searching for voice (in all the wrong places?)


I’m wondering how my fellow introverts and/or contemplatives and/or mystics out there are holding up in the midst of the political milieu?

Frequently, in these recent hyper-reactive days, I have found myself recalling the spirituality typologies I learned years ago –the heart-centered relational types, the action-centered social justice warriors, the mind-centered intellectual truth seekers and the contemplative-centered seers of beauty-and-wonder that are the mystics/poets.


For those of us whose home rests in that forth- introverted/contemplative- space, who naturally and easily drift back into that poetic space of seeing beneath, these times of being pulled up and out into the chaotic body politic can soon feel disorienting and overwhelming.  I’ve found myself reaching across the axis into my intellectual/thinking self for the comfort that deep understanding can bring. That’s always an easier place for us (introvert/mystics) to go than into action on one side or relationships on the other.  But that place can also leave us feeling as if we are lacking somehow.

Alone, too.

I’ve found myself yearning for contemplative community again.  I don’t know about you, but when poet David Whyte’s winter brochure came with its resonant letter of introduction (albeit a love letter that was greeted with blank stares by those around me, with whom I tried to enthusiastically share it) , I was ready to book a flight to the west coast.

Our way of seeing in the world is often difficult to communicate, as so often we are dabbling in the ineffable, and instead we come across as out of touch.  When the surface of life gets chaotic, especially, we dive deep beneath it, seeking wisdom and oneness and peace. All of the wisdom traditions expound this way of understanding in some way, whether it’s Rumi’s

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,

there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.

Or the oft quoted and attributed to many

God is a circle whose center is everywhere”

Alas, this is who I am, the gift that I bring?.  I have known this for some long time now, yet it continues to elude me exactly what I am to do with it.  Just last week, on the 240 question Via character strength survey I took, (which divides up our types into surprisingly similar categories as the spirituality typologies above) I scored highest on seeing Beauty and seeking Wisdom. (I suspect this is why photography has so often appealed to and satisfied me. I think it mirrors something within me that is always looking through a beauty-seeking lens, even in the midst of the messiness of life).  Not surprisingly, it seems I possess much less strength in the broad categories of courage and civic justice, those ‘doing’ vs ‘being’ characteristics of being human and doing life.

Last evening, with a new group of women who had initially formed around processing our pain and grief to what felt like the cataclysm a few weeks ago, we collaged.  I admit, I was feeling quite vulnerable because I feel like the misfit there already, my water so different than their fire, my way of seeing from a different vantage point than theirs. I fear being misunderstood, at least, being judged as inadequate (because I lack the fire of an activist) , or labeled as the ‘other’ (because I have moved to seeing the humanity in the other), at worst.  These are women on a social justice mission. There is still a lot of pain and blame there, a lot of outering of rage.

By the end of the evening, I didn’t feel I could share my images. My ‘seeing red’ was pulled from a photography journal that used a red filter to make trees appear pink. The women in my collage were gazing into a pool, looking inward for solutions. (“looking on a whole different spectrum” were the words that accompanied that image).  Most poignantly, was my solitary bird on a wire, a gaggle of birds on a separate wire, the words ‘Lost in translation’ separating the two. Today, in praying with the images, I noticed the group of women in red, circling a tree. I think I had wanted to be a part of that circle. Instead I realize I’m feeling more like the solitary tree on the hill of ice and snow standing outside that circle.  That was how misfit I felt.

And yet, I expect I need these women too. I may need to have this water of mine stirred up from time to time so that it doesn’t get stagnant, or at least warmed up so I don’t grow cold, detached from my own humanity,  for I realize that the flip side of the gift of introversion is withdrawal, of mysticism is becoming recluse, of seeking wisdom is rationalizing. My low energy can slow to depression and apathy. And I desperately need a dose of their courage, if only to honor my voice and to safeguard what it is that I bring and who it is that I am. There are not a lot of models for this quieter type of strength  in our culture. Perhaps they are all absconded away in their hermitages.

And so I am back to longing for community, community that honors my way as life-giving too.


In the final paragraph of the letter of introduction to the David Whyte brochure, he invokes this

We live in a time where each of us will be asked to reach deeper, speak more bravely, live more from the fierce perspectives of the poetic imagination; find the lines already written inside us: poetry does not take surface political sides, it is always the conversation neither side is having, it is the breath in the voice about to discover itself only as it begins to speak, and it is that voice firmly anchored in a real and touchable body, standing on the ground of our real, inhabited world, speaking from a source that lives and thrives at the threshold between opposing sides we call a society.

Here is my living example, then, of the mystic poet/introvert trusting his voice, believing it to be both necessary and good. In addition to his upcoming winter retreats, he offers a recording of one of them, entitled “Half a Shade Braver”, the description of which includes these words:

“The essence of leadership is our willingness to be seen, to be vulnerable, and to risk ourselves. To step into that role is to hazard ourselves in the world, both for others and for something we can’t fully articulate.”

Be brave, my quiet ones. Be brave.



Huston, we’ve got a problem


In these tribalistic days of othering one another, where we have divided into left and right camps, from which we hurl our dehumanizing insults across the chasm, I have noticed how often the pronoun ‘they’ is used, eg ‘They are all a bunch of (fill in the blank)’ or ‘They all believe that’ , and I am reminded of that great teacher and keeper of the world’s wisdom traditions, Huston Smith.  As he traveled the globe, seeking to understand deeply the various religions of the world, he would move in to each culture , plunging all the way in to fully inhabit it alongside the persons who lived it.  He noted how it was that the longer he lived with the people who practiced a certain religion  the pronouns he used to speak of them changed. At the beginning it was a detached ‘they’. ‘They’ believe this or do that. As time passed, and relationships formed, the pronoun would shift to the more intimate ‘You’. ‘You’ believe or do this or that. Finally, after much time, as he discovered the shared humanity and wisdom within the other and their traditions, coming to a deeper understanding of who they were and the shared wisdom beneath what they believed or did, the pronoun would shift to ‘We’. 

I wonder how it might be if we moved in with one another, seeking understanding, in this political divide, and became We, the people.

resurrecting the truth

it was time to resurrect this one from 2005, to remind myself who I am

February, 2005

Little truths along the way.


This morning, as I read, the author posed this question. If you were asked to list your most deeply held beliefs about life, could you begin to do it? Or would you stammer?

And so I began…


As I stand within this moment, these are some little truths that I perceive. Are these ‘the Truth’ or merely the limbs of the raft upon which I travel toward it? Likely some will some rot or come loose their binding along the way. Perhaps as I come closer to the ocean I will find myself at last merely being carried by the river’s flow.


To use recent metaphor that has captured me, I realize that I stand within a threshold every moment, where the chaff which has carried me may be burned away and the wheat I carry forward in my hands may not become bread at all, but perhaps will become seeds for tomorrow growth, and so these seeds of truth are neither clutched nor tossed aside but held lightly as I wait to see.


Recently I read “error is the handmaiden of truth”. If that is so, if each mistake that I make leads me one step closer, then imagine what I might discover by being absolutely and completely wrong!


And so I stammer and stagger along…


¨      All is well

¨      Love is the source of all

¨      All is the source of Love

¨      A source gives birth to, becomes a part of, and receives unto itself

¨      Ignorance of Love (within all) is the source of pain

¨      The way out of pain is to look for Love (and follow her)

¨      Understanding (loving) self is the beginning

¨      Understanding others flows from understanding self.

¨      Letting others be and see what they will be and see is to trust Love

¨      Growth in Love is not to stuff all into your box, but for the walls of your own box to break (in other words, not to make them see from your perspective but to see from theirs)

¨      There is no good or evil, but there is only Love.

¨      There is good and evil, and there is only Love.

¨      Those who see and do evil have forgotten how and where to look for Love

¨      We are bound to Beauty; we cannot be torn from Her.

¨      Even in the darkness there is Beauty. When I can see nothing good, She is there.

¨      Darkness and light both are made of Beauty. Both contain Her; even as She contains them both. The difference is that in one She is hidden and in the other She is plainly seen. In which place she is hidden depends only on perspective.

¨      It is as if we hold a divided lens over our eyes. One half is black, the other white. Following the path of Love requires the removal of this lens, which obstructs Love’s ability to clearly see.

¨      To do harm to another is to fail to see the Love in them

¨      To do harm to self is to fail to see the Love in self

¨      In Reality there is no such thing as harm.

¨      Love seeks to understand Herself; She is perhaps the Great Introspector.     We become lost for a time within the Shadow Self of Her becoming,          only to be found again by the Light of her blossoming Inner Compassion. Thus Love grows.

¨      When we step into the light of being loved and understood, we offer forgiveness and grace back to Her

¨      Forgiveness is after all ‘for giving’ and what flows back into the individual soul who has thus given, is a Grace too large to be contained.

¨      Allowing even Love to be striving to become, to be imperfect, is to be filled to overflowing with Compassion

¨      We are not called to be perfect but to be whole. The opening to embrace the whole of self likewise opens out to embrace the whole of Love.

¨      When we invite another to step out from previously perceived and conceived darkness into the light of grace, we offer the same gift of grace to Love, and that grace flows back to us in a flood of light.

¨      All love is nourishment to Love

¨      The one who oppresses requires our understanding and our Love the same as the oppressed.

¨      There is no oppressor, there are only the oppressed, the lens is merely flipped depending upon who is looking

¨      To be oppressed is to be disallowed by another to step into the light of grace, and yet if we see only the oppressed through our partially obscured lens, half the beauty in the world remains in the dark.

¨      Love does not see black or white. Love sees with Compassion all.

¨      If we teach hostility and anger, hostility and anger is what will be spread

¨      If we teach love and understanding, love and understanding will spread.

¨      If we only fill ourselves to overflowing with our anger, anger only will overflow, but if we use our anger to inspire us to understand the pain that is at its root, compassion for pain is what will blossom.

¨      Hatred cannot be stopped with hatred

¨      Dividing the self, the world, and Love, into good and evil is the source of all harm perpetrated upon the self, the world, and upon the name of Love.

¨      All is Love. All is Love’s self expression within time. All is reabsorbed into eternity. There is nothing finite. Everything is finite.

¨      While we are obsessed with the apparent distinctions of the finite, we cannot begin to see the infinity of Love.

¨      Love cannot be destroyed. Love continues to Be and to Flow, to create, become, and receive

¨      Time is not eternal. Neither am i. Yet I am forever, not as i, but as the Eternal Love from whom i come, whom i both contain and express for a time, and into whom i dissolve eternally.

¨      Time cannot stand alone. Eternity cannot stand alone. Eternity is contained within this moment in time. This moment in time is contained within eternity.                                                                                                                                                                       

¨      Love cannot stand alone. Life cannot stand alone. Love is contained within Life. Life is contained within Love.

¨      When i cease to be, I simply am.

¨      Love returns to Love

¨      I pour myself into Her as a drop into the eternal waves of ocean, while the drop that I have been within this time is as a single drop into the stillness of the pond

¨      At times it seems in the growth of Love, it is we who slip into Her vastness as the boundaries of our Loving disappear. At other times it is as if it is She who enters with Her entirety into the open and receptive us, expanding the droplet that we have been into an ocean vast.

¨      Love does not need our help to be. Love simply Is. Yet Love requires us to Become. For Love to become, we need to Be.

¨      Love desperately needs us. She cries like an infant for our attention.

¨      Life is Love incarnate. It is how She grows. For Love to manifest herself in abundance we need to feed Her Love. As the human infant grows upon the milk of humanity, the infant Love grows upon the milk of Love.

¨      We need be fully Present to the fullness of Her presence. When we choose to re-present Her partially by seeing Her here but not there, Loving this but not that, preferring one way of her Being while despising Her in the other, Love is stifled. Yet Her Compassion for our blindness grows.

¨      Innocence is lost only when we step into the knowledge of Good and Evil. Only then do we become truly blind to Love.

¨      When we can see Love with and within that which we hate, we begin again to purely see.

¨      We can choose to see the diversity of life without moving to one side, objectifying it, or separating ourselves from it. When we do this we become only alienated and estranged. We can Love deeply and passionately from within, immersed in Her in that place before and after and within.

¨      That place is both the center and the source of Love. From the surface only do things appear to be far apart.

¨      Harmony lies deeper than balance. Balance implies an equalizing of some hidden power that must be reigned and tamed. Harmony recognizes that this hidden power is simply Love.



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