Archives for category: Inspiration

They catch her eye. Wild or cultivated, it doesn’t matter, although this season they are the last blooms from our land. What she sees is the gift of their beauty, which, of course, unbeknownst to her awareness, is a mirror of her own.

Then there is the joy of arranging them, discovering what combination of colors, textures and heights call her to place them together in a sublime embrace. It is as much the dance of playfulness as artistic endeavor that leads her on. At some point she stops, content with what has emerged, mindful that the essence is both their individual contribution to the whole and the whole itself.

The attraction to flowers is a legacy from her mother, who found in her gardens a serenity otherwise inaccessible from the challenges of her life. Her mother-in-law loved flowers as well, further composting the soil of her interest. It is a legacy being passed to her daughters, who in their own ways arrange the blossoms of their lives.

Beyond honoring the beauty of nature’s gifts and expressing her joy in the playful act of arranging there are other intentions. The arrangements gently remind us of our gratitude for the abundance of our lives. Perhaps most of all the bouquets beckon our company with quiet hues of welcome. Placed in the guest rooms, they are simple sentinels of hospitality that she carefully deploys to watch over their stay.

Wild and cultivated, her bouquets are peaceful beacons of love and expressions of the blessings of her own bountiful spirit.

Have you ever gotten caught up in the drama of the day – maybe yours or your partner’s? Or a media story? Perhaps one of your least favored characters momentarily escaped the guardians of your sub-conscious to wreak havoc on your playing field.

Whatever their source, dramas happen to each of us. Life-threatening catastrophes are certainly in a category all their own. However, too often we rise to the bait of more mundane melodramatic triggers.

When that happens, having a talisman to ground us is important. I found one of these touchstones this week in some centering words of John O’Donohue that arrived with my subscription to Panhala.

The words provide a perspective that may refocus each of us on our essence in life and mitigate the unnecessary dramas we either create or participate in. Let us focus on the quiet miracle that we exist at all.

For Presence

Awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.

Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.

Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.

Respond to the call of your gift and the courage to follow its path.

Let the flame of anger free you of all falsity.

May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.

May anxiety never linger about you.

May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul.

Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.

Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.

May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.

~ John O’Donohue ~ (To Bless the Space Between Us)

 

Whatever our personal circumstances, there is a way to experience life more fully. Whatever we conclude about external events that buffet us each day, there is a simple step we can take to stay positive. Make time to be grateful.

Gratitude is a key attitude. When we stop long enough to pay attention, we find there are many “little” things in our lives that, while appearing small, add up to a lot. In our busy-ness or self-absorption, we tend to overlook them.

In The Book of Joy, which distills five days of conversations between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the two religious leaders describe gratitude as one of the pillars of joy.

A key point in the discussion for me was that making time for gratitude can alter our point of view.

[Gratitude] allows us to shift our perspective…toward all we have been given and all that we have. It moves us away from the narrow-minded focus on fault and lack and to the wider perspective of benefit and abundance. (p. 242)

The ability to shift our outlook from scarcity or blame to the expectation of benefit is a huge fulcrum for leveraging all that is positive in our lives.

What are some ways we can do this? A favorite line from Kahlil Gibran comes to mind: “In the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”

  • Pause before eating to thank all those responsible for providing our food.
  • Celebrate the gift of a friendship by a word, hug or email.
  • Acknowledge the tasks that tap and convey our passions and talents.

What is one of your blessings and how can you express your gratitude for it today?

 

 

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When events overwhelm us, it is helpful to remember that there are only two things we control, our attitude and our effort. Words from a dear friend this week offer an exercise that can elevate our attitudes and what we do with them.

Anne Hillman is a musician, author, educator, speaker and small group facilitator who focuses her work on understanding and nurturing the interior life. In the material she shared from her current Soul Work course the following caught my attention.

It is a meditation from the Sermon on the Mount, incorporating a contemporary interpretation by Philip Newell. I commend it to you.

Contemplation Practice: Healing the Separation

Notice which of the first lines in each couplet jump out at you. If you choose one to contemplate in silence for several days, it may provide insight. Perhaps choose another . . . and another. Listen for what each one means to you—and what you may need to do to live it.

Blessed are those who know their need for theirs is the grace of heaven.

Blessed are those who weep for their tears will be wiped away.

Blessed are the humble for they are close to the sacred earth.

Blessed are those who hunger for earth’s oneness for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the forgiving for they are free.

Blessed are the clear in heart for they see the Living Presence.

Blessed are the peacemakers for they are born of God.

 The Beatitudes— Matthew 5:3-9

—Interpretation, Philip Newell

 

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The season celebrating festivals of light is upon us. Solstice marks the returning length of the sun’s daily presence. Hanukkah heralds the miraculous supply of holy oil that lit for eight days the lamps of the temple’s re-dedication. Christmas welcomes the child destined in the eyes of believers to be the light of the world.

A recent message from friends arrived as their invocation for this season of light. They are teachers whose curiosity links with their love of travel, nature, people and knowledge. From one trip this past year, they chose the wind as their metaphor for the season’s lesson. May their message inspire your own hopes during this time of re-ascendant light.

Let us leap into gratitude

like cliff divers seeking the wind,

hope-filled, trusting,

and unafraid.

(original by Penelope Stokes)

Dear Friends,

As we emerge from this November of our lives, we find we are not at all sure which way the winds are blowing and how best to find the wind that will carry us to a place that is safe for all of the people we care so much about…

 So we are searching anew this season and looking,

for winds that promise new understanding,

for faces that remind us of all of the blessed variation in our species,

for new currents in the winds,

for courageous people who are willing to stand up for others,

for laughable insights,

for surprises,

for special places we had not intended to go,

for the sacred in the midst of the ordinary,

and for quietly inspiring moments.

May each of us in our own way find the quietly inspiring moments that will strengthen our resolve to soar on the winds of change toward new light and hope.

 

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Years ago, I participated in two retreats led by Parker Palmer. A writer and teacher of deep faith, abiding curiosity and gentle engagement, he is one of my inspirational guides.

After Leonard Cohen died last month, Parker posted a tribute to him which is excerpted below.

In LC’s spoken intro to “Anthem,” he talks about a world “plunged in darkness and chaos,” referring to the global economic meltdown of 2007-2008. Those words apply to our moment in history as much as they did back then, as does the now-famous chorus of “Anthem”:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

I think LC is saying, “Whatever you’re concerned about right now, don’t go looking for the very best thing to do, then give up when you can’t find it. Offer the world whatever gifts you possess — no matter how imperfect — gifts that might move us a little bit closer to love, truth, and justice. That’s how the light gets in, through our cracked imperfections.”

I’d add only this: it’s in our brokenness, not our illusions of “perfection,” that we connect most deeply with one another. So at this historical moment, when so many are feeling broken, we have a chance to renew our civic community – if we’re willing to forget our “perfect offering” and “ring the bells that still can ring.”

Ring them, listen for them, gather around them, and summon up an America where everyone belongs.

I invite you to set aside a few minutes to view the video of Cohen introducing and singing Anthem as he performed it live in London in 2008. And enjoy the accompanying photography.

 

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I have just returned from a week in Colorado where I attended the annual gathering of a community of healers that I have been part of for several years. They partner with horses to coach clients. When they reconnect, their smiles, laughter and sharing wash over the arena like a tsunami of the heart.

 

While together they challenge each other and share best practices. They stretch themselves with renewed intentions that move them toward their respective horizons. It is not all easy. There are shadows and trolls en route for each of us. However, if you were a stranger who wandered into their space, you would be struck by the light of their smiles as a lingering impression.

 

Meanwhile, back on the east coast a friend enters hospice for his final chapter on this plane. As I hold him in prayer, I see his face and the twinkle in his eye that accompanies his smile.

 

Is it serendipitous that my meditation reading this morning framed the energy of the healers, my friend and each of us in terms of our legacy? We may find it modest and but one of many aspects of our lives, but we should never underestimate its impact.

 

Those who are beautiful – who can keep them as they are?

Unceasingly in their faces the life in them arises and goes forth.

Like dew from morning grass, like steam from a plate of food,

what is ours goes out from us.

 

Where does a smile go, or the upward glance, the sudden warm movement of the heart?

Yet that is what we are. Does the universe we dissolve into taste of us a little?

From Rilke’s Second Duino Elegy

 

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What is it that you long for? A relationship nurtured in love? A purpose that brings fullfilment? A work of creation you cannot ignore? A community that is just and compassionate? A planet that sustains the variety and interdependence of its living members?

Whatever our longings, they are bells of the spirit that we ignore at our peril. Krista Tippet’s interview with Joanna Macy brought this home to me last week. A scholar of Buddhism and systems thinking, Macy is a respected voice in movements for peace, justice and ecology. She is also a translator of the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke.

During the interview Macy shared one of Rilke’s poems (Book of Hours, I 59) that captures the link between our longing and why we are here. It challenges us to explore if and how we may be limiting ourselves, and it encourages us to press forward with our longings beyond what we might have thought possible.

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,

then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

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Rain returns today, dropping a gray curtain on the colors of spring. The drumbeat of the daily news fans the flames of our fears. Friends and family face challenges to health and well-being.

Sometimes we forget what accompanies the shadows of the world: the rain brings water to nourish the land; love waits patiently for our permission to shine forth; a deeper well of meaning waits only for us to lower our pail.

Words of Fra Giovanni in a letter to a friend written in the 16th century come to mind. May they help each of us today find courage to seize the moment, whatever its shadows, and find the peace that passes conventional understanding.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven!

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace!

The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach is joy. There is radiance and glory in the darkness could we but see – and to see we have only to look. I beseech you to look! …

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty – beneath its covering – that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.

Courage, then, to claim it, that is all. But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are all pilgrims together, wending through unknown country, home.

And so, at this time, I greet you. Not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem and the prayer that for you now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.

 

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As darkness descended outside last night, the conversation of our men’s gathering deepened in the room. A stillness wrapped itself around the words of those who spoke, hallowing the circle of our sharing.

Reflecting afterward on how we show up with ourselves and each other, one of the men forwarded the link to Krista Tippett’s interview with poet David Whyte from her series On Being. I listened to it this morning. It is a gift to share.

Of the many jewels in the podcast I have selected the poem below for this post. It serves as a reminder to myself and to many with whom I have worked that the darkness in our lives holds the promise of horizons we cannot see and challenges us not to settle for less than we are here to manifest.

Sweet Darkness

When your eyes are tired / the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone / no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark / where the night has eyes / to recognize its own.

There you can be sure / you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb / tonight.

The night will give you a horizon / further than you can see.

You must learn one thing. / The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds / except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet / confinement of your aloneness / to learn

anything or anyone / that does not bring you alive / is too small for you.