Listening to the “receiver”.

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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.

(beautiful image by ScottMillsArt)

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Giving Thanks in the Diorama of the Day

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“We are each surrounded by an enormous silence that can be a blessing and a help to us, but from which we often turn away in dread and fear, a silence in which the skein of reality is knitted and unraveled to be knit again, in which the perspective of a work or a life or a relationship can be enlarged and enriched. Silence is like a cradle holding our endeavors, our will and our understanding in ways that allow them to grow and thrive; a cultivated and silent spaciousness sustains us and at the same time connects us to larger worlds that, in the busyness of our daily struggle to achieve, we have yet to investigate. Silence is fearful exactly because in its spacious depths lies both the soul’s sense of rest and its possible break for freedom.”

Taken from Adapted from Crossing the Unknown Sea:Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity by David Whyte

If I am carving out silence right now. I am enjoying the patterns of light creating joyful ghosts of illumination on the piano in my living room that the sun in companionship with the remnant storm are making. I am aware of a limited time set up to sit in this silent spaciousness. Awareness feels so important. So does gratitude. I am aware of the green statue sitting across from me- a long-haired lady also being touched by the sunlight, her candle holder glowing this time, not with fire, but with light. I am aware of the shimmering, sizzling shadows created by the shivering tree branches outside.

I am also aware of the potential. A guitar sitting in the corner. A notebook of songs. There is a sacredness here.in the silence. Is this what life is all about?

For this moment, yes. I guess each moment is crafted differently, in its own holiness. I am in the bowl of my living room. A hollow of holiness. It is a living sculpture where light can dance with shadow. It is a shadow box. It is a diorama. And I am in it. I am a living sculpture sitting and noticing the things that dance and play on this stage. Sometimes I will dance, and sometimes I will watch, eyes glowing, heart leaping in the audience. And yet, I still get to be a part of it all. Wherever I bring myself, there I am. The diorama of the day.

And This is Pure Truth, Pure Beauty

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The Art of Blessing The Day

by Marge Piercy

This is the blessing for rain after drought:
Come down, wash the air so it shimmers,
a perfumed shawl of lavender chiffon.
Let the parched leaves suckle and swell.
Enter my skin, wash me for the little
chrysalis of sleep rocked in your splashing.
In the morning the world is peeled to shining.

This is the blessing for sun after long rain:
Now everything shakes itself free and rises.
The trees are bright as pushcart ices.
Every last lily opens its satin thighs.
The bees dance and roll in pollen
and the cardinal at the top of the pine
sings at full throttle, fountaining.

This is the blessing for a ripe peach:
This is luck made round. Frost can nip
the blossom, kill the bee. It can drop,
a hard green useless nut. Brown fungus,
the burrowing worm that coils in rot can
blemish it and wind crush it on the ground.
Yet this peach fills my mouth with juicy sun.

This is the blessing for the first garden tomato:
Those green boxes of tasteless acid the store
sells in January, those red things with the savor
of wet chalk, they mock your fragrant name.
How fat and sweet you are weighing down my palm,
warm as the flank of a cow in the sun.
You are the savor of summer in a thin red skin.

This is the blessing for a political victory:
Although I shall not forget that things
work in increments and epicycles and sometime
leaps that half the time fall back down,
let’s not relinquish dancing while the music
fits into our hips and bounces our heels.
We must never forget, pleasure is real as pain.

The blessing for the return of a favorite cat,
the blessing for love returned, for friends’
return, for money received unexpected,
the blessing for the rising of the bread,
the sun, the oppressed. I am not sentimental
about old men mumbling the Hebrew by rote
with no more feeling than one says gesundheit.

But the discipline of blessings is to taste
each moment, the bitter, the sour, the sweet
and the salty, and be glad for what does not
hurt. The art is in compressing attention
to each little and big blossom of the tree
of life, to let the tongue sing each fruit,
its savor, its aroma and its use.

Attention is love, what we must give
children, mothers, fathers, pets,
our friends, the news, the woes of others.
What we want to change we curse and then
pick up a tool. Bless whatever you can
with eyes and hands and tongue. If you
can’t bless it, get ready to make it new.

Good Medicine

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The smooth days of ordinary time are upon us. I’m not talking about a lack of pokes and jabs that comes with the usual surprises of life’s interventions, but on the liturgical calendar we are indeed in what we call “ordinary time.”

I like this. It is a good time, and a great excuse to ponder the ordinary. It is the very reason to nestle into a blue sky clotted with clouds, or indulge in the fine art of slicing and dicing whatever is sitting in your produce bowl with extra attention and hopeless gratitude. It is to me, a reminder, that being human is all of these things, and getting to have the mind to recognize it.

In her book, “The 13 Original Clan Mothers”, Jamie Sams helps revive in me the graceful art of noticing the natural world. Not as chore, but as human delight. In this spirit, a poem was born:

Good Medicine

It is no sin

to sit under the tutelage of clouds

and learn the fine art of rolling and lolling,

your body tumbling under the influence of

a finely-winded blue sky

or shimmering silver

under the influence of rain.

It is no sin

to spend a day with a bag of apples,

aptly fallen not far from its tree, holding each bulb,

taking notice of green skin, yellow skin, red skin,

some mottled, otherworldly. And alternately peel them

for the pot or roll them like bowling balls

into the forest for other wild stomachs.

It is no sin

to massage the fur of a paw-foot friend and stare out into

the sea of nothingness, everythingness,

or to write poems like this one, as the day sinks away.

Somehow, it is in our DNA.

– Gina Marie Mammano

May your ordinary days bring out extraordinary joys.

A wink and a celebration

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Turning again toward the door of autumn, under the lintel of of September, I find it can be an opportunity to seek out celebration. I spoke with a newly made acquaintance the other day who, in the context of learning to live out Pacific Northwest winters, said, “find all the colors in the gray!” A great way to attune your eye to, and celebrate, the awareness of the season you’re living in, I thought.

So I ask myself, what colors can I find in the golden turning of September? Where are the nuances, the subtleties in the spectrum of this new season, or this new season in my life? Your life? The light seems to wink at us this time of year as it passes through leaf-shapes and colors of change. How about a little celebration toward what these changes might have in store for us?

A Celebration Blessing

Now is the time
to free the heart,
Let all intentions and worries stop,
Free the joy inside the self,
Awaken to the wonder
of your life.

Open your eyes and see the friends
Whose hearts recognize your face as kin,
Those whose kindness watchful and near,
Encourages you to live everything here.

See the gifts the years have given,
Things your effort could never earn,
The health to enjoy who you want to be
And the mind to mirror mystery.

– John O’Donohue.

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photo by Ginny Schneider

Second Rite of Passage Reflection: Ginny’s reverie

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One of the amazing things about setting up sacred container for a rite of passage is getting to enjoy the surprises that come up and grab you by the shoulders (and sometimes, kiss you exuberantly on the cheek!) A shining example would be the evening Ginny was caught in a late night reverie. I made my way in the dark to my daughter’s nesting place. “What are you thinking about?”

“All the women here and what I like about them.”

“Do you mind sharing?”

“No. Say a name.”

“How about Karmyn.”

“I was just thinking about her when you walked in. She’s so engaged in her life now as a wife and a mother. She’s so grateful for everything. I really like that about her.”

Tricia.

“I like that she wants to do everything wholeheartedly; she’s so involved in her community and her life- she’s focused, and yet she has the ability to cry in front of others, too.”

Sharon. “She is both smart and fun. She’s a lawyer, she’s been to seminary, and she slides around the kitchen on pretend roller skates.”

Nancy. “She is so honest. She doesn’t hold anything back. She puts it out there. I really like that about her.”

Maril. “She’s just so comfortable being herself. That makes others comfortable with being themselves. That’s a good thing.”

Jessie. “She has this ability to listen- I mean really listen. Not many people are able to do that- to focus her whole attention on what you’re saying and really listen.”

“What about me? Do you feel like sharing?” I say.

“Mom, I can’t believe you take the time, months to plan something like this. You have patience, and you know how to create these events. Why don’t you get together more often with these friends?”

I think about it. Time. I think. Time, and growing up.

Which, in reality, is exactly why we should be getting together more often.

And then I realize that the other gift Ginny is receiving here is gratitude. A deep appreciation for the souls surrounding her. There’s not much more a mother could want.

Good-night, Ginny.

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Your child: a thank you assessment

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Yesterday, our household celebrated two intricately tied events: my son’s 19th birthday and Mother’s Day. It was a chance to both honor the child brought into the world on that fine May afternoon (all nine and some odd pounds of him) and the one that hefted that oversized boy around in the primordial stew of embryo en utero (sounds fancy and French, doesn’t it?)

Such a stars-aligned event brought about another unique opportunity: to make a fairly comprehensive list of appreciations for the united act of motherhood and childhood. To take 15 minutes or so out to carve a personal thank-you note on the stationary of my computer was a worthwhile experience. I find that when creating a list of appreciations, the more detailed the better. Small is beautiful (think petit fours or diamond earrings). Little specifics make the gratitude both palatable and real. Here’s a few of mine. What are yours?

gratitudes when contemplating motherhood:

receiving texts that simply say, “love you, mama. good night.”

my son snuggling up closer to me during a movie because, “it might be a bit scary for you, mom”

my daughter alluding to our favorite children’s book character, Paddinton Bear in a text message sent from her dorm room

on contemplating my son, John, I’m grateful for:

hearing him say, “I have been craving doing math lately” as he responded to a middle school kid’s need to go to him as a tutor for school

paying consistently for the vegetables on our grocery list since he’s procured a job

wanting to catch up with me over a cup of coffee on a fairly regular basis

Simple things . . . but I feel better already recounting them. It’s sort of like a piece of chocolate on my pillow to welcome me back to someplace special . . . .