The virtue of patience often eludes me. Today I am longing to return to the swimming pool in the worst way. The confines of covid don’t bother me, nor do long periods alone, because it is my intentional lifestyle. But my poor old body can barely wait to get back to the pool.
A meditation on I Ching 5 hexagram this morning is helpful, especially this line:
It is only through patience that you can
become the bridge between the fickle fish
and the eventual feast.
I send you the gift of graceful waiting today.
The Great Blue Heron Lurches from side to side Scouting succulent salmon Twitching in the tide. Settling on a spot in which to spy She turns her head sideways To see salmon swimming. And waits. And waits.
In my dotage I too lurch from leg to cane to leg, Longing for the feast, but missing it, Too intent upon ego offerings That clamor for attention. The wait is too long; “Succulent salmon, slither hither!”
I stand here
Outside of myself
And watch as I commence
Into venerable vulnerability-
At least that’s what the young call it;
It doesn’t feel venerable yet.
I watch with surprise
That this old body that once
Could stave off
All manner of ailment
Bouncing back stronger,
Now fights a succession of infections
On a pilgrimage to commune
With the bones
Of my once stately cathedral.
I stand here
Outside of myself
And watch as I
Cry through the loss
Like an ancient willow wailing
Over limbs taken by thankless winds.
I feel the phantom sensations
Of my coveted limbs tingle
With strength, endurance and joy.
If I stand here
Outside of myself long enough
I will see green-leafed limbs
Poke through the paneless windows
Of my bone cathedral,
patience, acceptance and resignation.
I stand here
Outside of myself
Awestruck by this holy episode
We call life.
The reflections of Jan Richardson always delight and enrich me. This piece I meditated on today seems particularly apt nourishment for us now.
Richardson reflects on Hildegard von Bingen’s work, Scivias, in which the mystic personifies virtues. “Longing stands next to Patience,” says Hildegard, and Richardson reflects, “Yes, and I am wedged in between them. How do Patience and Longing live together in you?”
A question for us to ponder as well.
“Longing stands next to Patience”
Longing would sometimes like to be assigned a different spot. Would like to be less near this one who approaches everything with such equanimity. Would like some distance from the measured way that Patience marks time, holds herself with such politeness toward its passing. Patience knows this about Longing. Accepts it, even loves it about her. This makes Longing crazy. Patience has not told her she has some envy of Longing’s perfect ache or that she thinks it must be an art to hold oneself so perpetually poised toward the horizon. For her part, Longing has not confessed that there are days she finds Patience restful. Soothing. A relief. Meanwhile, by little and by little, so slowly its appearance will startle them both, a horizon is drawing near.
May Longing and Patience teach you by turns: not just the fire but the tending of it, not just the well but the digging; not just the vision but the enduring it asks, by day and by darkness drawing us on.
In the Sanctuary of Women: A Companion for Reflection and Prayer by Jan L. Richardson
“False alarm, everybody…turns out the coronavirus only kills old people.” @ahleuwu
Laura Dorwart, Ph.D. on Twitter: “Trying to claim disabled people aren’t regularly and systemically devalued, disposed of and dehumanized is pretty tough given all the “don’t worry, Real People won’t die, only Non-People like old and disabled people will.”
Gov. Jay Inslee Wednesday 3-11 Seattle in response to a reporter’s question about the penalties for those who ignore social distancing mandates. “Penalty is you might be killing your grandad if you don’t do it.”
Elderly and disabled persons, among other groups, are often considered disposable. I do not refer to the medical community which has to make necessary decisions about who lives and who dies in extreme emergencies. I mean us. Let’s take the word “only” out of these discussions about covid-19.Instead, we could say, “primarily affects…”
The Common Good lurks Under a subterfuge of denial:
Only the old die. Only the disabled die. Only the poor die.
Come back, Common Good. Cast your expected aura Of empathy-energy around us. Redeem our frightened and frazzled spirits.
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.
I have recently been gifted with a profound metaphor that I will share with you, but first
TWO STORIES. A treasured member of my faith community lives with early on-set Parkinson’s Disease. When his brain stops moving him forwad, he walks backward. Healthline.com says, “It’s a simple way for you to challenge different muscles and force your mind to focus and operate differently.” Rather than stopping, my friend lets go and imagines another way to move. Backwards becomes frontwards.
In the 1960’s war novel, Catch-22, Yosarian walks backwards, “…because he was continually spinning around as he walked to make certain no one was sneaking up on him from behind.” Yosarian was experiencing the reality of war, not paranoia. The enemy was sneaking up behind him with intent to kill. His fixation on fear had taken possession of him, so he walked backwards to be safe. And now
THE METAPHOR. What if we trained our souls to stop the unhealthy ego-spin by walking backwards? This spiritual practice necessitates a profound letting-go, just as it does when our bodies attempt to walk backwards. We are awkward and afraid of falling, so we rely on a friend’s arm or trekking poles, and our progress is slow. Spiritual backwalking requires us to rely on the movements of the Spirit instead of relying solely on an out-of-control ego. We find the courage to walk inside the dangerous fissures of constant change and uncertaintly. We take on a holy vulnerability when we risk this spiritual backwalking.
Our society doesn’t endorse walking backwards. It’s motto is forward-thrust with great gusto, a speed which supports all manner of unhealthy ego-patterns, the worst of them being an inordinate drive to control self and others at all cost. This is the war zone we find ourselves in at this moment and like Yosarian, we have to walk backwards to be safe. We have to let go and trust Spirit to companion us through the change and uncertainty that bombards us. And now
One of our blogging community members offered this beautiful story about PD folks “unfreezing ” by dancing. Enjoy:
Coleridge enthusiasts will recognize the reference to the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, “Alone, alone, all, all alone/ Alone on a wide, wide sea/ And never a saint/ Took pity on my soul in agony.” Whether spawned from an opium delerium or a moment of contemplation, the truth is there.
A nod to my friend Ernest Hemmingway and his brilliant short, short story, “A Clean Well-Lighted place,” where all is nada without one.