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?

 

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A Fresh Morning Perspective from a Friend

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I asked the whitebark pine

 

a question, and he said to me,

“aren’t you glad we don’t all talk?”

And in silence he spoke:

a million voices whining, droning in

each other’s ears like a carnival madhouse?

Each leaf, each tendril, each rooty spine spinning

sounds, yabba, yabba, yabba, yabba.

The quiet madness of the mosquito multiplied

more than a million times over?

Aren’t you glad some of us convey

by bark, by bearing, by Being?

Aren’t you glad some of us commune

in the quiet witness of Living?

 

and in Silence, I understood.

 

  • Gina Marie Mammano

An Earth Day Meditation from a Friend

I’ve seen my share of technicolor rainbows in recent months. Late last summer, I took a rainy hike up slippery rock to an Iron Age fort, Dun Aonghasa, on Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. A slight break in the weather treated me and my traveling companions to a […]

via Rainbow Invitation — heartlandlistening

What does the Mandala of your soul look like?

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I am gazing at a picture of a beautiful mandala made entirely of stones. Each one is painted differently. Some with curly fronds, others with symmetrical floral knots, but all silhouettes of the natural world. The center is a lacy confection of white designs feathered onto a brown rock, reminiscent of gingerbread. I don’t usually think of mandalas this way. Rock and stone. Silhouettes and gingerbread. I usually see painted glowing swirls of geometrics, looking luminous and celestial on a shaving of paper or a sheet of canvas. But I look at this one and think, “why not?” What does the mandala of my soul look like? What illumination do the interiors create for me and others at this moment? Is it a gingerbread stone, bringing complexity and joy all at once to my own self, then fingering them out through gifts of awareness of beauty to those around me? Is mine a windy labyrinth where trust is illuminated only one footstep at a time, but you can hear the pulse and voice of birdsong over the twisting walls, radiating both toward and away from me? Is it a field of fallen leaves creating an overlapping pattern of both life and death, beginnings and endings, sugar maple red, and rich compost brown, delicately trailing paths of newness and rebirthing all around?

 

What is the mandala of your soul today?

Peeling Bark into The Threshold of the Past

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I walk around the elementary school of my childhood. Its cracked sidewalk has never changed. This brings me comfort. Old rusty fences that still are marked “1955” are the brave sentinels that somehow let people and dogs through their beleaguered locks. I stare into the old school office- same flesh colored counter, the turnaround where I waited for a ride after Brownie scouts, the old paper bark tree- still there. Pepper tree, jacaranda, smooth eucalyptus with wrinkles in its skin. Still there, old friend. The runway on the playground where I took off in flight. Still providing lift off, but now with a heavier plane. The planter where we circled up and sang whiney old ballads, and the parking lot where we carried cakes to the PTA bake auction, still there. The back stop where Debby Cogley and I “hid” homemade Wonka’s peanut butter chocolate bars from 3rd grade boys, still there. The silver hallway poles, whirling magic sticks as entryways into the Charlotte Anthony Halloween Carnival, still there, the cafeteria, the place where a junior Girl Scout pulled me onto her lap and made this 5 year old feel special, still there. Not much has changed in the hardware. A lot has changed in the soft ware, but the ghosts of kindness, blessing, and memory still haunt and bless the halls.Walking that place makes them feel real once again.  I am so glad. So grateful.