Monday, December 15, 2014

ISHVARA PRANIDHANA - The Power of Surrender

Ishvara Pranidhana is the fifth and final Niyama that we are discussing in our yoga classes this week at Pure Mind and Body Studio. Ishvara is a Sanskrit word that can be translated to mean supreme, or personal, God. Pranidhana means to dedicate, devote, or surrender. So a short translation is to devote and surrender ourselves to God, to something bigger than ourselves. Once we do that, we begin to notice that what seemed before to be coincidence is often a synchronistic "plan" that has come together for our own good. Our part is to be open, to listen, to pay attention, to notice, and to surrender to that Something bigger than ourselves. I call that "something", God, Jesus, or simply Divine Love. It's an awesome thing to surrender to Divine Love, and to watch it unfold and lead us.  I had an incredible experience of that just this last week.

My oldest son and I have some deep samskaras in our relationship - very old patterns of relating to one another that aren't particularly helpful. The energy that we both walk in when we're around one another is often anxious and/or angry. Neither of us wants that. Both of us want something more, but neither one of us knows how to get there from here.

Last week he invited me to lunch, and because of previous conversations, I assumed it would be to talk about our stuff and hopefully come to some better understanding of one another. So, for me, it was a week filled with prayer. 

I typically get up between 2 and 4, unable sometimes to get back to sleep, so I decided a couple of weeks ago to use that time for meditation and to begin practicing some kind of simple chanting. I sat up a small altar in my downstairs bedroom and came up with a small ritual that would set the time aside as prayer. When I got the invitation from my son, I had already been doing this for a few days, so I added a picture of him to my altar and continued the practice adding a metta meditation at the end, just for him. 

During the week, the thought came to me that what I really desired from this meeting was simple - just space so that the energy could begin to shift. Nothing grand. No big revelation, no big reconciliation, just space. One of the things I often tell my yoga classes is that once small extra bit of space in the body creates potential for big change. Perhaps that's what is required for our healing, just some space so that something new can happen.

I was nervous as I drove to Houston to meet him, yet at the same time, I felt a lot of peace. I didn't have a clue what to expect, except I DID expect us to try to have the hard conversation again. But that's not what happened. I had already decided to let him take the lead - I would follow and just listen and be available as much as possible. So when I got to his place, he got in the car and we drove to one of his favorite little places for lunch. And we made small talk. Conversation between us isn't easy, but he kept it light and I followed his lead (waiting for it to get hard). After lunch, he suggested we go back to his place and talk. Once we got there, I waited for the hard conversation - again it didn't happen. Instead, he suggested we watch a movie together, so we watched The Darjeeling Limited, which was a very interesting movie. I simply watch in amazement as Synchronicity played out - if we only had ears to hear and eyes to see.

After the movie, he walked me to my car, and I drove home. Amazed.  It wasn't at all what I expected. Instead, it was SPACE...3 hours together. Nothing big.  Nothing important, just time and space for the energy to begin to shift. EXACTLY what I prayed for, even though I had no clue how it would play out.

On the way home, I smiled as I thought about this being the 3rd Sunday of Advent, Mary's Sunday, the week of joy. In the Catholic Church, this is the week for the pink candle. And out loud, I laughed to myself, "This wasn't a gift from Father God, it was from Blessed Mother and my mother." About that time, there was a rainbow right in front of me. For me, confirmation that the Divine Feminine had orchestrated our meeting, giving us the space we needed to just "be" together. 

Add to that blessing after blessing Sunday morning at church, confirmation after confirmation that Divine Love is FOR us, FOR me and my son, FOR our relationship. 

Then I get up today and look over our last Niyama to talk about during yoga classes this week - need I say more? Ishvara pranidhana has been at work in my life for the last couple of weeks, paving the way to healing for my son and me. And I am so grateful. Surrender to Love is always the answer for us. There is no other way. I believe in it. I have practiced it for years. And it continues to bring healing to my life. It is salvation for my soul.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

It's Not That Simple. We Have A Choice

“…in God, there is a mature sense of unity in diversification, and it was this state toward which the serpent was propelling Adam and Eve.” (Jesus in the Lotus, by Russill Paul, p. 107)

As I read Russill Paul's thoughts this morning on Adam and Eve and the whole Garden of Eden story,  I am re-living my “awakening”, which began early 2004, at the age 54.

Until then, I lived in “Eden”, where I thought I knew, I thought I had it, I thought I was whole. I was “innocent”. My eyes were closed. I didn’t see.”  Everything was in black and white. I had no choice but the law. I thought I did, but I really didn’t. The way was laid out for me.  I did as I was told. I believed what I was told to believe. I took my value and worth from the ideals of my father and my culture. I knew no other way. It was the only home I had ever experienced. It was all I knew. I was innocent. There was no such thing as “unity in diversification”. I was not responsible. God was. I had no choice but to do God’s will (as defined my father and my culture).

Believe it or not, life was simple. It was black and white. The answers were laid out there in front of me, if only I could believe and “just do it”. Just follow the law and do what you're told to do.  Believe what you're supposed to believe. Don't ask any questions.

Then the “fall” came. I ate the apple. I ate from the tree of knowledge, and my eyes were opened. All of a sudden my world was no longer black and white, but panoramic color – and I was almost blinded by the diversification. Nothing was simple anymore. The old answers didn’t work anymore. It all started that day I worked that mandala and heard God say, “Quit asking me what I want you to do or to be…It’s your turn now. You decide.  What do you want to be? What kind of world do you want to live in? It's up to you.”

All of a sudden, there was an “I”. The choices were in front of me, and I was responsible for that choice. And it was complicated.

“The human being must progress—consciously, through the exercise of personal choice…”

It’s still complicated. I was pondering that just last night with Obama’s decision to issue an executive order regarding illegal immigrants. So many people are so incensed. Yet, it’s not as simple as we’d like to believe. People’s lives are at stake. Hearts are at stake. The lives of innocent children are being held in the balance. We espouse family values, but we’re so willing to rip families apart because they “broke the law”. It’s not that simple. We cannot claim to be so innocent that we don’t see the complexity of the situation.

War and peace are no longer simple. Environmental questions are no longer simple. We can no longer sacrifice the earth to advance civilization, even to feed the hungry with our GMO’s – yet we cannot allow the hungry to starve, neither can civilization stand still. There is no stark dividing line between defending our borders and caring for the least of these our brothers. It’s not as simple as “black and white”. It’s not a matter any longer of saving the life of the unborn, but it’s also about defending her rights to choose what happens in her body and in her life. And it’s a matter of who’s responsible for that unborn child? You? Me? “Not I”, said the fly; “Not I”, said the cat? Then who, pray tell?

Once our eyes are opened, nothing is simple. We have choices, and all of a sudden, we – you and I – are responsible for our choices. All of a sudden, you and I are creating our world.

“The central message of Jesus, ‘Repent, the kingdom of God is at hand” is the invitation to participate in what the Divine intends for humanity, the journey toward consciously chosen unity…we have at times rejected love. To reject love creates pain…”

I didn’t realize when I started writing this that it would become a political statement.

But then, it’s not simple. Nothing is when our eyes are opened and we realize we are being propelled toward a “mature sense of unity in diversification” as lovers of God.

We have a choice. I have a choice. My choice - as imperfectly as I "do" it, is love - love for God and love for the human and the heart. And boy, that makes it complicated!

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Poem - The Tasty Morsel

                                  (Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.
                                                                         Psalm 81:10)

She gathers the thick white robe, yellowed
by time, repeated washings, and cheap detergent,
around her and feels the encircling warmth Mother’s arms.
She arranges herself in the overstuffed
caramel-colored leather chair.
At her right hand, on Mother’s table,
sits her morning cup of coffee,
on her lap the open Book.

The cells of her body remember.

Many mornings in seasons past have begun this way,
but not for a very long time.
She opens her mouth to pray familiar but long unspoken prayers,
and is surprised by a lump in her throat.
She hasn’t sat with God and Scripture for a long time,
but her mouth opens and she waits,
like a baby bird,
for the tasty morsel that has fed her so often in the past.

“God,” she prays,
“It’s been a long time.
I don’t know what to expect,
but I just want to be with you.”

Something inside her breaks open.
Her heart is warmed and made tender.
Tears fall making tracks on her cheeks.
Already the Lover draws near –
only waiting for her invitation,
and she, his.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Poem - Her One Regret

She wrapped him in swaddling clothes
And laid him in a cradle.
She wasn’t Mary.
He wasn’t Jesus.

Still, she suffers his pain in silence as his enemies:
Blame, Regret, Bitter Disappointment and Guilt
daily curse, rob, beat, then leave him for dead.

And all she can do is wait,
 weep, and feel each blow, each accusation
in her own bones.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

10/18/14 A Poem, SHADOW


(an area of darkness created
when a source of light is blocked)

Her back to the sun
light obscured,
shadow dances on the ground in front of her,
curiously connected to her feet,
leading her toward the unknown.
Always out in front, leading.

The sun moves across the sky.
Light now leads her way,
and shadow follows along like a puppy dog
nipping at her heels.

These types of shadows are easily discerned,
but there are other shadows not so easily seen.

She opens her hand wide and gives to a stranger in need.
Kindness is in the Light now,
leading her to the truth of who she wants to be,
but the Shadow of Unkindness nips at her heels.

Later that same day,
she speaks of loss and betrayal by a friend,
with anger shaking her voice,
and her fist raised,
then mutters
how unkind she is.
But the Shadow of Kindness lurks nearby,
unseen by Light.

She is both kind and unkind.
It all depends on where the Light is,
what’s visible at the moment,
and what’s hidden from view
lying in the shadows.

A Poem, I WANT

I Want

(I wanted
the past to go away, I wanted
to leave, it like another country…)

Except, I want the past to stay.
Not all of it, only snippits:
his warm, wet little body slipping out of the tub 
and into the big fluffy towel,
him giggling,
me rubbing him dry
until his skin almost shines.
His laughter as he peddles his little feet,
maneuvering his shiny red fire truck,
or fifth hot wheel bike,
up and down the sidewalk and around the block.
GI Joes, convoys, vampires at Halloween, and
Christmas morning glee.
Smores around the campfire.
Him burrowing down under the covers in his flannel pajamas,
his tiny arms flung around my neck
and his whispers, 
       “I love you Mommy”.
And there are grown up snippits of our past that I’d like to stay, too:
family dinners at Christmas time,
presents under the tree,
“Merry Christmas”,
“Happy birthday”,
his deep grown-up voice declaring without shame, 
       “I love you Mom”.
And his children laughing and playing games,
running in and out of the kitchen,
asking for fat buttered rolls, hot out of the oven,
sleep overs at Grandma's,
our special breakfast of cinnamon-sugar buenelos and milk.
Today there seems only to be a hole in my heart 
          where the past used to be.

(Also, I wanted
to be able to love. And we all know
how that one goes,
don’t we?)

That was my prayer too.
I asked to love without condition,
with no judgment or expectation.
The cost has been high.

(You don’t want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don’t want to tell it.)

I’ve told it far too often.
What I’d like to leave behind for real this time
is the treasured loss,
the re-collecting of all those moments,
the stories that sit in the corners of my mind
like all that straw locked in the room with her.
She kept spinning that straw hoping it would turn into gold.
That only happens in fairy tales.

I want to be free
to live and laugh and love
what I have today,
at this very moment.

At the same time,
I want my kids
and my kids’ kids to come home
– just for a moment –
to play.

(The lines in parens are from Mary Oliver’s “Dogfish”, from Dreamwork.)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Leave it Behind

Treasured loss
Leave them all behind
Press forward
Hands and heart empty
No expectations; instead, the “clean slate”.

(Prayer response to The Troubadours, Etc., by Mary Szybist and Confessions in the Key of Kenosis, by David Wright)

Monday, October 13, 2014



the wind has shifted


Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Battlefield

The Battlefield

It’s on the battlefield that crows gather and are heard most often.
Like the great booming of cannons
and the repeated staccato of the automatic rifle,
the singular Crow sounds its familiar incessant cawing
Over and over and over again.
Nothing stops it.
No amount of focused attention or controlled breath,
not even the familiar mantra with its sweet rhythm
silences Crow’s voice

until Kingfisher swoops in.

Dressed in a robe of royal blue,
his sword of peace tucked beneath his belt,
he plants his finger firmly on Crow’s forehead -
right between the eyes, and
leaves his signature mark, sanctifying
and baptizing Crow with holy water.

For a moment now, as Kingfisher tarries,

all is still and silent.

Our last assignment of this weekend retreat was to write an ekphrastic poem, a poem based on a piece of art. This work, Kingfisher and Crow, is a collage/painting done by an artist friend of Richard's, Robert Jensen. Richard gave us a few poems to read and to meditate on, then I came home and "slept on it".  

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Poetry Assignment from Hell

Well, what started out as delightful time to sit by the sea and write a poem turned into the poetry assignment from hell yesterday. That's what tends to happen when the same facilitator comes year after year.Each year Richard has taken us deeper and deeper into our hearts and souls to get the poems. This year, he's pulling out our toenails.

"The times we are way out of our comfort zone! The times we become cut off from ourselves and others! Sheer awkwardness. Can we find God or ourselves in that moment?

"Could we dare write about the 'other' who seems so outside our experience and worse, our compassion? Can we find our own rejected self in the ones we want to reject? Our neediness? Not our fullness. In our ability to get along, to fit in to be 'smart' do we lose something only those we bypass on the other side of the street could give us...

"Write your own poem about something, an incident in your own life, that opened your eyes to your own deeper humanity. To your own need to be held; to kneel and touch the hem of 'his' garment.."

It took me the whole afternoon to get to the broken heart of the matter and to answer the questions, "Where had love failed me? Where had love broken me open? What in my own life had taught me the most about love?"

This is the rough draft of my poem. I feel very vulnerable sharing it here - for the first time in a long time, I'm hoping no one reads my blog.


Generous and sincere prayer
bubbles up from beneath the stone walls of her heart,
“God, I want to love the unlovely.”

You know, touch the leper, feed the poor,
sit in solidarity with the Aids victim,
something along the lines of Mother Theresa
or Dorothy Day.

Instead, she hears the still small Voice,
“Learn to love your own children,
with no judgment,
no expectations,
no conditions.”

“But God, I do.”

Then the shit hit the fan.
The mountains trembled and fell into the sea.
The smoke poured out of Vesuvius.
The earth shook, and soon there was nothing left at all.

You tell me, “Give it a container, so we can drink small sips.”

How the heck do you wipe this mess up off the floor,
And wring the mop back out into a tiny little juice glass?
That’s my question.

Fairy tales don’t come true.
They don’t end happily ever after.
“Raise your kids in the way they should go, and they’ll not soon depart from it.”

HA! That’s a joke.
Except no one’s laughing.

There is another love story in Scripture,
The story of Naomi and Ruth.
“Where you go, I will go; your people will be my people,
your God, my God. Even death won’t part us,”
said the daughter-in-law to the mother-in-law.

Except Ruth never said to Boaz,
“I may be bi-sexual; let’s ‘swing’ and see.”
Naomi never had to figure out what the hell polyamory meant,
and never watched a house meant for a small family
fill to the brim with “an experiment”.

Prior to this, Naomi had only known “respectable church folks”,
but now family dinners included the ungodly and the wicked,
adulterers, fornicators, swingers,
shoot, even pagans and druids sitting at the table,
drinking from the cup.

The party got so messy it split the family in two.
The prodigal son left,
but so did the good one.
“He became angry, and refused to go in.”

“Love your children with no judgments,
no expectations,
and no conditions.”

What would Jesus do?
I knows what Paul says,
“God will give them up to degrading passions.”

But Naomi looks at Jesus,
With her eyes down, and her trembling heart.

“What would you do? What would you have me do?”

And he opened wide his arms,
and died.

Frankly I’d rather be in a room full of retarded folks*
or next to some poor poverty stricken bum on the side of the road.
Smart bombs aren’t the only weapons that can be aimed
straight into someone’s kitchen exploding shards into the delicate jelly of eyes.*

Dreams are broken.
Hearts are shattered.
Relationships are –

Still, there’s only the Voice that keeps repeating,
“Love, even as I have loved you – love them.
Love until it hurts.
Love with all your heart.
Stay soft.
Stay open.
Love never fails.”

(from He Sits Down on the Floor of a School for the Retarded, by Alden Nowlen and May Our Right Hands Lose Their Cunning, by Denise Levertov)

So, I watched the skies unfold this morning.

And I read this prayer from Tagore...

God of my broken heart, of leave-taking and
loss, of the gray silence of the dayfall, my greetings
of the ruined house to You.

Then the sky broke open with promise:

Light of the newborn morning, sun of the 
everlasting day, my greetings of undying hope to 

(My Greetings from Prayers of Rabindranth Tagore)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Barefoot Beginnings

Our theme this weekend at our 6th Annual Poetry Writing Retreat is "Step Into The Barefoot Prayer". Richard gave us our theme a few weeks ago, and I've pondered it for several days now. The image of "barefoot prayer" grabs me.

Moses at the burning bush
and me, practicing yoga
both of us stepping into barefoot prayer.

Barefoot - stepping onto holy ground, coming innocent and carefree as a child, nothing between me and the holy place, wherever that is, whatever it looks like. I've always enjoyed going barefoot, but for a number of years, due to some issues with my feet, I wasn't able to walk with no shoes. Thanks to time and yoga, I'm tentatively back to my favorite mode of walking, and so grateful.

Coming to prayer - writing poetry or practicing yoga - with no shoes on...that's what I think of. Nothing between the Beloved and me, and all around me is Divine. I can't go barefoot and pretend. Going barefoot requires me to be "real", child like, innocent, sincere.

Last night Richard encouraged us to "put flesh" on our poems - stay out of the abstract big thoughts and "sing to the quick of our nails*" as we write. And he encouraged us to look for clues in our poems: where are we going, what are we thinking, what is life bringing us, what are we bringing to life? What does what I write tell me about who I am?

And I woke up this morning at 5:30 with this poem waiting to be written:

                             (…this isn’t a contest but the doorway

Standing at the doorway,
looking across another threshold,
I pause and remove my shoes
before crossing barefoot
into this new chapter.

Life isn’t a contest.
Neither is writing poetry or breathing prayer.

I tend to be an abstract thinker - to think big and broad. It's also the way I tend to see. It has its advantages, but I also tend to miss the little things. So I look forward to putting skin on my words, to "singing with my throat full of earth*", and to writing barefoot over the next few days. Just a little aside: I also tend to get wordy, so I really like this idea of a 7-line poem. Simple, short, concise, down and dirty.

*lines taken from "A New Song" by Michael Symmons Roberts

One Week of Paying Attention (continued)

Our preparation assignment for this year's poetry writing retreat has been to write a 7-lined poem each day for 7 days, and since prayer and poetry are both "focused attention", to write those poems about something that caught our attention this day.

These are the last two poems I wrote during this past week.

Day 5, October 7, 2014, Poem 6

Darkening skies
Distant rumble
Swelling breeze
Concentric circles
spatter the creek

Sweet smell of rain

Holy water above and below.

Day 6, October 8, 2014, Poem 7

Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat
All around me, patterns repeat.

“Behold I make all things new…”
Yet, I observe familiar patterns even in the new.

The concentric ripples on the surface waters of the creek,
the riff of the mockingbird’s song,
even the carefully measured, cut, and placed rails
that stand at attention in solidarity around the edges of our deck

speak with a voice.

I've heard it said, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”

Not today. Today it brings peace and comfort.
Today is a Liturgy.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

One Week of Paying Attention October 5 - The Anointing

The Anointing*

Ker-splash, ker-splash, ker-splash, ker-splash
single, slippery sliver of silver jumps high into the air
then crashes back into the water
leaving four circles of concentric rings.

Friendly Fr. Flying Fish salutes Fall
and blesses Oyster Creek with holy water.

(*appropriate on this Holy Feast of St. Francis)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

One Week of Paying Attention, October 4

Snuggled in her thick white robe
With her crimson throw tucked in around my toes
Morning’s cup of hot brew warming my hands and my heart,
Her memory and I welcome Autumn’s first 60-degree morning kiss.

Swooping in from the West, Great Blue Heron (her favorite bird) 
     loudly croaks his arrival on the Creek.

All around me Mother smiles.

Friday, October 3, 2014

One Week of Paying Attention, Day 1 October 2

Next week we meet again for our sixth annual poetry writing retreat at Surfside Beach.  Who know when we first met in 2008 that we would be so blessed to have Richard Osler flying down every Fall, like a faithful Canadian goose.Some of us seldom write poetry, except at this time of the year, but somehow Richard manages to turn all of us into really good poets for a few days. It's magic!

So Wednesday Richard issued us a poetry writing challenge to get our juices flowing. Writing poetry (like yoga and prayer) is “unmixed attention”. Richard has given us an assignment to write a 7 line poem a day for 7 days…and to write about something that calls our attention.

DAY 1 (October 2, 2014)

I didn’t sleep again last night and spent hours thinking about my kids and the holidays and how, even if I gave a party, no one would come. I finally got up feeling lonely, tired, depressed. Who wants me to write a poem today? OMG, if I write about what I’m paying attention to, we’ll all fall in a deep dark hole.

“You try to register in the poem as much of the life you've lived as you can.” So, faithful to the call, I write about what I'm paying attention to.

Life Turns on a Dime

They drop from above my left shoulder, seemingly from no where
And drift to – or from – seemingly no place in particular.
Their job done, life spent.
Dead leaves and dragonflies floating down the creek.
Is this all there is?

The buzz attack: three of them dive bomb each other, with two more racing for the feeder.
Hummers are my gift this morning. They make me laugh again.

Week of Paying Attention, Day 2, October 3

Faithful Place

Again, leftward and out of sight, a chorus of mockingbirds trill their hundredth song while
ahead of me murky waters languish,
dusted with soft yellow Yankee pollen transported on last night’s wild north winds
from as far away as Waco.
Overhead thunders the Great Mosquito Duster, sending Tom skittering toward me from
 across the damp, planked walkway.
A solitary Hungry Hummer chatters, hovers, darts, then dips into liquid bacon and eggs served up
at Red Saucer Diner.

On my lap, Tara French’s Faithful Place holds a day’s worth of suspense, murder and intrigue
 While before and all around me offers up quite another tale -

This is my Faithful Place.

(well, it's more than 7 line, but it's only 5 thoughts).

And I couldn't help it, a second poem (7 lines!) just bubbled up. 

What’s the Story?

Nothing tells the tale
of a wild and stormy night
quite like a soaked kitty
come in from his prowl,
downed and spent palm fronds scattered across the yard,
languishing pollen-laden waters,

and my damp chaise lounge.

Saturday, August 30, 2014


To make a play on Christina Valters Paintner’s article title, this has been a summer of “unraveling” for me. Pema Chodron’s words ring clear inside of me:

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is things don’t get solved. They come together, and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. The healing comes from letting there be room for all this to happen, for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

Unraveling so something new can be knit together. Things falling apart, so that they can come together again.

All of the “unraveling” revealed something I’ve always wondered about, but had no “facts” to inform me.  I have been in a defensive posture most of my life. In the years since my first fibromyalgia flare up, it’s been really obvious to me that my physical posture on the inside of my body is defensive, but in my heart, in my mind, in my thoughts, in my words when I’m anxious – I always feel compelled to defend myself. Why? Most of the time, I don’t really need to, but it’s as if I’m compelled, driven to defend – why? What am I defending? I’ve been wondering that for many years.

And I think the answer came up a couple of weeks ago as a result of years of inner work and the gift of iRest Yoga Nidra. The next morning after one of our sessions, this picture came to my mind before I really woke up.

This photograph is over 65 years old. It’s a photograph of my dad’s oldest daughter. Through circumstances beyond his control, he was never able to have a relationship with her, and I have never met her, but this picture hung in our living room from before I was born until I was about 4 years old. When I look at it I feel a huge sense of sadness, and I “feel” memories of my dad weeping over this picture, which my mother validated as factual before she died. She told me that Daddy spent a lot of time holding the photo, looking at it, and crying because he missed being able to be a part of her life.

Then came the day he had to pack the picture away because it wasn’t something a young Baptist preacher needed hanging on his wall. Divorce and children from another lifetime weren’t helpful to his career, and he was advised to put the photo away, which he did. When I was 11, I found it hidden in the bottom of his dresser drawer. That’s when my mother told me the story. That’s when I was made aware of our “family secret”, and I was simply reminded that we didn’t talk about it, as she re-wrapped the photo and put it back in the drawer.

I realized a few years back that I had competed with the girl in this photo in my own mind and heart. Some children have an imaginary friend; I had an imaginary "nemesis". And I always “lost” when it came to capturing the heart of the King, my dad. The stories in my mind were false, but still, I believed them and have lived most of my life competing with this phantom “princess”. But in the last couple of weeks, I’ve come to realize that the real competition was for “place/position”.  The need to defend my place or my position is a first chakra need – a very basic human “right”. The threat of losing my place has been with me since before I was born. I’ve never felt secure in “my place”. And I’ve never known why until now.

Earlier this summer, I had made plans to drive to East Texas to the Chandler Cemetery and “visit” with my mother and daddy. I’ve felt particularly nostalgic this summer, and I’ve known most of that was remembering the loss of my mother who died and was buried this time last summer. But as the time drew nearer to go, and this new information made its way up from my deepest self, I also knew that this could be an opportunity to begin to resolve the issue of “my place” and now was the time to begin healing this part of my heart.

When I was talking to my husband about all this, it came to me that a healing “ritual” might be to “cremate” the photo and take the ashes back to East Texas with me, to sprinkle on Daddy's grave, so that’s what I did. 

My precious priest and friend, Liz Parker, blessed the ashes before I left, offering me some prayers from the prayer book to say as I sprinkled the ashes.

As I shared my intention with a couple of friends, another friend simply christened trip this as my “Trip to Bountiful.” Even the sounds of the words made my heart sing, and I knew that this small pilgrimage back “home” would begin to set me free.

I woke up Thursday morning to thunderstorms – a August treat in our dog days of summer, so I took my time getting ready to leave. But the rain followed me off and on for the next two days. I also had made plans to stop and “visit” with Jim’s parents at Ryan’s Chapel Cemetery in Diboll. As I drove through Cleveland, the thought came to do rubbings at the Cemetery, so I quickly pulled off the freeway and got directions to the nearest Wal-Mart and purchased paper and chalk. 

It surprised me how quickly I was able to get back on the freeway. The whole diversion took me less than 20 minutes, and as I pulled my car back up onto the highway, the radio rang out these words

“songs of freedom, redemption songs, that’s all I’ve ever had…”

Those are words from Bob Marley’s Redemption Song. When I looked the words up just now, these lines were my gift:

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our minds.

That’s what this trip was meant to do – free my mind.

And right on the heels of Bob Marley’s song, came BrettDennon’s  Don’t forget:

Don't Forget, Don't Forget
That I believe In You
Should you forget, should you forget
Let me remind you
That I am behind you

I knew even more and once again, that Divine Love’s Grace was orchestrating my Trip to Bountiful, and by this time, my heart was really soaring.

When I got to Ryan’s Chapel, storm clouds were hanging very low, and within moments of parking the car, they let loose, so I remembered my mother’s mantra, “Adjust and adapt,” got back into my car and made plans to stop by for the visit on my way home.

I had made plans to meet and spend the night with my Facebook friend, Sandy Bunch in Brownsboro. We’ve been FB friends for a while, but never met, and I had been really excited to finally meet her and her sweet Maggie. 

She has a beautiful place deep in the woods of East Texas. Turning up her road was like driving onto the grounds of a silent retreat center, and she’s got a rich spiritual life that’s made evident in every nook and cranny of her beautiful place. She and Maggie met me, loved me, fed me, and took care of me through the evening as we talked and talked like old friends.

And the talks continued the next morning as we both woke up early, got our coffee and “retreated” to her big beautiful porch to watch the day begin. And we laughed as we watched rain clouds gather, pass by, sprinkle a little, then regather. East Texas is also in a drought and as much as I thought I needed a dry morning to visit my folks, it was apparent Love thought otherwise.

I finally packed myself up and left to head back to Chandler Cemetery.  The road to that little country cemetery is beautiful, quiet, peaceful – bounty-full. I had no problem finding Mother and Daddy, and as storm clouds gathered, I sprinkled the ashes, talked to my dad, loved on my mother, made really quick rubbings, finishing up as just fat raindrops began to fall.

I sat in the car, waiting for the rain to end. I didn’t feel like I had “finished” my time there, but the rain wasn’t ending anytime soon. Then it came to me that the rain was part of the ritual. It was my christening, my baptism welcoming the new way of being that I’m reaching for, so I got out of my car and walked slowly, with rain pouring down back to the gravesite. And I stood, letting the downpour wash away all the “muck” from the past, washing me and making me clean again, inside and out. It was a precious time for me – the perfect ending to my time with Mother and Daddy.

I walked back to the car in the rain, toweled off, and drove the short drive to the houses that my daddy and built for my mother and my grandmother, and left. 

I had thought about driving into Tyler and taking more pictures of my Bountiful, but the rain convinced me otherwise, and I headed home.

By the time I got back to Diboll, the skies were clear and bright blue, and the typical dog days of August were being felt. I made my rubbings, visited with Jim’s mom and dad, and made my way back home.

I have long “hated” East Texas, and I’ve long felt a sense of dreariness when I’ve thought of going back there, but that’s all gone. That shift began last year as Jim and I drove home after burying Mother.  And now, I know inside of me that a great work has been done. Something inside has shifted. I expect I will still feel “threatened” occasionally, and I know it may take time for my body to let go, for my defensive fists to release and lay down. But there’s a knowing that day will come. My heart has found its place, and I am free. I don’t need to defend my place. I never needed to defend my place.

As I was rounding the bend to make the last part of my ride home, this rainbow shown in the sky so brightly reminding me of the "new day" in front of me, the clean slate. My mind and heart are singing Redemption's Song, and Divine Love is right here with/behind me. I won’t forget.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ordinary Days

Ordinary Days

Always requiring
outside stimulation and
more entertainment
the gift of “Ordinary
Days” escapes me, lost again.

Soul’s rhythms unglued
body breathless and frenzied
center ungrounded,  
spirit scattered, mind frantic
illusive stillness, no home.

“Ordinary Days”
extend simplicity, grace
unbounded now free
to inhale deeply again
exhale, open wide, space, home.

Until 2002, when I began taking a look at the Catholic life, I never knew about “ordinary days”.  "Ordinary days" and a Liturgical Calendar were not part of my Evangelical world. In fact,I saw ordinary days as boring and useless. I lived for days when “life” really happened. I knew that if Spirit was really working, things would NOT be the same, and that a true test of walking in the Spirit was that everything was always new and exciting.  In my own psyche, I lived for “feast days”.  When someone spoke of the rhythms of life, I automatically assumed boredom and sameness. And I had no clue what “living in the present moment” meant. Of course I lived in the present moment! That was the stupidest thing ever, to think one didn’t live in the present moment. I thought routine, rut, and rhythm all meant the same thing.

The Liturgical Calendar has been pure gift to me. Tuning into the liturgical cycle has helped me learn to pay attention to my own internal rhythms. One of my greatest joy has been discovering the beauty of “ordinary days”. And the Buddhist concept of “mindfulness” has taught me to pay attention to my “ordinary days”, to notice their rhythm and to feel the bodily sensations of each moment I’m in. My soul and spirit actually feasts on “ordinary days” way more than “feast days”.  And as I get older, my body appreciates “ordinary days”. When life gets frantic, when I find myself bouncing around with too many things on my calendar, when there aren’t enough hours in the day, and I can find no room for stillness, my soul languishes, and my energy level saps. It takes me a lot of time to recover. I suppose that’s the wisdom of the Liturgical Calendar and its vast space of greenness – way more “ordinary days” than feast days. The need for rest is built into our DNA. The greenness of “ordinary days” IS what actually feeds us and makes us whole again.

Today is an “ordinary day”, and I’m very grateful. It’s gift.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Pilgrimage Continues - Theme, SABBATH

On Sunday, May 25, we pilgrims were encouraged by our Abbess to really seek Sabbath, to not set the alarm clock, and to let go of planned agendas and just "be", to spend time by ourselves letting go of everything we had planned and just see what happens. Well, that wasn't exactly what I wanted to hear. I had planned for months to go to church at St. Nicholas Collegiate Church (the Anglican community in Galway), but no one else I knew of was going there. Several of the pilgrim monks had plans to go to Mass at the Poor Clare's Convent, and invited me to go, so I went with them. The Poor Clare's have been in Galway, on Nun Island since 1642. They are an enclosed contemplative community of sisters in the tradition of St. Clare, the friend of St. Francis of Assisi.

The Clare's live "enclosed" in community, so that meant they were separate from us during Mass, on the other side of the altar. Most of the Mass was done with the priest facing them. They had beautiful singing voices, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but truth be told, I missed participating in worship. When Mass was over, and lunch was finished, I went back to my room to "rest". Instead, I found myself tossing and turning about going a second time to church. After all, this was supposed to be a day of Sabbath rest, but no matter what I did, my soul wasn't resting. Finally I got up, dressed again, and sat off for St. Nicholas.  I was in for a treat! Along the way to the church, I met up with this family of swans - they may be 'common' to the Irish, but they were pure gift to me.

Greeted by those beautiful red doors!

And when I got to St. Nicholas, I found a congregation that was warm and inviting. And colorful! And another pilgrim monk came in, and we sat together! The church was almost full with children, young couples, old folks - every age was there. The choir was incredible, and the procession was pure gift. The choir stood behind us and chanted the most beautiful chant, then processed toward the altar. And the homily (sermon) was lively an inviting.

The priest greeted me after, as did several of the community, all introducing themselves and even inviting me to BBQ after.  Then when I stepped outside, I had another surprise, Galway's Farmer's Market was right there, on Church Lane. The booth right outside the doorway was run by a lovely couple from India, and I bought this outfit - funny going to Ireland and buying an outfit from India. What a world we live in!

After browsing through market, I walked back to the bed and breakfast, fully content inside my soul.  My Sabbath Day lesson was another reminder to "listen to my heart", "to move with my hear", and "to follow my heart" - in spite of what my MIND may tell me is the "rule" of the day.

I spent the rest of the afternoon blissfully playing in my journal, drawing and coloring symbols of my trip and playing with the idea of painting a mandala of pilgrimage when I returned home.

This is a picture of what I started that Sunday afternoon in Galway.

And I finished my pilgrimage mandala yesterday. I told Jim that I cannot imagine a more beautiful way to integrate the beauty of the trip into the cells of my skin than listening to music we sang along the way (Richard Bruxvoort Colligan's Our Roots Are In You) and painting my memories.

If you click on Richard's website link above, I invite you to listen to "Holy Is This One", and just imagine singing that almost every time we met, and looking in each other's eyes as we sang it. Just of taste of considering yourself and everyone/everything you meet along the way as "holy". It is.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

So What Makes It A Holy Well?

Once again this morning I am pondering the thought that if I don’t reflect on the beauty and grace of life, I simply won’t see it – I will see its shabbiness and pain instead.

A couple of nights ago, I had dinner with a few friends, and I took each of them a little bottle of water from a "holy well" in Ireland.  One of the ladies asked,

“What makes this a holy well?”

Because it IS (it exists), and because thousands of people for hundreds of years have traveled far to experience its holiness, its healing waters, its beauty and grace, and the peace of that ancient space. There are “thin places” in the world, and this place is that kind of space.

I don’t think that’s what I said exactly, but that’s what makes something holy: the witness of others who have recognized and experienced its miraculous healing and its sense of ‘sacredness’.  And sacredness is all around us; it can be everywhere if we but have eyes to see. We, you and I, have the privilege of labeling life “holy and sacred”. Or we can label life hard, sad and complicated. It’s our choice.

All of life is holy. But it is, for me, imperative that I ponder the holiness and sacredness of life – otherwise all I see is the mundane. I must listen to that mockingbird’s song as if I never heard it before, or it will lose its glory each new morning. I long for beauty in my life – to see it, hold it, and kiss its face. To draw near my furry kitty’s face, smell her breath, feel her softness and look into those deep golden wells you and I have labeled eyes and see the face of God. To look up from my journal and see the raindrops dancing on the creek.

To seek out the low raspy “hoorah” of Mother Frog crouched almost hidden underneath flora dripping from long-awaited rain – that is holy.

For some reason most of us tend to complaint. Perhaps it’s not “life” that is profane, but simply our sight, our hearts and minds. Maybe like the hot dry dusty earth, we need to be refreshed, baptized and washed anew with “holy water”, summer rain, in order to see the beauty of life shimmering around us. Maybe it’s our “hurry up and get it done” ordering of the priorities of the day that causes life to become mundane, profane. Our sense of having to control everything around us – even the places we sit in order to experience morning’s grace. I do it too. I want my coffee nearby, and a cushioned chair underneath my bottom. And no mosquitoes, thank you very much.
But there are moments that shimmer through, thresholds of time and space that awaken me to wonder, when I can pause and sit on the damp ground to receive a photo of a frog also wet with refreshing rain. And in those moments, I know that life is holy, and I can add my voice and my experience to all those other pilgrims along the way who say, “This is a ‘holy well’”.

There was a delicious poem posted on Facebook a few mornings back, that I failed to save, but I’ve remembered well the “just” of it. The poet mused on getting together with a friend and talking only about the beautiful – no complaints, no discussion of the hardness of life or the sadness of our children or the brutal nature of business today, but only talk of beauty – could we do that for just one hour? And remind ourselves that life is holy. I think that’s another gift from pilgrimage – for eight days, we talked of beauty, we explored beauty, we breathed in grace and holiness every day. In eight days, there was perhaps eight minutes of complaint? If even that. And that’s holy.