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

 

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(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”

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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?

Writing in Response to Our Times

 
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An Opportunity to Join Me in Port Townsend!

Writing in Response to Our Times
with Sarah Zale and Whidbey author, Gina Marie Mammano
Fridays, 1p.m. – 3 p.m.every other week (8 meeting times)
at The Writers’ Workshoppe located at 820 Water Street, Port Townsend, WA
Feb 10 & 24, March 10, 24, April 7 &21, May 5 & 19
Cost. $200.
Max. 10 participants.

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.

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.

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 OpeniCng the Book of Nature program have allowed her the ability to create interactive and intuitive listening exercises both in the interior and exterior landscapes.

Are you a falcon, a storm, or a great song?

Happy birthday Rainer Maria Rilke! Among the crystal cold awakenings we experience during the birth of winter in this month of December, I love to think about Rilke’s clarity of thought in lines like this one: “I circle around God, around the primordial tower. I’ve been circling for thousands of years and I still don’t know: am I a falcon, a storm, or a great song.” I’ve pondered this line more than once before, and was even asked by one of my teachers which one I would choose. How about you? Are you a falcon, a storm, or a great song? The adventure I take with this “Saint of Centers” in my book “Camino Divina”, is one of well, centering- “into the heart of things”. I invite you to come along. Enjoy!

The encaustic painting featured today is by Caterina Martinico, an artist featured on Etsy.

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?

 

Priest Leonard Cohen

  1. On this day, I remember a musical priest whose sermons I still read in the notes of his songs. We will miss you dearly, Leonard Cohen.

    Priest: Leonard (Cohen)

    We heard his syrupy voice as black as pitch
    preaching his dark sermons
    in smoke and fire
    in open ditches and underpasses
    somewhere in the land of somewhere
    under the veil of nowhere.
    We realized it was a revival,
    complete with tables and
    tent poles and lost souls,
    though there were no white canvases, no white lies.
    He drained us of everything we had,
    all our internal resources, all our desires,
    all our false hopes, drowning in a sea of
    questions marks, ash, and splinters,

    but somehow, when we came up out of the
    waters,

    we came up clean.

    – Gina Marie Mammano

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