April 2018 (Vol. XXXI, No. 4)

Dear Friends ~ I recently participated in a conversation in which dissatisfaction or dissonance was a recurring theme poignantly and piercingly captured in a line quoted from a Mary Oliver poem:

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment...

Fire

This morning, on the opposite shore of the river
I watch a man burning his own house.
It is a cold day, and the man wears thick gloves
and a fur hat that gives him a Russian look.
I envy his energy, since I am still on the veranda
in my robe, with morning coffee, my day not
even begun, while my neighbor has already piled
spruce boughs against his house and poured
flammable liquids over them to send a finger
of black smoke into the air, a column surrounded
by herring gulls, who think he's having a barbecue
or has founded a new dump. I hadn't known what labor
it took to burn something. Now the man is working
at such speed, he's like the criminal in a silent
movie, as if he had a deadline, as if he had
to get his house burned by a certain time, or it
would be all over. I see his kids helping, bringing
him matches and kindling, and I'd like to help out

Eternal belonging

St. Augustine said, "Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee." Our dissatisfaction could, therefore, be the admission and awakening of our longing for the eternal. Rather than being simply the edge of some personal emptiness, it could be the first step in the opening up of our eternal belonging...desire cultivates dissatisfaction in the heart with what is, and kindles an impatience for that which has not yet emerged...There should always be a healthy tension between the life we have settled for and the desires that still call us. In this sense our desires are the messengers of our unlived life, calling us to attention and action while we still have time here to explore fields where the treasure dwells!
~John O'Donohue in TO BLESS THE SPACE BETWEEN US

Two in the Campagna

Only I discern
Infinite passion, and the pain
of finite hearts that yearn.
~ Robert Browning

Tears are prayers

Tears are prayers that reveal our truth before the Beloved...God honors tears...receives and tenderly holds tears as if they are precious, explosive testimony that must be preserved for some future day. Perhaps this vigilant, seeing, and tear-collecting God weeps with the weeping world.
~from LAMENTATIONS AND THE TEARS OF THE WORLD by Kathleen M. O'Connor

American Biographies

In feigned completeness I would walk the lonely
longest distance between all points and all others
because in their connection my geometry will have
been faithful to its own imagined laws.
~ from "American Biographies" in ANOTHER AMERICA by Barbara Kingsolver
Another America / Otra América
By Barbara Kingsolver

Becoming who and what we truly are

What if the question is not why am I so infrequently the person I really want to be, but why do I so infrequently want to be the person I am?

How would this change what you think you have to learn?

What if becoming who and what we truly are happens not through striving and trying but by recognizing and receiving the people and places and practices that offer us the warmth of encouragement we need to unfold?

How would this shape the choices you make about how to spend today?

~ from Oriah Mountain Dreamer in WOMANPRAYERS, ed. by Mary Ford-Grabowsky

Forgiveness

When somebody you've wronged forgives you, you're spared the dull and self-diminishing throb of a guilty conscience. When you forgive somebody who has wronged you, you're spared the dismal corrosion of bitterness and wounded pride. For both parties, forgiveness means the freedom again to be at peace inside their own skins and to be glad in each others' presence.

~ from LISTENING TO YOUR LIFE by Frederick Buechner

A world of dew

this world of dew
is, yes, a world of dew
and yet...
~ Issa Kobayashi in HAIKU MIND by Patricia Donegan

We begin a new life

Forgiveness is a method FOR GIVING love...a way of saying, "I am going to let go of the wrong you did; I am not going to be bitter and I am going to go on loving you anyway"...Every time we forgive, we begin a new life, free of the past and open to love. Remember, forgiveness is not only about your relationship with others but also about your relationship with yourself.
~ from PRESCRIPTIONS FOR LIVING by Bernie S. Siegel

We come to wisdom

Even in our sleep
Pain, which cannot forget
Falls drop by drop
Upon the human heart.
Until, against our will,
We come to wisdom
Through the strength of God.

~ Aeschylus

Bear everything to realize everything

If you ask for grace to realize who you are, ask also for the courage you will need to do so. To realize who you are, you will have to walk through all the shadows in your inner landscape. It is not easy. You will need to give up all your views about yourself again and again, each time they crystallize into a pattern. You will have to experience and release all the pain in your life. You will have to embrace your death. You will have to bear everything to realize everything. A perfect divine economy.

~ from A FIELD GUIDE TO THE SOUL by James Thornton

Love's healing presence will mend all that has been broken

You companion us through the wilderness,
through the shadows created by fear.
You plant your Seed into each heart....
Roll away the stones that become obstacles
to growth,
to producing a bountiful harvest...

Arise, O Beloved, in your steadfast love
shield me from the demons within;
Stay near me, Heart of my heart, and
I shall be strong to face
my fears.
Let all the fragmented parts of my being
gather around You,
help me to face them one by one.
Love's healing presence will mend
all that has been broken,
and I shall be made whole.

~ from PSALMS FOR PRAYING by Nan Merrill

March 2018 (Vol. XXXI, No. 3)

Dear Friends ~ We talk so much about the stress, anxiety, and turmoil of these times and the difficulty of "living in the world but not of it" while that very world pounds on our minds and batters our spirits. Contemplative practices are often done behind closed doors, holding the clamor at bay for a few moments. In The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo said, "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your front door…" But sometimes it's the very act of moving, of going out the door and setting off on a walk that heals, centers, reminds us to be grateful, and brings balance back into our lives. Whether you practice walking meditation, saunter through the woods, or climb mountains one intense step after another, walking has the potential to integrate body, mind, and spirit. It is a simple gift best not taken for granted. "...there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."

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The art of walking

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks, — who has a genius, so to speak, for sauntering: which word is beautifully derived "from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretence of going á la Sainte Terre," to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, "There goes a Sainter-Terrer," a Saunterer, — a Holy Lander... Of course it is of no use to direct our steps to the woods, if they do not carry us thither. I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit... The thought of some work will run in my head, and I am not where my body is — I am out of my senses. In my walks I would fain return to my senses…
~ Henry David Thoreau in WALKING
Walking
By Henry David Thoreau

My real walk in this world

I walk the wooded path behind my home and create little
towers at this curve and then the next. I think what my heart
is leaning into, the real purpose of creating these stacks of
stones, is to remind me of my true journey, my real walk in
this world, which has little to do with tangles of modern
communication, wormholes of busy, and our culture's call to
do more and more... So each day I build another cairn to
remind myself of a truer path, allowing my eyes to swing from
side to side, looking for signs.
~ Carrie Newcomer in A PERMEABLE LIFE: POEMS & ESSAYS

It is possible to enjoy every step we make

It is possible to enjoy every step we make, not only during walking meditation, but at any time, whenever you need to move from one place to another, no matter how short the distance is.

~ from HOW TO WALK

I take this step into the day you have given

O Great, Holy Spirit, I take this step into the day you have given...I hold all those I will meet today, in my journeying and in my work. I try to walk gently on this earth. Let me walk gently through the lives of my work companions and friends. Though they make way for my passing, may they spring back, neither broken nor bruised.
~ from the Plains tribes, "The Way of Three Steps", recorded by Jose Hobday in WOMAN PRAYERS by Mary Ford-Grabowsky

I dance a song of silence

You who move the world
Now move likewise me -
Lifting me up high
From earthly depths to you

I dance a song of silence
To music of the spheres -
And as I set my foot
At heaven's very brink
I feel Your smile
Touch me with joy.

~ Bernard Wosien in JOURNEY OF A DANCER

All attention has to be given the ground step by step

In climbing where the danger is great, all attention has to be given the ground step by step, leaving nothing for beauty by the way. But this care, so keenly and narrowly concentrated, is not without advantages. One is thoroughly aroused. Compared with the alertness of the senses and corresponding precision and power of the muscles on such occasions, one may be said to sleep all the rest of the year. The mind and body remain awake for some time after the dangerous ground is past, so that arriving on the summit with the grand outlook—all the world spread below—one is able to see it better, and brings to the feast a far keener vision, and reaps richer harvest than would have been possible ere the presence of danger summoned him to life.

~ John Muir

Life is a journey sometimes walked in light and sometimes walked in shadow

Grandfather says this: in life there is sadness as well as joy, losing as well as winning, falling as well as standing. I do not say this to make you despair, but to teach you that life is a journey sometimes walked in light and sometimes walked in shadow.
~ from KEEP GOING by Joseph M. Marshall III
Keep Going: The Art of Perseverance
By Joseph M. Marshall III

Walking is a profound tool of healing

Walking is a profound tool of healing. When spirits droop and footsteps falter, walking awakens the healing powers of the human spirit, literally, with chemicals that change the way you feel...Whether the wound is physical, emotional, professional, or spiritual, a walk can ease the grip of hard times, delivering an antidote to despair. But each step requires an act of faith...When I catch my thoughts plowing through fears and doubts or unanswered questions as I walk, I've developed the habit of responding politely but firmly… Thank you, but not now. Right now, I am here and I am walking. Then I return to awareness of my breath or my footsteps. It's a practice that allows me to acknowledge my lively thought processes and then choose to redirect my focus.
~ from HEALING WALKS FOR HARD TIMES by Carolyn Scott Kortge

I Taught Myself To Live Simply

I taught myself
to live simply and wisely
To look at the sky
and pray to God
and to wander long
before evening
to tire my
superfluous worries.

~ Anna Akhmatova

Staggering meditation

I sat and thought about inventing "staggering meditation." I decided that I would go for a walk, and rather than take my "stick" along as a necessary evil and out of anxiety over falling, I would "invite" my cane to be my helper… For so many years, because of my anger, I deprived myself of support I needed to be fully mobile...I have come to an awareness that my companion is a gift that helps connect me not only with the ground, but also with the many others who for a variety of reasons cannot walk easily, but who also stagger. When I am connected with these brothers and sisters, I no longer feel separated or left out. Rather than a reminder of a terrible past, I have uncovered a deep root of present meaning in the "tree" that I hug in my hand.

~ from "Staggering Meditation" by Vietnam vet Alan Cutter, in A JOYFUL PATH by Thich Nhat Hanh and friends

After the sitting

After the sitting
Stand and bow to the Presence
Slowly walk away.

~ Fr. John W. Groff, Jr.
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