Accumulated Angst

the-scream-792x1024-1

Edvard Munch, The Scream (1910), from the collection of the Munch Museum, Oslo. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

 

Someone living on my floor walks very heavily on the way down the hall to the recycle room across from my apartment. The footsteps are jarring because there is nothing to fear outside my door, yet I am unnerved by them. I even feel irritated every time I hear them. They put me on edge, as though pending danger waits on the other side. I sit on my chair and wait for the other shoe to drop. The fear surprises me because I am no longer a fearful person. It seems so silly, but…

Unconsciously I am hearing increased gunshots ringing out in many cities all over America. And the footfall keeps dropping. I hear reports of almost 4 million cases of covid. And the footfall keeps dropping. I see federal agents beat a silent, still protestor. And the footfall keeps dropping.

I am on the alert now, unaware before that I flinched with every heavy step I heard outside my door. Flinching fear is a safeguard for which I am grateful. But I don’t want it to wield power over me, influencing my life in unexpected and unconscious ways; so I bring it here into the light.

 

Spiritual Practice For Releasing Fear

 

Breathing in,   I rest in my courage.
Breathing out, I release fear.

Breathing in,   I rest in my power.
Breathing out, I release fear.

Let us pray

May we be content with our own best selves.
May we manage our discontent peacefully.

Amen. May it be so.

Revisiting “CRASH”

The year 2004 brought us an extraordinary film written and directed by Paul Haggis.  Crash won three Academy Awards, Best Picture one of them.  The film deals with every shade of the complex human experience of race in America.  It is on my mind as we wrestle with the reality of George Floyd’s murder. The film calls me as a white person to see the truth straight on, ask the hard questions and work toward conversion and acts of justice.  It calls every race to do that by holding a mirror to the consequences if we continue to ignore our inner work.    Two scenes contain the seed of the whole film.

The first scene, “Pat Down by the Police” will ask you to be brave.  It is not for the faint of heart, containing violent language and action toward a woman of color. Officer John Ryan (Matt Dillon) stops a car taking Hollywood director Cameron Thayer (Terrence Howard) and his wife Christine (Thandie Newton) home after an awards event.  Its truth is stark and powerful.

 

 

The second scene, “Car Fire,” turns the previous scene upside down and we are forced to examine the meaning of trust and vulnerability.

 

 

I invite us to gather in living rooms as adults and older teens to view this film for the first time or again.  Open a discussion of how it relates to George Floyd’s death and how we each carry the seeds of racism  buried deep or edging to the surface.  Spirituality is to be born in acts of justice.  We must not hoard it for self-gazing.

Life on the Ledge: Encore

goats

Little did I know when I first posted this piece, that it would become far more haunting and applicable to today’s experience of a pandemic..  I wondered if human beings, like mountain goats, are spiritually coded to stand on the ledges of spirit.  May we not fall off.  And if we do fall off, may we land well.  Godspeed everyone.

Life on the Ledge

A Spiritual Practice For Aging

THE ABANDONED VALLEY

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.

© Rita H Kowats

Free-Flowing Action

 

photostudio_1526928780789

 

From Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God
trans.Anita Barrows and Joanna Macey

1,12
I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for
may for once spring clear
without my contriving.
If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.
Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.

 

photostudio_1527011951749

 

Conflicting Images Emerge:

-No forcing, no holding back

-But rivers can overflow,.wrecking havoc on nearby communities

-“Let justice roll down like a river,” Amos 5:24

-The Colorado river carved out the Grand Canyon over a period of millions of years

-Rivers plunge over steep ledges into pools below. Hear the roar of Niagra Falls and Victoria Falls in Zambia

-The River Dee in Scotland meandering along peacefully, allowing fly fishers the luxury of patience.

I resist the drive to dualize by insisting that I act this way and not that way. What matters, in Rilke’s mind, is that my action be true to itself, authentic.

Afterall,

“Eventually all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.” Norman MacLean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo credit: ShinyPhotoScotland N08/24432298457″>Mist in the Carse of Gowrie via photopin (license)

Breach the Beach

photostudio_1525547922105

I settled into my meditation on the dock this morning, luxuriating in black bird twitters and the flash of red wings. The sun on my back thawed my winterized bones.  Ahh, how good to be alone with the divine… until the holy muse quietly morphed into a magnificent Great Blue Heron holding vigil in the water lilies.  Her faithful practice spoke to me,”Stand still. Watch and wait.  Your authentic self will catch up with you.”

 

Beach Combing

Bring Us Goodness And Light

 

 

This morning’s news cycle brought me back to that precipice of despair once again, so I begin yet another span of time away in which to allow space for the phoenix to rise again. I spare you the stories which pushed me over the edge so as to avoid putting the negative energy out there again-besides, you know them already.

My spiritual practice for this time came to me from, of all things, the Christmas carol, “Do You See What I See?” The phrase, “He will bring us goodness and light” engaged me. I want to counteract evil by radiating divine light and goodness. I rewrote the verse to reflect my theology and my heart.

Candle lit , I am ready to sing my song. Join me?

 

Listen to what I say
Live for peace, people everywhere,
Listen to what I say
The Christ, the Christ, moving in our world,
Will bring us goodness and light,
Will bring us goodness and light.

May it be so. Amen.

 

 

 

Photo credits:bxccbghcgsrasumofm.com “Phoenix Rising”

indigo aurora borealis photo pin with shadow

 

Mantras As Tools For Spiritual Growth

 

 

It should come as no surprise that much of what you read here has already been written elsewhere, for there really is “nothing new under the sun.” Thank you to the mystics and wonderers who go before me. What is new for each of us is the aha moment when we see a truth for the first time or when we peel away another layer so as to understand at greater depth.

For a few years I have used this mantra to stop the human flow of judgment and criticism,”God alive and we thrive.” If god is alive in the conversation, we thrive instead of being dragged down in a cloud of negative energy. I have found the mantra quite helpful until the other day when I had to deal with the incessant noise that accompanies city living and was given a new layer of meaning. I recalled a video of a Buddhist nun who used a bell to call her to mindfulness. She alluded to feeling so frustrated and impatient with the noise that kept her from mindfulness, and substituted the noise itself as the bell calling her to mindfulness. I began to consider the noise outside as a call to mindfulness and a different word came up, the word “presence.” My mantra became “Breathing in presence I release irritation. Breathing in presence I release unrest.” After a while the noise slipped away and I was gifted with a few moments of connection with the divine…much more satisfying than fixating on the noise of garbage trucks uploading!

Subsequently, other uses of the mantra have presented themselves to me. One day I fixated on the possibility of someone’s interference in my life. That negative energy did me no good at all, but this mantra transported me out of it, “Breathing in presence I release mistrust. Breathing in presence I release fear.” When we live in divine presence there is simply no space for negative energy. When we invite presence we are inviting the divine presence that lives in the other person to share space in our being.  It is like greeting someone with “Namaste, I greet the god in you.”

I invite you to try this mantra and share in a comment that will give all of us tools for our spiritual growth. Blessings be yours.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: http://www.clipartpanda.com/clipart_images/garbage-truck-clip-art-10415641

 

And Now the Damn Dandelions

 

 

(for Caron)

As a scruffy six-year-old I loved to sprawl on the parking strip under the Hawthorne trees Dad planted and pick dandelions to string a necklace for Mom. I’m sure the people riding past on the city bus were quite amused at the sight.  I wore  rolled-up baggy jeans, orange Mr. Magoo glasses, and tight Richard Hudnut Quick Home Perm curls.  When satisfied with my masterpiece, I ran up the stairs and through the backyard to the kitchen screen door, which banged repeatedly behind me like a glorious drum roll announcing my grand gift.  “Oh, Honey, it’s beautiful!  Yellow is my favorite color, you know,”  Mom exclaimed with every new necklace.

As a budding teenage beauty I lounged on the parking strip with friends hoping that Billy would just happen to walk by.  Right.  His paper delivery route took him by my house at the same time every summer afternoon.  To wile away the time we plucked the leaves off dandelions to the tune of “He loves me, he loves me not.”

And now, the damn dandelions!  They served me well in younger, carefree days.  in adulthood they are an eyesore, a nuisance. We regard them as useless weeds which overtake our carefully manicured grass, buying into the lawn culture marketed by herbicide companies.

What if we regarded dandelions as we do the weeds in our carefully manicured souls?  Let them grow among the virtues while we train them. We could treat them like questions living into answers, as Rilke says. The result just might be a more human landscape.

 

photo credit: Fire Engine Red <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/22620629@N05/25729346044″>Dandelions DP</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

 

 

Good Friday 2018

 

 

. . . Whom should I turn to,
if not the one whose darkness
is darker than night, the only one
who keeps vigil with no candle,
and is not afraid—
the deep one, whose being I trust,
for it breaks through the
earth into trees,
and rises,
when I bow my head,
faint as a fragrance
from the soil. [II, 3]

Rainer Maria Rilke from Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macey