Yesterday, to save time, I took the E-line bus which runs through the non-Amazon side of Seattle. It is a route which usually leaves me depleted of psychic energy. However, this time the E-Line gifted me with the blessed ordinariness of life. It was a holiday and folks were basking in their liminal time. Gentle smiles graced the faces of the poorest of the poor. An aging woman who still walked well gave her seat to an aging man who no longer walked well. I was unaware of my need to see ordinary folks going about their lives with courage and joy. Today this poem emerged.
Photo Credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/349447/ by Eugenia
This morning I feasted on a video from American Public Television entitled, Borders. PBS describes it this way:
“BORDERS explores the relationships and influences that Mexican and American craft artists have on each other and our cultures.” You can enjoy it here:
As I luxuriated in the rich, intense colors and the spiritual meaning inherent in the folk art I determined to learn more and to incorporate Mexican culture in my life more. Then I was slapped in the face by Donald Trump’s assessment of the Mexican people and I wept. This poem, Mother Hospitality, emerged as a spiritual practice to deal with my waning hope.
Caged within the borders of his fear
the xenophobe hunkers down untouched
by the diffused difference of cultures
casting bits of light on uncaged seekers outside.
Mother Hospitality tootles across the globe
picking up variegated pieces of light and love.
Her basket swings blithely on her arm in rhythm
with the hope that beats in her heart.
She watches for signs of cracking
then, quick as she can, tosses in a sliver of light
Enough to rattle the cage.
© rita h kowats 7-24-18
Photo Credit: free download from https://kathleenhalme.com/explore/cage%20clipart%20person/
Sherlock sits on my lap
eyes fixed on shards of light
cast by cracks between slats in blinds
(that is how the light gets in, you know, through the cracks.)*
I have only to look in his green oval eyes
to know what he sees-
cracks of light dance there on the surface.
Sherlock’s meditation becomes mine:
If we let it, cracks of light from outside
will dance on our inside,
casting colors clear and keen
illuminating the eyes of our souls.
I see you now.
© rita h kowats 7-24-18
* Thank you, yet again, Leonard Cohen
Our attempts at self-protection
cause us to live
in a cramped corner of our lives.
Frank Ostaseski “A Friend until the End”
Lion’s Roar July 2018
Senescence has overtaken my back, but I am releasing pain and regaining flexibility by doing PNF stretches and swimming. Compared to five months ago, I am literally a walking miracle. I often meditate in the water, where this analogy came to me.
A miracle for the back
Why not for the soul?
Breathing out ego
Breathing in light
Synced simultaneous soul-stretches
Creating space for the divine.
© Rita H Kowats 6-25-18
Hour Glass Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/hourglass-sands-of-time-woman-man-1356070/
When we are going toward someone we say
you are just like me
your thoughts are my brothers and sisters
word matches word how easy to be together.
When we are leaving someone we say
how strange you are
we cannot communicate
we can never agree
how hard, hard and weary to be together.
We are not different nor alike
but each strange in our leather bodies
sealed in skin and reaching out clumsy hands
and loving is an act
that cannot outlive
the open hand
the open eye
the door in the chest standing open.
This poem drew me into meditation this morning and I have strolled through its many nuances throughout the day. We allow the other’s difference to grow a wedge between us because we don’t understand it, and we can’t control what we don’t understand. We would rather muck around in the divide than risk the outstretched hand and the open door in the chest.
In their book, Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greewald describe their study which concluded that every human being fills in what we don’t know with what we think we know. In observing myself, I see that it is my ego that fills in what I don’t know, rather than the self that lives in divine presence. This self is strong enough to welcome that which is strange in the other, that which reaches out with clumsy hands.
My spiritual practice comes in the form of a pause. I pause before I judge. I breathe in respect and release fear. I breathe in love and release judgment. Once in a while it works. Our human instinct is to protect our ego, but the pause interrupts the knee-jerk impulse to insert it into the strange, unknown spaces of the other. The pause lets in the Spirit who places clumsy hand in clumsy hand.
Photo Credit: Photopin.com
photo credit: Michael W. May <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/14609664@N06/5376777351″>o is for open</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>
From Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God
trans.Anita Barrows and Joanna Macey
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.
-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.
“Eventually all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.” Norman MacLean
infant leaves emerge
tentatively from buds on stark white winter-limbs
like tentative souls
emerging from the dark night
© rita h kowats 4-7-18
In meditation on this magnificent Rilke poem given to me by my soul-friend, I realize that it is both an echo and a fulfillment of my own attempt to grasp the depths of our spiritual journey.
God speaks to each of us as she makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall, go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like flame,
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.
Rilke’s Book of Hours
But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God”. Ruth 1:16
Imagine this. Your father is eighty years old and his wife of 55+ years has just entered a Memory Care Unit. Every visit to his wife is a painful death. The added stress of learning how to manage his household and care for his own aging body is quickly depleting him of energy.
Like the biblical Ruth you hear a call that is more than duty. The call to loving compassion sounds clearly and insistently across Badlands and Cascades: Uproot. Go. Your people shall be my people. So you leave everything to make a new home with your father.
Who does such a thing? I am in awe of the courage and aware of the challenges. May I someday learn to be this selfless.
vibrates along every vein in every root
pulsing and pulling
tapping the primal tattoo heard by Ruth before you:
You scoop up your scattered roots,
clutch them close and set out.
©Rita H. Kowats March 23, 2018
The Badlands Photo Credit: Thomas James Caldwell <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/81643710@N00/15497697471″>Erosive Effects</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Tree: Photo by Daniel Watson from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/gray-trunk-green-leaf-tree-beside-body-of-water-762679/