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
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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.
Photo by Hasan Albari from Pexels
It has been two days since I visited my sister-in-law in the memory care unit. An intense collage of feelings have mixed with tears as I struggle to make sense of the unsensible.
GONE WHERE ARE YOU MOMENTS OF TERROR HUMOR GRIEF UNLESS YOU BECOME LIKE LITTLE CHILDREN YOU CANNOT ENTER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN WITHOUT THE ABILITY TO THINK…IS THERE A SOUL it’s all there.
Phyllis was diagnosed with Alzheimers two years ago and now after another fall and a broken hip and a move, the disease has progressed dramatically in a short time. I am grateful that my brother hasn’t lived to witness this.
At last this morning I was gifted with a measure of sense and hope:
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I entered the YMCA swimming pool earlier than usual today, desperate to heal from the strident rancor that stalked me through the written word, spoken word, unspoken word, words, words, words. No escape here. As I sank into the comfort of the hot tub, the blaring voice of Thursday’s aerobics instructor reverberated through the space, shattering my renewal attempt. “Let it go,” I told myself, “In twenty minutes she’s out of here.” I began my hour’s swim and instead of leaving with her class, the instructor lingered through “my” hour, engaged in a non-stop decibel-enhanced monologue with a captivated swimmer.
Workout ended and instructor gone, I sank back into the comfort of the hot tub, silence ensuing throughout the pool. Two deaf women joined me, signing sparingly, enjoying their time. Blissful silence wrapped around me like a child’s blankie warding off a nightmare.
A familiar thought pushed its way into consciousness. “I wish I were deaf. I hardly hear as it is, yet some sounds are physically painful…might as well take it all.” If my deaf companions could have read my thoughts I can guess their response. “It’s a privilege to be here,” they would say. “Its a privilege to be here as we are. It’s a privilege for you to be here just as you are.” Savor what you have. Savor who you are.”
I wrap a blanket of silence
around my battered psyche,
snuggling into its warm comfort
where I conjure the resilience
to surface in the world
© Rita Hemmer Kowats 10-4-2019
“At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is, But neither arrest nor movement.”
T.S. Eliot The Four Quartets
The Roundabout and the Still Point
Under clear blue sky
in Central Park carefree
girls and boys hop
onto a roundabout and spin
each rotation carrying them
away from the nascent secret
we conceal from them and ourselves:
the sky has fallen
yin has become yang.
clinging and cleaving to roundabouts
forged by fear.
Our grip is slipping now
and we are falling
by default into that Still Point of is-ness
where we embrace the yang
until our yearning for yin
puts the sky back in place
and the children back
on the roundabout…
As for us-
© Rita H. Kowats
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For the third time on these pages I post this poem with hope and a prayer that nonviolence will replace violence, that deep self will replace ego. I share the poem today in response to the possibility of yet another war in the Middle East.
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Here is a little something for us to sit with in preparation for Easter.
Photo Credit clenched hand: Photo by Oladimeji Odunsi on Unsplash
Photo Credit Open hands: Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash