Agog in Summer

DSC_0115

photo courtesy of Rick Vander Kam

I woke up this morning agog. Alive in gratitude, openness, and grace (yes each beginning letter is part of that eye opening made-up acronym, though I don’t usually do that sort of thing). When you look up the word “agog”, the definition “very eager or curious to hear or see something” will appear. Almost as if the reader were “very eager or curious . . . to see something”.

When taken “seriously”, or rather, earnestly, what a way to start out the day! But what a curiously forgetful lotus-eating event happens the moment I wake up and find myself chained to the rowing benches of my usual mindset: “What do I have to do today . . . will I get it done in time . . . will it be good enough? That sounds tiring.” O.K. reverse. Back to the alarm, or the sun, or whatever woke me up.

“I wonder what will unfold today? What surprises? What delights? Of course, I’m good enough, but will I be able to remain awake enough to see what perks up or peeks open?” That’s better. Agog. Alive with Gratitude, Openness, and Grace. That’s what I wish to be. Maybe you do, too . . .

Advertisements

Can you embrace your life right now?

IMG_0325

photo courtesy of Ginny Schneider

I’ve recently crossed the threshold of kidney surgery, wandering the strange and meandering road of recovery. Recovery sounds like such a positive word. You are recovering! You are getting better, and yet, it can be the most difficult part of the journey. Whether it’s in the physical realm, the soulful realm, the emotional realm, it’s where the shake-down happens. It’s where the questions arise. It’s where the open space of uncertainty and possibility remain open. It is where both pain and healing come to the surface. The whys, the wherefores, the what will happens are all out there wandering like lost children, bumping into each other, crying, crawling, and wondering when someone will pick them up and take them into that longed for lap of slow , motherly, rocking-chair solace.

In an act of spiritual direction toward myself, I asked myself a question this morning: “Can you embrace your life right now?”

I first had to think about what “embrace” might mean. I decided it doesn’t mean toying with myself and my situation at arms’ distance. It doesn’t mean  a quick peck on each cheek to make myself feel temporarily acknowledged. It means to hold myself during this time. To look outside my window and let life embrace me, too. For me, it’s a deep long, loving hug. It’s saying, “I fully hold you and love you at this time- hard as it is.” And I’m finding, as I embrace my life, life embraces me back.

It sounds a bit funny, but loving ourselves into the whole of our realities can be the very lap we’re looking for.

May you be deeply embraced today.

The Play is the Thing

IMG_0225

photo courtesy of Ginny Schneider

On these “ordinary” days of extraordinary color, magic, and mystery that the subtle winds of October bring to us, I find that like the sweet nectar of savoring that swirling and cascading leaf, or the tramp, stumble, and skip down the road-memories of childhood, the pseudo indulgence (an actually necessity) of play also draws us in. We hear it whisper, “oh, please, just one game, one dance, one indulgent giggle!” And we give in (thank goodness!)

I found myself in a small intentional community gathering the other day, asking me to “come and play” for an hour or two. The format was simple: take 8 adults, an outdoor space, and a few games (like toss the ball, say a name, next person goes, remember the order, then do it all backwards!) and suddenly, enter the doorway into fun. It doesn’t take much, just a little time and a little willingness. The results are: easier breathing, lots of laughter, and more playmates!

Today I’m hanging out with my dear friend’s two boys who love to join with me in adding a little silliness to a ping pong game (can you do a dance move in between each paddle swing? let’s see how many rhymes we can come up with for our names. . . card trick anyone?) And the free and easy, breezy attitude of play releases me into movement, unpolished cleverness, and belly laughs. The drive with my daughter and a friend or two the other day belting out at the top of our lungs a well-trodden song from the nineties did the same thing.

What would you like to play today?

“Extraordinary” time in Ordinary Time

IMG_0230

photo by Ginny Schneider

I was diagnosed with a form of kidney cancer very recently. This turned this “ordinary time” of the year into “extraordinary time”, with new things to consider outside the arms of the hourly ticking clock. The prognosis looks good, but it still takes me to the edge of a threshold where I had not expected to go (which I’m sure is true for anybody gazing suddenly over a seeming precipice!)

Being “here” in this moment, at this time, brought me back to an exercise I had created several years back, appropriate for the now of “ordinary” time surrounded by the now of “extraordinary” time.

For those unfamiliar with the term, “milagros” are small pieces of metal, often shaped into parts of the body that serve as both a reminder, a desire for a healing of that place, and/or a token of gratitude after the fact. Fascinated with these little symbols mostly prevalent in the southwest, here is a threshold crossing exercise.

Milagros Exercise

Take some time to write on 5 slips of paper, 5 praises to the part of the body you choose. For example: “I cried out to my______ (hand) and my hand said, I ____ (write messages of stars, hold tiny fingers of bone and flesh, paint the world with colors).

Here are mine:

“I cried out to my kidney, and my kidney said, ‘I am the seat of wisdom, I purify, I hold streams of red life, flowering gifts like flame-flowers on the Red Road of Life.”

“I cried out to my legs, and my legs said, ‘I take you where you want to go, bark-less trunks of determination, bringers of new gifts of new experiences.”

“I cried out to my heart, and my heart said, ‘I bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things; when prophecy comes, it might fail, when words come, they may cease, but I endure forever, for I hold Love.”

“I cried out to my mind, and my mind said, ‘I take in the above and I take in the below; I am the great sifter of thought, the great dreamcatcher of wisdom. I will walk with you on this journey.”

I find that marking the places of hurt and of health, and honoring them, gives awareness and somehow resurrects gratitude, even though at times, the going is tough.

May all of your “parts” support you, and may you rise up and call them “blessed”.

A personal threshold-crossing poem

IMG_0225

This time of year, we tend to cross thresholds. Children leave through our front doors for kindergarten or college, and anything in between. Summer melts away into preparations for fall. And the adjustments in our own interiors can feel like both loss and release. Here is a poem I wrote that reminds me to cross the most intimate threshold with courage- the one inside ourselves.

Bless the Threshold

Before you cross it today,

pause.

You are leaving the inside

for the outside-

the safety of interiors

for the adventure

of exteriors,

the known, for the

unknown,

or perhaps not.

For the interiors are a

a world unto themselves-

a slow-brewing moment,

a slow-stirring movement,

a dark brooding over the waters,

a bowl of mystery,

a temple of stars,

a sacred altar where

sacrifices are made

with slow, wandering hands,

and flickering hearts

near small, relentless

candles,

under the soft chant of

audible breaths.

Before you cross it today,

pause.

You are leaving the outside

for the inside.

The safety of the exteriors

for the adventure of the

interiors, the known,

for the unknown.

– Gina Marie Mammano

Sun-honeyed milestones

securedownload-8

What makes certain moments in our lives, “momentous”? You know the ones- those sun-honeyed memories that seem to conjure up all sorts of good things in the stew of your soul. Deep, simmering, rich with multi-dimensional broth. They are not even necessarily “the big ones”: marriage, graduation, childbirth. Sometimes the times that reign large in our souls may appear smaller, even inconsequential to the rest of humanity.

I think the ingredients may be simple. From my own experience in the wilds of being a soulful human, the common denominators seem to be love, awakening, and beauty. I stare into past moments that I savor as milestones in my life, and ask myself, “was it the deep acceptance? the sincere and loving embrace of friendship? the way the sunlight was distilling gold onto the peeling eucalyptus trees? a new experience of myself? all of these?” And I say in reply, “yes, I think so.”

Milestones aren’t always fluted with royal icing or champagne glasses (although I like that, too!), but can be trimmed with a recognizable understanding from eye to eye, “a long loving look at the real” (that phrase courtesy of a good friend and fellow spiritual director), or the gift of pure presence from a fellow traveller, or from Nature Herself, in all of her constantly changing splendor.

What were some of the sun-honeyed milestones of your life?

securedownload-7

White Owl: a poetic song of thresholds

DSC_0090

I sit here in northern New Mexico, while standing on the lip of the end of the month of April, experiencing with you this month’s poetry of the human story, both tragic and triumphant. I reflect on these things while in this great land of red clay and shadow because I, myself have just crossed a threshold. The two year journey of my formal spiritual director’s training has come to an end, and I find myself joined into the larger journey of providing rich opportunities for the safe and the sacred- lovingly held spaces for people to mine the gems of their own souls. The threshold of new vocation or pathway is also a sacred “rite of passage”.  I’d like to share with you a portion of the lyrics from a Josh Garrells song, entitled “White Owl.” It is a song (and a poem) that has became dear to me as I have gingerly tiptoed across the many changes occurring presently in my own life.  Enjoy and dip into the imagination of the colors of this song and your own current threshold; “take the flame tonight.” For an even richer experience, check out the video as well:

White Owl
When the night comes,
and you don’t know which way to go
Through the shadowlands,
and forgotten paths,
you will find a road

Like an owl you must fly by moonlight with an open eye,
And use your instinct as a guide, to navigate the ways that lay before you,
You were born to, take the greatest flight

Like a serpent and a dove, you will have wisdom born of love
To carry visions from above into the places no man dares to follow
Every hollow in the dark of night
Waiting for the light
Take the flame tonight

Child the time has come for you to go
You will never be alone
Every dream that you have been shown
Will be like living stone
Building you into a home
A shelter from the storm

Like a messenger of peace, the beauty waits be released
Upon the sacred path you keep, leading deeper into the unveiling
As your sailing, across the great divide . . .

Be wrapped in the warmth of love and peace . . . .