Listening to the “receiver”.

Hummingbird

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)

Geode Held

purple geode art

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?”

(beautiful artwork by Sherri Stewart)

Scurrious Minimus

Scurrious Minimus

“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 . . . .

(beautiful artwork by Natalie Wargin)

Slow Food for Thought

 

blossoms

(beautiful art by Loren Webster)

 

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”.

“Dare to love yourself”

Jpeg

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?

Gorgeous Enlightened Thoughts by Parker Palmer

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I’ve read this meditation twice now. So good. So refreshing. So sparkling in this time of winter darkness. May it bring you a cool breath of fresh thought as well!

(read originally on Krista Tippet’s On Being site)

When Words Become Flesh: Risking Vulnerability in a Violent World

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…full of grace and truth.” — John 1:14

As a kid growing up in the Methodist Church, the Christmas Eve service always made me teary. Everything about it moved me: the story, the music, the candlelight, the scent of pine, the silent night, the comforting presence of family and friends. I was especially moved by the curious claim that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

I was blessed, as all children are, with what Buddhists call “beginner’s mind,” so the theological distinction between “the Word” and “a word” escaped me. Free of creedal complexities, I was mesmerized by the notion that something as airy as a word could take on human flesh. I was too young to understand why this moved me so, but today I do.

There’s often a huge disconnect between the good words we speak and those we incarnate in our lives. In personal relations and politics, in the mass media, in the academy, and in organized religion, our good words tend to float away even as they leave our lips, ascending to an altitude where they neither reflect nor connect with our lived experience.

We long for words like love, truth, and justice to become flesh and dwell among us. But in our violent world, where hate speech generates rabid support for certain wannabe “leaders,” it can be risky to infuse our frail flesh with the language of heart and soul.

In the Christmas story, God — an airy word if ever there was one! — takes the risk of incarnation. In fact, God doubles down on that risk by choosing the flesh of a vulnerable infant, not a warrior king, a claim that brought me to tears of wonder when I was young. But my adult knowledge of that infant’s fate — a fate shared by so many who have devoted their lives to love, truth, and justice — brings tears of grief and anger, along with a primal fear of what might happen if I followed suit.

As a Quaker who believes that “there is that of God in everyone,” I know I’m called to share in the risk of incarnation. Amid the world’s dangers, I’m asked to embody my values and beliefs, my identity and integrity, asked to allow good words to take flesh in me. Constrained by fear, I often fall short. And yet I still aspire to walk my heart-and-soul talk, however imperfectly.

Christmas is a reminder that I’m invited to be born time and again in the shape of my God-given self — which means embracing the vulnerability of the Christmas story. It’s a story easily lost in a culture that commercializes this holy day nearly to death, or in churches more drawn to showtime and bling than to the real thing, or in creedal food fights over whose theology is best. But the story’s meaning is clear to beginner’s mind.

An infant in a manger is as vulnerable as human beings get, and what an infant needs is simple: food, shelter and protection from harm. The same is true of all the good words seeded in our souls that long to become embodied in our midst. If these vulnerable but powerful parts of ourselves are to be incarnated — to suffer yet survive and thrive, transforming us and the wounded world around us — they need to be swaddled in unconditional love.

For those of us who celebrate Christmas, the best gift we can share with others, whatever their faith or philosophy may be, are two simple questions asked with heartfelt intent: What good words within us are waiting to take on flesh? How can we love one another in ways that allow those words to be born and dwell embodied among us?

 

An Adventure into the Familiar

It’s a good November day to think about author and poet Wendell Berry and things familiar- things to be grateful for- the miniscule, the often unnoticed. He once wrote: “The search withholds the joy from what is found” in his poem “Boone”. It seems like a great time peek around the corners of the everyday, the familiar, and utter a small or extra large helping of “thank you”, even though it may be hard in times like these. I’m in the city of Seattle as I write this, grateful for every person who opens a door for another, every smile given gratis, every face of every color and shade. Let’s keep opening the door for one another, and say “thank you” to every kindness or a glisten of light that comes our way today.

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