Saturday, February 20, 2010

When Martha and Mary circle into one

Each one of us has a Mary deep within us, glued to the feet of the Master. There are incredible luminous depths within in which we know how to listen and to whom we are listening. But the clarity of our listening is obscured because out on the periphery we also have a Martha who thinks that the whole world is riding on her back, and drowns out the inner music with her constant barrage of "I need," "I want," "Pay attention to me."
-- Cynthia Bourgeault, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening

This morning it was my Martha who walked into the kitchen, wondering what she did to her knee, reminding herself to make a note to buy more fish food, opening a new packet of syringes, giving the dog his insulin shot, and pouring a cup of coffee to set in the microwave. It was Mary, I think, who paused to look past the dishes in the sink and the blue bottles on the windowsill; who noticed the two geese carving lazy circles in the radiant lagoon beyond the window.

This, for me, has been the hugest blessing of being a photographer: my camera serves as a constant invitation for Mary to keep noticing the world, even if it is Martha who thinks, "Wow -- that would be a great photo for the blog!" and steps outside with the camera. Though we may describe these two aspects of our personality as separate, they work best when they are permitted to function as one; one noticing, one acting, one being.

As Bourgeault says, "It's not that Martha is "wrong" and Mary is "right." Both types of awareness are necessary for functioning in this world. But the idea in spiritual transformation is to integrate and reprioritize these levels so that our ordinary awareness is in alignment with and in service to our spiritual awareness (which in in service to the divine awareness.) In that alignment our being flows rightly, from innermost out. When something needs to be done in the outer world, we have sufficient ego strength to do it. But unlike ordinary awareness, which is always doing things to assert itself or fulfill itself, action grounded in our spiritual awareness merely flows out of the divine abundance without regard to outcome or any need to draw attention to itself."

I love that phrase -- action flowing out of divine abundance. And I think that's how it feels when I stop rushing forward or mulling over the past, but instead just stay in the present and pay attention. In those moments, when Martha and Mary are a perfect team, when the acting flows out of the listening and the attention, it is as if a healing stream is flowing through me.

And again I hear those words: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.

1 comment:


I've just paged through 5 days of your posts - not really pausing to concentrate. However, this photo stopped me dead in my tracks - just lovely. The Mary/Martha team recommendation is a great one - neither one nor the other but together - it works for me too:) Thanks for making me smile about myself and for the pause on the lovely photo!!