My postage-stamp-sized floors shine,
Reflecting my clean and polished soul
(“Cleanliness is next to godliness?”)
Sitting still I bask in the shine while I can-
Before splotches of spinach and sin
Soil soul and floor yet again.
Alas, the leaf blower beneath my window
Is the bell calling me
Back to mindfulness
(I hate this infernal cacaphony of chaos)
Breathing in, I welcome peace
Breathing out, I release this edginess.
Breathing in, I rest in Presence.
Breathing out, I release anger.
Giving thanks for this day humanly lived.
© Rita H Kowat 6-13-18
photo credits: mop and bucket <a href=”http://worldartsme.com/”>WorldArtsMe</a>
leaf blower https://unhealingmedic.deviantart.com/art/Leaf-Blower-289176773
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>
If you have never seen a Great Blue Heron walking, I assure you, it is quite amusing. These magnificent birds are as comical as we are in our daily ego-grasping endeavors. If we don’t laugh, we cry, so let’s have a laugh at our expense.
photo credit: DFChurch <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/77056186@N00/25777120120″>Little Blue</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
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.
I Invite you all to travel over to https://listeningtomylife.blog/blog/
Here you can drink in and savor the wisdom and experience of my dear friend, teacher and soulmate. This is a recent offering:
A friend sent me this poem today and I wanted to share it with you. This is the spiritual journey for me–letting go of all those old stories that keep me from living in peace. I love the image of the backpack. Getting rid of those old emotions that hold us in a tight knot. Filling our backpacks with compassion brings forth a sense of connection. May it be so!!
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> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
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
…when I lean over the chasm of myself—
it seems my God is dark and like a web:
a hundred roots silently drinking.
This is the ferment I grow out of.
from The Book of Hours by Rainer Maria Rilke
trans by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy I, 3
I live in the Seattle area where spring is a mixture. One hour we are treated to sun and blossoms, blue sky, mountains and shimmering water. Literally, the next hour we are plunged into gloom and doom, whipped about by wind and drenched by an onslaught of rain, hail and snow. Natives, accepting this show as a struggle for primacy between winter and spring, don their coats and await the next hour.
I write on the Monday after Easter and the sun and blue sky reign. The blossoming trees surrounding my home call me to emerge from my writing-table and walk. Some traditions call this Emmaus Day and the expectation is to go walking where one can “meet Jesus along the way” and break bread with him, as described in the gospel story.
Our spring weather lately has awakened me to the experience of many who are stuck in the hour of doom and gloom surrounded by blossoms and blue sky and the expectation that they just get on with it and move into that hour of new life. They may be asking, “What is wrong with me that I cannot celebrate,” and they feel strangely out-of-place in this Eastertide.
Krista Tippett’s podcast, On Being, recently aired interviews with persons who experience depression and who professionally work with persons who straddle emotional seasons:
On Being https://onbeing.org/programs/parker-palmer-andrew-solomon-and-anita-barrows-the-soul-in-depression/
I found the podcast inspiring, comforting and helpful. If you do as well, be sure to pass it on.
May the promise of Easter enfold you,