On a chilly December day which seemed to birth the beginning of the new season, I had the privilege to be Snow Queen. As I sat festooned in a tent under sparkling icicles and blue twinkly lights, I sat in suspension waiting for the little ones, medium sized ones, and big ones to arrive. I sang my wintry song that began like this: “Deep down in the belly of the night, dream sweet winter dreams . . .”* and watched the little footsteps through the billows of tulle coming my way along the wood chip path. They would approach the tent, some of them a little apprehensive at first, and then they would gently enter the snowy realm.
Then their eyes would meet mine. They would listen deeply and attentively, sacredly even, to the words I shared with them. Words about forests and hearts and flames and crystals and warmth in the shimmering snow. They stopped. They truly seemed to partake in what John O’Donohue calls “slowtime”. That magical space where time stops and we get to enter the place of wonder. I watched as children from two to ten paused for just a few moments to receive the gift of song, verse, and clear shining crystal. And they held the gifts so well.
I believe the greatest gift I received in the little woods that day was seeing the deep wonder in each child’s eyes, every one of them- the deep wells of their souls opening up during a time of wonder. I ceased to be “Gina”, and got to embody an archetype- a season of slowing and mystery, the season of winter. Like the crystals I held in my hand and gave to each one, I will cherish this, too, in my heart.
This last week I’ve been listening to the still small voice inside me that says, “receive”. Instead of taking each moment as a “what do I have to do?” moment, or a “what should I give out right now?” moment, I’ve been allowing a more quiet, subtle gift to breathe into my pores. “Receive”. I find that when I open myself to receiving, I am able to take in the gifts that are available in the delectable now. Gifts like acceptance, beauty, openness, and possibility. I have also found that when I breathe in the “receiving air”, I am miraculously able to give better! I know that sounds counterintuitive, but as a “receiver”, I’m able to take in others’ words, thoughts, and actions much more “present-momently” (my own vernacular), and that is a gift.
I had this image of a purple geode- all hard and craggy and dull on the exterior, all twinkling and purple and crystal on the interior- somehow full of magic when it opens and the light hits it. And I asked myself, “what would it feel like to be held inside like a geode?” Hmm, “Well”, I thought, “I imagine it would feel like I’m surrounded in a bowl of love. A place where birth can take place. Encapsulated, but precious, with the spaces of potential freedom all around. Warm wafts ribboning around me from the inside. Held.” And then I asked myself, “What does this look like today? How can you feel out the practice of held-ness and freedom? What would you like held today? What disciplines could give you even more freedom?” And then I thought, “if each moment were a geode, how would it like to be held? How can I open it up with discipline and delight?”
“Sciureus minimus”. Listen to it for a couple of seconds. One. Two. It sounds like “scurry-ous minimus” doesn’t it? It ‘s my own combo of the scientific name for a chipmunk (sciureus) and the specific species of tiny, adorable, toylike characters that run and bounce along our front porch (lesser chipmunks). I don’t know about you, but I have this inbred need to be doing-doing-doing so much within only a few square inches of time- perhaps “Protestant work ethic” is a good term… for it. I wake up, scurrying to get things done, which feels like a good thing, but then feel spiritually bereft to continue on, which doesn’t feel like a good thing, and then guilt sets in which really doesn’t feel like a good thing! See, even the words here feel like scurry-ous minimus! So I slow down and think the better question is, what does experiencing meaning look like? How can I craft each segment of my day from “scurry-ous minimus” into “meaningous maximus”? Then I take a deep breath, take off my ears and tail, and slow . . . down . . . .
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.
Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.
Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.
Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.
– John O’Donohue
“Slow time” is a pair of words I like to linger within, when I can remember to slow down long enough to do so. It reminds me of a Japanese phrase- “mono no aware”- the heightened, yet transient ahh-ness of things. What comes to mind right away when I think about this are lifecycle moments: a peony at its peak, ready to drip its plethora of petals, a moist forest carpeted with the plums and browns of decaying leaves just before the snows come in, or a young fawn on spindly legs still speckled with the soft signs of just being born. I remember having just discovered the term “mono no aware” on a hot summer day in Palm Springs, California. Looking up at the sky for the first time with this new awareness gave me such a fresh perspective. It brought me immediately into a place of gladness, presence, and the present. How long would the sky remain that shade of blue? When would that cloud formation change into a new form? I didn’t know, but in that moment, I granted myself the time to appreciate every second before me- each tinge of perfection and change in its own current and unique state. I had somehow entered into “slow time”.
Has the aftermath of the election affected you personally? Are you feeling the need to wrestle and rumble with your thoughts and emotions—as well as connect with others in reflective and transformative ways? In this writing workshop, you will explore your stories and feelings with two facilitators from eclectic backgrounds: poetry, Compassionate Listening ®, social justice theatre, meditation, and spiritual leadership. Participants will be invited to share their writing on a voluntary basis in a supportive environment; no experience is necessary. All writing styles welcome.
Gina Marie Mammano: Inspired by the ancient spiritual practices of lectio divina and walking meditation, Gina’s book Camino Divina: Walking the Divine Way helps readers explore whole new worlds inside themselves. Gina is an award winning poet whose work has been published in journals and magazines such as the Dos Passos Review, Poetica, Pilgrimage Journal, Bearings, and Crucible. Her training as a spiritual director, work as a retreat leader, and experiences gleaned from the Opening the Book of Nature program have allowed her the ability to create interactive and intuitive listening exercises both in the interior and exterior landscapes.
Sarah Zale teaches poetry and writing, social justice, and intercultural competence in Seattle. A certified facilitator of Compassionate Listening ® and facilitator of Theatre of the Oppressed and Playback, she brings the skills of deep listening and interactive theatre to her students. Sarah is a passionate believer in the power of poetry and the arts to transform and heal ourselves and the world. She has published two collections of poetry: The Art of Folding (2010), which was inspired by her travels to Israel and Palestine, and Sometimes You Do Things (2013, Aquarius Press, Living Detroit Series) which highlights the history of Detroit and celebrates its rebuilding.
During the “Spring Soul Bath” I co-lead recently, I read this haiku by Aberjhani: “Dare to love yourself/ as if you were a rainbow/ with gold at both ends.” We had just bathed ourselves with the resonance of Tibetan bowls and the sun-yellow images of forsythia and daffodils, when the words of this profound truth struck the group following the striking of the tingshaw bells. What does it look like to be a rainbow with gold at both ends? What do you look like spun with color and light, a bow of promise in the world, holding a bucket of brightness and value in both of your hands? What would it look like if you loved yourself this way whenever the light struck the prism of your awareness?