surrendering to Love

…. facing my own vulnerability and pain

  

“The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell, don’t go back to sleep.” – Rumi

I wanted to walk away this morning, but my soul had other plans. It begged me to sit with this feeling of ‘too much’ (yes, you can bear it) one more time, to not rush out that door headlong into winter, that there was something yet to glean from these seedheads.

The last of the grains came free with these words, “Eventually, it feels like forgiving Reality Itself for being what it is’,  the last lines of a brief morning reading on the practice of letting go.

And I remembered that sweetness

All those years ago in the midst of my own devastation, God coming to me, seeking my forgiveness for being ‘imperfect and impotent’, asking if I could Love Him even here (often in ghastly images),  yearning for me to welcome Him into my embrace.

I understand now. That was about acceptance — Love Of Life, as it is.  No denial of its ugliness, or refusal to acknowledge its suffering.

This morning, in the breaking dawn, I clearly saw the wide gulf between deep curiosity about life and the rigidity of certainty about it, between the wisdom of love and the self-assurance of knowledge and information, between resting in the knowledge that Love is Deep within All and denying that Life is Pain and the world is broken.  And I asked myself, “What vulnerable place within me am I seeking to assure with certainty… or to protect with denial? What grief, perhaps, am I unwilling to accept?”

That question broke open the hard-coated seed to Love within. Suddenly I can see that my striving– seeking answers and explanations, understanding and solutions– stems from this vulnerability.

As each day for hours, often several times a day, the pain and darkness of a beloved one pours into my heart through the cellphone attached to my ear; as each day, images and articles of the brokenness and suffering in our world pour into my heart from the screen, I divert the flow of that pain to my heart with so many words and thoughts – a world of ideas flowing into and out of my head. My brain tricks me into thinking it can grasp onto some formula to solve the problems of Life (if only ‘they’ could see)… and avoid feeling the pain of a heart broken open by Life’s suffering.

The truth is that Life is pain (it is also bliss. sorrow and joy. terror and beauty, night and day). That pain needs to be held by compassion (perhaps, it wants to teach us about compassion). Where there is suffering, it seeks mercy. Where there is grief, tenderness. Acceptance not resistance.  Surrender not solution. Forgiveness not fixing. (the ‘if only they could see control’ transforms into the release of ‘forgive them for they don’t know’) A Love like that heals, and transforms darkness into light.

This morning, I wondered how I forgot this, as I really thought I’d done this work long ago (when in the midst of my own life-rending pain)  had come to accept that Life’s heartache is an essence of her Great Beauty, after all, a paradoxically necessary part of our journey of Becoming more deeply human, softening to Love. But I asked myself, ‘Is it true that you have come to accept/love the Reality of Life? Do you truly have compassion for Life as you claim that you do? Or do you want to bypass its ugliness and get straight to the Beauty? Can you love its darkness, too?”

I so yearn for the transformation of pain in others, in this world – but perhaps I am too attached to that outcome, and so I try to push rather than allow it. ( my mind cannot help but bring forth images of childbirth here- the pain of contraction softening the cervix, allowing for the birth of a new being)

I see now that in allowing the pain of others to enter my heart, I must take care to not let it get caught in my head, separated from my soul, to Re-Member that pain to the Wholeness of life as I know it to Be.

This morning I acknowledged my own sorrow and grief, which I’ve been denying in my unwillingness to feel the vulnerability that comes with opening to the pain of the other. This morning, I allowed myself to be a mortal human being, tender with the vulnerability of unknowing.  This morning, I allowed that pain to be seen and to be held. This cracked open the seed, if you will– To release its clinging to knowledge and expertise, To let go its need to fix so as not to feel anxiety and fear, To fall into true acceptance and Love.

Simply Love.

I expect the yearning to alleviate pain and transform suffering is a Holy Yearning, which gets a bit twisted up in my human attempts at responding to Life’s pain. The question for me is how does it truly look to offer comfort not answers*, hope not invalidation — to Be and to Act with Compassion and Love, with Mercy and Grace, grounded in the Wisdom of Soul, with Love—open eyed, open hearted, open souled. To love the darkness without trying to make it be light. To love those who, from within their own brokenness, cannot see or receive or know Love, or whose own hardness will not let you close enough to remove the thorn that is causing their pain. This is not to turn my back on What I Know, but to enter more deeply into this Beloved World, bearing that Love on my sleeve (some of those seeds, you see, clung to my coat).

Vulnerable to the full catastrophe. 

*My husband and I were talking about how difficult it is sometimes to crack the veneer of one who is unable to receive a message of Love. (Some seeds require a manual knicking, often performed in nature by bird beaks). I thought of my own journey, and how vital it was to hear and to receive new definitions of Love from those outside of myself, in order to heal my image of self. But then I wondered, what soul force was it within me that sought out those outside messages, what soul knowledge allowed me to receive them.  He came up with the image of an egg, that the chick must crack the shell open from within. I’ve also learned that butterflies are the same- that if someone tries to ‘help’ it in its painful looking struggle to free itself from the chrysalis, that butterfly with not survive. But I wondered about that image of the egg, and how it is also that something must keep the egg warm, while the chick grows strong enough to survive in the outside world. I think of my very pregnant daughter-in-law, and the strength of the womb to both nurture and protect, but to also push life forcefully forth. The process is painful. There is a powerful life-force within the seed, within the egg, within life– and there are conditions in which that life force is supported to develop, and in which the birthing is midwifed by one who knows the way.. And so, I am left with both/and in regards to this inner/outer action of Love. We are the hands and feet, as they say… And within each of us is the spark of the Divine urging us into Life.

oversaturated

A few weeks ago, I wrote of the banquet table that was spread out before me, as I found myself feasting upon a new stack of books. Well, here I am today feeling abit like Thanksgiving afternoon, all that gratitude transformed into gluttony.

It’s not really the books, perse, that have left me feeling overstuffed and bereft. It’s just that, well, one thing leads to another, with information overload so ready at my fingertips, with the synergy of emails between friends leaping across the synapses in my brain, with the plethora of excellent soulful offerings on zoom or podcast, daily readings, thought provoking essays, self-help advice for a loved one… you get the idea. And it is not lost on me that here I am adding more words to the blogosphere… with these journaling prompts from the latest book on the stack.

It seems I have moved from satisfying the hunger in the belly of my soul, to oversaturating my brain. Words. Words. Words. Thinking. Thinking. Thinking. Ideas. Ideas. Ideas. Solutions. Solutions. Solutions.

I live in a culture that teaches me that consumers are vital aspects of a healthy ecosystem. That consumption will make me happier. That, if I have free access to consuming, then I really ought to take advantage. The hunger for healing and wholeness in me perhaps makes that a potential deathtrap, for I could consume myself into a virtual coma.

But I don’t believe we are made to be consumers of this earth. Nor do I believe we are meant to be consumers of information. In both cases, our souls are starved of what they truly need.

I also suspect that our brains are not made to hold so much information. We have access to too much, more than our physiology can digest. That makes us sick. I have been feeling that — anxiety, inability to process, faitigue, vulnerability. I suspect that , just as we are advised to eat local, our brains are also designed to process- and relate to – the local, the immediate, the present, the actual.

As I hit upon so clearly yesterday, I know I am not meant to carry it all…but to open to Love it all. Ironically i think that is one of the gifts of the internet, if we can ever allow it to simply be so, that it might be a container for our brains so that we can be freed to be human again.

Sometimes, I wish i weren’t so voracious for knowledge. I’d like to look at that. Does it make me feel safe, less vulnerable somehow? What answers am I truly seeking? One very real problem for me (and one that I suspect is an invitation into loving awareness) is my need to respond to EVERYTHING — which is somehow tied to my need to fix to alleviate my anxiety– to be necessary… (to be loved?). The relinquishment of this attachment is a strong Soul pull that I feel, this call to surrender, to accept…to simply fall…in Love. I cannot fix a broken heart …or a broken world. On a deeper level than that, I expect this is a practice to which I am invited into the ultimate surrender– to the Reality of life and death itself.

This morning, I woke, yearning for emptiness, wanting all of these seeds within me to burst from the pod, be dispersed to the wind, to be free of them. Winter is the time to be still, emptied of ideas, emptied of knowing, emptied of reaching and grasping, emptied even desire.

So, this morning, I took a long walk through the snow-covered landscape. I noted where squirrels and deer had crossed the path before me. I noted the way the seedheads of summer’s blossoms were the gathering places for winter’s crystals. I left the turret of my brain to enter the kingdom of my body, and I remembered what it feels like to simply be alive.

And i realized again, that this is why i go… out there, into the wild. To be simple again. To be immediate. To be present. To be real. And I understood that this is the reality i wish to bring home to this place — not another binge cycle, but a steady diet of simple goodness– of quiet, of stillness, of depth, of meaning, of trust, of belonging, of rightness, of Love for this place.

So, the task laid out before me is how to be simple here. How to know what is mine to carry, what food I should eat, how to sit by the water each morning, in stillness, falling in love, and let that be enough. More than enough.

For I truly believe that this is what the earth needs, for more of us to be still, to be simple, and to fall into Love. So, I likely won’t be here in this virtual place again for some time.

I leave you, for now, with this excerpt from an essay from LLewyllen Vaughn Lee, which came upon my desk this morning. May it be an open gate for you to also enter….

Ordinary, everyday awareness can return us to a place of balance, where we are part of the living community to which we really belong. A community not of internet bubbles, but of the earth and the clouds and the sun on the water. Whether this is an answer or merely a refuge I do not yet know. I am reassured to find this primal awareness described centuries ago, in teachings and poems that remain outside of time. Today, watching a little ruby-crowned bird looking for food at my feet, I feel true kinship. Focused on her own search, she allows me to come close, without fear or concern. Walking through this gate that is always open, we can return to a quality of consciousness beyond truth and lies, one that is more primal, spontaneous. Here an old man in his garden watching a little green bird can leave behind a strange fractured world of distortions and breathe an air that is not toxic, walk on a land that is still singing.

morning lesson

This is everything I need.

Encapsulating all that I was feeling and intuiting and trying to put my finger on/wrap my heart around as Something in me (or outside of me) was seeking to breakthrough yesterday’s distress . Overwhelmed by the weight of too many words, too much “information”, not enough Wisdom. Understanding, somewhere deep within, that balancing all of this head knowledge, this bombardment of information -science, analysis, statistics, data, facts- with Presence and Depth, is what this world so very desperately needs right now. (There is a vast difference and necessary counterbalance between the understanding of the brain/ego and the awareness of soul) Needing to move my human body out of the darkness of an anxious brain to step into splendor (to remember, humbly, that I am a human Being, not merely a human knowing) moving from being fear-driven to being love -drawn. Surrendering to the truth that there are things too big for me. Hearing the grace in the song’s lyrics to “Let it fall with confidence and grace.. Breathe in” . Trusting the All is Well within the all is not well.

So I share this morning’s gift of affirming grace, from Richard Rohr’s daily email, with you below (Or you can follow this link to the full text.) in case you need it too.

Wisdom of Presence
Thursday,  December 17, 2020

We empty ourselves to let the divine flood us with love. We are empty so we may be full. —Beverly Lanzetta

It seems that one of the most difficult lessons for us to learn is that knowledge is not the same as wisdom. Even sincere spiritual seekers resist this truth: becoming “full” of all the information in the world does not of itself accumulate into wisdom. As Bonaventure noted, “Wisdom is confusing to the proud and often evident to the lowly.” [1] Wisdom is not the gathering of more facts and information, as if that would eventually coalesce into truth. Rather Wisdom is a different way of seeing and knowing. Nothing new—no perspective, no experience, nor even love can come to us when we are full of ourselves, our agendas, and our own points of view. That is why, as Beverly Lanzetta observes, self-emptying is so critical to any expression of authentic spirituality. She writes:

Defined as the releasing of selfishness and ego attachments, loss of self is a central characteristic of spiritual life. Let us for now refer to emptying of the self in a twofold sense: as a breaking down of our cherished self-identities, wants, demands, and ego struggles; and as an openness of being, where all the doors and windows of the soul are thrown back to allow in the splendor of life. Since in a body we will always have elements of personality traits, self-emptying is not an absolute state but the practice of letting go. And this practice of detachment, in which we experience the fluidity of presence [italics added] that is deeper than identity, becomes the medium for the great transformation of being that demarcates a contemplative life. . . .

I would go so far as to suggest that wisdom is precisely the freedom to be present. People who are fully present know how to see fully, rightly, and truthfully. Just try to keep your heart open, your mind without division or resistance, and your body not somewhere else. Practicing presence is the daily task of all mature religious and spiritual disciples. It is our very presence, open and available, that allows us to experience and participate in the life of God in the world. Beverly Lanzetta continues:

True emptiness is also an openness of being. It is an ongoing receptivity to the wonder of life. Having an ability to flow with what life offers, we are able to pass back and forth from the interior chambers where our soul and the Beloved meet into the world. Intimacy with the Divine offers a new quality of heart. The contemplative life teaches us how to sustain this openness that is natural to our natures, and how to employ spiritual disciplines to preserve and protect our vulnerability. Contemplative experience moves us from the intellectual idea of openness that we glimpse in fragments and in starts, to the meditative exercise of openness, and then to the orientation of our whole being toward surrender and receptivity.

corrective

You know how it is when a news source prints an article, then realizes an error was made – sometimes egregious – that when the correction appears, it goes often unnoticed, and is irrelevant by then. Well, this is it, my friends. I was wrong about many things in my previous post. That was not an alphabet of awakening, but one of annihilation.

But this correction is not at all irrelevant, and the correction that was made was to me.

After I put that post out there, my husband, sensing my distress perhaps, invited me to step outside for a long walk through the snowy streets of our village, where it was good to get out of my head. While out there, I remembered , as often I do, where to ground myself — in Love, not despair, in Beauty, not fear.

I know just enough to know that my brain is biased evolutionarily toward negativity, to not be ‘keeping a look out’ for the Good but for the dangerous. I know just enough to know that the algorithms of the internet can reinforce our biases as we fall down its suggested rabbit holes. I know that I do much more Good in the world by being a presence of compassion, of stillness, of hope, of peace, of wonder, of depth, of silence, or joy than I could possibly do by bringing more fear to it.

I also remembered, as I often do out there, my smallness, and not in a way that made me feel hopeless, but humble, in a way that helped me remember the Vastness of Love (of the Universe) relative to our human failings. I understood that of course I cannot bear the weight of this world on my shoulders, but can be present to it with Love in my heart. And I can trust that there is One who can bear it, who is far Wiser than me, who sings ‘Fear Not’ into the night.

And I can soften into that Grace.

alphabet of awakening

Those who will not slip beneath

the still surface on the well of grief,

turning down through its black water

to the place we cannot breathe,

will never know the source from which we drink,

the secret water, cold and clear,

nor find in the darkness glimmering the small round coins,

thrown by those who wished for something else.

-David Whyte, Well of Grief

Yesterday’s practice seems to have opened a well of grief within me, as if the cap of some ancient source has been pried loose.  It’s mingled with other griefs within me, I suppose, like the Big One I carry for the pain of a precious loved one, and suddenly feels much larger than the possible space that contained it.

After reading yesterday’s post, a friend sent me this article from Sun Magazine, on the consequences to the earth of our human plunder, equally bleak – with small slivers of gold threaded through its dark cloth. Sitting with my journal this morning, as a reread the article for the 3rd time, trying to absorb the weight of its message, I jotted down words, as they jumped off the page, just to help me to sift and to sort, I suppose, and to get them out of my body, where a preponderance of words such as these are a bit too heavy to bear.

I’ve arranged them here in a sort of Alphabet of Awakening. Where there was a positive feeling word for a particular letter, I placed it at the end of the list, as a sort of movement towards grace.

Appropriation, abysmal, antagonism, anthropocentrism, affordness of place, agreology, alignment , awe, abundant, ancient

Bleak , barren, biome, biological wealth

Catastrophic, colonialism, collapse, clear cut, consumption, constructed, conqueror, callous, cruelty, control, command, cynicism, curiosity, challenge, consciousness, connectivity, conserve

Defaunation, disparagement, domination, destruction, disjunction, demeaning, dispensible, devastation, depletion, devoid, demolish, dislocate, damage, disenchantment, dependency, degrowth,

Ecological collapse, extinguish, extravagance at the expense of the other, engineered , emergency, emptying, entitlement, exterminate, egregious, educate, ethical, embrace

Factory farming, freshwater, forests

Global, greed, guilt, grief, geographical takeover, goodness, gift, gratitude

Human supremacy, human impoverishment, human catastrophe, hollow illusion, holocaust, humanization, human participation, habitat, heal

Invasion, impoverish, impossible, inhabit, intrinsic, imagination, inherent worth,

Killing

Loss, local, love,

Monumental, mass extinction, mass production, monstrous mandate, monotonous, monoculture, materialism, mindless, mitigation, minimalism, mystery,

Normality, non-human, nutritious

Onslaught , oppression, overconsumption, oasis

Pain, pressure, poaching, pollution, populations, property, power, plague, poison, plunder, participate, principal, precious, planet, protection

Reverberation, revolted, revulsion, revolution, remorse, rage, resignation, resistance, reckoning, remembering, rescue, radical, respect, restore, relationship

Supremacy, supremacy, supremacy, subjugate, suffering , super-killing, selfishness, spread, shame, survival, sorrow, sacrifice, slowness, socialization, splendor

Technological, trajectory, threat, trance

Unconscious, unethical, unraveling, upheaval, used, unique

Virulent, violence, verdant, viable

Worldview, waste, weight, wrecking ball, wild ecology, worth, wholesome, waking, wonder,

In my inbox this morning, I also received a beautiful visual offering of prayer, which included a description of prayer as dance. I have long experienced this Great Conversation between myself and God ( between humanity and the divine) much like that, an embodied/cosmic dance where Godde is most willing to alternately lead and follow, needing us as much as we Need.  I’ve imaged Godde’s alternate surprise and sorrow in that dance, along with the subsequent sigh, of delight or acquiescence, “Ok, I’ll go with you there”.

May it be so in this grave moment, for we are surely in need of some holy partnership as we make our way through this dark human-made passage.

What does that dance look like, for me, on this day? One of unbearable sorrow, a stagger, an assuaging sway, each of us upholding the other ….

…..

But outside my window, it is beginning to snow… As I watch, I listen to this song, Let It Fall, by Over the Rhine. I let it wash over me, a healing wash, one of full bodied surrender and grace. I imagine it to be a song, to which I am being invited, by the Divine, to dance on this day.

I’ve my snowshoes at the ready, by the door, eager to enter into the hushed silence of that blessed snow bathed wonder just outside my door, where I will continue to clumsily fall, I suppose –in love, and in falter—where I will continue to bear witness, and belong deeply to, this terrible fleeting eternal  beauty.

eco crisis

This morning, I am asked to allow my mind to explore the depth and breadth of the degradation of Mother Earth, to allow myself to linger in the places that cause me pain or discomfort… in other words, I suppose, to allow myself to feel.

Images from the David Attenborough documentary, A Life on our Planet, flash across the screen of my mind. Thoughts of my grandchildren’s lives being played out in some bizarre disconnected reality, where relationship to the Earth is severed, where everything is manufactured and nothing is nurtured, fill my heart with an overwhelming despair, for which I am unprepared.

My head questions my heart here, asks if this is mere sentimentality, some romantic longing for what was, a symptom of one who is aging and struggling to accept the changes to life on earth, which feel so alien, but which are both here and now and coming.

But this is grief, I feel. Profound heartbreak at the loss of something terribly beloved, something deeply valued and inherently sacred. I wonder, though, will my great-granddaughters realize this as grief? Will they even feel the absence as loss? What will that world look like? Where will they find Beauty in a manufactured world with artificial nurture and virtual experiences?

Am I called to trust in Love here too, or this that merely a cop out? Can I trust in this evolutionary process of Consciousness Becoming, have faith in this Great Loving Source of All Being, which is indwelling and unfolding and inspiring, when It doesn’t look anything like the Life on Earth –enfleshed and organic– that I have come to know and to love (and perceive as essential)? Can I embrace the artificial, the technological, the engineered world as Beloved, as Beauty?

As You?

These are the things I ask You, Love, this morning. What is Your call here for me? What is my response to be?

I remember once reading that those who have been deeply invested in environmental activism have realized that their work now is grief work—complete with all the stages inherent in that work. Having passed through denial, blame, anger, and bargaining, they are now in the process of letting go. Having moved on to acceptance that the world is dying, they are practicing witness bearing. How terribly bleak is that?

How to hold on to Love – Her Presence and Her Action—in the midst of an existential loss such as this. This is perhaps the work I am called to do, though part of me—well, if I am honest almost the whole of me in this moment—resists this mightily , wants to cling to Her, fall upon the body of our dying Mother, gather the disintegrating flesh into my arms. Though She feels like dust between my fingers, I feel myself desperate to pull Her back together, breath life again into Her formlessness, rent my garments, keen all day.

Perhaps this is the image I need follow as my heart’s calling, then? This fierce Love for the You within this Beloved place? Is this heart grief then You beseeching me to conspire with You in an act of resurrection?

This is a stark landscape. A Good Friday despair. I’m not at all certain I want to visit this place today.

Perhaps my imagination is too small. Perhaps I make too much import of our tiny planet –its diverse beings, amazing manifestations, extravagant beauty. Perhaps we humans are no more meaningful or vital to the evolution of Love than were the Dinosaurs… or that Super Nova that just exhaled its last breath. Perhaps this is merely the self-important, anthropocentric ego that is dying — and perhaps that is, after all, what is needed, for the hubris of humankind to be brought low.

But Mary, Mother of God, what of the innocents?

Are we not all innocents?

Tragedy is hard to reconcile in the human heart. We long for redemption. We yearn to find Beauty within it, as the concentration camp victim who bore witness to the Jasmine bloom, or the Iraq war reporter who bore witness to the slaughter of children. Being struck powerless like this, perhaps, yields no other choice but surrender to the terrible beauty of it all, to let your heart be broken open in order to somehow hold it.

Can I find You here, in this apocalyptic vision, Trust in Your Light and Your Love as I say that I do? Let go my own agenda about what is Good and Right?

This is indeed a terrifying place for me, this image. Can I also embrace that this is perhaps just that- an image that stems from my own lack of image-ination, based in what is actually a fragile faith in something Other Than Love, Other Than the Wisdom of the Universe — that is, humanity. Or, perhaps, on the other hand, I have not enough faith in humanity, its goodness and wisdom, its ability to transform itself. Perhaps this is a symptom of the true smallness of my own humanity, this lack of imagination, this fear of what I (and many others) can only perceive from this vantage as death and destruction. Am I telling a story, then, that will not come true, as so many apocalyptic prophets throughout the ages have, with the certainty of their age, foretold?

Dear grandchild of mine, if you are reading this, I trust we have made it through and that some part of you is smiling inwardly at my naïve fear of the planet’s demise, that the earth, or at least humanity, has found a way. I pray that it is with our relationship intact and reciprocity restored.  This is perhaps my selfish desire for you, as my love for the Earth has meant so much to me that I want that for you, too.  For your existence to be disjointed from relationship to the Earth feels like a life impoverished of soul. Yet, I believe this deep desire for the Earth to survive is an unselfish hope at the same time, as my Love for the Earth with its vast array of self-expressions (so very many of which are already lost) and inherent worth, longs for it to survive for Its sake alone.

What does this Earth look like for you? What does your life look like? Where do you find Beauty? Wholeness? Belonging? Where do you experience the Wonder of Being a part of Something Vaster than yourself? Tell me now, my child. I trust that I can hear you, somehow.

under the bed

Julian of Norwich, 13th century mystic, and somehow sister of my soul, experienced what she named as ‘showings’, during a near-death experience, in the midst of world where she witnessed a plague that ravaged humanity with untold suffering. I imagine her recording as quickly as she could those experiences when she came-to, so as not to forget them. (the ‘short-text’) She spent the next 20 years of her life, trying to unpack them– both in the sharing of their grace to those who came to the window of her anchorage for comfort, and also in the continued journaling –word leading to deepening word– of those experiences, which we now label as the ‘long text’.

I like, somehow, that she hid them under her bed, and that after she died, someone spirited those pages away until the world was ready to receive them 500 years later.  As I read these stories about Julian, I experience such a resonance– the seeking to understand the messages in what she was shown, the writing to unpack, the attempt to embody the love she experienced… even the fear of heresy (as you will read below)

In my own writing practice, I have been often encouraged to do something more formal — to publish, for instance (under the guise that the world ‘needs’ what I have to offer), but I have resisted for some reason this recurrent call. Sure, some of that is probably fear, probably a feeling of incompetence, probably not wanting the attention. But I know I need to take care with my sharing. Honor my experience, and even acknowledge it as gift, but not let my ego carry it. Blogging for me, I think, feels safe, but it also keeps me humble, keeps my ego out of the mix (as much as that is ever possible) as I don’t get caught up in ‘imparting wisdom’ in a posture of power as one can fall into when speaking or writing directly to an individual. There is a vulnerability to it, in not knowing who is reading. There is a selflesness to it, in the offering as gift with no expectation of reward,validation, or even acknowledgment. There is a mystery to it, in their ‘Just being out there in the world’, which has felt right for me.

Perhaps this is the equivalent of Julian’s tucking her words under her bed. Or persons showing up at the window/screen to receive whatever morsels of grace might pass through. Lately, I have been noticing how my own experiences from 15-20 years ago are bubbling up in my writing, perhaps in my own unpacking of those powerful, transformative, mystical and mysterious experiences, during my own painful ‘near-death’ experiences.

And so, I risk myself here in this remembrance, which i recorded, perhaps in my own version of ‘short text’ here in 2007, and then an embarrassingly vulnerable longer one here (and I wonder where the bravery to reveal these words came from at that time… but moreso, what has receded within me)

…”this was during a profoundly healing time in my life, when a lot was being ‘corrected’ in me, around what God was, what Love was, Who I was . (I’d really received a shame based education about life). I feel like Love was literally being poured into me. Many of these experiences were dreams (I was once told that something like 1/3 of the Bible is dream related) In this particular dream, Jesus came to my bed wanting to make love to me, (ok I’d be kicked out of ‘church for that one! But a lot of the harm done to me was sexual, so I think there was some major work to be done through that) but I covered my face in shame and tried to slip out from beneath him, saying , ‘but I’m not clean, I must go wash’ (I still believed I needed to somehow be worthy enough to receive Love). Then, the most amazing thing happened. A plump babushka wearing, old world, wise woman stepped into the bedroom, and scarfed Jesus off of the bed, and told HIM to go wash. I understood then that it was my image of Love that was soiled somehow, that needed some cleaning up” .

I remember sharing that dream in small group spiritual direction where a wise, gentle sage was present. I shared there that the dream went on to me ‘reviving’ Jesus in my mouth. That gentle teacher took the shame I was feeling in the sharing of this dream and offered to me the notion of taking the Word (the words I had received) into my mouth (he was referencing Ezekiel’s taking the scroll into his mouth and it tasting sweet as honey) and transforming it/them into Love.

I am still living into the meaning of this dream too. On the surface, of course, there is the message of how Love has been corrupted by the definitions that have been passed on to us, and placed into us, by the church, where we are taught shame in a place that has such Power. But beneath that simple answer, there is layer upon layer upon layer of understanding of How I am Loved, how I am yearned for, how Love begs us to receive It…. and how you are too.

Dear grandchild of mine

Perhaps as you read this, I am gone, physically, from your world. Perhaps I have been long gone, and someone has given this letter to you. Perhaps it was just yesterday that I took my last precious breath. Especially if that is so, and you are grieving, I want you to know that this life has been such a terribly beautiful experience for me–one that I know will be the same for you. Not that the specifics of your life experience will be the same as mine, for they won’t be (with the wild pace of change, I expect it will look as radically different from mine as mine did from my grandmother’s – but these differences are merely the surface dressing of life) but that the journey of your heart and the ways in which a life on this earth will forge that most precious aspect of your humanity — your human capacity to Love, to be vulnerable, to receive life’s experiences, to be softened and opened by them, to grow large, to become fully Who You Are– will be a terribly beautiful one.

I choose the words ‘terribly beautiful’ very intentionally, my child, for this is the nature of life. There are terrible experiences here– profound suffering and deep pain, grave sorrow and injustice, abuse and war, human failings (including your own, which are often the hardest and most transformative of all), heartbreak, loss, despair and grief– that will break you–open if you let them. Sometimes we only feel the brokenness, but if we allow Love to work its way in us, those very broken places fill with mercy and compassion and tenderness making our hearts, in the process, somehow More Human… and at the same time More Holy.

There are some who allow the pain of this world to make them hard– this is how they protect themselves from further harm and is understandable and worthy of the deepest compassion. They can’t let Love fill those broken spaces, those ruptured holes. Some people are so afraid of pain that they keep themselves small as a result, trapped in a world of seeming safety, though life really doesn’t spare any of us. Grief comes for us all.  You don’t ever need to seek it out.

Paradoxically, often it is the exact experience of pain that brings us to Beauty. The birth of a child is the prime example of this truth — there is great pain in one breath and with the next there is profound beauty, in an astounding breaking-open explosion of Love. This can teach us how to hold on through harrowing times, trusting that something Beautiful may be born through the current hardship, though it can be so difficult to believe this within a moment of overwhelming pain and brokenness that blinds us. 

I believe that is what is happening in our world right now. There is so much pain. So much that is breaking — breaking open to a new way of being. I believe it will be a more loving way of being, for that is the way of Love’s evolution. Something in us has gotten off track lately– mostly, what we value and Who we think we are, where we think we will find security and meaning and Love (in all the wrong places). Our human need is so great for these things we get lost in the striving sometimes. My hope is that this current breakage will be a corrective one– one that fills with real Love, after all our own failures are most often what soften us enough to allow that to happen.

My child. I want you to know that there is a Loving Presence within Life. It is within You, within me, within the Earth and the Stars, and all of what appears to be empty space (even that feeling of emptiness now within you). This Presence is the Source of Who we are. It IS Who we are. It animates us from within and draws us forth into something beyond ourselves, into Greater Love. All of Life, its groaning and its song, is about birthing that Greater Love. We are all participating in that Wondrous Becoming. You can find Hope and Strength in that . You can let that wonder fill your heart, and you can let it flow from you in Joy and Love.

I will tell you a story about when I was a much younger woman. It was a time in my life before I understood this, when I was in the most terrible pain, having experienced sorrow upon sorrow, loss upon loss, failure upon failure, shame upon shame, brokenness upon brokenness, grief upon grief (and yet, as I could not see in that moment, for I did not yet understand how pain and beauty can dwell in the same breath, those same experiences had been threaded through with deep Joy and profound Love too) I did not think that Life was worth living, and I wanted to leave this world if Life meant only more of the same suffering. I couldn’t understand how a Loving Source of Life could allow such pain, could allow for a world filled with cruelty and atrocity, with harshness and betrayal. That felt Unreal to me, like a lie. How it could it possibly be Love that i was experiencing in this place.

As I cried out in that despair, as I contemplated leaving it all behind, a deep sense of being profoundly Loved overcame me, as if I was being held by the deepest of compassion and empathy and welcomed into its Love. Suddenly I understood that a Presence so Loving and embracing of my pain could not have placed me here upon this earth if it was not a Very Good thing, would never intend a life/a world of suffering for us, and that there had to be a reason for Life, which was somehow related to this Profound Goodness i felt.

There was another experience, around this same time, when I was in such despair that I wept until I fell into sleep. That night, a profoundly Loving Voice — deep and demanding my attention — penetrated my sleep. This voice implored me to gaze upon what it was showing me- a vision of a cross/tree that was being filled with a brilliant light. I was told to notice how it was being filled from the top of its reach deep into its roots with Light and Love, and that I was to let myself be filled (be loved) in that same way. There was nothing else that I had to ‘do’ but to let myself be filled (let myself believe that I was Loved in that way). I was then asked to notice the horizontal branches of the tree/cross, to notice how the light naturally flowed outward from that filling, to see how letting myself be loved would naturally overflow to the world, to others, in the same way. I woke from that experience, not wanting to leave that feeling behind, weeping as my feet hit the cold floor upon my return, and yet somehow I now knew that this Love never leaves us . It is always here. We swim in it. Our roots are grounded in it. It falls upon us and fills us.

That was 20 years ago, but I am still living into that truth. It informs my very being.  You, too, are Loved like that. We all are profoundly Loved and are meant to be Love. Whenever I (you) feel like I am not enough, I remember. Whenever I slide into forgetting Who I Am, I am called back, to remember that I am to receive and transmit Love. That is all. Whenever I feel lost, I recall those roots and I am drawn back — back to the earth, back to the Divine, back to my embeddedness in Love, a Love that allows my buds to blossom and my leaves to let go.

My child, it is not the particularities of our human form, but that which fills us, which is the Essence of Who we are. The particularities don’t matter. Love can take an abundance of forms (it does this throughout the universe and deep within an ordinary human life). Those particulars will change with the culture and with the time, and even within your own self over your life span. You must take care not to base your worth upon those surface forms. All experiences and paths and ways of doing life are opportunities  to discover the Sacredness of Life, to seek Wisdom, to find Beauty, to grow and to become Love (to be a part of Love’s Becoming) (motherhood is one of the most assured paths to this, by the way).

When I was a small child, perhaps 7 years old, as I lay in my bed at night, I thought God was telling me that ‘He’ had chosen me to be the next Mary, to give birth to the next Jesus. (i remember telling my best friend about this at the time) At that time, I thought that made me special, and maybe I needed to feel that way at that time in my life when I didn’t feel so special, or so loved like that, at all. Now, I understand that we are all called to give birth to Love in this place, to let it grow in our bellies, to let it go out into the world. Now, I understand that Love is birthed through our very ordinariness, in the midst of what the world might consider less-than, what the world might shame as not living up to its codes of good enoughness. I, like Mary, was an unmarried pregnant teenage girl once too. It took me a long time to stop trying to prove that I was not soiled because of that, but strangely blessed by it.

Do not concern yourself with being great, then, but with Being Love. Do not seek attention, but seek Goodness. Do not get pulled apart into too many ‘not enoughnesses’, but do ‘small things with Great Love’, remembering that you are not a small thing, but a Great Love.  Always remember, as well, that you are ‘one of many’. Together We Are One Love. Be content to let your cup be small enough so that it can fill to overflowing. Trust that Love will spill and spread, ripple and connect with others who are spilling Love. For if you try to be all things to all people, without making time and space to be filled with Love, you will drain yourself dry and then what you have to offer will not be Love at all, for although we are filled with the Divine Light, we are finite beings in this human life, each of us bearing the gift that we are.  We are each drops. Together we make an ocean.

On the other hand, remember that you contain multitudes! That the components of the ocean itself are within the drop. Celebrate the wild array within. Embody Love in all the various ways it shows up in your life. Love all the wild creatures that show up– for they are the Beloved in disguise.

Take delight in the EArth.  It will fill you with Wonder when you are feeling weary. It will remind you to look for Beauty, in its seasons of becoming — the coldness preceeding the blossom, the fruitfulness followed by dying back. Find a piece of dark sky where you can be awestruck by the depth of space and time and your smallness within it, then wonder how it is that you are somehow integral to that Wholeness. Find a place where you forget yourself and remember that you belong to the Earth, where you understand that you are a part of it and it is a part of you. Let that remind you of deeper truths. Find something here that makes you come alive, so alive that you feel like bursting into song — and then sing! It doesn’t matter what it is. Do not let anybody tell you that what you Love is not good enough. Love itself is the reason and the goal.

Know that wherever you are, wherever you look, you can find Beauty. ‘Seek and you shall find’. I once heard a voice say to me (again, it broke into my dream, waking me from sleep) , ‘You are Bound to Beauty’. There’s more to that story, perhaps for another time in the redemption of the word ‘bondage’ for me, but in that moment I knew my life in this place was forever tied to Beauty. I understood it was why I was here, Who I truly am, what i was to seek and to Be, and that message blessed me. Of course, as I had already learned by then, I also understood that Life on this Earth is ‘terribly beautiful’, deeply beautiful, within the intricacies of each moment and the vastness of its diverse wholeness, within its darkness and its light. You will find it too, if you remember to look.

I wish for you, eyes to see it, and a heart that breaks open to Life’s boundless Beauty and profound Love. I pray for you to understand that YOU are a part of that Beauty, a part of that Wonder, the embodiment of Love. You are boundless in your beauty and phenomenal in your Love. May life reveal all of this to you, and more, for it is a wondrous journey that you too are blessed to receive.

In Beauty and Love always.

seeking wisdom

It is late in the day, and not the best time for me to be writing. Usually by this time of night, both my brain and my body are winding down, not able to chug through the fog to find any sort of form. And I promised myself to get up earlier tomorrow, so that my mornings are more spacious, with long hours to linger next to the water watching the light change, watching for what might appear in that inner wilderness of mine.

Of course, as has been well understood by women through the ages, trying to steal a bit of intentional alone time is always a bit of a cat and mouse game. As soon as you settle into a corner of your life that appears to be safe from intrusion, suddenly a paw is reaching into that space. (What i am trying to say here is that my husband, whose pattern for some long time has been to sleep in late in the morning, has suddenly decided to get up early too. Women have long noted that their loved ones seem to sense when they have turned their energy and attention inward — for study or art or self reflection– and suddenly show up at the door). Still, I wish to welcome his presence lovingly into my day. The point of my prayer life is not ,after all, to withdraw from this life of communion, but to be Love more fully within it. I do, however, need to touch base with that deep place of Love within — its like plugging in to a charging station for me, or like taking a luxurious bath in it. Others sometimes refer to it as clearing the channels.

I am certain that a new rhythm will emerge between us.

Anyway, back to the day’s exercise. I am invited to write on the prompt ‘My deepest desire is…’ I wonder how desire is different than longing?– the longing i expressed a few days ago in the “Letter to my Beloved’?? Ok. I am asked to hold nothing back. To get naked with my desire.

I desire… to live freely, grounded in Love, without anxiety about performance or duty or enoughness. Those feelings have certainly faded this last while. Perhaps some of that is related to the external of life in these times, which have created a boundary of sorts, creating a container that is small enough for the finite parts of myself, which strangely have given space for the infinite part of myself to expand. (Solitude will do that sometimes). It seems an inadvertant silver lining to this strange year of the pandemic, that much of the busy-ness that kept so many distracted has been stripped away, leaving many with space to be slower, quieter, simpler, more inward. I have witnessed an intimacy in families and couples and with my self. (and I also truly appreciate and have compassion for those who have found this time isolating, lonely, painful and fearful)

Ok. My deepest desire ( can you tell this is a hard one for me to claim?)… to feel deeply and quietly content, to live a life of balance and wholeness, to feel intact (not fragmented) and integral, to act with integrity– my outer expressions and actions reflective of the Love at my innermost being. And for the ones I love to feel whole, as well, to know joy, feel hope, experience love, and dwell in peace.

My deepest desire? … is to experience ease, to live with the ease of Wisdom- long seeing, deep seated, quiet, shining Wisdom. To be able to sit in that seat, grounded in Love, Compassion, and Grace, no longer pulled off center into anxiety. I have felt a move toward this center in me in this last year as well– a growing more rooted in that place — this place i once tried to grasp at (perhaps from ego, or perhaps from need) for i could see it glimmering on the horizon of my life, just out of reach– the crone with her silver hair catching the light, like those glimmering silky seeds of the milkweed pod, dispersing their promise into the wind, unattached to outcome, trusting in the goodness of Life to receive into its arms what it will.

Last month, I chose a small feather for the Julian of Norwich blessing, again without much deliberation, trusting what my hand reached for. As i shared it with the group, i found the words i spoke to be something about ‘lightness of being’, while at the same time realizing that this lightness of being comes only when this same feather is tethered deeply to love — a love that holds a bird to the earth like gravity, or like an anchor so deep in the water that it cannot be seen but that allow the feather to float on the waters without appearing to be tied at all, but that holds it to depth nonetheless. (again this is a hard feeling to express. I’ve a mobile that i made once of feathers and stones. It comes to my mind now. like the symbolism in it)

And this brings me full circle back to my early morning practice and my need for that daily touchstone, the grounding myself in Love, a love that allows the day to flow freely from that deep place… so, I must soon be to bed!

Perhaps I will dream of this Wisdom, this One I have named as my desire, in the seat of my deepest self, seeing all (even and perhaps especially myself) through the quiet, all seeing, all trusting, compassionate, grace- filled lens. She is my desire. To live centered in Her, grounded in Her peace nad Love, in Her deep assured and abiding Hope, Living out Her All is Well, and dwelling in Beauty. I look forward to meeting Her.

How can this be?

This advent season has suddenly locked into a synchronicity with this season in my soul, when the light seems to be returning after a long dark winter.

Well, perhaps I am month or so ahead of schedule from that epiphany, which is typical of the birthing process for me! Premature babies, arriving unexpectedly, before it is time. And so this time is not one of waiting expectantly through the coming dark, but of bursts of light here and now.

And yet, still there is this mary in me, with her utterance of ‘how can this be?’, this mary in me filled with wonder, this mary in me pondering and wondering, this mary in me that is both virgin and pregnant at once — some pure space within where the Divine has been growing hidden from my awareness. How could I have not known how large She had grown all this time within that darkness?

And yet, this feels qualitatively different than the last time Mary came to me. Then, I was so broken and in need of her healing Love, in need of those restorative words of my Belovedness, in need of that feeling of being cherished and desired. Today, the wonder that I am experiencing, along with my ‘yes’ to participating in, with, and for that Wonder, is not at all for me and my sake. It is not a singling out as chosen one, but as one of many, a communion of beings being called to give birth to Love.

This evening, my belly is full of Wonder, this is true, but it is the wonder at the continual impregnation and birthing that is taking place throughout infinite time and space, and deep within this particular moment, within me and you and All that is.

Joy! indeed. How can I keep from singing?

This ponderment is about How I, small as I am, might give to this Other, not at all about what I might receive, for it has already been given. This is a yearning for it to BE SO. (May it be so, She said), a longing for the LIght and Love of the Universe to burst forth, to break out from the darkness for this suffering world, to and for those who cannot see it, feel it, know it, trust it, hope it, for this stirring awake of Belovedness and Wonder to quicken within the womb of this world, in the bellies of the borken and the hurting, in the bellies of the hardened and the lost, in the bellies of those who cling to power for love, and those who find themselves powerless alike.

And I am filled with the Wonder and Possibility of that (isnt’ that a perfect descriptor for the Holy One– Wonder and Possibility!) Here and now there is Hope. Hope for Something Bigger, more Powerful, more Knowing, more Loving, more Wise than our human foibles and follies.

Something Wonderous at the Heart of It All… at the Heart of Us all.

And I am filled with wonder at the Possiblity and the Hope in that. You, who produce a spark within a vacuum, and impregnate life within a void. There is Hope

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