive divine presence gestating within my spirit.  As I move along the path I throw out all the clutter that blocks my way. It comforts me to be companioned by you on this sacred camino de santiago.

Navigating Ego Storms



In a previous post I described an image I use for the state of being bound to the ego. Meister Eckhart uses the term ichgebundenheit to describe this state. In my image the eye of a hurricane recklessly swings me around its periphery, subjecting me to a destructive array of errant ego-blasts, each one taking me farther away from the calm of the eye. Divine Presence resides in that center, calling me away from the storms I conjure.
Thich Nhat Hanh likens the state to clinging to the top of a tree during a storm, not a very safe place to be. In a collection of meditations he shared with prison inmates,

In a previous post I have described an image I use to describe the state of being bound to the ego. Meister Eckhart uses the term ichgebundenheit to describe this state. In my image the eye of a hurricane recklessly swings me around its periphery, subjecting me to a destructive array of errant ego-blasts, each one taking me farther away from the calm of the eye. Divine Presence resides in that center, calling me away from the storms I conjure.
Thich Nhat Hanh likens the state to clinging to the top of a tree during a storm, not a very safe place to be. In a collection of meditations he shared with prison inmates, Be Free Where You Are, he shares the spiritual practice,”The Art of Handling a Storm.”

“The Art of Handling a Storm”

When a strong emotion takes hold of you and you can’t seem to let it go, get into a stable position in which you feel grounded (sitting with feet planted firmly on the ground, lying down.) Focus away from the storm in your head and turn your attention to the stability of your belly. Feel your hands firmly in place on your belly and begin breathing in and out. With each inhale say,”Breathing in I feel my abdomen rise,” with each exhale say,”Breathing out I feel my abdomen fall.”

Thich Nhat Hanh assures us that after twenty minutes of this we will feel strong and after a while the emotion will pass. I may follow this up with a mantra that brings me into divine presence, such as Julian of Norwich’s words,”All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

May we all be well, friends.





Photo Credit: https://www.google.com/search?q=trees+in+wind+free+clip+art&tbm=isch&ved=2ahUKEwimwsn12IXkAhWikJ4KHZPwAXIQ2-cCegQIABAC&oq=trees+in+wind+free+clip+art&gs_l=mobile-gws-wiz-img.3…8205.10155..11718…0.0..0.174.665.0j5……0….1………33i10j30i10.2L-WKL4lpUw&ei=wb1VXebdIKKh-gST4YeQBw#imgrc=JTbPelTwTNLzbM

Godlight to Soulight And Back Again


Meister Eckhart’s Refectory

I relished some time with my old friend Meister Eckhart this morning.  I invite you into this meandering, while acknowledging that it is a bit out there (maybe more than a bit!)



Being Light

light in eye


Recently I introduced the newly published book of spiritual poetry, Rose Petals Floating Downstream by Anita Neilson (  https://anitaneilson.com/ )

I picked up the book in an in-between time today and opened to the poem below, “If Thine Eye be Single.”  Here it is, accompanied by what it evoked from me.

If Thine Eye be Single

“The light of the body is the eye:
if therefore thine eye be single,
thy whole body shall be full of light.”

Matthew 6:22


Eyes twinkling
like headlamps dipping
o’er the brow of a hill;
silent messengers
through the mists of time.

Windows on the world
but also to the soul
if we look deeper.

Codeless truths blink
to those who seek
meaning en route.

An eternal clignoter
Clic, clic, clic.

If thine eye be single
a million stars
Will diffuse into one
and every twist and turn
a delight will be
on this path to eternity.

Anita Neilson



The eye with which god
sees me is the same eye
with which I see god.

One seeing

My eye and god’s eye
are one.

Meister Eckhart

∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞  ∞

The light with which god
sees me is the same light
with which I see god.

One seeing
One  Light.

God’s light and my light
are one light.

rita h kowats






“Know the Raw Silk, Hold the Uncut Wood”

raw silk on uncut wood

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



Liberation through Seeings by Alex Grey on Pinterest 2

“The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one loving.”  Meister Eckhart


Some of you are aware of my love for this quote which has graced my posts more than once in an ongoing attempt to understand and live it.This is what it says to me today.  It’s a bit cryptic.  Plunge right in!

eye of god 2

Photo Credit: Liberation Through Seeings – Alex Grey – www.alexgrey.com / Sacred Geometry ♥











































Sacred Cycles Once Again

An invitation from years past to meditate on brooding-baring-bearing in the now of these troubled times.

“The seed of God is in us. Given an intelligent and hard-working farmer, it will thrive and grow up to God, whose seed it is; and accordingly its fruits will be God-nature. Pear seeds grow into pear trees, nut seeds into nut trees, and God-seed into God.” Meister Eckhart

Sacred Cycles

While resting beside Echo Lake,
A thriving refuge tucked aside from concrete carvings,
I am summoned to attention by two red-winged black birds.
He perches atop a winter-withered reed.
She plunges deep into the safe bosom of branches and she stays.
The primordial rhythm endures
Echoing the sacred cycle
Set in motion by bits of star dust
Burst from the verdant void before time.

Bird eggs into birds
Pear seeds into pear trees
Nut seeds into nut trees
Human seeds into humans
God seed into God.

In humans
God-gene generates godliness.
Like red-winged black birds
Hatching eggs,
Human souls echo the same cycle:
Return, return, return
Return to the God seed
To brood and bare.

© rita h kowats 2014

Humble Remnant in Soul Land

donkey at the Capitol

Some thoughts for this American season of Independence

Humble Remnant in Soul Land
Texts: Zech 9:8-10; Heb 11:8-16; Jn 8:31-36

In our reading from Zechariah we meet the remnant of God’s people who have come out of exile in Babylon to make a home for themselves back in the land they believe God gave them.  They are lost in transition and the prophet calls them to build a soul city with humility and nonviolence as its foundation.  Yahweh is powerfully present, standing guard against prowlers who would lure them back.  This new home is ruled by a humble man on a donkey who banishes the trappings of war.  It is a soul land, not a homeland.

Many Christians in America have been in spiritual exile for 239 years, asleep while a national lifestyle of violence and greed has come to so define us that we throw up our arms and cry, “What could I possibly do?” We celebrated Independence Day yesterday.  As Christians we seek to re-appropriate that goal by living in interdependence.  It is time to emerge from spiritual exile in the homeland of violence, hate and greed and enter the Soul Land we have inherited as God’s people.  The words of an old hymn recently moved me deeply, “The Word of God Is Solid Ground.”  It asks, “What powers can our faith constrain?  What iron-clad restrictions?  No self-deceiving rule can chain our conscience and convictions.  Our God alone is on the throne,” it goes on to say.  “For freedom’s sake we bend, we break, a sign to ev’ry nation that we have found a solid ground; God’s word our sure foundation.”  Let us not forget that our God’s throne is on the back of a donkey.

When we give countercultural witness from an ego place we are stuck in exile; however, if the authority to witness comes from the God we meet in prayer and self-reflection, we are a humble remnant ruled by the donkey-king. Sooner or later each of us is called to speak and to name injustice clearly and unequivocally.  Take a moment to recall such a time.  Where did your strength come from?  It is a soul-strength that breaks out in goose bumps and evokes a resounding, “Yes.”  People listen when we are able to say, “For I have been to the Mountain top!”

Let’s step out of lofty metaphors now and examine how we can practically address our society’s exile.  John’s Jesus tells his disciples that if they live according to his teaching they will know the truth, and the truth will set them free.  More lofty words, but notice the call to practical hard work implied between the lines.  Living according to Jesus’ teaching means that we take gospel values seriously.  We find the truth by paying attention and changing behaviors and attitudes in variance with gospel values.  Getting into Soul Land is much harder work than staying in homeland.  It’s no easy thing to prophesy from the back of a donkey.

Meister Eckhart provides rich material for meditation on this theme.  As a brilliant theologian and gifted preacher he chose to preach with a mind like a razor but from his perch on the metaphorical donkey.  He chose to preach in the market place and in German rather than Latin so that all the peasants under the thumb of the corrupted guild system and bishops of the church could understand his message that all people are aristocrats, divine by grace and noble by nature.  He condemned what he called the “Merchant Mentality.” His message was considered seditious to church officials and rulers who profited by the guild system, so they silenced him.  But that silence resounded clearly and boldly because his countercultural lifestyle was an invitation to emerge from exile.  His choice to preach an empowering message to humble peasants is a powerful example to us in our own century.  Out of his mysticism came a word which expresses exile poignantly:  ICHGEBUNDENHEIT, bound up in the I, the ego.  When we have loosed those bonds, says Eckhart, we give birth to the Son of God and that love spills out to the marketplace in acts of justice.

Finally, a personal example of my being stuck in exile and being given the grace to emerge.  As a member of the Ground Zero Community in Poulsbo, WA I passed out leaflets to workers entering Subase Bangor every Monday morning at 6:00 A.M.  As you can imagine my mind often wandered to that cup of hot coffee waiting at the end of my shift.  I struggled to remain nonviolent amidst weekly encounters with angry sailors and marines, and it was often difficult to fend off despair. For a year a man came in every week in a pick-up truck with a rifle rack on the back; sometimes he had two passengers along.  I stood there in my self-righteous indignation relating to him as a “red neck war monger.”  One Monday I was able to be more centered as I prayed that I and the workers would be open to hearing one another.  This man came in alone, looking depressed.  I felt moved to say, “How are you today?”  He blurted out, “How am I?  I’m terrible.  How else could I be, having to go in there and do what I do every day?”  I began to learn that we must prophesy truth with intelligence and clarity, but we must do it from the back of a donkey.

This poem, inspired by Psalm 137, came out of my meditation and I close with it:

On the shores of the Potomac
We sit and weep-
Outlanders in Homeland
Looking for our godvoice.
From deep in Soul Land
We feel its vibrations

Erupting into a Hope Song
Sung true and strong
In a foreign land.

Photo Credit Donkey:  photo credit: N06/14358934769″>Tourism Office – Mijas – donkey taxi sculpture via photopin (license)