waking up

“Love is the cure, for your pain will keep giving birth to new pain, unless you constantly exhale Love as effortlessly as your body yields its scent”- Rumi

I awoke this morning thinking (although perhaps it might be more accurate to call it listening, as the thoughts seemed to be in my head for me to hear upon awakening) about shame. The voice was a gentle corrective reminding me that shame can never be the way forward, that the image of humanity as a plague is not a helpful one, no matter how that image sought to turn itself in the end to one that was worthy of deep and tender-hearted compassion, received with grace by a forgiving earth. Understanding humanity as a prolific family of squirrels perhaps, as a humble part of the natural cycle (rather than a noxious aberration!), might be okay, but to follow that idea down the path of shame, where the bandwagon of scorn awaits to carry me to the angry  mob that has gathered, threatening to reject humanity as unredeemable, is a grievous error.

Shame never uplifts. It oppresses, pressing those beneath its heavy shoe into shadows of self-contempt. Many of us have been led by individual experiences to believe that who we are is unworthy. It doesn’t help that we also seem to be veritably swimming in a culture of blame and despair. ‘Just look at how horrible we/you are!’

I wonder about the backlash of shame. As it cannot lift, does it perhaps give rise… to the shadow? What does that shadow look like? Defense mechanisms and defensive maneuvers?  Mirrored contempt? Reciprocal scapegoating and blame?

Sadly, it happens on both sides, an ironic side-effect of our passion to protect that which we hold dear is to despise that which we perceive as threatening it.  So, when I use the language of shame (plague) when I fear what we are doing to the earth, I am guilty of scorn-mongering. My small mind can rationalize an awful lot of wrong-headed ideals, but I risk my heart dabbling in that place. I must take care not to move in to there. Soon I will be pointing a crooked finger at all that is broken and wrong, spewing my own version of apocalyptic doom.

Instead, I must practice exhaling Love.

Mercifully, I find that if I spend too much time dipping my toes into those toxic waters, I quite soon feel as if I am drowning, overcome by the harshness of the judgments, the woeful appraisals of humanity, the apocalyptic doom….. and I am repelled by it back to middle ground.

Where a voice whispers, Abide in Love. Let Love abide in you.  

And so, I wonder again if this inclination in me, to stand in the center, as paralyzing and ineffectual as that sometimes feels, is the very place where I am called to Be and to Hold— to behold. I wonder about that voice that awakened me this morning, imploring me to ennoble the ignobled, to recall that we humans are also ‘ Beloveds in whom I am well pleased’, only ‘slightly lower than the angels’, proclaimed to be ‘good’. Perhaps my ‘work’ then is to re-mind, to uplift, to restore to grace.

Of course, this does not mean that we/I/humanity can and will do no wrong, nor that we are not misguided and blind (our minds are small, after all) , terribly imperfect, but it is to recall our innate goodness, our lovability, and to lift that to the light rather than squash it into the shadows.

Look for the good, and you will surely see it. Look for the brokenness and you will find that too. Both are worthy of abiding love.

If I am to equate humanity to any other aspect of the natural world, I want to be filled with wonder for humanity in the same way I fill with wonder for the forest, to come alive when I come across a lichen-speckled human, to be delighted by a chattering bushy-tailed human dropping the plethora of pinecones next to my head. When crossing the boundary into the human realm, I want to Kiss that signpost in the same way that I delight in the one that announces that am crossing into any other wilderness zone. But I want to see it as more than a de-fining label, remember it truly as the wild place it is, and enter with an attitude of receptivity, recognizing the same potential for unorchestrated spiritual encounter.

I want to simply Love humanity, with all its flaws and ferocity, because it truly is a wondrous thing of wild, untameable beauty.

Love in the time of Cholera

Sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness,

to put a hand on the brow of the flower

and retell it in words and in touch it is lovely

until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing

– Galway Kinnel

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, talk of Love is in the air. This morning, I read the first chapter from the next book on my stack, a collection of essays, stories, and love poems, released just in time for the holiday, entitled, Earthly Love, by the editors of Orion Magazine. This first essay left me feeling the full spectrum, the bitter and sweet, of Love for- and Love in- this beautiful Earth, which we are gradually losing (whether you believe that loss to be of an individual nature- as each of us will one day have to let go of life in this place at our personal deaths, or of the more global loss of Life on this Earth, as we know it, now perhaps in its own death throes).

Of course, we always have been losing it. Each day, life here marches ever closer to death and we all fall off of that cliff in the end, but somehow, it feels much harder for us to embrace the death of us/it all. Yet, being willing to look closely, it seems evident that this will surely come to pass, as we seem to be consuming the earth so voraciously that She will no longer be able to sustain us.

It seems to be in our nature to live ‘as if’ we are not dying, to turn our eyes away, keeping them trained instead upon the current pleasure or peace, for to do otherwise can send us into meaningless despair. Throughout most of our existence, some ironic survival instinct allows us to live as if we are above it, until we at last are brought low to come face to face.

Perhaps there is something in the idea of our continuity through our progeny that also keeps that ultimate despair at bay, holds off the harsh reality that life leaves us. Subconsciously, perhaps, this is the Hope we cling to, this notion that some part of us lives on through them. So, it’s much harder to look at ourselves as a species coming to an end, as merely one of the Earth’s cycles of life, an apex species that will prey upon the earth until it is subdued.

Actually, sometimes I imagine we are more like an explosion of rodents— squirrels, for instance, proliferating exponentially during a time of apparent, but misleading, permanent abundance to overrun the resource of nuts in the forest such that the forest cannot reseed itself. Of course, in that scenario, the rodents are eventually brought back into balance. Their sheer numbers no longer able to be sustained, they succumb to starvation, or to population drops via smaller litters, or to the influx of predators who follow along behind such mast years. Of course, soon enough, those predators also will starve or move on, having likewise proliferated and consumed all of their resources for food, and the patient trees will once again produce seeds in prolific abundance to replenish the cycle, ensuring that some of their own will survive.

If the entire Earth itself is the ecosystem of the human, when will these cycles tip to bring us into balance, taking care of our numbers by such a natural culling? How will that look? Will we be unable to bear children? Will we slowly starve? Will we be overcome by unknown predators (of the microbial variety perhaps?). Will we merely dwindle to sustainable numbers , or will we simply cease to be, as so many of the earth’s creatures seem to be doing during this period of mass extinct?

This story is a bleak exercise of imagination, indeed…. save that enduring patience of the forest.

For some reason the title of a book, of which I am aware but have not read, is evoked in me. It surfaces from time to time, actually, the seed of its title evidently having nestled itself into the soil of my imagination. ‘Love in the time of Cholera’.

What does it mean to Love during such a time as this?  To witness the one that you love slip so quickly from your grasp, wasting suddenly, spewing the putrid contents of its unwitting contamination, after taking in what appeared to be safe, what once WAS safe before it was polluted with sewage? If we humans are the plague, what does it mean to love the contaminator itself… to let the contaminator in us be Loved?

There was this line that I underscored in this morning’s essay – ‘How to love straight out of my heart without it getting all gummed up in my brain’. If I think about this over much, I can get lost in hopeless but rational despair (hmmm… does despair reside in the head? Or the heart?) for my mind is so small and I know enough to know that I don’t know how to fix this (or even if it needs to be fixed, for that matter!).

Of course, that’s the thing about the head, it gets caught up in the idea that ‘to fix’ is ‘to love’, and while tending, healing, and restoring are indeed acts of love, attempting to fix can sometimes be a way to protect the heart from feeling the full catastrophe of love.  It can be a denial of- a refusal to look at – the one whom I love, slipping away in my arms, when S/he instead begs to just be embraced. As she is. Should I be blessing this one that I love instead, anointing it with Kisses as it passes?

What would it look like to bless this earth, to anoint it with kisses?

Oh! But perhaps the earth is not the one that requires my love and my blessing in this scenario I have laid out. For the earth is not perhaps the one dying, slipping from grasp. E.O. Wilson asserts that ‘we could take the Earth all the way down to her microbes and she would find a way to recover’. Once she rids herself of the plague that is humanity, she will heal herself. So then… what does it look like to bless the plague of humanity itself? To love it with all of its flaws, to forgive it its shame, to kiss its putrid lesions, to anoint it with blessing, to behold it with tenderness and mercy. To open my heart fully to the fatal flaw of our humanity and embrace it as lovable, refusing to turn my face from its terrible beauty, to let it be broken AND beloved.


Later this afternoon, I read an essay written by an Unupiat woman, in response to the question, “What kind of ancestor do you want to be?” Part of her response was this, “It is taught that our lives are not written in history books or put into archives, but are written in the stars, the rivers and lakes, the mighty ocean, the land that provides’.

While it may be true that my very body becomes these other ones, its elements and essences absorbed and recycled by the earth into something new that retells the story of who i was (and perhaps, if you believe in such things, my spirit may inhabit them as well), this is not, I think, the way We bless them… with our decaying lives….but the way that they Bless us.

What will the rivers and lakes, the land, look like in the future, after the plague that we are has been dumped into them? How will the earth re-member us, with or without our grandchildren in its arms? Will it remember us as Beloved or Curse, or both. What is the fond or horrific story of us that it will tell?

If we have become a toxin, spewing the sewage remnants of our rampant consumption into the waters of life (both literally and metaphorically) how might we clean up ourselves, make of ourselves something safe enough to drink, safe enough for the earth to take us back into its life blood, safe enough to be recycled into blessing, once again, so that our children might drink of her beauty too?

What is the antibiotic for us?

I don’t believe healing ever comes from cursing the one who is ill, by scorning the one who has faltered, by judging with contempt the ignorant. It’s hard to see ourselves as such. We want to believe we are respons-able, that we are capable, intelligent, pinnacles of the earth. But what if we are not. What if we are, as late arrivals in this place, merely immature, merely the unwise, less evolved than our earth’s kin, and their patient tolerance of us is nothing short of compassion for our weakness, embracing the error of our ways and transforming them into Blessing.

To recover from Cholera, one must rehydrate.  Might we rehydrate the blood of this planet with the blessing of being known as Beheld and Beloved as children here, let Love heal us until we are recognizable to the earth once again as something safe, as a source of blessing. Perhaps the Earth itself will do the healing, receiving us as we are, transforming our brokenness into its wholeness, cradling us in its patient arms.

Or…. perhaps not. Perhaps we return dust to dust, our time in this place run dry, and we will be forgotten, nevermore. If that is so, then how do we grace-fully say ‘goodbye’, ‘thank you’, ‘forgive us’ with both grief and love in our hearts.. How do we, at least, leave this place with Love intact.

my soul in silence waits* – day 8 – listening

At the end of this journey, I am promised Peace, a sense of wholeness and harmony, if I live a life rooted in Love. In an enlightening glance at the etymology of the word translated as ‘repay’, (as in, your deeds will be repaid), I learn that at its root is the world Shalom.

Conversely, when I am feeling discord, perhaps it is because I have forgotten, or forgotten how, to root myself in Love- the connection blocked or broken so that there is not flow, rather stagnation or draining emptiness. (here again is that water metaphor that fills me so)

I wonder how this journey has subtly shifted, deepened perhaps, from the innate knowledge of Hope, from whence I began, to Peace. Simply, I notice that the source seems to have a different center. The All is Well of “Hope” alone was perhaps distant/outside of myself, a trusting deeply in something bigger and more powerful than (my) humanity, perhaps even something impersonal that would continue beyond and indifferent to human beings, an assurance that Life and Love would go on, with or without us. This Peace, however, is centered within my very humanity, rooted in my own power to Love and do Good, to be a Part of that Hope.

Empowered Peace almost feels like an oxymoron, but today’s reading implores me to see the relationship between Love and Power. Love is not a wishy washy sentiment, ineffectual and (im)passive. Nor is power, devoid of Love, a force of Hope. Pure power is not to be grasped as a solution for apathy (Do Something! Anything! rather than stand, paralyzed, wallowing in the center of compassionate uncertainty), for power, unrooted in Love, would also leave me feeling the emptiness of purpose.

I am brought full circle, yet I am at a brand new place, arriving ‘where I started, to know the place for the first time’, for here I am again, seemingly at the same place where the invitation to name my longing (day 1) opened the door to naming what it is that is the source of my comfort and strength. On that day, I sought a language of prayer that might make of this Pervasive Energy of the Universe, something accessible and personal. Something into which I might root myself, draw strength and power, as well as comfort and sustenance- a more intimate presence.

To abide in Love, however, and for Love to abide in me, feels closer even than the boundaries of my skin. This is a prayer that moves beyond the rational, scientific-only coldness of pure energy (power), to a feeling of being infused by warmth, encompassed, enveloped, supported and imbued by Love. Power and Love, intensity and intimacy in One.

The Power to Love is ‘here in our world, accessible to us all’. Power to Act. Power to Be. We are not mere spectators of an impersonal, if wondrous, calculation, but participants in the dance.

Waiting for the fog to life, I stick close to the shoreline, move slowly and watch closely, seeking the shape of something by which to discern a course.

This is a power, I am told, that is ‘insistent, yet tolerant’. If I am to act from Love, as I am called to do, I may indeed err in my judgment of ‘right or wrong’, of where to place my compassion or my empathy. But I am to use that power to Love, nonetheless, assured that there will be not only grace (tolerance) but blessing. Not regret, but Peace, the peace of being rooted in Love. And if I listen, carefully, I may discern, feel the resonance of Love within, feel the filling from without (empowered?) when I am in alignment with Goodness. I will know that I am standing upon Holy Ground, where Who I am is Where I am called to be.

In Harmony.

I think of all those pithy quotes ‘The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” (Buechner) or “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.’ (Thurman). They are speaking also of this Power infused by Love. Of Holy Passion.

Fear not.

It is said that the fruits of fear are not only ‘violence’ (hatred) but also spiritual deadness (apathy). Is this fear of loving in the ‘wrong’ place, or the wrong thing, or the wrong way? I am called instead to be a wildly expansive lover, as is the universe itself. Wildly expansive can hold it all, while still choosing to express itself here in this place and time as particular….

Shalom is my reward. Inner peace from the torment of getting it right, or being enough.

The fog enshrouded lake returns to my imagination. I am in the canoe feeling my way carefully. The morning is ahush, the dipping of the paddle soft as I can make it. Earlier, I pulled onto the shore, disembarked to wait, until I could detect a subtle lifting– the hazy ball of light on the horizon coaxing it to lift– and now subtle gradients of gray indicate an edge. Following that edge, soon a passage opens, the curtain lifts, ushering me across the water, into the clarity of – not black and white but – Blue.

* this series of posts were my responses to the blood , “My oul in silence waits”, by Margaret Guenther

breakfast with Don

‘How do you determine what is truth?, I asked. I’d spent a bit of time early this morning perusing commentaries on the current state of affairs in our country, trying to decide if I should be alarmed or if what I am reading might be alarmist, if I am being blind, or conversely at risk of being influenced by blind by rage. I had read about how easily we are micro-targeted to be fed bits of information based upon what is known about us. Information, knowledge even, then is not the same as truth, and while it is easy to point at the information that those on the ‘other side’ are being fed, it’s much harder to accept that the same is happening to us ‘good’ people on this side. Some of the articles I read are written by respected academic scholars, students of the topic infinitely more versed than I, and yet I also am aware that even these are largely influenced by the lens through which academia has been bent to look. Alternately, I read the more heart-centered lamentation by a quaker spiritual leader, whom I respect (albeit he had conferred with a political scientist for help). In this world, where the truth is turned upside down and where catastrophizing has become the language of justice (Is that really new? Or are we just more aware of it today? Or has the viral speed by which mistruths are transmitted made it more of an epidemic?), how do we discern when we are being deluded? What is your measuring stick?

Don’s answer, as is my own, was Love. And yet, even Love is not black and white when it comes to right and wrong. Am I acting out of love when I want to save the jobs of the family who depend upon it, which may mean disallowing another family from that opportunity? Is my husband acting out of love when he uses violence to protect me from harm? Is it loving to extend grace to a family in our community that has been unable to pay their share of taxes when another family has gone without? I have also been poor and unable to pay. The lines are fluid, and ironically, I think that often persons on both sides of a divide believe they are acting from Love.

I believe it was Confucius who taught the model of expanding one’s circle of grace and compassion. Along the journey, at first we love our self, then we love our immediate family (if someone comes to the door needing bread and I have only enough bread to feed my child that day, would I give it away?), then our extended family, parochial community, nation, world, earth….

I have heard it said that the Ten Commandments were a way to codify Love, at a time in human evolution when we were not yet able to act from the seat of Love—when we were perhaps in a place of survival on the hierarchy of needs. This same argument led to the idea that during Jesus’ time, those same laws (along with others) had become corrupted, into a zero-tolerance kind of administration, whereby compassion and understanding could not be used to weigh the circumstances. According to this line of thought, Jesus preached Love as the measuring stick I seek.

I’d like it to be both/and, but I realize even that is often impossible to implement.

In order to live in community, and in order to benefit from the gifts of that community of diverse gifts and resources, ideas and talents (none of us are self-sufficient), I relinquish certain freedoms. I sign on to the greater good, such that even when I disagree with certain decisions that are made I submit. That happens in a marriage, in a career, in a nation. If, for my community, not cutting trees is decided to be a value we hold as important, I give up my ‘right’ to cut the large tree that may one day fall upon my roof. Again, each of these choices could be viewed as based upon Love—or its flip side, fear, for what is fear but the desire to protect that which we love?

Sometimes, I just want absolutes. I want it to be wrong to rape, for instance (and that is not even one of the Ten!), yet even that seems to be a slippery slope. What exactly is consent? What is seduction, coercion? What is retrospective shame? I want it to be wrong to bomb. I want it to be wrong to beat a woman, (here, I admit, I can find no relativism) I want it to be wrong to beat a man! I want it to be wrong to cheat. I want it to be wrong to abuse and intimidate….

Heaven help us.

Perhaps the world of humanity has always been thus. Perhaps this internal conflict is the source of all religion, philosophy, ethics. I have heard it said that the impetus of all religion stemmed from the harsh reality that something must die in order for us to live. Within that harsh reality, we struggle with the ideas of justice and mercy, kindness and compassion. ( Is it just, compassionate, or merciful that the baby seal dies so that the baby shark may live?) This afternoon I caught a PBS program about the lowly weasel.A program for our times? What is the truth about this diverse family? Is it an unsavory, untrustworthy, treacherous, deceitful, betraying, tormenting, harassing plague…. Or a cunning, intelligent, persistent, delving, problem-solving, super-sensed, , flexible, feisty, fearless, accomplished, Brainiac, innovator.

We have hidden from view the physical/visceral realities of that. We no longer witness the deaths and butchering of animals that feed our bodies, no longer witness the burning of the earth that offers us warmth- those fires are hidden too. Perhaps we too have forgotten how to balance.

God have mercy.

My soul in silence waits- day 7- weighing in

“Those of low estate are but a breath;

those of high estate are a delusion.

Together they are lighter than a breath’

What does it mean to be weightless? For all that I am and all that I love to have no substance at all, to be, in the end, nothing?

There is, of course, freedom in that thought, a lifting of the weightiness of it all – self-importance, a ‘meaningful’ life, my life’s purpose, achievement, ‘making a difference’, “Who Am I?’ even. I think of the great sigh of release I felt when I finally understood Mary Oliver’s infamous line, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life” within the context of the rest of her poem, in which she is lying in the grass watching a grasshopper’s jaws move back and forth. The ‘ah’ of that release was deep, relief from the weight of enoughness—doing enough, being enough, good enough.

More recently, I have noticed within me that the need to be known also seems to be lifting. While once I feared leaving no trace when I departed this place, nothing to be re-membered by, today those piles of diaries could be tossed into the pyre. I suppose, then, that weightlessness has something to do with letting go of the albatross, or the burden, of being seen. I also realize somehow that my detachment from those journals of old has to do with my self having moved on from that place; something in me has already passed over. I am no longer the woman who wrote those words – 10, 20, 30 years ago. She, you see, has also become weightless as the sheets of paper upon which she scribbled.

This is not merely an exercise in the letting go of material things, though the all too common giveaway of old age has already begun for me, but in letting go of self-possession. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. This is also what it means to be human.

Perhaps my image of God, becoming diffuse as it is, is merely a mirror of my soul’s own journey within this human body, my spirit beginning to seep out from its containment within form, my sense of self leaving its seat in the ‘Vicki that I am here in this place and time’, to whom it has been attached as identity. I also am nothing. No Thing.

I ponder the one I was even a decade ago, feeling set free from her role as mother, believing that ‘now’ was surely the time when She would come alive, figure out Who She Was ‘separate from’, discover what was the ‘Gift’ she was to carry into this world. She perhaps had to come to terms with her Ego, let it release its hold, not that it was a ‘bad’ thing, but one that had passed its usefulness. Today, what felt so important to me then has no energy to animate it, no need infusing it.

No emptiness to fill? Hmmm.. how interesting is that. Who would have guessed that becoming emptier would lead to satisfaction.

Of course, even here I lie to myself, because that is what we do, even as we are blind to the fact that we are doing it, for it feels so true to us at the time. Children, we are, certain that the world is flat. Then, time shifts, and truths lift, becoming weightless too.

But, I am also invited to prayerfully imagine such a letting go of actual things– people, possessions, intangibles– to name those I care about today. To imagine them as weightless. To list ten.

My daughter. My sons. My husband. My granddaughters. My friends. My Algonquin. This beautiful earth. My home. My eyes. My mind.

And as I ponder these, there is grief. Of course. Grief bears the weight, perhaps. Love is perhaps the bind that ties, after all.

Is love merely another human quality, which will only dissipate into ether? Something in me, today at least, whispers ‘No ‘. “Love is essence’, it says. Weightless perhaps, but perhaps also the Whole of who I am—filling emptiness from hidden corner to hidden corner, nay, spreading out, expanding beyond boundaries of form.

Perhaps this is what it means to be weightless.

my soul in silence waits- day 6- refuge


This day, I am invited to pour it out, to let it be both spoken and heard, expressed and received, to let myself be vulnerable, my fears and griefs, my despair even, be unguarded (can it ever truly be guarded, after all?…there is no defense, merely the illusion of it), to let myself be human, in other words.

Funny, I woke thinking about human suffering – not so much my own, though I am certain there is a connection- but the suffering in this world. I’ve been quite ill this week, and so, when the piercing headache behind my eyes and extreme fatigue would not allow me to lift even a book to be read, I found myself turning to Netflix, binging upon episodes of Call the Midwife. Its setting is right in the seat of human suffering (and so joy, of course, too), in the midst of poverty, where a group of women seek to offer solace, comfort, strength, hope, and grace along with their set of practical skills. Sisters of Mercy.

There was a line somewhere in one of the episodes I watched last night before bed. I can’t even recall the exact words—something about human brokenness- about our fractured or frail existence, but it opened a door in me through which to enter, to cease merely being an observer, to acknowledge and  feel the brokenness.

I don’t know if ‘broken’ is quite the right word, for it seems there is nothing necessarily ‘broken’ about it, as if there would be an opposite that did not include suffering which could be called ‘intact’.  It simply IS part of the whole of being human. There is pain. There is grief. I don’t know if that means there must be suffering and despair, though. Which is simply reality, and which is our response to it?

 However, for some, it seems that pain is the whole of it, with no, or few, glimpses of joy, or hope, or love and for these my heart breaks. And I wonder where I might place myself in the midst of that suffering to offer some mercy…

Anyway, I woke thinking of that. I also woke thinking about my mother, as the setting of this series is during the years that she was a young mother, birthing me and my sisters into that world in which women’s and girls’ lives were proscribed. I thought of her own struggle, having caught glimpses of her fear and her shame, the coldness of her protected heart, in the eyes of some of these characters. I have understood how her world must have both formed and informed her. I’ve recalled her response to my own pregnancy as a young girl, how it must have filled her with fear and despair and caused her to walk away… (and this is the understanding of betrayal, or which I spoke yesterday)

Anyway, I also woke this morning thinking about how ‘easy’ my life is, how easy it is sitting in this place of security to speak of Deep Hope and contentment with the way it is, no matter how hard won is my All is Well. If my story had turned out differently, if there had been no mercy, no grace, no relief, would I be able to express such ‘truths’ ? And again, I found myself wanting to place myself somewhere in the midst of human need, of human suffering, to offer myself as such mercy.

But, even this is not the point of today’s exercise. Its invitation is clearly to let myself crawl into that lap, to pour out my own pain or fear or despair… or confession…to be held and received. My fear of not- enoughness, or not good-enoughness, of course, is peeking through these veiled words. My own shame, perhaps.

I was surprised, however, when re-reading the questions for self inquiry, to find the invitation to also express one’s joy into that place of refuge. Yes, even our joy can be a source of shame. As if to reveal it is to open it to ridicule, scorn, reprisal or even harm. This too is a symptom of our brokenness. We are not allowed to invite Joy into the wholeness of being Human any more than we are allowed to acknowledge suffering.

If there is a heaviness this morning, a lingering darkness, it is the pain of my own child. Her fear of being unlovable, in the end, of being alone. Her pain flows less like a torrent now than once it did, but it still spills forth from where she keeps it at bay when she gets too full. I receive that overflow, as best I can, trying to keep my own guilt at bay. I would give away all of my contentment for her to know peace. IF I could draw from that energy of Love that undergirds me, divert its channel fully into her life, I would. OF course, I try, and it seems that only the sorrow is shared. It flows back to me and I carry it forth. At times, I am merely drained, though far less than once, in the end. Then, I must let go, into Trust in a Love that is far bigger than me. And then, the fatigue of it, this draining of me, makes the voice in me mock me. It derides me, saying ‘who do you think you’re kidding, imagining yourself as a conduit of mercy and grace’.

Of course, these journal entries are the place where I also find refuge, where I can pour myself out and be received, offering solace to myself. And/but, of course this is not at all the same as making myself vulnerable to another, as receiving the solace that another human heart can offer. Certainly, when I choose to post them publicly, that is a type of vulnerability, an exposure to air, a proclaiming of my own flawed humanity, my own brokenness. And I have heard, from time to time, from a few that my honesty here offers them solace as well, in the communion they experience in my sharing.

Perhaps there is mercy and grace here in this seat of refuge.

This is my hope.

my soul in silence waits- day 5 – enemies

Day 5 – enemies

‘Take time to identify some of your inner enemy voices. How do they divert you from exercising your gifts? How might you diminish their pervasive power?”

Enemy is not a word that comes easily to me, but this is a question that begs honesty- an honesty that is not about denying the Light at the center of my being, not about negating the Hope that I am, but about being willing to embrace its shadow, without shame.  My ‘enemy’, the darkness I refuse to name or claim, the ‘all is not at all well’ that swims, as a shark to a dolphin, within the deeper All is Well of the Ocean.

Is it true that all light casts a shadow? I think not. I can image even now a sundrenched sky above a sparkling lake, no clouds to cast shadows from above, no obstructions below. So, it is not the light that creates the shadow, but its obstruction. Yes?

So what are the obstructions in me that block the channel of light – filling me and flowing from me—to distort or dim it.  Are these shadows cast by things outside of myself- an external enemy actually offending, those literal ‘wrongs’- or are they shadows of my own creation, such as when I allow myself to be manipulated by the fear that is mongered about into creating monsters, or conversely being complicit in their proliferation by refusing to look them in the eye. Is it the fear and outrage then that is the monster among and within us? Or is it blindness?

I wonder why it can be so difficult to discern the truth? The beast of our times, apocalyptic forecasts of doom, are like the monsters of ancient texts, aided and abetted by the speed of technological viral contagions. 24 hour newsfeeds in a world grown smaller, where the small thing on the screen grows gargantuan in our fearful minds, make it difficult to keep a human sized perspective, let alone step back into a soul sized one.

On the other hand, being exposed like this, has offered a broader lens to see just how much we are conditioned to believe in the ‘truths’ we are fed without examination. Examination of the enemy often reveals him to be much smaller than the shadow he casts. Or what I thought was a monster was a friend, a falsehood proves to be a truth. Sadly, sometimes the converse is also true.

And so, we are caught spinning in circles of uncertainty. Is it possible to simply stand there within it? Right in the midst of the uncertainty (how close is uncertainty to mystery, I wonder?), in the midst of the fog, waiting for it to lift, for in the fog there are no shadows, after all (or is it all shadow there?) There is not black or white, but many shades of gray.

The problem is that it can also be hard to see the source of light within the fog. Again, it is diffuse—though not necessarily in a pervasive way but in a muted one. There are times that I simply want to know what is true. I want certainty. Shades of gray, as seen by one who sees through eyes of empathy and understanding, can make it difficult to be certain what is right and who is wrong. I have felt paralyzed within that fog, at times in my life, not knowing which way to even lean, let alone walk, when each perspective is understood.

And yet certainty of one’s rightness often grows into a monster too, a monster unable to see the harm it does, the trampling and disregard. (is ‘rightness’ then the enemy?) And so, the best, I think that I can do today is to acknowledge, with humility and grace, that I cannot see from my human perspective, and to be willing to accept/dwell in that cloud of unknowing.  That can feel a powerless and lost place to be, for there is an energy concentrated (as opposed to being diluted) in a ‘right’ stance, which can feel both passionate and stabilizing, dynamic and grounding. There is quite a bit more potential fear in uncertainty.

Sometimes I fear standing on the wrong side, here in the middle. I fear the shadow side of Hope may be apathy, for the ability to see Good in All ‘sides’, to trust that ‘All is well’, to perceive with understanding and empathy can lead to indecision and inertia.  And yet, it is said that “God is a circle whose center is everywhere”

For far too long, I have allowed the shame of standing in the center to overcome me, like an enemy. I have allowed my loving gaze to be labeled as blindness or naivitee, my ability to hold it all as weakness, let the shadows of those judgments diminish my light…..

Finally, I am asked about forgiveness- forgiveness of those who have done harm (to me) , and forgiveness of self. “What does forgiveness mean?’ My first response is ‘Where there is understanding, what is there to forgive?’ Yet, even with understanding the source of it, there is still pain. Betrayal and hurt feel real because we are broken off from a place that felt certain and secure. Of course, at times betrayal arises from my own assumptions of ‘rightness’, does it not? My expectations of what ‘should’ be, my inability to see from the other’s perspective. What’s black is also white.  Betrayals of trust are another matter, and feel so very obviously like an enemy that harms, and yet… how often are those understandings seemingly broken because we truly misunderstand. Communication is such a flawed human construct, and human need is so very lovable.

Oh it is all so very vague, a struggle to express, and sometimes I despise the relativism of it all and I long for a moral code of law upon which to stand. The problem, of course, is Love.

And so, I am left to Act with Love – and then to let go of perfection. Otherwise, no action at all will ever be taken at all, and I am struck immobile by the enemy, which is fear of choosing the wrong action, the wrong answer, the wrong side. Regret is a painful, shadow-filled, place to stand. Of course, regret is devoid of compassion- self-compassion, that is- and forgiveness, love and grace. Regret is indeed perhaps the enemy of each of these. Regret is the enemy held prisoner within the soul that must be released if freedom to Love is to be.

And so perhaps that is my answer. That is where I stand in certainty. That is where the fog lifts, where the light infiltrates without obstruction, and a clear path opens across the water. I stand in self-compassion, self-forgiveness, love and grace.

my soul in silence waits, day 4 -imagining

Day 4 – imagining

I search about to follow the prompts at chapter’s end — ‘How do you image God? What name do you give it? How does God image you? What is God’s name for you?‘ — but the trail leads into darkness, for images no longer come, no longer offer comfort, nor even a sense of presence.

While once upon a time, ‘Beloved’ served as the answer to those questions, offering its sweet tasting nurture, healing the unloved and unlovable in me (and the unlovable in God, for me, dare I say, for there is much ugliness and pain in this world that is in need of being beheld with great compassion and tenderness), that image has long since dissolved into the broth of ubiquity.

What image offers itself for omnipresence? Energy has no image. Pervasive presence is uncrystallized , though it might solidify into matter, creating forms that I might wrap my arms about in wonder. I suppose Ground of All Being may be a strong contender- ground from which blossoms push forth, ground- teeming with life of its own, unseeable both because it is hidden from view beneath the soil, and also because aspects of it are smaller than my eye can see. But what kind of ‘image’ is one that cannot be seen?

God- invisible and yet visible everywhere, potential and kinesis, energy and form, emptiness and teeming fullness, sheer abysmal silence and cacophony , dark and numinous.

I understand that the author is beseeching me to grasp a metaphor (not a literal image) to also let myself be held. A finger pointing, as they say. And yet, I cannot, and I am content with that—to let God be mystery, if indeed God is God at all. To let God be nothing. No thing.

Perhaps one day this will shift for me again. God will take form, become embodied or incarnate/personal. Perhaps my need will allow God to be visible. Perhaps this mystic’s soul will drift upon these waters, rising up from these dark depths, to be buoyed and upheld.

Water, then. Perhaps.  Water has been such a source of comfort and strength, deep peace and wonder for me. Water- pervasive even when invisible, within my very breathing in and out, within my very cells.   It soothes and excites, annihilates and animates, is visible and invisible, solid and ungraspable, hidden within and bathing the surface. I feel something in its presence that is undeniable.

Ok. That will do.

my soul in silence waits – day 3- waiting

Day 3 – Waiting

Waiting is such a present centered posture, even as one could also imagine it being forward facing, for the preposition that so often follows the verb ‘to wait’ is ‘for’, as if what one is waiting for is not yet here and now. Still, this posture is not necessarily one of high-expectancy , but of patience, quiet and calm. Hope can be an aspect of it, but hope is qualitatively different than expectation. More and more, I am understanding Hope as something other than ‘Hope for’. It stands alone, grounded in the present, a standing posture not a movement. A posture filled with peace, full of light. A way of being.  ‘To wait’ is to be centered in that Hope, to live quietly without undue urgency or worry, without expending undue energy upon fear. To wait is to breathe, to breathe is to live, to live is to BE.

To Be Love. Love, in this place of sorrow and joy, grief and delight, despair and peace. Love in it all.

Oh perhaps I am being blind, denying my own human frailty, and perhaps tomorrow, being human as I am, or next week, or next year, I will, gazing backwards, scoff at such ‘sentiments’ as these, being caught in some story at that time (oh, but that is not at all fair to diminish a potential reality such as despair or rage or grief as a ‘story’), some experience of being human in which Hope – or even waiting for Hope – feels like the work of fools. But it would also be wrong for me to diminish this place where I stand so firmly rooted in Peace as a blind sentiment, or some anesthetic of sorts. And so, I am a content to be a Holy Fool.

I wonder at this seeming resurgence of ‘Who I Am’, which seems to be reclaiming me as much as I am proclaiming Her, for I can also recall that, along with the innate sense of the innate Goodness of Humanity, which has been with me since I was a child despite life experiences that could have taught me otherwise, the word ‘patient’ is also a descriptor that was often used to describe me during those active motherhood years of my life. “You’re so ‘calm’.” Perhaps it goes along with the quiet demeanor of an introverted nature- this projection and perception by others of patience in me.

And yet, turning around to look back, I can see how I seemed to lose touch with this natural way of being, lost hold of its tethering root, over these last 10-20 years or so of my life. It seems that perhaps with the divorce, and then as my children left the nest, the safety I hadn’t realized that I experienced in them was lost, their unquestionable love for me no longer an irrefutable constant as I was somehow pulled off orbit.  I have faltered over this past decade, throughout this transitional time, to know that I am loved and lovable, sought desperately to find my footing in that, yearning to be seen as Good, seeking to prove my worth.  Love was no longer involuntary, it felt like it needed to be earned. 

This has been the work of a decade- to uncover this root of Goodness within me and to reground myself in it,  to let go of grasping for its validation outside of myself, to let go of my fears of rejection and abandonment, to trust in this Who I Am. The move has been from external to internal.

And so perhaps this is why this feeling of being pregnant—expectant? – with Hope. This child in my womb cannot desert me, for it is not separate from me, and will be entirely something new. This morning’s reading also explored the metaphor of waiting during pregnancy. The author recalled having crossed off each day on a desk calendar, not in a ‘counting down the days’ kind of a way, but in a marking the passage, an intention of being present to each day with wonder, a sense of mystery, deep joy and awareness.

And so, that is where I shall stand.

my soul in silence waits – days 1 and 2

Day 1 – longing

From a box of books, offered for my perusal by a dear friend, I pulled one slim volume, authored by an old familiar name, a previous volume of hers I recalled having deeply appreciated years ago. I had purged my own shelves of similar books a few years back, no longer finding resonance in their sentiments. Overtly religious in a way that I have not explored in some years, I trusted this woman author nonetheless. Besides, the title had to do with Silence. How comforting that invitation felt.

Still, I did not necessarily intend to open the book straight away, but after closing the cover on the non-fiction, science-based treatise on the psychological – restorative and enriching- benefits of Nature, there it was at the top of the stack. Choosing to open myself to what felt like something coming in from outside of myself, opening the cover on what might not at all be my own choice for a next read, from a box of the discarded, nonetheless, felt like an invitation somehow. (In truth, I love receiving books from friends as gifts, for I am without fail enriched by their choices for me, but these were books even my friend did not cherish any longer) Away from the safety of following my own narrow trail – one breadcrumb leading to the next – and stepping out onto an unexpected divergent path, is to see and to be seen by what my more narrow algorithmic trajectory might entirely miss.  Much has been learned about the ways in which we confirm our biases by what we choose to consume – whether media or food – and so, despite the fact that it can be comforting, validating and deepening to find kindred souls ‘out there’, it is also beneficial to our souls to introduce them to ideas that broaden, as well as deepen them.  I suspect this is how Love—or at the very least Empathy–  grows, after all .

Still, I laugh at myself as I write this, because, after all, it WAS a box of books of a dear friend, and I gleaned the safest selection from the pile!! So, it was not much of a stretch perhaps at all. I was more afraid perhaps that the God I would find in its pages would reject me!  However, in opening its pages, it has felt more like wrapping myself in an old blanket, hol-ey and smelling of comfort.

Indeed, in the first chapter’s invitation to explore my  longings – longings that I may have suppressed or denied – and to begin to name the ways that my restlessness has led me on strange paths, all the while truly seeking rest,  I felt the resonance straight away, for the nagging feelings of loss and longing within me were stirred awake from where I keep them contained.  Re-entering these waters was like stepping into  a warm bath, where the hidden, unacknowledged life in my womb stirs.  I have indeed deeply missed the feelings of comfort, of belovedness, longed for the relationship to Spirit (Soul –Withinness- I don’t even know how to name it) that I once knew. It feels  like coming home.

Day 2 – silence

Today’s invitation is to sit in silence, and also to notice what keeps me from withdrawing to that place of silence. Of course, although to many my life may appear to be quite quiet and withdrawn, I can fill that spaciousness as much as any other.

First and most obvious is today’s technology, always at the ready to divert, to bounce into when one begins to feel the emptiness, to fill it with ‘noise’. It is the plague of our day. In some ways, this chapter dovetails nicely with the more left-brained research of the Nature Fix book, which employed scientific methods ( brain and body scans) to measure what all the ‘noise’ in our lives does to us. (and perhaps, because of its methods, the book itself was also ‘noisy’, full of data and information. And I rcognize that this is also a way that I fill the silence in me—with knowledge , often over and against experience, as if I need to confirm what I ‘know’ or feel)

I spent much of yesterday (I am convalescing from an illness that has really wiped me out – enforcing stillness perhaps?) re-reading the book , “Awe filled Wonder”, which I’d read last spring and had found so breath-giving for me. I wanted to try to recapture what it was that I’d felt when reading it. I recalled that it had offered me a way to enter into ‘prayer’ again (as opposed to ‘mere’ meditation), offering me a new image – a way to conceptualize the energy of “God” without having to disregard my mind. 

I should explain that my concept of ‘God’ (oh what hubris is in that sentiment) had never completely disappeared, merely dissipated into a vague, pervasive presence within all, a presence that I had found increasingly impossible to pray to , or even with, rather could only seem to acknowledge, even if with wonder at times.  To ‘live and dwell and have one’s being’ in a field of the sacred, while on one hand may allow communion to feel quite a constant and natural thing, on the other, paradoxically, can feel quite empty—empty of feeling known or loved . It’s the whole ‘personal’ thing, perhaps a selfish need, though I am after all, merely human- vulnerable and needy.

I have digressed (funny, in an exercise which invites me to notice how I fill- or distract myself from- the silence, that these tendrils of thought so effortlessly unfurl) . Returning to the book yesterday, I wanted to be reminded of that feeling of peace and relief, the ‘yes’, I had experienced when reading it a year ago. It wasn’t quite the same experience in re-reading it, however. Perhaps I was skimming across its surface rather than plumbing its depths, but basically I came away with the refresher that prayer is rather like ‘tapping in’ to presence (or source, or energy) along with the idea that in this universe , Love embracing that which feels quite opposite to Love is what births new Light (think electron and positron encountering  one another, each one being annihilated in the process but resulting in 2 photons of light appearing, or Jesus on the cross embracing in freedom and compassion those who harmed him. )

And so, as to not deny that, while I have felt perhaps stuck in my journey of Spirit thse last years, which I have accepted as some mixture of Dark Night (where is God) and Unitive awareness (All is God), my actual soul’s journey, unclaimed by my  all-too-human consciousness, may have indeed been carrying me along in its deepening evolution.  Even as I have at times felt as if I have been skimming along the surface, Love has been unfolding below the surface, within and even without me.  Simply because a thing is not named or claimed does not mean that it does not exist.

Surely, I can see that “God” has been with me (because It is with everything, the center of all as both modern physics and Augustine assert), even as I once recognized “God” had been with me throughout those long years between when I rejected the idea preached about ‘God’ as Judge at a tender young age to when ‘God’ reemerged 20 years later as Lover.  It seems that ‘not God’ is the way, for me at least, to move more deeply INTO God.  For, as I look back now at what I have been invited to in these last years of my life, I can surely see that the call in me to embrace the ‘other’ as good— or at least, lovable, forgiveable, understandable, embraceable—is nothing other than Love.  Innately, I have understood (because it is WHO I am?) that dividing is not the way of Love. My ‘nature’, while frustrating to many and while it often would be easier for me to hop on the bandwagon and belong , it seems cannot be denied its inability to demonize. (of course, the danger for me is to somehow not demonize inadvertently the ones I perceive as demonizing!!! )

And so, back to silence, to prayer, to waiting…

The chapter suggests I look at the clothes/layers I have donned for protection. This is something that has come up in my private journaling quite often for me—this feeling of hardness overlying me and not liking the way it makes me feel. But lately, this seed in me, rooting perhaps over this long season of darkness, seems to be pushing, making itself known, cracking the surface layers. It feels like a glowing orb in my womb … this Orb of Hope I spoke of last week. … growing large enough to be seen, as life in the womb is wont to do. Not that the Hope itself is new, or that the knowledge of its All Is Well/All is Love is new either, but that the need to hide it seems to be falling away. My willingness to reveal it, despite the prospect of being misunderstood or diminished (well, it truly can’t be diminished, after all) feels fresh – refreshed. As a pregnant woman soon realizes, the clothes she once wore to conceal soon are useless to do so. I do imagine/hope that the drape I will choose as I grow will be a soft one , no bulging belly in your face for me. I am a creature of ‘habit’, after all.

 Perhaps that is the way in this Life’s evolution life, this becoming  of Love, which I once saw so clearly as concentric wombings. I had forgotten that at times, this means the seed cannot be discerned at all. At times it is a secret too precious/tender to be revealed. At times the quickening reveals its presence like the fluttering of butterfly wings.  And then it is suddenly quite evident, the bearer of Love’s union aglow.

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