Shadow Souls

Flare up like flame
And make big shadows I can move in.

Rainer Maria Rilke 


I, 59 

God speaks to each of us as he 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. 

Embody me. 

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.


Rainer Maria Rilke
In Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God
Trans. Anita Barrows

Patience

30 

Not making war 

A Taoist wouldn’t advise a ruler 
to use force of arms for conquest; 
that tactic backfires. 

Where the army marched 
grow thorns and thistles. 
After the war 
come the bad harvests. 
Good leaders prosper, that’s all, 
not presuming on victory. 
They prosper without boasting, 
or domineering, or arrogance, 
prosper because they can’t help it, 
prosper without violence. 

Things flourish then perish. 
Not the Way. 
What’s not the Way 
soon ends.

Lao Tzu : Tao Te Ching : A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way
Le Guin, Ursula K.; Tzu, Lao

31 

Against war 

Even the best weapon 
is an unhappy tool, 
hateful to living things. 
So the follower of the Way 
stays away from it. 

Weapons are unhappy tools, 
not chosen by thoughtful people, 
to be used only when there is no choice, 
and with a calm, still mind, 
without enjoyment. 
To enjoy using weapons 
is to enjoy killing people, 
and to enjoy killing people 
is to lose your share in the common good. 

It is right that the murder of many people 
be mourned and lamented. 
It is right that a victor in war 
be received with funeral ceremonies.

Lao Tzu : Tao Te Ching : A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way
Le Guin, Ursula K.; Tzu, Lao

Every day lately, I feel myself teetering on a precipice of despair, barely catching myself from falling over. Every day I heave many sighs of relief that somewhere someone has remembered the common good.  That somewhere someone has chosen nonviolence, and it has made all the difference. Then I begin the next day teetering and sighing.

Patience is a difficult spiritual practice for me. I desire the magnanimity to allow myself and others to grow at the pace we are able to grow but instead, I often despair over our human limitations. The practice of patience is a way to get through this time of social rancor.

Breathing in,   I am patient.
Breathing out, I release despair.

Breathing in,   I am patient.
Breathing out, I release shame.

Breathing in,   I am patient.
Breathing out, I release blame.

Breathing in,   I am patient.
Breathing out, I release impatience.
Breathing in,   I am patient.

May it be so.

What We See Is Not Always What We Get

Mass shootings every other day, judges threatened and shot for verdicts handed down, masks ripped from the faces of those who need protection, coups plotted, police and military infiltrated by far right extremists. Enough of the list. I know I am nearing the end of my rope when I stop reading a work of fiction, or stop watching a drama which features a selfish, arrogant, seriously wounded character.  Too much reality for me right now. The stakes are too high.

Somehow this insight from Ursula K LeGuin in her translation of Lao Tzu : Tao Te Ching : A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way gives me a way to cope:

“…values and beliefs are not only culturally constructed but also part of the interplay of yin and yang, the great reversals that maintain the living balance of the world. To believe that our beliefs are permanent truths which encompass reality is a sad arrogance. To let go of that belief is to find safety.”


Perhaps, I am wondering, this moral upheaval is part of the process of reversal, and the outcome will bring us a re-visioning of communal values and beliefs. The way I see things now is morphing into how we see things, although at a painfully slow pace. It is given to me to live with integrity while paying attention to what is emerging. I pray to remain open, making every effort to understand.

Photo Credit: gawler.org

Seething In The Soul





What to do in the Darkness
by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre

Go slowly
Consent to it
But don’t wallow in it
Know it as a place of germination
And growth
Remember the light
Take an outstretched hand if you find one
Exercise unused senses
Find the path by walking it
Practice trust
Watch for dawn

Empty And Full

The Uses of Not

Thirty spokes meet
In the hub.
Where the wheel isn’t 
Is where it’s useful.


Hollowed out,
clay makes a pot. 
Where the pot’s not 
is where it’s useful.






Cut doors and windows 
to make a room.
 Where the room isn’t, 
there’s room for you.
So the profit in what is 
is in the use of what isn’t.

Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way

trans. Ursula K. LeGuin

Releasing Anxiety: A Spiritual Practice

If you obsess over whether you are making the right decision, you are basically assuming that the universe will reward you for one thing and punish you for another. The universe has no fixed agenda. Once you make any decision, it works around that decision. There is no right or wrong, only a series of possibilities that shift with each thought, feeling, and action that you experience.

Deepak Chopra

Spiritual Practice

Calling forth divine energy I open myself to it’s movements within me, around me, and through me.

May spirit guides protect me.

Breathing in,   I am safe.
Breathing out, I release fear.

Breathing in,   I welcome possibilities
Breathing out, I release judgment.

Breathing in,   I am safe.
Breathing out, I release fear.

Breathing in,   I welcome possibilities
Breathing out, I release judgment.


May it be so.

PHOTO Credit: c. 2014 Shelly “First Day of School” licensed CC-BY sketchport.com

Embracing Our Humanity

“Do not fight against pain; do not fight against irritation or jealousy. 
Embrace them with great tenderness, as though you were embracing
a little baby. Your anger is yourself, and you should not be violent toward it. 
The same thing goes for all of your emotions.”

Thich Nhat Hanh
You Are Here
We are often so hard on ourselves when discovering our limitations.  Thich Nhat Hanh invites us to accompany our breathing with the mantra, "Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in.  Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out."  Today I adapt it to, "Breathing in, I know that I am human.  Breathing out, I accept that I am human."

The invitation to embrace all of our emotions tenderly, even those that want to shame us, brings me back to a time of meditation in which I lost myself in remorse and shame while pondering past behaviors.  The vulnerable child within me had long since introduced herself to me and I had taken first steps to welcome her back.  But the embrace of her humanity still alluded me.

In this meditation I felt a strong impulse moving me onto the floor before my little altar.  Without thinking, without words, I gathered my knees to my chest and rocked and weeped in that fetal position until the words finally flowed, bringing profound healing, "Margaret, I love you so much. I don't want to be ashamed of you again. I treasure your vulnerability for all that it teaches me."

Since that time, it's easier to accept my humanity.  But when the shadows return, I become the woman nestled in the womb of the Crescent Moon, where I rock for a while to recover from the utter surprise that I am human!

Breathing in,   I know that I am human.
Breathing out, I accept that I am human.

May it be so.

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.

The Re-Creation Of A Soul

“Therefore, tell me: What will engage you? What will open the dark fields of your mind, like a lover at first touching?”

Mary Oliver

This brilliant poem by Mary Oliver burrowed into my soul this morning, promising rich nourishment in the week ahead. May it offer you the same. Life, death, resurrection … Fitting for this Eastertide.

"Flare"
By Mary Oliver

1.

Welcome to the silly, comforting poem.

It is not the sunrise,
which is a red rinse,
which is flaring all over the eastern sky;

it is not the rain falling out of the purse of God;
it is not the blue helmet of the sky afterward,
or the trees, or the beetle burrowing into the earth;

it is not the mockingbird who, in his own cadence,
will go on sizzling and clapping
from the branches of the catalpa that are thick with blossoms,
that are billowing and shining,
that are shaking in the wind.

2.

You still recall, sometimes, the old barn on your 
great-grandfather's farm, a place you visited once, 
and went into, all alone, while the grownups sat and 
talked in the house.

It was empty, or almost. Wisps of hay covered the floor, 
and some wasps sang at the windows, and maybe there was 
a strange fluttering bird high above, disturbed, hoo-ing 
a little and staring down from a messy ledge with wild, 
binocular eyes.

Mostly, though, it smelled of milk, and the patience of 
animals; the give-offs of the body were still in the air, 
a vague ammonia, not unpleasant.
Mostly, though, it was restful and secret, the roof high 
up and arched, the boards unpainted and plain.

You could have stayed there forever, a small child in a corner, 
on the last raft of hay, dazzled by so much space that seemed 
empty, but wasn't.

Then--you still remember--you felt the rap of hunger--it was 
noon--and you turned from that twilight dream and hurried back 
to the house, where the table was set, where an uncle patted you 
on the shoulder for welcome, and there was your place at the table.

3.

Nothing lasts.
There is a graveyard where everything I am talking about is,
now.

I stood there once, on the green grass, scattering flowers.
4.

Nothing is so delicate or so finely hinged as the wings
of the green moth
against the lantern
against its heat
against the beak of the crow
in the early morning.

Yet the moth has trim, and feistiness, and not a drop
of self-pity.

Not in this world.

5.

My mother
was the blue wisteria,
my mother
was the mossy stream out behind the house,
my mother, alas, alas,
did not always love her life,
heavier than iron it was
as she carried it in her arms, from room to room,
oh, unforgettable!

I bury her
in a box
in the earth
and turn away.
My father
was a demon of frustrated dreams,
was a breaker of trust,
was a poor, thin boy with bad luck.
He followed God, there being no one else
he could talk to;
he swaggered before God, there being no one else
who would listen.
Listen,
this was his life.
I bury it in the earth.
I sweep the closets.
I leave the house.

6.

I mention them now,
I will not mention them again.

It is not lack of love
nor lack of sorrow.
But the iron thing they carried, I will not carry.

I give them--one, two, three, four--the kiss of courtesy,
of sweet thanks,
of anger, of good luck in the deep earth.
May they sleep well. May they soften.

But I will not give them the kiss of complicity.
I will not give them the responsibility for my life.

7.

Did you know that the ant has a tongue
with which to gather in all that it can
of sweetness?

Did you know that?

8.

The poem is not the world.
It isn't even the first page of the world.

But the poem wants to flower, like a flower.
It knows that much.

It wants to open itself,
like the door of a little temple,
so that you might step inside and be cooled and refreshed,
and less yourself than part of everything.

9.

The voice of the child crying out of the mouth of the
grown woman
is a misery and a disappointment.
The voice of the child howling out of the tall, bearded,
muscular man
is a misery, and a terror.

10.

Therefore, tell me:
what will engage you?
What will open the dark fields of your mind,
like a lover
at first touching?

11.

Anyway,
there was no barn.
No child in the barn.

No uncle no table no kitchen.

Only a long lovely field full of bobolinks.

12.

When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider
the orderliness of the world. Notice
something you have never noticed before,

like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket
whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.

Stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,
shaking the water-sparks from its wings.

Let grief be your sister, she will whether or no.
Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,
like the diligent leaves.

A lifetime isn't long enough for the beauty of this world
and the responsibilities of your life.

Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away.
Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.

In the glare of your mind, be modest.
And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.

Live with the beetle, and the wind.

This is the dark bread of the poem.
This is the dark and nourishing bread of the poem.


photo credit:  Barn photo taken by Rebecca Staebler, formatted by Rita Kowats