Rest In The Grace Of The World

 

Greetings! Taking a small break from writing. Lot’s to think about these days. Peace to you. Two videos for you!

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Enjoy Wendell Barry’s reading of The Peace of Wild Things.

 

Deep Peace of the Running Wave to You

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Keeping Quiet, a poem

I am basking in the contentment and deep joy of being with family and friends and offer this poem. Hoping you will stop for a moment and keep still.

“KEEPING QUIET”
Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

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If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

—from Extravagaria

Rest In The Grace Of The World

                                                                    The Peace Of Wild Things

heron2When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
~Wendell Berry

This is a favorite poem of mine. I come back to often, looking at the written words. Saying them out loud. Bringing them into my heart. It’s all there. All around us. The reminder of what matters. What the foundation is. A path that leads to resting in the grace of the world.

There are some days when I do feel as if I am waiting for the light of the day-blind stars. For me there is comfort in the star light of night. It is in the darkness with what appear as tiny specks reflecting light from an unseen source, that I feel small, not so important….where I experience awe, wonder, amazement in the most profound way. The world becomes quiet. Harshness softens. Reflection and gratitude have their time.

Now, obviously, given the title of the blog, I appreciate the sunrise also….that is when I wake up in awe, and listen to bird song, watch colors that cannot be recreated float across the sky. My mind wakes up and thoughts percolate. I have the feeling of being something very tiny in a world, in universe that is very large. Nature. It is Nature where I experience the sublime. This is what is holy, spiritual for me. Standing outside with the wind giving voice to the leaves, softly brushing my skin, feeling the heat of the sun or the seeing by the light of the moon, I am reminded over and over again


“we all dwell in a house of one room…”

~John Muir

There is grace enough for all of us in this world. Sometimes we have to stop, slow down, stop thinking in order to see it. To feel it. To know it. And sometimes we need to reach out and help others stop, slow down, stop talking to see it. Feel it. Know it.

We have to step out of world of important things. We have to stop the movement, the doing. We have to turn off the noise, the music, the computer, the phone. We have to figure out how to “……..go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.”

Here, resting in the beauty we have a chance to find clarity and balance. These two things are so needed in our world today. When your back is flat against the earth and you have to close your eyes to the brilliance of the sun and your skin feels the heat, all that heals you. The music in your ears, the rythym of the rippling water and the singing birds, is the most beautiful music there is.

Go now, go and lie down. Rest in the peace of the wild things.

The Flow of Blessings

“… the blessing that flows into us
through everything we touch…”

My dad knew many interesting people. Here and there throughout my life, quite a variety of people would come into our lives and home. Many of them became colorful threads that helped to sew together the person I am. They were blessings in my life. Their smiles and hugs, their values and hopes flowed into me and became a part of me. A few of them found a special little niche in my memory. It is the spot I visit often and work to keep the memories there dusted and cherished so they have a chance of staying sharp and crisp. My memories of them are small, and sometimes of silly things. Yet, remembering them and following their lives and stories as I grew up continued to shape and form me.

One such person was Hans Kloppenburg from Germany. I think he was from Bremen. He came to the US  with his family to visit a doctor for his son. This was in the 60’s, and I seem to recall his son had a medical condition and they were looking for guidance that might not have been available in Germany at the time. I don’t really know what the connection was with my dad. Hans was a round and jovial man with a white beard that connected to lamb-chop sideburns. He had a great laugh that sort of echoed around no matter where he was. He brought me two little dolls that I still have. The girl has red pom poms on her hat! He smoked cigars. He smoked cigars sticking straight up out of the bowl of a pipe. I think this was the first time I discovered the creative aspects of pipe cleaners. Years later we visited his family in Germany. His wife taught me how to properly fluff a feather bed each morning.

There was Udar Pinto from Pondicherry India. A not very tall man, bald on top, who emanated love and calm. He was involved in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and tread lightly on this earth. Clearly he not only loved life but rejoiced in all the experiences and experiencing of it no matter how difficult, mundane or manic. His presence added a brightness to everything. When I remember Udar I can smell the jasmine that twisted and twined throughout Pondicherry. If I close my eyes I can see him leaning against a pillar covered with red and orange exotic flowers that were everywhere. A smile on his face. He lived well into his 100’s.

There were the Berrigan brothers…mostly Daniel. Daniel would often come over for dinner. Or donuts. Father Berrigan traveled with Howard Zinn to Hanoi during the Tet Offensive to “receive” three American airmen, the first American POWs released by the North Vietnamese since the US bombing of that nation had begun. Daniel was director of Cornell United Religious Works. He was a member of the Catonsville Nine and was sentenced to Federal Prison for his protests. My dad would visit him often at the Federal Correctional Institute in Danbury Connecticut. One year I painted a peace dove and sent it Daniel at Danbury for Christmas. He never received it. Many years later the envelop found its way back to us, tattered and disintegrating, marked, “Undeliverable”.

Sometimes I brought people home too! One was the an Orthodox priest I introduced myself to in the Cleveland airport while waiting for my brother. Father Anthony occasionally visited an Orthodox church in Lansing and would come over to our house to visit. For many, many years I would receive small packages from around the world as he traveled. Olive-wood beads from Jerusalem. An ivory necklace from what was then the Belgian Congo, now the DRC Democratic Republic of the Congo. We maintained contact for almost 20 years…..

Juliet Hollister was a dynamic, tall woman. When she walked, she flowed. She founded the Temple of Understanding. She was always brimming with energy and love. She believed respect and understanding of cultural and religious diversity was the only way for people to survive together on this planet. She believed social change would bring about the possibility of global citizenship.

Perhaps one of the most significant friends of my father’s was Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk. They maintained a long and nurturing relationship over many decades. They traveled together in Europe and spent hours sitting in our home talking. Almost  two decades after my father’s death, Brother David sent me a picture of the two of them in Europe. (Brother David is the inspiration for the website Gratefulness.org)

Each one of these people ignited something  inside of me. Through the process of knowing them and having them touch my life I received the blessing of each one of them. Hans and his pipe brought me the element of silliness and thinking outside the box. Even though I was very young, I remember feeling bad that Hans could not find what his son needed in their own country…perhaps the first inkling of the developmental disparity among countries. There seemed to be an inequality or differing national priorities. Udar gave me the possibility of calmness, appreciation for the moment and the understanding that we are all a very small part of something much larger. I wonder if people know who Dan Berrigan is any more…..poet, anti war activist, pacifist. He instilled in me that peace is the way we must learn to travel. Father Anthony gave me the world in little gifts. A lesson that no one is too small or insignificant to care about….he had no reason to stay in touch with me for 20 some years as he traveled the world. Juliet made me believe we could become one world, all citizens of the same global community that could honor and respect vibrant, diverse, living cultures and religious freedoms. Brother David gave the blessing of the smile, of being totally present for a person. He brought the power of gratitude and simplicity into my life.

I found this quote the other day and it caused a ray of light to saturate that dusted and honored place in my memory, shining a light on the kindhearted smile of Brother David.

brother david (2)“The more alert we become to the blessing
that flows into us through everything we touch,
the more our own touch will bring blessing.”
Brother David Steindl-Rast

My heart, soul, mind, all of me, needed this reminder. Sometimes we all need to pause and allow ourselves to be alert to things we have forgotten about. Like our blessings. The ones we receive and the ones we give.

Today, please find a moment to pause, to be still and quiet and tune in to the blessings of life and love that flow into you infinite amounts of times each day. Pause to be aware of and honor the blessings you bestow on others all through the day with your concern, your laughter, your interest, your patience, your love, your time, your support, your respect….your taking notice of them.

Our own touch, thoughts, awareness, interactions can bring a blessing to others. How wonderful is that? By being aware of what we receive, we increase the awareness and ease of what we give so freely to others. Compassion. Love. Recognition. Hope. Companionship. Strength. Wonderful, nurturing things! Let’s make time to feel the back and forth flow of human kindness.

*photograph my dad and Brother David around 1959.

Letting The Light In

Tomorrow the Winter Solstice arrives and Earth (in the Northern Hemisphere) will have reached the point of the shortest day. Nature in all its mystery and wonder now prepares for the return of light.

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The word solstice comes from Latin origins, “sol” (sun) and “sistere” (to stand still). For thousands of years this time has been a call to restore our connection to all other living things. To stand in awe of Nature and be reminded of not only the power of the sun, but the life force that it is. It is time to metaphorically turn from dark to light. A time to reflect inwardly and then because of that, be ready once again to open to light and walk in light with a pure heart that has released the old to make way for the new or renewed.

“Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space. 
It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe. 
It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished.”
~Michael Strassfeld

As the sun and heavens “stand still” we have a wonderful opportunity to be still also. To stand in awe of the power of Nature, the sun, Life, Light. Of the possibility of seeing and being open our own Light.

“We are each gifted in a unique and important way.
It is our privilege and our adventure
to discover our own special light.” 
~Evelyn Dunbar

A time to understand the brilliant potential in each one of us. Our own Light. Our own gifts. We see them daily in a smile, a kind action. There, in a loving embrace or in the wiping of the tear. We see others glitter and shine in lightness of heart. This does not mean that times of darkness cannot also magnify sight through different light. Sometimes we need the muting darkness to let our eyes adjust to this other Light…

People are like stained-glass windows. 
They sparkle and shine when the sun is out,
but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed
only if there is light from within. 
~Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

When we allow this inner Light to shine, and adjust our eyes to see it, there too we may find what is called the ‘boundless heart’ that is in each one of us. Infinite. Vast. Unlimited. Inexhaustible. No strings attached. And in this standing still, in this waiting for Light to return, and preparing to let it in, we can also allow an opening in our heart as it too is warmed and lit from the Light that is within us all.

“Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.”
-Sutta Nipata

This boundless heart. The one I am just beginning to let myself be open to. The only one that will change the world. This is what I believe will let Light shine unfiltered. This is what I believe will happen when Light is allowed in. This is what I believe can happen beginning with the Winter Solstice.  If we stand still, and then turn to face the returning Light with an open heart. Our open heart will become a boundless heart.

Washing

“Keep close to Nature’s heart…
and break clear away, once in awhile,
and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods.
Wash your spirit clean.”
John Muir

I love being outside, yet sometimes I resist that love and stay inside. After all, I have things to do. Laundry, cooking, cleaning, work related things, doing nothing in particular, letting the cat sleep on me, drawing, reading, tidying up, catching up on TV shows, being at work, writing for this blog. The list is endless and mostly trivial. Yet, some days I still resist going outside.

When I break away and out, and feel the wind on my face, smell the fresh air, feel the heat or cold, get wet from rain, feel hidden in the fog, receive a kiss from the sun, hear a bird sing or watch a chipmunk play, I am transformed. I often feel I am healed. Perspective returns. Priorities become clear.

“Give away the things you don’t need
Let it all go and you’ll soon see
And you’ll wash your spirit clean
Wash your spirit clean
Go and pray upon a mountain
Go and pray beside the ocean
And you’ll wash your spirit clean
Wash Your spirit clean
Be grateful for the struggle
Be thankful for the lessons
And you’ll wash your spirit clean”

Lyrics ‘Wash Your Spirit Clean’, Walela

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Give away the things you don’t need. That probably includes the computer and TV!! But more subtly and I think, more importantly, it means to give away resentment, fear, desire, want, worry, doubt, anger, regret, some of the stories we tell ourselves over and over.

I “pray”, but I do not pray as in a petition to God. I pray as in sending “energy” into the world. My foundation and inspiration is the Metta Prayer. With many variations it says, ” May all beings be safe. May all beings be free from suffering. May all beings be healthy. May all beings be loved. May all beings be filled with Loving Kindness.” I pray that I may be responsible for acting in ways that will make these things happen. I pray to be aware and mindful. I pray that I will be kind and compassionate. I pray that I will be quiet so I can hear. Still so I can observe. I pray that I may understand that the struggles and the lessons in life are things to be thankful for. They are how I learn, change, grow.

In Nature my spirit is washed clean. I am soaked, scrubbed, restored and hung out to air dry. I can feel the weight of all those stories I make up about myself and others, all the resentments, fears, desires, wants, worries, doubts, anger, regrets… all of them being washed and rinsed out of the fabric of my being. Sometimes I find I was not even aware of how dingy, stained and faded my thoughts, being, spirit had become.

When Nature has cleansed my spirit, my prayer becomes a continuous prayer. It becomes a living prayer.

Nature allows my senses to come alive. I can fall down in the snow and let the cold make me shiver.  I can feel the wind and the rain on my skin . I can hear the waves break along the shore and the birds sing. I can hear the tree branches creaking and leaves crunching under foot. Looking up there is the insane pairing of colors at sunset and the humbling expanse of the Milky Way. I swat at a mosquito and watch a butterfly. The smell of roses and lilacs require me to close my eyes, overcome by sheer pleasure. I allow myself to be immersed in Nature and my spirit is washed clean.

And then, the dirty dishes just are. The laundry just is. The crying child is only that. A long day is over. Being tired is nothing more than that. Good/bad disappear. Dreams of a new sports car, a bigger house, a new pair of shoes don’t seem to matter so much. Grandma never remembering my name, someone saying something mean, a person not living up to my expectations, me not living up to someones else’s expectations don’t really matter any more. Feeling overwhelmed and frustrated at work melts away. Desire to be in control, to be in charge, to be right, to look and act strong and determined don’t seem so important. The stories repeated of how smart, clever, kind, important, creative I am just seem silly. Memories can become that…things in the past that do not have to impact this moment. I can just be in this moment.

When I go out into Nature perspective is restored. My spirit is soaked, washed and rinsed….the weight of worry, disappointment, desire are all swept away as my spirit is washed clean. I am lighter, softer, more flexible….I flow and swirl.

Do I get all this right all the time? Nope. Do I falter and stumble? Yup. Will I stop/give up? No. Do I keep trying? Sure do.

Wash your spirit clean. Over and over again.

After thought: many of you tell me via email, Facebook, in person how much you enjoy reading these posts. Some of you even go as far as to say they help you look at things differently, or think about things differently. I sincerely wish you  would consider sharing your thoughts in the comment section of the blog post itself. I feel so strongly we have to have dialog to help each other maneuver through tough times. I learn a lot from all of you…even, and especially if you have differing thoughts and opinions. There is more to be gained in sharing what we think with one another in a respectful manner than in being silent. Regardless, thank you for your kind words and support.

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.

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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.