Monday, May 31, 2010

Flames and passion vs coolness and serenity

Some of my goddesses make me uncomfortable, and this one definitely falls into that category; I've not even been sure I wanted to include her in the collection. And looking at her, I can hear a song my dad used to sing in his rumrunners group years and years ago, strumming along on his washboard bass.

It's a song called Poor Man Lazarus (you can hear a cute rendition here, though I couldn't find any versions on youtube that had quite the charm my father's rendition had), and the lines in my head go like this:


I'm tormented in the fla-ame,

I'm tormented in the flame.
Dip your finger in the water,

Come and cool my tongue
Cuz I'm tormented in the flame.

It probably has something to do with that age-old association between sex and sin that's planted so deeply within all of us who grew up in classic christianity.

So I was amused to read in a little book called Buddhist Inspirations that I picked up this morning, that the original meaning of Nirvana is all about cooling the flame; about extinguishing forever the passions and cravings that lead to suffering. And thinking about that, I see another major difference between Buddhism and Christianity, and wonder how it is that I continue to straddle them both.

Because it's my understanding -- not just from this book, but from my other encounters with Buddhism -- that Buddhists believe longing is a source of suffering, and needs to be extinguished. But my understanding of Christianity -- which is not the classic understanding, but more a contemporary wisdom-based understanding -- is that that longing is actually a longing for the Holy, that it comes from an awareness of our sense of separation, and is a reflection of God's longing for us.

In that case, our job is not to extinguish it, but to comprehend and honor it, and to feed it with that which actually satisfies the hunger -- with serenity, and prayer, and connection and passion and worship and communion -- all the things that draw us into closer companionship with the Holy. The flames of hell come, I think, when we try to satisfy that longing by feeding it with something other than the Holy...

The differences between the two interpretations, of course, are all tied up with the fact that Christians believe there is a God, and Buddhists believe Nirvana -- which I guess might be equivalent to what Christians refer to as the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God -- is something you achieve on your own by a diligent adherence to a specific set of rules. Christ and Buddha both tell us it's something here, and now; a way of being and living that honors our connection to all creation. They have different understandings of what it looks like and how to achieve it, but share this sense that flames and passion are bad, that coolness and serenity are good.

So then what do I do with the cool blue flames of this curious creation -- and the way they mask the brighter hotter flames beneath? She seems almost embarrassingly seductive -- and is that a garter belt she's wearing? Oy!

Nope. Just don't quite know what to do with this one... She definitely feels a little... exposed; a little ... naughty. Maybe she's just about that longing we get sometimes for life to be... well, just... different. Not what it is.

This too shall pass...

Divine Companions

As a photographer, I'm always looking for clothing with pockets, and over the years I've come to see the presence and absence of pockets in women's clothing as signs of the rise and fall of that aspect of feminism that has to do with appearance, with woman as object.

There's something amazingly practical about pockets, and it seems to me that when clothing -- especially skirts and pants -- comes without them, it's a clear indicator that appearance has again become more important than practicality. Note: pocket absence is often accompanied by ridiculous heel heights, so you can imagine what I think of the current shoe fashions: pretty? yes. Wearable? Well, not for me, anyway!

I was reminded of my pocket philosophy over the weekend when my husband, in his cleaning efforts, unearthed a photo of me taken by an old boyfriend in the early 80's. In the photo I am wearing a rather fitted gauze shirt in an appealing plaid, and the shirt features two breast pockets; something almost unheard of in today's styles. The photo made me smile and remember I've always been particularly fond of breast pockets, as they make it possible for me to go braless by providing an extra layer to hide the telltale nipples. (Oooh, she said nipples!)

At any rate, it wasn't surprising that this goddess emerged not long after seeing that photo: I like to think of her as the spirit of practicality -- surely a useful spirit to embody. So I went looking in Joyce Rupp's Prayers to Sophia for an appropriate prayer to match with her today, and in wandering through the book I finally realized where these torsos may be coming from. I think they are representations of the Divine Wisdom -- Sophia -- that lives within us. Which of course explains why they don't need heads: they're not about the wisdom of our heads, they're about the wisdom that resides in our hearts, and in our gut.

So now I see it's time to begin at the beginning; to read Rupp's book about that wisdom, The Star in my Heart, as well as the Prayers to Sophia, and come to a better understanding of that wisdom. And the fact that so many of them feel a bit like corsets, or swimsuits, makes me think of those lines from Ephesians about putting on the armor of God: perhaps these goddesses hang in a sort of spiritual closet, and we dress in the aspect of wisdom we most need for this moment?

At any rate, it's fun to think about, and I think I may be on to something here -- or at least have begun to solve the mystery of what these images are about. And so I share with you the Sophia Prayer I read this morning that helped open me to that understanding of wisdom: it's called Draw Me to Your Heart:

Wise and Faithful Guide
keep my spirit entwined with yours.
Teach me about the poor and the pained.
Fill me with your mercy and compassion.
Help me to find your peace in my troubled moments.
Let love be the response I give to those who oppose me.
Constantly draw me toward all that is good.

Urge me to give my best to those who need it.
Lead me to learn from my discouragement and struggles.
Be the light I need to find my way in the darkness.
Fill my hollowness and emptiness with your love.

Most of all, continue to dwell within me
because your gracious presence is all I ever need.
It is enough to bring me through the deepest canyons
and the darkest crevices of my life.

Divine Companion,
draw me to your heart where wisdom resides
and daily let me choose to follow in your way.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Oil Spill Prayer

I confess I'm finding it hard to write today. It could be because there's a cat dozing on my wrists and nudging my fingers with her nose (I didn't close the door to my office tightly enough, and she snuck in).

But it's mostly because I can't stop thinking about the oil spill -- which is probably why today's goddess is so industrial-looking, and sort of devilish. She has a structural quality to her, which makes me think of structural integrity, but that reminds me of the LACK of integrity in the BP and Toyota executives, and I get discouraged all over again.

And then I was in town yesterday, and just outside the post office there were two men who had set up a booth. They greeted me with an enthusiastic "Hi!" and then mumbled something else that ended with the word "Obama," and I realized their booth featured a photo of Obama with a Hitler mustache drawn on his face, and they were collecting signatures to ask for an impeachment.

Which was even more horrifying.

I mean, yes, I voted for the man, and, yes, I'm disappointed in his performance. But the amount of venom spewing about from all the tea party people seems even more toxic than the oil spill. What is to become of us, I wonder, as I watch our country become increasingly polarized? And what a horrendous mess we are leaving for our children to clean up -- on all levels.

I don't hate the BP executives, or the Tea Partiers. But the selfishness and greed which are such an integral part of the human condition do seem to be winning here, and it leaves me with a horrible helpless feeling. I want to hope, I want to believe, that God can work through all things for good. But some days it's very difficult to sustain hope and belief.

At such times, all we can do is pray. So I offer here this prayer, which I found on a website called Oil Spill Prayer, where prayers are being collected for healing and an end to the spill. Oil Spill Prayer seeks to unite Christians and churches in the gulf coast, across the United States, and around the world in prayer about the Gulf Coast Oil Spill.

Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer,

You alone are sovereign over creation.
You alone created the heavens and the earth.
You alone sustain and hold all things together.
You alone are the redeemer and re-creator.

We praise You for your wonderful creation,
But now plead with You for your intervention.
In the face of great tragedy we turn to You,
We ask that You step in with works of restoration.

Be with the families of those who were killed,
May they be comforted with Your peace.
Be with those who were injured,
May they experience Your healing.

Be with those whose jobs are affected in an already tough economy,
May they receive Your provision.
Be with those who are working to contain and clean up,
May they be guided and directed.

What a shame that Your creatures should suffer!
Lord, please protect and heal them.
What a shame that Your creation should be damaged!
Lord, please protect and restore it.

As we ourselves are somewhat complicit in this tragedy,
Forgive us for our role in this crisis.
Teach us to reduce our own consumption,
That we might better care for and protect Your creation.

We again acknowledge Your sovereignty.
We pray that Your restorative work would be manifest,
That Your Kingdom come and Your will be done here and now,
That Your name might be glorified in all the earth.

We pray all this in the name of our LORD,
the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of all things.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

A dedication

It's Memorial Day Weekend, and our little neighborhood is overflowing with people come to celebrate the beginning of summer. But the weather isn't cooperating at all: it's cold, and gray, and damp, and looks more like November than May. Our only clue that summer's on its way is the low low tides -- and the folks who are walking out into the sound and lagoon to enjoy them.

But despite the weather, the sort of camaraderie we associate with summer is beginning, and yesterday was a delightfully social day: I got to reconnect with two good friends I hadn't seen in ages, and we spent our evening enjoying the company of two more dear friends who also happen to be neighbors.

Best of all, I got a mild surge of creative energy in the afternoon and created, not one, but THREE new goddesses. I still can't quite figure out where the impulse to do this is coming from -- and my concerns about their presentability were confirmed when we were out walking the dog and one of my neighbors said they were suggestive, and reminded him of old-fashioned corsets. So I probably won't be posting a link to them on Facebook anytime soon.

But here's my favorite of the three new ones: I call her Simplicity. Like the other two, she was created, not from old metal surfaces, but from an abstract photo of a boat -- in this case, a blue canoe tied up beside a dock next to an old red buoy. So in a way, it's a departure from the original series... but the theme is the same. And -- damn -- these are fun to build!

So I choose to think that somehow there's a light shining through them, some illumination that I can't see. And because one dear friend -- a breast cancer survivor who elected not to have breast reconstruction surgery after her mastectomy -- confessed that looking at them triggered an outpouring of grief over her loss of symmetry, I think I will dedicate my goddess series somehow to the prevention -- and to the survivors and victims -- of breast cancer. It feels like the right thing to do.

In closing -- since I've now finished Essential Spirituality, and am moving on to other readings -- I want to offer this wonderful prayer from Joyce Rupp's Prayers to Sophia:

Eternal Lamp of Love,
remind me often of how much radiance comes
from the glow of one small candle flame.

When my spiritual window is heavily clouded,

and your abiding love seems far from me,

restore my belief in your vibrant presence.

When I doubt my ability to be a bearer of your light,

shine your truth and wisdom into my faltering spirit.

Radiant Star in my heart,

in every generation you pass into holy souls.
Thank you for the illuminated beings

who have touched my life with their goodness.

Your light shining through them
has inspired me and filled me with spiritual energy.

Assure me that I can also be a Light-bearer for others,

a clear window of your eternal starlight.
Stir and whirl your dynamic presence in my being.

Stream your loving kindness through me.

I will open my mind and heart to your presence
as you greet me in the unexpected and the challenging.

I, too, can make a difference in my world

because of your radiant light shining through me.

I am ready to pay the price for transparency.
May my desire for deeper union with you be realized.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Opportunities abound

Can I just say this? I LOVE Rumi. Just love him. And he has two brief poems to share with me today -- which I now share with you:

The first is from Roger Walsh's Essential Spirituality:

"Your defects are the ways
that glory gets manifested...
That's where the light enters you."

The second comes from today's entry in A Year With Rumi, and goes like this:

A vine becomes wine
when you say,
"Pressure is necessary to burst open."

So, see? Whatever the stresses and broken places in our lives right now may be, they are also glorious opportunities for the light to burst in.

Now if I can just hold that thought...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The clamor of conflicting shoulds

I had such a useless-feeling day yesterday that I decided this morning to do a mix of reflection and meditation; to allow myself to examine my thoughts as they arose, rather than just determinedly releasing them and returning to center, in hopes that I could assess what appears to be a serious energy drain.

What rose up, as I watched, was a pile of what I think I will call "conflicted shoulds." And, on the off chance that you may be troubled with them, too, I'll offer some examples:

1. We get requests almost daily -- both mailings and phone calls -- from charitable organizations we've given to in the past -- Mercy Corps, Care, Ronald McDonald House, Breast Cancer Prevention Fund, March of Dimes... And we ignore them all. We don't pick up the phone (thank God for caller ID) and the mailings go directly into the recycling bin.

The decision to ignore them comes from a should: with no income and four additional mouths to feed, I feel we should be conserving our resources for now. And with all the cleaning up we're doing to make this move happen (my husband is moving his office up into our daughter's room, which she is cleaning out after four years of college so she and her boyfriend can move downstairs into his office, which is larger and has easy access to a separate bathroom and the front door) lots of stuff is being generated for the Children's Hospital Thrift Shop, so we're not TOTALLY keeping to ourselves.

But another part of me worries: we know most charitable organizations are really struggling right now. Shouldn't we stop operating out of fear (that our resources are limited) and continue to give, trusting in some sort of ultimate abundance? Hence the conflicting shoulds: should we save, or should we give?

2. Our older daughter is exhausted from a grueling last month of college, the sleepless nights devoted to her thesis, poor diet, moving out of her house in Portland and leaving all her friends and 20 years of schooling and all the discipline that brings behind, not having any idea what comes next. So she's spending a lot of time sleeping and skyping. She's making progress on cleaning out her room, but it's very slow. Should I be cracking the whip, or should I allow her all the time she needs to grieve and recover? Conflicting shoulds.

3. We had an infestation of ants after the wedding -- probably from all the sweets that were lying around -- and I had to clear out the cupboards and sprayed along the floor as well, following their path into the house. The girls have complained for two days that the floor is sticky. Should I have insisted they mop it up if it was bothering them? This morning, remembering the problem and thinking it would be best to mop before everyone awoke, I did it myself, knowing it "should" be taken care of. More conflicting shoulds.

4. My office is horribly cluttered at the moment, with all the things we shoved into it at the last minute in order to tidy up for the wedding. And I have two important projects I need to complete for an upcoming exhibit. But I'm fighting off a cold, and just recovering from a couple of weeks of back problems. I should be cleaning up and moving forward, but shouldn't I also rest and recover, take care of myself? More conflicting shoulds.

And what I see, from looking at all of this, is that under stress all my self-critical voices begin to clamor, and in the cacophony I lose my ability to hear the still small voice of love. Somehow I need to trust that if I can just keep breathing and listening, all these choices and conflicts will bring exactly what they -- and here's that word again -- should -- into my life and the lives of those around me.

So when this torso emerged yesterday afternoon -- at a time when I should probably have been napping, or cleaning, or preparing, or cajoling, or writing checks to charities -- I decided to name her patience, as she is the first of the torsos to look like she is sitting. I think I need to sit with all these conflicting shoulds, and just keep breathing; to trust that somehow the spirit will shine through.

It's all good -- but some days that's hard to remember.

Those concrete blues

I was having a little trouble sleeping last night, so came downstairs, puttered around in the kitchen a bit, and then sat down at my computer. As you can see, another goddess emerged. Her working title is concrete blues -- which I thought was just because she was made from an image of a concrete manhole cover, which was then supersaturated to reveal the blues.

But as I continued reading in Walsh's Essential Spirituality this morning, I realized there could be another interpretation of the concrete blues: it's that sort of depressed feeling you get when you're too caught up in the material world -- the aches and pains of your body, or the challenges of daily living, or financial issues. You want to rise above it all, but you're all too aware of the earthly limitations and imperfections of this existence.

Joyce Rupp, in her book Prayers to Sophia, has a wonderful poem to offer about this particular malaise. It's called Desire for Spiritual Growth:

Gift of Mercy and Understanding,
all my good intentions for spiritual growth
go sliding down the gutter
of responsibilities.
All my hopes
of deepening prayer
get splintered and broken
in the chaos of busyness.
All my desires
to have a quiet haven
are swallowed
in the jaws of my calendar.
All my resolutions
to rise earlier, to pray longer
are lost in the blankets
of an extra hour of sleep.

And all the while
I fuss and fume about this,
you look at me and smile.
Are you sending me the message
that spiritual growth can happen
among the very things
that seem to keep me from you?
Are you assuring me
that my desire to grow
is not lost to you?

... and then she quotes Proverbs 1:20-21:

"Wisdom cries out in the street;
... at the busiest corner she cries out."

If you're struggling with the concrete blues today, well -- this may not be a huge consolation. But know that even though you're not experiencing the highs you associate with spiritual connection and growth, both those things are still happening.

Here's hoping you get a minute to stop and breathe, to set aside the fussing and fuming and feel the smile of wisdom.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

All things are passing (Choices and Destiny, expanded post)

Tibetan Buddhists apparently make 3-year retreats, staying with a small group of fellow practitioners in a secluded house and devoting themselves day and night to continuous spiritual practice.

They spend their first month reflecting on four profound ideas:

• Life is inconceivably precious.
• Life is short and death is certain
• Life contains inevitable difficulties
• Our ethical choices mold our lives

The fact is that whoever we are -- even if we can walk on water -- we are always moving toward the same inevitable end. No matter when it comes, it will seem too soon. The path will not always be easy, and along that path there will be infinite opportunities to make good -- or bad -- choices.

And so, after meditating on that this morning, I came upon this image, shot at Millennium Park in Chicago last summer, and I was intrigued by what appears to be a face in the light reflected in the upper right corner. There's no obvious source for that face, and it doesn't exactly look like any image of God or Christ or Buddha I've seen.

But I do get this sense, because of the direction of the child's movement, that the face represents destiny, and that it is waiting patiently for the child's approach; perhaps even calling the child forward. If the child is me, or if the child is you, who is the face? What is it that calls to us, that keeps us moving forward into destiny?

So then I think of some lines from my Rumi poem for today:

"Essence is not nourished with food and sleep.
Do no one any harm in this timefield of short crops
where what you sow comes up very quickly.
You try to accomplish things, to win,
to reach goals. This is not the true situation.
Put the whole world in ambition's stomach,
it will never be enough.

Assume you get everything you want.
Assume you have it now. What's the point?
The next moment you die."

--Rumi, A Year with Rumi (May 25)

As I walk through this last month before starting school again, I think it's important to stay clear about why I made this choice. It can't be about ambition -- I'm hoping it's not about ambition. I'm hoping my goal will continue to be my own awakening, and that that awakening will somehow serve others; that the choices made will be ethical, and the goal compassion and oneness -- whatever form that takes.

After writing this post, I went off to my weekly spirituality class. And the poem that was read to introduce our meditation time seemed to add a perfect -- and much more positive -- closure to this post, so I've decided to re-post this and share it with you here:

Eternal Dwelling Place,
I know all things are passing.
My final home is not here.
Yet I zoom mindlessly through my days
missing the passionate gift of life.

How differently I would enter each day
if I embraced the shortness of my life span.
The things I consider inconveniences
would have a different colored hue.
The work I feel driven to accomplish
would pale beside relationships I cherish.
The irritations and the angers would dissolve
as I inhaled the preciousness of life.

Joyful Journeyer,
I hear you call to me this day:
"Behold! Enjoy! Appreciate!
Welcome all who enter this new day.
Live wild with rapturous wonder.
Look with awe and smile with elation.
Forgive those who stand at a distance.
Thank those who have settled i your heart.
Be tender with the rough edges of yourself.
Taste each morsel of life with fullness."

May I live each day with heartiness,
Keeping things in clear perspective,
recognizing that this day before me
might truly be my last.

-- Joyce Rupp, Prayers to Sophia

Monday, May 24, 2010

That quiet desperation

I remember reading Thoreau's Walden in college; wandering through our heavily wooded campus to pause and sit beneath a tree and drink in his thoughtful prose. And though now, some 40 years later, I know he was writing about his time away from the hustle and bustle of city life, I only really remember two phrases: "Beware of any enterprise requiring new clothes" and "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."

Though it is the first phrase that seems to crop up most often, and has certainly taken more thoughtful consideration over the years (as in, why do I feel I need to go shopping for something to wear to this occasion? Is there something in me that feels unacceptable? Am I trying to be something I'm not? Do I really WANT to be someone other than who I already am?) it was the second that came to me this morning at the end of a deliciously long period of meditation and reflection (my first really good one in what seems like WEEKS.)

Initially it came to me because I was praying for one of my daughter's friends, who has just returned from several months working in a third world country, whose father is dying of cancer, and who turns 21 next week. Any one of those three aspects of his life could be overwhelming; the confluence of events would seem to me to be almost unbearable -- if it were me, I think I'd be in an agony of inward twisting and turning.

But I was reading this morning about the inner self, the self others rarely see and we ourselves only barely begin to know, and it began to seem to me that there is at the heart of most people I know -- even the ones who appear to be most happy and successful -- a kind of desperate loneliness, a sense of struggling against insurmountable odds in some arena, whether it be the loss of a loved one, an empty marriage, a hunger for affection and relationship, a devastating disease, an enervating job, a sense of valuelessness, a need for a job or a home, a sense of purpose and direction, a space to call your own...

As someone said to me recently, it was a little easier when we were growing up: most everyone in my generation attended church as a child, and there were easy answers. God and Jesus were there for us, and looking after us, and would protect us and answer our prayers for all the missing and broken parts of our lives. But for many people the promise of that has faded, and it's not always clear that there's anything left of the oldtime religion to nurture and uphold our weary disappointed selves.

So what are we left with? Some of us are lucky, and have found some other sort of faith that somehow awakens joy and solace through building a compassionate connection between the self that lies within and rest of this universe we share. But for those who believe they struggle alone, how do we -- how do I -- support them without coming off as preachy or evangelical or some sort of know-it-all? Because, though life is good right now, I struggle, too, to stay connected and cheerful and calm, to be "Joyful, peaceful, loving and kind." And I'm not sure I have any real answers even for my own questions and challenges, let alone those of others.

I think in the end all I have to offer is a listening and caring presence. The only way I can really help is to mimic the listening and caring presence my faith allows me to sense around me; to carry the tender support I feel that sustains and bolsters me out into the world and to share it as best I can. But I can't really do that alone; it's more like channeling it through -- which is why I need these quiet periods of reflection and meditation. I think those quiet moments offer me a chance to clear the channel so the gift can pour through again. Because, left to my own devices, I quickly run out of steam, and get so caught up in my own desperation I have nothing to give to the desperate souls around me.

So I'm grateful for the quiet time I got this morning, after this last grueling week -- with luck, it will help me be a better companion for all whose lives touch mine today.

We'll see...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Reverend for a day

Having never officiated at a wedding before, I had no idea the experience would be so intensely joyful! There's something about standing between two people in love, and serving as an instrument in solemnizing that relationship, that was absolutely exhilarating.

Of course it helped that we've known this couple for decades, and that we were surrounded by family, but still -- the occasion was delightfully romantic, incredibly fun, and ... well... just... amazingly wonderful!

It was not without its challenges, of course -- no wedding is. Having laid out all the food on the dining room table prior to our guests' arrival, we went out to greet them and show them the decorations on the deck and then came back to find our dog had eaten most of the cheese from the cheese platter my daughter had so carefully prepared. (Given that he's diabetic, we were a little concerned about his health, but there were no after effects other than our mourning the loss of some truly amazing gourmet cheeses!)

The day was cloudy and thunderstorms were expected, so we were watching the weather report closely and delayed putting up these wonderful Japanese lanterns, hoping to mount them after the rain had passed. But there was a dinner scheduled at a local restaurant following the ceremony, so eventually we decided we could wait no longer and hung the lanterns -- which of course meant the rain came down in buckets, several lanterns were destroyed despite our efforts to save them, and the beach wedding we had planned happened under a makeshift awning on our deck instead.

But the occasion was full of joy and laughter in spite of it all, the ceremony went off without a hitch, the groom managed to sneak in a joke about "honor and obey," and a good time was had by all.

We've been fortunate to make a lot of wonderful new friends over our years in the Northwest, but these old friendships that endure over decades of time touch our hearts extraordinarily deeply. I was honored to have the chance to share my home with such wonderful souls, and to be able to participate in the ceremony was a blessing I'll never forget.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hidden within all things

"To recognize the sacred is not so much to see new things as it is to see things in a new way. The sacred is not separate or different from all things, but rather hidden within all things. To see the spiritual in ourselves and the world is to recognize what is always already present. This new way of seeing is an innate gift that needs to be cultivated."
-- Roger Walsh, Essential Spirituality

Yesterday my kids nailed some long driftwood poles to the little boardwalk that goes from our deck to the beach. The poles are temporary, erected partly to support a rope that will serve as a sort of handrail, and mostly to carry a string of lights. Without the rope and the lights, they look a bit strange -- or, at least they did, until the sun came out in the middle of a downpour, and suddenly the poles were calligraphy, carving words of grace on the horizon.

Or, at least, that's how they seemed to my camera. Frankly, I didn't see it until after I took the picture -- which is often how it goes for me. My camera -- all my cameras -- have always seen things my brain doesn't relay; it's as if the cameras have an invisible link to my inner divine. And I'm so grateful for that -- if I didn't have this alternative way of seeing, a way of turning off my inner labeling mechanism and just taking in what IS -- I'd miss an awful lot. I have to confess -- I shot several images AROUND the poles, not wanting them in the photo, until I gave up and shot with them in the picture, because that just seemed to be what was called for.

It's a perfect illustration of what Walsh is saying in this quote I read just this morning: the sacred is not different or separate. Or, as the gifted writer Marilynne Robinson says in Gilead, "Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. You don’t have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see.” That glow of sacredness is there, just below the surface, in absolutely everything and everyone -- even me. I like to think it's the sacred in me that shouts "Grab the camera!" to some other part of my brain and then insists on pointing the lens at something I don't understand: Perhaps it's the sacred recognizing itself and calling out to it, much as we spot close friends or family in a crowd and single them out.

But then, I don't need to know exactly how it works: I just need to notice that it does, and allow that to remind me -- again -- of what an amazing world this is.

Friday, May 21, 2010

All gussied up

My mom was born and raised in Virginia, and came into her adult life with a number of great phrases brought with her from her own southern family -- things like "Lord willin' an the crick don' rise" and the one that occurs to me when I look at this latest goddess, made of a storm drain I found in Portland last weekend, "All gussied up."

There were other related phrases we picked up over the years, of course -- "all dressed up and no place to go," or "mutton dressed as lamb" (I love that one, and, sadly, still often see it apply), "you can dress her up but you can't take her anywhere" and the old standby, "you can't tell a book by its cover."

They all have to do, I think, with the difference between appearance (which can be doctored to create an illusion) and reality; something we're all prone to confusing. We were discussing this last night over dinner: somehow the subject of bishops and clergy came up, and my older daughter's face began to curl into a bit of a sneer.

"Oh, no; this bishop (I was speaking of Bishop Tharp of East Tennessee, a wonderful man (now deceased) whom I dearly loved) was one of the GOOD ones -- like your godfather," I said, and her face lit up.

"I don't get it," my husband said; "It's not like they choose them blindly -- there are meetings, and interviews, and surely their reputations precede them."

Ah, I said, but the problem is that even knowing what they know, people tend to make these sorts of decisions based on appearances and charisma. I've known several extraordinary clergy who would have made wonderful bishops, who even got into the running, but lost out to folks who were flashier, or taller, or had more hair; were more charismatic speakers, or just looked better in their robes... a drama that plays out in courtrooms and corporations and hospitals and any number of other places as well. Which just goes to show, the church and its people are neither immune to temptation nor extraordinarily subject to it: it's a human institution, and as such face all too human challenges.

So what's the point here, and why am I talking about this? Perhaps because we're in the midst of gussying up our house right now. And I'm not quite sure if the tidying up is a GOOD thing, because we are removing all the distractions and revealing her beautiful bones, or if it's just an attempt to hide the true fact, which is that we're not a particularly tidy family, and don't worry about outward appearances as much as we probably should. Or, at least, SOME of us are not particularly tidy, and others of us have given up trying to police that.

I'll leave you to guess who falls into the latter category... In the meantime, I've got to get back to my gussying activities. Have a wonderful day!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The sweep of events...

Most families have a few common phrases with which to sprinkle their internal conversations, and our family is no exception. Many of ours come from two main sources: a wonderful old Talking Heads movie called True Stories, and a recording of old Monty Python skits, oddly entitled "Matching Tie and Handkerchief."

I mention that this morning because one of those Monty Python phrases was drumming rather repeatedly in my head as I sat down to write. It's from a routine called "The Cheese Shop," and it goes like this:

"Quite predictable, really; it was an act of purest optimism to have posed the question in the first place."

Usually we use the line when we've lapsed into an old pattern that has somehow become funny over the years. But in this case it's a different sort of situation. As of yesterday, we have two daughters and a de-facto son living with us, and we're all busily spiffing up the house for a major event this weekend. So of course we awakened this morning to discover we have no heat and no hot water -- and they can't get here to fix it until tomorrow.

So really this quote is a bit about Murphy's law, which, according to Wikipedia, is "is an adage or epigram that is typically stated as: 'Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.' It is usually meant as a purely sarcastic musing that things always go wrong."

Do any of us in my family really believe that? Oh, probably, but not in a bad way. But it's probably telling that another favorite phrase of my husband's is "expect the best; prepare for the worst." He used to be a mountain climber (though he had already stopped that by the time he met me) and... well, maybe he should have been a boy scout. At any rate, he believes in being prepared for any eventuality, and I suspect his most important way of preparing is to stay light on his feet, flexible, and optimistic. Which makes for a terrific mate, I have to say!

So now two of the kids are over at our neighbors' house (one's at the gym), showering. They've already removed the dead branch from the tree and cleaned out the planters and opened up all the Japanese lanterns. Everyone's in a good mood, we've closed all the windows and opened the blinds so what's left of the sun can warm the house before the expected storm comes. And life in the cool house (we're having a bit of a cold spell, so the outside temp is in the low 40's) will be what it will be. Que Sera Sera, as Doris Day used to say -- or sing!

or as the bumper sticker I once thought of printing was going to say -- "Life's not what it's not -- it is what it is!"

... and it's all good!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Blessings in a view

Summer's on its way, and so we're starting to get the low low tides in the daytime; it's always a temptation to walk out into the tide flats and see what treats we can find -- an old glass bottle, or a moonsnail shell, a giant crab or a gathering of starfish...

It's also lovely to sit on the deck, or in the living room, and just look out over the view. But this week I don't get to do any of those things, as we're getting ready for a MAJOR party and doing a lot of moving inside to create a space that works for everyone and gives everyone the privacy they need.

But it is lovely, every once in a while, to just stop, look up, and breathe; to remember that this is the view that brought us here, and this is the view that's inspiring the party, and that all of it -- the color, the air, the sound of the gulls and the scent of the seaweed -- is all an incredible gift; a blessing meant to be shared.

Okey-doke: off to work!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Molded by our minds

"When you label yourself or anyone else as bad, wrong, inferior, unworthy, and so on, you are looking through a narrow lens. Expand your vision and you will be aware that everyone, however flawed, is complete and whole at the deepest level. . . . This is how a figure like Jesus or Buddha could have compassion for anyone. By seeing the wholeness behind the play of light and dark, they found nothing to blame."

-- Deepak Chopra, The Shadow Effect

"As the Jewish Talmud observes, we do not see things simply as they are, but also as we are. Everything we experience comes to us molded by our minds...What we perceive is selected by our desires, colored by our emotions, and fragmented by our wandering attention. What we see outside us reflects what is inside us. The result: we do not see ourselves or the world clearly or accurately."

Roger Walsh, Essential Spirituality

Here's another mindfulness practice for you: Just for a day, watch closely to see what sparks a negative reaction in you -- situations or people that annoy or infuriate you. And then see if you can halt the flow of projection: ask yourself, "What is it in me that is coloring my response to this event or individual? What can I learn from this, and how can I -- in noticing my response and what drives it -- become a more compassionate being?"

We leave today for our daughter's graduation, so I'll be offline tomorrow. See you Tuesday!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Entering the fire

by Mary Oliver

You can
die for it --
an idea,
or the world. People

have done so,
their small bodies be bound

to the stake,
an unforgettable fury of light. But

this morning
climbing the familiar hills
in the familiar
fabric of dawn, I thought

of China,
and India
and Europe, and I thought
how the sun

for everyone just
so joyfully
as it rises

under the lashes
of my own eyes, and I thought
I am so many!
What is my name?

What is the name
of the deep breath I would take
over and over
for all of us? Call it

whatever you want, it is
happiness, it is another one
of the ways to enter

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Wisdom in the body

"You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves."

-- Mary Oliver, Wild Geese

Yesterday morning I paid a visit to my chiropractor, and after ascertaining that some of my problems could be traced to the fumes and dust associated with the construction project that's been happening in our kitchen this last two weeks, she suggested I might want some probiotics and/or vitamins to offset the effects and restore equilibrium.

I'm sure she sensed my resistance -- I am always reluctant to alter the chemistry of my system -- and so she said, "We'll let your body decide." She handed me the probiotic first and invited me to just hold it. "If it's what your body needs, it will lean toward it," she said. "If not, it will back away." Sure enough, after a second or two, my body pulled back. "Okay," she said. "How about this one?" I pulled away again. Then she tried two different calcium pills (the ones I've been taking have been wreaking havoc with my digestive system). One was a strong no, the other was a strong yes. There was also a strong yes for vitamin D3.

I loved the idea that my body knows what is good for me, and now want to see if I can take a breath when my mouth is craving something and just hold for a second to see if it's what my body really needs. I find myself encouraged in that by my readings this morning in Essential Spirituality, which today offered 9 different exercises to transform the busyness of daily life. The first five offered a variety of ways to fit the peace I find in meditation into the business of my life right now, and all seemed to involve this same act of stopping and taking a breath:

1. Do one thing at a time; don't just automatically pick up a book when you sit down to eat,
or turn on the radio when you step into the shower or turn on your car.

2. Transform daily activities into sacred rituals. For example, for one day, commit to stopping and taking a couple of deep breaths just before a particular activity, like -- every time you pick up the phone, or every time you open a door.

3. Transform interruptions into wakeup calls: when a child interrupts you, or the boss calls you into his office, or the phone or doorbell rings, treat it as a spiritual alarm: stop, wake up, breathe, and then react.

4. Stop right now and take three deep breaths, thinking with each, "Breathing in I smile, breathing out I relax. This is a wonderful moment."

5. Take regular breath meditations: schedule those same three breaths for predictable times in your day -- before meals, before the kids come home from school, before getting in the car, or even just every hour, on the hour.

We humans are such complex beings, and we live such complex lives that it can get overwhelming at times. Perhaps it's time to understand that we have within us everything we need to cope with that complexity; that we don't need to feel overwhelmed just because our minds can't quite stay on top of everything. Our bodies can help us cope; we have only to ask and allow for that to happen.

Want your day to flow a bit more smoothly? Wish you could feel that spiritual connection throughout the day instead of just when you're in church, or quiet, or meditating? It's always there: just breathe.



Listening for the music

"We rarely hear the inward music,
but we are all dancing to it nevertheless,
directed by the one who teaches us,
the pure joy of the sun,
our music master."

--Rumi, A Year with Rumi (May 14)

The high school on our island may be smallish (around 300 kids in each of the four classes) but it actually has two amazing photography teachers, one for film and one for digital. So photography plays a big role in the annual student art fair at the high school, and I get the wonderful job of judging the color images and awarding monetary prizes for best work on behalf of our local gallery.

Yesterday was judging day, and I brought my photography-major daughter along for the experience -- though I confess I was a little worried we might come to blows over the award decisions, as she is a young woman of strong convictions, and her tastes and mine don't always agree -- certainly she shoots completely different stuff.

But we had a blast, and found it surprisingly easy to concur on which photos were great and which were not. It seemed, despite our differences, that we nonetheless held common values -- which makes me think of Plato, and his conviction that there exists an Absolute Truth and an Absolute Beauty: objective and transcendent realities that have nothing to do with any individual perceptions or opinions.

It seems a very short step from that concept to Rumi's idea of a music master; that whatever variations there may be among us we are all dancing to the music of a single master. So then you have to wonder, what if we all made time to stop and listen to that inward music? Would we then be more in tune with one another? And what a wonderful world that would be...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A tribute to Tenacity

"I wish I could show you
when you are lonely or in darkness
the astonishing light of your own being."

-- Hafiz

That astonishing light of being manifests differently in different human beings, which is why sometimes we have trouble seeing it in ourselves. The most obvious example of this is probably the way young women obsess about their bodily imperfections; those pieces that don't quite match the airbrushed beauty of the models and actresses whose artificial perfections march across magazines and screens.

But as anyone who has ever tried to put together a resume knows, some qualities are easier to quantify than others, and some are harder to detect and claim than others. One of the qualities that falls into this category, I think, is tenacity; what my mom used to call "stick-to-itiveness." It's something I admire enormously, and I found myself thinking of that again yesterday when I read two of my blogsisters' writings about Colleen Haggerty, a resident of Bellingham, Washington, who lost one of her legs in an accident when she was 18 and is now walking a mile a day, raising money to finance prosthetic limbs for people who need them in Haiti.

It's not just Colleen's persistence I admire: it's also the persistence of these two amazing bloggers: Maureen, who writes daily on Writing Without Paper and works tirelessly to promote the good works and art of others, and Louise Gallagher, whose blog, Recover Your Joy, keeps us in touch with the needs of the homeless and her own struggles as a survivor of domestic abuse.

And then there's the persistence of my friends Karen and Teresa and Leigh, each of whom has lost a child and has turned that loss into a tireless crusade to help prevent other similar losses to the depradations of cancer, lyme disease, and suicide.

I could go on forever, I think; the list of men and women I know who display this remarkable trait is very long. But I think I'll stop here and just add a tribute to the one person whose tenacity has been the most amazing blessing for me: my husband, whose persistence in the face of my initial distaste and disdain has brought us both almost 26 years of joy, and whose efforts around the house these last few weeks as we prepare for an upcoming event and carve out space to house three 20-somethings for an indefinite time while they hunt for work have been nothing short of phenomenal.

Tenacity. Just another incredible aspect of the astonishing light of being.

I want to believe

"What I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled --
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe
that the imperfections are nothing --
that the light is everything--
that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading.
And I do."

-- Mary Oliver, "The Ponds"

I sat down with my coffee this morning, ready to read, and this is what I saw when I looked out the window: the fog making an island of the opposite shore, and everything gleaming pink and blue in the morning sun.

I went out to capture the light, and then returned to my coffee, and two poems later this passage appeared, and so I share it with you. May its faith help you float through the challenges of your day, whatever they may be...

Monday, May 10, 2010

You are what you see

A human being is essentially
a spirit-eye.

Whatever you really see,
you are that.

--Rumi, A Year with Rumi (May 10)


Though I thought I was done creating these torsos, another one came along over the weekend. To me this one looked a bit like an owl, so I named her Wise Woman, and then ended up re-naming all of them to reflect the qualities they seemed to evoke (so this one is now Wisdom). If you'd like to see them all together, click here.

So it was fun -- and encouraging -- after spending my weekend working on this project, to see today's reading from Rumi: it seems like it should be a photographer's mantra. And of course I'd love to think that if I can look at these images and see what I saw in them, then I can BE that as well. I'd always thought it worked the other way -- that what I see in them reflects something about me. But perhaps this explains why I love to look at peaceful scenes so much: I want to BE peace. And why I love to find the beauty and the holy in the ordinary: because if I can see it, then I can be it.

What will you be looking at today? Will you really see it? And how many of the things you see will you really WANT to be? What do we do about the things we don't want to see -- or be -- that inevitably cross our paths?

I'm reading the New and Collected Poems of Mary Oliver this week, and I read one this morning called Singapore that seemed both particularly compelling and directly applicable to this question about seeing. If you haven't read the poem before, you can find it here. Check it out -- and let me know what you think...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

My brain is a guitar with more than one string

After a week of doing the lovingkindness meditation -- chanting "May I/you/all beings be peaceful, joyful, loving and kind -- I understand a little better why all my attempts at meditation failed over the years until I found Centering Prayer.

Initially this mantra was wonderful. But as the week went by I realized my brain is a bit like a guitar: it has more than one string to vibrate. Which means the mantra can be chanting away on one string but the other string or strings seem to be able to move and sing independently.

So while I can hear and feel the peaceful, joyful thing -- and can even be conscious of how it falls on my breath -- some other part of my brain seems to exist separately from that activity. Somehow, attuning my spiritual focus to the mantra gives that other part of my brain permission to run rampant -- which means that not only am I not paying attention to those thoughts, but also I'm not experiencing the calm center of my being.

The end result is that I've been becoming increasingly less conscious and distracted during my non-meditative hours. i.e., this is Not Working for me! Turns out the central act of centering prayer -- releasing and returning to center -- enacts a kind of healing within me, and is an essential resource for my daily living. And, being the kind of person I am, I need all the parts of my brain and heart to be dedicated to that one central act in order for it to work.

So although I love this mantra, it will now become part of my conscious/awake time. Since I now know I've got at least two strings in this brain of mine, maybe I should just keep one of them strumming away at the mantra during the times when the rest of me is sort of on auto-pilot, going through the tasks of the day.

But wait: doesn't that mean I won't be fully present for those tasks? Hmm. I suppose at one level that's true... but if I think of the mantra as music, then I can think of it as replacing all the other music that is constantly strumming away in me. Because the fact is there is ALWAYS music playing in my head, whether or not I'm paying attention to it. So wouldn't it be good to CHOOSE that music rather than to just let it churn away?

Ah, but the music almost always carries a gift in it: often when I stop to listen to the words of it I realize my unconscious is sending me a message. So I'm not sure I want to replace it. What then shall I do with the mantra? Perhaps it is enough to add it to my garden of songs and trust my unconscious to pull it out and play it when it's important to do so. Which -- now that it's been playing in the background of my brain all week -- seems like a good possibility. Maybe my job was just to plant it firmly and water it for a bit; the fruit will take care of itself.

Mostly I'm just glad to get back to the peace of Centering Prayer. With what's coming up in our lives for the next two weeks, I suspect I'm going to need it!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Beauty isn't everything

Bainbridge Island has a lovely 150 acre nature preserve called the Bloedel Reserve. It's a wonderful place to wander through on a sunny day, and they control the number of people allowed in at any one time, so it's never overrun with crowds, and always very peaceful.

So my husband and I decided to go wandering through a week or two ago -- and, of course, I always take my camera. I was amused to see these sweet pink flowers along one section of the path: we used to have hundreds of them in our front yard when we lived in the woods of Issaquah. And pretty though they are, we got in the habit of pulling them up and tossing them, because they have a fatal flaw: they STINK.

We would walk out our front door in the morning and wonder if a skunk had decided to let loose in our driveway, the smell was so bad -- and as far as I can tell, we don't even seem to HAVE skunks in this part of the world. But then, we don't need them, with flowers like these and the ubiquitous skunk cabbage.

So, even though the plant is quite charming and decorative, and makes for a lovely lush groundcover, we decided it had to go. Which just goes to tell you: beauty isn't everything!

I have to say: as I age, I find that enormously reassuring...

Friday, May 7, 2010

What our decisions reflect...

Though our days are growing longer, the sunsets still pass quickly. So when I spotted these colors in the water beyond my living room window, I had to make a quick decision: run upstairs and open the blinds in the room where my husband and daughter were watching TV, or go out on the deck and capture the beauty with my camera. There just wasn't time to do both.

As you can see, I elected to go out with my camera (so much for family loyalty!) So what were the motives behind that choice? What were the factors -- the values, and the knowledge -- that influenced this decision? How many times a day are we making similar split-second decisions and choices, and what are they telling us about ourselves?

I am reading about ethics and morality this morning in Essential Spirituality, and I am also in the throes of writing the call for ECVA's next exhibit in the Baptismal Covenant series, which will be on the subject of peace and justice. So I'm unusually conscious right now of what goes into the choices we make, and how the motives as well as the choices can influence results and outcomes.

Somehow, in that context, my mantra for the week -- "May I be joyful, peaceful, loving and kind" -- has become, instead of a way to promote compassion, a sort of wedge between my spiritual self and my worldly self. It's an unexpected response, but something I definitely need to look at: some part of me has stepped aside and is accusing the mantra-chanting self of being a pie-eyed, impractical liberal. Which was not at all what I thought -- and hoped -- would happen.

But the part of me that's contemplating a step back into the corporate world -- even though I wanted to do that specifically to bring these values into the workplace -- is definitely doing some eye-rolling and muttering under its breath.

Sigh. Perhaps that's exactly why I need to be on this path: perhaps in spending time with both those sides of me and working to reconcile the two, I am participating in some larger reconciliation. But I confess that if I'm struggling that much within myself it's hard to take the next step in the lovingkindness meditation and wish these characteristics on the people and the world around me.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Attuning to Divine Tenderness

Crying out loud and weeping
are great resources.
A nursing mother, all she does
is wait to hear her child.

Just a little beginning-whimper
and she's there.

Cry out.
Do not be stolid and silent with your pain.
and let the milk of loving
flow into you.

The hard rain and the wind
are ways the cloud has
to take care of us.

-- Rumi, A Year with Rumi (May 5)

I'll be honest: I looked at this one and thought, you know what, I'm done with these things; I'm starting to find these relentless boobs a little... I don't know, tasteless? Boring? I even thought about not posting this one today.

But then I found this poem, and thought -- well, of course! I've been waiting for so long for a true spirit of compassion to be kindled in me. And now that I've embarked on the lovingkindness mantra, I'm finally beginning to feel that taking a firmer root in me. And what better metaphor for how it manifests than a nursing mother?

Because that's what I needed to learn, I think: that the loving is/was/will be right there, all along. When we become awake and attentive -- not just to our surroundings but also to our own needs and feelings -- we are becoming more like -- and more attuned to -- the Divine Tenderness that resides in the silence, in the infinite capacity for love within and around us.

If you've ever nursed a child, you know that tingling feeling in the breasts that arises any time you hear ANY child cry. What if God's response to us is just as loving, universal, and undiscriminating? Wouldn't that mean that God would be waiting, ready to comfort and nurture at the first indication of need? We have only to honor that need; God will take care of us. And then, I trust, in listening to and loving ourselves and feeling the tender response of the Divine, we can finally find a clear and shining path to universal compassion.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Not struggling alone

I've decided to try an experiment: for the next week, instead of doing meditation in the style of Centering Prayer, I will do a Buddhist-style lovingkindness meditation. Starting with the phrase "May I be joyful, peaceful, loving and kind," I will then begin visualizing others and saying "May YOU be joyful, peaceful, loving and kind," and then move to ALL humans and eventually to all BEINGS.

I knew when I sat down this morning that I wanted to do this. But I didn't quite know how best to make the phrase flow for me, so most of my meditation time was spent juggling and considering: do I want peaceful, gentle, loving and happy? Loving, gentle, joyful and calm? For some reason it matters how the words flow, and which words come on which breath -- the in breath, or the out breath...

Eventually I decided upon a pattern that seemed to flow for me -- for today, at least -- and settled in. And the good news is this: that even though the mantra doesn't completely still the monkey mind, it does seem to quickly take on a life of its own, and it does seem to have a sort of radiant quality: which is what I'm looking for, for now.

With all the changes going on in our lives, and all the decisions and activity taking place (by the way, my acceptance from Antioch's Center for Creative Change arrived yesterday -- Woo-Hoo!) I think I'm going to need to get a lot more conscious about cultivating and radiating peace, joy, love and kindness. My hope is that I can get in the habit of chanting it in my head in times of stress, when dealing with others, in traffic... whenever I need to be reminded that we are all one, and I am not struggling alone.

This new torso, which I created this morning (after two failed attempts yesterday) looks to me like she's carrying the world on her shoulders. If that's how you're feeling today, too -- well then, I wish you a ton of blessings, strong shoulders, and, yes -- peace, love, joy and kindness. And remember: you're not carrying those burdens alone.

Hmm. Now I like the sound of Loving, Gentle, Joyful and Calm.

We'll see...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Famous last words

"Dying in agony on a cross,
mocked by his executioners,
and jeered by a hostile crowd,
he breathed a prayer for them all:
'Father, forgive them,
for they know not what they do.' "

--Roger Walsh, Essential Spirituality

Here's another one that pretty much created itself -- and speaks for itself. I opened the file, and it was clear where it was going.

My husband tells a joke sometimes, about Vermonters sitting in front of a general store. The punchline is "Don't talk unless you can improve upon the silence." So I think I'll just shut up.

Monday, May 3, 2010

From a boundless heart

"As a mother watches over her child,
willing to risk her own life
to protect her only child,
so with a boundless heart
should one cherish all living beings,
suffusing the whole world
with unobstructed lovingkindness.
Standing or walking,
sitting or lying down,
during all one's waking hours,
may one remain mindful of this heart
and this way of living
that is the best in the world."

-- The Buddha, as quoted in Roger Walsh's Essential Spirituality

The image above was a complete surprise. I discovered a rather striking shot I'd taken of a bit of graffiti on a rusted bridge, and, out of curiosity I copied and flipped it, then flipped it again, and this is what emerged. It only took a little tweaking to bring the bottom to more of a point, but the rest is pretty much exactly as it first appeared.

And as much as I love all the torsos I've worked on and all the hours of work I've put into them to allow their true selves to emerge, I have to say I'm incredibly fond of this one. I think that's because I interpret the ease of it -- the way it almost created itself, with so little interference from me -- as an indicator that I'm on the right path, that I'm learning a new way of seeing, that true self is emerging in the process.

So then to get up some twelve hours later and be given this wonderful passage from the Buddha feels like confirmation: I am moving toward -- even perhaps already standing in -- that boundless heart that is our source and destination. And somehow the image tells me that the process may not be pretty: there may be blood, and mess, and dirt along the way but in the end the heart will explode with love and soul/true self/the Divine Nature will emerge triumphant.

And it's all good.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Breathing in the rightness of things

Why ask about behavior
when you are soul-essence
and a way of seeing into presence?
Plus you are with us.
How could you worry?

You may as well free a few words
from your vocabulary:
why and how and impossible.
Open the mouth-cage
and let those fly away.

We were all born by accident,
but still this wandering caravan
will make camp in perfection.

Forget the nonsense categories
of there and here.
Race and nation and religion.
Starting point and destination.

You are soul and you are love,
not a sprite or an angel or a human being.
You are a Godman-womanGod-manGod-Godwoman.

No more questions now
as to what it is we are doing here.

-- Rumi, A Year with Rumi (May 2)


I read this poem AFTER a rather jumbled meditation period, and it just sort of whisked all those complicated thoughts away. When will I KNOW all this stuff that Rumi says, and stop needing to be reminded of the rightness of things?

Ah, but that's okay, too; it's all part of the journey.

And it's all good.