Archives for category: Inspiration

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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.

 

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How do we awaken to love? No doubt our answers begin with our life experiences and our age. We may feel it first in flames of infatuation. We may live it daily in the burn of our passions and committed relationships. We may give it in the glowing coals of our compassion.

In her book Awakening the Energies of Love Anne Hillman explores a more profound theme launched by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s quote.

Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, humanity will have discovered fire.

Our ancestors’ taming of fire symbolizes our species’ differentiation from all others.

Propelled by a yearning that ran counter to their bodies’ counsel and to the time-tested wisdom of their clan, they took an enormous risk. Instead of running away from fire, they engaged it…

Eons later we find ourselves in another defining era. Our technology links us as a global tribe, while our fear and greed threaten our very existence. Led to listen to our better angels and our expanding consciousness, Anne challenges us to engage our capacities for transformation, the energies of love.

We too stand at an evolutionary juncture…a longing to be somehow more than we are… Our longing – our yearning – is part and parcel of the song of the soul, and it has always beckoned us toward a future that is not ours alone. We may choose to follow it by ourselves, but that we follow it matters to generations; for just as the embers of the first fire ignited the power of language, those of the second will ignite the power in our hearts.

I highly commend Anne’s book.

 

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Are you one who defers or deflects? I am too busy. I am not ready. I am not capable. I am not worthy. I am afraid too many of us have bottled up our real passions or dreams and put them on hold for some future “when the time is right.”

If you are one of those folks, call yourself out and resolve to make a change. With a new year just beginning, what better time than now?  The following poem by Judith Gass may help inspire a break through to “the full and magnificent tides of your own longing.”

Why are you waiting to begin your life?

Do you think the world must care and come soliciting?

Listen to the knocking at the door of your own heart

It is only faint because you have not answered

You have fooled yourself with preparations

Time left laughing while you considered possibilities

Wake up, you have slept long enough

Wake up, tomorrow may be too late

 

When you finally dare open the door

Your life will begin arriving

Cautiously at first unbelieving that the gate

So long locked against the tide has finally been opened

Then with swells of neglected dreams

Then with waves of joyful revelation the sea will follow

You will be swept by the full and magnificent tides of

Your own longing

That no one else can give you

That no one else can claim.

 

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Those of us who live close to the land are graced with many blessings. Moments like the one captured in the photo below are an example – an October sunrise from the ridge where we live.

Many gifts of the earth are essential to our survival – the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we consume. The aesthetic beauty of the earth expands our hearts; the sense of place grounds our spirits.

A poem by David Wagoner from the anthology Life Prayers offers another grace note of bounty from the earth. Have you ever been turned around in the woods, maybe even lost for a moment? Ever been turned around a bit in your life, having lost your direction? Perhaps you are facing such a time today.

For most of us finding our way (again) begins with being fully present to the moment and its messengers, “to know it and be known.”

Stand still. The trees ahead and the bushes beside you are not lost. Where ever you are is called HERE. And you must treat it as a powerful stranger. Must ask permission to know it and be known.

The forest breathes. Listen. It answers, I have made this place around you. If you leave it, you may come back again, saying, HERE. No two trees are the same to Raven. No two branches are the same to wren.

If what tree or bush does is lost on you, you are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows where you are. You must let it find you.

October Sunrise on the Ridge (2015) IMG_0306

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Peering from the upstairs window as daylight began to chase the night, I noticed a large deer under the apple tree. It moved slowly, an elegant shadow that ambled unrushed down the hill past the burn pile and out of sight. Later, as the first rays of the sun brushed the tips of the trees, highlighting their fall colors, Thoreau’s familiar passage from Walden came to mind.

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn…

I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor…

To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every (one) is tasked to make (their) life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of (their) most elevated and critical hour.

Whatever today brings for each of us, whether, like so many in the news we are facing the enormity of loss of home, health or loved ones, or we are just staring at the monotony of routine, we have choices to make. Those choices come from our thoughts, which are the source of our attitude and effort, the brushes with which we paint the quality of the day.

I saw the deer, having just emerged from meditation where I had read the following quote attributed to the Buddha:

The thought manifests as the word; the word manifests as the deed; the deed develops into habit; and habit hardens into character.

So watch the thought and its ways with care and let it spring from love born out of concern for all beings.

What is one thought that will help you affect the quality of your day?

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Autumn returns to our New Hampshire hillside. The light of day grows shorter. Fading from its rare eclipse, the harvest moon wanes. The garden yields its last bounty.

The leaves change color and begin to fall, reprising how much the trees contribute to our landscape and our lives. Throughout the seasons the oxygen they produce fills our lungs with life. Their branches shelter families of birds. A pliant buttress, they buffer us from the strong winds and soothe us with strains of reassurance when the breezes are light. They provide the beams that support our home, firewood that warms our hearths, and grains that inspire and challenge a budding craftsman at the lathe.

In the signature poem of his collection, A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997, Wendell Berry honors these pillars of what to many of us is our spiritual temple. They represent and embrace all of life’s gifts for which the only response can be a grateful heart.

Slowly, slowly, they return to the small woodland let alone: great trees, outspreading and upright, apostles of the living light.

Patient as stars, they build in air tier after tier a timbered choir, stout beams upholding weightless grace of song, a blessing on this place.

They stand in waiting all around, uprisings of their native ground, downcomings of the distant light; they are the advent they await.

Receiving sun and giving shade, their life’s a benefaction made, and is a benediction said over the living and the dead.

In fall their brightened leaves, released, fly down the wind, and we are pleased to walk on radiance, amazed. O light come down to earth, be praised!

Fall 2014 (1)

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Climbing their lattice of bamboo and twine to a height of eight feet, the peas quickly staked their claim as the most visibly prolific performers in this year’s family garden. Less ostentatious, the radishes provided counterpoint in the ground. A bountiful teacher, the garden is a metaphor for mindfulness.

Through their gifts to each other last Christmas our younger son and his mother conspired to invest our small garden plot with a new approach. A carpenter by trade, his gift was to build raised beds and trellises, start the seeds early indoors and do the heavy lifting.  Her gift was a set of grow lights and her knowledge from past experience. Together they agreed to tend the plot regularly.

The visible progress to date is a plethora of vegetables in various stages of growth toward harvest. Less apparent but longer lasting are the lessons this project is teaching. Certainly, there are the hours spent planning the plot and its contents; constructing the beds and selecting, ordering and planting the seeds. However, the more enduring lessons are the following.

  • The cultivation of intention and follow through
  • The give and take of partnering in a journey
  • Accepting responsibility for the things we can control and letting go of those things we can’t (e.g. the weather, seeds that don’t germinate and taxes paid at night to four-legged visitors)
  • New awareness (e.g. natural allies like the tree swallows who swooped in daily to feast on grubs and beetles and a family of foxes who appeared as the voles began burrowing into the beds and moved on as the borrow mounds subsided).

Most bountiful to this spirit is to observe a son’s new found interest and a spouse’s maternal joy in a joint project with one of her offspring.

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Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me. Taught by parents to an earlier generation of children as a defense against the cruel words of taunting peers, the verse betrays the reality. Name calling does hurt; think of the number of teen suicides in response to bullying.

The power of words is particularly evident in our cultural, religious and political conflicts. Wherever each of us stands on the spectrum of right to left, we know what phrases to expect from the other side and which are most effective for us to use from our own arsenal. Like an ice berg many of these words are code for a much larger load of assumptions and beliefs below the surface.

Take your own pulse for a moment. What thoughts or feelings come up with the following words? Flag. Second Amendment. Amnesty. Compromise. Forgiveness. #BlackLivesMatter. Marriage. Heritage. Amazing grace…

Our words help us declare who we are and what we stand for, our integrity. They can be weapons we use to defend ourselves or attack others. They also are tools for understanding, bridge building and reconciliation. The choice is ours – daily.

Words can inspire as in Rachel Remen’s contribution to Prayers for a Thousand Years, a compilation of hopeful expressions for the new millennium.

May we find each other in the silence between the words.

May we heal the loneliness of our expertise with the wisdom of our service.

May we honor in ourselves and all others the deep and simple impulse to live, to find sacred space and open land.

May we remember that the yearning to be holy is a part of everyone and the only hope for the next thousand years.

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This week our family celebrates Peggy’s birthday. With winter lingering the arrival of her special flower is delayed, but its significance is seldom absent whatever the month.

Daffodils have accompanied our life together, the gift of a Limeliters’ song some fifty years ago.

I do not have a mansion. I haven’t any land. Not one paper dollar to crinkle in my hand. But I can show you morning on a thousand hills, kiss you and give you seven daffodils.

I do not have a fortune to buy you pretty things, but I can give you moonbeams for necklaces and rings. And I can show you morning on a thousand hills…

Seven golden daffodils shining in the sun, light our way to evening when the day is done. And I can give you music and a crust of bread, a pillow of piney boughs to rest your head.

With the color of sunlight and its cyclical profusion this simple flower reminds us of earth’s bounty and the life-giving riches that sustain body and soul.

The romantic dreams and meager means of youth have seasoned. We saved a few paper dollars and with the generosity of many acquired some land. The home built by friends and our sons is a mansion to us. Each morning the view encompasses several hills. Music and singing join our three generations. Peggy’s home baked bread nourishes us well beyond the crust of necessity. Now a perch for resting birds, the piney boughs wave above their hillside neighbors.

Most amazing, perhaps, is the bouquet pictured above. It greeted us as we arrived on the land the spring we broke ground. There were no other flowers in sight. Their origin remains a blessed mystery, as does the fortune we celebrate this April birthday.