This Moment

40916 rise2

I want to stand each moment of each day with my arms wide open.
I want to stand fragile and strong before everything that is now.
I want to hold my arms wide open and speak my heart in this moment.
  I have only what is here now.
And I choose to hold my arms wide open right now.
To embrace the joy of this moment as the sun rises.
To be comforted and sheltered in the love given freely from others.
To receive and accept that love with humility and in gratitude.

To hear the cries and screams of humans around the world at this moment.
To shed my tears and sing my songs to what is here now.
To feel, and not shut out what it means to be human.
My arms are wide open to this moment.
To everything.
To everyone.
I stand with my arms are wide open to this moment.
~ KBH 2016

I was on a silent retreat two weeks ago, and in that silence I cried often. I had to sit silently with those tears and the feelings and thoughts that brought them forth. I had to let them be. Real. Full of sorrow. The hurt and misery in the world brought about by one human being to another human being was like a cattle prod to my heart and soul. All that could manifest were the tears.

During a short meeting time with Joan Tollifson I expressed my feelings of sorrow. In her talks of ‘unbroken wholeness’, or, similarly, ‘the perfection of imperfection’, she points out there is no one-sided coin. Things in the world are as they are, in this moment. We cannot deny the hurt, suffering and pain in the world. Joan shares her thoughts that we have to move from empathy with our fellow human beings who are in pain and suffering and rise to compassion. Through empathy I may be able to understand and share (in most cases minutely so…) the feeling of others, but through compassion I elevate them to a “universal and transcending” experience. (Psychology Today)  Compassion builds on empathy and impels us towards deeper humanitarianism.

I will not stop believing we can do better for and by one another, no matter who the “other” may be. In this moment I take small actions by listening to and checking the words I speak, to keep judgment, bias, hate, fear and narrow-mindedness at bay.  In this moment I work to understand the fears I have and to inspect them for validity. In this moment, with compassion and interest, I listen to the spoken stories of others in an effort to learn and understand, so that I may be informed, free from fear and ignorance and grow in compassion and consideration. In this moment I look beyond my sheltered world, to a world where there is so much violence, hatred and hurt. In this moment I remember I am the same as “others” on so many levels. In this moment I can choose action or inaction. With arms wide open to this moment I open up the possibility of action. I open up to compassion and grow in understanding. With that compassion and understanding I may, as a result, be the source of a small increment of change for the greater good of our world and all people.

In this moment I stand with arms wide open.

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Sitting In Stillness. Listening To Silence.

“Be the silent watcher of your thoughts and behavior. You are beneath the thinker. You are the stillness beneath the mental noise. You are the love and joy beneath the pain.” Eckhart Tolle

I have come to the practice of stillness and silence after many decades. I obviously had to come to it on my own terms. And it is fairly obvious that as much as I may have needed it decades ago, I wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t understand it…..was pretty sure there was no time or place to practice it.

Luckily for me, some things come and knock really loudly and all you can say is “OKAY! Okay, I’ll come.” And you’re never the same.

I will be at Springwater for five days, including Easter. There will be not blog next week because there will be no internet.

For five days I will sit in stillness and listen to silence. Oh yes, there will be walking the trails of 200 acres of hills and forests in the Genesee Valley. There will be the sound of streams and creeks, trees creaking, the wind, the hum of lights and the sound of footsteps, the daily chores of cleaning, cooking, maintaining the center. But not much else. No computer, internet, cells phones, music, TV.  Certainly there is movement and action, but it is gentle and caresses life. It does not bulldoze through it.

“Wisdom comes with the ability to be still. Just look and just listen. No more is needed. Being still, looking, and listening activates the non-conceptual intelligence within you. Let stillness direct your words and actions.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

Springwater is a center for meditative inquiry. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but one of my favorites.

There is a healing that happens to me during the hours and days I spend there. While it may seem like a kind of running away and letting life and the world fall away and seemingly not really matter anymore, it is not that. It is sitting with one’s self and becoming reacquainted with what matters.

path spwater

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, not knowing what is next and not concerned with what was or what may be next, a new mind is operating that is not connected with the conditioned past and yet perceives and understands the whole mechanism of conditioning. It is the unmasking of the self that is nothing but masks – images, memories of past experiences, fears, hopes, and the ceaseless demand to be something or become somebody.” Toni Packer

“Things” happen in this kind of space, in this kind of stillness and quiet. Something that is often held behind the closed doors of “too much” of all most everything, finds an opening to tentatively step out into the light to be seen, heard and felt.

“The emergence and blossoming of understanding, love, and intelligence has nothing to do with any tradition, no matter how ancient or impressive-it has nothing to do with time. It happens on its own when a human being questions, wonders, inquires, listens, and looks without getting stuck in fear, pleasure, and pain. When self-concern is quiet, in abeyance, heaven and earth are open.” Toni Packer

Through the practice of quiet and stillness I have learned it is not the losing of anything, like the routine of our daily life filled with important “things”, but the gaining of an understanding that gets so lost in the life we lead. There is something to found that exists without the busy, frenetic, kinetic, noisy life.

“There is something that matters more than any of those things and that is finding the essence of who you are beyond that short-lived entity, that short-lived personalized sense of self. You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.”  Eckhart Tolle

I see and experience life and the world differently as I get older.

“In truth we are not separate from each other or from the world, from the whole earth, the sun or moon or billions of stars, not separate from the entire universe. Listening silently in quiet wonderment, without knowing anything, there is just one mysteriously palpitating aliveness.” Toni Packer

When self-concern is quiet, in abeyance, heaven and earth are open.”

Have a peaceful day. I’ll be back in two weeks.

* Toni Packer was the founder of Springwater.
*Eckhart Tolle is himself
* photo by me of a Springwater trail in the fall

 

 

Fully Present For Life

Equanimity is not a word in my vocabulary that I use often. I imagine that is true for most of us. It is however a word/thought/concept that does live and express itself in my internal dialogue.

noun: mental or emotional stability or composure,
especially under tension or strain;
calmness; equilibrium

Don’t we all experience moments throughout the day when we are desperately trying to find balance? Equanimity?

In Pali equanimity means  “upekkha, translated as ‘to look over.’ It refers to the equanimity that arises from the power of observation, the ability to see without being caught up in what we see. When well-developed, such power gives rise to a great sense of peace.” It includes the idea of a kind of ease that comes from being able to see the bigger picture. Perhaps “to see with patience” or with understanding. It means we do not have to take any or everything personally.

A slightly different interpretation is “to stand in the middle of all this”. Being centered and finding inner strength and stability. Balancing to keep ourselves upright, grounded.

balance

In Buddhist philosophy the concept of equanimity offers a buffer against or possibly protection from the “ ‘eight worldly winds’:  praise and blame, success and failure, pleasure and pain, fame and disrepute.” These are the things in life we can easily become preoccupied with, wrapped up in. When we become attached to or caught up in any of these, they often become the cause of our unhappiness, our dis-ease with ourselves and our life.

Equanimity can be fostered through honesty and sincerity, conviction and confidence, mindfulness, well-being (taking care of our body and mind), nurturing understanding/wisdom, insight and letting go of our reactive tendencies.

Finding and nurturing balance is important. It is one of the pillars of mental health. It is found in all religions. It is found in the healing arts and lines spiritual pathways. Equanimity is of value. It helps us to be healthy.

By developing and using the power of observation, and finding an inner balance, mindfulness evolves.  Equanimity becomes stronger and we find that we become more balanced in the middle of stress or turmoil. We begin to experience a kind of freedom and independence as we let go of the things that blind us, hold us down and keep us living in a fog. Unable to see and afraid to go forward. I read an article once that referenced “fog goggles”. Fog goggles are the practices and choices, thoughts and actions that help us see clearly. Fog goggles help us see through this fog in order to see with clarity how to become balanced. Fog goggles show us the way to equanimity.

Through equanimity we understand compassion and become fully present to life. We can look at things and situations in the world and bear witness to those things with an open heart. We can pause, and in balance and stability, without threat, anger or fear, we can look at our individual and collective relationship to those things and acknowledge them as being real. Instead of allowing the reactionary responses of fear, anger and hurt that bind our heart and results in us closing our heart, eyes and mind to hurt and suffering, we find we can be compassionate and be fully present to the suffering of others. And of ourselves. It is balanced engagement with life.  With equanimity we find we can be open to all of life with a kind of poise and serenity. Not only do we accept the beautiful things in life, but also the unpleasant parts of life. In a state of equanimity we cradle tenderly the loved as well as the unloved, pleasure as well as pain, the desirable as well as the undesirable, ourselves and “the other”. There is nothing we need meet with reluctance and hesitation or shun with revulsion, fear or hate, anger or indignation.

In striving towards being fully present for life we can find a peacefulness that seeps deeply into our core and releases us from loneliness, worry, fear, longing….and allows us to find sweet repose in being where we are.

Fully present for Life

*************

~~photo by me. Frabel Glass exhibit at Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh. Frabel Glass

 

 

5 O’clock in The Morning

“Let the waters settle and you will see the moon and the stars
mirrored in your own being.”
~Rumi

charlevoix moon mh(Moon over Lake Charlevoix, MI)

I woke up at 5 this morning. There are no curtains on our bedroom windows. Our bed faces east, and there are French doors that bring the outside in. When I opened my eyes and looked out, there was the deep, soft blackness of night pierced with millions of stars sparkling. Venus and Jupiter were showing off. I felt very small. I felt awe.

I spent Saturday at a silent retreat. Silence is important to me. The silence created by not speaking. The silence created by being swaddled tightly in silence. In silence I let go of noise. The noise of ego, the noise of fear and worry, the noise of the unknown, the noise of want and desire. Then I hear. I hear the beating of my heart. The gentle whisper of my breath. Thoughts come in all forms like handfuls of confetti tossed from somewhere above. They float and swirl around and cloud the view, then settle and rest.

This morning I woke with my mind settled as in Rumi’s quote and saw the beauty and light of the stars and planets mirrored in my heart, in my quiet, rested being. On retreat I found the same while simply sitting in silence and hearing only life’s murmuring in my body and a quiet mind that was not crowded with volatile emotions and jumbled, confused thoughts.

In this gentleness, this softness is something I cherish.

At the end of the retreat there is a group discussion…one can come and join in through conversation or through listening. Yesterday I listened. Dialogue came around to the idea of the narratives of our lives…how they are “written”, how they “read”.  Someone brought up the idea that entwined in our storytelling are mirages. Ideas, hopes, images we chase after. Imaginary apparitions. Phantasms. In the narratives of our life we often are looking for something, chasing something only to “get there” are find we haven’t really attained what we hoped we would, and poof, the mirage is gone.

I thought a bit about my narrative. Yes, there is a narrative that has gotten me here to this point. Some of it was written in early life by my parents…they made choices, they filled my days with words, ideas, experiences and I interacted with those things and then they responded and we continued on in this way. They have not been involved in my narrative for quite while now. And the story line has meandered this way and that way without their editing.  And yes, I chased after mirages, watching as they became fainter and fainter and finally vanished right before I got “there”.  Tomorrow, there may be a surprise addition to life, an unseen twist.

As the narrative of my life continues, some mirage or another will float seductively in front of me. Trying to lure me towards something that I believe will make me happier, or free from this or that. So, as I strive to live in the  present moment, I try not gaze towards the mirage. I look up at the pre-dawn sky in awe and see those stars and planets in their momentary beauty and splendor and know as present truth that they are mirrored in my being. I have a light. I am a light. I radiate and reflect light. And I am but one in a million lights that all shine and sparkle in their own way and own time, in their own place. In the silence of light my narrative tells the story that I am not separate but joined together with millions of people who are good and kind, as well as those who are not good and unkind. People who are happy and joyful and people who are hurt and afraid. People who are climbing up and out, as well as people who are weighted down and feeling buried. People who have been found and people who are lost. People who are full of compassion and love. People who feel hatred and anger. People who are the fabric and mosaic of humanity. They call themselves by many labels. White, Black. Male, female, trans-gendered. Christian, Muslim, Jew. Agnostic, Atheist. Hindi, Jain. Untouchable, Brahmin. Doctor, patient. Lawyer, criminal. Adult, child. Teacher, student. Oppressor, oppressed. Rich, poor. Awakened, asleep. Lost, found. Loved, unloved. Hopeful, hopeless. Strong, weak. Blessed, cursed. Leader, follower. Romantic, realist. Educated, uneducated. Healer, injurer. Inventor, copier. Doer, idler.

What I understand in silence and cherish is that humanity is a collective reflection of who we are. Perfect or imperfect. Good or bad. We all open our eyes at birth. We all walk our own path, to the same end.  We all will close our eyes and die. The narrative we write in the middle contains a part that is choice. We are the story tellers of our own lives. When the waters settle in my sometimes turbulent, fearful, worried mind, I catch a glimpse of the reflection of our common humanity sparkling like a million predawn stars.

This year two new stars have been born into our family. One tiny star was born just yesterday. The light we shine will be the light that creates her sparkle and will be the light she reflects out into the world. My hope is that it be light of love, tolerance, understanding, peace, respect, hope and humility.

 

The Music of Life

It’s all music. Like the song a river sings as it meanders over rocks and bends to the curves of the ground. All the voices in our lives, the goals we set, the dreams we dream, sing. Even our yearnings and sorrows sing for us if we listen. All the good in the world, and all the evil in the world flow together to make the music that is our world, our lives.

“And all the voices, all the goals, all the yearnings, all the sorrows,
all the pleasures, all the good and evil,
all of them together was the world.
All of them together was the stream of events, the music of life.”
–Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Think about all the things that wear and sometimes hold us down. Fear, disappointment, desire, anger, forgotten dreams, unrealized hopes, sadness, worry, exhaustion. Often these are the only things in our life that we attribute to being our life. And we get lost in them. It feels as if we are them. We sink into them. Like quicksand, the more we struggle to get out the more it feels like we are being pulled down deeper.

Emotions, desires, want, wrap around us like a tangled bed sheet that is too tight and it becomes difficult to move. We desire happiness to smooth out the wrinkles.

In Hermann Hesse’s book, Siddhartha comes at last to sit by the river. He has finally learned to listen. He hears, in the running of the water, the many voices and events that are the music of life, of the world: the good and evil, the pleasures and the sorrows, the grief and the laughter, the yearnings and the love. All of them together. As he sat in stillness and listened, he heard truth in the song of the river.

walk3

As Siddhartha sits and listens he has an unveiling of sorts. All of life is interconnected. It moves in a circle. As such, there is no beginning and no end. Rain falls to the river. The river flows into the ocean. Moisture rises only to fall again as rain. Even birth and death are all part of this timeless unity.

Siddhartha saw that  all the yearnings, all the sorrows, all the pleasures, all the good and evil are parts of the whole. All part of the river that sings as it flows. In the flow is the music of life.

He realized that for every true statement there is an opposite one that is also true. He understood we want to hear one song, one voice, but in fact there are many that make up the full truth. There are many songs being sung. The music of life is a blending and harmonizing of everything together. The music may change each moment as we experience life. Some music may seem more beautiful and softer than others. But each note is a part of something greater. Life. It is up to us to decide how to respond to the music.

As he sat by the river, the struggles and the conflicts Siddhartha sometimes felt in life, lifted and floated away. As he sat by the river and listened to the music of life, Siddhartha understood that along with struggle came joy.

Without struggle we will not have joy. In having joy we will have struggle. The music of life plays in this moment….. ribbons of many melodies that ripple and twist. In silence we can hear the music that is the song of life. We come to understand the cycles of life that circle endlessly, looping everything in inter-connectedness.  From struggle comes joy. With good comes evil. From pleasure we gain sorrow. With grief comes the laughter. Yearning brings love. It is all connected. Not separate. It is all a song of life.

Be still and close your eyes and listen to the music of life.

The Pause

Sometimes when the preschoolers I work with get going a little too fast I say to them, “pause”. Not stop. Just pause. I encourage them to take a breath and notice what they are doing, how they are doing, what’s happening around them. To be present just for a moment. To pause.

I love their wild abandon, but sometimes that pause is needed…just for a moment. To get centered. Grounded.

As adults we need that pause also. To become grounded. Centered.

“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day
is the rest we take between two deep breaths.”
Etty Hillesum

We are not always aware of our breath. Or that little pause many of us have right before an inhale. That little moment.

pond at springwater

(pond at Springwater Center for Meditative Contemplation)

If you do yoga or meditate you know this moment, this sublime pause. There are times when it seems to last a long time. At other times, it is brief, but still present.

There are some days when I get  caught up in the “things” of life.  I get saddened by news in the world. It weighs heavily on my heart. I have to remind myself to pause. To be aware of that moment between breaths so I can “come back to” this one moment. Not the previous moment that may harbor regret or confusion, doubt or pain. Even if there was joy and happiness, that is now a memory and no longer in the present.  Not the next moment which is already heavy with anticipation, assumptions, expectations and probability. As Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us:

“The past is gone, but the future is not yet here,
and if we do not go back to ourselves
in the present moment,
we cannot be in touch with life.”

Often we are ruled by feelings, emotions and desires. We are always checking in with ourselves to see how we are feeling. To linger over a hope, dream or wish. We get lost in emotions. These weigh us down. Some days it feels as we are spiraling down to a dispirited place. We drift into wondering if we are happy, content, satisfied. For many of us we come up with things that would make us happier, more content and more satisfied. It feels as if we never are able to quite obtain that which we believe would make us feel better. Our emotions grab hold and our feelings, the physical reactions..tired, sore, stiff, butterflies in the stomach, tightness in our muscles, partner up with mercurial emotions and we may deflate and feel dragged down. Someone else always seems to have something that we believe would make us feel better if we had it too. These reactions, responses repeat and cycle over and over again.

And we forget. We forget that if we could pause and feel that moment in between each breath, we would become grounded. Centered. In the moment. That pause where there silence between thoughts. It is the space where the mind stands still. No thoughts exist in this space. Here you can experience awareness of the present moment. From this moment of awareness comes inner wisdom and joy arises.

“Discover inner space by creating gaps in the stream of thinking.
Without those gaps, your thinking becomes repetitive, uninspired, devoid of any creative spark,
which is how it still is for most people on the planet.”
A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

“Slip into the gap.
This means to center yourself in that silent space between thoughts,
to go into the silence.”
Deepak Chopra

In this pause, this gap, this silence, we can find wisdom and inner joy.

Am I able to do this? Not often. I work at it. I try and try again. Each time I remember to pause and be present in the moment, it is easier the next time. The impulse to pause comes more often. I do feel grounded. More centered. There is a wisdom that grows and brings with it an understanding that I can control my thinking, reactions and responses. It is possible to have a clear moment where I can experience stillness, gratitude and feel and hear my breath. I do feel my aliveness, recognize and honor my love and compassion for myself and others.

It doesn’t always help when I hear or watch the news where there is incredible and unimaginable human suffering and violence. Still, within that pause I do become more aware of the connection I have to all living things. If I cannot stop a war, I can stop my own hurtful indignation towards others. I can check my anger and exasperation. I can turn down annoyance, impatience and resentment. I cannot stop hunger and lack of fundamental needs of people around the world, but I can check my own consumption and collecting of “stuff” I don’t use or need.

I cannot, even with pausing to be mindful and aware of all there is to remedy and improve in the world, bring those changes about on my own. I can commit to bringing no suffering to others. I can commit to causing no harm to others.

Again,

…”and if we do not go back to ourselves
in the present moment,
we cannot be in touch with life.”

Close your eyes. Breathe in and find that little pause. Become grounded and centered. Know yourself. Know that there is only this one moment. Be in touch with life.

 

 

You Are Sitting On A Pot of Gold

Ahhhh, the ego.  You know Ego… very self-centered, arrogant, self important. Ego finds things like power, control, authority and position as motivating triggers. Ego drapes us in false-pride. Ego is forever judging. Ego believes itself to always be right and everything else as wrong. The length it goes to in order to convince you of this is impressive.

Dr. Wayne Dyer says “No one has ever seen the face of ego. It is like a ghost that we accept as a controlling influence in our lives. I look upon the ego as nothing more than an idea that each of us has about ourselves. The ego is only an illusion, but a very influential one. Letting the ego-illusion become your identity can prevent you from knowing your true self. Ego, the false idea of believing that you are what you have or what you do, is a backwards way of assessing and living life.”

And, “The ego-idea has been with us ever since we began to think. It sends us false messages about our true nature. It leads us to make assumptions about what will make us happy and we end up frustrated. It pushes us to promote our self-importance while we yearn for a deeper and richer life experience. It causes us to fall into the void of self-absorption again and again, not knowing that we need only shed the false idea of who we are.”

Sogyal Rinpoche in The Tibetan Book of the Dead writes by way of describing ego : “Two people have been living in you all of your life. One is the ego, garrulous, demanding, hysterical, calculating; the other is the hidden spiritual being, whose still voice of wisdom you have only rarely heard or attended to.”

This ego self has a driving purpose to be seen in a positive light. Always. This ego self will work endlessly to disavow itself of any responsibility it has for any negative outcome. Ego is not responsible. Ever.

As an alternative and a means of balance, there is the idea of the quiet ego.

This is the idea that says our sense of well being is about transcending, not enhancing the self. This is the path to contentment and that elusive sense of inner peace we all longingly search for. This is the way to a lasting happiness.

Jack Bauer, Heidi Wayment, and Kateryna Sylaska are researching the idea of the quiet ego. “The volume of the ego is turned down so that it might listen to others as well as the self in an effort to approach life more humanely and compassionately.”

According to the above researchers “quiet ego consists of four interconnected facets: detached awareness, inclusive identity, perspective-taking, and personal growth. These four characteristics all contribute to having a general stance of balance and growth toward the self and others.”

I want balance and growth towards the self and OTHERS. How about you?

So, what does this mean?

“Detached Awareness” is when the quiet ego speaks up and reminds us to be mindful and aware of what we are doing, of what is happening around us. The person with a quiet ego is focused on the present moment with no judgment or preconceived ideas of how things should be. We put this quality to the test when we rush through activities, do things automatically without paying much attention to them.

“Inclusive Identity” presents itself in a person with a quiet ego as being cooperative and compassionate. They possess a strong connection with all living things, all people…strangers, people of other ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds, there is no “other” to a person with a quiet ego. The other end of this spectrum would be doing things only for yourslef, the “what’s in it for me?” thought process.

“Perspective Taking” is about the proverbial “put yourself in the other person’s shoes and walk a mile.” It’s about imagining yourself going through what the other person is going through. It is about listening to and hearing the other side of the story with no judgment. For some this is difficult. It is their perspective that matters and the other person’s views are “wrong”, “not of significance” or “irrelevant”.

“Personal Growth” is about allowing and working towards life being about learning, changing and growing. It is about new experiences that challenge what we think about ourselves and the world. It is about stepping outside of what we are familiar and comfortable with. It is about the fluid experience and not about the value judgement of the end result.

When we experience quiet ego we have healthy self esteem because we acknowledge our limitations. There is no need to be defensive about who we are. Our well being is balanced through having contributing traits like humility, authenticity, open thinking, valuing the present moment, resilience, self compassion, satisfaction with our life.

Listen to your quiet ego…see the world as a whole. Learn to see the oneness, the inter-connectedness that is everywhere. We are all human. We all share the same emotions, struggles, life events. We will all die. If our thoughts are rooted in love and compassion rather than pride, power or attachment, our true self is thriving and not ego.

“But I’ll tell you what hermits realize.
If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet,
you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything.”
~ Alan Watts

As Dr. Dyer says, we don’t have to accept the ghost called ego to be the controlling force in our life.  We don’t have to perpetuate the idea that ego is something that rules us and is difficult to quiet.  It is possible to quiet ego so that, as Sogyal Rinpoche teaches, we can hear the still voice of wisdom instead.

rainbow(Ithaca NY)

Each and every day, all day long we are offered true gifts and are capable of offering our true self to others. This is our treasure. Treasure to both receive and give. The challenge for many of us is to open the door for quiet ego to come in to our lives and guide us so we have the presence of mind and awareness of how rich and blessed we are.

“We are like Tolstoy’s fabled beggar who spent his life sitting on a pot of gold,
begging for pennies from every passerby,
unaware that his fortune was right under him the whole time.

Your treasure—your perfection–is within you already.
But to claim it, you must leave the busy commotion of the mind
and abandon the desires of the ego and enter into the silence of the heart.”
Elizabeth Gilbert

 

 

 

 

Goldfluttering

Where Does the Temple Begin, Where Does It End?

There are things you can’t reach. But
you can reach out to them, and all day long.

The wind, the bird flying away. The idea of God.

And it can keep you as busy as anything else, and happier.

The snake slides away; the fish jumps, like a little lily,
out of the water and back in; the goldfinches sing
from the unreachable top of the tree.

I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.

Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around
as though with your arms open.

And thinking: maybe something will come, some
shining coil of wind,
or a few leaves from any old tree–
they are all in this too.

And now I will tell you the truth.
Everything in the world
comes.

At least, closer.

And, cordially.

Like the nibbling, tinsel-eyed fish; the unlooping snake.
Like goldfinches, little dolls of goldfluttering around the corner of the sky

of God, the blue air.

-Mary Oliver

The very first sentence caused me to hold my breath for a moment. There are times when I feel that is exactly what I am doing: reaching for things I can’t reach, but never giving up. The idea of god is most certainly ones of those things….pretty sure my idea of god (yes, mine has a lower case g) is not mainstream. But I have written about that elsewhere in this blog.

I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.
Or listening.

For me this is being present in the moment. I have to work at it. I have to put energy into paying attention to the moment and everything it brings. I am able to to find peace of heart and mind, even in the midst of sorrow, turmoil and worry, when I am aware of the one moment that is.

“Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around
as though with your arms open.”

frabel arms open

(Frabel glass)

I learned just his past Friday that if you stand around with your arms open (literally or figuratively) beautiful things come to you. Trust. Love. Joy. Laughter. Beauty. Hope. Innocence. Faith. Wonder. Magic. Compassion. Understanding.

“And now I will tell you the truth.
Everything in the world
comes.

At least, closer.

And, cordially.”

When we walk, sit, talk, listen….with our arms open everything comes. Cordially. There is no fear, mis/distrust, uncertainty. Everything comes kindly. Sometimes you have to have the presence of mind to accept it as coming kindly, cordially.

Even as I get so disillusioned with world events, and feel as if the sorrow fills me all the way up, if I can stop and open my arms, and hold them that way, WIDE open, my heart opens and all those things I long for come closer. But they will never continue to come closer if I cross my arms and close my heart in.

I will not stop reaching with my arms wide open for peace, compassion, acceptance, understanding, respect, equality, love, empathy, freedom. nonviolence, unity, enough, generosity, cooperation, hope, dignity, tenderness, softness, humanity, grace, humanness, intimacy, mutuality, partnership, service, gentleness, effort, closeness, community, inclusion, choice, to matter, freedom from fear, freedom from want, tranquility, passion, sense of belonging, freedom from violence.

Will you come and join me, goldfluttering around with arms wide open?

 

You Be The One

The Pleasure of Serving
by Gabriela Mistral

All of nature is a yearning for service:
The cloud serves, and the wind, and the furrow.

Where there is a tree to plant, you be the one.
Where there is a mistake to undo, let it be you.

You be the one to remove the rock from the field,
The hate from human hearts,
And the difficulties from the problem.

There is joy in being wise and just,
But above all there is the beautiful,
The immense happiness of serving.

How sad the world would be if all was already done.
If there was no rosebush to plant,
No enterprise to undertake.

Do not limit yourself to easy tasks.
It’s so beautiful to do what others dodge.

But don’t fall prey to the error that only
Great tasks done can be counted as accomplishments.
There are small acts of service that are good ones:
Decoratively setting a table,
Putting some books in order,
Combing a little girl’s hair.
That one over there is the one that criticizes,
This other one is the one that destroys.
You be the one that serves.

Serving is not a labor just for inferior beings.
God, who gives fruit and light, serves.
His name could be rendered thus: He Who Serves.

And he has his eyes on our hands,
And he asks us at the close of day:
“Did you render service today? To whom?
To a tree, to your friend, to your mother?”

– Gabriela Mistral: was a Chilean poet-diplomat, educator and feminist

light housemh(Lighthouse, UP, Michigan, by me)

Powerful question: “Who did you render service to today?” Was there someone you held the door open for? Helped with a heavy package? Made eye contact with? Who did you serve today?

Were there others you crossed the street to avoid? Was there someone you chose not to look at? Did you find yourself thinking “That person should have made a different choice.”?

As we hold in our thoughts and minds to be of service to others, could we also realize:

“In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way,
and in that I learn from him.” 
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Is there anyone we cannot learn from? Is there anyone unworthy of our “service” to them? The homeless, the mentally ill, the refugee or “migrant?” The “scary Black man who might have a gun” or the “Unnatural transgendered person”? Perhaps the “American hating Muslim”. or the “White trash mother on meth”? Maybe it’s the “She asked for it” rape victim?

What stereotypes are you pretty sure you could learn nothing from? If you thought about “being of service to them”, what would that look like?

I know that when I am of service to someone I tend to care about who they are. And in caring about who they are, I learn. Not only do I learn about them, I learn about me. I change. I grow.

That one over there is the one that criticizes,
This other one is the one that destroys.
You be the one that serves.

I want to be the one who learns from ALL others. I want to be the one who serves. How about you?

Watching The Earth Move

It felt like driving towards a stage set dappled
with light filtered through colored gels.
The sun was setting and a blanket of subtly nuanced aubergine,
softening from shy purple to bold black,
covered the sky and land in false warmth.
“As I walk, as I walk the universe is walking with me.”

 

Like a tiny beacon from somewhere far away
a speck called Venus
and fleck called Mercury danced together with Earth.
It was a choreographed and timeless communion with the Universe.
Ever so slowly Venus and Mercury slipped lower
into the horizon.
“The universe is walking with me.”

 

This day faded and a new one began.
The sliver of the waning crescent moon
rose briefly before the sun was truly awake.
The locust tree, bare and with only a few rattling pods
dangling uncaringly,
stood silhouetted against the sherbet colors
of the waking day.
The journey of the earth,
unfelt,
was measured by the crescent moon
as it nestled in the crook of the locust branch.
As if resting in a nest.
And then, in the space of few breaths,
the thin sliver floated up into the sky.
Earth and moon moved on.
“In beauty it walks before me.”

 

Clouds appeared like pulled cotton
to soak up the colors of the dawning day.
Raspberry and orange strands melted away
as a deep periwinkle backdrop took over.
Three birds, small little moving black dots,
flew in front of the moon
as if to say “Follow us! This way!”
One fell behind for a moment then turned
and banked to return
to her small assemblage of cohorts.
“In beauty it walks behind me.”

 

The soft hills that cradled Springwater
slept under a puffy quilt
of snow-white and eider-down gray.
As the periwinkle sky changed yet again,
farms, fields, trees, houses, roads and cars came into focus.
Trees stood at attention, dark against the ancient light.
The moon was gone.
“In beauty it walks below me.”

 

All that remained to measure the movement of the earth
was the path of the sun.
Unfaltering, she seemed to rise from the depths
of someplace else,
and then
in silent meditation she traveled along a private path
across the sky.
“In beauty it walks above me.”


Once again, the sun reached the horizon and began to sink
back to that place we can never go.
Like a performer in Cirque de Soleil,
she left, swirling whimsical
bubble gum pink and baby blue
ribbons throughout the sky.
“Goodbye!” she waved. “See you again soon!!”

Her dance took away the breath of a young man
who was uncontrollably stopped in his tracks
and forced, by sheer wonder,
to give witness this beauty.
His face could not hide
the overwhelming emotion
of awe and reverence.
He sat.
All he could do was to behold,
in this one fleeting moment,
the exquisiteness
in this infinitesimal fragment of the universe.
“Beauty is on every side. As I walk, I walk in Beauty.”

 

Observations from the Jan. 16-19, 2015 retreat at Springwater Center for Meditative Inquiry, Springwater NY. Sentences in quotes are from a section of one of the many interpretations/translations of the 9 Day Navajo Night Chant. The young man is named Jonathan.